Sunday, December 27, 2009

CCSG Chapter 9: Christian Entertainment and Bookstores [Part 2]

This is a continuation of my previous post on the topic.

Again, if you are interested, read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

I left off last time talking about Christian movies and music, and today I'm going to talk about Christian television.

I used to watch the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which is a 24-hour, 7 days a week Christian programming network.  There are Christian made for television movies, televangelists, televised church sermons, Saturday morning Christian cartoons, weekday night "pledge infomercials", etc.  I even remember a few of the televangelists that had regular appearances, such as Rod Parsley, Joel Osteen, Dan and Paula Crouch, T.D. Jakes, Ed Young, John Hagee, Eddie Long, etc.

Although these people have a great number of Christian fans, they are not without ridicule.  Many of them are known for their "prosperity gospel", and Joel Osteen is the biggest culprit.  As a matter of fact, I recently saw a Rapture Ready forum post talking about the man, and how he has been sent from the devil himself to preach a false gospel.  Of course, if you take a look at his main points (graciously provided by one of the forum members), they are:
1) Have a positive attitude toward ourselves- (because sin is so offensive...we all have such beautiful potential yaknow)

2) Develop better relationships..(but he fails to mention the only relationship that has the capability to produce change and better "us"es....Hmm...Jesus ...)

3) Embrace where we are: ( yes, and if we listen to him, we most likely are on the wide road leading straight to caring of him)
Joel Osteen actually preaches that we should develop better relationships, have positive attitudes, and embrace life... If you ask me, he's way better than anybody else on the normal broadcasting schedule.  He doesn't sound half bad, considering the fact that he's often roasted for cutting out a lot of the Jesus crap from his messages (although, not entirely God-fluff free).  At the very least, he's better than this guy.

To cut the crap, TBN was founded by Christians Paul and Jan Crouch, and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.  It now seems that it is run by Paul and Jan, since you see their faces the most (perhaps I may be wrong, since the last time I spent too long in this channel was a while ago).

Here is the Mr. Turner's four ideas to help TBN (since I have to bring this back to the book somehow):

1.  Lose the wig.  (Just look at that photo).

2.  New musical talent.  (Seriously, I never even heard of the people who used to play music on this network, even when I was a Christian.  And they were bland.)

3.  Less crying, and more compelling storytelling.

4.  Encourage to give, rather than guilt.  (This is a huge criticism of televangelists).

There you have it.  That's pretty much what the whole chapter comes down to, since the end is just a short couple of paragraphs talking about Christian bookstores, and a list telling you what you can do with all of those "WWJD" bracelets you have.

There is one thing I do one to quote (for the sake of quoting, really), and it's the third item on the chapter's last list (which is three Jesus branded crap that Christians would have been better off never creating).

Right below the "Test-a-mints", and Jabez crapolla, just to leave you with something to think about, here is...
3.  The "Fish Eating Darwin" car decal - Everywhere you look, there's a tan mini-van with the "Jesus fish eating the Darwin thingy" pasted on its bum. Why did we lower ourselves to the standards of evolution? [Pg. 130].

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CCSG Chapter 9: Christian Entertainment and Bookstores [Part 1]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Christianity is an industry, as well as a religion.  I'd like to say it began a while ago, when people first started to sing in churches; the music that was played was considered Christian, and fit enough to grace the ears of the Almighty one.  Or, perhaps it started in art (but then again, many will be quick to note that the reason for this was that those with the money to fund artistic endeavors were also those preaching and serving in the pews).  Or maybe the Christian industry is really a relatively recent thing, something that was brought about by the rise of television and radio.  Christians now have their own brand of everything, really, and no doubt this helps Christians to stay in their own bubbles and never come out.

When you go to watch the television, there are channels such as the Trinity Broadcast Network that plays exclusively Christian programming all day, every day.  Their is even a version of this channel aimed at the more youthful Christians, JC-TV, that is pretty much a Christian MTV.  Speaking of music, there are Christian music record labels aimed at providing Christian only content, and rightfully so.  With the hash of Christian fundamentalists claiming that the world belongs to the devil, no wonder Christians want to reside within their on circles.  The world is a scary place, and these good Christian labels are here to help discriminate between what belongs to Satan, and what praises God.

Hell, there are even Christian movies too (ones you don't really hear about), and don't get me started on the horde of Christian books as well.

But I do agree that these Christian directors, producers, publishers. are allowed to create films, music, and books for whatever public they want; it is their right to do so, and I do not want to take that away from them.  I really don't mind much, actually.  I'm sure if I were a Christian trying to abstain from the evil of the world, I'd be particularly set on only watching, reading, listening to Christian media.

Mr. Turner, the author of the book, discusses how Christianity seems to be a few years behind its contemporary secular partner in the entertainment industry.  He also makes the point of saying that Christian products are not usually creative, harping on other avenues for inspiration.  The end result is usually corny.

A big message in the book to Christian entertainers (the musicians) is that just because you're Christians does not mean you can't go out and have a blast... or something like that.  Really, saying "Praise the Lord" and the like every five minutes gets boring.  Christians are humans, and they want to enjoy those twenty-five dollars they spent to go to your concert.  (Of course, who can blame anybody for buyers remorse after listening to "Open the Eyes of My Heart", and "How Great is Our God").

According to Mr. Turner, here are five ways of making yourself a better Christian entertainer: 

1.  Remember your audience

2. Remember your budget

3.  Remember your story

4.  Remember your reason

5.  Remember your creator
    Really, it all sums down to "Put God first", which of course is what every good Christian should do.  And not just in music, but movies too!

    Here is Mr. Turner's five five must-dos when watching a Christian movie:

    1.  To make the time go by quicker, watch it with a Christian friend. 

    2.  Even though you know you could make a better script, refrain from stating the obvious.

    3.  Have a strong drink ready, and by strong drink the author means coffee.

    4.  Look past the shitty action scenes.

    5.  Make the last few minutes optional.

    I appreciate the fact that this Christian author decided to poke fun (albeit while being truthful) about the Christian movie industry.  How many of you have read "Left Behind"?  We all know Kirk Cameron as the washed out teen actor from Growing Pains, who now assists Ray Comfort in promoting his Way of the Master television program, and the crocoduck myth; however, Kirk Cameron was one of the stars of the movie rendition of the Left Behind series, which you can view a trailer of by clicking here.  He also starred in the movie "Fireproof", which has a cheesy website by the name "Fireproof my marriage" that has all sorts of articles that you can use to protect your nice Christian marriage... but that's besides the point.  These two movies by Kirk Cameron are obviously tailored for Christian audiences, and even within that circle only cater to the fundamentalists (or those who like watching crap films).  Sure, these movies may not have completely flopped, but that's only because there is a great many people who do not want to leave the bubble.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Merry Christmas

    To get back into the Christmas spirit, I am going to re-post a video from AronRa (a YouTube user) dealing with a twist on an old Christmas classic!

    (Of course, it's still Christmas Eve where I live, but perhaps some of you have already opened and shared some gifts.  Then again, not all of you probably celebrate Christmas, in which case, have a safe December, no matter what you do.)

    Man commits suicide to be with his son

    Apologies in advance, since this post wont be such a happy, joyous one- and on Christmas Eve, no less.  I feel inclined, however, to share this article.

    A man has committed suicide in order to be reunited with his dead son, who died due to an automobile accident.
    Kelly still blames herself for the fatal smash on the A81 Glasgow to Aberfoyle Road.

    She was driving a Vauxhall Corsa with Connor in the passenger seat. They were following labourer Allan, who was carrying relatives in another car as they drove to Loch Achray to let their son try out his new fishing rod.

    But Kelly lost control after hitting a pothole. The Corsa smashed into a Volvo and rolled down an embankment.

    Connor was airlifted unconscious to Glasgow's Southern General where he was put on a life support machine.
    The article states that the death of the boy was brought upon by the head injuries he sustained in the car crash.  This is obviously tear jerking in itself, and I couldn't imagine the pain endured by both the mother and father; it's obvious they loved their son very much, enough to want to follow him into the afterlife and take care of him.

    If you're like me, you don't believe in the afterlife.  While there is no evidence that really disproves any notion of the afterlife, the burden of proof lies in those who posit that there is such a thing as the afterlife; in other words, this is the only life we're guaranteed.  This makes the story all the more tragic.
    "While we sat we had talked about who would go with him if he died.
    "Allan insisted I should stay to look after our 13-year-old daughter Lauren and he should go.
    "He went into the family room and took a cocktail of tablets and tried to take his own life that night but nurses found him and he was saved."
    But, several weeks later, Allan was found dead after strangling himself with a dog leash at a relative's home.
    Shop worker Kelly, of Dennistoun, Glasgow, admitted that both of them had struggled to come to terms with losing Connor.
    She added that their love for their daughter was the only thing that kept her going.
    She added: "We were both tortured by Connor's death .
    "We tried to carry on for Lauren's sake but it all got too much for Allan. When I heard he had died too, I screamed for about five minutes but then I felt a strange sense of comfort knowing that Connor wasn't alone any more.
    "I went to see his body and he was smiling and looked at peace and contented for the first time since Connor died.
    "I know that when he shut his eyes and died he knew that he was going to see Connor again.
    This leaves me at a crossroads.  On one hand, I advocate that we as humans should recognize truth, and try to rid ourselves of any superstitious beliefs in order to satisfy the desire for a more realistic, and better society.  On the other hand, these people actually found comfort in their belief that their son would not be alone.  This comfort is found in religious believers of all stripes as well, who have found joy in the fact that maybe they're not alone.  But then I read this:
    "She has been the strongest out of all of us and I am very proud of how she has coped with all this.
    "I feel bad for her because I still can't face putting up a Christmas tree as it just makes me upset.

    "The sense of loss doesn't seem to be getting any easier. My heart is still breaking for my lovely wee boy.
    Nothing has been solved.  The truth is, not only have they lost their son, but they have lost their father too.  Sure, magical thinking can provide comfort for the moment, but it's not long term- and it isn't true comfort in the sense that it has any merit to it.  The belief in superstition made this story only all the more tragic.  In times like this, what one should not dwell on unsubstantiated thoughts of the afterlife, but rather continue to trudge on (for their sake, and the sake of others).  I don't mean to sound harsh, since the mother and daughter have been charitable in their reactions.
    Since the double tragedy last year, Kelly has focused her energy on raising cash for the Southern General and the air ambulance.

    With the support of her daughter and best pal Kevin Brannigan, 23, she has raised thousands of pounds for both causes.

    Last week, they staged an original version of the Cinderella pantomime, penned by Kevin, starring family and friends, for 200 people at Bambury Centre in Barrowfield, Glasgow, in memory of Connor. They raised more than £600.

    It was such a success that Kelly, who starred as Red Riding Hood, and Kevin, the Fairy Godfather, are planning to hold another night after the New Year.
    The pair also held a charity dance, which raised £5000.

    Kelly said: "The hospital staff were wonderful, so thoughtful and caring. They do such an amazing job. I want Connor to be proud of his mum and helping others makes me feel closer to him."
    This is much more productive than taking your own life. Sometimes life is a struggle, I know, but the ability to continue forward in good faith (used loosely) is better than committing suicide.  It breaks my heart that this family has since lost two people, but as one reader puts it:
    FatherTed13 wrote:
    This is such a sad sad story. And proves that religon is a curse.

    This young man killed himself so he could be with his son, nonsense.

    All he has done is end his suffering, and in the process double that of the living.

    A better tribute to his son would have been to stay healthy and look after the rest of his family.

    I know i have been through this.

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    CCSG Chapter 8: Dating

    A while ago, I started a project revolving around a book titled the "Christian Culture Survival Guide", which was actually written from a Christian. For some reason, or another, I never finished it off. So, after several months, I decided to finally finish this project, and to redo a certain topic that deserves much more attention from me (instead of just a cheesy music video)- Christian dating.

    So, if you're interested, again, read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

    Seven Types of Guys (for Girls to choose from) in a Christian Culture:

    You know, I'm actually not particularly familiar with this list- I guess the author believes he's so knowledgeable in the field of Christian dating that he actually knows the types of Christian fellows that exist that nice Christian gals to take.. or something like that. Well, in order to not discriminate between information, here you go (just in case there is a nice Christian lady reading):

    1. The Jesus Jock:
    So, this guy isn't really an athlete- unless you call becoming increasingly annoying is a sport. He's the sort of guy involved in various church activities, campus groups, says "praise Jesus", blah blah blah... A tosser, generally. For Christians, he's the perfect man. Maybe he'll attend a seminary someday, become a preacher, and then fuck his life over. Unless you think becoming a preacher is a good thing.

    2. The Unattractive Nice Guy:
    Pretty self explanatory, really. This guy has probably read the bible, and whilst not the top theologian in the world, has a general grounding in biblical knowledge. But, like the title says, he's unattractive.

    3. The "Do you think...?" Guy:
    Basically, people don't know whether this type of person is gay or "bi-curious" (the author's word). Hence, "do you think". Either way, if he's not into women, what makes him qualified to be in a list for Christian women? Oh yeah, because Christians think they can "cure" homosexuality. Just ask Ted Haggard. .

    4. The Big Brother:
    Knowledgeable, normal, and well mannered. He doesn't belong on this list, either, because according to the author, this person has had a steady girlfriend since the age of seventeen, and is looking to marry after graduating college. (Spoiler: This guy will become a youth pastor).

    5. The "Bad Christian" Boy:
    Pandering to the notion that women are attracted to rebels, this Christian is a long time Church goer, but gets kicked out of private school for his vanities (drugs). He's a construction worker (for some reason), making ten bucks an hour.

    6. The My So Called Life Music Guy:
    Blah blah blah, he has shoulder length hair, tries to act quasi-intelligent, and claims to like "Mozart and Nirvana."

    7. The Extreme Guy:
    Extreme because he goes to bible retreats, and skateboards. How exhilarating.

    So, that list isn't so great. But, do not fret, because the author has provided a list of Christian women us Christian guys would like to date. There is only one problem... I'm not a Christian.

    1. The Jesus Cheerleader:
    Pretty much fits the stereotype of a regular cheerleader, but she's a Christian. Pretty much, all of the girls in this video. She marries the "big brother" type of guy, apparently.

    2. The Tomboy:
    Again, just a regular tomboy mold who happens to be Christian.

    3. The Early Bloomer:
    Yep, this Christian girl has "the goods", and has kissed all the guys in youth group. At least, I heard that in a rumor going around bible study. She marries a jerk, and becomes re-re-born in her twenties.

    4. Miss Codependent:
    Sheltered upbringing, chases after the popular guy, and actively seeks attention.
    Creepy, really. Mostly because of the sheltered upbringing.

    5. The Home School Girl:
    Yep, she's home schooled. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but she receives a strictly Christian education. That doesn't stop her from being involved in various clubs. She starts dating when she's twenty two, for some reason.

    6. The Sweet Innocent One:
    Nice, says hello, likes the bible, is boring. All these Christian women are beginning to look like vanilla.

    7. "All about ME" Girl:
    Center of attention, it's all about her. My rehashing of these descriptions is getting lazier and lazier.

    8. The Premature Mother:
    A mother without kids. End of story.

    You know, I used to attend a service that had strict rules on dating. I always thought this was restrictive, and that a Church shouldn't care about the dating life of it's congregants- however, since God apparently cares about everything, it became a big deal.
    "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14, KJV).
    This generally applies to dating outside of the faith. Or, having friends outside of the faith. Either way, it was strictly followed. Aside from this, many people made pacts to date Jesus. This is actually briefly talked about in the book, but I always found this sentiment strange. Does God know you're dating his son? Is Jesus allowed to date? I don't think it counts, and if you date Jesus, you pretty much have an imaginary boyfriend.

    To move on, the rest of the chapter pretty much can be summed up with:

    Christians think sex is a taboo subject,  you should consider investing in chastity belts until you meet your future spouse, and some more lists that I don't care enough to sum up (trust me, it's better off that I didn't).

    With that said, that pretty much sums up chapter 8 of the Christian Culture Survival Guide.  Next will be the talk about Christian entertainment and bookstores.

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    It's the winter solstice, have yourself a scary one!

    Yes indeed, it's that time of year again, the time when the Earth is tilted in such a way to ensure a short day -- and also mark the beginning of Winter up here in the Northern Hemisphere.

    From National Geographic:
    The solstices occur twice a year (around December 21 and June 21), because Earth is tilted by an average of 23.5 degrees as it orbits the sun—the same phenomenon that drives the seasons.

    During the warmer half of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted toward the sun. The northern winter solstice occurs when the "top" half of Earth is tilted away from the sun at its most extreme angle of the year.

    Being the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice is essentially the year's darkest day, but it's not the coldest.

    Because the oceans are slow to heat and cool, in December they still retain some warmth from summer, delaying the coldest of winter days for another month and a half. Similarly, summer doesn't hit its heat peak until August, a month or two after the summer solstice.

    That's neat, but did you know that many people out there also decide to replace most traditional holidays during this time of year to celebrate the winter solstice? And with good reason, since celebrating the winter solstice has been a tradition for a while.

    From the same article:
    Germanic peoples of Northern Europe honored the winter solstice with Yule festivals—the origin of the still-standing tradition of the long-burning Yule log.

    The Roman feast of Saturnalia, honoring the God Saturn, was a weeklong December feast that included the observance of the winter solstice. Romans also celebrated the lengthening of days following the solstice by paying homage to Mithra—an ancient Persian god of light.

    Many modern pagans attempt to observe the winter solstice in the traditional manner of the ancients.

    "There is a resurgent interest in more traditional religious groups that is often driven by ecological motives," said Harry Yeide, a professor of religion at George Washington University. "These people do celebrate the solstice itself."

    Pagans aren't alone in commemorating the winter solstice in modern times.

    In a number of U.S. cities a Watertown, Massachusetts-based production called The Christmas Revels honors the winter solstice with an annually changing menu of traditional music and dance from around the world.

    "Nearly every northern culture has some sort of individual way of celebrating that shortest day," said Revels artistic director Patrick Swanson. "It's a lot of fun for us to dig up the traditional dance and music and even the plays [honoring] that time of the year."

    No doubt, there is some correlation between the winter solstice, and the December 25th holiday, Christmas. I for one, as I have already mentioned, don't care which one people choose to celebrate. I also am not amused at whether or not Christmas is just a ripoff of the celebration of the winter solstice; however, I am interested in the Lovecraft ripoff of the song "Joy to the World".

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    Enjoying the holiday season?

    Is it wrong for me to enjoy the holiday season for what it is- just another holiday season? I mean, do I necessarily have to recognize one particular holiday as being superior to the rest, regardless if that is the one I celebrate myself? The reason I bring this up is because their is a group of people in this world that believe that their particular holiday deserves special recognition, and I don't see why it should. You know what I'm talking about...

    I'm talking about Hanukkah! No wait, that's not right. Then it has to be Kwanzaa. No, that's not right either. Well, it has to be... Tiger Woods birthday, on December 30th. No? You're right, the only people who care about that day is Tiger Woods, and his wife.

    Then is it:

    World AIDS Day?

    Pearl Harbor Day?

    National Pumpkin Pie Day?

    Emily Dickinson's Birthday?

    Walt Disney's Birthday?

    Isaac Newton's Birthday (according to the Julian Calendar)?

    What day is so damn important then? Oh yeah, Christmas!

    Now, I'm not a hater of Christmas, in fact, I celebrate Christmas (more out of tradition than any religious practice, for obvious reasons). I just don't think that Christmas should be the only holiday recognized this month, and I'm sure this is a tired sentiment in the secular community.

    There are people out there who don't agree.

    Yes, there are people who also claim there is a war on Christmas. You know what I really have to say about that? Forget it, I don't have much energy to argue over a holiday.

    I'll celebrate what I feel like celebrating, and acknowledge what I feel like acknowledging. I don't care much for saying Merry Christmas. So, whoever the hell has the time to compile this list of stores saying and not saying "merry Christmas", or to create buttons saying "please wish me a merry Christmas" should try doing something productive instead.

    Happy December, no matter what you do or don't do.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    A not so daily quote.

    Just some new segment I'd like to start up, nothing big or fancy. The quotes I use for the "not so daily quotes" may not be "of the day", but rather, something I've recently read/re-read.

    A bit longer than just a year ago, this article came out on Science Daily, titled "Sun Goes Longer Than Normal Without Producing Sunspots."

    A thread had started around this topic over at the Rapture Ready forums, and here's a nice quote from a forum member-
    Its funny how scientists think they KNOW everything, and they KNOW there is no God, and they KNOW the big bang theory is real, and they KNOW this and that, but they don't KNOW a simple thing about a planet that is part of our solar system and so important to this world.

    How little and insignificant we are.

    There are no sunspots because the Lord has simply calmed the sun for now.

    dumb scientists.
    Now, I don't know whether this person was referring to the Sun as a planet, but this reminds me of one of the traits that seems to frequently occupy the thought processes of believers. Now, I don't want to characterize all theists by claiming they all do this, but this particular Christian seems to be satisfied with ignoring facts about what we do know, and replacing any search for knowledge or real truth with "god is responsible".