October 22, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 1.12.13

RamblerGreetings one and all. It’s that time of year once again. What time? Well, college football season has ended. The NFL season is over for me, as my Bengals once again proved to be, uh, the Bengals. Hockey? Not yet. Basketball? Doesn’t start for me until March. Ah, baseball, right? Not yet. Pitchers and catchers report in four weeks, not that I’m counting the days or anything. Give up? I’ll tell you then. It’s the flu season. And I am participating fully. So, if you will pass me another blanket and fluff up my pillow, it’s time for us to ramble.

Remember all the talk about being “spiritual but not religious“? Seems that those who identify themselves as such are susceptible to mental illness, drug abuse and eating disorders. See? Religion isn’t so bad after all.

Christianity Today has released its list of the most “redeeming” films of 2012. I only saw one of the ten, number ten. I did read the book number five is based on, if that counts. How many have you seen?

Good news. Jesus gets to stay in a middle school in Jackson, Ohio. Or at least his picture. Seems the townspeople have spoken. Jesus stays.

No picture of Jesus’ wife will be hanging next to the picture of Jesus anytime soon. The Harvard Theological Review has postponed publishing a report on the piece of papyrus that purports that Jesus was married. Harvard professor Karen King had prepared the article for the January issue, but “further testing” is being called for to see if the papyrus is authentic. I’m not holding my breath.

Homosexuality has certainly been in the news this week. Same sex weddings are old hat now, but in the National Cathedral? The man selected to pray the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration, Louie Giglio, has dropped out of the ceremony because of a sermon he preached “15-20 years ago” in which he called homosexuality a sin. And—really, even in my flu-addled mind I could not make this up—a preacher reveals just why the Great Flood occurred. It all makes sense now …

So which one of these is more popular: head lice, or Congress? Ok, how about colonoscopies or Congress? Root canals or Congress? Being stuck in traffic or … catching a trend here? Hey, if you’re a congressman, cheer up. You do rate higher than Lindsay Lohan, Fidel Castro, and North Korea.

Will the boot get the boot? How about the thimble or the iron? I always went for the race car. Is it going to go away, only to be replaced by a helicopter? Know what I’m talking about? Then when you pass Go collect $200.

Are you church-shopping? Maybe you’ll want to check out the new church meeting in Islington, England. The Nave in St. Paul’s Road is England’s first atheist church. There will be a speaker each month, tackling topics like “beginnings,” and they’ll have an “awesome house band.” Come to think of it, that could describe many evangelical churches in the United States. See? We’re not always behind Europe in trends.

Finally, how many here watched until the end to see Alabama’s Crimson Tide roll over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame? Well, I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, Alabama is the nation’s number one protestant state.

Happy birthday wishes this last week to George Reeves; Walter Mondale; Robert Duvall; Chuck Noll; Diane Keaton; Earl Scruggs; Lou Holtz; Pepe LePew; Syd Barrett; Butterfly McQueen; Kenny Loggins; Larry Storch; Elvis Presley; David Bowie; Bart Starr; Bob Denver; Joan Baez; Jimmy Page; Rod Stewart; and Clarence Clemons.

Have you ever flown across country just to go to a concert? I have. When Loggins and Messina regrouped briefly in 2004 I flew to Fresno, California for their show there. The sound was so incredible I told my friend that I thought it might all be tracked and the musicians were just going thru the motions. My friend told me to shut up, he was enjoying the show. This is just a great song, pure and simple. I’ll shut up now. Enjoy.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFM-VaUO_CE’]


  1. Matt Purdum says

    The evangelical collapse is accelerating and getting louder. Going to be a big pile of rubble very shortly.

  2. Good news?
    The school has opened itself up to a costly lawsuit that it could have avoided. As a result money that could have been spent directly on education will instead be spent on other things. All so an awful painting can be kept in place. That is your idea of good news?

    • Not sure if the lawsuit will be that costly for the school if Liberty University takes the case. But aside from that, as a rural Ohio resident, what business is it if we decide to post pictures of historical figures that are donated by students? Granted the historical figure is also a religious figure, but if the primary purpose is “inspirational” rather than “religious,” where is the objection?

      • How is it inspirational absent any religious intent? How is a Jewish person “inspired” by a picture of Jesus? How is a Hindu? Of course it is religious, and as such it has no place in a school run by the government. the court case will happen, the school will lose. They will have to pay for the fees of the other side. All so they can keep a really bad picture.

        • Sorry, but that’s just a weak argument! That’s just like saying how can a white person be inspired by Martin Luther King, or how can a non Hindu westerner be inspired by a vegetarian, Hindu man from India who allowed himself to be beat up? Or how about a white South African being inspired by a black South African whose wife approved of placing burning tires on the necks of opponents? The answer: It’s the WORDS and ACTIONS, NOT the color of the skin or the content of the creed!

          • OK.. what action did Jesus do that is so inspiring? (And you are NOT allowed to use any religious claims or sources to back up your assertions)

          • Would the school also allow a portrait of Mohammed? Buddha? I’d be curious…

        • Really? That’s the best you can do? Not even worthy of a response.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        “…if the primary purpose is “inspirational” rather than “religious,” where is the objection?”

        Are there similar pictures of comparable prominence displaying other inspirational figures? Are some of these inspirational figures non-Christians? Are we being offered inspiration from, for example, the Buddha as well? Or is it just Jesus?

        I can’t help but suspect that it is not merely one of multiple inspirational portraits, since if it were I would expect this to have been mentioned prominently in the reporting on the issue. The Ten Commandments as part of a display on the development of legal codes is a historical document. Posted by itself, it is a religious statement. The former does not infringe upon separation of church and state, even if sponsored by the government, while the latter does.

        The other problem with the “inspirational” defense is that it brings the church into disrepute. A bunch of Christians claiming that a picture of Jesus is at most incidentally religious simply is not credible. If it is in fact one of a series such as I described above, this needs to be made absolutely clear. Otherwise it looks very much like “lying for Jesus”. Compare this with the claim that if gay marriage is legalized, churches will be forced to perform them. Such arguments are a scandal to the church, as they give reasonable outside observers sound reason to question the church’s dedication to the truth.

      • Unlike most historical figures in pictures in schools I really doubt there is any historical accuracy in this picture.

    • Donalbain, I disagree that it’s an awful painting. As modern paintings of Jesus go, it’s one of the best. But I agree with you that it’s a “religious” painting, and as a 3-term veteran of our local school board, I would find it hard to justify keeping it there on First Amendment grounds.

      The painting is Warner Sallman’s “Head of Christ”, painted in 1941. When the reproduction was placed in that school in 1947 I’m sure Sallman’s painting was generating quite a lot of buzz everywhere. Probably a gift from some well-meaning benefactor, and no doubt it was well-received in Jackson, if it’s survival for more than six decades is an indicator.

      • It is kitsch and actually sorta racist. Its a horrid horrid painting.

        • It may be kitsch but it’s not horrid kitsch. 🙂 But I know what you mean. Thomas Kinkade’s paintings get the same reaction out of me as Sallman’s does from you.

          As for being sorta racist, I assume you mean the brown hair and blue eyes. Lots of medieval and renaissance paintings in Europe were done that way, and it was more for the purpose of contextualizing, making Jesus out to be like “one of us” and therefore more accessible.

          I have a friend who writes and illustrates children’s books of African folk tales, also American slave spirituals, and he illustrates Jesus as a black man or a black baby, with African features—also the holy family, wise men and all. While that’s also historically inaccurate, I wouldn’t call it racist. It’s good contextualization.

          But whether I like it or not, unless it’s in the context of many other paintings as in a museum (and it’s not; it’s in-your-face over a stairwell), in a taxpayer-funded school it has little justification to remain there.

          • When “one of us” means a white person, then that is racist. Just because it was done a lot in the past, doesn’t change that it is racist.

          • Donalbain – Can you hear yourself?

          • Richard Hershberger says

            “Donalbain – Can you hear yourself?”

            Donalbain is spot on. The stated defense of the blue-eyed Jesus is to make him “like ‘one of us'”. The inescapable conclusion is that the “us” in question is white people.

          • Richard – A survey of religious art will show that Jesus is most often depicted as “one of us” by the artist whatever their race may be. It is natural and even good to represent Jesus in cultural/racial terms. Donalbain was saying that everyone EXCEPT people with certain levels of eumelanin in their skin have a right to do this. That itself is an absurd and racist statement.

            What are the allowable levels of eumelanin? Does it have to be above a certain level? Below a certain level? Or perhaps just particular ranges are excluded? And does it matter why you have certain levels? Is the ancestry what is important or is it just the level itself?

            Or maybe we should create a religious law that says that Jesus always has to be represented as a Semitic Jew. But then even among Semitic Jews there was variation in skin color. Maybe we should just never paint pictures of Jesus?

          • So when “one of us” is black, hispanic, or asian, it is somehow not racist?

          • Richard Hershberger says

            You are moving the goalposts. Ted explicitly stated the argument that the racial depiction of Jesus serves the function of “making Jesus out to be like “one of us” and therefore more accessible.” By this logic, it necessarily follows that anyone not of that race is not considered “one of us”.

            You are making a different argument, that the artist defaults to making Jesus of his own race. This is undoubtedly true, and I don’t blame Sallman for this. I don’t even really blame him for his execrable art, as I doubt he was capable of better.

            In both cases, the issue is not the artist, but the audience. They are the ones with the appallingly poor taste to like this, and who nod appreciatively at the accessibility of the blue-eyed Jesus. That being said, no one is suggesting that this is burning-crosses-on-lawns racist. It is the casually clueless racism of “we are normal” and anyone not like us is therefore only normal to the extent that they manage to copy this “normal”. Outsiders may not be openly turned away, but they will never be truly welcomed, either.

            A picture has to show Jesus of *some* race, so what is a thoughtful approach to this? There are several possibilities. One is to mix things up. There is space for more than one picture. Have some variety. Another is to default on Jesus’ actual race, and make him look like a Middle Easterner.

          • Richard – What would be racist is if someone had donated a picture of Jesus that depicted Him as non-white and the school refused to hang it up for that reason. Otherwise your argument is PC conjecture from silence and hasn’t much validity.

          • When “one of us” means a white person, then that is racist.

            Donalbain, the example I used was of European art. Until very recently, all of Europe was white. Depicting Jesus as a European was good contextualization, as any mission strategy will attest.

            I also used the example of my African-American friend, the artist/illustrator. Nobody has ever accused him of racism by drawing Jesus as an African. That’s also contextualization, and his audience is largely African-American kids, and now his books are being translated into French for the African market itself.

            Warner Sallman’s painting, from 1941 and pre-civil-rights USA, may or may not have had the intent of promoting racism, but I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was following in a European genre of art.

            I’ll concede that the painting may be kitsch. But that at least is innocent.

            On a related note of contextualization and mission strategy, Hudson Taylor, an early missionary to China, contextualized himself to the point of dying his hair black, styling it as the Chinese did, and dressing in clothing like theirs. Is that to be considered an insult to the Chinese and therefore racist? I won’t answer that, but the strategy is debated to this day.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Race card, off the bottom of the deck.

          • OK.. I will reply to all the above here as you all seem to make the same, misguided points.

            1) To everyone who moaned “Waaahh! He didn’t criticise other cultures doing a similar thing! Thats the REAL racism!”: We were talking about one specific painting, and the justification used to defend that one particular painting. If you want to expand the conversation to other cultures, then you will have to do so with someone else, since I am not knowledgeable in the art of non western cultures. Also, you will need to find a time when it is relevant to the topic at hand, which is not now, since we are discussing a particular painting that is in he western tradition. However, I said nothing about any painting other than this one. I said nothing about something being racist except in certain circumstances. I said that this example is racist. If you claimed I said anything else, then you are a liar.

            2) To people who claimed that it isn’t racist because it has a long history. So what? Lots of things in artistic representation have a long history but are still racist. See, for example, the traditional racist representation of Jewish people in medieval art. That is horribly racist, and doesn’t get a pass just because it is old. Indeed, the whole of medieval history, from whose position you seem to be defending the painting of Jesus as a European, is rife with racism. Particularly anti-semitism, which goes a long way towards really explaining why it is very rare to see Jesus represented as an obviously Jewish person.

            3) Contextualisation of this sort is racism. It is born from a racist culture and it panders to that racist culture. As was stated in the original discussion, before it was hijacked by the liars above, the aim of painting Jesus as a white European is to make him seem like “one of us”. This has a two fold meaning. It means that the painter and their audience cannot see someone of a different race as being part of the group labelled “us”. Therefore, a person of a different race must be “them. This dividing of the world into “us” and “them” based on racial characteristics IS racism. Secondly, it defines the “us” in question (in this case of the school) as being white European. That immediately excludes anyone who is not a white European from the group that is being considered as us. So, the painting’s racism is two fold; it reflects a division of the world based on race, and it also divides the audience who might see the painting based on race.

            Finally, a point for Ted, since he is the only person who seems to arguing this matter based on what I write rather than what he imagines I am writing.

            The example you gave of someone altering their own appearance to fit into a different culture is a very different thing. The changing of yourself is a very different idea to the dishonest representation of another person to fit your own racist views.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            “Otherwise your argument is PC conjecture from silence and hasn’t much validity.”

            We have reached the point of scarcely even a pretense of response to what I wrote, so it is clearly pointless to continue

          • “Finally, a point for Ted, since he is the only person who seems to arguing this matter based on what I write rather than what he imagines I am writing.”

            I’m going to quit while I’m ahead, Donalbain. I wasn’t sure at first if you were including me with the liars, but your above quote sets me at ease.

            But I’m reminded of the Hobbits listening to Bilbo give his birthday speech. 😀

            I don”t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I
            like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
            ” This was
            unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping,
            but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came to a

          • @Donalbain – Had you been talking, as you claim, “about one specific painting” you could have used the word “Since” (specific to this situation) instead of “When” (general to all applicable situations). You said:
            “When ‘one of us’ means a white person, then that is racist.”
            “When” here is functionally interchangeable with the word “Whenever.” I’m sorry if I attributed a meaning that you didn’t intend, but I am certainly no liar.

            @Richard – I can’t respond to what you wrote since it seems based on your ability to see beyond actions and into the hearts and motives of others. How can I respond to that? If, however, you are a mere moral like me, then most of what you wrote is nothing more than politically correct sounding conjuncture and isn’t valid. If you want to stick to facts and observable actions, I’ll be glad to respond.

    • Donalbain, there are good ways and bad ways to go about the issue of removing the painting. What does not constitute a good way is for a group from another state to send off a snooty letter to the school making demands and threats. That only gets people’s backs up and makes them more liable to say “We’re keeping/not keeping this!” Suppose I turned up on your doorstep and said you were violating the law by keeping Auntie Margery’s vase on the mantelpiece? Even if you hated Auntie Margery’s dreadful vase, would you be willing to let a complete stranger tell you what you could and couldn’t have in your own home, particularly if that person made vague threats about law cases?

      Now, maybe there were locals who objected and wanted it down. We get the bare mention that two people in the crowd of 300 who turned up were opposed to keeping the picture. And it’s not purely a matter of believers versus non-believers; there is a lot of sentiment attached to the picture. It was presented by former students. It’s been there for years. Most people probably passed it every day in the hall when they were going to that school. It doesn’t seem to have been used as a focus of prayer or devotion or proselytization. It’s more an historic artefact of the school premises, and I think most of the locals are reacting from a mixture of loyalty to the old school days, what harm is it doing, who do these blow-ins think they are telling us what to do in our own town, and very far down the list, I’m a Christian and I’m entitled to have my faith recognised.

      If the church-state division people had been a little more tactful, this could have gone along smoother. And before you tell me I don’t know what it’s like for Americans with public symbols, I refer you to the ongoing riots over the Union Flag currently taking place in the northern half of my country and threatening to spill over down south, as there was a protest planned for Dublin but it was later cancelled – or only postponed, depending on who’s telling the story.

      So I know all about the power of symbols. Certainly there is a separation of church and state and endorsement of religion question here. But no small town anywhere is going to react favourably to strangers using them for PR and to further their agenda, regardless of whether or not the outside group has the law on their side.

      • A few points. Firstly, your analogy about my home is stupid. A home is not a government run establishment. What I do in my own home is not a matter of government endorsement of a particular religion. This is.
        Secondly, tone trolling is just as boring in real life add it is on the internet. The issue is that the school is fairly obviously breaking the law, not that someone told them they e breaking the law and hurt their feelings.
        Thirdly the fact that law baskets don’t take kindly to be being forced to obey the law is so far from relevant that I am amazed you even mention it.

  3. I only saw two of the ten movies listed on that best movies of 2012. They were Moonrise Kingdom and Brave and I like them both very much! On their 2011 list, I saw Of Gods and Men, The Tree of Life, The Way, and Hugo. I think I liked The Way or Hugo the best. I just recently rented the DVD of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and that was excellent!

    • I saw Les Mis (and read the book several times) and Lincoln. I’m trying to understand how Lincoln shows redemption. Pretty good movie, and Daniel Day-Lewis does a great job, but redemption? Maybe I missed something.

  4. Maybe that school in Ohio should replace the painting of Jesus with a painting of the most famous person with a birthday during the past week whose name was not in Jeff’s list: Richard Milhous Nixon.

    • +1. Without him would we have all this access to cheap stuff stamped “made in China?”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Bought with money we borrowed from China in the first place.

        What happens if they decide to foreclose on the gwai lo?

        I doubt they would accept the USA’s biggest export — empty containers — as payment.

  5. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    I thought Moonrise Kingdom was weird.

  6. Those who call themselves Christian are subject to arrest, interrogation, torture and martyrdom in many places in the world, so I’m not sure we have an advantage over the merely spiritual when it comes to safe lifestyle.

  7. I watched the first half of Alabama Notre Dame then switch to Castle on ABC. The real “championship game” was in December between Georgia and Alabama. But that’s not how the BCS rolls.

    • Brianthedad says

      +1 from an auburn tiger. The SEC rules college football.

      • As a national writer pointed out, it’s beginning to look life Alabama is ruling college football. The story is beginning to shift from the SEC to just Alabama. The rest of the SEC should be a little nervous about that.

    • Watching Bama’s domination made aTm’s win even more impressive and OU’s Cotton Bowl loss a little less embarrassing.

      • No Josh, OU’s loss in the Cotton Bowl was very embarrassing. Other than Texas and OSU, the Little 12 did not represent well this bowl season…

        • I would just like to point out that THE OSU is neither in the Little 12 nor did they play in a bowl game this year. However, they were the only undefeated team in the country.

          I’m jus’ sayin’.

    • It should have been Oregon v. Alabama. Those 2 were really the best 2 teams.

  8. jennifermarie says

    I’ve seen 4 of the movies from that list–Argo, Lincoln, Avengers, and Les Mis. I’m going to read Life of Pi first before I see the film.

    • I read The Life of Pi but have not seen the movie. I remember liking the book but it was some years ago and I don’t remember much about it now.

  9. Well, I saw “Avengers,” but I didn’t find it inspiring; like almost all films I have seen, it left me dissatisfied and in a half-hypnagogic state, wishing I hadn’t wasted my time and instead re-read parts of the “Brothers Karamazov.” That includes the film “Tree of Life,” which despite its cinematic pyrotechnics was nevertheless dull and ponderous and self-indulgent. I find film almost always very manipulative, and there’s nothing redemptive about manipulation.

  10. I found it interesting that the atheists and agnostics were considered religious for the purposes of the study. By filtering them out and people with conventional religious beliefs, you are concentrating people who go for the exotic. Such people are probably more likely to experiment with drugs (perhaps even as part of their spiritual quest).

    I don’t think studies like this are going to convert anyone (and would you want people flocking to your church not because they believe but because they want the psychological benefits of religion?). I think its hard to beat the attraction of personalized religion.

  11. I’m not thrilled with the term, “redemptive”. I have appreciated recent discussions here where the topic has been finding stories of redemption within films. A movie with a nice moralistic, therapeutic plotline with a bone throne toward a “higher power” might be considered “redemptive” to many residence of the collapsing evangelical ghetto. A story of redemption points to the inherent human need for meaning, forgiveness and restoration, a cry from the estrangement and nonbeing of life and our human frailty, of love and acceptance in spite of ourselves. Those stories point to Jesus without forcing moral codes or religiosity on the film industry. The Matrix was not a “religious” film, but the concept of redemption was there. Movies like Bazil speak of redemption in a left-handed way, where it is cynically crushed at the end. I’m not sure that is bad. Tell a story about redemption, yank away that hope of redemption at the very end, then ask the audience to consider if that bothers them and why. If this is all there is, that there is no Ultimate Concern in life, then what difference does it make if we die broken, lost and alone in an cold, empty universe?

    On the other hand, I think the story of the fallen hero is coming back in acceptance, where the protagonist, despite every effort and following great dreams, ultimately fails. No government bail-out; no Seal Team Six to rescue the day. Ancient Lore is full of stories of great men who went off to war and ultimately faced defeat with bravery and courage. I think these, too, are stories of redemption, but on a higher plain, where the trials and absurditeis of life are bravely fought rather than blandly, cowardly accepted. As the line from the Pink Floyd song goes, “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”. I never understood this as a kid, being disappointed when Steve McQueen’s character always seemed to die at the end of his movies (or end up back in the cooler, at the end of “The Great Escape”.

    Stories of heros sacrificing themselves for the sake of others also obviously point toward redemption. These stories are falling out of fashion not by the left but the far-right, where the strong sacrificing themselves for the weak, collective, huddled masses is considered an abomination by the “Atlas Shrugged” – waving zombie armies.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You know where I’ve seen “redemptive” fiction this past year? My Little Pony fanfics.

      You think I’m BSing? Here are three of the most Redemptive MLP:FIM fanfics I’ve come across since I joined the Herd:
      Creeping Darkness by Pen Stroke — with a Descent into Hell to set a captive free and a god-figure laying down her life for the Resurrection of a mortal;
      Past Sins by Pen Stroke — bringing redemption to the ponies’ Antichrist figure by having her “born again” but not in the way you think;
      A Cup of Joe by The Descendant — a retired veteran whose PTSD and survivor’s guilt is finally healed by a (literal) kiss of the Divine.

      A few years ago in some thread on this blog about Christianese movies, someone related a claim of Private Revelation that God had withdrawn His mantle from Christian(TM) artists/authors/moviemakers (“Mene, Mene, Tekel, Uparshim…”) and was placing it on secular artist/authors/moviemakers. Henceforth secular creative arts would speak God’s message. Could this mantle/mandate include such secular creative output as colorful cartoon ponies from a magical fantasyland?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      These stories are falling out of fashion not by the left but the far-right, where the strong sacrificing themselves for the weak, collective, huddled masses is considered an abomination by the “Atlas Shrugged” – waving zombie armies.

      Guess what? I found a Pony for that, too, while searching for the above fanfic URLs:
      The Bad Apple Chronicles: Apple Shrugged — as far as I can tell, this is a nasty deconstruction of Atlas Shrugged set in the Pony world, including a Ponyfied Ayn Rand as the Big Villain of the piece. Very surreal.

  12. Richard Hershberger says

    “Same sex weddings are old hat now, but in the National Cathedral?”

    What is commonly called the “National Cathedral” is actually the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Given that gay marriage is legal within the diocese, and that the Episcopal church has a ceremony for such things, it is unremarkable that some would take place within the cathedral.

    There are some pointed remarks that could be made about the pretensions of the Episcopal church to set itself up as the default quasi-official state religion, but these pretensions are a thing of the past. There was a time when the Episcopal church was described as “the Republican Party at prayer”. This is no longer true, and hasn’t been for going on two generations. Their informally calling this building the “National Cathedral” is merely a quaint relic of a bygone era.

    • As an Episcopalian, I can affirm the the Episcopal Church can no longer be described as “the Republican Party at prayer;” now it can be described as the rank-and-file of the Democratic Party at prayer with the radical wing of the Democratic Party leading the prayer.

  13. Thanks alot, Jeff …now I’ve got to go search for that rendition of “Angry Eyes”. At first, it made me want to dust off the old Strat and see if I could recapture a few licks, but I decided instead to just watch the video again. Good choice.

    Considering His contributions to western civilization as a whole …or at least all the history that is accounted for by His life on earth …how is it that Jesus is not at least as important historically as anyone who ever walked the planet? Who of greater influence, whether you deem it philosophic, economic, political or military? Would a portait of Dr. Martin Luther King be more acceptable, given his stated position regarding the Son of God? Maybe a nice landscape hanging up there?

    Somehow I find it encouraging that even an imaginary likeness of Jesus has the power to stir up passions like this.

  14. Marcus Johnson says

    I had no idea that it the designation of movies as “redemptive” fell under the purview of Christian-based institutions or Christ-followers. Fortunately, I have been a moderately good Christian, in that I have seen four of the top ten movies (Lincoln, Les Miserables, Argo, and The Avengers), so I feel assured that my place in heaven is secure.

    What else do we think we can apply the tramp stamp of “Christian” to? My first guess would be fast food restaurants. Chik-Fil-A could get to the top, but after that, we got to get a tighter criteria going. For instance, is the food blessed before it is rolled in pancake batter and deep-fried? What church does the CEO go to? How many people visit the drive-thru right after church services let out? Let’s get cracking on this, people!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      What else do we think we can apply the tramp stamp of “Christian” to?

      Well… Last year one of the IMonk staff discovered Christian(TM) sex toys, i.e. Godly Vibrators with the Christianese tramp stamp.

      And a year before that I freaked Chaplain Mike out with “Praise Ponies”, i.e. My Little Pony knockoffs (a generation or two behind the real thing, as usual) with Christianese tramp stamps in place of cutie marks.

      There is a LOT of territory between those two to tramp stamp as Christian(TM).

    • Good grief, man – where did Christianity Today say that seeing these movies was a ticket to redemption? They mean that the movies have themes that will likely resonate with Christians. This is totally over-the-top sarcasm.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      A) I never stated that Christianity Today said that these movies were “a ticket to redemption”; however, they do label them as “redeeming.” That is an incredibly loaded term to give movies, and it is pretty pretentious to assume that these movies will resonate more with “real” Christians than Django Unchained. My point is the business of labeling movies like this has never been, and is a distraction from, the real work to which Christ-followers have been commissioned.

      B) Sorry, I’m always going to accept the phrase “over-the-top sarcasm” as a compliment when applied to my rhetoric.

      • Marcus,
        I won’t venture into the “over-the-top sarcasm” debate, even though I’m not an angel and so not afraid to tread where they so fear, but don’t you think you’re taking the “redemptive movie” thing with a little too much wooden literalism? Or is my wife a savior unawares when she redeems manufacturer’s coupons at the supermarket?

      • Marcus Johnson says

        Not really. I have the same concerns with the concept of “Christian” periodicals engaging in film critiques that I do with Subway and Taco Bell serving breakfast; some institutions need to do what they do best, and leave the rest to someone else.

        • But the secular press uses the same kind of language about movies having “redemptive themes”; do you object to their appropriation of religious language to describe film? Or are you objecting to mixing the sacred and profane in reviewing film? Would that objection apply to novels? Should Christian literary critics not discuss the “redemptive themes” in Dostoevsky’s novels? Or are you only objecting to Christians critiquing pop culture? In that case, novels should be off limits to any Christian analysis because they were invented as a rather scandalous and vulgar popular diversion for the then new and growing class of bored English Industrial Revolution middle-class wives and daughters who had been taught to read and had too much time on their hands. And T.S. Eliot, as highly esteemed for his literary criticism as for his poetry, was barking up the wrong tree with his ideas of a Christian culture, the vulgarizer. Really, it’s just too much. God eliminated the distinction between sacred and profane every time Jesus crouched behind a group of trees to defecate, and that truth inevitably is reflected in the arts and commentary on the arts.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            That’s what the Doctrine of the Incarnation means — God Almighty having to take a dump behind a bush beside a dirt road in Palestine.

        • So, Christians shouldn’t analyze culture of have anything to do with culture? A faith that doesn’t engage with story in the various forms a culture produces story isn’t much of a faith.

        • Totally agree with you, Robert F. Well said.

        • Marcus Johnson says

          The argument of “Well, secular society does it” doesn’t work for me. Besides, if secular society were going to jump off a cliff, would we…well, mainstream evangelicalism has proven that we would.

          Of course, the particular faith tradition of an artist will naturally be reflected in their art (see: Flannery O’Connor). And there are themes of “redemption” (although I agree with Robert F’s earlier post; how does The Avengers make the list?) to be discovered as a common theme. However, that theme of redemption is not inherently Christian, and it was not the intent of many of these filmmakers to create a film that addressed redemption as a Christian theme. For example, Lincoln was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner, based on a book by Doris Kearns-Goodwin. None of those three individuals even hinted that it was their intent to affirm Christian values of redemption, and the book Team of Rivals explicitly paints Lincoln as a person who was greatly influenced by the Bible, but was not a Christian in any way that would actually matter. Yet, Lincoln is on the list.

          I think the main problem is that there is an assumption that any movie that suggests “redemption” can be used to affirm what “redemption” means in terms of the gospel, even if that movie has an exclusively secular intent. The gospel speaks of redemption in terms of something much deeper and transcendent than any of the movies on this list, and by digging through the past year’s trough of movies, this article misses the point. Articles like this are grasping for anything in the secular world that would validate Christian morals and, after a while, it gets a little sad.

          I am, however, looking forward to Robert F’s clarification on how an image of Jesus crapping in the woods intermingles the sacred with the profane.

          • Marcus,
            Starting with the last of your sentences first: the gospels as a literary form broke the conventions of classical antiquity’s literary tradition by treating of the common and lowly, even the vulgar, as subjects fit for elevation ; that a hinterland carpenter from a backwater colonial outpost and his rag tag band of lowlife nobodies could be a fit subject for literary attention was a blow at the aristocratic literary values that indicated that the only attention such personages should receive was as figures of ridicule and scorn. The Greek that the New Testament is written in is itself a poetically denuded and adulterated idiom, the language of commerce and trade, rather than stately Latin with its aesthetic purity and range of eloquence. The content and style and language of the New Testament took common, earthy subjects and lifted them into a place of prominence, asserting their importance against all the canons of literary decency that were taken for granted in classical antiquity; in this the form of the gospels reflects the reality of the Incarnation and what it involves. God in Jesus Christ condescends to take upon himself the filth and decay not only of sin, but of corporeality in a body of meat and bone. The Incarnation and its literary expression in the gospels defy good taste and religious decency, as then defined (and still defined in many places today,even among those who should know better), and thereby reshuffle concepts of the sacred and profane, which until then were inextricably woven into the aristocratic literary traditions of Rome/Greece, literary traditions which were inseparable from religious legend and mythology. In place of the aristocratic pantheon of Olympus, powerful and cruel and beautiful and shining, here is a God/man who shits in a hole and dies on a cross, covered in blood and viscera. If we call such an object God, please be mindful that it is the result of the working of supernatural grace, because we naturally look on such an object as disgusting, profane, cursed, desolate, unworthy.
            Having said that, redemption as a theme shows up in many forms in our cultural tradition precisely because of the influence of the aforementioned reshuffling of aesthetics. Even in a significantly post-Christian milieu, most of us have been fed on a subtext of Christian values that looks to find the meaningful and numinous and redemptive in the most unlikely places; why shouldn’t we espy it in popular movies, books, cartoons? Its not as if there isn’t a common grace at work in the world, and in the imagination of Christian and non-Christian artists alike, that doesn’t express itself apart from the specifics of the gospel narratives. The gospel is the original; the others are derived from the original or intimations of it. I understand that you may not like the evangelical subculture and the way it apes popular culture, often seeming like little more than a pale and anemic knock-off; I’m largely in agreement with you about that. But that’s just a preference based on personal aesthetics. There is no reason why Christians shouldn’t attempt to create compelling and subtle art that carries redemptive themes; there is no reason why Christians shouldn’t try to find artistic expression in the the larger culture that intimate redemptive themes that are analogous to (not necessarily identical with) the theme of redemption they find in the gospel that testifies to Jesus Christ.

  15. How is “The Hobbit” not a “redemptive movie?” The whole thing about the pity of Bilbo and the fate of the world? Seriously, I only saw 2 movies in theaters last year, and I don’t even remember what the other was, but those other 10 had better be pretty damn good if Tolkien did not even merit an honorable mention. Gonna try to see Le Mis soon.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      How is “The Hobbit” not a “redemptive movie?”

      Was the Four Spiritual Laws/Roman Road/Plan of Salvation presented word-for-word even once?

      Did it end with a break-the-fourth-wall Invitation to an Altar Call?

      Were there “Decision for Christ” cards (pre-printed with “The Sinner’s Prayer” to recite word-for-word) and pencil stubs in the theater seats?

      • Hey, I could probably come up with a pretty good Christian lesson plan around The Hobbit!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I wouldn’t doubt you could. What I’m pointing out is that like so much else, the Christian bubble has a very narrow view as to what constitutes “redemptive”.

          And there’s a difference between you coming up with a Christian lesson plan around The Hobbit (or me doing the same with MLP fanfics) and a publisher/producer REQUIRING a Christian lesson plan as part of the package. My writing partner has told me about an adventure novel from a Christian publisher who REQUIRED a Bible Study guide as an appendix to the novel. Say what? Does a book or movie only have “redemptive” value if we can use it to get “Decisions for Christ” and notches on our Bible?

      • HUG,
        I have found tracts in the theater restroom, on occasion; does that count?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Depends on which tracts. Jack Chick’s “Dark Dungeons” is the first that comes to mind for The Hobbit…

    • +1

    • Marcus Johnson says

      First, Miguel, as a fellow lover of music and good art, I should warn you that, should you see Les Miserables, you’re in for two and a half hours of people singing (very well, except for Crowe and Seyfried, who were a little annoying) about being poor–for two and a half hours. Great acting, but two and a half hours never seemed so long.

      Second, I think you recognize one of the main problems of this particular periodical doing these kinds of lists. Christians were meant to be counterculture, not culture commentators. When we try to be film critics, we end up looking rather silly and, in the case of The Hobbit, leaving worthy additions to our lists.

      • I loved the score to Les Miserables. I am learning “Do You Hear the People Sing” on the clarinet as well as “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” probably my 2 favorite from the film.

        • Marcus Johnson says

          Oh, the score and acting were tremendous, but the plot was pretty laborious.

          And why isn’t “I Dreamed a Dream” in your playlist? That’s not very redemptive.

          • Because I already can play “I Dreamed a Dream” as it was an earlier song I learned! Those 16th note arpeggios at the end of it are hard to do!

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    No picture of Jesus’ wife will be hanging next to the picture of Jesus anytime soon. The Harvard Theological Review has postponed publishing a report on the piece of papyrus that purports that Jesus was married. Harvard professor Karen King had prepared the article for the January issue, but “further testing” is being called for to see if the papyrus is authentic. I’m not holding my breath.

    Hasn’t anyone ever heard of fanfiction?

    ANYTHING popular or prominent or “in the news” is going to inspire fanfic and knockoffs. And it’s not even fanfic; you can reconstruct Top News Stories of a period by just going to archives of the TV show Law & Order and indexing dates aired to summaries of the episodes. It’s THAT obvious a one-to-one correspondence.

    Why should this new up-and-coming religion with its X-treme claims be exempt from this?

  17. I saw three of those redemptive movies! Does that mean I’m redeemed??

    Argo – I liked it while watching, until I realize that much of the suspense was probably contrived for movie purposes (such as the whole escape scene of the last day). When I got home I read about the actual events, which further solidified my suspicions that most of the edge-of-my-seat elements existed purely to make it a more exciting and interesting movie.

    Brave – wonderful animated movie. Nice to see a strong female character.

    Looper – great movie. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life and I love when I stumble upon one which goes in a direction totally unexpected, complete with an unexpected ending. More sensitive Christians should be warned, though: the movie is bloody and violent.

  18. I’m still holding out that Pepe LePew will finally catch the love of his life and that Larry Storch will get his discharge from F Troop.


  19. Who woulda thunk that Larry Storch, David Bowie, and Bart Starr would ever show up in the same sentence. :