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Owl Post 11-6-12

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Principles for Voting:

In Acts 14, Luke sets forth for us the events that took place on Paul’s first missionary journey, a journey on which Barnabas accompanied him. We’ve seen this pattern emerge over and over again. The apostles would come into the synagogue or the public square known as the agora. They would proclaim the gospel openly. And there would always be some people who responded in faith by the power of the Holy Ghost while others in attendance would stand up in outright hostility and oppose them. Indeed, it was through great tribulation that the gospel bore fruit in places like Antioch and Iconium. And everyday Paul and Barnabas were subjected to threats, insults, hostility and even physical danger. We can see how things degenerated to such a degree here in the latter part of chapter fourteen: the Jewish leadership actually convenes a kangaroo court and imposes the death penalty upon Paul! A rioting mob is gathered and begins to throw stones at Paul with deadly force. Paul is knocked down by the repeated blows to the face, arms, torso, and head. His would-be executors then drag him out of the city, leaving him for dead.

Truth, Voyeurism, and Beauty: Why Everyone Loves The Hunger Games:

Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games is easily dismissed as a bad book, the type of junk-thriller that captivates audiences with mere sensationalism and little else. Nonetheless, its internal logic clearly captivates millions of readers and viewers, and that alone demands an account of the book’s resonances, its movement, something that philosopher D.Z. Phillips called “possibilities of sense”, a shorthand for what it is about a work or idea that so enthralls its devotees. With many pulp bestsellers, simple appeals to violence, clichéd romance, or tense but tired plotlines fuel the mass appeal. Collins both plays into these bestseller stereotypes while simultaneously protesting them, and the juxtaposition of violence and classical virtue is an enveloping conflict of the book.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood-Book Review-Kathy Keller:

Rachel Held Evans had at least two stated goals for writing A Year of Biblical Womanhood, according to the promotional material accompanying my advance review copy. Under “Why She Wrote the Book,” Evans says:

I’ve long been frustrated by the inconsistencies with which “biblical womanhood” is taught and applied in my evangelical Christian community. So . . . I set out to follow all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year to show that no woman, no matter how devout, is actually practicing biblical womanhood all the way. My hope is that the book will generate some laughs, as well as a fresh, honest dialogue about . . . biblical interpretation. (emphasis mine)

Evans wants to show that everyone who tries to follow biblical norms does so selectively—“cherry picking” some parts and passing over others. She also says she wants to open a fresh, honest dialogue about biblical interpretation, that is, how to do it rightly and well. Rachel, I tried twice to get in touch with you when you were in New York City on the talk shows but wasn’t able to connect. So here’s what I would have said if we could have gotten the chance to open that dialogue.

Simultaneously Righteous And A Sinner?

My good friend Jono Linebaugh (New Testament Professor at Knox Theological Seminary and content manager for LIBERATE) wrote a thoughtful post on Martin Luther’s famous phrase Simul iustus et peccator–simultaneously justified and a sinner (you can read it here). One reader questioned whether “sinner” is an appropriate term to describe Christian identity. This is an important question. After all, Paul writes to sinful Christians and calls them “saints.” Once God saves us, aren’t we new creatures?

Five Things Worth Celebrating on Election Day (Plus One More):

Well, here we are: Election Day. Some of you have followed the ins and outs of the campaign for months, if not years. Today is more exciting than the Super Bowl and March Madness and college rivalry week all rolled into one. For others, the excitement of the Summer Olympics every four years is only matched by the tedium of the presidential race in those same years. At this point you’d rather get habanero eye drops, sit next to a starving baby on the plane, and go the dentist every day for a month than be subject to any more campaign ads. Whether we’ve been engaged in the process since Ames or disconnected until today, we are all ready for this thing to be over.

Books · Culture · Faith · mbird.com · Movies · Parenthood · Republican · The Election

Owl Post 10-22-12

 

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I Am Going to Vote:

Thoughts from John Piper on the election and voting.

Having read several articles by people who don’t plan to vote in the presidential election, my conclusion is: I’m going to vote.

It seems to me that the good that can be done, presumably by the protest of not voting, is mainly done by talking about not voting rather than by not voting. Then it also seems that this same good would be accomplished if those who thought they would not vote did all that talking, but then voted.

Too big to maintain?

Something to think about from George Will.

If in four weeks a president-elect Mitt Romney is seeking a Treasury secretary, he should look here, to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Candidate Romney can enhance his chance of having this choice to make by embracing a simple proposition from Fisher: Systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs), meaning too-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks, are “too dangerous to permit.”

Previously on Parenthood: I Thought I Could Do It All, but I Can’t …

This is a little tardy since the most recent episode of Parenthood (“There’s Something I Need to Tell You …”) aired over a week ago, but I—perhaps like many of you—typically watch shows online several days later. Nevertheless, this is a follow up to a recent post regarding new developments in the Braverman clan. I am really enjoying season 5 for all its insight into human nature (and relationships, and suffering, and grace…), and this time I want to highlight what is happening with the Julia Braverman-Graham, the hard charging lawyer in the family played by Erika Christensen.

Romney has the momentum:

We are at a turning point in the presidential race. For the first time today Mitt Romney leads in the RealClearPolitics electoral college averaging of polls by a 206-201 margin. In the Gallup 7-day tracking poll Romney went ahead by 7 points, suggesting that the vice presidential debate (Oct. 11) was, if anything, a positive for the GOP ticket. There is so far nothing to show that the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 slowed Romney down.

The ‘Cloud Atlas’ Question: When Is an ‘Unfilmable’ Book Actually Filmable?

There’s no telling why a great but straightforward book might become a lousy movie—or why a film version of a “difficult” novel might be a classic.

The 25 Most Devoted Fan Bases:

Not sure if I agree with the rankings; what do you think?

For most consumers of pop culture, fandom is a lower-case concern. They are “fans” in the sense that they may like a particular movie, TV show, band, or personality but don’t think much about it when not experiencing it firsthand. Capital-F Fandom is something else altogether. It goes beyond “like” or even “love” and straight to “devoted.” Their Fandom is all-consuming, a jumping-off point for a deep dive into fan fiction, convention-attending, recap-writing, role-playing, costume-making, language-learning, and more. There is a passion to this kind of Fandom that binds enthusiasts in the manner of people who share a secret — this secret just happens to be shared with millions of others.

My good friend Colin from Treknewsandviews was able to get a shout-out from Connor Trinneer of Star Trek Enterprise fame while he was at Destination Star Trek London.

Books · Coffee · Government · Mumford and Sons · Music · Politics · Star Wars · The Clone Wars · Tullian Tchividjian

Owl Post 10-12-12

Confusing Strength With Aggression:

The vice presidential debate was uniquely important because if Paul Ryan won it or did well, the Romney-Ryan ticket’s momentum would be continued or speed up. If he did not, that momentum would slow or stop. So the night carried implications.

New Music: Mumford and Sons’ Babel:

Everyone’s favorite British folk band, Mumford and Sons, and their latest album, Babel, have been a hot news item since the album was released a couple of weeks ago. Depending on who you ask, the band’s music is heartfelt and refreshing, beautifully expressing the human desire for love and grace or maudlin and mediocre, only created to prey on the sentimentality of the general population. Two recent articles on the band illustrate the variety of opinions that have been voiced about Babel and the obvious religious symbolism in the group’s music: the first, “Mumford & Sons Preaches to Masses”, from NPR’s Ann Powers (which DZ mentioned on Friday), speaks to the band’s power to bring religious ideas to the public; and the second,“Mumford & Sons and the Death of Church Music”, comes from The American Conservative’s Jordan Bloom, in a direct reply to Powers’ article, where he connects the vapid sentimentality he sees in contemporary worship music to Mumford and their music. Both of these articles are interesting reads, and they address what I see as the central theme of Mumford and Sons’ music: their incredible ability to introduce Christian and religious symbols to a large audience, imparting grace and hope to their listeners.

Our Glorious Ruin: Tullian Tchividjian on the Suffering that Sets You Free:

Ever since the revolt in Eden, suffering has been inescapable. All of us live and move and have our being amid the wreckage of the Fall. Pain—universal as it is real—haunts us, stalks us, plagues us.

In his new book, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free (David C. Cook), Tullian Tchividjian offers a unique angle on this perennially vexing subject. Rather than focusing on the why or the how of suffering, Tchividjian zooms in on the who, demonstrating that the answer to our pain isn’t finally found in a syllogism but in a Savior—a suffering Savior. If your faith is stirred by this interview and the book, come to Orlando next April to hear Tchividjian lead a workshop at The Gospel Coalition 2013 National Conference on “How Suffering Sets You Free.”

I corresponded with Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about why we need another suffering book, the importance of pressing past why, how the gospel informs our pain, and more.

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ brings the Dark Side to Saturdays:

When animator Dave Filoni was handed the reins of George Lucas’ computer animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” back in 2006, he thought he knew what to expect.

Lucas, the creator and mastermind of the entire multibillion-dollar “Star Wars” operation, would give some initial guidance, notes and feedback and quickly fade away, moving on to tend to other aspects of his Lucasfilm empire. After all, it was a cartoon series aimed a kids, airing on Cartoon Network and regarded by many of the franchise’s older hardcore fans as a nice, but hardly essential, extension of the “Star Wars” experience.

Eat, Pray, Love Like a Badass: Cheryl Strayed, the Oprah Author 2.0:

Cheryl Strayed shifted uncomfortably in her chair onstage at the New York Public Library last week when host Paul Holdengraber mentioned the name “Elizabeth Gilbert.” Knitting her brow, she cocked her head to one side as if to inquire, “Where is this conversation going?” Holdengraber read a piece from the Eat, Pray, Love author that echoed advice Strayed gives readers under her nom de plume Sugar in herbeloved advice column on The Rumpus.

What Drinking Coffee Does to You:

The chances are that you saw the title of this article and winced a little. Usually, things which are enjoyable bring negative side effects to our bodies. Alcohol, chocolate and fast-food are all fine examples of things which are enjoyable at the time but have negative long-term side effects on your health. So how does coffee compete with these ‘naughty’ foods and drink?

Book Reviews · Books · Christianity · Government · mbird.com · Parenthood · Politics · Science · The Election

Owl Post 10-5-12

Romney Soars, Obama Fumbles:

DENVER — The Romney camp began flooding into the post-debate spin room before the candidates had given their closing arguments. They couldn’t wait to start the gloating. “Governor Romney was the clear winner,” crowed his strategist Eric Fehrnstrom. “If this were a boxing match, it would have been called by the referee.” And: “Someone should check the heels on President Obama’s shoes. They’re probably pretty worn down, because he just spent 90 minutes back on them.”

At Least 5 Things Scripture Teaches Us About Governments:

Government is one of the facts of life in this world. All of human history has shown that we need to be governed. Not surprisingly, the Bible speaks to government. Here are five things the Bible teaches us.

Everything Is Not OK (on Parenthood)… the Bad Thing Is Already Happening:

Have you been watching the new season of Parenthood? This show continues to deliver the goods, which mostly come in the form of true-to-life suffering, chaos, loss, and grace, love, and peace amidst it all—very much in line with the Mockingbird conference last week in Charlottesville.

The most recent episode’s title says so much: “Everything Is Not OK.” It refers to the startling news that Kristina Braverman has received (I used to find Kristina’s character fairly annoying, but she has been endearing herself to me lately, mostly due to her present suffering), namely, that she has breast cancer. In this episode, her husband Adam Braverman’s relentless positivity is met with the reality of Kristina’s situation. The irony is his positivity only serves to make her feel worse, and thus she no longer wants to talk to him.

HOW TO CULTIVATE FRESH FAITH IN THE GOSPEL:

There are times old, memorized Bible promises just don’t help me trust Jesus. I recite them in the face of temptation, but nothing. No power, no belief, no victory. Is this because Jesus isn’t trustworthy? After all, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor. 1:20). Why aren’t they “amen-ed” in my heart in the face of temptation of despair? Is there something wrong with my Bible? Or maybe Jesus only occasionally makes good on his promises? That, of course, contradicts God’s Word, and we must always interpret the Bible in light of the rest of the Bible.

Defending the Free Market – Book Review:

Robert Sirico, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2012. 256 pp. $17.33.

Already this presidential race has provoked countless controversies. The party conventions exposed a diverse range of value systems, worldviews, and religious convictions regarding marriage, sexuality, sanctity of human life, and human dignity. Various factions clamor to define the future of our nation. And the ongoing jobs crisis perhaps makes economic debates more germane and inescapable than ever.

Book Reviews · Books · Christianity · Faith · Movies · Politics · Superheroes · The Election · The Gospel Coalition · Tim Challies

Owl Post 9-27-12

Links for Reviews and News for J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy:

J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy: We’ve Read It, Here’s What We Thought:

It’s not really possible to open The Casual Vacancy without a lot of expectations both high and low at the same time crashing around in your brain and distorting your vision. I don’t know if it’s possible or even desirable to avoid them. I know I had a lot of, let’s call them feelings when I opened the book (which happened on Saturday morning; don’t ask; I work for the military-industrial-entertainment complex, let’s just leave it at that). I have spent many, many hours reading Rowling’s work. I am a known Harry Potter fan.

J.K. Rowling’s debut novel for adults is a hard story that’s worth a read:

If you’re looking for what makes J.K. Rowling magical — emotion, heart — you will.

“The Casual Vacancy” is the first novel written for adults from Rowling, the successful-beyond-belief author behind the “Harry Potter” series about the young boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

Poverty Informs J.K. Rowling’s New Novel For Adults:

J.K. Rowling has a new novel. She’s moved away from Harry Potter, the boy wizard whose stories prompted millions of kids to obsess over books big enough to serve as doorstops. Having concluded that series, she’s written a novel for grown-ups called The Casual Vacancy, a story of troubled teenagers and their even more troubled parents.

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama:

Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can’t bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, and they’ll nod along. Say that you’d never vote for a politician caught using the ‘n’-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney’s flaws, which I’ve chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama.

The Days I Need the Gospel Least:

Preach the gospel to yourself! Preach the gospel to yourself every day! I think we are all growing accustomed to being told that Christians need to center their lives upon the gospel and that one of the keys to doing this is to be continually reminded of what is true by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. I’ve been hearing this for years now and to varying degrees have been practicing it. However, just last week I had a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking about it. (Though this is a breakthrough for me, it is may well be one of those things you have understood for years.)

Former Saviors Now Stumble:

At first glance, you might think they’ve done a fine job… look at an illustration by John Buscema realized in the form of James Purefoy, or a vintage Frank Frazetta drawing fleshed out by Taylor Kitsch. On a surface level, it might look like Solomon Kane and John Carter have been translated from their literary origins to the wonder of 21st century movie-making, characters created a little over or under a century ago finding new life in cinema. Problem is, whether you enjoyed, abhorred, or found yourself indifferent to the cinematic versions, these icons have nevertheless been significantly, and intentionally, tarnished.

A Free People’s Suicide:

Os Guinness has performed an act of social ecology. With A Free People’s Suicide, he questions whether the American way of life is sustainable. But when we talk about sustainability in this sense, the question is not whether America will keep its air clean, its water pure, or its forests lush. Guinness is interested in a deeper and more urgent question: Will American freedom continue to thrive, or will it unravel as a result of its abuses?