Monday, March 24, 2014

Another Middle-East Crisis: What to Do When It's Hard to Care Anymore

This week I met with a friend – let's call her Liz – who asked me to pray for the political crisis in Ukraine. With Russian phrases peppering her language, she told me about her visit to the region last year, when she fell in love with that harsh corner of the world and the brave, stubborn people who call it home. She told me how it broke her heart that protestors burned in the streets while President Obama and the international community postured and made threats, with all of us moving closer to a war that everyone fears and no one seems able to stop.

If I can be frank about this, it felt like wading through molasses. My generation came of age when the World Trade Centers fell in 2001, and since then we've had Bin Laden, Hussein, Kony, Katrina, Somalia and Sudan, and now Crimea.

The molasses at work here isn't new. Medical professionals know it as secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD), and it's a real problem for care professionals who deal with physical and emotional trauma on a full-time basis. Psychologists call it compassion fatigue, and it can be a serious detriment to charities and missionaries trying to pay for making a difference. 

We lay folk call it being just plain tired. And I'm sorry to say that everyone deals with this.  Everyone with a TV, a radio, or an Internet connection is constantly inundated with images and stories that display the tragedy of an entire world's brokenness. (I recently subscribed to the Twitter accounts of three major news networks – then reduced that number to one after they completely obliterated my homepage.) Most of it tugs at our heartstrings by design. But there comes a point where caring is no longer possible.  

And that's where I found myself on the issue of Crimea—struggling to fulfill the words of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good.”

What I've learned since is that God's compassion begins where ours ends.

“My strength is made perfect in your weakness,” God said to Paul. If you're finding it hard to love, to give to charity, or even to just plain care anymore, spend time taking in God's acts of love and grace toward you. Experience His power to care beyond what you would have on your own. I'm not saying it's a cure for psychological problems, but it is helpful to me as a husband, a Christian, and a citizen of the world.

Liz inspired me that day by reminding me that the world is bigger than me.  And I need Someone bigger than me to deal with it.

Lucas Zellers is a regular Axis contributor and former intern.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Guest Post: Dr. Bill Brown on Bill Maher's "Hey God, you're a [expletive]!"

Recently, Dr. Bill Brown and his wife joined Axis' Board of Directors. We are excited to have them join our team as we seek to bridge generational gaps and translate culture.
Dr. Brown has served as the president of two Christian universities, is a prolific writer, and currently speaks around the country about how Christians should engage the culture with the heart and mind of Christ. To learn more about Dr. Brown, please click here or go to his blog, Radical Life.
We are excited to share with you his most recent blog post about Bill Maher's controversial and heated review of the new movie, Noah, which hits theaters March 28. We hope you enjoy his perspective!
noah-movie-poster-russell-crowe-691x1024Last Friday, comedian Bill Maher told his audience that God was a “psychotic mass murderer.” He was discussing the soon-to-be-released Hollywood version of the biblical story of Noah, and he had harsh words for the Lord.
“Hey God, you’re a [expletive]!”
Maher was in rare form: “But the thing that’s really disturbing about Noah isn’t that it's silly; it’s that it’s immoral. It’s about a psychotic mass-murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God. . .What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie.”

And he wasn’t finished: “Hey God, you know you’re kind of a [expletive] when you’re in a movie with Russell Crowe, and you’re the one with anger issues. […] Conservatives are always going on about how Americans are losing their values and their morality. Well, maybe it’s because you worship a guy who drowns babies.”
Real.Time.with.Bill.Maher.2012.10.26Bill Maher is considered smart and funny and unafraid to dialogue with those who disagree with him. On his weekly HBO talk show, “Real Time,” he allows his guests to explain and defend their views – although Christians and conservatives are usually few and outnumbered and the heated debates end in a Maher tirade and dismissive humor.
What makes his statements worth response is not merely that he has a large following among the skeptical/atheist/cynical crowd (which he does), but that, tucked away in the inner recesses of his observations, are frequently genuine substantive questions. . . .
To continue reading his post, click here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sin Should Never Be Entertainment...And Other Nagging Ideas That Are Inconveniently True

As I watched the premiere of the new ABC TV show, Mixology, last week, I had an oh-my-word-I’m-turning-into-my-mom! moment. Why? Because I’m pretty sure this is what I looked like the entire 30 minutes:

[Luckily, my mom’s never had that haircut, so I’d have that going for me.]

If you’ve ever watched The Big Bang Theory on CBS and thought it was full of inappropriate humor…HA! It’s got nothing on Mixology. But it’s my own fault. After all, the entire premise of the show is a bunch of people at a night club trying to find someone to hook up with. What did I expect?!

As you can imagine, the jokes are crude and the circumstances far too contrived. Sure, there were some funny lines, but the longer the show went on, the bigger my grimace became. I’ll attribute that to a little thing called the Holy Spirit.

Yes, in this instance the Spirit of Truth was nudging me, reminding me that the ideas in the show grieve God [which is why I felt like my mom—she's always been extremely obedient to the Holy Spirit. As much as my 16-year-old self would be shocked, I'd be glad if I were even remotely like my mom!]. And as His follower, I should seek to love what He loves and hate what He hates, not love—or be entertained by—what He hates. 

But sometimes it’s hard to do that. We live in a culture that is all about being entertained and amused, with no thought of how what’s entertaining us could be affecting us or others...or grieving our Father. One reviewer of the show—one of the few who were not outraged by the misogyny, sexism, and crude humor—said, “Not every show on TV these days needs to be more than just pure entertainment.” And actually, I agree. God created humor. Humor and laughter are gifts from Him to us. So it’s not wrong to enjoy something that makes us laugh.

But she continued on by asking, “Why can’t we all just enjoy a comedy at face value? Do we, as an audience, need to re-learn how to laugh at a simple joke?” Based on the recent proliferation of memes, sitcoms, and funny YouTube videos, I’d say that our culture knows better than most how to appreciate humor and a good laugh. So that’s not the problem.

The problem is that, at face value, all this comedy offers us is the opportunity to be amused by things that go against the very nature of our loving God. After all God’s done for us, I should think that that would be the last thing we want to do. And, inconveniently, the things that go against God's nature are also the things that bring dysfunction, discord, and ultimately death.

Sin should never be entertainment. Ever. Sin breaks God’s heart, not because He's no fun, but because He knows what brings flourishing, harmony, and life. So if we’re becoming more like Him, sin should break our hearts, too.

However, with Mixology, the red flags are obvious and easy to heed. But I can think of many, many instances where I knew I shouldn’t be entertained by something but still laughed—or watched every episode of every season. Maybe I need a remote control that zaps me when I ignore that little nagging voice in the back of my head…

Melanie is the Associate Director of Research for Axis.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More than a Monster Movie: Godzilla Reboot Asks Tough Questions about Nature and Science

Godzilla is back and better than ever in a new reboot due out in May.

For someone who spent his childhood engrossed by Toho's classic Godzilla films (to six-year-old eyes, the rubber suit is completely believable as a kaiju-butt-kicking boss), this will possibly be the biggest movie of 2014. Pun intended. (Watch the trailer here.)

Director Gareth Edwards' take on Godzilla portrays the 350-foot-tall, radioactive lizard as less of a monster-battling hero and more of an apocalyptic disaster, in a new twist designed to be more realistic and emotional. That realism is anchored by performances from a star-studded cast that includes Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe.

Yes, Godzilla can be realistic. In fact, I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that this movie touches on one of the most fundamental questions of mankind's existence.

I can see the doubt in your eyes, so hear me out. Most religions in the world can be divided into one of two categories: spiritualism or naturalism. The difference is in whether they consider the spiritual or physical worlds to be more important; in other words, what is man's relationship to nature? And that's precisely the question the newest Godzilla flick explores.

The Godzilla franchise has its roots in the nuclear atrocities of World War II and a long history of tangling with the morality of nature and progress. “Is a giant monster ever going to come out of the ocean, flatten a city, and leave lots of radiation behind? No,” Edwards said in a recent interview with Wales Online. “But have cities ever been destroyed and radiation traces left everywhere? Yes.”

Edwards went on to explain the connection the franchise has to the Hiroshima bombing: “At the time, Japan wasn’t able to make movies about how they suffered through events like that,” he said. “Yet they could make a giant monster movie which touched on all those things – it was like therapy for them, I guess.”

“The arrogance of man is thinking that nature is in our control and not the other way around,” Ken Watanabe's character warns in the newest trailer.  

So before you dismiss this as a next-gen, high-budget, rubber-suit monster flick, take a minute to consider how it can introduce fundamental questions of religion and the purpose of science into discussions in your home. Take every thought captive—even thoughts of Godzilla—and let art's ability to ask good questions lead you and your family deeper into life.

***Image courtesty of

Lucas Zellers is a regular Axis contributor and former intern.