November 30, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 10.30.10

Happy Halloween, fellow monks. Here at the iMonastery, we have a strict rule: No costume, no candy. And believe me, we are candy fools here. Chaplain Mike hardly ever takes his costume off. Canadian monk Mike Bell scared his all at first with his slasher costume until we figured out it really was just a hockey mask. So get your paper sacks or, better yet, pillowcases and get ready to ring some doorbells. It is time for the Halloween edition of Saturday Ramblings.

First, we want to start off with some good news. Literally some good news. The corporate family that oversees InternetMonk has launched a new web site featuring news stories that focus on the good that is happening around us. aims to make you smile in the midst of an angry world. Some of the proceeds from GND will go to support Kids For Christ, an organization that helps start Bible clubs in public schools. And here is the cool thing: You can be a reporter for GND. If you know of a good news story, send it to us at iMonk writer-in-residence Lisa Dye is editorial director of GND. Check it out.

Want to be hip but not too hip? Your best denominational choice, it seems, would be Methodist. You can join other hipsters such as Clark Kent, Ward Cleaver and Donna Reed, among others. There are some surprises on this list of Methodist celebrities. Somehow I never pictured Hugh Hefner as a Methodist.

I forget—are Christians for or against tattoos these days? Regardless, it seems that the tat industry is thriving even in a down economy. Adam Palmer and I assisted Brian Welch, the former guitarist for Korn, with the writing of his book, Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story. Brian is tatted so much it would be hard to lay a quarter on his body and not have it touch a tat. Somehow though, no one at my church really seemed to notice when he came to visit. Anyone want to admit what tats they are currently sporting?

Earlier this week, Chaplain Mike led us in a conversation about how we must approach the subject of homosexuality, especially in light a a survey that shows this is one of the main topics that cause young people to turn from the church. Now a group of religious and political leaders as well as celebrities are lending their voices to the “It Gets Better” campaign aimed at gay and lesbian youth. Good idea? A good way to reach these troubled teens who most likely will not be reached inside of the church?

A recent article in the Irish Times (see, Martha: we really do care about you!) tells how with the rise of wealth among the middle class in India, there is a corresponding rise in interest in religion. What caught my eye was the reference to an “Indian Pat Robertson.” Anything more I say will just get me in hot water. Read for yourself.

Why are Christian movies so bad? Wow, where to start. First, why do we need “Christian movies” in the first place? Have we forgotten Lewis’s admonition that “We don’t need more Christian books. We need more Christians writing great books”? But if you want to read what Scott Nehring thinks is the cause of calamity in Christian cinema circles, I think you’ll find he does make some good points.

An unlikely artist passed away this last week. Benoit Mandelbrot was a mathematician who sought to explain beauty to us through math formulas. He called his work fractals. I call it God having fun in his art studio. Whatever you want to call it, try to find some beauty around you today. And then thank the one who made it.

Delightful iMonk correspondant JoanieD sent in this snap of fall foliage from her home state of Maine. Thanks, Joanie, for reminding me of how beautiful fall can be. All who are jealous raise your hand…

Happy Birthday this week to Johnny Carson; Michael Crichton; Weird Al Yankovic; Bill Wyman (the original bass player for the Rolling Stones); Pablo Picasso; Bobby Knight; Katy Perry; Pat Sajak; Boosty Collins; Teddy Roosevelt; Dylan Thomas; John Cleese; Charlie Daniels; and Richard Dreyfuss.

Finally, our Halloween gift to you.  How many of these movies can you name? Happy Halloween! And don’t forget to take off your mask before going to work on Monday.


  1. Buford Hollis says

    Well, Ozzy Osbourne is an Episcopalian.

  2. Go JoanieD! Mainers unite!

    • um, yes, my hand is raised….totally jealous. we were just back there seeing the fall folliage…auugghh, i could move tomorrow!

      • Where do you live?

        Perhaps we can trade residences from the end of December to the first of March. haha

    • *Stands on desk and raises hand*

      By the way, beautiful picture Joanie! You have no idea how jealous I am right now.

      • Thanks, Preston, Charlie and Amanda. Maine is truly beautiful. Northern New Hampshire too. We go to NH quite a lot. My husband doesn’t like to go to southern Maine often, preferring to avoid the traffic and people. So we head up to Rangeley ME, Errol NH, Lincoln NH. But, my sister-in-law told us the First Trader Joe’s grocery store in Maine just opened in Portland ME and I checked it out on wikipedia and now Tom wants to make the trek there to see what it is like.

        What state do you live in, Amanda? I often live in the state of confusion. 😉

        • I’ve often said that I’m the governor of the state of confusion. 😉 Seriously, though, I was born and raised in Ohio but am currently living in Texas where there are two seasons: very hot and not-quite-as-hot. It’s been TEN YEARS since I’ve seen a real autumn and I’m *really* missing it right now! I’m moving back to Ohio before the end of the year, but probably not in time to see the leaves. 🙁 If I can manage to find a job in New England, I’m moving there next.

          • Amanda,

            I’m glad to be in Ohio, too. I do like all four seasons. I lived for about 10 years or more, in Southern California. We had rainy season and fire season. And what was so amusing to me is how people had forgotten how to drive in rain. The first rainfall of the season always brought about major traffic problems.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Los Angeles area. First rain and it’s bumper-cars here. From freeways to demolition derbies — just add rain. (And I’d really like to see how they’d handle snow.) We had a couple early storms come in just last month, and Hilarity Ensued.

            Some of it is physics — all that gunk builds up on the roads over fire season (everything outside “winter” to you in lands with seasons) and it takes some hard rain to wash it off the road surface. When the first rain of the season is light, I’ve had my tires skid all over the place just starting up from a stoplight. But a lot of it is drivers (and I’m not talking about the Driving While Mexican or Driving While Oriental jokes you get down here). Drivers here have two responses to bad weather:

            1) Barrel on as if everything was clear and dry until you ram something;


            2) Get paranoid, slow down to 25 or less in the fast lane, and drive real timid until you get rammed.

            (Expensive SUVs usually choose #2.)

  3. Andrew Zook says

    Read the Christian movie piece and am glad someone is finally saying something. My first recommendation/solution to this problem: We need more ‘judging’…we need prophetic Christians with the guts to say, in their most loving but judgmental tone – “That’s crap, and we, the backers of said project aren’t going to publish, promote or bank-roll it until it meets the highest standard” This by the way would also save the world from crappy christian contemporary music. I really wonder sometimes how half of what I hear on christian radio ever got a record deal…because if I was sitting behind the desk listening to demos, I’d send most of these funky, punky raised in christian schools bands back to their garages and basements until they dropped the ‘christianeze’ and made music worth listening too…

    • The other Graham says

      Bob Briner’s book “Roaring Lambs” recounts his seeking out the producer of Chariots of Fire to find out why there are so few movies like that one. Its portrayal of a man of faith was highly successful, but there have been few like that to follow Chariots. The producer, David Puttnam. told Briner that there just weren’t any good scripts with that kind of Christian character being written.

      Briner covers all of the arts and comes up with a similar result. We’re just not trying to be out in the secular culture because to go there risks ridicule. The sentiment he forces us to face is simple: Why should we go there when even mediocre, formulaic, “preachy” efforts can make us a living in the “Christian market”?

      Briner’s book is a call for those of us who have creative gifts to be willing to leave the safe (and often very profitable) island of the “Christian market” with its bookstores that often offer sanitized pablum for fiction and movies. We don’t need to be reaching each other; we’re called to touch the world.

      • The other Graham says

        Editing on an IPhone is not easy. I also wanted to say that I think Scott Nehring’s piece is absolutely on the money. We need to be encouraging our creative folks to be willing to risk by getting out there into the secular marketplace with “real” stories that have high production values and don’t morph into a poorly done salvation tract. To return to Briner’s “Roaring Lambs” for a moment, he believes that we need to be encouraging our young folks in that direction and be as excited when they pursue creative arts career in the secular world as we would be if they go into the ministry.

  4. The GoodNewsDaily website sounds great, Jeff and Lisa. I will keep my eyes peeled for upbeat stories.

    Thanks for posting my fall photo, Jeff. For anyone who wants to see other photos I took this fall, you can see my Facebook album at without being a member of Facebook. (By the way, I limit Facebook “friends” to family and local friends. I guess I “compartmentalize” my life! I did make an exception for Michael Spencer, though.)

    I don’t have any tattoos but my stepdaughter has MANY. And I have a nephew who has one that covers his chest.

  5. The lead guitarist in our church’s praise band has plenty of tats including a whole sleeve on one arm. One day the minister called attention to it to say, “I love that Mike has these tattoos and doesn’t mind showing them. It’s who he is. Mike, don’t ever feel like you need to cover them up.” It was awesome.

    Meanwhile, I have one tattoo, a bluebonnet on my shoulder blade (tribute to Texas – its state flower). I’ve gotten plenty of compliments on it and no issues from anyone – of course, it’s not really visible unless I’m at the beach or perhaps wearing a strappy dress.

  6. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    I haven’t gotten it yet, but I’m considering getting a Jerusalem Cross on my arm. I’m not sure if I want it on my bicep or forearm, though.

  7. I have a dog that has the habit of dining from our cat’s litter box. A vet told me that there was something that my pooch was missing in her diet that caused her to snack on kitty treats and if I gave her certain supplements then she would not feel the need. Well, the same goes for “Christian” movies! Christians go to see them because they have a desire to see something that reflects their own world view, or at least presents aspects of it in a way that is thoughtful and effective, something that even a nonbeliever can contemplate.

    Movies like Bella, Book Of Eli, Chariots Of Fire (now THERE’S an oldie!) have DONE that! Fireproof and Facing The Giants, though good by Christian standards (and what low standards we have!) STILL fall short of the mark, artistically speaking. But I think the culprit is utilitarian thinking in the creative process. In other words we expect “Christian” art to BLATANTLY say “Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior” in every presentation.

    If these type of offerings were all I could see then I would stop watching altogether, sort of like the reasoning that people give for drop[ping out of church…sub-standard and ineffective presentation! Why SHOULDN’T we expect excellence in the arts? Does accepting Christ remove that part of our brain that is responsible for creativity? I say NO! Glorify God with EXCELLENCE, not CRAP!

    • “The only Christian work is good work, well done.” — Dorothy Sayers

    • “Does accepting Christ remove that part of our brain that is responsible for creativity? I say NO! Glorify God with EXCELLENCE, not CRAP!”

      Amen, Oscar!

  8. Math is beautiful and mysterious. Imaginary numbers were the bane of my son’s homework this week, but there’s something incredibly fascinating about solving problems involving numbers that mathematically can’t exist (e.g. the square root of negative one). I remember in calculus finding perimeters of four-dimensional objects – something that one really can’t even imagine. Math deals in the realm of the infinite and the infinitesimal: if you could measure the unmeasurable or approach infinity, what would you find? Without fractals, much of the CGI animation we take for granted now would be impossible.

    But as I said before, all things, including math, have a sacramental and demonic potential. The error that people make is to read certainty, absolute predictability, and infallibility into math, turning it into a black art, a crystal ball, reducing the world to the empirical and knowable, which is dehumanizing. Much of this came out of enlightenment enthusiasm regarding man’s ability to conquer savage nature and chaos. But at the heart of math is the sense of the ultimately unknowable. Most math equations have limits and margins of error. Math can interpolate truth imperfectly. It can no more predict the return of Christ anymore than it can guarantee the winner at the next horse race.

  9. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for over a quarter of a century and I have 39 pieces of body art/tats, most of them are Chinese Kanji referring to scripture, including a tat on my right forearm that is Micah 6:8. None of my tats have “verbs” in them and are facing the people who read them – because I am the ‘verb’ and having others read them back to me reminds me of my ‘mission’ for God.

  10. As always, your eclectic serving up of past weeks’ highlights made my Saturday morning! Thanks so much. Mash on monsters! 🙂

  11. Jeff, I’m not upwardly mobile enough to read “The Irish Times” so I stick to “The Examiner” (formerly “The Cork Examiner”). 😉

    No tattoos at all. Partly due to fear of needles and partly due to never saw the appeal.

    The films I can identify in that “Monster Mash” video off the top of my head (and no cheating by Googling) are, in no particular order:

    “The Hypnotic Eye” (thanks to, um, the title being flashed up on screen)
    “The House on Haunted Hill” (ditto)
    Terence Whale’s “Frankenstein” (and possibly “Bride of Frankenstein”)
    Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein”
    “The Tingler” starring Vincent Price (the flying brain one)
    “Godzilla” and its sequels (Japanese incarnations of course!)
    “Dracula” with Béla Lugosi (God rest the man)
    “I Married A Monster From Outer Space”
    “Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell” starring Peter Cushing, Shane Bryant and Madeline Smith (can you tell I’m a bit of a Hammer buff?)
    “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (unmistakeable Harryhausen animation!)
    Something that looks like Jess Franco horror-exploitation movies?
    Something that looks like “Reefer Madness”, though it could be “The Blob” or any of the countless B-movies of the time?
    Something that looks like “Them”? (Only I think that was giant ants, not grasshoppers)
    Something that maybe looks like “Mighty Joe Young” (it’s definitely not Kong, and I can’t think of any other gorilla creature-features)?
    “The Fly”
    “The Wolf Man” – Lon Chaney, of course!
    The Universal Studios series of “Abbott and Costello Meet The (fill in monster of your choice)”
    Possibly one of the Hammer “Mummy” films?

    And of course, the one, the only, the inimitable (thank the Lord!) “Plan 9 From Outer Space”!

    I’ve probably seen most of the others on late night tv, but I can’t think of the names offhand

  12. “Earlier this week, Chaplain Mike led us in a conversation about how we must approach the subject of homosexuality…”
    How about this sign from the “Rally to Resore Sanity and/or Fear” in D.C. today:

    • Proof once again that if you’re willing to pull verses out of contest, you can find Scriptural “support” for anything. In the context of that rally, it’s funny. In the context of too many sermons I’ve heard … not so much so.

  13. Thanks for mentioning the It Gets Better Project. The website is here and well worth a look.

  14. My son and daughter have about 8 tattoos between them. I have one on my left shoulder, a Celtic cross with “Christ is risen” in Old Gaelic above the cross.

    • Honest questions here…How did you find the Old Gailic, and how can be sure?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Especially because tattoo artists have a twisted sense of humor about customers who want some inscription in an ancient or exotic language. Especially when a small mistake in spelling or calligraphy can change the meaning completely, unbeknownst to the tatted.

        For example, a recent fad in tats was Chinese Characters. Exotic Wisdom of the Orient and all that. Chinese-speaking tattoo artists had a field day with that one, especially since the customer didn’t know any Chinese and just wanted it to be Uber Kewl. There are a lot of people out there tatted with permanent off-color Chinese inscriptions — usually some variant on “I’m an idiot” or “stupid slut”.