Thursday, February 25, 2016

X Misses The Spot: The New X-Files In A New Entertainment World

I loved the original X-Files. My largest high school research paper was on UFO's; X-Files was right in my wheelhouse. It was bold, creative, fun, creepy, and at times moving. It gave life to every conspiracy I wanted to believe was true - and a few that I didn't.

Mulder the believer, Scully the skeptic. More often than not, they hit a sweet spot between wanting to believe and refusing to do so. Chris Carter reminded us that wonder without science leads to mystical fanaticism, but science without wonder is impoverished when it refuses to see parts of reality that don't fit into a lab. The X-Files managed to challenge both ends of that spectrum while not entirely dismissing people who live on the fringe.

When it ended, I was really disappointed. Unfortunately, the new series has not recaptured the magic of the original series. I'm not sure it could.

I think of the X-Files as the foundation on which a lot of sci-fi/horror/conspiracy shows have been built. Like the original Star Trek, its place in the TV canon is solid. Like the original Star Trek, it was also eclipsed by its progeny. Other shows took the X-Files landscape and built on it, remade it, populated it with more and better of everything (except the original quirky charm): Fringe, Lost, Resurrection, Surface,  Supernatural, American Gothic, Wayward Pines, Millennium, Warehouse 13, Grimm, Miracles, Primeval, The Lone Gunmen.

Now the X-Files is back, but.. it's not.

Christian Subtlety and Art

Some great thoughts on Christianity and the artistic endeavor from my friend and fellow pastor, Carey Waldie, in his latest book God And Your Talent:
"Christians struggle with subtlety in our art. We wrongly assume that we must have an overtly Christian symbol or lyric in the piece to make it 'Christian art.' This needlessly limits our reach and inhibits our creativity.  
Brand and Chaplin write in Art and Soul: Signposts for the Christian in the Arts'Our task as Christian artists is not to portray God’s plan of salvation in three easy stages. Very rarely indeed will we be called upon to tell the Gospel story in its completeness. What we can do is give plenty of hints.' Life isn’t always plastic and tidy. God works redemption because something needs redeeming…' 
Steve Turner comments in Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts'If the obstacles the writer introduces either don’t seem challenging enough (for example, the protagonist is handed back too much change in a store and worries about whether to return it) or don’t seem real enough (for example, a fight ensues but no punches are seen to land and no blood is spilled), then evil doesn’t appear evil enough, and if good triumphs, it won’t appear good enough. This is why so much “Christian fiction” lacks the ring of truth. The action doesn’t appear to take place in the “real world.'”

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Walking Dead And The Problem of Gratuitous Evil

A commonly recurring question in theodicy has to do with the problem of evil (pain, suffering, etc). It's not necessarily the existence of evil per se; there is broad (if not begrudging) acknowledgment that the goodness of the God of the Bible is not incompatible with a generalized presence of evil in God's creation. It's more the question of gratuitous evil, evil for which which we can see no good reason why it should exist. William Rowe phrased this evidential problem of evil in this way:

  • There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse (he uses the story of a fawn dying in a forest fire, and the true account of young girl in Flint, MI who was brutally murdered).
  • An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
  • (Therefore) There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.  

It's a fair question. Even if the general presence of evil is compatible with a good God's existence, what about specific cases of evil? Why would God not have intervened in what seems to be gratuitous suffering?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

NARAL, Doritos, And The "Tactic Of Humanizing Fetuses"

During the Super Bowl, Doritos aired a fan-made ad that generated a lot more response than they expected. Here's the ad:

I suspect viewers would have laughed (or cringed) and moved on - it was, after all, just a chip commercial - except that NARAL promptly weighed in with the following tweet:

Apparently, "humanizing fetuses" (or making unborn baby humans seem, well, human) is merely an anti-choice tactic, a scurrilous misrepresentation of what happens during a pregnancy.

Rather than repost pro-life arguments that I have made elsewhere, I will simply offer the following five videos for your viewing pleasure. They aren't gross; they aren't made by rabid pro-lifers. The first two simply shows what happens in the womb when a fetus develops. The final three show when and how an unborn baby begins to respond to his or her environment.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Find Your Magic: How Axe Measures A Man

Like many, my primary motivation for watching the Superbowl is the advertisements. It’s the one time of year when viewers get a clear sense of what the marketing world believes will resonate with a global audience of over 100 million people.

Some ads are boldly self-aware, clearly winking at the audience as they offer a hook that has nothing to do with their product (the Walken Closet, Puppy Monkey Baby, and Shock Top). Others are informative, using the opportunity simply to get the word out (Pay Pal, Rocket Mortgage).

As much as I enjoy the overall creativity on display, it’s the socially conscious ads that reveal the most. This year, Colgate and Axe used the platform to make a statement about something they assume the audience takes seriously – or at least should. They don't just want us to buy a product; they want us to buy into a worldview.