Thursday, June 29, 2006

Movie Review: Wah-Wah

Wah-Wah is an entertaining, moving autobiographical account of Richard E Grant's (who wrote and directed) childhood growing up in Swaliland at the end of the '60s when British colonial rule was coming to an end and Swaliland was moving to independence. The story begins with Richard (Nicholas Hoult) pretending to be asleep in the back seat of his mother, Lauren's (Miranda Richardson) car while she commits adultery. This, as one would expect, has an incredible impact on Richard, made worse by his mother's decision to leave his dad. She walks into Richard's room, says she loves him and that she is leaving. We follow Richard as he tries to make sense of what is happening to him. Richard is sent to boarding school and, on his return a couple of years later, his father has impulsively married an American, Ruby (Emily Watson) who provides Richard with emotional support as they deal with his father's alcoholism. Ruby sarcastically pokes fun at the childish upper-class slang of "toodle-pips" and "hobbly-jobblys" which she describes as a whole lot of "wah-wah". Wah-Wah is engaging from beginning to end with a superb mix of drama, provided by the anguish and pain experienced by Richard and humour, supplied by the wonderful caricatures of British pretensiousness as the people mourn the disintegration of British rule, and beautiful African scenery. A superbly cynical and moving coming-of-age film! My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'Both acidly funny and very moving.' - Kevin Crust/Los Angeles Times Negative Review 'The story lacks focus. The senses blur as wives and ex-wives come and go, and Harry regularly falls off the wagon, only to reform the next day.' - V A Musetto/New York Post Content Warning Some language and brief sexuality

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Book Review: God Talk

We have all heard people talking about hearing God "speak" to them -- and possibly done it ourselves. 'God led me to do this job'; 'God impressed me to speak to that person'; 'God told me to go there'; 'I knew God was speaking to me'. Go into any Christian bookstore and the shelves are brimming with spiritual advice on how to commune with God; hear God's voice more clearly; obtain guidance from God for decisions; and listen to God in prayer. Ruth Tucker, in her deeply needed book God Talk: Cautions for Those Who Hear God's Voice, observes how '[o]ur reported words from God often sound eerily like our own. God's opinions and priorities are ours, and we expect customer care. Just as we pick up a phone or go online to order from a garden or fashion catalog, we dial a prayer and God becomes yet another mail-order outlet.' (p. 8) With all the talk of God speaking to individuals, those of us who don't experience the same "clarity" of communication from God can feel as though we are somehow lesser Christians than those who seem to have direct access to the awesome God of the universe. But are all these communications actually from God? Does God really speak to us today? And if God does speak, how does God do that? Ruth Tucker tackles these questions head on and her answers may surprise you. She provides an illuminating critique of the privatised spirituality that dominates writing on this subject and explores the way that God has communicated in silence throughout history. Tucker reinforces the Scriptures as the way that God has spoken to God's people and ties Scripture, prayer, and silence into a deep and powerful understanding of the manner in which the God of history communicates with us. God Talk also tackles such difficult questions as expressing anger at God and the relationship of nature to God's self-revelation. God does communicate; God is active; but the way God communicates must be informed by his revelation in Scripture. When we expose our preconceptions to the light of revelation we will move to a deeper, more profound, and more hopeful relationship with God than ever before. We will come to appreciate that God communicates in silence rather than the constant self-absorbed chatter modeled on our egocentric culture that privileges verbal communication over any other. God communicates primarily in silence. Tucker finishes her book with these words:
God is God. As mere creatures we have difficulty with that. We want to worship a golden calf and turn God into our closest buddy. Indeed, it is all too tempting to fashion God in our own image. God is God, and with that recognition we must accept the silence of God. Truly, we are safe in the silence of God.
For a deeply encouraging book for those of us that struggle to hear God's voice in the way described in so many positive "testimonies", don't miss out on reading God Talk. Related Links

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Book Review: Why Not Women?

There is a profound injustice being perpetuated within Christianity that needs to be urgently dealt with. Millions of women are being prevented from using their gifts to the full because they are seen, by many people, to be restricted in their roles by the teaching of Scripture. The discrimination against women in the church takes many subtle forms that keep the oppression hidden from view -- but it is there for those who want to look carefully enough. Underlying this treatment of women is a particular interpretation of a number of Scriptures that, on the surface, seem to justify the limiting of women's roles in the church. But these passages of Scripture are frequently ripped from their historical and literary contexts to justify a long-standing prejudice against women that is derived, not from Scripture, but from non-Christian philosophies and religions. The Christian church needs to humbly admit its sin in this area of practice and liberate and empower women to serve God and God's people in the way that God has gifted them to do so. But this is not going to happen while a particular interpretation of Scripture continues to hold authority. And it is only correct that, if people believe the Bible teaches something, they hold to that interpretation. But the question is, Are the interpretations of these Biblical passages accurate? The literature on this topic are legion. Some of it helpful and some of it not. But one book stands out amongst the rest, providing a probing re-examination of the church's interpretation of these contentious passages. Why Not Women? A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership is an absolutely must-read book, especially for those of us who think we have read the last word on this topic. Loren Cunningham (founder of Youth With a Mission) and David Hamilton (a biblical scholar) have teamed together to provide a genuinely fresh look at this topic. They write with passion combined with a rigorous approach to interpreting Scripture. Their examination of the biblical passages related to women brings some profoundly important and original insights to what are usually thought of as very difficult to understand. Why Not Women? begins with an impassioned plea to deal with the issue of women's ministry in Christianity which, in the authors' view, attacks not only women's and men's roles, but the very character of God! The authors argue that this matter is urgent if we are to carry out the work that God wants us to do in the world and if we are to live in a way consistent with the gospel that liberates and empowers all people, female and male, to serve God and their fellow human beings. This is followed by a chapter discussing how we know what we believe and the importance of knowing God and approaching Scripture in a rigorously objective way, avoiding the extremes of liberalism and legalism as we try to come to grips with the truth of God's word. There is then a discussion of the issue of spiritual gifts and the way these function in Scripture and the church, making the point that God's gifting of people determines the nature of their roles and ministry in the church and the world. This is illustrated by the incredibly large number of women prophets, evangelists, and teachers in Scripture itself. Cunningham and Hamilton argue that the Bible examples of women fulfilling these roles shows that God sees women as equal partners with men in ministry. Not allowing women to exercise their gifts freely means that we are limiting and frustrating God's work among us. But, if this is so, then where do the distorted views that many of us hold about women come from? Certainly not from Scripture, as far as the authors are concerned. In a fascinating series of chapters, David Hamilton shows how the church's understanding of the place and role of women is derived from secular and pagan philosophies and religious beliefs that, in contrast to the Bible, demean, oppress, and subjugate women because of the belief that they are inferior to the male. These beliefs have infiltrated Christianity and predisposed us to read Scripture a certain way. What the church hasn't genuinely appreciated is the way that Jeus came and broke down the walls of separation between estranged groups, including that between women and men. As Hamilton clearly shows, the gospels are filled with a radical critique of the way that women were understood and treated in Jesus' time. Then the authors turn to Paul -- who has often been understood as misogynist (hating women). David Hamilton takes an incredibly fresh look at some of the most difficult passages on this topic, including 1 Corinthians 7; 11:2-16 (on headship, praying and prophesying); 14:26-40 (on the issue of whether women should keep silent in church); 1 Timothy 2:1-15 (on permitting women to teach or not); and 3:1-15 (on the gender of leaders in the early church). I cannot stress enough how important these sections of Why Not Women? are, especially for those who think that they know what these passages are teaching! It is easy, sometimes, to think that we have read all there is to know about something because we eventually begin to read the same things every time we pick up a book on a topic. But this book will give you new information, new perspectives, that are essential to consider on this topic. Do not brush this book aside. As the authors point out, if our understanding of Scripture is incorrect, then we are not fulfilling God's desire for us as God wants us to. The way we treat women is a moral issue. The authors of Why Not Women? finish with this plea:
It is time for us to rethink some of our oldest beliefs and traditions. It is time for us to repent for whatever ways we have hindered God's work and misread His Word. It is time for us to release women to be all that God has called them to be. It is time.
It is time. Women have waited and suffered long enough. When it comes to ministry, the question is Why Not Women? This book answers: There's no reason why women should not! You owe it to yourself and to all women to read this book prayerfully and honestly. Then it is time to do all we can to allow women to live and work in the way that God intended all of us to do.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Movie Review: Candy

If you choose to go and see Candy you are in for a very harrowing experience. The story is about love -- but with a terrible twist. Candy (Abbie Cornish) and Dan (Heath Ledger) are in love -- with each other and with heroin. Both of these obsessions lead to spiralling decline into crime to support their habit, prostitution, and physical and emotional imprisonment - despite their delusion, at least initially, that they are free. Candy and Dan are both beautiful people with everything going for them. But they don't want anything more than each other and the next fix. Encouraged by a long-time friend and heroin user (Geoffrey Rush) their lives uncontrollably swoop between despair and euphoria while Candy's parents (Noni Hazelhurst and Tony Martin) look on in pain and frustration. The story is agonising to watch. The drug-taking is completely authentic. The story is based on Luke Davies' book of the same name. Luke Davies' is an ex-drug addict and collaborated in the script writing for the movie. And Cornish and Ledger spent weeks with users and ex-users learning how to shoot up and observing the physical effects of taking the drug. Ledger and Cornish are absolutely brilliant in their roles. Heath Ledger was nominated for best actor at the Oscars for his role in Brokeback Mountain but, as far as I am concerned, his characterisation of Dan in Candy is his best role ever. He is totally convincing. Cornish is just as good and, in both of them, we see the incredible range of emotions as they descend and rise and descend again. One chapter stands above the rest in its emotional power. At one stage Candy becomes pregnant and the couple commit themselves to going "cold turkey" so they can start a new life with their child. They lock themselves in an apartment and travel the incredible journey of withdrawal together -- another indication of their profound love for each other. But things don't go well when an accident occurs and Candy starts to bleed. They rush to the hospital where Candy delivers a stillborn baby. The portrayal of this period by Heath and Cornish tears our hearts to pieces. This is a tough film to watch but we are rewarded by a movie that takes the portrayal of drug addiction into new territory without glamour -- it comes across, in every frame, as the real thing -- warts and all. Candy should collect lots of awards as it travels the cinema circuit. Another indication of the renaissance occuring in Australian cinema. My Rating: ****1/2 Content Warning Frequent drug use; Strong themes; Strong coarse language; Sexual references

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Free BiblePro

If you can't afford hundreds of dollars for Bible software, check out BiblePro -- a completely free Bible package that can be accessed online, downloaded, or on CD for the price of postage. The CD comes with 43 Bibles, 250,000 commentaries, and over 1 million references. It claims to be spyware, adware, and malware free (the online version has ads supplied by Google). For $0 it looks pretty impressive! You can check it out here.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Book Review: The Da Vinci CodeBreaker

The Da Vinci Code, book and movie, has spawned a flood of literature both in support and critiquing the ideas that it presents. After a while, the books all seem to be saying the same thing -- there is a lot of money being made by someone out there! Given that, it would be nice to have one book that just gets to the point and gives the facts. James Garlow's book The Da Vinci CodeBreaker does just that. Written from a Christian perspective, Garlow has provided an dictionary of more than 500 facts and terms related to the ideas of The Da Vinci Code and associated theories. For example, Was Jesus married and the father of a daughter? Was Mary Magdalene Jesus' choice to lead the church until some men took it away from her? Did Christianity really borrow everything from paganism? Did the church really kill 5 million females? Do the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper by Da Vinci contain secret clues? Garlow is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Cracking Da Vinci's Code. He has obviously seen the need for a comprehensive dictionary which is easily consulted. It's a well-illustrated paperback you can carry with you as you are reading the Da Vinci Code or watching the movie. This is a must-read, must-have book if you are interested in the facts. Related Sites