Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Avatar has more the feel of a summer blockbuster than a Christmas blockbuster. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the movie overall.

"Pandora" (the alien world) is simply spectacular on the screen. Very impressive indeed. Jake Sully's introduction to the Na’vi works well enough, although the story of an occupier going native is fairly trite and scripted by now, and there are no thematic surprises in the larger story arch there. Nonetheless, it wears just fine -- like a comfortable pair of well-worn slippers. The science of the Avatar is plausible enough not to be an impediment to the story.

I suppose without the action sequences at the end that the film would bring in a tenth of the revenue it is, and wouldn't be the big hit that it is. Still, the last forty-five minutes or so of the movie are boringly predictable, down to the "mano a mano" slap down between Jack Sully and Colonel Miles Quaritch. You'd think with all of the underemployed writers in Hollywood that filmmakers wouldn't have to recycle the same old stuff over and over again. Sigh.

Avatar is a fun action film. But while the current hype seems to have it as a shoe in for the "best film" Oscar nod, with the oh-so-predictable screenplay, I personally do not think that it should get within light years of the award.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pod-People Movies & Christian Conversion

I've wondered a bit about Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and other "Pod people/body takeover" movies as something of an anti-Christian allegory (although not necessarily consciously intended as such) prompted by fear of conversion.

Right? I mean, don't non-Christians have sort of the same reaction when their friends convert? Like, "They look like the same person, and behave a lot like the same person, but there's something different that isn't right . . ."

And such a reaction would not seem to be entirely unjustified. Indeed, isn't the view consistent with St. Paul's death/life theme in any number of his epistles? Gal 2.20, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me"; Ro 6.6, "Our old self was crucified"; Gal 5.24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." And etc. The old man is dead, and a new man lives in his place. (There's a philosophically interesting question of identity across conversion here as well.)

Now, of course, these stories portray conversion as something negative. Indeed, the dramatic movement in the stories is to have the unconverted characters struggle to to resist or reverse the conversion process. But that shouldn't be a surprise. Wouldn't the Pod People in these movies respond similarly as Peter in 1 Peter 3.16: "In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you."

The resistance of the unconverted in these stories is in essence the appeal of Satan to Adam and Eve in the Garden -- conversion means the death of the real you; it deprives you of true life.

So what's the upshot? One thing I think about when watching these types of movies is this: If becoming a Pod Person truly did make humans more fulfilled -- more peaceful, loving, joyful & etc, how would the Pod People be able to communicate that possibility to the unconverted people? That is, if the Pod People weren't attempting to convert humans against their will, how would they make the appeal that humans might actually want to become Pod People?

So negative connotation aside, here I am on this side of the conversion process. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. If non-Christians then view me as a sort of Christian Pod Person, how do I communicate or display that it is in fact better on this side of the conversion process than on that side?

The irony is of course that I was a Pod Person, under control of the Prince of this World. But in conversion (i.e., in the baptism that kills and makes alive again Ro 6.3-9) Christ brought me to life as a true human. I guess this is just another way of asking the question, how do I describe or display to non-believers the blessings that Christ gives me?

We need to recall that it is the "fear of death" that subjects humans to slavery to the devil (Heb 2.15). I do not think that the author necessarily means physical death, since I believe that Adam and Eve sinned because they feared death, and believed Satan's lie that to live they must eat of the Tree.

So people fear the death of baptism (even if there is a promised resurrection on their other side). And perhaps rightfully so in the sense that the old man must die in the baptism that births the new man in Christ. So why would we expect the old man seek his own death?

As long as I'm discussing movies that seem to draw on Christian themes, even if twisting them, I've also always been impressed with how Vampire movies draw on the biblical theme that "the life is in the blood" (Gn 9.4, Lev 17.11, 14, Dt 12.23). The vampire must drink blood in order to live eternally. Presumably the OT prohibition on eating blood aimed to prevent a nascent form of vampirism -- i.e., eating blood as a means to receive life from someone other than God. The irony is, of course, that life is in the blood, and that we receive that life by drinking the blood of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

Vapid screenplay, vapid score, vapid animation.

'Nuff said.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

LCMS and PCA in Decline

While Martin Marty can't help but gloat at little (despite saying that he wasn't), the facts do speak for themselves. To quote from his column here:

"The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, fourteenth in size and run by what moderates saw as a quasi-fundamentalist take-over party in the 1970s, always advertised that it was blessed because it was conservative and firm. Last year it lost 45,735 members, or 1.44 percent of the formerly faithful. More disturbing to conscientious chroniclers and planners was the word that average attendance at worship dropped from 165 to 155 in one year! Similarly, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) 'lost numbers for the last year for the first time in its 37-year history,' despite its reliance on strategies chosen when its congregations seceded from a parent body."

Southern Baptists declined as well, and Roman Catholic membership would have declined as well, but for the significant influx of mainly Hispanic immigrants.

I'm unsure what to make of it all. Whether LCMS numbers decline or not year to year, my impression is that there is a lot of gray hair in LCMS churches relative to non-gray hair. (Not so much in my local church, but in many chuches I've visited.) That would suggest a precipitant decline in active members over, say, the next ten or twenty years.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Megan Takes "High Points" in Fall Champs Swim Meet

Last weekend Megan took "high points" for 11-12 girls at the Fall Champs Swim Meet. While (obviously) she placed well in almost all of her events, the most impressive swim of the meet for her was the 100 yard free style. She not only came in first among the 72 (!) other 11-12 year-old girls swimming in the event, she came in almost a full second ahead of the second-place finisher!

Way to go Megan!