Thursday, February 24, 2011

Newsflash: Obama actually does something that may actually matter.

If you have not heard, Obama declared that he thought DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was unconstitutional and asked that the Department of Justice stop defending it in court.

This is news.

Really big news.

In short, with a single press release, Obama has set in motion the necessary measures that will find the battle over the legality of gay marriage to be decided in the Supreme Court.

Expect Media meltdowns to occur on both sides in the coming weeks. Christian Republicans will be declared either fascist or intolerant bigots. Secular Democrats will be called Hedonists and immoral. Both sides will call the opposing side Nazi’s and both will have a grain of truth to their claim.

I will be dismayed nonetheless…

However, I am happy.

I am pro-separation of church & state..

I am opposed to the banning of gay marriage on religious grounds such as traditionally heard with an argument of “Marriage is defined in the Bible as between man and woman, and therefore how marriage is defined in the Bible should define how it’s lived out in our nation.”

But all of this is unimportant to my purpose for writing.

What I do find intriguing is that Obama is actually doing something. Something controversial. He is doing something that puts his beliefs that he declared so publicly before his presidency into action during his presidency. If Obama would have gone into 2012  without doing something controversial he would have  been voted out for being the least influential president since Gerald Ford. In short, Obama has been a big disappointment on simply the grounds that he has been boring.

Most of our most popular presidents are presidents who did something that was controversial for right or for wrong. They stood up for something that was not accepted in the mainstream (e.g. Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Jefferson, and Reagan). No president since Calvin Coolidge has been praised for doing nothing. Obama wouldn’t have been an exception. History will determine whether today’s rebuke of DOMA was right or wrong, but Obama showed today that he at least wants to be a voice of history and not just a name to be memorized in a song listing presidents.

Because, if you do something incredible as a president that will change history…you get pictures of you painted on top of a bear with a machine gun like the picture above of Lincoln.

From the NBA to the NFL to the MLB...

...Pentecostals blogging about sports is right here at sister blog Momo's Musings. You might be surprised how right they are!

Borders Bankruptcy: 6 Reasons Why

Mark Evans offers 6 reasons why Borders declared bankruptcy and B&N didn't. If you enjoy nibbling at insights, this one's worth the read. (And don't miss the comments section either.)

Apologies to sister blog Word for posting here, but I felt like this was a general culture story more than a books/writing story.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hillsong UNITED: New Album Review

Aftermath--Hillsong United, $13.99

Editor's Note: Check this out on 90&9 for pictures and a review from Hillsong United's 2010 tour.

(Reviewer’s Caveat: To be honest, this isn’t my favorite genre. So take that into consideration as you read.)

Have you ever fought the urge to laugh while singing “At the Cross” on a Sunday morning? Don't look so shocked! You know the line I mean:

Would He devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

No denying the truth behind the sentiment, but it delivers such a funny image in such a straight-faced, melancholy way.

On a related note, this may be one of my biggest problems with Hillsong music. It takes everything so seriously. Everything is earnest to the tenth degree, and the new album Aftermath by Hillsong United is no exception.

This group evolved from the youth movement of the famous Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia. Aftermath is their first new release in over two years. It focuses on the apparent contradiction that the unspeakable tragedy of the cross created an aftermath of hope.

The music itself is very well done. The arrangements make the most of the material. They often start simply and build with moving crescendos. The repetitive motifs with the guitars get a bit annoying, but the overall sound is high quality. A mix of soloists, both male and female, take turns singing the smooth, silky melodies.

The lyrics are more milkshake than filet mignon, sweet and bland. You probably won’t hear anything you haven’t heard before regarding grace, love, and stars in the sky. And the false rhymes sound a bit lazy. “Shoulders” and “daughters” is not the cleverest match. Aftermathskims along, never quite touching a deeper chord. Perhaps that’s a point in its favor. It’s easy to ignore the words and just exist in an atmosphere of worship. Tune out and tune in.

I’m not saying every song needs a punch line, but even Jesus spoke to everyday people in words they could understand, with mental pictures that tickled their imaginations: a rich man being compared to a camel, a clueless hypocrite with a beam in his eye, a blind man leading another blind man into the ditch. Aftermath lacks this humorous creativity.

Although this album may be uber-serious, it is sincere. But if you like grandiose metaphors comparing God’s love to natural disasters (e.g. hurricanes, avalanches, etc.), then this might be the album for you.

Reviewed by Shannon Dunlap

UPDATED: Aftermath debuted at No. 1 on multiple international retail charts. (But you've probably already heard their first single "Search My Heart" on Christian radio.)

Pentecostal Wrestler Forfeits State Championship?

You did hear about the Pentecostal wrestler who gave up an excellent shot at a state championship because he wouldn't wrestle a girl on biblical grounds, yes?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pirates Kill American Missionaries

I know the eyes of the world are on the protests in the Middle East (and Madison, WI), but did you know Somali pirates had kidnapped 4 Americans?

Now it turns out that at least two of the four Americans killed by Somali pirates were missionaries.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Little Privacy, Please?

Just read this . . . I could not believe my eyes! While UPCers and the ACLU often don't see eye to eye, I have to say this is one of the most outrageous things I have heard in recent memory. A job applicant being required to divulge his personal information INCLUDING his Facebook password? C'mon. Really? If I hadn't seen it on the Internet, I wouldn't have believed it. (To be honest, part of me still doesn't believe it).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Price Fame?

Billy Ray Cyrus admits the fame and fortune that came with The Hannah Montana Show, thus foisting Miley Cyrus upon the rest of us, has destroyed his family. He wishes it had never happened.

And yet, that is the American dream in the early 21st Century, yes?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Beginning of the End: Man vs. Machine

I just heard about this, and it's probably because I rarely check the news or watch the news...Shame on me...

But apparently IBM has developed a computer named "Watson" to compete in Jeopardy (Pictured). This entire week finds Watson competing against two of Jeopardy's most prolific winners on TV.

Last night in the first match, things ended in a deadlock with Watson and one of the contestants ending the episode with $4,000 each, but this is a week-long competition with the same three players so the draw itself is rather insignificant. More interestingly, Watson had a few computer glitches along the way, such as restating the wrong answer the previous contestant had also answered wrongly.

I have no thoughts on this matter other than the fact that I am waiting for the day that this whole earth lights on fire because of some snarky robots who have outsmarted us, and by outsmarted us, they just realize that humans are terrible, violent people and need to be distinguished for the sake of peace....Yes thoughts like these go through my head when robots play jeopardy.

Recorded Test Run-

Poor Video of some of last nights episode (if it stays up):

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Here we go again...The battle over Evangelical Christians

:Last week, President Obama came out with his most outspoken declarations of his Christian Faith at a National Prayer Breakfast. And by, "most outspoken," i mean he hasn't come close to saying the stuff he did at the National Prayer Breakfast. Suddenly we have a president who is definitely not Muslim (nor did I ever believe so), and prays morning and night very personal prayers.

This is good. Really Good. I am happy.

What irks me, is we haven't gotten anything close to such statements anywhere before this. The timing of these statements is what is curious....

Are his public declarations a means of early positioning for a 2012 Evangelical Vote?

And then we have Tim Pawlenty (former Governor if Minn.)  doing an interview at Christianity Today's Website, wherein he appears to be setting himself up for a run for the Republican nomination in 2012...and lo and behold he is setting up his Evangelical Christianity as more of a centrist position that advocates social reform (I agree), that seems to criticize the traditional Evangelical Right and it's "judgmental" tendencies.

My curiosity with the interview and Obama's statements is not the statements themselves. It's simply the timing of each and their curious nearness to the "jockeying for position" in the 2012 race...

This is why i hate American Politics now...It's not what what is said, it's rather about the appearance of what is said and when to display such appearances.

Christians will argue that the secularism of America has removed God from the Public Sphere and the Government.

Surely Obama's statements and Bush's own religious leanings demonstrate otherwise.

The reality we need to catch onto is that for the majority of our history, God has been removed from the Government. There is a sharp separation between God and State. The Invoking of God in Government has simply been a rhetorical device to appease the religious masses that compose our Union.

For further evidence, look to our nation's founding fathers (primarily the likes of Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin)....they used the name of God and his influence in the founding of our nation left and right, but yet in their private writings (and even in the first draft of the constitution), the mention of God is primarily muted. Many of the founding fathers were Deists and thus did not believe God was actively involved...

Further Reading:

(apologies for cynicism).

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Kung Fu Panda- Anti-Christian? An attempt at film analysis

Most of you probably have watched or at least have heard about the recent cartoon film Kung fu Panda. And there is a sequel coming in May.

On the surface, it seems like an innocent prototypical children's cartoon where the underdog hero (Po, the fat lazy Panda pictured above) overcomes obstacles and his own limitations to beat stereotypical Strong Bad Guy.

However, a closer look reveals the movie to be a war of ideology. That is, East vs. West. More specifically, war of religions: Buddhism (reality is false, just "believe" in yourself and you can overcome the illusion of reality) vs. Judeo-Christianity (Man is Fallen/broken in need of God).

The philosopher Zizek summarizes the message of the film as "“There is no special ingredient (to life). It’s only you. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.”

While the lines that lend credence to this are numerous in the film, the basic idea of what I argue can be seen in one example....

In the following scene, which is the climax of the film we will see the tiger, Tai Lung (the enemy) opening up the Magic Scroll.

As a preface, the Magic Scroll was believed to contain the secrets of the universe and hidden wisdoms. Earlier, Po, who had inherited the scroll, opened it up to find that there was no words on the words but rather just his own reflection on the shiny scroll itself. Essentially, the "wordless" scroll was saying the secret ingredient to life is within you (As in the secret of reality was already within Po as he saw himself in the scroll). Po, accepts this wisdom and goes on to become the Dragon Warrior....

(One need to only watch the first 2:30  to see enough to understand my further analysis below)-

The scene speaks volumes to me....

And if one considers the Scroll equivalent to the Bible or any sacred text..the Secret Scroll in the scene is essentially declaring that there is no such thing as a sacred text. The only thing that is sacred is the individual themselves....if only they believe in themselves. Or to go one step further, it is saying that the only reason the Bible or other writings are sacred is because they are believed to be sacred.

We then see the Tiger get upset as the lack of message within the scroll (because he was believing the Word within the scroll would help him). Notice too that when the tiger opens up the scroll and sees his reflection, he says "it's nothing!" Is this not a jab at the Christian faith which says man is nothing without God and he needs the Word to sustain him? Thus when the tiger says "it's nothing," the movie is saying that when an individual relies on something outside himself for belief, his value is nothing. At such a rage in realization, the fight continues right after Po says "there is no secret ingredient."

Subjective Speculation: At the 1:35 mark in the video do we have an allegorical jab at Christianity wherein Panda's shooting the Tiger up into the heaven's to the point of disappearing in the sky (complete with angelic song to accompany the Tiger's ascension) and the Tiger's fall allude to the "false" resurrection of Christ wherein such an ascension never happened and Jesus was just a man (he comes falling back to earth)

The one last piece of note in the scene is when the Tiger calls Po "just a BIG....FAT...PANDA" and Po replies, "I'm not a big, fat, panda. I am the big, fat Panda." The emphasis on Po's line is that he substitutes an "a" with "the" and thus in a way elevates his own being to the point of divinity. Thus, Jesus is not a Messiah, but rather he is the Messiah. Or similarly, if I were to say "I am THE Joel Riley," the allusion would be that I am an egotistical maniac making himself something of myself beyond that of a normal human being.

I am not preaching that we can't watch such films, but I argue that there are always underlying ideological assumptions in films...and many times in those which we think are entirely innocent (such as children's film). I would similarly argue that the message of Kung Fu Panda, is the fallacy of our age wherein we are told to just "Believe in yourself and you can achieve whatever your heart desires."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Liberal Media vs. the Conservative South

Last week we saw quite a stir with a supermarket in Arkansas censoring a magazine cover that exhibited Elton John holding hands with his partner.

One customer tweeted the censorship and the media latched onto it broadcasting too and fro on tv and on the internet.

This week, we get another similar case wherein it was reported a single restaurant of the fast food chain, Chic-Fil-A had been donating food to the Pennsylvania Family Group that is against gay marriage.

Naturally there has been a media outrage against the convservative restaurant owners and even calls for protests from their food....

As someone who is a big advocate for the separation of church & state, I am for the legal permissability of gay marriage.

That said, i find such instances of leftist "bullying" against anyone who is against gay rights repulsive.

If people want to support private institutions with the money they earn or the product they make, that is their perogative. But I worry for a nation that finds its media against such private investments of money when the investmens seem "politically incorrect" such as a millionare family donating money to anti-gay marriage groups.

I would venture to say that, the idea of being "politically correct" is in itself politically incorrect. Because these "politically correct" liberal hawks look to prey on conversatives in the name of gay rights (and thus argue for some kind of "equality" for gay people.

However, the problem is that when the liberals get mad at tradtionalist Southern institutions, they immediately contradict themselves in their call for equalitiy. That is, the liberals call for gay rights but are at the same time against the rights of conservatives to preach their own view.

The dilusion of these liberal bullies is they assume they are the tolerant, equality-loving people when their agenda is intolerant against those who disagree.

In short, the liberal bullies are saying "equality, tolerance, and freedom for all" for only those who agree with our defintion of what tolerance, equality, and freedom is. Such contradictions are the demon of our society, and we as Christians should never find ourselves in a society where the only beliefs that can be expressed are the ones that the liberals agree with.

If there is any positive to this story regarding chic-fil-a (who sadly had to come out with a bunch of releases saying they aren't anti-gay marriage nor anti-homosexual), it is that the backlash created against Chic-Fil-A by the media will no doubt result in a bigger backlash monetarily against the Liberal Media. Thus the Pennsylvania Family Group should be thankful for the liberal bullies since previous the controversy, all they were getting from Chic-Fil-A was food, will now find more private donations heading it's way from private investors. The liberal media in this instance, while making the most noise, will in the long run only be biting itself in the butt... (clap clap clap).