Tag Archives: literature

His Dark Materials

Tired of all the hysteria surrounding the release of “The Golden Compass”? Take a few minutes out and read Alan Jacobs’ outstanding, incisive, deeply literate critique of “His Dark Materials”, the original series by Philip Pullman that the film is based on.

I originally ran across this essay as part of a collection of Jacobs’ writings, Shaming the Devil, under the title “The Republic of Heaven”. I was thrilled to (finally) find it reprinted online at FirstThings.com under the title “The Devil’s Party”. It is, probably, the only review from a Christian perspective worth reading about the books and film.

It is a deeply critical look at Pullman’s work, but critical in the best possible way: he takes Pullman to task for squandering his formidable literary ability by delivering a disingenuous editorial pamphlet instead of the substantial work of fiction that his readers deserved. I think Jacobs would find resonance with our own beloved Chad’s critique of The Da Vinci Code: he [Brown, and Pullman] delights in goring the church, and “his delight is his undoing.” (what a great line, Chad). What he really wants to write is a bitter political invective against the church, but people don’t pay $20 to read those. Instead, he couches it in thinly veiled narrative, where the characters are either mimeographed caricatures or leitmotifs, and all suffer under the weight of the agenda.

You can hear Jacobs talking more about Pullman’s book at the Mars Hill Podcast archives.

If you haven’t read anything by Jacobs, this is a good introduction. His has a few collections of essays published, including Shaming the Devil and A Visit to Vanity Fair: Moral Essays on the Present Age. Both make good scotch + bathtub reading.

In my cart so far…

So, it snowed last night…just enough to be pretty (which now, a few hours later, means it’s one giant, sloppy, unpretty mess). The snow reminded me that winter has in fact, just begun. Given that I’m a poster-child for SAD, I’m planning ahead and doing some book shopping so that if (hahahahahah!) or rather, WHEN the dysfunction rears it’s ugly head on day #4 of rain (who am I kidding…I mean day #2!) I will at least have some good reads lying about. Better to bury one’s head in a book than just, ya know, bury it. So here’s what’s in my cart so far:
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
I’ve read zero Rob so far…I’m curious…and anything with “repainting” in the title is bound to resonate with me…I repaint often. (Which is another way of saying I paint badly quite often.)

Sadly, that’s the only mommy book I’ve added so far. (Thus, this post.) The only other things in my cart are three children’s books about Thanksgiving. (Thanks Aly…I finally checked out the Squanto book you recommended.) Like I said, I’m planning ahead.

I thought briefly about adding Foucault’s Pendulum as per a recommendation on a friend’s facebook page, but this sentence from the review sent me back to the children’s section: “This complex psychological thriller chronicles the development of a literary joke that plunges its perpetrators into deadly peril.” That is soooo utterly unappealing to me. And I don’t even feel compelled to apologize for my lack of intellectualism. (Mark it down.)

So, who has some reading recommendations for me? I’m aiming for somewhere a bit beyond Squanto for children but below the psychologically thrilling Foucault…it’s a big target…surely some of you can help! Lest my brain moss over in this perpetual winter drizzle, do comment soon! Thanks. (I thought about this and this, but I dunno….I guess I kinda want something more….fun.)

The Doubt of the Saints

“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” — Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

Time Magazine came out with a whole slew of “Top 10″ lists this week, from the top 10 moments in sports to the top 10 Middle East stories. At the head of their “Top 10 Religion Stories” list was the publishing of Mother Teresa’s private letters.

If you missed the story when it first broke, a collection of private letters between Mother Teresa and several of her confidants was collected and published by Doubleday, under the title Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. What made this otherwise innocuous event newsworthy were the passages in which she speaks of deep doubts and confusions, where the Angel of Calcutta professes her long periods of doubt, her struggle to believe that a compassionate God could exist, in the face of such overwhelming suffering. That kind of doubt seemed, to those reporting on it, to be inconsistent with the image of stalwart sainthood so cherished by millions.

Of course, anyone who has pursued the life of faith knows that’s not true. We make peace with our doubts, or we flee them, but we don’t ever outgrow them. The presence of doubt in so great a life as Mother Teresa’s is not evidence that religion and devotion are a sham; they are evidence that faith, once awakened by the intimacy of God, can sustain a lifetime of duty and virtue even in the presence of great doubt.

One of the better reflections on faith and doubt was written by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, as quoted by Dallas Willard at the opening of The Divine Conspiracy. Writing as the demon Uncle Screwtape, C.S. Lewis says,

“You must have often wondered why the enemy [God] does not make more use of his power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree he chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the irresistible and the indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as his felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For his ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve … Sooner or later he withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all supports and incentive. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish … He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand … Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Harry Potter and the Make Victorious Super Magic

For those of you who haven’t finished the book yet, I offer this concise summary of the plot, provided courtesy of a pirated Chinese knockoff translation:

Snape breaks into Hogwarts and rescues Lucius Malfoy from Azkaban Prison. Harry believes that he can defeat Snape and Voldemort only by strenuously practicing charms. Professor Slughorn, inspired by a book from the East provided by Cho Chang called “Thirty-Six Strategies,” devises a plan enabling Harry to seize Snape in the Ministry of Magic. But Gryffindor’s sword, which hung in the headmaster’s office, assassinates Professor McGonagall.

When Harry confronts Voldemort at Azkaban, the Dark Lord tries to win Harry over as a fellow descendant of Slytherin. Harry refuses, and together with Ron and Hermione, kills Voldemort instead. Now what will Harry do about his two girlfriends?

Read a whole bunch of this crap at the New York Times. HT Kottke.

Worst first line contest

“Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you’ve had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.”

This was the 2006 winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest…aka, the worst first line of a novel contest. I heard about it on NPR yesterday morning and remembered it this morning when I heard a song on my ipod begin with “I write mostly on hotel paper…”

This is a 2006 runner-up in the adventure category: “She looked at her hands and saw the desiccated skin hanging in Shar-Pei wrinkles, confetti-like freckles, and those dry, dry cuticles–even her “Fatale Crimson” nail color had faded in the relentless sun to the color of old sirloin–and she vowed if she ever got out of the Sahara alive, she’d never buy polish on sale at Walgreen’s again.”

C’mon Aly…you know you want to enter!

Hey, What’s Everybody Reading?

We’re nearing the apex of summer (i.e., July 4th), and that means that we’re all well into our summer reading program, right? Shamelessly copying a great idea from one of my wife’s posts last year, I thought this would be a good time to ask what everyone is reading. This could include bedtime, quiet time, potty-time, beach time, drive-time (books on CD or tape), iPod time, etc.

I’ll lead off – and the number of books in play reflects only the wonders of ADD, not any great literary aspirations on my part.

Quiet time / bedtime:

The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. Insightful as always, but in smaller bites – great for ADD.

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey. As always, thoughtful, provocative, wide in scope, wonderfully written.

Potty-time: The Calendar section and Entertainment Weekly, as always. At the office I just read an incredible National Geographic article about malaria. I know that this isn’t really a book and just sounds weird, but I was blown away by the worldwide devastation caused by this disease.

Drive time: Three books on CD in rotation.

Babylon Rising by Tim LaHaye. I have a perverse interest in popular Christian fiction. This one involves an Indiana-Jones type evangelical archeologist, and some really powerful bad guys who utilize a hit-man known simply as Talon. See, he has this artificial finger with a really sharp nail… Don’t all run out and get this one at once.

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. You’ve seen this one for sale at Starbuck’s. A horrifying first person account by an ex-boy soldier during the insane civil war in Sierra Leone. Like the LaHaye book, I can only take this one in small quantities, but for different reasons.

A History of Britain, Part 3 – The Fate of Empire (1776-2000) by Simon Schama. I had trouble getting into this one, so I skipped to disc 6 or 7. Heard an incredible story (no kidding) about medical care during the Crimean War, and now I’m in. Right now I’m hearing about how Prince Albert was really running things for Queen Victoria.

Okay, who’s next?

David and Goliath

Remember the story of David and Goliath from Sunday School? It was yesterday’s reading from The Bible Podcast. It had been a while since I’d read the actual text.

tbp logo

Um, who decided this was a children’s story? Beheadings, corpses lying in fields, rivers running with blood, deceit, cowardice, birds pecking out eyes. Yeah, it’s your basic Sandra Boynton rhyming silly kids story.

Anyway, if you haven’t listened to it in a while, it’s a great story. Click here for the direct link:

1 Samuel 17

On a related tangent, the podcast passed a significant milestone a few weeks ago. We added a listener at a research station in Antarctica, which makes people on all 7 continents who listen to the thing. How cool is that?

“My Lover is Mine” and she has freakin’ nipples!

Ash & Aly, you guys DOMINATE! Just got your Christmas gift today and was near blown away by the sheer beauty and understated–yet mesmerizing–sensuality of the poetry and images (omg–Cerise, you married to dat boy???). Bring on the Benjies, baby, that’s all I’m saying, one author to another! You a big tymer now…every couple getting married in Christendom gots to have dis book, tru dat? I mean, not enough badonkadonk butt or Osca Maya for my personal taste, but we makin’ good progress, brother and sister! I mean, like, isn’t Regal a Christian publisher? (And all this time Paul and I have been wasting our time on these painful legit tomes. Sigh.) I mean, like, aren’t those REAL NIPPLES I see? I’d love to have been on the discussions around that editorial round table! :-)

Okay, all kidding (and ghetto language that you’ll be shocked to know isn’t my first language) aside, I was moved and incredibly encouraged that a book like this could actually be published by and marketed without excuse or even some “hey-they’ve-got-the-predictably-subnormal-IQs-let’s-just-obfuscate” to the Christian community. Does this mean we’re making progress? Does this mean maybe I don’t have to evolve to the house church thing after all? Does this mean that my frazzled Sunday School teacher from 50 years ago is finally going to stop telling me that the Song of Solomon was all a metaphor (and we could just skip over it because it was so confusing)?

And when does the sequel come out. Cause, dang, my homie and me, we pretty much used up allsa pages da firstus nite. I’m just saying…

Baller status with this one, kids! Big do dap kudos!

Love, Teri

p.s. Can this blog count as my thank you card?

p.p.s. I got one word for the picture on the back of the dust cover: RAWR! Can I have a copy to frame for my refrigerator collection of Chad and Erica’s incredibly cool homies?

Wisdom Literature and the Emerging Church, or Where do we go from here?

I’ve read about a bazillion books about the emerging church, and they’ve all kind of run together in the disordered maelstrom that is my brain pan. Consequently, I can’t remember exactly where I read the suggestion that the Bible’s “wisdom literature” (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) could have special value to postmodern-type people — if ever they were inclined to read them — because the writers approached faith and relationships (with God and others) through the lens of personal experience.

When I read it (sorry, emerging author who shall remain nameless due to negligence and bad memory), a light bulb appeared for a split-second over my head. (Okay, okay. Not a literal light bulb. But that would seriously rock if it happened.) “Hey, Self,” I thought to myself. “Wouldn’t it be sweet if someone could present the content of those books in a medium that resonated with persons of the postmodernish persuasion?” And that is how My Lover Is Mine was conceived. (Our due date is February 5.) Ash and I and our friend Ramon put our heads together and tried to figure a way to make Holy Scripture appealing to non-Bible readers. We were helped immensely by gratuitous sexual content.

And now it’s time to decide where we go from here…which is where you come in. Of the four remaining books that fall into the wisdom lit category, which would you most like to see presented in a similar poetry/fine art format? (I’m laboring under the assumption that you care.) Take a gander, when you get a minute, at a couple of the original chapters (see links above) and let us know what you think. I’m leaning toward Ecclesiastes, since the original form and length is close to that of Song of Songs (so we’d know what to expect)…but I’m open to suggestions. A few of the more gut-crunching Psalms, perhaps? Or maybe the wacky-ass metaphysical conversations of Job and his good-for-nothing friends?

Help a sista out.

I shall not now feel ashamed.

I borrowed the extended edition of The Return of the King from our friends Jason and Brooke and have been ever-so-slowly making my way through the special features. In one of the (many) featurettes, a bushel of Tolkien experts examine his theme of hope versus despair, which he explores most powerfully in the contrasting characters of Theoden, King of Rohan and Denethor, Steward of Gondor. Their story lines are remarkably similar: each has lost a son, each has another heir (Eomer and Faramir, respectively) who just doesn’t seem as great as the first, each one’s kingdom is threatened with impending doom. Yet even with all their apparent similarities, one chooses the path of hope (with no promise of fulfillment), while the other commits the ultimate act of despair: suicide (with no chance for what Tolkien called “the eucatastrophe“).

As I was watching the featurette, I realized I was crying. This in and of itself is not that surprising: I’ve become a bit of a blubber-baby in my old age. (All that “feelings need feeling or they get really pithed” has really done a number on my equilibrium.) What was a bit surprising, however, was the realization that the cause of my tears was a short clip of Theoden’s death scene — which was completely out of context, since I wasn’t even watching the film itself. As he lies dying, Theoden says, “I go to my fathers, in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed.”

It just broke me up. It struck me that this hope — the hope that I will someday stand in the presence of my Father, as well as those who have gone before, and not feel ashamed — goes to the core of my desire to live well. I don’t fear punishment (hell, if you prefer) for NOT living well. No, I fear the shame of squandering the graces I’ve been given — and more, I long (on my best days) to live a life deserving of those graces.

Science Fiction does it again

In his novel, Earth, David Brin, writing in 1991, describes a society in the year 2038 where military action is taken against people who keep secrets… And, by the way, in which Bangladesh is simply gone due to rising sea levels, and physics experiments are about to destroy the world.

One thing he gets right: he posits a world where nearly everyone wears a video camera, and is constantly uplinking video in real time to central servers accessibile to all. Senior citizens especially are likely to be wearing video cameras to record any crimes committed against them, which combined with facial recognition software is a powerful deterrent.

And now, from LA:

Some Los Angeles grass-roots groups are training citizens to use cameras, video cell phones and the speed and Internet sites like YouTube to get their voices, and pictures, heard.

“We urge everyone to have a camera on them at all times so if anything happens it can be documented. The concept of patrolling the police is something we are trying to push as a form of direct action,” said Sherman Austin, a founder of Cop Watch L.A., which launched its Web site three months ago.

The three videos shot on cell phones or small recorders capturing Los Angeles police using apparently excessive force to restrain suspects all surfaced within a week.

Of course, what goes around comes around. If the anti-police patrol would police its own communities, recording drug buys, muggings, trolling johns, etc., imagine the salutary effect on minority on minority crime. Of course, some of those folks shoot back with something besides camcorders: unlike the cops. Now, when a cop plugs somebody for videoing an arrest, THAT will be real news.
In the meantime, guard your secrets jealously.

McLaren Just Killed Santa Claus

So I just finished the third book of Brian McLaren’s trilogy (The Last Word and the Word After That) and my brain hurts.

Here’s the best way to describe what I’m feeling right now: I’m nine years old and it’s December 20. I’ve known for oh, about five years that there really is no such person as Santa Claus, but everybody in the family has always talked the jolly elf up every year, and I’m not about to declare “the emperor has no clothes on” for fear that the goodies won’t be under the tree on Christmas morning if I don’t play along with the game! But now someone comes along and suggests something outrageous: What if we could have an even better Christmas without Santa Claus? What is there’s something better than presents that are broken within a week? (Better than presents? How scary is that?)

Who out there has read all three of these books? I would value your feedback! I feel like I’ve been holding my breath and just playing along with everyone else for 35 years for fear of being banned a heretic.

Teri

What’s on your bedstead right now?

Okay, fess up: what are you reading right now? Don’t go all lofty on me; I want to know, really and truly, what your brain is soaking up this week. What are you reading for fun and what are you reading for serious (and what’s on the runway)? I’ll start:

Serious reading: Just started the third book of McLaren’s trilogy (The Last Word and the Word After That). Phillip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Chrisitianity, Willard’s Divine Conspiracy, Emmet Fox’s The Sermon on the Mount and then Strauss and Howse’s Millennials Rising and The Fourth Turning are lined up on the runway.

Fun reading: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’m an enormous scifi freak (it’s my drug of choice). Next on the runway: The rest of this series (approximately 5000 pages–she’s wordy, that one), The Heartbreaker by Susan Howath, and gosh but I’d like to slip David Brin’s Uplift War in there someplace!

Okay…your turns. I really want to know!

Poetry Corner: Robert Frost

My dad and I have been emailing back and forth the last few weeks. He is in graduate school, working on his MFT (after 30 years as a pastor), and we have been sharing our Adventures in Therapy. (His program requires him to be in counseling as he learns to be one…but he’d be the first to admit that degree requirements are not the sole reason for his foray into psychotherapy — just the one reason that was finally reason enough.) I can’t describe how incredibly special it is to share this experience with my dad…there’s nothing like walking with someone who shares so many of the same memories to confirm that you’re not alone (or crazy).

In his email tonight, he sent a poem by Robert Frost…and I just had to share. Enjoy.

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud –
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says “I burn.”
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

-”Choose Something Like a Star” (1947)

More Sexy Goodness from My Lover is Mine

Thought I’d share some of Ramon’s latest illustrations for My Lover is Mine, our poetry/art adaptation of Song of Songs. These are not the final design layouts, they’re just paired with their poems so you can read what the illustration is, um…illustrating. (Click thumbnails for larger images.)

MLM final cover

MLM wandering

MLM lily thorns

MLM warrior

MLM maps legends

MLM pear tree

The Nacirema and Ethnocentrism

As I mentioned a while back, I’m back in school. I’m taking a couple online courses this summer, Sociology and Physical Anthropology. I had my orientation thingy for Sociology on Friday evening, and (since I’ve decided to be an over-achiever this time around, in contrast to my first college experience) I’m finishing up this week’s assignments tonight. (I’m also terrified that the Physical Anthropology class will kick my ass, so I’m getting a jump on the “easy subject” before my orientation class for PA on Monday night. I’m just not a hard sciences kind of girl. Facts? Statistics? Phooey…give me social theory any day of the week. My humanities B.S. will knock your socks right off. Well, maybe not Phil’s.)

Anyway, one of the assignments for Chapter 2: Culture was to read “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema,” published by the American Anthropological Association (not to be confused with AAA) and write a short essay about its implications for ethnocentrism. This is SO awesome, people. I didn’t get the joke until I had read nearly to the end.

The best part is, I was entertained and I learned something. (I also felt a bit stupid at how easily I was taken in, but my inflated self-concept probably needed to be taken down a peg or two.) Where was this kind of fun when I was in college the first time?

Yup, It’s a Turd

So, it’s bad.

I bet you dollars to pesos that ten years from now we might catch a rerun of this movie on TBS or TBN or something and find ourselves scratching our heads and thinking… “What exactly was the big deal?”  With a $77 million opening weekend, the joke’s on us, present company included.  In time, I sincerely believe the joke will be at the expense of the creative forces behind this project.  I am sure they will sooth the stinging pain of our laughter by curling up in a warm bath next to a fireplace where they are burning stacks of hundred dollar bills. 

The biggest problem with the book is that it is essentially an overglorified airport novel.  You know… one of those novels with names like, “The Shadow Matrix,” or, you know… ”Tribulation Force.”  Airport novels are about 400-500 pages long, long enough for you to look at it at the newsstand and think that it will sustain you to your trip to Honolulu / Des Moines / Federal Prison.  

You are incorrect. 

You will finish it as you’re waiting for your connecting flight in Houston which is for the best, because Sgt. Azzkicker doens’t allow new inmates to have outside reading material.   

Airport novels have characters with names like Rock Blackwell, or Black Rocksoff, or Rayford Steele.  Rock Blackwell will not be able to form a coherent sentence, but chances are that he will have some pretty hot sex and most likely save the government / universe / hot chick.

When I first heard about “The DaVinci Code,” people were talking about it as if it were a serious, historical novel.  I was underthe impression that it was something like a Michener piece.

The DaVinci Code makes Tom Clancy’s latest technothriller read like Tolstoy.  Dave Barry writes more believable characters.  If you think about it, there’s not really a story in DVC.  There is zero character development, in fact, the characters are there only to serve one purpose, which is the Big Reveal. 

No one changes, or really makes a serious choice.  The only character who undergoes any sort of shift is the character of Sophie Neveu, and, frankly, what passes for character development with her is essentially the big reveal of her true family of origin.  She’s completely passive in the whole process.

Robert Langdon?  Leigh Teabing?  Bishop Arreggllaggalaraggah?  Nothin’.  They believe the same things at the end of the story that they do at the beginning, except that they’re either now dead, in jail, or still sporting silly hair. 

Ironically, the one character who experiences anything resembling an actual story arc is Silas, the murderous nekkid uber-honkey monk with a whip fetish.

Now, the screenplay adaptation for The DaVinci code was written by one Akiva Goldsman.  He won an Oscar for his adaptation of A Beautiful Mind.  Good for him.  A Beautiful Mind, if you remember, was a very well written, twisty, delicate piece of work.  It set up the big “gotcha” twist in a way that I found compelling. 

Unfortunately, most people do not realize that Mr. Goldsman also wrote the screenplay for a small, independant art house film named Batman and Robin.  I cannot miss this opportunity to type the following phrase for the second time since I started blogging here. 

Bat nipples.

Which Mr. Goldsman showed up for this gig?  The latter, I’m afraid.  The screenplay does nothing other then reveal the inherent flaws of the source material.  Dan Brown should send Akiva Goldsman a giftbag filled with poisonous scorpions.  

After the first 25 minutes, which are actually pretty good, The Explaining starts happens.  The Explaining will continue to happen until Tom Hanks’ Big Speech at the end of the film.  Oh sure, The Explaining will be paused for a moment or two for more whipping, or diabolical priests, or corrupt Catholic police officers, but don’t worry, it will return soon.  Your new worldview will be explained in just a few more minutes.  Ok, maybe a few more.  Just a few more.  Good grief… how long is this thing?!?!

Audrey Tautou’s Sophie is the person on the business end of the vast majority of The Explaining.  The one upside to all this is that Audrey Tautou makes confusion look sexy, which is good, since her main job is to ask leading questions in comically French-accented English.  Her delivery is so stilted, that after about the first hour, she started reminding me of the sidekick on infomercials:

“You mean…  zee ginzuu weel cut zee carrots AND zee celery with only one stroke… and I am zee offspring of zee Messiah?  Sacre Bloo!”

Author’s note: I neither know the correct spelling or actual meaning of the expression “Sacre Bloo!”  But it’s damn funny.

Hanks does his best with what is a terribly thankless, lackluster hero.  I honestly don’t have much to say about his performance.  I think it could have been much worse had he not been there.  His character displays, for a brief instant, a little spunk when he is arguing with Teabing in one scene, but it’s all show.  He’s back to Explaining in no time. 

Then there’s Ian McKellen.  Sir Ian is not exactly sympathetic to Christianity.  I would guess he relished the thought of taking it down a few pegs.  His delight is his undoing.  He has been given the most amount of Explaining to do, and he is so painfully obvious in his disdain for Christianity, that it undermines his performance.  Anytime he utters the word, “The Church,” it is in a manner that should be followed immediately with a tight zoom on his face and scary music.  I am a fan, Sir Ian.  I am.  You can act your ass off, and I give you props.  Don’t let your idealism interfere with your art; it’s beneath you, sir.  

Opie’s direction is pretty good, with one exception.  This movie is flashback happy.  We get flashbacks of young Silas, young Robert, young Sophie, Knights Templar, burning of witches, ancient pagan rituals, and so on and so forth.

I’m going to take a wild guess here.  I bet these shots were among the last to be completed, and I bet by that point the budget was mostly blown on Hanks’ hairdresser.  The flashbacks look like heaping piles of dog vomit.  The flashbacks on America’s Most Wanted are more believable.  Dear Imagine Entertainment, using After Effects to add the ”Grainy” look in post is not going to change the fact that it looks like you shot ancient Rome in ancient Burbank. 

I’m not just being nit-picky here.  These scenes are supposed to help us get the big picture of The Church’s History of Horror.  Instead, it kind of looks like band dorks going to the Reinassance Faire.   

Look, The DaVinci Code is a book with an agenda.  So is Left Behind Part 45 : Still Here, Still Tribulating.  Stories that favor agenda over character will fail, every single time.  I don’t care if Billy Graham or Satan himself is producing. 

Aly and Ash joined us for a Mother’s Day lunch, and she said something that I think is really true, so I’m going to reprint it here without her permission.  I think she was elaborating on an idea Brian MacLaren has been discussing publically, but I don’t know that for sure.  Aly has, in the past, had an original idea or fifty, so I have no doubt that she may have come up with this one on her own.  I’m sure she’ll articulate further.

She said something to the effect that the only really interesting thing about the DaVinci phenomenon is not the question, “Is it true,” but “Why do people want to believe it’s true?” 

I totally agree.  The historicity of the book is a total farce.  I didn’t want to believe it at first, but the more I look into it, the more I am convinced Brown was just gleefully messing with us.  Erica wondered if there was some sort of intentional irony in the statement at the beginning of his book regarding accuracy.  Perhaps it’s some sort of statement or… symbol… in and of itself.

No friends, the debate about accuracy is quickly over.  The History Channel spent the entire weekend running debunking specials. 

The only interesting question left, the only one that really matters, is why it’s struck such a chord.  The Church can get all giddy about the lack of quality of this piece of pop art, but the truth is that we have a larger problem that must be dealt with. 

Fundie Christians like to say that the Gospel is inherently offensive, and that’s why the world doens’t like us.  They’re halfway right.  The Gospel is still marvelously offensive.  If we were to actually live it out, our entire social order could be upset, and we would again see Christian martyrs being executed in the public square as the government tried to restore it’s power.  I believe this with every fiber of my being. 

But that’s not the reason most of the world hates us.  I think a lot of the world hates us because a lot of us are insufferable assholes. 

Jesus was many things, but the only people who found him to be an insufferable asshole were people in power who had a lot to lose and they had to silence this guy who told their customers to sell everything they had and give the proceeds to the poor.  Or, they were religious leaders who were offended by Jesus’ claims of divinity and the threat to their own status in the religious order.  Or, they were the unwashed masses who were pissed off at Jesus for not leading a violent revolt against the oppressive, occupying foreign military force in their promised land. 

Most of the people who dislike us feel so because they feel oppressed by us.  They don’t even have a chance to be offended by The Gospel, because they don’t really have any idea what it really says, because we’re not really living it out.  What we tend to be, is afraid.  We feel like our “Christian” nation is being stolen from us, so we’re clamoring for power, relationally and politically.  Are there organizations and individuals who are determined to destroy our faith, and faith in general?  Sure.  Without a doubt.  But they consider themselves liberators, people. 

Please, pastors of the world, candidly ask yourselves and your congregations the question “why.”  Please, Christians of the world, ask yourselves if The Gospel is offensive, or you are.  Please, Dan Brown, pick on Islam next.  Their response will make us look like we have the righteous wrath of grammar school crossing guards.  I am sure that, “The Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi Code,” will be another big hit for you.   

Oh, by the way, if there are any Christians out there who are offended by my choice of the phrase, “Insufferable asshole,” you may be one; so, do try to relax.