WEEK IN REVIEW–WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED

Review of critical facts is often the most important aspect of learning, and learning is what separates competent people from the incompetent.  With that in mind, here are two important facts we’ve learned this week.

1.  We learned that we should never take nude pictures of ourselves on our smartphone.

These pictures will inevitably end up published by thieves and criminals.  We all agree, I think, that these thieves and criminals should be punished to the furthest extent of the law.  I actually would go one step further.  People who view these images on the internet are, in comparison, the same as people who knowingly buy stolen parts for their car at a chop shop.  So, some level of prosecution should go out to these people.  If the feds will go after teenagers who download illegal music, why not go after people who go search out illegally obtained pictures.  These photos are stolen goods, and should be treated accordingly.

However, once the damage is done, once people have seen your southern zones, you can’t put that genie back in the bottle.

Jennifer Lawrence has a right to privacy.
Jennifer Lawrence has a right to privacy.

If you must take naked pictures of yourself (which I strongly recommend against) use an old fashioned Polaroid and hide them in your sock drawer.  Greenbean promises that you’ll never find nude pictures of him on the internet.  Never.

 

2.  We learned that Joel and Victoria Osteen are not theologians.

This really is not news.  However, Victoria highlighted that fact a bit when a video surfaced of her saying this:

When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourself. Because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. Do good ’cause God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself because that’s what makes God happy.

Okay, give me a moment to take off the cool Panama Jack hat I’m wearing right now and replace it with the theologian hat.  Good, now I can think straight.  Let’s analyze what is wrong with her statement.  First, she implies that somehow our behavior makes God happy.  The reverse of this would be that our behavior can make God sad.  This kind of talk about the Lord borders on tribal religion where the key task is to determine if the Almighty Reese’s Pieces God is happy today or if we need to appease his unhappiness with libations of milk and offerings of peanut butter.   Is God happy today or sad today?  Let’s find out?  Who brought the holy coconut?

Proper Christian theology teaches us that the Lord exists in perfect trinitarian community:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures teach us that the Lord becomes angry at some actions and delights in others, however it is never implied that he is sitting around in Heaven waiting for us to make him happy, as if his happiness depended upon us.

If God is waiting for us to make him happy, then his existence is likely the saddest in all of creation.

The second mistake she makes is that she puts human beings at the center of the worship expression.  That is beyond wrong.  However, it would be difficult to argue that most American Christians practice anything other than a worship experience that ‘makes me happy.’  So, though wrong, Osteen has plenty of company in her idolatrous doctrine of human-centric worship.

Now, here is the twist to what we learned this week.  Osteen, for all her failings, is actually tip-toeing up to something important.  Our lives are happier, better, more enriched when when we follow the Lord and live according to his ways.  I have argued for years that even if there were no such thing as the supernatural, no eternal life, and no spiritual joy, I would still preach that the Jesus way of life is the best way of life because it is.

That doesn’t minimize the supernatural or argue against the power of God or eternity, but it speaks to the power of the ethics and pathos in the life of a Christ-follower.  It would have been better if Osteen had said it that way, because that might have been what she kind of intended.  However, she didn’t, because, neither she nor her husband have taken the time to learn from people smarter than them about actual theology.  They’ve been too busy making an empire and playing a role–the role of superstar celebrity.

 

 

image from cinemablend.com

2014 OSCAR BEST PICTURE PREVIEW

What was the best movie of 2014?

As you might imagine I have some definite ideas about that question, but before I attempt to answer it let me first tell you a little of how I perceived the 9 nominees.  To see what Greenbean thought of previous years films, click here, here, here, and here.  To see my analysis of why Oscar picked these films this year click here and to see what my predictions are click here.

oscars-2014-nominees

For now, let us take these in alphabetical order.  I’ll try to be brief, or as brief as possible.

12 Years A Slave–I think this film has a very real possibility for winning best picture.  The story arc is powerful and the acting, across the board, is outstanding.  My only complaint, and it is a tiny one, is that I prefer linear movies.  I love flashbacks, but I don’t really like starting me at the middle, taking me back to the front, and then when the film catches up to the beginning I think it must be the end yet we are no where near resolution.  I wonder, though, if the seriousness and the historical urgency the film has for contemporary culture might not hinder its chances of winning.

American Hustle–I hated this film.  There is not a single character in it I like or identify with.  By the time the credits roll I want them all to go to jail for a very long time.  There are two redeeming factors for this movie, however.  The first one is Jennifer Lawrence.  She is such a fantastic actress that she steals every scene she is in.  I think she could win another Oscar, this time for best supporting actress.  The second redeeming factor was the fashion in the movie.  As a child of the 70s I dig the retro hair and clothing.

Captain Phillips–This movie was very good and compelling.  The logical procession of the narrative maintains storytelling tension throughout.  Tom Hanks was really given the shaft by not being nominated for best actor because his performance was masterful and understated.  He played the role perfectly.  I do not think it will or can win, but I like it.

Dallas Buyers Club–Matthew McConaughey is the beginning and the end of this film.  His performance was powerhouse and disturbing, which is what it had to be.  The movie does a great job of capturing this time in history and the confusion which existed about AIDS amongst both the homosexual and heterosexual communities.  The movie fails, though, in the pacing and the development of other characters.

Gravity–Beautiful movie.  The images are amazing and the production quality is out of this world.  Sandra Bullock has the very difficult task of making us care about a character’s plight all by herself with no supporting cast to speak of, and she pulls it off.  Oscar has a historical heritage of neglecting sci-fi and space films in general so I don’t think it can win best picture, however Cuaron will probably win best director.

FUTURE FASHION FAILS
FUTURE FASHION FAILS

Her–The movie Her makes two predictions about the not too distant future.  The first one is that in the future computers will have unique personalities that evolve over time.  The second prediction is that men’s fashion will be in a terrible slump.  I had such a hard time focusing on the film because the clothes that all the male characters wear are appalling.  It is also a creepy movie.  I think Spike Jonze is trying to tell us a tale about technology and the human need for authentic relationship, but for some reason the movie kept reminding me Soylent Green.  This movie does prove the point, made so terribly in last year’s The Master, that if you need someone to portray a sexually deviant and creepy man, Joaquin Phoenix is your guy.

Nebraska–I loved this movie.  It is slow developing, in black and white, and not very flashy.  It is the opposite of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street.  This will be added to my favorite lists of movies about aging (along with The Bucket List, Gran Torino, Red) that I recommend to younger people.  I also think that if a teacher were teaching adults (this is not a kid friend film) about the 5th Commandment–Honor your father and mother, that he or she would do well to just put this movie on and push play.

Philomena–Oh my, this movie surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I did, a lot.  It has a good dose of British humor and that dryness that we Americans love so much without being snooty.  This movie is not snooty at all.  It dares to ask serious theological questions and doesn’t try to give answers.  I love that in art.  I also adored the faith that Philomena had despite the failures of her church.  That is the Christian message indeed, that our personal relationship with the Lord is where salvation is found.

The Wolf of Wall Street–Debauchery.  Materialism.  Evil.  This movie is 3 hours of sin with nothing to like.  It shares the attribute with American Hustle that there was not a single character I liked.  I can’t understand why this movie was even nominated, other than the flash and influence of Scorsese, DiCaprio, and the fact that the only thing that interests Hollywood more than itself is rich power brokers.  This movie indulges itself not only with one pornographic scene after another but also with endless inflated dialogue and ego.  A prime example of the ego is the length of the movie.  Had it been cut in half it would have been a much better film.  The more I think about it, PBS Frontline would have done better with the material.  If this movie wins best picture it will mean that Oscar has gone insane.