Archives For April 2014

Anyone can Serve

April 22, 2014 — 81 Comments

Confession: For the longest time, I thought I disliked serving people.

The reality was that I love serving people, but hate being imposed upon.

I recently had the pleasure of doing outreach with my church in an assisted living home. After some songs, Bible verses, and a short message, we chatted with the people who lived there. One of them, an obese diabetic in a wheelchair, mentioned that she did Mass in a room down the hall every 2nd Sunday, and said it would be great if we could come.

Years of guilt-tripping has taught me to recognize an imposition so I can escape it before I am asked. So that’s what I did. I was one of the first to leave, and drove out of there a bit faster than I should have.

Imagine her surprise next week when she saw me there!

So I helped with communion, handing out the wine and the bread. Most of the attendees could hardly move, and needed help just getting around.

And the woman who led mass? She has no legs.

I don’t mean she can’t use her legs – below the middle of her thighs are thick, round stumps – then nothing but air.

So this woman cannot move around. She’s stuck in an assisted living home. She’s old and at least 300 lbs – not winning any beauty contests there. Plus, she has no legs.

Despite that, she had one of the most cheerful spirits out of anyone I had ever met.

Possibly it’s because she knows that no matter where she is in life, she can always do something that makes a difference.

If she can, so can you.

The Meaning of Freedom

April 7, 2014 — 77 Comments
splatter question by bessarro at sxc.hu

splatter question by bessarro at sxc.hu

There’s a theme in one of my upcoming stories that means a lot to everyone.

What exactly, is freedom?

For some, freedom means being able to do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.

For others, freedom means the ability to control every one and every thing.

For others, just being free of past mistakes would be a miracle.

If I were to make a list of things that everyone who was truly free would possess, it would probably start to look like this:

– Not having to work full time at a job you don’t want to go to.

– The ability to travel anywhere in the world, and stay as long as you like.

– To only do things that line up with your passions and your strengths.

– To make friends and throw wicked cool social events.

– Unlimited time to pursue hobbies

– The financial resources to obtain whatever you wanted for yourself and others.

– To build things that last a long time and provide insanely high value to the world around you

These are all desirable things, and people go to different lengths to obtain these things.

The pursuit of this idea has birthed nations, created cities, businesses, and fulfilled the dreams of many people. Failure to obtain this idea often means paying the highest penalty. True advocates of freedom may argue that it is the willingness to risk personal resources, and even your very life, is what guarantees freedom.

What does freedom mean to you? Sound off in the comments!

Noah, film poster taken from wikipedia.orgThis is for those who are thinking of seeing the film ‘Noah’.

It’s also for anyone who watches this film to better understand how true Christians really act and think.

NOTE: Major Spoilers Ahead. If you don’t like the plot told to you before watching a film, then wait till after the movie to read this post.

Without further ado, here it is:

The Good

Creative liberties have to be taken to take a story that takes one minute to read, and turn it into a 2.5 hour long film. Some of it was actually pretty cool.

Let’s be fair here.

How the animals get to the ark – In one part of the movie, Methuselah (played by Anthony Hopkins) gives Noah (Russell Crowe) a seed from the original garden of Eden. Noah plants the seed and it sprouts instantly – into an entire forest! The water spreads out in 5 different directions, forming rivers lined with vegetation.

This gives all the animals on Pangaea a pathway to follow leading to the forest where the ark will be. Pretty smart.

The Incense – This was a cool element that allowed the plot lines between Noah and his family to play out undisturbed by moving animals, and explains how so many animals could board the ark and not trample themselves inside. Personally, the plot would have been improved if they were trapped for 40 days with a bunch of live animals, but the budget – Oh the budget!

The Struggle for Answers – Noah prays, looking up to the sky, but hears no answer. The director, who is an atheist, may have had a separate agenda in mind here, but he also connected to the life experience and struggle of all Christians who want to follow God and long for concrete answers from on high. This is an element of the Christian struggle that most Christian films sugarcoat over and/or ignore. The storyline of Ham, the lonely son in need of a wife, compounds the struggle.

Ila – Despite how many Christians may despise my saying this, Emma Watson (known for playing Hermoine Granger in the Harry Potter franchise) really stole the show. This is a new character not mentioned by name in the Genesis story of Noah, though the Bible does mention Noah’s sons having wives. This is a creative liberty that made the story bearable in places that otherwise would not have been.

Remember the part about Noah’s sons having wives? This brings us to-

The Bad

Wives – In the genesis story, Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth had wives.

In the film, only Shem is coupled with Ila, who remains barren as an unnecessary plot point.

The story of Ham being frustrated was brilliant on one level – it connected with the struggle we all have to put faith in God even when it seems He’s not meeting our needs. On the other hand, it tells viewers that God doesn’t care about our needs even when the fate of humanity is at stake.

Consider these points:

Genesis 6:18 KJV – “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.”

Maybe that was just a typo, is there mention of there being wives for all his sons anywhere else?

Oh, yeah:

Genesis 7:7 KJV – “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark…”

But how many wives, exactly?

Genesis 7:13 KJV – “In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark.”

I could quote more, but I’d just be a bully about it at that point.

Anti-Human Agenda – In this story, Noah is led to believe that all human beings are wicked so they ALL need to be destroyed – even him and his family. Noah even goes to the point of saying that if Ila, who becomes pregnant on the ark, has a daughter, he will kill her. For a moment, it even seemed like Noah was going to turn into a slasher film. This anti-human agenda is only negated when Ila tells Noah, who decides to spare her child, that ‘God chose him BECAUSE he wouldn’t go through with it.’

What?!

So God chose to get rid of the wicked because they disobeyed God, and then chooses Noah to get rid of humanity, only for Noah to fail (disobey) because God wanted him to disobey? Did I miss something?

It says here that:

Genesis 7:5 KJV – “And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him.”

That doesn’t sound like disobeying to me. Perhaps God wants us to do all He asks of us? Just maybe?

and –

Genesis 9:1 KJV – “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”

Doesn’t sound anti-human to me. How will this impact people who never read the Bible? How will young people think of themselves? As parasites, or beings who have been blessed and made in God’s image?

The false debate between environmentalism and subduing the earth – Tubal Cain, the descendant of Cain (the first murderer), is the bad guy of the story. His crimes include the traditional bad guy crimes: Murder, Destruction, and Slavery. But they also extend to far worse crimes. Such as “the Paleo diet, Mining, and Wanting to Subdue the Earth”.

While Noah wanted to care for the plants, avoid meat-eating, and pursue justice. All noble pursuits, but skewed out of context when you consider the film’s message as a whole.

Simply put, subduing the earth is not the same as destroying it.

Genesis 1:26 KJV “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth.

Genesis 1: 28 KJV “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful ,and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

These sound a lot like the words Tubal-Cain uttered over and over again. While it is very much like a devil to quote scripture in promoting a selfish philosophy, Tubal-Cain’s character ignored the ‘Replenish the earth’ command, making the whole debate false. After all, how can mankind be fruitful and multiply while replenishing the earth, if they are meant to be completely destroyed? But that would mess up Darren Aronofsky’s storyline, wouldn’t it?

And about meat – and this is coming from a (mostly) vegan:

Genesis 9:3-4 KJV – “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”

So, stay kosher and you’re good. Everything else is a matter of personal conviction and health reasons.

Noah was kind of a dick in the movie – especially to people who weren’t his family

In the film, Noah is asked about the Ark, and Noah tells Tubal-Cain “Nobody’s getting on that boat, because you’re all wicked.” (paraphrasing here).

Yet Noah in the Bible was quite different.

2 Peter 2:5 KJV – And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;”

Noah is described here as a preacher of righteousness. A preacher to whom? Who else but everybody on earth who isn’t himself?

How would people unfamiliar with Christianity, or who had a bad experience with Christians, view this film? They would believe that Christians want to keep salvation and truth away from people. When in truth, Noah preached to many people, but the only ones who listened were his family.

This film basically teaches that Christians are holier-than-thou assholes who want you dead, which is contrary to the entire Christian message.

Golems, fallen angels, oh my A major plot point involves Watchers, who (in the film) are basically Angels (Seraphim) who wanted to help humans. God said ‘no’, they said ‘yes’, and as they went down to earth, God cursed them with disfigured stone bodies. They helped all humans, Cain’s people started killing them, and it isn’t until Noah recruits them that they begin to help build the ark.

Story wise, this reduces amount of screen time spent actually building the ark, and creates some pretty cool action scenes when it starts raining.

Here’s the problem: Fallen angels = Demons.

And in the movie, when these golems ‘die’, they go right back up to heaven – what?!

So we have demons helping Noah build the ark, killing people (Which Noah cites as a reason he himself should die), then they go to heaven again AFTER disobeying God. Yipee!

Now in the book of Enoch, which is a controversial book some cultures include in the Bible, fallen angels really do go down to heaven to help people. They are called Nephilim, and they help the Bad Guys!

This film takes the Nephilim concept, combines it with the mythological Golem creature, and twists the characters into opponent-allys who sacrifice themselves to save a man absolutely determined to kill himself and his family. Well played, unnecessary characters.

For those who say its just a movie…

People make movies for many reasons, not always in this order:

  1. To impose their beliefs upon others
  2. To make emotionally charged messages to influence others
  3. To create conversation pieces.
  4. To entertain.
  5. To make money

Noah will succeed in all of these points, but some of the messages might not be for the best. This is unavoidable due to how many hands get involved in a project with this much money behind it – the agendas, screenplay rewrites, directorial decisions, and producers egos and more. Nothing will be perfect, but we need to try.

But maybe I am being mean and sarcastic here.

As a wanna-be screenwriter, I hold no personal blame on any individual involved. To suck up a little, every producer, director, and actor are great all the time, and they really should hire me for a bazillion dollars.

But David, I’d like to see you try to make Noah entertaining:

How the story could have been made way better without straying from the bible at all?

Antidiluvian Society¬†and Culture – What made the first Conan movie so much better than all the others? Every set piece, every prop, every piece of clothing – they all had symbolism specific to their cultures. You could feel that even though you’re only seeing a fraction of this big world, this really is a big world, filled with things you’ll marvel at but not have time to understand. Perhaps there was a great city that disappeared after the flood? Some historians may take up argument with me, but why can’t this city be Atlantis 1.0?

Pre-flood technologies – Everything the pre-flood people may have made has been lost to us. They could have made anything. We know the people were smart, and were ‘exceedingly great in their wickedness’ (to paraphrase), they could have had any sort of technology. Futuristic, Medieval, Roman-age, Steampunk, Genetic modification, crossbreeding of animals, etc. How about Dinosaurs? Most films that throw in a Veloceraptor or two tend to do well.

Giants – Genesis 6:4 KJV says:

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

That was in the Bible, and nothing was done with it in the movie.

Book of enoch elements – but done in a way that doesn’t violate the content in the rest of the Biblical account of Noah or the spirit of Christianity.

Animals with no fear of humans: It says this in the post-flood account of Genesis:

Genesis 9:2 KJV “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all hte fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.”

You mean there wasn’t fear of humans in animals before? Imagine a film crossed between the cultural depth of the Original Conan, the relative epic-ness and (relative) biblical accuracy of The Ten Commandments, and the Otherworldly awesomeness of the aggressive creatures in Avatar, and you’ve got yourself a strong story world.

Adjust the ‘No Wives’ plotline – In the end, Ham and Japheth should have gotten wives, even if it happened at the last minute.

Noah as Teacher –¬† imagine Noah preaching to people who mock him, laugh at him, and beat him. This makes Noah’s triumph more satisfying in the eyes of the audience, and makes them less sympathetic for Tubal-Cain and his ilk.

Cinematography, make the earth straight up and down – no axis. Have a layer of water surrounding the sky as well as having water in the sea. This creates a reflecting, translucent, crystaline effect to most of the scenes involving sky.

Less CGI (keep it with the animals, but the snake thing, come on!).

These are just some of the many ideas I would consider to make an awesome Noah story without straying far from the Biblical account.

To sum up

Overall, a Noah movie that paints humans as bad, has conflicting philosophies, and paints a negative picture of Christians – has every right to exist, from a free speech perspective. However, it may not do a world of good for people as a whole.

Did this review help? Are there any elements you wish were different about the Noah movie? Sound off in the comments!