Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2017

If This is Hipster Christianity, The Church is in Trouble

Filed under: Christianity, culture, media — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 am

I will be the first to admit that not everything that appears on my computer screen in the course of a year is G rated. A few things might not even be PG-13. I tend to censor violence more than sex, but the latter has its limits; too far and we’ve crossed the line into p0rn0graphy. As for swearing, I find 99% of it unnecessary.

But nudity, sex and coarse language were what was on offer in the first episode of a 32-minute HBO series we tracked down and watched on Thursday night.

Why did we watch it?

It was the subject of a four-page spread in the current print of Relevant Magazine.

Of interest to Relevant were two things. First the setup: The key character is a former youth pastor who gets into stand-up comedy who discovers his wife is having an affair. Right away we see a conflict between the guy’s still-Christian worldview contrasted with what his wife has become and what the people in his profession already were. The second thing the magazine found interesting were a couple of clips where the same person is driving in New York listening to audio sermons by Joel Osteen.

I can see that from Relevant’s perspective the latter was a bit of a curiosity piece. It deserved one of those one-paragraph mentions in a sidebar toward the back, where the magazine offers a large variety of reviews of books, movies and music from both mainstream entertainment and Christian subculture.

But not four pages.

Furthermore, because the series is based on the actor’s real life, my wife wondered what the real life cheating spouse in the story would have to say about the manner in which she is portrayed. I trust the producers got her to sign a waiver.

I like Relevant. I often will check out their music reviews and then go to YouTube and listen to the solo artists and bands they feature. From that, I get to listen to some trending new music I might otherwise be oblivious to. I appreciate the book and movie reviews as well.

This was not that.

It was a four-page feature.

I really hope that in subsequent episodes of the series, there is something redemptive here that justifies the opener. I just would hate for anyone to be watching this because of a perception that Relevant had “recommended” it to readers.


I contacted Relevant Magazine online early Friday for a response but they did not reply.

 

 

April 25, 2017

The Modern Church Dilemma: People Belonging Before They Believe

Filed under: Faith, family, media, reviews — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:55 am

Movie Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

It’s become a recurring theme: Someone wants to help out at church but their spiritual status is not-yet-arrived, ambiguous, or hard to authenticate. Parking lot duty? Not a big issue; but many seeking an avenue of service are looking at the platform; so many of these requests involve music ministry or something related.

That’s what’s at the heart of the movie The Resurrection of Gavin Stone which after a brief theatrical run is now releasing on DVD. In this case, the protagonist is looking to be involved with the church’s annual drama production. His theology is sketchy, to put it kindly. But in addition to being very good at acting, he’s also a former child star still possessing considerable name recognition.

The director isn’t really torn. She sees this as not conforming to the requirement that platform participants share a testimony of life change through Jesus Christ. But the senior pastor, who also happens to be her father, is more open to the possibility that God is offering the church a rare opportunity to do something which will both bless the actor and bless the church.

So for the first premise-introducing one-third of the film it’s a simple matter of laying out the plot. During the next third, my attitude was, “This isn’t that bad.” But by the final third of the movie they had won me over. Even my wife who is usually a tough critic when it comes to Christian cinema was very positive toward the film.

It wasn’t the authenticity of the portrayal of the various characters, though that was extremely good. It wasn’t the realism of the sets and location shots, though they were well done. Rather, it was the genuine nature of the problem; namely that churches we know are wrestling with this issue all the time now and someone has finally fleshed this out in a screenplay.

Fans of The Middle on ABC-TV will recognize Neil Flynn who plays Gavin Stone’s father. Tangential perhaps, but interesting that Middle co-star Patricia Heaton has been a force behind Affirm Films. Not so tangential was my wife’s comparison between The Resurrection of Gavin Stone and Heaton’s Moms Night Out. Worldwide rights for this picture however were purchased by WWE Studios, and wrestler Shawn Michaels has a significant role in this picture as well.

In the first few minutes, we recognized a hallway from Harvest Bible Chapel’s Elgin, Illinois campus where much of the filming took place. Again, it’s entirely plausible that a church like Harvest would face a dilemma such as what to do with Gavin Stone.

At the end of the day, this is a romantic comedy. While ecclesiastic nerds like myself might get lost in the doctrinal quandaries of qualifications for service, you don’t have to be a regular church attender or even a Christian at all to get the tension in the plot.

Which is, come to think of it, exactly what the movie is all about.

 

April 20, 2017

How Do You Spell Determination?

There’s an audio clip at the end of this post which may or may not interest some of you. What I want to focus on is not only what’s on that 16-minute audio but also how it came to be there.

The bookstore my wife and I own inadvertently sponsored a YouTube channel. I mean that in the sense that we wanted to call it “The Lost Song Collection” and post songs from the Jesus Music era, a term referencing the days before CCM was called Contemporary Christian Music. Things nobody else had posted. Things sourced from vinyl records. But before we knew what we were doing, the channel had been named after the bookstore and it was too much of a hassle to change it.

One of the things we posted there was a demo of a Christian radio show from that time period, “A Joyful Noise” by Frank Edmondson under the on-air name Paul Baker. But I also wanted to include another I owned, “The Rock That Never Rolls” with Dale Yancy aka Brother Dale.

This was a demo of a Christian radio show from the ’70s that would be scheduled on non-Christian radio stations which at the time had obligations to include public service or religious content, but didn’t want to lose their regular listeners with programming that was uncool. Program demos like this did not include songs, or if they did, the songs were “telescoped” to allow station Program Directors to hear a variety of content in a short time. The show originated in Burlington, VT.

At the time this was produced, the show was airing in Chicago, Montreal, San Diego, Raleigh, Tulsa, Cincinnati, Dallas, Nashville and Honolulu. The show included interviews, comedy, music and mock commercials. It was sent to me back in the day because we were hoping to find a way to bring the show to Ontario. I really wish there were more shows like this today, though Brant Hansen’s work comes to mind.

I looked high and low for my copy of this. It had been sent to me on a five-inch reel-to-reel in a box with a bright green sticker, but I couldn’t locate it, and wasn’t sure what I would do anyway, since the R2R machine has been sitting under my desk unused for 25+ years.

But I knew I had a cassette of it, which, thanks to a flooded basement, we found last week. The problem was, the cassette was jammed and then broke. Fortunately, my wife is very determined.

First, she tried to loosen up the tape in the cassette housing, and when that didn’t work she broke the tape free of the plastic case. At that point I thought the project was doomed. Then she tried to spool the tape off so she could load it into another case, but it kept sticking. So she soaked the tape in water to loosen it up and then spooled the cassette tape on to an empty film canister, and then reloaded into the other housing, sealed the case and placed it in a cassette player and converted it to digital. There are some skips where part of the new cassette continued to jam, but the overall sound quality is surprisingly good for something which survived a flood.

There are probably archaeologists who haven’t gone to as much trouble to reconstruct a relic as Ruth did to restore this. Or crime scene investigators. (Please do not start mailing us your problem cassettes.) I wish we’d taken some pictures.

My wife hates to back down from a fight. And she knew it meant a lot to me. That’s the main thing; she knew it would make me happy. So she took a half day to attempt what I considered impossible. And she knew that if I thought the radio show was all that interesting, someone else might as well. 

I guess radio shows like this really mattered to me back then. While radio isn’t a force in either evangelism or introducing new music as it once was, this represented a golden age for what was then Jesus Music. You never knew who was listening and stories abounded of people who credit their life turnaround to randomly tuning the AM or FM dial.

So how do I spell determination? R-u-t-h. She pulled it off after all. I should never have doubted!

Sit back and travel back in time and enjoy, The Rock That Never Rolls: The Sound of Eternity…

The video ends with some classic KYMS radio jingles which were on the end of the cassette.

April 4, 2017

Zondervan’s “Secular” Ownership is a Blessing, Not a Curse

This fictitious logo was created when Zondervan and Thomas Nelson became one under HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

It was a Christian bookstore that was a million miles off most people’s radar and we found it somewhat by chance. Subsequent searching failed to turn it up in a directory of such establishment, or even the Yellow Pages for that matter. Stocking a mixture of English and foreign language products, it had a ‘Mom and Pop’ type of vibe, though a rather large stockroom suggested it was a mix of wholesale and retail.

I got talking to the manager as I browsed, told him of my industry connection, and noted that he didn’t seem to have any Zondervan books or Bibles in his English section.

“We don’t carry them;” he said; “They’re owned by HarperCollins and HarperCollins prints The Satanic Bible.”

End of discussion.

Well, not quite; he didn’t realize what he was taking on here.

It’s true that under its Avon imprint, the company does carry the Anton Le Vey version of that title — there are many books that use the same moniker — but the sole paperback edition at 9.99US/12.50CDN hardly seems worth considering when compared to the over 6,000 titles Zondervan has, not to mention another 900+ under Zonderkidz and let’s not forget at least another 6,500 published under the Thomas Nelson banner. Add in some smaller labels and the ratio is about 14,000:1.

Still, if he were raising the question today, he could have added that HarperOne currently has a chart-topping title in the Self Improvement category by Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. And let’s not forget Charles Silverstein’s The Joy of Gay Sex (Third Edition).

It’s all dowhill from there; this information is generally used as a basis for attacking the NIV Bible, because those attacks are generally a house of cards theologically, and need some other external reason to exist. The discussion at an Amazon forum on this is always amusing:

C. Goff: I applaud Hapercollins for respecting free speech and publishing books that offer a variety of perspectives.  Perhaps Evangelicals should pool their money and buy an island somewhere, so they can live together in their own theocratic fantasy land. Then they won’t be corrupted by so many sinners who like to think for themselves.

Be Still: Ummm….we did “buy” an island. It was call America, but not look at whats happened because so many people were left to their own “thinking”. Rest assured, corruption commeth from both inside and outside the church. God is the only one good. Not any human.

It goes on and on — there and elsewhere — but I think Joshua really sums up one side of the argument:

Zonderman [sic] is owned by HarperCollins (Satanic Bible, 90% of witchcraft published in world, NIV) which is owned by the devil and Knight of Malta Rupert Murdoch and a Knight of Malta is the first protector of the Antichrist the Pope of the Roman Catholic whore of Babylon church. Jimmy Savile the UK mass child murderer (and mentor of the wife murderer Prince Charles – his other mentor Mountbatten was also a child rapist and a sodomite) is also a Knight of Malta and buried in a Roman Catholic Church in Leeds – he was given a full freemason funeral service. At the 33 degree freemasons receive an Iron cross with a medallion under it and around the medallion is written in Latin: ‘the holy see’ – the Freemason head is the Antichrist – why? – because Freemasonry is also known as the CRAFT and God said in his true and only gospel the King James 1611 bible: Dan 8:25 And through his policy also HE SHALL CAUSE CRAFT TO PROSPER IN HIS HAND; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

Yikes!

But as the chart below shows, there are a very large number of Christian publishing imprints which have secular ownership.

You don’t want to know about Christian record labels, either. This chart of Christian music market share is from 2014, but not much has changed:

So this is a bad situation, right? That depends on your preconceived biases going into the discussion.

  • Many of the people making the argument are KJV-only, looking for a reason to attack the NIV which, of all the other translations, has always had a target painted on its back.
  • Most of the people making the argument would find a way to reject the ministry of all of the company’s top authors including Rick Warren, Anne Graham Lotz, Lee Strobel, Charles Stanley, Philip Yancey, Henry Cloud, etc. (I will concur, Yancey’s hair could disqualify him from being a Christian.)

But allowing some of these people their fifteen minutes of fame, if Harper’s parent company NewsCorp is basically evil, why would they want to own an imprint like Zondervan?

They bought the company because it looked to them to be a profitable business. They’re in the book business. They wanted to expand. In publishing there are sports books, and cookbooks and science fiction and host of genres of which religious publishing is but one. Furthermore, with a unique arrangement between the company and their printer, mega corporation R.R. Donnelley, they can bring an efficiency to Zondervan’s publishing that can only improve that bottom line.

But what’s in it for Zondervan? They get access not only to HarperCollins’ expertise, but also a distribution channel that brings access to a host of markets they might not otherwise tap: Gift stores, airport boutiques, and foreign market sales just to name a few.

How best to keep your “Christian division” profitable? Leave them alone! Let their acquisitions and marketing people operate with autonomy. Let them do what they do best in a business that they know and understand best.

Back to my discussion with the store manager. What would I say to him differently if we were having the discussion today in 2017.

I’d probably tell him to look no further than the rollout of the new Christian Standard Bible. Happening right now we have a Bible being brought to market by Holman, a division of B&H Publishing, which is a division of LifeWay which was founded back in 1891, and yet they are bringing the new Bible to market a few editions at a time because they don’t have the resources to do it any other way.

However, Zondervan, when they rolled out the 2011 update to the NIV was able to bring hundreds of editions and formats on the same day because they had a parent company who was able to bankroll the whole thing. Furthermore instead of “running out” the older editions, most were remaindered within weeks of the conversion.

Projects like this would simply be a dream if were not for the resources of a major corporation backing them. It also means that these Bible editions are able to reach people in ways that simply wouldn’t happen if the company were still independent.

When you look at the big picture, you have to see this relationship as a blessing, not a curse. In terms of propagating the message of Jesus Christ and building the Kingdom of God, the partnership is a win-win-win.

 

April 3, 2017

Pushing the Envelope of Decency

Filed under: Christianity, media, parenting — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:09 am

Archie Andrews is sleeping with Miss Grundy.

For those familiar with the original comic, this may take a moment to digest, but Netflix’s new “Riverdale” series offers a very different take on the original.

So begins a March 15 article by Ryan Moffatt which appeared in the English editions of The Epoch Times under the title “‘Riverdale’ oversteps boundaries better left alone.” The piece is half information, half editorial, and it’s only out of respect to blog ethics that I don’t reproduce it in its entirety.

The series premiered on January 26th on the CW network. One look at the trailer and you almost want to conclude that the similarity between this and the classic Archie comics is simply a coincidence. But the setting and the character names are the same. An article by Tony Wong in the Toronto Star begins:

In the town of Riverdale, Archie Andrews is brawnier than Moose Mason. Jughead is a cynic. Veronica has lost all her money. And Betty has serious mental health issues. And yes, there is a dead body.

So same characters, but as the trailer indicates, one-to-one correspondences end there. In a video interview, actor Cole Sprouse who plays Jughead describes the production as “film noir.” In another interview, the sexuality of the character is discussed:

One of the biggest speculations in anticipation of the series has to do with Jughead’s sexuality. In one of the newer Archie comics, it is revealed that Jughead is asexual – which means that he doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Fans of the comics have been wondering if that aspect of the character’s identity would carry over into Riverdale as well.

Cole tells Teen Vogue that he “did a lot of research” on asexuality as soon as he got the role, but notes that season 1 of Riverdale ultimately will not explicitly be the story of Jughead’s asexuality…

But Cole understands that representation matters – and that it means the world to young people to be able to see characters who are a reflection of themselves. With that in mind, he tells Teen Vogue that he is fighting for Jughead’s sexual identity to become highlighted in future episodes. “I hope that huge corporations like the CW recognize that this kind of representation is rare and severely important to people who resonate with it,” he says, “That demands representation. It would be a wonderful thing if that were the case.”

So why play the Archie connection in the first place? Much of the target audience wasn’t around for the original versions of Archie and Jughead. Why not:

  • Use the characters to inspire a new series, but do so covertly, with a different location and character names, never mentioning the source of the inspiration.  Or,
  • Just write an original series.

At The Verge, Megan Farokhmanesh compares the series to The Vampire Diaries.  Concluding a review of the series she writes,

Riverdale doesn’t feel like a spinoff or a brand partnership — it’s a reboot. Archie Comics has chased whatever’s popular, but it turns out teenage dramas were popular all along. They just needed to fit into 2017, not 1967.

Archie’s Christian History

Missing from all the articles however is the Christian connection between Archie and comic artist Al Hartley. Two years ago, in a Wednesday Link List we included this biography found at Lambiek Comiclopedia:

The year 1967 was a big turning point in Hartley’s life, both professional and personal. The last remaining Patsy title ceased publication and his marriage was in trouble. Hartley found answers to his problems in his newly found faith in God. Completely out of work, Hartley found employment by Archie Comics, which he himself thought of as “God’s work”. He injected a lot of his Christian faith into his early Archie work and was eventually told he had to cut back. He began a collaboration with the publisher Fleming H. Revel, who assigned him to do comics adaptations of religious stories like ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’, ‘God’s Smuggler’ and ‘The Hiding Place’. His religious output for Archie also increased with the launch of the Spire Christian Comics series. He co-created new titles as Archie’s One Way and Archie’s Love Scene. In all, he did somewhere around 60 Christian comics, including at least 19 Archie titles, 6 Bible story adaptations, 12 biographical adaptations, 4 other book or movie Adaptations, and 9 children’s Christian comics. Al Hartley was awarded the Inkpot Award at the San Diego Comic Con for his entire oeuvre in 1980. During the 1980s, he wrote and illustrated Christian children’s books and he continued to work for Archie until the mid-1990s.

Contrary to what some believe, Hartley didn’t create the series or the characters. In a Wikipedia article on Archie Comic Publishers, Inc., he’s not even mentioned. But he is associated with the series to many, and would probably not be thrilled with the latest edition of the series on The WB and Netflix.

In an article on Hartley at ChristianComicsInternational, more details are provided:

Hartley and the publishers had what they believed to be a God-given idea — To create completely original comics using the Archie characters. It was, as Hartley put it later, “a fantastic idea for evangelism,” but permission had to come from John Goldwater, president of Archie comics, who was Jewish. Hartley had already cultivated a relationship with Goldwater, enjoyed several conversations about faith with him, and found Goldwater to be “a man of deep moral and spiritual principles.” (John Goldwater was among those who created the Comics Code Authority in 1954 to help control the way sex and violence were portrayed in comics.) Hartley telephoned Goldwater “with an optimism that had to come from God,” and “within one minute” Goldwater had given his approval. Hartley always felt that it was “the Lord’s timing” that they had published The Hiding Place comic just prior to his approaching the Archie publisher, because it had “showed John a side of Christianity that few Jews have seen.”

I just can’t but help wonder how the current television series would impact kids who grew up on the Christian version of the comics. Worst case, some might tune in thinking there is a correspondence to the characters they loved.  Moffat at Epoch Times warns,

Don’t tune in if you are looking for nostalgia; this latest incarnation is sure to shatter any pastoral impressions of teenage life left by the paperback comics.

In the Teen Vogue interview Sprouse tries hard to find the upside:

Ultimately, Cole thinks that fans of the original comics will be extremely satisfied with Riverdale – despite the fact that the new series is noticeably darker than the comics.

However, there’s also this: Isn’t Archie dead? Well, yes and no. In a piece titled “Comics’ Archie dies heroically” CNN reported in July, 2014:

It was one of the most unexpected announcements of the year. In April, Archie Comics released the news that its lead character, Archie Andrews, would die in an upcoming issue of “Life With Archie.” The story won’t affect the overall Archie storylines, as “Life With Archie” takes place in an alternate timeline.

The nature of comic book Archie’s death is interesting, given this discussion, as reported in People:

The famous freckle-faced comic book icon is meeting his demise in Wednesday’s installment of Life with Archie when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. Andrews’ death, which was first announced in April, will mark the conclusion of the series that focuses on grown-up renditions of Andrews and his Riverdale pals.

“The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie,” said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO. “He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. It’s what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years.”

Moral Concerns

I suppose this loose structure gives creators license to do as they wish with Betty, Veronica and the rest of the gang. Literally, nothing is sacred. Moffatt continues,

In the Archie world of yesteryear, Miss Grundy is an old schoolmarm and the polar opposite of adolescent desire. But in the television series she is a young, sultry librarian with a predatory eye for the 15-year-old Archie Andrews. In the alternate “Riverdale” universe, this is just par for the course of young people making very adult decisions.

This Grundy subplot has been described as a “racy” and “forbidden romance,” but there is another phrase more fitting: statutory rape. It’s a term that doesn’t sell nearly as well as “racy” but it is most apt considering the circumstances.

If the genders were reversed in this instance the reaction would be much different…

This is the fare to which a generation of impressionable adolescents is being exposed. Moffatt notes,

There should be legitimate concern when things of this nature creep into mainstream television—making it seem like a teacher having sex with a 15-year-old is par for the course of growing up. The blurred lines between reality and fantasy are getting harder to distinguish when it comes to the societal influence of our entertainment consumption.

The bottom line for the producers of the series is the bottom line. Moffatt:

When the implicit condoning of deviant behaviour makes its way into our entertainment universe, alarm bells should be ringing—and they aren’t. There is a great fascination with the  taboo, an attraction to what is forbidden, and it’s an easy sell when packaged as a teen coming-of-age drama. The entertainment industry is very aware of this and more than happy to oblige our appetites by steadily pushing the envelope of decency. Shocking is only shocking for so long, and the ante needs to be upped.

He also notes that the end results of the downward spiral of decency on television has yet to be seen:

The real issue at play here is that damaging behaviour is being presented as normal to school-age kids, who rely heavily on the digital and entertainment world for the barometers of their moral compass. Unrestrained access to the darker corners of the Internet and the false reality of the digital universe are influencing the minds of teenagers who are forming their perceptions of the world. These perceptions will influence the decisions they make and the rules they abide by as they take their place as members of society…

He concludes:

…The Archie/Miss Grundy relationship treads on some sacred ground. Archie has been a mainstay of Western culture for 80 years now, and the storyline has remained more or less unchanged in its projection of teenage life as a time of innocent misadventure and light-hearted humour.

It is a concern on many levels that this just doesn’t sell anymore.

 

March 30, 2017

Case for Christ Movie is a Must-See on Two Different Levels

You really do need to see this film.

In a world where a proliferation of Christian movies has meant some of us spend as much time at the local theater as we do at church, this one is a cut above.

After getting to see a preview, I took a first-time step of watching it all over again the very next night, finding the second view equally satisfying and engaging as the first. I think the reason was that for me the various elements of the movie worked; that is to say all the pieces of what makes up cinematography that we might not even notice played together here to create a movie that was simply believable. There were few of those caricature or stereotype moments that sometimes mar faith-focused films.

It’s no spoiler to say that this is the real-life story of Lee Strobel, a top investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune, who also happens to hold a law degree, and has a history of taking on some big challenges, including the Ford Pinto scandal. (You can read a 1980 sample in the Trib’s archives.) He’s just been promoted out of street-beat reporting but is about to be called upon to cover a cop shooting, a story that he feels is really beneath him. That story has some interesting parallels to another, second investigation he’s about to launch on his own time.

That side project begins when his wife converts to Christianity through the ministry of an early incarnation — still meeting in a theater at that point — of Willow Creek Community Church. He feels he’s losing her but is confident he can win her back by simply bringing all his investigative skills to bear on proving Christianity in general, and the resurrection of Jesus in particular, to be a complete and utter hoax. While philosophy and theology isn’t his normal beat, he is relentless in his pursuit of credible experts who can handle his checklist of factors in the Christ story that need to be negated. The rest is the apologetics substance of the film.

It was the unexpected relational substance of the film that caught me off-guard. What happens in a marriage when one spouse is a believer and one is not? (It’s around this point that I remembered reading that Zondervan was re-releasing one of Strobel’s few non-apologetic titles, Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage coauthored with wife Leslie.) The portrayal of Leslie Strobel — by an actress whose appearance and mannerisms reminded me so much of Bill Hybels’ daughter Shauna Niequist — is what caused one reviewer to comment as to the authenticity of the portrayal of this neophyte Christ follower; the believability I mentioned earlier.

The rest you need to see. Strobel does not lay down his guns halfway through and commence the ministry with which many of us are familiar. We know him today as the author of other titles in the Case for… series such as The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus and the recent The Case for Grace; but throughout most of the film his life is not headed on that trajectory at all. Disproving Christianity is a fight he truly believes he can win.

This isn’t really a film for the whole family, though teens who face challenges to their faith from fellow students could benefit significantly. Taking a friend, relative, neighbor or coworker who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith is highly recommended, because when it comes to what Christians believe, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the resurrection.


An opportunity to the preview the movie has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Stills above were posted on Twitter by people associated with the production.

March 20, 2017

Over-Consumption of Internet Media

Whether it’s Facebook or internet pørn, it’s really easy to spend sections of your day staring at your device, be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. There are general principles from scripture I think we do well to remember; these can give us guidance regardless of which type of addiction you’re dealing with.

5 General Principles to Guide Potential Online Addiction

click image to orderSelf-Control

It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit so it deserved to be listed first. We each have this in varying degrees, though some have noticeably less than others, and all of us have times when we wish we’d exercised more. At the slightest impulse that you’ve spent to long on Facebook (or whatever) you need to close the browser and walk away from the screen. (Translations use either temperance or self-control when listing these fruit in Galatians 5, but the Wycliffe uses continence, the opposite of which is…well you know.) (See what I mean? Better self control would have left that alone!)

Mind, Thoughts and Heart

As we’ve written a number of posts here concerning out thought life, let’s just say that it is so important to guard our minds, guard our thoughts and thereby guard and protect our hearts. (See especially this post and the section dealing with our media diet.) We’re told in scripture to take captive the stray thoughts which can do damage. Previous generations contended with this in terms of television and theater. We have such a greater barrage of ideas and philosophies being thrown at us online.

The Stewardship of Our Time

In an increasingly hectic world, time is a precious commodity. We’re given 24 hours each day, no more, no less; and what we do with those is a large measure of our character. (For my article on “redeeming the time,” read this post at C201.) A good measure of this is to realize the things that you might have done, could have done, or should have done in the time you spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… or worse.

Shifting Values

Without getting into specific social issues that face us currently, all of us have felt the pressure to capitulate to the larger culture, or even to the values shift happening in the capital-C Church. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) reads, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” I can honestly say I have felt the pressure to change my mind on some issues because of internet exposure. On some of the issues, I think readers here would be comfortable, but on others I have realized the need for a reset and re-calibration. Be careful to know why if you sense your worldview shifting.

Misdirected Worship

This may seem a little strong for some readers here, but the things that occupy our time online are really the things we ascribe worth to, and that’s the heart of the word worship. I mentioned internet pørn at the outset, and it’s easy to think terms of people spending hours staring at photographic images, but even those cute cat videos could amount to a case as described in Romans 1:25 (NLT): “…So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself who is worthy of eternal praise!”


David Murray’s outline on media consumption from the book The Happy Christian.

March 19, 2017

Case for Christ Movie Opens April 7

Last night we were able to watch a preview screening of the movie The Case for Christ which opens April 7th. While I will offer a full review of the movie closer to the release date, many of you have read the book by Lee Strobel, or one of the many others in the series: The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus, etc.

Like some others who have leaked bits and pieces of this online, I also was struck by the authenticity of the two primary characters in the movie, Lee and Leslie Strobel. While the theme of the movie is very obviously evidentiary apologetics there is also a sub-theme dealing with the time when Leslie was a Christian and Lee wasn’t. It’s probably no accident that their 2002 book Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage is now in re-release by Zondervan.

With those two themes in mind…

  • Think of friends you could invite to see the movie; and
  • Plan to see it, if at all possible, during the first weekend of release.

I’ll have more to say about it in a few days.  Use the following image on your Facebook page to make more people aware of this significant film.

December 12, 2016

Hillsong United Live at The Forum: A Review of Let Hope Rise

let-hope-rise-dvdIf there’s a single takeaway from the 1-hour, 43-minute documentary Let Hope Rise, it’s that the members of Hillsong United are totally amazed and humbled at the band’s worldwide influence and popularity.

The film played in theaters in North America just a few months ago, and is releasing on DVD and Blu-Ray December 20th, just in time for Christmas. A concert at The Forum in Los Angeles provides the storyline, with scenes in the dressing room just before they go onstage book-ending the movie.

This is very much a documentary, not a concert film. There are a couple of songs which play in their entirety. Others are edited somewhat, or transition between the songwriting collaborative process and the finished product onstage. The focus here is to provide a behind-the scenes look.

Again, this is a film about Hillsong United, not the Hillsong worship program in general. There is a far too short, ten minute nod to the history and scope of the parent church in Sydney, but its worship teams aren’t in view here; neither is the younger band Hillsong Y&F (Young and Free) mentioned.

The members of the band obviously know each other well and trust each other. When they are about to go on at The Forum, the songs are basically so very fresh that one of the guys says of another something to the effect, ‘He’s about to walk on the stage and sing words he’s never sung into a microphone before.’

It was interesting that on the one hand, the band talks about the fact they work for the church and are not particularly well paid, but on the other hand are able to enjoy an oceanfront house in California to write songs. Back home in Australia, the members of the band appear to live quite modestly. Some have very young families, with their wives staying home to take care of the kids.

We had planned to watch this with a full stereo sound system but a last minute glitch caused us to relocate. At first I was disappointed, but the music both is and isn’t the focus; it is more about providing the inside look at the band using material filmed for the movie and archival footage the band owned.

Hillsong’s influence on worship music around the world is immeasurable and Hillsong United’s influence on youth culture and youth ministry is equally significant. Anyone who is a fan of United will probably want to watch this several times. Onscreen lyrics are provided on a few songs for those who even want to sing along.


Movie has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

October 13, 2016

I’m Not Ashamed – The Movie

Filed under: Christianity, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:35 am

im-not-ashamed

This film, the story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first of several students murdered in the 1999 Columbine shooting, opens next Friday in the U.S. Visit the website, or watch the trailer below.

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