Thinking Out Loud

July 2, 2017

When People Play God

Last week, on a recommendation, we watched the 2013 British film Philomena starring Judi Dench. succinctly sums up the plot:

When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America.

Wikipedia reminds us that the movie is based on true story in the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by journalist Martin Sixsmith.

One of the more disturbing scenes in the movie occurs early on, when young Philomena is delivering her baby at the convent. It turns out to be a breach birth and the nun in charge suggests that the extreme pain and agony the girl is experiencing is her penance for transgressing the moral law resulting in her pregnancy. It is only the compassion of an associate which saves the life of the child.

Throughout the rest of the movie we see the ongoing effects of this penance which Philomena is expected to bear both as a child and into adulthood; penance inflicted on her by the Catholic nuns, or at least one in particular, who would presume to play God in this situation and mete out her punishment as often as the opportunity arises.

We know that little Anthony was adopted by an American family but what happened next? Is he enjoying a good life or is he one of the many homeless we see in documentaries or on the evening news? That’s the quest which drives Martin the journalist, and Philomena. Even if things worked out well for the boy — you figure he has to have a good start if his U.S. parents can afford the international adoption of a child from Ireland — you come to think there are no winners in a situation like this.

And for me at least, it all comes back to the nun, the convent, the Catholic church at large wanting the poor teenager to pay a lifetime of suffering for her mistake. It’s about the self-righteous attitude of some nuns and priests — whose vocation has possibly kept them apart from the pleasures of sexual intimacy somewhat resenting those who have experienced it — and the total inappropriateness of such a mindset in a case like Philomena’s.

Strangely, it’s also about having the grace to bear such an injustice without letting it give way to anger or bitterness. Martin the journalist is looking for justice. Philomena is simply looking for answers. Two very different attitudes, with the latter even holding out the possibility of forgiveness.

This movie will make you think and is a great group discussion starter. Download it if you get an opportunity, or purchase a DVD as we did.




August 31, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Due to an unfortunate accident last week, we have to remind readers: DO NOT PET THE WEDNESDAY LIST LYNX

Starting off this week with something a little un-characteristic for this blog…

  • From Drew Marshall’s Facebook page:  “Saw this somewhere: ‘For all you single ladies who are in such a hurry to find someone, here’s a quick piece of biblical advice: Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz. While waiting on YOUR Boaz, don’t settle for ANY of his relatives: Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheatin-az, Dumb-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothin-az, Lazy-az or Married-az….. and especially his 3rd Cousin Beatinyo-az !!!!’ “
  • Okay, that was a strange way to start the link list, but it was actually an excellent lead in to a piece by Donald Miller who doesn’t waste words but just asks, “Ladies, Why Do You Hook Up?”  Closing in on 400 responses.
  • CNN’s tech page reports on a Bible-based video game, El Shaddai, except that the Bible-book it’s based on is The Book of Enoch, not exactly part of the core canon of scripture.
  • Now that we’ve hooked you in with superficial story links, let’s aim for some substance with Confessions of a Former Worship Leader.  Yeah, I know, even that one starts with “confessions.”
  • “Are you busy but not intentional? Do you feel like you are just spinning your wheels and not getting any traction? Does there seem to be a lack of any kind of momentum in your organization? Could be you are dealing with way too much “sideways energy.” So begins a post at Brad Lomenick’s blog.
  • The Brink — an online magazine for twenty-somethings — interviews the voice behind the currently popular “Blessings” song, Laura Story.
  • A former Mormon thinks that Rachel Held Evans gave a Mormon apologist a free pass with questions that were too easy.
  • 150,000 views isn’t much by YouTube standards, but on GodTube it’s fairly significant. Check out Brazilian child singing sensation, Jotta A. singing Agnus Dei.
  • You didn’t know Eugene Nida, but depending on what Bible translation you use, you’ve been affected by his research and ideas.  Nida pioneered the translation philosophy often referred to as ‘Dynamic Equivalence.’ Nida passed away last week at age 96.
  • Your new word for the day: Biblicism.  It means Biblical Literalism.  Of which one kind is Letterism. (Hey, that’s what Wikipedia says; I think it’s a typo: read the section header that follows its mention.) Even though our family played Balderdash on Monday night, I’m not making these words up. Actually this was sparked by this article at Jesus Creed.
  • Rather than wait for a fan to post a lyrics-only video for his song, The Real World, Owl City did the job himself. Nothing new here, just a musical style that obviously works. More important might be his new website, Reality is a Lovely Place.
  • “God moves at three miles an hour because walking pace is the pace of love. Efficiency, hurry and haste do not effectively communicate love, and so a vision of mission centered around haste cannot be carried out according to the character of our God.” Eddie Arthur quoting Simon Cozens at Kouya Chronicle with a link to Cozens’ full article.
  • The activity known as gleaning — look it up — is alive and well as Kevin Rogers notes in a profile of Forgotten Harvest.  (Does anyone else think “The Activity Known as Gleaning” would be a great name for band?  How about “Forgotten Harvest?”)
  • It’s not a Christian movie in the sense we normally use that term, but on Sunday morning, Pete Wilson was gushing about a forthcoming film, Machine Gun Preacher.
  • Visit Zac Hicks blog for a free download of the song “Hail Thou Once Despised Jesus” from the album Without Our Aid by Zac Hicks and Cherry Creek Worship. (Offer ends Sept. 13/11)  Furthermore, get ‘the story behind the song‘ along with the classic lyrics.
  • Zach quotes Tim Chester in 12 Reasons to Give Up Porn. Heck, any two or three of these oughta be sufficient.
  • If you find you need something today to get angry or frustrated about, you could always read the King James Bible Declaration. Posted at SFL of all places!
  • I actually did read some other things this week that were a little deeper, you can find those over at C201.
  • And now for something completely different. Click the image to find the answers to James West’s Bible Puzzle

March 15, 2010

I Envy You, Mr. Neary

My two boys and my one wife had never seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind until last night.   It’s tough to find a film we can all agree on, and with DVDs, even tougher to find a movie where at least one of us doesn’t leave the room before the ending.

There’s a scene near the end where the French scientist — his name is Lacombe — turns to lead character Roy Neary and says, “I envy you, Mr. Neary.”

But the next line, the line that has been stored in my memory since the picture released was not heard next.    Here’s exactly how I remember the line, “I envy you, Mr. Neary; I study the phenomenon, but you have had the experience.”

After the movie, for 30 minutes, no searching the internet would reveal the phrase the way I am recalling it.   Did I invent this?   Or do I have two movies confused?   Arrrrgh!  I am so sure that line is accurate!

The inference is there anyway and the principle is valid nonetheless. Its applicability to Christians is major.   We are studied and examined by all manner of journalists, academics and those who simply find us to be a psychological curiosity.   But ultimately, their reports are lacking because they don’t have the necessary experiences to fully empathize with the Christian spiritual condition.  (In a previous generation, that sentence would simply read, ‘They don’t have the Holy Spirit.’)

You can also turn this around.

The next time you’re in discussion with someone who you don’t feel is totally on the same wavelength, ask them, “Are you a student of the phenomena or have you also had the experience?”

I maintain that many of the people we come into contact with on a daily basis are simply observers, many watching from the outside.   I often compare it to someone who encounters a log cabin filled with people on a cold, snowy day.   Inside people are standing by the fireplace, laughing and drinking hot cocoa.  The person outside watches with their face pressed against the window while the ice,  snow and drizzle piles up on their winter coat and hat.

Let me make it more personal.

Are you part of this family, or are you observing, as though from outside, with your face pressed against the window?

Why not come inside?

January 3, 2010

The Christian “Movie Culture” in the U.S.

…as in the movie culture among Christians, not “Christian movie” culture.

Recently several newspapers published their lists of the top ten movies of 2009.   In the lists I checked, there wasn’t one movie which was recognizable to me by its title.   None that I had seen.   None that I intend to see.  None that I’m wating for the video to release.

This stands in marked contrast to the “film culture” or “movie culture” that I see reflected in Christian blogs, some of which are written by pastors, who traditionally — or so I was told — didn’t have the time for such things.

Let me state for the record that I am not one of those people who considers theaters — or as we spell in Canada, theatres — to be vile, dark places.   Nor do I believe that should that rapture — a subject I’ll save for another day — occur while you are watching a movie in a place that also sells popcorn, this means you are automatically consigned to hell, a subject I’ll also save for another day.

I just don’t go to movies.

But in the U.S. they really drive the culture and the conversation among Christians.   If I had to be the guy who picked the film clips that kick off most megachurch sermons, I wouldn’t have much of a knowledge base to work from; though I do enjoy the use of clips, provided the church in question isn’t being held hostage by that format.

However, when the 2007 movie Juno reached $3.33 in a bargain bin, I was curious to see how they would handle this theme.    I knew the movie wasn’t a raw teenage sex film — those were in another bin nearby — but I wanted to look at the film from the viewpoint of a parent, but also try to see it from the viewpoint of my teenage kids.


Like most of life, it’s complicated and confusing.    On the one hand, you’ve got a movie that I think is making a powerful pro-life statement.   Conservative evangelicals should be cheering that.    On the other hand, you’ve got implied casual teenage sex resulting in pregnancy.    But that pregnant teenager wants to see that baby raised in a solid, secure, loving environment, and at one point in the film is worried that might not happen.

I think that overall the movie is more redemptive than destructive; in other words more helpful than hurtful.  But I don’t recommend it be added to your church library anytime soon.

Back to the larger discussion I started with.   I’m not sure we should be letting the film industry — notice I avoided saying “Hollywood” in a pejorative context — set the agenda for the discussion in our families or in our churches.

While a great movie can change the direction of a person’s life; and while the film industry can make some positive contributions to society as a whole, I still think too many Christian pastors and too many Christian bloggers and too many Christian people in general are obsessed with what’s going on at the cineplex.

That time and money might be better spent in 2010.

August 27, 2008

Classic Peter Sellers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:17 pm

It’s one thing to declare war on the United States. It’s quite another thing for them not to actually know they are at war. This was a funny book, and a funny movie. It releases this week on DVD, possibly for the first time. Definitely going to buy this one. Here’s the publisher marketing:

The Mouse That Roared

Release Date: Aug 26, 2008

In this outlandish, side-splitting tale of the fortunes of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, a mythical land on the verge of bankruptcy because its one export, a fine wine, has been undercut by a US company. Grand Fenwick’s prime minister (Peter Sellers) and female monarch (Sellers again) cook up a scheme to solve the problem: they will declare war on the States.

Approximate total running time is 1 hour, 23 minutes.

August 21, 2008

Family Divided Over Billy Graham Movie Opening October 10th

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:51 pm

Franklin Graham is on record. He doesn’t like certain aspects of the upcoming film Billy: The Early Years, a biography of his father Billy Graham releasing October 10th. But his sister, Gigi Graham is on record that Franklin should have kept his opinions to himself. You can read about their different viewpoints at the Christianity Today online story.

One of their points of disagreement concerns Billy Graham’s decision to leave Bob Jones University.

The one [scene] that concerned Graham the most, said DeMoss, is a scene where Bob Jones Sr., then president of the fundamentalist Bob Jones College, yells at a young Billy that he will “never amount to anything” and that he sees “nothing ahead for you but failure!” (The scene is included in this trailer for the film.)

DeMoss told The Charlotte Observer this week that Franklin Graham thought the scene “completely misrepresented Bob Jones,” and that Franklin has written a letter to Bob Jones III, current president of Bob Jones University, to say that “we didn’t collaborate on the film.”

But Billy Graham’s autobiography indicates that the scene with Jones is accurate—with Jones’s ire a likely a result of Graham’s questioning the school’s strict views and his decision to transfer to Florida Bible Institute.

In Just As I Am, Graham wrote, “I asked for an interview with Dr. Bob in his office and told him about my discontent and my thoughts of leaving. His voice booming, he pronounced me a failure and predicted only more failure ahead.”

McKay and Gigi Graham both vouched for the accuracy of the scene.

“We consulted 10 or 12 biographers on that part of the story,” said McKay, “and nearly all of them concurred with our portrayal. And people who [had] worked for Bob Jones have told us that’s what he was like. We have eyewitnesses to Bob Jones acting this way, and our goal was to tell the truth in what happened.”

Later in the CT article, we learn that such stories were included under the watch of an insurance company, covering the production for errors and omissions. Who knew this kind of insurance existed?

“We did a lot of research before we even sat down to write the screenplay,” said McKay, who was already an experienced researcher as a documentary filmmaker—including one on the life of Billy Graham. “We bought errors and omissions insurance to make sure we got everything right—authenticating every scene, every story line, every fact. The insurance carriers give you some artistic freedom, but they make sure you stay faithful to the underlying facts.

“We had to provide the law firm 750 pages of documentation, and it took about nine months to complete the policy. We had two of the best law firms working on it, and it cost a lot of money.”

By the way, for my Canadian readers, this movie has a Canadian element to it: Charles Templeton, who pastored the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church in Toronto on Avenue Road.

“Most compellingly, [the movie] paints its portrait of Graham against the backdrop of his relationship with Charles Templeton, another gifted preacher whose faith could not withstand the onslaught of scientific skepticism. Templeton and Graham parted ways and in the film Templeton comes to personify the rising tide of disbelief into which Graham launched his crusades.” (from the movie website)

Templeton never did return to his Christian roots. He was interviewed by Lee Stroebel in the opening chapter of The Case for Faith. I am told that one time when Graham was asked to clarify his ‘calling,’ he said something to the effect, “I am only doing what Charles Templeton started to do but didn’t finish.”

August 15, 2008

The Gods Aren’t Angry

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:40 am

Last night we watched the new full-length Rob Bell DVD, The God’s Aren’t Angry. Like the previous Everything Is Spiritual, this was recorded live on one of Bell’s multi-city tours. This one clocks in at 1 hr, 29 minutes, and Bell delivers the goods without visible notes or teleprompter.

This time around he traces the anthropological beginnings of man’s ascribing life experiences — both good and bad — to various gods, which provides context for the world into which the story of Abraham begins. He later catches us up to the New Testament world which came out of Abraham’s context. Actually, I found the first half more compelling in some ways, but at the end, Bell puts flesh on the concepts he has been discussing; though the end seemed sudden, and while some audience members stood to their feet in applause, not all did. (I’m not sure how I would react to this if I had paid to be there; as I understand it, this was a ticketed event.)*

Bell is funny at times and certainly engaging at others. My youngest son sat through the whole thing, which amazed me. While the former DVD uses science as the ‘hook,’ this one uses anthropology and ancient history, and frankly, it would be interesting to get a review of both from an atheist’s or agnostic’s perspective.

~Paul Wilkinson

*Bell’s reference to Christian leaders making a lot of money off of religious guilt was followed by a long pause while waiting for the audience to note the irony that they had paid to be there.

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