Archive for March, 2010

Vampires fulfulling a spiritual need

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931)Right off the top, I should admit that the only vampire movie I’ve ever seen was the old black & white 1931 Dracula movie starring Bela Lugosi.

I found it entertaining, in a creepy/campy way.

But I don’t fully understand why so many teenage girls, and women of all ages, are going ga-ga over those Twilight movies about chaste teen heartthrob blood suckers.  Robert Pattinson’s abs might be more sculpted than Bela Lugosi’s, but his fangs aren’t nearly as impressive.

However I was interested to come across an article in Touchstone Magazine which claims that the stories fulfil a spiritual void:

…  the  reason these books are so popular: They meet a spiritual need. Mircea Eliade, in his book  The Sacred and the Profane, suggests that popular entertainment, especially imaginative literature and film, serves a religious or mythic function in a secular culture. When God is driven to the periphery of the public square, the human spiritual capacity longs for exercise, and it often finds it in the “suspension of disbelief” and activity of the imagination that are available in novels and movies.

The books and films that satisfy this spiritual longing most profoundly are the ones that have religious content of some kind, sometimes any kind. Not just The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia but also Harry Potter and The Matrix contain symbolism and religious notes that resonate with readers and moviegoers.

Which brings us to Twilight. These Gothic romances featuring atypical vampires and werewolf champions are allegories about the love relationship between God and Man. They are, in fact, a re-telling of the Garden of Eden drama—with a Mormon twist. Here, the Fall is a good thing, even the key to salvation and divinization, just as Joseph Smith, Jr., the Latter-day Saint prophet, said it was. Twilight conveys the appealing message that the surest means to God are sex and marriage.

Read the full article Mormon Vampires in the Garden of Eden here.

Climate science and media

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

It’s been a couple of months since I posted anything about climate change, so I guess it’s about time.

In January, NASA released its analysis of land and ocean temperature analysis for 2009, and declared the year in a statistical tie for the 2nd-warmest year on record, and the period 2000-2009 the warmest decade on record.  Unlike my post of December 15 I haven’t bothered to produce my own updated graph, but here is one produced by NASA.  (Instead of absolute temperature this shows temperature anomaly, where zero is the average for the period 1951 to 1980).

Maybe I’m missing something, but it certainly appears to me that a warming trend is occurring.

However, Les MacPherson wrote in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix a few days ago, “Even the leading alarmists now are compelled to admit what already was apparent to anyone who looked at the record, namely that there has been no global warming for the last 15 years.”

Les MacPherson has confirmed to me by email that the “leading alarmists” referred to is Dr. Phil Jones, one of the climate change researchers whose emails were hacked at the University of East Anglia recently, and the admission was made in a  BBC interview.  Here is what was actually said:

Q – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?

A – Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

I’m not going to get into the concept of statistical significance, whether at the 95% or any other level, and perhaps Les MacPherson is being totally without guile in his interpretation, but I would respectfully suggest that not everyone examining the record is  finding it “apparent” that “there has been no global warming for the last 15 years.”

I’m siding with the scientist rather than the opinion columnist on this one.

Glenn Beck wants me to leave my church

Friday, March 12th, 2010

I must admit that, despite my right-of-centre political views, I never watch Fox news, so the only time I have ever seen Glenn Beck was in an entertaining Youtube video back in early December 2009, featuring him in his fevered indignation  over scientists using a trick of the trade to reconcile historical tree ring proxy data with data from weather stations.

I came across the latest gem from Glenn Beck while browsing through The Holy Post.   According to opinion columnist Charles Lewis,

Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator known for his tearful rants in defence of American liberty and against the evils of liberalism, has told his audience that it may be time to abandon most of the Christian churches.

In a recent radio show, that was broadcast on more than 400 affiliates, he told his listeners to leave any church that uses the phrases “social justice” or “economic justice.” “I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site,” he said.

“If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!” He went on to say, “If you have a priest pushing social justice go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them. [Ask them] are you down with this whole social justice thing?”

The faith community that I’m involved with is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church.  Our denomination has a “Department of Compassion, Mercy and Justice“.  I went to the denomination’s website and did a search on “social justice”, which resulted in several pages of hits.

Clearly my denomination is on Glenn Beck’s naughty list.  But I like it so I’m staying put.

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!  (Amos 5:24)

End Note 1: I don’t think that Beck is against justice, but is against “progressive liberal” ideas of justice involving government intervention.  Personally I believe that the primary responsibility of Christians is at the individual level, but the Bible also calls for the “king” to help those who need it;

End Note 2: Despite the fact that I’m a small-c conservative, I support “pinko” Canadian policies like universal health care and official bilingualism, so if I were ever transplanted to the U.S., I really don’t know how I’d vote.

City of New Orleans – by the guy who wrote it

Friday, March 5th, 2010

If you are over 40, chances are that you remember Arlo Guthrie’s version of City of New Orleans.  But if you want to hear it the way it was meant to be done, take the time to watch Steve Goodman perform it, accompanied by mandolin virtuoso Jethro Burns.

Makes me want to go for a train ride.

An unaccountable “pastor”

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I stumbled across this news story about a child pornography bust:

Tampa, Florida – Even veteran detectives call this crime “disgusting.” A Tampa man claiming to be a minister is behind bars, accused of selling child pornography out of his home.

43-year-old Eric Spandorf allegedly downloaded and sold dozens of DVD’s filled with horrific images of child pornography…

(full news article here)

Apparently the accused man claims to be a pastor at something called Biblical Ministries.

Since the article gave a link to their website, I checked it out.   Sure enough, it lists Reverend Eric M. Spandorf as Associate Pastor/Crisis Councilor (sp).

Naturally curious about where the Reverend had obtained his M. Div. degree, and where he had been ordained, I clicked on the link to “Church Staff”, where I found the following:

Eric Mitchell Spandorf was born in the year 1966 In Brooklyn N.Y.  He lived there up until the age of 2.  At which time he moved to Plainview long island.  He was one of three children he had an older sister and an identical twin brother that died at the age of 16.  He attended Plainview High School which he graduated in the year 1984.  At the age of 24 he made the move to Florida where he resided in Orlando for 12 years at which time he moved to Kissimmee and now finally laid down routes in Tampa Fl.  He turned to the church out of feeling despair and disappointment in life and he now is a teen counselor.

That’s it.  Nothing about seminary, nothing about the ordination process.

This guy wasn’t a pastor, but a predator taking advantage of a wide open Internet to take advantage of the defenceless. Unfortunately many people reading about this case will take the Reverend title at face value, and the reputation of the church of Jesus Christ takes another blow.

I don’t doubt that there is a place for online ministry.  But I also believe that pastors must be accountable.  Obtaining the title of Reverend in the denomination that I’m a part of is a long, hard process.  I think that is a good thing.