Saturday, June 16, 2007


Comic Art

About the Fantastic Four movie:

It is tons and tons of fun. I have been getting enormous traffic on these two old posts on the Surfer and Galactus. There seems to be a great deal of interest in the movie, that's good.

The movie has three weaknesses. It fails to achieve a sufficient level of pathos with regards to the Surfer. The character was beatifully realized visually, but it is not the Surfer's amazing appearance that accounts for his popularity. As in the first film, Doom is pointless, and he really should have been left out of this one. He is a huge plot hinge, but could easily have been eliminated and would not have been missed. I'm betting he was there for purely contractural reasons. Finally, I truly hate the fact that Galactus, as presented in this movie, is not anthropomorphic. I'm certain the budget did not allow otherwise, but it changes the whole character of the story so much. I think this really ties into the first criticism. If the Surfer was defying a character instead of merely a force the pathos would have been so much more real.

Now all that being said, it was well worth the price of admission and very much fun for this comic fan. The FF movies, more than any of the comic films capture the essence of the comic medium - fun and they should not be missed.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled comic programming -

You just have to love Red Trinity - Da Tovarisch - Red Trinity. Scientifically developed speedsters, initially in service to the Soviet Union, this trio proved a thorn in the flesh of Flash, but really never amounted to much. And yet, this entry in the continuing bi-weekly series on comic book speedsters holds a special place in my heart.

No characters in comics have better captured the difficult, faulting, currently failing efforts of the former Soviet to transform in to a free, democratic, and capitalistic society. For you see, upon defection to the west, the Red Trinity became the Kapitalist Kouriers in an effort to capitalize on their abilities and make a buck. Often they never quite figured out the whole freedom and capitalism thing which is quite true about the former Soviet.

You have got to love the blatantness of those costumes with the dollar signs. I've often thought a mini-series on these characters, written by real Soviet emigres or people struggling now in Russia would make a fascinating bit of publication history. Sadly, I am not sure it would sell well so I may simply have to dream.

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Friday, June 15, 2007


There Are Career Moves, And Then...

Out Of Ur published an interesting and brief interview with a guy that "moved from a career in advertising to pastor a Mennonite church." Now that is what I call a career shift. In the interview the guy tries to analyze the whole mega/emerging thing in terms of consumerism and identitifes three types of consumerism, quoting

What I find most fascinating in this is that he still defines his third type in terms of consumerism. Of course, he does start out by saying

We are a consumer culture. I am a consumer. I understand that it’s insidious and dangerous, but I am still a consumer. That’s just how we’re shaped. That’s the cultural currency.
This set me to wondering, I don't think Christ can be described as "mainstream," "counter" or "anti" consumerism or a lot of other things for that matter. Christ came to sanctify - that's it. We can be sanctified regardless of where we fit in the consumeristic stream. The problem with the mega-church is not that it is consumeristic, but that it forgoes the totality of the transformative gospel for the sake of consumerism. The same can be said for the emerging church; simply substitute "counter-consumerism" for consumerism.

We keep on asking the wrong questions. We keep on looking in the wrong places. We keep forgoing the face of Christ for the face of the church. An ambassador that does not spend more time in contact with the home country than the nation which it represents is in danger of "going native." Which is the start of a great example.

The problem is, I am not sure the ambassador metaphor is the most appropriate. An abassador was enculturated by the nation he represents. We, on the other hand, are born into the foreign nation and encultured in it. We are more like the ambassador's children, coming "home" only after growing up native. We are discovering our true culture for the very first time.

Will we hold to some of the customs of the native? Of course, but we will need to figure out how to do so as citizens of our home nation. We cannot afford to define ourselves in terms of the nation into which we were born. We must define ourselves in terms of home.

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Friday Humor

A devout couple felt it important to own an equally devout pet. So, they went shopping. At a kennel specializing in this particular breed, they found a dog they liked.

When they asked the dog to fetch the Bible, he did it in a flash. When they instructed him to look up Psalm 23, he complied equally fast, using his paws with dexterity. They were impressed, purchased the animal, and went home--devoutly.

That night they had friends over. They were so proud of their new pet and his major skills, they called the dog and showed off a little. The friends were impressed, and asked whether the dog was able to do any of the usual dog tricks, as well. This stopped the couple cold, as they hadn't thought about "normal" tricks.

Well, they said, "let's try this out." Once more they called the dog, and they clearly pronounced the command, "Heel!" Quick as a wink, the dog jumped up, put his paw on the man's forehead, closed his eyes in concentration, and bowed his head.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Why Isn't This Funny?

I think this video that MMI posted a while back is supposed to be funny, but I was horrified. Parody is supposed to be just enough over-the-top so as to be a bit absurd. Sadly, I could find no absurdity in the piece as I have experienced real claims of spiritual gifting as outrageous as the video's protagonist's claim of being gifted to play dodgeball.

The video, and its real world analogs, is the prosperity gospel writ large. God grants us our fondest dreams, or so the presumption goes. Maybe I hold the gospel too precious to see the humor in this, or maybe I experience the pain of its misunderstanding too deeply, but I can only react to it with sorrow, not laughter.

God is not about helping us reach our goals. We should be about conforming ourselves to His goals. That does not mean God won't bless our earthly efforts, but it does not mean He will either.

The confusion illustrated by the video is too common, and more it is too commonly exploited by those claiming to act in God's name to be funny. Maybe that is why I did not find humor, because I hurt for those that are dupped by similar claims under very real circumstances.

Humorous ridicule is supposed to be one of the best weapons against bad ideas. But does this video produce a sufficient sense of ridicule?

I don't know, I just know I hope and pray that things were different.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007



MSNBC recently asked: "Is a virtual affair real-world infidelity?" and the Sermon on the Mount ran through my mind faster than well, you-no-what through a goose.

I find the circumstances, the questions, and the answers terribly revealing about the true nature of sin. In the first place, a question like that, much like all the questions on dietary laws, and keeping the Sabbath and so on make sense only if we view sin as behavioral instead of conditional. Sin is not what we do, it is the state that we are in. What we do is indicative of that state, but the state does not result from what we do.

Secondly, the story reveals what an incredibly sorry state it is we are in:
That didn’t seem to matter to Sam. He fell pretty hard for his avatar sweetie. They bonded intellectually, emotionally, and yes, thanks to Second Life animations, even physically.

Here’s where it gets complicated. Unlike his avatar, which is female, in real life, Sam is a man. A married man. And the person behind the blonde, curvaceous Kat? Married. And, quite possibly, a man, too.
Transgendered, virtual, homosexual adultery - we have to be pretty far gone to even imagine such a thing, let alone carry it out.

I'm fairly certain most of my readers are at this point congratulating themselves for not being perverted enough to have ever imagined such a thing, which, or course, instantly puts us in the same category of depraved sinner as our virtually transgenderd friends, although our path onto that pile is via pride instead of sexual sin.

Which points out another important point about sin, we are all in that sorry state together.

That's why the gospel is not a behavioral message but a transformative one. We seek not to act differently, but to BE different.

When I read the MSNBC peice, my instant reaction was "What are they, kidding? Of course its infidelity." But that to is in some sense a smug and prideful reaction. I have never been tempted by such as the story describes, but I have most definitely been sorely tempted by many other things, and I have been overcome by that temptation many times. So have you.

Best we all keep that in mind when we read about such things.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007



Broken Bonds//Loosed Chains managed to bring new light to an old scriptural illustration.
That last sentence is an interesting one... "I have to keep running if I'm going to be known as a runner, let alone call myself a runner." You see, other people were calling me a runner several months before I was willing to call myself a runner. In fact the biggest influence I had in calling myself a runner was that others had already identified this trait in my life. Imagine if we weren't allowed to call ourselves Christians until other people were referring to us as followers of Jesus? Are we known as followers of Jesus or is it just a title we give ourselves?
This leading to the inevitable scriptural citation
"Not that I have... already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me... But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14 (TNIV)
I remember when I underwent confirmation. Before I was a member of the church, I had to undergo examination by the Session (the ruling body of elders for those uninitiated in the ways of Presbyterianism). I was scared - would I measure up? In the end it was a reception, but I never relaxed expecting one elder or the other (my father!) to come over and start "casually" quizzing me.

This process still occurs, but the word "examination" is never heard and it is sold as a "party." The Session voting to accept the members is "by consent" - that is to say if no one says anything to the pastor as the party winds down, it is assumed....

In this day and age such examination and approval seems offensive to our egalitarian minds, and perhaps it should, but must we jettison the idea of standards and accoutability at the same time?

Neil is right - being Christian is more than attaching a label. It is a life long effort and most importantly, experience of grace.

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Kitty Kartoons - A Very Special Edition

Among my father's personal effects, of which we have only begun to survey, we found a pile of greeting cards. Regular readers that know Mrs. Blogotional's art would be unsurprised to know that she often uses her art to make greeting cards, including ones based on these cartoons. Every one she has ever sent my parents was in that pile of my father's. It is only fitting that my parents cats make an appearance here. And while you are at it, pray that my mother's healing will be sufficient to allow her to be reunited with them.

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Monday, June 11, 2007


Now That Is A Heck Of A Question

Personal note: We are going to slowly try to return to "normal" here at Blogotional, though under the circumstances "normal" is a state finding a new definition. Regular reader probabaly realize that I write many of the essay-type posts well in advance and there are many sitting around that were intended to be published during this recent spate of familial tragedy. I am going to start by trying to update slightly and publish those. My links posts, which I have no idea if anyone ever read will have to wait a bit. I currently lack the wit.

Continue to pray for my mother as we try to line up the surgery this week.

And now on with the "regular" programming:

Jollyblogger wonders why the church has not changed the world. In response he quotes Peter Gilquist saying
"All the evangelism in the world from a church that is not herself holy and righteous will not be worth a hill of beans in world-changing power."
to which he adds the personal observation
In other words, the primary identifying mark of the Christian is not his theology, his convictions, or even his morals - it is his love. And this primary identifying mark is not love for all men in general, it is love for believers in particular. In other words, if professing Christians don't love one another then the world outside the church has no compelling reason to believe they are truly Christian.
David's comments are right on, up to a point. He sets up the nearly cliche' grace v. works conundrum as the context for his comments on love.

We are indeed saved by grace, not works, and are primary mark is indeed love, but grace is not in opposition to works, but rather the path to both works and to love.

I am purposely dismissive of the grace v. works question above because I increasingly think it a false dicthomy, and one that has lead to much mischief. Simply put, apart from grace we cannot love righteously, nor perform to standard on any other work. Works without grace are empty and Pharisetical. However, grace without works is cheap grace, to borrow Bonhoeffer, but I think I am learning to prefer the term "incomplete grace."

Grace, real grace, true grace, COMPLETE grace does not stop at mere salvation, but rather works itself throughout the entirety of our lives and transforms us into people in whom love is evident as the chief of works. Grace involves BOTH "You are forgiven" and "go and sin no more," it does not stop at the first phrase. When we set up the grace/works dichtomy we encourage the separation of those two phrases.

I think we need to learn a new way to discuss this issue, for then and only then can we really change the world.

Last minute reflection: This post may be the perfect one to be the first after the death of my father. As I noted, people's comments were overwhelmingly about my father's service. My dad only told me he loved me once since I was about 12 years old - it is in a letter he wrote me in college and I still have it - and yet his love was never, ever in doubt. Grace worked completely in my father and he shared that grace with all around him.

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