Into the Light - Part Two
Best Shows of the 00's
We started off the millenium and our marriage without TV. Well, the programming, that is (no cable, satellite, or antenna). We had a VCR, so we borrowed tapes from the library and began a modest VHS collection from thrift store finds. A few years later, we received a DVD player for Christmas. Somewhere between babies being born, Netflix made its way into our home. Thus began our foray into television shows that weren't just for kids (by then, we had amassed the entire Baby Einstein, Veggietales, Blues Clues and Barney collections via garage sales, eBay, etc.). Meanwhile, we converted to Apple, Hulu brought the small screen to the even smaller screen, and Netflix introduced instant streaming for the Mac.
The clincher, though, was the Roku player (we were early adopters), which brought all of it (and much more) to the big screen. So now we pay $17.99 a month to watch whatever we want on our 38" flat-screen TV, albeit not in real time, but hardly anyone does that anymore anyway. Plus, I much prefer a long wait in between watching back-to-back episodes of a favorite show than having to see them one at a time, with a week or more between. With our favorite drinks and snacks, we can have a movie marathon, but in smaller doses (we do regulate ourselves, except for the times we've watched 4 episodes of 24 in one evening).
So without further ado (I'm lying), and with much trial and error (Lost was lost on us, most reality shows didn't make the cut, Bones was too morbid, and several others), here are the shows that I will forever associate with the first decade of marriage, raising young children, and relinquishing the idea that television (apart from Seinfeld) was the media equivalent of junk food. Most of it is (even some on my list) but I daresay that programs of substance surpass many motion pictures.
Think about your favorite childhood books - which ones do you know and love best? Was it a single novel or a series? Some of each, I'm sure, but your attachment is more likely to be with the ones whose characters were developed and stories told over volumes, not a mere 200 pages. Little House on the Prairie, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Borrowers, The Land of Oz books - those are my favorites. Then again, I'm not sure I feel totally okay that I've literally spent a week of my life with Jack Bauer (and we're right now adding another day to that, as we watch season 8 on Netflix).
Sci-Fi: New Battlestar Galactica, Eureka
Comedy: The Office, Better Off Ted
Action: 24, Burn Notice
Drama: Lie To Me
Documentary: Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations, This American Life
In another post, I will explain what I like about these shows and what some of them have in common. The only show we watch that I left off this list is Hell's Kitchen. I don't like the drama (well, maybe a little) or the yelling/name calling, but I love the cooking challenges. And it was very gratifying to finally have a winner I was rooting for this past season (I won't give it away in case you're going to watch it).
Pastors, Pay Attention
Did you know your church has a personality type? Chances are, it's similar to yours. Also, some of you missed the memo from way back about the Transformations videos being debunked. What you should be showing your congregation is Lord, Save Us from Your Followers (it's also currently on Netflix instant play). If you really want to see revival, then find out what it means to be missional. It's not just another Christian buzz word.
Some weird and dangerous stuff has been creeping into your church via well meaning but misguided homeschooling families who have been influenced by "family" ministries like Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, the Duggars, Bill Gothard (yeah, he's still around) and others who subscribe to a hyper-patriarchal theology (a.k.a. patriocentricity) that teaches legalism, authoritarianism, and the quiverfull philosophy of limitless childbearing.
And another thing--please leave politics out of church. We're not all republicans (or democrats). We're certainly not all fans of Sarah Palin.
I may elaborate on these and other church-related topics in the future, but in case it's a while, I needed to get it off my chest now...and get the word out. So pastors, please do your homework and encourage your flock to do the same. It's an uncomfortable place sorting through truth and error within the larger church world (and there are those who are overzealous and hyperjudgemental - I'm not advocating that), but please let's not turn a blind eye to, or unwittingly promote theologies which are unscriptural and abusive. Let's examine our own hearts - as leaders, as churches, as individual Christians who are, as the old saying goes, the only Bible some people will ever read.
One last thing...let your people go, and even tell them to leave, when necessary. After all, they're not really yours anyway. They're God's. And where they go, they are still part of the body of Christ, so please don't act like changing churches is akin to spiritual adultery. That's not Biblical. It also divides and wounds. Wouldn't you rather have them growing elsewhere than withering in your care?
My Few Favorite Romances
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. A true story that reads like a novel. It's about about soulmates (married) who travel around the world in a yacht, come to Christ through their friendship with C.S. Lewis...need I say more? I read it like 5 times in college when I was on the quest for "the one." It does have a tragic element but the spiritual one counterbalances it (hence the title)...think Shadowlands but more romance, beauty, poetry, etc.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. I saw the film first and fell in love with it (it's finally on DVD in the USA as of this spring! We had a petition circulating) Eventually I read the book and enjoyed the extra details. The book and the film are equally good, in the same way that To Kill a Mockingbird is (but of course a totally different genre). The romance (s) is central, though subtle, and it's hard to beat the setting of four women in the 1920s on holiday in a castle on the Italian riviera.
My favorite mythical romance is of Beren and Luthien in Tolkien's Silmarillion, but the book falls more into the fantasy epic allegory genre than romance. It has everything and that's probably one reason I liked it so much.
I'm not really into romances (though I did adore Pride and Prejudice, as well as the BBC production; disliked the Keira Knightley one), so a book/movie has to have other elements for me to totally be drawn in. I also rarely reread or rewatch anything, and I've done that with both of the above many times (for Enchanted April, just the film, but I know I'll reread the book also).
New Shows for PBS House Series
We don't have TV (no antenna even) but we love our Netflix, and one of our favorite things to watch is the PBS/BBC House series, a reality show that's actually historical/educational, as well as sociologically and psychologically engaging. We're currently watching Manor House, but we also enjoyed Pioneer House (first and favorite) and Colonial House (for once, I was not embarrassed by the token Christians in it, and actually was in admiration of them); 1900s House was the least interesting. 1940s House is up next but we're skipping Ranch House since we read so many dreadful things about it.
...On to my ideas for future shows: 1950s house, Medieval House (Castle?), Amish House (simulate an Amish community), Tribal House (live like the Native Americans did pre or early colonization), Plantation House (perhaps have a black family play the white family and white people play the slaves), Jane Austen House (her era), Shakespeare House (his era). I'll update this post as more ideas come to me.
One thing I really don't understand about many of the people who have been casted in these shows is their unwillingness to live by the cultural norms and mores of the period. I mean isn't the point of signing up for a project like this to leave the 21st century (temporarily) and experience what life was really like in another era? I think potential cast members should be thoroughly informed of the roles and the rules, and they should enthusiastically agree to them, perhaps even signing a contract to that effect.
The Gospel in Return of the King
I almost didn’t want to watch the final installment of the Lord of the Rings because I didn’t want it to be over. We were privileged to be able to see it at the best theater in the Bay Area, the Tamalpais, which is one of Steven Spielberg’s favorite moviehouses (it’s also where I once sat behind George Lucas when I was a teenager–wish I could remember the film!).
But Lucas and Spielberg had nothing to do with this movie, or the entire trilogy, which surpassed anything they’ve ever produced, in my humble opinion. It was masterfully done, but the secret to its success was something we can all relate to–-a great writer. The makers of the films were faithful to Tolkien’s text and masterfully depicted the intricacies of his imagination.
What really made this movie special for me was how clearly Tolkien’s Christian faith played itself out on the screen. I’m sure most members of the audience were oblivious to the metaphorical imagery (not allegorical since Tolkien himself denied using that literary device). I gleaned more than I’m sure Tolkien intended, but I believe that when the hand of providence is involved, certain stories take on a life of their own.
I couldn’t help but see Christ in both Frodo and Sam. Frodo bore the ring, “his burden”, our sin on himself and endured something of a crucifixion of spirit. He knew he was the only one who could carry the cross, so to speak. At one point, Sam says something like “I cannot carry your burden, but I can carry you.” That reminded me of the poem “Footprints” which speaks of how we feel so alone in our hardest times because we only see one set of footprints, but the footprints are actually God’s because he is carrying us.
Christ’s humility was personified in the hobbit demeanor which was always humble and giving. Both Frodo and Sam were servant-leaders like Christ, but Sam was the best example. He always put Frodo before himself, even allowed Frodo to make the wrong decisions, and stuck by him even in the face of his betrayal (reminded me of Jesus and Peter). Sam even carried the ring, and wasn’t tempted by it, in order to protect Frodo and the rest of Middle Earth from it falling into the wrong hands. Sam also seemed like the beloved John, the disciple who was closest to Jesus.
In Gollum, I could see both Adam and Judas. He was the first ordinary person to take hold of the ring, even though it meant murder. Original sin brought death into the world. When he pretended to leave behind his sinful life, he was so steeped in it – his own pride and lust – that he betrayed the one who was kindest to him and the one who had the power to liberate him from his sin (the ring) eternally – Frodo as Christ.
Aragon too was a Christ figure, the King himself. That final battle was like Armageddon. The Bible says that when the Lord returns, the dead in Christ will rise up to be with the saints (all the Christians). That’s exactly what happened when they freed the dead spirits from the mountain (mind you, I’m not Catholic so I don’t believe in purgatory).
Everyone who was part of the fellowship of the ring was Christlike in their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the others. My memory might be deceiving me, but I think that in the earlier films, both Aragon and Frodo were brought back from the dead.
Bilbo resembled John the Baptist. He prepared the way for Frodo by acquiring the ring. He was also Frodo’s uncle which is interesting since John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. He also lived in seclusion like John in the desert.
In the first film, Gandalf seemed like the primary Christ figure but as the story continued, he seemed more like the Father to me. He directed their every move and knew what the final outcome would be. Both Gandalf and Aragon constantly empowered and encouraged the people. They literally breathed life, in the face of death, into their hearts.
The concluding scene reminded me of Christ’s ascension and the bittersweet farewell with his disciples.
The most significant aspect of Return of the King was also probably the most obvious theme: courage. As a person who struggles with fear (I even whispered to My husband in the theater that if I was faced with those orks, trolls or any of the other hideous creatures, I’d kill myself on the spot), this film really spoke to me. Gandalf constantly stressed not giving in to fear. They all knew that in their own strength, they would be defeated, but that greater forces were at work. Ultimately, God’s goodness always triumphs over evil.