Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Dark Night

NOTE: It's been a week since the horrendous shooting at a Colorado movie theater during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Being only an hour away from the theater, Axis has felt the weight of this tragedy and our hearts go out to all of the victims and their families. Please note that we are not posting this to take advantage of the deadly situation -- this blog is simply us processing a very dark night close to home.

Last night a group of us went to see The Dark Knight Rises, and it lived up to the hype. Not only was it epic and full of amazing cinematography, but it also raised some great questions about who can be a hero and if God exists. At the same time, however, even in the excitement of seeing the movie, we couldn't help but think of what it would have been like to be sitting in that theatre in Aurora when a real gunman walked in. In movies, we see people dying, and although it can be sad, we know it's fake. But in Aurora, a gun battle on the screen turned into a shoot-out in real life.

The shooting that left 12 people dead has been called evil, chilling, and crazy, as it should be. Which brings up a good question: why do we pay money to be entertained on a screen by something that in real life is evil? Should we go and see movies like The Dark Knight Rises or The Hunger Games -- movies that are full of bloodshed, bad men, suffering, and pain?

The biggest question that has surfaced as a result of the shootings, and we even see this referenced in the movie, is the problem of evil and suffering. If God exists, then why does evil and suffering exist?

David Hume presented an argument against the existence of God that goes like this: "Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?" In other words, "Is God willing to prevent James Holmes from killing people in a packed movie theatre, but not able? Then he is weak. Is God able to prevent James Holmes from killing people in a packed movie theatre, but not willing? Then God is evil. Is God both able and willing to prevent James Holmes from killing people in a packed movie theatre? Then why didn't he stop him -- why does evil exist?

Although this is not a response that will make us feel better, the Christian Worldview has a very logical and consistent explanation for the existence of evil.
  1. Mankind was created in the image of God and was meant to live in relationship with God, creation, and each other. 
  2. Robots, like Siri, can’t love and can’t therefore live in real relationships. Love requires a choice – and where there’s a choice there’s the opportunity to choose poorly. 
  3. We (the human race) chose poorly. We rejected God, and brought pain and suffering into the world. 
  4. Praise God, that our bad choice is not the end of the story! Jesus came, and died for all sin. 
  5. The best news: one day evil will be destroyed!

Does this make us feel better about the evil actions of James Holmes? No! It doesn’t make the victims come back or their families whole again. But it is comforting to know that we have a God who suffers with us.

At Axis, we would define maximum evil as “gratuitous evil against innocents.” Picture Timothy McVeigh and the fact that he parked a car bomb near the daycare of a government building. What he did is the epitome of maximum evil. But who was the most innocent person in the history of the world? Jesus. Jesus took maximum evil upon himself to bring redemption and restoration. So we may not feel better about the Oklahoma City Bombing, September 11, 2001, or the Aurora Theater Massacre, but at least we can find confidence in the fact that we serve a God who suffers with us. And we can get excited because in the end, evil is destroyed.

But there is still one question that we haven’t answered yet, and that’s whether or not we should see a movie that entertains us with content that in real life would be considered evil. What do you think? You may comment below…

Whether or not you decide to see The Dark Knight Rises there is still a point worth considering, it’s not good enough to go to a movie and only be entertained. We need to grapple and engage with what we are seeing on the screen, testing to see if the ideas we are hearing are true, and thinking about the big issues of life. If you do see the movie, you should be confronted with one of the biggest questions that every individual on Earth has to deal with in their life – if God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? And if you’re a Christian, hopefully you have a reason for the hope that you confess.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Katy Perry : Part of Me

“Be yourself and you can be anything.” “It’s okay to stand out.” “Have fun in life, you can never take it too seriously.” Katy Perry’s music has found itself in the top charts since her song release, “I Kissed a Girl, “ back in 2008. Her album, “Teenage Dream” produced 5 number one singles and went double platinum. Now, her movie, “Katy Perry: Part of Me” has hit the big screens. Needless to say, this girl has influence. 
The movie is a documentary that follows her life during her year-long “California Dreams” tour, taking you onstage, backstage, and into Katy’s daily life and childhood.
Katy along with her sister and brother, were raised in a Christian home. Their parents are traveling ministers, and evidently were very legalistic. 

Katy only listened to Christian music, she attended a lot of church functions, and at age 15, released a Christian album. But soon she abandoned the Christian music scene to try something new, and although her mother was proud of her ability to sing -- she wasn’t very excited about Katy’s first single. 

Katy Perry’s life is a very vivid example of a deep and dramatic change in direction, and it begs the question: what caused that change? What pushed Katy to choose such a different set of beliefs from her parents? At one point in the movie, Katy says : “I believe in God...I have a one on one relationship with God...Not the same details as my mom.” 
To have a biblical worldview, one must filter every aspect of life through the lens of the Bible and God’s character. As parents, we can shelter our children from the world. But if we do not engage with them over the ideas that are battling for their hearts and minds they will learn about those ideas from someone else and could decide to go a very different direction. 

Do you think legalism had an impact on where Katy Perry ended up with her career? What do you think her parents could have done differently that may have ended with a different result? You may comment below... 
Some great questions to ask after seeing this film may be:
How do art and music fit into a biblical worldview?
Katy believes in God. Is she referring to the God of the bible?
Do her songs reflect her relationship with God?
Do you think a song like, “I Kissed a Girl,” can affect someone’s worldview?

Friday, July 13, 2012

This is so bad you shouldn't watch it!

WARNING: Axis always tries to stay on top of cultural trends, and as a result we feel that we need to cover the following song. Some of the content of this video could be inappropriate for some viewers -- especially if you're on a diet. 

We live in a marketplace of ideas where every movie, tv show, and song is selling us ideas. The following viral video is full of ideas that we need to take captive so that they don't take us captive. Please watch this video with your guard up!

Dangerous idea: "like an elf in a dream..." this obvious allusion to the guys who live in the Keebler tree making cookies all day over a wood burning fireplace not only supports the idea of forest fires but it is telling us that elves exist. Do we really want to promote something that suggests elves exist and make cookies? Elves are just the beginning of this progression into lies and make believe, and if we don't wake up now we will soon be hearing about little fairies making pixy sticks on top of rainbows.

Another idea we see in this song is the idea of sharing cookies, maybe. Again, do we really want to teach our kids -- to share cookies, maybe? "Let your yes be yes and your no be no" either share or don't share, but stop leading people on.

The song directly insults pie and ice-cream, two things that we all know are heavenly. If we insult pie and ice-cream where does it stop? Soon people will be making fun of Peanut M&M's, cake, and cinnamon rolls. Should we really listen to something that promotes food bullying?

Lastly, this music video creates covetousness and lust within the viewer as it makes us unsatisfied with our lives unless we have cookies.

Avoid this song at all costs and do everything you can to help others see the obviously dangerous ideas infiltrating or culture. Or, if you're like us and like to live on the edge, go get some cookies!

What other dangerous ideas do you see in this song? You may comment below...

(and if you read through this entire thing and are still scratching your head, yes this is a joke!)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Emotional Porn

WARNING: This article describes a rising trend in pornography, and could be offensive to some readers.

Many of us know men and women whose lives have been devastated by pornography. Porn is rampant in our culture, and only recently have we begun to understand just how damaging it is. Slowly but surely, solutions are being developed to help us avoid the temptation of quick access and no accountability that technology has offered. And many men have begun seeking therapy for and healing from their addiction. But that doesn’t mean porn is going away. Instead, porn is adding less obvious, and more subversive ways of being a part of our lives. And now, it’s targeted at women and girls.
Wikipedia defines pornography as “the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter.” Simple enough. But it goes on to say that “pornography may use a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, and video games.” Out of the 12 types of media listed here, all but 2 of them are primarily visual, which makes sense when we consider how highly visual most men are and that porn has been created predominantly for men.
But it's the 2 non-visual forms of pornography that target women and girls.
For the most part, females are not as attracted to the visual porn that so quickly pulls males in. Instead, women are emotionally stimulated and tend to fantasize about perfect relationships, the perfect man, and even the perfect night. We all know this. That’s why “erotic novels” (and some romance novels) have been and continue to be so successful (Fifty Shades of Grey is the most recent example). These novels are “word porn” and are just as graphic as other porn, except they don’t give visuals--they just allow the readers to visualize what is being described. Most importantly, they are powerful because they target women’s emotions and desires.
On to sound recordings. This could just be referring to the sounds that occur in pornographic films. But in actuality, it’s a lot more broad than that. Sound recordings can also mean songs. Songs like Usher’s newest up-and-coming hit, “Scream.”
Music is powerful because it adds a catchy beat to words, words that might otherwise be easily recognized as dangerous or be hard to remember. In the case of “Scream,” the words are pornographic . . . and catchy as ever. 
Usher begins by describing his desire for a woman (“gettin’ drunk off the thought of you naked”) and then proceeds to tell this woman what he will do to and for her (“If you wanna scream yeah, let me know and I’ll take you there. Get you going like ooo baby baby.”). Though none of the words could be labeled as “hardcore” pornography, the song is just explicit enough that the listener can easily envision the picture he paints. And it is effective. Women, especially women who are unhappy in their relationships (or singleness), hear songs like this, and it plays to some of their deepest desires. So they get caught up in listening to, singing, and fantasizing about pornographic songs, and it draws them in just as strongly as visual porn draws men in.
Since this song is #10 on the charts and rising, you can guarantee that teenage girls (and younger) have also heard this song. But do they know what they’re singing? Do they understand the power that these words and images can have over their hearts and minds? Or are they reading Fifty Shades of Grey and listening to “Scream”, not knowing what path it can lead them down? You may comment below...