Violence and our Culture

“The problem of violence isn’t out there in bad music and bloody films. The real problem is in here, in us, and it won’t be fixed by v-chips,” he said. “We’ve created a culture that markets violence in dozens of different ways, seven days a week. … When we build our advertising campaigns on consumer selfishness and greed, and when money becomes the universal measure of value, how can we be surprised when our sense of community erodes?

“When we glorify and multiply guns, why are we shocked when kids use them? When we answer murder with more violence in the death penalty, we put the state’s seal of approval on revenge. When the most dangerous place in the country is a mother’s womb, and the unborn child can have his or her head crushed in an abortion, even in the process of being born — the body language of that message is that life isn’t sacred and
may not be worth much at all.”

–Archbishop Charles Chaput

“My Smokin’ Hot Wife”: the NASCAR Prayer

Joe Nelms, the pastor of Family Baptist Church in Tennessee gave an invocation at a racing event in which he thanked God for his “smokin’ hot wife.” Apparently this is controversial.

On the one hand, I thank God for my smokin’ hot wife all the time. She is, even though she doesn’t always realize it. Thanking God for your spouse is good. Believing that your spouse is attractive and wonderful and thanking God for that is even better. There is the question of tact and taste in referring to this on natinoal television, but I don’t begrudge the man for loving his wife.

There is a problem with why he prayed it, on the other hand. It wasn’t really for God. He said, “I want to get somebody’s attention, so that’s been our desire every time we’ve been up there, to try to make an impact on the fans and give them something they’ll remember, and maybe they’ll go home on a Friday night or a Saturday night and say, ‘Maybe I ought to get up and go to church in the morning.” In other words, he prayed this for people, to get a reaction.

This is not prayer at all. It’s a sermon, at best. At worst, an advertisement, manipulation or grandstanding.

Falling Skies and Christianity

Falling Skies is a new summer series on TNT, starring Noah Wylie (why is it that Dr. Carter always seems to play bookish types?). The series begins several months after bug-like aliens have invaded the earth, killed 90% of adult humans and enslaved the children. The series itself has some brilliant moments, as well as some really awkward dialogue and acting.

Religion is slowly becoming a theme in the show–namely, how can one have faith after what happened? One of the characters is a former medical student who is vocally “a believer.” But what makes it even more remarkable is that she is explicitly Christian and Catholic. She just doesn’t pray, she invokes the Most Holy Trinity at the beginning of her prayer, crossing herself then and at other times.

It’s refreshing to see a muscular, real Christianity portrayed sympathetically and respectfully on a television show.

And it’s even Ted Turner’s channel!

Signs from God?

"I Want That One" Picture

I had a bad time writing the other day. It was late afternoon, I had a few moments of quiet and tried to write a little on a project I am working on and immediately got stymied. Stuck. Like mud. No, more like quicksand with a bunch of fifth-graders laughing at me. It was really bad.

"I Want That One" PictureNo more than an hour later a friend confided that he was meeting someone in the industry to talk about his writing, and maybe get a contract out of it.

I stood there listening, but all I could feel was the blood pooling in my chest. A strange feeling–was this jealousy? Was it failure? Envy? No, it was like missing the bus, standing on the curb, watching it pull away from me.

So, being a Christian-kind-of-guy, I wondered: what should I take from this? Was this a sign from God? A sign to quit writing? A sign to give up on my dreams of fiction? I sign that I should have done more and sooner? Maybe a sign to keep writing?! Yes, that would be excellent!

But after a beer and a restless night of sleep I realized it wasn’t a sign at all. It was just a friend’s good fortune, a friend’s networking efforts paying off, a friend pursuing the same dream as me and catching a break, just like a break I caught once that put my name in print for the first time.

We Christians fall into seriously deep traps when we think everything is a sign from God, that there is a secret message to every event in our lives. Truth be told, that’s not really Christian at all. That’s superstition. That’s closer to what Dan Brown believes, not what Christ teaches and the Church Confesses.

Does God send signs? Probably. Does the devil do counterfeit signs? Yes. Can we tell which is which and what is simply our own powers of deception, our own longing for some celestial message? No. Ok, rarely.

No, I will go with what Scripture has revealed. I will use the gifts God has given me. I will write what I want, and I will write for my own enjoyment, and maybe my family’s. I’m not going to discover hidden signs and meaning behind stuff. I’m just going to work to the glory of God.

From Your Side

Photo: Kriss Szkurlatowski

Last Sunday I attended church by sitting in a pew instead of standing up there where I usually worship. It was a joy to sit and stand next to my family: my aunt behind me, my sisters and parents down the pew and in front. If I cannot be with my church family here, then being with my relatives is the best. It was good to help my son remember to stand and pray, to help my sister with a hymnal as she held my goddaughter, to stop listening to the sermon because I had to attend a fidgeting child. Yep–if you’re going to ignore something in church, make sure it’s worth it. It’s God-pleasing to be distracted when you serve others or work in your vocation. Other times, though, pay attention!

Some things were not-so-good. The organist, while a fine musician who played some rockin’ preludes, postludes and offertories, played the hymns and liturgy at molasses speed compared to what I am used to. And I missed speaking the Eucharistic Prayer. I didn’t mind not preaching, leading the Kyrie reading the lessons. That was a nice break. But I found myself wanting, longing to pray what comes after the Sanctus in our liturgy. I’m looking forward to next Sunday just for that, I think.

All in all, it was a nice break, a joyful time, and it’s good to be back.