Friday, December 14, 2012

My Story; His Story

Past and Future of His Meta-Narrative
            Dear reader, in this paper, I hope to present the wonders of the Old Testament, showing God’s past purpose for Israel, in components one through three, focusing on creation, the fall of man, and God’s covenantal love for Abraham, Moses, and the people of Israel. The fourth component is very personal to me, since it delves into how my own life, as a Christian, connects with metanarrative. It is an exciting and glorious story. Join me.
Composite 1: Nature of God as Creator
            Stories. They are how humans communicate from their earliest days to the last years of their lives, from the mother telling her baby the tale of Humpty Dumpty, to the old man describing his days in the Vietnam trenches and jungles to a group of rapt little boys, aspiring to be soldiers. People love to be told stories about other times and places, since it wets the appetite, sparking the imagination; children love to be told over and over again scenes from their parents’ childhoods, for it gives them a sense of where they came from, and gives them an understanding of the two people who brought them into existence.  This is something every person, young and old, can relate to: one is always asking, through words or actions, “Who am I?”, “What brought me here?”, and “Where am I going?”. While most rummage through articles, self-awareness programs, and therapy sessions, there is one book, while it is simple in nature, can help and heal the most confused mind. The logos, Word of God, more commonly known as the Bible, is this book.
            The aspect to be noted when taking a first glance at the Bible is that it is filled with a story, not just any story, but the metanarrative, the story of the creation of the world, man, and what rebellious man did to break that world. It is a compelling story, full of vivid imagery, all painted against the backdrop of the Creator God. His personality is without definitive dimension, but Genesis, chapters one and two, zoom in on three attribute that correlates with his creative nature: God is an artistic being, and he made the world for beauty, for practicality, and for relational intimacy.
            When we first look at creation, it is easy for anyone to see beauty of some sort: the beauty of the passion flower is displayed in its ornately complex blooms, while the desert succulent’s beauty is demonstrated by a heartiness no other plant possesses. This beauty surrounding us can only be explained by the fact that God is artistic; he has a sense of what is attractive, in different manners and settings. God thought of what would be beautiful and glorifying to himself, and brought it forth, by the word of his power. Francis Schaeffer notes:
“The artist conceives in his thought-world and then he bring forth into the external world. This is true of an artist painting a canvas, a musician composing a piece of music, an engineer designing a bridge or a flower arranger making a flower arrangement…And it is exactly the same with God. God who existed before had a plan, and he created and caused these things to become objective” (Shaeffer 27-28).

            Mr. Schaeffer goes on to state that there is yet another layer to God’s artistry. Just as critics and laymen alike analyze and recognize different styles, special details, and unique flavors that every artist brings to the table, so we can see, through creation, that God is the one who made it all. Who else could have formed such an intricate handiwork? “Here is power beyond all that we can imagine in the human, finite realm. He was able to create and shape merely by his spoken word” (28). The creation account repeats over and over that “God saw that is was good”, meaning he was satisfied with his work (Gen 1.10). His world was beautiful, it was as he had envisioned.
            But, even the most aesthetically minded artist understands that there is a practical side to art. A painter cannot draw upon cheesecloth, but must have a sturdy canvas; he cannot build a cathedral from straws, but must have stones; he cannot play music upon a feather, but must have a violin. As one reads through the creation narrative, it is seen that God pays attention to all the details: he makes light for the day and the night; he ensures that creation has a means to regenerate itself (“Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed…”); he creates Man to tend his earth, and look after the animals and plants he has placed upon the planet (Gen. 1.11). “The God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’”, then he made man, intricately, and breathed his very breath into the man’s lungs, giving him nepesh, or soul. It was a truly amazing moment. John Calvin makes unique commentary on the state of essential man: “…His dead body was formed out of the dust of the earth; that it was endued with a soul, whence it should receive vital motion; and that on this soul God engraved his own image, to which immortality in annexed” (Calvin 112). Man was perfect, flawless, the crowning jewel to God’s kingdom on earth, the steward to which God commanded, “‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion…” (Gen 1.28). When all was said and done, God’s creation was good, beautiful, and perfectly detailed.
            By deduction, we know that God yearns for fellowship, because man, created in his own image, craved a companion. God, knowing that there was no helper for him, had Adam sort through all the animals of the earth. In the end, the man found no suitable mate. “‘I will make him a helper fit for him,’” said God, as he put the man to sleep and molded the first woman. “…For since Adam did not take a wife to himself at his own will, but received her as offered and appropriated to him by God, the sanctity of marriage hence more clearly appears, because we recognize God as its Author” (Calvin, 134). He not only promoted intimacy between Adam and his wife, but he also shared a close bond with the humans. He loved them. He had created the stunning Eden for them to live in, walking and talking with him. “Humans are made for God, and also for one another and for the creation, to be at work within it…it is our glory to work at so to present the image of God” (Bartholomew, Goheen 38-39). He had given them the perfect place to constantly reflect the creating he had done in six days, as they developed the beautiful, intricate world, one with each other and with God. Intimacy was perfected in all ways. But would it remain that way?
Component 2: How Sin Twisted Creation
            Independence means something different to everyone. To some, it means having the right to think or say anything without getting in trouble; it means being under no authority, such as teachers, governments, and parents; it might mean treating others with whatever passion takes you at the moment; it might mean just being able to attend church without being arrested. In our culture, independence is fed and watered, with insignias like YOLO (you only live once) or the Pepsi slogan, “Live for Now”. Perhaps YOLO was only true for Adam and Eve, but they took that beautiful, pure life and threw it away, “…claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God of images resembling mortal man…” (Rom. 1.22-23).
            Like methylene blue, sin spreads from one part of creation to the next, tearing down the perfection and replacing it with brokenness, especially in man’s relationship with God, man’s relationship with other humans, and, last but not least, man’s relationship to the creation.
            It was simple enough: Elohim had only given one simple probation, forbidding Adam from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “for  in the day that [he ate] of it [he would] surely die” (Gen 2.17).  Yet, he had also created an essential man, a being who could choose to sin or not to sin. “They can yield to God’s law and enjoy life, or they can try to find their own way, and experience death” (Bartholomew, Goheen 42). Unfortunately, the serpent used just this tactic, he appealed to the woman’s pride and self-absorbtion, incredulously quizzing her whether God really commanded that “ridiculous” thing. One can almost imagine Eve, suddenly made to feel ashamed that any being should be over her or wiser than her, giving into the oily words of Satan. She took the fruit, sunk her teeth into it, and savored its juicy sweetness; her husband followed. They did not fall down dead. But, this death that had taken hold of her can be described negatively: “The deeper knowledge of “life”, of a future life, brought also a deepening in the understanding of that evil which is “death” or deprivation of life (Lyonnet, Sabourin 7). Their foolish desire to be as wise as God had ruined their lives, for “humility’s eminence is the only true eminence and glory, granted as it is by God, the only ground of glory” (Jenson, 36). Before they knew it, God was heard, walking in Eden, lovingly calling their names, knowing fully that Adam and Eve hid, desperately covering their new-found nakedness. God must have sighed inwardly: their intimate, pure relationship had been shattered.
            Guiltily, Adam and Eve stumbled from their hiding spots, while the man took the initiative to stutter out a weak excuse, which, in and of itself, gave away their transgression immediately. Filled with holy anger, God asked, “‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I commanded you not to eat?’” (Gen 3.11).  Instantly, the next facet of perfect peace was broken. Turning to his wife, Adam vehemently blamed her for giving him the fruit, while implying that God might have made a better helper, one less prone to temptation. Not responding to the man’s sinful accusation, God turns to Eve, who hopelessly points to the serpent, or Satan, telling God that he tempted her. What a chasm has opened between the woman and man! Their relationship has twisted itself into a disgusting muddle, where Eve becomes the leader in sin, and Adam becomes a coward by blaming his wife, whom he is to protect.
            God administers judgment, while making it clear that creation will also turn upon the humans in various ways:
“To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life’” (Gen 3.16-17)

                Adam’s task to grow food and plants was once an easy, enjoyable task, placed in the midst of Eden, but “servile work is enjoined upon him, as if he were condemned to the mines” (Calvin 174). The ground will now protest, fight, and eventually kill Adam, absorbing his body back into itself. Eve, on the other hand, now has the joy of natural labor, tainted by excruciating pain, sending both parts of the creation mandate into the blackness of sin. The humans can no longer multiply without being reminded of their rebellion, and they can no longer subdue the earth without tears and backbreaking labor (Gen 1.28).  But, there is one more key to God’s plan for his creation: redemption. God, burning with anger, turns to the serpent, and condemns the animal itself to crawl on the ground all its days, symbolizing the base treachery it took part in. Graciously, he shines a light into his broken creatures hearts before he banishes them from Eden. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3.15). Even though the woman was dragged down by the tempter, she shall emerge victorious, but only through this promised zera. With faith, Adam and Eve leave the garden, and begin their broken lives together, fighting against the earth, and separated from God.
            Francis Schaeffer keenly makes a perfect culminating statement: “Man’s sin causes all these seperations between man and God, man and himself, man and man, and man and nature. The simple fact is that in wanting to be what man as a creature could not be, man lost what he could be” (Schaeffer 100). There is hope; the promised seed will do what Adam couldn’t do… fatally conquer Satan.
Component 3: God’s Mercy to Israel
            One can almost see the scenario played out, black among the golden memories of childhood. It has happened to all of us, that horrible moment where the unthinkable happens: mom’s priceless china breaks, a child back-talks his father or lies about stealing those peanut butter bonbons, even though he was caught “sweet”-handed. As children, we can only see the sternness of our parent, during that awful moment; we even think that our parent is “angry”. However, in retrospect, and thinking as adults, we see that love motivates discipline, and our parents trained us, not just to make us miss out on fun, skip dinner, or give us a smarting behind, but to make us into respectful, thoughtful adults. The same can be said of Adam and Eve: they did not know or understand God’s ultimate plan for the future of humanity, a plan so beautiful and perfect, filled with grace and mercy.
 In the ultimate sense, the fall of Adam and Eve set the stage for the rest of the drama of humanity, played out by God’s relentless mercy in sharp contrast with man’s sin and rebellion. This next step in God’s eternal plan has almost infinitesimal facets, but if one zooms in and focuses on the early stages of this redemptive plan, three important relationships come into focus. The first relationship is between God and Abraham and the second, involves Moses, Israel, and God, Yahweh.
            God’s relationship with Abraham is a distinctly covenantal one, riddled with both disbelief and complete trust, both on Abraham’s part.  It all started when God appeared to Abraham, in the peace and prosperity of his homeland, Ur: “‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing’” (Gen. 12.1-3).  In his commentary, The Treasury of the Old Testament, Charles Spurgeon discusses both the double blessing from God, but also the faith demonstrated by Abraham, by asking “What was the blessing which God gave to Abraham? It was the blessing which He will give to all who lived as Abraham lived, and believe as Abraham believed; and, first, Abraham had the rest of faith” (Spurgeon, 62). Rest of faith? Abraham rested in God’s promises; he rested in them to the point of uprooting his family, and becoming a nomad, with no permanent land or rest, but looked to God in faith. “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15.6) But, Abraham and God made other covenants and promises, culminated a ceremony where God passed between dead animals, as a sign that he would fulfill his promises of a son to be heir and a land flowing with milk and honey, or be killed like the animals.  In Hebrew culture, this is a unbreakable bond, pointing to a covenant in blood. But, God gives Abraham a covenant duty as well, a blood sign of his belief in God’s promises and symbolism of his cleanliness in the Lord. “‘This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised…So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant’” (Gen. 17.10, 14). In faith, Abraham obeyed the Lord in this, shedding blood to bond with the Lord.
                But, trusting and waiting for the Lord’s time was harder than Abraham could have ever imagined. Desperate for an heir, the child of Promise, he took matters into his own hands, and “Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived” (Gen. 16.3-4). Unfortunately, this was the beginning of enmity between the child of man’s sinful will and the child of promise, who had not yet been born. Thus Ishmael was born, but God stated to Abraham that he was not the heir, and “Abraham had faith in a promise which it seemed impossible could ever be fulfilled” (Spurgeon, 83). Spurgeon sketches the seemingly impossible situation which Abraham found himself in, a scenario through which few would possess an unwavering faith: “A child was to be born of his own loins, but he was nearly a hundred years…His own body  was now dead as it were, and Sarai, so far as childbearing was concerned, was equally so. The birth of a son could not happen unless the laws of nature were reversed” (83). God saw that Abraham doubted him, but he kept renewing his promise, until, he finally blessed them with a son, Isaac. Even then, God tested Abraham’s trust; the Lord came to him and “said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering’” (Gen 22.2). What thought must have been churning in Abraham’s mind? “It may have suggested itself to Abraham that he would in this way, by the slaughter of his son, be rendering all the promises of God futile. A very severe trial that, for in proportion as a man believes the promise and values it, will be his fear to do anything which might render it of no effect” (Spurgeon, 113). Once again, the Lord provided for Abraham, as he had during numerous years of wandering, and saved the child of promise through a ram caught in a thicket. Could this be pointing to a child greater than Isaac?
            The second demonstration of God’s love and mercy in covenantal relationships is displayed through Moses and Israel. Before Moses could even talk or walk, God had already set his special love and favor upon him, saving him from the decreed murder of all Hebrew babies, bringing him into the very palace of Pharaoh himself.  Until he was a man, Moses lived with all the pomp and privilege of the Egyptian court, but, one day, he killed an Egyptian, who was beating an Israelite. He fled into the wilderness, there becoming an outlaw from justice and a shepherd. “He was not seeking for God. But God was seeking for Moses. God spoke to Moses, and the whole course of Moses’ life was changed” (Dobson, 19.) Immediately, God revealed himself to Moses (in the burning bush) as a covenantal God, but by using the name Yahweh, “he does not merely proclaim himself as some heavenly power, nor claim for himself the general name for God, but recalling to memory his covenant formerly made with the patriarchs, he casts down all idols” (Calvin,  65).  At first the presence of God fills Moses with a holy fear, then doubt: what if the Israelites do not listen? I am not a good speaker, Lord, what will I say? God, knowing his frailty, provides Moses with powerful signs, and then forcefully sends him to Egypt saying, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
            Moses, accompanied by his brother Aaron, became the mouth piece of God, demanding that Pharaoh release the children of God, the Israelites. But “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.” And Yahweh used Moses against the Egyptian deities, bringing them low, showing that they were not to be worshipped, preparing the Israelites’ hearts for a covenant with him. This covenant came in the Passover, when the Lord required that Israel paint the blood of a lamb upon their doorposts: “For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you” (Exd. 12.23). This covenant was to be statute to all generations, mirroring the expiation of blood found in circumcision and in the substitution of the blameless ram for Isaac, the son of promise. “For it was necessary that the Israelites should first be reminded, that by the expiation od the sacrifice, the were delivered from the plague, and their houses preserved untouched…We elsewhere see that the Paschal lamb was a type of Christ, who by His death propitiated the Father, so that we should not perish with the rest of the world” (Calvin 221).
            Triumphantly, Moses led the Israelites, as God’s chosen, out of Egypt and into the wilderness, where an official covenant was made between the people and God. “In Exodus 24 the covenant is ratified in a ritual ceremony as the Israelites commit themselves to obeying it. Moses recites the laws that the Israelites are agreeing to and then writes them down. Next, he builds an altar…finally, Moses dashes half of the blood from the sacrifices against the altar and sprinkles half on the people” (Bartholomew, Goheen, 70). While the people swear wholeheartedly that they will serve the Lord faithfully according to the law, they are a sinful people. (In a throwback to the Abrahamic covenant, God had blessed the Israelites to be a blessing to the other nations of the world, to be holy and set apart, to shine the light of truth and purity in the raw and savage country before them.)The Lord cannot dwell within a sinful people, and he gives them a law to live by. At first glance, this covenant of law may seem simple, but the Israelites cannot (and will not) keep the terms set by God. They need grace. Like Adam and Eve, they believed that they knew better, and decided to commit idolatry with other gods. However, Moses continued patiently to be the mediator between the rebellious people of Israel and God. “Moses was well fitted to be the type of the true Mediator of the gospel covenant. He was himself in great favor with God, so that the Lord hearkened to his voice…note his self-sacrifice for Israel, so that he once said, ‘Blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written’” (Spurgeon, 258).
            Even in the face of utter idolatry, God remains faithful to his chosen, remembering his covenantal relationships with both Moses and Abraham, showing goodness to his rebellious children. In grace, he gives them a way to pay for their sins, through blood sacrifice of animals (pointing to the ultimate Sacrifice), yet Israel continues to sin. Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are beautiful pictures of God’s holiness (in the law), his justice (as regards sin), but also his infinite and unfailing mercy (as regards Israel). Just before Yahweh brings his people into the Promised Land, he reminds them of his mercy and their own unworthiness: “Do not say in your heart… ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is…that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deut. 9.4,5). But there is more to God’s plan for Israel than just animal sacrifices and patriarchal promises: those promises will be fulfilled by someone greater, the Zera, and those animal sacrifices will be pushed aside by a much more powerful blood.
Component 4: His Story is Mine
            My life is a story; it is a story of which I do not know the end. In moments of doubt and wavering, I look to God’s word in faith, knowing that because I am in Christ, his story is my own, our eternal destinies are unified by his blood. This gives me a whole new perspective on the Old Testament metanarrative.
            What is my purpose as a child of God, made in his image? While he gives me life and breath, I am given the beautiful task of “[worshiping] the Lord in the splendor of holiness” giving my all to his purposes for me (Ps 96.9). God designed me to be a helper and friend to others, and a steward over his creation, and, eventually, a godly parent, who teaches all the words of God to my children. I want them to know and understand who has brought me to this place, who has sustained me, and who will care for them, with the tenderness of a father.
            Yet another piece of the story affects me: the fall of my first parents. In them, I sinned, and have never had a moment of purity in my life. At times, I doubt wondering if I am a child of Christ, but know that if I repent, he is faithful to forgive. When I turn from him, and walk in my own way, stubbornly seeking my own pleasure, instead of serving, I scorn his love. He, like a father, disciplines me gently, when my “evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see” (Ps 40.12). I know that he will give me grace, but I also know that he will chastise me for my wrongdoing, making me learn my lessons.
            If my salvation solely depended on my works, I would be lost forever. Knowing this from eternity past, God predestined that his Son, Christ, would save me from my iniquities. God has justified me, making it as though I had never sinned, and adopted me into his heavenly family, as a beloved child. As a sinner, I fail every day, only looking to my one hope: I am promised sanctification, and one day I shall be with Christ and like Christ. This is my beautiful hope, a hope which is my Savior, Jesus. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation” (Ps 42.5). Suddenly, my soul is filled with assurance of pardon, and a sense of love for God and others—this changes my relationship with the world and my Father. It gives me something to live for, a purpose, and knowledge that no matter how many times I stumble, he will always be near to me, to save me time and time again from my wickedness.
            Grace has transformed my life in incredible ways. Having grown up in a Christian household, I always took my relationship with the Lord for granted, but within the last eight years, I have come to penetrating realization of my sin. I strive every day, with the Lord’s help to conquer, also desiring to read his word daily. Through his grace, I want to show other the love he has shown me, and attempt to help those, who do not know the Lord, to find solace in his loving arms. Every new day, I look forward to seeing the wonders his grace will work in my life. His plan is infinitely more beautiful and perfect than any plan I could ever imagine.
            As I work towards a career in Public Representation, I see this as an amazing opportunity to set myself apart from the worldly communication of other agents. While I will not be directly sharing the gospel, the love of Christ is a distinctive catalyst, and people, whether Christians or not, notice and like the difference. A person with the love of Christ processes an ability to be kind to everyone, no matter how they are treated, and with God on their side; they are slow to foolish speech. These aspects will make a huge difference in the communication field, especially when dealing with important corporations, documents, and ideas.
            God has changed my story along with his, making me a trusting child and follower of Christ. The unfolding of this metanarrative, in his restoration and second coming, is truly something I await with eager anticipation. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Bartholomew, Craig G., and Goheen, Michael W. The Drama of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004. Print.
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries: Genesis. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998. Print.
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries: Harmony of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998. Print.
Dobson, John H. A Guide to the Book of Exodus. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1978. Print.
Jenson, Matt. The Gravity of Sin. New York: T&T Clark, 2006. Print.
Lyonnet, Stanislas, and Sabourin, Leopold. Sin, Redemption, and Sacrifice: A Biblical and Patristic Study. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1970. Print.
Schaeffer, Francis A. Genesis in Space and Time. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1972. Print.
Spurgeon, Charles H. The Treasury of the Old Testament: Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1951. Print.
The English Standard Bible. Wheaton: Good News Publishers, 2001. Print.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Woman in Black: A Review

The Woman in Black
PG-13 for Thematic Material and Violent Disturbing Images

I went to see this movie several days ago, and, having watched the trailer, was expecting a horror/suspense/thriller film. I was not disappointed.

Struggling for years with his beloved wife's death, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) needs to move on, and prove to his law firm that he can be a dependable employee. The firm gives him the job of finding the last will and testament of a deceased woman, Alice Drablow. Arthur knows that this is his last chance, his last chance to pull his life to together and provide for his son. Unfortunately, it is not that simple...

Throughout the whole the film, Arthur strongly holds to the premise of an after-life, especially since he hopes to see his wife again. But, from the moment Arthur steps into Alice Drablow's home (which is capsuled in the foreboding Eel Marsh),  the supernatural begins to unease him. Starting at a seemingly slow pace, the jump scenes accelerate in frequency and intensity, until one is literally  trapped in that horrible house.

A mature Radcliffe carries the film
The fearful (but curious) expressions of Daniel Radcliffe perfectly mask the quiet sorrow and desperation of Arthur Kipps. Although his part is drastically different from his previous roles (er, Harry Potter), he adjusts admirably. The film possesses almost no dialogue, making the viewer rely upon the talents of Radcliffe, and the spare, richly textured dialogue driven by Radcliffe (again!).

There are four features of this film I was thoroughly impressed by, besides Radcliffe's acting:
  1. James Watkins' (the director) impeccable use of the Gothic haunted house, while effectively evading cheesiness.
  2. If you've watched the trailer, you know that wind-up chiming toys are generously employed in "The Woman in Black". I was thoroughly amazed at how a whimsical and innocent toy can become cringingly frightening.
  3. The director sprinkles macabre aspects through the film, which I found intriguing.
  4. A perfect ending. I applaud the thinking that went into this film.
I tend to be critical about the films I watch, since, in today's world, real acting can soon be replaced with special effects or glazed over by directors in search of something racy and "exciting". This film however, is worth seeing...especially if you want a scare.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Verbally de trop? I think not.

I believe that people should use the english language...all of it. Expensive words must be used sparingly, but, if put to good purpose, paint word pictures that "um" and "like" cannot. (I'm still getting around to breaking that "like" habit.)

whiffle: to flourish a sword in sword dancing so as to produce a whistling sound

 spanghew: to throw violently into the air; especially, to throw a frog into the air from the end of a stick

poltophagy: thorough chewing of food until it becomes like porridge

lipogram: a writing composed of words not having a certain letter
gyascutus: an imaginary large four-legged beast with legs on one side longer than on the other for walking on hillsides

hapax legomenon: a word or form occurring only once in a document or collection of writings

mytacism: excessive or wrong use of the sound of the letter m (the “m” version of a lisp!)

soporific: of, relating to, causing, or marked by sleepiness or lethargy

 recherch√©: fine, rare or affected and excessively fine

 De trop: Too much, too many, over the top

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Analyzing The Ideal

It was January 22, 1905. Cold air hit warm breath, the condensation mingling with the early morning fog. 300,000 Russians stood in the frigid weather, waiting, silently begging to be heard, hoping that Czar Nicholas would hear their unheard plea for freedom. They sang songs and toted religious paraphernalia while standing peaceably outside the palace. All they wanted was “fair treatment”, a life in which they could at least hope for decent wages and working hours. No harm was done. The crisp air cracked with the sound of a lone gunshot. In an instant, everything was chaos: women screamed as they clutched frightened children, men tried to be strong and maintain order, but their faces were marinated in sheer terror. Like a herd of animals, the people trampled each other, desperate to escape the onslaught of the Russian guards. Their common cause forgotten, the only thing they wanted was their lives.
An hour later, the clouds bleakly shadowed the place where the flower of freedom had dared to raise its head, only to be brutally trampled upon. No peaceful religious symbols remained, no quiet hymns, no hopeful faces of the young and old, no breath rising like silent prayers. The only evidence of change were the thousand corpses sprawled in the snow, mangled by trampling, their life blood making deeper etchings in history, than in the pristine snow. Did those Russian citizens die in vain? No, they died for something better, something which even they could not define.

53 years later, and people were still living quiet lives, secluded and private, but a young, American mind toiled, trying to de-mystify a school assignment. His teacher, Mr. Brookes, had required Kevin to write a paper on his personal political philosophy. “What?” thought Kevin, “This isn’t even, I mean, hangin’. What is a personal political philosophy anyways? There are so many things that have gotta be more important.” He stared glumly down at the blank page that stared menacingly up at him. The paper was due when Christmas break ended, in four days, and he hadn’t even thought about “philosophy”. Flipping to and fro through his notes, his eye fell upon a set of questions which Mr. Brooke has suggested that they utilize during their research. “Since I have no ideas flowing, I’ll take these to dinner to brainstorm with my old man. He’ll know.”
Right then, as if on cue, he heard a swell of voices and knew that his family had arrived for Sunday dinner. Kevin grabbed the notebook, slumped to the door, and climbed down the stairs. The Thompson kitchen was a merry place, decked out with the newest speckled oyster white linoleum; the walls were painted with Sears Roebuck and Company’s master mixed siliconized four-hour enamel 2428, the enviable mint green. Kevin’s 75-year-old grandpops, William Thompson, was engaged in testing the cottage cheese salad, while Michael and Lisa, his parents, debated about how long to cook the meatloaf. James, his older brother and only sibling, sat in the corner munching on a handful of frosted flakes which he had brought home from college. “James, don’t spoil your appetite,” cried his exasperated mother, as she took the turkey from the oven, “I’ve made your favorite dessert, grasshopper pie!”
“Lisa, I know you mean well,” laughed Mr. Thompson, “But there is no way a 21-year-old is going to ever be full.”
“I love grasshopper pie, too,” added Grandpops, over James’ crunching bites. The doorbell rang.
“Kevin, open the door, please.”
Richard, his dad’s single brother, scooted in, followed by Kevin’s best friend, Todd, who whispered to Kevin, “She some righteous chick.”
“Who? Wha…?”
“Your cousin, you dork.”
“Which one?”
“I don’t know…the one whose name starts with ‘P’, I think.”
            “That doesn’t help at all, Todd.”  Close behind Todd came Kevin’s only cousins, the fashionable Purton twins, Pamela and Patricia, flanked by their parents, Aunt Kimberly and Uncle Earnest. Everyone flowed into the kitchen, took their seats, ate the meal in a loud, somewhat homey fashion, debating every controversial topic their minds fell upon. Finally the meal began to taper off, and Kevin saw his opportunity.
            “Well, I’m writing this paper on personal political philosophy. Mr. Brooke gave me a list of different political options, and I think I’ve settled on one: benevolent monarchy.”
            “Why is that?” queried James.
            Kevin laughed. “I’m still trying to figure that one out.”
            “Kevin, you have got to have your reasons, otherwise your opinion means nothing.”
            “That’s my problem. Right now I feel thicker that a five dollar malt. Can’t think. Mr. Brooke gave me these questions that I should use to determine my personal philosophy. Can we discuss them?” The family agreed enthusiastically, although Grandpops needed to have the proposition repeated at an increased volume.
            “Ok. Kevin, lay things out. Write down your thesis. Then de-brief us on the questions,” suggested Uncle Richard. Kevin scribbled in his notebook the following statement:
 “After analyzing and answering several essential questions, one can only come to the conclusion that the most ideal form of human government is a benevolent monarchy.”
            He looked up. Everyone looked back. “The questions are, ‘What is man? For what purpose does he exist?’, second, ‘What does man owe to his fellows?’, and, lastly, ‘What is society?’”
            “That’s deep,” noted a bamboozled-looking Todd.
            “Everyone,” said James in a commanding tone, “What is man?”
            “Man is a member of the species Homo Sapien.”
            “A person?”
            “Someone who is not daft enough to wear makeup and tease their hair,” teased Uncle Richard.
            “A featherless biped? That’s what Plato said,” declared Pamela.
            “Yeah,” added Patricia laughingly, “And then that other guy gave him a plucked chicken. Man isn’t a plucked chicken, but a plucked chicken is a featherless biped.”
            Grandpops sat up in his chair. “I think we need to take this seriously. When I was your age, Kevin, I read this book. Simple but marvelous. By this fellow called Pope. Alexander Pope. He said that man was a discontented creature, judging God’s righteousness depending on his mood (Pope, 48).”
            “It’s true, we are rebellious creatures,” Aunt Kimberly noted, “And I think that Pope depicts that wonderfully. ‘In pride, in reas’ning pride, our error lies; all quit their spheres and rush to the skies. Pride still is aiming at blest abodes, Men would be angels, angels would be gods. Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell, aspiring to be angels, men rebel: and who but wishes to invert the laws of Order, sins against Eternal Cause (48).’”
            “I’m astounded my dear, had no idea you where such a scholar,” said Uncle Earnest, as Aunt Kimberly giggled.
            “Well, thank you for that, Kim,” Mr. Thompson smiled the kind of smile which always indicated that he had some kind of incredible mental breakthrough. Lisa knew this and elbowed him. “All I was going to say is this: logically, man has to be under a government and, or God. I mean, think about it, you can’t be rebellious unless you are rebelling against something or someone.”
            “Are you saying that government causes rebellion? That’s dangerous,” replied Uncle Richard sarcastically.
            “No, no. That wouldn’t make sense. You see, man, in all his attributes, speech, and thinking, is witness that there is a God, along with the creation, all groaning together for his return. There was no time in which God did not exist; therefore, man’s perfect state is under another. In the Garden, there was no animosity, only perfect submission, so would it be today, if it were not for sin (ESV, Rom. 8:21).”
            “That’s a huge presupposition, Michael,” stated Uncle Earnest, “To say that God even exists.”
            “All of us here believe that he exists, right? But, for the sake of argument, I will point out that even the most heathen have ‘gods’ which camouflage the presence of the Creator. For example, Rousseau states that ‘national divisions produced polytheism, and this in turn produced religious and civil intolerance’ (Rousseau, 154).”
            “What does that mean?” the twins queried simultaneously.
            “It means that even someone, like Rousseau, acknowledges that there is a God, and that humans were under “gods” before even government was instituted (Rousseau, 154).”
            “And, lastly,” James suggested, “John Lock says that man needs a government. ‘God, having made man such a creature that, in his own judgment, it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligation of necessity, convenience, and inclination, to drive him into society, as well as fitted him with understanding and language to continue and enjoy it (Locke, 44).”
            Kevin brightened up. “Oh, I get it. The answer to that question is this: Man is a creature, created by God, to do his will; although man is rebellious he functions best in a controlled state, whether under government or God. In that light, anarchy and terrorism are ruled out.”
            Lisa got up and began to serve the grasshopper pie. “This is my favorite, you know?” chortled Grandpop William.
            In spite of the fact that his mouth was filled with creamy mint and rich chocolaty bliss, Kevin began to talk. “Next question: what does man owe to others?”
            “First off, he shouldn’t talk with his mouth full of pie.”
            “C’mon. This is serious. Kevin, that is determined by the factors of government and God” said James, while digging into his pie with relish.
            “He’s right,” said Grandpop, who by this time had a thoroughly minty mustache, “And the Declaration of Independence covers both those bases in one beautifully concise statement. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness (Declaration of Independence, 6).’”
            “We are commanded to only do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” Todd put in (ESV, Matt. 7:12).
            “The Bible not only mentions that, Todd, but also dictates our attitude towards government. For example, in Romans 13, it is mentioned that we should obey the authorities not only because God has set them over us, but also for the sake of conscience. It’s Paul’s way of saying, ‘It’s just common sense and decency’ (ESV, Rom. 13:5).”
            “‘Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law,’” quoted Kevin, “That’s what we owe each other. Respect. Honor. Love. (ESV, Rom. 13:8)”
            “And that rules out,” added Grandpop, wisely, “Socialism, Communism, and Oligarchy.”
            “Why is that?”
            “What do they teach you kids in schools these days? Socialism ‘is any economic system based upon collective ownership and control of many or most national resources’. This approach was used by the pilgrims, and only promoted laziness. If people can take advantage of another’s hard labor, they will. Is that what Paul has in mind when he mentions love (Kirk, 237)?”
            James added, “Kevin, communism is very similar to socialism, but more “in your face”. Karl Marx and Frederick Engles were the founders of communism. In their book, The Communist Manifesto, they laid out the game plan for setting up a communistic government. First, all the land-owners, the rich, and business-owners were to be slaughtered. Next, the uneducated poor would take over their property, running it under the explicit supervision of the government. According to Marx, the government would impose a heavy graduated income tax, confiscate property, centralize all communication and transportation, and centralize all credit within the banks. This, obviously, is a breeding ground for selfishness, dishonesty, and cruelty within the government. That is not love (Marx, Engles, 24).”
            Todd brightened up. He knew how to explain oligarchy: “Um, yeah. Kevin, oligarchy is government whose power is passed down according to money, power, family blood lines, and can sometimes be diverted by assassination. Oligarchy tends to be highly unjust, because people will rule whether or not they are a fit ruler.”
            “I see. Once again, my personal political philosophy holds, but I’m going to have to start defending it soon. My last question is this: what is a society and what is its purpose?” Everyone thought hard and long. It was late, and the adults had begun to enjoy post-prandial spritzers while Todd, Grandpop, and the Purton twins were digging into Mrs. Thompson’s back-up dessert, her famous Topsy-Turvy Pineapple Cake.
            “This is the hardest question of all,” noted Grandpop between large gooey bites of cake, crumbs puffing out of his mouth as he spoke. “A society is voluntary association of individuals for common ends; especially an organized group working together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs, or profession (Merriam-Webster et al.).”
            “Remember,” said James, in a laid-back tone, “That man needs society. He cannot survive without one; society could almost be considered a band of life.”
            “I think a society should be similar to the relationship of God and his people, but only in the fact that that God listens to his people, but does his benevolent will. He thinks of their good, not his own gain, and they love him and serve him to the best of their abilities. Of course, this cannot be perfect, since the ruler and the people are imperfect. He is the man which they can look to, praise in his good deeds, and if he treats them cruelly, can be easily uprooted.”
            “Yes,” agreed James, heatedly, “Think about our American society! Corruption and bribery instead of the fair representation we were promised.”
            Mr. Thompson said, “Society should be the protector of the people. Paul mentions in Romans that the magistrate is the one who has been given the sword to defend his subjects and to punish those who disobey (13:4).”
            “A benevolent monarchy has been the only type of rule which has accomplished this successfully. Think of David, how much he loved the Lord, strove to rule his people according to what was right, and fought to protect the country and people that the Lord had granted him,” Grandpa noted perspicaciously.
            “So,” yawned Todd, wiping generous amounts of pineapple swirl from his fingers, “A republic and democracy are too prone to becoming corrupted. The power is spread too thin, and because of the layers of government, bribery and favoritism are almost guaranteed to ensue. Gentlemen, we have come to an agreement; benevolent monarchy is the only way.”
            “Not so fast, young man, I’m going to play devil’s advocate…Lisa, can I have some whipped cream?” grinned Grandpop. “Machiavelli is a great political thinker, and he would protest the idea of a benevolent ruler. He believed that the “Prince” should be almost cruel, yet outwardly noble and inspiring toward the people, in order that they might trustingly follow his lead. Pointedly, Machiavelli states that an ecclesiastical principality can be blighted because the ruler can hide behind the nursemaid of the church. Todd, what do you say?”
            Todd nervously began to finger-paint with the sad remains of mint cream and soggy cake crumbs, his face resembling that of a blanched almond, that is, non-descript, pale, and expressionless, since almonds do not possess faces. “Well,” he stuttered, “one of the only examples we have of a good benevolent monarchy is King David. But, somehow, it’s different. Grandpop William, remember when David sinned, and made a blunder by murdering Uriah and doin’ a five fingered discount on that chick, Bath-somethin’. But the thing is, he didn’t try to make it all cherry when the prophet came to him. He didn’t blame God or someone else, instead he asked for forgiveness, and mourned before God (ESV, 2 Sam 12:13).”
            Kevin added, “And, remember, after David took the census? He didn’t try to run from the consequences, instead he begged that the Lord to let him fall into the hand of God, knowing that God’s mercy would be infinite (24:14).”
            “Yes, he wasn’t like most other kings, he didn’t try to excuse himself. That is what makes the truly benevolent monarch superior to any other type of government,” Todd summed it up.
            “Kevin, you need to write your final thoughts in your notebook,” reminded Grandpop. Kevin wrote the following:
            When one answers the question ‘What is Man?’, one finds that man was created by God, and thrives when under a government, ruling out anarchy and terroristic practices. Next, one unravels ‘What does man owe to his fellows?’, and we see that love, honor, and cooperation are due our fellow man, ruling out selfish, flagrantly unjust forms of government like oligarchies, communism, and socialism. ‘What is a society?’ is the final question, and in answering it one finds that the fairest society can be found where the power is limited to one benevolent man.”
            He looked up. He smiled. “I can’t believe that I thought this was such an unimportant issue. What I was I thinking?”
            Mr. Thompson grinned, “The question is what were you not thinking?”
            Kevin continued in earnest. “When someone asks me why this matters I’ll tell them this: in the end, this is about the eternal. We aren’t just debating about opinions and conjectures, because there will be a perfect government, the perfect benevolent monarchy someday. The king will always do what is right; he will love his people; he will protect them; he will lay upon them his yoke of freedom. And guess what? I’m going to be part of that society.”
            Todd leaned forward. “Kevin,” he whispered, “I don’t think those Russians in our history book died for nothin’. I think they died to make us think about the important stuff. It’s like they were trying to tell us something, without saying anything.” Kevin nodded.
            “Does anyone want some chocolate mayonnaise cake?” called Mrs. Thompson’s voice.
            “Why not?” winked Grandpops, “That’s my personal disaccharide philosophy!”

Declaration of Independence. Ed. John Grafton. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000. Print.
Kirk, Russell. Economics: Work and Prosperity. 2 ed. Florida: A Beka Book, 1999. Print.
Locke, John. The Second Treatise on Civil Government. New York: Prometheus Books, 1986. Print.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc, 1995. Print.
Marx, Karl, and Engles, Fredrick. The Communist Manifesto. Kentucky, World Library Classics Books, 2009. Print.
Pope, Alexander. Essay on Man and Other Poems. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1994. Print.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. New York: Penguin Books Inc., 2006. Print.
“Definition of Society.” Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 24, January, 2012.
The English Standard Version Classic Reference Bible. Illinois: Good News Publishers, 2001. Print.