Great Quote by C.S. Lewis on popular religion

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“We who defend Christianity find ourselves constantly opposed not by the irreligion of our hearers but by their real religion. Speak about beauty, truth and goodness, or about a God who is simply the indwelling principle of these three, speak about a great spiritual force pervading all things, a common mind of which we are all parts, a pool of generalized spirituality to which we can all flow, and you command friendly interest.

But the temperature drops as soon as you mention a God who has purposes and performs particular actions, who does one thing and not another, a concrete, choosing, commanding, prohibiting God with a determinate character. People become embarrassed or angry. Such a conception seems to them primitive and crude and even irreverent. The popular ‘religion’ excludes miracles because it excludes the ‘living God’ of Christianity and believes instead in a kind of God who obviously would not do miracles, or indeed anything else.”

From: The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings From C.S. Lewis, page 31 (January 22 reading, titled “When the Temperature Drops”

The medium is the message_ and the movie Noah


Along time ago in a High School class that I no longer remember the name of I heard the phrase, “the medium is the message.”  The phrase has stuck with me for over 40 years probably because of my interest in communications and how various forms of communications can influence public opinion or perceptions.

I lifted this illustration from a wiki article to explain what that can mean:

–Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner. —(Wiki source for quote)

The phrase “the medium is the message” was coined by a fellow named Marshall McLuhan and he wrote a book by the same title, a book, as I recall we had to read for that High School class. A more formal definition of what McLuhan meant by that odd phrase might be:

“The form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is received.” (wiki link)



I no longer remember what illustrations McLuhan may have provided in his book but he could have used Leni Riefenstahl’s movie\documentary titled Triumph of the Will.

Triumph of the Will became a triumph of propaganda for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis but it did so because the medium of the cinema was masterly crafted by Rienfenstahl to rouse the German people to patriotism and to thoroughly embed the idea that the Nazis would lead Germany into a new age of European dominance (what would become the Third Reich). The film is a classic not for its resulting message (how the form of cinema functioned) but for how well crafted it was.

Period poster advertising Triumph of the Will in German. The film's imagery portrayed massive parades, heavy symbolism, military uniforms and rousing speeches from the 1934 Nuremberg Rally.

Period poster advertising Triumph of the Will in German. The film’s imagery portrayed massive parades, heavy symbolism, military uniforms and rousing speeches from the 1934 Nuremberg Rally.

The point is the way a medium functions is more important than it’s form (movie, radio, newsprint, etc.) because it can manipulate the message and thus steer people one way or the other.

Another example of the medium is the message might be Darren Aronofsky’s new film, Noah, starring Russell Crowe.

Aronsky by his own words is not a not particularly religious Jew who has claimed that the film is basically true to the account of Noah as found in Genesis. But as many have pointed out that is not really true given the distortion of the message by the medium. (Best review of the movie found here, by Al Mohler from Southern Seminary)

I have not yet decided whether I will watch the movie. I certainly will not pay for a movie ticket but I may rent it down the road simply out of curiosity and because I like Russell Crowe’s acting. Besides, it may result in more grist for my blog!

What I would expect to find is a story told through the considerable talents of Aronsky as a director. The story may even be entertaining and I confess I am looking forward to seeing the rock monsters masquerading as Nephilim as well as the special effects used to create a really big flood. What I would not expect to see or hear is an accurate message from the Word of God. Frankly, I’d be on the look out for any inaccurate message from a movie that is supposed to be biblical. In the interest of full disclosure I’d watch Roma Downey’s series, The Bible, with a similar critical eye but expect less distortion.

Evangelical critics have pointed out that the basic message of the film is that Noah is a vegan eco-nut in the movie and that God destroys the people of the earth because they are destroying the earth. I would consider myself a conservationist and certainly am not for the careless exploitation of the earth but I am also aware that God gave Adam (and mankind) dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26).

Dominion means the subjection and management of earth’s resources for the benefit of the ones having dominion. We can argue all day about what that looks like but the bottom line is that God intended that man manage his earth and that as originally intended that management would be done in a responsible manner.

The reason it has not always been done in a responsible manner is because of the fall (Gen. 3:1-19) and by the time of Noah all that mankind did was evil all the time (Gen. 6:5). God destroys man except for Noah’s family (a total of 8) not  because of one evil (misuse of the earth) but for all evil and all types of human depravity that resulted from the fall. When man fell he did not just stumble, he fell hard and every part of man’s soul has been corrupted by the fall.

Genesis 3:15, called the proto-evangel teaches that God would provide a solution to man’s essential problem (sin, evil) and the story of Noah serves as part of the larger narrative that would eventually point to Jesus.

What Aronsky and his helpers have done is provide an interpretation of Genesis that they claim is faithful to the text. It clearly is not.

To be sure part of the motive is to make money and be entertaining but the other part may very well be a progressive agenda that is against fracking, big oil, whatever that means, nuclear energy, and for windmills and solar even though those resources are not reliable nor can they generate the power needed. One would think that the eco-nuts won’t be happy until we’re all living in the times of Noah as portrayed in the movie by being “one with the earth” rather than having reasonable dominion over it. I’ve heard that kind of propaganda all the way back to my High School days and the very first Earth Day which as I recall was May 1st, 1970.

So, the medium is the message and Noah is probably a well-crafted movie that promotes a particular message, a message designed to influence people and as such is a piece of propaganda. It’s also creative license that results in a horrible  interpretation of the Genesis story and as a result misses the main point of the story.

In that, we should not be surprised because there is no way Aronsky has ever had a course in biblical hermeneutics where by the student is taught to do his best to get the biblical message right.

If you chose to watch the movie understand that the medium is the message and in this case a horrible interpretation of what is taught in the story of Noah.

Drowning in Distortion_Al Mohler’s Review

I’m a Christian and I think “Noah” deserves a four star review (By a fellow named Matt Walsh and utterly hilarious)

Conscious Uncoupling?


At first glance I thought conscious uncoupling was a railroad term where by rail workers had a plan to uncouple train cars.

Shall we consciously uncouple?

Shall we consciously uncouple?

But no, that bit of psychobabble is a nice sounding couple of terms for getting a divorce. This I discovered from reading a blog article written by Jessica Grose in Slate Magazine. 

Conscious uncoupling are the terms Gwyneth Paltrow used to describe her split from husband Chris Martin.

Paltrow and Martin made their announcement of a conscious uncoupling and released an essay by two psychobabbler’s to explain what the unusual terms meant. Here’s a summary from Ms. Grose’s blog:

The gist of the essay—by Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami, doctors who integrate Eastern and Western medicine—is that the institution of marriage hasn’t evolved along with our longer life spans. Divorce doesn’t mean your relationship wasn’t successful, they say. It just means that this particular relationship has come to its conclusion; you may have two or three of these successful relationships in a lifetime. Instead of a typical, rancorous, regular-person separation, you just need to have a “conscious uncoupling.” You need to be spiritually “present” and recognize that partners in intimate relationships are our “teachers.” You need to “cultivate” your “feminine energy” to salve any wounds.

Frankly, I don’t know where to start with that baloney. So, to help me out a little I googled Dr. Habib Sadeghi and found his “be hive of healing” website.

The good doctor (and his cohort Dr. Sherry Sami) appear to be big deals in the health industry and appear to represent some sort of cutting edge combination of western and eastern healing practices. The eastern part seems to be the spiritual part. For those of you who don’t know what that means think “new agey spirituality.”

Dr. Sadeghi seems to be a rather popular fellow and his website boasts that he has achieved “miraculous” results with his methods. He has been employed at more than one well-known university. I can see why Paltrow and Martin engaged in this sort of name-dropping. It certainly gives the appearance of “following doctor’s orders” or perhaps that should be “following the high priest’s orders?”

Ms. Paltrow is an idol to many. The fact this story is a big deal in the news cycle is proof that many people really do seem care what goes on in the personal relationships of the Hollywood elite. The fact that Paltrow and Martin are fans of new agey gurus is an idolatry of another sort. The fact their spiritual advisers (advertised freely) are welcomed on campus is interesting given that on most campuses traditional Christianity is not.

Perosnally, I could care less what the Hollywood elite does or who they follow spiritually. I would not expect non-Christians to make Christian decisions. What does bug me though is the number of people who look up to Ms. Paltrow as some source of cutting edge truth and in turn would look up to her gurus who use nice language to disguise the tragedy of divorce and a further undermining of marriage.

There is nothing new under-the-sun, just a repackaging of old ideas that are given medical sounding labels. The apostle Paul warned the Colossian Christians of finding value in any such system:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

I’m really not all the familiar with Slate Magazine nor the author of the blog, Jessica Grose. But I do agree with Ms. Grose’s comment that as an aspirational idol women can do better than Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes indeed.


A few comments on ghosts and spooky things, ok, more than a few…

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A number of years ago when I worked in industry one of my co-workers told me the following story.

He had grown up in rural North Dakota in a small farming community. He said that his small town was religious meaning that they believed in God and that all three denominations represented there got along very well. My friend was maybe two generations removed from his immigrant forefathers as was most of his community.

He said that once when he was a boy he attended a funeral in a person’s home (common in rural communities especially in the 1940s and 50s).

After the service while everyone was chatting there came a number of sharp raps on the door. The door was answered and no one was there. The night was very cold, but there was no wind.

A  seance. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century spiritism was popular both here and in Europe. The vast majority were clever frauds if not all. In some circles it  is still popular and quite contrary to what the Bible teaches.

A séance. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century spiritism was popular both here and in Europe. The vast majority were clever frauds if not all. In some circles it is still popular and quite contrary to what the Bible teaches.

The universal interpretation of the event was the rapping had been done by the recently departed. My friend shared the story in all sincerity knowing I was Bible student and wanting to know what I thought.

It is very difficult to diss someone’s personal experience meaning their interpretation of the event but I told him the following.

My mother also grew up in a rural area and she too was one generation removed from her Polish-German roots. My mother told me almost the same story that my work friend did.

I have not done extensive research on folklore but over the years have heard numerous variations on my friend’s and mom’s stories. It suggests European tradition within a culture or sub-culture that assigns to the dead the ability to say good-bye to loved ones and give them assurance that all is well.

I had to tell my friend that I could not argue with his experience but that the Bible gave no indication that the dead had that kind of ability. He shrugged and that was that.

On another occasion with another co-worker I heard the following.

We worked 3rd shift, also known as the graveyard shift. No pun intended.

My friend lived with his girlfriend and obviously third shift meant leaving her alone.

The day after the Easter weekend he told me that his girlfriend had been wakened in the middle of the night. On top of her was a short ugly being trying to strangle her.

She fought the hideous creature eventually knocking it off the bed and on  to the floor where it knocked over a fan as it ran down the hallway.

Remarkably, she pursued the creature into the bathroom where it vanished into thin air.

When my friend came home that morning he found his girlfriend curled up in a ball clutching her 2nd grade Catholic Catechism.

He then related to me other phenomena that occurred in their apartment such as decorative plates being taken off stands and laid down and him feeling the presence of his father who had died in a horrible accident when he was a boy.

I offered to visit with him and his girlfriend in order to share the gospel. I had been sharing the gospel with my friend prior to this anyway and it seemed that whatever had happened to his girlfriend her greatest need was Jesus not an interpretation of what happened.

The twist on this story was that my friend seemed open to gospel. He interpreted his girlfriend’s experience to his being open to the gospel. His response was to back off our conversations and so declined my offer to visit with both of them.

The movie Ghost from the 1980s starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore was widely popular. It combined the popular notions of the dead returning to say good-bye and give comfort as well as evil spirits coming to take evil people away. I recall it as being an entertaining, non-biblical movie.

The movie Ghost from the 1980s starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore was widely popular. It combined the popular notions of the dead returning to say good-bye and give comfort as well as evil spirits coming to take evil people away. I recall it as being an entertaining, non-biblical movie.

My arguments to the contrary failed to convince him that Jesus was more powerful than anything he or his girlfriend may have experienced.

Shortly after that episode I had an experience that I cannot explain.

The place where we worked had a large store-room behind the work shop. To get there you had travel past another larger work area and pass through two heavy doors. The store-room was a two-floor cavern and was populated by huge shelves and bins where parts were stored. We had to take parts from time to time and place them in the proper bins and I was on such a mission when the experience occurred.

I entered the storeroom and had to depart from the main aisle to find the appropriate shelf. When I found the right bin I suddenly and distinctly heard whispering in both of my ears! The words, if you could them that were unintelligible, but it did sound like multiple voices have a bit of a chat!

I was quite alone! The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I sensed a panic attack setting in as I grasped in vain for a rational explanation.  As if that was not bad enough  I heard a part slide across the floor on the other side of the shelf in the main aisle where I had just been. I immediately departed the area glancing at the main aisle and sure enough a part was on the floor where none had been previously.

I ran back to our work area in the hopes I’d find my two co-workers in hysterical laughter at the joke they had pulled on me. No such luck. They were sober and one remarked that I looked like I had seen a ghost. I related the story and they both came to the conclusion that the place was haunted.

The one who had been in the department  the longest told of the janitor who had been killed horribly by a fork lift truck as the driver made his rounds with the forks up-skewering the unfortunate janitor (a true story I discovered). The interpretation of my event was that the janitor haunted the place. This interpretation was confirmed by a 2nd shift co-worker who said in all sincerity that he had seen a monk like figure appear in the restroom. He connected the apparition to the deceased janitor.

Virtually all American Civil War battlefields carry with them stories of ghosts often accompanied by pictures, sometimes of orbs, sometimes of images of soldiers. A whole industry has grown up around it. The base belief seems to be that people who die horribly due to some trauma wander between two plains of existence until they find peace.

Virtually all American Civil War battlefields carry with them stories of ghosts often accompanied by pictures, sometimes of orbs, sometimes of images of soldiers. A whole industry has grown up around it. The base belief seems to be that people who die horribly due to some trauma wander between two planes of existence until they find peace.

The commonality in these three stories is the interpretation that the various people put on the experience.

In the first case an interpretation that the dead return to say good-bye and in the second case evil spirits will torment loved ones because someone becomes interested in Christ.

In my case my co-wokers interpreted my experience to the ghost of a janitor who died horribly. That interpretation fits with the traditional interpretation that people who die in wars or other tragic circumstance sometimes wander between two planes of existence. Take a tour of Gettysburg and learn of the battle there and you will hear more than one story and some will even have videos.

My interpretation of my experience would have been an over active imagination combined with tiredness working at 3 a.m. in the morning had it not been for the part sliding across the floor and resting where there had been no part before.

Because of that I had to modify my interpretation to I cannot explain the experience in a rational, alternative way.

I can tell you what I did next though.

My friends saw my fear, a fear I readily admit. They knew I was a Bible student (very early in my education) and they expected me do something. I had the choice of cowering in our work area or I had the choice to return to the storage area. I knew I had to return to the storage area or lose all credibility with my two co-workers. I knew enough to not go unarmed. I went to the following passage in the Bible I kept in my toolbox:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [14] Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. [16] In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, [18] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, [19] and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)

I am not certain this was the best passage to go to but it is the one that came to mind, especially verse one and being strong in the Lord. I believed that and with the following verses understood that the Christian’s ultimate battle was against the unseen spiritual things or powers is the way Paul puts it.

I took a few minutes and studied the passage and prayed it best I knew how. I knew that if these things\experiences were real then God allowed them for his reasons. I also knew that the demonic cannot stand against Jesus. I didn’t know much at that time but with that I returned to the storage room.

I cannot explain it but upon entering it was just like any other visit to the store-room. No whispering, no hair standing up on the back of my neck although the part was still on the floor. I returned it to a bin. I came back to our work area and muttered something like, “whatever it was, it’s gone.”

These three stories came to mind as I posted the story that appeared on this blog yesterday-the story of the glass shattering caught on video and the comments debunking the incident as a fraud.

A few observations are perhaps in order here.

1. I think we live in a culture that is increasingly non-Christian (meaning non-gospel centered) but  is still vaguely spiritual and as a result sometimes accepts frauds because it wants to believe in things hard to explain like the video I posted yesterday.

2. I do not see that necessarily as a bad thing as long as it leads to truth as found in Holy Scripture.

3. The Bible does teach the reality of demonic spirits if you take the texts at face value and I do. C.S. Lewis deals with it masterfully in his classic Screwtape Letters.

4. The gospel accounts illustrate the Lord Jesus dealing with the demonic on more than one occasions and the apostle Paul (as cited above in Ephesians) also thought the demonic was the real deal. That is more than good enough for me.

5. It is popular today in church circles, especially liberal ones to dismiss the devil as myth. When they do this they ignore or rewrite Scripture. I do believe there is a right way to interpret Scripture and about 100 wrong ways to interpret it.

6. The Bible condemns divination and the “inquiring of the dead” thus raising the possibility of it being a real occurrence with some sort of real results (King Saul had a witch call up Samuel the prophet\judge. This may be the one time God allowed the real deal, meaning Samuel, to appear, all others being demonic impersonations of the dead.) Anyway, here is  the command to not do such things…

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer [11] or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, [12] for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 ESV)

7. Whatever else we might say about these things Jesus spoke of a proper fear, in reality the only fear that matters in the end. This is what he said:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 ESV)

Jesus is speaking of God the Father and he is seeking to reassure the disciples that while persecution may take their lives (tradition holds that 11 of the 12 were martyred) their mission was still the gospel and their loyalty to it no matter what they may face.

8. There are plenty of things to fear, including spooky things, but it is the gospel that casts out fear because stronger is he that is in you (if you are a gospel-centered Christian) than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

9. I think many phenomena are not really phenomena but fraud. It’s good and right to be highly skeptical of such things.

10. Somethings are the result of cultural tradition and wishful thinking. I think there is also what is called syncretism. Syncretism in a Christian sense is the combining of Christianity with pagan ideas and beliefs. Just because Constantine declared the Roman Empire Christian does not mean everyone became a genuine Christian. Much tradition and pagan belief became part and parcel of average person Christianity. Halloween tied to Roman Catholic All Saints Day is one such obvious example where you have Celtic ghosts integrated into the overall holiday.

11. As I ponder these things I am forced to come back to my source of truth. I believe that the Word of God is truth when rightly divided (interpreted, 2 Tim. 2:15). Without a reliable source of truth we are left to imaginations, traditions and wishful thinking. Jesus is the truth, the living Word of God and if you believe that it seems critical to believe in what the Bible has to say about these things and not go beyond it in speculations.

We Ought not be Suprised


I don’t know about you but when I read something in the news particularity when it involves the culture wars my mind turns to what Scripture has to say about the issue. This is usually right after I get angry or disgusted at what I just read. Such was the case yesterday morning.

First the Scripture that came to mind and then the article that prompted the remembrance of the Scripture.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:1-2 ESV)


As a whole the Corinthian epistles are not “go to” places to be encouraged, although much is encouraging. Rather, the epistles are intended to be a series of rebukes to a church much confused about who they are and what is acceptable and what is not in the church of Jesus Christ. To be called a Corinthian in Paul’s time was to assume a great deal of sexual deviance and Paul would not tolerate it within the church.

At times Paul is down right sarcastic as well as blunt when he addresses what needs to be addressed. If he were preaching today he’d be accused of being mean-spirited and unloving and would probably never get to be a mega-church to pastor. I doubt he’d care.

The presenting issue in the above passage is that a professing Corinthian Christian is having sex with his father’s wife. Paul says that even the pagans do not tolerate that kind of behavior. Furthermore, he bluntly tells the Corinthian Church(es) that they are arrogant, meaning that they think this sort of behavior is acceptable.

He says that their arrogance is unacceptable and then tells them that their proper response ought to be of mourning because one of their number is doing even what the pagans find distasteful and\or wrong. To sum up the rebuke Paul commands, not suggests, that  the miscreant be kicked out of the congregation. Paul is a no-nonsense kind of apostle and pastor.

As already noted Paul would probably not be all that popular today in many evangelical churches and he certainly would not be popular in our whacked out PC culture.

The reason this Scripture came to my mind this morning was a column by Mona Charen in Townhall titled Our Crazed Sexuality Standards.

The column tells the story reported in the New York Times where a person born female sought to become male “when he embarked on the transition from female to male at age 18 — changing his name, taking testosterone and eventually undergoing surgery to remove his breasts — he left his female reproductive organs intact. In his mid-20s, he decided it was time. He stopped taking testosterone and started trying to get pregnant.”

Eventually she, now a he, sort of, gave birth to a daughter with the help of a clinic. The first clinic he went to refused to help saying they did not have enough experience with transgendered folks to help. The man, once a  woman, is now suing the first clinic for sexual discrimination. Of course, anything short of full endorsement and acceptance is now a reason to sue.

The rest of Ms. Charen’s column goes on to detail “what is wrong with this  picture”  meaning the elevation of pc sexual politics where anything goes as well as Ms.  Charen claiming rightly in my opinion that this man’s daughter named Elise would be subject to child abuse given the messed up thinking of her “father” and the pc culture surrounding him with its support.

As I noted earlier my first thoughts were those of anger and disgust. I was angry for the daughter who will be brainwashed into accepting a new normal where even the things the pagans once found repulsive are now acceptable and even encouraged. My disgust is from watching a culture decline seemingly without any kind of conscience as it becomes increasingly deviant without restraint. To my disgust I’d also add mourning because I know of people I love and care for who would find the story of this man and daughter acceptable even as they’d describe it as sexual progress.

Ms. Charen did a great job of reporting the story and expressing her views that I share about the deviant decline of the culture. She said nothing about a church’s response to this kind of news. I would not expect her to which leads me to why 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 came to my mind.

Paul was never surprised that the Greco-Roman culture he ministered in was so messed up. It was why he could use the first two verses in 1 Corinthians 5 to shock and rebuke the Corinthians for accepting a man within their midst who was doing things that even the messed up culture disapproved of and even shamed.

Paul’s concern, and he was consistent about this, is that the church is supposed to be different from the culture and when it’s not it’s time to take serious action called church discipline.

This does not mean we should not be concerned about the culture. We should, there is much to mourn and much to pray about especially in regards to people who need the gospel for the gospel is what truly changes people.

Paul’s concern and our main concern ought to be for the integrity of the church in the midst of a Corinthian culture.  In this way, the church is truly counter cultural and perhaps that sends the strongest message to the culture.

For more on the troubled Corinthian Church follow this link to

If There is a Rock and Roll Heaven

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The other day I heard that Lou Reed passed away. Reed was a moving force in Rock and Roll during the time period I was coming of age. I never was much of a fan but thought the guitar work in Sweet Jane was awesome (or groovy as we used to say). Reed and his group the Velvet Underground never reached the popularity of lets the say the Stones, Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple but they inspired other musicians to step outside the box. It was said that they only sold 30,000 copies of their first album but 30,000 bands were started because of it.

Lou Reed. Schinitzer Concert Hall Portland, OR

Lou Reed. Schinitzer Concert Hall Portland, OR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I heard the news I thought of other artists from the 60’s and 70’s who have passed on to what’s next. In fact, back in 1974 the Righteous Brothers did a tribute song to artists that died young, usually from drug overdoses. The list in 1974 included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison of the Doors. The Righteous Brothers did a remake in 1991 (below) to take into account other artists who had passed since 1974.

One of the lines in the tribute is “if there is a rock and roll heaven, then you know they have one hell of a band.”

Another line is, “if you believe in forever, the life is just a one night stand.”

The song is heavy on sentimentality as well as appreciating the various artists for their contributions to rock and roll history. In 1974 I reacted to it with some sentimentality (I really liked Hendrix) and a vague nod to the line that if heaven had a rock band these folks would be in it.

In 1974 I was in my agnostic days, not real sure there was a God, but if there was he would be a swell guy and when we died all good folks would be in heaven (if there was one) with him. That would include all the rock idols who died and were mentioned in the Righteous Brothers tribute song.

Then as now, people make assumptions about heaven and even more assumptions about God (if they even consider him at all) as well as assumptions about their own goodness. I was one such person. If there was a heaven and a swell God then I was probably good enough to make the cut.

When I visited YouTube to listen to Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane once more comments assumed that old Lou was now in that awesome, heavenly, rock and roll band. That saddened me.

A long time ago a wealthy young man approached Jesus and he asked what must he do to inherit eternal life. He asked the best question that anyone could ever ask and he asked the right person to boot. He didn’t like the answer because he valued something else more, but at least had the sense to ask the right question to the right person. (Mark 10:17-31)

It was with sadness that I learned of Lou Reed’s passing. It was not because I thought he was a great artist and all that sentimental stuff. What I know of Lou Reed was true of many of my rock and roll idols from the 60’s and 70’s. They may have been great musicians and singers but they rarely, if  ever considered eternal things and on the whole, as one friend noted, were lousy role models. Like me, they made assumptions and probably like that wealthy young man so many years ago never considered what Jesus had to say about what comes next and what it takes to get there.

As for God being a swell guy? I like what C.S. Lewis said in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Duck Mania


There’s only a couple of reality shows I watch fairly regularly. One is Pawn Stars and the other is American Pickers. Both have a historical element that I find interesting. I’ve also watched a couple of food reality shows with my wife like Restaurant Impossible featuring ex-Royal Navy guy Robert Irvine tearing down crummy restaurants and rebuilding them within 48 hours.


So when I heard that Duck Dynasty was the number one reality show (almost 12 million viewers) I really didn’t care. It seemed like an odd idea to have a show about a bunch of Louisiana bearded boys that had something to do with ducks. I figured it was a fad and would soon pass. But it seems like it gets more popular every season and so I began to wonder what was the big deal.

Then I happened to catch Fox’s The Five‘s interview with Willie Robertson, the C.E.O. of Duck Dynasty. The Five proceeded to ask Willie questions about the show and about his politics and Willie came across as the ultimate and articulate gentleman and basic all around good guy. Even Beckel could not find anything nasty to say about him other than he hoped Willie would not run for Congress because he’d just be another right-winger in the Republican Party.

I really didn’t get much of an idea of what the show was all about. I grasped that the bearded ones were Christians and actually prayed on air and that they modeled family values and that the show was funny but still didn’t know what it was about exactly until I read a column by Doug Giles from Clash Daily.

It was these two paragraphs from Doug’s column that made me want to check out Duck Dynasty:

You just know that kind of success has got to make miserable the dainty, little, progressive crowd who are trying legislatively and culturally to peel America away from the pro-God-and-country values that the cast of Duck Dynasty showcases with hairy-chinned hilarity.

Indeed, without a sex tape; without shoving transvestites down our throats; without lauding rank, familial dysfunctionalism; or parading feral children of the corn, or mocking God, or having sex on camera for their grandparents to see, or selling moonshine, or being naked and afraid, or having their children yell, “F— you!” at their parents during church, America has voted with their time and with their cash that they would rather watch the Duck Commanders move through their day than watch the cultural chum slick that Hollywood dishes up, ad nauseum, et infinitum.

So, having found out exactly what Duck Dynasty was not I decided to tune in to see what it was. My wife and I watched two episodes from last year as A & E geared up to start the new season last week.

The first episode was about the Duck Commanders (the guys that worked in the shop) planning and making the world’s largest duck call. That’s when I finally I got the duck thing. They manufacture duck calls and it’s a family business. OK, I can be slow on the uptake!

The plot line was simple as they went through their day over coming obstacles and personalities in their quest to produce the world’s largest duck call at 4 1/2 feet in length! The show was funny, clean, and everything else so much of television is not just like Giles said.

The second episode we watched was even more amusing as well as a little touching. The wives of the three brothers led by Willie’s wife Korie decide to give Willie’s parents the wedding they never had 48 years before. Apparently, 48 years ago the parents (Phil and Miss Kate) were married by  the Justice of the Peace and never had a church wedding with a reception.

The brother’s and employees are not excited about the idea but the women will not be deterred and rope the men into doing all the heavy lifting while at least some would rather be fishing. I can identify with the fishing. Let’s see, go fishing or plan a wedding? Hmmmm, I’ll take fishing.

The group diverts Phil and Miss Kate away from the wedding preparation as odd (Vietnam Veteran) Uncle Si takes  the couple for a trip down memory lane. It was funny.

The Robertson’s oldest son is a pastor and he “marries” his parents in a brief touching ceremony at the end while the Robertson clan and friends look on. Miss Kate tells how she loved Phil since she was fourteen-years-old and while he was apparently quite the jerk for quite a while he was and had been for a number of years the  best husband ever. Phil said as much in his speech about being a jerk in his earlier years as he expressed his ever lasting love for Miss Kate.

In our era of throw-away marriages their speeches were a powerful testimony to the grace of God working in their lives. Again. this is not something you would usually see come out of the cesspool of Hollywood.

I’m not going to say Duck Dynasty is the type of thing I must see. I will say that if it’s on and I’m home I’d tune it in if for no other reason than to see something that is truly counter-cultural.

The Limits of Hero Worship_Ryan Braun

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One of the old Milwaukee Braves owned a home not too far from my parents house in the early 1960’s. Whenever his  name was mentioned my mother would say something like, “he drinks too much.” The man and some of the other Braves had a reputation for drinking heavily and that was one of my mom’s pet peeves. Mom had a brother who was alcoholic and that partially explains her disdain for heavy drinkers.

In her own way mom taught me limits  to hero-worship. Admire the Milwaukee Braves as a baseball team and their performance on the field but don’t admire them to the point of thinking that heavy drinking is a good thing.

Milwaukee Braves logo (1953–1956)

Milwaukee Braves logo (1953–1956) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, the Braves  left Milwaukee at the end of the 1965 season and frankly it took me a while to warm up to the Milwaukee Brewers but by the late 70’s they were my team to follow.

By the 80’s there were a few scandals emerging from the Brewers. Everyone seemed to know who did drugs and I don’t mean the performance enhancing variety, Eventually some of the more notable Brewers came forward and admitted their drug problems and sought treatment.

Milwaukee Brewers

Again, there was an evident limit to admiring our home-town heroes.

The commonality between the heavy drinking Braves and the drug-addicted Brewers is that each vice did nothing for their careers. In fact, if anything, their addictions harmed their careers. They simply were seeking pleasure and drugs and alcohol were the means to obtain it.

Today Major League Baseball has a huge credibility problem as well-known players are busted time and time again for using performance enhancing drugs.  The Milwaukee Brewer’s star player, Ryan Braun, lied about it for over a year and finally came clean after he became boxed in by irrefutable evidence.

It remains to be seen if Braun can rehabilitate his career. He might at some level if he hits a lot of home runs without the drugs and becomes an anti-drug crusader. People tend to be forgiving of home town heroes, not-so-much if they are on the visiting team!

Why do gifted athletes like Braun do it? Why risk their careers for better stats?

I suppose it’s the fame. It’s an insatiable demand to be the home town hero no matter what it takes. Fame becomes a god that the player seeks to control, but the god actually controls him.

My mom’s counsel was more practical than spiritual. It doesn’t mean it  was useless counsel, it just meant don’t admire baseball players too much and don’t follow them in their vices.

The take away for the biblical Christian is certainly in tune with mom’s advice but it’s also more. Christians can be slaves to their gods just as any athlete can be slaves to theirs. Put whatever label on it you want. Fame, power, control, pleasure, comfort, self-esteem, etc., they all add up to false gods that can control our lives.

If Jesus is not on the throne of our lives then some other god will be.

I, like many other Milwaukee fans admired Braun and believed him for a long time. Yet, his fall is not surprising, because I know as a pastor, biblical counselor and fellow human being we all have feet of clay.

My prayer for Braun is not that he recover and hit a lot of home runs and become an anti-drug crusader. Braun’s greatest need is that Jesus finds him. (For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 ESV)

Jesus is the only hero worth following to the fullest.

No Longer Following The Following


What do Charles Manson, Jim Jones and Adolf Hitler have in common?

On the most basic level they [had] the ability to gather a following willing to do whatever was commanded. And evil is what was commanded.

And so it is with Fox’s new show, The Following starring a couple of fine actors, Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy.

James Purefoy and Kevin Bacon

James Purefoy and Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon is the “good guy” as Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent, currently disabled with a heart pace maker, called back into service to hunt down a second time, James Purefoy , “the bad guy” as Joe Carroll. Carroll is a serial killer, college professor, who while in prison manages to create a social network of fellow killers via the prison library’s computer. His followers are known as The Following.

Got all that?

There is more, perhaps a lot more as the writer’s have created a series like 24 in its ability to deliver a tense cliffhanger. Bacon and Purefoy are excellent in their respective roles.

The show’s main premise is that the Purefoy character seems to exist for the sole purpose of tormenting Bacon with his following because Bacon is the one guy who figured him out. It is on that level a psychological thriller as the two play mind games with one another. Purefoy, has the advantage because no one knows exactly how many are following him and therefore Bacon and the FBI are learning no one can be trusted. The show is frequently tense and I’m guessing will be a hit.

The series started with Purefoy escaping from prison as one of his followers, a prison guard, brutally murders 1/2 dozen other prison guards. Bacon is called out of retirement to track him down. Purefoy spends his escape by hunting down one of his previous victims who got away from him the first time due to Bacon’s timely intervention. The shocker is that Purefoy succeeds as Bacon fails to rescue the young woman.

The incident seems to set the pace as more potential victims are discovered. At times the FBI hero arrives in the nick of time but other times not thus creating the tension of who will survive and who will be killed by The Following next.

Revenge on Kevin Bacon is Purefoy’s motive. After Purefoy’s incarceration Bacon has an affair with Purefoy’s ex-wife thus creating further tension between the characters. Part of The Following kidnap Purefoy’s son to hurt the ex-wife and Bacon. The trio behind the plot is a weird menage-a-trios of two homosexual men and one woman who proves that both are not exclusively homosexual.

I should point out that much of each episode consists of flashbacks via Ryan Hardy’s point of view.

The show has something in common with 24 other than the weekly cliffhanger. The Bacon character, Ryan Hardy is not unlike Jack Bauer who bears the burden of trying to save people. He takes it personally when he cannot. In one scene he breaks the fingers of Purefoy just as Jack Bauer would have in his quest for justice or information that would save lives.

Ryan is as troubled as Jack Bauer too. He fears re-establishing his relationship with Carroll’s ex-wife although he loves her and her him. Hardy is also a bit like Bauer in that he is willing to disobey his superiors and go off the grid to pursue leads. The FBI, for their part, with one exception, look at Hardy as a bit of a head case with a pace maker just as CTU started to see Jack Bauer as a loose cannon (that they needed).

What The Following does not have in common with 24 is the gruesome violence.

The Following has the earmarks of a weird religious cult. Joe Carroll was the Professor of English Literature who has a fascination with Poe and “death as art.” Carroll’s followers are taken in by his “charm” and intelligence and eager to reproduce the killings that Carroll performed on his 14 victims. The  Following’s victims are sadistically murdered as the following seek to imitate their master. The scenes are terrifying and gruesome though not always ritualistic. The Following or most so far seem devoid of any semblance of conscience, thus mirroring the likes of any current mass murderer.

The Following often goes further than 24 in the blood and gore department. In that sense, it has more in common with a slasher movie than a purely psychological thriller. The scenes are scary and intentionally so, thus proving Stephen King’s axiom that people like to be scared (as long as they know they are not personally in danger).

The Following main cast. Good guys are on the right, bad guys on the left.

The Following main cast. Good guys are on the right, bad guys on the left.

In this way death becomes a spectator sport and at least for my wife and I unsettling. Last week she said to me, “how many nuts will copy this?”

So, why did we decide not to follow The Following despite the fine acting and cliffhanger aspects of the show?

If you asked my wife she’s probably say it’s too intense, too graphic and too unsettling and that would be reason enough. I would not disagree. I seriously question the pushing of the violence envelope in order to shock. We’ve come a long way from Hitchcock’s psychological thrillers.

On a deeper level in a series with spiritual over tones the series is superficial. Depending on who is doing the viewing each of the main characters is a savior of sorts. For The Following Carroll represents something more than their mundane and ordinary lives can provide. Carroll is the cult-like figure with superior intelligence that is also charming and mesmerizing,

The Following have a chance to be “someone” and claim 15 minutes of fame by doing Carroll’s bidding. An often repeated line is “pleasing Joe.” The Following do what they do to “please Joe” even if pleasing Joe means committing suicide. In other words, the Carroll character gives The Following purpose and hope. The theme is demonic without overtly saying so.

The Ryan Hardy character is a savior figure too. His goal is save others from The Following. Often times he fails and evil triumphs. While Hardy is the good guy he really does not provide any hope beyond surviving the next attack.

And that is what is the most unsettling to me. The show does not provoke any deeper thinking in my opinion, such as the where does evil come from and how are people taken in by charismatic figures? Even the Walking Dead another show that can be a gore fest does provoke some thinking with the various moral dilemmas survivors of a zombie apocalypse face. In fact, one advertising blurb for the Walking Dead is, Fight the Dead, Fear the Living thus making a great point about mankind.

I am hard pressed to find anything redeeming about The Following other than just “stopping the bad guy and his following.” Man’s depravity is on full display as well as relative good and malevolent evil without much of a context. I realize the series is not supposed to be a theological treatise and that its main purpose is to entertain. I get that.

I just simply do want to invest my “entertainment” time in a series that is so dark, so malevolent that it seems to lack any redeeming purpose at all.

And that’s the way I see it or in this case see it no longer.

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