Tag Archives: theology

“Hail Satan Gaiman” Or “Sympathy for the Devil”

Neil ****ing Gaiman.

Whimsical genius behind countless best-selling novels and comic books. Creative cadre to such literary giants as Terry Pratchett and Alan Moore. Champion of the plight of Syrian refugees. Perhaps one of the great authors of this time, with tales and yarns extending from the worlds of realism to science fiction to fantasy.

In many respects, a modern-day C.S. Lewis, with his ability to make the magical and divine seem every much as real and accessible as anything in the waking world.

Shame some folks don’t see it that way.

Specifically “One Million Moms”, which has created a petition for FOX to cancel Gaiman’s upcoming Lucifer TV series.

Now for the unaware, Lucifer is a comic book series spin-off of Gaiman’s fantastical masterpiece Sandman. Dealing largely with themes of free will and fate, the series sees its titular character abdicate his infernal throne and become a beach-bum in Australia.

The series has been loosely (but still earnestly) adapted by FOX, with the show’s premier airing at this year’s ComicCon and a three minute trailer released for the public at large. Continue reading

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2014’s Cultural Battleground – Kat’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

jianghomeshibannerThe Jian Ghomeshi scandal was a big deal for most Canadians. Ghomeshi felt like someone we all knew, someone who had been a regular presence in our homes (and cars) as long as he had hosting Q on the CBC.

In October, the CBC put pressure on Jian Ghomeshi to go on a leave of absence. Shortly afterwards, he wrote a post on Facebook accusing the CBC of firing him over his preference for rough (but consensual sex). Many fans believed Ghomeshi when he claimed the women who had accused him were liars who just wanted attention.

Given his popularity, I understood why people jumped to defend him when the first few allegations of sexual violence came out, but there was something about his Facebook post that just felt wrong. It seemed unlikely that anyone, much less more than one person, would make a sexual assault accusation just for attention. As I started to do my own research on the topic, I quickly realized that false rape reports are so rare that they are almost non-existent, and that the tendency to believe Ghomeshi over his (at the time) anonymous victims spoke to a much bigger systemic issue.

injusticesystembannerIt’s really hard to care about how terrible our justice system is unless someone close to you has gone through it. In this post, I discuss some of the things I noticed when I visited someone close to me during his stay in jail. Despite firmly believing that this person deserved to go to jail, that experience opened my eyes to the way prison (and the bureaucracies surrounding it) take damaged people and make them ever worse. As someone who works in special education, it made me even more angry to realize just how many of the adults in prison are individuals with special needs.

problemwithpuritybannerThe conversation around the purity movement tends to be very divisive; feminist websites like Jezebel have called it creepy, while many Christian communities staunchly defend the practice. Since I consider myself both a Christian and a feminist, I wrote this post to point out the really great intentions that are (usually) behind the purity movement, while still drawing attention to the damage it can cause.

duckdynastybannerAfter the Duck Dynasty star spoke out against homosexuality and was kicked off his show, my Facebook wall started to fill up with “I support Phil” memes. This made me really, really angry.

Having grown up Evangelical, I understand how many Christians feel they cannot accept homosexuality as something that honours God. Personally, I no longer accept that dogma, but I can understand it. I didn’t even write this post to argue with that branch of theology. I wrote this post because I was furious that Christians are happy to defend a millionaire because he broke his contract and got kicked off his TV show, but are unwilling to acknowledge that homosexuals are being killed and actually persecuted all around the world.

voluntouristbannerI’ve written many posts that address the Christian community. I do this because I still consider myself a member of that community, and I want to call out the issues that I believe are distracting from the message of love we claim to be sharing. Despite my many critiques of the church, some of the most amazing people I’ve known are Christians. I wrote this post about my experience living in a missionary community in Niger, where I was surrounded by people who I truly respect.

This post also addresses “voluntourism”, since my own selfish motivation to move overseas was something I felt personally convicted about during my stay in Africa. Recently, however, the discussion of the voluntourism trend has made westerners afraid to express interest in foreign aide at all. I believe both extremes can be damaging to international relationships.


Looking back, it’s sometimes scary to think about how much I have shared with you guys. It’s always a vulnerable step to publicize our personal opinions, it’s even more so with details about our personal lives. Intimidating as it can be, I’ve loved how many amazing discussions the blog has opened up in my life. Your comments (in person and online) have helped me reevaluate my own biases, and challenged me to think more deeply about the social, religious, and political issues we love to debate here at Culture War Reporters.

So here’s to a fantastic year. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.

– Kat

Not Strictly Literary: 6 Unexpected Subjects You Learn About in English

I’m currently in the last year of my English undergraduate degree. Well, kinda. I will probably have to do an extra semester to finish off my credits completely, but after next semester I will have finally finished all my English requirements.

Like many students, I kind of fell into my major. In my first year of full time studies I was seriously considering a degree in economics, or anthropology. Until I took a class in those subjects and quickly changed my mind. Once I started figuring out what kind of classes I actually liked, I started talking about doing my degree in Sociology, Political Science, or Environmental Ethics. Then, when I transferred to UVic, I decided I would take their writing program. Well I thought I was decided, until I was invited to join the English Honours program. That invitation totally went to my head and I dropped everything in order to pursue that (very structured) program.

Because of the number of required English classes (and because I blew many of my elective classes during first year), I’ve been taking pretty-well only English classes for the last two years. During that time, I began to ask myself if I had made the best choice. After all, English is really just reading books, isn’t it? Couldn’t I do that in my own time?

Ah, reading for fun/relaxation. Can’t wait until I get to do that again.

Now that I’m getting close to the end of my degree, I’m able to look back and be thankful for (almost) all of the English classes I needed to take. Yes, I still feel like there are a million others I wish I could have taken, but I think I would have felt that way regardless of my major. There are more fantastic courses out there than what you can possibly fit into one undergraduate degree.

Getting close to the end has also allowed me to reflect on the many English courses I have taken and realize just how broad a range of subjects they actually address. I’ve included a few examples below.

Linguistics

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.32.54 AM

One of the texts we are translating for our final project.

I’m currently finishing off a class on Middle English that I did not want to take. Not at all. I’m required to take a class in early English literature, so I chose this class after a friend recommended the professor. I was then pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fantastic class. It was also not at all what I was expecting.

English has evolved considerably since the 12th century, so it’s hardly surprising that trying to read Middle English texts is like reading an entirely different language.

At the beginning of the class our professor touched on many of the other languages that have influenced the formation of the English language. Then, as the class progressed, a lot of the work we did in class involved translating various works. The translation process required a basic understanding of how to parse language, something I had almost no experience with. Like many English speakers, sentence structure is something I know intuitively, not something I’ve intentionally learned. However, if my experience in Quebec this summer taught me anything, it’s that knowing how to break down language is key to learning a new one. So I’m hopeful that the linguistic skills I’ve been struggling to learn in this class will help me with my future language learning goals. Continue reading

Fixing Exorcism Movies

The Exorcist came out in 1973, and while pretty tame by today’s standards, was nonetheless an iconic film which arguably gave birth to the entire “exorcist-film” genre.

Of course, by “genre”, I mean a number of studios have been trying to make the exact same ****ing movie every single year and show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

We’re just now in July and we’ve already had a few out churned out, though what got me on the subject have been the non-stop ads for Deliver Us From Evil, the latest cash-grab which look like a soulless mash-up of both the exorcist and zombie apocalypse flicks.


Yeah. Possession that somehow spreads a la zombie-logic. Let’s go ahead and start right there.

Continue reading

The Problem With Pietism

I had said before that I’d be taking up the subject of religion again, and as I promised, here’s another segment in my litany of criticisms.

Two down, 93 more to go…

Despite Las Vegas’s image as a wretched hive of scum and villainy, it’s actually a relatively quiet town. In fact, ol’ Sin City is cited by a few sources as having the most churches per capita of any city in the US. My family once visited one church (we’ll leave out the full name) called “Grace ———-,” in what was perhaps the single greatest piece of religious sarcasm since Saul was told to go to a street called “straight.”

It’s not very straight…

At “Grace ——-” I had the pleasure of sitting on a butt-numbing pew and listening to an hour of the pastor passionately decry something called “Arminianism.” It was vitally important, it turned out, that we understand that these people were fundamentally wrong regarding predestination. Now I’ll freely admit that I’ve forgotten a lot the the pastor’s exact admonitions- just why it’s so essential to believe one over the other. That was about six or seven years ago- if there’s some awful, soul-rending disaster about to happen to me, I’m still waiting for it.

And that brings us to the topic for the day:

Theological “correctness.” Continue reading

Fame Day: Cornel West

Where exactly do you start when talking about Cornel West?

I mean, the man’s a brilliant academic. Dr. West had an illustrious career at Princeton and has just recently begun teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary (when he’s not teaching at the university of Paris). On top of that, he’s written over 20 books (and by books I mean tomes measured in weight rather than pages), appeared on countless national news panels, and somehow still found time to have a bit part in a couple of The Matrix movies.

Or perhaps I could talk about the man’s political work. West has been one of the few figures to consistently call out the Obama administration on its hypocrisy and atrocities- exemplified best by his outrage on Obama being sworn in on MLK Jr.’s bible.

Continue reading

Does Billy Graham Think Mormonism Is A Cult?

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a link to an article on the TIME website titillatingly titled “Billy Graham No Longer Thinks Mormonism Is a Cult.”

For those of you who don’t know, Billy Graham’s name has long been synonymous with “famous Christian guy.” To put that into more quantitative terms, he has been spiritual adviser to US presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, and  as of 2008 has had an estimated lifetime audience of 2.2 billion. Christians the world over  look to him to be a powerful representative of their faith.

Roughly two weeks ago US presidential candidate, and Mormon, Mitt Romney visited Graham at his home. At some point during their time together, the 93-year-old Evangelist told him, “I will do all I can to help you.

Shortly after this the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association [BGEA] took down a reference to Mormonism as a cult on its website.

This has, as most any action in the political sphere, provoked all sorts of public outcry, some of it mild, some of it extreme to the point that Graham’s whole ministry has been dubbed “a sham.” Basically your typical response to an event that combines two of the conversation topics you’re not allowed to bring up at the dinner table.

The viewpoint of Mormonism by mainstream Christianity aside, what’s truly important is what the man himself believes. While on the BGEA website I found an actual answer by Billy Graham, undated, to the question “What is your definition of a cult, and how do cults differ from Christianity?” His answer is as follows:

Cults differ widely from each other, of course, but they often have several characteristics in common. (Your local Christian bookstore can suggest some books that describe cults in more detail.)

One characteristic is that cults reject the basic beliefs of the Christian faith—beliefs that Christians have held in common for almost 2,000 years. Instead, they say they alone have a full understanding of the truth about God, and the only way to know the truth is to be part of their group. Many cults have their own writings also, which they either substitute for the Bible or add to the Bible.

Cults also often have a strong leader—one who demands total obedience, and actually claims to speak for God. This is very dangerous, of course, because he or she may lead others into disaster. Remember: Only Christ is worthy of our allegiance, for only He is God’s Son. The Bible says, “Through him you believe in God … so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21).

Pray for your brother and ask God to help you share Christ’s love with him. Cult members are often very resistant to outsiders, but pray that in time he will see this group’s false claims. Most of all, may his experience challenge you and your family to a deeper commitment to Christ.

Let’s break down his definition in regards to the Mormon faith.

———

  • Cults reject the basic beliefs of the Christian faith.

When it comes down to the bare basics, and concentrating on the personhood and divinity of Jesus Christ, they’re pretty spot on. “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He is our Redeemer.” Judging by this singular belief I suppose Mormonism would not be considered a cult.

  • Many cults have their own writings also, which they either substitute for the Bible or add to the Bible.

The Book of Mormon. People know about this because it is also the name of a popular Broadway musical. From their website it is apparently viewed as an addition, not a substitution, to the Bible. It is also a book which “contains the history and God’s dealings with the people who lived in the Americas between approximately 600 BC and 400 AD.”

  • Cults also often have a strong leader—one who demands total obedience, and actually claims to speak for God.

The head of the Church of Latter-Day Saints is known as the President of the Church. According to their Doctrine and Covenants, this man is the only one empowered to receive revelation for the entire church and clarify doctrine. Presidents can also correct or change any previous teachings.

———

Judging by the qualities of cults that Billy Graham lists, Mormonism hits two out of three. Why is it then that his organization took down the reference to the Church of Latter-Day Saints as a cult?

Ken Barun, the organization’s chief of staff, is quoted as as saying: “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

Have politics, then, trumped religion in this case? A debate on faith is avoided in order to bypass a possible issue of contention with a presidential candidate, one that Graham directly endorses. Cults are described as groups that espouse “false claims,” but apparently that can be ignored in light of Romney’s campaign.

While it is unfair to cite the holy life Billy Graham has lived as invalid in light of his recent actions, his decision should nonetheless be viewed for what it is: a sign of weakness in prioritizing the politics of this world over a commitment to spiritual truth.