Monday, May 26, 2014

heroes and buffoons

I'm not one who does heroes well. I figure people are like myself--fallen, sinful, doing even the best of works for suspect reasons. I'm not trying to denigrate anyone, for example military people who go into dangerous situations, or firemen and other types of rescue people. There is much to admire in them.

Perhaps I shall make an exception to my skepticism of heroes with these five men, whose names I don't know, nor much of anything else about them. Christian martyrs are people we can admire, and whose courage we can seek to emulate. And these are only a small representation of such Christians, in North Korea and in many other places, who do not deny Christ when threatened by pain or death. I'm giving only a bit of the account on the linked page.

NORTH KOREA RELIGION

In November 1996, the 25 were brought to the road construction site. Four concentric rectangular rows of spectators were assembled to watch the execution. Interviewee 17 was in the first row. The five leaders to be executed - the pastor, two assistant pastors, and two elders - were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller. This steamroller was a large construction vehicle imported from Japan with a heavy, huge, and wide steel roller mounted on the front to crush and level the roadway prior to pouring concrete. The other twenty persons were held just to the side. The condemned were accused of being Kiddokyo (Protestant Christian) spies and conspiring to engage in subversive activities. Nevertheless, they were told, “If you abandon religion and serve only Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, you will not be killed.” None of the five said a word. Some of the fellow parishioners assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller.
Why have this disturbing account? Several reasons. Because it happened, because similar things have happened and are happening, and very likely will happen in the future. Because accounts like this help me stay strong in this increasingly darkening place.

But one of my main reasons is to show the buffoonery of too much of what passes for preaching and teaching in places that dare to call themselves churches.

Take a trip over to this site, The Museum of Idolatry, and take a look at what far too many places that call themselves churches are doing. There is perhaps no nicer word for it than "buffoonery". The church is acting the fool, hoping that will make the world like it more.

And, of course, in acting the fool, they have lost the foolishness of preaching, and instead preach foolishness. I've listened to several of their sermons, via Fighting for the Faith, and what they preach is simply not in the Bible. It might have a few out of context Bible verses attached, but anyone who bothers to actually look at what the biblical passage really says would find that the Bible is being severely misused by these people.

What these places that call themselves churches teach is such shallow, buffoonish things as how to improve your sex life, how to make your dreams fulfilled, how to have your best life now. They tell their people how to lose weight, how to get their finances in order, how to change the world. They have wrestling matches, circuses, motorcycle jumping, and many of kinds of entertainment in their churches.

Many make the boast that they are places were "No perfect people are allowed". Apparently not, because Jesus long ago left their buildings.

One of the worst outcomes to this is that their churches are basically filled with cowards. They want a cushy, easy life, and think that the easy of their lives, or the fullness of their bank accounts, means they and God have a good thing going.

I have my suspicions that, should these relevance-driven church leader be put in a similar position as those North Korean churchmen, they would be all too ready to do abandon their beliefs. Heck, most of them can't stand against the current attempts to legalize sexual immorality, and that's hardly serious persecution.

Remember these five men, who did not love their lives even to death. Remember them, and discard the teachers who only tell you what you want to hear.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

movie review--Godzilla (2014)

good, but lacks some things

I remember looking for news on any new Godzilla movies several years ago, and finding a bit of this, or that, or something else, but not much of anything that seemed really solid, or that I hoped was solid. For example, one thing I found mentioned that the man behind the comically bad Godzilla vs Hedorah (The Smog Monster) was going to make the next movie. If I remember right, it would be set in the South American rain forest, would involve a Hedorah-like polluting monster which Godzilla would battle, and Godzilla would get the beat down put on him but would be saved by a bunch of kids praying to him, I guess because in this movie the big guy would be some kind of rain forest guardian spirit or something.

Yeah, it was something like that. Glad that one didn't happen.

The previews and build-up to this Godzilla gave me some hope that this would be a good movie. The people behind it seemed to be taking it seriously, not relying on the kinds of cheap humor and gimmicks that wrecked the '98 Godzilla takes Manhattan movie. And I have to give them credit for largely succeeding.

By and large, most of the pitfalls of the '98 movie are avoided. The story has it share of clich├ęs, but overall plays things pretty straight. Godzilla in this movie is big and tough, the MUTOs are good "bad guys" who appear angular, insectile, and alien. The human drama is predictable but not badly so.

Still, the movie lacked something.

I think it could best be summed up in the scenes building up to the big reveal of Godzilla himself. He's followed one of the MUTOs to Hawaii, both have come on land, and have just started to face each other. We've had some good views of the MUTO, and now we get finally see the big hero himself, and he is impressive! He crouches, and the roar he gives is enough like the old Godzilla roar to be recognizable, but still very different, too. This is what we have been waiting for, it's time to some major kaiju fighting!

Then...we cut away, and the only things we see of this fight are on a newscast the son of the movie's two man protagonists is watching, a couple of brief seconds.

Even in the last part of the movie, beginning with the much-anticipated halo jump, the movie focuses more on the soldier's attempts to reacquire, failure to disarm, and then move the nuclear device as far from the city as possible, then it does on the monsters fighting. We get some good scenes of Godzilla putting the beat down on the giant female MUTO, then the two MUTOs double-teaming him and getting the upper hand, before the tables are turned and, in pretty spectacular fashion, Godzilla takes care of both of his kaiju enemies.

But all of that still feels secondary to what the soldiers are doing, instead of the other way around. The final giant monster fight is good, but it's far too brief, and never really seems to be the main source of drama for the movie. Recovering and removing the bomb is the main source of drama and tension, not whether Godzilla will win or not.

So, in my opinion, this movie is good, but not as good as I wished it had been. There's so much good in this movie, that it seems nit-picky to focus on the bad, but the bad is there, and even if it doesn't spoil the movie overall, it still takes away from it just a bit, just enough.

I hope this movie signals the start of a new series of Godzilla movies. That would be very good. After seeing what they did to Godzilla in this movie, I can't help but anticipate what they might do with some of the other regulars, like Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, Anguires, or Gigan.

book review—Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

somewhat interesting, but a bit of a slog

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books.

I want to give this author some credit for an interesting idea. The closest things I can compare it to are classic stories like Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson, and maybe the more recent movie Castaway, though it's very different in setting and tone from those.

Maybe that's one of my main hang-ups with this story, too.

For me, the first several chapters were a bit of a slog. I found it difficult to feel much of anything except annoyance at any of the characters. Everyone's interest seemed to solely focused on sleeping, eating, and having sex (called “slipping” in this book). Family structures are nonexistent, the consequences of which show up in the large number of people with various kinds of genetic deformities.

It does get better towards the middle and end, though not much outside of location has changed for the main group of characters. I thought the chapters being essentially written or narrated by different characters provide some points of interest, for example in how different characters viewed the same events or even each other.

One of the big problem I had was with the planet itself. Perhaps I am only showing my ignorance concerning how such a planet might really be, but if it's either a free-floating rock not orbiting any star, or doesn't rotate on an axis so that one side is always in night, then I'd think that such a place would be almost as cold as the vacuum of space, and humans could be unable to live there, especially in such a primitive fashion.

Another problem with the story could to traced to one of the big differences it has from works like Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson. It's been many years since I've read either of those books, but I do remember that they were books solidly rooted in the Christian view of things, thus the characters sought to improve their lots and had some idea of how to do it.

For example, in his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote “Crusoe is a man on a small rock with a few comforts just snatched from the sea: the best thing in the book is simply the list of things saved from the wreck. The greatest of poems is an inventory. Every kitchen tool becomes ideal because Crusoe might have dropped it in the sea.” Orthodoxy (p. 56). Some of the better scenes in Castaway are when the stranded character opens up boxes to find out what's in them, and to find ways to make use of those things in his current situation.

In Dark Eden, though, the few things they have from Earth are kept locked away, taken out and shown only at special occasions, more useless to them than museum pieces. There is a lot of talk about things people had and did on Earth, but that's about where it begins and ends. There's more to admire in The Professor on Gilligan's Island making a contraption out of coconuts, bamboo, and one of Ginger's hairpins then the sad community in this book.

I can't say that I really like this book, though I didn't come away disliking it all that much, either. Some of the talk about slipping (sex) got a bit much for me, though the overall casual sexual practices (and the results) were most uncomfortable. Still, there is a good story there, but for me, I'm not sure it's worth slogging into again.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

good book on sale

Spiritual Anorexia

I did a review of this book a few weeks ago, and there was a recent comment there saying the book was going to be on sale for a few days, I think about a week or so starting today. And since it's a pretty good book, I'd suggest getting a copy of it. There's a lot of good things in it.