The Manifesto

In list form.

  1. The battle is now cultural.
  2. It is not political. Attempting to use politics to put forth a weak form of Christianity is a total failure.
  3. It is not spiritual, in the sense that we need to get on our knees and pray hours per day. We are over-watered by prayer. 
  4. It is not negative. We do no one any favors by telling people not to be gay. 
  5. In fact, Christianity has become a “not” religion, not offering things but instead prohibiting them.
  6. This should not be.
  7. The solution is to be both positive and creative.
  8. Positive, in that the benefits and aspects of being a Christian are shown.
  9. Creative in that Christians make art.
  10. No more endless criticism and fawning over why Harry Potter is secretly Jesus.
  11. No more “art as another means to say no.”
  12. No more of these three things: abortion, homosexuality, persecution complexes. 
  13. Art as a way to say yes. Why are you a Christian? What does it mean?
  14. Art must be made. If you cannot make, you support and sponsor.
  15. To make art, you must be intimately involved with it. 
  16. You cannot run into your little homeschool prisons, only read your Tolkien and your Lewis, and create things from a cramped mind.
  17. You must read widely and live wildly. Drink deep of art, and also Christianity. You must face the size and shape of the world.
  18. If you sponsor and support, it should be of love for the thing itself. Support or be a patron for the art you love and want to see more of, not for the message you want to send.
  19. Realize you will have to do this in spite of other Christians.
  20. The Christian cultural gatekeepers are corrupt and word-seeking. They care about secular admiration and money. This is why Christian fiction has become bland Amish romances for grandmothers, and why Christian intellectuals have been absolutely useless.
  21. You will die for you art on unknown hills. Both Christians and nonbelievers will oppose you.
  22. But in the end it must be done.
  23. Why? NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER DO IT.
  24. In the end, it’s just us. Now go out and do it.

2015 in Review

I’m not much today for long-wided introductions. This past year I found four things that affected me or changed my outlook.

1. The realization that Christians don’t want Christian art or culture.

Probably the hardest blow. Christians simply don’t care about seeing their faith in expressed in art at any significant level. They’d rather find hidden or crypto-Christian meanings in secular culture. If its popular, suddenly Jesus can be found in it, or more accurately He can be tortured out of it.

Most of the activity around Christian culture is due to the artists, who are in a dilemma. A Christian artist is both Christian and artist, and it’s hard to compartmentalize the two aspects of themselves. Art is done for art’s sake, but also the Christian wants to serve God in some way too by doing it. It’s not like building a table or painting a house: we can’t just divorce Christianity from it except in the basic ways anyone does a work.

However, now that the Christian culture seems not to care or want them, they are in a huge pickle. It’s either be faithful to the faith and write books no one reads, or shrug, and try and insert crypto-Christianity into essentially secular books. Or give up entirely. Not a good thing at all.

2. The beating up of outcasts.

I know, no one likes Mark Driscoll. But watching him get POUNDED on despite actually having no wrongdoing apart from a bad management style, a brash persona, and bad theology chilled me. This wasn’t like say Jim Bakker or Robert Tilton, who made a mockery of the faith by massive, overt charlatanism. It all boiled down to a people simply not liking him.

The thing is though, Christianity has always been a refuge for the outcasts. But I start to see now that the outcasts are turning on each other.

Like prosperity theology. I know it has issues that need to be addressed. But among certain subsets of Christians, apparently it’s SUCH a demon that it needs to be mocked and anathema. You have tiers of people now, and prosperity gospel Christians or charismatics get consigned to the lower strata. Not argued, or debated, or worried over things-it’s literal in/outgroup signalling.

That’s really dangerous in a faith which is supposed to be for the weakest or the most shunned in our world. Because anyone could be a Driscoll if enough people dislike them. If they see that yeah, even Christianity has its cool kids and its losers, well…

3. Mental illness

Having to realize I suffer from panic attacks and mild depression was also a pain. The idea of mental illness, or probably more accurately genetic determinism, is going to be a big problem for the church.

Christianity as we know it tends to assume that all people are more or less rational actors. Yes, original sin, but generally the idea is that we can be moral or follow His commands once we’ve accepted the faith. However, the idea that we might be affected by our brain chemistry really throws a wrench in this.

Like being able to love one another changes dramatically when you are up and loving or manic one day, down or depressed and antisocial the next. Or fearing not isn’t something you can now trust God for, it’s a part of your brain that just fires up at random, often having nothing to do with events. The problem the church has with homosexuality is similar: if its a genetic or determined condition, it’s a lot different from a person’s moral choice. It would be like sinning if you had a broken leg, a point made pretty devastatingly in parody in the book Erewhon by Samuel Butler.

I don’t know what will happen. This is probably something bigger than most people think.

4. Hollowing out.

The new Star Wars movie sucks.

Why?

The old Star Wars movie was something new out of old. Lucas weaved together disparate things like old serials, samurai movies, and more in order to make something startlingly fresh and original at the time. Time has dulled us to how revolutionary what he did was: go watch most 60’s SF movies and notice how clunky and campy they are.

But the new Star Wars? It does nothing but cannibalize on itself. it exists not because it was new or someone’s vision, but solely because Star Wars needs more Star Wars. It’s a zombie, continuing to lurch under its own power, and Star Wars as a cultural artifact was tired and stale about the time the Clone Wars hit.

The world is like this now. Nothing new, or creative. Just repackaged stuff done by committee. The Avengers? Let’s take everything out of them and make them a bland shell of their Ultimates self. let’s strip comics of their social commentary, even mild ones, and horror. Just explosions and fights every five minutes because that is what sells in China.

It feels like we are in a tired time. There’s nothing new or startling out. Our culture is safe and bland, because the rich people who rule us happen to want safe and bland at the moment.

***

As you can tell, it’s been a disillusioning year. More on what I think about the future in a second post.


I’m Not Dead, Yet

…just don’t have much to say.

Let’s see…

Animator Mike Inel did an incredible fan animation about the series “The Amazing World of Gumball.” He rendered the entire thing anime style, below:

It looks ten times better than the actual series. There’s a comparison between the two that will show up in recommended videos, and it’s like night and day. The commercial break especially is hilarious. I find myself singing “The anni-hi-latOR!”at random times. He also does more snippets from it, as well as from Gravity Falls.

I’m also watching anime again. The Asterisk War is catching my eye. It’s essentially standard harem anime done right. Not reinventing the wheel, but smart about it and mildly challenging some tropes. It has a particularly amazing ending song called “Waiting for the Rain,” by Maaya Sakamoto. I haven’t tried much else this season, but am slowly catching up on series I’ve missed.

One anime that deserves a second look is Cat Planet Cuties. I got around to re-watching it, and wow, there’s Christian symbolism in spades in it. I’ll probably do a post on it, because it’s so unexpected. The series wound up being a lot different and a lot more intelligent than I thought.

Little Hero Academia just released a manga in the States, and it looks to be in the vein of Assasination Classroom. Very feel-good and uplifting. A young boy longs to be a hero in a world of superheroes, but he possesses no power-no quirk. Until he meets up with one of the world’s top heroes, who lets on that his quirk can actually be passed on. And now the young boy is chosen to receive that power, but all the training…

The only downside is the exaggerated art style. It’s a good series though, with strong potential. Lot of times you need a positive story to keep you going.

The Chicago Film Archive has a lot of old films, but is especially wonderful because it has a ton of classic, black and white wrestling matches. Superstars like Verne Gagne, Killer Kowaski, and Antonio Rocca are present. You can waste a lot of time reliving the past there. Days where wrestling matches took longer than five minutes, and Jim McMahon was nowhere to be found.

Jason Wert on loneliness as a single, middle-aged Christian. It’s all true. All of it. The invisibility thing is real.

Steve Taylor has a Kickstarter, apparently.

Other than that, I keep going on.


Peak Caring

Somewhere, someone is getting an abortion.

However, this particular abortion will have an endearing quirk about it that will guarantee coverage across the world. Perhaps it’s the daughter of a minor league ball player. Perhaps it’s a woman with one arm. Maybe it’s the owner of a famous internet animal. 

Here’s what will happen next.

Immediately Christians will flood social media feeds condemning said abortion. Then the Christian Christians will condemn the condemners. Some one will write an impassioned article at First Things at how this shows the decline of natural law. Their commenters will suggest it would all go away if more churches had mass in Latin. Rod Dreher would go apeshit. Rachel Held Evans would immediately go and accept polyamory as God-ordained. And so on. 

And in one month they all forget it ever happened.

Why? Because it’s easy to get people to do nothing at all the constantly forcing problems on them they can’t change. 

The solution? Peak caring.

I don’t CARE celebrity x has an abortion. Episcopal church has gays in it? Don’t care. Somewhere, someone is mad at Jesus? Tough luck, take it up with him. I have reached peak caring. 

It’s not a bad place to be. 

The only downside is that if you actually care about the issue as opposed to be a squirrel about it, you’ll realize its impossible to create lasting change. Abortion will never end in the USA, any more than premarital sex will. There’s some serious  existential despair over that. But beyond a certain point, the energy you get back from ignoring things is a positive thing. Something is to be said for tending your own gardens.


Nanowrimo 2015

So, the latest project.

Middle-grade/YA novel. Superhero genre. Title: My Sister is a Supervillain.

Premise: Merri is a young girl studying in Neo-Osaka. She’s part of the prestigious private school Gentle Academy, mostly due to her mother’s status. It’s not a bad life, except for a few problems.

An alien artifact named the Ruin has been uncovered. It activated, and suddenly half of the world’s population has superpowers. Including Merri’s twin sister. 

Neo-Osaka happens to be home to two dueling super teams, the Legion and the Core. The Legion are the good supers, who run and protect the city. The Core fight them.

Guess which side Merri’s sister is on?

There’s more, of course. Merri might be hiding a secret of her own. And there’s that powerful Trio of classmates, one of whom might be a little interested in the suspiciously average Merri. 

Three chapters in, but I’m far behind on word count. Nanowrimo relies more on social interaction to motivate you. Without a big friends list and plenty of group writing it’s just a glorified word count site. 


Bye-Bye Outrage

One of the things I find changing due to no more Christian friends in my Facebook feed is the lack of outrage. There’s always some outrage that’s both conveniently far away, and yet vitally important. One  example was the “prosperity gospel”. Suddenly, Joel Osteen became this monumental threat to Christianity, and a mighty prosperity dragon rose out of the sea to challenge Avalon.

Or abortion. I don’t think it’s wrong to oppose it, but Christians worry more about it than evangelizing. Or the latest assault on Christmas. Or more pernicious, being shocked that people would care about Christmas enough to protest. My feed was filled with endless things to worry about and comment on, and sometimes in commenting on they didn’t realize they often attacked their own. Who often attacked back, because no wound is so dear as one given by a friend.

I don’t miss that.

I don’t miss the outrage. Mostly because it’s just a tool to keep people divided. You worry about gays when your entire circle is so married you don’t even have single friends. You worry about being forced to do wedding cakes for them, but you don’t run a bakery. You don’t even get how scary it is to believe God will punish you for something you are forced to do, a lose lose either way. So many big issues, so remote from our lives.

You find things are a lot more peaceful when you stop.

No more pundits saying OMG you guys Pope Francis may do this! No arguments over how correct you are at expressing the one correct position on an issue. Just, well, quiet. 

It’s selfish. But I was turning into someone I disliked, and was becoming unlikable in turn.You had to agree with something fully to like the person, or you argued because you had to show you were a person too. The idea, the outrage, was over all.

So it’s quiet now. I browse the net less, and when I do it’s pure entertainment. I watch old British wrestling (I love Jim Breaks and Les Kellett). I play visual novels on my PS Vita. I read Sherlock Holmes, and watch old black and white movies about him. I’m finally back to writing, and watching anime. No big worries about Christian fiction or the price of tea in China. No more crisis of the moment.

I think maybe, in the most roundabout way, I was led to this. That the outrage culture is something so perfidious that we aren’t aware how much we are affected by it. Even with believers.


Bear Your Troubles

I’ve been watching The 35th Anti-Magic Platoon recently.

It’s pretty typical of the “magic soldier school” subgenre. It’s better than you think, although not totally creative. What’s unique is that unlike other shows, there’s a big focus on teamwork and being a part of each other’s lives. The main character is a rather gung-ho young man who is in charge of a bunch of misfits, all of which he has to help bear their inner turmoil. They in turn help him as they all struggle against malevolent witches and the demands of campus life.

This may sound like whining, but it’s the polar opposite of what Christians are.

This post was sparked by a rather nasty realization that I had. I suddenly realized that for all my time in church, I don’t think I could count a single person as a close friend. To be honest, I’m prickly and acerbic now, but then I didn’t have those qualities. I still had issues..probably a lot of them on retrospect. I grew up in the middle of a divorced family with little idea of what even to do through puberty and life. I was babyish, and probably the kind of guy most would avoid.

But…I still can’t remember a friend.

I remember a youth group, but that was me listening and me doing things with others. Once I left for college, it all withered up. Most of the other kids weren’t geeks, and I don’t think we had much in common. I remember names: Andre, Alfredo, Tara. But I don’t remember real friendship, even despite going on retreats.

In Christian college, the same. After college, the same. I helped out, but no friendship.

It grates on me now, because it makes me feel no one really cared about me. I’m not entitled to receive that, but you’d think Christians would be different, right? All that talk about love.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal 6:2

I don’t think anyone did. I’m not sure if I did so myself. I mean I volunteered, but that’s not bearing burdens. It was me being bored in a balcony soundbooth above the service, picking my nose and waiting for it to be over.  It was putting chairs away or weeding the pastor’s driveway. I think for most of my time there, it was just me, trying to bear everything myself. Is it any wonder I fell away several times?

I think the idea of the nakama-the friend-family- is so appealing because we really need others to help bear our burdens. The latest episode of Anti-Magic has them all rally to help Usagi overcome her own difficulty. You could actually make some Christian analogies in that series, like how the church ought to be a place where you train to do battle with witches, yet witches and magic themselves can be redeemed. But it’s just cold to realize what I did recently, that I bore my own burdens alone, despite years in a church.

I’ve fallen out with people because there’s too much expecting us to fill roles in Christian churches. The idea really isn’t a place of healing any more, it’s a place where you come in, fill the role of worshipper, tither-provider, listener, and then maybe worker. It’s all how you provide for the Church. You show up, follow the ritual, and leave when its over. You make good familes and more Christians, or if not you work instead. People pray over each other, but it’s kind of showy. A few people do help, but they tend to be women who seek connections with other women.

It’s just a hard thing. And it seems like right now I’m facing hard thing after hard thing about who I am. Maybe in a way that’s good, because it kicks out from under you any idea about you being good, or the illusions we have about yourselves. But you get angry at God a bit too.

This is because there’s too much focus on ourselves. An MMO I play has forums which tend to go over the top with blaming players who have little skill in the game, but rarely task the developers for making the game a pain where low-skilled payers tend to happen. Christianity can be the same way. At some point, God has to act. We aren’t strong enough any more. We are like Gideon, so afraid of the enemy that we can’t even keep our grain out in the open. I blame God sometimes over this, but I guess I don’t lose faith. A Christian is like someone with a distant or absent parent; you may really miss or need them, but you don’t give up believing you have a Father because of that distance. It’s hard though, wicked hard.

You really want that little platoon of your own. You want to help bear and have people bear burdens. In my MMO I do, in a little way. But the Church? Eh.


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