Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Review of The Unlikely Disciple

Every once in awhile I pick up a book that I have a hard time putting down and can't wait to see how it ends. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University was one of those books. Kevin Roose, whom I have mentioned here before, took a semester off of his studies at Brown University in order to immerse himself in an evangelical Christian world at Liberty University in Virginia.

Roose, who does not consider himself to be an evangelical Christian, wanted to gain the experience of what it would be like to be surrounded by Christians his age while inhabiting a world unfamiliar to himself. His account of his semester-long experience at Liberty is candid, refreshing, uncomfortable and telling.

In order to gain an unvarnished view of Rev. Jerry Falwell's university, Roose kept his true identity a secret from his classmates and sought to blend in with his peers. He attended chapel services, went to prayer meetings and Bible studies, sang in the Thomas Road Baptist Church choir and even went on a spring break evangelism trip to Daytona Beach. In short, he participated in the activities of an evangelical Christian student without actually being one.

An obviously talented writer, Roose paints what I perceive to be a fairly accurate picture of conservative evangelicals. He highlights the sincerity of faith of many of his Liberty friends, the emphasis on prayer that he experienced and the commitment of the student body to reach out to others. On the other hand, he spends a good portin of the book commenting on the conservative political atmosphere at Liberty which he finds often at odds with his own viewpoints.

In reading this book, I felt as if I was along for the ride as he shares his initial uneasiness with the unfamiliar Christian culture he encounters after stepping on campus and the development of deep friendships as the weeks passed. As a Christian that ministers to college students, I found myself agreeing with many of Roose's conclusions, humored at his gentle ribbing of our Christian subculture and grieved at the insensitivity that he experienced by others that didn't know he wasn't "one of them."

The Unlikely Disciple not only chronicle's Kevin Roose's experience at Liberty, but also gives insight into the final months of Rev. Jerry Falwell's life as Falwell passed away at the end of Roose's semester. While most of the book is about the students that Roose encountered, a sizable portion is devoted to Falwell and his influence on evangelicalism in America and on Liberty itself. Remarkably, Roose scored an interview with Rev. Falwell just days before his death, which turned out to be the last print interview he ever gave.

For Christians that hope to gain a greater perspective on how non-Christians experience us when they are in our world this could be a great tool for personal reflection and examination. For non-Christians that are hoping to get an outsider's take on what evangelicals are like behind closed doors this would be a helpful resource. All in all this was a great book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Facebook Losing its Older Users?

From Switched.com:

"Facebook may be losing ground among its older users, according to Inside Facebook.

Over the past few months, baby boomers joined the popular social networking site in droves, creating some inter-generational tensions in the process. From February and March, though, to April and May, that trend seems to have reversed. According to data that Facebook supplies to its advertisers, the 55-to-65-year-old age group's activity has drastically declined over the past couple months (by 651,080, to be exact), making it the only demographic to experience an overall drop in numbers.

While their parents seem to be fleeing Facebook, 18-to-25-year olds are spending more time on the site than ever. Since the end of March, nearly 2 million new members have joined up in that age bracket. The root of these developing Facebook trends? We'd bet that those Gen Y-ers, finding themselves unemployed and out of school, are aiming to waste some time and distract themselves. Meanwhile, we'd guess that their parents, in light of their companies' tightening belts, are laying off the during-office-hours browsing."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Brennan Manning: A Favorite Author

I, along with many Christians of my generation, was introduced to Brennan Manning through his intro to the song "What If I Stumble" on dc Talk's seminal 1995 album, Jesus Freak.

Manning's words on that album were:
"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
Those two brief sentences instantly interested me and, after getting the opportunity to hear him speak in person a couple years later, I was hooked. I began reading his books at that point and have read nearly everything he has written. His perspective on the unconditional love of God drew me in and his emphasis on the grace of our heavenly Father helped to set me free from the chains I was in. It is no coincidence that my firstborn child shares his name.

The thing about Brennan Manning is that he is no saint in the eyes of many evangelical Christians due to his background and challenges in life. He comes from a Catholic background and has struggled with alcoholism. He is divorced. In a nutshell, he is not perfect. His unique experiences in life and brushes with sin even after walking with Christ have caused some to write him off.

I, however, feel like he has a grasp on the love of God for the prodigal child that few of us may ever understand. His writing has encouraged and challenged me as no other modern writer has done. I was pleased to learn that Brennan has a new book out this year entitled The Furious Longing of God. Michael Spencer, aka The Internet Monk, has written a review of the book here, along with some thoughts on the author. Spencer has this to say:
"Brennan isn’t for everyone. I learned that long ago. But he sure is for me, I can tell you that. Let’s be honest. Brennan Manning isn’t an exegete or a expositor. He’s a Catholic. He’s a mystic. He’s a story-teller. He’s sloppy. He makes no attempt at neat Systematics. He quotes other writers, some of them a bit off the farm. He repeats the same ideas and stories in almost every book. He never seems to be anything other than weak and in desperate need of help from God. His prose is occasionally excessive and sometimes obscure. He can be frustrating, puzzling and disturbing.
And Brennan Manning is, for my life (and the lives of thousands of other devoted readers), simply the most indispensably authentic writer on the God of Jesus Christ I’ve ever encountered. Brennan knows Jesus and can bring you right there like no other writer of our time.
One thing I can say for every critic who finds Manning “a waste of time.” They are not longing, in the midst of the wreckage of their own souls, to hear, existentially and constantly, the assurance of God’s absolute love and affection. I can say this with some certainty, because no one can compare to the ability of Brennan Manning to stop you and embrace you with the astonishing love of God."
If you'd never had the privilege of reading a book by Brennan Manning, I'd encourage to check him out. I'd start with either The Ragamuffin Gospel or Abba's Child and see if his take on the Christian life resonates with you. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Asians on Screen

While flipping through the channels last weekend, I came across a riveting documentary on our local PBS station that chronicles the presence of people of Asian descent on television and in film. The film, The Slanted Screen, focuses specifically on the portrayal of Asian men on the small and silver screens. It gives insight into the long struggle that it has been for Asian filmmakers and actors to break through into mainstream success in American film and T.V.

From the website for the documentary:
"They call Hollywood a "dream factory." And it's an appropriate metaphor. Like dreams, the stories we watch in the dark express our fears and desires. But unlike dreams, they have a powerful and lasting effect on social reality. Movies and the mass media help form our worldview, shape our identities, and define our roles – on screen and off.

Unfortunately, these effects frequently work to the detriment of some groups – including Asian American men. Too often, film and television misrepresent the world they claim to reflect. Their stories revise history, and rationalize inequities. Rather than to portray three-dimension individuals, their characters often manifest prejudice and reinforce bigotry. Moreover, their ubiquitous and persistent messages encourage viewers to internalize confining definitions of identity and self-worth.

Ironically, film and television images extol our fundamental ideals of democracy and equality, and at the same time, betray them. Through interviews, voice-over narration, and a fascinating array of film and television clips, The Slanted Screen chronicles depictions of Asian American men and the culture that shapes them. The one-hour documentary presents film and television images from the turn of the century to the turn of the millennium. The Slanted Screen properly situates these images through historical narration, clips and photos."
In addition to The Slanted Screen, I also came across this article which mentions another documentary, Hollywood Chinese, which focuses on the portrayal of Chinese and Chinese Americans actors in film. Check your local listings for airings on PBS. Thanks to Racialicious for the tip.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

American Idol & How People Vote

Immediately after the surprising win of Kris Allen over Adam Lambert in the finale of American Idol Wednesday night, speculation began as to whether questions concerning Lambert's sexuality cost him the victory. Early on in this season of Idol rumors began to swirl on the Internet about Lambert. He has chosen to remain silent on the issue and feels that his ambiguity on this issue likely cost him some votes.

While I'm sure that this issue affected Adam in the eyes of some viewers, I think it was far outweighed by his musical style. American Idol is and always has been a pop music contest. Those that have come from other genres have consistently struggled to find a spot among the finalists. Even those with immense talent like Chris Daughtry or Jennifer Hudson failed to advance to the final stage of the competition because their styles were rock and R&B, respectively.

It is evident that Adam has a lot of talent and will likely continue to find success in the entertainment field. His flair for the theatrical and his vocal range is admirable. But in my opinion, his singing style harkens back to the 80's hair bands like Cinderella, Ratt, or Warrant. I don't know about you, but I could totally see him singing with Stryper! Rockers generally have not received the same kind of votes that the pure pop-driven contestants have.

Kris Allen is good-looking, has a likable personality and although he doesn't bring a lot of energy to the stage, he is a talented singer and musician. And, yes, I think the fact that he is a Christian who is a worship leader at his church certainly helped him among evangelicals. Once Danny Gokey was voted off, I think it clinched it for Kris. He probably carried the Christian vote and likely received the bulk of the votes from the teenage girls that vote en masse for this show.

Although it bills itself as a singing competition, American Idol has never merely been about singing talent. Personality, likability, potential for radio stardom, etc. all play a role. If American popular music was only about singing talent, none of us would know who Madonna Ciccone was. But on a competition like Idol, other factors come into play and people are going to vote for not only who the think is the best singer, but also who they most identify with.

Do we really expect the friends and family of contestants to not vote for them if deep down they don't feel like they're the best singer? Is it not okay for people from a finalist's hometown or home state to vote for them merely because they grew up in the same place? Of course not! So if we are to fault those that didn't vote for Adam because they believe him to be gay, then we would also need to fault those in the gay community that voted for him simply because they think he is. On the other hand, could we also determine that many that voted for Adam voted for him because they didn't want to vote for a professing Christian like Kris? I don't think it's fair to assume that.

Ultimately, there a number of factors that contribute to who wins on Idol each year. It would be difficult to single out one factor as to whether that is what made the difference. And just because the media fawns over a certain singer doesn't mean that's who the American public will vote for. My prediction is that Kris will record a pop album or two with limited success and eventually find a place in the Contemporary Christian Music market. Adam, who is probably best suited for the stage and live performance, will star on Broadway and make some pretty cool videos for his first studio album. Both these guys are extremely talented and I wish them all the best.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Internetainment: Rhett and Link

A couple of my good friends have found themselves becoming well-known web celebrities in recent years. Well, if you want to get technical, Rhett and Link are not really friends unless you count Facebook friends as being legitimate. But I am friends with a lot of people that do know them so I'll count them among my homies.

As talented writers, witty comedians and harmonious singers, Rhett and Link have made a name for themselves by posting funny videos that often include catchy songs. One of their most recent videos, a commercial for Red House Furniture in North Carolina, has gotten a million views in just a months time. The video has also gotten a fair amount of mainstream publicity due to the racial nature of the video. I'll let you watch it for yourself below. Click here if the video player doesn't show up.



Because this video refers to people's ethnicity some would perceive it as racist. But as Rhett so adequately explained in a follow-up video to the commercial, there is a difference between being "racist" and "racial." In order for the video to have been racist it would have needed to have demeaned or shown hatred towards a certain ethnicity or lifted a certain race as superior to others.

But just because the video made mention of individuals race doesn't make it racist. It seems absurd that a person's ethnicity would be mentioned when it comes to buying furniture. But that's the point! Not so long ago the color of a person's skin would have made a difference in whether they could have been a customer at that store.

Rhett and Link offer a comedic slant on a sensitive topic that is done in a humorous and appropriate manner. I love it! In fact, I'm not the only one. On a recent poll done at the Black Voices blog on AOL.com (a forum geared towards African Americans), only 9% had a problem with the ad as of 5/21/09.

Rhett and Link, who describe themselves as "internetainers", do a marvelous job of offering good, clean comedy on an information super highway littered with junk. You can visit their website here or their YouTube channel here. My favorite videos of theirs are The Facebook Song, Fast Food Folk Song, the Buffet Song and the ShamWow Song. Check them out. It's fun for the whole family!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lionel Richie and a Really Bad Sculpture

My family is sitting here watching the American Idol finale thoroughly enjoying the parade of music superstars that have joined the contestants for the final episode of the season. Idol typically does up the finale in grand style and it is clear that singers, both old and new, want to be on the show.

KISS just performed with Adam Lambert and I was reminded of how I was Gene Simmons for Halloween in the first grade. Sorry, Mom, but I'm just keeping it real.

Shortly before that, Danny Gokey sung the moving ballad "Hello" by Lionel Richie. Immediately, I thought back to the classic video for the song. I asked my wife, Lori, if she remembered it. And of course she had not since she did not have MTV or VH1 growing up. So every time I get nostalgic and say, "Hey, you remember that video for...?" she always responds, "No, honey, I don't remember any videos from the 80's."

Anyway, the storyline of the Hello video was that Lionel was a music teacher and was falling for this blind girl (Note: It was a seeing actress that was trying to act blind.) She makes a sculpture of him to show how much she cares. The sculpture (see above) is revealed and...looks nothing like Lionel Richie! There are three thoughts that come to mind when I see this sculpture (and none of them have anything to do with Lionel Richie):
1. Ch-ch-ch-chia!
2. "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
3. "Hey, isn't that Dan Dierdorf's bust from the Football Hall of Fame?"
If you'd like to see the complete video you can see it below. The sculpture shows up close to the 5:00 mark. Click here if the video player doesn't show up.



I don't know why but I really feel like dancing on the ceiling!

Where Did Your Favorite Sitcoms Take Place?

Do you ever wonder where some of your favorite television sitcoms took place? I think that most of know that Seinfeld was set in New York and that WKRP in Cincinnati was based in, well, Cincinnati. But what about the dozens of other popular sitcoms that have graced the small screen over the years?

Well, thanks to StLToday.com, you can now view a map that shows where many well-known sitcoms were based. Just click here. Personally, I think Home Improvement, Martin and Sister, Sister have some of the best locations of any shows ever. :)

Thanks to Whitney at Pop Candy for the link.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do Sinners Belong in Church?

In church this morning our pastor shared about an interesting conversation that he had last night. He was at a wedding in which he performed the service and, afterwards, a woman came up to him asked where the church was located that he pastored. Upon learning that it was within driving distance for her, she asked him, "Are sinners welcomed?" He went onto explain to her that, yes, sinners were welcome at our church. In fact, he went onto share, that since we were all sinners she would fit right in.

Just as there are no perfect people there are no perfect churches. Since imperfect people are the ones that make up every church it naturally flows that every congregation has its flaws. It is a danger for all of us that have been Christians for some time to take on an air of spiritual superiority when it comes to those that don't consider themselves of the same faith. The reality is that we are all sinners.

I used to have the impression that sin only revolved around such things as drinking and smoking and swearing and sex. I thought that if you had your act together in these areas that it made you alright in the eyes of God. The sinners were those that did those things. But I've learned that sin is much deeper than these outward acts. Sin takes root and is birthed in the human heart. Some of the most sinful people in the world may be those that have never smoked a cigarette or ever had alcohol touch their lips. But their hearts are filled with things like pride and hatred and jealousy and anger.

The truth of the gospel of Jesus is that we are fallen and that our hearts are sinful -- whether we go to church or not. Some of us may have gotten better at covering up those things that would be frowned upon by others, but the reality is that our hearts are still wicked. We would probably all shudder to think what would happen if a video was posted on YouTube of all the the things we've thought and the true motives of our hearts were posted for the world to see!

It is because of this that we need a Savior. For those of us that have placed our faith in Him, Jesus not only offers forgiveness us for the penalty of our sin, but He is there each moment of every day when our hearts stray from Him. For those of us that are Christians I think it is appropriate to define ourselves as "saints" in a spiritual sense. If Christ has forgiven us then we have a right standing with God. But from a practical standpoint we still struggle as fallen people in a fallen world.

Fortunately for each of us, sinners most definitely belong in church. As Jesus himself said,
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
If sinners don't belong in church then we'll have a lot of empty buildings! Besides, the church is not really a building. It is God's family, made up of those that recognize their sin and their need for a Savior. It is made up of those new in a relationship with God and those that have walked with Him for decades. As I've heard it said before, those in the church are simply "beggars telling other beggars where they found bread."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Blessings of Giving

In tough economic times as the ones we are currently in, it is easy for us to become tight-fisted when it comes to our giving patterns. The sad reality is that most Christians will discontinue giving to our churches or our favorite charities before we'll sacrifice luxuries that we can realistically do without. However, this is not the case with everyone. As a missionary dependent upon the generosity of others in order to meet the needs of our family, I have the privilege of being on the receiving end of many that give sacrificially so that we can serve in ministry like we do.

In fact, Lori and I just received a note in the mail today from a financial ministry partner of ours that had fallen behind in her giving. She apologized to us and shared that because of a decrease in income, she had been unable to fulfill her commitment. But she let us know that she had recently dropped a check in the mail to cover the months she missed and to start back up again. Notes like this really make my day! Not so much because we're receiving that money (which is nice), but because God is using our ministry as a vehicle to work in this woman's life. Ultimately, I don't think that she's really giving to us. She's giving to God's work and we simply get to be part of that process.

It is a privilege to be both on the receiving and the giving end when it comes to God's mission in the world. Andrew Jones, aka the popular blogger TallSkinnyKiwi, recently posted on this topic. This is what he had to say:
"This week I was on the phone with an Executive Director of a Foundation that gives millions of dollars to missions. Things are tight right now for them, as they are for many other faith-based Foundations, but they are doing their best to keep commitments to missionaries. Not easy during this recession when the returns on investments don't bring the kind of returns they had hoped for. Missionaries who depend on these kinds of gifts are struggling this year.
Immediately after hanging up the phone with this Foundation, I went out to dinner with a Portuguese house church pastor. His tiny church had put together a HUGE love package for our missionary family including 5 bottles of wine and all kinds of food. There was even an envelope with money as a thank you gift for our ministry in Portugal five years ago.One of the families who gave included a not-so-wealthy family with two children. One of the children, on hearing of our family's mission, donated the entire contents of his piggy bank to help the gift go further. This church leader wept when he received the gift and was really emotional when he told me the story.
The big and the small. Both important to God. Its weird being in the middle of these two disparate groups; Foundation leaders with large investments and little boys with piggy banks. The Kingdom of God moves forward on the resources of both groups."
Whatever role it is that we may play in making a difference in the world matters. I believe there is no greater cause than the cause of Christ and whether we are giving our time, prayers, talents or finances, our investments in eternity matter.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dangers of Reality Television

I have a bit of a confession to make. I'm kind of a big fan of reality television. Since we don't have cable T.V., I'm fairly limited on the number of shows I can watch, but I do enjoy the genre. Going back nearly twenty years ago with the first season of MTV's The Real World, I've probably watched dozens of seasons of reality shows over the years.

I love watching real people in real situations (I also watch a lot of documentaries) and reality shows give a glimpse into the lives of everyday people. I know that since the cameras are present that it's not really that "real", but it's the closest that we can get on T.V.

Even though I enjoy reality shows (Survivor and American Idol are the only ones I watch regularly these days), I've had a growing concern about the shear number of these shows and the effect that it has on its stars and the viewing public. After the immense popularity of the initial season of CBS's hit show Survivor gave life to the genre, there seems to be reality shows that cover nearly aspect of life. What seemed like a fad has become a staple of television.

Unfortunately, a limited number of these shows have much of a positive effect on its viewers. For every show that inspires and gives hope (like an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), there are probably a handful more that cater to our basest desires. Furthermore, the price that some of these participants pay as a result of starring in these shows is evident. Especially when it comes to marriage and family, starring in a reality show may not be the best idea.

The recent tabloid accusations concerning the marriage of Jon and Kate Gosselin (stars of TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8) demonstrate the stress that living life before the cameras can place on a couple. Although the Gosselins were not famous before the popularity, it would be hard to argue that their show hasn't contributed to their martial strain. Among those that were already celebrities, the list of failed marriages shortly after the success of reality shows seems endless -- Nick & Jessica, the Hogans, Carmen Electra & Dave Navarro, the Barkers, Britney & Kevin and on and on.

Although some of these marriages might have been considered on shaky ground even before their lives were put on display for everyone to see, I doubt that being on T.V. helped matters. As one that truly values the sanctity of marriage, I have to wonder whether I'm contributing to the problem by watching some of these shows. Granted, the reality shows that I watch don't revolve around family life but, still, I have watched some of these in the past.

It's easy for us to cast stones towards those that willingly sacrifice marital and familial stability for fame and fortune, but none of this would happen if we didn't tune in. As long as there are viewers, we will still be offered fare that has the potential to put families at risk. It's up to us as viewers to support the shows that are positive and ignore those that aren't.

As a point of application, I'm curious what your favorite uplifting and wholesome reality shows are? Feel free to comment...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Does Oprah Have Too Much Power?

Perhaps you were one of the many people that visited your local Kentucky Fried Chicken last week with your coupon for a free grilled chicken meal. If you were, you're a lot braver than me. Now, don't get me wrong, I love me some KFC but after seeing the wait at Denny's when they offered free grand slams recently, I had no desire to wait in line for a couple hours in order to save a few bucks.

The KFC promotional offer was inspired by Oprah Winfrey, who highlighted the deal and offered the coupon on her website. Of course, people from all walks of life bum rushed KFCs from sea to shining sea to cash in on the free meal. As would be expected, KFC was not prepared for this onslaught of visitors and ran out of chicken. They had to offer vouchers for those that were unable to satisfy that finger lickin' craving during their visit.

This whole situation raises a serious question: Does Oprah Winfrey have too much influence over Americans? We all know that if she endorses a product it is going to sell well. Simply because Oprah says so. I don't think it's unreasonable to argue that the most powerful person in the U.S. is not a black man, but actually a black woman. I wonder if one day my grandchildren will join in playground version of a game called "Oprah Says."

Catherine Larson, of The Point, offers her feelings on Oprah:

"Now is it just me, or is anyone else just a little freaked out about how powerful Oprah is, to control the reins of the populace like this? Oprah loves The Shack. Everyone loves The Shack. Oprah hails grilled chicken. KFC is inundated by consumers. Oprah becomes an adherent of Eckhart Tolle and his wacko beliefs. Lo and behold, so does your neighbor, and three out of five of your friends on Facebook.
Don't get me wrong, if Oprah-tunity came knocking on my door, I wouldn't turn it down. But just the very fact that her word holds so much power is a little... chilling. I think if she told Americans that standing on their head for five hours a day would cure cancer, the world would, well, be turned upside down."
It is something to consider...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In Honor of Mother's Day

My five-year-old son, Jason, is the comedian of our family and the one with the most energy in our clan of six. He is a constant barrage of activity, noise and love. During a Mother's Day tribute in the service at church today, he (along with Brennan and Leah) had kind words to say about Lori. He loves his mom "because she plays video games with him." Awwww.....

Thankfully, he didn't embarrass us in front of the whole church. This is not always the case. At a Christmas program a couple years ago, he broke out into his own individually choreographed dance routine in the middle of a song. I had to pull him from the stage.

Another time when visiting one of the churches that financially supports us, he leaned into the microphone, being held by the pastor, and broke into a chorus of We Will Rock You by Queen while we were being prayed for up front. Fortunately, I think God has a sense of humor (as did that particular congregation.)

Jason's preschool class put together a little recipe book dedicated to all the moms. The moms submitted one of their favorite recipes and the kids each picked their favorite food that their mom cooks for them. The kids shared what they thought were the recipes for those foods, along with how they thought it was made.

Here are some of the funniest, with Jason's first. You really can't make this stuff up! Directly from the mouths of babes...

1. Shells and Cheese (60 shells, 1 package of cheese) - I think we cook the shells for about 15 minutes. Open the package, squeeze it out and we stir it about 15 seconds. Then we eat it after we get our spoons.

2. Spaghetti (20 pieces of spaghetti, 5 rice, white sauce ) - Cook spaghetti in microwave for 2 minutes, cook rice on stove for 5 minutes (she watches TV while it is cooking.)

3. My Favorite Pasta (20 wheels - sometimes 18, 10 gallons red sauce) - It is round in the shape of a wheel. It's hard when she starts but then it becomes mushy. Pour wheels out of the bag, then you put the sauce on them. Cook in the oven 5 or 10 minutes. The oven is 10 degrees.

4. Chicken and Rice (2 chickens, 1 cup of rice) - Put the chicken in the microwave 15 minutes. Mix chicken and rice. Put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Set at 10-15 degrees. The she put it on the plates.

5. Turkey (100 pound turkey) - My mom washes the turkey. She puts it in a pan, and then puts it in a container bag because it bubbles and makes a mess. She bakes it for 10 hours at 100,000 hot.

6. Cookie Dough (Flour - not more than a spot, 10 chocolate chip cookies) Mix it together and it makes cookie dough. She then eats it all by herself.

7. Red Jelly (3 cherries, 1 carrot, 2 cups of milk, 4 jelly beans) - Mix it all together with apple juice and then it is done.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Disney's Uneasiness with African Americans

After decades of failure to feature a black lead in one of its animated films, the Walt Disney Company is finally offering the world its first black princess in The Princess and the Frog. The film, which is scheduled for release this December, is set in New Orleans and will star Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) as the voice of Princess Tiana.

Although Disney has had princesses of color in films before (Aladdin, Mulan, Pocahantas), the company's failure to include positive black characters in its movie is well-noted. For instance, Disney has had animated films set in Africa but either the film only had animals (e.g. The Lion King) or white characters (e.g. Tarzan.) More specifically, movies like Song of the South retread negative black stereotypes.

With The Princess and the Frog, Disney is hoping to correct some of this history. However, the film has not been without controversy. Even months before its release, The Princess and the Frog has undergone several changes -- from the actual name of the movie (changed from The Frog Princess) and the name of its star (from Princess Maddy.) Furthermore, there have been concerns expressed about the setting of the film and the nearly white Prince that falls for Tiana.

Even though this is long overdue, I'm glad that Disney has finally made a movie with a black princess. For the first time, young African American girls can finally have a Disney Princess that looks and sounds like them. There's been a bevy of European princesses so I don't think this is too much to ask. I trust that the movie will feature positive portrayals of its black characters and that the film will do well at the box office and in DVD sales, which would encourage Disney to make more movies like it. Now if only they could begin to have animated films where the girls have a mom that's still around...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Why So Few Good Christian Films?

Why is it that there are so few quality films with a Christian theme that gain widespread acceptance? Is it because the general public will reject any movie with an overt Christian message or is it because much of the Christian-based movies that are offered are just not that good? The overwhelming success of The Passion of the Christ a handful of years ago demonstrated the powerful potential that is contained in movies that appeal to both Christian and mainstream audiences. So why are there so few examples like "Passion" to turn to?

Dallas Jenkins, a filmmaker and son of Jerry Jenkins (of "Left Behind" fame), offers his take on this in a post entitled "Why Are Christian Movies So Bad?" He says this:
"What took Hollywood so long to discover the Christian market? Why can’t they replicate even half the success of “The Passion?” And when Christians make up over half the population, why are faith-based films still relegated to the low-budget, straight to DVD world? The seemingly obvious answer would be that there are few Christians in Hollywood, both at the studio and creative level, but even that would raise the question of why.
I think I know the reason(s), although it’s a bit embarrassing because I happen to be a Christian evangelical. But we must face the truth, and as Dr. Phil so eloquently and charmingly puts it, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” The fact is, Christian movies have been pretty bad for a few decades. Yes, Hollywood had largely ignored the Christian market, but it’s not like there have been good examples for Hollywood to learn from. And now that Hollywood is actively seeking faith-based material, there’s still a lack of quality scripts and filmmakers available, with a few exceptions, and among the films that are being made in this genre, there are still more crappy ones than good ones."
Jenkins goes on to point out how the relative absence of influential Christians in Hollywood, the emergence of alternative Christian media and the emphasis placed on message over art in many Christian films all play a role in the lack of quality, popular movies made by Christians. Since Hollywood is one of the greatest influences on our society, it only makes sense that the products that Christians put out there are as good, if not better, than what others offer.

You can read Jenkins' full article here. (Thanks to The Point for the tip on the article.)