Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Faith vs science?

For Tristram Hunt, the attempted intervention by Bush in the Terri Schiavo case is just one example of the White House's valuing of faith over science. 'In America's right-to-die controversy the facts were not allowed to get in the way of evangelical populism'. Read the full story here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Book Review: 'The Christian Culture Survival Guide'

Matthew Paul Turner's The Christian Culture Survival Guide is a somewhat witty look at many of the human accretions hanging off of Christianity. Covering the salvation experience, the church, the pastor, church involvement, the worship service, getting along with other Christians, boycotts and extremes, dating and sex, Christian entertainment and bookstores, and awakening your Christian life, Turner pokes fun at some of the crazy things within Christian culture. He draws on his own experience growing up in various church communities and provides some "serious" advice on surviving the oddities of Christian religion. Not all Christians will be able to identify with every cultural element discussed by Turner but there's enough in the book for every Christian to identify with something. Underlying the humour is a serious message for Christians that, if we are going to communicate with those outside our culture, we really need to take a hard long look at how stupid we often appear to be -- a stupidity that is not part of the core gospel message of Jesus Christ. Overall, though, the book is probably not really humorous enough and it is possible that, by collecting all of these cultural aberrations, he produces an over-generalised stereotype of Christians. Someone reading this book might not realise that there are actually Christian in the world who don't look like the ones the author is describing! Buy The Christian Culture Survival Guide from Amazon.com

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Book Review: 'Red'

I've just finished reading the second book in Ted Dekker's The Circle trilogy entitled Red and I can't wait to get my hands on the third and final one. I reviewed Black, the first book of this trilogy with high praise and Red just confirms what I said there but is even better. I'd put this trilogy on the same level as C S Lewis's Narnia Chronicles. Ted Dekker really knows how to keep the pace going and, not only is it a good story, there are deep theological themes running throughout the plot. If you haven't read Black go out and get it now! WARNING: DO NOT READ RED BEFORE READING BLACK! From the Cover Ted Dekker’s groundbreaking trilogy will be the fiction publishing event of 2004. Never before has an entire trilogy been released in less than a year. On the heels of The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings comes this mind-bending trilogy where dreams and reality collide. Red picks up immediately where Black ends—and centers around the heroic attempts of Thomas Hunter to save two worlds. With the devastating realization that he has helped unleash death into both worlds, he must now discover how to defeat this evil—while trying to save his true love.From meeting with world powers on earth to leading a small band of mighty warriors in the great deserts of the other world, Thomas is determined to change the history of two realities—or sacrifice all in trying. Buy Red from Amazon.com

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Movie Review: 'The Hulk'

The Hulk is a hulk of a movie at 138 minutes and feels that long, too! Ang Lee, the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon shows he is capable of making a film of lesser quality. The Hulk is based on the Marvel comic of the same name and tells the story of David Banner (Nick Nolte) carrying out genetic experiments on animals to try and find a way of regenerating human tissue after injury. Because the military decide his experiments are unethical he injects himself with a concoction, causes a genetic aberration in himself, which he then passes on to his son, Bruce (Eric Bana) when he is born. Dad is put away, by the military, for 30 years while Bruce grows up and becomes a specialist in the very same field his father worked in. Bruce has been told that his father is dead. After Bruce is accidentally irradiated in the laboratory the latent genetic aberration makes itself known -- when he gets angry he turns into a massive green hulk who weilds destruction. There's the obligatory romance that is reminiscence of King Kong, the nasty military, the anarchistic father who wants more power, and Bruce/The Hulk who has every Freudian complex under the sun. The Hulk looks like an animation, which would be ok if the rest of the movie had the feel of a comic, but it takes itself to seriously. There's little, if any, genuine humour and, compared to comic adaptations like X-Men and Spiderman, left me dissatisfied. The plot of the movie is highly fragmented, particularly in the first half with unnecessary split screens. The best part of the movie is the opening titles. The only thing that can calm The Hulk down after a rampage of destruction across half of America is Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), bringing to mind the old sexist belief that, if it wasn't for women, men would go wild. A Hulk of a movie which leaves a Hulk of disappointment. My Rating: *** (out of 5) Best Review 'A movie likely to rally huge audiences who want to take another roller coaster ride. And though it may disappoint a few of them, it's also a film that gives you something to think and feel sad about. It smashes you -- gently.' - Michael Wilmington/Chicago Tribune Worst Review 'In future Lee can best serve his versatility by never doing anything like this again.' - Stanley Kaufmann/The New Republic Content Warnings Sci-fi action violence, some disturbing images and brief partial nudity. Related Link Christianity Today review Buy The Hulk DVD from Amazon.com

'God's Call Girl' (The Spirit of Things)

Rachael Kohn, the presenter of the ABC's Spirit of Things recently interviewed Carla Van Raay -- and a fascinating interview it is. Carla entered a convent at the age of eighteen. Twelve years later, she became a call girl who gave sexual, spiritual healing to men for a fee. Underlying all this was a search for spiritual peace. She has recently written a book called God's Callgirl. You can read the transcript of this unusual interview or, for a limited time, listen to the program.

Program Description

Raised in a pious Catholic home, Carla Van Raay was destined to become a nun like her sister. At the age of eighteen, she entered a convent to devote her life to God. What no one expected was that more than 12 years later she'd be plying her trade as a call girl. Carla tells her story of spiritual suffering and triumph, and explains how she discovered the spiritual value of sex, becoming in the process, "God's call girl". But a "demon within" had to be expunged before she could find true spiritual peace.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

11 Ways to Keep a Woman in Her Place (satire)

Some years ago I through together this little piece of satire when I was frustrated at the way the denomination I was associated with dealt with the issue of the role of women. It's called 11 Ways to Keep a Woman in Her Place. I'm glad to say, though, that the local church I attended was just the opposite of what this piece implies and moved an enormous distance in truly appreciating the equality of women in the church.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Book Review: 'Set This House in Order'

There have been a number of books published over the years whose theme is multiple personality disorder (MPD). For example, Sybil described the alleged therapy of a young woman who had developed multiple personalities in response to a history of abuse from her mother. But Matt Ruff's gripping novel Set This House in Order is very different to anything I have read before. Two MPD people meet in the same job and an intriguing, authentic-feeling relationship leads to a unique thriller that will have you turning the pages long into the night. Andrew has learned to live with his MPD and bring order to his inner world. But Penny has blackouts that produce chaos and confusion. This is a moving, deeply engaging, and fascinating story with a genuinely suprising outcome. At the back of the book is an interview with the author, two articles on MPD (or Dissociative Identity Disorder, as it is now called) and some recommendations for further reading. There are some website addresses included for finding out more about MPD. If you are looking for something fresh, intriguing, moving, mysterious, and has depth then you shouldn't go past this excellent read. Make sure, though, you check out the Related Links below for information on a very controversial diagnosis. From the Cover Andy Gage was born in 1965 and murdered not long after by his stepfather. . . . It was no ordinary murder. Though the torture and abuse that killed him were real, Andy Gage's death wasn't. Only his soul actually died, and when it died, it broke in pieces. Then the pieces became souls in their own right, coinheritors of Andy Gage's life. . . . While Andy deals with the outside world, more than a hundred other souls share an imaginary house inside Andy's head, struggling to maintain an orderly coexistence: Aaron, the father figure; Adam, the mischievous teenager; Jake, the frightened little boy; Aunt Sam, the artist; Seferis, the defender; and Gideon, who wants to get rid of Andy and the others and run things on his own. Andy's new coworker, Penny Driver, is also a multiple personality, a fact that Penny is only partially aware of. When several of Penny's other souls ask Andy for help, Andy reluctantly agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the stability of the house. Now Andy and Penny must work together to uncover a terrible secret that Andy has been keeping . . . from himself. Related Links
  • Matt Ruff's website for the book where you can read the first four chapters online.
  • The Skeptic's Dictionary entry on multiple personality disorder - an excellent discussion of this controversial diagnosis.
  • An important essay by Paul R McHugh who was Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore when he wrote it.

Buy Set This House in Order from Amazon.com

Friday, March 04, 2005

'The Twilight of Atheism' (Christianity Today Magazine)

Atheism has been around for a long time but it has, according to Alister McGrath, failed to capture the world's imagination. He argues that atheism has had its day and the prediction that we would grow into a world where religious superstition would completely disappear has not eventuated. Instead, we are seeing the rise of spirituality in a myriad of forms. But that doesn't mean that atheism doesn't matter. McGrath suggests that 'the greatest virtue of atheism is its moral seriousness—its criticisms and passionate demands for justice...' Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Movie Review: 'Hotel Rwanda'

In 1994, in Rwanda, Tutsi rebels rose up against the Hutu ruling tribe leading to a civil war resulting in the deaths of over a million people, many of them women and children, in approximately 100 days. Shamefully, the rest of the world stood by and did nothing. Hotel Rwanda focuses on one man, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle in a brilliant performance), the manager of the classy Les Milles Collines Hotel in Kigali. During the massacre he opened the hotel to over a thousand refugees and gave them shelter. Paul was a Hutu married to a Tutsi (also played brilliantly by Sophie Okenedo) and he took in people from both tribes. He shows incredible courage, wit, and imagination as he deals with very tense situations which threaten his, and his family's, lives. The film is deeply moving and disturbing but celebrates the courage of a very brave man. My Rating: ***** (out of 5) Best Review 'Emerges as an African version of "Schindler's List."' - Claudie Puig/USA Today Worst Review 'The film presents the Rwandans in the worst possible way: venal, corrupt, vicious, stupid, barbaric and completely incapable of governing themselves. Honestly, I've seen more intelligent and sympathetic depictions of Africans in Tarzan movies.' - Phil Hall/Film Threat Content Warnings Violence, disturbing images and brief strong language. Related Link Rwanda Order Hotel Rwanda on DVD for release in April