Monday, March 30, 2009

Greenwash: Honda

Advertising concept of constructing world's largest LED screen to flash feel-good images. $100,000.

Obtaining scores of new cars and taking them out into the countryside for filming. $1,000,000.

Replacing most of the cars with a combination of headlights and CGI. $300,000.

Film crew and distribution costs. $2,000,000.

Taking a beautiful gospel children's song that became a civil rights anthem and re-using it to sell cars that assuage environmental guilt. Worthless.
All figures have been pulled randomly from the air. I have no idea. However, much of the shoot was indeed done with CGI.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lenten prayer

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Ash Wednesday

Repentance is not about making yourself feel miserable, but about celebrating the goodness of God, who loves everything he has made. Let us throw off the sin that diminishes and weighs us down and dance with joyful repentance. Are we wretched? Yes. But are we loved? A thousand times yes!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Still enjoying U2: real joy

Here's where we gotta be / Love and community / Laughter is eternity / If joy is real

- Bono, "Get On Your Boots" from No line on the horizon

Love and community are the great marks of Christian discipleship. "By this, shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13.35)

This is hard. This is where we have got to be, but find ourselves continually slipping away from. Community takes time, commitment, forbearance, repeated attempts at communication, and forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. For many people, such a message seems hopelessly idealistic. They have been hurt too many times, misunderstood, ignored, abused or rejected by the very community that is meant to be the place where we learn love. Are love and community even possible?

Here's where we gotta be / Love and community / Laughter is eternity / If joy is real. And yet the Christian message is, in the end, a message of joy and of reality. It claims that being touch with reality is to be in touch with the deepest of joys, that existence is not ultimately tragic, that pain is not the final word.

Of course, being in touch with reality now also means mourning and weeping. Jesus said, "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." (Luke 6.21). Life in a broken world yearning for God's healing breath will remain a life of groaning. But such sadness is due to the depth of love that God leads us into. It is love that leaves a mark, that opens us to the wounds that hurt so much. But love is also the only path to laughter and joy. And the good news is that God promises to comfort those who mourn, to turn weeping into laughter. It is God's redeeming love which means that weeping may linger for the night, / but joy comes with the morning.

And this hope - that the story of the world will, in the end, be a comedy rather than a tragedy - this hope is what makes possible a commitment now to "love and community". If our love springs from desperation then sooner or later, faced with difficulty, it will wither and die, or at least retreat to a safe distance. Love must be sustained by hope and faith. But just like love, faith and hope cannot sustain themselves, or be merely wishful thinking in the face of desperate need. Only love can sustain faith and hope, not our love, but the fact that we are first loved. We do not yet know how loved we are. We do not know how beautiful we are. We do not know how beautiful we will be.
Image by CAC.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Are you ready for the apocalypse?

Are Violent Video Games Adequately Preparing Children For The Apocalypse?

Lent: a brief introduction

When I was growing up, only Easter and Christmas would enter into my year as structuring moments of the Christian calender. If you're going to have them, then you may as well celebrate them thoughtfully by adding Advent and Lent. Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas, a time of preparation and anticipation for the great celebration to come. There are a number of good introductions to Lent around with suggestions on how to observe it. But here is a brief explanation from Rowan Williams:

Perhaps Lambeth Palace have adopted a Lenten approach to production. Or maybe they are simply continuing the great Christian tradition of amateur filmmaking.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dying for the half-hearted and the corrupt

A priest is trying to escape from his sick captor, who is lying on the ground holding his ankle and decides at that moment to make his confession:

"Shall I tell you what I've done? - it's your business to listen. I've taken money from women to do you know what [...] I've given money to boys - you know what I mean. And I've eaten meat on Fridays." The awful jumble of the gross, the trivial, and the grotesque shot up between the two yellow fangs, and the hand on the priest's ankle shook and shook with the fever. "I've told lies, I haven't fasted in Lent for I don't know how many years. Once I had two women - I'll tell you what I did..." He had an immense self-importance: he was unable to picture a world of which he was only a typical part - a world of treachery, violence and lust in which his shame was altogether insignificant. How often the priest had heard the same confession - Man was so limited: he hadn't even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization - it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.

- Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory (Penguin, 1962 [1940]), 97.

Sin is boring, repetitive, old. God says, "Behold, I make all things new!"
Photo by Greg Fox.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

U2: No Line on the Horizon

So I bought the new album (actually, Jessica bought it for me). I will leave the full reviews for others; suffice to say that there are definite highlights and a number of tracks that I think will grow on me. Instead, I will just comment on what I take to be one of the key lines in the album:

Only love, only love can leave such a mark / But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Love is an intensification of the problem. In fact, some may say that love is the problem. It is our attachment to perishable things that causes us pain. We invest ourselves in our work that is ignored or undone by our successor, in crafting music that fades before the next bar begins, in sculpting bodies that sag and bruise. We love dying people. We love and let down our guard, becoming vulnerable to pain.

But there is no other way to live. Love is what makes us human. We are loved into being, and quickly learn to love in return, though the quality of our love varies with the object of our love and with our perception of being loved first. Love is our origin, our task, our burden, our destiny.

Love is a wound that only love can heal.
For a more cynical take on the matter, Michael offers ten things that irritate him about U2 (perhaps I have just transgressed against #3... And since when was being earnest a hanging offence?).

Monday, March 02, 2009

A dangerous question

The serpent said to the woman, 'Did God say, "You shall not eat of any tree of the garden"?' (Genesis 3.1b)

"What is the real evil in this question? It is not that it is asked at all. Is it that the false answer is contained within it, that within it is attacked the basic attitude of the creature towards the Creator. Man is expected to be judge of God's word instead of simply hearing and doing it. This is accomplished as follows. On the basis of an idea, a principle, some previously gained knowledge about God, man is now to judge God's concrete Word. When man proceeds against the concrete Word of God with the weapon of a principle, with an idea of God, he is in the right from the first, he becomes God's master, he has left the path of obedience, he has withdrawn from God's addressing him."

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, Chapter Three.

Which ideas of God are we in danger of using to escape from his concrete word to us in Christ?

Could it be the (thoroughly biblical) notion that "God is love" (1 John 4.8, 16), which we fill with our conception of love, rather than allowing God in Christ to define it ("this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and gave his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" - 1 John 4.10)? Or could it be a notion that God must be just and so we demand that he conform to our standards of justice?

Could it be that God is mystery, and so can not speak a word to us that we might understand? Or could it be that God reveals himself and so everything about him must be clear, any hint of mystery must be banished through rational exegesis?

What do you think?