Commentary on NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues

On March 3, 2013 the highly anticipated television miniseries The Bible aired on History (formerly known as The History Channel). The first episode of the miniseries was watched by an estimated 13.1 million viewers. It was one of the most widely watched cable shows of the year. The series received three Emmy Award nominations for best miniseries, sound editing, and sound mixing.

Since the airing of The Bible, many other films and television shows have attempted to retell biblical stories and captivate audiences. Millions of viewers watched productions such as Son of God, a 2014 film also produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downy. Paramount Pictures in 2014 released Noah, a biblical epic directed by Darren Aronofsky and loosely based on the Genesis account of the Flood. Moses was also brought to the big screen by actor Christian Bale, known by superhero fans for his role as billionaire-by-day Bruce Wayne and vigilante-by-night Batman in The Dark Knight movie trilogies. Well-known actors participating in these productions include Russell Crowe, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, and Emma Watson.

Christian writers and theologians critiqued the interpreted retellings, sometimes labeling them as lies, half-truths, or attempts to blaspheme – pick your offense. The positive and negative reviews of these films seemed to take the media by storm, perhaps coincidentally generating even greater publicity for the films.

The Bible (no, I’m not talking about History’s miniseries), has often been portrayed in film and television. Although one could make a good argument that business machines like Hollywood don’t make biblical films for deep spiritual reasons but instead for monetary gain, it nonetheless brings at least portions of the bible to “life” on screen for millions of people to watch.

Premiering yesterday (Easter Sunday), April 5, is the next Burnett-Downy biblical drama, A.D. The Bible Continues. A quick summary taken from NBC’s website describes the show in this way: “The epic story picks up where ‘The Bible’ left off, exploring the aftermath of events following the Crucifixion.”

It’s worth looking at behind-the-scenes trailers and information concerning this production, at nbc.com. Christian Post (CP) reporter Emma Koonse writes about Mark Burnett, a producer of the show, in the CP article titled, “Roma Downey, Mark Burnett Avow ‘A.D.-The Bible Continues’ Contrasts ‘Gruesome’ Crucifixion with the Promise of the Resurrection.” In it, Koonse reports “Burnett noted that ‘A.D.’ entertains audiences all while educating them on the Book of Acts. However, the ‘Shark Tank’ producer clarified that the series is respectful to both believers and non-believers.” It would seem that Burnett believes someone (possibly a non-believer) would potentially disagree with the Book of Acts and that this person’s views need to be respected.

Yet it’s hard to produce a version of Scripture that is faithful to the text without giving offense. The teachings of the Bible penetrate to “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13); for many of us, that invites discomfort and, yes, offense.

In a promotional trailer for the series on NBC’s website, Mark Burnett says, “We are taking major advice from faith and biblical experts, to make sure when ‘A.D.’ deals with biblical episodes that they are accurate…and around that, we build the history of the times so the viewer can really feel what was it like to be one of these disciples?, how scary was this?”

I appreciate Burnett’s caution. A clear reading of the Book of Acts indicates that for many early Christians, danger lurked as surely as it does for today’s victims of ISIS.

Historical background is good for biblical understanding. Making sure that the Roman soldiers’ uniforms are consistent with first century military attire, for example, lends texture and authenticity to “A.D.” like productions. Historical errors discredit the very truth that well-intended producers, writers, and actors want to convey.

Experiencing portrayals of the Bible in media do many things for the viewer, both good and bad. For instance, if the Apostle Paul were to be depicted as a shy and hesitant person in retellings of the book of Acts, would it be accurate with Scripture? We are clearly told in Scripture that Paul, “…went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:28). Paul was bold (bold for Christ), and should be depicted as much in retellings. God’s word needs to be used clearly and carefully whether used for a Hollywood film, or preached in a Sunday morning church service.

Coming to know the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, is the basis of an abundant life now and eternal life hereafter. I pray that this miniseries, along with anything attempting to display the power of Christ, will be used by God to inform people of the Gospel and inspire people to experience the ultimate biblical drama, a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I encourage all to read the actual Bible and discover for yourself the promises that God has in store for each and every one of us. In the Book of John 14:1, Jesus tells us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” That’s the most dramatic challenge any of us will ever answer.

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Grand Theft…Uhoh

An almost perfect getaway…except one thing…he couldn’t drive a stick shift! In an article published recently titled, Would-Be Carjacker Holds Driver at Gunpoint, Only to Realize One Thing That Foils His Entire Plan on the news website theblaze.com. This criminal proceeds to enter the vehicle, holds a gun up to the driver’s head and demands money, then attempts to drive off with the vehicle. After realizing his limited skills with a stick shift he proceeds to exit the vehicle, and takes off into the unknown world. Comical yes, laughable of course, but perhaps the story points out a much larger issue.

Who can drive a stick shift? Who can change a tire? Who can iron their clothes? Heck, even cook? (for those out their with loved ones who cook for them). Basic tasks understood to be “common knowledge” are sometimes looked over and left behind in the process of growing up in this day and age. There are those perhaps not lucky to have teachers, or someone to help instruct such skills. Pursuing skills to learn in our lives should be something a person tries to tackle every single day. Questions like, what I am I going to learn today? How am I going to grow? Where is the motivation? (So many questions I know haha). Am I to suggest the criminal succeed in his plan only if he had motivation to learn the skill of driving a stick shift?…perhaps. The point I’m trying to make is that a person (myself included) should strive to conquer the unknown and make it the known. Allowing companies, businesses, etc. to create new things to “help” the public only hurts the public in the long run in some cases. What they are in fact promoting are mentalities to let others “do” things for “us”. Instead the mentality should be what “we” can do for “ourselves”. Let’s tackle the unknown. (Do not steal cars). 

 -John

Why On Earth Should You Be Embarrassed?…Oh Wait

In an article released earlier this week titled, ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Star Dakota Johnson Doesn’t Want Her Family To See Upcoming Erotic Movie With Jamie Dornan: ‘It’s Inappropriate’ interviews the stars of the upcoming “Valentine’s Day”(if that’s what you want to call it) film Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes I’m well aware of this film…sadly. I want to say right now I do not support or advocate for the perversion of love and the half truths the media, people, etc. try to sell the public what they should or shouldn’t believe. Abusing women and fooling ourselves into believing sex will satisfy or perhaps momentarily entertain the human spirit is nothing short of intentional deception. That all being said, this article struck me as something out of the ordinary. Wouldn’t an actress or actor feel proud of their work? (or at least until the negative review comes out afterwards?). A quote taken from one of charismanews.com recent articles, 4 Reasons You Must Talk to Your Kids About ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ , Fifty Shades takes pornography—particularly a violent and abusive form of sex—and glorifies it. People (women in particular) are falling for it on an alarming scale. Even Christians are succumbing to the enticement of Fifty Shades. In short, it and the topic of BDSM are in our faces now like never before.

These performers are involved in one of the most sexually driven films to hit the big screen. Why act in it? Why even pretend to proud of something families have to protect their children from? Why watch something the actors themselves are ashamed of? This state of mind is just ludicrous to me. If anyone is feeling up for a movie celebrating chivalry, respect, and all the things we want the next generation to be concerned with I’ve been recommended several times to watch the new film “Old Fashioned“. It’s said to be an original classic and really worth the time to watch. Let’s celebrate the real way to show love this Valentine’s Day. Please watch the trailer attached to the link!

-John

True Colors

True Colors.

Please read this well written piece by Todd Starnes I stumbled upon that’s contents perhaps foreshadows future events for the United States of America.

https://messagefromthefield.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/true-colors/

Uh Oh, Not Those Guys Again

Diversity?, no I’m not talking about making sure you eat your peas and consume all of your food groups for the day. I’m talking about cultural diversity, things that impact society and groups abilities to function in a rapidly changing world. This week on The College Fix , an article titled Republicans, Pro-Lifers, Libertarians Shunned From University’s ‘Diversity’ Event, describes events taken place on UNC- Chapel Hill campus. Leadership at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill have stated and made it clear that they support diversity, well only their certain selective diversity.

Chancellor Carol Folt, Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp and the Student Advisory Committee to the chancellor co-hosted a dinner with many student leaders this last week. A quote taken from the article is as follows, “Students in attendance included those representing the Muslim, Latino and Black student populations and Greek life”. Yet some were apparently missing from this very formal campus wide “meeting of the minds”. And no it wasn’t due to some mix up in the mail. In fact the list of some groups missing from this meeting include UNC College Republicans, Carolina Students for Life, UNC Young Americans for Liberty, and the list goes on for any other right-leaning organizations. They just were not invited. A campus wide meeting on diversity and everyone wasn’t invited?

The point is, there are certain groups in this country (I’m looking at everyone), who would rather choose exclusion over than inclusion. Are groups just physical things that one can or cannot touch due to some fear of being “infected” with the others ideology? I’m joking of course, saying it out loud brings chuckles, but perhaps there is a bigger issue to try and point out.

I’m a college student yet I can already see the world I’m about to be pushed out into, although I’ve been experiencing it my whole life without fully being aware of it in ways. In some parts of the world (growing everyday in here in America) individuals refuse to respect, or just ignore, others rights for religious freedom, personal ideology, etc. In fact in some cases they hate them for their personal beliefs. It’s the classic tale of this group vs. that group, this political figure vs. that one, it’s just a never ending tale of humanity. But perhaps instead of talking about it, I should do something about it. Food for thought, take it and do something with it if you wish. That’s all for now.

-J

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/6255792036/

If I Build It They Will Believe It!

What if a president really loved NASCAR so much that a race track is built in his or her honor? What would that say? An article titled Hawaii Hopes To Be Survivor In Competition To House Obama Library, the journalists report the story surrounding the process of choosing a location for the president’s “lasting legacy”. The Obama Foundation is leading the decision making and it seems the list of possible choices include Honolulu, Chicago, and New York along with other unnamed locations. I start to think of other buildings, airports, etc. named after passed U.S. president’s and what they perhaps accomplish with their existence. Why is it important for a president’s name be on a national monument, historical building, library, or airport?

Let’s for the sake of this blogpost wrap all these difference things that are named after president’s and call them “locations”. These locations cast messages to the people who would visit them, study them, talk about them. If one were to visit the Barrack Obama library 100 years from now they would be totally disconnected from the man who is presented to the public every single day. Not here in 2015 to experience his decisions and his interviews in real time in the real context of the here and now. I would like to assume the United States would be around in 100 years, and hopefully these locations still exist and endure the test of time. Totally disconnected is somewhat of a stretch, they may have materials presented to them to help make sense of what they are looking at, experiencing, and visiting. I will most likely not be around in the year 2115, my control over what is given to youngsters visiting Barrack Obama library will be zero. But who will? What will they say? How accurate is it?

I am making the observation that these significant locations and creations that are in existence today will be interpreted by those who exist in the future according to their own standards, circumstances, etc. To build these locations resemble what perhaps the public (or what the government decides for its public) opinion of its leaders and what the present generation wants future generations to think. Whatever the present is meant to be is exactly up to the individual.

Article Credit: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/12/31/politics/obama-library-hawaii/index.html

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/mount-rushmore-national-monument-269490/

I Want Violence for Christmas

Nothing says Merry Christmas more than driving away in a stolen car being chased by the police right? The 1 billion dollar video game industry seems to be gearing up for the holiday season with game releases and sales enticing customers to buy their latest products. Grand Theft Auto V is an open-world, action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. The game is centered on three protagonists and is centered around heist sequences, and many of the missions involve shooting and driving gameplay. Rated M for mature, the gaming descriptors is as follows, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol. These are all warnings to potential players. IGN.com recently published an article titled Grand Theft Auto 5: A New Perspective and reports that the game will finally have the capability to be played in first-person perspective instead of its original third-person perspective. A game dealing with so much violence is changing the perspective, literally, in which to play the game. Violence being such a routine thing in games like Grand Theft Auto V, surprisingly the games popularity exists among diverse demographics. Is there a disconnection of emotional ties that enables players to be violent with a relatively clean conscience?

The ability for the human mind to disconnect itself from acts of violence is something overlooked. For example reading about fallen soldiers in war doesn’t quite surprise the average reader; perhaps because that is what soldiers sometimes do, they fight and then die in battle right? What I’m suggesting is that there are constructed situations in society that have been built in such a way to help enable people to reason with the violence. Police reports of a serial killer on the loose allow imaginative public assumptions of what a murderer must look like, a long beard perhaps, with a bloody shirt of some sort? Come to find out the identity of the serial killer couldn’t be farther from the imagined killer.

Getting back to the article the change in perspective for the player makes quite a difference in experience. The user is no longer looking upon the acts of violence that they are creating in the game in third person (i.e. robbing someone at gunpoint, stealing cars, outrunning the police). The player is now able, thanks to progressing graphic technology in game design, to commit acts of terror in first person. Even in a virtual imagined world such intense violence is needed to be committed in a disconnected sort of way. Perhaps the first person capabilities with a more “hands on” approach will dissatisfy players? Only time will tell.

As the holiday season is approaching companies are preparing their latest products to hit the shelves for eager customers to grab. The video game industry, again estimated to be worth over 1 billion dollars has become a major part of the holiday consumer relationship during the last decade. At the end of the day it is safe to say Rockstar Games is just trying to make sales and meet whatever revenue goals. But through their design of an already notoriously violent game the player is able to disconnect themselves with acts and ensure an “enjoyable” gameplay experience perhaps because that is what’s already happening in our own routine reality.

Article Credit:
http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/11/04/grand-theft-auto-v-a-new-perspective

Photo Credit:

You Name It, You Own It

This week Fox News published an article titled Military Campaign Against ISIS Gets A Name. In this the author goes on to report the name given to the mission will be referred to as “Operation Inherent Resolve”. After two months of orchestrated airstrikes in Syria and Iraq the conflict is finally given a name after questions were raised on why U.S. administration had taken so long to give one in the first place. In the article a quote is given by an unnamed Defense official and is as follows, “If you name it, you own it. And they don’t want to own it”. This is almost suggesting that the United States prolonged it’s labeling of the military campaign attempting to perhaps continue to indirectly fight the violent conflict without actually being held responsible for it. Labeling something gives a certain responsible to the ones who are doing the labeling.

This quote given to Fox News is later rejected by Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby. This quote discarded probably because of its mysterious origin coming from an unnamed source. Yet having read this statement, whether actually spoken or not, it does hold some sort of argument. The U.S. military campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS an already contested name itself, is now a named U.S. military operation. Naming something in language provides users to reference it accordingly for their own particular use. Early on in this conflict in the Middle East many governments, journalists, etc. were hesitant to try and label this militant group fearing that some misunderstandings and inconsistencies were to improperly label the militants. Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby did go on to say “that one reason for waiting to name the operation has to do with complex evolution of the mission”. I believe what Kirby is trying to say is that naming the militant group and this conflict is far more complex than initially anyone expected it to be. Even now names given to people, places, and things are argued over, why? It may be that the use of language is a strategic maneuver by people in order to control, manipulate, or produce something.

To not label something such as a situation or event would to directly assert that it holds no significance at all. In this way language has power and what we, as the users of language, do with this power says a lot about our own agendas and perhaps socio-political ideas.

In creating the label Operation Inherent Resolve it now belongs to the United States. The act of naming something can suggest that the one giving names holds some sort of ownership. Now that the United States has given the military operation an official name, it’s almost as if the country has now accepted the responsibility, process, and outcome of what this conflict is to result in. Now operation Inherent Resolve will sit beside Operation Desert Fox in (1998), Operation Infinite Reach (1998), and Operation Enduring Freedom (2001) all major conflicts in the Middle East in United States history.

Operation Inherent Resolve is a shorthand for labeling the conflict in Iraq and Syria. Doing this provides a quick and easy referencing allowing long drawn out explanations of what this conflict is, to be nonessential. At least perhaps that is the strategy of labeling something initially. To quickly access a particular idea or movement users of language load words such as ISIS, Operation Inherent Resolve, etc. to point out that this world is complex and we need words to simplify this complexity. As the article seems to suggest, this military operation is now officially acknowledging that the United States is involved with the conflict overseas. Names and there suggestive meanings hope to make sense of the world around us. What labels gives to a group is then categorized and familiarized by placing it next to an already known. Ownership is given in many ways; in this case ownership is given to the United States through use of language and using it to name conflicts and groups.

Article Source: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/10/15/inherent-resolve-military-campaign-against-isis-gets-name/

Picture Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Pentagon_January_2008.jpg

Hands Off My Lemon Water!

I brought the lemon water! International table manners is huge deal it seems when one nation’s leader eats with another. But to not eat at all that is something else entirely. In a recent CNN news artilce titled “Why India’s Leader Won’t Eat With Obama” the author goes on to explain why Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister is on a strict diet for Navratri, which is Sanskrit for nine nights. Modi is partaking in the a Hindu festival which is devoted to the manifestations of the goddess Shakti, which according to the article a symbol of power and purity. But when Modi is expecting to travel to the U.S. to meet with President Barrack Obama over dinner during this festival what is the correct code of ethics? (It has stumped me as well).

To hold off on the table manner spiel, what I’m trying to point out is that two cultures are colliding over a dinner table and it’s quite interesting for one who loves to study religion and culture wrapped into one moment. Modi is fixed on respecting his spiritualness by committing his diet to lemon water while traveling to the U.S., yet I wonder if the prime minister of India stopped to think what kind of position that would put the United States government in?

Respect is something that few people ever truly understand or admit to have when encountering another group of people that may or may not be “different” (religion, government, table manners, etc). This dinner table set for India and the United States could be a beautiful example of showing tolerance and respect towards those considered to be unlike the United States. There is a bigger picture here than just sharing some meatloaf, the bigger picture is a group’s ability to accept and truly have respect for another’s group beliefs and practices without attempting to change or misrepresent them.

I realize it’s just dinner. Yet, I can’t seem to shake the idea that this dinner is more important that all the other “dinners” the U.S. has ever had with someone considered to be different.

-J

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/agemo/3253450337/

I do not own the rights to this photo

We Seem To Have A Gold Issue

Having a lot of money is everything right? But hey why not walk on it too? In this USA Today online article titled “See It! Mall Paves Walkways With $32 Million In Gold“. The article goes on to explain that the walkways of a mall in Yichang, a city in central China, have been paved with gold! That’s right, gold bars are now a part of crucial architectural design.

There are many reasons why malls are designed in a particular way. Perhaps strategically structured to promote productive commerce, having consumer traffic pass certain stores to reach maximum sales, etc. But what this article is reporting on is perhaps greater than what meets the eye.

It says in the article that walking on gold is said to bring good luck and that thousands of shoppers have flocked to see these walkways paved with gold. Is it just me or is the display of wealth bringing perhaps more customers to help generate the mall’s wealth. A very smart marketing strategy indeed! Although the gold is said to be eventually moved from the location underneath these walkways, the amount of customers and spending its currently bringing will last for much longer.

-J

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/briangiesen/3533411678/in/photostream/

Photo taken by: Brian Giesen