Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

8.24.2015

Best Sci-Fi Movies

These are my favorite science fiction movies, sci-fi being one of my favorite genres…

…of course, I don't really like much sci-fi in movie form as Hollywood generally stinks at making good science fiction.  I grew up reading 'hard' science fiction authors like Arthur C Clark and Isaac Asimov, and have been regularly disappointed by film treatments of the genre.  Science fiction is essentially really smart, highly educated people thinking about the possible ramifications of future technologies and edgy scientific theories; as Robert Heinlein defined it, "realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method."

I loved (and still love) the mind-bending concepts, philosophical conundrums, and existential puzzles that are at the core of the genre.  Hollywood, somehow, manages to take that and turn it into explosions in space, or monsters in space, or cute teens in space, or wizards in space, or superheroes in space, or… you get the idea.

So here is my list, its loosely arranged from most favorite on down, but they are all pretty interchangeable.  For something to make my list it must meet the following criteria:

1) I've seen it.

2) It's science fiction.  It is actually speculative about the universe in some way, while simultaneously consistent with what we know about the universe, and the other elements of the film (action, special effects, character development, cinematography, etc) don't overshadow the science fiction.*

3) I like it.

So here goes…

===============

My Favorite Science Fiction Films

     The Matrix**
     Primer
     District 9
     Time Crimes
     Minority Report
     Predestination
     Moon
     Planet of the Apes (1968)
     Contact
     Europa Report
     12 Monkeys
     Dark City
     Inception
     Edge of Tomorrow
     Looper

*I figured I needed an explanation of all the things that fail at being science fiction.  Fantasy is not science fiction, sorry Star Wars.  Space is not science fiction, sorry Gravity.  Horror is not science fiction, sorry Event Horizon.  Action/war is not science fiction, sorry Starship Troopers.  Pretentious 'Art' is not science fiction, sorry 2001.  And possibly the cardinal sin of film (which transcends the sci-fi genre and applies to all genres) is to take a brilliant story from another medium (a book, a real event) and turn it into something unrecognizable.

**Yup, the Matrix is number one.  The reason for that is simple.  I had been disappointed time and time again by Hollywood "sci-fi" and was jaded.  I had seen the trailer that made the film look like sexy, leather clad, ninja-hackers, with guns, performing physically impossible dance moves and ritualized fight scenes.  I had no interest in watching the movie.  Finally, a friend of mine (who had horrible taste in movies) wanted me to go see it with him because he was really into the rave scene and loved the clothes and the music, I went to pacify him.  I walked into the theater expected typical drivel and was blown away.  In some ways I walk into every movie going experience hoping to match what happened to me the first time I saw the Matrix.

6.23.2015

Flat Earthers and Biblical Interpretation

I had my first encounter with a real live flat earther…

…ok, not exactly.  But I did have a conversation with someone who is related to one.

My friend sent me a paper written from a flat-earth perspective and I thought I would post some of my response here:

As for the Biblical interpretation…

All I can say is that the paper is an example of what not to do with scripture. Taking metaphors/idioms and using them literally makes for good comedy, (I've got my eye on you) but it is a way to confuse things horribly in serious study. The person who wrote this paper hasn't thought through how their exegetical approach would carry out with other biblical passages.

For example, would Jesus' teaching in Matthew 10:16 require us to eat grass, walk around on four legs, and say "bahhh?" Or are we allowed to take Jesus' words as a metaphor? Again, I am quite confident that the author of this paper loves God, and reveres scripture, but I imagine that they don't take Jesus command (recorded in Luke 10:37) as a requirement to put wounded people on our donkeys and take them to the closest inn.

All that I would want is that the same lenses we wear when we read these two passages should also be worn when we attempt to understand what scripture might teach us about cosmology. Specifically, we should read God's book with the intention of understanding God's message. We rightly understand Matthew 10:16 to be Jesus' attempt to encourage humility, peacefulness, and innocence in the face of evil; we rightly understand Luke 10:37 as Jesus' attempt to encourage human compassion that trumps personal convenience and racial animosity.

We ought to also understand that scripture does not intend to speak to a physical model of the construction of the universe. The passages quoted in the paper are not God's attempt to teach us about the relationship between the sun, stars, heavens, planets, and our earth. They ARE intended to speak to the grandeur of God, or his sovereignty, or the mystery and beauty of the creation, or the destruction that is wrought when God's wrath is poured out on evil.

To 'read the Bible literally' is to take the Bible for what it is, not turn it into something else. Where the Bible is law, we must understand it the way we understand laws; where the Bible is prophecy, we must read it the way prophecy is read; where it is song lyrics, we must interpret them the way we interpret song lyrics; where it is narrative, we must understand it as a story. No one would take the jacket from a CD and use it as an argument about the curvature of the earth, so we ought not to do so with the Psalter...

6.21.2015

Felicia Sanders is MY Hero

Felicia Sanders was the mother of Tywanza Sanders. Both Felicia and her son were in the Bible study with Dylann Roof when he began to shoot the people there with a gun he had brought to the meeting. Tywanza was killed in front of his mother. Felicia survived. At the bail hearing for the shooter, Felicia said the following words:

“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with welcome arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts and I’ll, I’ll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son. But Tywanza Sanders was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. … May God have mercy on you.”

Nadine Collier, daughter of victim Ethel Lance, said:

“I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. … You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.”

Wanda Simmons, granddaughter of Daniel Simmons, said:

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof, everyone’s plea for your soul, is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”

6.07.2015

Incarnational Ministry

A ministry of presence is a requirement for serving alongside the poor. We must come near to those we desire to serve. We must touch them, and they us. It is not until their problems become our problems that we will ever truly be able to minister. Not in the sense that we care about them so much that their problems burden us emotionally, but rather in the sense that the problems we face in our lives are the same ones they face in theirs. When we suffer the violence of living with corrupt or absent police officers, when our property values drop because of corrupt banking practices, when our schools are failing and our jobs are gone, then we will be trusted to minister.

6.05.2015

Decision-making and Delegating

Here are a couple articles that I found helpful:

Decision Tree

Communal Discernment

And here is a diagram that models consensus decision-making:




5.28.2015

It's the End of the World!


I'm a good person...

Whenever people find out I am a pastor they say all sorts of things.  Often people will try to convince me of what a good person they are, its almost cute.

Recently I had someone tell me "I'm a good person, I always let people into my home, and help whoever needs help."  The interesting thing was that this person was saying all of this to me to justify their present state of drunkenness, and the vulgarity that had been dripping from their mouth for the 30 minutes they were talking to me before they knew I was a pastor.

But when they said this, something clicked…

In the culture I grew up in, people would often say "I'm a good person…" but the rationale was different, "I'm a good person because I don't steal, use drugs, or hurt people."

But what this person told me was indicative of a different cultural norm, and they were definitely not the first person to show this to me, it was just the first time I had noticed it this clearly.

The culture of my upbringing defined 'goodness' as purity and righteousness.

The culture of many I interact with now define 'goodness' as hospitality and charity.

I'm not sure that one is better or worse, but the difference is there...

5.27.2015

How to Help

Go to the people

Live among them

Learn from them

Love them

Start with what they know

Build on what they have

But of the best leaders

When their task is done

The people will remark

"We have done it ourselves."

-------

Above is an anonymous proverb that captures the heart of discipleship.  It also points at a Kingdom perspective in helping those in need.  If we help in such a way that those we have helped are forever indebted to us, forever idolizing us, and forever looking to us for more help, then we haven't done for them what Jesus would do.