Saturday, June 30, 2007

Evan Almighty

Okay … I hate to do it. I really hate to do it! In fact … No! I won’t want to. But I have to. I have to be “that guy,” whoever he is. I know, okay! I know. Even Almighty, while displaying bits and pieces of truth, is merely a humanistic/Protestant liberal/social gospel interpretation of the biblical story of Noah, which ultimately distorts its interpretation at the most fundamental levels.

Okay … phew! Glad that’s done … But it is true.

Some thoughts:

[spoiler alert!! I might give some things away]
  1. God: God is a completely transcendent, non-Trinitarian being, although He show’s up looking like a human every now and then.
  2. Teleology: God seems to make it up as he goes. He comes across as a guy who has it all figured out but there really is no end in sight. He seems providential, but for what? This has huge effects on the movies anthropology.
  3. Anthropology: Three words: “Random Acts of Kindness,” or, ARK. That’s all God wants from His children. Oh, and more personal time with one’s family. We all have it in us to be a little bit better, although there is no standard or formation required to be better. It’s as if everyone just knows what it means to be kind.
  4. Sin: I am not quite sure what sin is in this world. While it seems that no one is really outside God’s saving grace, there is still some sort of evil reality. In this movie, John Goodman’s character personifies evil. I suppose this fits right along with a standardless understanding of what is good. Since we don’t know what is good we are free to decide on our own what is bad. But, doesn’t that make everyone wrong and everyone right?
  5. Christology: Ironic in all this is that God’s chosen pick for Noah is a politician who ran on the campaign slogan “change the world.” This blatantly undermines any understanding that the world changed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lest I dwell solely in the realm of deconstruction, I offer these bits and pieces of truth that the movie rips from more secure theological foundations. Thus, here are some well-intentioned themes the movie offers:

  1. Who are God’s people? Everyone! God has over 6 billion kids.
  2. ARK, or Random Acts of Kindness implies a very watered down and more vague notion of the historic understanding of the works of mercy. In other words, love one other. Be “charitable” to one another.
  3. God laughs and enjoys His creation. We see this in a scene where God shows up to see an old friend, which is a tree. Of course the implication of this is that God was for not with this tree, which is just not true. This is not to say that God communes with trees like he does with people, but at least the God of Even Almighty is not Pantheistic!
  4. More importantly, God wants to dance with us and enjoy our enjoyment of Him.

Why say all this? Because a short while ago the world picked up on the fact that it can make money off Christians. Over the next umpteen years we are going to see more surges in movies displaying obvious Christian themes. I am concerned that the Church might be to ignorant (please know that I say that as kind I possibly can) to call out those who make films like Even Almighty and offer critique on where they far and where they are near. Refer to my previous blog post and the play between analogy and parody.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

humbled and baffled

I came to this conclusion today as I skimmed through a book review on Graham Wards, Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice by Randi Rashkover. The review appears in the latest issue of Modern Theology.

Rashkover comments,
“Both Cities of God and Ward's more recent Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice, offer a Christian apologetics in which Christianity is both part of contemporary culture, committed to reading the signs of the times, and also outside that culture, committed to reading those signs through the lens of its own calculus of desire. Ward's apologetics arises from Augustine's analysis of the relationship between the city of man and the city of God. The encounter between the two cities is governed by two different logics, that of analogy and that of parody. On the one hand, the two cities share the same language and can provide occasions for mutual interpretation. On the other hand, the city of man is a parody of the city of God and can be read as a perverted imitation that is therefore subject to Christian critique. For the city of God, as the representative of eschatological reality, contextualizes and corrects the meaning and use of the city of man and its language; indeed, the intelligibility of the city of man is inextricable from its need for correction through the city of God.”
Talk about walking the line! Or maybe it’s not about walking the line. There is a crafty weaving of the wheat and the tares that somehow the Church must embrace. I am humbled by our task and confess my utter ignorance.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Anti-Gang czar for L.A. is chosen

"Jeff Carr, a minister with a liberal evangelical group, will oversee Villaraigosa's strategy of targeting eight zones across the city.

By Duke Helfand, Times Staff Writer
June 20, 2007

New Gang Czar

An ordained minister who has spent much of his career developing social service and youth programs in some of Los Angeles' poorest neighborhoods will be named today as the city's new gang czar, officials said.

Jeff Carr, chief operating officer for Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a liberal evangelical group based in Washington, D.C., will work directly for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as director of gang reduction and youth development programs.

Carr will coordinate an anti-gang strategy that Villaraigosa unveiled in April. The approach calls for police and social service agencies to target eight "gang reduction zones" in South Los Angeles, the Eastside, the northeast San Fernando Valley and other areas.

New Gang Czar

The new director of anti-gang efforts will oversee an evaluation of the city's existing 23 gang prevention and intervention programs and recommend which should continue.

Villaraigosa's office said the mayor picked Carr because of his ability to develop successful youth programs and his expertise at running nonprofit organizations. Officials said they thought his work in the faith-based sector would be an asset in his new public role, which will carry the title of deputy mayor.

"Jeff Carr has the perfect blend of organizational, financial and community-based experience to successfully quarterback the mayor's gang-reduction strategy," said Matt Szabo, a mayoral spokesman.

Villaraigosa has scheduled a news conference for this morning to introduce Carr at the California Endowment near downtown.

While at Sojourners/Call to Renewal during the last two years, Carr oversaw finances, personnel and marketing functions.

Before that, he spent 17 years at the Bresee Foundation, a faith-based Los Angeles organization whose programs provide more than 3,000 people annually with access to healthcare, education, technology, job skills and recreation activities.

Bresee focuses its programs in Koreatown, South Los Angeles and the Pico-Union and Westlake districts.

As the foundation's executive director, Carr oversaw overall development and direction. He established a pediatric medical clinic — negotiating a contract with a community healthcare provider for services for young people up to age 18, according to the mayor's office.

Carr also developed a first-time offender program to provide assistance to juvenile offenders, and he was responsible for development of the Bresee Youth Program, which serves people ages 11 to 21 with recreation activities, tutoring, job training, college scholarships and spiritual development.

Carr could not be reached for comment, but a Sojourners/Call to Renewal representative said he would be missed.

"Our loss is a real gain for the citizens of Los Angeles," said Jack Pannell, a spokesman for the group, which describes itself as a Christian ministry dedicated to social justice issues on national and international levels.

"Jeff is a creative visionary when it comes to real programs that affect people and communities."

Carr was raised in the Church of the Nazarene and followed his father by becoming an ordained minister in the church. He is married, with two young children."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thoughts on Aesthetics

So, I finally order a copy of David Bently Hart's, The Beauty of the Infinite. Even after the first fifteeen pages I am beginning to understand why it is so praised. I found these thoughts to be particularly interesting

"What Christian thought offer's the world is not a set of 'rational' arguments that (supressing certain of their premises) force assent from others by leavening them, like the interlocturs of Socrates, as a loss for words; rather, it stands before the world principally with the story it tells concerning God and creation, the form of Christ, the lovliness of the practice of Christian charity - and the rhetorical richness of its idiom. Making its appeal first to the eye and heart, as the only way it many 'command' assent, the church cannot separate truth from rhetoric, or from beauty" (4).

They shall know we are Christians by our love? Interesting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paedophilia, the unforgivable sin

When is caution taken too far? I have asked myself this question on many occasions since, oh, I guess it would have to be September 11, 2001 when as a rather ignorant and naïve college student I was forced to start paying attention. In recent years immigration has brought this question to mind, particularly in a post-9/11 world where safety and security by means of national defense is a way of life. But always lurking in the back of my mind is the Christian response to paedophilia.

A Guardian Unlimited article this week talks about “chemical castration” as means of control over sexual predators. In some cases they are talking about using satellites in order to monitor these people. I am convinced, as most everyone else is (hopefully), that “There are very few crimes more horrific than sex offences against children.” My concerns today, however, lie in what a Christian response might be.

I am not sure that I have any answers. But David Wilson's comments are interesting. He writes, “So too have I worked with those who have been chemically castrated - metaphorically had "their balls cut off" - but who still harbour desires to do awful things to children, because ultimately what motivates them has much more to do with psychology than physiology, and therefore what they can't achieve physically they can none the less achieve with …” Well, you can use your imagination as to what might be used.

This is an issue of privacy and information. I think the intentions of law’s like Megan’s law or Sarah’s law are attempting to do something good. But what are the implications? What are the implications of forcing someone out into the public without giving them a place to go? The problem lies deeper than physics, deeper than law. It is a moral issue that the current culture is not equipped to handle. I am convinced that this problem will increase if the Church does not create space in their communities for these people.

Of course the next question is one of space-making.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wisdom from a master

"For, though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.2.iii).