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MennoNerds Vlog: Movies and TV

Civil War shows several of the Avengers characters, divided by sidesOver on the MennoNerds vlog, I introduced a new topic about movies and TV. My script is below, or go and watch it on YouTube:


Hi MennoNerds vloggers,

Way back when we started this vlog, we talked about the value of stories, as well as more specifically about books. Stating propositions is rarely as effective as helping people relate through stories. The Bible is a great example of this. That doesn’t mean there aren’t facts involved in the Bible, but it isn’t a systematic theology textbook. It’s a story of God and God’s people told by particular authors, in particular locations and particular times, dealing with particular social issues, with particular theologies, and so on.

When the Bible was written, stories were most commonly spoken, not written down. Now again in more recent history, books are not the most common way we tell stories in our culture anymore. Whether that shift is good, bad, or neutral, that role of shared cultural stories now most often comes through the medium of video with movies and TV.

So my next question for the vloggers: what are your favourite movies or TV shows, and why? I invite the vloggers to go deeper if they’d like, but I’ll run through a few of mine quickly.

Eucharist as Appetizer

When our local church gathering ended this week, Emily turned to me and said she was hungry. Maybe that’s not that strange – our church ends about 12:15, just in time for lunch, but it’s not particularly normal for either of us. I theorized that the piece of bread for communion may have had an appetizer effect, telling our bodies it is time to eat and making us hungry.

Later in the day, the analogy kept hanging around in my head. Maybe it’s not that deep of a thought and really it isn’t much different than the language of sacrament used in much of the Church, but with different language in a way I hadn’t thought about it before.

Walden blocking TV

On the Loss of a Pet

Walden 1 day after joining our family

This is the first photo of Walden I shared on Facebook.

Our cat Walden passed away last night. We had him for just over 2 years – it was only a few days earlier that Facebook reminded me of the first picture of him I shared the day after we got him, the same one I included here to the right. Like any pet, he could be annoying sometimes, but there was no question our lives were better with him. He was a gorgeous cat, very soft, and had a very loud purr when he was happy – which was often. He was energetic and social, often the life of the party whenever people came to our apartment.

Before I continue, I want to make sure it is clear I know that losing a pet is not the same as losing a human loved one. We talk about Walden as having been part of the family or as our “fur baby”, and that is true in many ways. I neither want to trivialize the loss of a pet by saying it is irrelevant compared to loss of a human nor do I want to trivialize the loss of a human by suggesting that they’re basically the same.

Atonement - Cross

The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers

The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers (cover)A few years ago I was strongly considering writing a book. My premise was essentially a systematic theology but starting with the idea that God looks like Jesus, particularly when it comes to rejection of violence. The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers is the closest I’ve encountered to trying for the same goal, with a couple of significant differences:

  • It is not nearly as comprehensive as a systematic theology, sticking to topics that are directly related to a non-violent understanding of the atonement.
  • The starting point is a non-violent understanding of the atonement in particular, rather than a non-violent God in general.

Maybe that excitement biased me, but I felt like the book was only moderately successful.

Style

My main complaints are related to the style, not the content. It feels sloppily written. It often gets very repetitive, which meant that although it was a short book, it probably could have been half the size. It doesn’t really do a good job explaining what is meant by some terms, such as pacifism (see below). It uses gendered language, and I don’t just mean some that are very understandable like male pronouns for God – I mean regularly using “man” to mean humanity.

Trouble I've Seen

Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew Hart

Trouble I've SeenThis was a great book for helping Christians understand the nature of racial hierarchies present in the United States – much would be also true elsewhere, but Hart’s focus is on his home country. A few factors make this a highly recommended read to me:

Hart speaks well from the facts as well as his own experience. Facts alone could easily come across as boring. His experience alone could be easily dismissed as an anomaly. This book carries a great balance: relatable but going much deeper than just a few stories of discrimination.

Hart’s work is accessible to white people (like myself) while critiquing the system of white supremacy. There are many ideas that I’m sure would still offend many of us simply because it puts us on the defensive for our complicity, and they should offend us if we haven’t been desensitized to it, but I never felt like he was attacking me individually. It carried a pastoral tone, using more positive reinforcement to call us into something better rather than berating us. I regularly see white people getting upset over language of white supremacy insisting that they individually are not a member of the KKK. Hart does a great job explaining why this is missing the point while being gentle toward those who are missing the point.

Captain America Civil War: Whose Side Are You On?

Nuanced Sides of Captain America: Civil War

Ever since I first heard about Captain America: Civil War, I’ve been solidly on Team Cap’s anti-registration side. For those who aren’t nerds, here’s the basic plot: after the events of previous movies where all these superpowered humans wreak havoc on the world, governments of the world (mostly the U.S.) want to register those with superpowers so they can provide some oversight to their activities. Iron Man is pro-registration, which makes sense given that the last Avengers movie villain was literally his creation and he feels guilty about it. Captain America leads the anti-registration side, which culminates the direction of his character throughout The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron but in this case will be sparked by defending his friend Bucky. The majority of the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (except Thor and Hulk who get a movie later) line up on one side or the other.

I had a lightbulb moment watching this video from The Mary Sue, though, that made it harder for me to think Cap is clearly in the right:

Technology - Bible and Headphones

Thoughts on a Lenten Fast

Twitter logoFor the first time in a few years, I decided to give up something for Lent this year (I have done Ash Wednesday and Good Friday food fasts the past couple years). I had been feeling the urge for some time to take a social media break anyway, so this gave me a good excuse.

Miscellaneous

First, some of the miscellaneous observations so far:

My BlackBerry battery lasts about twice as long. How much of that was directly from the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps operating in the background vs how much was because the screen isn’t on as often for me to check it, I can’t say for sure, but I would guess the former because of the next point. If we’re talking about practicalities of living a bit more simply, this is a more significant one than I thought – I don’t have to worry about my phone being dead by the end of a work day plus Home Church, for example.

Technology - Bible and Headphones

Pacifist Video Games

Fallout 4 cover artI just now came across a fascinating story from back in December about Kyle Hinckley who managed to beat the game Fallout 4 without killing a single person. Well, not really. He managed to avoid directly killing anybody, but he did do things like brainwashing non-playable characters into doing it for him.

Kyle said this to Kotaku:

I’d love to ask [the developers] why pacifism is so difficult in this Fallout … I’m a little disappointed in the lack of diplomatic solutions in this game, it’s a lonely departure from the rest of the Fallout series. My version of pacifism isn’t really diplomatic, it’s more exploitative of the game mechanics to achieve a zero-kill record. In other [Fallout] games, you had a lot of alternatives for bypassing the combat, whether it was with sneaking, speech checks, or a back door opened with lock-picking and hacking. In fact, in previous games (at least 3 and NV), your companion kills didn’t count towards your record either.

I don’t know much about the Fallout games at all, but this is a worrying trend in the video game industry in general. I’m not primarily talking about the long-running question of whether we become more violent by playing violent video games.

SNL: The Day Beyoncé Turned Black

In light of my recent post after the Super Bowl including some discussion of Beyoncé‘s new video, this skit from Saturday Night Live is appropriate to also share here (if you’re in the U.S., you can get the official one at a higher quality, but it’s region-blocked so I share this one instead):