Category Archives: Pop Culture/Entertainment

Constantly Buzzed: Teens & Technology

As the school year wraps up, I’m reminded of my youth pastor days. Here’s a repost from 2009. 

I’m typing this blog from my laptop while text messaging, checking my email, listening to my Ipod, updating my Twitter and sipping an iced mocha. I’m totally wired and buzzed — both from caffeine and all the electrical cords juicing all my gadgets. Just another over-stimulated day in the “technopolis” of the 21st century world.

As I wrap up another year of high school ministry one thing is for certain: teenagers are too busy, involved in too many things, trying to please too many people—all this while trapped in a fast-paced, over-stimulated world of hypertechnology and seeing no easy way out of this vast web of over-connectivity.

I’m researching the power of culture and media technology in preparation for two messages I’m giving this weekend to senior high students at a missions retreat. I’m speaking on the topic of “Discipleship of the Mind” based on the popular movie trilogy, “The Matrix.” The book I’m reading is A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture by Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor. Here’s some insights from the chapter I’m currently reading.

Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Age of Access, notes, “The techno gurus promised us that instant access would lighten our loads and give us back more time. Is it possible, instead, that the nanosecond culture is enslaving us in a web of ever-accelerating connections from which there seems to be no escape?” Continue reading Constantly Buzzed: Teens & Technology

Good Night David Letterman

Tonight is David Letterman’s final show.

I remember when I first started watching Letterman. It was around 1993 and I was about 14 years old and spending the week at my cousin Tasha’s house. That week we watched him every night and I was hooked for the rest of my high school days.

I had a funny bedtime routine as a teenager. I would pour a huge bowl of Musselman’s apple sauce, go to my room and watch Letterman while inhaling apple sauce. I would then do as many push-ups as I could during each commercial break. I credit my record breaking basketball career to this bedtime formula…especially any upper body strength I imagined I once had! Haha. (Ask my mom how she kept us stocked with applesauce when I went through a big jar every 2 nights!)

Its a strange kind of tribute that David Letterman was the last face I saw before I turned out the lights most nights back then. I probably should have been going to bed earlier but I think laughter is equally good for one’s health.

These were the “glory days” of musical taste development — the mid-90s!  I remember setting the VCR to tape performances by Dave Matthews Band, R.E.M., Blues Traveler, Pearl Jam, and others. I watched those old videos well into college and still pull them out in nostalgic moods.

Now, I drifted away from Letterman in the 2000s and have not watched him for many years now. But he was my late night funny man of choice those formative years. I’ve been watching some throwback footage these past weeks as his show comes to a close, and I’ve been reminded just how funny and brilliant he was in his prime. (See a classic old bit with Rupert Jee annoying people below.)

Thanks for all the bed time laughs, push-up inspiration and helping me put down all those bowls of apple sauce.

So, for the last time, good night David Letterman!

MOVIE REVIEW: “Stranger Than Fiction” (2006)

51yko5ot8ll_sl5001Repost from 2009. -JB

I just watched “Stranger Than Fiction” again starring Will Ferrell.  I thought the movie and story was alright – nothing too special. But I absolutely LOVE the idea that drives this movie.  If you haven’t seen the movie, here is the summary from the back of the case:

Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, a lonely IRS agent whose mundane existence is transformed when he hears a mysterious voice narrating his life. With the help of Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold discovers he’s the main character in a novel-in-progress and that the voice belongs to Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an eccentric author famous for killing her main characters in creative ways.  Harold must quickly track down Eiffel and stop her before she conjures up a way to finish him off.

The parallels and contrasts between this silly story and the True Story of God and humanity as revealed in Scripture are quite profound.  Let me just share a few observations.

SIGNIFICANT CONTRASTS

1. The author of Harold’s story is evil and seeks to find a creative ways to kill her characters.  In God’s Story the characters tend to find creative ways of bringing about their own destruction, but God in His infinite love and mercy finds a way to rescue them from death!

2. While Harold must hurriedly track down the Author before time runs out, in God’s Story it is the Author who relentlessly pursues His prodigal characters before it is too late.

BIBLICAL PARALLELS

1. We are indeed living in a story driven by a particular plot, with God as the primary author and ourselves as one character among many others.  Waking up to this reality is one of the most significant moments of one’s life.  The sooner we find our place in this larger story, the more meaningful our lives will be.

2.  Far too many people today find their lives as lonely and mundane as Harold Crick, the IRS agent.  Many of us, like Harold, will only find real meaning, significance and purpose when we begin to hear the still, small voice of the narrator trying to get our attention amidst all the noise of our daily shuffle.

3. Harold’s future hangs in the balance and is dependent upon whether or not he can find the author of his story and make peace with her.  Our future hope also hangs in the balance and depends on whether or not we can make peace with our Author.

4. While it is a bit of a stretch, Professor Hilbert plays the role of the mediator who helps the confused, scared Harold make sense of the plot he’s in and connect him with the author of his story.  God’s Story is full of prophets, pastors, teachers and ultimately Jesus himself who function as mediators between lost souls and the Author, unfolding the plot and bringing us back into relationship with God.

If you want to pursue this concept of “Narrative Theology” further I would recommend the small book and DVD called Epic: Discover the Story God is Telling by John Eldredge.  One of his opening lines is that “life often feels like a movie you’ve shown up for 40 minutes late; something important seems to be going on but you’re not quite sure what.”  I am taking our high school group through the Epic curriculum for the next 5 weeks exploring our place within God’s Big Story.  Check it out the trailer below:

MOVIE REVIEW: Jesus Went “The Green Mile”

the_green_mileA repost from a few years back in remembrance of Michael Clark Duncan’s passing this year. -JB

It’s already been 10 years since the release of The Green Mile (1999). The Stephen King film stars Tom Hanks as a Death row guard and the massively large and mysteriously gifted prisoner named John Coffey played by Michael Clark Duncan. I finally saw it for the first time this weekend at the request of one of my youth group boys who has been powerfully moved by the Christian themes found throughout.

Here’s a general plot summary:

“Paul Edgecomb is a slightly cynical veteran prison guard on Death row in the 1930’s. His faith, and sanity, deteriorated by watching men live and die, Edgecomb is about to have a complete turn around in attitude. Enter John Coffey, He’s eight feet tall. He has hands the size of waffle irons. He’s been accused of the murder of two children… and he’s afraid to sleep in a cell without a night-light. And Edgecomb, as well as the other prison guards – Brutus, a sympathetic guard, and Percy, a stuck up, perverse, and violent person, are in for a strange experience that involves intelligent mice, brutal executions, and the revelation about Coffey’s innocence and his true identity.” Written by Kadi Lynnith

On a basic level this movie presents the difficulty for some to believe in the miraculous. At a much deeper level what comes through very clearly — even to the casual observer — is the obvious similarities between John Coffey and Jesus Christ as depicted especially in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Here are some of the strongest parallels between Christ and Coffey:

  • John Coffey is a hated and despised man, rejected and unwanted because of his race, reputation and size. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
  • John Coffey is a striking blend of power and might clothed with Jesus-like meekness and gentleness. He’s 8 feet tall with barrels for biceps yet afraid of the dark and wouldn’t hurt a fly. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory” (Isaiah 42:3).
  • He has the ability to see what’s inside people’s hearts. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

I Wonder What Sort of a Tale We’ve Fallen Into?

I’m preparing a sermon this Sunday playing off some of the biblical themes in The Hobbit. Below is my favorite conversation from The Lord of The Rings. Friends, these stories of Middle-Earth are only a pale shadow of the real adventure that God calls us into. It’s an epic story and we have a major part to play if we’ll only wake up and discover God’s intended plot for our life — and give up the pathetic story of the American Dream that lulls so many into a dull life of mere self-preservation and comfort-seeking. We were created for so much more!

My life was forever changed the day I stopped to ask the hobbit’s question: What sort of a tale had I fallen into. Answer: God’s unfolding masterpiece — and it’s been an epic journey ever since. Enjoy this conversation! -JB

“The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”

“I wonder,” said Frodo. “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.” …

“I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!’ And they’ll say: ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?’ ‘Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.’” …

“Why, Sam,” Frodo said, “to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you’ve left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. ‘I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn’t they put in more of his talk, dad? That’s what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad?’”

“Now, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, “you shouldn’t make fun. I was serious.”

“So was I,” said Frodo, “and so I am.”

SEE VIDEO CLIP HERE

Socrates & I: Corrupting the Youth

socrates

I’m reposting an oldie but goodie from several years back. -JB

These days, teachers in the news facing charges of “corrupting the youth” are usually repeat sex offenders. But did you know that the great philosopher, Socrates (469-399 B. C.), was also charged, convicted and ultimately executed for “corrupting the youth”? Socrates’ mode of “corruption” however was of an entirely different kind. At his trial, Socrates’ (in Plato’s account) explains the nature of his so-called “crime”:

“I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul.”

When given the option of acquittal on the basis that he stop teaching this “subversive” philosophy, he responds as follows: Continue reading Socrates & I: Corrupting the Youth

Halloween and the Sexualization of Evil

Here’s a repost from many years back. -JB

“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).

Christians have always had a tough time with Halloween. The danger usually associated with the message of Halloween was its association with the occult — the glorification and celebration of evil, death, Satan, witchcraft, blood-sucking vampires and the like.

Clearly the people called to “live in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7) have no business dabbling in this sort of darkness. Christians living in the bright new day of the Resurrected Son are called to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12).

I have always appreciated C. S. Lewis’ balanced approach to the topic of Satan and the forces of darkness, warning that: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

So, reasonable and balanced Christians and church leaders have attempted to recognize the real evil standing behind the folk religion of Americanized, materialized, sugar-laden Halloween by offering alternatives to dressing up as goblins, witches and vampires.  The Harvest Party and other family-friendly gatherings that celebrate the true Light’s victory over the powers of darkness have provided alternatives to trick-or-treating.  (Read Ben Witherington on “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?”)

Well, one wonders if even the creative mind of C. S. Lewis who wrote at length from the point of view of the “devils” in The Screwtape Letters could have anticipated the sneaky way our culture (or the Devil) would try to put a new spin — or sexy veneer — over the dark focus of Halloween’s evil under layer.  Lewis has the senior Devil named Screwtape write to Wormwood, his devil in training, instructing him on how to try to keep humans (called “patients”) from even believing in their existence (since they can do more harm when their “patient” is  unaware of them):

“I don’t think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.”

Well, take a trip to the nearest Halloween Costume Outlet store today and you will find that old Screwtape and his junior devils have taken it a step further. You would have to be blind or living in a cave somewhere to not have noticed the trend in costumes the past several years.

The cultural forces at work (driven by the sexual forces within) have managed to add an entirely new kind of darkness and evil to the traditional favorites.  I speak of the overt sexualization of Halloween costumes. Continue reading Halloween and the Sexualization of Evil