This should not be a surprise to any who has known me or read my blog. But in case those reading this might need proof of my geek cred, I offer the following for evidence:
- I’m in a role-playing group two nights a month.
- I have a replica Doctor Who sports coat which I will occasionally wear to my place of business.
- I prefer bow-ties over neck ties and, if I had my druthers, would only wear bow-ties.
- I play the accordion.
- I use the word “druthers.”
- I can be found most evenings lounging around the house in my Star Trek bathrobe.
- I’ve read the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings numerous times.
- I can quote most lines from Star Wars.
- I’ve accumulated over 10,000 “geek points” at thinkgeek.com.
- I read comic books and still have all the ones from my childhood.
- Was the first point really not enough for you?
It seems silly to have to defend one’s geekiness, since normally admitting you were a geek was proof enough that you were one (just like a man who admits to being a bronie, a male fan of “My Little Pony.”) But apparently that’s not enough for some, or at least for one. Last week the geek world was set ablaze by an article that berated some attractive, young women who the author claimed were just faux geeks looking for attention. It’s quite a statement on the world that there might be women who would fake being into comic books/sci-fi movies/RPGs, etc. to look “cool.” My first thought: where were they when I was young?
My second thought: what does it mean to be a geek?
I’m not the first to ask or try to answer such a question. My usual operating definition of a geek was someone who was really over-the-top passionate about something that wasn’t mainstream. But John Scalzi, popular science-fiction author who has won a few Hugo and Nebula awards and hob-knobs with other famous stars in the geek universe, adds an important nuance to that:
Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”
Any jerk can love a thing. It’s the sharing that makes geekdom awesome.
Being a geek is not just over-the-top loving something. It’s over-the-top sharing about it as well. And that made me think: how can we be geeks for Jesus?
I’m not proud to admit I’m more familiar with the geography of Middle-Earth than I am with the United States. But can we get as excited and knowledgeable about our faith as we do about our fiction? I met a wonderful, faithful, young Christian who told me they’ve read the Harry Potter series three times over but, in further conversation, admitted to never having read all (or even most of) the letters in the New Testament. Why?
Let’s be honest, the first letter to Timothy isn’t as exciting (to most) as the first book of Twilight. The US Bishops commented on that in their national document on catechesis:
Most people today, but especially young people, expect learning experiences to be entertaining and tend to judge the effectiveness of those experiences on the superficial level of how entertaining they are rather than how humanly enriching or authentic they are. Young people are taught both by the excitement generated by technology and by the effervescence of popular culture to reject something if it bores them – and often the only things that do not bore them are those that seduce or titillate. (National Directory For Catechesis p.16)
Before we get into the deeper meaning of this quote, let’s first tip our hat to the US Bishops who found a way to use both the word “effervescence” and “titillate” in the same sentence. Double Word Score.
Now on to the deeper meaning: I think this hits a bulls-eye. We have been raised to be amused. In the 70s, Pope Paul VI said the following: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and to teachers only if they are witnesses.” But I think a more modern rendition can replace “witnesses” with “being entertained.” I know some brilliant teachers at my university who many students don’t like because they are “boring.” But those who pay attention discover how intelligent they are and really get a lot of our their classes.
I spend a lot of energy trying to make what I do to pass on the faith both educational and entertaining: short movie scripts, dramatic presentations, song-writing, and even some comedic things I do in class to keep my student’s attention. But if someone is to grow into spiritual maturity, they’ve got to go beyond only what “titillates” them. Falling in love with someone means going deeper than what infatuates us and often involves a struggle. It’s not always “entertaining.” It is so much better. But if our passion for Jesus Christ doesn’t surpass our excitement for pop culture, then our spiritual lives will be shallow and our evangelization ineffective.
Can we be as geeky with saints we are with superheroes? As knowledgeable of doctrine as we might be with Doctor Who? Are we willing to enter into the world of holiness as much as we are the Hunger Games? Or as devoted to prayer as we are to pop culture?
But here is the real challenge for an amusement-addicted culture: are we willing to allow times of “boredom” with God in our spiritual lives, as He detoxes us from the constant stimulation of superficial entertainment, so that He can lead us to a place of deeper intimacy? Of course, the spiritual life is not actually “boring.” As Fr. Thomas Dubay once wrote, “People who are in love are never bored.” But a life of prayer is not seductive, titillating, or entertaining. And if that’s all we’re used to, then spending time with God can be very difficult indeed.
A geek is someone who is not only over-the-top passionate about something, but also over-the-top passionate about sharing that with others. If that’s an accurate definition, then I think it’s appropriate to call the Apostles and all the saints as “geeks.” The question before us is, are we willing to be one as well?
If I can paraphrase the call to the “new evangelization:” we are all called to be geeks for Jesus. And while I don’t mind that people know I collect comic books, enjoy science-fiction, or play role playing games, what I really want to be known for is being a Jesus geek.
And no, that’s not an opinion of the Ryan Reynolds movie.
This week it was revealed that Green Lantern is a homosexual. For those of you don’t know, Green Lantern is a comic book character with a power ring that can create solid constructs (a sword, a car, a large fist, etc.) based on his imagination to create and his willpower to create it.
Headlines have said, “Green Lantern comes out of the closet” but that’s not entirely accurate. He was never in a closet—the subject was just never addressed. DC Comics (who publish Green Lantern) did a reboot of the super-hero universe and they decided to make this new incarnation of Green Lantern gay. This ends a few months of speculation after DC leaked that one of their major superheroes would be homosexual. There were lots of geeks talking about which one it might be. Me, I thought it was going to be Aquaman. There was always something fishy about that guy…
People concerned that a gay Green Lantern will encourage homosexual behavior, especially among young people, clearly haven’t watched an episode of Glee which is seen regularly by way more people than will read the comic. But GL being gay is a culturally significant statement, especially at a time when the popularity of the super-hero genre is at an all time high.
It’s not that Green Lantern is the first homosexual superhero (or villian) in the comic book world, though he is certainly one of the first “A-list” superheroes to be so. Marvel comics made news a few weeks ago when they announced that one of the X-Men (Northstar, a Canadian superhero who was one of the first heroes to be portrayed as a homosexual back in 1992) was getting married to his boyfriend. But in researching this blog I discovered that the first comic book homosexual marriage has already happened in… Archie Comics? (To which the world replied, “They still make those?”) But neither of the couples in Archie or Marvel has the kind of popularity that Green Lantern does.
The New York Post interviewed James Robinson, the head writer for Green Lantern:
Robinson, a British writer who lives in San Francisco with his wife, is no stranger to gay characters – he wrote DC’s “Starman” comic in the 1990s, a groundbreaking title that starred a homosexual superhero. He said the only agenda he’s pushing is reality.
“It’s a realistic depiction of society,” he said. “You have to move with the times.”
In my opinion, I think Robinson is being honest. Though I’m sure everyone at DC Comics are happy for the publicity (look for the Green Lantern logo to be quickly embraced by the gay community) I don’t think this is a publicity stunt. People who are homosexually active are a part of life and the writer wants to portray “reality.”
But it’s obviously not a real reality. It’s a reality where people have superpowers and wear tights. And though there are real homosexuals in the world, it’s rarely they are portrayed in a “real” way.
The same goes with heterosexuals. How many sitcoms show characters sleeping with one person or another, never dealing with the emotional or physical consequences of their actions? Over the past decade, we (media consumers) have all come to accept and expect a faux-reality of storytelling. Female lawyers are always hot. Crime investigations usually lead to a strip club. Sexual partners can be changed as quickly as clothes. People actually laugh at the dumb jokes written for the Disney Channel.
Sexually active people almost never get STDs (even though the CDC estimates that 19 million people get them each year.) Matters of faith are rarely dealt with. It is often the unspoken assumption that God doesn’t exist (as much as I loved The Hunger Games, notice how nobody facing their imminent death said a prayer for help or mercy?)
And here’s something you’ll never see from this “reality”: Some people with homosexual attractions can be freed from them through therapy.
There is still a lot we don’t know about where homosexual impulses come from. It could very well be that some people are born with them. But it is also the case, often unsaid, that many people develop homosexual attractions through the conditioning and experiences of their childhood.
As I’ve traveled around the country, often speaking on men’s issues, I have met a few men who, because of things in their past, ended up being homosexually active. These men gave their lives to Christ and went through counseling. And now they are happily married now and grateful for people who spoke the truth to them. (An example of one man’s testimony to this can be found here.)
Statements like those above are abhorrent to the gay community and I understand why. To say someone can be “cured” of homosexuality infers that being gay is a disease. They believe that homosexual attractions should be embraced, not questioned. It should be accepted, even celebrated, by society. People who think otherwise are close-minded and bigoted. People who suggest homosexual inclinations can be “cured” should be silenced. Homosexual activity should be seen as normal as heterosexual activity.
But it’s not. The truth is this: homosexuals cannot have “sex,” at least in the classic definition of it. They can simulate it, but not replicate it. They can engage in “oral sex” or “anal sex” but not “sex.” It is clear that the male and female body were created for each other—they have complimentary genitalia that can bring about a positive result: the creation of life. Such complementarity does not exist between members of the same sex.
And yet we don’t think about people involved in homosexual activity as “virgins” (as we might with a heterosexual person who hasn’t “gone all the way”) because as a culture we’ve redefined what “sex” means. And because we as a society have become used to having a false definition of sex (thanks in part to the unreal reality portrayed by the media,) many now push for a false redefinition of marriage.
Here is a key part of the Church’s argument against gay marriage. It’s not that marriage is a right that homosexuals are kept from receiving. Marriage is a reality that homosexuals can’t do. Humanity’s understanding of marriage preceded civilization and the government doesn’t have the “right” to change it.
I have said in a previous post how I feel that there are those in the Christian community who have much to atone for in the way they have dealt with people with homosexual attractions. And while I certainly feel that people shouldn’t be bullied or discriminated against because of their homosexual attractions or the decisions they make because of those attractions, that doesn’t mean I have to accept it as a “good” nor vote for policies that condone it. Loving and treating people with homosexual attractions with dignity doesn’t mean we need to accept homosexual activity as good.
Of course, as a Christian I’m operating with a different definition for the word “good.” The way the world often decides right and wrong is simple:
If you enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt anybody, then it’s good.
That is different from the Christian foundation of morality, spoken by Jesus:
“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
How did Christ love us? He loved us enough to speak the truth to us. Jesus accepted people where they were but loved them too much to let them stay there. He said what needed to be said, even though His words caused Him to be rejected and crucified. People who preach what Christ preached shouldn’t expect any different reaction.
Why not just “live and let live?” The answer is because that wouldn’t be the loving thing to do. Truths revealed by God are not restrictive. It’s just the opposite: “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) There are many men and women who are trapped in homosexual behaviors and are told there is no hope for anything different. But that’s not true. There is hope. It can be a difficult road and everyone’s journey is different, but there is hope.
Using his power ring, Green Lantern changes reality using his imagination and willpower. It’s fitting that he’s the first major superhero to be gay because that’s exactly what advocates for homosexual behavior are trying to do. We who have received God’s Word can’t stay silent lest we allow fiction to masquerade as fact and abandon people, created for truth, to live in lies. It’s hard to speak that truth in love because many will take it as hateful, but we have a responsibility to try.
I get to write a scripts for Outside Da Box. They asked if I could write something for teens about “the healing power of the Eucharist.”
My first shot at the script had a teen go through the day under constant attack: mom says he’s grounded for the weekend and then throws a grenade at him, girlfriend dumps him and then sword fights with him, etc. The idea is that he would be “beaten up” by his daily activity but then comes into the chapel and is healed and refreshed by the Eucharist.
But the script was deemed too violent. So I wrote a zombie one instead.
Oddly enough, that worked.
The short film will be out in the next few weeks, but there is already a fun buzz about it on Facebook. And if you’re just dying (or, more appropriately, undying) to know what happens, you can highlight the invisible text below to get a special SPOILER for the film:
Great twist ending, isn’t it? I think it will surprise everyone who sees it.
I’ll let you know when it comes out and post a link to it on this blog. I’m eager for you all to see it but even more eager to hear what you think. Until then, I will attempt to satiate your love for all things zombies with my favorite song about zombies (“re:Brains” from Jonathan Coulton) preformed by a guy dressed as a zombie translating the lyrics into American Sign Language. Because that’s what the internet is for.
Having children that range from 4 to 13, there are times I watch the Disney Channel. I love the cartoons (Phineas and Ferb!) but not a fan of their sitcoms. Aside from the bad writing, lame jokes, lack of good parental role models, and the laugh track (which I only appreciate because it lets me know when they were trying to be funny,) the thing that bugs me the most about these shows is that I wonder what will happen to these “child stars” when they get older.
The track record is not good. Let’s turn the wayback machine to 1981 when an adorable Drew Barrymore (6 years old) helped her brother with the E.T. in his closet. She was smoking cigarettes by the age of 9, drinking by the age of 11, smoking pot by 12 and snorting cocaine by 13.
Miley Cyrus got a lot of publicity after she turned 18 and became overtly sexual with her outfits and lyrics.
Do I need to go into details about Britney Spears and Linsdey Lohan?
Most recently, Demi Lovato (Disney star of Rock Camp and “Sonny with a Chance”) has come out of rehab for drug addiction and shared with the press that she still struggles with self-injuring. She’s 19.
And it’s not just the girls who are at risk. Macaulay Culkin, star of the classic Home Alone movies, was just ten when those started. He’s been mostly silent about his personal life during his teenage years, though he was arrested for drug possession when he was 24. Haley Joel Osment (when he was 18) flipped his car because he was driving under the influence and also possessed drugs. Daniel Radcliffe reciently confessed that as a teen he regularly came to the Harry Potter set drunk.
Kids and fame don’t mix. We all know that TV and movie sets are not a healthy place for them, but we have more “child entertainers” now than ever before.
Is anybody doing anything to stop this?
Is there anything we can do to stop this?
It is easy to shake our heads when former child stars end up on the cover of People magazine because of one scandal or another, but aren’t we also at fault? It’s not as though this surprises us anymore. Here’s the obvious truth: The more famous a child becomes, the more likely they will get involved in dangerous and unhealthy behaviors that could even lead to their deaths (like River Phoenix.)
Sadly, I don’t have a conclusion to this blog. It’s more of a lament. I see children in danger and an economy and society that encourages their destruction.
If you think about it, it’s not unlike the Hunger Games. So perhaps Peeta offers us the best advice: “If no one watches, then they don’t have a game.”
What about you? Any thoughts?