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This story from the Odd News is certainly odd.  A Florida church is in trouble for a 3-week series about “great sex.”  No, the problem is not the denomination, or some stuffy members upset about such a scandalous thing.

The problem in this case is the “risk management” department of the local school board.  The controversy revolves around the 25,000 mailers sent to homes in the target area of the church.

Mark Langdorf, the director of risk management, says the mailers generated complaints, were not appropriate for elementary school children and shouldn’t be used to advertise the sermon in the school.

This implies a few things, which really aren’t true.

First, that the mailers were geared for, and sent to, children.  Elementary school children to be precise.  I seriously doubt they were sent to elementary school children.

Second, that elementary school children don’t hear about sex from … the school.  Yes, there could be some hypocrisy at work here.  It is okay for the kids to hear about sex, including certain deviations from normalcy portrayed as normal.  But not okay for a church to instruct adults about God’s good plan for sex within the confines and freedom of marriage.

Churches should be teaching people about sex- not just the when not to part.  A certain famous pastor has been attacking another certain famous pastor for doing just that using the Song of Solomon which last I checked was in the Bible, and about …. sex (among other things).  Most churches don’t have elementary age school children in the service for the sermon however.  So, I’m not sure how this would ‘damage’ the children who attend the school (which is the risk the risk management board should be assessing, though they might need to look at their own curriculum).  Nor should it damage the children who attend the church.

This is an off-hours, voluntary event that is not contiguous with normal school hours or any other school event.  So what is the problem here?  I just don’t understand how this could even be an issue.  But I guess it shows that the world is even more inconsistent when it comes to sex than the church is.

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With a slight let up in work, I can get to work on the new box of books that just arrived from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore.  Here’s what I got:

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On Nightline, there was a Face Off regarding the reality of Satan.  Mark Driscoll was one of the participants.  Mark did a great job integrating the reality of the Evil One with a presentation of the gospel.  He offered hope in the midst of our personal and societal struggles.

And then there was Deepok Chopra gave a bunch of ying & yang psycho-babble (quoting Freud, but in line with Jung’s work) about how “healthy people don’t need the devil.”   Bishop Pearson forsakes his calling based on a false stereo-type.  Nice.  Another “bishop” denying the teaching of Scripture.  I guess we solve the problem of evil by just not thinking about it.

Both of argue against the belief in the devil on the basis of wars- religious wars.  just because some nuts believe you can drop the bomb on the devil to destroy him does not make this a reason to deny personal evil.  It is a Straw Man argument, fallacious to the core.  The devil is not material, can’t be bombed, shot or drugged out of existence.  Only Jesus destroys the work of the devil (Hebrews 2, I think), which Pearson forgot to mention when saying Jesus would not be pleased by all that bomb dropping.  I’m pretty sure Jesus isn’t pleased with those who think dropping bombs (or flying planes into sky scrappers) is the way to defeat The Great Satan.  Now, legitimate governments bearing the sword against those who pose a threat against those they are charged to protect (Romans 13) is another story.  But the ultimate solution is only Christ and Him crucified to destroy, among other things, the hate in our hearts and the evils that flow from that.

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We Own the Night takes place in drug plagued late 80’s New York City.  It is the story of a father and his two sons.  To say there are dad issues in this movie is quite the understatement.  I was reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son(s).  Joaquin Phoenix plays Bobby, the son of the Police Chief (played by Robert Duvall) who takes the last name of his late mother.  He avoids the Police Department and ends up running a night club.  He also avoids his family since he is a big disappointment to his father.  He finds a substitute in the club owner, a Russian who imports fur.  He is like family to the Russian and his family.  The man’s wife tries to fatten him up and treats him like the son she never had.

Mark Wahlberg plays the obedient, trusted son Joseph.  He joined the Police Department and has risen to the rank of Captain.  He is angry at his brother for leaving home and the family business.  Bobby is angry at him for messing up the good thing he thinks he has going, and the condemnation he feels.

Tensions heighten because Joe is the head of the new drug task force.  He and his father inform Bobby that the owner’s nephew is a Russian mobster dealing drugs out of the club.  Soon Bobby will have to choose between his real family and the family he thinks he loves- the one that tolerates and supports his very indulgent lifestyle.

What emerges is an average cop drama with a fantastic performance by Joaquin.  Not all that happens makes sense, particularly during the car chase.  The ending seems a bit under-whelming as well.  The most interesting aspect of the movie was the family relationships as Bobby comes home seeking redemption.  Like Jesus’ story of the Prodigal, the ‘stay-at-home’ brother resents the welcome home the licentious brother receives.  Only time reveals Joseph’s true motivations for the “righteous” life he led.  Funny how we just can’t escape Christ’s teaching, no matter how hard we try.

The movie starts off with more Eva Mendes than I needed to see, and some topless dancers.  After about 5 minutes the nudity is done.  Being a crime drama, there is plenty of bad language.  Though there is plenty of action, it is not graphic- except for a fight in an apartment.

Unfortunately this movie has had much better competition in this genre (American Gangster, The Departed).  We Own the Night doesn’t own the genre, but makes a respectable showing.

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On the right, where he doesnt want to be!

On the right, where he doesn't want to be!

Feeling quite behind the times, I borrowed a friend’s copy of A New Kind of Christian.  I have been unable to get to it the last few weeks.  It was as if I just didn’t have the mental energy.  Oddly, I was able to make some significant headway today on the plane and relaxing in the backyard.

I am sympathetic to the concerns often raised by members of the emergent church movement.  I don’t often like their answers to the problems.  As I read Brian McLaren’s book, I experienced that same strange conflux of thoughts.

As I read the book I would be considered one of the modernist Christians McLaren is trying to ‘convert’.  I guess I feel like a non-Christian would feel when reading one of those poorly written novels intending to convert you to Christianity.  Not completely- I’m not angry with McLaren though I take exception with some of his conclusions.  Thus far anyway.

McLaren does point out that the extremes in popular American Christianity are problematic.  He comes off a bit reductionistic to me.  He does this by neglecting the good things that those modernistic American Christians have contributed to society.  He thinks we should do more than we preach- showing the gospel with our actions.  Yes, and many do this.  Many American evangelicals reach out to the poor and oppressed.  They are often very generous.  And it seems less than generous to ignore this in his gentle diatribe against enculturated modern Christians a.k.a. organized religion or the institutional church.

(more…)

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WTS Books is having a summer sale until 7/30, so you had better hurry up!  They offer flat rate shipping and books are 50% off, so now is the time to buy!  I just wish I had a book allowance to enjoy this great opportunity 😦  However, if enough of you, my fair readers, visit via my blog I’ll get a good gift certificate!

Here are some Cavman recommendations-

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The hype on this movie was big.  And, quite frankly, The Dark Knight delivers.  Christopher Nolan, as writer, producer and director, has taken this series to a place no one ever dream Batman could go.  It exceeded my high expectations.

Think of the first go round.  In my opinion, the 1st and 3rd movies were the best ones.  Batman Returns was ruined by all the sexual talk of the Penguin.  It was just plain dark and dreary.  Val Kilmer was smart not to retun for the 4th installment which saw a retun of the campy feel of the TV show. 

Nolan restarted the series with the decidedly dark Batman Begins.  In The Dark Knight the story continues faster, louder and more dangerous.  In terms of continuity, most of the original cast returns.  There is a cameo by Scarecrow at the beginning, and Bruce Wayne still longs for childhood friend Rachel Dawes.  Batman and Lt. Gordon are close to shutting down the mob with the help of new DA Harvey Dent.  Bruce sees the day that he can retire the mask and Gotham can have a respectable hero in Dent.

This is when all Hades breaks lose in the person of the Joker.  He has been hired, he actually extorted them, to end the threat by putting an end to Batman.

The Joker is utterly diabolical; something of an anti-christ figure who unleashes chaos and destruction on Gotham.  Unlike the other villians, he has no origins we know about.  He appears mysteriously.  We never know who he really is, or why he is the way he is.  He even tells different stories about why he has the nasty smile-shaped scar on his face.  He does not have the usual motives- money or power.  He wants to destroy people, to test them and reveal that they can become evil if pushed to the edge.  He is the devil while Batman plays the role of Job in this theodicy without a God.

The Joker wants to corrupt Batman, and then Dent, not through seduction but through heartbreak.  He figures that if he pushes the right button they will reject their code of ethic.  He is downright scary.  Heath Ledger turns in a fantastic performance, somehow channeling both Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson yet giving him a completely unique personality.  His bent personality is matched by his bent body.  His head often hangs.  His perspective is just as bent.

Batman is not a true vigilante.  He tries to bring criminals to justice, rather than mete out justic himself.  And he displays an unusual respect for the dignity of human life.  He does not shoot criminals, or apprehend them using guns.  The guns he uses are typically used against inanimate objects.  He uses strength, technology and craftiness to defeat his opponents.  Sorry, this all dawned on me this morning.

 This version has many more explosions and gun shots, in addition to the hand-to-hand (the real meaning of mano a mano) combat.  The Joker is a violent psychopath who murders plenty of people.  He has no respect for human life.  He sees it all as a game between himself and Batman (the unstoppable force meets the immovable object).  Nolan creates an exciting, thoughtful story filled with one memorable character in the Joker, and a very hideous character in Two Face- the ‘converted’ Harvey Dent who was driven mad by Joker’s insideous plan.  He gives in to the notion of chaos and chance ruling the universe.

But Batman stands in contrast as the man who doesn’t forsake his ideals in the midst of terror.  Though tempted, he refuses to destroy even Joker.  But in the process, he becomes a scapegoat.  He bears the sins of Two Face to preserve Harvey Dent’s reputation lest the Joker win and the people lose hope.  Batman becomes something of a messianic figure to the Joker’s devil.

All this in one action-packed adventure story.  Chris Nolan has outdone himself- making more than a great super-hero movie, but a great movie, period.  This tale of good and evil is worth watching repeatedly.  Just not for kids.

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