500 Days of Summer: A Story about Love

Talk about discouraging people from seeing a movie. In one of the first write-ups about 500 Days of Summer that was posted on a blog back in January, the reviewer compared it to Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine. Slumdog Millionaire was a terribly overrated piece of staggering mediocrity, and while Juno and Little Miss Sunshine were both enjoyable, they weren’t really anything to write home about. Fortunately, 500 Days of Summer far surpasses the standards set by those films. It’s a surprisingly good first feature film from director Marc Webb, and stars one of my favorite actresses, Zooey Deschanel, as Summer, along with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom. And I just found out a friend of mine, Jessamyn Land, a co-worker from my days working for a television station in Chattanooga, was a Set Production Assistant on the project.

How does one describe 500 Days of Summer? Well, it’s part romantic comedy and part breakup story, for starters, and yes, those do go together. When the lights dim and the story starts, we hear the narrator say, “This is the story of boy meets girl, but this is not a love story.” It’s a tale of someone deeply in love with someone who simply likes him, and all the ways those feelings accompanying the beginning of a romantic relationship color how we see the world. Our two protagonists meet while working for a company that creates greeting cards, and there’s one priceless scene where Tom, played by Gordon-Levitt, has a meltdown in the middle of a brain-storming session for new greeting card ideas. He decries the entire greeting card industry, saying something like, “We give people words to say so they don’t have to say what they’re really thinking.” Continue reading

Peter Rollins on Parables and Resurrection

A couple weeks ago, I posted a review on the Rabbit Room of Peter Rollins’ new book, The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales, along with one of the parables, Finding Faith. Discussion on the post continues, including a couple mentions of, you guessed it, heresy. Some of the comments about the Resurrection reminded me of this provocative post on Pete’s blog, his confession about what he really believes – as made manifest by his actions – regarding the resurrection.

I am four days into my ‘Lessons’ tour and so far loving it… Many subjects have been covered, but perhaps the most pertinent one revolved around the place and nature of belief in faith.

At one point in the proceedings someone asked if my theoretical position led me to denying the Resurrection of Christ. This question allowed me the opportunity to communicate clearly and concisely my thoughts on the subject, which I repeat here.

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…
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The Sacred Texts Around Which We Shape Our Lives

At the Christian Scholars Conference I attended a couple weeks ago, Barbara Brown Taylor presented a talk on, “The Power of Narrative in the Age of Twitter.”  She talked about the need to privilege certain narratives,  saying, “I was attending to so many other narratives, I was losing track of the thread of my own.”  We must be careful in choosing the narratives we absorb, because, “the plots we privilege shape the plots of our own lives, and if they aren’t beautiful, we won’t be either.”  She quoted Milosz from Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz, as saying, “I feel the heavy illness of American society, and feel its root is mass media.”

I thought of her talk last night while reading Neal Postman’s Conscientious Objections.  In the essay The Conservative Outlook, he has this to say:
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“Profoundly Disturbed on the Fourth of July.”

At this point, it’s become a tradition. Almost every year since I first read this essay by Bob Hyatt back in 2003, I’ve posted it on my blog. As much as I’ve changed my views on different things in the intervening years, I still think he hits the nail on the head on this issue.

Profoundly Disturbed on the Fourth of July:
God, the Flag and the End of America

Author’s note: This article was first published in the summer of 2003. …In this era of charged political debate, the evangelical church in America seems to have come down on the side of those who say dissent is somehow unpatriotic and that to be a Good Christian also means being a Good American. I again offer this article in the hopes that those now planning a good ol’ patriotic Fourth of July Service (on Sunday this year) will think twice… and perhaps instead of singing the Star Spangled Banner, will spend time praying for victims of war and terrorism alike, for our enemies and for peace in our world.

Our call to worship that 4th of July weekend was This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land. After the Color Guard presented the flag, we stood, said the Pledge of Allegiance and then sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Our worship set included The Battle Hymn of the Republic, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful and God Bless America. We even finished the service by asking the congregation to sing along with Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA (“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…”).

And through the whole thing I couldn’t help but think how moving it was with flags draped from the ceiling, how well-done the music sounded with the drums beating a military cadence throughout… and how incredibly wrong that we were doing any of it.

Read the rest of the essay here.

Derek Webb’s “Stockholm Syndrome” available Tuesday

Tonight, at a special event at The Rutledge, Derek Webb played a one hour documentary about the making of his new album, Stockholm Syndrome, letting the packed crowd hear several songs in their entirety through studio footage. When the documentary finished, Derek and producer Josh Moore answered a couple questions, including explaining more about the label controversy. The song at the source of the controversy, What Matters Most, as rumored, has to do with how the christian community treats gays, and also includes a version of the Tony Campolo quote, “While you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Derek refused to back down and omit the song completely, so the compromise reached with INO, his label, is to release two versions of the record, one without the “offensive” song to the christian market, and the complete CD, what Derek called “the authorized version,” to the general market and available on Derek’s website. There will also be seven versions of the album: three CDs that will have varying content and extra material, including one version that includes the making-of documentary, three tiers of the digital download, and, my favorite one, a vinyl version of the album.
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“Expanding the borders of your empathy.”

The annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America is this weekend, with the theme, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” I was glad to come across an article earlier today about Pastor and Author Rick Warren being one of the featured speakers. A couple years ago, I worked on a project as a web administrator for a think tank, “Reframing the Perceptions of Muslims in America,” that included several of the speakers involved in this conference, including the current president of the ISNA, Ingrid Mattson. Here’s a good interview from a couple years ago with her, “The Face of Islam in America.”

“If religion is not about expanding the borders of your empathy, you might as well write it off,” she says. “Religion is all about extending mercy and caring. If not, it’s just tribalism: Muhammad himself said religion should be the opposite.”

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