Irrelevant (or, What happens when Christians try too hard to be cool)

Yesterday, for the first time since my subscription ran out in 2007(?) I took a look at an issue of Relevant Magazine, the magazine about God, Life and Progressive Culture. I remembered enjoying it a great deal back in the day, particularly as a brand-new Christian. A few really enjoyable (and often very helpful) articles in every issue, interesting layout, and the odd bits of silliness.

So I look at the latest issue (via the digital copy on their website), and man, oh man, that’s a lousy magazine. Seriously, for a magazine in which God is to figure so prominently, outside of an article about how the guy who produces Aqua Teen Hunger Force being a Christian, I don’t recall seeing Jesus anywhere in it. Zooey Deschanel got more coverage (and I suspect it’s mostly because she’s the indie-film darling that the kids adore).

I don’t want to come off as being overly critical or unnecessarily judgemental, but sometimes I have some serious concerns about the quest of many Christians to be “progressive.”

When I look around and see Christians trying so hard to be cool—magazines that are indistinguishable from any other one on the shelf, guys with floppy hair and skinny jeans, Sunday services with smoke machines and laser beams… you get the idea—I find myself troubled. When we get so caught up in trying to be cool, when we get consumed by the pursuit of cool, we become nothing more than an echo of culture. We begin to look like everything else.

And that makes us completely irrelevant. [Read more...]

Excuses for Amusement?

For our entire adult lives, Emily and I have not had cable. It’s expensive, and there’s rarely anything worth watching. But every once in a while, we find out about a show that we really like and have a good time watching.

One such show is How I Met Your Mother. We like the show a lot; it’s actually really funny (a rare thing for a sitcom). The premise is pretty simple: 25 years in the future, Ted is telling his teenage children the (often inappropriate) story of how he met their mother, and journeys down every rabbit trail that comes up as he shares his life in his late 20′s & early 30′s with his roommates Marshall & Lilly, and womanizing “bro,” Barney (played by Neil Patrick Harris, better known as Doogie Howser, M.D.). 

It’s very much a show of it’s generation—the search for love and meaning in a world of relativity and subjective morality. For example:

Now, while this is funny, sometimes I have to wonder: Do I watch simply to be amused? [Read more...]

Book Review: GUILTY

Guilty by Ann Coulter

Title: Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America
Author: Ann Coulter
Publisher: Crown Focus (2009)

Not Recommended: A smug, self-righteous take on the problem of the “liberal media” that lacks any mercy or understanding of grace.

Before I’d read Guilty, I had sort of a vague, nebulous idea of who Ann Coulter, pop-politic icon, was. I knew she was blonde, skinny, angry, and right wing, often used as a reference point for a contentious personality; “so-n-so makes Ann Coulter look like a peacenick-hippy”, for example. So I took Guilty out of the library to see if she was actually as nasty as is generally accepted.

The short answer is yes, she is.

But this wouldn’t be much of a book review if I ended there, would it?

The book is organized in the basic essay format, which is known as an idea sandwich:

  • assert thesis
  • assert some proofs that will be unpacked in text
  • proof #1
  • proof #2
  • proof #3
  • repeat thesis, citing proofs again, and close.

Her main points are as follows: liberals are noisy and use people to further the liberal agenda, single mothers are the worst people in the world, the “Republican Attack Machine” is a Democrat myth, Obama hangs out with terrorists, Democrats have a double standard concerning ethics, and liberals control most of the media. So as you can see, she’s got a lot of ground to cover. And cover it she does, citing example after example after example after example. In fact, there are so many citations that almost the last 1/4 of the book is bibliography and index. Peppered throughout the book are minor insults, witty remarks, and sarcastic rhetorical questions, which make the book more fun to read than it would have been otherwise.

I was impressed by how Ann was able to maintain such frothy anger page after page. I think if I was that angry for that long, I’d have a heart attack. But for all that rage and fact-touting conviction, I didn’t find her book, well, convincing.

For one, Ann seems to be a person completely without mercy or an understanding of grace. Given her position in political pundit-land, perhaps she has to be. I thought devoting an entire chapter to how single mothers are destroying America was over the top. Yes, studies do show that children fare better in a 2 parent household; as a parent in a 2-parent household, I see this is true. But I also understand that junk happens. People aren’t perfect, and they wouldn’t be perfect if everyone lived in a 2-parent home either.

There are subjects in the book that go on, and on, and on. I skimmed through a few portions because I’d gotten the point already; “OBAMA IS HORRIBLE! I WILL NOW CITE 38 DOCUMENTS TO PROVE IT!” or “BILL CLINTON IS A PERVERT! I WILL NOW CITE 67 DOCUMENTS TO PROVE IT!” or even “SARAH PALIN WAS MALIGNED IN THE MEDIA! I WILL NOW…” well, you get the idea.

Another thing that I’m still trying to figure out is whether Ann Coulter is actually FOR REAL. She just goes so far beyond what’s normal in vitriol that I can’t tell whether she’s playing a character, kind of like when William Shatner plays himself in the Priceline.com commercials. I almost want that to be true, because it’s nice to imagine her coming home after a long day of calling people idiots on TV, greeting a golden retriever at the door and then walking in her english garden while drinking a chamomile tea. This is more appealing than imagining her greeting a pet scorpion and eating broken glass while shooting targets in the backyard, which is kind of what her public persona would suggest.

Finally, Guilty did not win me over. I didn’t finish the book and decide my liberal friends are monsters, and although I do consider myself a conservative on many issues, I would hope that I never express my opinions with the kind of loveless, smug, self-righteous tone that Ann Coulter does.

I Have No Words

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If for some reason the video above isn’t working, here’s an edited clip from youtube:

The Trekkies are gonna be so mad: Thoughts on the new Star Trek

Last week, my friends and I had a chance to see the new Star Trek movie. Unless you’ve been living in a bubble for the last 6 months, you’re more than aware of the hype surrounding this film.

Director JJ Abrams and co. were handed a bold task: Breath new life into a stagnate pop-culture phenomenon with one of the most rabid, over-protective fanbases the world has ever known (I think they even beat out Star Wars fans who started a religion based on the movie).

Film Review Star Trek

I have a confession to make: I loved Star Trek growing up. Loved it(!) I used to watch the original series repeats on Sunday mornings on CBC in the 80′s. My mom and I would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation every week. It was fun. Then,there was Star Trek: Voyager, followed by Enterprise. And they were terrible. They were really, really bad. And considering that most of Star Trek wasn’t that great to begin with, you get the idea of just how awful those shows were. I lost my taste for the series altogether, but still remembered the shows I grew up with fondly.

Five years later, the trailers start appearing for the new movie. I’ve always been a bit gunshy of prequels, so I didn’t have high expectations. At least, not initially. [Read more...]