Posted by: samthambu | December 14, 2008

Why I engage with cultural products?

– by Samuel Thambusamy

I regularly write about films, music videos and popular novels. Many people do not understand why I do what I do. Worse, they do not attempt to understand why I do what I do. For some, it has never been done and therefore if it is done then it is “unacceptable”. Most of what we do in Church is the tried-tested and trusted approaches (however outdated it may be). For some others, it is a dilution of Christian faith – particularly, the one given to us by Western Missionaries. We are so preoccupied with “restatements”. We do not engage in “reflections”. The West becomes our touchstone for Christian beliefs. We are comfortable with our jingoism, empty words and a kind of sophisticated hypochris(tianit)y.

Now, why do I write discussion questions for music videos and movies? I see engagement with popular culture as the need of the hour. Engaging with contemporary culture is nothing new for the followers of Jesus. The Apostles engaged with the cultural assumptions at the heart of Greek Hellenistic culture. They brought the light of God’s Word to cultural questions such as homosexuality, marriage, food offered to idols etc. The early church fathers defended the Christian faith employing terms from Greek religious philosophy. The principle of engagement with culture underlies theological reflection through the centuries.

We approach popular culture with unnecessay fear. Isn’t it true that we fear what we don’t understand. Popular culture is the cultural air that we breathe and its influence is pervasive. What is popular culture? Simply put, it is people’s culture. Are cultural products neutral? No! Music is not just Music. Movies are not just movies. Magazines are not just magazines. They present (and promote) a philosophy of life. In fact, popular culture brings philosophical debates into our ‘lifespace’. Increasingly, rock/movie stars are the philosophers of our time. When a movie, song or a television show becomes extremely popular they become the cultural landmark of our times. Young people can never stay insulated to the dictates of popular culture. We must help our young people to engage with it.

I usually ask Sunday school teachers/ parents to list the 10 most popular songs of the week. It is not unusual to hear a resounding “NO”. I also ask them if they are aware of the movies their kids are watching at home and what it is all about. The answer is always a resounding ‘No’. We like to think that our kids are insulated from the influence of the media. But, whether we like it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not Kids are listening to the songs and watching movies. They are talking about it to their friends. They are reading about it in magazines. They are searching for it on the net. They are looking around to get hold of it

.Let face it! Music/movies/magazines have a way of finding us and entering our ‘mind-space’. Internet connectivity makes music (and videos) available, accessible and affordable. Today, you don’t have to wait endlessly till it becomes outdated in the West to reach India. You can get it instantly or at least access it on the net.

Do we help our children to engage in faith conversations in the REAL world? Often times, the teaching that young people receive is of no relevance to their lifespace. We don’t help them to make connections between the Word and the world. We do not let the gospel enter their lifespace, encounter the alternate visions presented by music videos/movies etc and engage them in a conversation with these competing voices and make an evaluation for themselves. We get into a condemnatory mode and demand that they throw everything out of their lifespace. It is as if we have everything to say about their world and almost nothing to say to their world.

We live in a fantasy world that our kids don’t have access to these cultural products. Most of us are naïve about how kids access these things in spite of parental control. I believe that is important to engage with popular culture. This means that we follow the music/videos/movies/computer games and magazines that are at the heart of contemporary culture (and define it). Shouldn’t we help young people ‘encounter-engage and evaluate’ the cultural products that enters their lifespace. We must help young people understand what it means to be “IN” the world and “NOT OFF” the world. The quicker we do, the easy is the experience of reaching Generation strange ( to borrow the words of Slipknot, a nu metal band)

Wisdomtree is mindful of its calling to ‘resource’ and “engage” in cultural apologetics (dismantling the philosophies of this world) and disentangling people from its effects. A wide range of resources is available at cogwheel.wordpress.com

Posted by: samthambu | July 21, 2008

Intro to Apologetics Part 2: Questions are Quest-ions

Questions are Quest-ions

Questions for further reflection

  1. What evidence is there that most people have an insatiable thirst for Truth?
  2. why do you think people look out for that which is real, excellent and delightful?
  3. How would looking at the quest behind the question help us in evangelism?
Posted by: samthambu | July 18, 2008

Introduction to Christian Apologetics (Part 1)

The Q is alive!

 Questions for further reflection

  1. What are the questions alive in your context/s? Are these questions philosophical and/or existential?
  2. How do you think the church is responding to these questions? What do you think about the Church’ answers to these questions?
  3. What must we do in the context of these questions? 

Introduction to Christian Apolgetics

  • Part 2
  • Part 3
Posted by: samthambu | April 11, 2008

The power of Stories

 

We’re drawn to stories about people finding their voice because they help us make sense to our lives through the stories of others” – Jennifer Aniston on her new production company ECHO

Source: People’s Magazine quoted in Deccan Chronicle Tuesday 8 April, 2008, Page 25

 

Posted by: samthambu | April 9, 2008

The Power of Television

This Vblog presents Oprah Winfrey’s Life Time Achievement Award acceptance speech at Emmy Awards, 1998. She talks about how a daily simple prayer, “Lord Use Me” took her into Television and consequently helped her touch lives through the Television Medium. It was simple prayer. But…you never know what God can do to make us beacon of light to others around. And more importantly, help us transform and redeem different arenas of human engagement.

Posted by: samthambu | February 22, 2008

Story Keepers in an Information Age (3U-1)

Posted by: samthambu | February 21, 2008

Philosophy in the Age of Neuroscience

Posted by: samthambu | February 21, 2008

Philosophy in the age of Neuroscience

Part 1: 

Part 2 

Part 3 

Part 4 

Part 5

Part 6

Posted by: samthambu | February 21, 2008

George McDonald

A genuine work of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will mean. If my drawing, on the other hand, is so far from being a work of art that it needs THIS IS A HORSE written under it, what can it matter that neither you nor your child should know what it means? It is there not so much to convey a meaning as to wake a meaning. — But a man may then imagine in your work what he pleases, what you never meant! — Not what he pleases, but what he can. If he be not a true man, he will draw evil out of the best; we need not mind how he treats any work of art! If he be a true man, he will imagine true things; what matter whether I meant them or not? (The Fantastic Imagination)

Posted by: samthambu | February 21, 2008

Intercession

By Bobby Thejus

1) When we intercede for others God restores to us and delivers us. (Job 42:10)

Fault finding friends:

Job’s friends found fault or attempted to find fault with his life because he was suffering. And like the karmic principle they believed that, good deeds reap good results while bad deeds reap bad results. And Job’s suffering was really bad, so the logical conclusion, according to their philosophy, is that Job must have done something really bad.But – If happiness is regarded as a reward for a good life, then we will stop making good people happy and take on the stupid task of making happy people good.Now that is exactly what Job’s friends thought. They wrongly assumed that happiness is a result of a good life. But then in Matthew Ch 5:3-12 Jesus shocks his listeners, branding those whom we would on any given Sunday, commiserate for, as blessed. But it is blessed only when we suffer and are persecuted for the right thing- for the son of man- Jesus! (Romans 8:17)God will deliver and hear the cries of those who are sidelined and ill-treated (Ps 71:19-21).

Faulty friends:

As Job was doing the good will of his father (though he did not, come to terms with it, or realize it himself), he was blessed. And God defended Job. Satan and Job’s friends were both embarrassed. Job was glorified.
Sometimes the way we view life is a reflection of what we are in the inside, “

’No. for you see me, Diamond dear,’ said the girl, and she looked down at him, and Diamond saw the loving eyes of the great lady beaming… [but for the wicked woman] ‘I had to make myself look like a bad thing… If I had put on any other shape than a wolf’s she would not have seen me, for that is what is growing to be her own shape inside of her’.”- At the back of the North Wind, George MacDonald. Diamond saw the loving eyes of the great Lady while the wicked woman saw a wolf in the great lady.

What is it that we see? What do we see life as? What do we see in other people? What do we see God as? How do we think God see’s us?

Restored relationships

But the greater lesson we are to learn is that in spite of what his friends did to him God asked Job to pray for them. The challenge here is to pray for our enemies or friends who wrongly found fault with us or blame us for something we are not responsible. The person who spends much time thinking about the evil caused to them, by others, is the one who suffers the most, while the one who caused it seems to be happy. We notice God asking Job to pray for his enemies and it is very interesting to note that, in Job 42:10 “the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave twice as much as he had before.” In forgiving others we are not only restored physically but emotionally and spiritually. His relationship with his friends was restored as a result of his restored relationship with his God. If we doubt whether God answers prayers, we should then pray for our enemies.

2) When we intercede for others we see God deliver them. (Gen 19:29)

Seize the day.

Lot, Abraham’s Nephew, made hay while the sun shone and opted for the better, cleaner and greener pasture. But he never realized that the sun will shine so bright and burn his whole pasture. Lot was a successful guy. He would have probably, given the opportunity, written ‘7 ways to become successful’. Like anyone of us, he made the most of the options that were laid out before him.

The man who isn’t making the most noise isn’t heard. But the man who makes the most noise regardless of whether he is making any sense or not, is heard and acknowledged. So somebody made some noise and the voice was heard.
Abraham made the offer and accepted Lot’s better and greener choice (whether it was really clean we will see later). We notice that Abraham shows no sign of jealousy or avarice; could it be because he had what he really needed? “And Diamond thought that, next to his own home, he had never seen any place he would like… For it is not fine things that make home a nice place, but your [family/friends] mother and father.” -At the back of the North Wind, George MacDonald. We have to realize that the good things in life are really very simple- relationships; family, friends and God (in the place where He wants us to be). In thinking that he had found the best, Lot had actually found the worst.

Seize the opportunity

In spite of Lot’s vain-glorious human desire, we see Abraham interceding for his nephew. He didn’t think Lot and his lot deserved what they were about to receive as a result of their choice and Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin. We in turn see him crying out to God, seized the opportunity, and bargained, to find favor, for the sake of his nephew. Some lesson for us to learn. Many times we are here for people telling them what not to do, but we are rarely there for them after they have made a mistake. “The broad minded one is only ‘there’ for you not quite ‘here’ for you. While the narrow minded one is only ‘here’ and not quite ‘there’ for you. But you need to be here and there. And then there is only One who is here there and everywhere, He has found you but have we found him?” John 21:15-19

3) When we intercede for others we bring life to dead possibilities.

It isn’t strange to see that in homes of really good people we sometimes find the worst things happening. Police men’s children end up becoming crooks. Pharmacist’s children end up becoming pharmaceutical freaks, great saints children end up becoming great sinners. It is a sad state of affairs indeed. Here in the home of a particular woman, where one of old testaments great heroes lived, a death had occurred. And probably like many of us, who spiritualize anything and everything, the lady blamed Elijah for her son’s death. I Kings 17:18

Elijah had in the past only done her a good deed. In times of drought, he made miraculous provisions for her; unlimited oil and flour (I Kings 17:8-16). Now her son for some reason or the other died and left his mother wondering if the prophet had a hand in this transition- from life to death- her only son had gone through. But Elijah prayed and brought back life. For the son had only passed from life into eternal life (I Kings 17:21-22). Death isn’t a very strange occurrence; it meets our existence somehow-anyhow. Unlike what Buddha said to the poor widow, who came crying to him as a result of her son’s death, to bring mustard seeds from a home where death had never occurred, Elijah knew better, prayed earnestly and brought back life into her son. I Kings 17:23

Through prayer many sinners have become saints. Through his mothers prayer Augustine, a vile offender- dead, became a saint- Life! There are many dead situations, in our lives and in the lives of others, with regards to; broken homes, finances, health, emotional and mental strain, and depression. Pray for them!

-Bobby Thejus

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