Final Thoughts on The Princess Bride

We all have movies that we’ve watched either growing up or even recently that become favorites. Sometimes when we revisit these movies they don’t live up to the memories we had of them. Other times they do live up to the memories and are just as enjoyable now, if not more enjoyable. The Princess Bride is one of my personal favorite movies, and continues to live up to memories I have of it.

The Princess BrideFor those who haven’t seen it or heard anything about it, The Princess Bride is a story within a story. The story you begin with is that of a boy staying home sick from school. His Grandfather comes over to read him a book. That book is the bulk of the story, although you do sometimes cut back to the boy and his grandfather at certain parts of the story.

The main story focuses on the love between Buttercup and Westley. While love is definitely the uniting theme the story has a bit of everything. There is comedy, action, fantasy, and of course romance. Over the course of the movie the idea is that true love will conquer everything this is in the way. Which is good as there are a number of things that get in the way of Buttercup and Westley; one of them believed to be death, arranged marriage to the prince, a kidnapping, the fire swamp, and even being mostly dead.

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, but to be honest it’s not because it is a particularly deep movie. It is just a fun movie with memorable characters, quotable lines, and a mostly lighthearted storyline. I’m sure you can nitpick the movie’s view of “true love” and everything, but a lot of the fun of the movie is that it’s not particularly serious. It is basically a modern (however modern 1987 might be considered today) fairy tale with a happy ending.

This movie has been one I enjoyed watching growing up and in all honesty is still just as enjoyable today. I’ve watched other movies that I had good memories of growing up that just didn’t really hold up to the memory upon re-watch. I’m happy to say that The Princess Bride wasn’t one of them. It will be a movie that I’ll enjoy showing to my kids when they get a little older and hope they’ll enjoy as much as their parents do.

The Sin of Sodom

Dealing with times of God’s judgment relayed in the Bible is difficult business. There seem to be some who want to interpret these stories as having the potential to happen anytime for even the slightest infractions. Some want to dismiss them as being too disconnected from the message of Jesus to be too useful. Most of the time though, I feel that we just ignore them and hope they go away or that someone doesn’t shed any light on these passages.

A lot of the issue, at least in my understanding, stems from a conflict between the ideas of God as love and God as judge. If God is love and loves human beings, how does that not conflict with God’s judgment that sometimes takes human lives? This kind of conflict is what makes passages like the one I’m going to look at today so difficult. The passage we’ll be looking at is Genesis 19 which is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Last week we saw God speaking with Abraham about the upcoming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this story we see the details of what goes on before its destruction. We see Lot sitting at the gate of the city when two of the angels/men who were with Abraham last chapter enter the city. Lot insists they stay at his house instead of spending the night in the town square as they planned.

However, all the men of the city come out and surround Lot’s house. They call for him to give up the two men to them, so they may “know” them, which is often a way to refer to sexual acts. Now it’s at this point where I think we need to step back and ask, what is the nature of Sodom’s sin?

A popular view is that the sin that led to Sodom’s destruction is homosexuality. While that makes for a convenient weapon to fight with in the wars going on around that issue, the truth is that the sins of Sodom might be broader than that. As Walter Brueggemann puts it, “…the Bible gives considerable evidence that the sin of Sodom was not specifically sexual, but a general disorder of a society organized against God.” While I agree with Brueggemann that, “It may be that sexual disorder is one aspect of a general disorder,” to isolate any specific issue out of this is sloppy work.

I think this can be seen just by looking at the context of this chapter. When God spoke to Abraham of the judgment on Sodom, it was due to hearing an outcry against the city, as well as Gomorrah. In other words Sodom and Gomorrah seem to have been creating victims on a consistent enough basis to warrant judgment because of the outcry against them.

While Genesis 19 may have been an example of how that victimization looked, it may not have been the only way.  To reduce this down to homosexuality, seems to be ignoring the mob’s intention to victimize those who they should be hospitable and welcoming to, like Lot is exemplifying. Would the mob’s actions be perfectly fine if the angels had taken the form of women? If you answer no to that, then the problems are something much broader than the way some would like to treat this passage.

The idea that this victimization of travelers (if it is even only contained to travelers) has been recurring may have been evident in the actions of Lot himself. He is sitting at the gate of the city. Maybe this is simply due to chance, but I wonder if it could have been intentional.

Could this have been his way to save people from the victimization that has been going on? He seems rather adamant to have the men stay at his house instead of the town square. This could just be his desire to be hospitable, but it could also be due to a knowledge of what may happen to these men if they stay out in public. There isn’t any way to know this for certain, but it certainly doesn’t seem too far-fetched to consider this possible.

Now it doesn’t really seem that Lot’s efforts here are going to work. If it weren’t for the actions of the men/angels he would have simply added himself to the victim list, and seemed quite willing to add his daughters to it as well. It is this kind of attitude and environment that is bringing the judgment of God upon these people. Even when stopped before doing something wicked, they do not flinch from it in the least but continue in it and scoff against anyone who would judge them.

So does this still warrant God’s judgment? To some that may be an illegitimate question. God is above us and who do we think we are to question his judgment, I get that train of thought and honestly, to some degree, believe it myself. However, with so many people who struggle with this kind of thing, it is worth asking the question in honest.

I think my biggest conundrum is this. Could there be times where God withholding judgment could reap more negative consequences than God actually passing judgment? Take this example. It seems that Sodom had been producing victims of some sort and that God heard the outcry against the actions perpetrated by these people. If God did nothing to stop this would that make it better? I’m not really thinking it would.

I still don’t have everything figured out about how God’s judgment works and especially how it works in conjunction with God’s love and mercy. However, what I do know is that love and mercy isn’t just overlooking victims and the real pain that has happened to them. I have to ultimately trust more in God’s ability to know when to judge and show mercy than by my ability to understand it.

In some ways I feel like Lot in this story. I know enough to know what Sodom is doing is wrong, but he’s not untainted by wickedness and his judgment on things aren’t the best. He tries to offer his daughters up to the mob, which to me is just as bad as offering the strangers. He becomes paranoid in Zoar and gets drunk and sleeps with both of his daughters. While I obviously have not done these exact things, the idea is that we can be a mix of both good judgment and poor judgment at the same time. Lot appeared to know that what the city of Sodom was doing was wrong, but had his own blind spots. His judgment was imperfect.

To me the only one capable of perfect judgment, perfect mercy, and perfect love is God. In our blind spots we may not recognize that at times, but that is ultimately what I trust in. I may not have everything worked out and I will act accordingly in that, but I will trust that God does. It’s about all I can do.

3 Ways Churches Could Display an Atmosphere of Humility

When we moved back to Pennsylvania about two and half years ago we had to find a new church home. We didn’t particularly enjoy this process, but I remember one of the important aspects of a church being something I vaguely called atmosphere. This idea of atmosphere was more than just music, the seating arrangements, how many people said hello, or the sermon. After awhile I began to think that what I meant by atmosphere was humility.

I’ve talked about pride and humility the last couple weeks. I’ve presented the way that I view the concepts to give a basic understanding of where I’m coming from when I use the words. The truth of the matter is that I think I’ve experienced a lot more pride in churches than I have humility, there have been wonderful exceptions to this, but even in those exceptions pride still reared its ugly head from time to time.

As I’ve realized that humility is probably the most important aspect of a church to me, I wanted to present some practical ideas that I think would help foster an atmosphere of humility. I imagine there are more that could be added and more that could be said about each of these ideas. You may not agree with all of them, but my hope is to at least generate some thoughts about humility and pride in the church.

1. Increased Focus on Common Ground

We all have our pet doctrines and the aspects of our denomination that are distinctive, but I think we have to realize that not everyone who is sitting in the pews is at the same location. I remember visiting a church that stated during the sermon how it was a church that believed in a seven day literal creation. While I understand that is a belief that some people hold regarding Genesis 1, such a proclamation made it seem that unless you believed in that particular view of Genesis 1 you had no real place within the church.

A lot of times it seems like churches or denominations can double down on secondary or even tertiary issues and make them required components of the Christian faith. If you disagree you are viewed as not caring about the Bible, being “liberal”, or just dismissed out of hand. This can be about our view of creation, the end times, baptism, communion. We hold our personal or our denomination’s particular view to be completely correct and unfortunately seem to do a poor job at keeping the pride out of our convictions.

I’m not against people having beliefs about baptism, how creation came about, or the end-times. That’s fine, but I do think there needs to be more humility displayed when we espouse those beliefs. Displaying a knowledge of alternatives without disparaging them would be a simple way around this. I hold particular beliefs myself, but I also know that there are those who disagree with me. If any pastor, church, or denomination believes their specific interpretation is completely perfect, or at least really close, then I can’t help but feel that pride is involved in the equation in unhealthy doses.

I would also say that some kind of bedrock orthodoxy is needed. Personally, creeds like the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed are widely held among many threads of Christianity to create a firm common ground of orthodoxy. This should be where most of our focus in terms of understanding people as Christians or not should be directed to, not on if they believe in millennialism or amillennialism or some other relatively minor issue.

2. Be Prepared for Visitors of Varying Backgrounds

It is kind of easy to tell when you walk into a church that isn’t prepared for visitors. Sadly, of the churches we’ve visited the majority don’t seem to do a great job with visitors. Now pride may not be a reason why a church isn’t prepared for visitors, but I also think that it can be at least part of the problem in some cases.

Not being prepared for visitors can sometimes send the vibe that outsiders aren’t really welcome. Now perhaps the big question is what does it mean to be prepared for visitors? While the specifics may differ from church to church, I can think of a few general things.

First, having some kind of greeter or way to direct people to where they need to go and the things offered on a Sunday Morning can help. This is particularly helpful if you have kids and may need a place to go if the kids get a little rowdy during the service. I remember one visit where even the pastor seemed to have no idea what was available for kids of various ages during the service. This kind of sends a message that we only really care about those who already know what’s going on here. We aren’t really interested in informing new people. It may or may not be true, but it is sent either way.

Second, acknowledging the potential of visitors before/during the service at least in some way. I’m not talking about something like making the visitors wear some kind of label or having them stand during the service. One of my favorite ways I’ve seen this done is something as simple as letting visitors know that they are not expected to give to the church during the offering. Other things like letting visitors know how to give their info to the church, or personal greeting from the pastor before or after the service are other ways.

The last idea I’ll present here is the idea of making the sermon accessible for more than just the insiders of that particular church or denomination. I’m not necessarily talking about entertainment level, but more about content. Do you take the time to define terms that may be difficult for people with little to no church background to comprehend. Is there an acknowledgement of the world outside the church beyond generalized condemnation? A realization that there may be people at different stages of faith and life? If not I think there is a major problem and pride could be a cause of it. Now different sermons may require different things, but if the general trend is this way it is problematic in my mind.

3. Display a Unity Rooted in Love

This may sound like the vaguest idea of displaying humility I’ve presented, but I believe that it is an important one. Like the other ones, this can look a number of different ways and still be displaying humility, but I’ll give some of my own thoughts to make the vague idea seem a bit more concrete.

The main thing I’m getting at here is that there appears to be a love that unites the church, especially if that church is very diverse in any manner. Does your church look like one homogenized group? If that’s the case than your unity may be in love, but it may be a bit easier since you’re all from that same group.

In my view this would require diversity. Now diversity can look a number of different ways. One example could be age diversity. Are there a variety of ages in your congregation or is it predominately older or younger? This to me could be an indicator of an unwillingness to change or an unwillingness to appreciate the work of previous generations. I’ve seen both ends of it, and think that a diverse group that is willing to display diverse preferences can be a loving and humble environment.

This is just one example. There are other kinds of diversity that are possible for this. It could be economic, ethnic, or some other kind of diversity. The same question still remains though no matter what. How do you treat those who are different than you in the church? Does the church cater to the majority or is everyone treated similarly? Are there cliques that exclude certain types of people, while welcoming any newcomers that fit their mold? I don’t think it is wrong that we might have some people as closer friends than others within the church, but it can become a problem if certain groups in a church believe that they are better than other groups.

Churches seem so prone to either chasing the latest fad to stay relevant, or sticking to the traditions loved by the older members of the congregation that the main uniting factors seem to be these particular preferences. Those who attend could just be uniting around their common preferences and it may or may not have anything to do with loving each other as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This love and unity is the willingness to experience things different than what we may prefer. This may mean unfamiliar songs, different styles of music, or different expressions of faith included in the worship service (like responsive readings, corporate prayer, or confession of a creed).

I’m not calling for a massive free-for-all, but an intentional effort to craft worship services that reflect the variety in the congregation and in turn may encourage more variety. It is being able to see people appreciate the established prayers, songs, and traditions of the past, while also appreciating the new expressions of faith and expressions of faith, old or new, that may be outside of our cultural experience. Sadly, this is something that I have not experienced within many churches.

These are three ways that I thought of that churches could display humility. These certainly aren’t the only things and you may not even agree that these are good ideas. They are ideas that I’ve thought based on my time visiting churches and being a part of churches for longer times. Feel free to comment, push back, or add to any of these ideas. I’m also curious if there are any other ways you think that churches could do better at displaying an atmosphere of humility?

Morality: Friend or Foe to Christianity?

Soon after I became a Christian I remember an exchange that I had in defense of my new found faith. During that exchange I stated that even if what I believe in is wrong it would still help me be a moral person. My line of thought, at that time, was that Christianity at its heart was about making people moral.

Over the years my line of thinking has changed on that. I can certainly see why my young Christian mind viewed things the way it did, but I think that Christianity is about a lot more than simple morality. In fact sometimes I wonder if morality is a friend or a foe to Christianity. That may seem a strange way of putting it to some, but let me explain what I mean.

Let’s first start with the idea of morality as friend to Christianity. This is probably a more comfortable place for many of us to start. I don’t think it is a hard case to make that Christianity is related to morality in a positive way many times. A popular example of this would be the Ten Commandments.

We often view The Ten Commandments as the bedrock of morality in following God. There are ideas in there which are also reflected in our more popular culture, like not murdering, stealing, or committing adultery. In addition to these ideas, there are also a morality, of sorts, that is unique to the Bible which refer to only following God, not taking the Lord’s name in vain and keeping the Sabbath.

These aren’t the only laws that are found within the Old Testament or the Bible as a whole, but it is a fairly well known example that morality is part of following God and is displayed as something that we should strive after. It also displays that following God has it’s own peculiar sort of morality. There are aspects of the morality that would have broad appeal and can be found outside of faith, but at the same time there are parts of this morality that is very unique and focused in on the life of faith.

Moving out of the Old Testament you can still see morality presented as a positive by Jesus and in the Epistles. The Sermon on the Mount often builds off the morality of the Ten Commandments, but seeks to drive things much deeper than the surface. For example Jesus talks about even hating someone as being equivalent to murder in Matthew 5:21-26. He takes something that many people might claim to have never done, like murder, and reveals that even what we’ve been thinking and feeling about other people matters just as much as the actual physical act.

I’m could give you more examples of how morality is positively connected to Christianity, but I think this should be sufficient to lay out some groundwork for that position. What about the idea of morality as an enemy to Christianity? Is there any evidence of that being the case?

I would argue that there is. Even with Jesus’ comments in the Sermon of the Mount, is his equating of hatred to murder, simply to get us to be moral people or is there something else that he is getting at? What if the whole concept was to strip away the idea that we could be moral in the first place? That even if we haven’t murdered someone we may have still broken that commandment in our hearts and minds. Is this simply to get us to control our minds and feelings better? Maybe, but maybe it is showing us that complete morality, at least according to God, will always be out of our reach.

If this is true, this changes the landscape quite a bit. If this is what Jesus is getting at, then if we think we are moral individuals, we are going to have a hard time understanding the need for Jesus in the first place. This is what happened with a few people who Jesus interacted with. They appeared to think that they were moral, but this made them blind to their own need and the limits of their morality.

One such group that seemed to often demonstrate this kind of attitude were the Pharisees. An example of one of these interactions is Mark 2:13-17. Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners and the Pharisees were wondering why Jesus was eating with them. Jesus responds to this question by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I’m not so sure that Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are healthy or righteous, but more that Jesus has come for those who are able to acknowledge their sin and illness.

Another example, although it is slightly more complicated, is the rich young ruler seen in Mark 10:17-27. Here is a man who comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by telling him to keep the commandments. The man responds by saying that he has kept all of these since he was young. Yet Jesus tells him he lacks one thing, and that he needs to give away all of his wealth and follow him.

Now as I said this is a more complicated situation, but I think we see a situation similar to the Pharisees. I would say the young man is sincere in his question to Jesus, and is also sincere in his belief that he has kept the commandments since he was young. The young ruler also seems to be wealthy and powerful, which has been taken, both then and even now, as signs of God’s favor. Yet, despite all this, Jesus is saying that he still lacks something. Jesus isn’t denying the man’s morality or sincerity, but saying that even with what he has he will not earn eternal life on his own terms.

In these cases, morality seems to be a hindrance to the life of faith. It hinders us from seeing what God is doing around us. We begin to believe that our own efforts are good enough. It can even cause us to view those who don’t share our morality as beneath us. This morality can develop into an illness, even though we think we’re perfectly healthy.

So is morality ultimately a friend or a foe? It honestly seems to me like it can be both. If we begin to think that morality is the goal of the Christian life, like I did when I first became a Christian, then I think it can turn into a quite deadly foe. It will lead us to pride and a reliance on our own efforts. It can lead to judgment and an overall lack of grace to other people.

While morality can become a great foe, I personally think it is impossible to divorce morality from our faith. Striving to be like Christ is a goal put forward to us by the Scriptures, and holds a certain morality inherent in that goal. Yet, at the same time our following of Christ involves two conflicting realities about morality.

One reality is that we should desire to follow the laws and commandments of God. The other is that we are incapable of doing this fully. We have our areas where we may succeed more than others. We also have our own particular struggles. It is here that we need more than just morality, rule following, and our own efforts. What we need is the love and grace of God that Jesus came to demonstrate in its fullest.

If we hold onto that love and grace, then morality can be a great friend to our faith. If the love and grace of God is absent from our faith, then morality can turn into a great foe. One who will burden our own lives under missed expectations, and cause us to be severe to anyone who fails to live up to the standards that we are able to keep.

Pointing Out Sins or Providing a Solution?

I know I’ve mentioned before how I don’t always know why some stories are included in the Bible. They just seem strange, and particularly not like the family-friendly, clean-cut, very moral, straight-laced version of Christianity that is so often presented in our weekly gatherings. Genesis 9:18-29 is one of these passages.

What is in this passage you may ask? Well the title above kind of says it all. Noah and his sons have survived the flood, but we get this last little story before moving on to the next generations. During this time we have Noah planting a vineyard, drinking a bit too much of the wine that vineyard produced, and next thing you know he’s naked in his tent.

Things become a bit stranger though as one of Noah’s sons, Ham, sees Noah naked in his tent and runs off to tell his brothers. Unlike Ham though, Shem and Japheth go to great lengths both to cover Noah’s nakedness and not look at it themselves. When Noah awakes, he curses Ham (well truthfully he curses Canaan, Ham’s son, but there seems to be a connection here) and blesses both Shem and Japheth. Then with little in between Noah dies.

So what is all this about? I wish I entirely knew. It just seems like a very strange story. Let’s look at some possibilities. Is it focused on Noah’s indiscretion with alcohol as some kind of indication that even righteous men fall? Potentially, but I see very little to center this story being about Noah’s failure. I mean he did get drunk which is viewed negatively at other places in Scripture, but at the same time if we’re reading Genesis as a whole there has been no prohibition against this so far.

Plus, we see little negative response directed towards Noah here. Some want to compare him to Adam that after the new creation that the flood has produced we see another sinful action showing the taint of sin in the world. I understand the desire to do this, but a few things make me uncomfortable with using this logic.

We were never told that human sin is gone in the first place, just that God won’t destroy the world because of it. We are given no introductory comments on how drinking wine is a sin or any confrontation afterwards to indicate Noah was wrong as we do with the Adam narrative. Sure later on drunkenness is indicated as sinful, but we have to go quite a bit further along in the Bible to see that spelled out.

In addition to this, Noah is naked in his own tent. Now maybe his tent was wide open or something that made it every easy to Ham to see, but still Noah’s not exposing his nakedness outside where anyone could see. What we are given is that he’s naked in his tent, which I’m guessing happened at times even without alcohol. Do I think Noah showed  wisdom in getting drunk? No, but I’m not sure this is a place to pile on Noah and launch into a talk about how the Bible speaks against drunkenness (as if getting naked and passing out in your tent is the worst thing alcohol could bring).

So I’m just not convinced that we’re supposed to be focused on Noah sinning some great sin and ruining his reputation. Not to say there isn’t parallels between the Adam story and Noah story, the planting of a garden/orchard, the eating of that garden, and the presence of nakedness. However, there seems to be a different focus in these stories. Unlike in the story of Adam the focus seems to be on the behaviors of the sons in response to Noah’s nakedness, not on Noah’s sin itself (if his action is being considered sinful).

Now honestly Ham seeing Noah’s nakedness doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Even if the situation is that Noah and his wife were having sex as I’ve heard proposed before, it still makes it hard to think that such an incident is worthy of cursing. This has led to speculation that something more was done to deserve this punishment or that because sins against ones parents and family were more serious at that time.

I’m not sure about either view, but I like the way that John H. Sailhamer puts in in the Expositors Bible Commentary on Genesis. He says that, “Whatever the details of the actual act might have been, taken at face value the sons’ actions suit the author’s purpose quite well. What he apparently wants to show is simply the contrast between the deeds of Ham and those of Shem and Japheth. This contrast becomes the basis for the curse and the blessing that follow.”

So we’re supposed to be looking at the deeds of Ham and the deeds of Shem and Japheth. Ham saw his father’s nakedness and proceeded to tell his brothers. We have no words on Ham’s part to know what was said or how it was said in this story, but we can gather it was not positive. After all he is not included in the deeds of Shem and Japheth. All we know for certain is that Ham points out Noah’s compromised position.

When Shem and Japheth hear this they take a garment of clothing into Noah’s tents with their backs turned and cover the nakedness of their father. Instead of simply spreading news of Noah’s state they take steps to cover it. If we’re wanting to focus on parallels between Adam and Noah it is interesting to note that God covers Adam’s nakedness and Shem and Japheth are the ones to cover Noah. It’s hard to say if that is intentional or not, but it is clear from the blessing and the curses that Ham did not do what was right and Shem and Japheth did.

This has made me wonder how often are we like Ham? We find someone who we don’t agree with, who fails, who is sinful, or who is simply found to be an imperfect human and we point it out to anyone who will listen. When we look at this passage and want to deride Noah for his sin aren’t we doing exactly what Ham did? Noah’s potential sin here is really very minor, but some point it out with great enthusiasm and many words.

If you compare this to the action of Shem and Japheth, they are part of the solution to this problem not just mockers on the sideline. They covered Noah with a garment and went on their way. It is so easy to point out the shortcomings and sins in people, it can be much harder to go in and be part of a solution to the issues (including sin) they may be facing.

I’m not saying that there is never a place to call out sin. We are all sinful, we are all imperfect, and the truth is we need to have it called out. There are people who are abusive and manipulative and they need to have their sin addressed personally and even publicly. I guess what I wonder is what do we do after we tell others about somebody’s sin?

Do we simply exit the story like Ham did or go on our way to find the next person to expose? Do we actively seek to cover the exposed sin with garments like Shem and Japheth? These garments may not be real clothing or covers like in Noah’s story. They may simply be garments of love, grace, and forgiveness, but those can be powerful garments. This isn’t always easy, because sometimes the one who needs these garments are people we can easily label as an enemy.

I know I can simply want to point out the sins or imperfections of other people. To sit on the sidelines and point it out. However, I don’t just want to just be a mocker. I want to be able to cover the shame and sin of those who I encounter with grace and love. Primarily because that is what I claim, the grace, love and forgiveness of God. This may not be what this passage was trying to get at, but it’s where it took me. What do you think?

My Favorite Couples (Television and Video Games)

Alright here’s part two of my favorite couples in media. This one is focusing on television shows and video games. It may come as little surprise that this list will be a little more on the nerdy side. I’m also trying to narrow it down to five for each. I could probably make each list a little longer, but it would take a bit more time to do that.

Television

Most of these are going to show my lack of keeping up with television. Some are from live action television shows, while others are from animated.

Cory and Topanga

Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence (Boy Meets World) – I watched Boy Meets World regularly growing up, so this was like the ideal couple in my mind. Sure they had some rocky periods where they broke up, got back together again and everything, but those things tended to make them stronger in the end. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia of it, or the fact that I thought Topanga was cute, but even after watching the whole series again just a couple years ago, they’re still my favorite TV couple.

Cliff and Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show) – While Cliff and Claire are often displayed as parents, their relationship is also the focus in a number of episodes. Seeing both sides and how funny they are as parents and a couple is why they’re one of my favorites.

Kira and Lacus

Kira Yamato and Lacus Kline (Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny) – The world of Gundam SEED is a fairly grim and war torn world where friends and family may and do wind up dead. In that setting this couple is definitely a bright spot. In fact it could even be said that this couple is the reason behind why both series end positively.

Keiichi Morisato and Belldandy (Ah! My Goddess!) – This couple is probably the most over the top of all my favorites. Belldandy is a goddess and Keiichi is well someone with impressive bad luck. Yet they’re together and love each other, but have a hard time being romantic, and they’re always something extra that happens when they try. They’re cute and maybe a little too saccharine, but I still like them.

Kirito and Asuna (Sword Art Online) – A relationship that is able to bring healing to a person filled with loneliness, guilt, and sorrow is one that I can get behind. This is the way it goes in this relationship. Add in that this relationship is built while they’re trapped in a video game world where virtual death would equal real death and it adds an interesting layer to the whole thing.

Video Games

Zidane and Garnet (Final Fantasy IX) – Zidane meets Princess Garnet on a mission to kidnap her, succeeds, and this leads to a grand adventure. Zidane is flirty and while at first nothing really develops, these two gain feelings for each other. Add in an ending that makes you want to cheer for the two and you have a good couple.

tidus_yunaYuna and Tidus (Final Fantasy X) – I admit, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Final Fantasy X. I found Tidus fairly annoying early on, but really what makes this relationship stand out is how much he changes as the story goes on. It’s not just that you see the two grow closer, you do, but it’s also how the more responsible Yuna rubs off on Tidus.

Sora and Kairi (Kingdom Hearts) – Probably the most standard of relationships of my list. Boy likes girl, their world gets destroyed, boy loses girl, boy goes on quest to rescue the girl he likes. Despite this rather standard fare, I still think they made for a nice couple. Plus add in that Kairi actually winds up saving Sora near the end, it makes for a bit of a shift.

Chrono and Marle (Chrono Trigger) – Now this one you could just imagine happening. Boy runs into girl at fair, they decide to stay together after that encounter, girl (who also winds up being your kingdom’s princess) gets sent through time due to your friend’s transporter malfunctioning… well okay maybe it’s not too believable. Still an enjoyable relationship though, even when your character doesn’t say anything.

Almaz and Sapphire

Almaz and Princess Sapphire (Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice) – A relationship that is both really out there, funny, and really sweet at the same time. Almaz is a guard for Sapphire who secretly has a crush on her and goes to defeat the evil Overlord before he can kidnap her. He doesn’t do so well at this, but winds up meeting the Princess who has come to defeat the Overlord herself, after he fails. This leads to her helping him become a real hero and becoming very close to one another. Personally, these two wind up upstaging the main character of the game for me.

So there we go. Those are some of my favorite couples from television and video games. You have any favorites from these mediums? Any that you think I missed? Feel free to add your own or comment on mine.

My Favorite Couples (Books and Movies)

Today is Valentine’s Day. While I admit it is a day that I have mixed feelings about. I don’t think it is as important as some people make it out to be, but I also think it can be fun to do something special to celebrate it sometimes. However, the idea popped into my head to do a little special Valentine’s Day post that focused on some of my favorite couples.

I was going to do books, movies, television, and video games all in one post, but it wound up rather long. So how about we break it into two parts? This part will focus on books and movies, while the second part will focus on television series and video games. So ready? Here we go.

Books

For some reason my book list is the shortest of all the lists. I’m not sure why. It could be that I’m forgetting some relationships from books I’ve read. However, I’d also say that a number of my favorite books don’t really have very memorable romantic relationships in them, at least in my opinion. These two though did stick in my mind.

Wil Ohmsford and Amberle Elessedil (Elfstones of Shannara) –  I enjoyed this relationship because you’re with them from early in the book. They don’t start out on the best of terms, but begin to have feelings for one another experiencing and surviving many of the dangers in their quest.

There is also a bit of a love triangle that forms, but really these two are the ones you’re with the longest and so you wind up being invested in these two the most (at least I was). The whole thing ends rather bitter-sweetly though, but I’ll try not to give away how it ends. Still it was a relationship that you invest in particularly after you see their growth over time.

Par Ohmsford and Damson Rhee (The Heritage of Shannara series) These two are probably my favorite couple from the books I’ve read. I remember when reading this series that I would flip ahead to find the next section that furthered their story. They just wind up in some tough situations and have to rely on each other so much. In fact I’d maybe even argue that Par may rely on Damson quite a bit more than she does on him. No bitter-sweetness at the end here, in fact it is Damson’s love for Par that helps the heroes achieve victory near the end of the series.

Movies

Alright, here I have a few more entries. Still though, I’m sure my list is nothing compared to some out there. Looking up some best romantic movies or best movie couples I realized I haven’t seen a number of what most consider the best romantic movies/couples but I’ll work with what I’ve seen.

princess-bride-westley-and-buttercup

Westley and Buttercup (The Princess Bride) – Throw a romance that fights against all odds and even death itself into a rather quirky fantasy comedy and you have a classic. One of my favorite couples in movies, even if there are some kissing parts (sorry, inside movie joke).

Christian and Satine (Moulin Rouge!) – “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.” This tagline from Moulin Rouge! sums up the relationship between Christian and Satine. Their relationship just goes from very energetic highs to very thoughtful and even sorrowful lows. Put this all to music and you have a very emotional roller coaster ride where I cheered for every triumph and was pained by every low. You’ll also probably cry at the end, just fair warning.

Beauty_and_the_BeastBelle and The Beast (Beauty and the Beast) – When I think of a Disney romantic couple, Belle and the Beast are probably my top choice. The smart heroine, the change in the attitudes that Belle and Beast have for each other over time, the theme of looking past the exterior to see what’s inside, the iconic ballroom scene and it’s just a classic in my mind. To me they’re head and shoulders over Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, but that’s just my opinion.

Aladdin and Jasmine (Aladdin) – If Belle and the Beast are number one Aladdin and Jasmine are a close runner up. While Beauty and the Beast is more of a romance movie at heart, I feel that Aladdin is more of an adventure with a romance in it. Maybe that’s not a distinction everyone would make, but that’s how I view it. I don’t feel that Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship is quite as developed as Belle and the Beast’s. That’s not to belittle it, but rather to explain while Aladdin and Jasmine come in as runner up when it comes to Disney’s animated movies.

Carl and Ellie

Carl and Ellie (Up) – A relationship that you become attached you is usually produced over the period of a whole movie, however Pixar attaches you in their movie Up with impressive briefness. They follow the relationship of Carl and Ellie from when they are kids until Ellie’s death in the first eight minutes with very little dialogue.

It’s a powerful story. You see them at moments of hope, excitement, sadness, and disappointment. The range of real life seems to be present in these first eight minutes and man does Ellie’s death really just hit you like a ton of bricks. Their love also impacts so much of the movie as well, since Carl goes on his adventure because he feels that he has failed to give Ellie the adventure that they dreamed about as kids. Even if Up isn’t my favorite Pixar movie it does contain my favorite couple in a Pixar movie.

So those are my favorite couples from books and movies. How about you? What are your favorite couples from these two mediums? I’d love to hear your favorites.

 

Love, Respect and Making Things Up As We Go Along

About four years ago we were involved in a couples group that went through the Love & Respect DVD series done by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and his wife Sarah Eggerichs. The basic premise of the series is that men need to feel respected particularly when conflict is involved, and women need to feel loved. While often my wife and I felt that in reality we both need love and respect, the study was enjoyable (well except for the fact that we got constantly labeled as still being in the “newlywed” phase by a few of the other older couples). The idea that we need love and respect in a healthy relationship is an important one, even if you don’t necessarily agree that men need to feel respected more or that women need to feel loved more. Another thing that came out of it was that communication, meaningful, intentional communication is a must. I can’t remember if that was really driven home intentionally or was more woven throughout, but it was there.

Thankfully, my wife and I had the advantage/disadvantage of being a semi-long distance couple while we were dating. This resulted in not getting to see each other a lot, but it meant a lot of communication for the three years of dating where we were both in college. Our only connection was talking on the phone or writing e-mails or cards to each other. Even our dates usually consisted of going to the local park and walking around the park’s walking trail talking. Communication is one of the bedrocks of our relationship and still is. It takes work and time, but it has really been a benefit to our relationship. We are able to know each other well and can often tell when the other one is off or not well, even when they don’t want to talk about it. That isn’t always something that feels too positive when you’re the one not wanting to talk about what’s bothering you though.

This focus on communication, hasn’t meant that we don’t have any problems (we do), but I think it has allowed us to respect and love each other for who we are better. Does that mean that there aren’t things my wife wants me to work on or vice versa? No, I mean let’s be honest we’re still human we all need work. That and it is so easy to see the faults of the people you’re closest to and want to “fix” them. My point in that is that we know each other for who we are, not so much for who we want the other person to be or measured against some type of gender role.

Now let’s come back to today. In my reading of other blogs, I’ve realized that there is this fairly large battle going on over gender roles. You have the battle lines drawn between the complimentarians and the egalitarians. I wish I could give you a great definition of these two positions. My understanding is that complimentarians believe that while women and men are of equal value to God they have different roles to play particularly in the church and the family. Egalitarians tend to believe that women and men are of equal worth and have equal ability to use their gifts both in the church and the family. Most of the time this seems to be primarily a debate about if women should hold leadership roles in the church, but it does hit a little about the roles of men and women in the household, but these seem less clear.

Now neither my wife or I have ever really paid much attention to these distinctions, in fact my wife had never really heard of them. So as I’ve looked at the debate, my question was where do we fit? The answer is I’m not too certain. We’ve kind of just made things up as we’ve gone along. We both tend to like male pastoral leadership in the church better, but we also have women friends who are pastors or feel called to be in the future and we’re okay with that. My wife is the one who works while I stay at home with the kids, so clearly traditional gender roles are not a do or die issue for us.  Despite the fact that she is probably looked at by the outside world as a career woman, she doesn’t really look at herself that way, and it isn’t like staying at home with the kids was my first choice.

When thinking about parenting, I’m sure there are many things that we will do similarly for our children. At the same time I’m sure there will be differences in how we treat them based on gender, even if it isn’t always intentional. A somewhat silly example is that we won’t be putting our son in dresses or skirts, but we will and have done that for our daughter. At the same time we’ll want our children to be themselves and chase after the dreams and the calling that they feel they have on their lives. We aren’t about setting rigid gender roles for them to follow, but we’ll probably have some sort of gender differences.

As I said, I don’t know where this puts us.  I’m not entirely sure we care about the label we fall into either. My wife and I believe in treating each other with love and respect because we are both people. In some ways we seem to hedge egalitarian, but I’m not entirely sure about that. We’ll probably refrain from labeling ourselves in either camp. In cases like this it seems like the labels are more to see who is in our camp and who is outside of it. Do I believe that both can have examples of people living and practicing love and respect to each other? Yes. Do I think that there are examples in both where love and respect isn’t present? Yes.

I guess I’m a little wary of telling people how they should specifically look in terms of husband and wife. Is it wrong for the male to be looked at as the leader? Is it wrong for a husband and wife to work together as leaders? Is it wrong when the mother stays home with the kids? Is it wrong when the father stays home? Is it wrong when both parents work? I don’t necessarily think there is a clear right or wrong in these issues, but there are challenges in all of these scenarios. I think the bigger question is whether or not there is mutual love and respect present in the relationship. If there isn’t that’s a larger problem than whether you are egalitarian or complimentarian.

So feel free to debate from those standpoints. We probably won’t look like your model egalitarian or your model complementarian, but we’ll be trying to treat each other with love and respect as best as we can that given day. We also probably won’t care what you label yourselves either. We’ll probably be living our lives, making things up as we go along.

Chasing After Tolerance

If I’ve seen one word come out a lot over the past few years it has been the word tolerance. Associated with this word has been its evil twin, intolerance. I’ve seen it used so many times and used even in times that are quite paradoxical that I wonder what people mean by tolerance. Do we use it as it is supposed to be used? Is this simply a word that is used to illicit positive feelings towards certain positions and can then brush all those who disagree as intolerant? Another question that comes from these positive and negative reactions is “Does tolerance equal love and intolerance equal hate?” In addition to these questions is it even possible for us to be completely tolerant? In all the use this word has seen recently, I just want to explore these questions.

What does tolerance mean? Looking at dictionary.com it gives the definition of tolerance, in this context as, “The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.” That may sound easy enough conceptually but lets put some flesh on that definition. Let’s pick a fairly general example. Say you’re a republican or democrat and you’re faced with someone on the other side of the political spectrum. Tolerance here would be to understand, and understand correctly, the views of the other and respect those beliefs even if you disagree.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t see this example of tolerance acted out by many people. There are people out there who do, but sadly the majority, at least in my experience, do not. Even if people use the word tolerance in their rhetoric they too often resort to name calling, stereotyping, and dismissing the other side. They do all these while placing themselves on the high ground. Sadly all too often the language of tolerance and intolerance is used to place one side on the high ground over another and has little to do with them wanting to embrace a true philosophy of tolerance. It often really boils down to do you agree with my position or do you not? If you agree with me you are tolerant, if you don’t well you’re intolerant.

Often times in these attempts to grab high ground these words are connected to the concepts of love and hate. To recognize and respect others beliefs and practices is loving, while not recognizing and respecting others beliefs and practices is hateful. The reality is that I don’t think these concepts always connect as clearly as we would like them to. Going back to my example above. If the Republican or Democrat resorts to name calling and dismissal because of their disagreement does it mean that they hate the person they disagree with? In some cases the language is that of hatred, or it could simply be that the belief or practice of one side does not allow them to respect the belief or practice of the other. The stronger one believes in a certain issue, they could possibly be less likely to respect a belief that goes against it.

Even if you are tolerant in this circumstance, does it mean you are more loving? Again I don’t think there is a blanket answer. In a few cases it could be because the love for all people guides them. Most of the time I think the better adjective would be understanding or able to see both sides of issues. If you disagree with the other side at the end, it is more the idea of seeing how they could hold that too. That it means you are loving is perhaps a stretch in many cases.

Let’s display this in a clearer example. Say you see in the news that a family of four has been murdered horrifically. The murderer has been caught and is awaiting trial. Do we in the name of tolerance recognize and respect his belief that murder is okay and his practice of killing this family? I would guess that most of us would say no. Does that make us hateful in this circumstance? No, although we can hate the person for the act that he did, it doesn’t automatically equal hate to be intolerant of this belief and practice. We could even still hold that this person has some sort of rights as a human despite our disrespect for and/or disagreement with the beliefs they held or actions they committed.

This example also lends some doubt on true tolerance being able to be achieved. There are going to be beliefs and actions that we are intolerant of. Believing that something is wrong like murder shows that we are unable to be fully tolerant, and really shouldn’t be. Even the popular phrase, “I’m only intolerant to those who are intolerant,” displays the inability to be fully tolerant. Particularly because often times that phrase can be roughly translated into, “I’m only intolerant to those who disagree with my particular views.”

All this exploring has not led me to look at tolerance as a bad thing, but we must be careful how we use the word. Are we really seeking tolerance or just people to agree with us? Is it just a tool we throw out to discredit people who don’t approach things the same way we do? Do we try to get tolerance to mean things that it doesn’t necessarily mean? These are questions we should probably use of more words than just tolerance, but tolerance is certainly a word that needs more examination. Again it isn’t bad to be tolerant, but we just need to understand the limits of the word and our ability to be so.

The Messes We Make

In the past couple of months our son Ryan has begun to crawl. Like most babies this started out as a slow wiggle. The slow wiggle wasn’t too dangerous as he’d tire himself out before really getting too far. However, now he can travel pretty fast and with that speed and mobility it leads to him getting into things that previously were safe from his grasp.

One thing in particular that he loves to get into is our collection of DVDs and video games that are on a low shelf, simply because we don’t know where else we could really store them at the moment. He crawls over to them sometimes taking them off the shelf one at a time and other times destroying the whole pile with one swipe of his little baby arm. Admittedly, this gets frustrating having to either constantly pick up said mess or by trying to deflect his attention to something else.

Despite the frustration with him due to this activity, there was no doubt that I still loved him and was thankful for him. This thought made me wonder if this was how God viewed us sometimes. Maybe sometimes we’re immature little babies going around making messes, sometimes even the same mess multiple times. Maybe God sometimes gets a little frustrated with us because He gets tired of cleaning up the same mess or tired of having to try to redirect us. God still loves us through this, but perhaps would like it better if we would stop making the same messes in our lives. Particularly because our messes often have more significance and impact on our lives and others than a pile of DVDs and video games strewn on the floor.