Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

The Longest Ride opens in theaters April 10th.  It’s another cheesy, heartbreaking, fornication-saturated movie adapted from the mind of Nicholas Sparks.  I watched the trailer and thought, “This is Fifty Shades of Grey meets bull-riding.”  While the film won’t have the onscreen bondage associated with FSG, it will fill the mind with sexual fantasies off-screen as one leaves the theater.

Here’s my problem with this movie: a 13-year-old can watch it.  Let’s be honest, pre-teens will be watching this film, because – last time I checked – they don’t card people going to see PG-13 movies.  Some of you may claim that I’m overreacting, but that’s simply because we’re growing up in a pornified* culture that’s becoming more accustomed to fornication at every turn.  I know I’m coming off a bit like the “Church Lady” from Saturday Night Live, but I’m simply being honest.

So, give the trailer a look below and tell me what you think.  Am I overreacting?  Should I adapt with the times?  Or, do you agree that maybe we shouldn’t take our cues from the MPAA rating system and accept the fact that The Longest Ride is indeed porn for teens….and middle-aged women dissatisfied with their marriage.


*To borrow a term from Pamela Paul’s book, Pornified.

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[NOTE: This was originally published in June of 2012, but is being re-posted to foster thoughts about the up-coming release of Fifty Shades of Grey.]

Yesterday we considered many thoughts that surrounded the movie Thor, centering on lust. Is it okay to watch a scene that highlights a certain actor’s – or actresses – physical attributes? Does it bump up too closely to lust? In my opinion, the scene from Thor was designed to make you do so, and other similar scenes do so as well.

These thoughts came about from a post I read on Facebook, the rise of female pornography addiction, and the release of Magic Mike. Here is the synopsis of the film: A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money. Classy! I promise to stick to some of the same concerns from yesterday and stay away from the question of, why Steven Soderbergh is continuing to throw away his career by making bad movies?

I guess this is the main question I have with the release of Magic Mike, is this a preview of what’s to come? Will films like this become common-place because of the rise in popularity of female porn?

I may be wrong, but I cannot think of a film that has marketed male nudity this explicitly, at least in recent years. The content says “brief graphic nudity”. Some may think, ‘at least it’s brief.’ Yes, but it’s still graphic. This film is dangerous for at least two reasons.

First, the cast is made up of notable actors. Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey are guys that have catered to girls idolatry of love in many romantic comedies. Now, they are going to be leaving little to the imagination in MM, but women will flock to the theaters.

Secondly, the story seems to follow your typical romantic-comedy plot. Rom-coms usually depict rank fornication, but do so in a cutesy way which sells tickets. And even though the story of MM follows male strippers, the added rom-com subplot makes this pill easier to swallow. It makes porn seem cutesy.

To me, a line from the film sums up everything. Dallas (McConaughey) is giving his fellow narcissistic strippers a pep talk and states, “You are the husband she never had.” This statement is wrong on so many levels, but let’s just pick one.

Husbands and wives make a vow before God that death will be the only thing to separate them. Because of this covenant, the man commits to the wife and visa versa, no matter what. In light of the current discussion, this means the wife holds the husband as her standard of beauty – not some stripper.

And this is the true danger of films like this, creating lustful covetousness of a fantasy. You see, many men and women can remain in a marriage, while fulfilling fantasies through movie stars and make-believe characters. The new, exceedingly popular, pornographic novels Fifty Shades of Grey have proved that. Walt Mueller, President of Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, recently wrote an article about the literary porn phenomena. Read what he witnessed at the book table at Costco one afternoon:

A younger woman was holding the book and pondering the purchase. She had an inquisitive and slightly guilty look on her face. An older women standing nearby happened to see the same inquisitive and guilty look and decided to engage the younger lady in conversation. . . . a conversation that pushed the latter to a tipping point. “Thinking about reading it?”, the older woman asked. “Yes, but I hear it’s a little dirty,” the younger woman replied. At that point, the young woman’s husband appeared behind her with their cart. Noticing her husband was now privy to the conversation, the young woman turned a little red and muttered something about her husband showing up. . . as if the conversation needed to come to an end. She looked like a guilty kid who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. The older woman. . . probably in her mid-60s by my estimation. . . looked at her, gave her a little wink, and said, “It’s ten dollars well spent.” With that, the young woman placed the book in her cart. . . . and I watched her exchange a sly little smile with her husband. That was an interesting mentoring moment that says a lot about who we are and what we’re becoming as a culture [read the full article here].

One can never point out the deceitfulness of our sin enough. Whether it’s Thor with his shirt off, Magic Mike struttin’ his stuff, Twilight vampires glistening in the sun, or new explorations in bondage from Fifty Shades of Grey, we must be cautious of toying with our sin. Remember, sin wants to destroy your marriage, lead you down a path of adultery, and, ultimately, drag you to hell, so be wary of the lie it’s telling. Should you go see Magic Mike? Will it help you appreciate your husband? Will it cause you to lust? You might not have to search your heart too long on this one.

Document 1People sometimes quip, Ministry would be easy if you didn’t have to deal with people.  The same could be said of relationships – they would be easier if you didn’t have to deal with people.  The subtitle to Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane’s book entitled Relationships aptly reads A Mess Worth Making.  If anyone were to sum up the story of Two Lovers in a word ‘Messy!’ would prove fairly accurate.

Two Lovers tells the story of a heart-broken man, Lenard Creditor (Joaquin Phoenix).  Lenard suffers from depression after his fiancé left him.  He now lives with his parents and works at his father’s dry cleaning business.  With little prospects in sight, he comes across Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw) and Michelle Rausch (Gwenyth Paltro) within a day of each other.  He is drawn to both of them, providing Lenard (and the viewer) with a difficult decision.  That is, until you get to know them.

The film accurately portrays the complexities of relationships.  Not so much through cliches of your typical rom-com fare, but by getting down to a heart-level.  It accurately displays the brokenness present in every human heart.  It accurately displays the truth that we all display a facade of tidiness towards those we meet in order to conceal the depths of depravity below the surface.

In a sense, Two Lovers is your anti-romantic comedy.  It wars against the cliched one-liners the male fires away at the female.  While those lines are fired away in Two Lovers, they often come out awkwardly and fall on deaf ears.  Not only are the lines not received well, but relationships aren’t sanitized, cookie-cutter style either.  There are deep problems of drug addiction and past sins, that display a difficulty in relationships that aren’t a quick fix.

Not only does the film capture the complexities of relationships, it also captures the deep need for them.  As Tripp and Lane explain in their book, we were made for relationships.  Being created in the image of a triune God – who is in perfect relationship with himself – we don’t have a choice but to be in relationship. Sharing in fellowship with other individuals is something that’s in our DNA.  Sin, however, doesn’t make this relating all that easy, but it doesn’t keep it from being a human necessity either.

Two Lovers is a messy film.  It has content that will bother some Christians (utilize the fast-foward).  That being said, its display of sin wreaking havoc in individual’s lives, as well as, the need for humans to be in relationship with others, gives a realism that’s often cleaned up before its portrayal on the big screen.  I think a film like this proves that we want redemption.  We don’t like messy stories.  We often want stories that are cleaned up and have a happy ending.  And while you can say there is a happy ending in Two Lovers, the rocky path on the way there will prove too bumpy for most.

meet_joe_black_ver1Before you laugh or begin to judge my taste in movies, just bear with me.

My family and I recently had a STAY-cation and we were trying to maximize some free fun.  One thing we did was rent some movies from our local library.  While perusing the available films, we stumbled across Meet Joe Black – a movie I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]  Meet Joe Black follows the story of an older man named William Parrish [Anthony Hopkins].  William is visited by Joe Black [Brad Pitt] and told that he is going to die.  How does Joe know of William’s death?  Because Joe is Death.  Things become really interesting as William’s daughter, Sarah [Claire Forlani], falls in love with Joe a.k.a. Death.

As I began to watch this movie, I had forgotten about some of the cheesy banter between Brad Pitt [his character isn’t called Joe until later in the film] and Sarah at the coffee shop.  Even though this film does contain elements found in your typical romance story, there are some that go against the formulaic nature of most in the genre.  For starters, right after the playful coffee shop talk, the male love interest is ping-ponged between cars while crossing the street…didn’t see that one coming.

Themes of life and death offer up some interesting discussion, but something I wanted to zoom in on is supper.  William is a highly successful man.  He had riches most of us have never dreamed of, respect many long for, and a legacy in the business world that is often pursued.  However, the movie helps us to see what is really important.  It’s not the fame, respect, or money that is often focused on, but family.  MJB helps us answer the often posed question, What would you do if you knew you only had one day left on this earth?  What did William Parrish want?  Dinner with his family.

Scripture affirms, in many times and in many different ways, that mealtime fellowship is significant.  One place in particular is seen through the story of a wee little man, Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus was a man that was hated by all.  Why?  Because he cheated others for his own financial gain.  Jesus, however, being rich in mercy and grace told Zacchaeus he was coming to eat at his house.  Much of the significance of an act like this is seen through the response of the crowd, “And when they saw it, they all grumbled…” [Luke 19:7]  Sharing a meal with someone is an intimate thing.  It’s a time you typically share with those closest to you.  Jesus was showing love to a man who was unloved.  This action brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus but grumbling from the on-lookers.

As death grew near, it’s interesting to me that a man like William – a man who had it all by worldly standards –  simply wanted a meal with his family.  Every time he found out that death wasn’t going to take him, he knew he wanted dinner with his loved-ones.  He didn’t want to fly around the world.  He didn’t want to buy a fancy car.  He wanted the intimacy offered by a dinner table with those closest to him.

Part of the reason this struck me was because of the significance our current culture has made of the family mealtime.  Sadly, the significance comes from its rarity.  Families are often split in a thousand different directions – meals together aren’t something time allows.  Even when some families are sharing meals together, they’re often too busy “sharing” it with everyone else through social media and miss those at the table.

Towards the end of our lives, I doubt too many of us will think, I wish I would have checked Facebook more.  I should have tweeted pithier comments.  I wish I worked more hours in the office.  Sadly, I think many more will wish they would have simply shared in mealtime fellowship with those living under the same roof.  While we don’t have the ability to know when death comes knocking at our door, let’s ensure the dinner table is a place our families frequent.  Breakfast is good, too.

Her?!

Posted: August 25, 2014 by jperritt in Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
Tags: , , ,

her_xlgSoooo…I hadn’t read the content of this movie before we received it on Netflix.  Some of you may have never heard of this film, but those of you who have may raise a questionable eyebrow towards this rental.  For those of you who may rent it (as well as, those of you who question watching it) just be sure and utilize the fast-forward and your eyelids.

My reasons for renting?  Joaquin Phoenix, Spike Jonze and the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Those are sincere reasons for my desire to watch it, but my occupation also supplied some.  See, I am a youth director and when I heard that this film is about a guy who develops an emotional attachment to an operating system, I thought, That sounds similar to some youth cultural trends I’m aware of.  Let me provide some info about the movie.

[spoilers ahead]

Her follows the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely guy who writes letters for people who inadequately express themselves through the written word.  As the viewer meets Theodore, we discover that he is at the end of a relationship, but is unwilling to complete the divorce process by signing the papers.  He is a quiet, sad man, but still seems to be someone who possesses an inviting nature toward those in his world.  However, it is through this season of desperation that Theodore purchases the new operating system for his computer, OS1.  This OS1 – “Samantha” – is a bodiless entity (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) that fills the void in Theodore’s life.  She provides him companionship, organization, direction, happiness – pretty much anything our selfish heart longs for…for a while.

It turns out that many people have fallen in love with this new operating system.  In many ways, this system provides them everything they want in a relationship, minus the hassle.  You see, users can use the system as much as they want.  They can turn it on and turn it off, whenever there’s a need.  But, the user can simply pursue solace whenever they get tired of dealing with the needs of the OS – even though the OS is just an operating system that doesn’t truly have needs.

This film – although it will be super-weird for most people – is so prophetic.  To me, this film is a picture of our future.  As ridiculous as it seems, this is exactly where our pre-teens and teens are headed.  Think I’m crazy?  Let’s consider a few parallels from the film:

  • People are enamored with their digital devices.
  • People begin to long for the digital “life” over real life.
  • People are able to feed their selfishness through technology.
  • People are able to escape challenge/difficulty/sadness by their technology.
  • People are easily accepting what would seem absurd in previous epochs.

With all that’s been said, let me take a few steps back.  I am not a Luddite.  As Christians, we must appreciate technology and thank God for the technology He has created.  To be Christian does not mean living a life that’s anti-technology.  That being said, Her serves as a sobering reminder of true relationships and warns about the effects of technology on them.

One interesting aspect of the film came through the fact that Samantha and Theodore’s relationship became a bit rocky.  It started out great.  There was laughter.  There was joy.  There was shared interest, but then it got tough.  In other words, it was like every relationship on the face of the planet.  The interesting aspect came from the fact that Samantha became more complicated as she became more human.  She was constantly learning, constantly studying humanity; therefore, she seemed more and more human all the time.  However, this allowed her to pick up on intonation, as well as, express her own felt needs.

This movie tells us many things, but one thing it does tell us is that humanity is complex.  People are messed up.  There are no perfect relationships, but there is a deep need for relationship.  Because we are a people who still long for Eden, we don’t like conflict, we don’t like difficulty, we don’t like things to come at a cost.  However, because we are a people who still long for Eden, we need relationship.  Therefore, we are stuck in the already and the not yet of relationships – relationships will hurt us, but we need them.

Her beautifully illustrates this truth.  Until the return of King Jesus, we are destined for heartache.  We need others, but we will hurt others.  We long for fellowship, but fellowship will disappoint.  Her captures both ends of the spectrum quite well.  Again, many need to be warned about the content of the film – it is a bit much at times.  However, this film should (hopefully) provide a brief pause to the insane habits our ever-changing culture is adopting as normative.

 

 

grey26f-1-webThe trailer to this movie was released last week, so I figured some thoughts would be appropriate. I thought about coming up with ‘fifty thoughts’ for Fifty Shades of Grey in order to have a catchy title, but I couldn’t think of a greater waste of time pondering fifty thoughts about a filthy piece of trash like this film (can you tell where this post is going?).

From the outset, let me go ahead and tell you that I have not read the book and I will not see the movie.  I know many would use this to discredit me, but I think this argument is no longer valid because of a little thing called The Internet.  You can read and research a whole lot about something without having to read the book or watch the movie.  Without a doubt, one gets a greater understanding of something by actually experiencing it, but when depth and substance are lacking from a story there’s not much to experience anyway.  So, here are five thoughts:

  1. Scripture Alone:  Scripture begins with, “In the beginning God” [Gen. 1:1] and many have said these are the four most significant words in history.  They tell us many things, but one thing they tell us is the fact that God is in charge.  He’s always been in existence, he was before all things, he created all things out of nothing, and he dictates what his creation will do.  When  it comes to sex, we don’t get to do what we want.  Therefore, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are spitting in the face of God and perverting his invention.  What does that say for those of you who’ve read the book?
  2. Faith Alone:  Because of the fall of mankind, we place our faith in everything but God.  We place our faith in money.  We place our faith in food.  We place our faith in friends.  We place our faith in sex.  Now, nothing is wrong with enjoying any one of these in a proper perspective, but a misplaced faith ends up in misplaced worship – God alone deserves that.  Fifty Shades of Grey, however, makes sex the ultimate thing and worships it.  I will say that the story seems to accurately portray what happens when anyone or anything receives the worship that is due to God – perversion.  Grey is so obsessed with sex it becomes something demented.  Sadly, many who have read the book have gone down this demented path and have adopted these practices.  Even more sadly, husbands and wives will go see this movie together and will worship this ideal and become more discontent with one another.
  3. Grace Alone:  God doesn’t owe us a thing.  The fact that you’re breathing right now is solely because God allows it.  When all of life is grace, it’s difficult to draw attention to one aspect to appreciate.  However, sex communicates a great deal about God’s grace.  The simple fact that God gives us any pleasure is remarkable.  We sinned against him.  He would be perfectly just to make all of our food bland, remove any beauty from all creation, take away emotions, the list goes on-and-on.  One clear thing Scripture communicates about sex is that God commands husbands and wives to make it a common practice – God is so harsh. [1 Cor. 7:5]  Again, God would have been just to make sex the most boring, laborious chore – but he decided to make it pleasurable.  Christian and Anastasia (as well as the readers) see sex as something deserved for their own self-centered motives.
  4. Christ Alone:  As strange as this may sound to some, sex communicates a lot about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Once again, God designed sex as properly practiced between one man and one woman in the context of marriage [Gen. 2:15-25].  This marital union points us to our union with Christ.  Therefore, whenever there is sexual distortion, there is a distortion of the gospel.  Fifty Shades of Grey distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ for your own sinful fantasies.  Why in the world would any Christian seek to see a movie that deliberately distorts the gospel for their own entertainment?
  5. Glory to God Alone:  God is Creator and his fingerprints are all over creation.  The creation – because of God’s fingerprints – displays glory because God is glorious.  Therefore, each of us are glorious in various ways, but we turn into glory thieves because of our sin.  We attempt to highjack the glory that is due to God.  E.L. James (who wrote the novel), as well as, the actors and filmmakers are attempting to steal glory from God’s creation.  Whether it’s in the act of sex, the naked bodies of actors, or the selfish fame they are all longing for, Fifty Shades of Grey illustrates selfish people pursuing their own glory.

There are some books and movies that should simply be avoided and Fifty Shades of Grey is easily one of those.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard many Christians are reading, or read, the books and I know many more will see the movie.  While I know there is a character named ‘Christian’ in the movie, those displaying true Christian character will abstain.

DHollywood

Starting with the blockbuster Back to The Future trilogy, Michael J. Fox made a film career out of pretty much the same role–a know-it-all punk who gets into trouble and then typically charms his way out of it.  I was definitely one of his biggest fans back then, since I grew up with his Alex P. Keaton character in the Family Ties TV Series.  But it was some time in 1996 that one of his movies impacted my life the most.  Yes, I’m not ashamed to say it: God used Doc Hollywood to crystallize my calling in ministry.

[Note: Doc Hollywood was actually released in 1991, but I didn’t see it until 1996 on television.  And it was a good thing too, since the edited version leaves out a totally useless nude shot of the lead female character.  So I would suggest waiting until it comes on TV!]

Doc Hollywood is about a young cocky Doctor, Ben Stone (Fox), who has a traffic accident on the way to an interview as a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills.  To pay for his “crime”, the judge mandates community service as a doctor in the small town of Grady.  The townspeople, including the mayor, do their best to convince “Doc Hollywood” to stay in Grady permanently to replace the retiring Doc Hogue.  The small town of Grady symbolizes real community, while Beverly Hills (not surprisingly) is a picture of isolation, imitation, and plastic.

Just in case you’re interested, here are some of my favorite lines (since I’ve now probably watched the movie a dozen times or so).  In an appeal from the mayor to Ben Stone: “Give Grady a chance, you just might like her.”  Ben Stone’s love interest, Vialula, tells him: “You can’t poop in this town without everyone knowing what color it is.”   Life insurance salesman and rival, Hank (played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson), says about Doc Hollywood: “I’m not sure if I trust a man who doesn’t eat meat.”  Classic.  And one of the most important questions by Ben Stone himself: “Don’t you think a guy’s entitled to choose his own destiny?”

If Ben Stone was a Christian, he would have come to understand that God was calling him to stay in Grady and become a small town doctor.  From the very beginning of the movie, it was his destiny.  He just so happened to crash his sports car into the local judge’s fence, forcing him to stay and do community service.  The part for his car delayed his road trip, and later his repaired car was wrecked again.  He fell in love with the woman who only wanted to live in Grady.  He even started falling in love with the quirky people he was serving.  There is even great symbolism in one scene, where he has to tear up his Armani shirts in order to deliver a baby.  Gradually, “Doc Hollywood” begins to let go of his “big city” aspirations, seeing them as hollow and most importantly, lonely.  Ultimately, he had the “freedom” to leave, so he left Grady–but not for long.  Grady was his destiny.

So, I know you’re dying to know how God used this movie to shape how I looked at ministry.  Well, one scene did it for me.  After Doc Hollywood delivered his first baby, he was celebrating with old Doc Hogue.  Hogue opens up his antique armoire which holds hundreds of photos of babies stuck in there like post-it notes.  In his own crotchety way, he says:  “Over 700 babies I’ve delivered in this small town.  Saw them through every sneeze and sniffle, and sometimes even walked them to the gravesites.  Wouldn’t trade them for gold…well, maybe gold…or cash money!  Well, this is my PORTFOLIO…”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  This is the sort of “portfolio” I wanted out of my calling.  No, not as a doctor–but as a Christian Education and Children’s Ministry director in the local church.  I wanted to see children born to families in our church, trained by God’s Word, make professions of faith in Christ, and grow up to serve the Lord all of their lives.  I know it may sound corny to some, but this movie sincerely changed me from wanting to just work to “move up” in the world, to wanting to spend my life ministering to a body of believers in the church.

To me, that is the message of Doc Hollywood:  We are called to community.  God calls believers out as individuals to put us together as the family of God.  The lure of this world is money, power, success–and independence.  The call of the Kingdom is for people to come together as the Body of Christ, serving, loving, and really knowing one another.  Whatever the size of your church, it really is meant to be a “small town” community experience in the Lord!

SLPlaybookIf you’ve read some of my other posts, you know how much I love “mental illness” movies.  As a Biblical counselor, I often weirdly wish that I could have the opportunity to offer help to the fictional characters in these films.  And, when an entire dysfunctional family is on display on the big screen, it really gets my attention!  So it was inevitable that I find the time on our recent family vacation to watch Silver Linings Playbook.  Even though there was way too much foul language and one sadly explicit sex scene, it was worth seeing.  The acting was outstanding.  Bradley Cooper impressed from beginning to end as the lead mentally ill character, Pat Solitano.  Pat’s parents, played by Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver were superb.  Although I’m not a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence, she did play her part extremely well.  The only thing lacking was I wish that the very funny Chris Tucker would have had a bigger role!

Silver Linings Playbook centers on Pat’s life after a stint in a mental institution.  He moves back home with the dual goals of getting his teaching job back as well as his wife (mainly his wife).  This is Pat’s “silver lining playbook”–his master plan to find a way to better himself and find the little bit of sunshine amidst the clouds of his life.  Instead, his silver lining turns out to be Tiffany, another person with significant mental problems.  And, in the middle of all of this, the drama unfolds with Pat’s OCD father and co-dependent mother, as well as sundry other characters with issues.  The bottom line is that there really isn’t a “normal” person in Silver Linings Playbook, including Pat’s psychiatrist, Dr. Patel.

And I really think that’s one of the main messages of the movie–that we all have mental problems.  Or to be more specific: We all have mental problems and there are very good reasons for them, thank you very much.  For starters, Pat became labeled as having Bipolar Disorder after he caught his wife having a steamy affair, beat the man senseless, and lost his teaching job.  Tiffany developed all of her problems after her husband was killed (she blamed herself for it).  We are also led to deduce that Pat developed issues from growing up in a family with an OCD father and enabling mother.  His friend Ronnie, one of my favorite characters, was immensely stressed out from his job and marriage.  And, the list goes on.  Silver Linings Playbook really captures the Biblical reality that all human beings are fallen, weak, and broken.  What is most refreshing about Pat and Tiffany is that they don’t try to hide it, but attempt to deal with it instead.

A second major message in the movie (although some may disagree) is the futility of the various methods of dealing with mental problems.  Pat Sr. and Dolores (Pat’s parents) represent the approach typified by denial and avoidance of the problems (wonderfully connected to professional football, I might add).  The mental institution seemed pretty ineffective, as well as psychological medication (the side effects outweighed the help).  At one level, Dr. Patel was a very “normalizing” influence on Pat, but his counseling was fairly useless.  Pat’s “positive mental attitude” efforts to get his health back,  job back, wife back also fall short.  This futility motif really made much of the movie very depressing!

The last message of Silver Linings Playbook is a worldly form of redemption and restoration.  Due to one last complicated gamble, Pat Sr. gets his money back so he can finally start his own restaurant.  The family as a whole appears to open up and be  a bit more functional. Even Pat’s friends seem to solve their problems.  At the center of this redemption is the new-found love relationship between Pat and Tiffany.  Sure, Pat doesn’t get his wife back, but at least he gets to move on and find love again.  And, to be honest, Tiffany really manipulates and deceives Pat in order to help him fall in love with her.  Even his family helps her out with this strange “intervention.”  But, hey, these are people with mental problems living in a fallen world, so what do you expect?  A little silver lining is better than constant cloudiness!

All this pseudo-redemption (falling in love seems to be the primary form of the world’s redemption) should lead Christians to be deeply thankful for the better redemption in Jesus.  We are all broken and fallen, with no hope in this world.  Jesus is more than just a silver lining in our altogether cloudy lives.  He is the Light of the World!  He is the Bright Morning Star!  His life, death, and resurrection dispels all of the clouds and darkness and hopelessness.  Our “playbook” reveals our eternal victory in Christ!

How do you feel when a friend or family member watches a movie you love and absolutely hates it?  I tend to take that very personally.  Moonrise  Kingdom is one of those films that you and a significant other may end up with totally contrasting opinions.  I, and several of my older daughters loved it (my wife, not so much).  Admittedly, I tend to like quirky stories about odd people (not sure why?).  And, I am a big fan of Wes Anderson films, as his stories often focus on a broken or unorthodox family unit.  Of course, I wouldn’t want to be involved in these sort of families (see The Royal Tenenbaums), but they are very entertaining nonetheless.  By the way, if you want to start with a more benign (less odd) Wes Anderson film, I highly recommend Fantastic Mr. Fox for your next family movie night.

Moonrise Kingdom is set on the fictional New England island of New Penzance in 1965.  Sam and Suzy are misfit 12 year olds who fall in love and plan to run away (Yes, very Shakesperean).  Sam is an orphan who is considered emotionally disturbed by everyone around him, including his foster care parents and his entire Khaki Scout troop.  Suzy is also a difficult child who quickly loses who temper and acts as an outcast in her family.  They both long for love and acceptance, as well as some adventure.

Spoiler alert!  The youngsters’ disappearance causes nearly the entire island to mobilize, including the Police Captain (Bruce Willis), the Khaki Scout Master (Edward Norton), Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand), and the scout troop.  The children are recovered after what amounts to an extended camping trip, and are forced to return to their miserable lives.  Because Sam is such a difficult orphan, he has no future except in an institution (and maybe worse).

Then, things really get interesting.  The Khaki Scouts find a new resolve to rescue Sam and re-unite him with Suzy.  This time, the pair needs to get further away, get married (I know, they’re only 12, but hang with it) and start a new life on another island.  Another desperate hunt ensues by even more of the community, including a lady from Social Services.  The climax of the tale has Sam and Suzy contemplating joint suicide (see, told you it sounded Shakespearean)–only to be remarkably rescued by the entire community in a much more positive way.  Watch the movie for the rest of the story…

While my plot summary is certainly lacking, the movie is not.  It is rich and complex, loaded with symbolism and emotion (in a very un-emotional way).  To me, here’s the essential, and potentially the most missed point of the story: While the main characters are cast as the only “orphans,” the truth is that ALL the secondary characters act as orphans too.  Suzy’s mom and dad have no relationship–even sleeping in separate beds.  The Police Captain is a sad, lonely man who’s having a secret romance with Suzy’s mom.  Scout Master Ward is also a frustrated, lonely guy.  The Khaki Scouts are really all very odd orphans as well.  The lady from Social Services is alone.  The list goes on…

Then, here’s the best part!  Because of two lonely outcast orphans who want desperately to have a real relationship, the whole community comes together.  Suzy’s mom breaks off the affair.  She tries to have a new relationship with Suzy.  The parents start making amends.  The Police Captain rescues and adopts Sam.  The Khaki scouts start working together as a “family.”  Even the lady from Social Services comes to help instead of hurt.  Scout Master Ward ends up with a love interest too.

Do you get the picture?  This movie is a weirdly odd portrait of the CHURCH!  We are all orphans needing adoption.  We need Jesus to redeem us and make us members of the family of God.  Whether we recognize it or not, we even need the community of believers.  Consider Galatians 4:4-7:

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The truth is that the Church of Jesus Christ is made up of a bunch of diverse oddballs who desperately need love and relationship.  Yet Christians often (mis)treat each other as Sam and Suzy had been treated–as outcasts who are much too difficult.  Tragically, we splinter into cliques or even go it alone as orphans.  So, what does it take for local churches to act more like loving families rather than odd collections of orphans?  Maybe it takes crisis or persecution (we certainly are much too comfortable in the Western Church).  We definitely need the work of the Spirit to bind us together.  It is much too tempting to be independent rather than interdependent, separate rather than unified.  I encourage you to enjoy the quirky Moonrise Kingdom and think about your place in the community of believers and the family of God!

I am fairly confident that Twilight would not make the top 10 list of “manly movies.” Most men don’t even like to admit they have seem them. They will swear that they only went to the theater or rented these romantic films because their girlfriend or wife made them. Whatever the case, women and men will see this final theatric installment of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire novels.

Whether you are a die-hard fan or a “hater,” Twilight reminds us that fantasy is dangerous.

After reading the first book (yes, I read it) I had mixed emotions. The story is an interesting one. Meyer’s spin on vampire lore is creative to say the least – even biblical. Often the most dangerous things appear the most appealing. In the book of Proverbs we read about the seductive woman. She is depicted as enticing, but ultimately deadly to the man who visits her. The vampires of the Twilight saga are like this – alluring, but hazardous to one’s life.

Like the Meyer vampires, Twilight itself is dangerous. I have and will continue to refer to this story (and all romance novels) as women’s pornography. Twilight is dangerous because, like a pornographic magazine, it presents a false reality – a fantasy world.

[Fellas bear with me, I am risking my “man card” here, I know.]

Many of the women that love this story, love it because of Edward (sorry all you in “Team Jacob”). Men – we can learn something from Edward. Women love Edward because he is eternally faithful. His love for Bella (although definitely undeserved) is unmatched. He is a selfless servant – relentless in his care for her. We should take at least a couple notes from the Edward playbook. We can all use a bit more compassion, selflessness, and fearlessness in our relationships. Superpowers wouldn’t hurt either, of course.

Herein lies the problem. Edward doesn’t exist!! Yes, men could stand to be more sensitive and intentional in their care of their spouses or girlfriends, but come on! How high are you going to set the bar? A powerful, sensitive, vampire-man? He even glows for goodness sake!

Fantasy is dangerous because, if it becomes our reality, it will set us up for failure and disappointment. Ladies, the best men in the world, do not stand a chance against the “Edward” (or Jacob) of you mind. I am not saying that you should stop praying for a man who will treat you right. Pray for that man. But pray for a man who will also repent when he sins against you (which he will). Pray that you will be able to forgive (Colossians 3:13) and overlook the offenses (Proverbs 19:11) of the imperfect man in your life.

Fellas, this goes both ways. Porn is dangerous and destructive for many reasons – not in the least being that it presents you with a false sense of reality. The airbrushed women seduce you to a world that will kill you. They look at you as though you can have what you want, with no responsibility and no consequences. Porn objectifies women and minimizes the image of God to a mere body. Porn deadens you to the beauty and wonder of marriage to one woman. Porn makes you lazy, selfish, and demanding. No wonder why women choose fantasy over the real thing!

We live in a world where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. May God give us discernment to recognize the danger of living in a world that doesn’t exist.