In memory of the 21:
In memory of the 21:
Wow, quite an Oscar night this year, wasn’t it? The beautiful stars parading down the red carpet, while you ignored them because they’re mostly ill-behaved louts who despise you, your country and everything you hold dear! The celebration of the cinematic arts (and their steady decline since 1939)! Well, just to keep the mood going, here’s Andrew Klavan discussing some movies that weren’t nominated for any Oscars this year, for the simple reason that they’ve never been made. I can’t think why. Though to be fair, this video is actually a few years old, and there were some bright spots in 2015’s Oscar lineup, including Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (Klavan-approved and reviewed by me here). I also enjoyed a smattering of the other Best Picture nominees and was truly moved by some Oscar-worthy performances. (If you haven’t checked out Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, he is really phenomenal.) But still, Andrew is not far off the mark.
This past weekend, Focus On the Family’s media outlet sent a representative to watch and review a wildly successful, wildly inappropriate movie. I shall henceforth refer to this movie as Nifty Blades of Hay (adapted from the wildly successful and inappropriate novel of the same name). If you have any idea what I’m talking about, you will understand exactly why I’m not even calling this toxic cult phenomenon by its real name. If you don’t, that’s just fine too. I really have no interest whatsoever in discussing this movie. I am interested in the fact that Focus On the Family chose to review it, and I’m interested in the considerable backlash from other Christians and Christian ministries that they’ve incurred as a result. Especially since the Christian film critic who wrote the review has become a friendly acquaintance of mine over the last few months.
Without going into any details, suffice it to say that this particular movie probably shouldn’t even have qualified for an “R” rating—by which I mean “R” is too soft. The abusive relationship that it chronicles is that vile and twisted. It may not be marketed and sold as “a p*rn film” in so many words, but that’s essentially what it is, in the guise of a Valentine’s Day blockbuster. So, naturally, some fans of Focus on the Family preemptively wrote and urged its “Plugged In” reviewers not to bother informing us that this movie is Bad. Even those of us who have striven mightily to avoid reading about it have managed to piece that much together. Wrote one concerned follower, “I’m fairly confident anyone who visits this website will not be interested in seeing the film, and I am troubled at the thought of sending one of your employees to go see it.”
But Plugged In disagreed. In a blog post written before the review went up, editor Paul Asay explained that he believed it was his duty to see and review this film. He begins with an uncomfortable but sobering fact: Not only are a lot of Christians very interested in reading about this thing, but some of them are even buying the tickets. Continue reading “Focus on the Family and Reviewing Bad Movies”
“She just swallowed a little jewelry! It’s all right! Enjoy your dinner!”
You’ve danced with your spouse to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “I Will Be Here.” You’ve sniffled and reached for the tissues at “Bless the Broken Road.” You’ve sworn to throw random objects at the radio if they spin “I Will Always Love You” one more time. Now Valentine’s Day has rolled around once more, and you’re in the perfect mood to enjoy a romantic musical something. Or maybe not. Either way, I would like to shine a spotlight on five songs that you won’t see on most any Top 100 lists when people rank their favorite ditties about “luuuv.” In fact, I guarantee that half if not all of them will be new to you. Further, I guarantee that they are much deeper and more thought-provoking than what often passes for a love song in today’s cultural milieu. Think of it as my heart-shaped candy gift box to you, dear readers. Go on. Open it up and savor my Top Five Underrated Love Songs.
The Erwins are the latest signees of Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun’s Stowtown Records venture. Ranging in age from 14 to 22, this fresh-faced foursome has been making some waves in the southern gospel world of late. I will admit that when I first saw the brothers alone in a showcase slot at NQC a few years back, I thought they were fine, but they didn’t seem like wave-makers to me at the time. Well, with some time to polish their craft and with the addition of baby sis Katie, they are now turning more heads, including mine. Add some memorable new songs and the sure-handed production of Wayne Haun to the mix, and the Erwins are Ready to Sail.
For those of you who are new to the site or can’t remember the last time I wrote an installment in this series, “Questions and Answers” explores the space where the secular touches the sacred in popular songwriting (emphasis on popular–no weird, obscure stuff here!) It is designed to help Christians think deeply about some of the most thoughtful lyrics that writers on both sides of the divide have contributed to the eternal questions: Why are we here? Who are we? What is love? Do we need to be saved? Can we be saved?
My first entry paired up a Journey song with a Steven Curtis Chapman song. Now, it seems I’m coming full circle, with another Journey song (“Don’t Stop Believin’ “) and another SCC song (“More to This Life”).
I know what you’re probably thinking (at least, if you grew up in the 80s). “Journey? Thoughtful and deep? Seriously?” This song in particular might raise such skeptical eyebrows, given its nauseating ubiquity at graduations, class reunions, and such like. It’s a fixture of American pop culture. There is no escape. (Hey, see what I did there? Escape, escape… okay never mind.) But believe it or not, I am serious. A careful listen to the lyrics apart from its fist-pumping tag will make you wonder how it ever became the go-to feel-good song for teenage America:
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Livin’ just to find emotion
Hidin’ somewhere in the night
Read the rest of it in full here, divorced from the music, and you’ll see that Steve Perry’s intended message was a much more tragic, more human one than the culture realized.
I greatly appreciate the fact that each year, around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, Matt Chandler takes a morning to preach on the sin of abortion to his congregation. As John Piper has noted with concern, it’s a topic that many pastors of Chandler’s generation are afraid to touch with a 10-foot pole. Chandler tackles it head-on with conviction and grace. But apparently, even though he’s been doing this for a few years now, the rest of the world is only just recently learning about it. His latest abortion sermon has gone viral, and news outlets are picking it up with headlines like “‘Abortion is Murder,’ Megachurch Pastor Tells Congregation in Sunday Sermon.” Or my favorite, from a liberal rag, “Anti-abortion Texas pastor shames rape victims as worse than Hitler.” Man, I just love out-of-context, deceptive quote-splicing, don’t you?
At any rate, I’ve embedded the whole sermon here and marked off the clip that most people are talking about. I could critique a few things about the sermon as a whole, including the predictably disappointing comparisons to the Civil Rights movement, but I’ll forgive it for the hard-hitting way he dealt with the abortion issue. I was also intrigued to see how he directly addressed those in the pews who had participated in this particular sin. You can read the transcript here.
“I need to, with all the boldness that the Holy Spirit will grant me, tell everyone in this room that abortion is murder... It is a brutal horrific, disgusting practice. And many of us are guilty. But most of us are indifferent.”
From Southern Gospel’s most popular trio comes their first major release in several years. While this album isn’t available at digital outlets like Amazon or iTunes, the balance of original to cover material qualifies it as more than a table project. (Pick up your own copy at their website here.) It also offers listeners a first look at new baritone singer Paul Lancaster since long-time member Jim Brady took his leave. So without further ado, let’s see what I thought of it!