Light in a Dark Universe: A Spiritual Question


Look up into the night’s sky, and you might see one of the other planets in our solar system blinking back at you.  But what you are actually seeing is the sun’s light reflecting off the surface of a heavenly body, much like how the moon’s light is merely a reflection and how the shadow of the earth cuts into that brightness.

Without a sun, planets live in darkness, with one exception.  Earth is the only planet (that we know of) that generates its own light.

Think about that for a minute and ask yourself a couple of questions.

Do I do a good job of reflecting God’s light or do I let the world darken it out in shadow?  And do I generate my own light?


The Faith of the Centurion

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Matthew 8:5-13

The Greek word that the Roman centurion uses in this passage to describe the sick man – pais – is the same word used in ancient Greek to refer to a same-gender partner.

This is the actual Biblical example that Kim Davis should have been taught in Sunday school.

And as to whether Jesus felt people were born gay? Just keep reading to Matthew 19:10-12.

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

The 50+ Films of Christmas (Part 5)

The 50+ Films of Christmas

Follow me as I watch 50+ of the best (and worst) holiday films! I will blog mini-reviews as I go and then rank them when I’m done watching them all.

6.5 Black Nativity

Black Nativity

I almost didn’t watch this one. The title makes it sound like a lame Saturday Night Live sketch. But then I took a peek at the cast – Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Nas, Mary J. Blige, and Tyrese Gibson – and I realized I was probably missing something.

A contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’s play, this story follows a streetwise Baltimore kid named after the famed poet. His single mother has had a rough time, and because of an impending eviction, Langston is sent to live with his estranged grandparents. Trapped between wanting to help his mother at any cost (even criminal) and wanting to learn about these mysterious grandparents, the reverend and his wife, Langston goes on a dark journey toward discovery.

And speaking of discovery, Jacob Latimore gave a performance here that is good enough to qualify as star-making.

This is an inspirational musical that isn’t afraid to give a faith-based name to redemption. It celebrates the Harlem roots of the original production. But it is powerful enough to transcend religion and ethnicity.


8.5 Disney's A Christmas Carol

Disney’s A Christmas Carol

I love this story. It is the most repeated Christmas tale, rivaling even the nativity, and there’s good reason for it. It is a ghost story, it is a tale of redemption where the before and after are clear and where the transformation is believable, and it makes you feel good in the end, even if you’re a Scrooge yourself.

This version is at once extremely faithful to the material and also inventively visual in the telling. The key here is Robert Zemeckis and his cast. Zemeckis, of course, is the genius behind “Back to the Future” (along with Bob Gale), “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “Castaway,” and a bunch of other classics. And despite all the credit James Cameron and “Avatar” got, Zemeckis is also responsible for the modernization of 3D with the help of two other animated films, “Monster House” and his other holiday classic, “Polar Express.” Zemeckis adapted the script, pulling dialogue and narration directly from the Charles Dickens story, and he decided that all of his invention would not stray from the original story. On the contrary, every marvel in this film is merely taking the beats of Scrooge’s incredible journey to the absolute hilt.

The cast is led by Jim Carrey, who plays Ebenezer and all three ghosts. This performance goes beyond merely recording dialogue. Carrey is fully motion-captured and no matter how much the animators have changed his appearance for the various roles, what is on the screen is pure Jim Carrey. It’s in his mouth, his eyes, his mannerisms. Carrey absolutely shows how great of an actor he is capable of being. This without taking away the aspects of Jim that we’ve grown to love. He gets silly (especially as the Spirit of Christmas Past but also in some slapstick moments with Scrooge), and he does an enormous amount of character work, drawing fully three-dimensional beings that will stick with you long after the movie is over.

There have been a lot of versions of “A Christmas Carol.” It’s been Mickey Moused and Fred Flintstoned and Muppeted. Scrooge has been portrayed by Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, Alastair Sim, and countless others. I truly appreciate any good telling of the story, but as far as faithful versions go, this is my favorite.


7 Nativity 2 - Danger in the Manger

Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!

Dr. Who fans know David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor (or the eleventh, depending on the what theory you prescribe to evidently). In this movie, he plays identical twins Donald and Roderick Patterson. The former is a primary school teacher, and the latter is a world renowned composer. They don’t really get on these days.

Donald has been given the task of taking over a class that has been handled/mishandled by a classroom aid that only has the job because his aunt is head teacher. Mr. Poppy (Marc Wooton, “Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel,” “Arthur Christmas”) is a man-child that runs the class the way Ralf Wiggum might. Instead of Maths or Literacy, Poppy has the kids auditioning “American Idol” style for a chance to sing in the Song for Christmas competition.

Patterson is a reluctant aid in preparations for the performance and has to be kidnapped for the wacky trip to Wales, where he faces off against his brother, another stuffy teacher (Gordon Shakespeare, played by Jason Watkins, “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The Golden Compass”), and his own lack of faith.

As the children come across a donkey, follow a star, and find the manger, you will either shrug your shoulders and say it’s all madness or go along for the mad-cap ride. For me, the children are the film, and the adults are merely there to move the plot along and give us an entry point. This is a film where the grown up actors play off of the children, and if that doesn’t sound like something you’d be into, skip it. But if you love kids, you’ll probably be able to get into things, just like Mr. Patterson.

The only real quibble I have with this movie is the music. The vocals are tinny and hiss and don’t sound like they were recorded professionally, and while the music is very good, the lyrics are a bit lacking. If they had gotten a better songwriter and a better engineering staff, this Christmas musical would have been something we could sing along to.

Overall, this is a surprisingly good movie with enough laughs and adorable moments to be well worth your time. Unless you hate children.


7.5 Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander

Perhaps this is all a dream? Perhaps it is theater? Maybe we’re all just puppets? When Christmas is childhood, what does it mean to those who are approaching the end?

This is Christmas film is by far the most decorated by The Academy Awards (1984; Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and was also nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay). It is also considered Ingmar Bergman’s last film, although he did work for television and did some writing theatrically after this. It is clear that the master filmmaker is looking back on his own life and has created some strange poetry from his reflections.

We get a glimpse into the lives of The Ekdahls as they celebrate a Victorian Christmas and are haunted by the Ghosts of Hamlet. This is not your average holiday film, as we leave Christmas behind and are met with death, the devil, and God himself (or was that just a puppet?). We see a former beauty of the stage muse over childhood and old age and those short years in between that seemed to mean so much at the time. There is the current beauty, who has put her family in danger as she seeks out love and happiness. And then there is the beauty to be, who is forced to grow up alongside her brother, Alexander.

This film evokes a deep sense of nostalgia while creating haunting imagery that will stick with you long after the three hour journey has drawn to conclusion, and the major themes of Bergman’s works are all here aglow, like the candles on an evergreen, like the flames of an upturned lamp.


8 White Christmas

White Christmas

It’s the 60th anniversary of “White Christmas,” but even when it was new, it was calling toward yesteryear. You see, nostalgia is built right into this film.

While Silent Night may have been the song for the Great World War, no holiday song meant more to the men who fought WW II than White Christmas. Almost a full decade after our boys came home from those historic battles, almost ten years of trying to assimilate to home life later, Bing Crosby was back to pay tribute to their struggles.

The story is quite simple. Two old army buddies, played by Crosby and Danny Kaye, are a star club act. Kaye wants more time for himself and has gotten it into his head that the way to get it is to make sure Crosby gets hitched. The crooner thinks there’s some sense in the comic’s logic, but he doesn’t know if he’s quite ready yet.

Enter Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, struggling, singing sisters that we the audience see as the perfect fit for BOTH men. They’re Vermont bound, to do a show in the snow. Only, there isn’t snow, and the ski lodge that as it turns out happens to be run by the boys’ beloved general, seems doomed for financial destitute. That is, of course, unless the boys can put on a sensational show, and to do that, they’ll have to find love in the process.

It’s an upbeat Christmas tale chock-full of Irving Berlin’s masterworks, and even the music reaches back for days long past. There’s the number where they long for Minstrel shows, the one that decries modern “choreography” for ruining the good old days of dance, and the show stopper that has Crosby and Kaye wishing they were back in the Army. There’s even a line thrown in when a young boy sings in his prepubescent voice and Bing wistfully says, “Oh, those were the days.”

If you’re looking for a classic Christmas from days far-flung, you can’t go wrong with “White Christmas.”



A Startling Conversation about Gays and God

The following conversation was initiated by a facebook post.

Here it is:

Okay. . . I really didn’t want to get pulled into a maelstrom associated with a reality TV version of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but I do have one thought no one else seems to be voicing.

Why defend a person’s rights to have a job as a television role model for their religious beliefs but try to keep the president out of office over his pastor’s religious beliefs?

Seems hypocritical to the extreme.

And here’s the conversation.  I posted it (censoring out the poster’s name), because I feel there is value to be found in the dialogue.


HIM: Let’s have the discussion here so you get what I’m saying.

ME: Okay.

HIM: Is kleptomania wrong?

ME: It’s a psychological disorder.

HIM: Is it wrong to be a kleptomaniac?

ME: It’s a sin to steal. Whether kleptomania is “wrong” or not is not up to me to judge. It’s a deeply rooted disorder that leaves the person with almost no ability to control the distance between impulse and action.

HIM: It is wrong to steal. Islets not “sin” to be a klepto. It is wrong to act in kleptomania. Christians believe the same thing with homosexuality.

I don’t hate or fear homosexuals just as I don’t hate or fear kleptos. Most are fine upstanding human beings that I’m taught to love as brothers.

Being a Christian no sin is worse than another. So a gay Christian who proudly sins is like a klepto who proudly steals.

ME: I know what Christians believe, man. I’m a preacher’s kid and a Christian. I’ve read the book from cover to cover. I have a personal walk with Christ.

HIM: So why are you having such a difficult time understanding me or Phil robertsons point of view? You are being just as intolerant.

ME: I don’t understand any point of view that places me (as a Christian) above any other person who also was born into sin and is in desperate need of God’s mercy. THAT is the complete opposite of the example Christ set for us.

HIM: Fuck David. You aren’t even listening

ME: Could you imagine the red ink in the Bible looking like what Robertson said?

If it had, I would say you have a point. Instead what I see is the church focusing on homosexuality as though it’s THE sin. And by doing so, they’ve all but put up a veil between those particular sinners and an opportunity to find God.

HIM: Sin is sin. Bible instructs homosexuality is sin. So why do you think he is judging? He is basing beliefs on the book if God he wants people to walk in the good light of god by turning from sin. You don’t pick and choose sin above or beneath another.

ME: Exactly!! So how does sin “begin with homosexuality and morph from there”?

HIM: Morph the conversation. Not sin in general

ME: Dude, the church has done so much damage to the gay community that it will have to pay for in the end. We’ve all but damned these people to hell!

When you ask a Christian what they think at a Westboro rally – and I’ve done this – they will say, “Well, I don’t necessarily disagree with their message. I just don’t like the way they’re saying it.”

HIM: Nobody is condemning them to hell. That’s Gods job. Except those freak Westboro people

Shut up. Broad brushing Christians.

ME: Not at all, man.  I see the many shades.

HIM: That’s offensive to me you would even link normal Christians with them

ME: And I’ve been accused of not being a Christian because I’m not this shade or that.

HIM: Do you believe homosexuality is sinful to god?  Or is it cool since society has deemed it cool?  Be not of this world

ME: I believe carnal lust of all kinds is sinful to God. How could it not be? We become so body obsessed, so driven into our earthly pleasures that we are distracted from God.

I believe MY carnal lust is just as harmful as some guy that lusts after another guy.

HIM: Yes. And I condemn your sins as much as I condemn my own. Is it wrongs to condemn sin but not love them as brothers?

ME: It is when we single them out as untouchables.

HIM: Homosexuals are untouchables.

ME: No more untouchable than any of us.

Which is what has happened, man. And the sooner we admit it and move out of that era, the better for all of us.

And thank God he still reaches in and touches our hearts, right?

HIM: You are making sin as a grey area.

ME: Nope. I’m not. I’m simply conscious of the fact that I am a sinner.

HIM: It’s ok to condemn kleptomania and ensure they don’t act on it but it’s the end of the world when some hillbilly condemns homosexuality which is apparently like lynching nowadays

ME: I didn’t condemn anything.

HIM: It’s wrong for you to condemn sin?

ME: That’s what the Bible says

HIM: No, it’s wrong to punish sinners.

ME: You can judge a person by their fruit, not by what’s rotten.

Christ tells us time and time again not to point out the speck in the other man’s eye when ours is full of splinters

HIM: Exactly. So as a Christian our walk in Christ is built to surround ourselves among the sinners and spread His gospel. That includes clothe condemnation of sin. “Go and sin no more” -Jesus

ME: But that’s about a personal walk, not telling others how to walk.

HIM: Jesus told the prostitute how to walk did he not?  Sin no more is exactly that.  What’s the point of scripture if it’s not meant as a guide? What’s the point of fellowship or Church?

ME: He is God.

HIM: We are to live as Christ did. Did he not tell the prostitute to sin no more?

ME: Fellowship is about iron sharpening iron. It’s not about choosing what sins are acceptable and what are not for your Christian community. That’s what the second letter to the Corinthians is all about!

HIM: What’s the iron? The troubling truth about sin?

ME: It’s faith.  You are to build up faith with faith.

It’s all about a PERSONAL experience. I can’t tell someone else how to have a personal experience with God.

HIM: Nobody is telling one how to. That doesn’t even makes sense

Being a Christian is about loving one another as Christ loves us but also being our brother’s keeper in that walk with Christ. If you’re atheist and gay, whatever… But if you’re a Christian and proudly brandish your sinful homosexuality then it’s a duty to tell that person to go and sin no more. There is no condemnation to hell or anything. At least there better not or your stone will shatter your glass house.

ME: I agree with you about accountability. Our BIGGEST problem as a church though is that we do a heck of a job making it clear they aren’t even welcome to come inside in the first place. We’ve done all we can to make them feel as unwelcome as possible by saying things like what Mr. Robertson said and then backing him up with the power of the entire community.

HIM: We welcome all people including gays. The problem is its accepted behavior. The church deems it as sin and gays don’t like being called out and then they feel unwelcome. Well no shit.

Kleptos attend church without problem. Why? Because they know they are sinners like the rest and want to overcome.

ME: Do you honestly think that, or are you just saying it? Do you really think that Kleptos experience the same concentrated religious persecution as gays?

HIM: No because society has deemed homosexuality as ok. When society deems kleptomania as ok, the same conflict will arise.

ME: That’s bunk, dude. I’m surprised at you. Homosexuals were being tied to fence posts and beaten to death. . . Like yesterday!! And the church was just as unwelcoming then as they are now.

HIM: I don’t agree with those actions then either. Don’t group me with that.

And please, kkk or Islam isn’t my faith.

ME: In fact, in many of those cases, the church were culpable. Just as it was in the South during the KKK’s reign. We HAVE TO start reaching out to them if we want to see them in Heaven!

HIM: They want Christians to accept their behavior as not sin.  That’s a sticking point.

ME: We – as a faith – HAVE TO do all we can to show that we aren’t the ignorant bigots that are standing in their way to salvation. We have to RISE ABOVE the hate and show God’s love like never before if we hope to make any kind of difference.

HIM: If a homosexual went to my church Sunday and said, I” am a sinner, i want to stop sinning. Please help” then he’s welcome like any other sinner.

If he shows up saying “I’m here, I’m queer” them he’s not trying to become a better Christian. His motives would be questioned.

ME: If you had something about yourself that you could not change – something that everyone else told you had to be changed or else – you would want the same acceptance that they do. Instead, we bury our heads in the sand, refuse to accept that God would allow someone to be “born that way” when we have a Bible that tells us we are all born that way in some way or the other, and blindly lead the blind.

HIM: How do you know I’m not struggling with a disease I have to bury deep?

ME: I know you are. We all are. That’s the promise of being human.