Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book of Eli and The Road

I hesitated slightly when some friends invited me to watch this movie called "Book of Eli" in the theater. But when I saw this poster, I understood I was at the right place:

As those of you who read my previous blog post would know, this is almost exactly what my Interp class is about. But even more striking to me as I watched the move, was the similarity to a book I just read: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.

So, was the movie any good?

Well, Book of Eli was at least very interesting. It was well produced, and the story was both solid and had a nice twist to it. The plot itself was that, after the apocalypse, man blamed what had happened on religion, and burned all religious literature they could find. There is only one copy of the Bible left, as far as we know, and this copy is in the possession of our hero Eli. Eli has this calling to go west, but few people can be trusted on his journey; especially not the character Carnegie, who also is one of the few who survived the apocalypse (which was 30 years ago). Carnegie is seeking for the Bible, because he is convinced that it will give him power (whatever he has in mind by that).

It is a very dark movie. It does not have much faith in humanity, and the few moments that made you smile were humorous, not bright or beautiful. Now, I like tragedies; but the sadness of this movie is more of a resigned form, so it does not make you emotional, nor does it upset you. Oh, and it is still American enough to have a happy ending.

The Road is similar in that both stories take place is this unexplained post-apocalyptic world were most people are evil and survive by exploiting traces of the old world. Also, both heroes have this urge to reach the sea, and they mostly travel by foot through a devastated North American continent. So, apart from the differences in story-line, they are in my opinion identical. This despite that religious references are far more subtile in The Road, and there being far more explosions in Book of Eli.

So then, what am I left with after being subject to these two stories? Truth is, I dunno, and it bothers me.

IMDB: Book of Eli
Watch trailer: Book of Eli
NY Times: The Road (the book)
Watch trailer: The Road (the movie)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Religion and Power

Today I had my fist day of classes in the new semester, and I got my first assignments. In one of my classes, Interpretation and Argument, we focus on the topic “religion and power.” And the first assignment in this class was to reflect on that topic. What does religion mean to me? What does religion have to do with power? So, I figured I might as well use the opportunity to write a blog post.

But before I give my thoughts on that, let me tell you about the class and about me. We are twenty-something students in the class, and we have very different religions and beliefs. There were some Christians, a few Hindus, one Muslim, some atheists, a half-Jew and a bunch of agnostics. Fewer than I expected seemed to have strong feelings about the topic, but I am at least one of them. I write from the perspective of a sincere follower of Jesus Christ who has experienced various Christian fellowships, including a fellowship following the Lutheran tradition, a Pentecostal church, a military church, non-denominational contemporary churches and a Presbyterian church. I have even participated in a few Roman Catholic masses during the international military pilgrimage to Lourdes. This was one of our priests:

Many of those churches I listed are afraid of the word religion. Religion is a word that has so much shit on it that Christians do not want to use it about themselves. Greg Boyd, pastor in the non-denominational Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, wrote the book “Repenting of Religion,” whose title pretty much capture the notion that Christianity and religion are two different things. This does of course not make much sense to an outsider, and it neither does to me. Is not a religion simply a set of beliefs one is holding? And do not Christians hold a certain set of beliefs? So, then, why are Christians so afraid of religion?

One plausible answer is that Christians accept the premise that religion is a significant reason why there is, has been and will be war and conflict. Yet, they do not in any way see how their own faith and life could have such implications, and thus they conclude the two must be different things. Subsequently, they redefine religion not to be the holding of certain beliefs, but to rather to be about confining blindly to the more or less political institutions that sometimes surround these beliefs.

From the movie about the temple knight ArnWe are left, then, with two questions – does a certain set of beliefs, let us call it a religion, always or in some cases affiliate with power? Power, that is political power, is power granted through means of violence, such as police and military. And if beliefs themselves do not imply use of political power, does the institutions that surround such beliefs, like churches and denominations (let’s call that for religion too), still make this affiliation inevitable?

My intuition is, not necessarily. However, it is always a possibility that someone with intentions of political power can use such institutions for their purposes if they are given prominent positions in the fellowship. These intentions of power can appear to be good in the eyes of churchgoers, such as an intention to pass laws against abortion and gay marriage. However, the intention of law-passing itself may not be a part of the original beliefs. In those cases, it clearly must be the institutions that cause the affiliation to power. That form of religious practice is what Greg Boyd and others are repulsed by so much that they want to escape the term completely.

But, if the church is careful not to let such intentions of power render in their fellowship, then they are still holding a certain set of beliefs, yes of course, but they are not affiliating with political power. In fact, they may even do the opposite, searching to serve people rather than to control them. Or, and this may sound like a way too stereochristian cliché, but it is kind of beautiful: Lifting people up rather than pushing them down.

If that is still religion, then I cannot think religion and power are always affiliated.

Amazon: Repenting of Religion by Greg Boyd
Woodland Hills Church: The Bridge (online community)
My instructor Kari Lundgren's site: Religious Rhetorics

Monday, January 4, 2010

Friends in eros

One of my fellow warriors once posted a note about her love life on Facebook. Not too personal, nor too general. Interesting and profound, but not specific, at least not for an uninformed person like myself. Inspired by that and other notes, this is my first take on the matter. However, I will (of course) write in the perspective of a guy.

To be clear, the love life in question is for once not the agape love to which this blog is devoted. Rather, it is the kind of love that occurs when a boy flirts with a girl, or when a woman kisses her man. It is the love that in greek is called by “eros,” at least so I think. Native Greeks or scholars in New Testament linguistics can probably elaborate the nuances to the word, but I wouldn’t know or care too much about it. You get the idea. It is that girlfriend/boyfriend thing.

So then, what does it mean to have a girlfriend? First, I think most agree that being a boyfriend is a temporary state. You are not meant to be just a boyfriend forever. There is a purpose to that state outside of itself. So, and I hope this doesn’t cause too much headache to grasp, if I choose to be someone’s boyfriend, I do not intend for that to be the final state of our relationship. And neither do I intend for us to break up at some point in the foreseeable future. No, the intent of going out with someone is to examine if we can grow to become husband and wife. If not always spelled out with writings on the wall, it is clear to me that this is the direction the boyfriend-arrow is pointing.

Thus, it would make sense to find out how a husband and wife should relate to each other, since that is were we are headed. I strongly believe, from observing my own and other families and couples, that a happy family is one in which the husband and wife not only have a passionate eros love for each other, that is they desire each other, but were they also are best friends. It can and will cause a lot of stress if your best opposite sex friend is outside of your marriage. All sorts of awkward situations will occur, and eros is not always as reliable and faithful as one can wish. There will be pain and heartache.

That is why I think it is a good thing if you know your girlfriend well, from even before you ever thought of being with her. If she was a good friend to you before, the chances of you becoming bestest friends with a little common effort are quite high. This can sure be achieved with some random girl, but those chances are far more - yes - random.

At the same time, it strikes me this can be somewhat dangerous. You do not want to lose a good friend – especially not one of your best friends – just because some stupid coupling attempt went wrong, do you? No, of course you don’t. And can things go wrong? Well, I guess. However, when the worst heartache is over with, I know many who have overcome and still are close friends. In the two cases I have in mind, they took a break for six months or so. Then, when the eros deficiencies were fading, they could again be those good friends, happy to work together and again inviting each other over for dinner. I wouldn’t know how much it would take to become “besties” again, though. But that one spot is reserved for that special one anyways, right?

Urban dictionary definition of “besties:”

Friends who have each other's backs, look out for each other, spend lots of time together, and are just really good friends. They have inside jokes together, they go to the park and swing on swing sets, get ice cream, go to the beach, go to concerts, go bowling, and basically any activity that they like doing together as friends.

Does this strike you as your perfect girlfriend, or what? Only, you can also hold her hand.

Read more:
Urban dictionary: Besties
Btw, I'd also like: Newfoundland
or, maybe a: Papillon
or something in between: Shetland Sheepdog

Oh, as I recall now, my previous official take on the matter was a song I wrote and recorded in 2005, "Jentesangen" (The Girl Song)