What Is A Trichoplax?

A Trichoplax is one of the simplest organisms you can find. It has no discernible organs or structure, and is basically a flat blob of tissue that moves around. Is it alive? I don't know. But I thought I'd ruminate on other conundrums in this space.

I Agree

Trite Practices of Hollywood

I've noticed that whenever I watch a movie with a character that is supposed to be a Christian, it often ends up being a fairly clichéd representation, or at least a skewed one.

Many movies I've seen represent Christians as being fundamentalist, judgmental, and often psychotic. For example, in the film
Sunshine, one of the characters (the captain of a doomed space flight) is a fundamentalist Christian who is so beholden to his beliefs he will murder his crew to see them through. Somehow, the fact that he screams about God a lot makes him representative of the Christian faith (that's sarcasm folks). The movie There Will Be Blood casts one of its main characters as an off-the-wall Christian type who is, of course, really only seeking for money and power (as a sort of competitor to the main character, Daniel Plainview), not the will of God.

In a slightly different take, I saw
The Soloist recently which had a Christian character who wasn't malicious, simply misguided in his efforts to help a mentally ill man. I still felt like this was a damaging stereotype, because he was portrayed as naive, single-minded, and ultimately devoid of any emotional and spiritual depth or insight. I could go on and on with examples of Christians in films who are portrayed negatively.

Most of these films don't outright say, "All Christians are like this!" but because it is such a recurring theme it makes me wonder if some people don't get that impression. It's almost like Christians are a classic bogey-man, alongside the pedophiles, serial-killers, rapists, and other villains that populate movies. This guy
here points out that you don't see Buddhists or Hinduists as the villains of films nearly as often. And while Arabs (usually as Muslim fundamentalist terrorists) certainly have seen their days as villains, you've got a lot of films coming out lately that are almost like Muslim apologetics, casting Arabs as wise, peace-loving sages. I understand this is probably a reaction to the Muslim cliché of a terrorist, but nobody seems to care to correct the Christian cliché of a fundamentalist.

Of course, I don't expect this to change much. Hatred for Biblical Christianity has been a constant theme for the past 2,000 years. Our views will continue to be skewed, and our wisdom will be mocked and vilified. Personally, I grow tired of having to swallow such hatred when I'm only hoping for a good movie.

Granted, if you want to see a movie that does portray Christians in a good light, The Mission and Shadowlands are excellent examples of that. Those kinds of movies are out there, but they're rare diamonds in the rough. Unfortunately, the movies that Christians make for each other often end up having little to no artistic merit, for whatever reason, or are so whitewashed they have little meaning even for Christians.

I don't think the solution to this is to complain to the movie industry. I don't think it's such a great idea to make movies only for Christians either, since so many of those attempts have failed to have much mainstream appeal, thus making them fairly irrelevant (arguably so even for Christians) and trying to give Christianity that mainstream appeal is the path to the dark side. I just think this is The Way Things Are, and always will be, until Jesus comes.

A Brave New World?

I'm a big fan of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book about how our media obsessed culture is drowning itself in too much information and distractions. I swore off regular TV watching years ago and sometimes think even the internet can be a tad overwhelming.

Anyway, here's a comic book representation of the prologue to Postman's book that is well done, and informative too! Read it here.

The End of Church In America?

It's been interesting as I've been beginning the ordination process with my church to think about denominational identity. Quite frankly, I wouldn't say that I have one (though I'm definitely being ordained by a denomination and a church that is strongly part of that denomination). I would say that I feel quite ecumenical, in the sense that I believe more in the Church universal than I do in any particular denomination. In a sense, I'm disillusioned by many church's club-like mentality. Apparently, I'm not alone.

This article proclaims the headline "Young Americans Losing Their Religion", though the details of the story don't quite back that up. It points to a recent study that says that 30-40% of younger Americans claim no religious affiliation. This is a trend that has been increasing since the 90's, and I'm not terribly surprised by it. This generation, more than any other, seeks to know itself, and in the process will claim no identity. What's more interesting is that this group, while not affiliating themselves religiously, are not necessarily atheists either.

What it sounds like to me, is that America is breeding a generation of spiritual orphans who've either abandoned or rejected their background in faith, but not necessarily to give it up entirely. It is, in a sense, a modern day reformation; millions of Martin Luther's nailing their thesis on the proverbial door of the Church. As the article points out, these youngsters have become disillusioned with an institutional church that seems to espouse mere political or doctrinal views. This view of American churces is, I believe, in large part true. And as a generation that seeks meaning, today's youth will reject that.

And this is why Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven is as "near" 2,000 year ago as it is now. Today's youth want to hear that the Church is not just a club of believers all holding the same doctrine or political inclination, but a force for real meaning and change in the world that effects every day life as much as it effects eternity. Of course, this is what the Church should be. But in America, church leaders have become sidetracked, concerned with affecting society from the top down while the roots wither away.