Saturday, April 10, 2010
The two big comic publishing houses have always liberally "borrowed" from each other, but rarely have they just flat out ripped each other off as they have with the two characters that we will look at in this post, and the villainous one that follows in two weeks. Today we will start with the DC version of teh character - AMAZO. He is a robot/android that can absorb and imitate the powers of those he is up against. And so he bacame the entire Justice League rolled into a single being.
Amazo defies my first rule of comics - that the character has to look great to be great. The comic book version of Amazo does not look too bad (that's what you see depicted here) but the animated version is flat out boring. Compared to the Marvel version of this character though, even the comic book version is dull. And yet, Amazo is by far the superior character - much better written and much more textured.
Of course, the look of the Marvel version, as we shall see in a couple of weeks, is very gimmicky and that may be why he was never invested with the kind of writing that has made AMAZO so, well, amazing.
What I like best about AMAZO is that they have used him to explore the limits of power and the fact that even though he can obtain meta-power without limit, he has found in unfulfilling. That is quite the object lesson for the youngster that dreams of someday donning cape-and-cowl and becoming a super-hero. Though a villain, AMAZO's story is one which illustrates that heroism is not in the power, but in the choices one makes.
I am typically not a big fan when "real life" intrudes into my comics - I really like my fantasy fantastic, but AMAZO is an exception to that rule. He teaches me that I can be a hero, even without power.
Friday, April 09, 2010
It's More Than Just The Web
Let’s stop there a minute. This is madness. Is this where we have come to, with our Christian use of the web? Men who make careers in part out of bashing the complacency and arrogance of those with whose theology they disagree, yet who applaud themselves on blogs and twitters they have built solely for their own deification? Young men who are so humbled by flattering references that they just have to spread the word of their contribution all over the web like some dodgy rash they picked up in the tropics? And established writers who are so insecure that they feel the need to direct others to places where they are puffed and pushed as the next big thing? I repeat: this is madness, stark staring, conceited, smug, self-glorifying madness of the most pike-staffingly obvious and shameful variety.Of course, all of blogging talked about this, but my thoughts ran to the church in general. Everything from advertising to conferences where Christian "leaders" spend all their time patting each other on the back and saying how good they are. Facebook pages geared almost entirely to generate "buzz" for one congregation or the other.
This is the madness I fear. The church has come to be viewed as offering commodity, so we stoop to promotional tactics in all media to differentiate our product from the next guys.
There is nothing, I repeat nothing, commodious, about what the church should have to offer the world. Why do we think there is?
Because we have reduced it to such. We have taken the Creator of the Universe, The Savior of Mankind, He who was incarnated, crucified, and resurrected, and turned Him into something that must be sold like laundry detergent.
If the church wants to grow, it has to stop looking at how to reach the world in the world's "language" and figure out how to be the people God intended us to be. Instead of looking at how to reach the next person we should be on our knees looking for the Lord we have yet to truly find.
It's not madness, it's idolatry.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
A Total Gospel
"Some think of the gospel as so slender it does nothing more than get us into the kingdom. After that the real work of transformation begins. But a biblically-faithful understanding of the gospel shows that gospel to be rich, powerful, the wisdom of God and the power of God, all we need in Christ. It is the gospel that saves us, transforms us, conforms us to Christ, prepares us for the new heaven and the new earth, establishes our relations with fellow-believers, teaches us how to work and serve so as to bring glory to God, calls forth and edifies the church, and so forth. This gospel saves — and ’salvation’ means more than just ‘getting in,’ but transformed wholeness."Why do we work so hard to "condense" Christianity, the gospel if you must, when it is such a broad and wonderful thing? The answer, of course, is so that we can control it.
Science and theology, or even just a definition of 'gospel', when filtered through human nature have the same problem - they both think they understand everything. We want to understand the work of God - in His creation and in us. The endeavor to have that understanding is a worthwhile one, but it is one doomed to failure.
The cat that currently occupies my lap is deeply curious about the figures that are appearing on the screen as I write. He is studying them carefully. He no doubt is developing a model of how it all works. He knows for certain that if he wants me to stroke him, he must interfere in some way with the typing. He studies long, he experiments, and he tries desperately to understand.
But he does not ever truly understand. But he is not stupid. After a while, he figures out that it is pretty good to just sit down and purr. He in in my lap, it is warm and I will stroke him whenever I stop to think about the next sentence.
We can never truly understand what God is doing in the world or in us. That's what Carson is talking about. It is so thorough, so pervasive, that it refuses to be contained in our little boxes of understanding.
Maybe what we need to do is just sit down and start to purr?
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
And here’s the thing, I’m not going to try and summarize this 12 page opus.He's right, to summarize this article would be to do it injustice, so please read the Deresiewicz article in its entirety. I want to focus on one very telling paragraph from that piece:
Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves, rearranging the tokens of connection like a lonely child playing with dolls. The same path was long ago trodden by community. As the traditional face-to-face community disappeared, we held on to what we had lost—the closeness, the rootedness—by clinging to the word, no matter how much we had to water down its meaning. Now we speak of the Jewish "community" and the medical "community" and the "community" of readers, even though none of them actually is one. What we have, instead of community, is, if we're lucky, a "sense" of community—the feeling without the structure; a private emotion, not a collective experience. And now friendship, which arose to its present importance as a replacement for community, is going the same way. We have "friends," just as we belong to "communities." Scanning my Facebook page gives me, precisely, a "sense" of connection. Not an actual connection, just a sense.That is brilliant analysis and I think oh so true. And I am overwhelmingly struck by how incredibly selfish it is. Elsewhere Deresiewicz says:
As for the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement, that, too, has been lost.And one must hit themselves in the head in the "of course you idiot!" sort of way. What we are doing is turning friendship from something that asks of us into something that asks nothing of us.
And what truly saddens me is that the church seems to be following the same path. We endeavor to make the church not about genuine community but about the kind of faux community that Deresiewicz bemoans about friendship. Slowly, inexorably, we move our lives in a fashion so that no one can demand anything of us. In other words we are completely self-involved. We don't have friends for friends sake, we have friends for our sake. How sad is that.
My life has been very hard in these last few years. Two of those closest to me have passed away. I struggle to replace those friendships. One cannot just replace decades of togetherness in a couple of years. I long to find friendship like that again. And yet I fear it. For part of the friendship of decades is knowing "where not to go." New friends challenge me in areas that the old friends "knew better." I become defensive. That too is selfish.
Lord save us from ourselves.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Walk The Path
Step-by-step, the psalm takes the reader through the stages of repentance. It describes the constant mental replays, the gnawing guilt, the shame, and finally the hope of a new beginning that springs from true repentance.And the post concludes:
In a remarkable way, Psalm 51 reveals the true nature of sin as a broken relationship with God. David cries out, “Against You, You only, have I sinned” (v.4). He sees that the sacrifices God wants are “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (v.17). Those, David has.
Repentance is the soil in which forgiveness flourishes.We are often told we need to forgive someone, even if they are unrepentant. I am of mixed opinion on that, certainly someone has to take the first step towards restoring a relationship.
But this I can tell you - Trust and depth of relationship cannot develop absent repentance. Once you have been wronged by someone, even if you forgive that wrong, you cannot trust them unless they acknowledge in some fashion that they know they messed up and that they will at least endeavor not to make that mistake again. A cordial relationship may perhaps ensure, but a deep relationship just is not possible without that trust.
That is why I love that soil and growth metaphor. As repentance comes in stages, so does forgiveness. It moves slowly from "I agree not to hold that against you" to "nothing ever happened." But it is a dance.
And there is more. Not only does forgiveness from the other grow with repentance, but forgiveness of ourselves. Even when we will not admit it, we know when we have screwed up and it bother us.
And that, in the end is when we truly flourish in our relationship with Christ. When His love for us and our acceptance of it allows us to take an honest look at ourselves, and know that in spite of the garbage we see strewn around our lives that we are loved. We can forgive ourselves and endeavor never to make that particular mistake again.
Monday, April 05, 2010
God Bless The Internet Monk!
Gettimg to God
"The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man’s respectable goodness."That makes me think about surgery - well actually the fact that I am having some in a few weeks (nothing major, just plastic surgery to remove some leftovers from my weight loss) doesn't hurt, but seriously...
We typically have surgery, a very painful undertaking, to avoid something worse. We are willing to suffer pain to avoid death and other forms of unpleasantness.
So why are we so want to avoid the "panging pains of repentance" when it comes to things spiritual? That, as the doctors might say, "discomfort" is needed to avoid consequences far worse. The question answers itself - we do not truly understand the consequences of the decision.
Which makes plastic surgery more interesting to examine in our metaphor. People no longer like to talk about the downsides to a lack of repentance - put lets set that aside and focus on the upsides. That's kind of like plastic surgery. No one will die if they don't get it, but their life is improved. Just so we do not get lost in the metaphor here, I am not talking about "cosmetic" surgery where beautiful people make themselves more beautiful. I am talking about stuff where kids with cleft palettes are made to look normal, or someone like me for whom walking will be much easier when I lose the skin that hangs between my legs.
There are significant upsides to suffering the "panging pains of repentance" but people are still unwilling to go there. The reason, I think is because people do not see the upsides. We may talk about them in church, but they do not really SEE them. We look like everybody else. And that, of course, is because we have not truly suffered the "panging pains of repentance."
You see, if you want to do ministry, real genuine ministry - the kind that truly changes the world. That is where we need to start - on our knees, suffering the "panging pains of repentance."
It's not easy, but it is worth it.