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Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Saturday, December 31, 2005
The iMonk points to more thoughts on Brokeback Mountain.

Speaking of movies, I saw King Kong last night. I have some minor quibbles with the character development in the film, but overrall, the movie was simply spectacular. It reminded me of seeing Star Wars as a kid, Jurassic Park in junior high and then Lord of the Rings in high school. What a visually stunning film. I have yet to see the Chronicles of Narnia, and though I love the story, I can't possibly imagine that it could be more visually appealling. Peter Jackson is a phenomenal director. This is another fine entry into his canon.
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Jeffrey Overstreet, a very fair Christian critic, pulls no punches with Brokeback Mountain.
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In two separate film-related conversations over the holidays, I was asked if I can ever enjoy a movie that is historically inaccurate. I said no, I could not. Not if a movie is attempting to present itself as factual. It's bad film-making and I can't excuse it under any circumstances. I got positive responses in both cases, but it is not always so.

Truth in art is like a neighborhood. If you excuse negligence, it grows. A cracked window in a housing project may seem a pithy thing, but two cracked windows become three and then four and a cracked door may very well lead to a crack house. Such was the case in New York City, and in a similar way was crime cleaned up. Art is no different. The Patriot is a fun movie, you might say. Who cares if it is accurate? We must care, because these film narratives enter the public consciousness. They become part of the zeitgeist, and they cannot be ignored. A little inaccuracy in the name of entertainment goes a long way to changing the common perception. Truth mattered in Braveheart. It mattered in the Patriot. It mattered in every movie because over time our expectations are altered. So when The DaVinci Code shows up next spring, and people say "Who cares? It's just a good story," remember that the truth, however ugly, however beautiful, always matters.

The movie is very Rome-centered, so I wonder what the popular Protestant response will be. Will the truth that the book and movie are false to the point of slander be posited in the same vein as The Passion of the Christ was ferociously promoted?

Just asking.
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Friday, December 30, 2005
If Rod Dreher liked Brokeback Mountain, I have a hard believing that the movie is a propaganda piece. Perhaps the difficult thing for Christians in a case like this is to politely and thoughtfully engage the world. Difficult work, but necessary.

I still wonder if Al Mohler has seen or will see the movie. I think I'll try to, but knowing Tuscaloosa, NetFlix might be a better solution.
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Allow me a few words about Sufjan Stevens and why I find him to be so important. His most recent album, Illinoise, is NPR's favorite album. Paste Magazine cited the record as it's number one. Pitckfork Media, the biggest hipster site on the internet, again hands out top honor to Illinoise. Rolling Stone has the album placed in its top ten.

Sufjan Stevens is an apologetic Christian. No concerns about universalism. No talk about "I believe on a personal, intimate level but as for the rest of the world..." He believes in the incarnation and the resurrection. He makes no bones about it.

And yet this guy is critically acclaimed in all corners, by all types of people. He doesn't bother playing churches and Christian rock festivals. He operates outside the bounds of the Christian culture that was invented thirty years ago. He operates almost entirely inside the bounds of the "secular" world. And he is promulgating a Gospel of truth, sin, grace, redemption, conviction and repentance. All through creative instrumentation and wildly imaginative lyricism. Stevens' music is not Contemporary Christian Music. It is not written for youth groups. It is not designed to be safe. Like Flanner O'Connor and J.R.R. Tolkien before him, Stevens grasps that the creative endeavor must be dedicated to God and then become a natural outgrowth of artistic progression. And while Stevens is bold in his faith in Christ, there is no preachiness. No posturing here. And a cynical world is willing to hear his message. This is more important than most any CCM artist. I mean no offense to all the bands in Nashville, but on some level, are they doing anything more than rallying the troops? There's nothing wrong with that. It's neccessary. I've noted my (very strong) political disagreements with Derek Webb, but I think God that he is here to shock our Christian consciousness. And yet who is truly going into the world and walking and eating and living about a nonbelieving world, shining the light of Christ? Artists like Sufjan Stevens, Pedro the Lion, Damien Jurado, the Innocence Mission, Over the Rhine, Sam Philips. Making music that is truly artistic, an understood reflection of the creative nature of their Creator and Savior. This is salt and light. Let us cherish it and celebrate it, doing what we can to quietly and firmly support its growth and development.
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Thursday, December 29, 2005
I've been meaning to write something about my favorite album of the year, Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise. The album is tops at several important media outlets: NPR, Pitchfork Media and Paste Magazine. It made Rolling Stone's Top 10. After decades of artistic garbage being marketed under the label of "Christian music," I am immensely grateful that an artistic so prolific, so talented, so bold has crashed into every possible critical circle.

See this post from Looking Closer and I'll be back later today or early tomorrow with more developed thoughts on the importance of Stevens' work.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Ever the pessimist, I have given up on the idea that this blog will ever become a popular spot on the internet. If I were to ever rise about one hundred readers per day, that would be an accomplishment. Ah, well. It's a difficult thing because my writing does not fall into a neat category. It's not just theology. It's not just politics or culture or sports. It just is. I feel rather comfortable with that, but the results aren't always impressive.

I'll write on topics that interest me. Our culture has become crass and vulgar. The disdain for Christmas is part of it. I don't mean stores saying "Happy Holidays," but instead I mean the growing number of people who seem to think it silly that anyone - religious or not - would have a time of the year that is more formal and serious, worthy of decent dress and clean houses and fine food. I work in a record store. There were constant complaints among the employees concerning the Christmas music played in the store. And the problem wasn't so much the annoying songs (see Alvin and the Chipmunks). It was the standards of Christmas, even vocal-less jazz standards. Customer and employee alike preferred to turn off the seasonal music. I found this sad on several levels. No one cared. They had no time for a unique season, different in its sounds and smells and tastes and appearances. The preference was for everyday mundane and boring.

Sad.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005
David Klinghoffer has a really great piece this morning in NRO concerning the furor over Intelligent Design. It's not so much a defense of ID as it is a nice demonstration of the virulent atheism that pervades much of the anti-ID ranks. It's a point to which I often return. People can blather all they like about the freedom to believe both God and Darwin. I suppose one can do just as much, but the point that should never, ever be forgotten is that the Darwinians rarely give you that option. It's one or the other, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to have it both ways.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Quick hits on a Tuesday afternoon.

Al Mohler's take on Brokeback Mountain
is just plain boring. Blah blah blah gay agenda Hollywood liberals...yawn. Is the good professor capable of reviewing this film without assuming that it's all a grand conspiracy to indoctrinate America? Has he even seen this film? Just a reminder for those of you who don't read this blog often, I'm not exactly on GLAAD's mailing list.

(I do think Mohler is right about the ambiguity about male friendship in our culture, but that's a seperate matter)

Jeffrey Overstreet has a better take. See here and then here.

I don't support the death penalty, but the hoopla surrounding the execution and funeral of Tookie Williams is just disgusting. See the Governator's denial for more.

Everytime I watch NFL Films I nearly get choked up.
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Sunday, December 18, 2005
Goodness I'm tired.

This is a good read. So is this.

Well praise the Lord. (Seriously) The semester is over. I'm exhausted. Christmas is here. I'll post more tomorrow. Good night.
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Saturday, December 10, 2005
Some of the more high-profile churches in America are cancelling Christmas services.

I don't know what to say about this that hasn't already been said. There's seriously close to 2000 blog posts on the topic already on the internet.

Try this post for starters.

I'll grant a pass on this to those churches that have large Christmas Eve services, as part of a liturgical tradition or otherwise. And yes, I realize there is no Biblical commandment to get to church on Christmas, but this is just something that the Church has always done. And cancelling it now...why? So we can open presents?

I'm not impressed.
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Having just completed a delightful missive on the Jacksonian nature of the early Republican Party, let me take a brief study break.

At around noon next Wednesday - that's December 14 - I'll be finished with my first semester of graduate school. If you listen close, you might be able to hear me shout Hallelujah. Once the holiday (wait, I mean Christmas) break is here, I plan on doing a few things. First, I shall write and write often. In notebooks and on pages. Words and quotes and pictures. Second, I shall take pictures. Lots of pictures of streets and trees and the river and Christmas lights and her. Third, I shall read. My goal for the break is three novels. Right now I'm shooting for The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, American Pastoral by Phillip Roth and something by Saul Bellow, perhaps The Adventures of Augie March.

Or I might be a glutton for punishment and try reading some Camus.

Do you, dear reader, have any suggestions?

I also need a nice philosophical anthology. Anyone have a good idea on that score?

And if I get really masochistic, I might take up Nietzsche.

And just to irritate my leftist friends, I'll look into reading some Leo Strauss.
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Sunday, December 04, 2005
Lifestyle magazines speak often about the phenomen of holiday weight, wherein we are saddled with an extra ten pounds as a result of holiday events; Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, office parties, red and green M&Ms and the general sloth that accompanies extra time off work and school. I've noticed the problem is not quite so severe now that I am a vegetarian, but I have a new issue.

Let us just say that having a load of homework now carries more than one meaning. I am here amidst a stack of books about the Scottish Reformation, some popcorn, some candy. I see the next ten days full of pizza and coffee and Cherry Coke and doughnuts. At Yuletide I shall find myself mildly pudgy and, I suppose, uncomfortable in my blue jeans. Nevertheless, my work for the semester will be completed. This is the good news to which I look forward.

Speaking of looking forward, I find that the Advent focus on the Prophets really causes the Old Testament to come alive. I like that very much.
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