An “Act of God”: He Apparently Hates Movie Screens

Two days ago my beautiful wife and I were able to pawn the boys off on my mother in order to have one of our rare movie date nights. We rode out to Pier Park on the beach to watch “Men In Black 3” at the Grand. After a delightful viewing experience for the first 30 minutes the screen suddenly went blank in the theater as the volume continued to run. After inquiring about the problem I learned that the screens in all sixteen theaters had been blacked out. We sat a few more minutes in the theater and listened to the plot as the sound rambled on. We decided to leave and approached the box office for a refund.

They claimed  they could give us replacement tickets but not a full money refund.

Why?

“We can’t give a refund because the reason for the blackout was an act of God,” said the kind young lady who was the ticket attendant.

I realize she was probably told by her superiors to respond like this when something like this happens (presumably lightning). I realize there is an “Act of God” clause in insurance companies that intimates disastrous events outside of human control (earthquakes, flash floods, etc.).

But I find it curious how God’s name usually only gets evoked when bad stuff happens to us.

God is the whipping boy when tragedy strikes, but not one thought of gratitude is thrown His way for the countless days, months and years of tragedy withheld from our lives. Why isn’t a beautiful sunset, a breathtaking mountain range, or a stunning sandy white beach deemed an “act of God.” Why isn’t such an amazing mystery as a successful child-birth and delivery called an “act of God” by OBGYN’s and Insurance claims?

Words mean something.

And the words and phrases our culture uses betrays something about it.

And it is strange when we use such words to quickly assign blame to Him for infrequent disastrous events and yet never praise for the consistently peaceful merciful everyday events of life. His Providential kindness is apparent everyday I get to wake up in the morning, but I can only offer anger when He takes back one of the many gifts He has loaned me for a short time? No. Both acts, those that seem like judgment and those that seem like mercy, are meant to elicit one awe-inspiring response.

Praise.

This is perfectly personified in Job after successive “act(s) of God” leave him with no family, no resources, and a handful of critical friends. Job knows only one proper response to this shockingly personal tragedy of epic proportions: Broken hearted repentant grateful praise. So Job worships and cries out from the depths of a shattered heart:

The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

Maybe the theater girl wasn’t too far off in her assessment. But let’s not be hypocritically selective in our own lives when witnessing His “daily” acts that we take for granted: from family, sunsets, music, to food. His fingerprints aren’t hiding from us.

Dragons Are Real, Parents Are Stupid

Some adults just don’t get it.

I remember a recent movie excursion with my wife, where we viewed the adapted CS Lewis novel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in 3D. There was a certain prude in attendance with his wife and two very young children; he must have gotten time off from his busy schedule of joy-killing to stoop to his kid’s level to watch this movie.

After a satisfactory viewing experience, my wife and I headed to the restroom facilities to unload about eight gallons of the carbonated syrup we accumulated in the past two hours. As I was waiting outside the bathrooms for my wife to finish (a common universal posture for any man with any wife) I overheard the JK (joy-killer) speaking with a fellow adult he happened to know within earshot of his children. The convo went like this:

“How was the Narnia movie?” fellow adult

With a snarky tone, “It was a bit farfetched,” said JK. “Extreme.”

My mouth dropped wide open. The only response my bewildered mind could conjure up was, “Really? Ya think?”

It is a movie based on a fantasy children’s book for mother Mary’s sake! I thought boys who turn into dragons, sword dueling mice and a talking lion were all based on living historical characters. But seriously, why don’t you just go ahead rip the imagination and innocence right out of your children’s little formative souls? While you’re at it tell them Santa is just your drunk great-uncle and all dogs go to hell.

It brings to mind one of my favorite GK Chesterton quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”

I feel a bit sympathetic for the JK, because some parental injustice must have been done to him in his early childhood, and as a result his ability to process allegory and wonder has been greatly diminished. In this rationalistic materialistic indoctrination maybe he missed the forest for the trees, and the redemption themes behind nearly every movie are (possibly) lost on him. The adult qualities of dignity and pretension has made JK a dull boy.

Metaphor, allegory, and the like, reveal deeper realer truths. If the stirring apocalyptic visions of apostle John’s crystal sea and blazing throned Majestic One are wonderful, the reality is much more so.

No wonder the lion of Judah, Jesus, told adults, “Unless you are converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Hopefully, this childlike wonder will give us a fresh unction to see and worship Christ more, even in 3D movie events. And possibly then a mole cricket or blade of grass may bring us to our knees in curious delight.

I guess the moral of this story is: Don’t be a joy-killer; God loves to challenge the comfortable traditions and long-held presuppositions of our hardened humanity. Don’t scoff too hard at a fanciful land of mermaids and giant sea snakes, the truth just maybe more far-fetched and stranger than such “fiction.”

Bryan Daniels

The Hunger Games: Why Werewolves Won’t Like It But Ron Paul Will

I went on a field trip this last Friday.

The high school I teach at took a group of 150 ninth graders to a viewing of “The Hunger Games” at a local theater. The trip was paid out of pocket by students and not by taxpayer money I assure you. With the exception of two other math teachers in attendance, I was probably the only soul in the theater who had never read the book. I can’t comment on the literary validity of the book series (I don’t read much fiction) but I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the movie with my beloved readership.

The “Hunger Games”  film is becoming a record-setting blockbuster ($70 million in its opening DAY) and is a surefire successful Trilogy; As conscientious Christians who want Christ’s kingdom to permeate all levels of culture, it is good to at least be semi-informed about what popular culture obsesses over and values:

It’s Better Than Twilight

I know that is not saying much. But at least Hunger Games is not a contrived love story about a boring emo girl who must practically choose between necromancy and bestiality. I think the leading Heroine, Katniss, has some solid qualities that are actually worthy of teen girl emulation. She’s strong. She loves her family to a fault. She’s brave. She hates injustice. She takes responsibility for her actions. And maybe most importantly: She’s not mindlessly wrapped up in an all-consuming hormonal rage over a boy.

Woody

I’m a Woody Harrelson fan. He has always played the role of witty sleazy wino well (maybe his bartender role in Cheers gave him a jumpstart with that). He doesn’t disappoint in his role of Haymitch Abernathy, a former Hunger Games winner and current tutor to District 12 contestants. I’m used to generally poor acting quality when attempting to stomach teenage box office thrillers, but there were a couple pleasant surprises in this film. Elizabeth Banks is delightfully creepy as the plastic clownlike, “Effe”, who serves as a mayor/publicist for District 12 and its contestants.

The Violence is Not Mindless

I’ve heard the movie flirted with an R rating before its release. Some may think the child on child violence is too graphic. That may be true, so parents should be informed before allowing formative younger children to partake. But I do think much of the violence in the movie is purposeful. No one dies without a stirring consequence or somber tone from the on looking survivors. There is actually a touching impromptu funeral scene during the games, injecting humanity in an inhumane circumstance. When any child is killed during competition a harrowing gong resonates through the city and countryside, and their picture is hologrammed across the sky. Even in the twisted dystopia of Panem, the corrupt government intimidates its subjects by playing against their knowledge of the inherent value of human life. For example: If each year from each district the authorities require a boy and girl sacrifice for a rebellion that happened 70 years ago in one district, what horrific acts would they do to our children in a contemporary rebellion?

The Founders Might Have Enjoyed It

Really, Hunger Games revolves around a cautionary tale regarding government power run amok. By displaying in prophetic clarity the negative effects of a meddling political system, the movie propagates a limited government message that may even make Ron Paul crack a grin. It reminds us, because of our sinful human depravity, the early gladiator games of Rome are not necessarily an unrealistic relic of the past. The vague goal of “progress” needs to tapered with real absolute moral foundation (Bible). Katniss also models the virtues of personal responsibility and healthy authority questioning throughout, and in our current climate of big government influences on both sides, these are not bad attributes for a youth culture to be absorbing.

It’s far from a perfect film. There are some contrived points in the plot, where main characters “coincidentally” run into each other at strategic junctures or when they hear seemingly random divulged information at just the right time to preserve life. I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of acting by many of the younger actors either. I hear later in the series the book toys with Nihilism, but I can’t comment on what I haven’t seen yet.

But the Hunger Games may be worth a watch for you. Clearly, there is not an overtly gospel message the movie attempts to set forth (brothers and sisters that is our calling!), but there are some apparent redemption themes and good character studies within the film.

As always, let’s take this cultural opportunity to speak the person and work of Christ as the only ONE worthy of our adulation and infatuation. He is the one who says to every soul hungry teeny bopper, parent, and cultural observer in between:

I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will never hunger (John 6:35)

Amen.

Bryan Daniels