Damien Rice -- "Cold Water"

from Damien Rice's "O" albumCold, cold water surrounds me now
And all I've got is your hand
Lord, can you hear me now?
Lord, can you hear me now?
Lord, can you hear me now?
Or am I lost?

Can we ever be lost if we belong to God? Do we hold onto God, or is it He who holds onto us?

Even in times of loss our riches in Christ increase... the more difficult our circumstances, the more we are driven toward dependence on Him. If we know Jesus then we can thank God for every good thing and thank God just as much (maybe even more) when we have nothing.

Accountability in Our Government,
in the Church

CNN has been covering The Great $700 Billion Bailout, hardly ever breaking to cover other subjects. If you want to hear about something besides The Great Bailout, then don't watch the news. All this to say, it's certainly a big deal.

One new concept that The Great Bailout has brought to light is the need for accountability in our government. Accountability isn't supposed to be a new concept, it has just been weened out of our government's inner workings by those who would like to have their own way all time.

It makes sense that government officials who are there for personal gain would resist anything resembling accountability. I suppose there are many who would like free reign to do whatever they want with their legislative power, but that wouldn't be very democratic, would it?

A lack of accountability has gotten our government as out of control as it is today. From hundreds of military bases all over the world, to missile silos in Europe, to wars in the middle east, to rampant spending, to every form of corruption... all of this has resulted from one compromise stacked on another, which was possible because there no one had the moral guts to say "No," "You can't do that" or "STOP."

It benefits many individuals in Washington that there should be our system of accountability should break down... that way every special interest group can have their own way, even if it causes war, suffering and financial disaster for the average American and even the whole world.

"Checks and Balances" is just another way to say "Accountability." Singular men cannot be trusted with power, a fact which inspired our Founding Fathers set up a government with separate branches, where each branch is called to keep the others in check.

Our parents keep us accountable when we are children, but who keeps us adults accountable? Other adults. The government has demonstrated what happens in the absence of legislative accountability: War, debt, lies and thievery, not to mention the death and suffering of entire nations (Iraq).

It points to a general truth, which is that we all need accountability. Most of us know what is the right thing to do, but we will do what we can get away with if given the chance.

Accountability is a practical, built-in feature of God's church. When the church is functioning properly, members work together to preserve one another's moral integrity. Either we represent God by practicing morally pure living or we are not doing our jobs.

Related: Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

V for Vendetta gives a realistic demonstration of what a formerly democratic country might look like under an overbearing, militaristic government.   We might think it a gross injustice that a country with so much potential for creativity and freedom should be thus oppressed, but V (the main character) points out that this change occurred because of the people's change of heart.  As he explains in his speech to the British people on television:

"Where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance, coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told...if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War. Terror. Disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you and, in your panic, you turned to the now High Chancellor Adam Sutler. He promised you order. He promised you peace. And all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent."

Events are unfolding right now in the United States that make V for Vendetta prophetic for the United States.  Not that we needed this movie to see what might be happening... basic world history demonstrates the fact that formerly prosperous countries become sickly and poor when the citizens of that country lose track of the values that made their country prosperous in the first place.

Americans have found success by sticking to a few, basic principles (which we are slowly drifting away from), such as ingenuity, hard work, individual responsibility, personal freedom and a healthy respect for the Almighty.

In the past few years we have come under a few major threats, from terrorism to financial failure, which have inspired us to surrender to fear and shift toward a more socialistic mentality.  We have become too lazy or too afraid to take responsibility for ourselves; we would rather a big government take responsibility for us.   We are in the process of giving up our personal and financial freedom in exchange for a sense of protection from financial woes, international threats, health problems and other issues (such as hurricanes and earthquakes) that are out of our control whether we want to admit it or not.

Will the United States of America become "The United Socialist States of America?"  If Americans make this happen, yes.   Change can be good, but we should be wary of giving in to complacency or anything that compromises our conscience.   

One thing is already leading to another.  We are compromising the long term to feel secure for a little while right now.  It's not too far fetched to imagine an America that resembles the England of V for Vendetta if we, inspired by fear, continue to shirk our individual responsibilies in favor of government protection.  The more we entrust our well-being to a few government officials, the more we open ourselves up the abuses of power that men have a hard time resisting when they're presented with such opportunities.

Babylon A.D. -- Victory in Christ, Failure Any Other Way

Babylon A.D. stars Vin Diesel as Toorop, a hardened mercenary trying to survive in a dangerous, futuristic world. This movie was given the title "Babylon AD" probably because Babylon (the ancient civilization) is now a colloquialism for any society or civilation that is totally corrupt. Toorop sums up this modernized dystopia with a single statement: "Kill, or be killed." Toorop has learned that he can't trust anyone. His friends and even his employers might shoot him in the back at any moment.

Toorop ends up traveling from the Russia to the U.S., where things looks safer on the outsite, but the same kill-or-be-killed rule still applies. An insipid, new religion drives America's subtle, yet deep-rooted depravity. The leader of this religion will destroy anyone and anything that hinders her religious goals.

Toorop sees all this, yet he still chooses to help a young girl, Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) unconditionally. He turns down a lot of money and even sacrifices his life to keep this girl from harm. Up to that point, he had learned to survive at all costs, so it's miraculous that he softens himself and, in effect, gives up everything he has learned to die for this girl.

We all have had some stroke of bad luck or an unexpected turn in life that we might use to excuse our selfishness. If we wanted to, we all might cling to some aspect of life that seems unfair to justify an animalistic, kill-or-be-killed mentality.

But surrendering to selfishness = failure. Those who put themselves first lose in the end, without exception. This is why it is difficult to take part in God's kingdom; this is why the the gospel is offensive to most people.

This is what Jesus was talking about when he said, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for my name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life... many who are first will be last; and the last, first" (Matthew 19:29-30).

It takes far more courage to succeed by Jesus' rules, which depend on faith in God, than it to succeed by the world's standards, which depend on self-determination. It's no wonder that Christ's message continues to be difficult, or offensive to most people.

At the same time, there is a kind of godly determination. God gives us the chance to choose between bitterness and forgiveness, stinginess or magananimity, freedom in Christ or slavery to self.

The few who lead triumphant lives might seem to be failures in the world's eyes because such people tend to neglect themselves for the good of others. According to the world, making oneself look smart and lifting up oneself is the way to success. In God's kingdom, looking like a fool for Christ and building up others before oneself is the way to success.

"The King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"
--Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:34-36).

Why V Went to Heaven

Toward the end of V for Vendetta, just before V goes to carry out the last part his plans, he says to Evey (Natalie Portman), "The time has come for me to meet my maker and to repay Him in kind for all that He's done."

This statement is overtly indignant, which is understandable. At the same time, I suspect that V is not as damned as he might think.

In many ways, V is a practical example of godliness. His grasp of justice is certainly light years ahead of the men who have taken over the British government.

V does the best he can with his life for the good of other people. He overcomes unimaginable hardship and injustice to strike a blow against the corruption that was stifling England as a whole.

V uses his physical and mental facilities to defend the defenseless and empower as many people as he can, right up to his deathbed. He inspires the entire nation with a new vision of hope and love for justice.

If there was any doubt about the quality of his heart or his dedication to justice, he ends up giving up his own life so others can move forward and benefit from his efforts.

C.S. Lewis describes a similar outlook on the "qualifications" for salvation in the last chapter of his final Narnia book -- The Last Battle. Though the Calormenes are generally at odds with Aslan and the Narnians (Aslan's chosen people), there is one Calormene who stands apart from his peers for his quality of heart, in particular his convictions about who God must be and what is truly justice.

Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls stars Liam Neeson as Carver (formerly a farmer and family man) and Pierce Brosnan as Gideon (formerly a Civil War officer).  Carver is determined to kill Gideon for causing his family's death and the general destruction of his life. The movie covers the last part of Carver's vengeful mission as he bears down on Gideon over a mountains, forests and deserts.

Toward the end of Seraphim Falls their struggle finally reaches a physical and psychological breaking point. Three years of unreconciled anger and guilt weighs heavily on their bodies and minds.  Gideon is tired of fleeing from his past while Carver is tired of his life-consuming bitterness.

They finally catch up with each other on what look like salt flats, where the hot ground sucks the life out of them from below while the sun beats down mercilessly from above.

Before they reach striking distance, a quirky, elixir-peddling woman appears out of nowhere, offering each one of them a quick remedy for their pains. The fact that this woman appeared out of nowhere on a painted carriage seems out of place to us, as it should to any objective observer, but Carver and Gideon have endured so much that nothing surprises them anymore. She offers each one of them (apart from the other's knowledge) a single bullet they can use to shoot and kill their adversary, thus ending the brunt of their problems.   She convinces them to trade whatever they were clinging to for survival for a single bullet... Gideon gives up his horse and Liam gives his canteen of water. They don't bother thinking about what they'll do after they expend their single shots because they are beyond caring.

This scenario closely resembles Christ's temptation in the wilderness, as described in Matthew 4: "After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.'  But Jesus answered, 'It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " 

Satan waited until Jesus was most vulnerable to tempt him. It might seem obvious from an outsider's perspective that Jesus shouldn't trade his mission to save all of humanity for bread but, then again, we probably havent' been fasting for forty days either.

Seraphim Falls and Jesus's temptation in the wilderness are comparable to situations that we all have to face on a regular basis.  We get opportunities all to time to chose between short-term indulgences or eternal treasure in Christ.

The more desperate our situation, the more pressure we feel to fill our stomachs or entertain our fears rather than trust and obey God.   In a similar way, Carver and Gideon give up everything for a single bullet, which the-woman-who-represents-Satan convinces them will be their cure-all, or "remedy."


"Every time I pin down

What I think I want
It slips away
The ghost slips away"

--Weezer, "Butterfly" (from the Pinkerton album)


Good quote from the movie (from the mysterious water-hole man): 

"That which is yours will always return to you. That which you take will always be taken from you.

... similar to John the Baptist's statement about Jesus' spiritual authority: 

"A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." (John 3:27)


Similar, recent western: 3:10 to Yuma (stars Christian Bale and Russell Crowe)

Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?

Morgan Spurlock did well to use his fame (earned from his Super Size Me documentary) to inspire people to think more.  

It just so happens that, as I'm writing this, the clock is just rolling over into the the seventh anniversary of 9-11.  So in honor of Spurlock's efforts, I can't help wondering, what has the United States accomplished in the last seven years, since we launched our "global war on terror?"

I learned from Spurlock's documentary that there has been more terrorist activity in the seven years since September 11th, 2001 than in the twenty years preceding.   Spurlock points out very astutely that our War on Terror has been about as effective as our War on Drugs.  This makes sense, as declaring war on terrorism is like trying to prevent people from having angry thoughts. Terrorism, at it's core, is a thought crime in the eyes of the U.S. government.  The Department of Homeland Security seems to be saying, "If you even think about it, we will kill you."

The worst thing the U.S. could have done to resist terrorists is declare war on them.  Violent resistance is kindling to the fires of religious fundamentalism.  All Osama Bin Laden needs to strenghthen his cause is a violent aggressor. 

Come to think of it, Bin Laden has been embarrassingly successful since the September 11th attacks (that is, if he really was the mastermind behind that event).  He has singlehandedly tied up the largest, most advanced military in the world for the last seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Thousands of Americans have died and I wouldn't be surprised if at least a million Iraqies have been killed (655,000 was an estimate made by an indepent source in 2006; of course American military estimates are much less).  Bin Laden has handicapped the American airline industry functionally as well as financially.   The war has cost Americans somewhere around a trillion dollars, which has resulted in the worst debt and inflation in U.S. history.

President Bush has mentioned not being subject to fear (or terror), but that is exactly what has happened since 9-11.  Americans have given Bin Laden more power than he ever could have obtained without our help.


Spurlock interviews a Saudi man who points out that the Saudi people would benefit from a more secularist goverment.  The U.S. has proven that this is true.  The best kind of government is one that is preoccupied with seeking it's people's best interests, not enforcing a religious code.  Americans have thrived the most when they have enjoyed unhindered freedom of religion.  Even communism would work under a totally fair and balanced goverment.  However, inevitably, corruption and special interest groups end up imposing their views and oppressing the greater population.

It is obvious that professing Christians think too religiously about who they will vote for.  It is inappropriate to expect politicians to enforce a moral code.  This goes both ways of course.  There are two things wrong with electing officials based on their stance on abortion (the single most influential issue for Christians in America):  

(1.) If our last hope in preventing abortions is to elect certain officials who are against it, then we are too late... elected officials will reflect the priorities of their people (as they should if our system is, in fact, democratic).   

(2.) If we elect officials based on their stance on abortion and nothing else, then there is a fair chance that these officials will end up being incompetent in other vital areas.

Polititians (Republicans) compound their troubles by touting their religion.  George Bush, for example, has been more vocal about his religion than Bill Clinton...  but who has done a better job governing the country?  Under which of these men have Americans and the rest of the world benefited more?  

I would be the first one to say that morality is of the utmost importance... but as far as this American system is concerned, freedom is our strength so we should stick to it.  Let people decide for themselves.  Let the majority decide so, if anything goes drastically wrong, we will have only ourselves to blame.

The Real Messiah

Mel Gibson does a great job depicting a real Messiah in his The Passion of the Christ. Gibson shows Jesus joking with his mother. He spends time eating and drinking with his disciples. He feels happiness and pain. He is the son of Mary and Joseph as well as the Son of God.

It is remarkable that Jesus was so candid about His role as the Savior of the world... but this makes a lot of sense if he was, in fact, the Savior of the world. If he was really the Messiah, then he shouldn't have to try very hard to act like it.

He talked like one who knew where he came from and where he was going. In his prayer toward the end of John's gospel, for example, he addresses the Father candidly, expressing his desires for his followers and their future, spiritual success.

I wonder if Jesus felt any anxiety about being God in the flesh during his 33 years on earth. He had the capacity to be stressed out, certainly... Luke records him sweating blood in anticipation to his violent crucifixion (Luke 22:44).

Was it also stressful for him to be trapped within mortal constraints such as time and space? Did he ever grow impatient toward his disciples for their failure to adopt his heavenly perspective even after all those signs and miracles?