Thursday, May 01, 2008

Do You Want To Write for This Blog?

Hey guys...

it's been so freaking long since i've written an entry, I feel completely ashamed of myself. Here's the problem - there's way too much crap going on for me to devote the attention to this blog that it deserves. At the same time, the discussion on my last posts have been amazing and I don't want to just abandon this thing completely. And there has been SO much juicy stuff going on too! Reverand Wright/Obama in particular!

I need someone or someones to write for this thing if it's to become a thriving place of discussion we all know it can be. I can't offer people any money, but i can offer you two things: 1) A link to whatever personal site you want (within reason), and 2) The fact that some intelligent and opinionated people will read your writing (This blog still gets a few hundred hits per day consistently).

If you want to write for this blog, send me an e-mail (see my e-mail address at the right side) and give me 2 sample entries on how you would cover news as it relates with religion and Christianity. This is the last hope that this site has to stay alive. And yes it's sad, but if no one responds, maybe i'll be back again later, down the line, with a renewed commitment to keeping it real here.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

For No Reason At All

Here's a video of a 2-year old reciting the Lord's prayer in song form. Why post it here? Because kids are just so darned adorable when they try to be religious:

Click here for the clip

How Jack Thompson Gives Christians a Bad Name

Gamepolitics recently ran a series on the trial of Jack Thompson, in which they excerpted parts of the courtroom transcript for public consumption. For legal junkies such as myself, this offered a fascinating way to get a look at the (in)famous man leading the anti-videogame industry.

Thompson's inflammatory writing has always contained religious overtones, but it wasn't until I read his closing statement that I was struck with the immutable and troubling fact: Thompson is, in fact, explicitly doing this all in the name of God. Check out the following quotes:

I’m simply making the argument, Judge, that my motivations - which I have tried to make clear, maybe to the point of nausea - are religious and that my efforts against the distribution of adult material, pornographic material, violent material, adult rated material to children is violative of the law as well as violative of Scripture. I quoted the biblical passage where Jesus says, reportedly: “If any one of you should cause one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better that a millstone be tied around your neck and that you be cast in the uttermost depths of the sea.”

...As I recounted in my book… they found that Jack Thompson is perfectly sane… He doesn’t have brain damage and, in fact, he’s a Christian acting out his faith in this fashion. So they’re stuck with a formal document that they generated to the humiliation of me in my community that I’m simply a Christian acting out my faith when I do these things.
It makes me shudder to hear Jack Thompson quoting scripture. As a progressive Christian, let me just tell everyone who's reading this right now: This man does not represent my people, or at least, not most of them. Here are just a few reasons why.

He Wants To Legislate Morality

Thompson's world is one in which the government controls what you and your kids see, play, and watch. Although some believe that games rating system is broken, few people have a problem with games ratings categorically. But like the movie industry, we should try and let the games industry police itself (with hopefully more transparency than the MPAA uses).

Government legislation is not going to solve most of the issues that Thompson decries. It has to be done from the ground up, with parents getting more involved with their kids lives' and making sure they don't buy their 9-year old Grand Theft Auto IV when it comes out on April 29 (which by the way, I can't wait for. That doesn't mean that I'm going to let my kids play it though). Moral laws are necessary to keep our society functioning, but every theocracy in human history has ended in tragedy. The more Christians try to get the government to do what they think is God's will, the worse off it looks for all Christians, and the worse off we'll be as a society.

He Seeks To Divide, Not Unite

Thompson is opportunistic to a fault. There are ways to make the world change, but trotting yourself onto TV whenever there's a school shooting to blame videogames for all the world's ills is not one of them. Thompson consistently uses inflammatory language that's meant to polarize and divide, not to unite. He recently suggested that Destructoid should "molest a child directly, rather than through Rockstar." While sarcasm is fine if you're a blogger, it's a little bit unbecoming in this case, when you're a lawyer striving to be taken seriously regarding his Christian values. And when you're already not known for being very reasonable, it makes you into a pontificating and dismissive bastard.

He Uses Bad Science

Videogames certainly don't prevent violence but the evidence that they cause it is murky at best. There are plenty of other factors that might play into why a kid who is in a situation where he spends 6 hours on Doom or Counterstrike per day might want to shoot up a school. And that's assuming he even plays videogames at all (see the point below).

Christians already have a bad enough reputation regarding their relationship to science. We don't need another. But don't take my word for it. Check out the argument captured here:

He Deceives

To watch Thompson's performance in an interview with Chris Matthews is to see a deceiver exposed for what he really is (i.e. a man who grossly distorts the truth to prove his misguide point):

See Chris Matthews take on Jack Thompson by clicking here.

You can also see him blame the sniper attacks on Halo below:

But half-truths are only part of the problem. EA's withering statement of Thompson after he offered them his help with the Take-Two acquisition tells a whole other part of the story (i.e. the part where Thompson fabricates lies wholesale):

We have received your letter to EA's shareholder site. In response to your offer to assist in the proposed acquisition of Take-Two, we would strongly prefer that you not get involved in this matter. EA is a strong supporter of creative freedom for game developers. We feel that your past statements - including false claims about content
in our games - make any collaboration with you impossible.

If you're going to take on a controversial cause in the name of God, at least have the decency to ground your work on facts, please.


(For a pretty good list documenting the rest of Thompson's antics, see his Wikipedia page.)

The Christian message is about peace, unity, and love. Videogames can sometimes run counter to this message. There are bad videogames out there, games that may have a negative impact on how you perceive the world, games that make you think sad or violent thoughts. And this is not to mention how games can arguably cause you to be disengaged from the reality around you to begin with. But the way Christians should address these issues is not be standing on a soapbox, armed with a J.D., and trying to make it illegal. It should be to build relationships with those around us, trying our best to love them and address their needs.

So parents, pay attention to your kids and what they're playing with. And as for you, Thompson, here's hoping that your day is over soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Should This Woman Be Allowed To Kill Herself?

[Again, apologies it's been so long since my last entry. I'll try to ramp it up! :) But please know that the more comments you guys leave here, the more motivation it will be for me to get my next entry out soon.]

Chantal Sebire used to look like you and me, but facial tumors (esthesioneuroblastoma) rendered her face disfigured. Over time, they will destroy her brain and kill her. Sebire speaks heart-breakingly of what she has had to go through:

In 2000, I lost the sense of smell and taste ... and I lost my sight in October 2007. One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured.
Sebire recently appealed to a high court in Dijon, France, to be given the right to end her own life but was turned down. She's now appealing to President Sarkozy for a change in France's euthanasia laws.

Sebire's case presents one of the most troubling right-to-die cases in recent memory. Her disfigurement and pain is obvious to anyone who sees her photographs, and a restriction against killing herself is equivalent to a sentence of lifelong suffering.

In evaluating these cases from a Christian perspective in contemporary society, there are many conflicting values and norms that come into play. The first is the prohibition against suicide. Most often, people cite 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 to demonstrate unequivocally that God is against suicide:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body
It's clear that God values life in the Bible, but the Bible is strikingly unclear as to what level of existence qualifies as life. Would God prefer someone resigned to the abject pain and horrifying struggles of a daily struggle with only a future of slow and torturous death ahead of them, or would he prefer someone that celebrated their life for what it was shortly before taking it? This is the choice I think is offered by Sebire's situation.

One other thing to consider is the advancement of medical technology, which has made suicide an easy and painless procedure, but has also brought into existence life-prolonging drugs and equipment that might benefit the body but not the soul. People live longer today than they were meant to live according to "nature." A pastor who I recently spoke with opined to me that as a result of all this technology, people live longer than they're "supposed to." Maybe we're not supposed to live so far past the time when we still have the ability to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, and use the bathroom ourselves. But society has deemed that because we can, we should.

But maybe in Sebire's case, keeping someone alive just for the sake of it says a lot more negative things about us as a human society than it does positive.

Monday, February 25, 2008

God Might Be Angry After All: Westboro Baptist Church Fined $5 Million, Appeal Declined

Turns out God might be paying attention to the situation with the Westboro Baptist Church after all. This past week, a $10 million fine was handed down to Fred Phelps and his fun-loving congregation of gay-bashing America-haters. The church appealed this massive ruling but, thankfully, the Supreme Court declined to hear it. The appeal did get the fine reduced to a mere $5 million though (very thoughtful of him). According to the Baltimore Sun:

[Judge] Bennett affirmed the jury's verdict in favor of Snyder's father, who sued the church for emotional distress and invasion of his family's privacy after Westboro Baptist Church members waved signs decrying homosexuality at his son's funeral in March 2006. But the judge also reduced the $10.9 million award announced in October to $5 million, noting constitutional concerns of appropriateness. He held up the jury's compensatory damage award of $2.9 million but reduced the total punitive damages to $2.1.
From my understanding, this fine will essentially bankrupt the church completely. I would say "Let's hope they get the picture and decide to fade away completely," but we all know that that won't happen. So perhaps a better thing to say might be: May God throw up more bureaucratic obstacles to prevent them from wreaking further emotional havoc.

This is the best news I've read all week.

Changes Coming at "More Than Fine"

(Photo by ladygoth, via CC)

Hey all,

So I've been doing a lot of thinking and I've decided that in order for this blog to live on and be useful, I'm going to have to do some refocusing. From this point on, "More Than Fine" will no longer be a general grab-bag of random topics that are of interest to me. I am going to be focusing more on Christianity and its relationship to politics and culture from here on out, and avoid the television and film aspects.

Many of you have subscribed to this blog after reading some of my film and TV-related articles, and for that I'm grateful. While those have obviously been my favorite articles, it's time for me to focus this particular blog on faith and on how it affects us all. I'll probably lose some of you after today but I hope to continue offering all of my readers a unique perspective on what's going on in the world today.

Thanks for tuning in as usual,

Saturday, February 16, 2008


(Photo by Docman, via CC)

When I was in high school, some technicians from Sears came over to fix the water heater in our basement. When they left, they took my dad's 108-piece toolset with them (which happened to be lying right next to the water heater). I remember wandering into the dining room one day while my dad was on the phone, arguing with the Sears people. Although dad was unflappable as always, I could tell that he was not happy with the situation. And who would be? Ultimately, the Sears people agreed to purchase my dad a new set of tools, albeit a crappier one. At the end of the whole ordeal, my dad said to me something along the lines of, "In all my time in America, I have never met anybody like this," referring to the toolman.

That's not to say that he hadn't, in his dealings, met any incompetent, inconsiderate or even cruel people. Rather, it was the gall with which these Sears technicians took his things, then lied to his face about it. Then, they didn't respond to his complaints with compassion, but with more obfuscation. And when they finally did make up for it, it was with useless half-measures.

I've been on the internet for a long time now (since AOL was a dial-up service!) and I've met a lot of pretty mean people. On this blog, I've been called a whole host of evil things, and occasionally I've been informed that I'm going to hell. Still, in all that time, I never thought I'd have to say what my dad said, about meeting someone that terrible, that inconsiderate, that cold, that calculating.

Until now.

I recently met someone online that epitomized all these above characteristics. This person lied to me and tried very hard to steal away my dignity. This person showed me the limits of friendship on the internet, and how ultimately, we can't really trust anyone. My anger burned against them for their deceit.

I've had some time to cool off, to realize that, in the end, no one's perfect. I've tried my best to realize that this person's crimes against me aren't that much more serious than my crimes against others. I'm reminded of a Bible verse that people don't really speak of that much these days:
You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
These were the words of Jesus, thousands of years ago. Today it's much more politically fashionable to rail against abortion clinics and teen sex (although apparently, it's become less and less fashionable as each day passes by). But despite an encouraging surge in attention towards social justice, few people really talk about these verses anymore. Jesus led through an example of self-sacrifice, where revenge was noticeably absent. Righteous indignation is still okay, but punching someone's lights out after they piss you off is not.

We all meet these types of people in our lives. Every day we encounter them when they cut us off on the road, when they are curt to us in the supermarket line, when they tell you to "Shut the f**k up" at your team meeting (true story). May we show them the courtesy and respect they so completely fail to show us.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Writer's Block

(Photo by Flickr user Thorinside via CC)

Despite a recent increase in the number of subscribers to this blog, I haven't even been able to keep up with even my pathetic "1 quality post per week" update schedule. The problem has been a recent spout of writer's block. It's not for a lack of topics either. Jozjozjoz at 8Asians recently wrote up a post about the racist superbowl ads and how they were actually created by a mentally deficient South Asian man who singlehandedly helped to set race relations back by a couple of decades. And on Digg today, this extremely provocative post written by an abortion doctor in which she describes the joy she takes in doing job.

There's so much to write about. So much to comment about. So much that needs to get done, that needs to get said. Yet here I sit, unable to take it all in and synthesize it in a way that is meaningful and entertaining for the rest of you. These are the horrors of writer's block.

I know that this is a phase. I know that this, too, shall pass sometime soon. But for now I feel as though my creative skills are completely inert. I feel temporarily directionless, with no sense of who I am or what I want to be, not only blog-wise, but life-wise. And while writing this helps me cope, it doesn't help me deal with the broader problems that threaten to consume my whole psyche.

Nonetheless, we've all dealt with these things before. There are times we struggle with an inability or lack of desire to write and in the end, many of us overcome these problems and are stronger writers because of them. It's been a crazy last 7 days and although the roller coaster of my life is far from over, I know there'll be a lull coming up in the near future. There has to be, right?

Thank you all for sitting tight and being patient. I plan on being back in the game soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is The Era of Religion in Politics Over? According to Jim Wallis, "Yes."

Jim Wallis was on "The Daily Show" recently and in the interview, he declared that the era of religion in politics is over:

Click here for the clip

Like it or not, Americans, as a whole, are religious. But as we've seen throughout history, and especially in the last few years, when you mix religion and politics, the result is usually tragedy. Politics is the rule of law over the people. Religion is the rule of God over man. But because God didn't make it 100% clear exactly what he wanted, differing interpretations, each of which is convinced of its own veracity, can lead to a great deal of strife. Your god may believe that I shouldn't be allowed to marry someone of the same sex, but my god does not. Your god may believe that I should be able determine what happens within my own body, but my god does not. And the beat goes on...

The religious right was the reason why John Kerry lost the election in 2004. It's why Huckabee won the caucus in Iowa. It's part of the reason why every single president we've ever had has been a believer, and will be for the foreseeable future.

So is the period of religion in politics over yet? I don't think so. But my hope is that the era of James Dobson and Pat Robertson is soon coming to a close, that Christian demogogy will soon be trumped by Christian compassion and progressivism. For the sake of our country, I pray it.