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Reading: Comic Book Theology, Evangelion, Sexual Abuse in the Bible, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Christian Expansion, & More

Also: Alien civilizations, musical nostalgia, revisiting classic Christian albums, video games as digital literature, social media darkness, music’s ongoing devaluation, and removing advertising’s influence.
Batman #44

Christ and Pop Culture recently launched a new column titled Panel Discussion that focuses on comic books. “I want to take the Bible in one hand and Captain America in the other, and have a substantive discourse with those who are trying to process what is really good news.’ I want to see how our modern mythologies and hero stories ultimately whisper to the actual Good News of Christ as the real hero of our everyday stories.”

After years of anticipation, Funimation has announced that they are finally releasing the third Evangelion movie, Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo., on February 2, 2016. Among the special features are a 52-page full color guidebook and a bunch of supplemental material. (And if you don’t know what this “Rebuild of Evangelion” stuff is all about, click here.)

Outer Space

Have we finally discovered evidence of an alien civilization? “This may sound like science fiction, but our galaxy has existed for over 13 billion years, it’s not such a stretch of the imagination to think that an alien civilization may be out there and evolved to the point where they can build megastructures around stars.” Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve mistaken natural phenomena for evidence of alien civilizations. (Reminder: If this does turn out to be evidence of an alien civilization, it might not be such a good idea to get their attention.)

Alan Parish seeks an answer to the age-old music geek question: “Why do I like a band’s decade-old album better than their new one?” More: “It happens all the time; we adore an older album from a band but don’t like their new stuff as much (and sometimes, we don’t like the newer stuff at all). Most of the time this is due to personal preference or life events surrounding the release of that older album that we love. It is not necessarily because the artist was any better 10 – 20 years ago; that is illogical because practice and age should lead to improvement over time for anyone in any craft.”

Sticks and Stones

J. Edward Keyes may be an atheist but he’s doing the Lord’s work with this exhaustive review of The 77’s Sticks and Stones. “Where so much of the bad end of Christian rock feels like it was parbaked in a germ-free environment, Roe had absorbed decades worth of actual rock history — mostly from the 50s and 60s — and understood instinctively that fronting a rock band was not the same thing as leading eyes-closed acoustic worship at the weekly teen service.” Preview and buy Sticks and Stones on Bandcamp. (I’m glad to see his shout-out to the 77’s Pray Naked; I love that album.)

Why shouldn’t we euphemize Biblical stories containing scenes of sexual violence and abuse? “It’s not that we skip over such stories, but that we tend to use euphemisms when telling them. We don’t pay close attention to the details, and as a result miss what the biblical authors intended to communicate. Stories not just of prostitutes, adulterers, and fornicators, but also of sexual predators and human traffickers, teach us profound lessons about God and his grace. He came to redeem all people, even those who are sexually violent, as the genealogy of Jesus shows.”


Naomi Alderman argues that video games represent the first great works of digital literature. “When I bring this up with arts and literary types, I often get the sort of oh come, come’ response that can only emerge from someone who has no familiarity whatsoever with what video games are, have been, and can be… [A]re there video games experimenting with more interesting storytelling than any digital literature’ project I’ve seen? Yes, certainly. And if you want to think of yourself as well read, or well cultured, you need to engage with them.”

What sort of darkness lurks behind those “perfect” online profiles on Facebook, Instagram, etc.? “Increasingly, most of us are living two lives: one online, one off. And studies show that this makes us more vulnerable to depression, loneliness and low self-worth. In 2013, scientists at two German universities monitored 584 Facebook users and found one out of three would feel worse after checking what their friends were up to — especially if those friends had just posted vacation photos.”

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Steven D. Greydanus considers what Avatar: The Last Airbender has in common with Star Wars, Hayao Miyazaki, and kung fu films. “There is a sense in which Avatar: The Last Airbender’ is for my children in part what Star Wars’ was for my generation: a new and enthralling mythology about a young hero with a mysterious power slowly learning to channel that power to fight against a tyrannical empire.”

Piracy and streaming services like Spotify are often accused of devaluing music, but it’s worse than that. For example: “Music has for decades been promoted and explained to us almost exclusively as a talisman of emotion. The overwhelming issue is how it makes you feel. Whereas the art music of the West transcended because of its dazzling dance of emotion and intellect. Art music relates to mathematics, architecture, symbolism and philosophy. And as such topics have been belittled in the general press or cable television, our collective ability to relate to music through a humanities lens has atrophied.” I know I’m certainly guilty of this in my writing, and something I could certainly stand to improve on.

(AntanOCC BY-SA 3.0)

It may seem like Christianity is on the decline here in U.S., but globally speaking, Christianity is spreading more than ever before. “If we extrapolate these figures to the year 2025, and assume no great gains or losses through conversion, then there would be around 2.6 billion Christians, of whom 633 million would live in Africa, 640 million in Latin America, and 460 million in Asia. Europe, with 555 million, would have slipped to third place… by 2050, only about one-fifth of the world’s 3 billion Christians will be non-Hispanic Whites.” For us Western Christians, such news should be encouraging and sobering.

Michael Boyink offers some tips for removing advertising’s clutter from your life. “Clearing the advertising junk out of your life is like driving from the middle of the worst smog-infested city straight into the depths of the closest forest. You’ll breath deeply of clean fresh air. You’ll be able to clear your mind and focus on just how good you already have it. You’ll be grateful for what you already have and who you already are.” His tips include wearing clothes with no words or branding, developing a personal uniform, installing ad blockers for your web browsers, and removing badges and stickers from your vehicles.

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