Saturday, September 25, 2010

I love How I Met Your Mother

Ever have a show that you'll watch any time it's on, even if you've seen that episode before? Even if that episode was just on, you'll watch it agian? Right now, that's how I feel about How I Met Your Mother, which is a fine, fantastic show that I recommend to anyone.

There are many reasons I love that show. Let's start with the premise. I admit, I wasn't sold on it. I had no idea how they could stretch that premise into six-plus seasons, but the more I think about it, the more it works. Meeting a person is more than just a chance encounter. Every choice you ever made, good and bad, brought you to that point. The choices my wife and I made brought us together, and it's terrifying to see how just one of those choices would have meant we'd never met. I like how the show is tracking all those decisions that draw Ted closer to meeting The Mother.

Plus, I like that we know how it's going to end. The first line in the show is "Kids, I'm gonna tell you an incredible story. The story of how I met your mother." Right there, you know where this is going, but the journey is incredible.

As a Christian, I especially appreciate this because I know how it all will end for me. I know where the journey ultimately is going, I know God has a plan, but it's the journey that matters. I can't just skip to the end, I need to travel those roads, even if they are hard. Right now I do feel like I'm stuck in a very bad place, I'm frustrated and sometimes I feel like I've made all the wrong choices. However, perhaps looking back on this in 25 years will have me see this experience differently.

I identify with Ted, the man who will find his wife. We're the same age, going through many of the same frustrations, and we both have taught college. He tells the same stupid jokes that I tell. Ted's my guy.

I also love the future perspective that allows for great storytelling license. In some episodes, we are told that 'This is how Robin swears it happened.' Like when the opposing team had a Teen Wolf. Plus, the narrator is Bob Sagat, and he's perfect, really perfect. He's a nice blend of the aspects of Danny Tanner that don't make you want to beat him to death with a plunger, and the filthy comedy stylings of one Bob Sagat. (Watch his comedy uncut - it's amazing.)

In many ways, the show will set things up that take years to pay off, like 'The Goat.' I believe the writers took their cues from Arrested Development because it's smartly written with great running gags and foreshadowing. Plus, the episode 'Slap Bet' is one of the greatest episodes ever made of any show, and if you don't know who Robin Sparkles is, you must.

I love how those five, Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Barney are family. They don't always get along and have their share of arguments, but they are family and live in what could be called the Acts 2:42 style community. It's an inspiration, really, that we should aspire to.

The show is ultimately the story about how a guy slowly turned into the man his wife married. It's romantic, sweet, sometimes filthy (thanks to Barney) but it's worth watching whenever it's on. If you've never seen it, go grab the DVD of season one, pop it on, and I dare you to watch just one episode. Then you'll find out how they've been able to stretch the premise this far.

I am such a fanboy. Just wait till I talk about Smallville. (WE SAW THE SUIT!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why is THIS at a Toys R Us?

I was shopping at a Toys R Us this weekend. Why was I there? I really shouldn't have to justify my presence at the Toys R Us, but forsome reason, every time I mention this little fact I get strange looks.

I was there because the store was closing and they were taking 70% off of everything.

I couldn't resist. You should have seen me when Circuit City went under in 2009. I was buying up things left and right. Every time they went up 10%, I was there to see what was now worth buying. I was a vulture, and I regret nothing as I got some great deals.

As I saw the signs going up for Toys R Us, I knew that I probably shouldn't head in there because it would just be too tempting, and I resisted until it was the final weekend and everything was 70% off. I had to see what was left, and the pickings, as they say, were slim. That is, until I saw it. Something that I grabbed instantly, something well worth 30% of retail price, and something whose presence raised a lot of questions.

It's a DVD of 'Not the Messiah: He's a Very Naughty Boy,' a comic opera based on Monty Python's Life of Brian. I saw this thing live, and thus I have seen Eric Idle, in person, sing 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.' That's a memory I will go to my grave treasuring, and a song I want sung at my funeral (but that's another post). I was glad to have seen it, even with the lousy seats which were all I could afford.  And now I'm glad to have the DVD.

By why is it in a Toys R Us? Really, who thinks this is appropriate for children? Did anyone actually see this before they put it on the shelf? Did they receive any complaints when clueless parents picked it up for their kids. (I would have loved to see that.)

These are questions that I don't have an answer to. All I know is that I found a DVD I've been wanting and paid very little for it. As for the rest, let's just not think about it. We'll preserve our sanity that way.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I don't believe in the Rapture

There's a post in the blog Stuff Christians Like about the Rapture, specifically the feeling you get when you don't see anyone around and believe that you've missed it. There's a lot of people who, as kids, would be shown these 'get saved so you don't miss the Rapture' videos and then spend their childhoods, and sometimes adulthoods, freaking out every time they find themselves alone. After all, anyone who talks about the Rapture also talks about how it's imminent. It could happen any second now, even before I finish typ

Sometimes, if you find someone who's thinks the Rapture is mere seconds away, you can have some fun with them by staging a Rapture. The best way to do it is in a large gathering. Wait for the person to go off alone, then hide. See if they freak out.

The best one I read about was at a Christian college (a hotspot of Rapture-themed prakns apparently) where they organized a prank. The merry pranksters got some of the professors involved, and not only did everyone hide, they also left clothes strewn about, making it seem like everyone but the victim got Raptured right out of their clothes.

Fun stuff.

Here's the thing, I don't believe in the Rapture.

See, after two-thousand years, a lot can be added to the Christian Canon that actually isn't supported by Scripture unless you try really hard to make a verse fit. That's the Rapture, the Holy Get out of Jail Free Card. The Rapture is tied to Christianity's larger obsession with End Times and our belief that we know exactly what's going to happen in the future, and our belief that the End Times are already upon us.

For a better and more thoughtful discussion of where Christians go wrong in End Times theology, I point you to Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo.

Obsession with the End Times and belief in the Rapture represent nothing more than escapism with a little bit (if not a lot) of egocentrism thrown in. Whenver times are tough, we Christians like to think that the End Times are upon us and we're about to be whisked away from it all. On the surface, I can see why it's a comforting message. We like to avoid having to deal with the messy realities of life, and so the idea of God just taking us away from it all is appealing. Sadly, such ideas are not supported by Scripture. We are urged to go out and engage the world, not just sit around and wait to be snatched away.

The Rapture is a great marketing tool and you'll often see it used in Scare them into Heaven type preaching, where you get a heavy dose of fire and brimstone and then that extra warning that The Rapture could happen at any time and if you miss it, you'll be sorry. So accept Jesus now to save you from that awful fate. Such messages not only cheapen the Gospel, but also mischaracterize Christianity as nothing more than fire insurance. Jesus offered us a better way to live here on earth and the Hell we were warned about was often the hell we put ourselves through in life because of our sins. If Jesus was only about fire insurance, then this whole Love Your Neighbor business wouldn't have been such a big concern with Him.

Finally, The Rapture is a lot about ego. We get Raptured. They don't. Sucks to be them. We like the idea of being whisked into Heaven and watching everyone who told us we were wrong suffer. It's a superiority complex, which explains all those 'In case of Rapture this car will be unmanned' bumper stickers. What we're really saying is that we're better than you because we won't be left behind in the Rapture, and if this car is suddenly empty and turns into a lethal killing machine, it's your own fault for not being saved.

We use the Rapture too much as a fear tactic, which isn't what Jesus is about. We like to show people films about those left behind (and not just the Kirk Cameron ones) and freak them out. It's especially fun to traumatize children by showign them those movies and having them spend the next ten years of their life freaking out when their parents are out of earshot. (good times). That's one of the many reasons I don't accept The Rapture as true teaching, just escapist fantasy.

When times get tough here on planet Earth, where do you think God wants us? If you answered, preaching the Good News to everyone experiencing those tough times, you are right. God isn't going to give us the easy way out, not when there are seeds to plant and souls to save. If your retirement plan is simply "Get Raptured by 65" then you might want to rethink it.

(this is the first draft of this message, I do intend to eventually include Bible verses and other references to back up my claims.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Religious tolerance

I thought I'd tackle a somewhat serious issue today.

A friend and I were discussion whether religious tolerance is supported by the Bible. This was in reference to the debate about the "Ground Zero Mosque" which is actually a islamic community center that includes a mosque being built (possibly) two blocks from Ground Zero. I'm sure you've heard of it.

So the question was how Christians should deal with other religions. After all, if we believe that Jesus truly is the way, truth, and life, don't we have an obligation to fight against religions that say different? After all, we're right, they are wrong, so why should we tolerate their presence at all?

This question has existed since the dawn of Christianity. Back then, 'The Way' was just one of many religions, and Jesus was seen as just another household god, like Zues. Christianity had to live in harmony with other religions because it was young, growing, and not exactly popular with the local authorities. Of course, there was also the issue of Jesus telling them to love their neighbor and treat others as they would want to be treated.

Of course, the early Church didn't exactly leave those other religions alone. But rather than see them as enemies to be banished, they saw them as people to be rescued, freed from their religious bondage and given the Gospel, the Good News. When Paul journeyed to Greece, he didn't tear down all the other idols, he instead engaged the people (Acts 17: 16-34). He spoke, debated, fellowshipped, and engaged the people of different religions. In the end, Christianity was to become dominant not by hostile takeover, but by sharing love and offering hope to those who never had any.

And what of those who didn't decide to follow Christianity? Jesus had advice for that, too. In Matthew 10:14 Jesus told his disciples to shake the dust from their feet and move on. Of people didn't listen, that was God's business. We Christians have better things to do than stage silly, pointless protests.

That's religious tolerance. We speak the Gospel and then move on if no one is interested. Holding protests or making other religions into enemies isn't productive. If God truly has a problem with people who won't follow Christ, HE will deal with them. (Matthew 10:15). That's His job, not ours.

So yes, we are called to religious tolerance. That's what it means to lvoe our neighbor and our enemy. That doesn't mean we keep quiet about our faith, just that we don't act like jerks and treat others poorly. If they aren't interested, we move on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Simple Test

I have a theory on people. It's not a particularly good theory, but it's what I've got. I can tell whether I want to continue a relationship with someone by whether or not they liked Die Hard. If you like Die Hard like a normal, red-blooded American, then you and I might be friends. If you don't like Die Hard, could you watch it again and give it a second chance? I think you'd like it. Go on, I'll wait.

You still don't like it? Are you sure you watched the right movie? Remember, this is the first Die Hard we're talking about, not the sequels. It's the one with Reginald VelJohnson, who plays a cop. You may remember him from a brief appearance in Ghostbusters when he played a cop or the long-running series Family Matters where he plays a cop.

Really, you didn't like it? Are you sure you even watched it? Sometimes people say they watched Die Hard but then don't. Others don't even bother to claim they watched it and just declare that they don't like it. Don't be like that. At least watch it. Go ahead, I'll still be here.

So you watched it. What did you think? What do you mean you hated it? Were we watching the same movie? How can you not like Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber? This movie has vintage 80's William Atherton, who was at the top of his game. Of course, like VelJohnson, atherton also plays the same character in every movie, including Ghostbusters.

What do you mean you don't like Ghostbusters?

I think you should leave.

Be excellent to each other. Party on dudes!

If the world just listened to the wisdom of Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted "Theodore" Logan then I think we'd be a much better place.