Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Nation Divided: Digging Deeper, and Fighting the Good Fight as a Conservative Christian, Right-Winger; It's Not Easy!

God’s Not Dead!

Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be able to tell that listening to or reading all the movie critics these days.  There is a disconnect between Hollywood and the rest of us, it seems, that is actually bigger and broader once we look closer.  Look no further than the critical vs. audience ratings for some recent Christian movies on the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes.  Here’s just a little chart to give us a better view of this disconnect, featuring Combined Critical vs. Combined Audience ratings on the Rotten Tomatoes Website for 4 recent biblically themed films:

Christian Based Movie
RT Critic Rating
RT Audience Rating
God’s Not Dead
13%
85%
Son of God
22%
76 %
Noah
77%
46%
Heaven is for Real
49%
76%


And here’s a visual representation of these ratings figures:


I find it interesting that the Christian movie that audiences liked the most is the one critics hated, while the one critics loved the most was the least favorite among general audiences.  Guess which one challenges atheism the most?  Now guess which one was made by an atheist and is the least biblically accurate, but has the biggest budget and stars?  If you guessed God’s Not Dead for the first question and Noah for the second one, then you know your modern pop culture landscape and how Christians fit in (or don’t fit in, as the case may be).  You can clearly see from this little experiment the animosity the entertainment elite has for followers of Jesus. 

And this is only one small blip in a vast sea of animosity.  I need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the world, and I need to do a better job of fighting the good fight.  Those that preach tolerance only seem to preach tolerance for everything and everyone except God, the concept of God, and those who believe in God (that is, outside of a general and flat spiritualism that doesn’t upset the apple cart).  And I’m getting tired of it.

My bother Scott told me he feels like he should just “give up on the whole entertainment industry."  He's getting tired of the way they support only the far-left liberal views and demonize those on the right.  It's there if you choose to look.  So why support the media and the entertainment industry if they don’t support us and our views?  In a recent interview with that paragon of virtue, Playboy Magazine, actor Ben Affleck admitted, “When I watch a guy I know is a big Republican, part of me thinks, I probably wouldn’t like this person if I met him, or we would have different opinions.  That !@#$ fogs the mind when you should be paying attention and be swept into the illusion.”  Oh what a horrible thing, to have a differing opinion and to be taken out of the moment by a conservative actor!  “It’s hard,” he continues whining, “to get people to suspend disbelief.”  With Hollywood actors being overwhelmingly liberal democrats, just think of how the rest of us feel!

Then I have another friend who is a Christian, but only seems to see things in black and white.  She doesn’t see the spiritual war taking place right before our eyes.  To her, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was just a fantasy story, and when I explained the deeper Christian meaning - how it was written by CS Lewis as Christian allegory, and how the lion Aslan is a Christ figure - it’s lost on her.  It’s just a fantasy movie, and all that other stuff is just a bunch of malarkey, she says.  Jesus spoke in stories and parables with deeper meanings, and that she understands.  But apparently, in her view, the rest of us can only work upon the surface of things, and our stories don't really have deeper meanings.  It's just blunt reality for some people, I guess, and I'm left wondering why she’s not an atheistic scientist with that unyieldingly cold view of the world. 

But let me tell you, there is more going on here.  Nothing is ever just on the surface.  There are shades of grey and color everywhere!  Life, and the stories of life, and the stories we make up about life, are not just surface water.  There is always something there beneath the surface, and like Michelle Pfeiffer in the thriller What Lies Beneath, it is our job to dive deeper and find out what's really down there!  Why, even the latest movie we just watched, the romantic comedy Baggage Claim, had a lot of stuff going on under the surface, even for such a trite and forgettable slice of romantic life, and the characters who are portrayed as the likable, positive heroes are gay or sleeping around, and the villains are conservative republicans.  Before the end of the film, the main character rebukes the advances of a conservative control freak climbing his way up the political ladder, and tells a room full of people that she doesn't trust black republicans.  Tell me again how there's nothing going on underneath the surface! 

I know it's a constant, ongoing battle, and I make wrong choices, but that doesn't mean that we just settle for whatever.  It’s time to be choosy.  It’s time to pay more attention.  It’s time to be more discerning - not less - and to fight the good fight.  As a Christian, I see things I never saw there before, and make choices I wouldn't have made before, and have thoughts I otherwise wouldn't have had.

Like all other nations, this too is a nation of sinners - Jesus even said several times in the bible that Satan is the Prince of this world - and if we're not paying attention, Christians will lose this battle.  Not the war - God will win the war - but Christians at least need to know what's going on, and to try to make the right choices - in everything.


I’m speaking here about a lot more than just about those two Christian brothers, the Benhams, who happen to hold traditional Christian views about the sanctity of life and marriage, and the sinfulness of the homosexual lifestyle, and for this, they were banned from HGTV.  It had nothing to do with their proposed house fixing show “Flip It Forward” before it even got off the ground, and everything to do with their Christian beliefs.  I say it’s time to peddle your show over at UpTV or Hallmark Channel, guys!  I don't even know the Benham brothers, but I can already say I like them, and admire them.

I can see it clearly.  There is a division happening in this country, and it’s a division that’s been happening for a long time.  There is more than this, of course, but for the most part, there are two extremes:  The liberal left and the conservative right.  And sooner or later, you are going to find yourself somewhere in one of these two camps.  Any other camps in this nation aren’t really big enough to make that much of a difference, at least not right now, and aside from that, most other camps fit in somewhere on one side of this fence or the other.  For instance, the libertarians, who probably like to say they straddle the fence, are actually on the right side of it, because they have more conservative views.  Tell me what you believe, and I could tell you what side of the fence you are on.  The abortion debate is a good example.  If you believe in abortion, you are on the left.  If you don’t, you are on the right.

Of course, the big picture isn’t that cut and dried.  There are tons of people out there who profess a faith in Christ – implying the conservative, biblical ideals of those on the right – who call upon that faith as the reason they support leftist liberal causes, like Carrie Underwood did with her Christian faith in support of the gay movement.  These camps of ideals are actually rather fluid things, and like anything else, there are as many exceptions to the general rules as there are people on the planet.  There are two ideologies at war with each other here, and tiny little exceptions flourish.

Traversing an ideological, political, and theological landscape like this isn’t easy, and it can get confusing if we are not rock solid in our own beliefs and ideals.  It can get confusing even if we ARE rock solid in our own beliefs and ideals (and who is really rock solid on anything when, quite frankly, facts are not enough to explain everything, and beliefs are not facts). 

And so, what I usually find myself doing, when I’m not hiding from all the political noise, is to find those nuggets of truth – and not just truth for me, but universal truths that cannot be refuted (even though they so often are).  


The writer or blogger I wish I could be like is Matt Walsh.  (See his website linked here.)  I look upon Matt as a bit of a personal hero since he sees the world the same way I do, but pays more attention to what’s going on, and writes the way I wish I could write, in content, volume, and intelligent perception.  And he doesn’t load his blog down, like I love to do, with all those obsessive movie and TV reviews from an entertainment world full of, as he calls them in his blog about the Benham brothers and HGTV (linked here), “deviants, junkies, rapists, pedophiles, adulterers, and crooks,” citing how the likes of Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Mike Tyson, and Hugo Chavez are loved and adored by the Hollywood elite, no matter what they’ve done, or might have done.  To Hollywood, it doesn’t matter.  Well, it IS a business, and they’ve got to sell their product.  For the longest time, I’ve been buying, and to just swear off it and stop buying is very difficult for a movie lover like me.  There will probably be more movie and TV reviews in this blog in the future, - including the near future - just because I love them so much.  For instance, I loved recent movies such as About Time, Enough Said, God's Not Dead, The Last Station, and Ruby Sparks, because they were so well made and inventive.  Yet it is also my duty as a Christian to be discerning, and to fight the good fight – like Matt does.  Because, like my brother Scott, I’m getting tired of the liberal attitude, and like Matt said in his blog about the Benham brothers,  there are more of us than there are of them, even though they are the Elite who run everything, and we are getting tired of being lied to by “a bunch of politically correct, bigoted, mewing, leftwing carnival barkers.”  It kind of reminds me of the way the Egyptians kept the Israelites in slavery, even though the Israelites outnumbered them.  “In a country of filth,” Matt concludes, “the only thing you can’t be is pro-life and pro-marriage.  Enough of this, already.  It’s time to stop playing nice with these people.”  Well said, Matt!  That’s the attitude we should have, and need to have, as conservative - yes, even loving - Christians!  

Jesus loved everyone, but if you spend any amount of time in the Gospels at all, you also realize He wasn't afraid to stand up to dissenting voices.  "Playing nice" doesn't mean that we should just shut up and sit down and accept everyone and every situation, and don't rock the boat.  It means you stand up for those who are being persecuted.  Why, this is the liberal's very playbook!  The reason they're liberals is to "liberate" the persecuted, apparently, but these days, this noble cause has turned into race baiting and an agenda of Political Correctness and Big Government and victimhood, and whoever cries the loudest gets the microphone, and my, those conservative Christian republicans are a bunch of backwards meanies, aren't they?  Yet when these "victims" suddenly find themselves with power, then they become the persecutors, silencing the "intolerant" Christians - like what happened to the Benham brothers.  It shows, as I said above, that as this division cuts deeper, people, individual and collective, will have to make a choice about which side they want to be on.  HGTV chose the left.  They chose to make a big stink about the Benham brothers professing their faith, as Jesus calls them to do.  

Jesus called out the sinners. He may love them and teach them and be their friend, but he also realizes they are committing sin.  They are sick, and He is their doctor, who came to heal them.  He even said as much when he stated, "Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do." - Matthew 9:12 NLT  

And now, as followers of Jesus, we must go and do likewise.  

And as it was for Jesus in His time, the world will hate us, because we "accuse it of doing evil." - John 7:7

In fact, if you are Christian, and you are loved and adored by this world... I don't know.  Maybe you're doing something wrong!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reconciling My Passions and Politics, with a Little Help from Charles Krauthammer

Passions and politics.  They’re not always the same thing for me.  Hell, are they always the same thing for anybody?  I might ask who really LIKES politics, but I’m afraid there would be an answer, many times over, even with people I admire greatly.

I always fancied myself a bit of a Renaissance man.  I am not, of course.  I might admire Arthur Chu, a recent Jeopardy contestant who won 11 games at just shy of $300,000.  I thought he was very intelligent, and I do admire him.  Meanwhile, I doubt I’d even be able to pass the first online test.  I’m rather horrid at history and geography, and even worse at historical geography, and don’t even get me started on how bad I am with sports trivia!  I know who starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and who sang “Sharp Dressed Man,” and being a science fiction fan, I even know a bit about astronomy and science, but I’m no Arthur Chu!

To go along with this "Renaissance man" image, I’ve been writing in a journal for over two decades, and I’ve shared some of it in a blog now for over two years, and sometimes it feels like I'm writing a magazine spread.  Sometimes it makes me feel like I'm in the wrong profession.  When I write about family, which I rarely share in my blog, I see myself as a genealogical archivist and a bit of an insightful documentarian.  When I write in my journal about my job, which I NEVER share in my blog, for obvious reasons, I see myself as a bit of a business analyst and armchair psychologist.  When I write about religion, which I actually like sharing in my blog, I am a conservative Christian, a theist and an apologist.  When I write about news and culture, I see myself as more of a political commentator than I am a news journalist, though I actually don’t keep up on the news like I should, and how can I form an opinion about any of it if I am not informed?  I’d wind up like all the people on those 24 hour news channels when that Malaysia flight went missing for so long, filling up their newscasts with dozens, if not hundreds, of commentators and theorists and guest guess makers, most of them flat out wrong.  When I write about pop culture – movies, TV shows, music, books, and celebrities – and which I LOVE to do, I see myself as a reviewer, or an art or literary critic, or a pop psychologist, even though I am none of these things.

And I get confused by all of it, for it can get confusing.  Everyone has an opinion.  What makes me think mine is more valid than theirs?  And yet a person has to make a stand.  As John Mellencamp, he of the impossibly high forehead, once said in song, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”  Yeah, I know; he’s not the origin of that statement, but origin doesn’t really matter as much as the statement itself.  We all have to make a stand for something.  My problem is that I’ve been trying to give validity to everyone’s beliefs and trying to reconcile their impassioned beliefs with my own, and this doesn’t always work.  I can’t necessarily make sense of another person’s beliefs and the things they stand for if I see the world differently than they do, and make a different stand.  This will mean that sometimes, their stand and beliefs won’t hold any validity for me, and that’s okay.  For one thing, one of my beliefs is that truth is not relative, and since truth is not relative, both my beliefs and their beliefs cannot both be true. 

And then there’s my love of the arts; not really the fine arts, although I can enjoy some ancient paintings and classical music.  Rather, I tend to enjoy modern cinematic arts, or musical and literary arts.  I have a tendency to feel guilty about it, and I really do watch too much TV, and I sometimes wonder if it's okay to have a passion for such things, especially in the face of the leftist bias so prevalent in the publishing world, popular music, Hollyweird, the educational community, and politics?  Shouldn’t I be writing instead about what’s going on out in the real world?  Shouldn’t I be writing about the Republican frontrunners for the upcoming elections, or some of the current politicians who are ruining this country, such as the President and Charles Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John McCain?  Aren’t they more important and worthy of more thought than the latest episode of Bates Motel or Scotty McCreery’s newest CD, especially with all that’s going on in the world and their dictatorial buffoonery?  How can I defend my penchant for writing movie reviews in the face of politics?  In the grand scheme of life, politics trumps art.  I’ve always known this.  And yet I all too often seem to go with art, and then apologize for it.  But can a man help, really, having the passions he has?
Then I cracked open the book Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics by famed conservative political commentator and journalist Charles Krauthammer, and I’m so glad I did!  On the very first page, he starts asking what matters, and comes up with quite a list – and politics isn’t among them.  “…what really matters,” he states on page two, “what moves the spirit, what elevates the mind, what fires the imagination, what makes us fully human are all of these endeavors, disciplines, confusions, and amusements that lie outside politics.”  Then he said the book was not going to include politics, and it was going to be titled There’s More to Life than Politics.  “But in the end, I couldn’t,” he writes.  “For a simple reason, the same reason I left psychiatry for journalism.  While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance, and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate.  In the end, they must bow to the sovereignty of politics.”  Here’s a journalist and political commentator admitting to having non-political passions, and desiring to write about them to the exclusion of his “bread and butter”, but in the end, he cannot do it, not because politics are necessarily where anyone’s passions truly lie, but because politics are necessary, and quite often a necessary evil, that rules and dictates everything else.

I’m sure some political commentators, such as Ann Coulter and Matt Walsh, or actual politicians, thrive on genuine politics.  Even Charles Krauthammer, who attempted at first to dismiss politics for just one book, is deeply embroiled in it all.  It’s the way he’s wired to think, and reading further into his book, this becomes obvious.  For him, not only is politics a necessary entity that must be dealt with, his writing is filled with insightful ruminations on politics throughout history.  Perhaps he doesn’t even realize how much he thinks in politics.  But not I.  I discuss politics only where I feel it is absolutely necessary, and where it aligns or conflicts with my own personal beliefs, but I don’t really enjoy getting into politics the way some people do, and my journals and blog reflect that.  I know it's extremely important and very necessary to stay abreast of what is going on and to stay informed and have an opinion about politics, but it's not really a passion of mine.

I will enjoy reading this Charles Krauthammer book because I look up to the guy and I like his writing style, though I do find him to be a bit smarter than I am (which is weird, because he states in his introduction that he does not classify himself in the genius category, and it's one reason he decided against a career in theoretical physics).  For now, I’m just very appreciative that he was able to take some of my jumbled thoughts about my passion for things other than politics, and my guilt over having these passions and writing about them in the face of my beliefs and the current political landscape, and he gives voice to these issues in the very first page of his book.  Translation:  He’s made politics his career, yet he likes other things too.  And if those other things for him are purely an intellectual admiration for brilliant and compassionate mathematicians, architecture, baseball, and medicine, while mine tend to center on the more trivial realms of pop culture, with a healthy dose of guys like Krauthammer thrown into the mix on occasion, then so be it.  I am not Marco Rubio, or Matt Walsh, or Sean Hannity, or Charles Krauthammer for that matter, much as I might admire some of these guys.  Nor was I meant to be.  I’m exactly who I’m supposed to be, courtesy of God.  And the really neat thing is, that's okay too!  I am the man God designed me to be, and I don't have to be anybody else.  This is MY niche (my little corner of the internet, as it says in this blog's description).

Charles Krauthammer was going to write about all the non-political things he loves, but that darned politics kept getting in the way again!  It shows just how very unavoidable and important politics are (and they truly are), but also how annoying and infuriatingly intrusive they can be!   

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Heroes & Villains: From Martin Luther King Jr. to Barak Obama to Sarah Silverman - The Good, the Incredibly Bad, and the Hidiously Ugly

I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I’m always looking at people, particularly famous people, and trying to decide who I like, who I don’t like, who I might want to emulate, and who I think is a complete idiot, or worse, deceiving.  This gets complicated by the fact that one person cannot truly know another person, especially from afar, or that people change over time.  For instance, men like William Wilberforce and CS Lewis started out as atheists, and then matured into true Christians apologists.  If you go by who they were in their teens, they're not much in the way of role models.  Additionally, it's been revealed all too many times that those I think highly of have skeletons in their closets – perhaps they wronged somebody sometime, or they have issues with the bottle, or their brand of Christianity is a little on the strange side – and other people may not care for them for whatever reason strikes their little fancy.  But I still see attributes within them I find admirable, for one reason or another.  I see strong caliber of character within them.  Then we have the other end of the spectrum; people of low character.  These people may also have their supporters, but I am not among them, and I usually find I have a very different worldview from them and their supporters.  Like them, I have made my choice of what to believe, and the more I see, the more I stand with my conservative Christian brothers and sisters.  I don’t discount a possible attempt at goodness or some admirable compassion among the liberal, secular crowd, and in fact, I have less issue with them believing in what they believe than I do with the conservative Christian crowd fighting for their same liberal causes like abortion and gay marriage.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  It’s one thing for a liberal atheist to fight for the right of a woman to treat her unborn baby like a parasite or for a couple of gay guys or lesbians to get married, or to force the private owner of a cake shop into making a cake with a tiny little same-sex couple on the top.  It’s quite another for a Christian to support Planned Parenthood or see the wedded union of a same-sex couple as something holy and ordained by the Almighty.  In either case, their hearts may be in the right place, but that still doesn’t make it moral.   My view falls right in the line with the conservative right, and in fact, although I can understand why a leftist liberal will fight for their liberal causes, I still don’t understand how a Christian can.  If you are reading this, and you are a liberal Christian, perhaps you can explain it to me, because I really don’t understand how the two concepts can go hand in hand.  In my mind, to be a liberal Christian is an oxymoron.
            With all of that said, here are a few lists of five people I admire greatly, five I admire with reservation, and five I either can’t stand or am completely disappointed by, and the reasons why.  At the very least, maybe you'll learn about a few people or events you didn't know about before, and can weigh what I think about them against what you believe.

I Love These Guys!

William Wilberforce
This Christian man, a former atheist, led the abolitionist movement in England at around the same time America gained its independence and its first president.  It was an unpopular move that jeopardized his political career, but he was determined to do exactly what his faith in Jesus dictated. (See the movie Amazing Grace)

Eric Liddell
Scottish Champion at the 1924 Olympics and a man of deep faith.  He didn’t compete in his strongest category due to rigid, unbending athletic schedules that conflicted with his faith, but ran in another category for which he was not as well suited, the men’s 400 meter, and still won!  Then he became a missionary.  (See the movie Chariots of Fire)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Author of the modern classic Christian book The Cost of Discipleship, this German Lutheran pastor showed everyone what the cost of that discipleship really is when he spoke out against the Nazi’s and died in a concentration camp in 1945!  Check out the great book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes.  In fact, the first three people on this list are documented in Metaxes’ book Seven Men, which also profiles George Washington, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Chuck Coulson.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Leader of the much needed Civil Rights Movement, King was martyred in 1968 before the age of 40.  King dreamt of a day when his “four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” and that “little black boys and girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls and walk together as sisters and brothers,” and a day when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”  I think he would be appalled to see what has become of that dream now, and how his name and ideas are being thrown around by race-baiters and people who don’t understand exactly what he stood for.



Dinesh D’Souza
This Christian philosopher, political commentator, and best-selling author has become something of a modern day touchstone for me.  Like CS Lewis, I see in D’Souza a wholly intellectual walk with God in a land where Christians are looked down upon as simpletons and idiots by the supposed intellectual giants of the scientific and educational realms.  Dinesh shows me that loving God with our minds, in any field of study, is more than just a possibility, but our duty as Christians.  The truth is that atheists and evolutionists do not have a lock on intelligence and wisdom.  In fact, like the rest of us, they are peons compared with the mind of our creator.  Yes, even Stephen Hawkings.  We Christians are not idiots, we have many learned men in all walks of life and fields of study, and we’re not going away.

I Kind of Like These Guys Too

 
Paul Walker
There’s that whole question about a 33 year old man dating a 16 year old girl, and I’m sorry he died and he’s not here to defend himself, but compared with the guys above, his Christian walk has to be called into question here.  Yet in a land where Christians are few and far between – Hollywood – I find myself liking guys who are still outspoken about their Christian faith, and I enjoyed this quote from Walker:   “I’m a Christian now…I go surfing and snowboarding and I’m always around nature.  I look at everything and think, ‘Who couldn’t believe there’s a God?  Is all this a mistake?’  It just blows me away.”  That an actor in the wildly successful Fast and Furious franchise publicly admits that he's a Christian may only be a small step, yet it's still a step in the right direction.

 Vince Vaughn
Likewise, you expect movie stars like Vince Vaughn to simply tow the usual Hollywood party line, especially after being in movies like Old School, Wedding Crashers, and Couples Retreat, showing that he’s been on the current cutting edge of raunchy comedy for quite some time.   Still, it feels like a little battle has been won to hear someone like Vaughn say something like this:  “I’m very supportive of Ron Paul… As you get older… you just get less trust in the government running anything.  If you look at the Constitution and the principles of liberty, the real purpose of government is to protect the individual’s right.”  Who would have thought that the comedian from Swingers and Four Christmases would have thoughts like this.  It just goes to show that, despite the overwhelming majority and influence of the power brokers of Hollywood, that old paragon of greed and stupidity, that a few of their denizens manages to still think for themselves.

Jack Osborne
Just when you’re ready to write off any of those nasty Osborne’s (which I did), along comes Jack on last season’s Dancing with the Stars, showing that there’s a real person behind all the usual drug-fueled, potty-mouthed trash pop culture, and that a person can grow beyond this upbringing and negative influences.  While Snooki, on the same season, was showing how she hasn’t matured one iota since she became a mother (and tell me again how she became a mother?) and does not deserve to be a celebrity, despite her dancing ability, Jack Osborne, on the other hand, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, showed maturity and some growth of character, and also some ability to cut a rug with professional dancing partner and choreographer Cheryl Burke.  Although not on the “Love These Guys” list, I still love to see stories of redemption.  He may (emphasis on “may”) be one to keep an eye on.
  
Patricia Heaton
The Middle is a great show, from the mind of the woman who once walked out of an awards show hosted by the foul-mouthed Osborne clan in their heyday.   Good for her!  She’s one of the very few women in Hollywood, with or without a current successful TV show or movie, who is an outspoken conservative, and while most other sitcoms revel in outrageous raunchiness, her sitcom has a unique and refreshing wholesomeness about it that is sorely missing from most of TV these days.  Her strong character is reflected in her show in the writing, and the great thing is that the show is still a very funny half hour of television every week without being filthy.  While most other shows would embroil the oldest child character Axl in all manner of immoral smut during his college years, on this show, Axl has shown on a few occasions a bit of maturity when dealing with his parents and family lately.  What a great message to throw in there amidst all the Heck family hi-jinks: that faith and family are important!

Payton Manning
Despite that embarrassing Superbowl loss, Manning is a great quarterback, but what I like even more is his deep Christian faith.  Though he may not be quite as outspoken about his faith as the man he replaced on the Broncos, Tim Tebow, he’s still not ashamed to let anyone know that he worships our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He shows me that Christians are in every single walk of life and being a follower of Jesus is something for which you should proudly hold your head up high and profess with devotion and love.

Idiots and Liars:

Sarah Silverman
Like Kathy Griffin and Lisa Lampanelli, Sarah is one of those mean-spirited, hard-core, foul-mouthed, anti-republican comediennes whose comedy act amounts to cussing profusely, mocking all religions, especially Christianity, belittling anyone who is a believer, blaspheming Jesus, and supporting every liberal cause under the sun, such as free abortions and in-your-face gay propaganda.  Along the way, she’ll stuff in as many references to any kind of societal taboos, sex acts, and slang for reproductive organs and rear ends as she possibly can, usually mixing such references with statements about God and Jesus.  Really, who finds this trash funny?  Plus, although she can dish it out, she can’t take it, and was hurt by jokes about her age at the recent Comedy Central James Franco Roast.  Oh, that poor little hypocrite!  

Robin Thicke
“Blurred Lines” was one of, if not THE, biggest hits of 2013.  Thicke sang it on MTV next to Miley Cyrus while she was busy twerking and other some such depravity.  The song has a catchy beat, and upon first listen, it’s not too different from the rest of the over-sexualized pop crap on the radio these days.  I’m afraid un-poetic and brain-numbingly stupid lyrics are pretty common anymore, and in fact, this is quite tame when compared with Beyonce singing about blow jobs in the backs of limos:  “I know you want it / Can’t let it get past me / You’re far from plastic / Talk about getting blasted / I hate these blurred lines,” and later, he continues with, “You the hottest b**** in this place / I feel so lucky / hey hey hey.”  And then, as if to prove what great lyricists they are, we get this line:  “You wanna hug me / hey hey hey / What rhymes with hug me?”  “What rhymes with hug me?”?  Are you kidding me?  They couldn’t think of something a bit more poetic?  To make matters worse, there’s a normal video with scantily clad girls, and then an R rated version with nude girls.  Alan Thicke must be so proud of his son, and the truly sad part is, he really IS, just like Billy Ray stands up for his precious little twerker.  Thicke’s girlfriend left him about the time this song first became a hit, but I read recently that they're back together again.  Oh, joy!

Barak Obama
He’s a deceptive liar, and if you don’t realize that by now, what hope is there for you, and this country?  It’s not just everything that he’s been involved in since he was president that the mainstream media doesn’t seem to care about (if it was a republican president involved in these things, they’d be SCREAMING for blood, I tell you!), or that he gets involved in all sorts of things, such as race-baiting, that are beneath his office.  It’s the way he deceptively managed to pass that unpopular Obamacare, aka the “Affordable” Health Care Act, and that Ellen is selling to her zombie audience like a good little Nazi.  He continues to fundamentally change the landscape of our great country until it is no longer a country that we can even recognize anymore.  The majority of this country voted him back in.  It sucks for those of us who didn’t, but it basically means that, as a country, we now deserve whatever we get.  Thanks America!

Joe Biden
Not only is he an idiot, he’s rude and boorish.  If he was just an idiot, that would be one thing, but did you see the way he was with Paul Ryan at the VP debates during the 2012 elections?  In most school debate teams, his dismissive and condescending behavior would have gotten him dismissed almost immediately, yet he’s excused because, well, everyone just seems to love the guy (“What do you know, Joe?”) and they cut him incredible amounts of slack, and they say both sides have these same issues.  That’s simply not true.  I defy anyone to watch that debate and tell me Ryan was as bad as Biden.  There is a definite bias there that liberals just can’t seem to see.

Janet Jackson

I liked Janet Jackson and have bought some of her music over the years.  At least she’s not a pedophile like her brother.  (You heard me!)  Yet she’s far from perfect.  The perky, smiling little girl from the 70’s sitcom Good Times and videos like “When I Think of You,” “Miss You Much,” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” has, over the years, given Madonna a run for her money in more than just her backbeats.  Like so many female pop stars these days, she eventually went the sex route to sell her filthy songs.  Beyonce is probably doing it on a stage somewhere right now.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Catch-Up (What I'm Reading): God's Word, Books About or By God-Believers, Stephen King, Shakespeare, and Conservative Politics

I’ve noticed, while I go on and on about Movies, TV, and even music, I barely mention books.  I suppose that’s because it takes much longer to read a book than it does to watch a sitcom, or even share a movie-watching experience with family and friends, which usually doesn’t last more than a few hours.  Books are less of a shared experience, unless you join a book club, and even then, most of the shared experience is still solitary, except when you discuss what you’ve read.  While I might watch several TV shows in a single day, it takes longer to read a book, of course.
           
Yet I still find that, by the end of a month, I may have read parts, or all, of entire books.  For this reason, here are a few brief descriptions of my top five, and the one I didn’t care for as much:

The Best

1. The Bible (Matthew)


I still read a chapter of the bible every night before going to bed, and this month, it was the book of Matthew.  Reading the bible every night keeps me grounded in God’s word, and always keeps the ideas and ideals of Jesus and His Kingdom at the forefront of my mind, ready to pop in and help me make the right, and righteous decisions, in my daily life.  Not that I always do, of course.  Nobody's perfect, and I still wind up making the wrong decisions sometimes, as do we all, but it also helps more often than perhaps I realize.  Put another way, I’d hate to think of all the lousy choices I’d be making if I didn’t have God and His word in my life.


2. Seven Men by Eric Metaxes


Written by another great Christian role model, this book is about seven Christian men he admires and looks up to: America’s first president, George Washington; European abolitionist William Wilberforce; Olympic champion Eric Liddell; Outspoken Nazi protester Dietrich Bonhoeffer; America’s first black Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson; Pope John Paul II; and Charles W. Colson, who went to prison for his involvement with Watergate, even though he could have plea bargained for a lesser sentence, and there turned his life around and founded Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree.  Several movies have been made about some of these men, including Amazing Grace (Wilberforce), Chariots of Fire (Liddell), 42 (Robinson), and a 2005 TV movie titled Pope John Paul II, starring Jon Voight.


Doing a little internet investigating, I have again found some dissenters of some of these men, including the author, and as usual, some of their complaints may even have merit.  But I’ll share a quote of Ronald Reagan’s here, he being yet another impressive role model:  “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”

3. Godforsaken by Dinesh D’Souza


I love some of D’Souza’s books so much, I purchased the audio versions, and have re-read them by actually re-listening to them during breaks at work, when I go for a brief walk.  I enjoy being spiritually and intellectually challenged while I get a bit of a break.  Now I don’t agree with everything Dinesh says in his books – for one thing, he doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with the lack of fossil evidence that shows one species ever becoming another, and tends to embrace the theory of evolution at the same time he discredits Darwinian atheists, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate his attempt to look at this from a purely intellectual view, and defend a belief in God at the same time.  I’ll again use that quote of Reagan’s above, and realize that, despite a few differences in thought, which happens any time any two minds compare notes, D’Souza is still a “friend” and ally in my theological, philosophical, and political "battles".


4. Dr. Sleep by Stephen King


I’ve read a lot of King, and since my Mom’s friends know this, one of them lent me his latest book, which is a sequel to The Shining.  Despite being quite morally rough in the first 50 pages, I finally began to enjoy revisiting Danny Torrence and his struggles with the ghosts of his past, in the form of alcoholism courtesy of his father, or literal ghosts from the Overlook Hotel.  The new character of young Abra Stone, a young girl with an immense Shining ability, draws the attention of not only Danny, but a group called the True Knot, led by Rose in the strangely tilted top hat, a very long lived band who survive by sucking the Shining out of kids.  Although King is very good at developing plot, characters, settings, and even themes, after reading a whole lot of one particular author, you begin to notice the same things over and over again.  In this story, not only does it have many things in common with it’s predecessor, The Shining, but there are strong elements of many of Stephen King’s other stories, such as Carrie and Firestarter (since Abra is a little girl with a tremendous, nearly limitless supernatural power growing within her), the ending of It (as the heroes must come together and make a stand against an ancient evil), Dreamcatchers (Danny must “compartmentailize” his mind in order to overcome the evil that threatens them), and The Green Mile (with a plot twist very similar to what happens between John Coffey and the Warden’s wife).  I enjoyed this tale, but it took a while to get going, and finding it a bit derivative of some of King’s other work, I just didn’t like it as much as some of those older novels it borrowed from.


5. No Fear Shakespeare: A Companion


Well, I am an English Major.  I’d have to say I do love the poetic language, intelligent ideas, intriguing characters, and interesting plots of Shakespeare’s plays.  My favorites have always been the ones you might suspect, the ones that are generally considered some of Shakespeare’s finest works:  Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, The Tempest, King Lear, Julius Caesar, and Othello.  Some others I’ve seen, but they didn’t become instant favorites, such as Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Reading them is all well and good, if a person has the time and wants to devote it to these plays, but I was looking for something that described all his plays in simple language I could use as a quick refresher.  This book expertly goes into what life was like back in Shakespeare’s day, and shone a light on what little is actually known about Shakespeare, including all those theories that Shakespeare may not have written all these plays, and it also looks at some other famous writers who didn’t care for him.  After that, it covers all his plays in order, from the most popular I mention above, to ones most people, even fans, just never get around to reading, such as The Two Noble Kinsmen and Cymbeline.  Hamlet and King Lear are one thing, but who has really ever heard of those last two?


I’m 0ne of those types that never wants to stop learning, and this book covers pretty much everything I'd ever want to know about Shakespeare and his plays in roughly 300 pages.  It’s the kind of book I might turn to in the future for a bit of a brush-up.   

Not the Best

Of course, there usually always has to be a worst, even if it's just by process of elimination.  Every so often, I find a book that I’m (sadly) not really all that fond of, and this time it was:

1. Guilty by Ann Coulter


This is why I don’t think I’d be much of a politician or political commentator.  It’s not “in my blood.”  I've always believed I’m more religious than political.  Although I absolutely loved Ann Coulter’s book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, published in 2007, with most of her other books, I usually find that a little bit of Ann goes a long way.  I still like her snarky sense of humor, and when she gives it to liberal dunces who really deserve it.  But after a while, all this political fighting just starts to drag.  And then there’s the fact that everybody has their opinions, and after keeping up with many of her posts on Townhall.com, I find that she often writes some opinions that cause me to raise just one of my eyes quizzically.  Mike Adams may be right.  Here, her arguments are often weighed down by too much exposition or bizarre tangents that go one for too many pages.  Godless, which I loved so much that I downloaded the abridged audio version read by Ann Coulter herself, wasn’t like that.  This book, Guilty, made me realize that, with a few exceptions, Ann is probably best in small little bites here and there, and even then, you might not agree, with either her message or her style, even if you’re a far right conservative.  I often think she writes so many books and appears on so many talk shows simply to sell more books and appear on more talk shows.  Like many famous people, she seems to suffer from just a tad bit of narcissism.