Thursday, April 27, 2006

Book Review: Serenity

I just finished reading book one in a new Christian manga series titled Serenity. The manga is about a troubled girl named Serenity who becomes the "project" of the kids in the Prayer Club at her new high school. The first book in the manga series is titled "Bad Girl in Town".

I heard of the Serenity manga a while ago. It was featured in the Family Christian Stores (FCS) sales catalog that I subscribe to. In fact, I bought "Bad Girl in Town" on sale at FCS, and I'm glad I bought it on sale. The manga, at least book one, was just ok.

I love anime and watch a lot of it on tv, though I've never read a manga, so I had high expectations for Serenity. The drawing was excellent. It really looked like a top-notch secular manga. Anyone who loves anime and/or manga will love the look of Serenity. The story though, is flat.

I think the main problem with the manga is that it's too self-conscious. The authors are really trying hard to show that Christians can be cool. The Christian kids use the latest slang and dress quite fashionably, but it's just not believable. The book is a Christian version of manga and it reads like it. The authors definitely weren't following C. S. Lewis' advice for Christian authors to keep their Christian worldview latent.

Of course, Christian kids may very well need fiction that's openly geared towards them, and maybe the authors of the Serenity series are just trying to preach to the choir. If they are, they succeeded; but if they're trying to reach a larger audience I think they'll have an uphill battle. As I said in a previous post, most non-Christians aren't going to buy entertainment that's openly Christian. I can't see too many non-Christian parents buying the Serenity series for their kids.

But even if the manga wasn't openly Christian it still has problems. I know I shouldn't judge a whole series based on one book, but the first book is what makes you want to read more and I don't care if I read more of Serenity or not.

The series is written, I assume, for a teen and older pre-teen audience, but reading it as an adult was tiresome. The character development was light. The action was light. The dialogue was light. Everything was light! If I was a teen-ager reading this book I'd be a little insulted by the insinuation that I couldn't handled substantive fiction. After all, it is possible to write intelligent, substantive fiction for kids, if you're talented enough. Or maybe the authors suffer from the "Christian fiction" syndrome in which it's just assumed that Christians want, and can handle, only fluff. Whatever the authors' issues, they'd better come up with some more edgy stuff if they want Serenity to last through her senior year.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Christians and PETA

Below is a reprint of a post I originally wrote on Sept. 27, 2005 for my first blog, PoorGrrl Zone. Think and enjoy.

Should Christians be involved with PETA? I hadn't thought much about that until I picked up the current issue of HM: The Hard Music Magazine (it's a magazine for the Christian hard music scene, for those not in the know).

HM has a new feature called Causes. In each issue, a cause is reviewed and readers are asked to find something good in it for 60 days, until the next issue comes out. This month's cause is PETA, and a couple of the bands--or band members--featured in the issue are PETA supporters. Stretch Arm Strong and Emery are two of the bands that come to mind. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

I like animals. I'd never intentionally hurt one, and I don't think there's anything wrong with Christians caring about them. However, PETA carries the idea of caring about animals to a level I feel no Bible-believing Christian can accept. PETA believes that animals are equal to humans, that they have the same intrinsic value; you know, the whole "a rat is a pig is a boy" idea. Consequently, PETA people believe that harming or killing animals, for any reason, is as morally wrong as harming or killing people; and on the other side, NOT harming or killing animals is as compassionate as not harming or killing people. The cornerstone of PETA's philosophy is that kindness to animals is the epitome of morality and compassion. Bible-believing Christians simply can't believe this.

First, the Bible, in the very first chapters of its very book, clearly establishes Man's superiority over the animals. Man, and Man alone, is created in God's image. Immediately afterwards, he's given dominion over the animals. The God of the Bible is no animal rights activist. In fact, He's the first animal killer, killing a beast to make--gasp!--fur clothes for Adam and Eve after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. It only gets worse for the Christian PETA fan.

While vegetarianism seems to have been the original plan for Man's diet, meat is allowed after the Flood. In fact, meat eating was probably going on before the Flood because animal sacrifice was going on before the Flood. Remember the rivalry between Cain and Abel? Cain was jealous because God rejected his vegetable offering but accepted Abel's animal sacrifice. Surely, if pre-Flood people killed animals to sacrifice to God it's logical to assume that they ate them, too. And God didn't have a single problem with it.

Thousands of years later, in the time of Moses, God still hadn't seen the PETA light. In the Mosaic Law, He forbade the Jews to eat certain animals but not all animals, and He required animal sacrifice to cover their sins. Yes, the Bible praises kindness to animals here and there, but it's never the centerpiece of its morality. The Bible is concerned with Man's relationship to God and with Man's humanity, or lack thereof, toward his fellow Man.

But that's the Old Testament, some Christians will argue. Surely the New Testament is more enlightened and loving. Not so. Whatever PETA activists claim Jesus said about eating meat and the like, the Bible shows He didn't mind it at all. In fact, to get the Jesus they want, PETA folks go to extrabiblical sources which have no authority for the orthodox Christian. The Bible is the Christian's only authority for what Jesus did, said, liked, and disliked; and the Bible never records Him saying or doing anything against eating meat, wearing fur, etc. Indeed, in one of His sermons Jesus reminds His audience that if God will take care of the birds, He will also take care of them because they are worth more than the birds. Shocking! Jesus actually said people are worth more than animals?! Yep. Get over it.

Some people might have a hard time with this because they've bought into PETA's claim that you must believe in animal rights to be moral. Finding out that Jesus didn't believe in animal rights might seriously shake their faith in Him. These people need to understand that Jesus's morality--the whole Bible's morality--is above PETA's. Think about it.

PETA asserts that it's morally wrong to kill animals, even if it's done painlessly, because all life is sacred; yet how many PETA activists fought for the life of Terry Schiavo? If all life is sacred, doesn't that "all" include disabled human beings? If it's wrong to painlessly kill animals, shouldn't it also be wrong to painlessly kill disabled people? And what about abortion? Unborn babies are living creatures. Shouldn't they be protected? PETA activists can't use the "they're not human life" argument to justify abortion because they don't think life has to be human to have value. Their lives revolve around protecting nonhuman life. So, if unborn babies really are subhuman that's all the more reason why every PETA activist should be pro-life.

Of course, most PETA activists aren't pro-life. In fact, humans are the only life form whose demise doesn't offend them. So Bible-believing Christians should think hard before subscribing to PETA's moral worldview. It's contradictory, it devalues human life in the name of uplifting animal life, and it doesn't make you a good person. Remember, Adolph Hitler was a vegetarian; Jesus wasn't.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Married Christ?

Ask conservative Christians how they feel about marriage and they'll tell you it's a good thing. More than that, it's a sacred thing, invented by God Himself in the Garden of Eden. That's why such Christians are fighting tooth and nail against the legalization of gay marriage. Such a move, they fear, would destroy the very meaning of the God-ordained institution and must be opposed at all costs. Yet, if you ask these same marriage-devoted, conservative Christians if Jesus was or could've possibly been married, they'll react as if marriage was one of the seven deadly sins.

Jesus married?! It's blasphemy to even suggest such a thing! You're not a true Christian! Liberals have taken over the church! There's no way Christ was married!

Why do people who claim to believe that marriage is a good, even sacred, thing react so negatively to any suggestion that Jesus might've been wed? In a word, sex.

Despite the Bible's positive view of sex, most conservative Christians have mixed feelings about it, to say the least. For centuries, the orthodox Christian teaching has been that Jesus was fully God and fully man. To believe otherwise put you in the heresy camp, yet most orthodox Christians today are uncomfortable with a Jesus so human that He could've had--gasp!--sexual feelings. But let's think about this rationally.

In the Bible God never calls sex bad. He restricts sex to men and women in marriage and harshly condemns sex outside of that relationship, but He never calls sex itself evil. All you have to do is read the Song of Solomon to see how approving of sex, in it's right place, God is. So, if God didn't think sex was intrinsically evil, and if Jesus was God incarnate, then it stands to reason that Jesus also didn't object to sex itself. Thus, if Jesus was married there would've been nothing sinful about it.

But the Bible doesn't say Jesus was married, some might argue, so that proves He wasn't. No, it doesn't. All that proves is that the Bible doesn't say Jesus was married. The Good Book also doesn't say that Jesus wasn't married. So if you're going to argue from silence, you have to admit that said silence gives as much "proof" to the other side as it does to your own.

Some Christians might reject a married Christ as a way to fight against neo-Gnostic attacks on the Christian faith like the ones in the bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. I understand that view, but the best why to fight attacks on the faith is with reason and truth. And the truth is that we just don't know the marital status of Christ. The Bible doesn't tell us, and maybe it doesn't because that information is irrelevant to Christ's mission and our response to it. Think about it: if Jesus was married, and even had children, what difference would that make to His death and resurrection? None at all. Sure, some people may be uncomfortable at the thought that there could be physical descendants of Jesus living today but you know what, there already are descendants of Jesus living today! They are the descendants of His brothers and sisters. So Jesus' bloodline is alive on earth right now, if only indirectly.

All and all, I think any Christian who really believes that marriage is a good and sacred thing shouldn't feel upset at any suggestion or hint that Jesus might've been married. Afer all, if Jesus was married, and if He really was God, then He was simply partaking of the holy sacrament He Himself ordained.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother?

I was watching the 700 Club last night and Pat Robertson answered a question from a woman who's mother had abandoned her and her siblings when they were children. The mother was now popping in and out of her children's lives every few years, usually to ask for money. The woman's question was did she have to honor such a mother; Mr. Robertson said yes. I'm not comfortable with that answer.

I know that the Bible commands us to honor our parents. I understand the need for that commandment, but sometimes I think people think that gives parents the right to treat their children any way they chose without consequence. Pat Robertson seems to fall into that category. No, Mr. Robertson has never advocated child abuse, and he has strongly counselled abuse victims not to have any contact with unrepentant parents. Still, he seems to believe that children generally don't have the right to hold their parents accountable for any negative or even destructive thing the parents have done to them. Mr. Robertson's answers always seem to include the mantra, "She/he is the only mother/father you've got", the implication being that any wrong they've done or are still doing needs to be overlooked by the child(ren). I think that's going too far.

The commandment to honor one's parents isn't given in a vacuum. There are many other commandments people are to obey, and no where in His Word does God say that these commandments don't apply between parent and child. Yes, parents are due a certain amout of respect simply by being parents. None of us would be here if our parents hadn't decided to have us and care for us in our youngest years. Yet, parents also owe respect to their children because the children are not just their children but also their fellow human beings. Thus, all the commandments governing how we must treat our fellow man apply to parents as they bring up their children.

For example, the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. In the New Testament Jesus showed that "neighbor" meant any human being, especially one in need. Doesn't "neighbor", then, include one's children? And if parents abuse their children, abandon them, manipulate them, use them for selfish gain, haven't they violated the second commandent? And shouldn't such parents expect a dip in the honor they receive from their children?

Or what about the commandment not to have any gods before God? If we tell children to give their parents blind, unquestioning honor, and the obedience that goes along with it, are we not telling them to treat their parents like little gods? Are we not making them guilty of idolatry?

We are told in the Bible to honor and obey governmental authority, but that commandment isn't absolute, even in the New Testament. Cruel, unjust governments or laws are disobeyed with God's approval several times in the Bible. Why do we think it's any different with cruel, unjust parents? It's not. Children are not obligated to honor or obey abusive, cruel parents. And for the parents who aren't abusive, children do have the right to hold them accountable for the wrong things they may have done in the process of bringing them up. After all, the consequences that destructive or negligent acts can have on a person don't vanish just because the perpetrators of the acts were his parents.

Parents must realize that they are accoutable before God to treat their children as the fellow human beings they are. If they do that, they will reap a bounty of honor in this life and the next. That's how Mr. Robertson should answer the next question he gets about what's due deadbeat parents.