Shortly after I posted my review of Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage, which failed as a book on marriage, many sympathetic to Driscoll told me to get the forthcoming The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. Tim is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church on the island of Manhattan. He’s also a New Calvinist and a co-founder of the Gospel Coalition, which apparently believes you have to be Complementarian to be a real Christian. To say I was nervous to dive in would be an understatement, but dive in I did.
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Lindsey is one of my all-time favorite bloggers. Her life, the choices she makes, challenge me to follow Jesus more courageously. Deservedly so, Lindsey was recently listed as one of the 25 Christian Leaders to follow on Twitter. Read her awesome blog here, and follow her on Twitter here.
When I was younger, my friends and I loved to play this game “MASH.” I know, it sounds like a war game, but it was far from that. MASH was a game where your future was randomly laid out for you: what kind of home you’d have (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House), who you were going to marry, how many kids you would have, what kind of car you’d drive, what kind of job you’d hold. Worst-case scenario you’d drive a mini-van and live in a shack with Arnold, the dorky guy from algebra class, raising eight kids and struggling to make ends meet as a librarian.
Looking back, the peculiar thing about MASH is that being a single child-less with a great job and incredible community was never an option. Because being single at 35 was just plain incomprehensible.
Have you noticed how much sitcoms have changed? The earliest sitcoms were nearly all about marriage, from Leave it to Beaver to Father Knows Best to I Love Lucy. For every Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H*, or Cheers, you had dozens of Growing Pains and Family Matters and Step by Step and Fresh Prince. As recently as 1994, the highest rated sitcom in the US was Home Improvement, a family comedy starring Tim Allen as the patriarch of a traditional nuclear family.
But in 1995 and 1996, Home Improvement was destroyed in the ratings by two very different shows. One was Seinfeld, a sitcom two years older than Home Improvement, and the other was an upstart new show about six single people who really liked coffee. It was called Friends. You might have heard of it.
What’s interesting about these two shows is that their casts were entirely comprised of single persons.
Marriage Confidential by Pamela Haag is one of the most thought-provoking and insightful books I’ve read in a long time. It deserves more than a single review, and I plan to interact with Pamela’s ideas in much more depth later this year. But I couldn’t spend a whole month talking about marriage and not include this book; it’s simply done too much to shape my conversations about marriage. So for now, you’ll have to make do with this review.
Pamela identifies a particular sort of marital melancholy that contributes to as many as 60% of divorces: the low-stress, low-conflict marriage. She suggests the melancholy arises not from the institution of Marriage itself, but from our particularly modern incarnation of that institution:
To the outside observer, there is nothing “really wrong” with these low-stress, low-conflict marriages… Maybe all unhappy marriages aren’t all unhappy in their own unique ways; maybe in a lot of cases they’re unhappy owing to choices, attitudes, and sensibilities of our time that we share.
As a trained historian (PhD from Yale), then, Pamela sets out to explore how Marriage has changed throughout history, with special attention to what Marriage has been for the past few decades and where it could go next. In her words: Continue Reading…
Though today we marry for “True Love”, that’s a relatively new concept. Throughout most of human history, people married to ensure a stable society. Pixar’s latest film, Brave, is a contemporary fairy tale.
Though Brave is set in pre-modern Scotland, its take on the purpose of marriage is thoroughly modern. Brave demonstrates how our attitude towards marriage has shifted.
In the pre-modern world, more than 90% of humans on the planet lived in small agrarian communities of fewer than 200 total persons. With child survival rates as low as 50% and life expectancy around 40, the very survival of the community depended on individuals marrying and procreating as quickly and often as possible. With such a small community, a person’s marital options were limited. Continue Reading…
Maybe it’s time we all quit trying to outsmart the truth and let it have it’s day. — Alfred
In Act I (Batman Begins), we meet a Gotham overcome by corruption. The city rots, and crime runs rampant. The few good Gothamites are to afraid of organized crime to make a stand. This fear takes Bruce Wayne’s parents, so Bruce resolves to take back his city.
Bruce becomes a symbol of fear. His goal is to out-terrorize fear.
Bruce’s plan seems to be working – he saves the city from Ras al Guhl and the League of Shadows, and inspires men like Jim Gordon to stand tall against crime.
But as Act II (The Dark Knight) begins, we learn that the fight is just beginning. A new villain – the Joker – arises against Bruce. The Joker wants to prove that Gotham is irredeemable, that people are basically selfish and fearful.
The Joker torments Harvey Dent, Gotham’s new DA who represents everything Bruce had hoped to inspire using the Batman persona. Harvey succumbs to the Joker’s plans, going on a murderous rampage of vengeance before falling to his death. To protect his reputation and the city’s improvement, Gordon and the Batman lie, blaming Batman for Harvey’s crimes.
Act II ends with Batman failing to inspire Gotham to hope instead of fear. His tenuous victory rests on a lie. The scene is set for the final act, The Dark Knight Rises.
Act III resolves the conflict. The main character – through their Hero’s Journey – acquires the skills necessary to achieve victory and a renewed sense of person and purpose. Continue Reading…
This town deserves a better class of criminal. — The Joker
The Dark Knight is Nolan’s second act in a masterful classic three-act story structure.
Building on what Act I established, Act II brings the conflict into the open. The main character tries to solve the problem, only to find his situation worsening. He learns that he lacks something that keeps him from his goal. Continue Reading…
If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely… A legend, Mr. Wayne. — Ras al Guhl
By now it’s undeniable that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy joins the elite ranks of masterpiece cinematic trilogies. Why? What sets these films – and other great trilogies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Godfather – apart from the almost-greats like Rami’s Spiderman, the X-Men films or the Matrix movies?
Nolan’s Batman films tell one big story, building around a core theme and using fictive Gotham to tell mythic stories about contemporary society.
Through Batman, Nolan meditates on the nature of fear, good and evil and hope and despair. So far from being a film tacked on to make another buck, The Dark Knight Rises gives us a story that needs to be told. Without it, the story just isn’t finished.
While each film in Nolan’s trilogy follows a classic three-act structure, the whole trilogy also follows this pattern, which means the final film has the biggest payoff. Continue Reading…
One of the more common criticisms of The Dark Knight Rises revolves around the apparent ease with which Detective John Blake discerns that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Those defending the film point most often to Robin #3, Tim Drake, who in the comics figures out that Bruce is the Batman and more-or-less argues his way into becoming Robin. Those trying to tie Blake to Drake seem essentially to argue “Well Tim was that smart, so maybe John is too?”
Both critics and defenders ignore essential Batman lore that Nolan clearly uses in his trilogy: Bruce Wayne is the mask that Batman wears. Continue Reading…
“You think this is part of some revolution?” — Jim Gordon
One major criticism of The Dark Knight Rises is the film’s perceived stance on politics. Specifically, despite repeated denials by director Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer that the film is not an intentional commentary on on the Occupy movement, people as notable as Glenn Beck are praising the film (or critcizing it) for how it “confirms a conservative worldview.”
Anyone who thinks The Dark Knight Rises affirms the power of the wealthy needs to watch the film more closely. This film is a clear critique of the danger of power, and how to wield it properly.