/ Features E. Stephen Burnett

The Best Meme About That Black Hole Photo

After that black hole photo, Lord of the Rings fans have drawn clear comparisons based on color palette.
| Apr 10, 2019 | No comments |

By now you’ve all seen that “first photo of a black hole.”1

Of course, after that black hole photo, Lord of the Rings fans have drawn rather obvious comparisons based on color palette.

But you may not have seen this meme. Live, at the speed of internet (I saw it at the Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Legendarium page):

  1. Which I imagine wasn’t a photo per se. Previously these images have turned out to be a composite, or computer imaging derived from scientific measurements of a possible object.

Visit Lorehaven this Weekend at Teach Them Diligently in Texas

Lorehaven magazine exhibits at this weekend’s Teach Them Diligently conference in Waco, Texas.
| Apr 9, 2019 | No comments |

One of my greatest new joys is editor-in-chiefing and publishing Lorehaven magazine.

Our next event: we’re exhibiting at this weekend’s Teach Them Diligently conference in Waco, Texas.

Who: Fanservants writer Marian Jacobs, creative relations Lacy Rhiannon (my wife), and myself.

When:

  • Thursday, April 11, 7 to 9 a.m.
  • Friday, April 12, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 13, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Avenue, Waco, Texas

What:

  • Subscribe for free to get every issue online!
  • Browse or purchase print copies of the magazine.
  • Grab a free bookmark, hot off presses, about discerning stories.
  • Win a copy of Thomas Locke’s post-post-dystopian novel Enclave.
  • Chat about fantastical fiction and learn how to find these amazing stories from Christian authors.

Why:

Lorehaven serves Christian fans by finding biblical truth in fantastic stories. Book clubs, free webzines, and a web-based community offer flash reviews, articles, and news about Christian fantasy, science fiction, and other fantastical genres. Magazine print copies are available by request and at special events.

Central Texas fanservants, we hope to see you this weekend at Teach Them Diligently!

‘If Only Christians Made Great Art!’ Ignores Real-World Criticism

Any Christian artist, no matter the label or quality of the art, will face criticism or even persecution.
| Apr 8, 2019 | 3 comments |

I like to advocate for Christian fiction. By name. By Christians, and for Christians.

And yes, I do this while recognizing that the label Christian fiction has a lot of silly definitions attached to it.1

But in response, some Christian-fiction-as-label critics offer some sentimentalist views of their own.

For example, I often hear an objection that goes something like this:

If only more Christians made great art! Then we could really influence the culture for the gospel.

That’s the best version of this objection. Lesser versions of it attach generalized riders like, Then more people would believe in Jesus, or Then we could do something about people’s nasty beliefs about Christians.2

I call these objections “sentimentalist” for at least two reasons:

  • It ignores the existence of existing, excellent Christian-made fiction;
  • It presumes the general goodness of popular culture “kingmakers,” who chase trends and agendas like any other human.

Exhibit A: ‘Strange Planet’ cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle.

If you have gone anywhere near social media, you’ve likely seen the comics of Nathan W. Pyle. Within the past month, he’s gotten hugely popular.

Who?

He’s the artist who makes those “Strange Planet” comics. They’re the ones that feature those little blue aliens, who practice basic human things and describe them with comically cumbersome big words.

As in, alien 1 says to another, about a salad, “YOU GATHERED LEAVES”.

Then alien 2 replies, “LEAFBUCKET! IT’S SOMETHING TO INGEST”.

These comics are whimsical, genuinely funny, well-done for their medium. They’re not “evangelistic.” And they’re not propaganda. They’re simple, accessible, and they speak to the basic human condition from a position that’s at once comfortable and challenging. Each four-paneled insight lets us laugh at ourselves but not in a mean-spirited way.

Well. Turns out Nathan W. Pyle could still himself be a threat-level-A alien menace.

For this crime, many of his fans are turning against him. They’re saying things like, “Damn. I really liked your comic, too. Shame on you.”

And, “oh yikes, the cute alien comics dude is anti abortion”.

The worst headline I’ve seen actually whimpered, “The internet’s favorite new comic strip ruined by old anti-abortion tweet.”

There’s more scuttlebutt about the web.3 But so far, from what I’ve seen, Pyle hasn’t been doxxed, blocked on Twitter, fired from jobs, or persecuted by human rights commissions in the nation of Canada or the state of Colorado.

This means: Christians should not be crying “persecution!” any more than Pyle’s critics should be crying “anti-woman!”

Also, I don’t here address the question of how Christians should respond to persecution. I’m not talking about whether Christians should grant any legitimate grievances along with the criticism we hear, or try to improve the church’s witness in the world.

That’s not my point.

Rather, I’m simply pointing out that any Christian artist, no matter the label or quality of art, will face criticism. Harsh criticism. They may even face persecution, if not now, then in the future. The loudest critics, because of their religious motivation, will only regret for a moment (if that) that they must now ignore excellently done art. After that, well, belay the art and all that. We’ve a Cause to support.

That’s enough of a caution to stop self-critical Christians from saying, “If only Christians made better art, then we could . . .”

“. . . Glorify God better?” That’s really the best way to finish the sentence.

But “. . . change the world? . . . impress non-believers? . . . improve the church’s witness? . . . get more people saved”?

Such statements are just as wishful-thinking as that sappy Christian novel where the main character finally gets saved and suddenly everything in her life becomes miraculously better.

  1. Definitions attached to Christian fiction include, but are not limited to: saccharine, shallow, sentimental, “not realistic,” Amish, romance, prairie romance, Amish prairie romance, derivative, uncreative, and such-like. For my part, I argue that “Christian fiction” simply means “a Christian made this fiction.”
  2. Some folks who make the objection attach more personal riders. They might think, Then I would feel more welcome at church. Or even, Then Christians could regain their cultural privilege in Western nations. I think either one of these ignores the ultimate purpose of art (to help us glorify God). It also hijacks a topic, like art or fiction, in service to a personal conflict—which is to say it takes art into the service of a kind of propaganda.
  3. This website overviews the scuttlebutt thus far. It “fairly” states that “even if Pyle personally opposed abortion, that was not evidence that his personal opinion matched his political stance.” This seems to leave an implicit, ominous warning that genuine personal or political opposition to abortion should not stand.

Some Quick and Mixed Thoughts on ‘Shazam!’

Last night my wife and I saw DC’s new hero film “Shazam!”, and I have some brief reactions.
| Apr 5, 2019 | No comments |

Last night my wife and I saw Shazam!

I’m pitching a longer article/review for another site. But for now, I have some brief(?) reactions.

Some may sound negative. I like this movie. But, especially compared with the previous DC films, it will take a little more work than I expected to reset my expectations (again). Such constant resetting will become more necessary for me, because DC’s movies are becoming even more director-driven. They’re sharing the same “universe” in name only.

  • The film is genuinely funny in many ways. But it’s more character-driven humor than “banter,” or “trope subversion,” and such.
  • I loved the cast, especially Zachary Levi as the titular World’s Mightiest Mortal.
  • Yes, the story is set in the DC film universe as established in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Aquaman.
  • But several of the other films, even Aquaman, have scope and grandeur that clash with Shazam!
  • Earlier DC films established that civilian bystanders don’t always “hit their marks” in reacting happily to superheroes.1 In fact, superheroes have previously polarized the world’s religions, governments, and military powers. All that’s gone here. Superheroes in town are just a bit shinier than the costumed folks in Times Square. And civilians all “hit their marks.” Civilians are either rescued by heroes or stand around applauding heroes. Honestly, it’s a little awkward and cliched.
  • It’s also a bit regressive. We’ve already seen, from both Marvel and DC films, some slightly more realistic story turns about how the world would actually react to real-world superheroes.
  • One hero’s strange “cameo” yields more questions that cancel out the potential for a happy-fan-moment.
  • Sometimes the film’s ambition stretches at the budget. Parts of the movie look almost homemade.
  • Billy’s foster brother, Freddie, exhibits an understandably juvenile “fandom” of real-world superheroes. He objects when Billy Batson, in hero form, doesn’t act as a hero should. But the question of what a hero should do, or what Shazam’s ultimate mission should be, is not explored.
  • For DC fans, this Shazam does not actually inherit the “wisdom of Solomon.” The film references that superpower, then kinda forgets it.
  • Parts of the film actively seemed to mock the other DC heroes. A child drops a Batman and Superman action figure to watch two other characters fight. End-credits silly animations show Shazam!‘s characters easily surpassing and mocking Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. It all seemed very Teen Titans GO! I am not fond of this impulse. DC should show confidence in all its heroes.
  • I loved Billy Batson’s foster family. We can rejoice to see such a positive portrayal of a loving, flawed yet normal group.
  • Some moments were downright horrifying, especially with the Seven Deadly Sins. Parents, take caution.
  • The film does not develop a potentially strong theme about a teen who must grow up quickly into a mature hero.
  • I’d love to see more from these characters. But sequels would need to arrive in a hurry, lest the child and teen cast members age out of their roles.
  • One can hope that a sequel helps Shazam grow up, not just as a character, but as a franchise.
  1. The phrase “hit their marks” comes from my friend Austin Gunderson’s review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Austin notes, “In Batman v Superman, (director Zack Snyder) continues to play the story straight, as if a godlike alien had actually just saved the real world. What’s the result of this approach? The townsfolk don’t trip over themselves to hit their marks. Many of them don’t like the idea of living under a deity who can’t be controlled. Some of them don’t accept his word that he won’t abuse his power. A few of them actually push back.”

Sorry, ‘Joker’ and Other Villain Stories, But I’m Mostly Interested in Heroes

I care less for stories about Batman’s villains than I’d care to read an auto-parts manual for the Batmobile.
| Apr 4, 2019 | No comments |

Two days ago I wrote that “I’m curious about this upcoming live-action Joker, but I’m barely interested in all the villain stories they’re putting together at DC.”

The very next day (yesterday), Warner Bros. released the teaser for Joker.

It’s directed by Todd Phillips. And it stars Joaqin Phoenix as the titular Clown Prince of Crime, at least for this alternate origin story.

Friends and much of the internet went nuts. Wow! It looks almost like a Martin Scorsese movie. Double wow! This looks so intense!

Where’s the Bat?

I watched the teaser. And found myself a bit lost. Um, okay? I’m not exactly sure I want to see Joker, pre-makeup-and-purple-jacket, in that same dim-grungy apartment where they film all the dim-grungy indie movies and dim-grungy Netflix shows, dancing around in his loosey-whities.

Clearly I’m not the audience for this movie.

That’s because—and I’m sure I’m not alone—I enjoy superhero stories mainly for the heroes.

Sure, I prefer villains to be in-depth, passionate, devoted to their own beliefs, and often empathetic. But not for their own sake. Instead, for the sake of providing the hero a greater challenge to conquer.

Thanos? We all want to see him devoted to his religious anti-population cause, and defeated.

Lex Luthor? We want to see him absolutely sure of his self-made-made righteousness, and defeated.

Joker? Whether it’s the psycho-flippant clown prince of other adaptations, or Nolan’s origin-agnostic anarchist, I am only interested in him long enough to see him go down. Hard. At the dark-knit hands of Batman. Or Nightwing, or Robin, or heck, I’d take Alfred.

But what if Batman’s nowhere near the movie, and not even promised for a sequel?

Well, then, I find myself less interested in standalone stories about Batman’s villains than I would be reading an auto-parts manual for the Batmobile.

This is also why I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for Suicide Squad, and remain agnostic about its James Gunn-directed sequel.

It’s also why, despite enjoying the recent Lego DC Super-Villains game as a guilty pleasure, I just can’t enjoy it as much as superhero games.

And the folks at DC can try all they like to make me care about a Harley Quinn-featuring spinoff (set back in the main DC film continuity). At my best, I’ll keep finding myself indifferent. Or at worst, I’ll assume this is an exercise in something like exploitation, both of villain angst and the worst impulses of fans. As I mentioned in my Suicide Squad review:

It seemed to grind home the exploitation, along with excuses for viewers to imagine that they, too, are just as nihilistic, “broken,” and empty-glamorous as Harley Quinn and the Joker.

But you, gentle reader, are likely interested in Joker for other reasons. Perhaps you’re a Joaqin Phoenix fan, or a DC villain fan. And I certainly allow that we can’t only have stories about only slightly flawed heroes.1 In either case, I’d want to hear your reasons for being excited about DC’s Joker.

With that, I’m off tonight to see Shazam!—another hero I care about, and whose villains, such as Dr. Sivana or Black Adam, would interest me very little apart from Shazam.

  1. This is why I really enjoyed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, although it clearly meant to grow Superman and redeem a broken Batman.

You Must Not Steal E-Books

I keep seeing all these excuses from e-book thieves eager to justify their violation of God’s law.
| Apr 3, 2019 | 8 comments |

“All my books have been widely pirated,” says a fantasy author friend of mine, R. J. Anderson.

Another friend asked how she knew this. Anderson continued:

Every time I google any of my book titles, I get a slew of links to pirate e-book sites. I also see forums where my books are being requested for download and those requests are being answered by other users who send links to them via DM. And that’s just the surface; there are way more sites that fly under the radar. Only a couple months ago I had to ask a Wattpad-type writing site to stop one of its users from uploading the entire text of [my book] to her account at the rate of one chapter a week — as though her acknowledgment in the author’s note that “I didn’t write this, I just liked the story” made it somehow legal or OK. By the time I came across it, she’d uploaded eight chapters.1

She also shared a screenshot from author Rachel Caine, who said in this tweet:

Needless to say—no, apparently very needful after all—this is wrong. God’s word says:

You must not steal.2

In response, I keep seeing all these excuses from e-book thieves eager to justify their violation of God’s law.3

Special pleading

But at least that way authors get more readers!

You must not steal.

Oh, but some people simply don’t have access to the e-book in their country.

You must not steal.

If I give the author credit, then that makes it okay.

You must not steal.

You’re being greedy. Everybody should share in culture.

You must not steal.

Think of the exposure—

You must not steal.

But real-life items are different from “internet” content like e-books!

You must not steal.

Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it.

You must not steal.

I have to spend my money on other, more important things.

You must not steal.

If I bought the book secondhand, the writer would get no money anyway.

You must not steal.

I’ve read too many bad books, so this way I can first make sure it’s good.

You must not steal.

I’m not stealing from “small” authors, only the “big names” who can afford it.

You must not steal.

To hell with your standard. I’ll do what I want.

You must not steal.

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.4

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.5

  1. Perhaps ironically, my first version of this article did not name Anderson or link to her original post. After checking in with her about it, I’ve edited the story to add these changes.
  2. Exodus 20:15.
  3. Some of these responses are found in Katy Guest’s article, “‘I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds’: can book piracy be stopped?“, The Guardian, March 6, 2019.
  4. 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; emphases added. But see verse 11 for the good news.
  5. Ephesians 4:28.

If Creators Turn a Story Into Just More ‘Worldview’ Work, I’m (Likely) Out

Nothing personal, but if movies embrace Sexualityism agendas over story, I’m free to embrace rest over yet another culture-engagement job.
| Apr 2, 2019 | 1 comment |

Last night I saw a fandom-news headline that happily proclaimed:

Avengers: Endgame Director Confirms A Queer Superhero Is Coming To The MCU1

I’ve seen a few of these headlines already. So, despite the fact that yesterday was April 1, I believed it. Then I resisted the urge to repeat the cliched and not entirely accurate slogan “go woke, go broke.” (I prefer, “Go woke, story broke.”)

Instead I shared the article and, admittedly, I griped:

“Endgame” indeed.

If they go through with this folderol, I will just as quickly exit the franchise fandom, at this clean breaking point, and then become the DC>Marvel partisan many already claimed I was.

Not the most mature response. And of course I got challenged, by friends, and probably rightfully so. There would have been a better way to phrase that, and certainly one that didn’t leave myself open to several charges. Such as:

  1. Does “this folderol” mean, “Oh, the slightest hint of a ‘queer person,’ and you get grossed out and run away”?
  2. Would you really “exit the franchise”? All of it, really? Never see another Marvel film again?
  3. Joke’s on you, crusader; the DC franchise will also just follow this trend in another few years.

Comments section ensued. Thank God I have great friends. Even when they verge on “frenemy” territory.

But to make a long comments section short:

1. By “this folderol,” I don’t mean, “Ew, a wild queer character appears. Brave sir Christian boldly ran away, away, away! (It’s not very effective.)”

Rather, I’m referring to the habit of movie-makers announcing this incredible epic future casting/character event. To be fair, perhaps they don’t lead with this. But fandom/media writers lead them in this direction. Either way, they use the same breathless tones, as if the filmmakers’ special effects artists, while applying mocap headsets and suits to their performers, stumbled across the discovery of cold fusion.

And no, I don’t panic and flee at the sight of a “queer person,” or a “queer character.” That would be a plain false accusation.

Some examples from superhero or fantasy franchises I enjoy:

  • The Flash has mentioned the “gay” lifestyles of some characters. I’m still watching. (Though I’ve slowed my pace. Ha, ha.)
  • So has Arrow. Though it’s offered some more explicit content (kisses and such). I’m no longer watching. But not for that reason.
  • Switching genres, I’ve actually really grown to appreciate some of Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling’s interpretation of Albus Dumbledore’s history of same-sex attraction. After all, this concept serves a dual purpose.2 If you’re same-sex attracted/”gay”/”queer”/or etc., you can see him as a representation of your lifestyle choices. If you’re not, or find objections with this behavior, Dumbledore just as easily becomes a magnificent portrayal of a hero who has this struggle, and yet puts it aside and even lives celibate.3 After all, Dumbledore is a flawed yet true hero. He fights for the greater good of destroying a twisted, manipulative enemy—in fact, the very man, the dark wizard, Grindelwald, who held his attraction for so long. This personal history, plus the fact that film-Gridelwald is constantly shown using his masculine charisma to influence others—men and women alike—makes this an even more fascinating story.

2. By “exit the franchise,” I mean I wouldn’t watch every film “religiously.” (Or I’d temper the overstatement.)

Honestly, I still aim to see some Marvel movies. If they make more stories about Black Panther, or Black Widow, and of course my new–old favorite, Spider-Man, or folks like Dr. Strange, then sure, I’d like to follow their adventures.

But I won’t stay “in the franchise,” as I have been. I won’t feel something like a “need” to see every single movie.

As an aside, I’m not a lifelong Marvel comics fanboy. I got on board with the original Spider-Man trilogy (2002–2007), and then the burgeoning Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man (2008). It’s the movies, not the comics, that won my allegiance.

Literally, it’s culminated in a moment when I paused writing this, several times, in another effort to get the Cinemark app to actually load for a change so I could score Avengers: Endgame tickets for Thursday night, April 25. I may not have grown up reading Namor the Sub-Mariner comics. And I’ve never camped out on a sidewalk weeks in advance for Hall H. But I do at least share this level of dedication.

(Ticket quest update: I finally won. But for the small-screen only. My town’s huge “XD” screen had sold out within half an hour of the ticket announcement this morning.)

3. Sure, plenty of other movies (including the DC franchise) will follow this trend.

Yes, and in some previous cases, I’ve either pulled back from those shows, or exited them entirely (as with the show Supergirl).

I’m already less devoted to the upcoming DC films than some people think. For example, I’m curious about this upcoming live-action Joker, but I’m barely interested in all the villain stories they’re putting together at DC. Like with the X-verse, I’ll take some DC movies, and leave others.

If I feel stories are getting hijacked by religious causes, I’ll take each instance in isolation, and choose what to do with my time.

But this leads to another surprising twist in my quickfire reaction to this news.

I’m tired of restful stories getting twisted into Just More Work.

Thinking about these comments section challenges, I realized something new.

I realized that my feelings about “a queer hero in the MCU” rhymed almost exactly with my feelings about (as a whole) evangelical movies.

And in retrospect, I just felt worn out.

I felt as if yet another evangelical movie-maker had come along and said, “Now see here, we’ve made this very important movie and it’s in theaters now, so you’d better come out and support it, okay?”

I don’t mind supporting good causes. But let’s be clear: that’s work. It’s necessary and practical but it’s work.

To say nothing of the fact that it takes even more work, in the facial-muscle-wince department, to get through some evangelical movies.

And to be frank, I’m tired.

I’m tired of seeing some forms of needed recreation burst into ash.

When either evangelical or general-audience marketers push movies at me like this, I don’t feel that they’re asking me to enjoy a new and restful form of recreation. Instead, I feel like I’m being asked to Work. Again. It’s like you’ve finally escaped to vacation after six months of sixty-hour weeks at the construction site, and then someone runs up to you at the beach with a hardhat and vest and says, “You! Over there—we’re digging a new pier, and you must pour the concrete.”

I already spend a lot of time reading and writing about fantasy stories for career purposes. Because of this, I’m already slightly at risk of having the joy sucked out of these favorite stories, because it has become Work.

“Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.”

— J. R. R. Tolkien

So I tend to enjoy television and games and movies for the escape of it. By this I don’t mean “escapist” escape. I mean healthful, recreative, restful escape. The kind of escape J. R. R. Tolkien described as managing to break out of the temporal “reality”-prison for a change.

In this case, with Marvel and DC films, toxic fandoms are already threatening people’s enjoyment. I can ignore that fairly easily.

But what if a story’s creators effectively say, “Let’s make it more enjoyable only for other people. But not for you. Because with this marketing emphasis, we’re going to imply that you’re backward. You’re a bad person. You’re presumed immoral if you do not get on board this thing”?

When they do this, I can’t rest even when I really need to rest. Instead, I’m being pressed into dutiful service. Again.

Mind you, I really ought to be willing to engage at that level. All the time. Yes, I really should be always-on, 24/7, as a faithful Christian witness and worldview-explorer and popular-culture-engager-in-constant-training.

The spirit is willing. But the flesh is weak.

I can’t be always-on.

I can’t see every movie, climb every secular mountain, ford every Sexualityist stream.

In an overbudgeted life already, if I find that creators of a formerly restful story have chosen to twist it into Just More Work, then I may be forced to make a decision. I may be forced to decide: I’m out. I’m going to leave this formerly quiet beach and find a new one, where I can spend whatever recreational time I’m granted by grace. Then I’ll return to the workload, including all the cultural engagement I’m called to do.

It’s not about refusal to work at all, to confront false beliefs, or to understand my own mission field.

Instead, it’s about obedience to God’s command: to work six days, rest a seventh, and desperately find any other appropriate in-between Sabbath rest-times that we can. That is, until Jesus Christ returns to bring to Earth his ultimate and forever Sabbath-rest.

  1. See Jamie Gerber, “Avengers: Endgame Director Confirms a Queer Superhero Is Coming To The MCU,” April 1, 2019, ScreenRant.com.
  2. My original typo here read, “duel purpose,” which is a happy coincidence when discussing Dumbledore and Grindelwald.
  3. I’m being very optimistic here, and presuming no further retcons from Rowling at this point. Yes, this may be a pretty comical presumption.

Christians, How Do You Watch ‘Game of Thrones’?

If you watch the HBO fantasy drama series, I’m curious about how you personally handle the porn parts.
| Apr 1, 2019 | 3 comments |

Here we go again with all the hype for Game of Thrones.

I haven’t seen any of this HBO fantasy drama myself. Written about it, though—and mostly negatively.

Of course, I can’t review the show, having not seen it. And I hope my earlier articles (most of them several years ago) always proceed with a tone that says, “I’m open to correction here, but here’s what I understand about this show.”

For example, by all accounts, it’s a plain fact that the show has porn in it.

Based on this, I think we should condemn the porn as (at best) inappropriate.

My friend Cap Stewart went further, and reminds us that these exploitative scenes aren’t just “awkward,” but violate the actors’ dignity. (More recently, Cap wrote this must-read series, When High Fantasy Becomes Porn Fantasy.)

So I’ve had a bit to say about this subject. But now that the show’s final season is due to debut, I keep hearing everyone getting crazy hyped.

I try not to judge. Rather, I find myself morbidly curious—and not about all these nasty, sin-compromising friends I have.

Instead, I trust my friends. I’m presuming that they already have natural temptation-resistance, or other methods, for resisting what would otherwise be the succulent allure of visual pornography.1

But then I get more curious about what those methods are. So I propose this poll. Anonymous replies are fine! But feel free to comment below, knowing that right now, it’s me who’s trying to learn from you.

Then perhaps later, you can ask me about my strategies for dealing with sexually exploitative moments in anime . . .

  1. Despite my optimism here, I think people still need to work through the arguments that Cap Stewart makes: that even if the show doesn’t cause them personal temptation, their fandom of the show can still result in actor exploitation.

‘People Are Dying!’

“People are dying! They are dying!” And apart from Jesus, people are desperate to fix this in absurd ways.
| Mar 29, 2019 | 1 comment |

What stories are we telling ourselves about the reality of death and dying in our world?

This week, I heard this lament from a young political influencer:

“People are dying! They are dying! This is about American lives, and it should not be partisan. Science should not be partisan.”

No, I’ll not even address the controversial of climate change. I won’t even address the particular legislation this leader had proposed.

You could be skeptical. Maybe this leader doesn’t truly believe what she’s saying. Perhaps it’s just a cover for socialistic power-grabs. In other words, a leader who wants to nationalize industry would believe in this, even if human activity were not altering global climate.

People rage against death and they don’t know why

Instead, let’s presume this leader was legit.

Let’s presume she is actually in grief because, as she believes, people are dying!” from climate change.

If that’s true, I wonder how much people are using climate change as a “language” to express a far greater fear.

The fear of death and dying.

And no political cause, no economic changes, no switch in party governance, will change that.

No matter what law you pass, the mortality rate will stay at 100 percent.

You can prevent all that carbon from escaping into the atmosphere. People will still die from hurricanes. From mudslides, earthquakes, volcanoes. And they’ll die from accidents, cancer, heart disease, depression leading to suicide, and murder.

All of that horror is hard enough to contemplate with a biblical Christian worldview.

I can’t even imagine how someone can deal with the horror without this worldview.

For example, a person who does not see the world in terms of biblical revelation may end up making largely atheistic assumptions about the world.1 But by the tenets of atheism, you cannot logically rage against death. In their own worldview, death has always “existed.” To rage at death, you may as well yell at the rock on which you stub your toe. Or scream at the void of outer space because you feel you’re owed oxygen.

So instead—again, assuming the best here—such a person grabs for whatever religious beliefs she can. The person doesn’t care about consistency. She is desperate for some response to her own quiet, creeping sense of terror. She must deal with this flailing desperation. And she must answer that silent shriek that something, anything, should be done about this terrible death and suffering!

Well, Jesus Christ has already dealt with it. Not by the minuscule action of passing a human law. Instead, by his death and resurrection, he fulfilled the divine law that sin leads to death and suffering.

Anyone who ignores that truth, or calls it lunacy, will be forced into even greater silliness. In some cases, they’ll actually start to believe the absurd notion that mere human legislation—no matter how costly—could actually do something about the fact that people are dying.

  1. In the original version of this article, I referred here to “the consistent materialist.” A friend pointed out that (in summary) the argument ended up self-defeating. That’s because I then went on to say, effectively, “the materialist is not really a materialist.” That, coupled with the implication that any particular person is a “materialist” (when these are actually very rare) rendered the label confusing at best.

C. S. Lewis Effectively Remarks on Mueller Report Reactions

If we hear that our enemies actually didn’t do a terrible deed, do we “wish that black was a little blacker”?
| Mar 28, 2019 | No comments |

This isn’t a political site, but certain responses to the Mueller Report™ sparked this remembered C. S. Lewis quote.

This quote is verified, and comes from Mere Christianity.

C. S. Lewis observes a characteristic of human behavior. It cuts across all faiths and political parties, and it challenges us especially when we are tempted to feel disappointed about some terrible enemy being proven not-terrible in at least one way.

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper.

Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out.

Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible?

If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.

You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.1

  1. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. I’ve added a few paragraph breaks.