Saintseneca -- Dark Arc

My new piece on Saintseneca and their album Dark Arc is up at Christ & Pop Culture: "Saintseneca's Dark Arc: Stripping Off The World's Varnish." Here's a blurb...

The entire album is a juxtaposition of style and substance. It’s subversive, kind of Banksy. I can’t help but think that this is similar to what the church should be doing in the midst of our consumer culture. We should be taking the shiny, happy things of this world and breaking them, showing they aren’t what we think they are. We should be stripping off the varnish, seeing through the luster. 

Go read my whole article, and please do go pick up Saintseneca: Dark Arc.


Bock on Hollywood, Movies & The Bible

Very much enjoyed Darrell Bock's piece at TGC on Noah and movies on biblical stories, "Hollywood, Movies, & the Bible: Should We Rewind On How We View?" He asks some helpful questions and provides reasonable, thoughtful answers on engaging culture and art. This should be essential reading for pastors and theologians who want to talk about movies. Would help some of the constipated thinking going on. Here's a sample...

Should I expect people who do not believe the Bible to make movies that follow it? Might it be better to consider how people reading the Bible without the eyes of faith see it, listen to what they are saying, and then winsomely and critically engage where they are coming from?

You need to read the rest here.

NPM2014 | Every Riven Thing

Christian Wiman is a poet I've only started to check out the last couple of years. I first heard of him because he was the editor of Poetry (until 2013), the oldest American magazine of poetry. Wiman has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer of the blood and his poetry reflects his suffering, a God who knows suffering, and messy faith. You should check out his bio, read the Christianity Today interview from 2012, and see the PBS Religion & Ethics Weekly discussion (video embedded below) from last October. 

Wiiman has numerous books of poetry as well as a recent book of essays, My Bright Abyss (Kindle). This poem, "Every Riven Thing," is from his book of poetry, Every Riven Thing. You can also listen to Wiman read it.

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.

Jesus Storybook Bible Sale

National Poetry Month 2014

It's April 2014 and that means another National Poetry Month (NPM) is upon us. Let's travel together on the journey of slowing down to the land of verse and occasional rhyme and find there distilled truths and feelings. Or something like that. 

Click on the graphic below to learn more about NPM at and learn 30 ways to celebrate. Read my article "3 Reasons to Read Poetry." But most of all, read a poem today. After enjoying a Cubs loss on Opening Day, I give you "A Ballad of Baseball Burdens" by Franklin Pierce Adams...

The burden of hard hitting. Slug away
    Like Honus Wagner or like Tyrus Cobb.
Else fandom shouteth: "Who said you could play?
    Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!"
    Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom's ire
    Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob --
This is the end of every fan's desire.

The burden of good pitching. Curved or straight.
    Or in or out, or haply up or down,
To puzzle him that standeth by the plate,
    To lessen, so to speak, his bat-renoun:
    Like Christy Mathewson or Miner Brown,
So pitch that every man can but admire
    And offer you the freedom of the town --
This is the end of every fan's desire.

The burden of loud cheering. O the sounds!
    The tumult and the shouting from the throats
Of forty thousand at the Polo Grounds
    Sitting, ay, standing sans their hats and coats.
    A mighty cheer that possibly denotes
That Cub or Pirate fat is in the fire;
    Or, as H. James would say, We've got their goats --
This is the end of every fan's desire.

The burden of a pennant. O the hope,
    The tenuous hope, the hope that's half a fear,
The lengthy season and the boundless dope,
    And the bromidic; "Wait until next year."
    O dread disgrace of trailing in the rear,
O Piece of Bunting, flying high and higher
    That next October it shall flutter here:
This is the end of every fan's desire.


Ah, Fans, let not the Quarry but the Chase
    Be that to which most fondly we aspire!
For us not Stake, but Game; not Goal, but Race --
    THIS is the end of every fan's desire.

The Key To Watching Aronofsky's Noah

Noah movie.jpg

My family saw Noah on Friday. Didn't plan on it, but decided last minute to take it in. I just wanted to get out of the house after a week of illness. It was a good decision. 

A lot has already been said and a lot more will be said about Darren Aronofsky's new film. I recommend you check out Greg Thornbury's take, which is my favorite so far. I won't rehash most of what Thornbury has already said so well. Ben Witherington's post is worth reading too

I'm going to keep this simple.

As a whole, I'm pretty disappointed with the way Christians are viewing the film. The whole of the conversation is in the wrong place. We are talking about Aronofsky's fidelity to the biblical story and all of its pieces. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's not wrong to bring up that he takes liberties, makes some changes, etc. But it's wrong to stay there and make that the issue. Making a film is not teaching a Sunday School class. We aren't merely critiquing his sermon. Yes, films have meanings and make points. But we should be talking more about what Aronofsky's saying and less about what we should want him to say. If you want to go make your own Noah film, feel free. This one isn't yours and we should ask ourselves as we view it what he's trying to say to us. You don't look at a painting and say, I wish she would have used more yellow, or narrower strokes. You say, what is she saying?

Now, if you saw the movie and don't like it, ok. Whatever. I'm not saying it's the best movie ever. I'm not saying it changed my life. I have no dog in this fight other than my experience with the movie, which was a very good one. I want more folks to watch it, discuss it, talk about art and truth and film. We need to do a better job understanding and talking about art.

So here's my simple point. Don't miss it.

There's a key to watching this film. I found it very naturally. But the ridicule it's receiving tells me not everyone is. So I'm going to just put it out there and change the way you see everything in Noah. The key to watching, enjoying, understanding, and loving Noah is the Rock People.

Mind blown, I know.

If you don't know who the Rock People are, stop reading. All reading and no watching makes Johnny a dull film critic. And Christendom seems to be blooming film critics with every drop of rain who have a lot to say about the film they didn't see. 

Aronofsky has found something Tolkienian (Treebeardian) to help his story. I don't know what he intended to do with the Rock People other than to bring some role to the Nephilim. But primarily through the Rock People (as well as other touches of the magical and fantastical) Aronofsky shows that he is blending the true story with a stylized film. He isn't merely telling of a time before the flood when the world was different. He's telling of no time in particular. He is also telling of all times and all places for all people. He's creating a fiction aggressively borrowed from a biblical text and it has enough meat to make us think about real truth and enough magic to make us not sit and steam with our arms crossed. 

What the Rock People do is say to the viewer, You thought this might be merely an historical film, but it's a lot more about thinking about life in general so I'm going to throw something unbelievable and otherworldly at you so you can suspend your disbelief enjoy to enjoy Aronofsky's version without recoiling over differences with the biblical version. 

By the way, the Rock People are actually interesting ideas for characters. They aren't Jar Jar. Don't miss the forest for the, uh, rocks.

Aronofsky has done us a solid. He not only has made an interesting and provocative movie, he's opened up this opportunity to talk about the movie, his vision and message and art and our vision and message and art, with our neighbors. As long as we cluck our tongues because he can't figure out Noah's sons had wives on the boat we will miss the depravity so dark, the wrath and justice of the flood, and the wonder at what it must have felt like to actually be any of their shoes. 


One additional comment. The first half of the film, up to Noah telling the creation story on the ark, is the best half. I could go again and just stop at that point. The story he tells and the way it's shown on screen is a delight. I was on the edge of my seat. I like the second half too, but not nearly as much.

I recommend you go and see Noah. I loved it. Never has our family had so much enjoyable discussion after watching a film. 


Cheap Kindle Books 3.20.14

Several on sale in the "Perspectives" series ($3.49 each)