Nicole Kidman & Conservative Readings of the Bible

I’m currently reading a biography on Nicole Kidman by a journalist who has never actually met Nicole Kidman. The best part of the book is the beginning where he explains some of the reasons we love celebrities: “…the most important thing in that vexed transaction is the way the actress and the spectator must remain strangers. That’s how the magic works…For their cannot be this pitch of irrational desire without that rigorous apartness.”

His point is that we desire what we do not have because we can recreate it in our own image. We love the idea of God because we can make God into our own image, making God into whatever we want or need God to be. So long as God remains “out there” as “that which fulfills all my desires,” we love God. This is I think what is so compelling about the conservative Evangelical view of God, the perfect, transcendent, one. We like our Bible to be perfect, mystical, magical, and incomprehensible because then it always remains desirous, just out of reach, full of surprises that tickle our fancy.

But once the Bible becomes human, all too human, and once God is revealed as “irascible” as Brueggemann recounts it, we lose that aloofness, that mystical apartness that we were so attracted to. And this is what the conservative Evangelical’s paradigm will not allow. So while incarnation is given lip service, it is the “transcendent One” who will always trump. While the Bible says that Jesus “grew in wisdom and knowledge,” which means he didn’t know everything and when Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi Lama Sabacthani, My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me,” we must figure out a way to read those so Jesus doesn’t seem so . . . common, so human. We say we want a Jesus we can relate to but in those few instances where I feel I relate most to Jesus, in my ignorance and in my doubt, the conservative Evangelical paradigm becomes extremely uncomfortable.

When the Bible comes down off the silver screen and walks among us. When it says things we are embarrassed by, when it shows its age and sometimes inappropriate behavior, we get very uncomfortable with it. Thanks but no thanks. I prefer you on the screen where I can imagine you are something else, where you remain aloof and untouchable behind a veil of preconceived doctrines and guidlines, yes, but perfect and protected.

Thomson says it this way about Nicole Kidman in particular: “Anyway, the subject of this book is Nicole Kidman. And I should own up straightaway that, yes, I like Nicole Kidman very much. When I tell people that, sometimes they leer and ask, “Do you love her?” And my answer is clear: Yes, of course, I love her – so long as I do not have to meet her.”

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Top 10 Movies I Watched This Year

Keep in mind, I don’t ever actually go to the movies, I always rent them, so these probably came out in 2007. I have chosen these not based on entertainment value but on impact, either intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. In no particular order:

Top Ten of 2007


I know the days of “Top Ten of 2007” are over but as an avid movie watcher I thought I would give you my list of the top 10 documentary/independent movies I saw in 2007. I love documentaries and indie films but my wife is not such a huge fan. Anyway, some are on the list because they really inspired me or helped me understand the world in a different way while others are on the list because I thought it was fascinating and interesting. I decided on listing only documentaries and indie films for 2 reasons: One, it was a much easier and smaller list to handle than all of the movies I saw in 2007 and Two, these are probably movies most of you haven’t ever heard of so maybe you’ll go pick a few up and give them a try. Without further ado, the list (in no particular order):

1. Ushpizin (2005): A Jewish sub-titled ‘indie’ film about the festival of Succoth. In the “helped me understand the world in a different way” category.

2. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007): A documentary about video gaming culture and the journey of one “outsider” to break the long-standing Donkey Kong record. Definitely in the “fascinating” category.

3. The Agronomist (2002): A documentary following Jean Dominique, a Haitian journalist fighting for human rights. Category: inspiring.

4. Year of the Yao (2004): Documentary that followed Yao Ming, NBA star of the Houston Rockets, in his first year in America. Category: fascinating & interesting.

5. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006): Documentary about the soccer team the NY Cosmos and how they revolutionized soccer in America. Category: fascinating & interesting.

6. God Grew Tired of Us (2005): A Documentary following the Lost Boys of Sudan. Absolutely incredible. Category: ALL of the above.

7. Primer (2003): An incredibly low budget film made by 3 guys. highly involved and philosophical. Category: fascinating.

8. Color of the Cross (2006): A racially charged re-telling of the story of Jesus’s death. Category: While not agreeing with the interpretation, it definitely widened my worldview in a healthy way.

9. The Heart of the Game (2005): Follows a high school girls basketball team. Category: Inspiring.

10. Devil’s Playground (2002): A documentary that goes into the Amish teenagers “Rumspringa” or time of “sowing wild oats”. Category: fascinating.

Honorable Mentions (all released in 2005 oddly enough): On a Clear Day, Grizzly Man, The Boys of Baraka, Chalk

Top Ten of 2007


I know the days of “Top Ten of 2007” are over but as an avid movie watcher I thought I would give you my list of the top 10 documentary/independent movies I saw in 2007. I love documentaries and indie films but my wife is not such a huge fan. Anyway, some are on the list because they really inspired me or helped me understand the world in a different way while others are on the list because I thought it was fascinating and interesting. I decided on listing only documentaries and indie films for 2 reasons: One, it was a much easier and smaller list to handle than all of the movies I saw in 2007 and Two, these are probably movies most of you haven’t ever heard of so maybe you’ll go pick a few up and give them a try. Without further ado, the list (in no particular order):

1. Ushpizin (2005): A Jewish sub-titled ‘indie’ film about the festival of Succoth. In the “helped me understand the world in a different way” category.

2. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007): A documentary about video gaming culture and the journey of one “outsider” to break the long-standing Donkey Kong record. Definitely in the “fascinating” category.

3. The Agronomist (2002): A documentary following Jean Dominique, a Haitian journalist fighting for human rights. Category: inspiring.

4. Year of the Yao (2004): Documentary that followed Yao Ming, NBA star of the Houston Rockets, in his first year in America. Category: fascinating & interesting.

5. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006): Documentary about the soccer team the NY Cosmos and how they revolutionized soccer in America. Category: fascinating & interesting.

6. God Grew Tired of Us (2005): A Documentary following the Lost Boys of Sudan. Absolutely incredible. Category: ALL of the above.

7. Primer (2003): An incredibly low budget film made by 3 guys. highly involved and philosophical. Category: fascinating.

8. Color of the Cross (2006): A racially charged re-telling of the story of Jesus’s death. Category: While not agreeing with the interpretation, it definitely widened my worldview in a healthy way.

9. The Heart of the Game (2005): Follows a high school girls basketball team. Category: Inspiring.

10. Devil’s Playground (2002): A documentary that goes into the Amish teenagers “Rumspringa” or time of “sowing wild oats”. Category: fascinating.

Honorable Mentions (all released in 2005 oddly enough): On a Clear Day, Grizzly Man, The Boys of Baraka, Chalk

The Oscars & Art

Last night I went to my annual Oscar party, a night I look forward to each year. We each fill out a ballot to see which of us will win, which usually comes down to who guessed the winner for best short animated feature. The night was filled with sarcasm and criticism of movies and actors/actresses, red wine, popcorn, and Jon Stewart…what a great combination.

At some point in the night someone mentioned that it was great to see the Oscars because they judged movies on ‘art’ and not on mass appeal or box office numbers. And I want to second that notion, but also maybe go a little further with it.

According to Heidegger, ‘art’ is what a culture has/develops that not only encapsulates that culture but propels it, it not only symbolizes but creates. The Greek Parthenon, the ancient Catholic Cathedrals, etc, are works of art because they create the culture they are a part of. And they only do this when they are ‘working’ (insightful wordplay on ‘work of art’). The Greek Parthenon is not ‘for us’ a work of art because it no longer ‘works’ as it did for the Greeks.

How does this relate to the Oscars? The movies that win Oscars are oftentimes what I would consider “works of art.” They are movies that ‘work’ at creating our culture. There are many movies that have come out this year that were box office smashes, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars. And I think that they are successful because they tap into the culture, they encapsulate the culture, they are, in a word, ‘relatable.’ But they do not move into the category of art, in the Heideggerian definition, because they stop at encapsulation and do no move on to propulsion. I would consider many box office smashes ‘culture leeches’ while I would consider many oscar winners ‘culture propellers.’

Notice though that this is a general observation and not always the case since some box office smashes are also oscar winners and not all oscar winners are ‘works of art,’ but I did find that an interesting distinction as I sipped my red wine last night and made fun of Cameron Diaz and Miley Cyrus.

Once In A Lifetime – A Postmodern Documentary?


I am always a sucker for a good documentary. My wife on the other hand, not so much. But I still try and sneak them in whenever I can. Last night I watched Once In A Lifetime and I really enjoyed it. It’s basically about the history of soccer in the United States in the past 50 years and the important role the New York Cosmos played in what we consider now to be a given sport for every 6 year old in America, with their cute “swarm” strategy.

Apparently, hardly anyone played the sport in America. But a business man, Steve Ross, owner of Warner Communications wanted to start a league and so he did. It was ragtag at first since no one around here really even knew how to play the game. But then Ross paid Pele, yeah, that Pele, to come over and play on this basically semi-pro start up team named the New York Cosmos. And the rest is history. It was amazing, several famous players from around the world ended up following suit. At the peak of the NASL (North American Soccer League) the New York Cosmos were filling Giant Stadium with 70,000 fans…um, that’s incredible!

The story is great but one thing caught my attention as I watched this movie. There was something refreshing about the way they interviewed everyone: they let them disagree. It was amazing how much disagreement when on about what really happened. I appreciated the multiple perspectives of history and each persons view of what was going on. As subtle as it was, I really enjoyed it. Of course, if you watch this movie you might think I am over-analyzing a bit, or a lot, but for whatever reason, this type of filming caught my eye and this type of thinking is one of the good implications for a postmodern mindset.

30 Days of Heck Yes

Do you remember Morgan Spurlock? He was nominated for an Academy Award for Supersize Me back in 2005. Well he began a series in 2005-2006 called 30 Days that ran on FX. Sarah & I were looking for a new TV show to watch on DVD and picked it up. It is amazing and one of the most educational and eye-opening shows around. The basic premise is that someone does something completely different for 30 days to step into the shoes of someone else in society or into the shoes of some other societal situation. So a Christian from WV lives with a Muslim family and practices Islam for 30 days, an Atheist lives with a Christian fundamentalist family for 30 days, a couple live on minimum wage for 30 days, etc. I know it’s an old show by now, but if you haven’t seen it, pick it up. It certainly makes me a lot more careful not to stereotype and to watch what I say about other people’s religion and culture.

In the most recent episode we watched, a Christian man lived with a Muslim family for 30 days. It was interesting to see, first of all, his pyschological conflict as to whether he was able to pray the prayers since he was a Christian. He didn’t know if that violated his own faith. More than that thought, it put a face to a nameless label. There were plenty of Muslims living daily lives in Dearborn, MI, just like any American. One thing was different however – the self-discipline. I was very impressed by their self-discipline and the practice of praying five times a day. That seemed to help them keep their focus on God. It is certainly something I could learn from.

There was one poignant point made by one of the teachers when the Christian was wrestling with whether it violated his faith to participate. He insighfully said, “You’re here to learn, not to believe.” I think this is a very helpful statement when dialoguing with people of other faiths. Rather than get offended, remember that most people aren’t trying to convert, only to have you understand. So instead of being close-minded and defensive, we should try to remember that we dialogue to learn, no one said we had to believe. Sometimes our fear of lack of faith on our own part leads us to dismiss out of hand the faith of another.