Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: May 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Constitution, Legal Fiction, Judicial Decision, and The Bible

I am not a lawyer, I am a pastor. Having provided that crucial piece of information, the last couple of days have left me thinking about the constitution, the bible, and how people relate to them. This thought process comes from viewing no less than 10 straight Law & Order episodes during the Memorial Day marathon on TNT.

During one particular episode, DA Branch (Fred Thompson) emphatically takes down his framed US Constitution from the wall, hands it to ADA Sutherland and asks her to find anything about the right to privacy. Branch goes on to call that patriotic notion a form of "legal fiction." Later in the episode, ADA McCoy is arguing before a judge and uses the same language his boss had previously used concerning the "legal fiction" of privacy. McCoy wins the motion. What I found interesting is what McCoy said to Sutherland after winning. Without quoting here, he expressed his disgust with his victory, claiming that he had set back the forward progress of a living, breathing constitution that changes and adapts to the current need of the land and replaced it with a static, lifeless, limited interpretation that the judge fell for. McCoy went on to say that the previous years of the constitution becoming more than what it once was is now what it is, and we can't go back to "old school" thinking.

I found that interesting. From my limited knowledge and study, there are two primary ways to make changes to the constitution. One is through the amendment process. The authors of the constitution anticipated the desire of future generations to make changes to the Constitution, but they did not want these changes to come about too easily. So, the amendment procedure was put into place. Second is through "judicial decision." Not part of the official procedure to make an amendment to the constitution, judicial decision can make practical changes to the provisions of the Constitution. Simply put, Judicial Review is the power of the court to examine what congress pumps out to determine its constitutionality. Notice what Wikipedia says about Judicial Review:

"The doctrine [Judicial Review] also embraces the power of the Court to explain the meaning of various sections of the Constitution as they apply to particular cases brought before the Court. Since such cases will reflect changing legal, political, economic, and social conditions, this provides a mechanism, in practice, for adjusting the Constitution without needing to amend its text."

Notice carefully what is said of Judicial Review in the last sentence. It is a mechanism for adjusting the Constitution without needing to amend its text. That is very interesting. Here comes the million dollar question: In a document like the US Constitution, are we the people obliged to change and conform our lives to remain true to its original message, or do we make changes to it in order to reflect our "changing legal, political, economic, and social conditions." It seems McCoy is right here, the latter is preferred, and seems to be what the framers had in mind.

It is perhaps this very mindset that makes the bible so controversial. There are few who would make a legitimate argument that we should "amend" the bible by adding a "bible bill of rights." More common is what I will call the "biblical judicial review." Notice how the above quote reads by only changing one word: "changing legal, political, economic, and social positions, this (biblical judicial review) provides a mechanism, in practice, for adjusting the bible without needing to amend its text."

The constitution is ultimately provided to serve us. It establishes and limits what government can do, and when necessary, changes in order to remain relevant to where we are as a people. The bible is ultimately provided for us to serve its author, and when necessary, prompt us to change according to its message. A popular modern view of the bible is to understand it as eligible for judicial review. If we are behaving in a way that is the current accepted social position, then the bible must be adjusted to meet that standard. There are a handful of issues today where this is exactly what is happening.

An important distinction should be made. There is a difference between a genuine search for proper interpretation of Scripture and a case of biblical judicial review. The former seeks to glorify God by rightly interpreting Scripture and then make life changes based on that interpretation. This interpretation should come through several processes, including prayer, guidance by the Holy Spirit, listening to pastors and other devoted Christians, and reading what has previously been studied. The latter seeks to change the implications of the text based primarily on what is considered the societal norm for the day. This is a fine line and a person could easily confuse one for the other, thinking they have discovered a genuine interpretation when in fact they are only providing justification for their own actions. There is correct interpretation. There has never been a Christian in history to ever get it all right. What matters is that we place the text first, above ourselves, and seek to make changes to the glory of God. The biblical text is not up for amendment. It is certainly living and breathing (Heb.4:12), but it proclaims a message of old which will never change.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Passing Faith To Our Children

One of these days, by the grace of God, Andi and I are going to have children. We enjoy thinking about how our life will change and the things we want to incorporate into our lifestyle when children come along. I have been working with teenagers in the local church for almost a decade. Andi is currently a counselor for children in a hospital. One of the challenges I have faced through my 9 years of church youth/family ministry is guiding parents in their ability and desire to demonstrate genuine faith in their household. With many of my students, their faith far surpasses the faith of their parents. As my model for youth ministry continues to evolve into a more family based model, I am left pondering some important concepts to be used in my own home one day with my own child. I have recently been asked by two separate families how to best strengthen the presence of God in their homes. Here are a few suggestions.

First, do not forsake the dinner table. Over the last few years I have become convinced that this "ol' time" concept of gathering around the dinner table is a necessary routine for the family. I recently heard an interview with a professor of mine who has 6 children. He was recalling how often his family receives comments in restaurants in awe of their well-behaved children. The source of their good behavior stems from a nightly routine of sitting at the dinner table. He adds that this also affects other areas of their lives, not least of which is sitting through a church service together. At the dinner table is not only where the day's events are retold, but where prayer and reflection are offered.

Second, read the bible. Perhaps not the most alarming of concepts, but based on the number of families that actually read the bible together, you would think this radical idea has never previously been thought of. Just read the bible. A chapter a night, or even half a chapter. Along with that, it is never too early to begin teaching children doctrinal truth. I believe this is best done with the use of a catechism. A catechism is simply a set of questions and answers. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is wonderful, and there is even a Baptist version out there for my fellow Baptist friends. Parents will be surprised how even the youngest of children will begin answering the questions on their own. Anglican archbishop Peter Jensen has recently written that "doctrinal truths are essential if we wish to grasp the meaning of the stories and sayings of the Bible. We found it helpful to have a very simple catechism."

Third, remain committed to church. I would not be in favor of the child being out of the morning worship service every Sunday (as children's church is prone to do). Make sure your family is sitting together in the church service. I know some churches have fantastic children's church programs, and my church has about as good of one as I have seen (I support it and play a role in it), but that should never take the place of the family worshipping together. Even if the parent is worried that the service will be "boring" to the child.

Fourth, watch the tongue and tone (James 3:6). Through my NT study this past semester, my professor discussed how the course of life is partially set by the use of words. Pay attention to the words you say to your children and spouse, and the tone in which you speak them. You might be surprised.

Finally, only God can bring about faith. How many parents have raised their hands in despair, asking God what they did wrong. The parent has an enormous responsibility to properly teach and demonstrate the things of God, but even that does not produce guaranteed results. With a deep breath we are reminded that salvation belongs to the Lord. Thank God for that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why Would A Baptist Pastor Like Horror Movies?

I am occasionally approached by curious parishioners who are interested to know the reason behind my fondness of horror movies. It never seems to be a stumbling block for folks. Rather, it is curiosity and perhaps puzzlement that drives the question. At least that is my hope. There is, of course, the other possibility. The possibility that a certain person would seek a sense of admissibility for their own attraction to what might be considered an "unhealthy" past-time. That is not a healthy paradigm to live by.

So why am I a horror fan? My first thought is best reflected through the words of Stephen King in his book, Danse Macabre. In this masterful book that chronicles several decades of horror literature, King says that asking a lover of horror why they are a fan of the genre is like asking a rose why it is red. Some things just are. I have had a flare for the spooky side of things all my life. My mom and I would transform our home into a haunted attraction every Halloween. When I would draw pictures on scratch paper, many times I would draw a haunted cemetery with a full moon and "RIP" on the tombstones. When I was about 9 years old I got my hands on an orange cassette tape called "Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House."
I would sit in my room and repeatedly listen to that tape, even daring my friends to sit in a dark closet by themselves while I played it. By the time I watched my first horror movie down a holler in Thornton, KY with my sister and three cousins, I was already well steeped in the things of horror. There wasn't any reason for it, that is just the way it was. By the way, that first horror movie was the 1982 classic "Pieces." It is probably a terrible movie, but I remember the film being incredibly scary. In order to maintain the memory of its greatness, I have not watched the movie again since that first viewing. To close this paragraph, I should note that just because something is does not necessarily make it right. However, the point here is that my enjoyment of horror was not a created thing.

Another beautiful aspect of just beinga horror fan is the oneness you share with other true horror fans. This would be the place where I would define what a true horror fan really is, but you know who you are. We might not always see eye to eye on what is or is not a successful horror film, but we all strive for the same thing: that wonderfully strange and content feeling after viewing a film that has done it. For me, that first true feeling came after my initial viewing of Halloween. My favorite part of the film, which lasts a whole 10 seconds, involves no monsters, no screaming, no killing, no blood, and no scares. It is simply a scene of a girl sitting outside holding a pumpkin, waiting for her ride to pick her up. That scene gets it. I have been there with her, waiting for our ride while watching trick or treaters walk the streets of Haddonfield, IL. It is a special place my friends, a secret place. And not many people know the way.

As far fetched as it may sound, there is a theological element to the horror genre. I know of no other genre where there exists a clear delineation between good and evil, right and wrong. The viewer knows what is bad. The characters know what is bad. We are all rooting for the good. And in most cases, the good is stronger than the bad, but must learn how to overcome it. A false theological construct is to grant equality between the forces of Satan and God. We do not have a battle waging between equal armies, biting our nails to see who will win. God is greater and has already claimed the victory. Nevertheless, Satan continues, as a fatally wounded soldier, to fight and bring as many people with him as possible. We can overcome evil, but we must be disciplined. With that in mind, lets take a famous horror franchise as an a example, The Nightmare on Elm Street series. The evil character in these movies is Freddie Krueger. He is terrifying and can kill, but only when people are asleep. In the first (and best) film, Nancy Thompson finally understands that Krueger only has power if she is afraid of him. She becomes determined to defeat Krueger and ultimately does (until the 2nd film of course). Therefore, as a general rule, the horror genre clearly outlines what is evil and what is good, and most importantly guides the viewer to be repulsed by the evil and drawn to the victory of the good. Now, compare that with "harmless" romantic comedies. I certainly don't have anything against a good romantic comedy, but the reality of casual sex and relationships is not portrayed as the evil, but as the norm. The viewer is certainly not led to root against the couple. Interesting, don't you think?

Just like many avenues in our spiritual walk, we must be in tune with who we are and how we are affected. Andi (my wife) cannot watch horror movies. Regardless of the good vs. evil model I have explained, the imagery used to depict that battle stays with her in unhealthy ways. I do not believe children should be watching horror movies, but there again, there is no definite right or wrong age.

Lastly, we should not be stupid. Just because I enjoy horror films does not mean I should carry the "horror banner" around my congregation and preach the "okayness" of watching horror. Likewise, we must respect the opinions of those who do not agree with our viewpoint. I would never take a youth group to see a horror movie. I am completely opposed to the "Judgment House" concept. I am just a follower of Jesus Christ doing my very best to pastor a group of teenagers. And I like horror movies.

California Entry #2

As usual, a book could be written on our experiences in California. Looking back on this trip, we did an incredible amount in 5 days. Universal Studios, Disneyland, California Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm, and Six Flags were all conquered, not to mention some of the finest eating I will experience all year.

I am working on editing some video footage from our trip. Once that is finished, I will post the final product here at The Lair. Included in that video will be Rex and I giving "thumb ratings" to almost every coaster we rode during our trip. Some were thumbs up and some were thumbs down. Some were "thumbs in between." I hope to have that video online by the end of the week.

I think the best way to capture the essence of our trip is simply by listing my favorite quotes from the trip. Some of these will not make sense to you, but Rex and I will enjoy laughing at them for quite some time to come. So, lets get started.

Lady at Universal Studios: "Where are you guys from?"
Rex: "All around."

Ironman: "Hey Cap, after we are finished here what do you say we hit this rib joint I saw a few miles back?"

Nick Fury: "Now that's just nasty."

Beast: "Neeen-jaaaa!"

Rex: "WHOOAAA MAN! We are going to get shot right off the Log Jammer!" (this quote came during mid-ride of the Log Jammer when we noticed the water level inside the log ride was spilling over the edge of the flume.)

Zeek: "The next time you guys come, you should plan on staying a few extra days and go to Universal Studios and Disneyland." (this was our server at the Claim Jumper restaurant who did not realize he was talking to theme park legends. We just kept our mouths shut.)

Beast: "How long you been in there?"
Joe: "About 45 years." (this was at Knott's Berry Farm where out of nowhere a guy inside a jail cell starts talking to you. Creepy but cool.)

Rex: "Hey Brian, someone just said your name!"
Joe: "BRIAN!"
Brian's Mom: "Come on boys, lets go."

Beast: "We are on our way through Sleeping Beauty Castle"
Rex: "Also known as The Shed."

Finally, here are a few pics from our experiences! Click on the image to see a larger version.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Beast and Rex Vacation Entry #1

After flying in Denver, CO via Frontier Airlines (my first time flying with them), I met up with the legendary Rexwilder and we prepared ourselves for the flight into Los Angeles, CA. This was going to be my first time in California and I was excited to experience the new theme parks and see the house locations of my favorite film of all time, Halloween. I will post a separate entry concerning the viewing of these homes. Needless to say, it was breathtaking.

Anyway, there is one main reason we are here: Theme Parks.

As most of you know, Rex and I are experts on Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. We both are season pass holders and have been inside the USF (Universal Studios, Florida) parks between 35-45 times. We have the dialogue from the different rides memorized. USF is divided into two different parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They are both great and offer terrific attractions, such as The Hulk roller coaster, Spiderman, The Mummy, Dudley Do-Right Ripsaw Falls, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Men In Black, and Twister. . .Ride It Out! Rex and I (and sometimes our sister and brother-in-law, Missy and Andy), also make a yearly weekend trip to Orland for Halloween Horror Nights, the greatest of all Halloween attractions.

In addition to our love of USF, we also know a great deal about Walt Disney World, also located in Orlando, FL. I am somewhat of a "Haunted Mansion" enthusiast and Rex and I both love "Pirates of the Caribbean."

So, with that in mind, we were now going to experience USH (Universal Studios, Hollywood) and Disneyland. Here is a quick rundown of what we have experienced thus far in our trip.

This park is quite a bit smaller than its Orlando counterpart, but it packs a big punch, especially in one area: The Studio Backlot Tour. That is a 45 minute tram tour of the "backlot" of Universal Studios where they have filmed tons of movies. It is crazy, I was 30 feet from the Hill Valley Courthouse from "Back To The Future" and one of the filming scenes from "War of the Worlds." But the thing that topped them all was the set for "Psycho." Yes, I got to see the Bates Motel and the famous house on the hill. It was amazing.

In addition to the studio tour, we also rode The Mummy, which is substantially better than the same ride in Orlando. I am happy to announce that Rex and I made a brilliant move down the stairs/escalator to get ourselves well in front of everyone else when that particular section of the park opened. We were the very first two people to ride The Mummy for the day, and we were the only two people on the ride! I have a great picture of that experience. We also rode Jurassic Park, which was not quite as good and Backdraft, which I thought was pretty lame.

That is all the time I have for now, I will let some pictures do the talking. I will post more pics and another vacation entry tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Disneyland Quick Review

The Beast and Rex here saying hello from Los Angeles, CA. We have already captured some memorable video footage and should have some great photos that will be up on the Lair shortly.

By tonight I will put a more detailed account of our experiences thus far. Stay tuned!

The Beast Honors: Jerry Falwell

I don't have time to say much here right now, but I at a minimum wanted to acknowledge the passing of Jerry Falwell. He is honored at The Beast's Lair.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Disneyland, Here I Come.

Since my first year of seminary experience has come to a close, Rex and The Beast are celebrating by spending a few days in California. It will be a busy, action packed experience of Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Knotts Berry Farm.

As you can see from the image above, Disneyland is anticipating our arrival.

Frank's Steak House

Andi and I decided to try our luck with a new steak house that recently opened called "Frank's Steak House." What an experience.

I was just a breath away from suggesting to Andi that we vacate the premises after only being in the restaurant for a few moments. Here is a quick bullet list of what happened:

- as soon as we walk into the door, the server is chewing out the guest for apparently not being clear enough when she ordered. What we caught from his comments as we were walking by to take our seat was something like this: "That's why I told you when you ordered I needed to know exactly what you meant. . ."

- We sat down at a table and had this eerie feeling of twilight zone come over us. Something just didn't feel right.

-We had a different server than the one chewing out the guest, which was good. Andi wanted to order the Rib Eye, but after she mistakenly ordered the Prime Rib, I asked her if she meant Rib Eye. She said yes and asked the server to change the order. The server's response: "well."

-After halfway through our salad, a gentleman, presumably the manager, came and asked us if we would mind moving to another table because this one table was reserved. There was maybe two other guests in the entire restaurant and the dining room was huge. But, he did offer to pay for a dessert if we would move. But then, in just a funny move, he left and had us carry our own plates, drinks, silverware, etc.

-This was, without a doubt, the worst steak I have ever eaten. Andi and I were pouring salt and pepper on the steak to give it some taste.

-For some bizarre reason, the server brought Andi's plate to her without a baked potato but put a metal container of mayonnaise on the plate. We were so confused. A different server noticed our confused state and asked us if anything was wrong. We explained that instead of a thing of mayo, we should have had a baked potato. The server was as confused as us.

The experience was so surreal. What a day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

If you don't have Cingular Wireless. . .

don't get it. The whole "no dropped calls" thing just doesn't quite ring true. At least not for me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Since everyone is Spiderman crazy,

lets talk about Halloween. Rob Zombie has directed a "re-imaging" of the classic 1978 John Carpenter film, Halloween. I have written about this previously here.

The film has a release date of August 31st, 2007 and I find myself highly anxious for its release. The reasons I have already alluded to in my previous article, Halloween remains my favorite film of all time, Carpenter is one of my favorite directors, and Rob Zombie has directed two solid horror films. However, I just discovered some news that makes the anticipation even greater.

An adult Danielle Harris, the cute-as-a-button little girl who portrayed "Jamie Lloyd" in Halloween 4 and 5 (1988, 1989), is starring in the Zombie film as "Annie Brackett." I have made a side by side reference of then-and-now for you of Danielle Harris. (See below). Annie Brackett is, of course, Laurie Strode's best friend from the original Halloween film. She was portrayed in the original film by Nancy Loomis, who also starred in Carpenter's "Assault on Precinct 13," "The Fog," and "Halloween 3."

This, as you might imagine, is incredible news for die hard Halloween fans. Danielle Harris was offered the part of Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 6 (1995), a film that depicts an older Jamie Lloyd meeting her doom at the hands of Michael Myers via some farm equipment. Harris was not happy with her "death scene" and a contract could never be worked out. So, a substitute Jamie Lloyd was put into place, much to the anger of Halloween fans who had come to adore the "real" Jamie Lloyd (aka Danielle Harris). Harris actually ended up being correct, the death scene of Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 6 is one of the worst in the entire series. Anyway, this is so sweet that Harris will finally, after all these years, be able to return to the Halloween franchise, playing a role that was very prominent in the first film. (Annie Brackett was the first girl to get killed in the original film when Myers hid in the backseat of her station wagon. She sang the annoyingly catchy tune "Oh Paul, I give you all. I can no longer stall.")

At this point you have reached the inner depths of The Beast's Lair. If you are still reading, then you must at least have some partial interest or knowledge in the Halloween franchise. Therefore, lets continue.

Two other points of interest should be made. 1) Malcolm McDowell is playing the role of Dr. Loomis. I do not envy this man. Dr. Sam Loomis (nod to Hitchcock's Psycho) is one of the greatest film characters of all time, brilliantly portrayed by the late great Donald Pleasence in the 1978 film. McDowell has starred in some B Horror films, including "Island of the Dead," but most people will know him from his involvement in the highly controversial movie, "A Clockwork Orange." Watching another actor perform the character of Dr. Sam Loomis will be very, very difficult. 2) Danny Trejo, one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, also has a part in the film. Danny Trejo has a special place in my heart for being the driver in the life-changing Michael Mann movie, "Heat." (1995) In that movie, his name was simply "Trejo."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

SBC Associations, Conventions, The CP, and the local church.

What does the state convention or the local association do anyway? How does the CP (Cooperative Program) fit into any of that and does the CP do anything for my church?

These are questions that could very likely be asked the majority of SBC members in the local church setting. Put simply, the CP seems to losing support from churches who would like to see more "hands-on" results from within their local congregations. And why not? How much more "rewarding" to be personally sending a missionary out into the mission field rather than sending money to an organization in which your money gets "lost" in the allocation of funds. More than that, how is the local church being aided by CP dollars in ways that all SBC churches can experience and rally behind?

I am a CP supporter. However, in a time when the IMB and NAMB seem to be placing increasing controversy on themselves with continued restrictions imposed on missionaries, a lack of a unified vision seems to be a perilous thing. Case in point, at the seminary last week, the flagship of scholarly conservative thought, both in theology and polity, we had a visiting NAMB missionary from Seattle who was trash-talking the increased restrictions right there on the SBTS campus! Currently, the CP is broken down like this: a predetermined (by the church) percentage of undesignated tithes and offerings become CP dollars. Those are sent to the state convention. (not the association like as is commonly misunderstood. A separate association percentage is typically made by the local church). The state then keeps a percentage (determined by the state conventional meeting) and then forwards the rest to the SBC to be allocated. From there, the breakdown basically comes in at 73% missions (both NAMB and IMB), 21% theological education (for which I am most grateful), 4% facilitating ministries (guidestone financial, etc), and then 2% Christian Ethics and Religious Liberty.

A recent quote from Frank Page concerning this year's SBC meeting in San Antonio brings hope for some improvement. Page says,

"it looks like we will be able to unveil a general outline of a 10-year evangelistic strategy which brings associations, state conventions, NAMB and other entities into a true focus in calling churches not just to win souls but, better, showing them how. . . .Obviously, every Baptist entity is autonomous, but we are coming together to say here is a common direction for 10 years to equip churches and people to win the lost to Christ.”

That could be great news for the local church who feels a disconnect between them and the work of the NAMB and IMB. There is certainly nothing wrong with the local church supporting missionaries on their own, but if CP dollars and percentages continue to decrease, the entire point of the convention could be compromised. I am hopeful this will not be a fancy packaged evangelism model that will cost the local church $500 to purchase, but will be a viable, exciting opportunity for the SBC and the local church to become friends once again.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Omega Sounds

Be sure to check out my friend James Aaron's worship project and band "Omega Sounds." As great as JA is at bringing the heavy metal thunder with Judah First, he is even more at home in the praise and worship setting. He has just finished recording his first worship album, so be sure and buy a copy when it is released.