My perennial blog hero Michael Spenser has posted on The Unresolved Tensions of Evangelicalism, outlining many of the areas of popular Christianity that I’ve had difficulties resolving my own integrity in: Maintaining an utterly biblical worldview, the necessity of experience as “proof” of faith, Christianity’s piss-poor job in general at creating and fostering life-giving community, and the tendency of all of this to progress to an abandonment of Christian commitment, though not necessarily of faith in God.
Though all four tensions have been part of my story recently, the abandonment of Christian commitment seems to be an area that hasn’t been given much voice within the community of those who still consider themselves committed to God. Bring up the subject at all and there will be someone in the room who won’t be able to keep themselves from doubting your salvation. But what this tension encompasses in my experience has been the shedding of extraneous beliefs, ones which identify me more with Christian culture than with Christ, as well as the burdens of imperatives and spiritual measuring sticks that drive the “counter-cultural” Christian movement. Spencer comments,
Evangelicals like to act as if they are involved in a battle of belief systems, but many of the disillusioned are simply jettisoning what, they believe, is too much belief. They are not so much rejecting evangelicalism as they are reducing Christianity to a far “humbler” expression of personal faith experience. They believe that a religion that is telling people who to vote for and how often to have sex is claiming too much.
This “far ‘humbler’ expression” is what I find myself in, however self-affirming it may be to hear it called humble. I would have said “understated,” as my practice of faith is not currently one I find necessary to uncomfortably work into otherwise unrelated conversations, or to broadcast with bumper stickers, lawn signs or t-shirts. I am currently one who, paraphrasing Spencer again, calls himself a Christian only when pressed to distinguish himself from other kinds of commitments.
I had been considering this period of my life as bereft of spiritual development. Until recent years I could put my finger on the areas and ways I was growing spiritually, challenging and being challenged; lately I havent’ been able to tell you where my growth edge is. I think what has happened though is that I had thrown myself so completely into spiritual development that now that I’ve stopped all the things I had been told to believe or wanted to believe have dropped off and the things I actually believe have begun to catch up with me.
There’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed recently that I thought I’d finally put on…paper…pixels…whatever. It’s the tendency from time to time in Hollywood for two films to be released at about the same time from two separate studios with very similar and distinct topics, subject matter or themes. Pretty specific topics too, like “Animated films featuring anthropomorphized insects” rather than “Action film set in Tokyo.” They’re not sequels or copycats or spin-offs, since they were produced on roughly the same schedule, and released well within a year of each other. Here are the few sets of Film Twins I’ve noticed (with a set of triplets thrown in!), in chronological order. (And excluding the trio of Amy Fisher made-for-TV movies in 1992/93)
Platoon (MGM, 12/24/86)
Full Metal Jacket (Warner Bros., 6/26/87)
Bleak, violent and un-glamorized depictions of the Vietnam War
Tombstone (Hollywood Pictures, 12/25/93)
Wyatt Earp (Warner Bros., 6/24/94)
Dramatizations of the heroism of the Earps at the Gunfight at the OK Corral
Deep Impact (Paramount, 5/8/98)
Armageddon (Disney, 7/1/98)
Special effects-laden end-of-the-world scenarios centering around projectiles from space
Antz (Dreamworks, 10/2/98)
A Bug’s Life (Disney/Pixar, 11/25/98)
Animated films about an ant who saves his colony and wins the heart of a princess
Capote (Sony Pictures, 2/3/06)
Infamous (Warner Bros., 11/16/06)
Biopics of Truman Capote’s process of writing In Cold Blood
The Illusionist (Universal, 9/1/06)
The Prestige (Warner Bros., 10/20/06)
Dramas centering around turn-of-the-century European magicians
Waitress (20th Century Fox, 5/25/07)
Knocked Up (Universal, 6/1/07)
Juno (Fox Searchlight, 12/25/07)
Romantic comedy-esque films about unplanned pregnancies
I’m sure there are more out there than I have thought of. So if you can think of other sets of films about the same thing, released within a year of each other, let’s hear ’em!
Fletch at Blog Cabins kicked off a list of best films by letter, and though I haven’t been tagged I thought hey, why not join the fun. Here are the stated rules:
1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.
2. The letter “A” and the word “The” do not count as the beginning of a film’s title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don’t know of any films with those titles.
3. Movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release.
4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number’s word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under “T.”
5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type “alphabet meme” into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.
Seems like a good time. Here’s a shot.
Apocalypse Now – more for it’s impact on culture and filmmaking than the fact that I enjoy watching it
Babettes gaestebud – I love films about love
Chinatown – The best film ever written
Dark Knight, The – Seemed easy to fill in here. Someone get me a Joker t-shirt.
Empire Strikes Back, The – a Star Wars film had to make the list
Fight Club – Narrowly beating out (ha) the Fisher King.
Godfather, The – Empire got it right. The best one there is.
Hana-bi – Another movie about love. Sort of.
Incredibles, The – Pixar’s reigning king
Juno – Watch it for the soundtrack, let alone the film
K-PAX (Aaa! Just kidding! – actually I can’t think of one. I’ll have to go with King Kong (1933))
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Can I just include all three here?
Matrix, The – One of the few movies that changed how I look at the world
Napoleon Dynamite – Utterly quotable, but only if you do it right. Otherwise you just sound dumb.
Ordet – Heard of it? The power of hope, captured on celluloid.
Pather Panchali – Another film school film, one I get lost in.
Quiet Man, The – Not many Q offerings, but this one is a gem.
Rope – My favorite of Hitchcock’s (really – North by Northwest didn’t even make the list)
Shichinin no Samurai – If the Godfather is the best there is, this one is the granddady of them all
Trois Couleurs: Rouge – Another movie that changed how I look at the world. And it’s about love.
Usual Suspects, The – Saw it four times in a row in the theaters.
Vertigo – Vertigo? V for Vendetta? I’ll go with Hitch again.
Wit – a tale of an adamantium will crushed to the point of being able to be loved.
X-Men – because there just aren’t that many X films.
You’ve Got Mail – “I was eloquent! Shit!”
Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination (it’s the only Z movie I can remember ever seeing)
Think you can do it too?
I’ve bolded the ones I know, have done before, or think I would be pretty capable with given the opportunity. Some are somewhat subjective (the surviving extremes section for example). My final Man Score: 73
1. Handle a blowout
2. Drive in snow
3. Check trouble codes
4. Replace fan belt
5. Wax a car
6. Conquer an off-road obstacle
7. Use a stick welder
8. Hitch up a trailer
9. Jump start a car
10. Perform the Heimlich
11. Reverse hypothermia
12. Perform hands-only CPR
13. Escape a sinking car
14. Carve a turkey
15. Use a sewing machine
16. Put out a fire
17. Home brew beer
18. Remove bloodstains from fabric
19. Move heavy stuff
20. Grow food
21. Read an electric meter
22. Shovel the right way
23. Solder wire
24. Tape drywall
25. Split firewood
26. Replace a faucet washer
27. Mix concrete
28. Paint a straight line
29. Use a French knife
30. Prune bushes and small trees
31. Iron a shirt
32. Fix a toilet tank flapper
33. Change a single-pole switch
34. Fell a tree
35. Replace a broken windowpane
36. Set up a ladder, safely
37. Fix a faucet cartridge
38. Sweat copper tubing
39. Change a diaper
40. Grill with charcoal
41. Sew a button on a shirt
42. Fold a flag
43. Treat frostbite
44. Treat a burn
45. Help a seizure victim
46. Treat a snakebite
47. Remove a tick
48. Shine shoes
49. Make a drum-tight bed
50. Drop and give the perfect pushup
51. Run rapids in a canoe
52. Hang food in the wild
53. Skipper a boat
54. Shoot straight
55. Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike
56. Escape a rip current
57. Build a fire in the wilderness
58. Build a shelter
59. Find potable water
Teach Your Kids
65. Cast a line
66. Lend a hand
67. Change a tire
68. Throw a spiral
69. Fly a stunt kite
70. Drive a stick shift
71. Parallel park
72. Tie a bowline
73. Tie a necktie
75. Ride a bike
76. Install a graphics card
77. Take the perfect portrait
78. Calibrate HDTV settings
79. Shoot a home movie
80. Ditch your hard drive
Master Key Workshop Tools
81. Drill driver
82. Grease gun
83. Coolant hydrometer
84. Socket wrench
85. Test light
86. Brick trowel
87. Framing hammer
88. Wood chisel
89. Spade bit
90. Circular saw
91. Sledge hammer
93. Torque wrench
94. Air wrench
95. Infrared thermometer
96. Sand blaster
97. Crosscut saw
98. Hand plane
100. Feeler gauges
For whatever reason the punchline of this old old Sesame Street sketch pops into my head at strange and unusual moments in my life. And no one I’ve met seems to recall the reference. Here for your enjoyment:
If you’ve ever found yourself using the phrase, “too much information”, now may be a good time to click on to the next post.
So when my three-year-old is through sitting on the porcelain doing his best interpretation of a Play Doh Fun Factory, he hollers “WIIIIIIIIIIIPE!!!” as he waits with his elbows on his thighs. I come in to perform my duty for his doodie, and he pitches forward and grabs behind my knees while I clean the operative area. And most times it takes four, five, maybe seven, twelve times before the paper comes back with only the acceptable tan tinge. It’s like the poop just keeps on coming. It isn’t as though he continues to press mud while I catch it as fast as I can tear Charmin. Just the opposite, in fact – even when I look back there to see where all this brown is coming from, it looks clean. Then I wipe, and there’s poop. And I check again and it’s clean.
Where does it all come from??
On the one hand it feels like faith and spirituality have been in the forefront of my mind recently, as though my awareness is heightened and my expectation for something, somewhere, is growing. On the other hand, I am not thinking about it – that is, I have no new thoughts on the matter. Or many thoughts at all. I am not pondering the nature of God, I am not reassessing my value system or deconstructing my cultural mores. Mostly I am just being, just inhabiting the strange space that is my life in Cincinnati, with its many wonderful components and its several frustrating aspects, but which for once has lately been uncontested by outside stressors – pending or recent births, moves, job changes, church hops, or financial crises. Well, ok, I can’t entirely rule the last one out, but it’s not stressing me at the time of this writing.
I suppose it’s my nature in this void of sorts to look for other things to stress over – parenting, my performance at my job, my inadequacies as a husband, father or friend. But in reality nothing is wrong with life right now. In this welcome lack of inner turmoil I have found myself instead looking at my forward boundaries in the arenas of friendship, spirituality and even finances, and musing on ways to advance them. Actually this most often becomes a general mushed up feeling of desire rather than any actual plans, since I can usually convince myself fairly quickly that I don’t know what I’m doing.
This blog often reads like a journal more than a series of essays on topics, something I think a good blog in part should be. If you don’t know me and you have read this far, send me an email and we can have coffee next time I’m in your neighborhood. I have occasionally toyed with the idea of writing more formal posts in a systematic way – music reviews or apologetical topics, for example. Apologetics is a strange and uniquely Christianese word, by the way – it makes it sound like we have to say we’re sorry to the rest of the world for the things we believe. In any case, as with all worthy ventures in life, making the time for more systematic posting is the hardest part. Most of my posts are fired off in between renders at the office or compiled over a period of several days as I find time to steal for them. (Now that’s apologetics. Or just bad excuses.)
And if you’ve forgotten what the subject of this particular post is, well then I told you so.