Friday, May 27, 2005

The Non-Virtuous vs the Non-Virtuous

As a teenager I watched Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I remember enjoying it. Recently it was on television so I watched portions of it while not distracted with other things. This time around the movie bothered me, though I could not immediately place my finger on the reasons why. After musing on it I've finally isolated some of the problems.

The most obvious was the silly ending. (Which I'm sure Disney altered drastically from the way it was in the book.) There is no way that the Parisians would have accepted someone as hideous as Quasimodo because he saved a Gypsy. More than likely the Parisians would have agreed that both the dirty Gypsy and the monstrous bell-ringer needed to die.

This is a prime example of what I'll call Disney Idealism. Disney Idealism says that most people are basically good. It says that if we just relax, follow our hearts* and periodically burst into song, our lives will (after an appropriate climactic moment) be filled with love and acceptance from those around us.

In Hunchback, the villain is a judge that prides himself on his virtue and yet seethes with lust, jealousy, rage and an obsession with power. Clearly, he is a hypocrite and an evil man that deserves what he gets.

Disney Idealism comes into play with the protagonists of the story. Esmerelda, Captain Phoebus and Quasimodo are all kind, compassionate and much more accepting of others than the general populace. We're just expected to believe that these three people that have every reason to be bitter, callous and selfish are not, for no apparent reason.

The movie's treatment of the Gypsies again asks for a stretch of the imagination. The Gypsies are liars, thieves and killers - however, we're expected to believe that they are better people than their enemy, the judge. Obviously they've been driven to these actions because they're persecuted and oppressed. Uh huh. Why does that sound familiar? Oh, that's right, it's a classic excuse for misbehavior on the part of minorities.

I'll accept that there are a few rare individuals that rise above their innate selfishness in order to perform heroic acts. Quasimodo fits this description. Although he initially saves Esmerelda because he is lonely and physically attracted to her, later, after saving her a second time, he loves her enough to stand aside and allow her to be with Captain Phoebus. This is the most unselfish act in the entire movie. In the end though, the movie is largely a story of the non-virtuous in conflict with the non-virtuous.

And that, I believe, is what most human conflict consists of. Sure, we look to put a spin on things and make it appear as though one side was clearly good and one was clearly evil, but in reality the picture is usually much mirkier than that. (I have a tendency to do that myself, in areas that interest me such as the War of Northern Aggression. As much as I would like to view it as the Bad North and the Good South, neither side was blameless.)

If we have not died and been raised with Yeshua than the majority of our actions are governed by selfishness and self-interest. Even after turning our lives over to the guidance of YHWH, we still struggle with our selfishness and pride. The heart of man is indeed desperately wicked, even if Disney would have us believe that only a few over-the-top villains are truly capable of evil.

*For an excellent post on 'following your heart', visit Animate Matters.

Future posts

I-N-H, Monster and Difster all brought up some interesting points to ponder regarding America, Israel, etc.

Though I believe Israel's restoration as a nation is a fulfillment of prophecy, I-N-H's comment made me realize that I've never actually studied the issue myself. I will need to do so. Unfortunately, I do not have a concordance or lots of time to devote to the research, so it will probably be a few weeks before I can do my follow-up posting.

If anyone knows of an online concordance, I'd appreciate the link to it. =)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Patricia C. Wrede

A couple of months ago I began reading The Ranting Room. It proved to be an enjoyable blog. One day, I noticed a comment from someone named Patricia C. Wrede and my eyes nearly bugged out. The first thought that occurred to me was that someone must be using her name - then I realized that it really was the author Patricia C. Wrede and the excited mental jumping and squealing began. Patricia C. Wrede! I love her books! My reaction to seeing a comment from one of my favorite authors was almost exactly how someone might react upon seeing a famous celebrity. (Okay, my mental reaction - physically, I continued to simply sit in front of the monitor.) I didn't even get this excited when I went to see Bruce Campbell, one of my favorite actors. Must not look like silly fangirl! I told myself. It took effort not to start gushing all over Bruce Bethke's haloscan right then and there. I could imagine Ms. Wrede reacting in that uncomfortable way normally reserved for when your pet gifts you with a small dead animal.

Anyway, if you have never read her books, I highly recommend them. Although they are written for children, they can certainly be enjoyed by adults. I have one crusty friend that primarily likes to read the work of intellectual authors (like Umberto Eco*). Even this friend likes Ms. Wrede's Enchanted Forest series.

I hope if I ever take to writing children's books that they will be as appealing as Ms. Wrede's work! (On the very slim chance that Ms. Wrede might actually see this - I LOVE YOUR BOOKS!!! Okay there, I'm done.)

*Vox is the only other person that I've seen positively mention Eco's work. Though I've never read his books, I have a feeling I wouldn't like them. If I want to slog through a textbook, I'll slog through a textbook. I like my fiction to be fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Musings on the Phantom of the Opera

Today while cleaning I was listening to my CD Highlights from the Phantom of the Opera. It struck me that the character of the Phantom greatly resembles my idea of the devil.
Close your eyes for your eyes will only tell the truth
And the truth isn't what you want to see
In the dark it is easy to pretend
That the truth is what it ought to be

Softly, deftly, music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it secretly possess you
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness which you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night

Close your eyes, start a journey to a strange new world
Leave the thoughts of the world you knew before
Close your eyes and let music set you free
Only then can you belong to me

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation
Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in
To the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night...

In another section, the Phantom and Christine sing a duet:

Sing once again with me our strange duet
My power over you grows stronger yet
And though you turn from me to glance behind
The phantom of the opera is there inside your mind

Those who have seen your face draw back in fear
I am the mask you wear

It's me they hear

Your spirit and my voice in one combined

My spirit and your voice in one combined

That insidious, seductive temptation is exactly how I imagine the devil operates. You've got to watch out for those people that have so surrendered their lives to him that they have become his mouthpiece. Later on, Christine trades temptation for love, in a duet which makes me think of our relationship with our Messiah:

No more talk of darkness
Forget these wide-eyed fears
I'm here, nothing can harm you
my words will warm and calm you
Let me be your freedom
let daylight dry your tears
I'm here with you, beside you
to guard you and to guide you

Say you love me every waking moment
turn my head with talk of summertime
Say you need me with you now and always
Promise me that all you say is true
that's all I ask of you

Let me be your shelter, let me be your light
You're safe, no-one will find you
your fears are far behind you

All I want is freedom, a world with no more night
and you, always beside me, to hold me and to hide me

Then say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime
let me lead you from your solitude
Say you need me with you here beside you
anywhere you go let me go too
That's all I ask of you

Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime
say the word and I will follow you

Share each day with me, each night, each morning

Say you love me

You know I do

Love me - that's all I ask of you
Anywhere you go let me go too
Love me - that's all I ask of you

Israel and the Anti-Israel

Israel has never needed the protection or assistance of any nation on Earth. When you have YHWH on your side, the one true God, human assistance becomes completely insignificant. Israel did not have American help when she stood off the seven nation army that attempted to crush her after she was recognized as a nation in 1948. Neither did she need American assistance in World War II. If not from the Allied forces, salvation would have arisen from somewhere. YHWH has a history of delivering His people in spectacular ways. He has a plan for His people and that plan will be fulfilled no matter how much the rulers of this present age struggle against it. If God has allowed America to assist Israel, it is for our benefit.

That being said, I find the claim that America is Israel's ally to be dubious at best. It seems to me that we qualify more as the snake in the grass. We continually undermine them and interfere with their affairs, while claiming that we do it for their own good.

Many people seem to believe that God founded America.
He did not.
Men founded America - men that claimed they were acting with divine approval. Many of the so-called Christian founders did not even acknowledge Yeshua as the Messiah. Thomas Jefferson even re-wrote the Gospel, removing all of Yeshua's miracles, including the resurrection. If you deny the divinity and resurrection of Yeshua, you are not among the Redeemed. It is that simple. Believing that God exists does not necessarily mean that you attempt to order your life as He would will. Being religious does not equal being redeemed.

The only nation that YHWH personally established is Israel. We who are redeemed share in the promises made to Israel. America is not our home any more than Germany was Israel's home. The redeemed in America are exiles, living here until they are gathered to their true home. We owe no allegiance or patriotism to America beyond the standards set forth in the Bible. We are to follow American laws only so far as they do not contradict the laws of YHWH. YHWH is always to be our primary concern. Political activism is a waste of time. True change comes through individual lives touching other lives, revealing YHWH's mercy and truth to those that stumble through darkness. Lives are not changed through political activism - they are changed through a real relationship with YHWH. Political activism only changes circumstances.

Many people seem to have a firm belief that America was indeed a nation founded under God - however I have seen no evidence that truly supports that assumption. After all, the Muslim nations claim that they were founded by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, yet their actions show that they do not truly follow Him. We can claim to follow YHWH, but it is our actions that tell the truth. Lately I have come to believe that America is a false Israel, a counterfeit, an Anti-Israel if you will, guided by the same powers that will guide the counterfeit messiah, the antichrist.

Some of you may feel that I'm wildly overstating things. Some of you will feel that I am simply nuts. For you I offer the following scriptures:

Matthew 7:15-23
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
"So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
"A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
"So then, you will know them by their fruits.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

1 John 2:22-23
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

1 John 4:2-3
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;
and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

2 John 1:7
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

For an excellent article on America's founding fathers and their religious beliefs, click here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Slavery, secession and War

The South seceeded because they disliked and distrusted the expanding federal government, which was attempting to exercise unconstitutional control over issues which were part of states' rights (one such issue was slavery). The South had the legal right to seceed. Only 6% of the South's population owned slaves - that should show that there must have been other issues strongly involved in the decision to seceed. Abraham Lincoln started a war to keep the Union together, a war which cost hundreds of thousands of lives and crippled the South economically. The South fought because they were invaded. They fought for the same reason the American Revolution was fought - to escape the grasp of a tyrannical government. They fought for the right to govern their own lives and states as per the Constitution.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
obtained from the online government archive

Lincoln used this proclamation in an attempt to incite further trouble in the South, not because he cared about the slaves. The man's own words condemn him as the racist he was.

The War of Northern Aggression was fought for economic reasons, under the smoke-screen of slavery. Lincoln's actions helped found the expansive behemoth known as the American government, which has become aggressive abroad and despotic at home, as General Lee predicted after the end of the war.

I accept that the South lost. I do not believe that another successful secessionist movement will take place in the South. However, that does not mean that I have to like or be happy about what happened. While YHWH does indeed work good from what was intended for evil, that does not mean we have to rejoice over the evil that preceeded the good.

The most aggravating thing about the War of Northern Aggression are the lies that are told about it today. I hate dishonesty. Whatever a person's belief about the war and whether or not it was a good thing, they should at least be able to acknowledge that much of what occurred has been obscured, white-washed and falsified in today's portrayal of what happened. How can anyone truly examine the past and learn from it if they are repeatedly taught lies about it?

I-N-H, while we frequently disagree, I'm glad you still visit. =)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Most Humiliating Moment

I've had my share of humiliating moments, but there is one which stands above all others in my memory. There was nothing to suggest that the moment would bring such awful embarrassment - it was only my sister and myself in the room. I had allowed her to read a few pages of the story I was working on and now I waited for her to pronounce judgement. Her words brought my dreams and ambitions of becoming a writer tumbling rudely down around my ears...

"You could write romance novels!"

Sadly, she meant it as a compliment!

Oh the burning shame - romance novels. The worst, most awful thing about it was that she was right. However unintentionally, my writing tends towards melodrama, and my dialogue between male and female characters frequently has that over-the-top flirtiness found in cutesy romances. Ugh. Ugh. UGH!

I've never quite recovered from that 'compliment'. I suppose it has served to keep me humble though, and hopefully it will spur me on towards better writing.

Story Snippet

He was cradling the instrument with his body while coaxing a wild melody from its strings. Dark hair fell rakishly over his eyes and a whimsical smile turned up the corners of his mouth. I suppose he might have continued playing for hours if not for the twig that cracked under my careless misstep. Sharp gray eyes lifted to meet mine and his smile became predatory.
"Hello, my dear."
"Isn't this a little cliched? Playing the violin while sitting on a gravestone?"
"First of all, this is a viola, not a violin. Secondly, good music is never cliched."
"What makes you think it's good?" I challenged.
"You're here, aren't you?"

I'm not very well organized or disciplined when it comes to my writing. This is the opening of a rather amorphous plot, which is also a sequel to an unfinished story. Still, for some reason I liked it well enough to hang on to it. Perhaps it will inspire me to actually give the plot flesh and bones one of these days.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Gods and Generals

I watched the movie Gods and Generals tonight. I enjoyed it very much. It portrayed the Confederate soldiers with much more accuracy than hollywood and the media usually spew out. It acknowledged that the war was not started over slavery and that the Confederates fought because they were invaded. (Most casual references to the War of Northern Aggression seem to paint a picture where the South goes to war because they don't want to free their slaves.) It is apparently one of a trilogy, so I will have to see if the other two movies have been made yet and, if so, order them from netflix.

This particular movie was centered around "Stonewall" Jackson. I'll admit, I had a girly moment and cried during the scene where he dies.

I also realized how abysmally ignorant I am on the subject. I'm familiar with the most famous names of people and places but really know very little of whom did what and when. I'm inspired to do some studying now.

Speaking of which, does anyone have any recommendations for non-revisionist history reading? Not just the War of Northern Aggression, but any history which is presented as truthfully as possible. I'd hate to waste my time with PC, biased crap.

Head-shaking moments....

My housemate and I entered a discussion today, sparked by the show Judging Amy, which my housemate unfortunately enjoys and therefore inflicts on me. The scene involved a custody hearing in which the ex-husband was requesting custody of the daughter because he could offer a stable environment and provide for her better than the mother.

I voiced my opinion that I thought more custody issues should be decided that way - based on which parent could best provide for the children, rather than automatically favoring the mother. (Except in the cases of very young children which are more dependant on their mother.) My housemate said that she thinks the mother should be given custody. This pretty much sums up her argument - mothers should be given custody of their children because they are better at expressing their emotional bond to their child.

Yep. Mothers deserve custody because they say "I love you" more often.

I like my housemate, but I sure hope she eventually escapes the indoctrination she received in public school. That's one of the silliest arguments I've ever been presented with.