Ladling calculation upon comedy

Andrew O’Hehir of Salon asks “Why are Christian movies so awful?

I think the answer, as I suggested a while back, is because American evangelicalism distrusts metaphor:

American evangelical Christians do not like metaphor. That’s not strong enough. They fear metaphor. It terrifies them, and so they despise it, reject it and forbid it wherever possible. …

Evangelicals prefer their truth in simple, unambiguous propositions. … It is no accident that the Left Behind novels are remarkably free of metaphor, of multi-leveled themes, or even of the kinds of visual details that might be taken to stand for something at a non-literal level. Artless art — explicit, monovalent, prosaic prose — is the only permissible form of storytelling. …

Related news: “‘Left Behind’ Books Get Next-Gen Makeover

Sixteen years ago, an apocalyptic thriller titled Left Behind quietly released to Christian bookstores nationwide. Little did its authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, or its publisher Tyndale House know that it would become a phenomenon, resulting in seven number one bestselling titles and a product line with sales topping more than 63 million copies. This month, a decade and a half later, Tyndale is releasing the 12 primary titles with new covers and updated content to inspire a new generation of readers.

You know, when the premise of your books is that the world is going to end within “one generation” of 1948 (the year of the founding of modern Israel — Tim LaHaye’s most favoritest year ever), it’s already awkward enough to still be publishing 63 years later. But rolling out an updated version aimed at “a new generation of readers” is really pushing it.

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Speaking of metaphors, I once suggested that Doug Coe, the founder and driving force of The Family — the cult of power detailed in Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Poweris actually a vampire.

The latest support for that claim came Tuesday, when Coe’s minion, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to praise renegade strongman Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast.

Both men — Inhofe and Gbagbo — are disciples of Coe’s religion of world-domination through Bible study, prayer and backroom deals. They believe Jesus wants them in power, using power for the powerful. And if that’s true, who are the people of Ivory Coast to say different?

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Recent scholarly publications in the field of Whedonology:

Elsewhere:

How to Launch an Executive Email Carpet Bomb

Father Zalba, do you really believe God has carried out all your orders?”

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.: “You can’t change anybody you don’t love. If you don’t love them, you can’t change them.”

How Ayn Rand ruined my childhood: My dad saw objectivism as a logical philosophy to live by, but it tore my family apart”

Looking for heroes? Here’s Tawakkol Karman.

P.S.: The Federal Budget Theater productions of recent weeks have produced a slew of commentary over whether “the ball is in the president’s court” or perhaps “the ball is in Congress’ court.” Every time this has been said I’ve heard Hugh Jackman’s voice: “You’re ladling calculation upon comedy. The point is to keep the ball in your court.”

  • Sammy

    It’s simple, really: American evangelicals distrust metaphor because they, like the vast majority of people, evangelical or no, lack the capacity to think critically. Like the thousands of people who watched “Fight Club” and comes away with the message that Project Mayhem is an awesome idea, they read a book filled with allegory and morality plays and take every word at face value. They believe that the Bible is a command to be obeyed in order to reap rewards in the next world, rather than instructions on how to be a good person in this one, and thus “reason” that the Bible must be obeyed, to the letter. And if the Bible is a lesson in obedience, then everything else must be, too. (Incidentally, this is also why so many Evangelicals distance themselves from media that isn’t explicitly “Christian:” They believe that anything containing violence or promiscuous sex or drugs must necessarily /promote/ those things, because they cannot conceive of media as anything other than “explicit, monovalent, prosaic prose.”)

    This division, in my opinion, is the primary difference between “good” Christians and the narrow-minded RTC types. The former start with the premise, “God is love, so please love God and your fellow man,” and read into the Bible as metaphor from there. The latter simply read the Bible literally and take it as orders from God, whether or not that literal reading results in love or hate, tolerance or intolerance, peace or violence.

  • Anonymous

    In terms of the old vampire story and crosses, I liked the line from Ultraviolet: “it’s a question of faith – on both sides.”

  • http://joshbarkey.blogspot.com/2010/09/tale-of-two-circles-revisited.html josh barkey

    I think “Christian” movies are so awful because they’re made by people who don’t understand what art is for, and don’t have the integrity or, yes, the LOVE to realize that good work must be honest. As Madeleine L’Engle famously said, “Bad art is bad theology.”

    Funny, after my wife left me, a whole lot of people suggested I should watch “Fireproof.” My response? I went and wrote a blog post entitled “Why Fireproof is Immoral.” So there.

    http://joshbarkey.blogspot.com/2009/07/why-is-immoral.html

  • Ian

    Elections are meaningless without some degree of society-wide trust.

    In Egypt, shortly before the revolution, Muslim protesters formed a line around a threatened Coptic Church to protect it from extremists. Later, during the revolution, Coptic protesters formed a line to protect Muslims while they prayed. Awesome. No ethnic/religious group will need to fear the results of an election there.

    Likewise, here in Canada I expect a Conservative majority government would be terrible for the country, but at least no one needs to worry about Arizona style laws threatening immigrants. For one, the conservatives need the votes of conservative-leaning first and second generation immigrants; without them they’d be out on their ear in a heartbeat.

    In countries like Iraq and the Ivory Coast, an election is something more like a census. The biggest ethnic/religious group gets to run the government, and with that gets more power to oppress the others. The new government also gets some international legitimacy, a bit of cover for what they do. Where anyone needs to fear for their lives if the wrong party gets more votes, we cannot and should not call it democratic.

    For that reason, I can’t see either Gbagbo or Ouattara as being legitimate. Ouattara’s troops have been accused of committing atrocities on their way to the capital, and Gbagbo is no better. I’m not sure why the UN/French decided to pick sides in a nasty civil war. Keeping the two sides apart might have been the best thing the UN could have done.

    Maybe I’m wrong here. Maybe despite the violence there is enough trust between people in the North and people in the South for real democracy to flourish in Cote d’Ivoire. It seems though that partition might have made a better solution than giving the 54% group the power to oppress.

    (and 54% assumes that the disputed election results are accurate)

  • Anonymous

    This month, a decade and a half later, Tyndale is releasing the 12 primary titles with new covers and updated content to inspire a new generation of readers.

    There’s nothing I would enjoy more than to see Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins trying to be “down” with “the kids” of today. The original book was published in 1995, written with a charmingly regressive sensibility straight out of 1950, and a theology from the 1830s. Now it’s the Twitter generation. When you try to combine all of these disparate eras into one compressed, fruitcake-like mass, what’s the result? Comedy.

    Top Ten “Left Behind” Updates for Modern Audiences

    10. All remaining Mr. Belvedere references removed

    9. Characters act “hipper” by constantly peppering their dialogue with “… Not!

    8. Nicolae Carpathia’s description changed from “a younger Robert Redford” to “a way, way younger Robert Redford”

    7. Rayford’s just so proud of his new GeoCities account

    6. Stonagal shot first

    5. Buck’s “George Oreskovich” alias updated for new generation of Playboy Playmates

    4. Jarring 80-page subplot about President Fitzhugh’s birth certificate

    3. Buck’s all-consuming phone obsession: no effect

    2. Somehow, everyone’s playing the Left Behind video game

    And the number one “Left Behind” update for modern audiences is:

    1. Mystifying prologue in which liberal blogger “Clark Frederickson” is introduced, struck by bus, sent to hell

  • http://twitter.com/Librariandrew Andrew Bishop

    For three weeks now or so, PopMatters has been publishing a lot of good content on Whedon. Thanks for those other two links.

  • Anonymous

    It’s also the difference between tribal markers and art. I’d say Hellboy is a Christian film, it’s about sin, redemption, looking out for one another and grace letting us rise above our natures. But it doesn’t explicitly say “Jesus is the answer and the only answer.” As it’s interested in telling a story and reaching people it refuses to post a clear sign to outsiders saying “Keep Out! This is ours!” or be used as a club to beat others with.

    It’s the difference between A Watchtower Magazine and A Wrinkle in Time. And it’s why I’m no fan of Narnia, I taste the Sunday School medicine too strongly. It you want a grim laugh read the reviews at CAP altert. They do not consider context or intended audience at all, just pearl clutch at every instance of smoking, swearing, etc. To them Buck and Rayford would be praised for not smoking or using curse words unlike that hideous demon Hellboy. That Red would actually stop on that airport runway to carry the wounded to help doesn’t even occur to them as something they should consider in their metric of moral values.

  • Shadsie

    Ah, another reminder of why I shall probably never have any of my serious work published. I have too much spiritual symbolism (maybe) in my stories for the mainstream market, yet… too much spiritual symbolism for the “Christian” market. Too much nuance and mystery.

    I’ve read the first half of the LB series and… comparing it to other, much better works – LB is like reading a brick. Less immesion, less feeling, no sense of nuance.

    Some of my new, experimental, odd and symbolous works are here and will be here, since I don’t expect them to make me an international phenonmeonon or even be noticed anytime soon: http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com/

  • Anonymous

    The blogger Clark Frederickson isn’t going to be struck by a bus he is going to be the antichrist’s prophet with his blog full with atheists, agnostics, catholics, wiccans, and christians who aren’t RTC chistians.

    Yes and those christians who don’t believe you have to say the magic words to be saved, but believe when you have faith you also have to work for it.
    Not because turbojezus wants you to enjoy enjoy the butchering of other people but because REAL Jezus want you to love your neigbor as yourself.

  • Lori

    You know, when the premise of your books is that the world is going to end within “one generation” of 1948 (the year of the founding of modern Israel — Tim LaHaye’s most favoritest year ever), it’s already awkward enough to still be publishing 63 years later. But rolling out an updated version aimed at “a new generation of readers” is really pushing it.

    Updating for a new generation that you basically claimed would never exist is pretty ballsy. And I don’t mean that in a good way. It does open the door for some serious hilarity though. I’m dying to see what they change and, as others have noted, how they try to make the books all hip and down with the kids these days.

  • http://style92.livejournal.com/ style 92

    I too am interested in “Left Behind, the special edition.” Part of me wonders if it will be a broad scale rewrite, taking into account an Obama like president and the recession and basically all manner of glenn beckianism, or if it will be a lazy find and replace. Probably the latter.

    Someone will have to check this out. If the updates are significant enough, should fred, at the end of Trib force, continue on to Nicolae or revearse course and go after “Left Behind the special edition?” Or maybe a one article addendum can cover the changes?

    Now I’m really worried about what the authors may put in Buck and Ray’s mouths over the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”

  • Anonymous

    It might honestly mean the books shrink down to 150 or so pages each. Because with cell phones all the fussing over travel plans and trying to find a phone are no longer required. That that leaves about 125 pages of sneering at Women, non RTCs, and liberals, and 25 of things actually happening.

  • Anonymous

    That tale about Ayn Rand is horrifying, how somebody use it as an excuse to run away from his responsibilities and still thinks he has the moral high ground is disturbing.

    I don’t try to judge others because I believe I would be judged like I judged other people.

    And I pray that when that man is standing for the throne of God to be judged like he judged his childeren and his ex-wife, that he accept that Jezus is defending him.
    Not because He wants to keep that man as something He is now a owner of but because he loves him.

    I feel both disgust and pity hopefully he will see the error of his ways otherwise I fear for his soul when he has to explain to God why he didn’t love the people he SHOULD have loved.

  • Anonymous

    That that leaves about 125 pages of sneering at Women, non RTCs, and liberals, and 25 of things actually happening.

    1 in 6? I like those odds!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    It’s also the difference between tribal markers and art. I’d say Hellboy is a Christian film, it’s about sin, redemption, looking out for one another and grace letting us rise above our natures. But it doesn’t explicitly say “Jesus is the answer and the only answer.” As it’s interested in telling a story and reaching people it refuses to post a clear sign to outsiders saying “Keep Out! This is ours!” or be used as a club to beat others with.

    Hellboy’s one of my favorite comic book characters, and the movie’s one of my favorite comic book adaptations, and one of my favorite things about it is that it allows me to combine my loves of Ron Perlman, Lovecraftian monsters, cyborg Nazis, and Doug Jones with my love redemptive grace-infused narratives. I definitely find Hellboy to be a better role model than the protagonists of most of the Christian-branded books, comics and movies I’ve encountered, although his smoking and occasional dabbling in necromancy made him a tough sell for my Mom.

    Of course, I’m the sort of Christian who’s been known to curse, drink, and smoke cigars from time to time, though not so much with the digging up talking corpses and carrying them around on my back.

  • Anonymous

    I… had things to say about this.

    I decided it was too long to be a comment, so there’s a link instead.

    Also, Hellboy ftw. Maybe some Right Behind, with Red in place of Buck? Hmm.

  • Anonymous

    You know, when the premise of your books is that the world is going to end within “one generation” of 1948 (the year of the founding of modern Israel — Tim LaHaye’s most favoritest year ever), it’s already awkward enough to still be publishing 63 years later. But rolling out an updated version aimed at “a new generation of readers” is really pushing it.

    Although I can’t find it, I read somewhere that the authors considered Left Behind to take place sometime during the first half of the 21st century.

  • http://style92.livejournal.com/ style 92

    Fred is right in the basics. You see, in the 60′s and seventies the idea was that the rapture was in one generation of the “fig tree bearing fruit.” Well, it was commonly assumed that Fig tree was Israel, bearing fruit was the founding of it, and a generation was 40 years, based on God defining the Israelites to “Wander for 40 years until a generation died out.”

    Forty years after 1948 is 1988, which is the big reason around the infamous “Why Jesus will return in 1988″ fervor. 1988 came and went, and the big prophecy gurus had to distance themselves from it. They also had to find some wriggle room in the scheme.

    The most common bit is that maybe God didn’t count 1948 as the key year, but 1967, the six day war, when Israel took control of east Jerusalem, the Gaza strip, the West bank, and others. Based just on that, that easily was enough wriggle room to project the second coming into the early 21st century.

    2007 came and went, and while there was some apocalyptic expectation from the usual suspects, it was more subdued than the 1988 expectations. Mostly to avoid another embarrassing prophecy failure, but they also looked for more wriggle room. Now it’s in vogue to back off of defining “generation” as 40 years. 50, 60, even up to 100 years, incredibly have been proposed as definitions of “generation.” That’s a lot more wriggle room. as odd as it sounds, that interpretation of prophecy probably will not be discredited until 2067, (when presumably those individuals who were newborns during the 6 day war will be celebrating their big 100, still counting as “The generation who saw these things happen.)

    Ofcourse, in 2068, if rapturists gurus who study the socio political situation in israel as signs of end times, people like Lahaye and Hagee, still exist, they will have to finally admit that the whole “fig tree prophecy thing” doesn’t mean what they’ve always said it means. I sort of hope I survive to that far off year, (when I’m scheduled to turn 84,) just to see what they say then.

  • http://style92.livejournal.com/ style 92

    Fred is right in the basics. You see, in the 60′s and seventies the idea was that the rapture was in one generation of the “fig tree bearing fruit.” Well, it was commonly assumed that Fig tree was Israel, bearing fruit was the founding of it, and a generation was 40 years, based on God defining the Israelites to “Wander for 40 years until a generation died out.”

    Forty years after 1948 is 1988, which is the big reason around the infamous “Why Jesus will return in 1988″ fervor. 1988 came and went, and the big prophecy gurus had to distance themselves from it. They also had to find some wriggle room in the scheme.

    The most common bit is that maybe God didn’t count 1948 as the key year, but 1967, the six day war, when Israel took control of east Jerusalem, the Gaza strip, the West bank, and others. Based just on that, that easily was enough wriggle room to project the second coming into the early 21st century.

    2007 came and went, and while there was some apocalyptic expectation from the usual suspects, it was more subdued than the 1988 expectations. Mostly to avoid another embarrassing prophecy failure, but they also looked for more wriggle room. Now it’s in vogue to back off of defining “generation” as 40 years. 50, 60, even up to 100 years, incredibly have been proposed as definitions of “generation.” That’s a lot more wriggle room. as odd as it sounds, that interpretation of prophecy probably will not be discredited until 2067, (when presumably those individuals who were newborns during the 6 day war will be celebrating their big 100, still counting as “The generation who saw these things happen.)

    Ofcourse, in 2068, if rapturists gurus who study the socio political situation in israel as signs of end times, people like Lahaye and Hagee, still exist, they will have to finally admit that the whole “fig tree prophecy thing” doesn’t mean what they’ve always said it means. I sort of hope I survive to that far off year, (when I’m scheduled to turn 84,) just to see what they say then.

  • JD

    Thank you for linking to that excellent article by Andrew O’heir. As someone who works in the film industry, it’s an issue I’ve had some personal concern about myself. Specifically, he articulates very simply and directly something I’ve been trying to convey for some time: that so-called “Christian” films have little connection with actual Christianity. They are, as I clumsily paraphrase, much more signifiers of a cultural and social attitude and identity that has almost nothing to do with the artistic and historical tradition that inspired Dante, Milton, Bach, Tolkien, etc, and more recently, filmmakers like John Ford, Ingmar Bergman, Leo McCarey, Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese, and even John Woo (raised Catholic in Hong Kong.) The people making and watching “Christian” films (and other “Christian” labeled media like the Left Behind books) don’t much care about that tradition, either. They’d look at the Roman Catholic church the main character is praying in in one of the early scenes in “Mean Streets” and call it a dead church; then they’d turn off the DVD in disgust when the voice over says: “You don’t fuck with the infinite.”

    The sad truth? “Christian” films really are predictably, gratingly bad, over and over again. There’s a stunningly tacky crumminess endemic in almost all of them. And while this is not news to anybody, it’s because, I think one has to say, many of the “Christians” making and watching those films are very unpleasent people. They’re the ones who, in 21st century America, reject in books and music and movies anything sexual–especially any gay sex, or sexual relations between white women and and non-white men, or women enjoying sex, period; any suggestions of violence, no matter how artfully portrayed or thematically justified (unless it’s Jesus being whipped to shreds or the sinners being incinerated by TurboJesus, so I guess they reject secular violence), any criticism of American government and it’s policies or questioning of American history (unless it’s them screaming about godless liberals and democrats); and to some extent, even science and rationalism itself. Oh, and don’t want to hear any filthy language or cursing. (I’ve also been told a lot of evangelicals don’t even permit people to be negative or unhappy, which sounds like truly hellish emotional torture.) They are, frankly, hypocrites, who don’t want to have to deal with being known as prudish, sexually repressed, abusive, superstitious, bullying ignorant bigots, so they eagerly wrap themselves in the label of Christians because then they’re supposedly followers of god and who dares criticize God? Or Jesus? Or his devout servants? Except for sinners and evil people?

    I’ve said it before, but I sincerely think that in modern America, “Conservatives” and “Christians”–sometimes seperate, sometimes one and the same–are all too often just participants in basically support systems for bad people who want to act worse and not be criticized for it. It’s a story as old as civilization, but it’s scary how complacent people are in the face of it today. I worry about where it may be going. We don’t have to look back very far in history to see worst case scenarios for what happens when cruel, self-righteous people get full permission to be as bad as they wanna be. Cambodia; or Germany; or the Confederate States Of America.

  • MichaelR

    Personally, I think there is a far simpler reason for “Christian” everything to be terrible: it is a tie-in product, and tie-in products are usually crap because making a good product is not the goal. The goal is to flog whatever you’re tying in to, and hope people already interested in the tie-in will buy it anyway.

    Why bother doing a good Christian movie? That takes time and money and effort. Better to just assemble whatever piece of garbage, glob some Jesus sauce on it, and wait for people to blindly buy it anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Granted that many PMD’s are continually predicting dates for the Second Coming. I haven’t seen where Tim LaHaye has made a specific prediction.

    My vision for Left Behind came right out of my many years of prophetic Bible studies which literally declares there will be a rapture of all believers world wide by Jesus Christ when He fulfills His promise in John 14:1-3 to come again and take believers to “His Father’s house.” World conditions today give ample evidence that such an event could come relatively soon…

    Since no one knows the day or the hour our Lord will return I have been careful not to say we are the end times generation. What I said was our generation has more reason to believe this than any generation that has lived before us. Ever since Israel was formed and almost six million Jews have moved there it is obvious that God’s prophetic clock is ticking. I would stick to that, with rogue nations and uncontrollable terrorists on the horizon who think they can kill themselves to get into heaven by blowing up people it is just a matter of time before they get access to suitcase neutron bombs…even secular scientists are saying they see little hope for the future beyond twenty-five to fifty years. I still think we are living in the last days. How long that will be no one knows.
    Tim LaHaye Ministries FAQs

    And while Left Behind supposedly takes place during the first half of the 21st century, that doesn’t necessarily mean that LaHaye is teaching that the Rapture will definitely happen in the next 39 years.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    This reminds me of the Roman term seculum, as in “Ordo novus seculorum” or New Order of the Ages, where an age or generation is defined as roughly the maximum human lifespan. That is, a seculum ends when the last person alive at its beginning has died.

    The Secular Games held to celebrate the transitions between these ages were advertised as “Games no one alive has seen or will see again” or something along those lines.

  • P J Evans

    That sounds like they’re trying to weasel out of their own writings.
    (Jesus himself said that God is the only one who knows when it’s going to be. Why do RTCs insist that they know when?)

  • Anonymous

    Calling Christian music/movies/whatever tie-ins is actually giving them too much credit. They’re mostly stand-ins, a subculture-acceptable knock-off of things fundies subconsciously realize they’d like, given a gaudy facade of holiness. Sort of like the aesthetic equivalent of megachurches replacing communities.

  • Lori

    They’re mostly stand-ins, a subculture-acceptable knock-off of things fundies subconsciously realize they’d like, given a gaudy facade of holiness.

    I have major issues with South Park, but the ep they did where Cartman starts a Christian singing group called Faith +1 to win a bet with Kyle was the perfect send-up of exactly this aspect of the RTC subculture.

  • Lori

    They’re mostly stand-ins, a subculture-acceptable knock-off of things fundies subconsciously realize they’d like, given a gaudy facade of holiness.

    I have major issues with South Park, but the ep they did where Cartman starts a Christian singing group called Faith +1 to win a bet with Kyle was the perfect send-up of exactly this aspect of the RTC subculture.

  • http://style92.livejournal.com/ style 92

    I’m aware of this. In fact, near the beginning of “Are we living in the End Times” LaHaye and/or Jenkins, (it’s hard to tell in that book, as the narrative “voice” seems to be in the familiar but at times it identifies itself as LaHaye but at others sounds more Jenkins-ey, So I don’t know which one specifically to credit for this) our authors do sort of airily admit that there’s no reason Jesus couldn’t delay another thousand years. They then hurry up to claim they have every reason to think it’s soon, but yes, LaHaye is careful not to give specific time frames and therefore be discredited.

    Still, I’m pretty darn sure they hold to the whole “fig” tree analogy, and feel certain that the end must therefore be soon. I’m just curious what will happen when the “fig tree/Israel/Generation” prophecy is stretched and distended beyond all reason. Will someone admit that the interpretation of the prophecy never meant what they said it meant? Will they reconsider whether the emergence of Israel is a prophetically significant as they always thought it was?*

    *To be entirely fair, the dispensationalist prophecy scheme has been around since the late 1900s, and it did always put a big emphasis on Israel. In the early days, There were some who predicted Israel would have to reform, others said no, it’s more symbolic. When Israel did form in 1948, believers in Pre-Mil dispensationalism who were told to watch for a reformed national Israel really must have felt like Bible prophecy was coming true. It was no rapture or complete protection from Nuclear war, but it was in it’s day pretty compelling stuff. Now, it’s more than 60 years later and were all asking “What’s taking Jesus so long?” Some just refuse to give up hope.

  • Matri

    Now it’s in vogue to back off of defining “generation” as 40 years. 50, 60, even up to 100 years, incredibly have been proposed as definitions of “generation.” That’s a lot more wriggle room.

    You guys are most definitely going to hate me for saying this (what with giving them ideas and all), but it has to be said: Taking the bible literally, the early inhabitants had lifespans stretching a few hundred years.

    They’ll be wriggling so much earthworms will be embarrassed at not being able to keep up.

  • Shadsie

    On non-Christian media being more “Christian” than most “Christian media”…

    I remember once, when discussing my writing aspirations with someone, being told not to let my leanings overpower my work, but to “color” it. Some people are mentioning comics and films they take beautiful messages from… how about anime? I have a couple of favorites that convey many of the messages and values that the “Christian-market” wishes they could convey. The fact that these things come from Japan make it more interesting…

    One of my favorite things in the world is an anime/comic series called Trigun. It is doubly-interesting because its creator is actually a Roman Catholic (part Catholic, part Buddhist, according to what I’ve read regarding his interviews and whatnot) – which is very rare for a Japan-native. Trigun takes a lot of Western inspiration as it is… a science-fiction/western saga. It’s about a pacifist gunslinger (yes) wandering a desert planet trying to spread a message of love and peace while hunting for a villain who wants to wipe out humanity. It has a lot of complex messages – it’s very goofy at first and becomes progressively darker and has a lot to say about philosphy and morality if you’re paying attention. The main character can be described as “messianic” – he wants to save absolutely everyone and sacrifices himself to do so (his body is covered in scars). The series is somewhat violent (toned down in the anime, but the comic is hyperviolent – it makes no bones about it – when people get shot, they die, unless they have some weird powers, but it still hurts and it all comes with moral quandries). Then there is the character that the conservative-types would hate: The main character’s best friend is a cursing, chainsmoking, gunslinging priest. Those that would dismiss the character without sticking around, however, miss out on a *beautiful* redemption-story with him. Trigun, to me, has a to say about moral questions, forgiveness/redemption, love and peace. In fact, I’ve said that if I didn’t already have a spiriutality/was a form of Christian, I’d create a religion out of the main character’s love and peace philosophy.

    Then there’s another anime I like – Haibane Renmei. It was created by an agnostic, but borrows both Christian and Buddhist themes and imagery. It’s about a mysterious walled town into which are born people who grow small gray wings and are given halos. (The Haibane- “Charcoal Feathers” – they look like angels but aren’t really supposed to be angels). It follows a newly born girl who is trying to figure out her place in the world. It’s heavily suggested that the town might be a limbo for the souls of young people. It winds up being a beautiful tale about community, accepting oneself, and personal redemption. There’s even a cool scene in it where a character speaks of a “circle of sin.” – “The one that realizes their sin has no sin” – something like.

    Anyway, both of these have touched me more with “Christ-like” messages while being secular more than most “Christian work” ever has.

  • Anonymous

    When Israel did form in 1948, believers in Pre-Mil dispensationalism who were told to watch for a reformed national Israel really must have felt like Bible prophecy was coming true.

    On May 15, 1948, Pastor [John] Hagee remembers sitting “mesmerized” around his kitchen table in Channelview, Texas, as he and his family listened to the radio reports about Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Israel was reborn “in a day” just as the prophets, and his father, said it would be…

    [M]any dispensationalists and their families received a confirmation of their views as dramatic as the parting of the Red Sea. They sat around crackling radios and listened to the birth of the Jewish State just as their parents had predicted. Such a wondrous experience confirmed for them … the truth of their theology…
    Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State, p 65

  • Lori

    Israel was reborn “in a day” just as the prophets, and his father, said it would be…

    And this folks is why you should never, ever take foreign policy commentary from a Pre-Mil dispensationalist. Saying that Israel was reborn “in a day” is immensely stupid and that same complete lack on intelligent thought is on display today whenever they talk about the Middle East.

    Also, it’s really creepy the way Hagee lumps his father in with the prophets. I guess the one good thing that can be said about Authoritarians is that those tendencies are usually pretty easy to spot if you have any clue what to look for. That makes it so much easier to run away.

  • Anonymous

    I’m getting mental images of the Tribbles all running around with iPhones, using Words with Friends chat to send secret messages to each other…Snarky comments about what kind of music Hattie or Verna have on their iPods…Or maybe Nicolae would just take over Apple and magically put little chips in all iDevices that helps spread his brainwashing.

    Also, I will be highly disappointed if Anonymous doesn’t show up. Everybody knows how filthy Liberal they are, so you know the Antichrist would end up hiring them to be his personal Internet Army.

  • Matri

    so you know the Antichrist would end up hiring them to be his personal Internet Army.

    Except of course, this being L&J, they would do absolutely nothing. Oh, they’ll probably get mentioned in 77 chapters, slandered in 423 phone conversations, and 16 chapters all to themselves where they make phone calls to tell each other what the other person already knows.

    But they’ll never actually do anything.

    Also, since in these books Buck spends a good 50% of his time looking for a phone, that aspect of him would be gone if he ever uses a cell phone. Co-incidentally, that 50% sounded like the more interesting and readable parts of the books.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Haven’t read all of the comments yet, so forgive me if it’s been mentioned, but another explanation I’ve seen – and this approach can be applied to the the 1948/1967 sliding start point – is that it will happen after the death of the last surviving member of the generation born after Israel’s founding. The entire generation has to have lived and died before it can happen.

  • Hawker40

    Didn’t Jesus himself say that *he* didn’t know when? “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” – Mt 24:36

    If Jesus of Nazz doesn’t know…

  • Lori

    This particular fanwank leads to a picture of Pre-Mil Christians sitting around waiting and hoping for a bunch of Jews to die. That’s…not good.

  • Anonymous

    Also, since in these books Buck spends a good 50% of his time looking for a phone, that aspect of him would be gone if he ever uses a cell phone.

    Finding his pocket empty, Buck realized to his horror that he had left his cell phone …
    [select one]
    [ ] … in his suite at the hotel.
    [ ] … in Carpathia’s office.
    [ ] … in the taxi on his way to meet Rabbi Judah ben Jewsenbergstein.

    [The GIRAT spends two chapters searching for and/or retrieving his cell phone.]

  • Anonymous

    If Jesus of Nazz doesn’t know…

    … then it proves that Hagee, LaHaye et al. are smarter than Jesus, so you’d better heed their words like a good little authoritarian.

    The long lifespan of the early-Genesis humans has been brought up a few times by my crazy coworker coworker with disturbing opinions and judgment who I genuinely and non-sarcastically believe would benefit from medication of some sort. (He explains the difference in lifespans between then and now as the effect of sin and the wickedness of modern life.) He seems to regard Methuselah’s epoch and our own as different eras or dispensations, so I don’t imagine he’d use the lifespan of one to measure “generations” for prophecies regarding the latter … but who knows? I still hear the “A thousand years is like a day to God” thing occasionally. As far as I can tell, the point is to argue that the end is near Any Day Now ™, and then you reverse-engineer your “evidence” from that conclusion, and anything that can be made to fit is fair game.

  • Anonymous

    That defense of Gbagbo is really depressing. It’s one thing to say that one strongman with only the merest control over his troops isn’t much of an upgrade from another; it’s quite another to say that since Gbagbo seemed like a really nice guy at your National Prayer Breakfast meeting, surely his guys can’t be the ones committing atrocities.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard that the difference in lifespans is attributed to the effects of Noah’s flood. The story I get is that before Noah, there was no such thing as rain. Instead, the entire Earth was covered in a layer of water vapor that protected humans from UV rays. During the flood, that layer became rain and that is what started our current water cycle. Without the protection from this cloud layer, the lifespans of humans were drastically shortened. Of course this whole idea is ridiculous because a permanent layer of clouds with mess everything up in unimaginable ways and there’s no biblical reason to support this hypothesis either. But some people would rather make up elaborate ridiculous stories that defy the laws of physics than to admit that maybe there was a translation or transcription error in their perfect book.

  • Lori

    During the flood, that layer became rain and that is what started our current water cycle. Without the protection from this cloud layer, the lifespans of humans were drastically shortened.

    Wouldn’t this mean that if a person was diligent about sunscreen and UV protective clothing and hats, maybe carried a parasol, it would be possible to live to be 900 years old now?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    Personally I prefer Rurouni Kenshin to Trigun, partially because I found myself more engaged by the post-revolution setting, and partially because Kenshin, as a former assassin who thoroughly stained his hands with blood before swearing never to kill again and dedicating himself to protect the innocent, appealed to my love for heroes who ain’t like that no more. The whole series is about redemption, atonement, mercy, and grace, with a hero that embodies the idea of self-sacrifice.

  • Anonymous

    Oh goodness, I love Haibane Renmei. It is one of my favorite series ever, no joke. <3

    The whole 'circle of sin' thing has come up many a time in conversations with SixSpouse, and the redemption scenes in the anime give me shivers, make me cry like a thing made entirely of tear ducts with an onion-chopping habit, and generally Get Me in a really good way.

  • Anonymous

    Updating for a new generation that you basically claimed would never exist is pretty ballsy. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

    The amusing part is, there are some passages in the Gospels which suggest that the early Christians were doing much of the same thing.

  • LL

    Man, that Ayn Rand story is sad. Not surprising, but sad. Selfish assholes will use any excuse to justify being selfish assholes. Their real religion is themselves, they’re usually just a tad too decent to admit it.

    And Coburn and Inhofe: heavy sigh … I have no explanation for those two idiots.

  • Lori

    Their real religion is themselves, they’re usually just a tad too decent to admit it.

    IME decency has little if anything to do with it. The point is to get away with it. If you say flat out that you only care about yourself and as far as you’re concerned it really is all about you other people tend to react poorly. It’s much easier to get away with that crap if you wrap it up in a lot of “philosophy”.

  • Anonymous

    As a former Jehovah’s Witness L&J and their ilk are never going to have to back down or apologize or appear to be in wrong about the end times thanks to that wonderful thing called “New Light.” You predicted the begining of the end s tarted in 1914? Hey “New Light” just told you it’s 1975! That didn’t pan out either? Well don’t worry “New Light” should be along any moment to give you the correct answer this time.

    As for Rand, all Objectivism is is a lifelong performance art piece justifying whatever Ayn Rand wanted to do at that particular moment. Witness her railing against filthy goverment handouts but collecting social security checks in her old age.

  • Anonymous

    Some (to me) amusing news: The “Atlas Shrugged” film (Part 1 of 3!) is currently at 6% on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently it’s boring and talky, whoda thunk it! One reviewer suggested it would go well as a double feature with “Battlefield Earth”, which, ouch.

    Also, I like Roger Ebert’s summation of Objectivism in his review:

    For me, [Rand's] philosophy reduces itself to: “I’m on board; pull up the lifeline.”

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    Except, of course, Tim LeHaye was born in 1926. If an entire generation has to be born and die after 1948, then the Rapture won’t happen in LeHaye’s lifetime. And he, like so many pre-millenials, desperately needs the Rapture to happen before he dies.


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