Maleficent Movie Review

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Romantic love is good for warm fuzzes and box office sales, but it’s lousy for human flourishing.

The stories are all variations of the same thing. In about 2 hours time, a boy meets a girl, he is strong and handsome, she is beautiful, there is chemistry and connection. As the movie unfolds, there is a series of incredible circumstances that catapult the couple together, they become intimate, and romantic love triumphs once again. Over and over again we are visually educated that love is little more than a connection, a feeling oriented superficial gush that leads to bodies intwined in passionate embrace. This electric feeling is what results in happily ever after. In our deep hearts we know better and so does Maleficent.

“True loves kiss” goes badly for her. The handsome boy in a ploy to gain kingship uses romance to steal her wings and shatter her heart. Maleficent’s deep sorrow turns to hatred. She becomes violent, selfish, evil.  She is ready with her revenge when the king finally has a daughter. Eternal sleep will befall the child when she turns 16, a sleep that only “true loves kiss” can awaken. Maleficent is delighted with her sinister plot. The child will never awake because “true loves kiss” is only a fantasy. The child is spirited away to a secluded forest cottage in hopes that the curse won’t find her there when she turns 16. Maleficent regularly visit the cottage to make miserable the lives of the 3 fairies who have been tasked to care for the child. However, slowly over the course of 16 years, Maleficent begins to develop an affection for the child. She begins to care for her in quiet ways, to protect and provide for her, so much so, that she tries to revoke the curse on the eve of the girls 16 birthday, but to no avail. Sadly, the curse falls upon her and she is laid to rest in the kings palace. In desperation, Maleficent takes a handsome young man to the palace, maybe “true loves kiss” is real? The boy kisses the sleeping beauty but nothing happens. Finally, Maleficent emerges from the shadows, tears falling freely, she repents of her wickedness and makes a promise to the girl. Even though this girl will never awake, will never fill Maleficent’s heart with joy again, Maleficent determines to care for her, she will make sure that no harm comes to her as she lies in repose. Gently Maleficent seals her covenant promise with a kiss. The girl awakes!

The heart of true love is not an electric feeling, or great sex, or good chemistry. It is a promise kept, a commitment to care for someone no matter what. Feelings are important, but they are fickle, they come and go, they change and fluctuate. They should never define what we believe about true love. Falling in and out of love is tiresome business that results in way too much pain and suffering. Romantic feeling oriented love is over rated. I am with Maleficent on this one, covenant love is the better path.

Earning Your Salvation?

Why it’s good for Christians to suffer (Hebrews 12)

Discipline — I do bad things, my father punishes me so I learn not to do bad things.
Discipline — My father puts me through challenging circumstances to make me a better person.
It’s the latter discipline that the author of Hebrews is talking about.
It is hard to view unjust persecution as some sort of “discipline” coming from the loving hand of the Father.
Be encouraged:
vs 3 — It’s not that bad, compare yourself to the sufferings of Jesus and find relief.
vs 7 — This difficulty is evidence that God is your father, he is busy at work making you better. The refinement process is painful, but it means someone (God) is refining you
vs 10 — The more we suffer, the more we share in Christ’s holiness, that’s actually a really really good thing. To be more like Christ is the goal & suffering for his sake fast tracks us to that goal.
vs 11 — Try to look beyond the pain, after the season of “training” is over there will be a greater depth of peace and righteousness IMG_1022.JPG

This should not have happened to me!

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It was a beautiful day to study. I had just settled in on one of my favourite benches near the lost lagoon in Stanely Park, when I had the strange sensation that someone was watching me. I looked up from my books and turned around. There behind me perhaps 15 meters away in the bushes was a well muscled young man standing beside his bicycle, he was looking at me. No worries, I went back to studying. Still my unease remained, so I looked over my shoulder again, he was still there, but this time it appeared as though he was studying me. As I tried to return to my work I realized that I couldn’t. Why was this man watching me with such intensity? I decided I would make direct eye contact and find out. So for a third time I turned around. At that moment the man grinned in a sinister way, lowered his pants, exposed himself to me and began to massage his manhood in plain view.  With his other hand, he pointed directly at me, and then commanded me to  “Come here!” I was shocked, disgusted, traumatized, violated, angered, and afraid all at once. I grabbed my books and backpack, yelled at him “No!” and ran off.

I kept running until I found another bench far away and in a very public place. I called my wife and as we talked she suggested I call the police. They came immediately, and together we searched in vain to find the perpetrator. As we drove around in the squad car, I asked the officer what the primary crime in our neighbourhood was. Without hesitation he said sexual abuse. People, he told me, are always trying to take advantage of each other sexually and as a result many people feel violated. Since we were only three days away from the Pride parade, (a parade in our neighbourhood which celebrates, among other things, sexual freedom) I asked the officer if during this time of year there was a spike in sexual abuse complaints. He said yes.

That got me thinking. Are we as a society helping to increase sexual abuse or decrease sexual abuse? I think it’s the former. The cry for freedom is a noble one, but maybe not so much when it comes to sex. If we as a society tell ourselves that we are free to experience whatever sexual pleasure we happen to desire then we shouldn’t be surprised when people regularly break through the rather loose constraints of “responsible” and “consensual” to maximize whatever they think will give them the most pleasure. This is exactly what’s happening in my neighbourhood and it’s exactly what happened to me. This man who attempted to violate me, acted upon a freedom principle he has learned from our society. Granted he was willing to break through more fences then most to get what he wanted, but still, if we continue to promote sexual freedom as one of the highest ideals in our society, then we will have to continue to accept sexual abuse as one of it’s unintended consequences.

Perhaps there is a better ideal to strive for when it comes to our sexuality than freedom. As one who has been violated, I am certainly willing to explore other options. What if, for example, freedom was supplanted by faithfulness as our society’s highest ideal when it comes to sexuality? What if faithfulness was the message we taught our children in schools and at home. What if our popular culture began to frame it’s art, movies, and music around this ideal? Would sexual abuse increase or decrease? My suspicion is that it would decrease and humans would flourish.

A Little Gnosticism With That?

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Gnosticism starts out with a bloody nose, shoved out of the way, covered in dust, an unhappy loser in the battle to explain Christianity. It’s the theory about Jesus that didn’t win, but losing is the genius of gnosticism. Without it’s 2nd place finish it doesn’t exist. Gnosticism comes alive only because it believes that the crude layers of “counterfeit” Christianity must be peeled back to discover the truth.

Gnosticism is all about discovering hidden knowledge. What are some of the discoveries? The hidden truths about God and Jesus are many and varied, but there is a basic story line: The ultimate God is completely transcendent and unknowable, divine emanations proceed forth from him in the form lesser deities. Finally, the God of the Jews, A deity extremely low on the depth chart, discovers that he is powerful enough to create but stupid enough to see the foolishness of creating. The earth is born on the ill-advised whim of a lesser deity. The unpleasant business of matter has begun. The whole plan is a disaster from the beginning. Ultimately the human will need to escape the debacle that is the material world. Jesus factors into the escape plan but not as a human and not in any clear sense. Jesus is divine it is believed, and divinity can never merge with humanity. Jesus’  life on earth is mysterious, ghostly even — not human. He doesn’t do miracles or connect in earthy ways with humans as the four gospels suggest. He teaches secret things to special people. With resentment the gnostic faithful blamed ignorant Jews for founding a church with a Jesus that is both human and divine.

The Gnostic heresy officially lost. The Nicene creed of 325 A.D. was the certified repudiation of it, but it did not go extinct on the contrary strands of it’s influence pervaded the church and continue until this very day. Perhaps the most troublesome impact of gnostic heresy on Christianity was the notion that the soul is good and the body bad. Somehow in spite of official decree this dichotomy remained entrenched in Christian thought with horrible ramifications. For example, sex became a bad thing, because it was this very physical matter oriented act that created more living breathing matter, and matter was bad! The great church father Augustine remarked “nothing turns my thoughts towards darkness quicker then the caresses of a woman.” Women were the collateral damage of this belief system they were of less value because it was their charms that further spread the darkness. It’s no surprise that at the end of the gnostic gospel of Thomas we learn that women will not be allowed into heaven!  Its was believed that a Christian businessman could never hope to be as spiritual as a priest or monk, a structure of value based on asceticism and denial of material pleasure began to shape an entire culture. If one enjoyed the simple pleasures of life too much, suspicious glances would be cast in their direction, material pleasure became a dirty thing.

Christians do not believe that the human is a good soul imprisoned in an evil body. A Christian should love his body and the pleasures that go with it because they are gifts from a good God. The human problem is not the body or the pleasures it affords. The problem is how the human manages to take God’s good gifts and pervert them or make idols out of them, choosing to love the gift more than the giver.  This is where the real evil resides and why Jesus’ rescue mission had to happen.

Why isn’t Christianity Jewish? It started out that way

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Gentile converts we’re interested in following Jesus not Jewish customs. Jews had bled and died for these customs during their long and difficult history. It was no small thing to simply abandon them. In the early days of Christianity, the newly forming church seemed to be working out a mediating position giving Gentiles Christians more freedom but yet respecting Jewish customs.

However, the success was short lived. A complete and irrevocable split would happen well before the turn of the first century.  The Jewish revolt from Rome had begun in earnest in the mid 60′s. The Roman emperor had had enough. Titus and his legions marched upon Jerusalem. Complete and total destruction was the military plan for dealing with these pesky Jews who had been for too long a pain in the eastern side of the Roman Empire.
As Jewish patriots prepared for the onslaught, the Jewish Christians of the city decided it was foolish to fight Rome. Their hope was in a heavenly city not made by human hands, so they fled. This was viewed as an ultimate act of treason by “real” Jews. Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 and in the following months all the synagogues in Palestine were also obliterated. For the survivors of this slaughter one point was clear: to abandon Jerusalem in its hour of need was to abandon Jewishness. As synagogues we’re rebuilt a law was quickly passed prohibiting any Jewish person who claimed to be a Christian from entrance into the synagogue and thus Jewish life. The split was complete. Jewish Christians now had to decide if they were Jewish or Christian they couldn’t be both.

(For all of these snippets of history I am indebted to Bruce Shelley)

Why a Christian believes it’s good to receive correction

In Psalm 141:3-4 we learn that the natural tendency for all humans is to “drift towards evil” like a log drifting towards Niagara Falls. The writer of the Psalm tells us that as humans we find ourselves prefering the “delicacies of sin”. We devour the chocolate cake before us, refusing to consider that it is laced with poison. This is why David says in verse 5
Let the godly strike me!
It will be a kindness!
If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.
Don’t let me refuse it
The writer of the psalm is saying When people have the courage to smack him in the mouth and say “don’t eat that cake!” It’s actually a good thing! Christianity was never meant to be private or solitary. Christians believe they are a community of faith. Instead of being filled with resentment when concerned family members within the community call us to repentance we should celebrate. It is only Pride that keeps anyone from listening to the worthy corrections of another and that’s the worst poison of all! Of course if One has a worldview that shrouds the concepts of good in evil in a dark cloud of unknowable mystery, then I could see how that person could be easily offended when corrected by another — but such is not the case with Christianity.

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Love Your Body (Psalm 139:14)

David actually loves his body he’s thrilled with it! But he does not become egotistical with this kind of self-love. When I love my body and realize it’s a gift from God the gratitude that I feel for that gift turns into worship. So many people in this world stumble around hating their bodies unhappy with how they look, because they are overweight, have the “wrong” body shape or some undesirable feature. This self loathing creates anxiety, fear, despair and unhappiness, God wants us to believe that our bodies are masterpieces of incredible design handcrafted by the king of the universe. Believe this! Come to love how God has made you and in so doing free yourself from the trap of worthlessness. Only then will you be able to truly love God and love others like you were meant to

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Transformers Prime — Good T.V.

3906409-trans I like Transformers Prime, in fact its the only T.V. show we’ve watched as a family these last many months. Why the attraction? Prime serves as a great reminder to me of the ultimate story that I love and am shaping my life around. The good news of Jesus Christ is never mentioned a single time in all 3 seasons or in the feature length grand finale, but it is everywhere present. Starting with Optimus we come to see Jesus. Optimus is patient and kind, he is the one who wants to bring peace. He isn’t filled with hatred for “the bad guys” Instead he challenges deceptacons everywhere to “repent” and “believe”. He wants the cons to give up their quest for power and control, to stop their life styles of deceit and self absorption. For their joy he longs for them to embrace a new life, characterized by sacrifice and love. Though regularly rebuffed Prime never gives up, he continues to love his enemies even though they regularly try to snuff out his spark. The con’s are bent on chaos and destruction however, so Optimus must battle tirelessly the evil threat. He does so with courage and bravery never considering himself above others. In the end, as a willing sacrifice, Optimus gives up his life so that the world might be saved. The Autobots under his command are like the disciples of Jesus. They are rough around the edges. They argue, complain, and make foolish choices. Often attitudes of pride, revenge, and hatred surge up in these all too human robots causing plenty of problems. Prime both gently and firmly teaches them the way of grace and over the course of time they grow in their faith. Their belief system is both counter intuitive and counter cultural.  You see, the Autobots are badly outnumbered and always on the edge of extinction, but yet over and over again Prime extends grace and mercy to their mortal enemies. — Shouldn’t he kill con’s to survive? Prime and his Autobots regularly stand in harms way to protect lowly humans because of love and commitment to them. — Shouldn’t weaker creatures be sacrificed to ensure the survival of the fittest? Not according to Prime, there is a better story to believe than just the natural course of things. I love being a Christian, because I think it’s the better story. It’s the truest love story there is. Transformers Prime reflects this story so well and that is why I give it a two thumbs up!

My Thoughts on the Lego Movie

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The prophecy states that a “special” will come to save the day at just the right time. As it turns out the “special” is just a regular guy. Nothing special about him at all. However, with the help of LegoLand’s spiritual leader (very fittingly voiced by Morgan Freeman) Emmit comes to believe that he might just be that guy after all.

Then everything goes horribly wrong. Morgan Freeman’s character gets decapitated, the good guys are all captured and condemned to death and Legoland is faced with imminent destruction at the hand of the evil Lord Business.

The ghost of Morgan Freeman visits Emmit in his darkest hour and gives him a revelation which ultimately changes the outcome of the movie. He tells the sad hero, that the prophecy isn’t true, that the whole thing was made up. There is no “special” in Legoland, but that doesn’t matter; the truth that changes everything is when Lego people believe they are special. “It sounds like a cat poster but it’s true” says Freeman. Emmit believes, and his life is changed. Because Emmit believes he is special, sacrificial love, courage, bravery, hope, creativity and perseverance become the hallmarks of his life. Belief made all the difference.

If belief in the “specialness” of humanity is so important to human flourishing then what world view best helps it along? Naturalism is committed to the blind physical forces of nature: some get hurt, some get lucky, there is no rhyme, reason or justice – no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, just blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows or cares. DNA just is and we dance to it’s music (paraphrase of Richard Dawkins). If this is actually the truth, then how does one muster up enough belief to convince himself that he is actually special? It becomes difficult to say the least.

If we as a human race intuitively recognize the value of believing that we are all special, then what would hinder us from attaching to this conviction a grand story, a worldview that would make it easy for us to become convinced that we are special?

God’s grand story teaches us that we are created in God’s image making us special, but thats not all, later we learn that despite all of our failures, sins, and poor choices, God in the person of Jesus lays down his life for the human because of his deep, deep love for us, making us even more special. There is more: we learn that the Spirit of God promises to fill us, becoming our guide and helper all the days of our life. . . proving once again that we are special. Finally the story’s end is one of undying hope. The promise is that all that is broken will become unbroken. There can be no doubt in this story, we are all special!

When a human believes he is “special” there is a risk that he might become inflated, but if pride can be checked, he will flourish every time. “Specialness” obliterates the deadly thoughts of worthlessness and meaninglessness and God’s story as a worldview makes sure that unhealthy pride won’t creep in. God, not the human, is after all at the centre of his own story.

When the conviction of “I am special” joins itself to a worldview that agrees, a beautiful awakening happens. Sense is made and life starts.

 

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