Review: Beyond the Mask

Note: A review copy of this movie was sent in exchange for a review. It releases today, and you can look for a local showing here

It isn’t often I’m sent a movie to review that I get excited about. Holy Rollers was an exception, as were the films by the same director. But those were documentaries. When it comes to fiction, I’ve found them lacking.

But watch the trailer for Beyond the Mask and tell me it doesn’t at least look like it deserves a shot. Continue reading Review: Beyond the Mask

Peace With People Amidst a War of Ideas

I have observed two kinds of tyranny in the media and public forum when it comes to moral, religious, or political conflict.  The first kind is a tyranny of bigotry which takes firm held beliefs about politics, religion, ethics, etc., and attempts to coerce or shame others into agreement.  It disregards the humanity and dignity of those with whom it disagrees.  The second kind is a tyranny of tolerance.  This tyranny regards “tolerance” as the highest (if not the only) virtue, and then attempts to coerce or shame others into a malleability of all other beliefs besides tolerance.  It is as though anything but indifferent relativism is a hate crime.

Continue reading Peace With People Amidst a War of Ideas

On Language: A Primer for Careful, Thoughtful Introspection

If words matter–and you’ll find that I am very quick to contend that they do–then we ought to be careful with the language we speak. For some, this point might seem like something akin to an argument against profanity. I’m not (necessarily) out to destroy those with foul mouths–it isn’t my habit, and it is one that I prefer as strong emphasis rather than filler words, but if done with thought and a certain sort of intention behind it, a chosen “swear word” can pack the necessary punch to communicate precisely what was intended. (See here Paul’s use of the word ‘skubala’) Continue reading On Language: A Primer for Careful, Thoughtful Introspection

Codependency and Egoism: Two Ways To Obscure Easter

It is that time of year when, once again, Churches of all denominations ramp up their hospitality.  One need not look far to find flier invitations for Easter egg hunts, local ads for sunrise services, or Church billboards declaring that all are invited to join them for Easter service.  According to Christian tradition, this is exactly as it should be.  Easter is the most important day in the Church calendar – the Feast of all Feasts – and is the greatest declaration of our salvation.

However, when we take this opportunity to tell people about the Christianity, our advertisements often betray bad beliefs which we have adopted alongside the good.  I have observed two strong motivational trends which I think betray such bad ideas: (1) the “Jesus wants to give you stuff” message, and (2) the “You should pay Jesus back for all He did” message.  The first invites me to come to Jesus because I want stuff for myself, the second invites me to come to Jesus because I feel badly for Him. Continue reading Codependency and Egoism: Two Ways To Obscure Easter

Why My Husband Is Not My “Other Half”

When I got married, I had a new experience of association which I had never had as a single person.  My husband and I were together for three and a half years before we got married, and yet, in all of that time, people rarely expected him to be with me everywhere I went.  But once we were married, if I came to any social gathering alone, people started asking “Where is your husband?” or “Where is your other half?” Continue reading Why My Husband Is Not My “Other Half”

Have You Kept Christ in Christmas?

Each year, the holiday season brings with it many historic traditions, like the red cups at Starbucks, the bad pop Christmas songs playing in every retail store in the country, and the revived rhetoric among certain Christians about “keeping Christ in Christmas.” Perhaps you have heard talk of this on the news or seen posts about it in your Facebook feed. I assume the underlying concern is that the removal of any religious references from the holiday might indicate a resistance against or stifling of Christianity in our country. I can appreciate that. But, first, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve got multiple holidays happening in tandem rather than one religious holiday being continually corrupted. C.S. Lewis identified three Christmases in his essay “What Christmas Means to Me” from God in the Dock: there’s the “religious festival,” which is “important and obligatory for Christians,” and the “popular holiday,” which is “an occasion for merry-making and hospitality” for many, regardless of religion or background. Lewis calls the third Christmas the “commercial racket” that “has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers.” He elaborates in typical Lewis fashion—smart, concise, funny—if you’re interested in reading the entire essay, but I’ve shared enough to make my present point. Continue reading Have You Kept Christ in Christmas?

What Can We Learn From the Mars Hill Shutdown?

Mars Hill Church began as a small gathering in Mark Driscoll’s home in 1996 and soon became one of the fastest-growing churches in the country. But the church that was praised just last year as one of the “Top Churches to Watch in America” has been the subject of much controversy lately, stemming primarily from its hyper-masculine, strongly opinionated founding pastor. The Puget Sound Business Journal recently ran an article stating that there are rumors of Mars Hill declaring bankruptcy (the Puget Sound region of Washington was home to several of the church’s locations). Even if such rumors are false, they are indicative of the dramatic decline in both popularity and organizational stability the church has seen in recent months. On January 1st, 2015, Mars Hill Church will officially dissolve. Continue reading What Can We Learn From the Mars Hill Shutdown?

Little Hope Was Arson – A Second Look (Film Review)

Note: a review copy of this film was provided in exchange for a review. Visit the film’s website here. See our earlier review from James here. Spoilers follow.

If you’ve ever been to Texas, you may have noticed the Jesus fish symbols on billboards used (presumably) to alert viewers that the company is Christian owned, or that it only takes a few minutes on the road to realize that there is almost literally a church on every corner. Continue reading Little Hope Was Arson – A Second Look (Film Review)

Pumpkins and Thanksgiving

In Germany, the asparagus harvest marks a national celebration. Whole restaurant menus center around asparagus, filling the hearts and stomachs of Germans thrilled by the wonderful harvest season. Asparagus has been an important crop in Germany, so the foundations of the festivities have economic and historic roots. In America, we have a similar celebration of the harvest of a particular vegetable — the pumpkin. Continue reading Pumpkins and Thanksgiving

Little Hope Was Arson – A Review

Note: A review copy of this film was provided to me in exchange for a review. I thank especially the film’s executive producer, Bryan Storkel, for working to make sure I received this documentary, since I asked for it such a long time ago. In addition, you can check out the film’s website here.

There is no easy way to sum up the issues that naturally arise in a film about a pair of arsonists who target churches, starting with the church they grew up in.

We’ll start with the merits of the documentary. The easiest way to sum up the film’s credentials is to say this: you wouldn’t be wasting your time, by any means, if you decided to give this a watch. The narrative is well crafted without feeling contrived–no easy task in a documentary, confined on the sides by reality and compelling rhetorical tricks. The story is not so well known that you’ll feel like you know the ending (unless you’re from east Texas, I imagine), but also not so localized that it feels as though it is making a mountain out of a molehill.

Mild spoilers to follow. Continue reading Little Hope Was Arson – A Review