Choice, or Lack Thereof: Lenten Reflections in a Pandemic

You have no idea how important this choice is (from The Stanley Parable)

I started a computer game last night that spoke to the times in an interesting way. No, not The Walking Dead or Plague, Inc.: it’s The Stanley Parable (and it’s free for a limited time as of this writing on Epic). Sure TWD and Plague, Inc. certainly share the paranoia and dread of today, but The Stanley Parable deals with something that has affected us all around the world, and that choice – and the lack thereof. Without giving too much away, TSP is game in which the isolated protagonist office worker Stanley discovers that he has suddenly stopped receiving directions from his boss. The parable that ensues makes you consider whether or not the choices you make are really your own and how much control do you have of the story being told – if there even is a story.

I’ve been very aware of choice over the past week, as have all of us I expect. We are all now much more limited in where we can go and what we can do. Some choices are made for us, like what stores are open, and others are made on our own. Others’ choices impact our own lives as well, from refusing to follow precautions to hoarding paper towels. The idea of choice and the lack thereof has impacted my life most significantly in my work as a hospice chaplain and bereavement counselor. Continue reading

The Art of Ending Well: Grief, Grieving and Avengers: Endgame

Turns out Tony is pretty good at dying (from Marvel’s 2016 series Civil War II)

Before I start, I don’t think I can get two sentences in to this subject without mentioning massive spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, so if you don’t want them read this after you’ve watched the film. I also assume you’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War, so you may as well watch that too. Heck just go watch all 22 movies. I’ll wait. Continue reading

The Political Chaplain

An image from the Arbor Day foundation: “A rotten inner core … can cause a split trunk. The wounds are too large to ever mend.”

I have a game at home called “We Didn’t Playtest This At All”. It’s a really fun game (to some at least) based on unique cards that people play during the game that change the rules of the game as it’s played. For example, one card simply says “You Win” and when you play that card, you win (but only if you’re a girl in one case). Unless someone has the card that allows them to make someone lose whenever that person just won (but they also lose). My favorite card though is called “Politics”. When you play that card you are told to say “everything is ruined!”, then all players turn in all their cards and pick new ones. Because, as we know, politics ruins everything. Continue reading

Sidebar: Everyday Evil and the Visions of 616 Hickory Branch Lane

Virginia, The Vision #5

“…mental illness in general is the price we have to pay for being human…” Anton Boisen, Religion in Crisis and Custom

“Am I normal?” Vin, The Vision

I’m a comics guy, but not a huge comics guy.  When I first read that Marvel was creating a limited series focusing solely on one of their more B-list heroes, the android synthezoid Avenger known as the Vision, I was puzzled. When it was regarded as one of 2016’s best, I still didn’t pay it much attention. After finally reading it through, I can attest to how wrong I was. Continue reading

What Exactly is Biblical Literacy?

Ezekiel eating the scroll (Eze. 3:1)

OK quick – what are the first three books of the Bible? Was Paul one of the twelve disciples? Did Abraham lead the Israelites out of Egypt?

If you can’t answer these questions (though I really hope you can) you shouldn’t be surprised. Research has shown that most Americans know very little about the Bible – presumably much less than what was known a generation ago.

“…A Famine in the Land”

Pastors, authors and pundits are saying that we are in a famine in terms of our biblical literacy. This famine is not due to lack of access though. According to the Barna Group, “Nearly nine out of 10 adults and teens report owning a Bible, a proportion that has held steady over six years.” The problem comes in that according to the same research only about 35% of those responding read the Bible once a week or more, and over 40% read it less than once a year if at all (not counting reading in church). Because the Bible isn’t read routinely by many in our society, we’ve lost that knowledge of it that was once considered a given. Continue reading

PBS to air documentary on Chaplaincy in America

photo: Journey Films

PBS is airing “Chaplains” later this year in order to show the benefit and impact of this occasionally misunderstood and often unknown profession. The film, by emmy-award winning filmmaker Martin Doblmeier will feature Chaplains working in a variety of settings, from prisons to hospitals to production floors. Continue reading

The Chaplain and Mental Illness: When religion makes healing “sinful”

The issue of how Christians deal with mental illness has been on my mind as of late. One reason is that I’ve been going through my own therapy for anxiety and depression, which rears its head from time to time in my life. Second is that I came across a LinkedIn discussion in a pastor’s network group that had some pretty ugly things to say about mental illness and psychotherapy.

Writer and musician Shaun Groves recently posted his own reflections on depression and faith on his blog, and while I can’t repost the whole article, I would certainly recommend it to you (here’s the link). He had written about his father-in-law’s death as a result of suicide and while many offered their sincere condolences some of the responses were a bit shocking. One wrote, “Did he not believe the words from scripture he read to his church?”. Another wrote, “The Bible tells us not to worry, not to fear, be afraid, etc. 366 times, one for every day of the year including leap year! What can stinkin thinkin do, but make a person sick?”. Continue reading

Peter Rollins on Seminary Dropout

I just wanted to give a shoutout to one of my favorite podcasts, Seminary Dropout. The host, Shane Blackshear, interviews some real movers and shakers in the Christian literary and cultural worlds, as well as people you probably never heard of. I’ve been listening for years, and Shane is one of the best interviewers I’ve heard.

Peter Rollins, author of “The Divine Magician”

He recently interviewed author Peter Rollins and I thought it was so good I wanted to highlight and link to it. You can go to the show’s episode page here, subscribe in iTunes or your podgrabber of choice, or click the link below to listen right away. You can even enter contests for books here and there. And he’s not famous, so he will actually interact with you if you hit him up on Twitter!

listen to the episode

Snowpiercer, Ferguson and the Incarnation

(this is a departure from my usual ramblings – and a bit longer – so bear with me)

Be a Shoe

I saw the movie Snowpiercer a few weeks ago after hearing a bit of buzz about it and reading both graphic novels (it’s on Netflix now by the way). I found it a very thought-provoking movie on many levels. Many reviewers hit on the environmental themes in it, while you can also see themes about meaninglessness vs. purpose in there as well (the stolen children who maintain the engine’s inner workings, thus keeping everyone alive). It’s definitely a movie that offers many layers and provokes a lot of thought. A prevailing theme easily apparent throughout is that of class exploitation as well as the limits of revolution. It’s a very dark film, filled with the kind of violence fueled by despair of those in “the tail”. Unfortunately it bears a very strong resemblance to our own world. Continue reading

(Reblog): “Ragamuffin” reviewed on Seminary Dropout

I wanted to post this review of the new movie Ragamuffin by Shane Blackshear on Seminary Dropout. It’s not a movie you’re going to hear much about, but it sounds like it’s well worth your time, even though it’s not perfect. Seminary Dropout is a great site with interesting articles and the podcast has some of the best interviews I’ve heard. Shane’s introduced me to a lot of interesting stuff and people. Read on after the jump.

Continue reading