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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Persecuted? June 11, 2014

Great.
I just watched a trailer for a new film about “christians” being persecuted in America.
It’s imaginatively titled “Persecuted.”
As a person of faith in Jesus, I grow weary of this self-induced paranoia.

These extremist groups keep crying “Religious Freedom,” when that’s the last thing they want!
Most right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals have made it abundantly clear that they only want freedom for THEIR religious views.
They don’t want everyone to be saying Buddhist prayers in our schools.
They don’t want people swearing on the Quran in our courts.
They don’t want homage paid to Shiva during our sporting events.
They don’t even want to acknowledge the millions of Christians who disagree with them.
So let’s call their cry for religious freedom what it is:
Bullshit!
They’re not talking about freedom. They’re talking about privilege.
Privilege for a particular segment of a particular form of a particular religion.
What they actually want is a Dark Ages system of Church/State control and forced religious compliance.
They are as far from the heart of God as were the Pharisees.
There are Christians that suffer real persecution (including torture and death) for their faith, and these prophets-of-doom extremists are an insult to those truly suffering.

Michael Bussee puts things in perspective this way:

“I hear they won’t let Christians get married. And that gay bakers won’t make them cakes. And that they have special programs that can cure them of being Christians. And that there are lots of homeless Christian kids in America because their gay parents reject them when they come out as Christian…”

Movies like this cater to the lowest common denominators of elitism, religious superiority, quasi-faith and simple fear.
They are desperate calls to rally the troops of a dwindling and hopefully soon dead cultist belief system that’s scratching and clawing for it’s final breath.

persecutedThe makers of this celluloid dung should be ashamed of themselves for feeding these fires of self-importance, delusion, and devotion to a false and dangerous view of God. A view that is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus.

Sadly, this ear-tickling movie will probably do well at the box office.  We can only hope and pray that more and more people of faith will speak out against this kind on nonsense, and toss it in the garbage along with the “Left Behind” movies and the propaganda of the Westboro Baptists.
– df



long_war

 

Hellbound? May 24, 2013

If the only way to get rid of evil is to get rid of evil people, who among us would be left?
– Kevin Miller

hellbound

This is a very educational documentary.
The New York Times calls this film “substantive and even handed.”
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be represented here.
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be challenged here.
As Nicholas Ahern said, “Preterism. Atonement. Soteriology. Gehenna. Free will. It’s all here.”

The gamut of my emotions were brought to bear.
Sometimes I wanted to stand and scream “Yes! Hallelujah! Praise God!”
Sometimes I was almost moved to tears.
Sometimes I was just really, really pissed off and wanted to smack some of the people talking.
(OK. I probably wouldn’t really smack anyone, but I sure felt like it.)

A wide (and I mean very wide) variety of individuals, both famous and not, were interviewed. Some “regular” people, and some quite scholarly. The breadth of opinion and interpretation should help give us all pause in our statements and declarations of “fact”.

Most of the positions are well-argued (or well-presented), including those with which I disagree.  There are a couple of strong exceptions.
The friendly folks of WBC are so far off the map that I truly consider them mentally ill.
Also, famous atheist Robert McKee rambles on without making a lick of sense.  Here’s a man who doesn’t believe in God or hell, but is very angry with Christians who don’t believe in conscious eternal torment.  He calls them “wussys” who are trying to make God a nice guy.  Mind you, he doesn’t believe in God, but he believes that if you DO believe in God, you must believe in an angry, mean-spirited god.  He doesn’t come off sounding like a “true” atheist, but as a spoiled little boy trying make his daddy angry.

We get to clearly see the hate and the love of various theologies, and the definite impact those beliefs have on those who hold them, as well as the impact that our beliefs have on the rest of the world.
No matter what your eschatology, or lack thereof, I highly recommend this movie.

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

[You can rent it for as low as $2.99!!!  Well worth it.]


To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.
Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why? Featuring an eclectic group of authors, theologians, pastors, social commentators and musicians, HELLBOUND? is a provocative, feature-length documentary that looks at why we are so bound to the idea of hell and how our beliefs about hell affect the world we are creating today.

Cast: Mark Driscoll, Jonathan Phelps & Margie Phelps, William Paul Young, Brian McLaren, Hank Hanegraaff, Justin Taylor, Franky Schaeffer, Gregory Boyd, Mike Bickle, Oderus Urungus, Necrobutcher, Glen Benton, David Vincent, Ole Luger La’Fay Walsh, Ray Comfort, Kevin DeYoung, Brad Jersak, Robin Parry, Kevin Miller, Jamie Clark-Soles, Sharon Baker, Michael Hardin, David Bruce, Chad Holtz, Bob Larson, Robert McKee, Lazar Puhalo, Peter Kreeft, Jerry Walls, Ron Dart
————————-

By narrowing its range of voices to Christian leaders, thinkers and writers, Kevin Miller’s sober, stimulating documentary on the hot topic of eternal damnation necessarily limits its audience, but achieves a level of rhetorical eloquence that would theoretically appeal to open-minded viewers of any religious stripe.
– Justin Chang
Gave each view a fair hearing (including views I strongly disagree with!) Like the first time I watched “An Inconvenient Truth”, it’s left me really wishing everyone around me, both religious & non-religious, could watch it & share the experience.
– Alex
A rich, thoughtful conversation-starter about changing notions of religious damnation, Hellbound? invades notoriously touchy territory with an open mind, steady focus and civil disposition.
– Brent Simon
An engaging, accessible documentary that explores the (truly) eternal questions, “Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why?”
– Kerry Lengel
[It gives] the little-served Christian market a thought-provoking alternative to smarmy features like “Fireproof.”
– Neil Genzlinger
Any admirer of good talk will be impressed by the scholasticism and pulpit-trained oratory here, as well as some choice fighting words: “Evangelicism in America is what the pharisees were to ancient Egypt.”
– Nick Pinkerton
Warning: side effects may include critical thinking and paradigm shifting.
– Paul Pinos

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

From the documentary, here’s a chart with a list of Scripture references which, at face value, seem to support each of those positions.

Eschatology Chart

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

Some quotes:

– By eliminating hell, these people are sucking the meaning out of life. The notion that there really is no hell is simply a wussy effort to make God a nice guy.
Robert McKee (an Atheist!)
– Without hell, there’s no need for salvation.
Hank Hanegraaff
– Belief in hell is a primary factor for being a Christian. God, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.
Mark Driscoll

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

– Nowhere in scripture is belief in hell primary to salvation.
Chad Holtz
– The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.
Frank Schaeffer
– Our whole theological system has been boiled down to “hell avoidance.” We see that Jesus is not teaching “hell,” but un-teaching hell.
Brian McLaren

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

– You never get away from the subjective element, so why not just be honest about it? The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.`
Frank Schaeffer
– Every doctrine of hell presuposes a view about God.
Robin Parry
– By the time [in history] that we get to Jesus, Jesus essentially is seeking to remove the notion of retribution from the concept of divinity.
Michael Hardin
– Were halfway to heaven when we rise to someone else’s suffering. When we inflict suffering on other people in the name of morality, we’re three-quarters of the way to hell.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

 

Star Trek Into Darkness May 20, 2013

poster

With this new set of films, Abrams has really made
Star Trek part of the next – Next Generation.
Action.
Adventure.
Humor.
Snappy dialog delivered by a pitch-perfect cast.
Cumberbatch is a nice addition. Still, IF there is a show-stealer, it’s Zachary Quinto.

This film will certainly stand alone, but I’m glad I heeded the advise of one reviewer to dig out the 1982 “The Wrath of Khan,” and watch it prior to seeing “Into Darkness.” It did enhance the experience.

Of course, as with the series, there’s socio-political commentary. Here we deal with the myth of redemptive violence. As those who have tried to tell us again and again (MLK, Ghandi, Jesus) “An eye for an eye” only escalates the violence. (Who the “terrorists” are can very often depend on your perspective. Some would say this applies to our leaders response to 9-11.)

Lastly, you really should see this in IMAX 3D. It’s a great movie, so you may as well enjoy it at full warp speed.
spock&kirk






Tribbles

 

The Vega, The Ghost, and the Rambling Old Man January 19, 2013

Well, we’re a few weeks into 2013.
I can’t count the number of times the world was supposed to end by now.
(Of course, this could all be an illusion created to satisfy us while we’re just being used as batteries to keep the machines running.)


I thought I should write something before the first month of the new year is over. Since I don’t have a specific topic in mind I guess I’ll just ramble.
I don’t get how some people blog every single day! I do think I’ll shoot for a couple times a month.
Yeah. Good luck with that.

58
Oh, I just turned 58 this month.
I’ll talk about that.
Ya know, I keep saying that getting older sucks, and many aspects do, indeed, suck.
But there’s plenty to be thankful for, as well.

Man. 58 years on this planet.
Fifty-friggin’-eight years.
That seems like a long time. Simultaneously, it’s like a flash in the pan.
I feel like I’ve lived a number of different lives in that time. I should write a memoir.
I’d need help from a good ghost-writer. But I know some of the things I’d include.
I’ll give a very, very small sampling.

So many experiences.
Experiences I shouldn’t even still be alive to…
well, experience.

I’ve lost track of how many wrecks I’ve been in.
Crashed into a tree. Into a bridge.
Rolled a car in front of a moving semi.
Flipped a motorcycle.  Just to name a few.

Hey! Ya wanna ride?


When I was younger, growing up on a farm, we used to play “pitchfork toss.” We’d see
how close we could get without actually impaling each other.
We really knew how to have fun, didn’t we?
I don’t know how the hell I survived childhood, let alone live to 58!

I got beat up a lot. (Something to do with having a “smart mouth,” I think.)
Still, they never shut me up.
There! I showed them, huh?

I’ve been threatened at gunpoint. That’ll get the heart pumping.

I had a rather odd (and not much fun) trip to the Grand Canyon.
(And, if I recall, the Painted Desert, Petrified Forrest, Royal Gorge, and the Rockies.)
Four people, camping gear, and a couple weeks on the road…chevrolet-vega-1
all in a Vega.
Yeah. A Vega.

It wasn’t my friends fault that I had a bad time.  It was just a personal thing.

I used to go camping. (OK. Sometimes that was fun. A little.)
I went spelunking once.  The kind where you start by slithering through a
hole you wouldn’t make your dog go through.  I can’t say that I recommend spelunking.
Sure, it had some interesting aspects. Just not enough bang for the buck from my perspective.


Fun Experiences:
White-water rafting. Para-sailing. Flying in a helicopter. Flying in little 2-seater planes.
Trips to the ocean. Trips to lakes. Multiple times sailing and other boating trips. Lots of trips to amusement parks. Trips to Las Vegas.
And many enjoyable memories of concerts (from Alice Cooper to The Monkees, to Marvin Hamlisch) and live theater performances (Like “Les Mis ”, “Cats”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked”.)

I’ve written, produced and recorded two CDs with my wife.
I’ve written (and been paid for) some articles for a magazine.
I was so happy to play a small part in bringing the movie “Blue Like Jazz”  to the screen, and be listed in the ending credits.


Changes.
A less than stable first five years of life.
Then adopted.
Loved, but grossly miscast as a farm boy. Not a lot of friends.
Got in lots of trouble.
Lots of trouble.
Seriously, I was ADHD long before they knew what that was.

I had a number of teenage crushes, and at least one long-term teenage love.
High-school dropout.
Convicted, incarcerated felon.
Late-teen/early twenties evangelical. Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus-freak.
Right-wing. “Mostly” Republican.
Got Married.
Became a stepfather.

I’ve worked in a lot of factories. I really need to get back to that kind of work.

More changes.
Marriage troubles (mostly my fault.)
Divorced.
“Post mid-life” crisis.
Coke-snorting, multiple drug-taking, party-boy.
Trying hard to find my place.
Trying to distinguish what I know about myself from what I’ve thought I should be.
Trying to distinguish God from what I’ve been taught about God.

Grace.
Lots and lots of grace.
Re-married (same woman).
Became a grandparent.  Twice.
Co-pastor. Elder. Sunday-school teacher. Worship leader. Counselor.
Ex-co-pastor. Ex-elder. Ex-Sunday-school teacher. etc.
(Still a pastor and a counselor in a more “real-world,” organic kind of way.)
Ex-member of institutional religion.
Left-wing. “Mostly” Democrat.

Speaking of leaving the IC:
I tried hard to maintain some of the relationships I had there. Sadly, no one was really interested. Religion can so entwine some people that, to them, leaving a man-made organization constitutes leaving the friendship.
There was one man at the institution I used to attend who, I have no doubt, would have remained a close friend to this day, had he not already transitioned to the next part of eternity.

So, I went a few years without much positive social interaction. Recently that changed when I associated myself with a group called “Lifetree Café.” It’s a conversation cafe, which I’ve hosted a number of times.
We’re currently on hiatus.
A few friendships evolved out of that, as well as a 4-man discussion group/book club.

58 years.
So many changes.

Philosophical.
  World-view.
    Religious.
      Spiritual.
        Social.
          Political.

All of those areas of my life have seen more change in the last 3 to 8 years than I would have imagined or thought possible.
good-newsI’ve been freed of much of the horrible theology I used to accept and promote.
I learned that the “Good News” really is good.
I was pretty young in life when I was “born-again/saved/converted/came to know Christ,” or whatever you wish to call that form of spiritual awakening. I used to think that during all of the “troubles” I’ve mentioned that I somehow lost that “salvation.” A couple of the more important revelations in my life were, first of all “salvation” is not primarily about what happens after this life, and secondly, I couldn’t disconnect from God if I wanted to.
Ignore God; live out of selfishness and greed; Yes. But be separated from God; never.

2012 saw me more politically engaged than I have ever been, financially and actively.
This engagement was, for me, simply an extension of my faith and of my love for God.
I won’t go into much detail here because I’ve explored many of those issues throughout this blog.


Sexual/Spiritual healing.
I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am wired as a sexual being.
(If you haven’t already done so, you can read more about that aspect in my “Tribbles” article.)
I’ve learned to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, and with my life as a happily married man, without having to deny, dislike, or fight that inner part of my soul.

My wife, Kathy, is truly the best part of my life. I don’t recommend divorce as an avenue for making your marriage better, but it seemed to help us. I’ve now spent much more of my life with her than without her. Neither of us, of course, are the people we originally said “I do” with. We’ve grown together, and evolved together in amazing and unbelievable ways.
Sidelight: I can’t imagine spending all those years together – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and all the in between – while being told that our love wasn’t worthy of being called a marriage just because it was looked down upon by someone else.
Tragic.

Onward.
58 years, so far.
Sometimes I wish I knew how much time is left on my clock. Sometimes I’m glad I don’t know.
Some nights I call it a draw.”
One day at a time. Despite what we may try to believe, there’s really no other option. (That doesn’t seem to stop me from often borrowing tomorrow’s troubles.)

Kathy and I are discussing our retirement plans. We know we won’t be living high-on-the-hog, but we figure we should be modestly financially stable. We may still need part-time jobs, unless we retire in another country. That’s a real possibility.

I hope, in retirement, to spend more time volunteering for causes I support.
I have a deep desire to do at least one more CD.
I’d like more opportunities to put my multiple counseling studies to good use as I continue to “pastor.”
And maybe someday, I’ll connect with that ghost-writer.

– df
.                                                                             .  ghost-writer

 

BLUE LIKE JAZZ on DVD August 8, 2012

Order The DVD From LIFEWALK! CLICK HERE!
(It’s also at Walmart, Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, and likely on Mars by now.)

[I got a call from Donald Miller thanking me for my support of “Blue Like Jazz.” Yeah, that’s kind of pretty cool. Here’s a brief review of the movie.]

I expected to enjoy “Blue Like Jazz.” Yet, I must admit, after all the promotion and high hopes, I had some fear [just a teeny tiny bit] the movie might not be something I would be able to “brag” about.
After seeing the film, all fears have been laid to rest. I thought it was a great movie. My wife and I both really enjoyed it [and not just because our names are in the closing credits].
Good writing. Good production values. Good performances all the way around.
AND a great message! One I can actually get behind.

If you’ve read “Blue Like Jazz,” and listened to some old Steve Taylor records, you’ll have some idea of the creative power behind the movie. It addresses the hypocrisy of religion, while remaining very pro-faith. It’s real, raw, and avoids the clichés and pitfalls that seem inherent with most movies dealing with faith.
I will be seeing this movie again and again. We traveled a couple of hours just to see it. It was more than worth it.
Do yourself a favor: See “Blue Like Jazz.” It’s not just a movie. The background of its making, and the execution make it a piece of cinematic history.

UPDATED TRAILER with quotes from movie reviews:

READ MORE. Click Here.


DVD Special Features Include:

Audio Commentary with Author Donald Miller, Cinematographer Ben Pearson and Director Steve Taylor
Making Blue Like Jazz
Master Class: Directing Actors on Set
Deleted Shots
Photo Gallery
“Save Blue Like Jazz” Featurette
“The Cast” Featurette
“The Animator” Featurette
“This Is My Story” Featurette
“The Music” Featurette

 

The Kingdom, The Ship, and the Really Hot Days July 2, 2012

We weren’t home much over the weekend.
There were some pretty bad storms, and we lost power Friday afternoon.  As of now (Monday) our power is STILL out!
This during some record-breaking heat.
We stayed one night with our son’s family.
We also spent a LOT of time in stores, at the mall, in restaurants, and sitting in coffee shops.
And we went to the movies.
Two of them.

One was “Battleship.”

We figured it would be watchable, but didn’t really expect much. Turns out, we thought it was pretty good!
So much for Rotten Tomatoes. More and more I find their reviews unreliable.
I miss Gene Siskel.
Anyway, it was great to see Peter Berg, Taylor Kitsch, and Jesse Plemons working together again. Hamish Linklater provided additional comic relief.  It also starred Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and  the always working Liam Neeson.  It was, as seems to be the norm, a bit too long, but Berg and the actors delivered the requisite “humanity” it takes to make a movie like this worth watching.


We also saw a movie neither of us had heard of before:

“Moonrise Kingdom.”
It was playing at the mainstream theaters, and is now, appropriately, at the local Cinema Center.
It introduced us to young stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
It also had a star-filled cast, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swinton.
We didn’t really know, even after reading the description, what to expect.  What we got was one of the most quirky, off-beat, and unusual films we’ve seen in the last decade.  A different kind of story, superb writing, and strange-but-great performances make Moonrise Kingdom a movie that’s in a league of it’s own.
Highly recommended.

So, not really a bad weekend.
Still, it would be nice to have electricity in our home again.

 

Conviction July 27, 2011



Amazing. Inspiring. Awesome. Unbelievable. TRUE!
My wife and I just watched “Conviction.” Wow. What a movie.
I suppose it would still have been an excellent movie as a work of fiction, but by being a true story, it’s made all the more remarkable.
Strong love, faith, perseverance, and incredible sacrifice are all on display here.

“Conviction” stars Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis and Peter Gallagher.
It’s the story of Betty Anne Waters, who spends around two decades going to law school and becoming a lawyer for the sole purpose of proving her brother innocent of the murder for which he was convicted. Talk about conviction!
It’s also the story of a “justice system” that doesn’t like admitting to mistakes, as well as a story of the advent of DNA evidence and Barry Scheck’s “Innocence Project”.

Yes, there is a lot of profanity in this movie. But what is truly profane is the corruption of those who willfully twisted the facts, and procured perjury in order to get a conviction.

They don’t whitewash the fact that the man found guilty was often a short-tempered obnoxious jerk. Rockwell gives a performance that shows us a man it’s hard to be compassionate toward. But he is still a man falsely accused.
Had he been in a state where the death penalty was in effect, he would have been dead before his sister had time to exonerate him.

Hundreds of convictions have been overturned due to DNA evidence. We’ll never know how many hundreds or thousands of innocent people have been “proven” guilty but the lawyers, found guilty by the jurors, sentenced guilty by the judges, and put to death as guilty by the executioners.
There are many who think this “collateral damage” is acceptable in order to keep the death penalty in place for those they believe “deserve” it.
I am NOT among them. I’m pretty sure most of them would think differently were it their son or daughter wrongly sentenced. The possibility of even ONE person wrongly convicted and put to death is reason enough to abolish capital punishment.

All the performances in “Conviction” are top-notch. My favorite was probably the few, but excellent minutes occupied by Juliet Lewis.
I don’t recall hearing of this movie at the theaters, but I’m very glad I found it. It was time well spent.
Buy, rent, or borrow this movie.

— df

Buy the movie.  Click HERE.


Here’s a CBS news article about the real story: Read HERE.

 

 
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