Timothy Keller

Owl Post 2-28-14

Owl Post 2-17-12

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS’ FINAL SEASON, “THE LOST MISSIONS,” TO HIT NETFLIX ON MARCH 7:

Exclusive Licensing Agreement with The Disney/ABC Television Group Brings Star Wars Content to Netflix Streaming Members for the First Time

The Galactic Republic, Disney/ABC Television Group, Lucasfilm, and Netflix Inc. today announced the highly anticipated debut of the sixth and final season of the Emmy(r) Award-winning series Star Wars: The Clone Wars exclusively to Netflix members in the US and Canada on Friday, March 7. Accompanying the 13-episode new season dubbed “The Lost Missions” will be the entire Star Wars: The Clone Wars saga, which includes several director’s cut episodes never seen on TV as well as the feature film. This multi-year agreement also makes Netflix the exclusive subscription service for the entire Star Wars: The Clone Wars series.

The Economics of Sex:

One of the most interesting and thought provoking videos I have seen in a long time.

Everything Is Awesome: Grace in The LEGO Movie:

hr_The_LEGO_Movie_10I would write a review of this movie, but this says it so much better that I ever could.

Some thoughts on grace and the new LEGO movie come from Michael Belote, author of the wonderful reboot:Christianity blog and author of Rise of the Time Lords, doubtless the best (review here) geeky intro to Christian doctrine available.

Something weird is happening in Hollywood. Just four months ago, the world was introduced to Frozen, a children’s movie chock-full of theological nuance. As I wrote at the time, I felt like this was the best theological movie in years, and figured it would be quite a while until I saw something similar.

Boy was I wrong.

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Motivate Your Son to Use Pornography:

unhappy-wifeBefore I get into five sure-fire ways to motivate your son to use pornography, let me establish two important points. First, no parents want their child to become involved in porn. We all can agree. The problem for many of us is we don’t understand the insidious allurement of pornography and how our behavior, though unintentional, can help shape a child to crave something that can lead him into a lifetime of slavery.

Pascal’s Method for Presenting the Christian Faith:

blaise-pascalMen despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”

Blaise Pascal was a brilliant 17th-century French mathematician and physicist who had a dramatic Christian conversion experience and thereafter devoted much of his thought to Christianity and philosophy. He began to assemble notes and fragments he hoped would be woven into a book called The Defense of the Christian Religion, but he died just two months after his 39th birthday and it was never written. Those fragments, however, were published as Pensees (“Thoughts”), and it has become one of the most famous Christian books in history.

Best Books I Read in 2013

7126The Count of Monte Cristo

Dumas writes with ease and this book cracks on at an always entertaining rate. The characters sparkle and the themes of life, love and revenge never go out of style.

Favorite Quote

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.”

TheNightCircusThe Night Circus

I was intoxicated by this tale of two magicians that are involved in a competition against each other, unaware that it is the person they love most. Hauntingly beautiful, The Night Circus will have you page turning till there are no more pages, then wishing for more.

Favorite Quote

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”

photoOne Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World

Grace, grace, God’s grace, it is what it is all about. This timely reminder that God has done for us what we could not and therefore all we need to do is rest in his grace, is the perfect antidote to a world that is broken and overrun with performance-based living throughout it’s entirety.

Favorite Quote

“Unfortunately, this is the way that so many Christians live: searching high and low for something we already have, trying to earn something we’ve already been given, forgetting that everything we need, we already possess in Christ. Or perhaps it’s not that we forget, perhaps it’s that we prefer having ‘elf on the shelf’ keeping track of our every move. It makes us feel safer. We would rather work under duress than live under freedom. Yet this is precisely why we need to hear, each and every week, the basic good news that because of Jesus’s finished work, we already have all of the justification, approval, significance, security, freedom, validation, love, righteousness, and rescue for which we desperately long – and look for in a thousand things that are infinitely smaller than Jesus”

9781414339351_p0_v2_s260x420C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

From my original review -

“This is a terrific biography that also dives into many of his most important books and looks at them critically. For anyone looking to understand Lewis and his works this is a wonderful place to start.”

9780525952459Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Keller has been very influential in my life through his writings and this book was no exception. He does a wonderful job of walking through the cultural understanding of suffering, the challenges of suffering on the Christian faith and then the last section of the book is the practical applications of faith in the midst of suffer. This is one of the finest books on this subject I have read.

Favorite Quote

“The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that.”

I-Do-and-I-DontI Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies

From my review (and I was right, it is on the list) -

“I highly recommend this book for film buffs and the novice. I also recommend this book to anyone who is interested in marriage. This book will leave you with a better understanding of the way marriage is seen now and give a context for why that is. This is one of the best books I have read this year and am certain that it will be on my top 10 list at the end of the year.”

Favorite Quote

“It was a supreme irony that moviegoers could be conned into believing in romance that lead to happy endings in one kind of movie, and then be shown that what came after happily-ever-after was pretty awful…and yet still be conned all over again into believing that the awfulness could be fixed, made new, and restored to the point of the original happy ending. (And of course, be conned even further into going to more romantic comedies.)”

Smith_Elizabeth-the-QueenElizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

A fascinating look at a woman who has been queen for over 60 years. For such a public figure, Elizabeth has done a remarkable job of keeping herself private. Smith cracks open the palace to give an in depth account of her amazing life.

 

71IGT31I9aLInsurgent

This is the second book in the Divergent series and my favorite. The first book sets up the story, world and characters, the second is able to dive into each of these in more depth. Roth fleshes out her main character much more in this second installment, making it the best of the series.

Favorite Quote
“May the peace of God be with you,” she says, her voice low, “even in the midst of trouble.”
“Why would it?” I say softly, so no one else can hear. “After all I’ve done . . .”

“It isn’t about you,” she says. “It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift.”

star-trek-the-fall-the-crimson-shadowThe Crimson Shadow

From my original review -

“When a book transcends genre, it reminds you that great books are just that: great books. The Crimson Shadow does this fantastically. The best in science fiction, as well as Star Trek, has always been about us, our struggles and problems allegorized in a palpable medium. Una McCormack’s continuation of The Fall is brilliant.”

Favorite Quote
“But you understand, don’t you, that the institutions don’t matter? The Obsidian Order, Central Command, the True Way, Starfleet, empires, unions, federations-these are names and names only. They are tools. They count for nothing if the purpose is flawed. That was my mistake for a long time – confusing the purpose with the instrument….The truth is that the institution flourishes only when the people who comprise it flourish. And if the people are sick, the institution will be sick.”
Comment and tell me your favorites! Follow me on Goodreads to keep track of what I am reading.

The Casual Vacancy – A review

The Casual Vacancy is the new adult novel by famed Harry Potter author, J.K Rowling. This novel is a departure from her previous work in every way except for one and that is the subject of death. This is worth reading, it is a book for these times.

The book starts of with the death of a council member in a small English town and what unravels is a dark and twisted version of It’s A Wonderful Life; if that film had been written by Ian McEwan. This is the dark mirror of Harry’s world. There is no real good or evil; it is all selfishness and egocentricity. Barry’s death has left a black hole in this community.

They’re completely deluded, Tessa thought, looking that the other three, who were poring over some graph that Parminder had extracted from Kay’s notes. They think they’ll reverse sixty years of anger and resentment with a few sheets of statistics. None of them was Barry. He had been the living example of what they proposed in theory: the advancement, through education, from poverty to affluence, from powerlessness and dependency to valuable contributor to society. Did they not see what hopeless advocates they were, compared to the man who had died? (From The Casual Vacancy)

Rowling weaves a story of a town as interconnected as any Austen novel but with considerably more morose secrets below the surface of every character. There is a complete disconnectedness that each of the characters has for one another. They see the person not as real human being but as something to be consumed; they see only what they can get out of someone. People use people like a commodity to be manipulated for personal gain and then discarded when they are no longer needed. The bleak landscape of humanity on display is a testament to Rowling’s keen eye for the plight of 21st century, 1st world people; a world of epic Darwinian proportions. Gone are the days when people were seen as special and to be honored. The human race has been reduced to the state of a mere intelligent animal. And as such, we treat each other with the same disdain that the animal kingdom has for it’s members. We are driven by the instinct to look out for no one but ourselves and as such, society has begun to crumble under the immense weight of debilitating self-interest.

Inside this world, Rowling navigates the issues of class, gender and race. She may be accused of being heavy-handed in this, but whenever an author presses on the pressure points of society in the way she does, it is going to cause supreme discomfort in the reader. Humans dislike being told they are wrong and literature has always been at the forefront of fighting social injustice; To Kill a Mockingbird is a prime example of this. The challenge laid down in this book is how to overcome the problems set forth. The short answer; look not to ourselves but to the whole. The end of the book makes plainly clear it takes a community to foster true life. It takes each person putting the needs of others above themselves and having compassion. It is only in taking responsibility for the care of each other and seeing one anther with the value that is inherent in every person that society can flourish. This brings to mind a thought from one of The United States’ founding documents,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Social justice is a subject that is immensely important and how we view each other is at the heart of this. Rowling has pointed out our weaknesses and truthfully there is only one answer that will fully satisfy. If we are created by a personal God and made in his image and not just random chance, then there is a duty we each have to honor and value each other. Tim Keller puts it this way,

….”So God created man in his own image.” What does being an “image” mean?  It conveys the idea of being a work of art or of great craftsmanship. Human beings are not accident, but creations.Without a belief in creation, we are force to face the implication that ultimately there is no good reason to treat human beings as having dignity….The Bible teaches that the sacredness of God has in some ways been imparted to humanity, so that every human life is sacred and every human being has dignity.  When God put his image upon us, we became beings of infinite, inestimable value….Regardless of their record or character, all human beings have an irreducible glory and significance to them, because God loves them, indeed, he “loves all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9, 17). He loves even those who turn away from him (Ezekiel 33:11; John 3:16). This bestows worth on them. (From Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just)

Owl Post 8-30-12

 

Fall Movie Preview: 20 Movies to See This Oscar Season:

It’s been a long, strange, explosion-filled ride, but another summer blockbuster season has come to an end. As August draws to a close, we put aside our threequels and superheroes—some for now and some for good (so long, Christian Bale’s Batman; see you in 2015, Avengers). But, happily, there’s no time in the cinematic calendar quite like autumn, when studios start eying Oscar nominations. If summer is a time for Abraham Lincoln to fight vampires, autumn is a time for Abraham Lincoln to give long, dignified speeches.

What Is Biblical Justice?

When I was professor at a theological seminary in the mid-eighties, one of my students was a young man named Mark Gornik. One day we were standing at the copier and he told me that he was about to move into Sandtown, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore. I remember being quite surprised. When I asked him why, he said simply, “To do justice.”

The Small Increments of Change:

A few years ago I read Paul Chamberlain’s Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly, a book that proposes ways that Christians can talk about difficult issues—issues like abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia—in a pluralistic society. The final chapter is a case study that features William Wilberforce as an example of a man who used his Christian convictions to bring about widespread cultural change. Wilberforce was a driving force behind the abolition of slavery within the British Empire. The results of his efforts are seen and celebrated in Western society to this day.

Adultescents and the Paralysis of Choice:

There is as much to be said about Sally Koslow’s Slouching Towards Adulthood as there is to be said about the entire cultural “issue” of emerging adults and its derivative platter of opinions. A mother of two adult boys who “have finally moved out,” Koslow speaks candidly and with humor about the parental experience of the adultescent, a term she defines as, “Americans twenty-two to thirty-five caught between adolescence and adulthood in an exploration that seems to go on forever, like the Rolling Stones.” Using her “adultescent” years and then her parenting years as a guide, she demarcates the differences between boomer and, ahem, blogger generations and sets out a very readable and well-researched analysis of what went wrong.

YOU ARE ACCEPTED:

Accepted. Isn’t that a great word? We all feel as if we don’t fit, as if we stick out. Whether it’s the person whose attention you want, or the law firm that doesn’t want you, or the mirror that lies to you, or the date who never called back, or the fraternity that didn’t invite you, or the voice in your head that says nobody cares about you, or the professor who makes you feel stupid, or the loneliness you experience, or the religious people who judged you—deep down, don’t we have a need to be accepted, one that is easily triggered by any sense of rejection?

‘Beam Us Up, Mr. Scott!’: Why Misquotations Catch On:

“Misquotations are often stickier than actual quotes,” Abraham Lincoln once joked. He didn’t really, of course—but he’d be a great spokesperson of the sentiment, given how often his words have been misremembered, miscast, passed down from person to person in a way that little resembles any of his actual statements. (Actually, Mark Twain would be a better candidate for that one. Didn’t he say basically everything?)

Owl Post 7-18-12

The politics of polarization:

As his campaign threw out unsubstantiated charges that Mitt Romney might be guilty of afelony, and then mocked Romney’s off-key singing of “America the Beautiful,” President Obama took a moment to reflect on the sad state of America’s political tone. “Washington feels as broken as it did four years ago,” he explained. “And if you ask me what is the one thing that has frustrated me most over the last four years, it’s not the hard work. It’s not the enormity of the decisions. It’s not the pace. It is that I haven’t been able to change the atmosphere here in Washington to reflect the decency and common sense of ordinary people.”

5 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS ON REST:

In practical terms, how do we figure out how much time we need for Sabbath rest, and how do we spend that time? The following are a few suggestions or guidelines, by no means exhaustive.

When Christians Copy The World…

It’s not considered stealing?

I’ve often wondered why Christians think they can simply copy the world and slap a Christian logo on a product, and somehow get away with it.  In any other arena, they would be sued for copyright infringement on some of the Jesus Junk that hits the Christian world, but somewhere in the deep subconscious of the faith laden mind, they justify it as God’s will.  And I guess the corporations who design the real logos aren’t afraid this kind of obvious theft is any threat to sales.

Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency’

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” Most often I hear, “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible?”

How much would it cost to be Batman?

With The Dark Knight Rises hitting theaters in a few days, your desire to put on a cowl and get out there and bust some heads in the name of great justice will be renewed, like a mighty fire. But how would you go about becoming the Caped Crusader for real?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 5 Trailers

Story Through Stories

To tell a story many times we reference other stories so that the common and well-known story will help others relate to what we are saying. Stories have a way of telling us something about ourselves and teaching us truths in a way that pure factual dictation never could. So, as I thought about telling my story I found that it was inextricably linked to stories that have meant a lot to me. From a very early age I was captured by the power of story and its ability to affect me deeply and as I look over my life I can see how God has been using these stories to teach me something about myself that I could not seem to learn any other way. He allowed them to come into my life and build a foundation that would make his gospel make more sense to me.

You might laugh, but the overarching story that resonates in my life is Titanic. I am not talking about Kate and Leo on the front of a ship shouting at the wind, I am talking about the tragedy of an ocean liner that was supposed to be unsinkable and yet sunk anyway. My life is a lot like this, I had everything going for me, I was raised in a Christian home, became a believer at the age of 5, I was sheltered from the world through home-schooling (insert any jokes here about awkwardness you want) and I never struggled with drugs or alcohol. Yet in all of this seeming goodness, I was lost; I did not know how to grow in my faith (I believe that God saved me at this age, the gift to believe was given to me by the Holy Spirit and even though there were times as I grew up, where I wanted to leave the faith, I never could. In the end nothing else could explain or makes sense of the world for me, I believe that this was the Holy Spirit’s protecting me), I never was tutored or mentored in the gospel. For me, being a Christian amounted to moralistic Deism; God was there and he saved me, but after that I needed to perform to keep and earn his love. This is what Sunday-school learning and church teaching seemed to be telling me.

On my 8th birthday, a life-changing event occurred; my friends and I watched all three Original Trilogy Star Wars movies in one night. Yes the geek in me was born very early. What is interesting is that to this point I was in love with non-fiction stories, Titanic, The Alamo, WWII and many others were my main source of enjoyment, but Star Wars changed all of that. With its epic, galactic story about good and evil, I was hooked. The spiritual elements of the story influenced me as well. Now, I am not saying that I was won over to eastern philosophy, but the fact that there was a spiritual side to the story left an indelible mark on me. As look back now I can see how God was showing me that story can teach powerful truths; in fact, most of Scripture is the story of humanity told through the lives of individuals and nations and each of them speak mightily into the shared experience of all of us. Stories make things personal and God desperately wants us to know that the gospel is about our being personally connected with him.

Star Wars had a direct impact on my picking up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I was longing for more grand and heroic stories. Picking up this book changed my life, I became an avid reader of fiction from that point on and it is still my favorite book. The mark that this story left on me was the way in which Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund. He has done nothing to earn this “salvation”, Aslan’s love for Edmund causes Edmond to turn from evil and love Aslan back. This dimly reflected the gospel for me, and it laid the foundation for what was to come.

There is a big gap for me in my story education. I moved into my teenage years and drifted further from the faith. Oh I was trying hard, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. Familial issues of trying to earn love had poisoned my understanding of God. I was lost trying to prove myself worthy and devastated by the falls. The disillusionment grew to the point of me becoming two people, one for the church crowd and the other for world. I pretended to be the good little church boy, all the while diving into the pit of lust and the desperate need to be loved accepted and known. I looked to women and sex to fill this desire and when it didn’t depression set. I was driven to the point of suicide. I did not want to live anymore because nothing in the world could seem to fill the void. Realizing I needed help I looked back to God and medication(prescription anti-depressants). A friend gave me a copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel and for the first time an author spoke my language. He spoke of brokenness and failure and the reality of never feeling good enough for God. Manning showed me that God did love me, even when I was a complete screw-up. My understanding of the pure gospel was refined at this point but not fully.

I was still dealing heavily the idols that I had set up in my life. I truly worshiped the idea of relationships and romantic love, I believed as so many movies and stories tell us that I would not be complete until I had “the one”. There was also still this idea of pleasing God and making him love me more. I believed there was no better way to do this than go into ministry. So I set out to make these things happen. I got married, not long after my own parents had divorced and a couple of years later left Dallas for seminary in Minnesota. I had everything that I believed that I wanted. All of my idols were on the shelf and gleaming in the light of newly being fulfilled. Then it all fell apart. What I was worshiping could not sustain me or truly give me what I need. So I began desperately searching for something better to replace the obviously deficient idols. I tried to find the better woman and the more fulfilling career, but searching for things left me empty. A friend gave me the book The Sparrow and I immediately identified with it. It is the story of a priest and his friends who go on a mission to another planet to discover the source of the music SETI has picked up. It brings up the question, what do you do when you follow the calling you believe God has given you and then everything goes horribly wrong? How do you cope? What becomes of your faith? Was it God you were following or an idol? The story left me with the hope that I was not alone; others had asked these questions and it was ok for me to do so. I just didn’t know how God would answer.

I moved home after seminary with a masters and a divorce. Much of me had been crushed and yet I was still fighting for my idols. I know, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, but I continued to plug away. Working at Barnes & Noble I was surrounded by books full of stories. I came across a book that peaked my interest it was called Christian Atheist. The book opened my eyes to the way that I was living. I said that I believed in God but that belief did not have much impact on my daily life. I was still working to be a more moral person, not necessarily someone who was moving into deeper relationship with Christ. The gospel was being opened to me in a way that I had not heard before.

Home and Prodigal God both furthered my gospel education. Home is all about the black sheep in a family and his question of whether or not he is destined to always be the screw-up or if he can come home again. This drove straight to one of my most painful wounds; how could God love me and accept me after all that I had done and was there any hope of change?

Tim Keller helped me see the prodigal son parable in a whole new way. I had been hurt by the self-righteous “older brother” types in the church many times They had driven deep arrows into my heart, underscoring my feelings of inadequacy before God and the impossibility of ever truly making God happy with me. I was never going to live up to God’s standards and many “older brothers” had made sure I knew it. Yet Keller shows how this parable is about the sons, not just the son. Each one of these boys has left the father and gone their own way, one tries to live life his way and the other tries to earn salvation in his power; each missing the free gift that is being offer to them.

Gospel, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, The Explicit Gospel are the culmination of my story so far. God had primed me through the subtle spirituality of Star Wars, the sacrifice of Aslan, the love God has for ragamuffins, the truth that God cares even for the sparrow, the futility of saying I believe in God yet not having that belief impact my life and the hope for a black sheep to run back into the arms of grace. Its grace stupid; God grace. It’s not about what I can do because in and of myself I can do nothing (and I have tried so hard), I can never live up, all that moralism is filthy rags to God and leads ultimately to self-righteousness (which is utterly useless) or depression or and early death. Each of these books opened up the gospel for me in a way I could finally understand and hear. Each one had laid a foundation that allowed it to click and make sense more fully and deeply when the Holy Spirit opened my heart to the explicit, crazy/love of the gospel.

There is nothing that I can do to make God love any more or any less. It is through Christ and his work that I am made new and whole (Romans 5:1-11). This is the last story that has had a major impact lately, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In this story Eustace, a very self-righteous and disagreeable lad is turned into a dragon because of his greed. He literally becomes the embodiment of his self-righteousness and it is ugly. He tries desperately to undo it, to scrape off the skin he now lives in, but to no avail, he cannot dig deep enough. It is only when Aslan comes and “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.” God showed me that it is though Jesus and his work only that I am made new

Christ has not just saved me from something but to something, freedom. Freedom to be the fullest and best version of me, the version he created me to be not the perversion that I had been trying to create (Galatians 5:1-6). I am called to abide in Christ, to be rooted in him and his love and his love are his commands. You see, I thought of commands as something that hindered me from doing something  I wanted or would be fun. I never fully trusted that God would give me what I wanted. I held so tightly and I trusted only myself to provide for the deepest longings of my heart. Again and again I tried to get what I want, all the time trying to earn God’s love through “moral living”, yet my pursuit of idols led to immoral living and therefore never living up to the standard that I believed God had for me. Jesus lays it out in John 15. He calls me to abide in his love and obey his commands; and as I look closely, his love and his commands are one in the same. For loves sake he has given me the way to navigate life that will lead to ultimate joy, fulfillment, peace and identity if I let go of myself and my desire to chase after the cheap thrills of fast-food dreams and one-night let downs. That doesn’t sound like someone who wants to hinder my life and existence but someone who truly wants my best. This is why David can say that he delights in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night; he’s not some kind of sadist, he realizes that God’s commands are his love they are love itself. His love will be our joy and fulfillment if we will abide in and follow his love, since he knows what it best for us; being the creator of the universe and all.

So God is calling me to rest in his gospel and to dive deeper into his love by abiding in a way of life that will bring me closer into relationship with him, those he brings into my life and the world at large. I will never move beyond the gospel, but as Jewel the unicorn says in The Last Battle, “Come further up, come further in!”

The Religion of Politics – “The Ides of March” review

Caesar was told, “Beware the ides of March” and that is the same thing that Presidential candidate Mike Morris has to worry about in the film by the same name. Luckily for him the Machiavellian machinations he is facing are not looking to kill him, just his political career.

This film is well acted. Clooney, Gosling, Hoffman and Giamatti are all in fine form. Clooney does a great job directing an engaging and interesting story about the inner-workings of a 21st century campaign. Never for a moment does one think that this is not very close to the reality of the political machine in today’s world.

Now, since this is a Clooney picture, the political leanings are firmly ensconced in the left. Mike Morris is the quintessential Democratic candidate. He rails against the right, our dependance on oil, military intervention and dodges questions on his religious beliefs. He says, “I’m not a Christian. I’m not an Atheist. I’m not Jewish. I’m not Muslim. My religion, what I believe in is called the Constitution of United States of America.” He is a man who believes in and worships our law and governmental system. Apparently socialized democracy has within itself the ability to save all mankind from it’s problems.

It is here that the movie’s message and logic really fall apart. If one’s religion is only the law and what is lawful, there is a lot that you can do and get away with that most people would think are wrong, or at least frown upon. Morris says that he wants to run his campaign on the up and up; no back-door deals or favor swapping. And yet, when it comes down to the moment of truth, for his character to show, he reveals he is no better than the ones that he preaches against. He is willing to lie, cheat, make deals and sell cabinet seats like all the rest.

A classic democratic candidate problem seems to be not sleeping with the interns. In fact this is even pointed out to Morris by one of his main aids Stephen Meyers. He says, “You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t f*** the interns. They get you for that.” Stephen has been cleaning up after Morris; taking the DNC chairman’s daughter, who has been working on the campaign and sleeping with Morris, to get an abortion. It has to be undercover because of what it could do to the campaign, but also, her family is Catholic. The political games lead to the suicide of the young girl and a cover up by the campaign. Apparently believing you can help the country as president gives you a license to break the law that you worship.

Stephen is the other major character that you follow in the film. His is the most interesting one as well. He starts out the film as a novice and idealist and as the the story unfolds his decent into the 4th ring of political hell is complete. He becomes that which he hates for the power that he craves and the last scene, his vacant expression tells you everything; he has become another soulless minion, willing to sellout for power.

In the end, the film does a great job illustrating the problems with modern political life in America. Everyone is willing to trade their souls for the power to lead, thinking, “If I can just make it to the presidency, I can make a difference”. What they fail to realize is that by cashing in their integrity and character for power they have lost the ability to make that difference. There is nothing to separate them from the people that they are working so desperately to replace. It also shows the deficiency of having only the law and Constitution as your religion; they are not sufficient as guidelines for life. These two things are neither transcendent enough nor do they have the foundation needed to provide a firm foundation for any kind of morality . Matt Chandler diagnoses the problem in his book, The Explicit Gospel, 

Religion practiced apart from faith in Christ is called self-righteousness in the Bible, and not even the perfecters of self-righteousness themselves, the Pharisees, qualified for God’s kingdom. Faithless religion is vanity. No matter how many people it practically helps, no matter how good it makes you feel, religious effort not rooted in the gospel is rooted in self-justifying self-worth. This is meaningless.

This movie seems to be echoing what the preacher in Ecclesiastes says at the beginning of his book,

What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:3-9 ESV)

Without something bigger, it is all meaningless; all power, all work, all good, all that is out there is meaningless and in the end, it’s been done before so you’re not even original. Tolkien says, “Certainly there was Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at it’s best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is soaked with the sense of ‘exile’.” So where is the hope in all of this? It is here,

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for  what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)

Tim Keller reminds us, “…no current political framework can fully convey the comprehensive Biblical vision of justice, and Christians should never identify too closely with a particular political party or philosophy”; our hope is not in political power or presidential candidates but in the coming King of Glory that all of creation is groaning for.

Quotes:
The Explicit Gospel – Matt Chandler  this includes the Tolkien quote.
Generous Justice – Timothy Keller 
ESV Bible