Archive for March, 2008

I’m Sending Emerging Kids to Hell

Don’t ask me how I ended up helping with the kids ministry at our church.

Our overall philosophy was that we wanted everyone as much a part of our main gathering as possible, figuring that we all learn from each other, grandparents, parents, and kids. Practically speaking, we ended up having a nursery but that left us with the question “what do we do with our 6 – 12 year olds?”

A guy who was visiting one of our elder meetings talked about a kids class where the kids essentially taught themselves. They speak each other’s language, pay attention more, and even handle keeping order in the class. They lead the songs, lead the prayer, prepare lessons, and prepare activities to flesh out the lesson.

Now, bright though our children may be, I don’t think they’ll be setting the stories they are learning within the context of the greater story of the Bible or tying everything back to Christ and kingdom work/living. So adults would be needed to help facilitate the discussions. Plus, I know our kids and left to their own devices, this would quickly turn into “Lord of the Flies … In Jesus’ Name” (replete with images of a lone adult tied up in a corner while the kids plotted).

This sounded so good in theory.

Still wanting to keep them in the service as much as possible, we stay in for the music and prayer, but when He Who Would Be Head Pastor begins speaking, we go back to our room. The first day’s class was made up of my two boys, my sister’s two kids, and one of our elders two kids. Maybe I shouldn’t have made the observation that I have license to beat two-thirds of the class. When it came to opening us in prayer, I turned to my eldest son, my name sake, jewel of my crown who comes back with “I don’t know how to pray. You never taught me.”

So after a rocky start (come to find out that some of our kids have some real control issues), we’ve been falling into a nice rhythm, to the point where my kids drag me out of bed to get to church on Sunday mornings. I’ve always wanted the kind of kids ministry where kids can ask any questions they wanted and the teachers would serious wrestle with their questions. So here’s the question of the day for my theologically minded friends (because no one warned me that our kids were so bright):

We’ve spent the last month or so going over the story of the Ten Commandments (we’ve spent three weeks on what “honor your father and mother” means). Anyway, the following discussion breaks out:

Emmi: Well, our baby sister died last year and she’s in heaven. When you’re a kid, God doesn’t hold you responsible for not knowing and obeying the Ten Commandments.

Me: You’re not seriously bringing up the age of accountability issue, right? How old are you?

Ian: Wait a second. If we’re not accountable until we’ve been taught the Ten Commandments and you’ve just taught us the Ten Commandments, if I die today, I could go to hell?

Me: This is your take home lesson? How old are you?

Maggie: I’m telling my mom you just taught us into hell.

Luckily, I have a co-conspirator in this (the elder/mother of the other two kids). I most certainly almost made He Who Would Be Head Pastor pull his sermon over to come back and talk to the kids. How would you answer this question?

(I actually did come up with something, after I let the kids wrestle with answering the question themselves–“That’s a good question. We’re going to go over it some more next week. Try not to die before then.”–then being frightened at how smart they are. We discussed how best to live rather than living to stay out of hell. Each week is a reminder that we start asking very real and very important questions early on and that it’s good to have folks who not only listen and take you seriously, but wrestle with the questions alongside you. I STILL need that.)

There’s probably a book idea in here somewhere.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Fear of Success

It’s that time of year when the Broaddus compound goes through our winter/spring tradition of watching American Idol. Last year I compared the auditions week to the writing business, first from a writer’s perspective and then from an editor’s. This year I’ve decided that the current status of my career is the equivalent of A.I.’s “Hollywood Week.” My stories are good enough to make it to the next round, the judges keep me around until the last round of cuts, and maybe, just maybe, I may make it to the final 24.

Fellow author, Chesya Burke, and my wife are convinced that I suffer from what could be described as an acute case of “fear of success”-itis. The symptoms can take a variety of forms and I thought it my duty to alert my fellow writers of the various ways this condition can sneak up on them.

Malaise. One can feel a general “out of sorts” in terms of their career. Maybe things have plateaued for you, it has been a while since you have received an acceptance (or the flip side, the mountain of rejection slips keep growing). Regardless, you have no oomph about yourself. You may squander opportunities (not do follow up e-mails after you spent a convention garnering contacts) or you don’t nurse your existing contacts as hard as you could.

Tortured artist (aka a writer’s dark night of the soul). You stare at manuscript after manuscript and you come to the startling realization that everything you’ve written reads like the work of a drunken third grader. The best treatment for this condition, mind you, is having a supportive spouse or friend who can cheerlead for you during these dark times.

Panic. It’s funny how we can react to out-of-the-blue good news. Like say a publisher has run across your work and asks you to submit a story to their next anthology. Or an editor contacts you because they’ve decided that you’re a hot up-and-coming writer who they’d like to start working with. How do you react to such good e-mails? ANGST! Panic and a subsequent reversion to Tortured Artist.

Fear of success isn’t just something newbie writers suffer. It can affect writers in other stages of their career also. You could be a huge deal in the small press world and then get the phone call from one of the big boys in the publishing industry wanting you to switch over. Suddenly your life threatens to become that transition from being a senior in high school (and BMOC) to lowly freshman in college. Instead of being a big fish in a small pond, you are now a small fish in a big pond. Sure, you have more opportunities and the possibility of more money and readers, but there is a trade off in immediate recognition and power you are able to wield. The prospect can be scary and a matter of what you want to do with your career (and where you saw yourself ultimately being).

Maybe this could best be described as a fear of publication failure. We don’t want people to read our stories and discover that we’ve in fact laid a literary turd (and many of us live with the insecurity of fearing that we’ll one day be exposed as the frauds we secretly believe we are). Nor do we wish to make a potential career misstep. The larger the stage, the larger the possible failing (and the more evidence you leave behind of that failing).

But it’s like that in life.

Writing is one of the few careers where you actually are betting on yourself. How much talent do I have? How many people can I reach? It’s one reason why some people choose to self-publish. It can be a long, hard road, but if it’s what we want, nothing can deter us from that dream. You may fail a few auditions along the way, may get cut early from a slush pile, or you might not make the final table of contents page for an anthology, but if you keep honing your craft, you will make that top 24.

And then anything can happen.

DON’T BUY THIS BOOK!!!

Orgy of Souls: A Deadly Seduction

New Novella by Maurice Broaddus and Wrath James White offers sex, gore, blasphemy…and the unrivaled power of brotherly love
March 15, 2008 — Apex Publications announces the upcoming release of “Orgy of Souls,” a new novella by Maurice Broaddus and Wrath James White, on June 14, 2008 (just in time for Mo*Con III). Pre-orders begin March 23.

How pretty would a man have to be for you to sign over to him your immortal soul? If you’ve never asked yourself that question, it’s only because you’ve never read “Orgy of Souls.”

A thoughtful look at the role of God in the tragedies of the world might not automatically bring to mind visions of beautiful party boys and orgiastic bloodbaths, but in the hands of Maurice Broaddus and Wrath James White, the melding of such opposites is the perfect backdrop for the story of two brothers, each trying to save the other from what he has become.

Samuel, a priest who questions his faith as he fights a losing battle with AIDS, struggles to retain his dignity and hide his doubts from those around him. His brother, Samson, a high-end fashion model who indulges in every excess and finds each one lacking, loves nothing in the world except for Samuel. As Samson sinks deeper into the darkness of violent rituals intended to barter for his brother’s life, Samuel must face up to his own doubts and fears in order to stop Samson’s growing lust for blood and souls.

Blood, sex, rage, repentance and otherworldly horror…all are invited to the “Orgy of Souls.”

Better your blasphemy and preorder “Orgy of Souls” on Easter Sunday: March 23, 2008. For details and updates visit www.apexbookcompany.com. Available in signed, limited edition hardcover (350 copies, bound tip-in signature sheet) and trade paperback (released in Sept. 08) from Apex Publications.

About the Authors
Maurice Broaddus’s work has appeared in Weird Tales, Horror Literature Quarterly, and a wide variety of anthologies. His story “Family Business” won first prize at the World Horror Convention Story Competition in 2003. Often known as the Sinister Minister, Broaddus says of the religious aspects of his writing: “As writers, our worldviews–from nihilistic to religious–are a part of us and thus a part of our writing. What we believe, why we believe, it’s all in there.”

Wrath James White is a professional fighter and writer, two pursuits that blend together to create unrelenting prose. His novels include Teratologist (co-written with Edward Lee), Poisoning Eros (co-written with Monica O-Rourke), and Succulent Prey. “If you have a weak stomach, a closed mind, rigid morals, and Victorian sexual ethics, then avoid my writing like the plague,” says Wrath. If, on the other hand, you want hard-hitting fiction where nothing is taboo, you’ve found the right author.

About Apex Publications
Apex Publications is a small press dedicated to publishing exemplary works of dark science fiction and horror. Owned and operated by Jason B. Sizemore, Apex publishes the critically acclaimed Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest. In 2006, Apex Publishing branched into producing novellas, collections, and anthologies, earning a Bram Stoker Award nomination for the Aegri Somnia anthology in 2007.

***

How could you not see this coming? Wrath James White has guest blogged for me, I reviewed his Book of a Thousand Sins and I interviewed him (part I and II)

I already know that I’m going to get letters. You know it’s a bad sign when Wrath drops me a note saying “you may want to have a blog handy about how you can write horror and work in a church.” Luckily, I do.

Of course, I’m in a no lose situation:

Dear Mr. Broaddus, How can you call yourself a Christian and write … that “covenant” scene, to say the least? Sincerely, Pissed off, though well-intentioned, judgmental guy

Now, the simple response could go along the lines of

Dear fellow traveler, Wrath wrote that. In fact, he wrote every objectionable scene in the novella. Did you read Book of a Thousand Sins?!? Sincerely, Perfectly innocent co-writer

For those looking for my usual fare, save me the headache. Save yourself the headache. There are scenes where you can almost picture Wrath behind the keyboard trying to get me fired. Did I mention that I wrote none of those scenes? (Though Apex Publications does seem to draw out my darker, darker side. It should be noted, however, that my story appearing in Apex Digest #12 was written while under the influence of my collaboration with Wrath.)

I may have my church boycott the book.

Ignore Mark Rainey, too:

“ORGY OF SOULS is a gripping tale of two brothers whose lives have taken radically different paths — but those paths intersect via some surprising twists and turns. With raw prose, vividly drawn characters, and a chilling touch of the occult, Broaddus and White draw you in and belt you right in your emotional gut.” –Stephen Mark Rainey, author of BLUE DEVIL ISLAND and THE LEBO COVEN.

“Better your blasphemy”?!? Not helping, Mr. Sizemore. I’m REALLY going to get letters.

Also available on Horror Mall.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Dear Miss Ro – America’s Best Dance Crew

It’s sad that our relationship has hit a bumpy patch because of America’s Best Dance Crew. I know, I know. You’re still reeling over Kaba Modern (your second favorite crew) being voted off and the final two crews coming down to Status Quo (my favorite) and JabbaWockeeZ (your favorite). I recognize that Jabba and Kaba operate on a whole other level, but I thought I’d make my case for why I think the right two crews are going head-to-head.

There were three schools of crews in America’s Best Dance Crew: the technically brilliant (Jabba, Kaba, Iconic) , the more raw street style (Status Quo, Live in Color, Fysh n Chicks), and the other (BreakSk8, Femme 5). The other/novelty acts went as far as they could (BreakSk8 represent!), but the show rightly came down to the best of the two schools.

Sure, Status Quo is sloppy. Their choreography is a mess. They are like a three ring circus every time they perform, like short attention span theater for dancers. Their brand of barely controlled chaos reminds me of an NBA team: a bunch of individual stars who struggle to work together half the time. But they get credit for their creativity, their energy level, their stunts and their sense of humor. They are audience crowd pleasers.


JabbaWockeeZ are just. Plain. Stupid. Status Quo may be my favorite group, but that was taking Jabbawockeez (and Kaba Modern) out of the equation, because [those two groups] are sick. While both groups execute with near machine-like perfection, Jabba got the edge because they have a greater stage presence. Their choreography not only is creative, but they engage the crowd in ways Kaba hadn’t.

You knew at some point the competition was going to come down between Jabba and Kaba, we just wanted it in the final episode and not the penultimate one. Think of it this way, I understand the pain you are feeling: I still haven’t quite gotten over the first season of American Idol when I thought the showdown should have been between Kelly Clarkson and Tamyra Gray.

Anyway, I know you’ll be voting right up until the finale airs Thursday.

So you really don’t have to take your anger at me out on my message board. You know, not many pictures even exist of me in an Afro, so I know you had to go WAY back to find some (for those keeping score at home, I’m in the yellow shirt). You realize that not even our mother has pictures of me in any form of an Afro because I confiscated all such pictures when I moved out. But Of COURSE you manage to dig one up.

Come on over to my house. I’ll fix you dinner. We’ll lead up to the finale of America’s Best Dance Crew by watching the previous episodes. It’ll be okay.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

A Tale of Two Stories

Two magazines, featuring stories of mine, are available for order:

Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest #12 marks the first time I have made the cover of a magazine (this is like the twin coming out first being declared the older sibling – still, you never forget your first.) My story, “Broken Strand”, mixes religion, horror, and science fiction in a tale of a scientist who believes he can undo the “sin nature” of humanity via gene therapy. Hijinks ensue.

The issue also features new work by Brian Keene, Steve Shrewsbury, Alethea Kontis, Paul Jessup, and Michael West.

Here’s a direct link to the issue in the Apex online store.

It’s also available across the US and Canada in over 500 stores (namely B&N;, Hastings, Chapters, and Joseph-Beth Booksellers) as well as the new Horror-Mall.com. Yes, I do plan on hunting down the issue at my local Barnes and Noble so that I can see my name on a shelf.

Doorways #5 features my story, “Just a Young Man and His Game.” This story takes place in the same universe as “Just an Old Man on a Bench” (first published on the Horrorfind web site back in the day).

Here’s a video if you want to see what it looks like. Here’s a direct link to the issue in the Doorways Publishing store.

If you want to order, it’s $6.75 + .75 for shipping ($1.50 if you’re outside of the U.S.) or a one year subscription is: (4 ISSUES) $20.00 + $3.15 for shipping ($6.31 if you’re outside of the U.S.)

You can send a check (if in the U.S.) to :

DOORWAYS MAGAZINE
247 N SYCAMORE ST
UNION CITY, OH 45390

Or send paypal payment to: bewisedesign@yahoo.com

Drop me a line and let me know what you think of the stories.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – Crap or Get Off the Pot

Relationships are about timing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we hear about God’s timing, but that’s not what I specifically mean. I mean sometimes the timing of things, the timing of two lives coming together, isn’t always in sync.

Have you ever been in a treading water or yo-yo-ing relationship? By treading water, I mean you have reached this comfortable spot, things don’t seem to be going either forwards (towards marriage) or backwards (toward a break up), but you have lost relationship momentum and find yourself in a steady-state position. It’s not a bad place, things are going along fine, yet, you can’t help but feel some sort of dissatisfaction. Like you aren’t where you want to be in the relationship or that you could seriously see your relationship in this same place a year from now. Two years from now. For the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, you have the yo-yo-ing relationship. You get together, things for fine for a time, then the relationship seems to come to a head. One of you may want more while the other isn’t ready to commit. You may want to get married but you can’t quite seem to take that final step. So the two of you break up, ready to go your separate directions and start anew with someone else. Time goes by, then you start to drift back together. It may start slowly: you still hang out with the same friends and thus bump into each other a lot; you attempt to just be friends and find yourselves calling each other and hanging out again; next thing you know, you’re talking about giving things another shot and the process starts all over again.

There comes a point where you have to decide the ultimate future of the relationship. Much like some people feel a biological clock (and that may factor into the decision) others feel a “lifetime commitment” clock. Think of it as a lemon law: once you’ve decided that this is the person you could spend the rest of your life with, how much time, energy, and emotion are you willing to invest in the relationship before you decide that things aren’t heading down the aisle?

This lag time will vary per couple; relationships have to go at their own pace. It is a time of discovery, of learning about your partner. So part of the decision making process may boil down to where you are in life. Financial reality may play a part in the decision, being in school, career decisions, family obligations. These are realities.

Indecision, not wanting to settle down just yet (if ever), “I don’t know”, “it doesn’t feel right yet”—you’re lying to yourself if you don’t believe these aren’t decisions every bit as real as a break up. And you know what? You should listen to those decisions. If one partner doesn’t know, don’t pressure them into a “yes”. You shouldn’t have to sell you or the relationship to them.

No one ought to force you into making a decision you aren’t ready to, but there comes a point where you are going to have to make a decision. Otherwise you really are holding up two people’s lives. Timing is a delicate thing (more delicate than the title of this blog).

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Ultimate Human – A Review

“Redemption Story”

Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: Cary Nord
Published by: Marvel Comics

Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) are the “two halves of the push to post-humanity.” Both brilliant scientist, yet one has a lifetime mired in failure as much as the other has had success. So, in Ultimate Human, Bruce Banner has come to Tony Stark in the hopes of finding a cure for his condition. Warren Ellis begins to do for the Ultimate version of the Hulk what Peter David did for the mainline version of him – explore what truly makes him the Hulk, psychologically and physically.

“I’ve been sick my whole life and had to fight for everything I ever wanted. And never got it. Never.” –Bruce Banner

Like Bruce Banner, part of us realize that we live in a “failure condition.” We largely sleepwalk through life, wondering what’s it all about, why we are here, what we’re supposed to do and be. The idea reminded me of the book New Way to be Human by Charlie Peacock and how we all begin with a Story, a Story that God steps into. The story has four major arcs:

Creation – The story of all that is right and good about people and the world. We were created in His image, related to God, in right relationship with Him, under His rule and agenda. We were his servant-representatives in the world, responsible for one another and stewards of creation. Made for community and unbroken relationships, we were also created not only with intelligence, but also with a free will to choose.

Fall – The story of what went wrong, what is wrong, with them. With our ability to choose, we were intolerant of mystery and the gaps in our knowledge. So we sought our own way, disconnecting ourselves from the rhythm of life set out by God, becoming alienated not only from each other, but God and creation. This turning away from God to your own assumption of living life is the very definition of sin.

“Save me.” –Bruce Banner

Redemption – The story of the mission to restore. God unfolds His relational Word, in conversation, in Laws, in history, and, ultimately, in Christ. He seeks to rescue His people and usher in His kingdom, a new way of living.
New Creation – The story of the completion of that mission. One day we’ll see the end goal of perfection, of new heavens and new earth. That is the hope in which we live.

So being the ultimate human begins with repentance, exchanging your old way of life for a new way. One where we know the story and then live out the mission, centering around one simple idea: “”Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Being the ultimate human is to participate in the story, embracing all aspects of life, but living with the goal of loving everyone and everything with holiness and imagination. It should impact how we work, how we play, and how we relate to one another; finding our redemptive mission in continuing the work He began to reconcile all of creation to Him.

Warren Ellis is great at playing in other people’s sandboxes. He respects the characters and fleshes them out even as he explores them in dark turns. The ultimate versions of these traditional heroes allows him to play with his full palette of science fiction tricks and jargon. The art mirrors the cinematic style that Ellis worked with during his run on The Authority, except this time it comes at the hands of a very capable Cary Nord. The book, like much of Marvel’s comic line these days, has the heady aroma of marketing opportunism (look for the trade paperback of this mini-series to come out in time for both the Iron Man and Hulk 2 movies), but Ellis keeps the story both interesting and relevant to the rest of the Ultimate universe.

***

Ultimate Iron Man II – A Review

“Tech Run Amuck”

Written by: Orson Scott Card
Art by: Pasqual Ferry
Published by: Marvel Comics

Iron Man has never been one of those characters that especially appealed to me. He was a (drunk) rich guy in a tech suit and was rarely written in an interesting way. Most times, the character was only as interesting as his supporting characters. With Ultimate Iron Man II we have a darker take on the Tony Stark character.

For starters, this is a much more sci-fi take on Iron Man: Tony Stark’s mother infected herself, and her then fetus son, with a regenerative virus that turns every body cell into a neural cell capable of new growth. So his limbs can regrow and his brain is essentially distributed through his whole body. Plus, he has nanotech armor technology, the armor is a thin layer on top of the wearer’s skin, which allows him to control the Iron Man suit.

*****************************************************
Many times architects plan the home security parallel to the flooring supplies getting fixed for better professional results. Others still concentrate on rugs and conventional outdoor furniture.
*****************************************************

Under Orson Scott Card’s writing, we get to intricately explore the relationship between Tony and his father Howard. He weaves a tapestry of constant pressure and expectation as Tony has to live in the great man’s shadow with the burden of carrying on legacy. He attempts to both follow the example of his father while learning from his mistakes. It’s a delicate balance that can either free you to further greatness or it can spiral you into madness/self-destruction (and we see which way Tony is heading with his increasing dependence on alcohol).

Mostly, the part of the story that intrigues me most is Tony Stark as a government munitions developer. He has always been a part of the morally murky world of weapon design, essentially profiting from war, yet rarely has this aspect of his character been as relevant as it is these days. And that dark, cynical tone has crept into both the Marvel as well as Ultimate Universe depictions of the character.

“Look, it was a lesson you needed to learn. You’re not stupid, you’re just young.” –Howard Stark

As human beings, we are hard-wired for relationships. We are relational creatures gifted with many of the ease of lifestyle that technology affords. Yet we face the constant danger of being isolated by that very same technology. Counter intuitive though it may seem, considering how instantly reachable we are now (with our cell phones and text messaging; always plugged in to instant message, check e-mail or surf the web). Blackberries, iPods, Game Boys – our lives have accelerated and we’ve become over-stimulated. Technology can become our armor against the world.

At the same time, we interact with the world in new ways. Form online communities (multi-player games and message boards), have virtual relationships (chat rooms), and we can communicate with those thousands of miles from us as if they were around the corner.

Technology is what you make of it, as we try to find meaning and make sense of our increasingly postmodern world. We are less socially connected, our social networks being tethers of 1s and 0s. We will still and always have a need for the real over the virtual. We still need a human connection.

Orson Scott Card keeps Ultimate Iron Man II light with plenty of witty banter. The art is serviceable, but I’m not a fan of Pasqual Ferry’s panel construction. Each panel focused so tightly on the person in the foreground, with little to no details in the background, it was like looking at a series of cameo photos. Still, overall, the story has a lot going on inside it, with layers of political and corporate intrigue. It will be interesting watching the story develop over time.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – A Review

“O Mary Don’t You Shoot”

The latest trend in Hollywood has been to re-tread nostalgic favorites, thus the return of Transformers, Rocky, Rambo, and Knight Rider (which threatens to become a series in the Fall). It makes sense: the properties have immediate name recognition and a built in audience, however, that alone isn’t enough (see Bionic Woman). However, I don’t think Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will be sharing the problems of Bionic Woman.

For a start, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has a well thought out mythology and the writers know where they are going with the show. It’s a simple premise: a mother and son on the run from robots from the future who are out to kill him before he grows up to become the rebel leader savior he’s destined to become. But the duo has their own robot protecting them in their travels.

Though the series picks up after T2, the second in the movie franchise, it avoids a lot of the continuity issues of T3 by time jumping ahead to present day 2007. This allows them to fulfill the words spoken in T2 about them writing their own destiny (and the show becomes the default T3).

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has a strong cast. Lena Headey (300) steps in as Sarah Connor, in the role Linda Hamilton made iconic. Add Thomas Dekker (Heroes) as John Connor and Summer Glau (Serenity) as the Cameron, the good Terminator, you have a cast that isn’t exactly a collection of strangers to genre work.

“Come with me if you want to live.” –Cameron

These are the first words the protective Terminator uses to introduce itself to either Sarah or John Connor. To draw a Biblical connection, we have the Terminator essentially functioning as the angel Gabriel in the story. He both announces Sarah and John’s role in the greater story of prophetic history, but serves as a guardian spirit.

“I’m not who they think I am. Some messiah.” –John

In a lot of ways, John’s story is parallel to that of Clark Kent’s in the series Smallville. Both are Messianic figures who have yet to come to terms with their future greatness and struggle with the idea of getting there. In the future, he will lead a war against a system programmed to destroy the world, so their present day adventures revolve around trying to prevent the future Fall of humankind, even though they know they won’t.

John constantly questions himself and his destiny (“Isn’t that what I’m supposed to be? A hero, isn’t that who I am? If it’s just going to sit inside me, if it’s just going to sit in my gut, then what are we doing? What’s the point?”) even as he slowly comes to terms with it. Hopefully John Connor having the initials J.C. wasn’t too subtle for people.

Also in a way, John communes with himself. His older self sits in some future realm, yet still aids his present self by sending messages, Terminators, and other rebel helpers to help him along his journey. Yet it is not John’s story that I think the biggest spiritual connection lies, but rather with his mother’s.

“Would he know my love runs through him like blood?” –Sarah

Sarah Connor assumes the role of Mary in the story of the one day messiah of humanity. She is the one who will teach him to become the soldier and leader he will become. She is the primary guiding force who helps him come to terms with his destiny. As much as she likes having no name, no story, as they move about in their adventures, it is her love, a mother’s love for her son—and her, in turn, fighting for him—that the show revolves around. Because she knows he has a destiny/mission/ministry to fulfill.

Debate rages around the issues of Mary (from her Assumption to her Immaculate Conception to her role as co-redeemer). In the Protestant rush to downplay her, we often overlook the vital role she had to have played in Jesus’ life, beginning with the fact that she carried the God-man in her womb. She was mother to the Savior. Hers was the voice that shaped him, taught him, disciplined him (we see that she at least got on him for tarrying too long at Temple), and helped him come to terms with his messianic consciousness.

Her role was huge in the Story we find ourselves in and she did play an important part in the story of redemption. So all respect is due.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is smart and entertaining, the epitome of how to reinvigorate a franchise. As both messenger and protector, Summer imbues Cameron with a likeability, warmth, and sly humor despite her robotic role. It’s not easy to raise a teenage boy these days, especially while being stalked in a battle between good and evil. And Sarah is one mother you don’t want to cross. Put simply, This. Show. Rocks.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

My Name is Earl – A Doubting Faith

“Bad Earl”

“After everything that happened, Karma had me pretty confused.” –Earl

Entering its third season, My Name is Earl spent much of the season following Earl’s misadventures in prison. A lot of his life prior to finding out about and following the ways of “Karma” were spent breaking the law and showing up on episodes of Cops. However, Earl was imprisoned for trying to do right by his ex-wife, Joy. This led to a string of largely mediocre episodes, but watching Joy and Darnell lead a church service (“Oh Jesus you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Jesus!”) was a series highlight. The episode “Bad Earl” follows Earl’s crisis of faith, what some call a “dark night of the soul.”

As a scientist, a writer, and a practical theologian, intellectually speaking, faith hasn’t come easy to me (the question of faith has always hiccupped my spiritual journey). Some days I find myself wondering if I’m even a Christian. You pour yourself into people, befriend them, only to have them turn on me and/or leave the faith. It can be disheartening and you wonder if maybe you’ve gotten everything somehow wrong.

Some people find the prospect of doubt in one’s faith akin to leaving the faith entirely. They stand firm on “knowing” and “certainty” and “assurance” which can be understandable because people hate the idea of not knowing. Truth shouldn’t fear critical examination, and while there may be a point where you end up questioning for its own sake, every now and then it can be a healthy thing to question and re-evaluate our worldview.

Faith can be a relatively simple math problem: History/evidence + personal experience + intuition = faith. The personal dimensions to our faith, however, can be outlined in three phases: discovery (the kingdom of God/way of life), acknowledgment (this is true), and then reckoning (wrestling with it). Sometimes it seems like we chase after God and He’s playing hard to get. Paradoxically, or at least somewhat counter-intuitively, we can still draw closer to God through times of doubt and questioning.

“I’m pretty sure this Karma thing doesn’t exist.” –Earl

The Christian story on its face can seem ridiculous: God, this completely Other—sometimes seen as an imaginary friend, sometimes as the Creator—becomes flesh and blood, born of a virgin. This story unfolds in the context of angels, miracles, and fulfilled prophecy, only for him to die as so many had before and after on a Roman cross and then rise from the dead.

The journey of knowledge begins with an assumption: atheists begin with human reason (“I know through my reason, I know because I’ve reasoned that”); people of faith with theirs (“The Bible is the word of God because it says it is”). Oversimplified, I know, but minds of inquiry and genuine intellectual curiosity can journey together.

Doubting proves thought. How you arrive at truth, the contemplation of your own existence, demonstrates our ability to think and reflect. In the Christian tradition we typically draw on four sources: Scripture (the Bible), the historic church tradition (we learn in community, with time merely being a dimension to community), reason (both intuitive and deductive), and personal experience.

“I’m sick of people expecting more from me. How come I always have to act better than everyone else?” –Earl

Earl had certain expectations of his faith, a sort of “prosperity Karma”. Faith was almost like an investment scheme: after two years of doing good, things were supposed to be better, not worse. Things didn’t seem fair and we find ourselves (intellectually/behaviorally) spiraling. We can get so hung up on the possibility of missing the mark that we miss the point of being here. We end up asking the wrong questions (“Am I saved and thus ‘in’” vs. “Am I living in the way of Jesus?”).

The whole world is blessed and God is at work in all of us, working out His kingdom plan. Ironically, it’s Randy, Earl’s dimmer-witted brother, who stumbles over the secret to getting back on track: “Maybe you should go ahead and do something on your list. That always makes you feel better.” His list was his “Scriptural” guide for missional living. Living out one’s faith, the parts you clearly understand and know to be true, doesn’t make the questions irrelevant, but it certainly puts them in perspective. I may not be able to exegete every passage in the Bible, but I can grasp the concept of “love others as yourself” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“I had no idea where I was going to, but I knew where I was going from … but Karma came looking for me.” –Earl

In the silence, God is there, or, in Earl’s words, “I thought Karma was dead, but she was just laying low.” You can turn your back on Him, but He won’t turn His back on you. And sometimes we need the silence in order to learn, if only to learn to listen. Having a life of faith means accepting the difficulty of living between paradoxes; it means getting rid of the arrogance and judgmentalism because you don’t have all of the answers. Having a doubting faith isn’t an easy road to walk. It can be filled with many dark nights and the weight of unanswered questions can sometimes be unbearable. But if you let it, a doubting faith can leads you to having to recommit to the journey daily. In the end, that’s all we can ask from our faith. As T.S. Eliot said, “Doubt and uncertainty are merely a variety of belief.”

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.