Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Twilight Zone

March 13, 2017

I grew up watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and loved it.  Recently when Netflix was streaming them we watched a few of them as a family.  I was surprised at how they held my kids’ interest, and how they actually enjoyed them.  I had expected the shows to be too old-fashioned compared to the rapidity of video games and modern movies.

But the shows are still good.  They engage at a deep level, resonating on themes that never really go away – loneliness, paranoia and fear, love.  And yes, we can learn a lot about ourselves and how we are and how we should be from these shows.  The lessons aren’t original for certain, but viewing them in a more modern context can be very helpful.

Visiting History

January 9, 2017

It’s kind of a strange thing, to think that people (or at least me) would be drawn to visit a location for a fantasy, an imagining, as opposed to a location where something historical happened.  What is the nature of history, in the first place?  What is worth commemorating and remembering and visiting?

While digging around for a friend on things to do in the Los Angeles area, I stumbled upon this.  It is the site where the television series M*A*S*H was filmed.  I loved this series when I was a kid, despite not understanding probably 70% of the cultural commentary.  It looks like a fun afternoon jaunt!

Wednesday Musings

December 16, 2015

Some miscellaneous sharings this morning.

First, check out this poetic meditation on baptism from Chad Bird.  Very beautiful indeed.

Because I grew up with the A Charlie Brown Christmas, I get kinda sentimental about it.  I thought that this little observation was interesting.  I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this particular aspect of the show, and it is poetic as well.

Twilight Zoney

August 29, 2015

While not exactly the same, this article reminded me of the very first Twilight Zone episode.  Which would be a spoiler I suppose, if the episode wasn’t 56 years old already.

Awkward

June 14, 2015

That’s the first time I can ever remember spelling that word – awkward.  It looks so…awkward.  Curious.

Anyhow.

I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, (or Seth Meyers, for that matter) but this little clip seems so appropriate for the Church in so many ways.  This is how Church seems these days.  Awkward.  Dealing with a reality that is much larger and harsher and at the same time more mind-numbingly beautiful than what our culture is willing and able to recognize.  Culture wants to prattle on about Bruce/Caitlyn or global warming or who Taylor Swift is dating, blissfully ignorant or ignoring the nightmare that haunts our steps and seeks our souls; rejecting the gift of life and love and joy in the God who created us and redeemed us and promises to make us holy.

Being awkward is no fun.  The Church, being comprised of broken, sinful human beings such as myself, often would just rather fit in.  Would rather try to forget for a few moments the dark howls beyond that parapets, would like to focus on itself a bit more, maybe meet a pretty girl and chat a bit.  The Church is constantly being counseled to change the tone, water down the rhetoric a bit, go easy on the whole sin and death business, emphasize love and acceptance and hope and joy a bit more, muddying all of them together until we have the appeal – and usefulness – of, at best, a motivational speaker.

I don’t like feeling awkward.  It hurts to watch faithful members of my congregation struggle with that same awkwardness, that same growing cultural irrelevance.  It’s hard to know that these people grieve spouses and children and grandchildren who are physically alive but spiritually dead.  It’s hard to know that, like me, there are relationships where the Gospel can’t be brought up without people rolling their eyes, without long pauses at the dinner table.  Without awkwardness.

Truth and reality are awkward.  Evil is real but God is more real.  Forge ahead.  Watch.  Wait.  Pray.  Don’t lose heart.  Don’t sacrifice the importance of the Gift that has been given for a few fleeting moments of relevance or the allure of a pretty set of eyes.  Winter is here, but spring has come and summer is coming.

Theology & Scooby Doo

April 26, 2014

Growing up with these cartoons, and now watching my children devour the originals as well as all of the subsequent spin-offs and modified shows, this essay hit a soft spot in me.

I’ve often mused (because I have nothing better to do, obviously) that Scooby Doo is a snapshot of our culture.  The series began with the kids stumbling into events well out of their league.  But tenacious curiosity triumphed over fear and terror, allowing the gang to unravel mysteries time and time again.  In later iterations of the show, there isn’t even a pretense of belief that any of the odd creatures and events they encounter might be real.  The assumption has become that it’s a cover up for something and someone else.  Initial fear is still there -we can’t control that primal response to the unexpected – but the entire premise is that in overcoming fear and applying our minds, logic and reason will show without a doubt that the supernatural doesn’t exist.  
We can explain everything, given enough time and clues.
I like this essay a lot, though I don’t agree with his conclusions.  Yes, greed and power are traditionally behind the occult, the desire to personally be like God (or more accurately, to displace God and be God) that has been at the heart of sin since Eden.  But Scooby Doo is alleging that these ‘demons’ are nothing more than the playing out of our own issues.  The demons aren’t real, because all of these motivations come from within.  I believe that Scooby Doo really does mirror our cultural insistence that we can explain and control everything.  Our human frailties set us up to do wrong, but that wrong will be conquered by application of the intellect.  
If we just think properly, we can expunge the ‘demons’ from within us, even the age-old demons of desiring to be God.
In which case, Scooby Doo is wrong, just as modernism and the scientific mindset that is both it’s ancestor and offspring is ultimately flawed in this assumption.  We can and should explain a great deal.  But that doesn’t necessitate that there is nothing inexplicable, nothing beyond our ability to understand, nothing supernatural, whether angelic or demonic.  
But that would wreck the model that has made Scooby Doo a success for over 40 years, so I can’t really expect them to change!

Marriage and Sex

January 29, 2014

Bet that title caught your attention?

Thanks to J.P. for sending me this essay referring to Sunday’s Grammy Awards and the performance of Mr. & Mrs. Carter – aka Jay Z and Beyonce.  The author’s premise is that the married couple gave a smoldering and powerful testimony to the sexiness of marriage.  The author writes from a Christian vantage point on the issue, arguing that Christians should be happy about the performance and the message that it sends about how sexy marriage can be, drawing comparisons with the song/performance and the Biblical Song of Solomon.  
But this isn’t how fans are going to hear or see this song.
Nothing in the song or the performance is specific to marriage.  It’s about passion all right, but our culture teaches that passion can be found anywhere you want, with anyone you want.     And when the passion is gone, move on.  Nothing in this song contradicts that.  The song could be sung or grooved to by anyone, in any situation.  It’s rather coincidental that the performers are married.  
Coincidental because smoldering and powerful songs about sensuality and sexuality have defined the careers of both these people, and not just after they were married.  While there are undoubtedly far more qualified people to analyze the collective works of Jay Z and Beyonce to see if there is a shift in their music, philosophy, or theology regarding sexuality, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that there isn’t any shift.  Therefore we shouldn’t read this song and performance as an ode to Biblical marriage.    
Christians are desperate to find affirmation of our beliefs and values in someone popular and hip.  It’s tempting to try and claim the reigning king and queen of hip and sexy for our own, but this is dangerous and myopic.  We need to be careful to identify momentary overlaps in expressions as just that and not necessarily anything more.  I wish Mr. & Mrs. Carter a life-long and happy marriage.  But let’s not try to appropriate them as spokespersons for Biblical marriage.  At least not until we have some evidence that this is actually what they profess.  

Johnny Be Good

November 15, 2013

I want my kids to be good.  I want them to mind when their parents tell them something, to be kind to one another and everyone else for that matter, to respect themselves as well as others regardless of their age, to be honest and responsible. I want my kids to be good.

But this isn’t the same thing as raising Christian kids.  This blogger reminds us of this fact.  The fact that he quotes Phil Vischer is also interesting.
As with many Christian parents, when our kids came along and we were looking for good material for them to watch, Veggie Tales was at the top of the list.  They weren’t nearly as insipid as Barney or Teletubbies, they were Christian-based – what more could you want?  Our kids loved them, and so did my wife and I.  They were that rare mix of production that engages with young minds while also keeping the adult in the room from nodding off into a coma.  
In Seminary I remember being disgusted with one of the profs who criticized Veggie Tales.  They weren’t preaching the Gospel, he said.  And while I didn’t disagree with his assessment of the shows, I didn’t feel that it was a major issue, either.  After all, we need to teach kids all sorts of things, including how to be good people.  The shows may not have taught the Gospel, but that’s OK – not everything has to.  The Gospel can be taught another way.
Right?
Unless you get confused and assume that just because something uses Jesus and the Bible as a basis, it’s teaching the Christian faith and the Gospel.  In which case, you’re apt to not go out of your way to teach the Gospel otherwise, which means your kids grow up knowing they ought to be good people, but not knowing about Jesus and how He fits into that.  And when they hit high school and college and life, and find out that lots of religions teach people to be good people, suddenly there isn’t much compelling about the Christian faith and the Bible.  All these religions must be teaching the same thing, because they all want people to be good.  
This is a good reminder to my wife and I that we have to be intentional about conveying the Gospel.  While our kids have by and large outgrown Veggie Tales (although all of us still get a kick out of some of the Silly Songs with Larry segments), we need to continue teaching them the Gospel, and the rather counter-intuitive idea that while they are to be good people, they ultimately aren’t good people in terms of God.  Which is the unique and amazing message of the Gospel – that while the rest of the world and the religions and philosophies therein work their hardest to get people to be good (whether for social good or salvation/enlightenment/hereafter stuff), the Gospel recognizes that we can’t
That’s going to take some time to flesh out and discuss and clarify and pray about.  At least 18 years.  Hopefully not too much longer than that.   Right?  

(Un)Common Sense

November 6, 2013

I don’t watch Glenn Beck.  To clarify, I don’t watch anybody on TV.  But I do recognize common sense when I hear it.  And I hear it in this segment with Mike Rowe.  

This isn’t a purely academic issue (pardon the pun), as the father of three young children.  My wife and I talk regularly about why we do what we do with them (home schooling), and what our goals for them are.  We have to talk about this regularly because there are so many pressures in any number of other possible directions.  It isn’t that any one of these other areas isn’t good and wonderful to a certain degree, but none of them can substitute for two primary goals.  
The first goal is that they have a healthy, life-long, vibrant relationship with God the Father who created them, God the Son who redeemed them, and God the Holy Spirit who is with them every second of their existence now and forever.
The second goal is that they be able to function well as independent adults.  They’ll know personal finance, how to do the laundry, how to cook, how to keep a living space clean, how to interact with other people, and hopefully how to love and be loved by one special person for the rest of their lives.
Do they need to go to college?  It depends on their giftings, their abilities, and what they want to do with their lives.  If they don’t need or want to go to college, I’ll support them in pursuing a career that doesn’t require it.  If the job is honest, and they enjoy it, I need to overcome my biases for or against any particular line of work.  
The reality is that there are a lot of jobs out there that don’t require degrees.  Our school systems are set up to drive students less towards meaningful lives and occupations and more and more just towards college.  When I was in high school I knew that there was such a thing as vocational coursework, but it always had a stigma attached to it.  In hindsight, perhaps such a sigma is unavoidable in a system that seems designed (and funded) to specifically reinforce itself and the values of test scores (which dictate funding).  
If one of our kids really wants to go into a trade or other arena that doesn’t require college, I pray I’ll be supportive enough to overcome my own biases and encourage them, while also offering whatever advice I have based on my life experiences and observations.  But just telling them that they have to do college because that’s what everybody does these days doesn’t seem to make much sense, and could become a dangerous distraction from our two main goals.  
I’m grateful for the folks who do the jobs that nobody else wants to do.  If I want my children to value these people and jobs as well, I need to be careful about what I say about those kinds of jobs.  I need to make sure my kids know that picking up garbage or driving a truck or any one of myriad jobs that don’t generally come up in home-schooling circles for discussion are valuable and honorable because they are, even if they aren’t as glamorous as being a rocket scientist, engineer, or even a pastor.

Television on the Internet

October 27, 2013

So, hypothetically speaking, if you have a lot of work to get done but are looking for a time-sink that will keep you endless procrastinating, and if you grew up with television in America, this has to be one of the most fascinating sites on the Internet – the The Archive of American Television.  

This site has interviews with writers, producers, directors, and stars of a stunning array of American television shows.  Plug Gilligan’s Island into the search bar, and a page comes up with information regarding the series and links to a dozen different people talking about the show, including some of the stars of the show.  Plug in Gunsmoke and listen to James Arness talking about the show.  Plug in Star Trek and watch Nimoy, Shatner, Koenig, Takei and others (Ricardo Montalban!) talk about the show.  
Truly a great resource if, hypothetically, one is procrastinating or needs to fill some spare hours when sleep is elusive.