Response to: A more knowable Other

This post is a response to Popular Christianity: Popular Culture?‘s post: “A more knowable Other“.

The concept of negotiating what makes us human through looking at representations of human beings with grotesque tendencies is brilliant.  These characters – like Hannibal Lecter – are certainly monsters in a psychological sense.

To say that they are more powerful than monsters for the purposes of negotiating our humanness, in a narrative, might be taking it too far – I would say they are a powerful example, but that they only fulfil another type of monster in the repertoire of monsters.

The intelligent, alive, and psychologically disturbed human-monster (or inhumane-human) represents the monstrous potential within a person extremely well; the Other is almost as close as it gets to us.  On an intrapersonal level, this type of monster is extremely effective, it indeed resonates deeply.

Outside of this, vampires look pretty human-like, zombies less so, and ghosts aren’t even physical [Aside: I think the black smoke monster (or The Man in Black) from LOST would prove to be an interesting artefact: ghost-like and physical (morphing), immortal and supernatural, immune to death, and longing for freedom (that ultimately leads to an unwanted death)].  But, my point is that though human-monsters are an effective example, the vampire and zombie (ghost and mummy) lead us to question our humanity in different ways.

I am now seriously addicted to this show...

Zombies, more specifically zombie apocalypses (apocali?), like in The Walking Dead, lead us to question our humanity: will we retain our humanity in a fight for survival? how will people relate to one another in dire circumstance? will we retain a sanctity of life? what is the purpose of life? etc.

The inhuman-human, human-monster, or human being with grotesque tendencies, whatever it be called, is a welcome addition to the list of monsters.

Lazarus – the first zombie

The topic of God and Monsters (Vampires and Zombies) for this past week was entertaining – I thoroughly enjoyed watching an episode of The Walking Dead; and thought provoking – what makes us human and the drive for monsters (vampires or Frankenstein) to be human.  But on to what the title suggests.

John 11:38-44:

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Duccio, Resurrection of Lazarus, 1308-11

Take that in for a second.  You have just witnessed a guy get up from out of a tomb (that reeks) all wrapped up in linen (though that may imply mummy sooner than zombie – regardless; he’s undead).

Or, you are Lazarus.  You’ve just been dead for the past 4 days (you would beat Jesus in consecutive days dead before resurrection) and now you are up and about, and ready to keep living the rest of your life.  Weird.

Apparently though, if this were to happen to you, you’d be joining the ranks of 25 other people, since 1982, who have experienced Lazarus Syndrome: the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation.  (I find this case is particularly interesting.)

It’s rather bizarre.  These people, like Lazarus, were dead.  Unlike “real” zombies who become mindless, flesh-feasting, and soulless creatures, they come alive and can go back to being their normal selves.

I wonder what psychological toll this would have on Lazarus, or anyone else who’s experienced this.  Waking up in a morgue, found breathing by a funeral worker who’s about to pump you full of formaldehyde, or waking up and having been told you were dead is something that would mess with me.  The possibility of dying a second time…  Am I different (monstrous) in any way… Do I live my life any differently… Or is everything just the same.  I suppose there’s a lot to think about.  It is, perhaps, an interesting narrative.

In the same way that a zombie apocalypse story can force people to choose to become better people or become more human, I wonder if Lazarus-esque stories offer the same possibilities and questions.

What do you think?

Response to: Making Good Deeds Public

Click the title or here for The Holy Blogle‘s original post.

The passage from Matthew 6:4 seems mostly contradictory from a chapter earlier in Matthew 5:16:

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.”

Jesus wants the world to see how Christians live their lives: living as “salt and light” and everyway that he outlines (Matt. 5-7 is a good start).  As you said, a good deed may “be considered most genuine when done in privacy”, but I don’t think that Christians are to do all of their good deeds in secret.

“Giving in secret” is a call against self-righteousness – The Message, an idiomatic translation, reads Matt. 6:1 as, “…don’t make a performance out of it.”

What a q t pie...

Therefore, Christians – like Bieber – can and should give publicly; yet, (t)he(y) should only do so in a way that isn’t making a performance out of it.

But, “Is there any act of charity that Justin Bieber can do without making it a performance?”  Certainly: Justin Bieber could go to a hospital and visit sick kids as part of a contribution to the “Make a Wish Foundation”.  (As seen in the “Pray” video.)

The line begins to blur when he is seen doing charity work in his music videos.

You can choose to see Bieber as promoting ‘caring for the sick’, raising awareness for ‘social issues’, and a promoter of doing good things – being a good Christian.  Bringing camera’s wherever he goes is a way for spreading his ‘light to the world’.

Oppositely, you can choose to see him as a self-promoting, image-making superstar, combining messages of inequality and his acts of charity to conger up people’s emotions and ‘fall in love’ with him.  Bringing camera’s wherever he goes is a way of making a performance out of it.

Public act of charity? or just a poster boy?

Is a public act of charity insincere?

Or, for the Biebester (or any famous person), is it the fact that he’s making (possibly more) money off (the footage of) his acts of charity that makes him insincere?

Sportianity: Sports instead of Jesus

Sports as religion?

Sports like religion?

Though I would mostly disagree with the claim that sports are literally a form of religion, as some scholars would attest, I certainly believe that sports – specifically professional sports – have characteristics of and fulfil some religious functions.

Myths, legends, ritual and tradition, sacrifice, sacred sites, ineffability, and community. These words conjure up thoughts of experiencing religion just as much as they do of sports.

I’m curious if Christians are aware of and if they should participate in the “religion of sports”.

Following a team: the stats, scores, and players (and their twitters’), being glued to the TV, Internet, or a smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that) for the latest information on trades, rumours, news, prospects (reading the paper and sports magazines works too), wearing a jersey (or something more extravagant), regularly attending games (often with a rather high ticket price),

making an event or a whole day out of a game and the traditions/rituals that come a long with it, having a sense of belonging, ownership, friendships and community built around a team, and an emotional connection.  All these things, and more, are the ways that people invest their time, money, and energy into sports or a specific team.

None of these things seem inherently bad.

But, as a Christian, I question whether professional sports are taking too much our time and if it is a god – how much do these things mean to us?

I question whether we should be proud of, cheering for, and supporting organisations that: spend (tens or hundreds of) millions of dollars on players salaries, commodify people (athletes), promote violence or suffering of self for ‘winning’ (though making money is actually the goal of the organisation), as well as promote the sexualisation of women, the achievement of stardom, and the ethic of winning above all else.

What do you think?

To note: I’m very much in favour of sports on a local and/or amateur level.  Fitness is important and there is plenty of fun to be had!  I love playing intramural hockey and ultimate frisbee.

KONY 2012

(click here to watch the video on Vimeo, or click the photo to watch it on the KONY 2012 site if you have no idea what’s going on).

As Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and social networking sites have massively and virally spread the news of KONY 2012, I’m curious of how things will move from here.

This article from enough (‘The project to end genocide and crimes against humanity’, which has partnered with Invisible Children and Resolve for the KONY2012 campaign) features a Q+A with Jason Russell.  This quote is the most important thing to keep in mind, in answering, “What’s the dream for KONY 2012?”, Jason Russell answers:

“The ultimate dream for KONY 2012 is that it becomes a tipping point for conversation, and that people will make a commitment to stop at nothing by making sure Kony is known in their circle of influence, whether it’s their family or office or school. The dream would be for Kony to be captured, not killed, and brought to the International Criminal Court to face trial. The world would know about his crimes and they would watch the trial play out on an international level, seeing a man face justice who got away with abducting children, raping little girls, and mutilating people’s faces for 26 years.”

I fear of an Bin Laden-like response if his death occurs (don’t get me started) … but there is hope, because of the people behind this, that Kony will stand trial.

Giving funds to the cause is interesting though.  I’ve already seen at least one reddit commenter who is concerned with IC’s budget (see page 6).  Yes, they spend a lot on Travel, but I think that it’s worth it – there needs to be someone filming, and visiting all the villages and cities across Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan, and Central Africa in making their cause more legitimate to a North American audience.  I’d say Jason Russell has good intentions and is making good use of donated funds, unless I see something a lot more questionable.  You can also see “Where does money donated to Invisible Children, Inc. go?” on the FAQ of the IC site.

The North American-ness of the cause is also interesting…

The site features the pictures of extremely American celebrities and almost exclusively American politicians.  The site also only allows people to purchase their kits in dollars (as opposed to Euro’s, etct.).  I’ve already read of folks overseas really wishing they could help out with spreading the word and buy posters.  If they wish to succeed world-wide the KONY campaign needs to start appealing to the worldwide audience.

This cause also seems very dependant on the US military – a branch of the US government that I’m not terribly fond of.  It’s as though they need support from the US military to track down Joseph Kony.  Which, in all likelihood is close to the truth, considering how much technology they have (I’m assuming the resources of the Uganda military is slightly less than the US…).  The video glorifies these 100 US military advisors – as though they will end the conflict once and for all.  It makes the US military look like a good and upstanding humanitarian force.

Jason Russell sure likes his bazookas...

Can’t the UN assemble a peacekeeping force – much larger than the 100 US military ‘special operations forces’ – to track him down with US (or UK) surveillance help?  I like the concept of multiple nations coming together to create a joint peacekeeping force, would more people and more support really help in seizing Kony and freeing the children?

I think the cause is great.  I hope it catches on.  I hope Kony comes to trial at the ICC.

I fear of too much hope in the US military.  I fear that people want Kony dead.  I fear of things that tear people apart over bringing things to justice: like finance – but it better not be ignorance.

Here’s an article of two survivors of Kony’s Lords Resistance Army that lived alongside him.

The tracking system they’ve made is pretty legit.

This article from 2009 is a really great critique on the directors of Invisible Children and their mission.

And Visible Children has gotten a lot of hits as well.

Time to become a Bielieber?

Justin Bieber.


I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be writing a blog post about him.

I would say there are very few North Americans who haven’t heard his name.  The kid (he just turned 18 on March 1st) has made some rather big strides since making Youtube videos at home with his mom in Stratford in 2007.

Regardless of your thoughts on him, he’s big, and he’s got hoards of folks listening to him: screaming 12 year olds, obsessed 20 year olds, and anyone listening to any hit radio station.  The Observer reported that he’s more influential in the social networking sphere than Barack Obama or The Dalai Lama.

After watching his video for the song “Pray” (released December 11, 2010 on Facebook), our class had quite the discussion.

The video features shots of: Port-au-Prince and other various disaster shots of Haiti after the earthquake; homeless people, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, refugees, soldiers, various animals in poor situations, hospitals (positive dancing and despairing situations), workers on strike, all around and amongst shots of Justin Bieber playing at concerts, and giving hugs to patients at hospitals as part of the “make a wish” foundation.

A comment in class that described the video as – it’s like a grade 8 student hashed together a bunch of video clips of world problems – couldn’t be more accurate.

We can thank Bieber for bringing plenty of world issues to the thoughts of prepubescent girls minds.

But, can we also thank him for using charity to promote and sell himself?  Can we assume that he is sincere?  Surely, Bieber is a constructed popular image, and him being his Christian self requires some form of charity?

How about the Christianity we see portrayed?  Bieber’s “close my eyes and pray”, “and I can see a better day” compel the listener to (other than prayer) see the problems of the world and know there’s “sunshine behind that rain”.  This is hardly what Jesus calls his disciples to.

What do you think?