What I Read the Week of October 21

“You Believe in Karma” by Tullian Tchividjian, The Huffington Post — Tchividjian does a good job of succinctly laying out the differences between our natural understanding of justice and the biblical concept of grace. Of course, even Christians need to be reminded of this, whenever we slide back into thinking in terms of “such-and-such must be a punishment for something else.” The gospel frees us from the need to always judge such things, because we know the punishment for our sins has already been fulfilled.

“Felix Baumgartner: The Austrian Daredevil on His World-Record Jump, Fear and Not Saying Goodbye” by Belinda Luscombe, TIME Newsfeed — This is a good little interview about Baumgartner’s insane accomplishment and what it was like for him.

“Five horror films Christians should see” by Andy Rau, Think Christian — Like any top-five list, this mainly serves as a conversation-starter/debate-starter. The title itself is provocative: there are certainly Christians who feel the horror genre is out of bounds. I respect that opinion, but I think horror offers just as many good and interesting films as any other genre. Rau touches on these five very briefly but points out interesting things about all of them. I’ve only see three (AlienInvasion of the Body Snatchers and The Exorcist), but they are definitely worthwhile. I doubt anyone needs a warning about the disturbing content in The Exorcist, but consider yourself warned anyway.

“The problem with Taylor Swift’s love songs” by Natalie Reilly, Daily Life — Swift has discovered an incredibly successful formula and is sticking to it, thematically if not musically. But this article presents an insightful look at the implications. Swift speaks so loudly to teenage girls, for one thing because of hormones, but also because of societal conditioning. Girls grow up believing in the saving power of “true love” and idealized boyfriends. So the article doesn’t go after Swift herself so much as the society that spawned her. But there are plenty of good points. Read this, then watch Pixar’s Brave.

“Spiritual Hatred in Yeats’ ‘Supernatural Songs'” by Sam Buntz, Fare Forward — W.B. Yeats, one of the greatest of all poets, can also be described as a true spiritual “seeker,” someone who “experimented with an extremely wide array of spiritual movements and religions” during his lifetime. His “Supernatural Songs,” written from a “Christian” perspective, present the reader with much to think about and question, according to Buntz. Perhaps the most interesting is the idea of “hatred” for the many different ways that human beings have tried to understand God and failed, hence setting up “images” or idols. Christians always need to try and balance their opinions of themselves — recognizing both sin and grace. These poems can be very helpful if our opinions are a little too positive.

“Saturn Storm ‘Almost Unbelievable’ — Spawns Huge Heat Spike, Vortex” by Marc Kaufman, National Geographic Daily News — “Frankenstorm,” you say? That’s nothing compared to this. Of course, anything to do with a gas giant is going to dwarf events on our planet considerably. But what really stands out is that there are aspects of this storm on Saturn that have scientists stumped, at least for the time being. There’s a lot we don’t know about the universe, and even our own solar system, to say the very least. As always, National Geographic has some cool pictures.

“What if the War on Terror Were Waged With Bayonets?” by Kerry Howley, Slate XX Factor — I very much like the way this short post is constructed, because it focuses on the two moments of the final presidential debate that most stood out to me as well. First, of course, was President Obama’s quip about the military using fewer horses and bayonets now than a hundred years ago. Second was the extremely brief discussion of drone attacks. The morality of these attacks has been called into question by a few different sources in recent months, all of them on the left. Mitt Romney simply agreed with the president’s policy, and the subject was dropped. This Slate article is very short, so it only sets up the comparison of drones vs. bayonets as food for thought. That comparison is troubling, though. It casts doubt on the idea of a linear evolution in combat, wherein warfare today is more “humane” than it was in World War I.

“Rise of the Tiger Nation” by Lee Siegel, The Wall Street Journal — This article is about the rise to prominence of Asian-Americans, economically and culturally. It also presents an interesting comparison/contrast between Asian-Americans’ experience and the experience of Jewish Americans. Each has managed to become quite successful under the American system, at times despite opposition from other races. Racism is certainly addressed here, and it’s a sobering reminder of some of the dark points of our nation’s history. But of course, the overarching message is that people who come here can make something of themselves and become truly assimilated to some of our best characteristics.

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