Community

Sometimes our culture sets us up against God’s will for our lives.

As we continue walking out the Outreach Saga in the local park, we’re learning things all the time. We are meeting next to a low-income housing complex of 100 or so units. In getting to know the people there, I’ve noticed that they have their own little community there.

Since it is an area of low resources, the people have learned to pool together to help each other out. They spend more time interacting. Sometimes they have conflict, but living so close together they live differntly than a lot of suburban Americans.

We’ve been blessed to be accepted by a group of them, and they come on Sunday evenings to fellowship, to talk about the Word, and to encourage one another.

My point in this post is the contrast to how individualistic we are as Americans. We are taught to do things independently. Pull youself up by your own bootstraps. It sometimes is a sign of weakness to need someone’s help.

American Christians play into this. We talk about “our walk with God” as an individual thing. We forget that we are called to be part of a body, a family.

I don’t think this is God’s will for us. Certainly I have to answer to God for my own actions, and I have a relationship with Jesus. The ancient world used to think solely in the concept of the clan or tribe, and the individual didn’t matter. According to Thomas Cahill’s book The Gift Of The Jews, the idea of an individual relationship with God, an independent reckoning was revolutionary.

Western culture has taken this too far. We are built to need one another. I know some people would rather be hermits. My mother could leave work on Friday and not talk to another soul until Monday morning and it would suit her just fine. She said liked it, but I would argue she let herself get into a mindset that she wasn’t really created for.

I would argue that the Western idea of individualism and the Eastern focus on community over a person are extremes, and that the Biblical ideal would foster a strong personal relationship with Jesus in a healthy community of believers that encouraged and exhorted one another.

I’m glad that we’re learning as much in this process as the people that are joining us in the park. When you don’t have a lot, you have to work together with other more. I’m encouraged by their example, and I hope Christians can wake up to the value of having brothers and sisters in Christ that keep us accountable and build us up. Yes, people can hurt you, but the blessings of opening up far outweight the risks in the long-run.

Is Avatar Eden?

Is he still talking about the movie Avatar?

Yeah, one more time. Sorry.

I posted a couple of times about it last week. It’s a fertile topic on the blogosphere. I didn’t think about writing on it until I saw the CNN article that described how some fans of the movie were depressed that life on Earth wasn’t as good as on the alien planet Pandora, and angry at our own race for ruining our planet.

It seems people are considering Pandora as equivalent to the Garden of Eden, or even heaven. A new CNN article talks about the eruption of new fan sites related to Avatar. A member on one forum encouraged people to get over their “Avatar blues” with this advice: “‘Start living like Neytiri: in touch with nature, the environment, and not being greedy and wasteful.’

I think God’s creation is wonderful. Watching the clouds envelope a snow covered butte in the desert sun this afternoon was breathtaking. I get mad when I am hiking and find garbage in streams (and I’m known to carry a bag to pick up trash). So I’m not against caring for creation and enjoying its simplicity.

Fiction and stories exist to light our imagination about other places, ways to live, viewpoints, and experiences. I can’t fault people for taking in Avatar and making fan forums and such. I’ve always enjoyed the Star Wars universe, and have been involved in similar internet activities.

Still, when people idealize the Na’vi and Pandora, and call it the new Eden, I think there’s some faulty thinking there.

The Na’vi are shown as warriors, but at peace with their environment, even one with it through the goddess All Mother, or Eywa. Pandora is a beautiful sight to behold, with the colors and luminescence shown throughout the film. Still, where did they develop their fighting skills, and why do they need them? Neytiri mourned the alien 6-legged canine-like creatures she killed, but she sure knew how to deal damage. We miss out on a lot of context – the movie is cut and edited in such a way that the Na’vi are shown in the best light compared to (most of) the humans. They sure exhibited human-like emotions like jealousy, aggression, and contempt. If those behaviors are present, then how can we expect that the Na’vi won’t mess things up like we have.

Becky Miller had a good insight into the artificiality of the movie when she commented on my first Avatar post. She said:

The article also made me think more about the Eden-like world of James Cameron.
Since we weren’t actually there, we experienced it as free of insects, snakes and spiders, though it was dense jungle. The temperature was a comfortable 72 degrees (or whatever the theater folks set it at), so Pandora never got too hot, or too cold, no matter how high in the clouds they went.

We were programmed to have an optimal experience, from comfortable chairs, ambient temperatures, and probably fattening snacks. How well would we enjoy Pandora with some of those critters after us?

Finally, there seems to be an inclination that we need to “return to Eden,” i.e., return to a simpler time. Native tribes that are still left are also idealized, although they may commit acts that the rest of the world finds barbarous, like the Amazon tribe that leaves any suspect baby out in the elements to die, considering it unfit.

We think pristine wilderness is ideal. It is beautiful, but also, by definition, WILD. There’s a reason we call it that. It is hard to survive nature in comfy chairs and soft pillows padding us.

Christians should understand that we are not actually heading back to an Eden-type lifestyle. The book Revelation tells us that God is preparing a New Jerusalem for us. We are moving into a grand city, a heavenly community, that is our final destination for those who trust in Jesus. We are not going back to a primitive state. We are moving into a new ideal, where we join together like we were always meant to be, with trees whose leaves provide healing for the nations (Revelation 22:2).

I have no problem with people enjoying a movie and a created universe so much that they bond together in forums and groups to kindle their shared interest. I just think Avatar is not the high and holy standard that some are making it out to be.

Is Avatar Eden?

Is he still talking about the movie Avatar?

Yeah, one more time. Sorry.

I posted a couple of times about it last week. It’s a fertile topic on the blogosphere. I didn’t think about writing on it until I saw the CNN article that described how some fans of the movie were depressed that life on Earth wasn’t as good as on the alien planet Pandora, and angry at our own race for ruining our planet.

It seems people are considering Pandora as equivalent to the Garden of Eden, or even heaven. A new CNN article talks about the eruption of new fan sites related to Avatar. A member on one forum encouraged people to get over their “Avatar blues” with this advice: “‘Start living like Neytiri: in touch with nature, the environment, and not being greedy and wasteful.’

I think God’s creation is wonderful. Watching the clouds envelope a snow covered butte in the desert sun this afternoon was breathtaking. I get mad when I am hiking and find garbage in streams (and I’m known to carry a bag to pick up trash). So I’m not against caring for creation and enjoying its simplicity.

Fiction and stories exist to light our imagination about other places, ways to live, viewpoints, and experiences. I can’t fault people for taking in Avatar and making fan forums and such. I’ve always enjoyed the Star Wars universe, and have been involved in similar internet activities.

Still, when people idealize the Na’vi and Pandora, and call it the new Eden, I think there’s some faulty thinking there.

The Na’vi are shown as warriors, but at peace with their environment, even one with it through the goddess All Mother, or Eywa. Pandora is a beautiful sight to behold, with the colors and luminescence shown throughout the film. Still, where did they develop their fighting skills, and why do they need them? Neytiri mourned the alien 6-legged canine-like creatures she killed, but she sure knew how to deal damage. We miss out on a lot of context – the movie is cut and edited in such a way that the Na’vi are shown in the best light compared to (most of) the humans. They sure exhibited human-like emotions like jealousy, aggression, and contempt. If those behaviors are present, then how can we expect that the Na’vi won’t mess things up like we have.

Becky Miller had a good insight into the artificiality of the movie when she commented on my first Avatar post. She said:

The article also made me think more about the Eden-like world of James Cameron.
Since we weren’t actually there, we experienced it as free of insects, snakes and spiders, though it was dense jungle. The temperature was a comfortable 72 degrees (or whatever the theater folks set it at), so Pandora never got too hot, or too cold, no matter how high in the clouds they went.

We were programmed to have an optimal experience, from comfortable chairs, ambient temperatures, and probably fattening snacks. How well would we enjoy Pandora with some of those critters after us?

Finally, there seems to be an inclination that we need to “return to Eden,” i.e., return to a simpler time. Native tribes that are still left are also idealized, although they may commit acts that the rest of the world finds barbarous, like the Amazon tribe that leaves any suspect baby out in the elements to die, considering it unfit.

We think pristine wilderness is ideal. It is beautiful, but also, by definition, WILD. There’s a reason we call it that. It is hard to survive nature in comfy chairs and soft pillows padding us.

Christians should understand that we are not actually heading back to an Eden-type lifestyle. The book Revelation tells us that God is preparing a New Jerusalem for us. We are moving into a grand city, a heavenly community, that is our final destination for those who trust in Jesus. We are not going back to a primitive state. We are moving into a new ideal, where we join together like we were always meant to be, with trees whose leaves provide healing for the nations (Revelation 22:2).

I have no problem with people enjoying a movie and a created universe so much that they bond together in forums and groups to kindle their shared interest. I just think Avatar is not the high and holy standard that some are making it out to be.

Where Do You Avatar?

Avatar.

It is a recent movie you may have heard about. It is a popular term on the internet and in gaming, speaking of a representation of the person interacting via techonology. This meaning comes from the descent and incarnation of a diety in earthly form, associated with the Hindu god Vishnu (from m-w.com).

James Cameron made this recent film, another blockbuster movie. The term used for the title may be more appropriate than he realized. In the film, humans take on avatars, forms of the alien Na’vi people, to interact with them. According to CNN, people are dealing with depression because they want to live in a paradise as beautiful and spiritual as Pandora, the alien planet depicted in the movie.

This is a sad story. I feel bad for people who feel they don’t have anything more worthwhile in their life than a fictional visual presentation. One could almost laugh about it, but there is a definite lack of community in the modern world. Where did we lose track of being a part of something?

People in the article saw the interconnectedness of the Na’vi with their planet and felt a longing for such connection in their own lives. There’s been a lot written about technology destroying meaningful relationships, replacing them instead with status updates and tweets. This problem started before Facebook and company ever sprang up on the interwebs anyway.

In the past, there was much more need for villages and communities to work together to survive. Now we don’t know who is across the street from us, and we are too independent to declare our need for each other (unless it is the barista handing us our caffeinated nourishment – some people REALLY need that).

As my friend Nicole said in her comment to my Monday post on Avatar, people long for community and belonging because that’s how they were designed. We were meant to be part of a body, part of a kingdom. Jesus came to tell us that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.

If you’re not a believer, this may seem like a strange concept. If we realize that we are God-breathed, we all have value, and it elevates our relationships because we realize everyone from our best friends to our family to the people we don’t like at work (or church) are made in the image of God, and He said this was very good. It puts a import on each human, that there is intrinsic value and dignity in everyone. If everyone has a design, a purpose, then that makes community important, because we are the threads that God wants to weave into a majestic tapestry.

For my Christian friends, we need to work on our relationships. If we can’t model real community to the world, then they may see their only hope in a fictional world.

A few more thought on this new “Eden” before I’m done blabbing on Avatar.

Where Do You Avatar?

Avatar.

It is a recent movie you may have heard about. It is a popular term on the internet and in gaming, speaking of a representation of the person interacting via techonology. This meaning comes from the descent and incarnation of a diety in earthly form, associated with the Hindu god Vishnu (from m-w.com).

James Cameron made this recent film, another blockbuster movie. The term used for the title may be more appropriate than he realized. In the film, humans take on avatars, forms of the alien Na’vi people, to interact with them. According to CNN, people are dealing with depression because they want to live in a paradise as beautiful and spiritual as Pandora, the alien planet depicted in the movie.

This is a sad story. I feel bad for people who feel they don’t have anything more worthwhile in their life than a fictional visual presentation. One could almost laugh about it, but there is a definite lack of community in the modern world. Where did we lose track of being a part of something?

People in the article saw the interconnectedness of the Na’vi with their planet and felt a longing for such connection in their own lives. There’s been a lot written about technology destroying meaningful relationships, replacing them instead with status updates and tweets. This problem started before Facebook and company ever sprang up on the interwebs anyway.

In the past, there was much more need for villages and communities to work together to survive. Now we don’t know who is across the street from us, and we are too independent to declare our need for each other (unless it is the barista handing us our caffeinated nourishment – some people REALLY need that).

As my friend Nicole said in her comment to my Monday post on Avatar, people long for community and belonging because that’s how they were designed. We were meant to be part of a body, part of a kingdom. Jesus came to tell us that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.

If you’re not a believer, this may seem like a strange concept. If we realize that we are God-breathed, we all have value, and it elevates our relationships because we realize everyone from our best friends to our family to the people we don’t like at work (or church) are made in the image of God, and He said this was very good. It puts a import on each human, that there is intrinsic value and dignity in everyone. If everyone has a design, a purpose, then that makes community important, because we are the threads that God wants to weave into a majestic tapestry.

For my Christian friends, we need to work on our relationships. If we can’t model real community to the world, then they may see their only hope in a fictional world.

A few more thought on this new “Eden” before I’m done blabbing on Avatar.

A Depressed “Avatar”

I’ve seen Avatar.

So have approximately 10 billion people.

Or so it seems.

I don’t always make it to the “big” movies, unless there are talking animals or race cars involved. When I first heard about Avatar, I wasn’t all that interested in it either. Over time, the previews and early reviews changed my mind, and once it became a phenomenom, I was ready to go.

I enjoyed the movie a lot. The visuals were striking and immersive. It certainly was memorable. The story in my opinion, as many others, was recycled and preachy in a not so subtle (or accurate) way. Still, I appreciated my time in Pandora.

Apparently not as much as the people in this CNN article. The title for the article is “Audiences Experience ‘Avatar’ Blues.” It quotes people as saying they so longed to live like the Na’vi (the tall blue skinned aliens in the movie, if you weren’t one of the 10 billion) or in a beautiful place like Pandora (their Eden-like planet) that it depressed them.

Some thought there was no reason to go on, since humans have pretty much trashed Earth at this point, and there’s no way to reverse things. A couple of the people contemplated suicide, as everything seemed “meaningless” since watching Avatar. One wanted to “escape reality.” Another thought if he killed himself, he’d be “rebirthed” in a place similar to Pandora.

Thankfully those quoted have seemed to find a little comfort in online fan communities for Avatar. I was surprised by the depth of feeling that people had in the article.

Perhaps according to my friend Becky Miller, I shouldn’t have.

She’s been posting for over a week on the movie. She enjoyed the movie as well, but had concerns that Christians weren’t showing discernment over the worldview espoused in the movie (panentheism, slightly different from pantheism).

I certainly agreed with her over the need for discernment. Nothing comes from a vacuum – James Cameron has a certain worldview, and whether he is actively promoting it or thinks he isn’t, it is still going to come out. Christians (and everyone really) should realize this and use a little analysis when doing anything from voting to watching movies. You won’t convince me that is “is just entertainment.”

Still, she and I debated somewhat in the comments of one post. I suggested that Christians take the movie as a “Mars Hill” moment (the time when Paul, visiting Athens, used the idol to the “Unknown God” to explain Christianity to the pagan philosophers). There are certainly some aspects of the movie that can be used as conversation starters, even if the thrust of the movie is contrary to a Christian world view.

After reading this CNN article, I’m a little more disturbed. I don’t think James Cameron’s intent was having people take his movie quite so seriously, but Holy Unobtanium, Batman!

I think I’ll take up some of these thoughts in the next post or two…

A Depressed “Avatar”

I’ve seen Avatar.

So have approximately 10 billion people.

Or so it seems.

I don’t always make it to the “big” movies, unless there are talking animals or race cars involved. When I first heard about Avatar, I wasn’t all that interested in it either. Over time, the previews and early reviews changed my mind, and once it became a phenomenom, I was ready to go.

I enjoyed the movie a lot. The visuals were striking and immersive. It certainly was memorable. The story in my opinion, as many others, was recycled and preachy in a not so subtle (or accurate) way. Still, I appreciated my time in Pandora.

Apparently not as much as the people in this CNN article. The title for the article is “Audiences Experience ‘Avatar’ Blues.” It quotes people as saying they so longed to live like the Na’vi (the tall blue skinned aliens in the movie, if you weren’t one of the 10 billion) or in a beautiful place like Pandora (their Eden-like planet) that it depressed them.

Some thought there was no reason to go on, since humans have pretty much trashed Earth at this point, and there’s no way to reverse things. A couple of the people contemplated suicide, as everything seemed “meaningless” since watching Avatar. One wanted to “escape reality.” Another thought if he killed himself, he’d be “rebirthed” in a place similar to Pandora.

Thankfully those quoted have seemed to find a little comfort in online fan communities for Avatar. I was surprised by the depth of feeling that people had in the article.

Perhaps according to my friend Becky Miller, I shouldn’t have.

She’s been posting for over a week on the movie. She enjoyed the movie as well, but had concerns that Christians weren’t showing discernment over the worldview espoused in the movie (panentheism, slightly different from pantheism).

I certainly agreed with her over the need for discernment. Nothing comes from a vacuum – James Cameron has a certain worldview, and whether he is actively promoting it or thinks he isn’t, it is still going to come out. Christians (and everyone really) should realize this and use a little analysis when doing anything from voting to watching movies. You won’t convince me that is “is just entertainment.”

Still, she and I debated somewhat in the comments of one post. I suggested that Christians take the movie as a “Mars Hill” moment (the time when Paul, visiting Athens, used the idol to the “Unknown God” to explain Christianity to the pagan philosophers). There are certainly some aspects of the movie that can be used as conversation starters, even if the thrust of the movie is contrary to a Christian world view.

After reading this CNN article, I’m a little more disturbed. I don’t think James Cameron’s intent was having people take his movie quite so seriously, but Holy Unobtanium, Batman!

I think I’ll take up some of these thoughts in the next post or two…

Friends in the Blogosphere

My 15 year old nephew gave me a funny look on Saturday when I showed him how many people visit my blog via MapStats.

“I don’t get why people blog. That’s something I’ll never do.”

I didn’t smack him because he is 15 and has a big mouth, (actually, I don’t know what came over me – I usually take any or even no excuse to smack him) instead I shook my head at his lack of understanding.

It is pretty amazing how the blogosphere can create friendships. I guess I shouldn’t be amazed. I’m a computer geek and have done chatting, forums, etc. Anyway, I wanted to highlight a few new blogs that I’ve come to enjoy so we can all be one big happy family. Or drive each other nuts. Wait, isn’t that the same thing…

OK, on with the introductions:

Marcus Goodyear at Goodwordediting has good writing and business tips along with spiritual insight. He is a professional editor, so he knows his stuff and is worth checking out.

Mark Harbeson at Utter Drivel seems like he could be my twin – except that he likes the Philadelphia Eagles, so that would make him my evil twin (Go Cowboys!). He’s got a cute family and blogs about life and such.

Nicole Petrino-Salter over at Into the Fire. This is totally complimentary: she is like a prophetic voice to the world of Christian fiction, sometimes pointing out inconsistencies with the way CBA business is run and Kingdom living. Her posts are passionate and challenging.

Heather Goodman at L’Chaim (with a brand new look – way cool Heather!). Her writing is like a refreshing breeze to me. She describes herself as loving to twirl and dance on her smooth concrete floor. Her blog captures that joyful abandon IMO.

D. G. D. Davidson at SciFi Catholic. I don’t always agree with him (who said you always had to agree?). However, he always has intelligent posts and is great read. Guest posts by Snuffles the Dragon are worth the price of admission.

Hanna Sandvig at Hanna’s Life Is Cool. She’s another artistic type with interesting viewpoints. Make a point to check out her gallery of original art. Very nice work (I wish I could draw…).

These are some new folks I’m making a point to check out. Don’t forget about the “classics” – the folks in the sidebar on the right (Becky, you’re a “classic” now). When I get time these new friends will join the sidebar, but I wanted to showcase them today. Good stuff all around.

Friends in the Blogosphere

My 15 year old nephew gave me a funny look on Saturday when I showed him how many people visit my blog via MapStats.

“I don’t get why people blog. That’s something I’ll never do.”

I didn’t smack him because he is 15 and has a big mouth, (actually, I don’t know what came over me – I usually take any or even no excuse to smack him) instead I shook my head at his lack of understanding.

It is pretty amazing how the blogosphere can create friendships. I guess I shouldn’t be amazed. I’m a computer geek and have done chatting, forums, etc. Anyway, I wanted to highlight a few new blogs that I’ve come to enjoy so we can all be one big happy family. Or drive each other nuts. Wait, isn’t that the same thing…

OK, on with the introductions:

Marcus Goodyear at Goodwordediting has good writing and business tips along with spiritual insight. He is a professional editor, so he knows his stuff and is worth checking out.

Mark Harbeson at Utter Drivel seems like he could be my twin – except that he likes the Philadelphia Eagles, so that would make him my evil twin (Go Cowboys!). He’s got a cute family and blogs about life and such.

Nicole Petrino-Salter over at Into the Fire. This is totally complimentary: she is like a prophetic voice to the world of Christian fiction, sometimes pointing out inconsistencies with the way CBA business is run and Kingdom living. Her posts are passionate and challenging.

Heather Goodman at L’Chaim (with a brand new look – way cool Heather!). Her writing is like a refreshing breeze to me. She describes herself as loving to twirl and dance on her smooth concrete floor. Her blog captures that joyful abandon IMO.

D. G. D. Davidson at SciFi Catholic. I don’t always agree with him (who said you always had to agree?). However, he always has intelligent posts and is great read. Guest posts by Snuffles the Dragon are worth the price of admission.

Hanna Sandvig at Hanna’s Life Is Cool. She’s another artistic type with interesting viewpoints. Make a point to check out her gallery of original art. Very nice work (I wish I could draw…).

These are some new folks I’m making a point to check out. Don’t forget about the “classics” – the folks in the sidebar on the right (Becky, you’re a “classic” now). When I get time these new friends will join the sidebar, but I wanted to showcase them today. Good stuff all around.