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Some Things to Remember in Election Season

ID-100260030"The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.” Daniel 4:32

Character matters in every sphere of life. It is the ground of decision-making of all kinds. It determines what kinds of relationships we will have, and with whom. It is the basis of trust and respect on the one hand, or manipulation and contempt on the other.

This is as true in the political arena as everywhere else. History is fraught with examples of men and women in various government capacities whose low character has led in some cases to horror (Stalin, Hitler, Mao) or simple graft (both parties at every level of governance can boast myriads of such examples).
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Re-examining Cultural Engagement with the Next Generation

ID-100391359If the church is always one generation away from extinction, as is commonly said, then it makes sense that the next generation would be an important mission field for Christians. Groups like Child Evangelism Fellowship, Evangelism Explosion, Youth for Christ International, AWANA, and many more seek to stave off generational extinction by sowing to the future. But while youth culture is often seen as primed and receptive for the Gospel, it is also perceived as existing within a rather narrow window. Which is why Jay Kesler, former president of Youth for Christ International, once said, "Any evangelism after high school isn't evangelism. It's really salvage."

As contemporary culture has changed, so has evangelical engagement of youth.
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The CMP Videos Reveal as Much about the Church as about Planned Parenthood

ID-100110690_1Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” ~ Lawrence Durrell

***

Many assumed that the release of the Planned Parenthood exposé videos from the Center for Medical Progress would rouse a long-slumbering church at last to raise a sustained, united cry of virtuous outrage to help turn the tide of public opinion against the great evil of our age, abortion.

Such assumptions, it seems, were overly optimistic.

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'The Hateful Eight' Is a Bloody, Disgusting Masterpiece

The-Hateful-Eight-Kurt-Russell-and-Samuel-L.-Jackson-2The curtain opens, and the credits roll. Bold, old-fashioned Western music plays behind a static screen—a wagon before snow-capped mountains. The unsuspecting audience settles in for a classic-style Western, totally oblivious to the carnage, crudity, and conflict to come.

Okay, fine. The Hateful Eight is a Quentin Tarantino film, so the audience expects blood, gore, death, violence, entertaining dialogue, and visions not meant for children. And boy, do they all come—but only step by step, and only after lulling the audience into a false sense of security.

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The Untold Story of the Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade

DefendersWhat if I told you there was a time in American history when many Republicans supported liberalizing abortion laws, while liberal Democrats protested that fetuses had constitutionally protected rights? That liberals like Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, and Dick Gephart took pro-life positions while Republican governors Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller signed legislation expanding access to abortion? Would you believe it?

Surprising as it may seem in the 21st century, protecting the unborn used to be an issue that liberals championed, as Daniel K. Williams shows in his outstanding new study, “Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade” (Oxford University Press, 2016). Williams demonstrates that, prior to Roe (which struck down most state laws restricting abortion), pro-lifers grounded their opposition to abortion in the rhetoric of human rights. In contrast to previous interpretations that interpreted the pro-life movement as a backlash against women’s rights and the Sexual Revolution, Williams argues that opponents of abortion viewed their cause as intimately linked with other “pro-life” positions like opposition to the Vietnam War and the death penalty. They believed that the fetus was the most defenseless of all human beings and that the Constitution guaranteed it the right to life.
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Is the Church Really a Community?

ID-100132186The Body of Christ is grossly undernourished.

Instead of meat on our bones and a healthy glow to our skin, the Body so often seems to suffer from ceaseless striving, weak knees, and flagging zeal. And no wonder: Christians grow in spiritual stamina through fellowship with the Lord and His people, and—alarmingly—that’s what’s missing most from the contemporary church.

Added to the continuing lack of satisfaction and spiritual vitality among church members, the U.S. Census Bureau reports a startling number of churches have closed over the past decade. Each year, approximately 4000 shut their doors, compared to the 1000 being planted. What’s going on? Why is the American church suffering such an apparent lack of vigor? Surely the reasons abound, but one cannot simply chock up the stats to the increase of evil or the waning of righteousness in the earth. Sometimes the reasons are difficult to face, even counterintuitive—yet what if the answers are right under our noses?
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Both Women and Men Have Heroic Roles to Play in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Rey_y_Han_Solo(Note: This article contains major spoilers about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”)

What is left to say about women’s roles in the new Star Wars movie? The fact that a young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley) is learning to wield the Force and the lightsaber this time, instead of a young man named Luke, has attracted its full share of cultural commentary. Is Rey the heroine we’ve been waiting for, or is she just a Mary Sue, too perfect to bear any resemblance to reality? Does her presence signal that we’ve arrived at full gender equality in the movies, or do we still have a long way to go? Or are her lead status and her formidable skills supposed to suggest actual superiority to males—and if so, does that mean the Star Wars franchise has sold out to a mindset that denigrates men in order to lift up women?

It’s that last pair of questions that takes my train of thought in a slightly different direction. We can’t answer them without taking the time to study the male roles in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” more closely. When we do, we find one role that only a man can play, being played in a most uplifting way.
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How 'The Hunger Games' Challenges Ends-Justify-the-Means Morality

2E3BD7BC00000578-3309024-image-a-107_1446986142716(Note: This article contains spoilers for the Hunger Games series.)

In a world where not everybody wears a black or white hat and even fewer wield red or blue light sabers, what distinguishes “good guys” from “bad guys”? It’s not pacifism. Many of the best men (and women) in history—Joshua, Joan of Arc, George Washington, Sergeant York—wielded the sword. Something else draws this bright line. And I think Suzanne Collins was attempting to portray that something when she wrote the Hunger Games trilogy.

Judging by recent conversations, American conservatives who enjoy “The Hunger Games” for its anti-government themes had better think deeply about what this young adult series teaches—that is, if they hope to be the “good guys.”
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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Revisits Past Glories

Star-Wars-Force-Awakens-display-costumes-propsWhen the title for the first Star Wars film in a decade was announced in November of last year, there was some snickering. “The Force Awakens”? What, has it been asleep?

Of course, being a new Star Wars film, it could have been called “The Franchise Awakens,” and would still be a guaranteed Death-Star-sized mega-hit. But behind the galactic hoopla and ubiquitous merchandizing was the irresistible tractor beam of seeing characters from the original trilogy of films return to join a fresh young cast in what appeared to be “Star Wars: The Next Generation”—a continuation of the saga that George Lucas had launched in 1977, a long time ago in a decade, like ours, badly in need of a new hope.

For millions of fans like me, the original Star Wars films hold a special place as a cultural marker, somehow both personal and universal in meaning. It launched the era of the Hollywood blockbuster that has since grown into a special-effects heavy, youth-skewing marketplace designed to earn megabucks and sell merchandise. The question on many minds now: Was there more story worth telling after the original three films that saw the defeat of the Empire?

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The Wreck of 'In the Heart of the Sea'

sea_1Let me tell you two stories.

Story One: In the early 19th century, a huge sperm whale hit a whaling ship while two thirds of the crew were several miles away hunting other whales. After several minutes, the whale backed away from the ship, and then rammed it again at speed, breaching the hull. It swam away, never to be seen again, leaving 21 men stranded with three small whaleboats, and what supplies they could retrieve, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Story Two: In the early 19th century, a white whale covered in scars from harpoons, the subject of many a dark rumor, viciously attacked a whaling ship while two thirds of the ship’s crew was attacking the whale’s pod. The whale chased the whalers through the Pacific, continuing to attack them as they sailed for safety.

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'Victor Frankenstein' Points to the True Giver of Life

victor-frankenstein-gallery-01-gallery-imageThe new movie “Victor Frankenstein” knows we know its story. Its narrator, whom we will later meet as Igor (played by Daniel Radcliffe), reminds us that this is a tale familiar to us all. But it is how this tale is told, and the surprising depth of its spiritual questioning, that sets it apart from other more famous adaptations.

The film opens at a circus, where a nameless hunchback plays a mournful clown. Each night he is amusement to many, harrassed by jeers and curses before retreating to his tent to study anatomy. Perhaps it is his own physical limitations that inspire his fascination with the intricate make-up of the human form.
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New 'Macbeth' Adaptation Gives Full Weight to the Play's Moral Themes

Macbeth2There’s really nothing like a good rendition of one of Shakespeare’s classic plays, and the new film adaptation of “Macbeth,” directed by Justin Kurzel, does not disappoint, pulling the viewer along on a journey of dreamlike inevitability, fatal sins, madness and—of course—murder.

The plot is a familiar one. Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) stumbles across three witches on the moors who tell him that he will be king of Scotland; when King Duncan (David Thewlis) stays with Macbeth, the latter tries to take his fate into his own hands, at Lady Macbeth’s (Marion Cotillard) urging, by killing Duncan in his sleep. But we all know that this is not enough. “Blood will have blood,” and this first death only spawns more death.
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Lessons from 'The Weight of Glory'

51DSVzvdcIL._SY344_BO1204203200_This essay is taken from the book "Women and C. S. Lewis," co-edited by Carolyn Curtis and Mary Pomroy Key (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2015). Used by permission of the publisher.

I’ve often thought that if Blaise Pascal’s idea were true, that all of us have a “God-shaped” vacuum in our hearts only God himself can fill, it would be a thought almost too good to be true. Could it be that God made us with an internal GPS of sorts that would point us in his direction? Pascal thought so.

St. Paul also believed in God’s relentless self-revelation. Speaking to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Athens, he suggested God also uses our time and place to nudge our divine investigations. God determined when and where his image bearers would live, so that “they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him…” (Acts 17:27, ESV).

Though I believe each to be true, I struggle to understand how my personal longings and the current priorities of my Western culture could possibly work together toward these good ends. I want my desires to lead me in the right direction, but I often find them working as spoiled and misdirected accomplices with the worst of my culture to lead me astray. Our inherent awareness for the transcendent is easily taken captive by false promises of immediate gratification.
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A Q&A with Debut Novelist Rachel McMillan

51-vU9APljL._SX326_BO1204203200_Rachel McMillan, a frequent feature writer for BreakPoint, has just released her first book, the mystery e-novella “A Singular and Whimsical Problem” (Harvest House). It’s the first volume in her Herringford and Watts series, about two female detectives in Toronto in the early part of the 20th century. (The first full-length novel in the series, “The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder,” will be released in April.) I asked Rachel to tell us about the ideas behind her series, and what she wants the books to convey.

Gina Dalfonzo: What gave you the idea to write a series about female versions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson?

Rachel McMillan: My agent! I had a straight historical romance being shopped and not getting a lot of traction with publishers. She attended a conference where editors kept mentioning romantic suspense as a growing trend. She Skyped me and said that I should think about something like a female Sherlock (knowing I was a big Sherlock Holmes fan). From there, I took a weekend, a bunch of post-it notes and paper and basically moved into a favorite coffee shop, not leaving until I had mapped out an entire world.
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'The Danish Girl' Humanizes a Tough Issue

x900_1The Danish Girl” is certainly a film that people will walk away from with sharply differing opinions. My hope is that it will lead to helpful and productive conversations.

Directed by period film titan Tom Hooper, this movie is loosely based on the true story of Lili Elbe—formerly Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), and one of the first people to have sex reassignment surgery. “Transgender” is a hot-button word these days, but this film reminds us to stop viewing it as only a word, and look at the experience of actual transgender individuals. At its core, “The Danish Girl” tells the story of a marriage, and the title could refer to either protagonist; in fact, the only time it’s used in the film is in reference to Einar’s wife, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). The story is both of theirs, and it’s told thoughtfully and with nuance.
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