Reader Mailstrom, 6/19

Welcome to Reader Mailstrom, a chronicle of stand-outs from the daily maelstrom of Looking Closer email. All letters are genuine unless I’ve clearly marked them as inventions or as amalgams of similar messages. Thank you for your messages!


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JAKE CHRISTIAN WRITES:

I doubt I’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting you, but I’ve enjoyed your work on Looking Closer, at Arts and Faith, and with CT for quite some time. I’ve always had a great interest in the way Christians relate to popular culture (I almost studied Religion and Culture at the doctoral level before choosing to accept a pastoral position instead). I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your thoughtful approach to Christian engagement with the arts, and how much I have learned from you over the years.

I’ve followed the recent controversy between Ted Slater and CT with some interest, and even posted a few times on Slater’s initial blog – sadly, half of my posts were rejected, and the other half (which attempted to engage Slater and his readers with actual discussion of the biblical texts many were throwing around) were pretty well ignored. Some days it seems like such discussions are as useful as beating one’s head against a brick wall (I’m sure you’ve experienced that sensation much more than I have), but most of the time I find myself continuing to try.

Anyway, I know you’ve received a lot of criticism lately, and wanted you to hear from one more person that has been helped a great deal by your perspective. I’ve not yet had a chance to read Through A Screen Darkly or Auralia’s Colors, but both are high on my list, and I’m really looking forward to reading them. Thank you very much for your work – I’m convinced that the appreciation of truth and beauty in all its forms is an integral facet of the Kingdom of God, and for that reason (and many others) what you do has great value.

Take care.

MY RESPONSE:

Wow, thanks. I’ve been feeling heavy-hearted all day about the presumptuous attacks against this team of insightful, God-honoring writers. It’s encouraging to hear from people who saw the attacks for what they really were. Thanks again.

I’m pleased to read that you’ve taken a pastoral role. The church needs more pastors who understand the value and purpose of art, and who understand the damage that can be done when we lead with judgment and condemnation instead of discernment and grace. May God bless your ministry.

And don’t worry. Your responses to Slater weren’t the only ones that were either deleted or blocked from Slater’s blog. I’ve heard from several people whose responses mysteriously vanished after they were sent. Could just be a problem in cyberspace. That’s possible. But unlikely.

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GARRICK ROEGNER WRITES:

Long time reader here.

Just wanted to pass along some encouragement. Thanks for all your great reviews and insight, and especially your clear perspective on the Sex and the City controversy. I am as dumbfounded as you are at the mean spiritedness and simple mindedness of other Christians in this “debate.” Clearly Pharisaism is alive and well. Thanks also for your grace and levity here.

MY RESPONSE:

When it becomes clear that no evidence, no confrontation, and no reason will make a difference to the person falsely accusing you, what’s left? Prayer. And humor. Otherwise, it’s just resentment, and that’s not healthy.

Thanks for the encouragement. God knows our minds and hearts, no matter what disgusting accusations others make. And how can you hope to communicate with people who start off their engagement by assuming the worst about you? Perhaps I’ll coin a new term for those occasions when someone publishes an outlandish, unfounded claim about somebody they don’t know: “Ack! I got Slatered!”

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FROM A READER AT ARTS AND FAITH, RESPONDING TO MY COMMENTARY ON SLATER’S POST:

Great response Jeffrey. I also liked Mark’s response on CT Movies. I liked his use of Lewis. I learn to love Lewis’ wisdom more and more as I age.

C.S. Lewis. Frederick Buechner. Flannery O’Connor. Madeleine L’Engle. They all knew the value of examining complex, “messy” art. You could fill a book with memorable, insightful quotes from all of them about the ways God manifests himself in the art of worldly imaginations, and the ways in which Christians can lose their grip on grace as they close their fists in condemnation.

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ALSO FROM ARTS AND FAITH:

It seems like Ted Slater completely missed the point of CT’s defense of the movie. Also, the title “Christianity Today Relishes Sexual Perversion” is pretty telling as to the content of the actual letter. I mean, why open up a meaningful dialogue with other Christians about the nature of film criticism and the merits of movies with “worldly” perspectives when you can just hurl ridiculous accusations? Repent CT, repent for giving Prince Caspian two and a half stars.

And speaking of Narnia-related star-ratings… man, I hate the star-rating system. If I could, I’d go back and down-grade The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to 3 stars, or maybe even 2 1/2. That films has some strengths, but the flaws become harder and harder to ignore in repeated viewings. There are only a few scenes I can sit through anymore without being powerfully annoyed.

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FROM A FRIEND AT CHURCH:

I’m not a metal type of guy, but going to high school in the late ’80′s and remembering what was popular I thought I would check out the lists (best and worst).

What really caught my eye and the reason I’m sending it on to you is that Stryper is #14 on the worst list, and the last sentence of the commentary is great …

14) Stryper: Christian Metal is just wrong, and quite possibly an oxymoron. I suppose you could say it’s more rebellious since it rebels against the traditional concept of rebellion. But then that would make activities such as mowing the lawn, doing the dishes and getting a haircut all part of a Satanic plot. I go with that King Of The Hill show that, when confronted with a Christian rock band, laid it out straight with something like this: “You’re not making Christianity better, you’re making rock n’ roll worse.”

MY REPSPONSE:

Hilarious! And now, brace yourself for letters from folks in defense of Christian metal…

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