Random Movie Review

I finally got around to watching Thr3e last night, the film adaptation of  Ted Dekker’s novel by Fox Faith

I wasn’t exactly blown away. 
Granted the plot was extremely compressed…I understand that much is lost when losing the narration of the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Still, it left the characters shallow and undefined, left out critical scenes, and added others that nearly destroyed the amazing ending to Dekker’s story. We won’t even discuss the poor quality of special effects. 
Why is it that almost anything done with the label of “Christian entertainment” is of such lousy quality? I’m not surprised that this movie was so poor, and the fact that I’m not surprised is a sad commentary in itself. I’m sure I’m a bit oversensitive that the botched story was that of one of my favorite authors. However, the vast majority of artistic endeavors created by artists who openly profess their faith seem to be poor at best. Shouldn’t the opposite be true? Shouldn’t Believers be producing the highest quality art of our day?
Certainly, there are exceptions, and I’m not attempting to apply an overly sweeping generalization to artists of faith. I’m just left sadly disappointed at having such a great story, my first exposure to Dekker, lose so much substance on the screen. 
If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t. Read the book. Its worth it. 

Random Rant

I’m not a tree-hugging granola or anything, but it took me almost 10 minutes to shred all of the junk mail credit card offers I received in the mail a few days ago, and it leaves me to wonder how many trees we kill every year in the name of the precious dollar. 

One of my journalism professors told me that no one knows their target audience better than direct mailers. The sad thing is that we have to open this stuff. We can avoid telemarketers by using the Do-Not-Call-List. We can use spam filters to catch junk email, and pop-up blockers on our browsers to miss annoying ads from websites. But unsolicited mail we have no choice but to open in order to protect ourselves from identity theft by shredding. Of course, the font sizes and layout are amazingly attractive to the eye, catching our attention and forcing that split-second decision: look and be sucked in, or toss it. 
I take small consolation in the fact that some of the contents of these mailings are generic and can at least be recycled (wait, that sounded granola, didn’t it?). But I have to wonder if any amount of revenue generated by these mailings (typically in the form of endebting us to predatory credit cards) can justify the damage we do to our environment, or the wasted time and energy out of our lives? 
And those who do take the offers end up further in debt to teaser offers, contributing to the perpetual debt that has placed our economy in the mess it is in. Worth it? 
Personally, I don’t think it adds up. 

Art or Idol?

There’s a dangerous line that Believer artists walk, I think. Or any artist, for that matter. Because we love what we create. Each of my poems or scripts or stories becomes sort of a child to me, and I’m fiercely protective of it, of its inherent integrity as a creative work, regardless of its quality. I become instantly at odds with the community of faith to which I belong when I hear the phrase, “hold your gifts loosely.” Yet, if you’ve ever had one of your scripts come to life before you on the stage..if you’ve ever experienced what’s holy about that…then you’re quick to ward off any perceived attacks to it, however well-intentioned they are. Our passion that makes what we’re writing/painting/acting/playing the most important thing in the world at that moment is a mystery to others, who like to say things like “presenting Jesus is really the most important thing,” and, “…but its not about you.” If only they knew…

So, we’re battered by well-meaning slogans of Christian-speak that may be true in and of themselves, but for some reason are perceived as a dichotomy to what’s going on inside the artist’s soul. 
Isaiah 2 spins an eschatological prophecy that decries the idols which are made by men’s hands, and how, when confronted with God, those same men will cast aside the idols they have created in terror at the magnitude of God. This leaves me wondering, then…where is the line drawn between a love for what you’re creating, and idolatry? When does something pure become evil? Where does it have the potential to all go wrong?  I think it was Lewis who said that art, because of its existential and soul-searching nature, has a dangerous tendency to be worshipped as it touches us so deeply. Then, at some level, we lapse into worshipping the creation instead of the Creator…something Paul cautions against in his letter to the Romans. 
Perhaps the solution is found in L’Engle’s thought process that each created piece is like a child. Once you’ve given birth, you raise it the best you can, and then release it. It is God’s now, for him to do with what He will. Because, for the artist who follows Christ, God is the Muse at the end of the day, and it was His to start with. We just put it on its feet. 
I think we’ll always walk on the line of falling over that edge if we are to create the way we were designed. As James cautions many to not become teachers, perhaps this is similarly our bane as well as our blessing. We either engage it with trembling humility and trust, or we retreat from our design, becoming frustrated and useless to the bigger scheme of things. I guess I don’t see the second option as an option. So, I have to write as I feel He gives me words, somehow being careful to not idolize the finished product that I fall so deeply in love with, allowing it to have whatever small or big effect He will permit. 
Talk about a creative tension. Sometimes, I feel like its more than I can handle. 

The Edge

I read a fascinating post this morning about an artist who recognized her perpetual state of standing against the status quo. 

Far be it from me to loosely associate ideas, but I must say that I suddenly found a sense of affirmation here, perhaps a solution to a long-standing struggle of late, if indeed giving up can be construed as a solution. Karen and I attend a “community church.” I began attending for two reasons: firstly, it is a community that thrives on the arts. Secondly, it adheres to no denomination, and I can’t stand any form of denominationalism. However, I’ve come to discover over the past few months (much to my chagrin) that the community church ideal is, in fact, its own denomination. I’m still struggling with that, but, worse, I’ve been struggling with this entire concept of community. 
See, I’ve realized (at Karen’s explanation, as I realize many things) that each denomination simply tends to emphasize a different aspect of our faith: Pentecostalism emphasizes the Holy Spirit, Baptists emphasize baptism, Anglicans communion…and so with the community church. My issue is that each emphasis seems to be falsely exaggerated. As such, relationships with others is (too) highly prized. I’m a writer. Writing involves solitude. You see the problem already, I imagine. 
I became involved with the theatre group at this particular community of faith in the hopes that I might actually “fit in” at a church for the first time in my life. I’ve discovered that I was sorely mistaken, something that was initially frustrating. 
This morning, though, I may have found my liberation. 
Because I’ve realized that my non-conformist failure to “fit in” is actually not a problem at all, but rather a gift. It permits me to always see (if not accept) the divergent perspective, and to create. I create from the edge, and this is, as best I can tell, how I am designed. I, like the blogger I read this morning, am able to shun evangelical pop culture and engage life at its depth because I am on the edge. I am able to see the bigger picture because I am on the edge, because my allegiance is to God and not to any particular community or group. I am suddenly very comfortable, and very glad, to be always on the outer edge and never quite “fitting in,” because to fit in would be to dilute life, to forsake a part of who I was created to be, and what I was (I think) created to do. I don’t completely forsake community…as with all the emphases I mentioned above, it is an important aspect of our faith, and many people I know thrive on it. Too much of it, however, is a very negative experience for me. And to move back from the edge means sacrificing more than just my preferences…it means endangering the core part of who I am, however flawed and messed up that I have tendencies to be. 
So, I’ll gladly stay on that edge, gladly refuse to conform, gladly refuse to be programmed, and gladly hold different perspectives. I’ll gladly be the one who is misunderstood, and who pursues a bit too passionately.
I’ll gladly follow Christ the only way I truly know how: from the edge. 

The Advancement of Music?

The ability of music to connect us to our memories never ceases to amaze me. Whatever it is about those carefully crafted sound waves that causes all of the electricity to fire in our brains, it takes me a bit by surprise when I encounter a song from my distant past and the rush of memories it brings. 

This afternoon, while in a waiting room doing, what else, but waiting, the song Sunny Came Home filtered through the compact, white Bose speakers situated in the corners of the room. Immediately I was back in my senior year of college, driving in the car as that particular song came on the radio, thinking about the girl I was dating at the time. 
I have an auditory learning style, so perhaps those of us who are auditory instead of visual experience this connection more readily, I don’t know. It lead me to think, though, about those days, driving with the radio on because I didn’t have a CD player in the car at the time. Whatever happened to come onto the radio was what I listened to. 
Now, radio as an entertainment medium is dead. While the radio waves still function reliably for communication, the only entertainment radio that ever even crosses my mind is what I can stream on iTunes. I rented a car with XM last summer while on vacation, and I listened to the Starbucks Channel for a few days, and it seemed almost strange to have random songs form amazing associations of memory for me. Now, I customize my listening by forming playlists and frequenting my favorite podcasts, listening to what I choose instead of what the DJ on the other end of the radio chooses. I worked as a DJ for a while, and I remember the thought and planning that went into my set list. While I wouldn’t trade my iPod for old radio for anything, I have to say I’m left a bit nostalgic, because I wonder if, years from now, I’ll realize that I didn’t form any strong associations over this period of time because I was able to plan what I listen to. 
Perhaps, with every advancement, we sacrifice something to move forward.