According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Friday, April 25, 2014

Are You A Divergent?


Divergent Official Final Trailer (2014)
- Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet Movie HD


Movie Review and Relevance

Last night I finally got around to seeing the movie Divergent and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Essentially it is a remake of Nazism's growth throughout Central Europe led by Adolf Hitler of Germany surrounded by his puppet fascist rulers like Mussolini. It was an age where Marxism was idealised for its socialist order and classless society even as its own philosophy caved in upon itself as powerful men came to rule it with evil, oppression, and tyranny. From its wells sprang the loss of the individual human will to the greater - more perfect - will of society. One that could be controlled and directed more easily than if left to its own devices and turmoils fraught between human good and human endeavor.

Thus the story lines are set and we are at once introduced to the smouldering ruins of a world gone mad with self-destruction and its deep desire for survival. Within this world remains a faceless society formed of five great factions each juxtapositioned to serve the needs of the other in a balance that might gain a more formidable peace. But in order to rebuild this new world the focus is now placed upon the grander traits of human nature that might provide for a longer lasting peace - selflessness, intelligence, bravery, a spirit of peacefulness, and honesty. But of course the smarties want power and immediately begin a campaign to wrest it from those who serve the poor and coincidentally hold the political reigns to their dystopian society. To achieve this goal the Erudite faction turns the military faction - known as Dauntless - into mindless droids to hack away and exterminate the Abnegation faction (more or less as the SS did with Germany's minorities beginning with their despised Jewish population). Of course abnegation is the social mechanism of denial to the truth of the matter which is used in the film as a point of irony indicative of the heedless masses going about daily routines without questioning political governance with its social directions and imports.


Now perhaps one could make the larger argument that this movie is about the United States along with its evil Western minions who together serve as the Erudite faction of today's 21st Century. And though this might rightfully be stated as true when reminded of their common history of employing white English and Dutch indentured servants who first came to America's shores during its colonization period. Or the enslavement of the African black with the evils and atrocities of its oppression and merciless tyranny. Or of America's history of ruthless expansion across native American-Indian lands and soils. Or its employment of child labor on the East coast or immigrant Asian labor on the West coast. It was also a nation that ironically proclaimed refuge to the religiously oppressed of post-Reformational Europe. Or the politically victimized from the very breasts of those who knew what oppression was - and had experienced first hand - from around the world.

A developing nation that sought to live out its political ideals of charter as founded in its newly-formed Constitution as best it could. However imperfectly. However errantly. Even to its near civil disunion in the mid-1800s at the behest of a civil war fought to end slavery. Or its civil riots of the 1960s that strove for legal and political equality of the black man and woman. A nation that strove to become a more profoundly tolerant society that might value equality for all - despite its present evils and intolerable oppressions. Whose political heart-and-soul proclaimed peace and refuge to the weary and down-trodden. Whose legal charters declared toleration and respect for all personages and property. Especially to that ideal of providing "life and liberty" to its citizens. Thus, the American system,  though flawed, was-and-is a system focused on establishing equitable laws to its citizenry. Formed as it were as a nation of many cultures and communities bound to one another, and the more willing to live with one another in peace and refuge. A nation that might serve the poor by proclaiming their rights and needs before judge and jury. Whose Constitutional charter rests in delicate balance every day between the people of  America with their republic of common union. Where each generation must be responsible to the next for its caretake, education, support, protection, and welfare.

So then, much like the human spirit with its goods and its ills, so too does every nation bear its own deep flaws and blemishes. But for a nation - or a society - to survive, it must prove itself each-and-every day. To learn to become selfless. To use knowledge aright. To be brave where none are. To seek peace with all men however difficult. And to be honest in trade and business. The Bible says these ideals will be extraordinarily hard to accomplish because of the sinfulness of the human will. That the human will is corruptible and requires an incorruptible source of power and inspiration in order to live as a freer force. That Jesus is the human will's liberator. That in Jesus, sin's hold and grip may be destroyed. And in its place, a divine power by the Holy Spirit of God will replace its wont-and-will with the divine power of a God of grace, peace, and holiness. It is this delicate balance within the human breast that most spoke to me in the themes of the movie. That to loose one's will to the power of God is to find one's greatest power to stand up against the sin and oppression of one's society. That there is an abnegator in all of us that must break free of its chaining bonds and become a more willing divergent by divine fiat and empowerment.

A Word About Calvinism v. Arminianism

And lastly, as respecting church councils and Christian organizations wishing to remove all human willfulness from its ledgers, let us not forget that the God who created man and beast also created the human will for good and not for evil. A human will that could be selfless, wise, brave, peaceful, and honest, when it wants to be, or when it must be, to its own harm and disinterest. We see evidences of the good human will employed everywhere about as a shining beacon of light and hope. In the darkest of circumstances. In the deepest holds of hell. The human will can be a profound source of divine longing placed by right of decree within the human breast by a God whose very image invades man's deepest heart and will.

Nonetheless, I grew up in a Christian fellowship that spoke of God's will as being perfect while it was I who was the flawed one. That it was I who must submit to God's will and repent of my evil. And though all true, and these doctrines rightfully mindful of man's sinfulness, yet it was this very same Christian fellowship that was filled with very willful leaders. Leaders who might not be as humble or wise or honest as they made themselves out to be. A leadership more willing to breed mindless droids than mindful human beings questioning abnegating doctrines like Calvinism. A doctrine that I found laced with a kind of Christian fatalism or Christian apathy more willing to preach God's judgment upon all things instead of God's willfulness for imputed grace and peace upon human societies. A fatalism that preaches "election" and "predestination" against the larger missional calling of the church to serve all men and women everywhere. A doctrinaire leading to mindless droids moving at a dogma's bidding while heedless of the suffering about itself. Inert and unmoving lest it diverges from itself into a more willfully gracious dogma. From a dogma more willing to shout God's wrath to those beings unlike itself than one demonstrating God's glorious mercy and love.

For myself, I want a doctrine of Scripture such as I find in Arminianism (or Wesleyanism) that teaches forbearance for all men. That preaches a God who is not far away from me nor from my plight of humanity. Who is close to me both in presence and power. A doctrine that might doubt the church's more stricter dogmas of a God who is so holy as to be untouchable or unsympathetic to my sin and evil. A doctrine that might see a kindness and love within humanity - and not only its sinfulness and God's wrathful judgment. One that doesn't place me into a "separate faction" apart from humanity (sic, the church). Nor one that is too holy to be part of God's messy world of humanity. As such, I wish to be a citizen-and-child of this world as much as a citizen-and-child in God's heaven-on-earth kingdom. I want a doctrine that preaches the best of the human will - especially one submitted to its Creator-Lord Jesus. That understands the beauty of God's human creation and can see this beauty in the depths of a person's willfulness. That would stand against church-and-creed  when it is the right thing to do when no one else can see beyond the blinders of the church's excluding Christian messages. That we are not here to build up the church but to build up God's creation soul-by-soul, tree-by-tree, society-by-society. A doctrine which declares all men and women as bearing God's worth and value. That looks first to serve the despised instead of standing dispassionately on the sidelines waiting for God's divine wrath to fall on man (the Noah syndrome) in end-time appointment.

This is the God I love and worship. Who loves me and sees Himself in me. Who has entrusted this world's care into my hands and heart to do something good with it. To refuse to allow its misuse and abuse. It is this same thing I saw in Tris' heart who wished for "A new place. A new name. A place where she could be remade." Even so, Lord, may this be our prayer. That by your salvation and power we might have a new place. A new name. A place where we may be remade. That its name be known as the new earth formed under a new heavens. And that it may begin here, now, by the hands of the righteous and unrighteous alike, in common bond to one another formed upon the greater foundations of divine love, wisdom, bravery, peacefulness, and honesty. Amen

R.E. Slater
April 25, 2014





“One Choice, decided your friends.

One Choice, defines your beliefs.

One Choice, determines your loyalties - Forever.

ONCE CHOICE, CAN TRANSFORM YOU” 





It's about family and choices and wanting to feel like you belong.

It's about community and our innate fear of being alone.

And most importantly, it's about fighting what's expected

to be who you really are.




"The war was terrible. The rest of the world was destroyed.

Human weakness is the enemy. Eradicating it is how we will

maintain a peaceful society. Human nature destroyed our world...

we will restore the peace. This time it will last."



“Human beings as a whole cannot be good for long

before the bad creeps back in and poisons us again.” 





"What makes you different makes you dangerous."




“Fear doesn't shut you down; it wakes you up”








"Somewhere inside me is a merciful, forgiving person.

Somewhere there is a girl who tries to understand what people are going through,

who accepts that people do evil things,

that desperation leads them to darker places than they ever imagined.

I swear she exists,

and she hurts for the repentant boy I see in front of me,

but if I saw her, I wouldn't recognize her."





"I am not Abnegation. I am not Dauntless.

I am Divergent. And I can’t be controlled."






"...there is power in self-sacrifice."












Divergent (2014)—AYJW042
http://areyoujustwatching.com/divergent-2014-ayjw042/

by Eve Franklin
March 26, 2014


Another young adult bestseller makes it to the big screen with surprising impact. Edgier and much more realistic than the Twilight Saga and containing a theme more personal than the Hunger Games,Divergent takes us into a world where people are categorized by their dominant personality trait. Take a test and choose a faction, and the rest of your life is decided . . . unless you are a divergent.

I liked this book and movie. While there are questions left to be answered, some of which may indicate some interesting plot holes, I found the world of Divergent to be credible and interesting. The characters are deep, the themes worth discussion, and the story has just enough mix of action and romance to appeal to a slightly broader audience than its predecessors in the genre.

The movie was a good translation of the novel, but definitely earned it’s PG-13 rating. There is violence throughout, which means that parents should be careful when deciding whether the content is appropriate for their children. There are scenes where the characters deal with personal fears that can be pretty suggestive for a younger audience (of things such as child abuse and rape—though nothing actually goes that far). The sexual content is fairly tame by today’s standards, but there are kisses and skin shown, so be warned if that kind of thing bothers you. For a more in-depth review of the appropriateness of Divergent for your family, check out PluggedIn.com.

The soundtrack contains mostly popular music, but the score by Junkie XL had a techno/electronic feel and was over all appropriate to the story.

I thought the casting was quite good, though I was a bit distracted by Maggie Q as Tory. She’s been type cast as Nikita for me, and I have a hard time losing that image.


Human Nature

"The war was terrible. The rest of the world was destroyed.
Human weakness is the enemy. Eradicating it is how we will maintain
a peaceful society. Human nature destroyed our world . . .
we will restore the peace. This time it will last."

I think the movie does a better job of setting the stage than the novel did. What I found most interesting was the emphasis on “human nature” as the evil that caused the war and now threatens the fragile post-war society. From a Christian worldview, you won’t find me arguing with the premise. In fact, it’s almost biblical.

Societies that are founded on the idea that mankind is innately good are destined to fail because it’s easy to prove that mankind is innately selfish, proud, and at the very least prone to prevaricate. There is no perfect society apart from one that holds God as the central authority.



Belonging

"It all works. Everyone knows where they belong.
Trust the test . .. the test will tell me who I am and where I belong.
The future belongs to those who know where they belong."

Divergent presents a mostly secular society, though if you read the novel, Tris admits that those in her home faction (abnegation) are sometimes, if not mostly, religious, which fits with their selfless character trait. While the society portrayed in Divergent attempts to help people find where they belong based on a psych test, the only true purpose and belonging an individual can find is by seeking God’s perfect plan through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Proverbs 16:4

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

If you are searching for meaning in this life from more secular pursuits, take some time to read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.

Discussion of Free Will

On a bit of a bunny trail, I was fascinated by the idea that the Erudite wanted to make a mindless army out of the Dauntless soldiers, which juxtaposed with the stated new rule that Dauntless would only accept the ten best (according to the book) out of each year’s initiates. If you are going to turn them into mindless soldiers, why restrict those numbers to the best? It’s not like those mindless soldiers are really going to perform at their best anyway. A good soldier has free will to perform his/her duty intelligently.

The Well-rounded Personality

"I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different...".

In the book, there is an admission that the most religious people are in the Abnegation faction (though not everyone in Abnegation are religious). I think that actually makes sense because to be truly selfless, you have to have faith in something outside yourself that is greater than you are.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-9

Once you have that foundation of faith, you are able to set others’ needs above your own . . . just as Christ did for everyone by giving his own life to pay our sin debt.

I don’t just want to be one thing: I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.

Four/Tobias is an interesting character who tries to be the best person he can be—taking the best from each of the factions and applying them to himself. Tris, however, notes (in the book) that there is always a bad trade in striving for the positives—and equal negative that then must be struggled with. This is always the case when we strive for righteousness on our own. Without the aid of the Holy Spirit, we will always fall short of true righteousness.



* * * * * * * * * *




Shailene Woodley Proves More Human Than Divergent
http://www.villagevoice.com/2014-03-19/film/divergent-movie-review/full/

Wednesday, Mar 19 2014

Dystopian movies don't have to make sense. As the audience, we're obligated to sit down with our popcorn and soda and pretend that yes, of course, in the future monkeys rule the earth, women can't bear children, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is an everyday construction worker. It's a mutual contract of creative freedom, and if you can't play along, you're a spoilsport.

Fine, I'm a spoilsport. Neil Burger's Divergent is constructed around a narrative premise so illogical it makes Keanu Reeves being the Chosen One feel as earthbound a notion as saying water is wet.

In this future Chicago, a decimated city that's supposedly the last civilization standing, the citizenry is so organized that they've divided themselves into five factions and built an electrified Great Wall to protect themselves from outsiders, yet no one can be bothered to fix the broken windows. Guess Rudy Giuliani didn't survive the genericpocalypse.

But back to those five groups, for they are the pillars of salt upon which our plot rests, or really, flails. You have the Erudite, who are smart and wear blue, the Amity, happy hippies in orange, the honest Candor, who favor white, the Dauntless, brave fighters in black, and the Abnegation, selfless, gray-clad civil servants. (At least Veronica Roth, author of the novel this is based on, keeps up the teen lit tradition of sneaking in SAT words.) Teenagers test their aptitudes for each clan, but get the final say in a public ceremony with no takebacks besides social expulsion. Ninety-five percent test into the factions where they were raised, as though the future has resolved the debate of nature versus nurture.

I'm no social scientist, but declaring that all of mankind falls neatly into one, and only one, of these broad traits with nary an argumentative drama queen, craven fool, or anyone who would appear on The Real Worldis like sorting a bag of marshmallows based on squeezability and then declaring them biologically distinct. Sorry, Paula Abdul, these opposites can't attract -- they're not even allowed to talk. So the smart marry the smart and the brave marry the brave, and I reckon cartoon cats are executed on sight.

It'd be easier to root for lead Tris's (Shailene Woodley, the go-to girl for drab roles with grit) quest to escape her Abnegation roots and those ghastly gray skirts to prove herself a worthy Dauntless if director Burger felt committed to the concept. But under his guidance, the five clans act near-indistinguishably from each other except for their grooming, and when Tris stumbles in the hour-plus training sequence that makes up the bulk of the film, her instructor yells, "I thought you were smart!" Smart? But how?

Actually, Tris can be smart and brave -- she's secretly tested as Divergent, the rare person who can be smart, brave, giving, happy, and honest. Which, in this world, means she must be killed. Explains evil Erudite Jeanine (Kate Winslet), people who break the rules by being smart, brave, giving, happy, and honest start wars. You might as well blame violence on kitten calendars. But this is just another lapse in logic from a film where a fellow undercover Divergent who lives in dorms so public that the toilets don't have stalls reveals that he's tattooed his divergency on his spine. Can we at least disqualify him from being one of the smarties?

We have a lot of time to ponder these mysteries as there's almost no story. Watching Tris's efforts to pass Dauntless induction is like watching a race without a goal -- there's forward momentum, but no meaning. She's the ultimate adrift teenager, malleable and prone to random acts of self-martyrdom, with that movie-hero quality of being so good she's boring. At least Woodley has the gift of being fresh and believable. It's not a movie star quality. Watching her feels like watching a home video of your best friend on the toughest day of her life. When she's 35, Woodley could become the greatest actress of her generation, as long as she survives the next decade of being shoehorned into superhero roles and cash-in franchises.

Fighting alongside her both in Divergent and in the Hollywood factory are co-stars Miles Teller (soon to be of Fantastic Four) and Zoë Kravitz (formerly of X-Men: First Class). As her bratty sparring partner, Peter, Teller (who also acted against Woodley in the better teen-boundary-breaking drama The Spectacular Now) gets to stomp on her head. But it's Kravitz as her best friend, Christina, who does the most damage. During a lull in Dauntless training, she chirps, "You know what we should do? Get tattoos!" leading to Tris getting a permanent stamp of three birds across her collarbone like a plate for sale on Etsy.

I beg of you, teenage girls who may yet make Divergent a box office hit: Please don't do the same. We can't avoid the future -- dystopian or not -- but we can at least prevent regrettable fad tattoos.








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