Entertainment

Jesus Died On the Cross to Save Us From Game of Thrones

game of thrones

That’s what fundamentalist Christian pastor John Piper thinks. In a post titled 12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch Game of Thrones, Piper writes:

…The closer I get to death and meeting Jesus personally face to face, and giving an account for my life and for the careless words that I have spoken (Matthew 12:36), the more sure I am of my resolve never intentionally to look at a television show or a movie or a website or a magazine where I know I will see photos or films of nudity…So here are 12 questions to think about, or 12 reasons why I am committed to a radical abstention from anything I know is going to present me with nudity.

1. Am I Recrucifying Christ?

Christ died to purify his people. It is an absolute travesty of the cross to treat it as though Jesus died only to forgive us for the sin of watching nudity, and not to purify us for the power not to watch it.

He has blood-bought power in his cross. He died to make us pure. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.

2. Does It Express or Advance My Holiness?

In the Bible, from beginning to end, there is a radical call for holiness — holiness of mind and heart and life. “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Or 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Nudity in movies and photos is not holy and does not advance our holiness. It is unholy and impure.

3. When Will I Tear Out My Eye, If Not Now?

Jesus said everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away (Matthew 5:28–29). Seeing naked women — or seeing naked men — causes a man or woman to sin with their minds and their desires, and often with their bodies. If Jesus told us to guard our hearts by gouging out our eyes to prevent lust, how much more would he say: “Don’t watch it!”

4. Is It Not Satisfying to Think on What Is Honorable?

Life in Christ is not mainly the avoidance of evil, but mainly the passionate pursuit of good. Remember Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

My life is not a constrained life. It is a free life. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

5. Am I Longing to See God?

I want to see and know God as fully as possible in this life and the next. Watching nudity is a huge hindrance to that pursuit. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The defilement of the mind and heart by watching nudity dulls the heart’s ability to see and enjoy God. I dare anyone to watch nudity and turn straight to God and give him thanks and enjoy him more because of what you just experienced.

6. Do I Care About the Souls of the Nudes?

God calls women to adorn themselves in respectable apparel with modesty and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9). When we pursue or receive or embrace nudity in our entertainment, we are implicitly endorsing the sin of the women who sell themselves to this way and are, therefore, uncaring about their souls. They disobey 1 Timothy 2:9, and we say that’s okay.

7. Would I Be Glad If My Daughter Played This Role?

Most Christians are hypocrites in watching nudity because, on the one hand they say by their watching that this is okay, and on the other hand they know deep down they would not want their daughter or their wife or their girlfriend to be playing this role. That is hypocrisy.

8. Am I Assuming Nudity Can Be Faked?

Nudity is not like murder and violence on the screen. Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.

9. Am I Compromising the Beauty of Sex?

Sexual relations is a beautiful thing. God created it and pronounced it “good” (1 Timothy 4:3). But it is not a spectator sport. It is a holy joy that is sacred in its secure place of tender love. Men and women who want to be watched in their nudity are in the category with exhibitionists who pull down their pants at the top of escalators.

10. Am I Assuming Nudity Is Necessary for Good Art?

There is no great film or television series that needs nudity to add to its greatness. No. There isn’t. There are creative ways to be true to reality without turning sex into a spectator’s sport and without putting actors and actresses in morally compromised situations on the set.

It is not artistic integrity that is driving nudity on the screen. Underneath all of this is male sexual appetite driving this business, and following from that is peer pressure in the industry and the desire for ratings that sell. It is not art that puts nudity in film, it’s the appeal of prurience. It sells.

11. Am I Craving Acceptance?

Christians do not watch nudity with a view to maximizing holiness. That is not what keeps them coming back to the shows. They know deep down that these television shows or these movies are shot through with the commendation and exaltation of attitudes and actions that are utterly out of step with the death to self and out of step with exaltation of Christ.

No, what keeps those Christians coming back is the fear that if they take Christ at his word and make holiness as serious as I am saying it is, they would have to stop seeing so many television shows and so many movies, and they would be viewed as freakish. And that today is the worst evil of all. To be seen as freakish is a much greater evil than to be unholy.

12. Am I Free from Doubt?

There is one biblical guideline that makes life very simple: “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:32). My paraphrase: If you doubt, don’t. That would alter the viewing habits of millions, and oh how sweetly they would sleep with their conscience.

So I say it again. Join me in the pursuit of the kind of purity that sees God, and knows the fullness of joy in his presence and the everlasting pleasure at his right hand.

Is there nudity in Game of Thrones? Sure. Is it gratuitous at times? Sure. Should Christians watch Game of Thrones? That’s up to them. Polly and I love the show and think it is one of the best dramas on TV. While we think there is a double standard at HBO when it comes to nudity, (HBO has no problem showing female frontal nudity but rarely does so for men) this is not enough to keep us from watching it. We think tasteful nudity can add to a program. After all, sex and nudity are a part of the human experience.

Piper plays the classic fundamentalist card…death is coming for us and then the judgment. What will we tell Jesus about our binge watching Games of Thrones on HBO Go? Something tells me that many Christians aren’t listening to the John Pipers of the world.

Since I don’t think the Christian God exists, I have no worries about being judged for my TV viewing habits. I watch what I want to watch. I love some programs and hate others. I am glad that I no longer have to feign outrage when there is a nude scene. Polly, Change the channel! But, please change it s-l-o-w-l-y. Of all the problems facing the human race, Game of Thrones doesn’t even make the list.

Published: July 9, 2014 | Comments: 14

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Why Doesn’t the News Tell Us What We Need to Know?

I rarely watch the news. Because I am well read about current events, I know what the news channels should be talking about. Rarely does my list of important issues match the list of important issues at NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, FOX News, CNN, or MSNBC. (personally, I think Al-Jazeera English does a better job reporting the news than all of these channels combined)  The talking heads seem content to verbally masturbate over issues that have little importance. The following graphic illustrates this perfectly:

what we should know about

HT: Crooks and Liars

Published: July 1, 2014 | Comments: 4

Eight Short Questions Answered

question

A few weeks ago, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have not yet submitted yours, I encourage you to do so.

Lydia asked:

Do your kids read this blog? If so, what do they think of it?

One of my sons reads my blog religiously. He also reads the comments. The rest of my children and daughter-in-laws read it occasionally. From time to time, a blog post will result in a discussion. The rest of the time, nary a word is said.

I suspect one of the reasons for this is that they do not have the same passions as I have. They are young, focused on raising families, working, etc. Perhaps what I write about doesn’t interest them or they still fear engaging me in a discussion.

Zoe asked:

How’s Polly?

I’d like to know your top five favourite flowers.

Polly is fine. Now there’s a Dad answer, one of my kids is sure to say. Fine is the answer for every question. Polly recently celebrated 15 years at her place of employment. She locked her keys, purse, and cell phone in a company van last week and had to have AAA come and unlock the van. This is what passes for excitement at our house. In 14 days, Polly will celebrate 36 years of being married the most wonderful man in the world. :)

My five favorite flowers are: carnations, roses, wild flowers of all varieties, tulips, daffodils.

Steve asked:

Why is my brother a mean, petty, condescending, arrogant, self-righteous Christian asshole, bent on my destruction & misery?

Since I know a bit about your family and background, I would say that it is the family religion that has helped to make your brother what he is. Fundamentalism and its demand for certainty and conformity breeds arrogance. It turns people unto your brother. Changing him will require a loss of religion. You changed, as did I and countless other fundamentalists. It is possible for your brother to change,  but it will require the violent ripping away of all he holds dear.

Lynn asked:

What percentage of preachers realize it’s all hogwash somewhere along the way?

I don’t know. The preacher fraternity is tight-lipped about doubt and unbelief, especially among those who are Evangelical/fundamentalist. We never hear about their doubts or unbelief until they deconvert and publicly tell their story.

I correspond with several preachers that are still pastoring but no longer believe. I had lunch with one such man a few weeks ago. These unbelieving preachers want to be free from religion and the church but family and economic concerns keep them from declaring their godlessness. The Christian church does not deal with infidels or apostates kindly. A confession of unbelief could destroy a preacher’s life, so I readily understand why they maneuver behind the scenes to get their house in order before confessing unbelief.

BrBr2424 asked:

I would like to know how many rank and file Christians think it is hogwash, and who are just going along to get along. I wonder if there is a tell.

Like the question above, I am not sure there is any way to know for sure. I think the majority of people are Christian because of the social benefits gained by being part of a church. I also think the forgiveness of sin and the promise of life after death and heaven plays a big part in people becoming a Christian.

That said, most Americans are cultural Christians that pay little attention to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. Do they believe the Bible is divine truth? The polls say a majority of Americans think the Bible is divine truth. But, it is also clear that most Christians don’t take seriously the teaching of the Bible. This is easily proved by watching how they live.

I think the real believer is one who takes seriously the teachings of the Bible and patterns their life accordingly. Such Christians are a small minority in a sea of nominal, cultural Christians.

Texas Born & Bred asked:

So when is Pete Rose getting into the baseball hall of fame?

Not soon enough. Pete Rose should have been voted into the Hall of Fame 20 years ago. What Pete Rose did was wrong, but  I think the Hall of Fame should be about performance on the field and not how the player lived off the field.  This is why I think people like Mark McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame. Let’s admit that many players used performance enhancing drugs during the steroid era. Pitchers and hitters alike were juicing and this affected the stats throughout Major League baseball. Guys like Roger Clemens, McGwire, and Barry Bonds had Hall of Fame careers before and after taking performance enhancing drugs. Their stats are sufficient to warrant them being in the Hall of Fame.

Carol asked:

If you could pick one musician/band to come to your place and personally sing/play for you, who would it be?

Matt Nathanson. A close second and third would be Sugarland and Alison Krauss and Union Station.

Kat asked:

Are you surprised that Alfredo Simon (pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds) is the first 10 game winner in the league? And how many games do you think he will win this season, before his arm falls off?

Yes, very surprised. We claimed him off the pitcher junk pile and he has been nothing but brilliant. I do wonder if he can pitch 200+ innings since he has never done so before. The most innings he pitched was 115 in 2011 when he was with the Baltimore Orioles.

I predict he will win 18 games.

Published: July 1, 2014 | Comments: 2

My Top Ten List of Video Games

commander keen

I am not much of a video game player. In fact, I am not much of a game player at all. The competitive, win-at-all-costs side of me, is not very pretty to see, so I tend to avoid playing games. I can’t just play to be playing. Dammit, I play to win, and whether it is Uno, Monopoly, or checkers, I have every intention of obliterating my opponents. This is why  it is so humbling when Bethany, my daughter with Down Syndrome, who does not understand one bit of UNO strategy, beats her strategizing, card-watching father. She just throws whatever card she wants, and more than a few times she has won the game, much to the dismay of all the adults at the table.

I tend to be the same way with video games. If I am going to play a video game then I want to WIN! Unlike my children, I am not very good at playing video games, so I rarely win. They laugh at my lack of hand-eye coordination, but I remind them that there was a day when I could hit a fastball and sink a 3 point shot with ease. (yes, dear children, I can see you rolling your eyes right now. Unlike God, I am e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.)

So, I have never been a very good video game player. I try, lose, and quit trying until I forget losing and then I try again. It is quite a self-defeating process than I am sure many people my age and older can relate to.

jungle pinball

I have been a computer user since 1992. Over the past 22 years, I have developed a short list of games I love. Here’s my Top Ten List of Video Games:

  1. Jungle Pinball (Starring Timon and Pumbaa)
  2. Cactus Bruce and the Corporate Monkeys
  3. Tetris
  4. Commander Keen (all episodes except Aliens Ate My Babysitter and Keen Dreams)
  5. Duke Nukem  (Not 3D)
  6. Lemmings
  7. Jazz Jackrabbit
  8. Wacky Wheels
  9. Mario Kart (Super Nintendo, played with emulator on PC)
  10. Motocross Madness

Just outside my Top Ten list are The Lost Vikings, Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure, and NASCAR Racing (first two versions)

As you can see, the games I love tend to be old arcade style games. While I have tried my hand at newer games like Need for Speed, I find them to complicated and frustrating. Give me Tetris any time.

cactus bruce

How about you? Are you a gamer? If you are an oldster like me, do you play video games? Do you wish they would update some of the old video games we used to play?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Published: March 28, 2014 | Comments: 15

My Love Affair with Music: Bruce’s Top 60 Music Groups

i love music

I love music. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t listen to some sort of music. Being the geek that I am, in the living room I have a bad ass AV receiver, complete with big speakers and a sub woofer. I use an Apple AirPort Express to wirelessly stream music to the AV receiver.  In the office I have a set of AudioEngine A2 powered speakers hooked up to my desktop computer and in the bedroom I have an Apple AirPort Express hooked up to a set of AudioEngine A5 powered speakers and a sub woofer.

I use Airfoil on the desktop computer to stream the same music to the office, bedroom, and living room. I also use my iPad Air (thanks Sis for the Christmas gift) to stream music to the Apple AirPort Express in either the bedroom or the living room. I also have a set of inexpensive powered speakers I use out in the shop when I am working. I can also listen to music on my iPad air with a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Rdio is the primary music streaming service I use. I have a paid account. The one feature I love is that I can download music to my iPad Air and Polly can download music to her iPad or iPod. This way we can still listen to music even if we don’t have internet access. For 9.99 a month, Rdio gives me access to millions of songs and allows me to also play artist stations similar to what Pandora offers. I also use Spotify, iTunes Radio, and iHeart Radio. Needless to say, I haven’t popped a CD into a CD player in years.

What music I listen to depends on my mood. I am quite eclectic when it comes to music, so what I listen to can vary dramatically throughout the day. Here’s my favorite bands/musicians:

When I am feeling old, I listen to classic rock music:

  1. Journey
  2. Foreigner
  3. Rod Stewart
  4. U2
  5. Aerosmith
  6. Queen

When I am feeling old  and sentimental, I listen to:

  1. The Carpenters
  2. Simon and Garfunkel
  3. Captain and Tenille
  4. Ann Murray
  5. Over the Rhine

When I am in a pop/rock music mood, I listen to:

  1. Staind
  2. Matt Nathanson
  3. Shinedown
  4. Breaking Benjamin
  5. Collective Soul
  6. Seether
  7. Theory of a Deadman
  8. Better Than Ezra
  9. Toad the Wet Sprocket
  10. Third Eye Blind
  11. Linkin Park
  12. Paramore
  13. Matchbox 20
  14. Hinder
  15. Live
  16. Hoobastank
  17. Lifehouse
  18. James Blunt
  19. Natasha Bedingfield
  20. Kelly Clarkson
  21. 3 Doors Down
  22. Dido
  23. Three Days Grace
  24. Christina Perri
  25. Green Day
  26. Cage the Elephant
  27. Goo Goo Dolls
  28. Puddle of Mudd
  29. Sick Puppies
  30. Adele
  31. Ellie Goulding
  32. Avril Lavigne
  33. Sheryl Crow
  34. Alanis Morrisette
  35. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

When I am in a folk/country mood, I listen to:

  1. Alison Krauss
  2. Eliza Gilkyson
  3. Kenny Chesney
  4. Darius Rucker
  5. Dirks Bentley
  6. Sugarland
  7. Dixie Chicks
  8. Florida Georgia Line
  9. Love and Theft
  10. Lady Antebellum
  11. Keith Urban
  12. The Band Perry
  13. Drive By Truckers

From time to time, I also listen to Southern Gospel music. The Bishops are the runaway favorite in this category.

Music wise, my favorite day of the week is Tuesday. On Tuesday new albums are released, so I go to the new music tab in Rdio and check out who has released a new album. Every week I find a couple of artists I have never heard of and they get added to Bruce’s latest greatest music groups list.

I fall in and out of love with certain groups and artists or I might love one of their albums but not the others. My music love and hate changes like my mood does. I am a finicky connoisseur of music and my tastes continue to change as I get older. (and the volume continues to get turned higher as I age)

How about you? Are you a music lover? Do you have eclectic tastes or do you tend to listen to a specific genre of music? Please share your thoughts about music in the comment section.

Published: March 21, 2014 | Comments: 35

The Unrealistic World of TV Programming

ryan and esposito

Last night, my oldest daughter and I watched a DVR recording of the ABC show Castle.  The show, episode 611, details Castle and Beckett’s search for a serial arsonist they think committed a murder. Two other detectives, Ryan and Esposito:

…check out a building that was part of McCann’s (the suspected serial arsonists files. They find a work area that suggests this place is the arsonist’s workshop. The detectives set off a booby trap that causes a massive explosion.

This massive explosion causes Ryan and Esposito to fall 20 feet into the building’s basement. They land on a cement floor and a huge steel beam falls on Ryan’s legs.  Esposito, using another steel beam and a pipe, finally frees Ryan’s legs, but the fire is sucking the oxygen out of the air and Ryan and Esposito pass out due to inhaling carbon monoxide.

But never fear, this is an American TV drama, and at the last moment:

 …the interior wall is broken down by a fire rescue team. Moments later, Ryan and Esposito emerge from the building. Both are alive..

In real life, Esposito and Ryan die in the blast, are severely injured/crippled from their fall, or die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Yes, people do survive falling 20 feet and hitting a cement floor, but the odds of that are small. Even more unlikely is Ryan having a steel beam free fall 20 feet on to his legs and him being able to walk away without any serious injury to his legs.  It is far more likely that his legs would be turned into mush or severely broken in multiple places. And Esposito’s herculean ability to move the steel beam? Not likely.

Due to the health problems I have I watch a lot of TV. On the many long, sleepless, painful nights, I am grateful droning sound and colored pixels of the TV. When the pain medications are under performing, the TV is a welcome distraction from the pain. So, I am not anti-TV, but I do find it amusing, and at times troubling, how unrealistic TV programs are. Even the best of them tend to present a distorted view of reality. (I am speaking primarily of true-to-life dramas)

In the TV version of reality, only bad people die, married people don’t have sex with their spouse, and everyone has sex standing up with the woman pinned against the wall. The man has an instant erection (and a John Holmes sized penis), the woman is able to quickly have an orgasm, and this is all done in five minutes or less. Just like sex in the real world, right?

Rarely is gun violence presented as it really is. The American love and obsession with firearms is on display in almost every show. What do we see? Guns that never run out of ammunition, cars sprayed with automatic weapons and no one dies, and policemen who are terrible shots.

I have no problem with TV being a mental diversion. Life can be hard, and trouble, pain, suffering, and death are never far from us. So the mental diversion TV provides can be appreciated by all of us. But, when it comes to our children, we need to make sure they KNOW that what happens on the TV (and movie) screen is NOT an accurate depiction of how life really is. Even adults need to be reminded that reality TV is anything but.

My youngest daughter is one of those “in the moment” TV watchers. She doesn’t care if the program accurately portrays reality. For her,  watching TV is an emotional experience and this is why she hates watching TV with me. I tend to pay attention to details and plot lines, things like, hey it is daylight but the actor’s watch says its 11:00 P.M. On more than one occasion, as I point out these inconsistencies, my youngest daughter will, with what I call her irritated voice, say, Dad can’t  you just WATCH the TV? Of course she already knows the answer to her question.

How about you? What kind of TV watcher are you?

Published: March 11, 2014 | Comments: 23