Month: May 2015

Some folks apparently missed the bit in Scripture where Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and Money.”  Mega-rich pastors preaching the false gospel of prosperity are probably one of the biggest things, after pedophile priests, to give Christianity a bad name in the world.

Take the latest controversy regarding the televangelist with the rather appropriate name of Creflo Dollar:

…the finances of the televangelist’s 30,000-member church, World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia, are under close scrutiny after Dollar asked his followers to buy him a $65 million private jet.

Dollar’s sermons pack his 8,500-seat mega-church, and like any house of worship, the church is non-profit and tax-exempt, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

His ministry has prospered with satellite churches in at least a dozen states and hundreds of thousands of online followers. Dollar owns a multi-million dollar mansion and condo.

Read it all:

imageI saw the movie “Interstellar” again recently, this time via On Demand. Let me just say that I really like this movie. Also, before you read much further, be aware that if you haven’t seen this movie already, there are spoilers below.

I’ll start with what makes this a highly watchable and interesting movie. The first half of the movie does a great job of creating an air of mystery. There are creepy events that lend a sense of a ghost story–an unseen entity is manipulating gravity inside the bedroom of the girl Murph, making books move and creating patterns in the dust. Furthermore, this is set against a bleak and melancholic backdrop, as humans are struggling to survive on a dying earth. The acting of Matthew McConaughey and little Mackenzie Foy, in setting up the theme of father-daughter love, was superb. Their relationship is an emotional glue that holds together the entire movie. I thought the scene in which Cooper is launched into space, juxtaposed with images of Murph shrieking in agonized grief at the loss of her father, is one of the most heart-wrenching portrayals in all of cinema.

The rest of the movie kicks into the realm of suspenseful science fiction featuring an epic quest through space and time. The movie has been compared to 2001, and the attempts at “space realism” and Cooper’s psychedelic voyage into the black hole certainly evoked this prior classic. In “Interstellar” there is an inverse of the Hal incident: the superintelligent robot remains loyal and heroic, while a murderous human madman nearly kills them all. Over all, I felt that this movie has more heart than Stanley Kubrick’s nearly wordless and vaguely misanthropic film.

The movie explores the existential dread that humans naturally feel when approaching death. This is what drives Dr. Mann mad. This is the theme echoed in Professor Brand’s mantra, the poem by Dylan Thomas that says, “Do not go gentle into that good night…”

Now I have to mention some downsides. First, while this movie is in many ways a warm and relationship-affirming movie, it is a godless movie. There is no depiction of religion, church-going, or anything smacking of faith in a higher being. Even the small town and farm life that is featured in the opening and closing scenes, while thoughtfully portrayed, seems incomplete: The movie shows some authentic charm–baseball games, school conferences, a main street, and a kindly small town grandpa swilling beer on his Victorian porch–but nary a steeple is to be seen. It’s not anti-God, per se, but merely agnostic. Of course, that’s about the best one can hope for from mainstream movies these days.

Then there is the silly and the illogical. First I give the silly: Love is a force of nature, affirms the teary eyed younger Dr. Brand, played by Anne Hathaway. I felt that this weakened things a bit. Now I don’t want to slander love, which is a great and wondrous thing–within the domain of relationships. God is Love, after all. So I won’t say that it was bad. “Silly” may be too harsh; “cheesy” might be more accurate. Sometimes cheesy is good, but here it made my eyes roll a bit.

Now for the illogical: One major subplot of the movie is that an evolved humanity of the future reaches back through time to help present day humanity avoid extinction. While handily sidestepping the supernatural, this is inherently illogical.

This reminds me of something. C.S. Lewis once opined with characteristic wit, “Nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God” (C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain). A corollary to this might be, “nonsense is nonsense, even when dressed in science and inserted into a gripping movie.”

While reading about the baltimore riots, we came across this interesting story:

“A federal court case has been launched after a SWAT team in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area busted into the wrong house, shot the family’s dog, handcuffed the children and forced them to “sit next to the carcass of their dead and bloody pet for more than an hour.”


It appears that the case was dismissed in 2013, due to the plaintiffs and their lawyer not following through with a response to the motion to dismiss.  You can read the court proceeding here:

We beg your pardon as we transition our affiliated web site to a “responsive” design. This means that at a small screen size, the web pages will shift from the usual two column layout with a navigation bar, to a single column layout with a collapsible navigation menu button. This should make our site more readable on a mobile device. Pages may come down or behave oddly for brief periods of time. This blog, which already has a responsive layout, should be unaffected.

Here is an example of the differences in appearance that you may notice on a smartphone screen:

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We are pleased to announce our second video offering, a bit of (respectful) whimsy that utilizes the creative game of Minecraft:

The Text here is from the King James version of the Holy Bible.

The images are screen shots from a minecraft game.

The music is by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), from his Piano Concerto in A minor, Op 16: Adagio section. This is a public domain recording available on the musOpen website.  This is an early work, written when he was 24 while visiting Søllerød, Denmark, and is the only concerto completed by Grieg.  It is often compared to the piano concerto by Schumann.  It is scored for piano, woodwinds in pairs, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings.  The performers here are the Skidmore College Orchestra.

The Minecraft style titles are thanks to Textcraft:

And of course I am grateful to the inventive folks at Mojang for their creative game.