Tag Archives: Culture Wars

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality” Frank Redman’s ELIJAH

I don’t know exactly where to begin this review, which angle to take. I’m reeling. My wife and teenager have been commending Frank Redman‘s  ELIJAH: A SUSPENSE NOVEL to me for weeks now, and I finally read it. In short, I can say it was amazing, entertaining, chilling, and a punch in the gut in ways for which I was not prepared.  Apparently, I am not alone in this regard.  My wife remarked to me that with the internet’s instant access to so much information, when one writes about a book, a review is not sufficient.  Rather, an encounter would better describe it, where one meets the author, reads the background and influences, and embraces the story and its characters.  It certainly is true for our experience with Frank Redman and ELIJAH.

Frank Redman is a brand new author, whose own journey in the writing profession sounds like something out of a movie.  It’s his debut book, so I was thinking it might be something like early C.S. Lewis with a few twists in the manner of Dean Koontz, but it’s that and more.

By the time I got to the end of ELIJAH, I’d say it’s better than the early C.S. Lewis. This story has the mystique, chilling suspense, and humor of a Christian “Twin Peaks” or a more tightly written THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH.   It takes you into levels of evil that many of us would rather not know at all, but far too many people actually live through. Many writers depict such evil and either glorify it or give it a worldly punishment, but few provide a sense of hope that there is something better, that victims can still find happiness and holiness. Frank Redman is one of those few writers, and ELIJAH  is a book with a message that needs to be read.

St. Augustine says a work of perfect logic may be true but if it’s boring to read, it won’t do any good, and people are more willing to read and believe something that’s eloquent. The same is true of literature and movies: it doesn’t matter how true it is or how artistically “well crafted” it is. If it doesn’t draw people in, nobody will read it. HAMLET may have psychological and moral depth, but it’s basically a story about murder, ghosts and revenge.   ELIJAH has it all.  It immediately drew me in with the supernatural and suspense, has great depth in the character’s dealings with his horrid past, as well as fantastically funny insights with well-crafted characters who open your eyes to the devastating horrors that are hidden in daily life.   The reality of evil is tangible, but it’s tempered with hope and perseverance.

At times, the story of an author can sometimes be as compelling as the book the author wrote. This can be an advantage in attracting readers, as it is what led us to Frank Redman and ELIJAH. My wife and I both became Dean Koontz fans a little over a year ago. She noticed that Koontz has referred a few times to his friend Frank Redman (he dedicated SAINT ODD to him and said Frank’s struggle with brain cancer inspired ASHLEY BELL).

This book is dedicated to Frank Redman, who has more than once reminded me of Odd Thomas

Through a series of events that I’ll leave Frank Redman to tell, he began a mentorship with Dean Koontz.  Koontz had read some of his writing, saw potential, and agreed to mentor Frank. Then, on the same day that I had my descending aorta surgery, Frank was diagnosed with an extremely rare and extremely lethal brain cancer–most people diagnosed with it are only diagnosed with it posthumously, and if they are diagnosed while alive, they die in days or weeks. Frank is still alive nearly 4 years later.  So, with a sense of urgency, I set aside the few dozen “in progress” books I’ve been working on reading for years to read ELIJAH, reading late into the night, and enjoying it more and more with each swipe of the screen.

People don’t want to acknowledge the reality or enormity of Evil in the world.  It’s often hidden, and when it’s revealed, it can be nauseating, horrifying, and seemingly unfathomable.  The desire to stick one’s head in the sand is understandable, but unadvised.  Even less do people want to acknowledge the reality and enormity of God’s grace.  Redman’s ELIJAH addresses both supernatural phenomenon and their implications in our reality, in an engaging, fast-paced, thriller that will leave you reeling and pondering for weeks.



Love isn’t pleasure; it’s sacrifice. Love isn’t a feeling; it’s a choice

Sexual intimacy is not love. Sexual intimacy strengthens one to practice love. While the Sacrament is most truly expressed when the parties freely choose one another, freedom from infatuation in making that decision is almost as important as freedom from external coercion, since infatuation is internal coercion. Attraction, or even being friends, are not necessary to have a marriage. Choosing to love, honor and obey, in sickness and in health, as long as you both live, is what’s necessary.   Being attracted, being friends or even liking each other help, but once that choice is freely made, barring some horrible extenuating circumstances (and, even then, sticking it out is heroically virtuous), once that choice is made, it’s made.

We love in marriage to prepare us to engage in the sacrificial love necessary to raise children.  Babies, the anthropologists and psychologists tell us, are cute so we’ll want to take care of them.  When a teenager is jerky and disrespectful, we think, “She’s my cute little baby.”  When a 10 year old is bullying his siblings, or someone else, we think, “He’s my cute little baby.”  It keeps us, as a comedian might say, from dropping them off at the orphanage.  But there are times when parents get angry with our children, or maybe they grow up to be people we don’t have anything in common with, but that bond of the baby we once knew encourages to get through those hard times as parents.

And learning how to truly love as a parent teaches us to truly love other people sacrificially.

So, whichever permutation of the sexual revolution you’re talking about, how does self-gratification teach you to be self-sacrificing?

Is Zynga anti-Christian?

Dear Folks at Zynga,

I greatly enjoy your Facebook games, and spend a great deal of my time playing them.  However, for some time I have been meaning to raise an issue that I first noticed playing Farmville.  I had gotten away from “-ville” type games for a few years and had been focusing on playing more “traditional” games.  Recently, I started playing “the Ville,” which I greatly enjoy.  However, I noticed early in the game that there was a certain bias in the decorations available (same as I had previously noted in Farmville, which was one of the reasons I stopped playing Farmville a few years ago).  Even though, worldwide, 40% of the population is Christian, and 80% of the US population (still the vast majority of Internet users) profess some form of Judeo-Christian faith.  Including Muslims, the vast majority of the world’s population are of Abrahamic faiths.
Yet in “The Ville,” and similar Facebook games, the options for home decoration are decided non-Christian.  It would be one thing if they were purely secular–as for example many Protestants are iconoclastic.  
However, there are very clearly New Age, neo-pagan, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist elements in the game, including the “Yin Yang” collectible power up feature that is required to complete some tasks.  As I have progressed in the game, I have discovered many game tasks which require having my character participate in New Age or neo-Pagan activities.  At first, I kind of overlooked the form of “spirituality” promoted by the “Sophie” character, and I overlooked the “flower power” features because I saw the “Flower Power Bed” as symbolic of the kind of brightly colored furniture I might have in a children’s room in my own hypothetical “dream house.”  Now, I have come across the “Enchanted Forest” task that requires me to have a “Zen Garden.”  Various tasks have required purchasing statues, wall decorations, paintings, etc., and while there are plenty of options representing pagan or far Eastern religious symbols, there are no options representing, minimally, Jesus, crosses or biblical events that are common to the cultures of at least 60% of the world and 80% of the United States.   
I am really quite surprised that more people have not raised an issue of this.  The more of these game tasks come up, the more I feel like I am violating my conscience to even play your games.  The main reason I have not quit is that I have been hopeful maybe you’re just not aware that this is a problem for many of your customers, and I wanted to see if, upon being informed of this issue, you would be willing to make these non-Abrahamic elements optional as well as provide alternatives at least common to people of Abrahamic faiths, if not provide specific options for Jewish, Christian and Muslim players to incorporate their particular faith elements into their home decor.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my request.  

_Casablanca_ and Hollywood’s Deophobia

I finally watched _Casablanca_ last week.  I have this phobia of “important movies.”  I usually don’t understand them or what the hubbub is.  Sometimes, they’re so ingrained in the culture and so often parodied that I pretty much already knew everything important about them coming in, which was the case when I watched _Citizen Kane_.  I recently watched _2001_ for the third or fourth time, and still didn’t understand it–but reading the Wikipedia articles on it and the various sequels Arthur C. Clarke wrote was far more edifying than the movie itself.

So I always resisted _Casablanca_, but I really did enjoy it.  And I watched it with my daughter during homeschooling time, and kept annoying her by pausing the movie to explain various things and make it educational, but I think it was a great experience for both of us, and the movie is a fantastic story of sacrificial love. However, what struck me was how there were casual references to God and prayer–references that are almost totally absent from today’s movies.  Today, they’re replaced by references to yoga, karma and the like.

Whatever Barack Obama and his followers who booed God at the Democratic National Convention might think, the majority of Americans (including many liberals) still claim to believe in some kind of God, still claim to believe in Christianity in some form or another–so why is Christianity so taboo in the public sphere?

It’s not just that movies are afraid to acknowledge that God exists, or that Jesus Christ is the Savior–it’s that movies are afraid to acknowledge that *CHRISTIANITY* exists, even when they’re set in a past time.

A Facebook friend recently posited the notion of a “steampunk” story with a Cardinal Newman type character.  That inspired a cool discussion, but part of her point is that she enjoys reading “steampunk” fiction, yet it strikes her how these stories hardly ever mention Christianity or mention *Christians*, churches, clerics, etc. Steampunk, if you aren’t familiar with the term, is the term for contemporary science fiction set in the 19th Century–stories where technology that later existed is depicted in a science fiction manner as being developed a few decades early, usually powered by steam engines (hence the term).  The Robert Downey, Jr., _Sherlock Holmes_ movies might be qualified as steampunk, or most definitely _The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen_.  She was pointing out how steampunk novels take place in the Victorian era, yet they go out of their way to avoid suggesting that the characters are Christians, or that they live in a time when people were predominantly Christian.

Yes, I’ve had arguments with people online who insist that movies and TV shows still presume most Americans are Christians, and that’s why they *don’t* explicitly mention anything remotely Christian, except at weddings or funerals, but that doesn’t make sense.  

What struck me about _Casablanca_, though, was that it was all taken for *granted* in a true sense, the way that Flannery O’Connor talks about.  If _Casablanca_ were made today, with the same exact story and dialogue, people would make a big deal about how it was a “Christian” movie, and it would be marketed to “Christians,” and secularists would shun it, etc., because the characters talk about God a few times and are shown having basic Christian morals.  A few months ago, I watched _Soul Surfer_, which I knew had been promoted as a “Christian film,” and while it was good, and while the characters were clearly people of faith and all that, I questioned the use of the term “Christian film” for this very reason–if this movie had been made in the 1950s, no one would have thought to qualify it as “Christian.”  Given the frequency of girls in bikinis, it probably would have been labelled the opposite back then. 

Much as Cervantes injected his own faith development into the second part of _Don Quixote_, when Sylvester Stallone revisited both of his trademark characters a few years back, he emphasized that the Catholic faith he has rediscovered in recent years was an essential element of _Rocky Balboa_ and _Rambo_.  For _Rocky Balboa_, Stallone used the same marketing strategies as _The Passion of the Christ_ and _The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe_ and I think the same marketing firm as _The Passion_.  Yet again, neither film was a “Christian film” in the sense of explicitly promoting Christian theology or spirituality.  They’re Christian in a subtle way that Flannery O’Connor would approve of, and that’s a good thing in its own right, but I really don’t see why those movies or _Soul Surfer_ or some others in recent years should be separated into a distinct genre called “Christian,” as in “secularists, stay away!  God is mentioned herein!”

They call us homophobes for saying that homosexual behavior is a sin.  They call us misogynists for saying that contraception, fornication and adultery are sins.  

Well, they’re Deophobes.  They’re totally scared to death of God.  That’s why they booed God at their convention.  The Secularists, the Hollywood people, the “mainstream media,” the liberal elites are nothing else if not deophobes.  They will not allow any reference to God, church, ministers or even people-who-are Christians because they hate and fear Christianity.  They insist, when Christians are depicted, on depicting Christians as ignorant bigots and hateful people *precisely* because they hate Christians.  

Meanwhile, we’re so starved for any Christianity in popular culture that we jump at what used to be considered baseline, or even controversial, and say, “Hey! It’s something Christian!”  So movies about ordinary decent people who happen to read the Bible and pray and talk about God, doing ordinary decent things, are helped up as being in the same genre as great Christian classics like _Ben Hur_, _Going My Way_ or _Come to the Stable_.  

Even Kirk Cameron’s _Fireproof_ is basically a Hallmark Channel movie where the characters have a couple religious discussions–and most Hallmark Channel movies have some conversations about God or the Bible.

We need to stop kowtowing to the Deophobes, and start calling their bluff.