Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, November 06, 2009

I've been sorting through my thoughts on yesterday's premeditated murder of 13 at Ft. Hood (one of the posts where I served during my time in the Texas Army National Guard). The perpetrator of this heinous act was a devout Muslim who was motivated by his religious objections to our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in fact, he uttered words of religious fervor as he opened fire. It really could have been a lone wolf nut who was disenchanted with some form of rejection, someone going "postal." But it was not. It was instead an act of terror. Disconnected, perhaps, from any link or conspiracy with Al-Qaeda or other such groups, but an act in great concord with their doctrines and aims. I am sure that many a devout Muslim rejoiced at the breaking news yesterday. Ralph Peters, a journalist writing for the New York Post hits the nail on the head when he talks about our political correctness allowing for this kind of mass murder. I could not agree more completely, and it's what came to mind immediately as I digested the full story to this point. We can't be tolerant of those who hate our country, our principles, our freedoms, our Christian foundations, and our friendship with Israel. There is room for measured conversation; there is no room whatsoever for intent to do harm as a fundamental religious belief, and those who have those beliefs, and promote those beliefs, must go, even if we hurt their feelings.

Here's Peters' article: New York Post.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Modern romance, post-modern romance, and good old-fashioned romance.

Roman Holiday, Once, and Return to Me... with a little Before Sunrise thrown in to spice things up just right.

I do enjoy great romantic films. Recently, I reviewed Glen Hansard's Once, which I think is a post-modern Roman Holiday. You have to know the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn classic to see the familiar elements between the two. In both films, two people fall in love, but the love is forbidden; it will never happen. But for a brief time, the realities of their lives are suspended, and romantic fireworks ensue. Yet the clock ticks, midnight strikes, and the two couples go their separate ways.

In Roman Holiday, a princess and a news reporter are paired; in Once, it is two composer/musicians, both who have fallen out of relationships. In the former film the spark is Rome, in the latter, great music.

Post-modernism is all about subjectivity, and does not take into account objective, God-given truth. Wikipedia says, "Postmodernism refers to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, interconnectedness or interreferentiality, in a way that is often indistinguishable from a parody of itself." I think this is the result of having no standards of truth or beauty. So, even the definitions are confused.

A real romance, a godly romance, has to exist on the basis of biblical principles, not hormones, not supercharged tragic ideals, and not places and things that are isolated from eternal truth. It has to make sense beyond the subjective. Ayn Rand understood this in the core of her Romantic Manifesto. Again from Wikipedia, "At the base of her argument, Rand asserts that one cannot create art without infusing a given work with one's own value judgments and personal philosophy. Even if the artist attempts to withhold moral overtones, the work becomes tinged with a deterministic or naturalistic message. The next logical step of Rand's argument is that the audience of any particular work cannot help but come away with some sense of a philosophical message, colored by his or her own personal values, ingrained into their psyche by whatever degree of emotional impact the work holds for them."

Both Once and Holiday are infused with a longing to break the conventions of society for the sake of love. Love - as a feeling, a chemistry between two people - is the great priority of these films, and they leave the audience with the infused longing that the moral conventions of our western society might be broken so that these great relationships might bear their fruit... but what fruit? A union? A continuity of the feeling of being in love?

Richard Linklater's 1995 film Before Sunrise takes viewers over that horizon - all in 24 hours. When two travelers agree to spend 24 hours in Vienna, the sparks fly, and then... consummation... and ?... filmgoers had to wait until 2004 to get the answer. And the answer was... an agreement to go forward. But in the two film set there are no social barriers to overcome except space and time. Yet the same idea of the previous two movies remains: romance is the spark of something shared by two lovers, a Rome, a Vienna, a song.

Which brings us to a really fine romantic film, based on more objective truth. Real romance has to have the leading of the hand of God, and a purpose in his economy. Return to Me has an unmistakenly God-thing coincidence, and although there's no overt purpose in God's economy to the romance, if there is ever a sequel, it will go in that direction. The romance between the protagonists is the result of answered prayer, it is revealed, and from the prayers no less than those of an Irish Archie Bunker. Could grace ever have a better advertisement than that.

The purpose of romance isn't feeling, or sex, or at least it had better not be. It can be simple as the direction of raising godly children, or serving the Lord together in some field of Christian work. It is the direction that gives romance its backbone and the physical relationship of marriage its continuity and exclusiveness.

See the films; think about them in the light of objective truth, and see if you can sift out a worldview or two from them. It's the Lord's work to do so.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Here is a great story on persecution from the Hanoi Hilton: National Review Online

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Modern Romance I:

, the 2007 Indie film starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, at first seems a melancholy glimpse of morality. There is no God, no heaven, no hell, but there is indeed morality. The guy (there are no names for the two protagonists) is a street musician who sings in a quaint shopping district of Dublin, Ireland, while girl is a flower girl from Czechoslovakia. Each have fallen out of relationships: for the girl it is an unresolved marriage with a 2 year old daughter, while for the guy it's the love of his life, who has moved to London. The guy is on over-the-top vocalist who has strummed his acoustic guitar nearly to death without any great progress, and one day the flower girl comes into his life, they have lunch, and she reveals that she too is a musician, a singer and pianist. Lacking her own piano, with the permission of the owner she plays at lunch time in a music shoppe, and it is there that the two sit down for a guitar/piano and voice duet. It clicks, musically and personally. An indecent proposal is made by the man, and the woman declines forcefully, but the relationship is not completely broken.

It is here that their lives teeter on the brink of a physical affair. There is harmony, yet each one looks in the rear view mirror of their lives and loves, and speak frankly about it to the other. He meets her family and she his. They play hooky and take a motorcycle ride and walk through a park with a view of the ocean, where she tells him in Czechoslovakian that she loves him. Soon they cobble together a band and record their cooperations at significant expense. The marathon recording session draws them even nearer, and the music is really good. Even the studio technician catches the chemistry.

But. Neither girl nor guy is ready to let go of the past, and while he buys a ticket for London to try again, and her husband returns to her and her daughter, and the matter is closed. The movie moves toward a close with one last immoral suggestion from him, and this time she declines with kindness, and they part for good. There are a couple of thought-provoking final scenes after which the credits roll.

Once does not measure up to Roman Holiday, but it tells the same kind of story. Two fall in love, but cannot come together. They part in love and in peace, which is a rarity for any modern or post-modern love story. A post-modern love story inevitably has love in its sexually expressed mode, and then tragic circumstances invade to separate the lovers. Then they have memories., and the screen fades leaving us all devastated.

It is true that there is no God in either film, but morals are the smoke of God's fire. The guy and girl of Once have morals and leave each to their own loves. It is a happy ending.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl, is an interesting look at the Zone of Alienation surrounding the remnants of the 1986 nuclear accident. The author, Mary Mycio, examines at the response of nature to effects of radiation in the soil and water. It has been more than 20 years since the day that a cloud of radiation spilled out over Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of eastern and northern Europe. Many dire predictions were made concerning the health and life of the area, but our creator God made nature exceedingly resilient, and the Zone, which spans hundreds of square miles in Ukraine and Belarus is exhibit one. Essentially, the two nations immediately evacuated the humans in the area (save for a few hardy and stubborn souls) and let creation take hold. And it did. Despite lower birth rates among some species (and phenomenal ones in others, and the unanticipated adaptation of earlier fertility ages in still others), the area is an Eden for wildlife, big and small. Rodents, birds, and wild game, even endangered wild mammals like the European Bison and the Przewalksi horse, are thriving. Moose, roe and red deer, woolly boar, lynx, and wolf are also overrunning the preserve. At the conclusion of the book, the author inquires about the future of the region, and the resounding answer is a wonderful nature preserve.

A couple of ideas spring naturally to mind. First, regarding the resiliency and amazing adaptability of God's creation. In midst of what many anti-nuclear activists were calling the worst nightmare and greatest piece of evidence against nuclear power, creation prevailed. The anticipated black zone never happened, never even came close to happening. Second, the Zone of Alienation also exists as a powerful polemic against the Darwinian model of evolution. No examples of mutant animals are found in the Zone. Why? Because all the mutations inevitably resulted in the deaths of the animals. Sometimes by stillbirth, sometimes consumed by predators, sometimes unable to survive for long without care - it didn't matter. There isn't a single example of a beneficial mutation, or even a detrimental mutation that survived.

The book is sometimes too technical for guys like me who didn't get past basic level physics and chemistry. At other times it seems to narrate in a disconnected fashion... but, there are fascinating passages about the animals and people who remain there.

A brief article from Mycio.