Hunger Games Movie Review

I was able to attend the midnight premiere of “The Hunger Games” on Thursday night, but I guess it was really Friday morning. The series was unknown to me until a few months ago when the AP English class at my school had to read the Hunger Games, the first of three in Suzanne Collin’s masterpiece. Aside from J.R.R. Tolkien’s, and C.S. Lewis’, I haven’t read very much fiction, but I have to say, these books were phenomenal. Not very lengthy, the Hunger Games is just under 400 pages. I finished it, and sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay in a grand total of six days. Collin’s is a master designer of characters. Caesar Flickerman, and the sinister President Snow, the story’s main antagonist, are among the forefront of the brilliant roles created and detailed by Collin’s in the trilogy. I quickly became a huge fan of the series, and naturally was anxiously awaiting the first installment on the big screen.

Director Gary Ross wasted no time in jumping right into the heart of the conflict in Panem. We see main character Katniss Everdeen, comforting her younger sister Primrose, usually just “Prim” for the majority of her appearances in the books and movie. It is time for the yearly reaping, where one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12-18 will be selected as tribute from each of the 12 districts of Panem. They will be trained in the art of survival, and expected to fight to the death in a maniacal arena designed by the ruthless “gamemakers”. The tournament is hosted in the Capitol, and broadcast over all of Panem to serve as a reminder of the former rebellion of the districts which became a full blown war. The Capitol was victorious, and now rules with an iron fist over the districts.

As a modern commentary on the American perception of entertainment, Collin’s hope was to show in the book that our view of life and the importance of morality is deteriorating. As a pacifist, Collins also hoped it would arouse thoughts on the current efforts in the Middle East, and whether or not the reward is worth the sacrifice. Characters like Caesar Flickerman, and the other Capitol residents are representative of the “masses of people infatuated with reality TV and also those who are ignorant of the devastation in the rest of the world.” Collins said. President Snow’s character is very intriguing and Ross’s spin gives him an interesting element. He seems somewhat confined, and at times seems like he may be just another pawn in his own game.

Overall the movie was fantastic, and the crew did very well transitioning from a book to screenplay. I would highly recommend the movie, but I also encourage reading of the books! Even with the film running 2 hrs and 22 mins, there was plenty more from the first book that was left out of the movie. The second installment Catching Fire is in production and is set to release November 22, 2013. The escalating crisis in Panem, and the girl on fire will return to the big screen, and with a rumored budget double the size of the first. Stay tuned for a more in depth analysis of the movie and books, later in the week.

May the odds be ever in your favor…

Obligatory Super Tuesday Post

Yes, as someone with a blog who enjoys such things, it is out of a sense of duty that I am writing this post, but I will not apologize for loving this corrupt game we call politics. It it a tremendous opportunity the American people have to cast votes today. We think of the people in Russia who will suffer under yet another Putin term due to the false democracy in the former Soviet Republic. So who did you vote for, who would you have voted for, or don’t you really care? Because I’ve not yet done this since starting the blog, we’ll take a look at the four remaining candidates, and I will endorse at least one of them.(yeah, maybe all four) There is no reason the candidates were numbered the way they are below:

#1: The Traditionalist, Rick Santorum¬†¬† Rick Santorum is an old school, conservative family man. Placing so much emphasis on social issues and values has many evangelicals excited about politics again. Although Santorum himself is Roman Catholic, his strong opposition to gay marriage and abortion, and the way in which he has articulated his position has caught the eyes and tugged at the hearts of many in the still profound evangelical sect of American politics. He was recently a senator from Pennsylvania, and voted on some very key legislative issues. On the economy and fiscal policy he is most nearly a moderate, having voted for the bailouts of the banks and auto industry, but generally opposing government involvement with corporations. Pennsylvania is one of those purple states, so you can’t expect their senators to bleed red and die on the constitution. Santorum seems to be a respectable man, and also somebody with a distinct ability, in this race, to connect with the average American. He speaks passionately, but on occasion gets himself into trouble on the same coin. Comments like “homosexuality should be seen no differently than beastiality”, though they may score points with some, cannot come from a person running for President in a country on the cutting edge of secularism. I appreciate the fact that Rick is unabashed about his definitions of morality, and his strong faith, and its remarkable how he has grown and become a real contender in the race. He would be a formidable foe to debate President Obama on traditional values and the family, but his muddied career when it comes to the economy, by far the leading issue of 2012, will plague him this Super Tuesday.

#2: The Constitutionalist, Ron Paul

Teens, hippies, lend me your ears. Liberty loving, Thomas Jefferson reincarnate is hear to deliver salvation from expanding government. Ron Paul has been for me the most fun to watch this primary season. Generally speaking he is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, sticking with the classic libertarian formula. He is the only candidate that is explicit with his plans to slash spending and a goal to cut the budget in half with the elimination of tax dollar vortexes like the Department of Education. His economics and his understanding of what will happen if we continue nf our current path is spot on. Perhaps the most detracting thing about Ron Paul is his isolationist foreign policy. It didn’t work for Tom Jefferson, and it definitely won’t work for Congressman Paul. With Mid-East turmoil, an ascending China, and always ominous Russia, it would be irresponsible and impractical for the United States to remove itself from the world stage. Ron Paul blames the United States for 9/11, claiming its government as the “obvious aggressor” in the attack. Another troubling dynamic is his “conviction” that Iran deserves nuclear weapons if they want them because “We have them don’t we? Why shouldn’t they?”. If you’re looking for someone who is serious about the deficit, serious about the constitution, and will seriously put your liberty above everything else, Ron Paul is your guy.

#3: The Business Man, Mitt Romney

Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. The front runner, the moderate, the presidential candidate. Mitt ran in 2008, and came in third, behind Mike Huckabee and eventual winner John McCain. His father was governor of Michigan, where he was born, and recently won a primary. Mitt Romney is not a far right extremist, he is not an isolationist, he is not a champion of social conservatism. Mitt Romney is the business man. He spent 25 years in the private sector building Bain Capital, he was president of the Winter Olympics, and he was a republican governor, that managed to lead the Kennedy-blue state of Massachusetts from the right. To call Mitt a moderate may be fair, but as governor, he was irrevocably conservative. Besides having the best record on the economy, and the most experience, Mitt Romney is the most organized, has the most money, and he is the best debater in the group. He ran in 2008 and received praise for running a very strong campaign despite eventually losing. He launched a new campaign just about a year after President Obama was elected, and hasn’t looked back yet. He has already been endorsed by nearly 2/3 of the Republican governors, including Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and John Kasich, all three of whom are in states that Barack Obama won in 2008. Stated simply, Mitt is the best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. The most proficient criticism he faces, is that he is a flip flop. Frankly, he has flipped all the ways I and others on the right wanted him too, so we’ll call it square. He truly is the Hamilton to Paul’s Jefferson. (<You’re welcome fans of history)

#4: The Visionary, Newt Gingrich

Former Speaker of the House, Newt has always had a gift for improvising and ingenuity. Most recently he is noted for a grandiose scheme to build a permanent base on the moon, but this comes in a time when Americans are struggling to build stable incomes. He is the most philosophical, and the most inventive, yet through it all he still seems able to energize a crowd. Baggage from Newt’s personal life stunted his early primary success, but if he is able to win handily in his home state of Georgia tonight, as well as in Tennessee, the old professor could be back in the hunt.

The Endorsement: I greatly appreciate Rick Santorum’s message of tradition and strong families, Ron Paul’s love for liberty and the constitution, and Newt Gingrich’s skill at the podium and his ability to reform. Although all these things are needed, and have contributed to making this country great, if Barack Obama is not challenged by a strong, and united front of independents, moderates, and conservatives we don’t stand a chance at victory. Priority number one of the next election must be the defeat of the Barack Obama and his destructive policy. That is why for 2012, Mitt Romney is the candidate I am supporting in the primaries, and hope to see challenge Barack Obama for the presidency.

Be sure to comment or email A.J. at reformedcal1517@yahoo.com

Homosexuality: The Evangelical Divide

“Homosexuality is God giving definite illustration and imagery to man’s idolization and worship of himself.” -John Piper

Homosexuality has been catapulted to the forefront of moral indignation in America, largely due to the fact that several states now recognize gay marriages as legitimate. Opinions have been formed and the lines have been drawn in the dirt. As the tumbleweed starts its roll through our battlefield and the old western duel tunes cue, I would like to establish this issue in a gospel centered way, and then argue, in what I believe to be a biblical way, what homosexuality is, and how we ought to respond to it. It is unfortunate in my view that so many in the Evangelical community, which I consider myself to be a part of, have formed opinions that cause them to be bigoted or hateful towards homosexuals. This particular post, and several essays I’ve written on the subject, are most often times prompted in response to questions and statements of and by the people in my life, like classmates and family members. I will labor to be clear and concise in presenting my own opinion and evidence for my argument, but would warn that this issue, regardless of what you’ve been taught or persuaded to believe, is not as cut and dry as some with opinions like to say it is. Especially not for the Christian, who must seek to form an opinion and respond in a way that is pleasing to God, consistent with His character and word. I would encourage you to read all the way through to the end.

Firstly, and critical to this discussion, it must be asserted that homosexuality is sin, and the Bible is clear about this. Anything contrary to God’s plan, has always been sin, and the covenant of marriage is explicitly reserved for a man and woman. I Corinthians 6:9 counts homosexuals among those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God, so to be clear, I will not be arguing from the secular position that homosexuality is morally correct, or acceptable, or heterosexuality’s equivalent. It’s very discouraging that some claiming to be in Christ’s church have conformed to this view. I begin with this though, because I believe a proper understanding of sin and recognition of it is the foundation that every Christian requires to form an opinion on this matter.

In Reformed Theology we would consider man’s condition, upon the moment of conception, to be totally depraved. The doctrine of Total Depravity speaks to every aspect of man as being fallen. There is no neutrality when it comes to man’s ability to make decisions, he is incapable of committing anything other than sin, and most critically, he is cut off from He who made him in His image. We would also believe that man is unable to change anything about this condition, without the intervention and regenerating work of God. Without God bringing man to faith in Himself, he is unable to recognize his sin and fallen condition. What needs to be realized here, for this discussion, is that in light of the fall, in light of depravity inherited by all mankind, there is no part of ourselves and all of creation that isn’t susceptible to sin’s curse. It seems foolish then, to conceive that genetics, biology, and neuroscience get some sort of “out” and cannot contract the malicious effects of depravity. Hence, I think its clear that because the “total” of total depravity as taught in the Bible, speaks to depravity as affecting every part of creation, including all parts of man, that genetics, biology, and neuroscience can, and indeed often times are affected. This brings us to what may be the most divisive part of the debate. The question, is homosexuality a choice or not? Proponents of the genetic, biological, and neurological basis for homosexuality will argue no.¬† Many in the evangelical community will argue yes, it is merely a sinful lifestyle choice. In light of what we’ve just seen, that is depravity’s relationship to the three mentioned sciences, it does seem as if both arguments are plausible, and indeed may both be true.

If homosexuality is only a choice, and a willful abandonment of natural tendencies, as some argue passages in Romans suggest, then it is sin. If homosexuality is in some cases, not a choice, and a person is predisposed to homosexual desires and tendencies due to genetic, biological, or neurological conditions, that is they are “born gay”, it is sin. I believe that in many cases those on both sides of this discussion are correct in different instances. It must be agreed that some make a very clear choice, independent of a predisposition, to pursue homosexuality. And others, because of a predisposition, also pursue homosexuality. Both instances are perceived as sin by God, because both are the result of man’s depravity, and find their foundation in man’s idolatrous rebellion against holiness in the Garden of Eden. So although I would believe that a homosexual, in most cases, is a person that is predisposed to this sin, no different than someone is born predisposed to anger or alcoholism, I can also assert that this has no grounds to change the way God and His people should view it as wicked.(In my view homosexuality is a much deeper issue than the pursuit of homosexual acts, however. I do not want to reduce it any further than it should be.) Furthermore, in discussing whether or not its a choice. Let me invite you, to ask yourself if you make a conscious choice in your cerebral net-workings to be attracted to those you’re attracted to, or if something more independent of your will is at work? Are the features you find desirable in a spouse because you have chosen them to be so, or are you predisposed to liking these things? Do you make a conscious effort to lust, or become angry, or have pride? Or do these sins come about as a result of your condition as a fallen human being?

This suggests something interesting though. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on,(and as I’ve claimed, I believe both are correct in different instances) you believe the basis for homosexuality to be man’s condition. On the one hand, modern evangelicals, for the most part, believe it to be a choice. This choice is made because man is wicked, and this condition is what enables him to make this choice. On the other hand, some believe it to be a result of depraved genetics, biology, etc., but this also speaks to a condition. It seems that the fundamental question is how far does depravity deprave? And what, if anything, is off limits?

However you “choose” to answer those questions is irrelevant to how we as redeemed members of Christ’s church should treat homosexuals, and any who are struggling with sin. It is our duty to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ, recognizing that it is the power of God, and no matter the circumstances, can change lives. Regardless of the sin, or its habitualness, God’s work to redeem His children cannot be thwarted, and it is our highest privilege and calling as men and women of God, to spread the redeeming news of His son to the world. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” I would encourage all of you to remember this, and with the love of Christ, go forth in peace, prepared to be a testimony and encouragement to all.

In closing, so that I may be abundantly clear: I believe that a homosexual orientation is a result of the fall of humanity into a sinful condition which pervades every person. Whatever genetic, biological or neurological roots of homosexuality may be, or already have been discovered, I do not believe that these would sanction or appropriate homosexual behavior, though it would deepen my compassion and patience for those who are struggling to be free from sexual temptations.

*Be sure to comment on this post, or email A.J. at reformedcal1517@yahoo.com

Tea Anyone?

The so called Tea Party Movement has been the object of praise by personalities like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Mark Levin. It’s already being referred to as the rise of the third party in America. A few questions to consider: Will the Tea Party Movement grow into a powerful third contender in the American political arena? What is the message, or what are some unifying elements of the movement? Is the Tea Party the best way to go about changing Washington?

Before delving too deeply in my responses, I’d like to try and discover for a moment why these people have any right to the “tea party” label. On December 16, 1773, patriots in Boston, fed up with countless abuses of power by a mad prince, his cruel courts, and an intolerable parliament, took action. They would not adhere to the seemingly “for kicks” Tea Act passed by an out of touch and proud of it British Parliament. In this one act, the fundamental issue of the American Revolution was masterfully displayed. Taxation without representation demanded no obligation of the American people, except to make a grand last stand for their freedoms. What the Boston patriots did was not simply a waste of perfectly good tea. (which, for those of us who hate the stuff may already put them a step ahead of our modern day “tea partiers”) The magnificence of what they’d just done in challenging the world power. The imagined consequences were nothing less than a miserable life spent in rat infested, plague saturated European prisons, a public tar and feathering, or most compassionately, death by hanging. Their articulate display of liberty cannot and should not be reduced to such nominal displays as we’ve seen by these right wing extremists who march on our nation’s capitol in the name of Thomas Jefferson. (forgive me of the ad hominem, and any others that manifest.) While I very much expect that Mr. Jefferson would have defended their right to do so, I highly doubt that faced with the challenges of today he would be nearly as critical of Washington, or nearly as self-centered. Thomas Jefferson and the tea partiers are most different in this way: Thomas Jefferson was a man of vision and enterprise, he was articulate and practical, fair and dignified, as well as directed-none of which can also be said of the Tea Party. Thomas Jefferson was generally speaking very selfless, always considering how his vision would affect his constituents. He loved liberty, but most of all that his people had it. These same folks who cracked jokes about those in attendance at the inauguration of our first black President, a truly grand and historical procession, now stand in the same place lining the same streets, declaring themselves the onslaught of a new revolution. It is absurd and should be fiercely challenged for anyone to be comparing this rabble to the men who built this nation. (And although it is a secondary issue, Sarah Palin is no George Washington.)

The Tea Party will not become an influential third member in any branch of government, chiefly because their platform, defined in their own crude terms, is porous and irrevocably near sighted. As a lover of history, I quickly noted some similarities between the tea partiers and the group that I believe to be their doomed ancestors, the “Know Nothings” of the 1840s and 50s. I hate to say it, but the majority gives me the awful impression of doomsday preparers and paranoid saps that have never read or considered any of the arguments against their “convictions”. The Know Nothings were nativists and racists opposed to all forms of immigration, legal or not, into the United States. Sound familiar? They proposed harsh crackdowns, strict naturalization laws, and raised anti-Irish, anti-German, and eventually anti-Italian sentiments. No position could be more at odds with the country the founders envisioned and sought to establish. In addition to locked down border nativism, the tea partiers are largely evangelicals, and sticking with tradition, intolerant of other worldviews and perspectives, even amongst themselves. The Know Nothings didn’t last because they ran on hate and isolation, and like all great societies, we evolved out of the primitive states of paranoia that drive such things. I would expect this new second wind for Know Nothing doctrine to succumb to the same fate. The fact of the matter is America is among the most secular places in the world, and this old European style of intolerance won’t be sustained. Most basically however, the platform and reason for this “tea party” is a government that’s too big. Once that problem is fixed, which it will I believe over time, as it always has done, going through flexable periods of growth and downsizing, the Tea Party will die. But perhaps this is what they want, in my understanding, they have no reason other than downsizing government for being. This is why I can say with confidence that this movement will not last or be too influential for very long.

One thing is evident, these people are angry about something. Government being overbearing? The PATRIOT Act? Welfare? Leaders that are too benevolent with “their” money? Legitimate complaints include tax reform, which should be done to make things simpler and promote growth of the private sector, and corruption should be curbed. But for all of us who see these as serious issues, don’t leave it up to the conservative brand of the Occupy Movement for reform.