Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

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A Treat

The present was neatly wrapped

Ribbon red flowing down the side

Elegantly given and kept

A gift of love, grace, and of pride

The act that was so clearly apt.

Photo by DiEtte Henderson on Unsplash

Treat

Wesley Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

as used in the Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church, 1936

Old Glory (1939)

20121229-002243.jpgThis animated short was released in Los Angeles on July 1, 1939, just a few days before the celebration of the 4th of July. The animation is realist, which was director Chuck Jones’ style at this time of his career. It was often described as a Disney-like style, which is why the Studio asked him to work on this project. And with good reason. The studio did not want this short to be looney, but to be a message to the American people.

As Old Glory opens, a wide-eyed, child-like Porky Pig is learning the Pledge of Alliance. “I don’t see why I have to learn that,” he muses. Porky falls asleep there in the school yard, with his text book wide open. Uncle Sam, the iconic symbol of patriotism, appears to Porky in a dream. Uncle Sam moves Porky through early American history, from Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty”, to Paul Revere’s call to arms. As the short moves into the signing of the Constitution, there is an emphasis on freedom of religion, freedom of press, and freedom of speech. Uncle Sam’s history lesson covers the American Revolutionary War to the expansion of the American old west. The short highlights two great Americans, George Washington who “laid the foundation of a great democracy ” and Abraham Lincoln who gave a “new birth of freedom.”

When Porky wakes up from his dream, he is convinced that learning the Pledge is important because it represents the great history of the country. He has been converted by Uncle Sam to the civil religion. But we’re not talking the Sarah Palin-moose-hunting-while-putting-on-lipstick-while-reciting-the-pledge kind of civil religion.

In 1939 lives were disrupted and families faced separation. Hitler was rising in power and influence in Germany. On September 1st of that year, Hitler’s troops conquered Poland in the Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” This would be the spark for the second World War, that would send many young men overseas. In the meantime, the United States was still suffering under the effects of the Great Depression. In 1939, close to 10 million people were unemployed.

Following this short, there would be dozens and dozens of shorts made by Warner Bros. and Disney to raise awareness and support for the government during war time. Why? To encourage unity among the country. The country needed to work together to rise out of the grips of the Great Depression and the country would need to do the same as it faced some of her greatest enemies.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

In the third installment of the Terminator films, we find a John Connor (Nick Stahl) who is no longer 13, and “lives off the grid.”  John is a young adult living on the streets, no phone, no home, nothing. He is working in manual labor, recalling the past through a voice over narration. “They tried to kill me,” he says, “before I was born, and again when I was 13.”

“I feel the weight of the future,” John narrates at the beginning of the film. “So I keep running.” He is running from the vocation that has chosen him and from the terminators that may be coming to kill him. We see him next as he is breaking into a veterinarian’s office in the hopes of finding drugs. Evidence of how far he is willing to go to relieve some of the weight he is experiencing.

In the meantime, a T-X has been sent from the future. The T-X is even more deadly and destructive than the T1000 in T2. The T-X has arrived to kill not John Connor, but other resistance leaders of the future. SkyNet has taken a different approach. John Connor is no longer a priority, it is the other young adults who are his followers who will be leaders of the movement.

hollywoodjesus.com

One of these leaders is Kate Brewster played expectantly well by Claire Danes. Kate is getting married and has a somewhat estranged relationship her father. She is a vet, who answers an emergency call in the middle of the night. When she arrives at the clinic she finds a high John, whom she locks into a dog kennel. While attempting to calm a distressed cat owner, Kate comes face-to-face with the T-X.

The T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in his usual nude way. After gleaning clothes from a stripper at a ladies’ night bar, he sets out to find and rescue Kate from the T-X.  He also has to rescue John.

T-101: John Connor, it is time.

John: Are you here to kill me?

T-101: No. You must live.

John assumes his future-self sent the terminator as he did in the last film. But it was actually Kate who sent him. While running away from the T-X, John and Kate learn a lot about their future together from the T-101. Most surprisingly they learn that SkyNet still rises to power.

As Kate runs for her life, her General father is battling an unknown virus spreading quickly through the computers. They have a “secret weapon” they  have developed that could take care of this virus. Kate’s father, General Robert Brewster, is high up in the federal government who has the ability to tell the Pentagon no, they will not release SkyNet to deal with a major computer virus. His job is actually a cover up for a top-secret security work, which will become important when our three  heroes discover that a nuclear holocaust is upon them. Eventually, though, his hands are tied. SkyNet is release, however, instead of destroying the virus, it takes over all the machines.

While this is not the best of the Terminator films, it is still worth watching a few times. The CGI used in this film makes the first two look antique. And the film continues in developing John Connor as a Christ-figure.

“They tried to kill me before I was born.”

As John tries to explain the situation to Kate, he tells her, “Imagine that you were going to do something important with your life.” This line sums up John’s story perfectly.  His life is at stake because he is going to do something important with his life. It is his life will save humanity, in the fullness of time. In the first Terminator film, the objective was to kill Sarah Connor in order to ensure that John Connor, savior of the world, does not come to be.  In Matthew’s gospel, Mary and Joseph are informed by the wise men that King  Herod is planning to kill all the Jewish baby boys. King Herod wants to ensure that no future leader rises against his rule. Mary and Joseph along with the infant Jesus escape the genocide by fleeing into Egypt. At one point T-101 tells John that he will die, which is why Kate is the one who sent T-101 to the past. It alludes to the fact that John gives his own life to save that of others.

“It is your destiny.”

hollywoodjesus.com

John Connor has a purpose in life. A vocation that the whole world depends on, whether they know it or not. He has a hard time, however, accepting the fact that he will be kept in the equivalent of a “safe house.”  As the apocalypse of the computer-age gets underway, Robert Brewster tells Kate of a secret underground weapons control facility. She and John head there. These scenes were actually filmed on location at a decommissioned federal control center in West Virginia.

This underground center could symbolize the tomb of Jesus Christ. It will be after this tomb experience that a new life will be found. Not necessarily an easier one, which speaks volumes to the human condition. While new life is apart of the journey of humanity, it does not always mean life will be easier. Life is still hard. Life is still challenging. Life is still a battle between good and evil.

The greater lesson that John learns is that the person he is now, is not the person he will become. That is the good news about new life. We are becoming into someone new, transforming the old. He is becoming the one who will bear salvation for the world.

“You’re terminated.”

hollywoodjesus.com

The T-X is evil, no doubt about it. She is an agent of SkyNet, which is the big bad in the film. It is not a mistake that the enemy takes on the shape and appearance of a human. She looks like one of us. “And no wonder!” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, Common English Bible). The T-X can take on the appearance of others. At one point she becomes Kate in an attempt to trick Kate’s father. This enemy is deadly and determined to put an end to any possibility of salvation. She does not want there to be salvation. Her mission is to eliminate the possibility of hope.

This hope, however, is not lost. It is while John and Kate are in the underground control center, with computers that are thirty years old, that voices from across the country are heard. They found a radio range that SkyNet did not affect and they call out for anyone else who might be out there. And through these radio waves, the people hear the voice of John Connor, from the walls of a borrowed tomb, offering them hope in the midst of destruction and judgment.

The Greatest Gift of All

Linus recites Luke 2:

Linus recites from Luke 2

Sometimes, we can feel like Charlie Brown. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and wonder, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, much like the angels on that first Christmas, remind us what Christmas is all about.

“Peace and goodwill toward men.”

Peace and goodwill is hard to come by these days, as it was that first Christmas.  Charles Campbell reminds us, “The political powers, in both Jesus’ day and our own, play on fear to get their way – whether it be the fear of the emperor, the fear of terrorists, the fear of the ‘other’ (the immigrant), or the fear of death.”

Government mandated oppression.

Discrimination against those were different than them.

The poor were kept poor.

People suffered from hunger.

Violence was evident on the streets daily.

But, that was in “those days.”

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NRSV).

The arrival of Jesus brought with it a “new day.” There is no longer need for fear, only joy. There is no longer need for corruption, only freedom. There is no longer need for hunger, only feasting. There is no longer need for occupation, only liberation. There is no longer need for war, only peace.

And yet, we struggle to see this “new day.”

Political parties inspire fear of the other party.

Hatred and bullying of someone, anyone, who is different from us is rampant.

The great divide between the have’s and the have-not’s gets wider and wider.

People suffer from hunger.

Violence is evident on our streets and in our schools.

And there is something deep inside of us that wants to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Sure, we get all these warm fuzzies at this time of year that make us feel so good. It’s great giving and receiving gifts. It’s great going to parties. It’s great having family and friends around.

But, at least for me, there is something hard to swallow about Christmas. That is with all the joy, there is grieving and hopelessness. And I don’t mean to be a damper on things. From Central America and back, I have seen suffering at the hands of poverty, addictions, and violence. And while we try to not think about these things at Christmas, we have to remember this is why the baby boy was born. This poverty, these addictions, and this violence is the reason God became man. This suffering is the reason that Jesus was born.

Jesus is not just the reason for the season. Jesus is the greatest gift of all. In that lowly manger sits hands of grace that bring healing and hope into our hopelessness.

John’s gospel talks about Jesus’ birth as a great Light that penetrates  the darkness of the world. Matthew quotes Jesus telling the disciples that “You are the Light of the World.” This is just one of the many commissioning sayings of Jesus. God sent Jesus as the Light, we are the light-bearers. It is now our responsibility to carry that Light into the dark crevices of the world. Because we claim Jesus Christ, we now become a gift to the word.

Taking the Light to the oppressed.

Taking the Light to the poor and the hungry.

Taking the Light to the bullied and the bullies.

Taking the Light into the violent streets.

It is us who must act. It is us who must bring peace and goodwill to all. It is our gift to give.

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