Justice League Review: Decent but Confused

This feels familiar: A blockbuster DC movie comes out to negative critical reviews though positive fan reactions.  Like Batman v. SupermanJustice League is not nearly as bad as many critics make it out to be, critics who seem to suffer from groupthink and who keep expecting DC to be like Marvel.  Still, while Justice League is coherently written plot-wise, it has frustrating short-comings that again could have been easily avoided like former DCEU mistakes.  In fact, what ultimately made this movie just okay was because the DCEU listened too much to whiny critics who wanted bright colors, no tension, and incessant quips like Marvel movies instead of trusting its own darker and mature take on comics.  Thus, Justice League is an awkward movie, one that has some of Snyder’s darker tone but also Whedon’s light-heartedness that clashed.  It culminated in a last fight that was much like Age of Ultron‘s: CGI minions to destroy, flashy lights, and altogether no tension while fighting a dull bad guy who was way less threatening than he should have been.

Ironically, the fact that Rotten Tomatoes seemed to delay its score for Justice League was actually harmful to the movie.  Still, before you feel sorry for Warner Bros., they were ultimately the ones who forced a two hour limit on the movie, forced a Marvel-like humor onto it, and rushed everything instead of more patiently building a world.  That is all their fault.  And that horrific thing called Suicide Squad is all on them as well.  Just threw that in there because that movie was so bad that it defied explanation.

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How Understanding Logic Can Lead to More Charitable Discussion

Another terrible mass shooting hit America recently, this time in the small town of Sutherland Springs, TX.  Devin Kelley attacked the town’s First Baptist Church on a Sunday morning and shot and killed 26 people, many of them children.  He was shot by a local man after the carnage and then fled in a truck, and he was pursued before he eventually crashed and killed himself.  The scene at the church was described as horrific, with blood everywhere and dead bodies littered on the floor.  The nation once again reacted in anger, sadness, horror, and confusion.

In that anger and confusion, we once again have seen people targeting their political enemies, something that never seems to fail to happen.  Many people have called for stricter gun laws, and if you disagree with them, they’ll react in disgust and basically accuse you of being an accomplice in such mass murder sprees.  We have to do something, they say, and if you don’t agree with their “something,” you’re automatically a bad person.  Others have championed the fact that Kelley was fought off by a citizen with a gun, possibly preventing further shootings elsewhere.  Such people argue that those who want strict gun laws are naive control-freaks who want to take away basic rights of self-defense and resistance against potential tyranny.

Such “discussion” gets tiresome pretty fast, especially when a tragedy like this weighs so heavily.  While it is understandable that people will get emotional over this (people should get emotional over this), emotion often makes for poor solutions and poor policy.  What is needed is sober-minded reason, and in actuality, if people have a firmer grasp on logic, it helps to have more charitable discussion.

Now what I mean by “charitable” does not mean that you can’t dish out firm or harsh criticism.  After all, I eviscerated Shaun King for his utterly stupid response to the Las Vegas shooting.  Still, I clearly argued why King’s article was built on worthless arguments as opposed to simply attributing all sorts of bad motives to him without evidence.  And that’s what’s needed: An evaluation of evidence and argument, not knee-jerk reactions to satisfy anger.  Thus, I mean “charity” to be the avoidance of attributing the worst motivations to your opponent (unless you have good reason to) but instead trying to understand what his argument is and answer it.  Such evaluation needs some basic understanding of logic.

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The Curious Case of Carl Lentz of Hillsong, NY

I often like listening to podcasts of various sorts when I eat (sports, politics, or theology), so I looked for one while eating lunch today.  I checked on what podcasts were available on the sports/culture website The Ringer because while I care little for their takes on pop culture and politics, they do have some good sports content, especially concerning the NBA.  Surprisingly, the newest podcast for The Ringer NBA Show featured Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong NY, and he talked with the website’s founder Bill Simmons about Lentz’s relationships with NBA players and other celebrities.  Simmons is a unique and entertaining (if often annoying) voice in the sports world, building his average guy brand as “The Sports Guy” first at ESPN, but he is far from a religious person.  In fact, he admitted that Lentz is the first pastor he’s ever had on his podcast.  This seems to be part of Lentz’s media tour for his new book, as he recently showed up on The View.

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The Magnitude of Evil and the Abundance of Grace: Oh God, Whom Will You Hear First?

In Gregory Boyd’s Satan and the Problem of Evil, he relays a story about a small Jewish girl named Zosia.  Zosia had pretty eyes, and some Nazi soldiers noticed.  Simply because they were bored, they decided to remove her eyes on the spot in front of her mother.  The author whom Boyd quotes describes the scene, stating that the cries of the girl, the screams of the mother, and the laughter of the Nazi soldiers mingled together and made their way to heaven.

The author asks poignantly: Oh God, whom will you hear first?

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Note to Shaun King and Others Who Politicize Tragedy: Kindly Shut Up

Most people have read about the tragic shooting that occurred in Las Vegas recently, where a 64 year old man, Steve Paddock, open fired from his hotel room upstairs down at a crowd during a country music concert.  Fifty-nine people are reported dead with over 500 wounded.  It was the worse mass shooting in modern American history, and everyone is reeling and trying to find answers.  It is no doubt an evil event that causes both sadness and anger.

Of course, whenever tragedy like this strikes, it doesn’t take long for people to politicize it in order to further their own preferred narrative in a way that is both transparent and idiotic.  I get that people are angry and grieving and trying to look for ways to make sense of this, but some people are reaching far into the deep crevices of their own rear ends to find whatever they can to shout at their political enemies.  It is both intellectually dishonest and pretty insensitive to the actual tragedy.

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Useless Kneeling: A Pompous President With a Big Mouth and a Reactionary People Full of Feelings

Last weekend, we were treated to a bunch of kneeling by NFL players during the national anthem.  The Steelers didn’t even come out on the field because they could not decide what to do as a team.  Unsurprisingly, this caused a lot of division (what else is new these days?); stadiums across the country booed the players, and social media exploded with people denouncing the players as unpatriotic or defending them as brave people taking a stand (figuratively speaking).  For people who just want to watch sports without having people trying to shove their political ideologies down their throat, the whole thing was only worthy of eye-rolling and annoyance.

As you may remember, the kneeling started with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, despite having a few productive years for the 49ers, only became a household name because of his kneeling stunt.  He said he was protesting systemic racism among police against blacks.  While he got a lot of publicity, there really was no movement started, so although the media kept the narrative alive because they claimed he was blacklisted by the NFL due to this, most of the country didn’t care that much.  Why?  Because he’s just a guy playing with a ball (and he’s not even that good anymore), and given his interviews, he’s also not particularly great at forming coherent arguments.

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Calvinists Dismiss Supervillain’s Threat to Take Over the “Whole World”

Phoenix, AZ: Victor Spades, a multibillionaire businessman, claims to have developed new destructive technology that will allow him to rule the earth.  Calling himself the awful name, “The Ace,” Spades believes he is a real life supervillain who now has weapons that outclass any military’s by many orders of magnitude.  Appearing on both social media and TV, The Ace proclaimed that he would destroy entire governments and take over the “whole world” with the power of his inventions.  These new weapons have been confirmed to be effective.

The reality of a new overlord brought panic and consternation across the globe, but a certain subset of Christians, Calvinists, openly questioned Spades’ meaning of “world.”  JD Johnson, a Reformed pastor, spoke out, “As you know, ‘world’ can mean anything, really.  Many think it must mean every single person on the planet, but that’s just silly.  The Ace definitely means he has a certain individuals in mind that are scattered around the nations, such that someone from every tribe and every tongue will be under his rule but not everyone.  This makes more sense because otherwise Mr. Spades loses the freedom to choose a select few, which he of course would want for himself.”

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“Do You Have Good Reason to be Angry?” If Not, Your Emotions Don’t Matter That Much

A while ago, I wrote a blog post giving a nuanced look at an unfortunate decision by some of the professors of our seminary to post an inside joke on Twitter… where, you know, everyone on earth can see it without understanding any context.  I criticized them for that, but at the same time, I also pointed out that ignoring context and loudly screaming “Racist!” was also foolish.  You can do both: Criticize the professors for doing something unwise but also understand the context of their picture and why it’s not racist.

Unsurprisingly, my article got some blow back (it also got a lot of support), though none of this blow back dealt with the main argument.  Instead, what got a lot of attention was a throw-away line in the article (again, in the context of actually criticizing these professors for posting that picture on the internet):

Given our hyper-sensitive culture these days, where even stating bare facts like “There’s a very high rate of single-motherhood in the black community” can draw accusations of racism, it was foolish to post that online.  That’s not to excuse our hyper-sensitive culture, but surely a joke like that is not worth the controversy and potential damage to the witness of the professors as well as that of the seminary.

Many people latched on to this line with great offense (though I’ll repeat, it had little to do with the main argument, and it was a comment about the culture as a whole which honestly shouldn’t be that controversial).  “How dare you call people hyper-sensitive!” “You can’t fault people for how they feel!” “You shouldn’t invalidate people’s emotions!” So on and so forth.  What is interesting is that virtually all of these comments came from Christians.

This honestly squares with my experience both from within and without the church when people’s emotions are criticized.  These days, when someone is told he is being too sensitive, that his anger is unjustified, that his jealousy is irrational, or that his hurt feelings have no bearing on the truth of a matter, the typical response from him and others around him is to have varying levels of anger and shock.  The implicit assumption is that emotions are always uncontrolled responses, always valid, and ultimately unassailable.

The problem with this line of thinking for Christians is rather simple: It is far from a biblical stance (not to mention counter-intuitive if you really think about it).  The fact of the matter is that the Bible implies that we are accountable for how we feel and that our emotions can very well be wrong.  Notice what I did not say; I did not say that how you act due to your emotions can be wrong, though that is of course true.  I said the very emotions you have can be wrong, sinful, selfish, or irrational if they are unreasonable and/or come from a wrong heart.  As unpopular and surprising as this is for many Christians (and especially non-Christians), this is what Scripture teaches.

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Answering White Nationalist Arguments Better Than the Left Can

The unfortunate events at Charlottesville have ramped up the racial and political tension in this country, and blame and accusations are flying around at anyone who does not find a side and scream at the top of his lungs.  For some odd reason, we are not allowed to say that both of these are true: Antifa as well as the the alt-right are overly-sensitive and violent fools who have stupid philosophies.  If you do, there will be some people on both sides who call you a Nazi sympathizer or a communist.  Lovely.

In any case, here’s the problem with Antifa and, generally, the response from the Left: They usually don’t address any arguments.  When they do try to address arguments against the more articulate of the alt-right, they look clueless, emotional, and/or unable to explain how they are not creating blatant and unjustified double standards against white people.  Couple this with violent reactions, and this only serves to bolster the alt-right because they can argue that they’re victims of violent persecution when the other side is too afraid to address their arguments.

Here are a couple of cringeworthy performances: The first is Jared Taylor speaking to television anchor Jorge Ramos and the second is Taylor speaking to Eddie Huang of Huang’s World.  Ramos was unprepared to answer Taylor’s arguments and tried ducking his questions most of the time, and while I credit Huang for having a civil conversation, he resorted to silly arguments like, “But aren’t we all evolved from Africa?”, a statement so irrelevant that Taylor simply said, “So what?”  It was also an argument that can backfire because people like Taylor actually use human evolution to show that certain races have developed inherent traits that may be superior to others.

Clearly, there needs to be better answers to the alt-right, and frankly, the Left is not where those answers are going to come from.  The reason is that the alt-right has turned much of their logic against them.  The far left has jumped head first into identity politics, where people are grouped by allegedly genetic or otherwise immutable traits like race and sexual orientation and told that they are disadvantaged by “systems” such as the white patriarchy.  Therefore, they have to think a certain way and fight aggressively for their survival and “rights.”  White nationalists have simply taken advantage of that logic and have pointed out that white people are a group too with certain traits and who should look out for their own interests and survival against “systems” such as white guilt and wanton immigration, especially as their majority percentage dwindles in the West.  While it is entertaining to see how people on the Left stumble to answer this and throw out red herrings such as colonialism, it isn’t exactly helpful.

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Robert Jeffress, Trump, and North Korea: Does Romans 13 Apply?

Back before the nominations, I wrote a post about how I found a lot of Christian support of Donald Trump to be curious, and one name I mentioned was Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas.  I’ve heard him preach a few times and I do not doubt his commitment to the gospel, but he’s also known to create controversy with his comments on politics.  Recently, he made the news again when he stated in an interview with The Washington Post that he supported Trump’s strong remarks against North Korea because God has given Trump the authority to “take out” Kim Jong Un.  He cited Romans 13 as his basis and said that the president, as part of the government, should not seek to follow the Sermon on the Mount in his role.  His comments were met with widespread criticism from the media as well as other Christians who accused of him of warmongering and for using the Bible to justify violence.

I’ll mostly leave aside the question about what to do about North Korea.  As a Korean, I know full well that North Korea has an evil government that might be the most backward on the planet, but what to do with them is not a question I’ll seek to answer here.  Instead, I’ll narrow my focus to Jeffress’ use of Romans 13.  He actually has a point, but the application of Romans 13 to this situation is a bit murky, and he could have worded what he said more carefully.

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