Monthly Archives: September 2013

Borderlands and GenXers

Borderlands and the Broken Generation

                Borderlands is the number one selling first person shooter published by 2k games. It is set apart by its cartoon graphics and the world record for most types of guns in a game, over 17750000. It also offers one of the most disappointing endings to any first person shooter ever. However, this is representative of the normal life of generation Xer.

                Generation X age range from teens to those in their thirties. This generation is characterized by self-indulgent narcissism, high expectations, laziness, poorer living standards than the previous generation and broken dreams. The average 20-30 year old expects to be making 75,000 a year right out of college. The actual average income of all adults included is 52,000. They hope and expect for more, even though they believe that the world is getting worse and worse. We have been trained by Hollywood and mass media to expect a standard of living that is just not reasonable. Then when we get into the real world, our hopes are dashed as we try and fight the rats for our food in tiny disheveled apts. Or live at home till we are in our thirties.

                Borderlands is about a group of treasure seekers that are looking for a mysterious vault that supposedly contains untold riches and power. You spend hours of gameplay on countless quests, doing favors, killing villains, earning new guns, and gaining pieces of the vault key. When you finally get to the final boss, which takes all of five minutes to kill, you are rewarded with weapons. Weapons that are pitiful in comparison to the ones you already have.

                However, this sets up the stage for the second borderlands. There is rumor that there is a second mysterious vault still hidden on the planet of Pandora. A new set of adventurers go forth to find this vault, while interacting with the characters from the previous game. After dozens of hours of gameplay, saving lives, fighting back against Handsome Jack who wants to kill all vault hunters, and saving the world of Pandora, you are able to open this second vault; the vault finally comes with the reward of more crappy weaponry.

                The game developers are pointing out that the end result of all of the efforts of pursuing our dreams and fighting for riches results is disappointment. There is no great prize at the end. There is merely the fun of the journey there. So you might as well go back through and play the game all over again, which is an important part of the game. Don’t worry about lame endings, just keep killing the psychos, and riding the meat bicycles.

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Anger and Politics

                With the new health care plan[1] coming into effect this coming month many are going to be in full political indignation. The angry speeches, 21 hour long ‘filibusters’ (Ted Cruz), rallies, and heated family discussions are revving up for the start of Fall. Much of this anger comes from the conservative Christian Republicans and Libertarians. 

                Unfortunately anger and indignation is the last response that Christians should have to a universal health care system, or any political decision that is not legislating evil. Though many may claim that universal health care is evil, I challenge those that think so to show me from Scripture.

                The response of anger to political policy is problematic on two levels. First, as followers of Christ, Christians do not have their hope in this world. This world is broken and so are the people in leadership, whether biblically minded or not. No one will fashion a perfect system. All governments are fallen and no government will work perfectly with imperfect people. Therefore to much indignation, especially indignation that is usually not fully thought through, shows to much hope in this world. Usually the reason for anger is because those that are angry believe that laws or legislation are messing up the U.S.A. Why be angry over the breaking of a broken system?

                Second, and I say this carefully, those that look carefully will hopefully see that there are people who have more education, lived longer and had more experience than us and believe differently. As those seeking after truth we should humbly admit that we can’t know everything and that some differing positions may very well be right, and not ours. Humility does not give rise to anger.

                Also, being angry over what other people think is a good way to help people is not a good witness to the gospel of Christ.

                However, I do think there is a place for anger, but it is not when we are face to face with others. We may show indignation in writing, or show irritation in speeches, but this emotion must always be tempered with humility and civility. The goal is to win people to your side, not say your point as loudly as possible.

We should be angry over what God is angry about. We see this example in Scriptures. God is angry when the Israelites did not help the poor, the widows and the orphans. He was angry when they tested his goodness. He is angry when governments punish good and praise bad. But actual bad, not just the bad that is contrary to our opinion.

If we do not learn to speak softly, then this fall will be a double entendre.

               


[1] (I refuse to call it Obama Care as that would imply he wrote it or had significant input. I cannot believe he had significant input on a 2000 page document that was written the night before).

 


Marvel: Agents of Shield

Marvel Agents of Shield

Marvels Agents of Shield is not what I expected. I admit that I so loved Marvel’s Avengers, and believe it to be a masterpiece that I fully engage myself in, therefore my expectations were a bit skewed. I was hoping for the deep questions posed by such television series as Lost and Heroes. These series ask questions about what makes us human, how do we connect, what are we willing to do to survive, how far are we willing to go to protect those we love. The audience is shown the heart, emotions and internal struggles of most of the characters.

Why I expected these questions I do not know, because neither the Avengers or any of the other Marvel films ask these deep questions. They are concerned with how people change, and overcoming great obstacles—“simple” themes of life. Agents of Shield shows us good verses evil. The question that it may be raising is, “how do we deal with evil?” “How do we deal with people doing wrong that are doing wrong mostly because of their situation?”

The reason I say, ‘may be raising,’ is because the main character Agent Coulson seem to already have it figured out. He is a Captain America type character who is already good and has a moral compass that points him to always seek the third alternative that works everything out well. The questions aren’t worked out by characters that are struggling with internal conflict with good and bad responses to tough situations. Coulson knows what to do and does it.

I applaud the show for two things, with a caveat. The first is that they do make a very simple portrayal of good and evil. There is the good guys and the bad guys. However, it also blur both evil and justice. The bad guy of the pilot is simply caught in a bad situation and is not in control because of a biomechanical device. We never see justice enacted in response to him killing someone.

The second point I applaud them for is that Coulson brings compassion and grace to those that need it. His life mission is helping those who are in need. He is the good guy through and through.

                In all the series does capture the idea of old comic books. There were good guys and bad guys, things were simple. The only complicated thing was figuring out how to stop the bad people without anyone, including bad people, getting killed. Modern comics deal more with difficult choices that must be made. It is like the difference between The Brady Bunch and Modern Family. Though fun and entertaining, placed next to the more dirty down to earth modern t.v series, Agents of Shield, seems to be lacking depth.


Iron Man

Iron Man

                Iron Man is the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, is the most popular character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the character that brings the most attention to the Avengers. I attribute this to the fact that he is the most relatable character of the Avengers. He has a long list of character flaws that make him the most human of all of them.

                Unlike Captain America who has a near flawless character and motivation for all of his decisions, or Thor who is a demi-god, and the radioactive Hulk, Tony Stark is completely human and makes decisions like any normal human would. He is selfish, egotistical and at times moody. Even in the moments when he makes the heroes choices, he makes those choices off of a very real very tangible human motivation—anger, revenge, desperation, fear of death, and love.

Black Widow and Hawkeye, although they do seek revenge in the Avengers against Loki, are also portrayed as doing it out of duty and training. Captain America makes his choices out of a seemingly God given desire to always do the right thing for no other reason than that it is right. Captain America may be our ideal, but Iron Man is the one we relate with. Which begs the question, should he be a hero that captures our imagination?

As a comic book fan, I say yes. As a Christian, I still say yes, so long as we know the direction he is heading. The story that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is telling of Tony Stark is one of growth and change. He moves from the first movie as a selfish narcissist with many moral and relational failings, to one that has hope and a purpose for his life that motivates him to press on towards good.

Although we see his character flaws plainly, I do not believe that is what captures our imagination when we watch him, that is not what influences us after the film is over. What influences us is his victories and his sacrifices. In the first movie his heroism is out of recklessness, anger, desperation and a love for Pepper. In the second, it is out of an idea that that is what heroes do. In the Avengers we see him finally grasp on to doing good because it is the right thing to do as he risks getting trapped in the worm hole.

If we pattern our lives after this pattern and movement towards good for the right reasons, then we have caught the good in Tony Stark. The character defects are there, raw and in your face. But those make him more tangible and a better example of overcoming personal issues more than any other marvel movie to date. To the Christians, I say do not forget, that there is not one Biblical character who did not have serious moral issues other than Christ, and many of the worst (Sampson) are in the Hebrews hall of Faith.


Are People Worth It? Part iii “Image of God”

Are they worth it part iii

As promised this was a three part piece. In the last two sections I asked the question of whether or not people are worth our time when we see no fruit. To which I answered that for one we can never know if we really have helped them, and that we need to pray that we may see others clearly and to love them on both our and their terms. I mentioned in the second one that I would be discussing here, the image of God.

                Everyone is made in the image of God. So when we ask if someone is worth it, our resounding answer should be yes. They carry in themselves, whether they know Christ or not, the image of the creator. We as people are God’s special creation set aside for his good pleasure, grace, mercy and love. The mere fact that others in this world manage to laugh, love, cry, and have relationships with others is a testimony to their being made in the image of God.

                We are in fact most like God when we are in relationships with others. God as Trinity made us men and women in relationship. Adam, even when he was still living perfectly and in proper relationship with God, was not supposed to be alone but be in relationship with other humans. The way the creation narrative was written, the trait of relationality was at least part of our being in the image of God.

                Part of what we must remember and call to mind when we are beginning to be burdened by what we perceive as someone not growing and not responding to our “help” (careful not to treat them as a project) is that no matter how much time and energy we have spent on them that they do carry the image of the Holy One in relationality.

                This image is broken and marred by sin but it is still in God’s image. So I leave this recommendation, don’t forget that when people do not seem worth it, whether because we think they have problems that can’t be fixed, or the relationship has so many disagreements and issues that you want to just cut and run, pray for them. Pray for the relationship and then just hang out. If we are in God’s image when we relate with others, then we may be best off letting the Holy Spirit work in us and the other person, and just being a good friend.


“The Innovation of Loneliness” A Commentary

I digress today from the question of, “Are People Worth It” A friend of mine shared a very interesting video on Facebook today which is worth going over.

The Innovation of Loneliness from Shimi Cohen on Vimeo.

In the video Shimi talks about the effect social media has on loneliness, or better yet how social media can increase our loneliness. He provides some very interesting points, and I would like to take some of them just a little further.
Shimi mentions that social media is used to choose how we are perceived. Since everything is not done in real time but can be edited and changed, it can create a gap between who we really are and how we are trying to be perceived. This has some merit. Those who do try and change how they are perceived are not living honestly and even if they feel connected are alone because they are not known. (I find the notion of living honestly as a requirement for friendship and intimacy as to basic to argue here). But I find that most people on social media are pretty good at typing stuff off the cuff without editing it and letting their true selves out.
The issue of social media communication lacking the real time constraint I believe is only part of the issue. Carefully to editing material can be the real us we are trying to be and thus a real aspect of who we are. If we take time to edit grammar and what we say carefully, that is part of our personality if done right. The bigger issue is relationship communication in time and space.
Real interactions happen in space. Conversations through social media do not. I am all for conversations. I love a good conversation and that is my primary way of relating with and loving others. However, social media conversations lack the physical side of relationships. We are physical beings and our bodies carry a great deal of the relational burden. Our bodies are supposed to respond alongside our minds. Text carries mostly a mental response.
When I say something to you I am intended to illicit a response from you and I have a goal in mind for communication. I want you to laugh, empathize, share the feelings of my experience etc. I expect to see you smile, laugh, squirm or cry. I can see, hear, and sometimes touch your response. If I type something, I can’t. I am solely reliant upon my imagination to imagine your physical response. Which history tells me most humans imaginations and understanding is often flawed.
When we simply type something, we get less experience with others humanness. Our physical bodies and reactions are very important, and not having that causes a gap in our relationality. So I end with a challenge. Next time you want to like something, call a friend and tell them what you think or why you like something. Next time you want to leave a quick comment, go hang out instead. Let me know what happens.


Challenging Questions of the Heart: “Are People Worth It?” part ii

                Previously I shared how a friend of mine that I had poured hours of my time and energy into told me that no one showed that they cared. It was as though he did not even see me. I also know that I was not the only one giving him time and energy. But his eyes were blind, he needed to see clearly.

                Seeing people as worth it involves being able to see them as ones made in the image of God, one who if we saw them in their true nature would inspire in us awe that we have not known, which will be the topic of my next post. But for now we must also make sure that we relate with others wholly and not allow our culture to short circuit our ability to love and be loved. My friend wanted something, connection, but had learned to only see it in certain ways. Personally I think he really wanted a romantic relationship, so all other forms of love were missed.

                One of the problems with our relationships is that we have been tempered by our society to, “have it your way,” the hashtag of Burger King. We have been taught since we were little that we were special and unique. Advertising caters to this desire to be special and receive special products. Chicken Soup for the (insert any market that has money and wants to feel special) soul. So when it comes to love, we want it our way.

                As smart Christians, we do this a little bit better than the advertising gurus, or at least that is what we tell ourselves. The Five Love Languages teaches us how to cater how we love to others and how to ask to have love catered to us. This instills in us a desire for life and relationships to be a certain way. If we have something outside of that it is a problem that needs to be fixed with more self-help books. Combine that with no societal trained ideal of “choosing to be content” and a constant desire for more and you have a natural bent to desire to be loved in a very specific way without being content with other alternatives.

                As people who are servants of Christ, we need to be able to reach out to others where they are at. Step into their shoes and do what we can to love others on their terms. However on the same token, we must also be willing to accept love, and choose to be content with it when it doesn’t look the way we want to. I personally am not into stuff. I don’t like stuff. I would be happy if I had almost nothing. However if a friend gets me a gift, I need to be able to see that it says, “I love you” and drink it up even if it isn’t my cup of coffee, but tea instead.