March 2004  

Volume 22

 

March 6, 2004

"Oh Come All Ye Faithful"

…And that the church did. I recently saw the movie the Passion Of The Christ. The church has really supported this film and the box office receipts show it. It brought in $125 million in its first five days of release, which is pretty impressive for any film, let alone a subtitled one.

 

 Photo Credit: Philippe Antonello

 

Anti-Semitism 

In all fairness I did not find the film anti-Semitic. It's a chillingly realistic recreation of Christ's crucifixion. Gibson and crew did a very good job. It was almost like being there witnessing it firsthand.

Jewish and Roman people were against and in support of Christ. However, I blame neither for His death. No sensible person could.

I understand that the Jewish community is concerned about a possible backlash and there's not much I can say to help assuage that, as the film used actual Bible text and events. Caiaphas went after Christ with a fury that was unwarranted. However, the film also showed Jewish people who were on Christ's side as well. So, in that, it was balanced.

You also have to bear in mind, Jesus is Jewish. It would be really nonsensical for anyone to be anti-Semitic, angry and hateful towards the Jewish people for assisting in Christ's crucifixion. Sensible people won't vilify a race of people whose Savior they worship. This film wouldn’t make someone anti-Semitic because of Christ’s crucifixion. Why would an anti-Semite be angry that Jesus was crucified, as Jesus is Jewish as well. Think about that.

However, if you are tempted to feel that way for some odd reason, please bear that fact in mind. I repeat, Jesus is Jewish. You can't go attacking His people (or anyone else for that matter). 

The film is an historical account of what happened. We can't change history, only learn from it. And God does offer forgiveness.

I do understand the Jewish community’s apprehension and anxiety, especially after the suffering and persecution they endured during the Holocaust. As I wrote recently, I don't understand the roots of anti-Semitism, so it would make a person cautious and vigilant in protecting their name due to the historical events that transpired. Therefore, I'm not going to say they are overreacting or being overly sensitive. History has taught the Jewish people to do just that.

It's also very similar with black people, as you often don't know when something is racially motivated, due to historical events (slavery) and some still harboring racist views.

Throughout history different races and countries have had to bear the consequences of their sins. Yes, there is forgiveness from God if asked, but the earthly consequences do not disappear, which is a concept many people don’t grasp.

Germans have borne the shame of the Holocaust. White people have borne the shame of slavery. While many people have forgiven and reconciled, those events are apart of history that will not be removed from the history books to reflect the current climate of reconciliation.   

Figuratively speaking, we all have some cross to bear.

World history has left many bloodstains on the face of this earth. Many atrocities have been committed; the extent most couldn't bear to know. The crucifixion was definitely one of them.

Speaking of bloodstains, did you know that God can see a victim's blood on the earth well after they've died, hence the scripture and now commonly used phrase, "Their blood cries out." Amazing!

Sensationalism

“Titanic” is the top grossing film in history thus far, yet it didn't inspire the type of media or public reaction the “Passion of the Christ” has.

After seeing the film I thought the controversy surrounding it was unwarranted and undeserved. I can understand the Jewish Community's concerns prior to seeing it, however, some critics who didn't share those concerns made it out to be totally inaccurate, inflammatory and second rate...and that's before they even saw the film. It was none of those things. Once you see the movie, you will realize what I mean.

America is largely Christian, however Hollywood is not, as there is an absence of morality there, therefore the spin you receive on many things will reflect that.

As much as people would like to say Gibson did this, I beg to differ. He's not had this type of controversy before and no one would court that type of press. He is being ostracized, and in Hollywood, where executives are often very vindictive, people are too busy kissing up to risk that, because that old, “You’ll never work in this town again” phrase will reverberate.

I understood the Jewish community’s concerns, but some members of the press, who really didn't share those concerns, used it to their advantage to produce sensationalized stories pitting people against each other. 

Jesus had and still does have a profound impact on the world, to attempt to change or suppress that would mean undoing history and no one on earth can do that.

How else would you explain the reaction to this film. People can often sense the truth when presented with it, but sometimes don't want to accept it, due to feelings of self-consciousness and condemnation, but as Christ said "I did not come into the world to condemn the world. I came into the world to save it." Therefore, some of you are missing the point. He's not trying to condemn you. He's trying to get you to become a better person by changing your ways.

Marketing

Some have complained that Gibson should not have marketed film related items such as books. What? Christians aren’t allowed to READ now? You do know that we actually READ the Bible, so READING is not unfamiliar territory to us.

With every other blockbuster Hollywood release, you go through the drive through at fast food restaurants and they give you cups with some ghastly, ghoulish character’s face plastered all over it (You don’t so much mind the normal advertising, but some you do).

Gratuitous Violence

Critics wrote of gratuitous violence in the film, but it really happened as the movie portrayed it. There's nothing non-violent about being beaten, flogged and crucified. The movie illustrated just how terrible it is.

I admit, the violence in the film was definitely unsettling, as I spent 1/4th of the film staring at the wall and covering my ears during the scenes where Christ was beaten, tortured and then crucified. I glanced at the screen momentarily, but overall, I didn't watch a lot of those scenes. I didn't do that out of disrespect, but watching it and knowing it really happened centuries ago was too much for me, and many others in the theatre. 

However, I understand the director's purpose for including it in the film. It was to show exactly what He went through on our behalf for our redemption. Anyone who doubts people need redemption, just watch the movie. It's a startlingly sad account of human nature.

The most graphic scene in my opinion was the scourging He endured with a cat of nine tails. I've heard sermons about this before and try as the preacher did to describe it, viewing (as much of it as I could bear) really brought that scripture to life for me. The special efx team did a great job. It looked completely realistic.

However, I must say, for an industry that puts out truckloads of violent films, I don't understand why some took exception to the barbarism in the film. After all, there are films in release that are gorier. Besides, didn’t Gibson give the audience what most big studios say crowds want, violence? Why are people so squeamish all of a sudden. I think it's because it actually happened and to an innocent Person, that made it all the more unbearable to view.

Human Nature

Human nature isn't exclusive to any one race. It runs through all. However, the ones who believe and change their ways can escape that human nature (the Bible refers to it as "Old Nature" meaning you've changed those old ways once you turn from wrongdoing).

Given the choice between an innocent man who sparked controversy based on what He said and did that got to their consciences, and a murderer, the crowd chose the murderer.

People feared Herod, a characterless individual and so called leader (who was sporting way too much eyeliner for his own good – sorry, I wanted to laugh during that scene) too occupied with himself to care about anyone else, yet didn't fear Christ who has the power of life and death of the body and eternal soul in His hands, because he wasn't rich in the earthly sense of the word. To put it in modern terms, He wasn't bling blinging, so they disregarded Him. What an oversight that was. Ironically, the Bible says of Him:

The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein (PSALM 24:1). 

For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills (PSALM 50:10).

'The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me (LEVITICUS 25:23).

'The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the Lord of hosts" (HAGGAI 2:8)

For "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness." (1 CORINTHIANS 10:26)

(Bible verses listed above researched and compiled by believers.org)

So, as evidenced by those Bible verses, God owns everything and that includes all the bling bling. Therefore, He truly was the richest Man on earth at that time; they just didn't know it (Bill Gates, eat your heart out). 

Though He was not esteemed by certain people at the time, He is God and history records Him as such, while it now remembers Herod, who many feared at the time, as a hedonistic villain. Barabas, who was chosen over Christ, is now remembered in the most vile terms. It's quite ironic how tables turn - talk about embarrassingly picking the wrong horse (Another reason people shouldn't gamble).

It was a prime example of how people go by appearances and not by character. They go by fame and not what is really important in a person. Many of you don't esteem people unless they have a name (a famous name) and are dripping in diamonds they can barely afford. Never mind the person could be one of the most unethical, immoral people you'd ever want to know, who could ruin your life, but because they have a name, that makes them okay? That makes them esteemable? No. People should have more character than to be so shallow. 

People rejected the Son of God for someone who couldn’t walk a mile in His shoes. Someone who didn't have the wisdom, intelligence, benevolence or the compassion He does.

It must have grieved Him to be rejected in such a manner by His own creations, the work of His hands. Some people can't take being rejected by people they like, imagine being rejected by people You love and created. It's a bit unfathomable, the closest comparison, though mildly, would be a child rejecting a parent. The physical wounds He suffered probably did not compare to the emotional ones caused by that rejection.

As He was being crucified, He prayed to God to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is the picture of grace, compassion and forgiveness. 

Seeing the story retold so effectively leaves you in awe of Christ, in that He bore terrible suffering and still forgave.

Other notable scenes include the opening scene where He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and blood poured from His face and the scenes with Jesus and Mary.

Warning Signs

One of the things the movie really illustrated was human nature in not paying attention to warning signs (I'm not referring to signs and wonders people can fake). People often choose to believe what they want, even if it is not the truth. One of the things that really stood out during the film is the warning signs that showed He is who He said He is, but, as with human nature, people prefer what suits their purposes, even when the truth is staring them in the face.

One warning sign was Christ healing people (performing miracles)...and they didn't have CGI back then, people (Computer Generated Images). Efx companies couldn't pull that one off with every computer in the warehouse.

Another warning sign was He predicted events and they happened as He said. One of the Bible's distinctions from other text is that by God’s grace, it actually foretells the future. Not psychics, not fortune telling, which are sins, but through prophecy. 

There is a difference. Whereas psychos, um, I mean psychics and fortunetellers are charlatans seeking to mislead people and enrich themselves, the Bible is free and filled with benevolence. It predicts the future as a guide and warning to people and that is one of its distinctions from all other books. You can't guess with the type of accuracy history has proved the Bible contains. Today, by God’s grace there are Christians with the ability to see the future as well.

When God does that, it is to help people. In the Old Testament of the Bible, Joseph was a prophet who could see the future through dreams God gave him. God did that for a reason. It was to save them from a coming famine, as Joseph was able to stockpile supplies in advance that helped to sustain them through that time. God spoke to Daniel through prophetic dreams as well, which were crucial to history. God warned Mary and Joseph in a dream to leave where they were, as Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus. It’s quite amazing and ironic when people plan evil against others and God reveals it to the person in a dream to protect them. 

The movie included a scene that’s from the Bible, where Claudia, the wife of Pilate had a troubling dream about Christ before the crucifixion, then told her husband, “Have nothing to do with this Man." More proof that He was no ordinary Man. Her husband sought to set Christ free, but the method he chose to try to accomplish that and stay in good graces with the people, thereby avoiding an uprising, opened the door to Him being crucified at Caiaphas' request. However, He died to expiate our sins.      

Awards 

The film deserves Oscars. While, Hollywood is against the film, hopefully they will do the right thing and award it. Gibson did a great job directing. I'm often skeptical of actors who become directors, much like I’m skeptical of singers who become actors, because in both instances, with many, it's a vanity job that they feel will give them credibility, even though they lack the skills to do the job. However, Gibson did do an excellent job (and has been directing for a while, though I've not watched Braveheart, for which he won an Oscar). The film is very artistic and the small touches that were added throughout the picture really helped to create a great movie. It definitely qualifies as an epic.

The film had a lot of great acting as well. Jim Caviezel did a phenomenal job playing the lead role and when you think about all he had to do for the job and the range of emotions he had to display, he deserves an Oscar. You actually forget its Caviezel and think about Christ. I think that's the trademark of great biopic acting… when you make the audience forget you as the actor and think about the subject of the biography. Maia Morgenstern was also very convincing in the role of Mary. She did a great job.

The film definitely has great casting. I mean, even the extras were good and you know you've got great acting in your film when even the extras are good.

I hope the industry will not rob them of those honors, because it truly is a remarkable film. And I’m not just saying that as a Christian.

In closing, many people, myself included, left the theatre stunned and somber, almost grieving for what He endured. It is definitely a great film. By God's grace, it will help change you. It forces you to look at yourself, your deeds, your sins and the direction of your life. He changed His followers’ lives and continues to do so today. When you read the Bible, it inspires you to become a better person. It's not to condemn you, but to give you hope. That’s the message, forgiveness.

 


March 13, 2004

Music

A few weeks ago Norah Jones’ sophomore CD debuted at the top of the charts with a million copies sold in one week. Can you believe it, musicians who sing and play their instruments well actually reaching number one. How could the industry actually promote someone with talent and allow them to outsell everyone. They should be ashamed of themselves for cashing in on such a trend.

Actually it's not a trend and talented artists have been the backbone of the industry since its inception. If they’d invest in more people with talent, these stupid trends that bring in temporary cash then fizzle out and take a lot of non-recoupable funds with them, wouldn’t be depleting their bottom lines so much. That's another problem, too many executives feel it's about the bottom line, singers shaking their bottoms or baring other body parts, when that is PR hype a publicist can flood the media with, exaggerating success. It is not what's selling the most if you look at all the numbers, therefore it is not what's sustaining industry averages. 

Not to mention, with artists who actually have talent (no, not the pseudo-production credits you fabricate for them) you don’t have to spend a fortune on videos, styling crews and gimmicks to distract the public from the fact that the artist has no substance with little or no singing ability. 

Tennis

In tennis, Vince Spadea won the Templeton Classic in Scottsdale. Ah, rappers playing tennis - Vince, I guess all that rapping paid off - just kidding (for reference to that joke, see Sound Off entry dated January 28th, 2003).

You know what’s kind of ironic, if a gangster rapper played tennis and the line call was not in his favor, he would hand out a beating to the linesperson and probably the umpire as well for being in the linesperson’s crew. I’m kidding. 

- Don't tennis twins the Bryan Brothers resemble Al Gore. They could pass for his kids. And those celebratory chest bumps they do…I see someone’s a Milli Vanilli fan (Milli Vanilli used to do that as well). Also, have you guys ever miscalculated, missed and ended up on the ground. That would be an ESPN moment. Just kidding. Between them, they’ve got 19 titles…and a few hundred chest bumps. 

- This week, Greg Rusedeski was cleared of steroid use allegations. However, the sad thing about those incidents is the stigma still remains. Not to mention all the unwanted press he received. One journalist poignantly wrote, “Rusedeski tests positive for being Canadian.”

This month, the ATP assembled an anti-doping task force comprised of athletes and other individuals ...yup, the tennis police. Imagine noticing one of your friends taking steroids and having to turn them in "Hey, put that Nandrolone laced power bar down and put your hands against the wall!" I'm kidding.   

Steroid use is very serious. 

The temptation to take steroids is great in sports, as there’s a lot of pressure to perform well.

However, steroids have many bad side effects (is there such a thing as a good side effect).

Impotence - yup, steroid use will cause the family jewels to turn into cubic zirconias (cubic zirconias, you know, the stones in your fiancé’s ring). Men are usually very preoccupied with sex. It pervades their life and their speech.

I think the ATP and other organizations are going about this all wrong. They need to pay for some advertising similar to the Truth campaign's (those are some annoying teenagers if you work for a tobacco company, but they are hilarious).

Back to what I was saying, the ATP needs to pay for some advertising with the words "steroid abuse = impotence." That'll get their attention. Just watch how effective that campaign would become. Tell them steroid abuse can render them impotent and they will pay attention.

Not to mention, another side effect is men growing breasts. Another topic men are preoccupied with in regards to women. In the commercial, tell them, “Now with steroids, you can grow your very own.” 

According to drugabuse.gov:

Health consequences associated with anabolic steroid abuse include:

Hormonal system disruptions. Reduced sperm production, shrinking of the testicles, impotence, and irreversible breast enlargement in boys and men. Decreased body fat and breast size, deepening of the voice, growth of excessive body hair, loss of scalp hair, and clitoral enlargement in girls and women.

Musculoskeletal system effects. Premature and permanent termination of growth among adolescents of both sexes.

Cardiovascular diseases. Heart attacks and strokes.

Liver diseases. Potentially fatal cysts and cancer.

Skin diseases. Acne and cysts.

Infections. In injecting steroid abusers, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and infective endocarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the inner lining of the heart.

Behavioral effects. Increased aggressive behavior, particularly when high doses are taken. Depression, mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, and reduced sex drive when steroid abuse is stopped.           

I'm not a sports fanatic. I enjoy the effort players put into their matches and the teamwork. It should be more about sportsmanship and camaraderie with friends, family and fans cheering you on. 

Audiences don't want athletes hurting themselves by abusing steroids for our amusement. No spectator wants that. Sports are not supposed to be about crossing lines that injure you physically, mentally and morally. All that for entertainment? Is it really worth it? No.

I can only imagine the pressure and stress athletes face having that as a full time job and carrying around other people's expectations (That can be almost as bad as steroids). I think that's when people cease to enjoy what they do.

I'm not gonna condemn anyone who has taken steroids. It's obvious the temptation to do so is great, but athletes need to stay away from it.

I know many people want to be lauded as great, featured on the news, on magazine covers, in commercials, sign big endorsement deals, have lots of fans, people chasing them, but at the end of the day you have to deal with the decisions you make and certain aspects of that lifestyle will destroy you (particularly the sleeping around and steroid use).

Friends, fans and business associates can be fickle. If you are going to win something, win it for yourself, don't do it for other people, because at the end of the day, other than God, you just don’t know who’s going to be there for you. And God wouldn’t be putting that kind of pressure on you, as fame is fleeting and not something to be coveted. Not to mention, people’s support tends to shift with how famous you are. Ask anyone who's not as famous as they once were. However, you can't be blamed for other people's behavior that you didn't incite.

What I don't understand is why can't athletes just do like Rocky did...go back to the basics. Drink some raw eggs (and hope you don't catch salmonella) then jog for miles until you see some steps that look narrow enough to run up without passing out. I’m kidding.

I think the salmonella was really kicking in for Rocky to think that he could beat a scientifically trained boxer two times his height and body mass with a neck like the Hulk (Ah, another side effect, on court outbursts that make the Hulk seem like a wimp). However, when you will something and have enough faith you can accomplish it. Look at David and Goliath. By God’s grace, David used faith and ingenuity to defeat his opponent. He used three smooth stones and before you knew it Goliath was on the ground. Yup, God was a better manager/promoter than Don King. I'm kidding and God wouldn't do that.     

Sometimes that kind of rugged, back to basics training benefits athletes more. Look at marathon runners. Much like basketball (NBA), Africans have that market cornered and in many ways they really aren't scientifically trained (off topic for a bit, with so many black athletes in the NBA – shouldn’t NBA stand for the National Black Association – just kidding and no hate mail, please). When training for marathons, Africans often run over rough terrain and many do so barefooted (If that doesn't give you a callous nothing will).

Some modern runners would balk at that..."You want me to run through the park, by myself, with no support cushioning in my sneakers, no vitamin water, no goggles, no lip balm and no 1,000 thread count towel? Are you crazy?! This is not in my contract! Where's my agent?!"   

 


March 25, 2004

Telephone Company

 I feel like talking, well writing, about the telephone company today. I needed a few more telephone lines and they were supposed to come out and install them. However, the phone rep left a note on the door saying he called and no one answered the phone so he left. So, I'm thinking, you were supposed to come here to install the telephone number you called to check if anyone was home. Think about that for a second. How would I answer a number you haven't installed yet.

So, basically because he had a Jessica Simpson moment, on Monday I was stuck here waiting on him (Don’t get mad Jessica, I’m just playing). However, they did return to do the work the next day and waived the installation fee for inconveniencing me (uh, since they waived the fee, maybe it wasn't so bad that he had a Jessica Simpson moment).  

And what about those time windows the telephone company gives as to when they'll arrive for the installation -- "between 12PM to 5PM." I'm thinking how about I pay the first bill between now and September then, since you guys are so fond of these time stretches.

- In tennis, am I the only one noticing the irony in the ATP match pairings of late. Roddick vs. Spadea, the battle of the rappers. Federer vs. Fish, the battle of the pony tails. Just kidding.  

Got Milk? - Swiss tennis player Roger Federer milking his pet cow Juliette, that he was given after winning Wimbledon (pic courtesy of the ATP):

I saw that pic last year and couldn't stop laughing (and seeing it again, I'm still laughing). At least he doesn't take himself too seriously. Speaking of Roger "FedEx" Federer, he and his cow won the Pacific Life Open last week. Ok, the cow didn't win, but that would be some scary doubles tennis...and knowing that sports apparel company that shall remain nameless, they'd probably brand a big old swoosh on the side of the cow.  

Why does Roger keep winning and more importantly, is he doing this deliberately. 

What I don't get is why the other tennis players aren't more mature about this and just shove him in his locker until the match is over like in high school (just kidding and that wouldn't be a nice thing to do). 

If that didn't work, I'd trip him during a changeover and hope the camera didn't catch it and just in case it did, I'd try to  make it look like an accident. "Dude, what happened? Are you okay? You really ought to be more careful. Do you want me to go get a paramedic?" (kidding). 

It's been said that his Swiss Miss, um I mean his girlfriend, helps him with his tennis, aww! (Get the joke...Swiss Miss, he's Swiss and she's a miss). Well, I'd kick her butt too for helping him win (Just kidding).  

Still, I think tennis players take it too well when he wins. They’re always talking about his talent and congratulating him, “Dude, you played so well.” I don’t think I’d take losing to him that well. I’d have a special dinner after the match in his honor...steak or hamburger anyone? 

-Federer wandering around in the background, perplexed saying, “Has anyone seen my pet cow?”- Yes Roger, steak sauce and ketchup have. Beef, that's what's for dinner...Got Milk? (Just wanted to see how many TV commercial slogans I could use in one sentence). They say revenge is best served cold - but in this case it would be served hot...and with fries (that's what you get for winning so much - If one of my British cousins wasn't born in Switzerland I'd renounce the whole country for him winning so much). I'm just kidding and I don't believe in being vengeful.   

Recently, he was asked on ESPN why he is not more known in America, while he is considered the Michael Jordan of Switzerland (Oh, yes, I see the resemblance -- just kidding) and is well known in other countries. Federer responded that he needed to make appearances on shows in America to raise his profile. I say he could do a few appearances...and bring his pet cow. Oh, that'll get him on the 6 o'clock news in every state. He'd be the Juan Valdez of tennis - Juan walked around with a donkey to promote coffee, Federer could walk around with his cow to promote tennis. Either that or get FedEx to sponsor you. Kidding again.  

Back to Juan Valdez for a minute, if you saw a man pulling a donkey in the middle of the supermarket, um, wouldn't you be alarmed? But in the commercials everyone just kept going like it was normal.   

Back to Federer. Often times talent is understated. Talent often goes under-appreciated. For example, there are many talented Christian artists that aren't well known in the mainstream, but they are still more talented than the majority of the artists in secular music (Leshaun Pace, Crystal Lewis, Tarralyn Ramsey and Natalie Grant could out-sing most of the female artists in the mainstream).

Still, even Norah Jones, as talented as she is and as successful as she has become, you really don't know much about her, much like Federer. So, Roger, you're the Norah Jones of tennis. Andy - Andy's the Mandy Moore (cause they date). Timmy's the Sade (cause he's British). And Pete…Pete is considered the best so far, so he’s the Aretha.

   

 

 


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