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Back in December I did a post on my favorite movies of 2007. If you remember, Once made my top 3 list. So, I was glad to see that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won an oscar Sunday night for best original song – “Falling Slowly.” Below is the pair performining the song live at the Oscars as well as in the scene from the movie.

Two consecutive weeks with a shocking ending. Wow, there really haven’t been any duds so far this season. Did you see it coming? During the scene when Claire asks Kate to hold Aaron I almost wondered out loud if Kate’s baby could be Aaron. The big question obviously has to do with why Kate is raising Aaron post-island. Does something happen to Claire leading Kate to heroically “adopt” Aaron as her own? Does Kate kidnap Aaron knowing it might be her only opportunity to save face and avoid significant jail time once she is rescued (unlikely)? Don’t forget the episode from season one, “Raised by Another.” In that episode the psychic adamently insists that Claire must raise her baby. He tells her that under no circumstances should Aaron be raised by someone else. I have a feeling Aaron will become more central to the storyline as we move forward. Why doesn’t Jack want to see Aaron? Maybe it’s because Claire dies, and in typical Jack fashion, he blames himself and can’t bear to be reminded of it by seeing Aaron’s face. Or maybe it’s just too awkward for him considering that he is Aaron’s half uncle (yeah, remember that!) and now the woman he loves is Aaron’s mother.

Did you pick up on the fact that Jack lied about the details of the crash, particulary regarding who survived, when he testified in Kate’s trial? He claimed there were eight survivors. What’s the deal with that? My guess is that there’s been some agreement made among the members of the Oceanic 6, or between the Oceanic 6 and Dharma, or the Oceanic 6 and Ben, or the Oceanic 6 and and the airline to hide the truth surrounding the crash. Could it be that the Oceanic 6 don’t want the public to know that there were other survivors because they are trying to protect those survivors still on the island? Maybe when Abbadon (the guy who visited Hurley in the mental hospital and who commissioned Naomi’s team) asked Hurley if they “are still alive” he was inferring that he believed there were other survivors who are still on the island. Maybe those are the friends Sayid is protecting by working for Ben.

Locke is is growing more bold, which is kind of scary. What has happend to Sayid, Desmond, the pilot, and the helicopter? Based on previews for next week’s episode, Desmond appears to be flying the helicopter holding out a picture of Penny. Does he believe Penny is on some boat out there? It seems that some tension develops between Sayid and Desmond as well. What do you think they’re doing on the helicopter? I guess we’ll find out in a few days…

The conversation continues…

Keller begins by describing the divide between liberalism and conservatism. It’s most evident, he stresses, when conversation turns to religion. Liberals fear that conservatives are gaining power in their attempt to impose a Christian ideology on the culture, while conservatives insist that society is growing increasingly relativistic due to the secularism endorsed by liberals. Each side is threatened by the growth and influence of the other. So, which is it? Is skepticism or faith on the rise? Keller’s answer is Yes! He argues that the world is getting both more religious and less religious at the same time. Skepticism toward traditional religion is growing in power and influence. On the other hand, a vibrant, orthodox belief in the traditional faiths is also growing. Because both faith and doubt are on the rise, the world is polarizing over religion. With this being the cultural situation, Keller argues that we have reached an “impasse between the strengthening forces of doubt and belief.” Therefore, we must move beyond the demonizing that takes place and move instead towards respectful dialogue. This won’t happen, however, by simply calling for more civility in our dialogue. There is an absence of commonly held reference points for the two sides to agree on, making meaningful conversation practically impossible. Dismissive gestures towards members of the other side will get us nowhere – the culture wars are taking a toll.

Keller’s proposal is for each side to look at doubt in a new way. He challenges believers to acknowledge and wrestle with their own doubts. People who go through life without asking hard questions about what they believe make themselves vulnerable when faced with tragedy or difficult questions. He also urges believers to carefully listen to the doubts of others. Such a commitment will enable you to respect and understand what others believe, but also strengthen your own beliefs. Keller calls skeptics to do the same. This leads to the basic thesis of the book: “All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs.” Every doubt or belief is based on faith in something that cannot be proven. Therefore, the only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to identify the alternate belief under your doubts and to consider your reasons for holding that belief. In other words, “you must doubt your own doubts.” He believes this process will lead to more respectful dialogue characterized by understanding and sympathy for those on the other side.

In the intro Keller also explains how in his early experience as a Christian he found himself confronted with two incomplete camps. The first camp included people who were passionate about social justice but who were moral relativists. The second camp consisted of those who were “morally upright” but didn’t seem to care about oppression in the world. He found neither of these personally satisfying and “desperately needed to find a ‘third camp,’ a group of Christians who had a concern for justice in the world but who grounded it in the nature of God rather than in their own subjective feelings.” He goes on to add that he see’s this third camp emerging and growing, especially among younger Christians today.

I found Keller’s introduction helpful. Based on my own experience, I agree with the assessment that both religious belief and skepticism are growing. The rise of the New Atheism and the emergence of books promoting it’s views proves that there is a growing, active, and even militant category of people who are not only disinterested in religion, but who believe religion is harmful to society. In addition, there is an increasing number of people who are skeptical and even cynical of Christianity because of the hypocritical spirituality they see practiced in the Church. On the other hand, Islam is growing exponentially in Europe, while Christianity is modestly growing in the West, but exploding in places like Africa, Latin America, and Asia. I also see this reflected in my own experience as I interact with people. I encounter individuals who are hostile to Christianity and religion, but also people who are very open to faith.

I’m also encouraged by Keller’s talk of a “third camp.” I frequently interact with young adults – believers and non-believers alike – who are totally put off and disinterested in the current state of political affairs. The choice between conservatism and liberalism seems superficial. Particularly among younger Christians, there is a rejection that followers of Christ must be one or the other. For example, why should a Christian have to decide between an emphasis on morality and social justice? Isn’t social justice a moral category in the first place? I believe it’s dangerous to associate Christianity with one particular party. We usually end up imposing our outside values and agendas on the Christian faith when we do so.

Finally, Keller’s emphasis that all doubts are really a set of alternate beliefs is one of the most important contributions of this book. We must all see that our starting point in making sense of life’s most important questions is some kind of faith assumption. We bring our pre-assumptions to the table, and these color the way we interpret evidence and answer questions about God, human life, the world, etc. We need to be honest about this. We are all religious in that we live by some kind of faith assumption.

The conversation continues…

What at first appeared like a straightforward episode, now contains so much depth as I reflect on it. What a twist at the end, huh? I didn’t see that one coming. I wonder what the sequence of events are that lead Sayid to eventually work as a hitman for Ben. What do you think Ben means when he reminds Sayid that he’s working for him to protect his (Sayid’s) friends? Are those friends the other members of the Oceanic 6? What do you make of Sayid discovering that hidden room in Ben’s house? Obviously, that whole scene has something to contribute to what’s going on with Ben and Sayid post-island. Supposedly, the face on the cash found by Sayid in that secret room is that of Michael Faraday, the 19th Century English Chemist I mentioned in last week’s post. Daniel Farady, the crazy scientist guy on the island is meant to allude to him. What are we to make of Ben’s collection of passports? Who exactly is this Ben guy anyway? We’ve been asking that one for a while now, haven’t we?

My theory that there is some quirky time issue going on with the island was strenghtend by what happened with the rocket. The island appears to be 31 minutes behind the frieghter, the place from where the rocket was launched. What is that all about? It clearly intrigues Daniel Faraday. Speaking of time and chronology, do you think it’s possible that the flash forward scene where Sayid shoots his golf partner actually occurs after the closing scene with Ben and Sayid? The reason I wonder this is because at the end Sayid says to Ben that the people on the “hit” list will now know who he is after the incident with Elsa. Think back now to that first flash forward scene. Once Avellino, Sayid’s golf partner, discovers that Sayid is one of the Oceanic 6 he gets really nervous and suddenly wants nothing to do with Sayid. As Avellino prepares to leave, Sayid shoots him dead. Why did Avellino respond to Sayid this way? Is it possible that this scene actually follows the final scene in time chronology? I get the feeling that time chronology is being messed with all over the place on this show. Remember Desmond’s premonitions from last season and what that did with time sequencing and events? There’s something going on here.

Character development is really intriguing this season. Locke is making me angry, and Hurley surprised me with his deception. At one time Sawyer was willing to do whatever it took to get off the island, but now seems content with staying. I’m very interested to see where these characters end up. They seem to be constantly evolving as the circumstances intensify.

It appears production for LOST will begin again on March 10th. The plan is that once we finish the eight episodes already prepared, there will be a one month break or so before the season resumes. Actually, they might only show seven of the eight episodes now (which would mean four more) and save the 8th episode for when the show returns in late April. Apparently, the 7th episode makes for a more logical break. This all means that we will get four more episodes, a month break, and then six final episodes starting sometime in late April to complete the season. Yes, this only adds up to thirteen episodes. This season will be cut by three episodes, although the producer’s insist these will be made up down the road in a future season. When LOST resumes in late April after the month break, the show will slide into the 10pm slot instead of the current 9pm slot. Also, I hear that season five could potentially begin in fall of this year instead of February of next. Well, that’s enough on LOST for now…

The conversation continues…

I’ve anticipated this book for a long time. My copy came in the mail yesterday and I can’t wait to jump in and start reading. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, is sympathetic towards doubt and skepticism, having pastored in secular Manhattan for almost twenty years now. The way Keller communicates Christianity has significantly influenced my own thinking and philosophy of ministry. Much of what he’s written up to this point has been in the form of essays and unpublished papers so I’m really excited that some of his thoughts have now been compiled into a book. The book is written for those who are skeptical of Christianity as well as for believers who could use help in commending their faith to those around them. If you’re interested, Keller will be speaking on the content of the book at the University of Penn on March 11th. I’m planning to go, so let me know if you want to come along. Also, check out the website for the book. It contains a video of Keller explaining his rationale for writing as well as other helpful resources such as a discussion guide.

Here’s an overview of the book:

Section 1: The Leap of Doubt
In this section Keller looks at seven of the most common objections to Christianity and highlights the alternate beliefs underlying these doubts.

1. There can’t be just one true religion
2. A good God could not allow suffering
3. Christianity is a straightjacket
4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
5. A loving God would not send people to hell
6. Science has disproved Christianity
7. You can’t take the Bible literally

Section 2: The Reasons for Faith
In this second section Keller commends Christianity by offering seven reasons to believe the claims of Christianity.

1. The clues of God
2. The knowledge of God
3. The problem of sin
4. Religion and the gospel
5. The (true) story of the cross
6. The reality of the resurrection
7. The Dance of God

I strongly recommend that you check this book out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

The conversation continues…

This show keeps getting crazier, doesn’t it? We had four new characters introduced. Did anyone catch the reference to C.S. Lewis? I must give credit to my wife for this one! Charolotte is revealed by Ben as Charlotte Staples Lewis. Teasing out the reference some makes me wonder if she’s been to the island before…In C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian (coming to the big screen in May) the children return to Narnia via a mysterious island. Upon returning, they play in water just as Charlotte is found doing by Locke and those with him. Has she been to the island previously? Is this why she’s so surprised the Claire gave birth on the island? What’s the deal with the polar bear skeleton Charlotte discovers in a flashback in Tunisia? And why does it have a Hydra Station collar on it? At the end of the episode we find that Ben knows everything about her. We also learn that he has a man on her freighter. Who do you think it is? Could it be Michael? From what I read, we should expect more C.S. Lewis references in the future. And you thought I loved this show now?

The other three newly introduced characters raise all kinds of questions as well. Why is Daniel Faraday, the physicist, crying at the beginning of the episdoe when he sees the underwater wreckage of 815? What is that wreckage? Is it really 815? Was there some kind of cover-up? Or is there something else funny going on? Did you know that Faraday is also the last name of a 19th century English chemist and physicist who studied electromagnetism? Didn’t think so. Apparently, he is known for the Faraday effect, which has to do with the interaction of light and magnetism, and specifically with the breaking of time reversal symmetry. I have no idea what that means, but time reversal seems like an interesting concept considering what’s going on with LOST. I’m starting to think that the island exists outside of time or something. This would explain why Richard (remember him?) doesn’t seem to age. There’s definitely some wierd time dynamic that is central to the storyline of the show. It seems that the past, present, and future are somehow indistinguishable? Maybe they’re all colliding on the island. What do you think?

Miles Straume is a ghostbuster or something. And Frank Lapidus is a pilot who was supposed to the pilot of Oceanic 815. I wonder why he didn’t pilot that flight. He insists that the wreckage shown of 815 on TV is not that of the real 815. Again, what are we to make of this? Were there two separate crashes? Was there a cover-up? Or are we dealing with some kind of parallel universe thing where the plane crashed in one universe, but not in another.

So we learn that this team of four was commissioned by Michael Abaddon, the supposed attorney who visited Hurley. Man, that guy’s creepy isn’t he? Why did he want these four to go along with Naomi? Why do they want Ben? Does Abaddon work for Dharma? I really thought we were going to find out about the monster when Locke asked Ben point blank about it. I should have known better though. By the way, the writer’s strike is over. We should get some info in the next week as to what this means for the rest of the season.

The conversation continues…

For those of you in the Wilmington/Newark area, join us this Saturday evening for a discussion of the film Rent. We will start the movie at approximately 7:15 PM and have a time of discussion afterwards. We’ll be meeting at the home of some friends of mine in Newark. Email me if you’re interested and I’ll get you directions. Our rationale behind doing film discussions is to look deeply into the movies that impact us and investigate both the statements they make and the influences that make them effective (content and style).

The conversation continues…

What a great episode to kick-off the new season and set the stage for what is to come! As usual, more questions were raised than answered, but that’s the genius of LOST isn’t it?So, who are the Oceanic 6? We know who 3 of them are – Jack, Kate, and Hurley. But what about the other 3? I’m thinking that maybe it was Michael in the coffin from last season’s finale because the funeral home was in a predominately african-american neighborhood. Also, Kate would have good reason not to attend the funeral in light of what Michael did. What do you think?

My friend Brad Almond pointed out to me that it was Jack’s father, Christian Shepherd in the rocking chair inside the cabin where Jacob was sitting last season (screen cap above). Whose eye does Hurley look into? Is it Locke’s? Jacob’s? Could it be that Jacob was no longer there because Locke “helped” him by setting him free? I love how the writer’s include these “secret” nuggets in each episode.

Who was the man that visited Hurley claiming to be an attorney representing Oceanic? Was he real? I believe he was. Why does he want to know if they are still alive? Who are they? What’s the deal with Charlie appearing to Hurley, and why did Hurley’s friend also see him at the mental institute? Can Jacob (or whoever/whatever it is) now appear outside the island since Locke set him free?

Did you notice that Thursday’s flash forwards came before those of season 3’s finale because in the episode the other night Jack mentioned to Hurley that he was thinking about growing a beard? The contrast between post-island Jack from last season’s finale compared to Thursday’s premiere was very intriguing. In the finale Jack was pleading with Kate that they needed to go back to the island, but Kate refused. In the premiere Hurley insists that they need to go back but Jack refuses. What do you think happens in between that causes Jack to change his mind and want to go back?

Finally, who exactly are the freighter people and what are they coming for? Look’s like we might find out next week. Do you have any theories before then? It’s a good feeling to have LOST back isn’t it? I can’t believe we might only get 7 more episdoes though because of this ongoing writer’s strike. That would be devestating. Anyway, let me know what you thought of the season premiere…

The conversation continues

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