Confessions of a Dentist's Son

Posted by tom | Jul 22, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryJust had to post my first reactions to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) . . . At some point I will try to organize my thoughts on

  • the fantastic candy garden w/waterfall
  • the Oompa-Loompa tribe of clones
  • the ironicly judgmental songs in the context of the tempting Cocoa/Candy deity
  • the role of parenting (the transformation of the minor deities after the crises moments of the Chocolate Factory tour)
  • the generation of brats which we have become and are raising
  • the hollowness of candy as well as the havens of our entertainment culture
  • the incredible teleportation: one of the most set-up, but most appreciated parts of the film in my perspective as a follow-up to Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes (2001)
  • the redemptive nature of poor families which live in interdependence.

Hard to compare to almost any other movie . . . although Moulin Rouge (2001) or musical scores/routines added to Edward Scissorhands (1990) might come close. Although tight on family, it was not of the same genre as Big Fish (2003). But for now I must say . . .

the adding of patriarchal, oppressive Dental dad (note: no mom in the practice or the house) left lots to be desired. I confess that the contrast with Charlie's dad working at the toothpaste factory and Charlie's creation of a toothpaste factory (white versus black) was sharp. But the mental anguish of braces which left a manufactored smile, the throwing away of holiday candy by fire (although note the dragon in the fire place and the dragon boat in the chocolate river), and recognition by bicuspids was a little too much . . . Dentists are not like this and do they really explain Willy Wonka's drive to build a candy empire, his creepy creativity, and the oddities of his life and behavior?


Being True to Self: Looking for the Hope Within

Posted by tom | Jul 11, 2005

Book review of Albert Delbanco's The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope. written as part of my Masters in Higher Education Degree Program at Geneva College.


Book Review: The End of Education

Posted by tom | Jul 10, 2005
Book review of Neil Postman's The End of Education written as part of my Masters in Higher Education Degree Program at Geneva College. (More)

Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution

Posted by tom | Jul 9, 2005
Looks like we were right on top of the news with Cardinal Schonborn, see Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution, see op-ed piece posting on Finding Design in Nature

Excerpt of some contrary opinions from within the Christian community below


Not so Fantastic?

Posted by tom | Jul 8, 2005

Last night, Theresa and I saw X-men on the Sci-Fi Channel underwritten by Burger King's promo of the Fantastic Four film and related products. The comparision was between the 2 films seemed laughable. It seems that the NY Times writer agrees. Would love to hear from anyone who sees Fantastic Four.


Finding Design in Nature

Posted by tom | Jul 7, 2005

Returning to the Design question, see Opting out in the debate on evolution

I found today's NY Times Op-Ed piece Finding Design in Nature by Christoph Schonborn quite good. Check it out. I don't have time to comment on it right now.


Bruce Wayne as Batman's Mask

Posted by tom | Jul 6, 2005

Spoiler Alert: Beware

Batman Begins was quite overt about Bruce Wayne's role as Batman's Mask. So much so that Katie Holmes' character walks away from relationship because Bruce is no longer the Bruce of childhood (note: if only she's walk away from Tom Cruise). I thought the Christianity Today Review stated the scenerio quite well:

"Most superheroes put on a mask to hide their real identity. Not so with this caped vigilante. Bruce Wayne is the mask; Batman is the true identity. To devote himself wholly to fighting crime, Bruce Wayne forsook childhood, adolescence, romance, and normal human desires. The millionaire maintains just enough social life to divert suspicion from his nighttime crusade. As a result, Bruce Wayne is a two-dimensional prop, merely a façade behind which lurks the true person: the grim, driven, relentless Batman."

Prayer: Lord, teach us that we may not find such compartmentalization in our life . . .


Moviemaking with a Purpose

Posted by tom | Jul 3, 2005

Moviemaking with a Purpose, an interview w/Ralph Winter, caught my attention this morning. This topic has been a long-term interest of mine, finding more development when Mike, Toby, and myself taught a Sunday School Class at Allegheny Center C&MA on Reel Spirituality (Robert Johnson, 2000). A handout in which I distilled some of the material for a graduate student retreat can be found here.


Campus Mission: Transforming the Cultural Elite?

Posted by tom | Jun 30, 2005

When the question was raised as to the role of InterVarsity staff on campus as those who transform the cultural elite I had the following thoughts (note: this was in response to a recent article highlighting a presentation by University of Virginia's Sociologist James Davidson Hunter, click 'more' for the text of the article),

I perceive the role of InterVarsity staff as being followers of Christ, which pans out practically as having a parabolic, prophetic, open door, and networking/communal life/ministry as we sow the seeds of the Gospel . . . some which take root, some which grow, and some which bring forth much fruit. This can get under the skin like salt, bring things to attention like a blinding light. As such, this may lead to opportunities for larger roles, if so, praise be to the Father! This may lead to lead to opportunities for lesser roles, if so, praise be to the Father! This may lead to times of conflict and change, if so, praise be to the Father! This may lead to times of peaceful co-existence where the various parties involve come to understand one-another more deeply, if so, praise be to the Father! As the People of God in shared ministry, we must beware of the professionalization, intellectualization, and numbers/influence calculations of our mission.

Together we are part of God's Story and God's Work not individual competitors (or various sectarian subcultures) to be compared w/the consumerism of the age. God sees the whole film, while we see but a frame (as part of the larger plot) to which we are called to be faithful in cultivating the earth and the advancing of His Kingdom through the lens of His teaching and not of this world . . . although I do not deny that considering such scenerios is the work of a sociologist such as Hunter. The question we are asking is whether he is proposing a wise and godly application of the knowledge he has gained through his research.


Left Behind by a 'Christian Subculture of sorts'

Posted by tom | Jun 30, 2005

A friend pased along a link to Left Behind Games, an organization creating a real-time strategy game of its name-sake. I find it hard to believe that this is the genre of God games that we desire young followers of Christ to dive into and become their world. Our alternative subculture is rooted in the whole Biblical Story, not an obsession w/the End Times timeline. For more on the Biblical Story, note: this is applied to the educational context but more on common grace coming soon.

To continue, we are to provide cultural resources of grace, truth, and love which extend networks of communication (even facilitated by and in the structures of media) toward the end of being part of a People of God which by the grace of God restores and blesses the creation and her inhabitants. May our computer scientists follow this call instead of focusing their time on playing, designing, or creating strategy games such as Left Behind: Eternal Forces . . . (click 'more' for game description)


Batman Begins . . . Again

Posted by tom | Jun 26, 2005

So many takes on Batman. Now have we finally made his journey from childhood fear to adult superhero plausible? How he overcame fear, dealt w/the loss of his parents, wielded his fortune in a positive direction, maintanined a tight relationship w/his butler (or why his butler sought to do such w/him), became endowed w/so many gadgets that worked and seemed to have them in endless supply, has a predisposition to lacking friends (and significant relationships), etc . . .

Join me as over the next week, I'll share some thoughts regarding Batman and interact w/various on-line articles that seek to understand 'what he does,' even who he is as the 'mask of Bruce Wayne.' The purpose for this interaction w/culture, myth, and story is to help us process through living in the Biblical Story . . . to discern what we do and whether it emanates from who we say we are, take a look at what masks we wear, and remind us some of what faithful loving of God and neighbor in our day-by-day context in 'the real world' is all about.

For those of you wanting it stated more clearly, I find Mars Hill Audio has a similar vision and informs my some of my thoughts in this area (Note: If you have not, I'd recommend you check them out. Pieces by Ralph Wood, good stuff on P.D. James & J.R.R. Tolkien, and others on myth are quite helpful):

exists to assist Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of modern culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement. We believe that fulfilling the commands to love God and neighbor requires that we pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined.

More in coming weeks on the larger vision and passsion, but I'm getting ahead of myself . . . Tell me your thoughts on the dark knight.

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

Posted by tom | Jun 23, 2005

Taking off of Billy Graham's confession of Democratic Party affiliation, I thought this piece by a former Senator and current Episcopal priest would be a good read. Love to have your reactions to these words coming from the Republican side of the aisle and officiant for President Reagan's funeral . . .

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

By JOHN C. DANFORTH It is important for those of us who are considered moderates to make the case that we have strongly held Christian convictions.

Graduation Evacuation

Posted by tom | Jun 22, 2005

Great to read of InterVarsity's commitment to address the 'Graduation Evacuation.' and see the development of the Youth Transition Initiative (YTI).

This is an area that demands much effort as we live among loose connections across the spectrum of our life endeavors. Much work to be done in this area. Material which I've used (or had a part in developing) can be found here. If you'd be interested in having a presentation at your local congregation for parents, youth ministers, and/or high schoolers let me know.


Opting Out in the Debate on Evolution

Posted by tom | Jun 21, 2005

Opting Out in the Debate on Evolution

He added: "Evolution is not the only issue at stake. The very definition of science is at stake."

This is interesting. Would like to come back to it. If you have thoughts, please post them. Thanks

Christian Colleges and Higher Education

Posted by tom | Jun 3, 2005

Having graduated from a 're-Christianized' college (Grove City College) w/a worldview emphasis I found Christianity Today's A Higher Education of interest w/regard to the wider scene, including Waynesburg's continued mov't in that direction and Nathan Hatch's appointment as President of Wake Forest.

As a member of InterVarsity's Graduate and Faculty Ministry, observations such as the one below is applicable in the daily life and conversation of Christian members of the CMU and Pitt academic communities:

"The question of just how Christian learning is, and is not, to be different from secular learning has sometimes been the tar baby of the whole discussion—no matter how you approach it, you always get stuck. That's why Wolterstorff's approach needs a broader hearing. He argues that Christian learning's primary obligation is to be faithful to the Christian vision, which he sums up in the Hebrew word shalom. First and foremost, Christian scholars and educators are called to faithfulness. Sometimes faithful scholarship looks like secular scholarship, and sometimes it does not, but the question of difference is secondary.

But one aspect of Wolterstorff's view will be troubling to most evangelicals, and I suspect this is why at this point even he pulls his punch. Every Christian scholar agrees that Christian truth may demand that we adjust our scholarly beliefs. But Wolterstorff argues that—sometimes—the discovery of truth through scholarship will demand we adjust beliefs that we think are Christian. This is implicit in the work of Arthur Holmes (all truth is God's truth), and it's demonstrably true in historical perspective."

Darfur Con't

Posted by tom | Jun 2, 2005

More can be found on Darfur at the NY Times

and Village Voice, thanks for the link Jon!

Our Wednesday discussion group wrestled w/the question as to whether American Evangelicals are paying more attention to Darfur b/c those dying are said to be Christians. Whether or not those dying are followers of Christ, what Jesus would do is clear, extend His grace and care in this broken part of the world. We are His Body and are to do such, not just in Darfur but in all places of need, whether in our family, neighborhood, community of faith, or in the various other parts of the world torn by the ravages of sin & conflict. Such is our call as the ears, eyes, and hands of God in the world today. May we be a part of a rapid response team which offers help, hope, healing, and redeeming influence, even this very day.

How can I lose my “freshman 15”?

Posted by tom | May 30, 2005
For all of you heading off to college or bouncing back, here's a practical one for you. Any other concerns, tips, or memories :-( to throw into the mix?

When It's a Matter of Life or Death

Posted by tom | May 30, 2005

I found Dr. Rosenfield's May 22, 2005 Parade Piece quite insightful on our current health-care climate and the writing of a living will. As a Dentist's son who grew-up as part of & served as an assistant in an office where hospitality and listening are keys to excellent patient care/development/progress, I couldn't agree more w/the below quote. Even w/the complicated nature of care which we've received over the past several years for the various members of our family, a high emphasis has been placed on the relationship w/our health care professionals. There is a trust relationship necessary for familial, invasive, and long-term care:


The Gospel Can Change Society

Posted by tom | May 30, 2005

Read about this newsmaker visiting Pittsburgh who came to see empowering the family as key to church health and renewal of the urban community. I especially appreciate Rev. Alyn Waller's vision of bringing everyone back together:

"In order to strengthen families, churches need to get back to traditional biblical teachings about the importance of family and its roles. Family ministry needs to have language that is affirming, and there needs to be intergenerational fellowship. In the past, we've put the men upstairs, the women downstairs and the children outside. We need to come back together."

May all of our local congregations have such a vision and may our transforming vision link arms w/the likes of Waller, reaching across ethnic, class, educational, and generational differences.

things to think about

Posted by tom | May 29, 2005
A friend recommended a thread on "things to think about" . . . any suggestions? Send ideas and I'll draw them together for posts and some further conversation. Let's get at it :-)

burnout and the curse of perfectionism

Posted by tom | May 29, 2005

A friend recommended a thread on "burnout and the curse of perfectionism." Thought I'd just post it up and solicit your thoughts on the topic. I'll share some in the coming week.

PS. I haven't gotten to it yet but IVP recently published Perfecting Ourselves to Death by Richard Winter, a psychiatrist, is professor of practical theology at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Would love to hear from those who have read this piece. I'm thinking about using this piece for the grad discussion groups in the fall.

Darfur Efforts . . . con't

Posted by tom | May 28, 2005

Just received this from IVCF at Harvard. Please keep this in your prayers, take action, and pass along to others. Note to GCF-ers, get in touch w/me about this. I'll bring info. to our activies.


The President's Stem Cell Theology

Posted by tom | May 26, 2005

The President's Stem Cell Theology

"His actions are based on strong religious beliefs on the part of some conservative Christians, and presumably the president himself. Such convictions deserve respect, but it is wrong to impose them on this pluralistic nation . . . The president's policy is based on the belief that all embryos, even the days-old, microscopic form used to derive stem cells in a laboratory dish, should be treated as emerging human life and protected from harm. This seems an extreme way to view tiny laboratory entities that are no larger than the period at the end of this sentence and are routinely flushed from the body by Mother Nature when created naturally. "


Teaching as Believing: Faith in the University

Posted by tom | May 23, 2005
Has anyone read Teaching as Believing: Faith in the University? A friend just sent the link my direction and its sitting on my shelf waiting for me. Would love to have your thoughts on the piece. I'm in the process of editing some higher ed book reviews and papers for posting . . . check back in a few days.

The Power of the Mustard Seed

Posted by tom | May 22, 2005

Check out: The Power of the Mustard Seed: Why strict churches are strong

Currently, I'm considering Rodney Stark's The One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism (just finished) and For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (just started) with a similar perspective. Good to know that God is real and the power of the mustard seed doesn't need to be explained only by sociological/historical insights!

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