Debating Snape

 

Recently, in an undisclosed location, the REO staff had a meeting. Present were Phill, Ben, Mike, Dave, Nathan, Mark and me. We ordered pizza and as the doorbell rang signifying its arrival, Phill rolled a die to see who would have to get it, counting off each of us seated at a round table as a number. I informed Phill that by casting the die he was then creating a world with six alternate timelines. One where each of us has to get the pizza when the die lands and seals our numerical fate.

In one of the timelines–let’s call it The Darkest Timeline–things go berserk thanks to some terrible luck, a Norwegian troll doll and an Indiana Jones diorama. People get hurt. Things catch on fire. Apocalyptic chaos ensues.   

Thankfully we don’t live in that timeline, unless you get on Twitter where apparently everybody is in a perpetual state of cataclysm. But due to a Dreamatorium created and shared by Mike and me, Darkest Timeline Gowdy has a chance on occasion to interact with our timeline. Today, I, Regular Gowdy (RG) invite Darkest Timeline Gowdy (DTG) to my house to have a debate over one of the most controversial and complex figures in recent fantasy literature: Severus Snape. 

 

RG: Thank you for joining me today. Nice goatee. Very Spock-like in the Star Trek Original Series Season 2, Episode 4, “Mirror, Mirror”.

DTG: Nerd. 

RG: We’re basically the same person.

DTG: I don’t have a plush Dobby doll…

RG: It’s a collectible!

DTG: It’s a nerd doll. I bet you also own a wand from Universal. 

RG: It chose me!

DTG [Giving RG the same look Hermione gave Ron when he concluded that no one could feel all that Cho was feeling or “They’d explode”]: I’m sure it did. 

RG: It was made with a Phoenix feather! Give me a break. You’re just as big a nerd as I am.

DTG: I love Harry Potter and Star Trek but nerds cite episodes and buy toys. 

RG: Regardless, you know these works as well as I do.

DTG: I know more than you. Nerd.

RG: We will see about that. Our topic here today: Is Severus Snape more hero or villain? J.K. Rowling herself has said that Snape is all grey. You can’t make him a saint or a devil. So our aim is not binary. We want to discuss what he was more of. I’ll fire the opening salvo: Professor Snape is an extraordinarily written, gut-wrenching plot twist of a character. For 4000 pages, Rowling makes you hate him, before pulling the rug out from under us to reveal a remarkably intricate yet no doubt good-soul of a man who gave his life to help bring down the Dark Lord. His love for Lily is one of fiction’s great tragedies, and yet he did not let it go to waste, using it as inspiration the rest of his life to truly repent and join the anti-Voldemort movement. He is absolutely more hero.

DTG: In my opinion, Snape…

RG: Professor Snape….

DTG: Calm down, nerd. Snape [pauses, gives RG the same condescending look as before] is a petulant child who happens to have adult responsibilities. He tortures innocent children because of grudges and house affiliation, plays mind games with them, and is the model of someone who abuses power with no sense of justice. Additionally, his love for Lily is vastly – VASTLY – overrated…

RG: Oh come on! You’re telling me that you don’t think “After all this time?” “Always” is one of the most beautifully sad exchanges ever? The way Snape felt about Lily was something completely relatable and hits you like a stomach punch. Everyone gets unrequited love.

DTG: He was in love with another man’s wife and never moved on. That’s not romantic; that’s pathetic. 

RG: But it was his motivation for doing good in the world!

DTG: I can separate actions and motivation. Some of his actions were admirable; the motivation was creepy and reeked of an adult living in his mom’s basement scrolling Facebook pictures all day.

RG: He truly loved her. The movie interpretation of him crying over Lily’s death, holding her body and losing it, that was tear-jerking to me.

DTG: That’s not a hero, though. It’s a sap to be pitied. He loved her but was a complete jerk to her son and most everyone else. He once tore a Potter family picture in half to keep Lily’s half and left the other half with James and Harry. What twisted narcissist does that to a happy family? That’s selfish. What a loser! 

RG: Well it’s not like he ever tried to really break up the marriage.

DTG: As if he could. James was a stud and once Snape called Lily “mudblood” he had no chance. So he pined like a sniveling, unthinking beast. 

RG: James wasn’t innocent. If hadn’t been so antagonizing to Snape at Hogwarts, maybe Snape would not have been so cruel to Harry.

DTG: I don’t take that as an excuse for one second. I won’t defend James completely, but Snape had decades to move on from that. And Harry, no matter how much he looked or acted like his dad, did not deserve such a vindictive spirit thrust at him, especially his first day in class. 

RG: You don’t buy that Snape wasn’t apologizing to Harry for Lily’s death with the first questions he asked him in the first book? You know, all that about asphodel and wormwood and bitterness and sorrow?

DTG: If that was Rowling’s intention then I admit that is very cool. But you can apologize without being a bully at the same time. Which Snape was that whole scene, taunting Harry as a “celebrity” even though Harry had done literally nothing to earn that scorn besides be his father’s son. And besides, way beyond the first day Snape is terrible to Harry and his friends. Remember when he gave Harry a zero for a simple misread of the instructions for the Draught of Peace while he ignored the poor work of several other students? That’s petty and immature. 

RG: But lest we forget, he also saved Harry’s life his first year when Quirrell tried to kill him during his first Quidditch match. That’s noble and heroic.

DTG: Barely. He did so at no risk to his own life or safety and with a small effort for a wizard of his pedigree.  It was a good thing, but the insults and boorish behavior towards Harry far outweigh it. 

RG: I don’t think saving a person’s life can be devalued quite that easily. He saved Harry’s life out of a deal he made with Dumbledore, which proved he was truly a good guy and no longer a Death Eater. And much of what he did in this role as a spy, as a result, was at risk to his own safety and life. A true hero absolutely would use his skill at occlumency to deceive Voldemort, the greatest Legilimens of his time. You had to figure Snape knew at any moment Voldemort could figure him out. But he stayed exactly where Dumbledore put him. Perhaps that was part of why he played his role as a villain to Harry so believably.

DTG: The point about dealing with Voldemort may have some value but he still went overboard in his treatment of Harry and it was obvious that he did it because he hated James 10 to 20 years later. When he gave Harry detention for using Sectumsempra on Draco (which Harry deserved), he forced him to read James and Sirius’s old detention notices. That was spiteful. 

RG: Sectumpsempra is a good example of how Harry was far from innocent. Much of Snape’s disdain for Harry was for being out of bounds at night and breaking school rules.

DTG: Yes, but you are comparing teenage Harry trying to accomplish noble and reasonable things in secret and under darkness with Snape, a grown man and a teacher, exacting revenge on a child shamelessly and in public.  

RG: I hate to sound like Lupin talking to Harry, but it sounds like you are determined to hate Snape. You keep going back to his treatment of Harry when Snape was far more than that. You didn’t even respond to my point about his use of occlumency on You-Know-Who.

DTG: Only nerds say “You-Know-Who”. Actually, Ron-type nerds say it. You’re not cool enough to be a Hermione nerd.  I said his sacrifice to risk Voldemort discovering him had value. But I’m not going to classify him a hero based on how skilled he is. There is zero doubt that Snape was one of the three most adroit wizards in the series, behind Voldemort and Dumbledore. But abilities do not make for a hero. Actions do.

RG: No argument there. I just happen to see his actions as a double-agent far more crucial to his character than his actions as Harry’s teacher.

DTG: Snape as Harry’s teacher is like 80% of Snape in the series. I bet the majority of Snape’s spoken lines before the very end of Book 7 are insults to Potter or his friends. 

RG: But that’s the genius of the plot twist; she had to make us believe Snape was evil and the true heroism of Snape, in large part, goes unsaid in the series. Doesn’t Jesus teach that it is right to do good without getting credit? Also, if everything we discover in “The Prince’s Tale” chapter at the end of The Deathly Hallows was known ahead of time, it would destroy how incredible that chapter is. That chapter ravaged millions of fans in the profound and shocking way possible.

DTG: I don’t know that I agree. I think spoiler type moments can be overvalued and that she could have told just as good as story, or perhaps better, with us knowing ahead of time what Snape really was. We sort of knew anyway. She just sacrificed hundreds of pages of character development for a “A-ha!!” moment. I’m not sure it could not work the other way. 

RG: I completely disagree.

DTG: Exceptional counterargument. 

RG: Well, I have Harry in my corner, calling Snape probably the bravest man he ever knew.

DTG: From the epilogue. Barf. 

RG: Well, can we at least agree that Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Snape in the movies is immaculate and on the short list for greatest film interpretation of a character ever?

DTG: Yes, we can. Which reminds me, you realize Die Hard is a Christmas movie, right? 

RG: Get out.

 

 




The Five Turns 100: Remembering the First Five Fives

It started with Ben.

He had an idea to list Five Reasons Not to be Scared of the Monsters Under Your Bed. It was an article to be released on a Friday when REO was just a few weeks old. And it was quite hilarious.

Then, Amy had the idea to try to do something similar the next Friday and thought it would great to keep it going. She told Phill, Phill told it to us and we loved it.  And out of this, the REO Friday Five was born. We have tried every week on Friday the last two years to publish a list of five entries that have something in common. Some have been funny. Some have been deeply theological. Some have been sports-related. They all have been an expression of the DNA of Rambling Ever On.  A few times we came up short (here, here, and here if you are curious) of a weekly Friday Five, but 97% of the time we have succeeded.

And today we celebrate our 100th effort at the Friday Five by looking back on the Five Fives that started it all. All the way back to January and February of 2016. These Five Fives are the pioneers so to speak of this longstanding REO tradition. And we appreciate them very much. And today we acknowledge them and reminisce about our beginnings and how each of these Fives foreshadowed what REO was going to be like, not just on Friday, but all the time. I mean, even the best sitcoms had good clip shows! – Gowdy Cannon


Ben Plunkett’s “5 Reasons Not to Be Afraid of the Monster Under the Bed”

This is what separates Rambling Ever On from other sites out there. Sure, we could spend all of our energy and time writing about spirituality and theology. Or, we could have article after article about music, movies, or current events. Frankly, we aren’t interested in limiting ourselves to that standard stuff.

Enter Ben Plunkett. If you have been reading REO for any time at all, you know Ben follows the beat of his own drummer. When others write about the latest political scandal Ben says, “Nope. Not for me.” Instead, he delivers some new form of insane genius. Take our very first Five as the perfect example. Who else is going to write with any sense of intelligence or articulation about monsters under the bed? Ben brings wit, humor, and just a dash of absolute madness to his writing and we are all better off for it. The Five on REO got started right and we have Ben Plunkett to thank for that. It is a philosophy that has guided us ever since. – Phill Lytle


Amy Lytle’s “Five Steps to Become the BEST Facebook Mother of All Time”

One of the things I appreciate about REO is the creative and appropriate use of sarcasm. It was the REO staff that convinced me that using irony this way can be an effective way to communicate and not always mean-spirited.

Our very second Five falls into this category. Amy’s REO articles have been some of our best-performing articles based on the number of views and this one is no different. Because I think people appreciate the humorous take on the reality of how people use Facebook. We have seen many other articles follow suit, including a whole Five on trash talk, but this was the one that set the tone. Superbly done and still relevant (and probably will be for years to come), we are very proud of this entry into our annals. – Gowdy Cannon


Collaborative “Five Romantic Movies Even Men Can Love”

This was the first collaborative Five. Often, we come up with a topic that many of our contributors care about and we figure the best way to make those articles work is to make it a team effort. As REO is primarily a male-driven website, we knew that Valentines Day was not going to be high on our priority list. But, we did not want to completely ignore it, so we opted to write about movies with a strong romantic theme that even men might enjoy. It was a perfect fit for what we do and it was the first of many collaborative articles on REO. It was also the beginning of REO trying to make our reader’s lives better – something we continue to do even to this day. You’re welcome. – Phill Lytle


 

Gowdy Cannon’s “Five Times Harry Potter Made Me Reflect On Real Life”

This was the fourth Five and offered a look at some wise and biblical advice from the pages of the magnum opus of J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter book series is a truly classic children’s fantasy line of literature. And it’s more than just the storyline itself that makes it great. Much more. It is multi-faceted and many-layered in its meaning and depth. It does not take a lot of study to show that there are actually quite a bit of Christian truths that can be gleaned from its pages. Mega-Potterite, Gowdy Cannon, has delved into its pages many times. Here he lays out five great truths he has learned from Harry Potter (the book series not necessarily the character). In Five Times Harry Potter Made Me Reflect on Real Life he does exactly that. He considers five very insightful quotes from various characters that taught him certain lessons about life in our real-life Muggle world. We learn from the faithful House Elf, Dobby, about greatness and goodness; from Harry’s adoptive father, Sirius Black (in two quotes), about judging the true quality of a person and the true face of evil; from the great and inimitable wizard, Albus Dumbledore, on the surest way to wreak damage upon an individual: indifference and neglect; and from best friends Ron Weasley and Harry Potter on the nature of repentance and forgiveness. – Ben Plunkett


Phill Lytle’s “Five Words and Phrases That Need to Go Away”

I confess this is one of my favorite articles and one of the finest things we have done in my opinion. The content is exceptional on its own–clever and with a pulse on our culture’s extremely odd popular jargon. To paraphrase Ben, I cotton especially to the one about “Loving On” people because in the American Church this gets said all time. And it keeps getting said even though Phill and others–including some popular comedians–have called it out. It’s like a massive freight train of geeky Christianese. But Phill’s take on it is the best I’ve seen. And the conversation about “it is what it is” makes me cry laughing. It’s like a modernized Abbott and Costello routine.

But beyond the writing, the illustrations are LOL funny, so much that I’ve laughed while reading it for the 4th or 5th time. The simplicity of the way the searing logic is presented…the faces of the “men”…the exploding head…it’s all gold.

I bet I’ve referenced this article in public as much or more than any other in REO history. And we reference it yet again today, as being a Five that let the world know how acute our web site’s humor was going to be. – Gowdy Cannon




Wild Card Round Preview (The NFL on REO)

Tennessee at Kansas City

The Tennessee Titans are big underdogs in the Wild Card match up with the Kansas City Chiefs. This is not surprising. The Titans are without their starting running back, they have played poorly on offense for most of the season, and they are short on playoff experience. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have an explosive offense, a very successful head coach, and are playing at home. Even as a Titans fan I admit that it makes sense that the Chiefs are a 9 point favorite.

Maybe it is the homer in me, but I expect this game to be close. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1993. This will be their sixth try and my sources are telling me their fans are nervous. On the Titans side QB Marcus Mariota is looking healthier than he has most of this season. In their playoff clinching victory last week he ran the ball several times with a good amount of success. Something he has not done most of this season due to injury. The Titans defense has also played well, especially against the run, in the majority of games this season.

The Chiefs are a streaky team. They started off 5-0 and looked to be the best team in the NFL. They went into a 1-6 tailspin and appeared to be choking away their playoff spot. Then they rebounded and finished 4-0 to win their division and get a home game in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Titans they Chiefs are on a hot streak right now and should win a tightly contested game. Final score prediction – KC over TN 24-20.

– Mike Lytle


Atlanta at Los Angeles (Rams)

Last year at this time we would have all been surprised to find that the LA Rams were even in the playoffs. The fact is, they are not only in the playoffs, but are expected to beat the reigning-NFC-champion Falcons by a touchdown. The new-in-town Rams have taken the NFL by storm and are trying to recreate the greatest show on turf. The Rams offense has been able to put up over 30 points in 8 games this year and over 25 points in 12 games. They average a league-high 29.9 points per game. They are a well-balanced offense that has only failed to execute a handful of time. Jared Golf has proven to be a quality quarterback and as long as Todd Gurley gets plenty of touches, the Rams should be able to put up points on Atlanta. Their defense, for the most part, has gotten the job done. With defensive genius Wade Phillips calling the shots, there is reason to have confidence that they can keep the Rams in the game.

Despite being the underdogs, I am picking the Falcons to with this game. The Falcons struggled early in the year, but they seemed to turn it around starting with week 10 against the cowboys. They have only lost two games since that time and both to strong teams. When push comes to shove, I have more confidence in Matt Ryan than Jared Golf. Ryan’s experience in the playoffs will be invaluable in picking apart the Wade Phillips’ defense. Perhaps more importantly, I trust Julio Jones to make big catches for his team. Sure, he has struggled to find the end zone this season, but big players live for big games. Julio was made for this moment.

Regardless of who wins, I expect this one to be a shootout. Falcons over Rams 35-30.

– David Lytle


Buffalo at Jacksonville

The Buffalo Bills enter the playoffs as the darlings of the NFL. For this storied franchise, it has been a long time (1999 season) since they have played postseason football, and it took a number of seemingly miraculous things to happen for them to finally break through this season. It is a great story and while I am happy for the team and their fans, great stories do not equal great teams, and the Bills are not a great team. They were a bottom half of the league team in both offensive and defensive statistics. They don’t do any one thing really well, and do most things just good enough to get by. And LeSean McCoy being less than 100% is a back breaker.

On the other side, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been objectively good this season. They are one of the top two defenses in the league by any measurements that matter. And not to be outdone, they are the number five scoring team in the league. Their weaknesses are inexperience and Blake Bortles. While Bortles has been mostly solid this season, is there anyone out there that has any real confidence that Bad Bortles won’t rear its ugly head at a critical moment?

Bortles will Bortle, the Bills are average, but the unit with the most talent on the field, the Jags defense, will dominate. Jags 30 Bills 10.

– Phill Lytle


Carolina at New Orleans

In my humble opinion this is the most crucial game of the weekend. Simply because a strong case can be made for the winner being the NFC favorite even if they will not have home field. Many people would look at Philly, Minnesota and the L.A. Rams and point to either struggles or playoff inexperience at QB as cause for concern. As is well documented on REO by now, not me. I have less faith in the Top 3 NFC seeds mainly because none of them have won a playoff game literally since George W. Bush lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

That is not the case for the Panthers and Saints. On the road side you have a team that just went to the Super Bowl two years ago and were steamrolled by one of the more impressive defensive efforts by Denver we have ever seen in a game that significant. Carolina isn’t as good an offense as their Super Bowl year but they do have Christian McCaffrey now, and Cam Newton still plays with a swagger that belies his less-than-elite stats and it makes a difference.

On the home side, you have a team with a very unique weapon in former-SEC two-headed monster  RB Mark Alvin Ingram Kamara (combined 1850 yards rushing, 139 receptions and 25 total TDs). And also for only the third time in Drew Brees’ 12 years with the franchise, the defense finished in the Top 10 in fewest points given up. It’s uncanny how Brees has played with a Top 13 defense by this criteria five times in New Orleans and has made the playoffs every time and has played with a 25th or worse defense by this criteria six times and missed the playoffs every time. The one exception to this trend was the year NO won the Super Bowl with the 20th ranked defense.

In addition to being at home, I give New Orleans the advantage because of Brees. He has exceptional playoff stats in his career (320 YPG, a 4:1 TD:Int ratio) and has lost numerous times because his D could not get a stop, most notoriously against San Fransisco in 2011 when he led them to 18 fourth quarter points and still lost (Let it be noted that Drew Brees has far and away the most 4th TD passes in NFL history to give his team the lead in a game his teams would lose, nearly twice as many as the #2 guy). Their D is nowhere close to Denver in 2015 or even Minnesota this year, but they will be good enough to help New Orleans win this game and probably at least two more. I’ll say New Orleans 31, Carolina 20.

– Gowdy Cannon

 




Five Way Over the Top Comedic Villains

Loud, spiteful, completely selfish, and downright bad to the bone, some villains are so over the top bad it is hilarious. That’s a good thing if that is intended to be the case. Here are five great comedic over the top villains who gloried in the depths of their own fiendish badness and made us love them for it.


Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone

There are a lot of reasons to love the 1963 Disney masterpiece, The Sword in the Stone. Take Merlin for example. He is grumpy, funny, powerful, and wears Burmuda shorts. Or you could praise the songs. They are memorable, catchy, and actually develop the plot, the themes, and the characters.

But any worthwhile list of the positives found in this film has to include Madam Mim. She is spectacularly disgusting. She is stupendously conniving. She cackles, screeches, and waddles her way through her scene-stealing, scenery-chewing appearance. She proves to be a formidable foe to the wise and powerful Merlin and it takes him plundering the depths of his wisdom and knowledge to defeat her in their “Wizards’ Duel.” – Phill Lytle


Evil from Time Bandits

The 1981 film, Time Bandits, is a comedic, science fiction, time travel adventure British film that is very reminiscent of Monty Python. There is a good reason for that since it was written by two former Monty Python cast members. In fact, the two say they based several of the main characters on their former MP co-conspirators. There are a lot of reasons to love this gem. Possibly my favorite reason is the way over the top comedic villain, Evil, who is portrayed by the perfectly cast, David Warner. Evil can’t leave his Fortress of Ultimate Darkness so is forced to spend all day with his dirty, buffoonish minions, Robert and Benson, bragging about how wonderfully, truly evil he is:

“Evil: Oh, Robert, Benson. I feel the power of evil coursing through my veins, filling every corner of my being with the desire to do wrong! I feel so bad, Benson!

Benson: Good! Good!

Evil: Yes, it is good, for this is the worst kind of badness that I’m feeling!”

— Ben Plunkett


White Goodman from Dodgeball

After the roaring with laughter ’90s and its timeless, laugh a minute classics like Tommy Boy and Dumb and Dumber, the first part of this century lagged behind in the comedy movie category. With a couple of major exceptions. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, a riot of LOL moments, was one.

There are several reasons why this movie works to me. Dodging wrenches, Cotton and Pepper, and a totally random and completely unforgettable Chuck Norris sighting among them. But not to be outshined is Ben Stiller as the superbly named White Goodman, owning every scene he is in as the trash talking fountain of hubris who wants nothing more than to vanquish the Average Joe’s with a few dodgeball shots to the cabeza (White has been thinking of opening up a gym in Mexico City, so he’s boning up on his Spanish). With trailer-worthy quotes like “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood” and epic verbal putdowns like “Your gym is a skid-mark on the underpants of society,” White fills our cup with nectar of the comedy gods.

White is better than other over-the-top villains and he knows it. And for that reason, he makes our list. –Gowdy Cannon


Professor Fate from The Great Race

Unkempt, mean, selfish, dressed all in black (complete with a top hat), Professor Fate (played by Jack Lemmon) is intended to embody the stereotypical classic villain. And he does just that with comedic flair. Fate lives the life of a daredevil whose all-consuming passion is to defeat his archrival, the clean, flawless, completely white-clad, and all around perfect, stereotypical classic hero, The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis). With the assistance of his loyal minion, Max (Peter Falk), Fate challenges Leslie to a race around the world. A number of other racers are involved in the race as well, but it is really between the two of them. As devious and underhanded as he is, Fate has tampered with the cars of most of his opponents to ensure their early exit from the race. All fall except for the car of Maggie Dubois (Natalie Wood), who was not given any chance whatsoever to win anyway, so Fate didn’t bother. She joins forces with Leslie and thus finishes the race. After everything, Fate ends up winning, but that doesn’t do it for him. Beating Leslie at daredeviling is just an excuse. He really just hates the perfectly good and clean Leslie with every fiber of his being:

“I hate you! You I hate! You and your hair that’s always combed, your suit that’s always white, your car that’s always clean! I refuse to accept! I challenge you to another race!”

–Ben Plunkett


Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore

If your film’s protagonist is an over-the-top, loudmouth, buffoon, then your antagonist has their work cut out for them. Fortunately for all lovers of this Adam Sandler classic, Shooter McGavin is more than up to the task. From the popped collar and arrogant strut to the terrible comeback insults, Shooter is a villain that takes a back seat to no one.

One hallmark of memorable films is that the bigger the villain the greater their inevitable fall. And Shooter McGavin’s fall is just one more fortuitous blessing provided by the film. His mad dash with the Gold Jacket as he is being chased by a mob led by Mr. Larson is a thing of poetic and comedic beauty.

–Phill Lytle


That’s our list. Now it is your turn. Who are some of your favorite comedic villains? We would love to read about them. Post your thoughts in the comment section below.




A Book Review: Free Will Revisited

I tend to talk about Dr. Robert Picirilli in sycophantic tones. I suppose it is hard not to come across that way even though I am sincere in my praise of him and his influence in my life. I actually had him as a professor at a small school with intimate classes. Beyond that, he has been humble enough to answer my emails about Greek long after I graduated. And then there’s his published works, which have a special place on my bookshelves.

I’ve read all of his works at least once, and Grace, Faith, Free Will at least 20 times–mostly because it takes many, many readings for a man like me to absorb the fire hydrant of material. And even then I do not think I understand it all. Anytime I feel like I’m getting a little too proud of my intelligence, one chapter of that book will bring me down a notch.

So it was with great joy my Senior Pastor told me not to buy Dr. Picirilli’s new book, Free Will Revisited, because he already had a copy for me. And despite it being a slim 135 pages, it still took me days to get through it. Because this treatment of a crucial difference between two major branches of orthodox Christianity cannot be discussed simplistically. The reasoning gets into deep waters at times. I will be rereading.

I want to say up front that yet again, just as with Grace, Faith, Free Will, Picirilli goes to admirable lengths to make sure he presents his opponents views accurately and fairly. Like a champ, he takes on three of the heaviest weights of the last 500 years of church history in Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards. And he spends probably 35-40% of the book trying to express their views in their own words. There are no straw men being batted down. In stark contrast to the Social Media Debate Generation, Picirilli reads to understand, articulates the other position, and does not jump quickly to his responses. And by all means note the subtitle of this book is a “respectful” response to Luther, Calvin, and Edwards. I implore all of us to take a note from Picirilli’s format and approach. Listen or read carefully. Do not misrepresent your opponent’s views. Be humble and respectful.

As far as the content itself, there are times where Picirilli makes a more simple and straightforward argument against the writings of these three men opposing human free will. As when he notes that it is very difficult to get around teaching that God coerces us if we believe our will is completely against God prior to salvation and that God by his grace changes our will to His. Yet there are other times Picirilli shows how complex the debate can get, as on pages 86-87 when he talks about how things that are certain are not “necessary” and how God’s knowledge of the future is like our knowledge of the past. He dealt with this in the early part of Grace, Faith, Free Will but I believe Picirilli to be a very self-aware man, knowing that many of his readers would have read that volume and in my opinion avoids rehashing that part of his previous book but instead explains it with a fresh perspective.

In the past I have written for REO on Arminius’s own words and how much overlap there is to Calvinism and Arminianism. I did so based on what my professors, like Picirilli, have taught me. Here again, he accomplishes the same goal. He does not cite Arminius yet he still makes the point plainly and necessarily that Arminians believe that man is totally depraved, that God draws us to Himself by grace, that man does zero to contribute to his salvation in a way that could be called “works” and that God is completely sovereign over all creation, including human will. The difference lies, in large part, on the focus of the book. Do Christians accept salvation like a drowning man who realizes he cannot swim and chooses to take a rope to save him or are they saved completely void of any free, self-determined choice?

Tribalism can be dangerous in politics and Christianity. I consider myself an Arminian because I think the doctrines are important. Yet I attended a Calvinist seminary, have close Calvinist friends and will gladly lock arms with them in worship and ministry any day. But I consider this topic important enough to read and write about a couple of times a year. And I am thankful yet again to Dr. Picirilli for the impetus to think about, react to and create in the sphere of theology. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to have their mind stretched, even if it is by Jonathan Edwards more so than Robert Picirilli. Because the point of the book is to debate, not pontificate. I only wish the other three men were alive to respond.




Five Plays That Launched Bama’s Dominance and Destroyed the SEC

Take a trip back in time to Monday night, January 9, 2012. The BCS National Championship featured two teams from the same conference for the first time ever. Amid chaos and controversy and cries of injustice from millions of people from at least 39 states, undefeated LSU and only-defeated-by-LSU Alabama went head to head for Part II of the Battle of the FGs.

The issue of Bama playing in the game instead of Oklahoma St. or Stanford may have been worthy of debate but one thing was not: The SEC was King of College Football. There was even a commercial during the BCS Championship that year proclaiming, “You are watching #6,” a reference to this matchup guaranteeing a sixth consecutive national championship for the conference. Alabama would defeat Notre Dame the following year for #7 before the streak ended.

And back then it was not just one team carrying the others:

  • From 2006 to 2012, four different SEC schools won the national championship.
  • From 2011 to 2013, the SEC had three of the Top 5 teams in a final poll every year and at least four of the Top 10 every year, with the conference claiming five of the Top 10 in 2012.
  • In recent history the SEC has had the Top 2 final teams in the Final polls twice (2007, 2011) and two of the Top 3 on two other occasions (2006, 2009).
  • Half the teams in the conference finished in the Top 5 from 2011 to 2013.

But then it all changed. One team stayed atop the college football world. But for the other 13, in the words of Newman, it all came crashing down. Consider the following:

  • SEC teams not named Alabama had ten Top 10 finishes from 2011 to 2013 but had only two from 2014 to 2016.
  • Teams not named Alabama had six Top 5 finishes from 2011 to 2013. From 2014 to 2016 they had zero.
  • No SEC team repeated as Conference Champ from 1998 to 2014. From 2014 to 2016, Alabama won three in a row, by an average of 28 points per game.
  • After eight years of several teams winning the championship, zero teams other than Bama even made it to the playoffs from 2014 to 2016.

Georgia finally ended some of that this year but guess who is right there with them?

How did it happen? The reasons are legion, from recruiting failures to coaching hires. But today I want to laser focus on a handful of plays in actual games. Not just any plays. These plays were plays that were bad breaks for the other team or plays that could have and should have been made that were crucial to changing the result. Understand this is not an article to proclaim that Bama is lucky. Breaks and missed chances are a huge part of sports.  New England in the NFL is one play in each of their seven Super Bowls away from being 1-6 or 7-0. This is an article about how fascinating that line is. Yet for each play where Bama was fortunate, there are surely some where they were not.

But here are 5 that facilitated their dominance and simultaneously killed the rest of the SEC:

 

The Game: 2011 #2 Oklahoma St. vs. Iowa St.

The Play: Oklahoma St. misses a 37 yard FG that would have given them the lead with a minute to go.

The Factual Aftermath: OSU lost in Overtime and didn’t finish in the Top 2 in the BCS at the end of the regular season. Alabama played LSU instead in the National Championship and manhandled them, 21-0.

The Alternate Reality: LSU destroys the Cowboys, giving them two championships in five years. Bama is left with one National Championship in Saban’s first five seasons. Recruiting changes. Les Miles doesn’t get fired. LSU is much more competitive six years later instead of losing seven straight to Bama and at home to Troy in 2017.

 

The Game: 2012 Alabama vs. LSU

The Play: With 8:41 left in the 4th, Spencer Ware of LSU is stuffed on a 4th and 1 from Alabama’s 24-yard line.

The Factual Aftermath: I could take any one of about five 50/50 risks by Les Miles in this game that backfired, and spin them on a wheel to pick the one for this article. The Mad Hatter had built a reputation for outrageous gambits and eating grass, but on this night he just ended up looking like a doofus. LSU won the yardage battle easily, the time of possession AND won the turnover battle. And still lost. Because of a slew of missed FGs and 4th downs. A conversion here could have scored a TD for LSU and put Bama in a hole that they may not have escaped. As it was, the Tide scored at the end and Death Valley was a place where LSU’s dreams came to die. Alabama won the SEC and steamrolled Notre Dame for back-to-back championships and three in four years.

The Alternate Reality: LSU wins the West and plays Georgia for the SEC championship. One of those two teams goes on to curb stomp Notre Dame. The SEC streak extends with no team winning more than 2 championships during the run and Saban has two National Championships in 6 years, but only one SEC. Recruiting changes. Les Miles doesn’t get fired and moves on to trying to eat field marking paint.

 

The Game: 2012 Alabama vs. Georgia (SEC Championship Game) 

The Play: With 9 seconds left and Georgia eight yards from scoring to win as the time ran out, Aaron Murray’s end zone pass was deflected into Chris Conley’s arms, who was tackled instead. 

The Factual Aftermath: Alabama won the SEC, National Championship, etc. Georgia missed its best chance in 32 years to win the whole thing and continued to be mired as a good-but-not-great team until Mark Ritch was fired in 2015.

The Alternate Reality: Georgia annihilates Notre Dame. The SEC championships are spread out over five teams in the run, Georgia takes a step up in recruiting, and keeps winning at a higher level than before 2012. Mark Ritch is still employed by Georgia. The Gamecocks get Kirby Smart in 2015 and eventually win nine National Championships before I die.

 

The Game: 2014 Alabama vs. Mississippi State

The Play: Down 19-0 late in the first half with the ball first and goal at the Alabama half-yard line, #1 MSU suffers a false start to move it back to the 5. 

The Factual Aftermath: They settled for a FG. The Bulldogs eventually lost 25-20 as Dak Prescott threw three interceptions, all inside Alabama’s 25-yard line. Alabama won the SEC again, their 3rd in six years and Mississippi St missed the SEC Championship, the playoffs and lost their bowl game in embarrassing fashion to Georgia Tech.

The Alternate Reality: Mississippi State scores a TD on the play. They don’t settle for a FG their next drive either and pull the game out in the fourth. They go on to play for the SEC, defeat Missouri and become the first SEC team in the four-team playoff. They still lose to Ohio St but they build on this with better recruiting and do not fall immediately back to the middle of the SEC. Dan Mullen doesn’t leave for Florida in 2017. Instead of dropping to the 4th round in the 2016 NFL Draft, Prescott is drafted by the Jets in the 2nd round and no one still has any idea how good he is because the Jets are a dumpster fire.

 

The Game: 2015 Arkansas vs. Ole Miss

The Play: In Overtime, on 4th and 25 from Ole Miss’s 40-yard line, down 52-45, Arkansas receiver Hunter Henry catches a simple pass and while being tackled laterals it over his head 15 yards backward. Arkansas RB Alex Collins retrieves it and navigates substantial traffic 31 yards to miraculously get the first down and keep the game alive.

The Factual Aftermath: Arkansas scored, went for two and got it and won the game. Ole Miss lost its shot at the SEC West title, having owned the tie-breaker over Alabama from their head-to-head victory in September. Alabama won the SEC and yet another National Championship under Saban, their fourth in 7 years.

The Alternate Reality: Alabama doesn’t win the West or SEC. The committee makes one of their most controversial decisions ever, taking Iowa as the fourth playoff team over Alabama. They cite a better loss (to playoff bound Michigan St instead of to Ole Miss who also lost to Memphis) and general strength of schedule (the SEC was terrible pre-bowls). Alabama still has zero national championships since 2012 and dynasty talk and “Saban as GOAT” talk are diminished. Ole Miss wins the SEC over Florida, but still gets manhandled by the NCAA for grotesque cheating that elicits comparisons to Sammy Sosa before Congress. Shea Pattersons still leaves for Michigan. Mississippi State fans still laugh hysterically at them burning a redshirt to play him three games in 2016.

 

The success of Auburn and Georgia this year may mean things are beginning to change for the SEC and Alabama, but if Georgia is one-and-done and Alabama wins it all, then the conference actual reality continues and the fact Georgia won the SEC while Alabama didn’t will matter about as much as it did for LSU in 2011. Which is very little.

Comment are welcomed below!

 

 

 




5 Truths About the Diversity of the First Christmas

O Christmas, do you ever remind us that people think their way of talking, writing, and celebrating is the way. Christmas starts quarrels over minutia more than all of the rest of the holidays combined. From what phrases to say to when to listen to music, we ironically turn this allegedly peaceful time of the year designed to put our focus on the birth of the most signifiant person ever into a self-aggrandizing time of opinions and disagreements. I realize many of these things are not meant to be taken too seriously (I honestly do not care if you consider Die Hard a Christmas movie) but if we are honest, we know that we get disproportionally passionate in defending some traditions.

If we study the first Christmas, we find that it was quite diverse. And I have no doubt an application to this is that we really need to realize that diversity matters to God. Much of (and dare I say most of) our way of “doing” Christmas are not absolute truths to be followed and argued. And it may be that these silly differences of opinion about Christmas represent bigger and more serious issues we have with a lack of diversity in things things that do matter. Like worship and community life.

With that in mind, here are five things about the first Christmas and its diversity that can teach us to embrace the differences we have with others.

 

The worshippers were diverse 

Mary was a young virgin. Joseph was a carpenter descended from King David. The Magi were astrologers and may have been kings. The first group of people commanded to go see Jesus were laity shepherds. Zechariah was a priest and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Anna was a very elderly prophetess. Matthew, an author, was a Jewish tax collector. Luke was a Gentile doctor. The messengers from God to man about Jesus were angels and not even human. And I’d even include the animals as well, since their feeding trough is mentioned by name in the story.

The voices of Christmas are far more diverse than were are accustomed to in our lives. Perhaps Christmas should awaken us to this fact and motivate us to long to hear from a variety of sources on how to understand and serve Jesus. And it could be very edifying to worship with a diverse community and buck against the typical cultural model of a church filled with people as similar to me as possible.

 

The reactions were diverse 

The Angels comforted Mary and the shepherds, both of whom were terrified. The shepherds told people about Jesus and glorified God. Mary pondered the events deeply and treasured them in her heart. The magi bowed down to worship and brought gifts. Anna, Zechariah and Simeon gave prophecies. Simeon held Jesus in his arms. John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth gave a glad cry.

How we react to the Christmas season may seem so important to us that we expect others to feel similarly. When in fact there are many ways to react to Christmas and if they do not have anything to do with gift-giving or Santa or even huge family gatherings, they can still be good. As long as they are legitimate reactions to who Jesus is.

 

The geography was diverse 

Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. After his birth they went to Egypt for a while and then back to Nazareth were he was raised. The Magi were from “the East” and while it is impossible to say for sure where exactly that meant, it was a long distance from Galilee.

The lady who leads the prayer time at my church on Sunday mornings before Sunday school often brings requests from magazines that talk about places and people I have never heard of. I appreciate this instead of always just praying for our church, our neighborhood or our missionaries. God is indeed a God of the whole world and even Christmas reminds us of that.

 

The prophecies of Jesus as Savior were diverse 

Jesus’s name means “Jehovah is salvation” so centering the idea of Christmas around “Jesus is our Savior” is perfect. Yet even that phrase was broken down theologically that first Christmas. Consider just in Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:67-80 that he teaches, among other things, that Jesus would be:

A Redeemer 

This is a word that in and of itself has layers of meaning. A first century Jew who knew their Scriptures could think of Ruth, Job or even Levitical law and understand that Zechariah meant that God sent Jesus to rescue us from spiritual slavery and that in some way he was going to purchase us for God out of our pathetic circumstances. As a family-redeemer. This explains why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6 that “you were bought at a price” and in Acts 20  he claimed the church was “purchased by the blood Christ”.

 

A Warrior King

The literal phrase Zechariah used was “horn of salvation” which is found in several places in his Scriptures to communicate victory over enemies and security and refuge. Combine this with the fact that Zechariah references David, the general king who led Israel to many war victories, some translations call Jesus “a mighty king” in this prophecy.

The Jesus of the Gospels did get angry and even violent (Mark 11) but he came to die and was a willing sacrifice who did not fight back against his human enemies. Yet to Zechariah’s audience, they knew that God was a Mighty Warrior King, as in Isaiah 42:13:

The Lord will go forth like a warrior,
He will arouse His zeal like a man of war.
He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.
He will prevail against His enemies.

And then Revelation describes Jesus this way:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His name is The Word of God. The armies which are in heaven were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

We know from the New Testament that our enemies are not other humans. They are Satan, sin and death. And that Christ came to conquer them all. I think the resurrected Jesus is very much an image of the Old Testament Triumphant Warrior God and also of King David the War General, not victorious  over the Philistines or Assyrians but over evil forces of darkness and over physical and spiritual death. And I think Zechariah prophecies this. The doctrine of the first Christmas goes much deeper than the incarnation and the image of baby Jesus.

 

Our covenant. 

Zechariah referenced Abraham, which was the covenant he knew at the time, but we now know a covenant that is better and forever in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:15).

 

A light to all nations. 

Darkness has a strong association with secrecy and wickedness and confusion. All of these things were true of most nations spiritually before Christ. But he came to bring knowledge of not mere morality but of salvation to God for everyone.

 

And there are more I could discuss. But what all of these phrases have in common is that they describe Jesus as Savior in terminology that demonstrates how profound, complex and marvelous that phrase is.

 

The object of worship was not diverse

And this is the most important thing of all. It is easy in our culture to bow down to diversity so far that we consider all beliefs and religions equal. And while I do not unnecessarily disrespect any belief or worldview, I without shame proclaim Jesus Christ as my Lord and God, the only means to get to God and the unique object of my worship. Christianity is exclusive by its nature because of Jesus, as any monolithic religion is and as all truth claims have to be in some sense. Christianity is significant not for how inclusive it is of all beliefs, but rather how distinct it is. It desires to be inclusive of all people, notably all types of people and the New Testament reiterates this over and over. Yet the way to Heaven is narrow. Jesus is the only door.

No matter your traditions this Christmas, the original story is exhaustively about Jesus and his role in human history. It wasn’t just a birth. It was a collision of God and humanity that changed everything that matters in eternity.

 

As always, we welcome feedback in the comment section below.




Five Outstanding Westerns that You Should Literally Watch this Very Second (or ASAP)

Hollywood is full, FULL, of outstanding westerns from its beginning to current day. There are many that deserve all too well to be on any list of great western recommendations. This is a Five, so we wanted to highlight five of our personal favorites and a few that may not be so well known but totally should.


1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

My formal education did not include a ton of movies so it is amazing to me that both in Spanish Class in High School as well as History Class my first year at USC, my instructors showed my classes this film. A 1948 classic that has transcended time, it more or less did for me with westerns what Sergeant York did for war movies. I’m not a sincere fan of either genre but I can’t get enough of these movies.

Humphrey Bogart is magnificent and in this role as Dobbs earns the fame still associated his name 70 years later. Yet there is a plethora of other characters that make this movie so memorable, people most Americans have never heard of like Tim Holt, Walter Huston and Alfonso Bedoya has “Gold Hat”. And speaking of him, I would feel amiss not to mention one of the most famous lines in the history of American cinema. A line that has been referenced literally dozens of times in TV, other movies, music and other media. But I cannot mention it without getting it right, because I sense like many other famous lines, it is misquoted. It’s:

“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

Note that the word “stinkin” isn’t until the last line. But this movie is way more than a quote. It’s a thrilling adventure of that teaches us a lot about injustice, greed and what it means to trust others when we’re in desperate circumstances. It gets real at times. And it does not have a sentimental Happy Madison type ending. Yet the conclusion still leaves me very satisfied and wanting to watch the whole thing again. Isn’t that the premiere mark of a great film? (Gowdy Cannon)


2. The Big Country

I am a huge fan of the western genre. I love films whether very old or brand new. There are many, many great ones that could be named. While I could list one that is a well known and justly deserved fan favorite, I will lend my praise to a relatively ignored classic: The Big Country. The Big Country is one of the most underappreciated movie treasures out there. The big names to match this Big County and big film include Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, and Jean Simmons. Most of the reviewers I have read seem to think it okay at best. While the musical score is almost universally applauded, the film is supposedly too long, too ambitious, is too pretentious, and contains way too much empty space.

Okay.

I honestly doubt that half the reviewers I read have watched it in its entirety. Many of them contain glaring plot errors in their descriptions. I imagine most of them just watched a few clips and wrote the rest of their reviews based on other reviewers who did the same thing. I will agree that the premise of The Big Country is not all that original. But unoriginality does not always make a bad film. Hollywood history is chock full of classic unoriginal films. Chock full. And The Big Country is part of that “chock.” Filled to the brim with great music, filming, acting, and writing, it’s an unrecognized western classic. (Ben Plunkett)


3. The Shakiest Gun In The West

The Shakiest Gun in the West

Many grew up watching Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show. I grew up with Threes Company and watching him and Tim Conway over and over again in a 1980 movie called The Private Eyes. I watched it probably 50 times and for years could quote the whole thing, complete with character accents.

But eventually people started pushing me to broaden my Don Knotts horizons and I did, taking in The Apple Dumpling Gang (also with Conway) and a 1968 Comedy Western called The Shakiest Gun In The West.

And it was quite the addition to his filmography. It’s classic Don Knotts as the bumbling, clueless, lovable almost hero and filled with memorable scenes and lines. My favorite is when Knotts’ character Jesse Heyward is getting ready for a showdown with Arnold the Kid and after practicing five shots he wastes his final bullet putting his gun back in his holster. I can hear my brother Jeremy in my head saying, “Two at the can…two at the sign…one in the skillet…and one in the pants.” We laughed about it dozens of times. I laugh right now just thinking about it.

The supporting cast is great, highlighted by Bad Penny and we even get a glimpse of Pat Morita in the only role I’ve seen him in that didn’t feature the words “Karate Kid” or “Happy Days” in the title. The movie also has an unforgettable song that plays during the opening title sequence and sets the mood for the show you’re about to experience.

So if you’re looking for a western big on laughs and a lead character that bears no resemblance whatsoever to John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, this is a movie worth watching. (Gowdy Cannon)


4. True Grit

To my knowledge, there are only two film versions of True Grit: the 1969 and 2010 versions. While the 1969 version is not bad and is a pretty accurate retelling of the novel, the 2010 version is much, much better in just about every way. The only place where both match in greatness is with their Rooster Cogburn actors: John Wayne and Jeff Bridges. While they may be equal in this manner, Bridges wins out because he is surrounded by excellence in every single other aspect of his film. In my opinion, there is not one thing in the film that is shoddily done. The music, the acting, the film work, the dialogue, the attention to detail, the thorough capturing of the novel’s spirit. Everything. Matt Damon deserves a particularly loud bout of praise for his portrayal of the cocky but goodhearted Texas Ranger, Laboef. Bridges and Damon are accompanied by an amazing cast of characters, some of whom only appear onscreen for a handful of minutes. I’m not sure that I can overstate my love for this movie. I strongly believe that it would belong in a top ten list of the greatest westerns ever made. (Ben Plunkett)


5. Open Range

There is a lot to love about Open Range. First, Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall are a fantastic duo in the film. They have an easy chemistry and are given plenty of room to inhabit their roles. Second, the cinematography is open (no pun intended) and expansive; really giving the viewer an appreciation for the untamed and wild Montana landscape. While the film has plenty of other elements to celebrate, for Open Range, it all comes down to the climactic shoot-out. After a film that unhurriedly moves along, the final gun-fight is bold, shocking, and edge-of-your-seat filmmaking. Kevin Costner, pulling double duty as the director, expertly stages the fight with plenty of moving pieces, a concise and understandable geography, and a fair share of “hero” moments for our main characters. It’s an intense sequence that allows this slow-burn of a film to end with a blaze of glory – classic Western motif and homage all in one. (Phill Lytle)

 

 




Five Movie Moments That Made Me Ugly Cry

In what has developed into a series of sorts, I have previously written about Five TV Moments That Made Me Ugly Cry and Five TV Moments That Made Me Literally ROTFL.

Today I tackle movies with scenes that brought the tears, and I don’t mean a single tear falling down the cheek.  Being Christmastime I felt it would be an appropriate topic. Even though I feature no Christmas movies below, there are many of those that fit this category for many people, especially the Hallmark movies I keep hearing about on Facebook! Please feel free to share your moments below.  On to my list…


Armageddon

The Moment: The Wedding During The Closing Credits

This movie is a landmine of cry moments. One of my family members that shall remain nameless told me he bawled when Chick’s ex-wife told their son, “That’s not a salesman, that’s your father.” Many people in my theater openly sobbed during Harry’s goodbye to Grace. But I made it all the way through the actual movie, just to completely lose it during the closing credits. As Grace’s real-life father and his band sing “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing,” we get a glimpse of her wedding to AJ and the camera pans to the front row where you see Bear, Chick, Rockhound and rest, along with huge blown up pictures of Harry and the others who died. Just emotional torture.

I have heard scathing critiques of this movie for nearly 20 years now but they don’t bother me. It’s a superb blend of action, drama, comedy, suspense, and romance to me. And it closes with an unforgettable heart-wrenching moment.

 


Rocky III

The Moment: Rocky’s Reaction to Mick Dying

I wasn’t old enough to see this movie in the theater and I will never forget the first time watching it with the family in Tookeydoo, SC when I was around six years old. Watching Rocky come to the realization that Mick was gone, his loud crying and tears in response moved me so deeply I got up and left the room, and had a good, long, sympathetic cry myself. I put on sunglasses and came back as though I were fooling everyone else about what just happened.

This film is a perfect installment of the Rocky canon. From the first note of “Eye of the Tiger” in the opening credits to the stunning twist with Apollo training Rocky to Eye of the Tiger reprising at the end with Rocky giving Apollo his “favor,” it continues the Rocky narrative exceptionally. The tragic loss of Rocky’s manager in the first act is a masterpiece stroke of plot development, complete with A-level acting by Stallone and Talia Shire and an exceptional musical arrangement by Bill Conti (appropriately titled “Mick”). A poignant moment in a movie series filled with them.

 


Return of the King

The Moment: “My Friends…You bow to no one.”

I love these books but here is one of several film moments that elicits deep emotion in a way the books do not, at least to me (while the reverse is often true also). Tolkien told a story of a fantasy Hobbit race that conveyed biblical ideas like ‘The last will be first” and “The humble will be exalted”. And at this moment Peter Jackson brought it to life in a powerful way. A heartwarming, joy-filled, tear-jerking way. These halflings were not warriors like Gimli or Legolas or royalty like Aragorn or magically powerful like Gandalf. Yet they destroyed the ring, saved Faramir and helped overthrow Saruman, and braved all manner of hell on earth to do so.  And in a moment where all was right in the world (albeit a complex fantasy world), they appropriately attempted to show honor.  But were given it instead.

Storytelling does not get better than this. The first time I saw it I could do nothing other than bow my head and shamelessly weep. They were tears that expressed a satisfaction and pleasure I long for in real life but rarely experience.

 


Bruce Almighty

The Moment: Bruce Prays for Grace

Even though it is a bit irreverent at times, there are moments in this movie where I think they capture what God is like. And in this moment they capture what it means to truly love someone, to the point that you want what is best for them even if it means losing them. Bruce asked God for someone to see Grace always, as he sees her now, “through Your eyes”. What a moment. What a prayer. Tears on top of tears for me. If there was any doubt that Jim Carrey could act, The Truman Show ended it and this moment obliterated it.

I’ll be honest, before I met Kayla and when I met Kayla I prayed this prayer for every girl I went out with or wanted to go out with. It is a hard prayer to pray. When you’re 35 and single, it’s perhaps the hardest. I even downloaded the soundtrack with the music that plays behind this scene and listened to it regularly. It had that big an impact on me.

 


Cast Away

The Moment: Kelly Has to Go Home Now

It had a lot to do with my life circumstances at the time and not just the plot development of the movie, but I have no doubt that when I watched this scene in March of 2003 that I cried longer and harder than at any other on this list or any list.

I was struggling in real life with personal loss. My roommate and de facto psychiatrist Josh Crowe encouraged me with “Who knows what the tide could bring?” from this movie. So I rented it and watched it that night. Kelly had given up on Chuck being alive. She was married to another man. And when Chuck visits and goes to leave and she runs after him in the rain they have the following exchange: “I love you Chuck! You’re the love of my life!”  “I love you, too, Kelly. More than you’ll ever know” And then after a moment in the car he tells her, “You have to go home now.” That destroyed me. It was too real. But the mourning was therapeutic. And Josh and I relive this series of events often even to this day.


So that’s my list, at least for today. I should mention that, as I said when I reviewed Finding Dory, that Finding Nemo would be on this list but it made me cry like twelve times so it wouldn’t fit.

Please comment on moments you feel similarly about if you wish!

 

 




Can You Recover Lost Sleep? Of Course.

It happens almost weekly these days. Either by reasonable life circumstance or by me just being irresponsible, I will go a night with only four or five hours of sleep. And then the next day I feel like a zombie. I may grab some coffee or I may grab an apple, but more than anything I long for one thing: more sleep.

And some days, that is exactly what I get. It is never right away but I get it eventually, either in the form of a nap or going to bed an hour or two earlier the following night. Or as in the case of a couple of people I know, several extra hours on Friday night/Saturday morning.

When I mention in conversation that I can’t wait to catch up on missed sleep, I am often met with a response that is accompanied by the same disdain I have for people when they bash Chic-Fil-A: “What? You can’t catch up on lost sleep!” And with the tone of voice I would add the following implied message: “Are you some kind of anti-science idiot?”

I really have never understood this response. Because my counter-response is that I do catch up on sleep. It really is that simple.

I’ll spare you the links to articles on this topic. I’ve read a bunch of them and they typically agree with me in the sense that you can recover sleep in the short term, which is really my point. I have never tried to argue that I can recover anything from all of those sleepovers I had as a child in the ’80s where we barely slept. I only claim that lost sleep within a day or two, or a week at most, can at times easily be recovered.

But I don’t make this claim based on science. To me, it’s basic common sense. When I sleep eight hours several nights in a row, I typically wake up refreshed and not longing for sleep (though I may want to stay in bed due to being comfortable, warm and/or lazy). When I get five hours of sleep, I wake up wanting more. And all day I feel it. My body screams that it needs more sleep and if possible I will get it as soon as possible. I often say that if it comes down to reality and common sense vs. science, I’m going with reality. It’s why that it may be technically true that snow “makes it warmer,” in Chicago quite often it will be 47 degrees one day and the next it will snow and be 27 (which is exactly what happened this week as I type this). On those days, “science” doesn’t mean a thing. The snow in my reality made it colder. But this topic isn’t even that similar. The science, while unsettled, isn’t hardcore against me.

Let me be clear about something else that causes confusion: When I say I can recover lost sleep, this does not mean that I have to. There have been many times I have slept 4-5 hours or less and within the next week I could not find a time to get it back and at that point maybe it is lost forever (though I would never argue that there is some hard and fixed point that you can pass where sleep is no longer recoverable).

What happens as a result? I’m not sure. I can only guess. Maybe it makes me more susceptible to illness. Maybe it just makes me crankier than normal. Maybe it means nothing. I don’t know. I just know that if I can recover it I will. But life is too complex with ministry, marriage and heavy mental activity to allow it to always be possible. Often the very thing that kept me up all night the previous night will have my brain in such a high gear for several days that trying to nap is useless. I just have to deal with the fatigue and possible long term affects of sleep deprivation.

That’s my dos centavos on the subject. What do you think?