Confessions of a comic book nerd.

So, Sunday I went to the theater to see the newest Captain America movie. I highly recommend it. It has some humor, it is genuinely fun to watch and is even a pretty good piece of social commentary on the dangers of mass data collection and to much power in the hands of to few people. A good watch and worth the price of admission. I remembered a few things about Captain America and reading the comic books as a child that I had forgotten as well. Things that actually matter and, oddly enough, lessons that helped shape the ideas and attitudes of a young boy.

The first thing that I remembered was Captain America’s greatest power. It was not the shield, even if he is the only person to be able to make a shield look cool, it wasn’t the training or even the super soldier serum. It was, simply, that he believed. Captain America believed that the world not only could be better than it was, he believed that it should be. He didn’t just fight the notorious super villains, he fought bigotry, racial injustice, drug addiction. He helped soldiers deal with PTSD, he saved prostitutes being victimized, he helped criminals who wanted to reform. He did the right thing no matter the cost. Most importantly, when he made a mistake, he didn’t just say he was sorry, he made amends and made things right. He believed that everyone around him could be more than they knew, then he inspired them to be.

The second thing I remembered, is that when he corrected someone, it never seemed condescending, it just seemed like he cared. One of my favorite lines in the comics has Captain America falling on top of an F-15 fighter jet canopy. The pilot exclaims “jeezus!” Captain says, “Just keep flying son and watch that potty mouth.” That is just who Captain America was. He wasn’t nasty, he wasn’t mean, he just reminded you to that you could be better and encouraged you to be better.

The last thing was that he knew what he was fighting for. He had seen and experienced things that caused him to be driven and not to give up. “Ninety percent of the casualties of World War I were soldiers. But half the people who died in World War II were civilians… Half of sixty-one million. I know why I’m fighting, I don’t want to see World War III.” and “There’s a difference between fighting against evil and fighting for the common good. I’m not always able to choose my battles… but effective immediately, I’m going to make an effort to choose the battles that matter. Battles against injustice, against cynicism, against intolerance. I will still serve with the Avengers. I will continue to defend this nation from any and all threats it may face. But as of today, I am not a “super hero.” Now and forevermore, I am a man of the people. Together, you and I will identify and confront America’s problems. Together, we will figure out what we are and what we can be. ” Captain America.

I really do encourage you to go see the Captain America movie. Like I said, it’s a fun watch. While you watch it though, don’t think of Captain America so much as a superhero, think of him as an idea. An idea of what we can be, and should be. A reminder that we can be better than we are. A reminder that, even if we don’t realize it, there is much more at stake than us and what we want. A reminder that we should be so dedicated that we could say the following: “These are dark and desperate times. I know that some of you are afraid. It’s alright. It’s perfectly natural. But I want you to know that I am not. I am not afraid to die this day because what we do here is necessary. It may seem impossible, our enemies may appear to be endless, but that doesn’t matter. Because there is no one else. Look at me. I believe in an idea, an idea that a single individual who has the right heart and the right mind that is consumed with a single purpose, that one man can win a war. Give that one man a group of people with the same conviction, and you can change the world.” Captain America, Let’s be a people with the same conviction. Let’s stop talking about changing the world, and actually go and do it.

#Noah is unapologetically theological (first thoughts)

Noah is the first major, at least modern, representation of the tragedy, the horror, the genocide that is the Great Deluge enshrined in our biblical text. Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson, Darren Aronofsky’s personal epic details the unknown, archaic past in such a way as to throw all of the bloody details about an adolescent god in your face.

In the lead up to this release, Ken Ham and other fundamentalists went on a bender, arguing and urging their followers to not see this movie. It was even banned in some countries. Yes, there are moments of real science-turned-myth, but I suspect the real reason Ham and his ilk wish to avoid this movie is not the nebula that becomes our sun, but the very real, and plain sense, portrayal of a God who creates a wonderful world, but after a series of misfortunes — actions he could have helped his creation to avoid — he simply abandons them to their own free will devices. After ten generations, he decides it is time to judge them. During the meantime, he has no contact with the line of Cain and only spotty, questionable contact with the line of Seth.

Believers are often faced with the questions we so avidly see displayed on screen. How could this wonderful creator, without cause — and indeed, he is more guilty than his creation — cause such destruction? In what little dialogue there is, it is not Noah that defends the murderous God, but the equally repugnant Tubalcain who maintains that he as a man was created in the image of God. It is only from the antagonist we hear the familiar refrain. Therefore, he will take what he wants and he will decide who lives and who dies. He is, after all, created in the image of the very Creator who is now deciding who lives and who dies. Noah, for his part, is pictured as a caring man, full of compassion for plants, animals, and his family. Noah, filled with compassion, defends God, even to the point of complete annihilation of the human race — by his hand.

In one stark image we are allowed to see the true horror of the story. Underneath the oceans of water there lies the whole of humankind, including women and children. We are reminded near the end of the movie that many who died were “good.” Yet, it was not these who were pulled to the surface and saved, but the animals. And Noah. The same Noah who spends many months plotting to kill the innocent in the name of his God.

It is not the actual science of our creation, overlayed with the myth of Genesis 1, that will startle the earnest believer. Rather, it is the poignant reminder that God forsook his Creation for 10 generations (according to Scripture) only to murder even the innocent.

The sources used in the movie does include Genesis, but so too the apocryphal along with some added Hollywood flair. There is a gritty feel to the movie, as needed. The dialogue is sparse; however, it is not so much the amount of dialogue in the movie that is important as the amount of dialogue from the movie that will remain.

But, even with all of this, there is a message we can grasp and it is just as powerfully deep as the other message is repugnant. It is that God will provide if we find the love hidden in us. Further, and something that warms my heart, the writers get eschatology correct.

There is no end, there is only a (new) beginning.

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Jacob L. Wright: “Noah: The Origin of the Origin Story”

“In the latest episode of Emory Looks at Hollywood, Associate Professor Jacob Wright explores interpretations and the origin of Noah’s story in the book of Genesis. Wright is a professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory’s Candler School of Theology.

The new Paramount Pictures movie “Noah” stars Russell Crowe in the title role of this biblical tale.”

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Almost Human, “Unbound” Thoughts – The Same Maker for murderer and lover?

English: Karl Urban at the 2010 Comic Con in S...

English: Karl Urban at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can read a really good synopsis of the episode here. I am not ready to suggest Almost Human is another science fiction show with some social purpose or hidden religious dialogue. Granted, J.J. Abrams is the executive producer, but the closest he flirts with a social/religious commentary was Alias and Star Trek Into Darkness.

However, this episode really stands out with its quasi-religious/philosophical themes of a single Creator and a multitude of creatures. The Creator was a failed one, creating a line of robots that malfunctioned and went astray. To redeem himself, he created something called synthetic soul. The conversation about DNA as the data and the soul as what truly makes a person gets to the heart of many religious conversations; however, this was not the extent of the philosophical make-up of the episode.

After the failed line of robots, the Creator decided to start over with one. Unfortunately, this one was hardwired to be a mass murdered. Rather, there was a glitch in the program which forced the battlebot to become homicidal (although she still liked to receive comments about her physical beauty). The other robots filled with the synthetic soul did not react in such a way.

Indeed, one of the main characters is a robot with a synthetic soul, one of the discontinued line but redeemed through daily interactions with humans. He begins to question how, if he and this battlebot, come from the same Creator, with basically the same programming (neither programmed to kill), could they turn out so vastly different.

If we all have the same creator (and we do), how do we explain the vast differences we see in the ways humans treat one another? We have great artists, lovers, poets. We have sick and twisted killers.


“Noah” gets something (theologically) correct

First, unless the director/writer of the movie is just pulling stuff out of thin air, the story is not untold. The story of Noah was told and retold in antiquity. Given what looks to be a use of Jubilees and perhaps the Genesis Apocryphon, the movie is only a retelling.

But, I digress.

At the end of the trailer, Noah comments to his wife that the end of everything is just the beginning of everything. Noah is, at its root, a creation story (and just one of the few in Genesis and one of many in the Hebrew Bible).

I am very interested in seeing this movie. What about you?

#Sherlock Series 3 Episode 1 – Brief Thoughts

Sherlock Series 3 Episode 1 was a welcome return. The “case” was really nothing more than a “sub”plot and a bit of a bomb, but otherwise, the interactions between Holmes and Watson were what we’ve come to expect and proves why the Brits do Holmes better than the Americans. British Humour is simply the best.

I do not want to spoil it for you, but I really liked this episode. The dialogue as well as the mystery of how Sherlock died but lived was engrossing. The characters are still every bit as deep… and I swear there was a knock against the CBS version.

Anyway, for you yankees across the pond, you’ll have to wait until the 19th to see it.

Wow. #rapture

A “Left Behind” producer and writer recently took on questions from fans of the upcoming end-times film and went on the defensive when he was asked if members of the cast, including lead actor Nicolas Cage, were “believers.” Some fans also expressed concern that an actual rapture could take place before the film’s 2014 release.

via ‘Left Behind’ Fans Question Nicolas Cage’s Faith, Wonder About Actual Rapture Before Film’s Release.

Nope. no other words.

Liberation (Short Film)

From the Youtube page:

In a dystopian near future where the separation of Church and state has been abolished and a tyrannical theocracy now rules, a young Military Police officer faces a crisis of conscience after his brother – a radical anti-government pastor – gets black-bagged for speaking out against the regime.

If for no other reason, watch Noah because of @AiGKenHam’s freakout

This is the trailer:

Ham is characteristically freaking out - almost as much as the Dagon worshipers in one of those books of Daniel. Oddly enough he calls out the Jews for his support, although he doesn’t really understand much about Second Temple interpretation of Noah from the Jewish perspective nor even modern rabbinical commentary. This is apparent because he like wise misses the material, at least in the trailer in his preview (of a movie he hasn’t seen), present from the pseudepigrapha.

Reading Ham makes this movie that much more seeable.

Augustine and Breaking Bad

When, therefore, we inquire why a crime was committed, we do not believe it, unless it appear that there might have been the wish to obtain some of those which we designated meaner things, or else a fear of losing them. For truly they are beautiful and comely, although in comparison with those higher and celestial goods they be abject and contemptible. A man has murdered another; what was his motive? He desired his wife or his estate; or would steal to support himself; or he was afraid of losing something of the kind by him; or, being injured, he was burning to be revenged. (Book II, Chapter 5)

I’ve started watching Breaking Bad, now that it is over and all. The miracle of modern technology.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was talking about it one night online and found out Skyler, the wife of the main character (Walt), was not well received online. There are communities devoted to disliking her character, to the chagrin of Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skyler. On the same token, people are really attached to the Walt character.

Walt, and stop reading here if you don’t want spoilers, is a meth manufacturer. Meth, as you know, if a highly addictive drug popular right now among dealers and users alike because of the ease in making it and, again, the addictive qualities. Walt, after he learns he has cancer, decides he must provide for his family and pursues meth as a financially sound method of doing so. In the first few episodes, Walt has killed two people, become an intensely angry man, and a drug kingpin. He is changed by the startling realization he is going to die. We know that and we are made to feel that.

Skyler is also changed. She wants Walt to live – Walt has become fatalistic. There is no need for treatment because treatment is only to make him suffer. She increases her antagonistic behavior but if we step back, what this really is is a care and concern for Walt. She loves him and wants him to live. He just wants to provide for his family. His erratic behavior increases as does her worry, manifesting itself as ‘nagging.’ With Skyler’s increased nagging, the fans turned against her. They love Walt. We love Walt. We feel compassion for Jesse, Walt’s sidekick. Yet, we hate Skyler.

We excuse Walt’s behavior — his making and selling of drugs, his murders, he anger — because his motivation is pure. He simply wants to provide for his family. Skyler has no motivation for her behavior, it seems. Of course, we get to see both sides. We know what Walk is hiding and how this is causing his behavior. But, this doesn’t matter. We judge Skyler on our knowledge and not on her.

We sit as God and condemn Skyler because she doesn’t know any better. We sit as God and praise Walt because the sins he commits are not sin, but self-defense for himself and his family. Her motivation is made from darkness (the ignorance of knowledge). His motivation to kill either by his own hands or with the drugs he is making is seen somehow at righteous.

Maybe this has nothing to do with Augustine, but the post title made you read it. I think Augustine’s shaping of motivation and desire has given us a way to accept the anti-hero. In an ideal world, Skyler is the one we should emulate, however, in reality we emulate Walt (and in some degree Jesse) because we judge their motivations as pure. Why? We can see the end goal. Walt is not simply stealing pears to feed to the hogs, a selfish desire. Rather, he is stealing pears to feed his family. Skyler, on the other hand, is acting out of pure selfishness. She wants the pears (namely Walt alive) so he can take care of her, regardless of the amount of suffering he may have to endure to live.

If you don’t know about the pears, go read Confessions.

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Sleepy Hollow First Impressions

The other night, my wife and I watched the new Fox series, Sleepy Hollow. After watching the first episode, I have mixed feelings. This is not the Sleepy Hollow we grew up with. Content warning: Spoilers after the jump.

The episode opens during a battle of the Revolutionary War. Ichabod Crane is fighting on the side of the American Continental Army. During the battle, a British soldier, wearing an iron mask, gets off of a white horse and heads toward Crane. During the ensuing fight, the British soldier is shot, Crane is mortally wounded, but not before beheading the British soldier. The two soldiers collapse on the field. After a brief flash, Crane wakes up and drags himself out of the grave only to find himself in present day Sleepy Hollow.

During the course of the episode, we find out a few things:

  1. The Revolutionary War wasn’t just about independence. It was also about Armageddon.
  2. Crane, was originally a British citizen…an Oxford professor no less, but defected to the American Army and served as a spy during the war. Oh, and he married a witch.
  3. The British soldier/Headless Horseman is actually Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
  4. Everyone in this bloody series gets the name of the last book of the Bible wrong. It’s Revelation, not Revelations.

It will be interesting to see what direction the series takes from here.