LCMS pastor, action hero

I haven’t read it, but I’ve got to.   Novelist Ray Keating has started a spy, adventure, thriller series whose hero is a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  From a review by Russell E. Saltzman:

Here is a fun adventure romp, a first novel by former Newsday columnist Ray Keating. Stephen Grant is an ex-CIA agent with notches on his pistol who, with a little bit of angst, turns his back on his secret life and becomes, get this, a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We first meet Grant as he dispatches an opposing agent within the nave of a French Catholic church (because for discreet meetings between rival spies, the empty churches of Europe are ideal). Grant next shows up as pastor of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on the east end of Long Island, where he slays an eco-terrorist who is trying to shoot choir members at rehearsal (not, from the description in the novel, that choir’s rendering of A Mighty Fortress didn’t give the effort some merit).

Well, after that, one thing sort of leads to another thing and pretty soon Pr. Grant saves the life of Pope Augustine from a knife-wielding priest shouting “apostate,” shares “decaffeinated black currant tea” thereafter with same (um, the pope, not the assailant), and at different stops along the way vanquishes liberal theologians, spars with arrogant media-types, and incidentally helps the Vatican advance an ecumenical initiative called “A Public Mission of Mere Christianity.” St. Mary’s, by the way, seems to be a parish that functions well in the pastor’s absence.

via Heroic LCMS Pastor Saves Pope » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

I’m buying it.  How can I not?  You buy it too and we’ll discuss it on this blog.

Hobbits are non-union

There is trouble with Peter Jackson’s production of The Hobbit.  Efforts to unionize the project in  the New Zealand have failed, so Hollywood union members, including the Screen Actor’s Guild, are urging their members to boycott the production:

An international group of actors’ unions, including SAG, has warned members not to work on “The Hobbit” because of failed efforts to organize the film’s New Zealand production — a move Peter Jackson disparages as a “power grab.”

Members were advised [1] in an alert sent over the weekend “not to accept work on this non-union production” of the MGM blockbuster-to-be, which is still awaiting the official greenlight from financially troubled MGM before shooting — tentatively scheduled for next year — can begin.

Guilds involved include SAG, AFTRA and several international unions. The New Zealand unit of an Australian union had made attempts to organize the film, according to the alert.

But Jackson fired back in a statement Sunday, saying the Kiwi organization represents a very tiny percentage of actors there, and is leveraging his production to gain membership.

Actors guilds are known to issue member alerts of this sort from time to time, but it is extremely rare for a major studio franchise film to be involved.

Here’s the full text of the alert:

The makers of feature film The Hobbit – to be shot in New Zealand next year – have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements.

Members of Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are advised not to accept work on this non-union production.

If you are contacted to be engaged on The Hobbit please notify your union immediately.

via Big Hollywood » Blog Archive » Unions Threaten to Destroy ‘Hobbit’ Films; Peter Jackson Fights Back.

The Tea Party and the Myth of Antaeus

Stanley Fish sheds light on contemporary politics by means of his vocation as a classically-educated literary scholar:

And the Democrats will be helping them [Republicans] by saying scathing and dismissive things about the Tea Party and its candidates. The Greek mythological figure Antaeus won victory after victory because his opponents repeatedly threw him to the ground, not realizing that it was the earth (in the figure of his mother, Gaia) that nourished him and gave him renewed strength. The Tea Party’s strength comes from the down-to-earth rhetoric it responds to and proclaims, and whenever high-brow critics heap the dirt of scorn and derision upon the party, its powers increase. . . .

What to do? It is easier, of course, to say what not to do, and what not to do is what Democrats and their allies are prone to do — poke gleeful fun at the lesser mortals who say and believe strange things and betray an ignorance of history.

That won’t work. Better, perhaps, to take a cue from Hercules, who figured out the source of Antaeus’s strength and defeated him by embracing him in a bear hug, lifting him up high, and preventing him from touching the ground. Don’t sling mud down in the dust where your opponents thrive. Instead, engage them as if you thought that the concerns they express (if not their forms of expression) are worthy of serious consideration, as indeed they are. Lift them up to the level of reasons and evidence and see how they fare in the rarified air of rational debate where they just might suffer the fate of Antaeus.

via Antaeus and the Tea Party – NYTimes.com.

Does anybody know any other myths or legends that might have applications to our times?

HT:Joseph Bottum

Anne Rice is a “believer” but not a “Christian”

You should read this fascinating interview in Christianity Today with Anne Rice, the novelist who first converted to Christianity, then recently said that she is no longer a Christian.  In the interview, she still says she is a “believer” who has “faith in Christ.”  It is just  “organized religion” she can’t take anymore, largely because of her liberal social beliefs.  She says that she still has “community” in her circle of co-workers and friends, who are all “believers.”   Here, though, is a stinging indictment:

Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love. They have become associated with hatred, persecution, attempting to abolish the separation of church and state, and trying to pressure people to vote certain ways in elections.

And yet, she reads conservative theologians and has a special affinity for conservative Bible scholars:

I read theology and biblical scholarship all the time. I love the biblical scholarship of D.A. Carson. I very much love Craig S. Keener. His books on Matthew and John are right here on my desk all the time. I go to Craig Keener for answers because his commentary on Scripture is so thorough. I still read N.T. Wright. I love the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner. I love his writing on Jesus Christ. It’s very beautiful to me, and I study a little bit of it every day. Of course, I love Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. . . .

Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it’s been interpreted. I don’t go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It’s the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I’ve read over the years, it’s their work that I keep on my desk. They’re all non-Catholics, but they’re believers, they document their books well, they write well, they’re scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don’t have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, so there’s no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.

via Q & A: Anne Rice on Following Christ Without Christianity | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Superman vs. Batman

The L.A. Times did an interesting interview with comic book writer Grant Morrison.  He points out the class distinction between the superheroes:

GM: Superman is very bright and optimistic. It’s all the simple things. He’s of the day and of the sunlight, and Batman is the creature of the night. I’m interested in the fact that they both believe in the same kind of things. But Batman is better. He’s screwed up. That what makes him cool. Even though he’s solved all his problems in his own head he is — as I see him — a man with a very dark sense of humor and a very dark view of the world. He has to overcome that constantly. He’s forever fighting to make the world better, which means it’s never good for Batman. The rest of us have good days. We don’t fight everyday. Batman fights every single day. He has that dark Plutonian side.

GB: The public personalities of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent don’t seem as polarized as their alter egos.

GM: Bruce Wayne is a rich man. He’s an artistocrat. Superman grew up as Clark Kent on a farm bailing hay, and he’s got a boss that shouts at him if he’s late to work. He’s actually more human; Batman is the fetish fantasy psyche of the aristocrat overlord who can do anything he wants, and that’s fascinating. The class difference between the two of them is important.

GB: I’ve never thought much about the class distinctions between the two.

Superman by Jim Lee GM: You’re an American; you live in Los Angeles! You don’t have to think of class distinction in the same way we Brits do. But there is very much a distinction between the two. People often forget Superman is very much a put-upon guy. Bruce has a butler, Clark has a boss …

GB: True, but Clark also owns real estate in the Arctic, flies for free and can crush coal into fist-sized diamonds. He doesn’t need to have a boss.

Batman by Jim Lee GM: Yeah, but he so wants to be like us. He pines after one girl while Batman has a whole host of fetish femmes fatale at his beck and call.

GB: The ladies love the car, I think.

GM: Of course. He’s got everything. I like that. He’s our kind of dream of the aristocrat. He’s even better than the Tony Stark/Iron Man thing; he’s got that as well as the dark side. That’s the difference between Superman and Batman. There both interesting to write, but Batman is the sexier one, definitely.

via Batman versus Superman as class warfare? Grant Morrison: ‘Bruce has a butler, Clark has a boss’ | Hero Complex | Los Angeles Times.

So which was or is your favorite, Batman or Superman?  (Me:  Superman.)  D. C. or Marvel?  (Me:  D.C.)  (Today, judging from a recent sampling of comic books today,  D.C. has become Marvel!  And both have become more so.  Everybody in the comic book world is angst-ridden, taking little pleasure in the cool things they can do.)

Tom Sawyer’s ADHD and other disorders

Anne Applebaum cites scenes from Mark Twain and concludes that if Tom Sawyer were alive today, we would medicate him into submission:

Try, if you can, to strip away the haze of nostalgia and sentiment through which we generally perceive Mark Twain’s world, and imagine how a boy like Tom Sawyer would be regarded today. As far as I can tell, that fight is not just “inappropriate behavior,” to use current playground terminology, but is also one of the many symptoms of “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD), a condition that Tom manifests throughout the book.

And Tom is not merely ODD: He clearly has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well, judging by his inability to concentrate in school. “The harder Tom tried to fasten his mind on his book, the more his mind wandered,” Twain writes at one point. Unable to focus (“Tom’s heart ached to be free”) he starts playing with a tick. This behavior is part of a regular pattern: A few days earlier in church (where he had to sit “as far away from the open window and the seductive outside summer scenes as possible”), Tom had been unable to pay attention to the sermon and played with a pinch bug instead.

In fact, Tom manifests many disturbing behaviors. He blames his half-brother for his poor decisions, demonstrating an inability to take responsibility for his actions. He provokes his peers, often using aggression. He deliberately ignores rules and demonstrates defiance toward adults. He is frequently dishonest, at one point even pretending to be dead. Worst of all, he skips school — behavior that might, in time, lead him to be diagnosed with conduct disorder (CD), from which his friend Huck Finn clearly suffers.

I am not being entirely sarcastic here: I have reread both “Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” several times in recent years, precisely because Twain draws such fascinating portraits of children whose behavior is familiar, even if we now describe it differently. As a mother of boys, I find this weirdly reassuring: Although ADHD and ODD are often dismissed as recently “invented” disorders, they describe personality types and traits that have always existed. A certain kind of boy has always had trouble paying attention in school. A certain kind of boy has always picked fights with friends, gone smoking in the woods and floated down the river on rafts.

In previous eras, such behavior was just as problematic for adults as it is today. Poor old Aunt Polly — how many times does she “fall to crying and wringing her hands”? To cope with Tom, she seeks names for his disorder — he is “full of the Old Scratch,” meaning the devil — and searches for ways to control him (“Spare the rod and spile the child,” she tells herself).

But if the behavior or actions of the children and the parents are familiar, the society surrounding them is not. Tom Sawyer turns out fine in the end. In 19th-century Missouri, there were still many opportunities for impulsive kids who were bored and fidgety in school: The very qualities that made him so tiresome — curiosity, hyperactivity, recklessness — are precisely the ones that get him the girl, win him the treasure and make him a hero. Even Huck Finn is all right at the end of his story. Although he never learns to tolerate “sivilization,” he knows he can head out to “Indian territory,” to the empty West, where even the loose rules of Missouri life won’t have to be followed.

Nothing like that is available to children who don’t fit in today. Instead of striking out into the wilderness like Huck Finn, they get sent to psychologists and prescribed medication — if they are lucky enough to have parents who can afford that sort of thing. Every effort will rightly be made to help them pay attention, listen to the teacher, stop picking fights in the playground. Nowadays, there aren’t any other options.

via Anne Applebaum – Tom Sawyer and today’s children: Same behavior, different treatment.


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