hymnia: (This much)
I know I haven't been updating much—but I have been keeping up with my new blog, so if Japanese language and culture interests you, remember to keep checking Hymnia Monogatari for updates.

But I had a couple of other things I wanted to write about, so...here I am. I've been in an Avatar: The Last Airbender mood lately, thanks mainly to the early online release of the opening episodes of The Legend of Korra on Korra Nation. And I've been re-watching the original series with my mom, so that she can watch Korra with me and be all up to date. We're now on the first couple episodes of Season 3. When we get to the place where I left off my long-abandoned re-watch posts, I will go ahead and finish those up. (Finally!) Also, I belatedly got my hands on The Promise: Part 1, which I read a day or two ago.

Thoughts on The Promise (spoilers for Part 1) )
The Legend of Korra (spoilers for first two episodes) )

The Good Friday media gap

The other thing I wanted to post about—and this may seem like a bit of a non-sequitur after rambling about ATLA, but it is Good Friday, after all—was John 19:38-42. I was reading this passage about Jesus' burial last night, and it occurred to me that most films or other media that deal with the story of Jesus (whether as the main story like in Jesus Christ Superstar, or a side story like in Ben-Hur) don't really deal with this part, AFAIR. They usually focus on Jesus' ministry and/or death, and the burial/waiting period is usually completely skipped, with the resurrection sometimes tacked on like an afterthought. I guess writers must find it all a bit anti-climatic to deal with the burial and resurrecion after the crucifixion, an emotionally intense scene with much more physical action. Anyway, I think somebody should pick up the slack and write a film that focuses on the post-crucifixion story—because there's actually quite a bit of material with all the post-resurrection appearances, not to mention room for embellishment on all the disciples' reactions to Jesus' death.

Hmm...did I just release a Bible fanfic plot bunny? 0_o

hymnia: (Shigure reading)
Almost any book worth reading is a dangerous book. I once knew a young man who jumped off a roof and broke his leg after reading the Harry Potter books. It seems he wanted to test himself for latent magical abilities, like Neville's relatives did to him when he was a kid, trying to prove that he wasn't a Squib. (This young man had high-functioning Downs Syndrome; he was bright enough to read Harry Potter, but lacked a clear understanding of the line between reality and fantasy.)

Books have the power to shape our ideas, for good or ill. Speculative fiction may have even greater power because it is not bounded by the limits of the real world. Of course, not everyone who reads Harry Potter will respond the way this young man did—the vast majority will not. But the ideas contained in books—whether ideas intentionally worked into the themes of the story by the author or not—will inevitably interact with our own, and shifts in understanding can take place. Stories may challenge our beliefs, or they may confirm and solidify them—or perhaps they will affect them in more oblique ways. Either way, whenever we encounter good story-telling, it is unlikely we will walk away unchanged.

This is not a bad thing, of course. In fact, I think this is how any well-told story should be. I don't reject books because I consider them “dangerous”. In fact, I think the word could be applied to almost any of my favorite books, and certainly to the ones I recommend most. “Read this book. It will change you.” Haven't you ever recommended a book to someone that way? But because I know they can have a powerful influence on our beliefs—and by extension, how we live our lives—I do think carefully about what books I pass on to others, and under what circumstances. Some books I may recommend only to certain people, like the series I will discuss in a moment. Some I may recommend while expressing reservations or adding disclaimers. (The Twilight books come immediately to mind.) With children and teens, there are a lot of books I would prefer to share and discuss with them, rather than just setting them loose unguided. (I feel this way about much of the Bible, as well as a lot of classic works). And, though I can't think of any off the top of my head (at least not any I actually finished reading), there may be some books I wouldn't pass on to anyone under any circumstances.

Some time ago on Mark Reads I caused a bit of a stir by saying that I wouldn't recommend Philip Pullman's YA fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials to young people. Why not? In essence, I feel that the series co-opts the thrill of numinous experience through its fantasy setting and inspiring characters and utilizes this thrill for such a harshly anti-Christian and anti-God message that I cannot support putting the books in the hands of people who I feel are likely to accept that message too easily and uncritically.

I have recommended the books to adult readers, especially fellow Christians, for the purpose of examining challenges to the faith and discussing the implications of them. There's no doubt they are well-written, highly engaging books with many elements and themes that appeal to a broad audience, including young people. And I would even say that I agree with some of the themes—themes like embracing the pursuit of knowledge and sacrificing one's own immediate happiness for long-term goals and greater good. But there are a couple of points that I object to strongly, and the fact that the books are well-written and contain some positive themes make me feel all the more compelled to avoid endorsing them. It's like hiding poison in a delicious chocolate cake.

I don't support censorship. However, I think there will always be some tendency by human institutions run by humans to have a certain bias in what information we select or include in our media and communication materials. People in certain positions in a free society—librarians at public libraries, for example—have a responsibility to repress their inclinations to “select out” that which they disagree with (and maybe also to “select in” that which they wish to promote) to a degree that could reasonably be considered censorship. Were I in such a position, I wouldn't “select out” HDM from the shelves of YA fantasy fiction. There is no doubt that it belongs there.

But does that same idea apply to my position as a classroom teacher? I don't believe it does. The books I place on my classroom bookshelves are: 1) obviously not meant to be a comprehensive collection of YA books, and 2) could be viewed as receiving my personal endorsement. Therefore, I have chosen not to put the HDM books on my classroom bookshelves.

Finally, I wouldn't dream of forbidding or even discouraging a teen who is already inclined to pick up the HDM books from doing so. I'm not as dumb as Professor Umbridge, after all! I might—if in a situation where it is appropriate to offer some guidance—encourage her to search out the underlying themes and ideas Pullman might be trying to promote, and to think carefully about whether or not she agrees with them, and what other viewpoints there might be. I might even articulate some of those other viewpoints.

Censorship is not the right approach to "dangerous books". People have the right to access information and ideas--even if others dislike those ideas or the effects they might produce. However, I believe that in a free society people also have the right to make selections about what information and ideas we personally endorse.

hymnia: (Sleeping fairy)
I have one more post to make on media consumption for the time being. I've been listening to the Middle Earth saga on tape. (And yes, I'm literally listening to cassette tapes. They really are the best way to listen to audio books.) I finished The Hobbit a week or two ago. Serendipitously, Mark Oshiro (of Mark Reads and Mark Watches) started reading The Hobbit shortly after I finished, so I'm enjoying reading his posts with the story still very fresh in my mind. It really is a series of little adventures along the way of a long journey, and there were a lot of twists and turns in the plot that I'd forgotten about.

Now I'm on The Fellowship of the Ring, and I swear, I almost forgot how good this story is. I love, love, love the characters so much, especially Frodo, Sam, and Aragorn. I was (and am) a big fan of the films, and so the visual representations from the films—from the set designs to the actors—are firmly fixed in my mind, probably more so than for any other book-film combo I've enjoyed, even Harry Potter. It's too bad that the section with the Old Forest, Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, and the Barrow Wights wouldn't fit in the film. I don't blame Peter Jackson in the least for cutting it, but it would really have been nice to have seen those things come to life on film as well, especially Tom and Goldberry.

To fill the gap, I've picked actors to represent the missing roles of Tom and Goldberry.

Cut for pictures )

Who would you cast to play Tom and Goldberry?

In other news, I went to church today at Bethany Community Church for the second time (the first was in October, before I got sick), and I think I'm going to stick with this church. The sermon was on the relationship between science and faith, and the way the pastor approached the topic made me feel I could be comfortable with this church. It was a good sign when he opened with this quote from St. Augustine:

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? (Follow the link for the full quote.)

BCC has a Thursday night “Early Career” group that I'm going to try to go to this week. Here's hoping I can make some friends there!

hymnia: (Shuurei in wind)
All right, now I'm ready to write about the books I'm currently reading. I have a tendency to jump around between several different books at the same time instead of reading just one, so all of the below are books that I'm still in progress on reading:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I like the narrative voice in this story. I think Chobsky does a good job of capturing the essence of a certain type of introvert—an INFP, if I were to classify him by the Meyers-Briggs standard. (This is also, incidentally, my own personality type. I think it's fair to say I identify with the narrator quite a bit.) I'll be interested to see how the film adaptation, starring Emma Watson as Sam, the narrator's love interest/crush, turns out. My only complaint is that it does tend to fall into the tendency of a lot of slice-of-life stories about adolescence of being hyper-focused on sexuality and drugs. Yes, those things are parts of adolescence, but there is so much more. My favorite moments are when the book focuses on the other things, like the narrator's feelings about his extended family, especially his deceased aunt, or the extra books that his favorite teacher assigns him to read and write essays on. The parts that are about sex and drugs are kinda boring in comparison to the rest. I wish the ratio was a little more balanced. I may be biased because my own adolescent experiences—and even the experiences of many of my close friends, at least as far as I knew—were less characterized by those things than what you usually see portrayed in media.

  • Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig - If you have me freinded on Facebook, you've probably seen me post at least one link on the topic of corruption/corporate money in politics and/or at least one link to a presentation by Larry Lessig, either on this topic or on copyright law. Anyway, this book is Lessig's latest, and it is about how Congress has been corrupted by a dependency on campaign funders, rather than remaining dependent “on the people alone”, as the founders intended. It is an excellent book. I agree whole-heartedly that this problem is the “root” of the majority of bad policy that the US Congress has produced in the last several decades, including the decisions that led to the current financial crisis. I used to think campaign finance reform was just another issue, probably a good idea, but not any more important than any other issue. I now believe it is absolutely essential in order to restore the republic of the USA back to what it was meant to be—a republic dependent on the people, and not the funders. I urge every US voter to learn as much as they can about this issue. This is a good place to start: http://rootstrikers.org/ Also, I've linked several versions of Lessig's presentations on Facebook, but the one below is of his talk at Seattle's Town Hall, which I went to see a couple of weeks ago (and where I also got my book signed). I felt like it was a good remix of his best material. I know it's long, but Lessig is a very entertaining speaker, and this is an EXTERMELY IMPORTANT MESSAGE. So please take the time to watch it:

  • Lady in Waiting by Debby Jones & Jackie Kendall - This is a Christian book that addresses the struggles of single Christian women. It is a bit dated, and some of the advice feels a little stale to a 30-something woman who has read lots of similar books in the past. But overall, I've enjoyed reading it and felt encouraged by its message of living for God and serving him now rather than waiting for some fairy tale happy ending, as if life only starts once you're married.

  • Christian Universalism: God's Good News for All People by Eric Stetson - This is the third book on the topic of Christian universalism that I've read now. The first, The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbot was the most convincing, IMO. This one uses a lot of similar arguments, and seems to be a bit more confrontational against those who hold a more traditional view of God's judgement. I like Talbot's book for being more gentle toward opposing viewpoints. Anyway, I'm not 100% sure what I think about Christian universalism. I lean toward thinking that Biblical teaching on what happens to human beings after death is sufficiently ambiguous that no one ought to be too dogmatic about it; I think the Christian universalist view (which is NOT the same as pluralistic universalism, BTW) is a reasonable one, and I think it does a better job of reconciling seemingly conflicting Bible verses on salvation and the sovereignty of God than traditional views such as Calvinism and Armenianism. I don't think we can deny that people will face God's judgement after death, but what exactly that judgement entails is open to interpretation.

  • A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower by Kenneth G. Henshall – This is a book I picked up at the library recently because I wanted to read a general history of Japan. I haven't read very much of it yet, though, so I don't yet have much to say about it.

*yawn* For some reason I'm really tired tonight, even though I had a pretty easy day and took a nap this afternoon. I'm glad to be going to bed a little bit earlier than usual tonight. (And yes, 11-ish is pretty early for me!)

hymnia: (Default)
From Beliefnet's "Daily Christian Wisdom":

How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation or Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford or a Brainerd.

- A.W. Tozer
hymnia: (Default)
In past years, I've posted a "medley" on Easter. (Here is the first such post.)

I was feeling a bit down and not in the mood to post one today, but [livejournal.com profile] springdove's post has cheered me up and reminded me of a song to add to the medley:

"And everything that's new has bravely surfaced,
Teaching us to breathe,
And what was frozen through is newly purposed,
Turning all things green.
So it is with You,
And how You make me new,
With every season's change
And so it will be,
As You are re-creating me:
Summer, autumn, winter...spring."

~Nichole Nordeman, "Every Season"

Feel free to add a song, scripture, quote, thought, etc. to the medley.

hymnia: (Default)
Do I need to change my religion? Or could it be that this quizmaker has no idea what my religion is really like? Considering that Scientology is futher along the "Reason" spectrum than Judeo-Christian beliefs, I'm gonna go with the latter. *rolls eyes*

Joie, the...Humanist? )

And don't forget to give my recent Tribond posts a try!

hymnia: (Default)
Gacked from [livejournal.com profile] koinegeek.

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.




Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical


Classical Liberal






Modern Liberal


Roman Catholic


What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Ha! This one makes me out to be a mutt, with lots of different categories in the 40-65% range. I think the lack of much of anything that covers views towards the free-will-but-conservative end of the spectrum is problemtatic. It's probably what made my results fall all over the map like that.



hymnia: (Default)

June 2013

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