So Odd, A Boy Like This

Rod Serling taught me a few things about the past. How badly we deal with it. Holding on too tight. Or letting go too adamantly. Or both, consciously or subconsciously. And how, inevitably, it all catches up to us one way or another.

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“So Odd, A Boy Like This”

by Pete Hsu

Soaking wet, Benjamin Rule [1] is at a near sprint to the last stoplight. It’s a quarter mile away. He can feel his lungs chugging for air. Focusing on his breathing, he pairs each breath to two footsteps.

Breathe in: step. step.

Breathe out: step. step.

He’s running fast. Swinging his arms. But staying in control. It’s not an all out sprint. He’s at “80% effort,” a subjective but generally accurate estimate of how hard his body is working.

When he gets into this zone, an imaginary scene often comes to mind: Ben is running away from someone, a steady and patient stalker. This adversary has the ominous presence of a faceless slasher-movie villain. Plodding along, discarding all impediments, until reaching its victim. Ben has been living with this same imaginary monster for 25 years, ever since his dad shot himself while Ben watched television.

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One Good Memory

There’s an old Twilight Zone episode where these three astronauts crash land on this planet where everything and everyone is frozen. What a strange setting, I always thought. So I wrote this short story. It’s just like that story. Except with different characters, which I hope really make it a whole different story all together.

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“One Good Memory”

by Pete Hsu

She’s stopped shaking, starting to pull at her clothes, trying to undress. [1] Jack has already draped his coat over her lanky frame, but Maggie is still crying. Pako, her other best friend, pulls his jacket off, wrapping it over Jack’s coat. “This’ll help,” he says. But the initial pain of hypothermic onset has already subsided. Fear is what persists. The boys huddle around her and each other, trying to share body heat. They’ve been lost for more than 6 hours. Within 45 minutes these three young adventurers will die in the woods, quietly, in the dark.

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Hate Subsided from the Heart

Juan Zung:

The best intentioned of American Evangelicals are trying to figure out how to do the right thing and love as Jesus loved, meaning friends and enemies alike. An effort that has been terribly uneven and sometimes awkward, but hopefully is on the right track.

Originally posted on Love God, Love People, Change the World:

Reflections on Albert Hung’s Sermon “The Sinner’s Friend”

By Juan Zung

Sometimes being right isn’t really the point. Sometimes being right isn’t even right.

In the case of gay rights, the fight is already over. Americans, ever devoted to the principles of freedom and opportunity, have reached a tipping point. Larger systems will take time to work out the details. But we see, in pure numbers, even among evangelical and conservative young people, the change has already happened. People accept that LGBT Americans deserve the same rights as straight ones. [1] This, I believe, is the right position.

The problem, and it’s a big problem, is that a lot of people that we still love still aren’t there yet, and might never get there. They still hold what many of us consider to be wrong and bigoted ideas.

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I’m actually lucky. My parents have a “live-and-let-live” approach to other peoples’ love lives. They’d never…

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Minecraft (Kingship)

My 7-y.o. son is better at plotting than me, for reals.

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“Minecraft (Kingship)”

by R. J. Hsu

Once upon a time a kingdom was made.

It was under attack!

The kingdom died out.

But a thing was to be found…

So, he was to find it.

And he went in.

He was so scared.

Everything was wrong.

He saw things he never saw.

He wanted to go home.

He wanted to build a kingdom… so he did.

He was happy.

Will he find the magic thing?

Now it is up to you!

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How To Form A Writing Group. Part One

I recently joined a new writing group. It’s pretty diverse: two film makers, a memoir writer and me, an aspiring literary scifi guy. The group, without much preamble, has gravitated towards open critique and feedback. So far, this has been mostly met with mutual appreciation.

I haven’t yet figured out how we’ve formed our group, since it’s still being formed. But a lecture by Brandon Sanderson (BYU) offers a useful frame for these types of collaborations.

  1. Come prepared. Read and take notes before meeting.
  2. Your feedback should be specific and descriptive. Talk about your reactions to the writing, not what you think the writing should be. E.G. ” I had fun here…” “I was bored here…” Avoid the phrase: “You should…”
  3. Ignore the small stuff, like: grammar, spelling, prose, style. Focus on plot, setting and character. The other stuff will be addressed during revision and rewriting.
  4. If you are the author being critiqued, you cannot speak. Anything you say will only dilute the feedback.
  5. Bring finished work to the group. Unfinished work will tend to get bogged down in “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”
  6. Understand that most the feedback you get will be dumb.
  7. Help the work that is being critiqued become what it is trying to become, not what you want it to become.

My 2 cents so far:

  • The “descriptive” position seems a great position to take in any situation. In therapy we call it: “I-statements” versus “You-statements.”
  • Our group actually does some brainstorming around unfinished work, which I find helpful. I’ve used a lot of the ideas the other guys have shared.
  • The no-talking rule for the presenter is a good one, but hard to pull off. I always feel the urge to defend my work. The whole, “no, you don’t get it. Let me explain…”

10 Alternative Christian Movies

Are you ready for some hyper-earnest biblical renditions? Russell Crowe packing the world’s most complete zoo on a boat. Diogo Morgado squinting his dreamy eyes of Christ, oozing with compassion and loving kindness. Yep. No shortage of that kind of Christian movie.

But, what about a Christian film for the restavus? Something a little less uber-preachy and painfully-predicatable. An alternative Christian movie. [1]

1. The Apostle (1997)

Robert Duvall as a Holy Ghost powered preaching and killing machine. Serious. Not a campy horror movie, but an earnest portrayal of deeply flawed man and his enduring heart for God. Sound familiar?

2.. Higher Ground (2011)

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Finding and losing and then maybe finding your faith again can be a journey akin to Ulysses’ voyage home. Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut is heartfelt and sexy in ways that, I’m guessing, a lot of true believers can relate to.

3. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Lots of biblical liberties, not the least of which is the “last temptation of Christ,” which investigates a good and decent version of humanity that Jesus walked away from in order to fulfill his father’s work.

4. The Trials of Ted Haggard (2009)

Seriously. I hated Ted Haggard. I laughed for days when he got outted as a gay-prostitute-loving-drug-addict. But he’s earned my sympathy and even some respect. His faith carries on. And he’s a humbler and quieter version of himself now, gently preaching a more authentic gospel.

5. Saved! (2004)

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Should I have sex with my gay boyfriend in order to save him from gayness? Yep. That’s sort of the 2004 theological equivalent to: How many angels can dance on the head of pin? An absurd effort of twisting everything into theological rationalizations, instead of, you know, simply being a good person.

6. Jesus Camp (2006)

The only horror movie on this list. This documentary shows Becky Fischer’s Kid’s On Fire ministry emotionally manipulating children into becoming “God’s Army” and preparing them to do battle against “The Enemy” AKA Islam. BONUS: footage of Ted Haggard loudly and proudly proclaiming that hetero-married sex is the best(!) and gay sex is baaaaaaad.

7. The Man From Earth (2007)

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What if there was an immortal man who was there when Jesus walked the earth? What could he tell us?

8. Doubt (2008)

A meditation on what it takes to maintain absolute certainty.

9. Dogma (1999)

A goofy, ridiculous, highjinks-infested supernatural thriller! And you’ve also got Alanis Morissette answering her own question: What if God were one of us?

10. Religulous (2008)

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I’m sorry. I know. Bill Maher is at least as close-minded as the people he makes fun of. But, taken as a tour of strange and unusual contemporary religious practices, Religulous is a heck of an amusing ride.

Honorable Mention (AKA movies that I think I liked, but are just so dang old that I can’t remember what happened in them): The Mission (1986), Babette’s Feast (1987), The Prophecy (1995). Did I miss any?

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NOTES

[1] Mark Moring of Christianity Today says that Christian movies are bad because they tend to be made by people that don’t really know how to make movies, a combination of bad production, bad writing and bad acting. But I think it’s a bit more than that. Some preacher (can’t remember his name!) gave a talk about how Christian movies are hamstrung by the problem that every movie has to end with the gospel. So there’s no real tension, because you know the ending. And, while a lot of movies are predictable, this particular predictability is particularly partisan. It’s sort of like watching a 90-minute long political commercial or a piece of propaganda.

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A Theology of Fun(!): Reflections on Albert Hung’s Sermon “Vision Sunday”

Originally posted on Love God, Love People, Change the World:

By Juan Zung

Last Sunday, Pastor Albert preached about “Vision Sunday!” A vision where church is a party. Where church is fun!

But what exactly is a fun church?

And how does one make a church fun?

Big questions. I don’t have the answers. But I googled it. And found some interesting stuff.

Fun & Games

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Here’s something interesting: people don’t often know how to describe what’s fun for them.

So it is often pointless to ask. And sometimes worse than pointless, because you might end up giving them something they say they want. When they don’t actually want that at all. [1]

An example:

Gamers say they like “good graphics,” so video game companies make games with amazing graphics. Yet alotta of the titles in GAMESTOP’s clearance bin have some of the most amazing graphics on the planet, but are not at all fun. Meanwhile, you have a game…

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Diffusion of Responsibility: Reflections on Christine Hung’s Sermon “Heart to Heart”

Originally posted on Love God, Love People, Change the World:

By Juan Zung

Part One: What I Did

One night, not so long ago, I heard a woman scream. I’m pretty sure she said “Help Me!” By the way her voice tailed off, it seems like she was in a fasting moving car. If she was in trouble, it would have been important for me to get outside asap if I’d have any chance of identifying the vehicle.

I hesitated.

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Your Own Worst Witness

Bill Nye the Science Guy debated some creationist. [1] I don’t know why.

I actually do have room enough in my mind to consider the possibility that God started the universe.

But…

THERE IS NO FUCKING WAY THAT IT LITERALLY HAPPENED AS DESCRIBED IN THE BIBLE. [2]

This is simply true because the Bible, in the very first two chapters of its very first book, gives witness to its own inaccuracy.

See, even if we assume that all mainstream science is wrong. Even if we assume that the Bible is inerrant and is the only authority worth abiding by. Even if.

We still see the Bible itself tell us that the Bible is not accurate.

It’s simple:

The order of creation. Genesis 1:1 – 2:3:

  1. Heavens and Earth
  2. Day and Night
  3. Waters and Sky
  4. Water and Land
  5. Plants
  6. Stars, the Moon, the Sun (“lights in the sky”)
  7. Animals
  8. Humans “Male and Female”

The order of creation. Genesis 2:4 – 24:

  1. Heavens and Earth
  2. Water
  3. Man, Male only
  4. Plants
  5. Animals
  6. Woman

And there you have it, folks. [3] Even if we could let ourselves believe that the earth was created before the sun and the stars. Even if we could let ourselves believe that there was day and night before there was a sun. Even if we could let ourselves believe that the entirety of the universe was created in six days and that the universe began 6,000 years ago. Even if…

We would still have to believe that:
A) God created humans after creating plants and animals
AND
B) God created humans before creating plants and animals

We would have to believe that:
A) God created humans, male and female at the same time
AND
B) God created humans, male and female at different times

In science, that’s called unreliable data.

BUT in religion, that’s called mystery and awe and eternal truth of humanity that is not shackled by stark materialism. The point of religion is not so much to tell us about what’s true out here, in the material world. It is much more to tell us what is true in here, in the spiritual world, in our hearts, in our souls.

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NOTES

[1] The debate can be seen in it’s 2+ hour entirety HERE.

[2] It has been my goal to refrain from aggression, divisiveness and conflict in my discussion of Christianity. I realize that I am not going to change anyone’s mind about creationism if that person believes in creationism. But I am just about to lose my mind with this biblical creationist “young earth” stuff. I felt like I had to say my peace for a couple reasons:

  1. Ken Ham continually asserts that there’s some “secularist” agenda “hijacking” science. As a secularist I find it obscenely offensive whenever Christians want to assert a conspiracy theory that Christians are the ones being oppressed by non-believers and, in Ham’s case, that creationists are the real scientists and scientists are actually the religious people!
  2. Ham’s main agenda seems to be to teach children to trust the inerrant Bible over “secular” science. I find that beyond offensive and patently dangerous. This kind of absolute belief in the Bible leads us to the justification of slavery, misogyny, and genocide (among other things).

[3] Christian apologists have explanations for these contradictions. They have something to do with one being literal and the other being poetic or maybe some convoluted splitting of hairs between the terms “formed” and “had formed.” See more HERE.

Small Unit Cohesion: Reflecting on Albert Hung’s Sermon “Shoulder to Shoulder”

Juan Zung:

From the Trinity Blog

Originally posted on Love God, Love People, Change the World:

by Juan Zung

In the (almost) beginning, a farmer named Cain killed his brother, a shepherd named Abel. [1] Joseph Campbell says we’ve never been the same since. [2] In short, we kinda used to be communists, but then we kinda all became capitalists.

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