Monday, February 29, 2016

A Review of the Movie “Risen”

This past Friday my wife and I went to see the new movie “Risen”. Although I am not a believer, I found the movie to be quite compelling. I think Joseph Fiennes, who played the lead role of Roman military tribune Clavius, deserves an Oscar nomination for best male lead. He did an absolutely fabulous job in this role.

Clavius is a tribune working for Pontius Pilate. Early in the movie, he is assigned the task of making sure the three men being crucified that day had their legs broken so they could die early. Of course those three men were Jesus and the two thieves. Later when Jesus’ body turns up missing from its tomb, Clavius is ordered by Pilate to find the corpse quickly before the disciples could start claiming Jesus had risen from the dead.

Clavius, being the loyal tribune he was, obeyed. But as the evidence unfolds, he begins to believe it might be possible that Jesus was indeed actually alive. When he ultimately finds all the apostles together in a room with Jesus in their midst, he is compelled to cast aside his doubts and embrace Jesus’ resurrection. However, this creates quite a dilemma for Clavius, given his position.

I will leave you with three main thoughts that stuck with me during the movie.

1. Joseph Fiennes is a fine actor.

2. Oftentimes people can get caught up in doing bad things while thinking they are being good. This struck me during a scene where Clavius has his men cremate fallen soldiers after a brutal battle with some Zealots. As one of the bodies was going up in flames, I had a sudden thought that that poor soldier probably died thinking he was a good man and a loyal Roman, being willing to give his life while defending the Empire. Yet, we now look back on those times and view the Roman occupation of Israel as being an evil thing. It makes me wonder how many times I have done something thinking I was doing good but will one day be seen as bad?

3. It is okay to doubt the reality of an incredible claim from the past. Clavius becomes distraught upon finding a risen Jesus. He was having a hard time believing his own eyes. He ultimately did, but it was hard accepting that which he had long believed impossible. As you may recall from the Bible, the apostles, and especially Thomas,  were skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection even though the New Testament tells us that they had witnessed a number of resurrections and had even performed some themselves. At one point Jesus asks Clavius, “Are you having trouble believing your own eyes? Just think of all those who will be asked to believe, but do not see.” Yes, what about those people, of which I am one? If it took an actual physical appearance of Jesus to convince his followers he had risen from the dead, then why is it wrong for us today to require the same? Jesus did not condemn their lack of faith; he simply provided then with the proof they needed. Why must we today have to depend on supposed eyewitness testimony from centuries past? We don’t. We can ask for the same level of proof that the apostles asked for.

If you get the chance, go see this movie!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I Would Make a Terrible God

I recently watched a three-part TV miniseries adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Childhood’s End”. I had read that book as a teenager, but couldn’t really remember what it was about. After watching the miniseries, I decided to pull out my old paperback of the novel (yes, I still have it) and re-read it just to see how closely the miniseries followed it. As it turns out only the main plot line was the same. All the details were quite different.

For those of you not familiar with this book, the gist of it is that mankind has reached a pinnacle in its evolutionary development. An alien race is sent to Earth to oversee its final stages. These aliens are called Overlords by humans. The Overlords are godlike in that they can monitor essentially all human activity on Earth and stop any major nefarious activities before they happen. In short order, bad people gave up even attempting to execute their evil plots as they knew they would be thwarted by the Overlords. Peace begins to reign over the world.

I found myself kind of liking these Overlords. In fact, I realized that if I were God, I would probably do something very similar to what they do in the novel. I would use my omniscient and omnipotent powers to keep an eye on all activity on Earth. If I saw a 35-year-old man attempting to rape a 10-year-old child, I would put a stop to it. I might freeze the man in carbonite like Han Solo, or I might just castrate him. Or, given that I would know well in advance what he was going to do, I might just make sure he never exists. In other words, I’d be a terrible God.

Some of you might be thinking, “So, what’s so bad about doing that? I don’t want to see that young child raped either.” Well, it apparently has something to do with free will. I hear a lot of people say that God is good in that he gives humanity free will. We can use that free will to do good or to do evil. God is gracious in allowing us the freedom to choose our own course in life, even if that course leads to other people’s free will being denied. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be so gracious. It would be too troublesome to me to be that gracious. I would not be able to just sit by and let one human decimate another, especially since it would only take an infinitesimal amount of my attention and power to put a stop to these things. I figure that, just like in the novel, if I zap the bad guys enough, the rest of them will get the message and quit even trying to do evil.

Here’s the way I would look at it. I want all people to have free will…to a point. But if one human being is trying to take away other human beings’ free will by using direct force on them, I would feel compelled to put a halt to the perpetrator’s free will in order to protect the free will of the victim. I would much rather keep the good person’s free will intact than the bad person’s. That’s just the way I roll. Not very God-like I know, but to paraphrase the old Sinatra song, “I’d do it MY WAY!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, bad things could still happen to a person in my world. Accidents could still happen, for instance. I wouldn’t want people to become cocky in their decision making knowing that I would always bail them out. Also, indirect bad things could still happen to people as the result of the actions of others. For example, suppose a longtime business owner suddenly found himself losing business because a new competitor came to town. If that new competitor drives the old business out of business because they offer better products, prices, and services, then I would not put a stop to that. That’s one person using his free will to compete honestly against another person using his free will in a sea of customers using their free will to decide which business to do business with. All very kosher, even if the old business fails. However, if a new businessman came to town and tried to beat his competition by burning his store down, that I would stop.

So, as you can easily see, I would make a terrible God. I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself from interfering with the evil decisions of my creation.

But, wait a minute! Where does the definition of good and evil come from? Who gets to define these terms? Well, according to most folks I talk to, that would be God. So, if I was God, then I could just declare my way of doing things to be good.

Wow! I’m now beginning to feel better about myself. I guess I wouldn’t be that bad a God after all, especially since I would get to make the rules.

It Was An Accident: Part 6 – Panicked Young Girl

As I mentioned in my previous post, it seems as if bad things come in threes. I had just been rear-ended twice in a few weeks. I was concerned about it happening a third time soon after those two, but it didn’t happen for several years. So, I don’t know if it can be considered part of a Bad 3 or not. I don’t really know the rules about such things.

This time I had just crossed Cypress Mill Road going south on Pine Street. Those of you familiar with this location will know that there is a KFC at that corner. There was a car in front of me that had slowed down behind another vehicle that was turning left into an off campus book store. So, I slowed down as well. However, the young girl driving the car behind me decided she didn’t like that idea. She just kept on moving at full speed. Unfortunately, physics demands that two physical objects not occupy the same space. Thus when her car attempted to occupy the space my car was currently occupying, my vehicle accommodated it by jerking forward. Somehow that jerk caused my foot to slip off my brake pedal and hit the accelerator pedal. This caused my car to attempt to occupy the space held by the car in front of me, which in turn accommodated my car by jerking forward. Fortunately, the car in front of that car had already made its left turn and avoided our entire physics experiment.

My son, who was in the passenger seat asked why I had pressed the accelerator, like I had done it on purpose. I explained that the crash had caused me to do it.

Having been a part of a three-car pileup before, I was thinking, “Oh no, here we go again.” I just hoped it wasn’t that unknown man’s handicapped friend hitting me again. If it was I planned on writing down his tag number before he time to sneak away like the last time.

While sitting there in the car regaining my composure, I looked in front of me and saw the car I had hit speeding away. I just couldn’t figure out why. The man in the customized van had committed a hit-and-run, which is understandable given the accident was his fault. This guy, however, was committing a be-hit-and-run. Why would he want to leave? Apparently there was a reason he didn’t want to be involved in a police report. Drugs in the car, perhaps? Or maybe he’d just killed an endangered animal and it was in the backseat? Or, perhaps he was illegally smuggling an elephant from India into the country? Who knew?

When I got out of the car, it turned out that it was a young girl who had hit me. She was about to have a panic attack. She kept going on and on about having just had another accident that was her fault. She feared her insurance rates were going to become unaffordable or the insurance company would drop her altogether. She also said something about her dad possibly killing her. Anyway, I got the sense she wanted me to just let her go, but she never asked directly. I guess I was supposed to be sympathetic to her plight. I was not. My car was too damaged for empathy. I wanted it repaired.

So, as with my other rear-endings, the police came, took our reports, and let us go on our not-so-merry ways. My car was repaired, but I never heard what happened to the girl. Hopefully, she didn’t end up having the third “bad things come in threes” wreck soon afterwards. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It Was An Accident: Part 5 – Someone in a Big Truck

As I mentioned in my previous post, the events I will describe here took place about two weeks after the repairs on my vehicle were completed from the accident described in the previous post. I don’t believe the glue and paint had even finished drying yet.

I was heading south on Cloverdale Road and was stopped by a red light at Cox Creek Parkway. And for those of you not familiar with this area, I was not in a red light district. I was stopped by a red traffic light. There was no one in front of me so I was right at the intersection. When the light turned green I released my foot from the brake and was about to press the accelerator pedal. Suddenly a car rushed by in front of me from left to right. Some malicious, or least inattentive, driver had run a red light right in front of me. Or perhaps he really thought he was in a red light district and didn’t want anyone reporting back to his wife that he had actually stopped there.

Needless to say (but I will anyway), I slammed on my brakes instead of pressing the gas pedal. Then, déjà vu, BAM! I was rear-ended by a truck. I couldn’t believe it. All that fine body work by the dealership destroyed. Interestingly, I was not shaken up as much as with the previous read-ending, but when I got out of the car, I realized that the damage to my vehicle was much worse. And it was easy to see why. The man who hit me had a huge truck. And it sat on BIG wheels. In fact, his bumper was quite a bit higher than my bumper. Thus, his bumper actually hit my trunk, and it crumpled it big time. I guess I should be thankful though. Had the truck and the wheels been much bigger, he probably would have simply rolled over top of my car and crushed the whole thing…kind of like what you see at those monster truck rallies. If that had happened, I would most likely have been crushed right along with my car. I was also fortunate in that the man actually stayed at the scene rather than driving off like the man in the customized van did a few weeks before.

After the other driver and I made sure the other was okay, he said, “I thought you had started moving when the light turned green.”

I replied, “I did, but some guy ran the red light in front of me and I had to stop suddenly to keep from hitting him.” Hitting him! The thought angered me. That jerk had run the red light, causing me to be read-ended, and he just went on his merry way probably unaware of the damage he had caused. Of course, it wasn’t all his fault. The guy behind me was obviously not paying close enough attention. Had he been, he could have easily stopped before hitting me. Perhaps he was listening to Willie Nelson on his 8-track tape player a bit too loud.

But to the driver’s credit, he didn’t run off. He stayed right there until the police arrived…which didn’t take too long as a police officer just happened upon us shortly after the crash. He asked both of us to move our vehicles into the Big Star parking lot just a short distance down the road. I was sort of shocked that my car was drivable without the rear tires scraping something. Once we arrived in the parking lot, the officer took our statements. Afterwards I called my insurance agent, and I was for a second time on my not-so-merry way.

I immediately drove over to the dealership where I had just had the rear end repaired. The manager of the body shop just happened to be on break, so was standing outside leaning again the building with his arms and legs crossed and his sunglasses on. I parked and got out.

The manager, without moving a muscle, said in a slow southern drawl, “I just fixed that car a couple weeks ago.”

I replied, “I know, but I thought you could use some more business, so I decided to get someone else to tear it up.”

After looking it over, he became concerned that he could not repair the damage for less than the value of the car, which would mean my insurance would total it. However, after much calling around, he was able to find another rear end for an acceptable price. So, once again, he repaired my car. I felt fortunate as I really liked that car and didn’t want to have to replace it.

Well, it all worked out, but as you have probably heard, “Bad things come in threes.” Would I be rear-ended yet again after these second repairs were complete? And would this third one be even worse than the second one which was worse than the first one? Perhaps I would be hit by a semi-truck that would crunch the rear end up through the back seat. Well, I knew it wouldn’t change anything worrying about it. So, I picked up my repaired car and drove it boldly over the streets and roads of America. And no, I was not rear-ended again…well, at least not for a few more years. More about that in my next post.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It Was An Accident: Part 4 – Someone’s Handicapped Friend

One afternoon I was driving west on Cox Creek Parkway and was stopped by the light at Helton Drive. Soon the light turned green, and the cars ahead of me started to move. I let my foot off the brake, then suddenly, BAM! I was rear-ended hard. So hard, in fact, I was driven forward enough to read-end the car in front of me. It was a three car pileup, if you will. I was jolted about enough to be disoriented for a few minutes. You might say I was sent for a ride on the Disorient Express.

Before I had totally come to myself there was a knock at my window. I rolled the window down. Some guy was there asking me if I was okay. I said I thought I was. When he apologized, I just assumed he was the guy who had hit me. But then he went on to say, “I was following my handicapped friend and he lost control of his vehicle.” I acknowledged his statement, but I was still not comprehending everything very well. The guy left. I looked back and saw a customized van behind me with a strange looking man sitting in the driver’s seat with his eyes wide. The man who had checked on me went to a car behind the van. Given the friend’s comments, I just assumed that the man driving the van did not get out because he was handicapped in some way.

When I came to myself, I looked at myself and said, “Why don’t you call the police?”

I responded to myself, “Good idea!”

However, that was easier said than done as I could not find my cell phone. After a bit of looking I found it on the floor bed near the pedals. It had apparently been slung down there when my car was double whammied rear and front. I grabbed it up and dialed 911, although technically I didn’t dial, I pushed some buttons. Ah, those outmoded terms!

As I was talking to the responder, I looked up and saw my wife, Kathy, passing me in her vehicle. When she saw me, she made her way to the side of the road so she could come over to check on me. I had intended to go back and check on the handicapped driver who hit me, but by the time I finished with the phone call, Kathy was there checking on me. When she saw I was okay, she went back to check on the man in the van. She said he seemed scared, but was otherwise okay. Soon afterwards a man and a woman from the car in front of me came back to talk to Kathy and me.

By this time I was able to get out and stand. I found out that the couple from the car I had rear-ended in front of me were from Tennessee and had just gotten married and were in Florence as part of their honeymoon. The couple appeared to be in their late 30’s or early 40’s. The lady kept going on and on about all the troubles she had seen in her life. Have you ever noticed how some people seem to enjoy talking about the lack of joy in their lives? This was one of those people. Maybe if she had talked about the times she had talked to others about her lack of joy that would have cheered her up. Oh, well. As we continued to talk, I looked back and realized that the customized van that had hit me was no longer behind me. I looked around and saw that he had pulled off to the side of the road. For an accident of this magnitude I knew he shouldn’t have done that, but I guessed it would be okay.

The couple, my wife, and I continued to talk. We found out they had State Farm insurance, which was good since that was what I had. That would make it easier when sorting out the repair costs. A little later I looked over and realized that the van was now totally gone. That wascally wabbit had snuck off right under our noses and was nowhere to be found. What should have been a simple rear-ending had now turned into a hit-and-run.

Soon afterwards the police arrived. I explained exactly what had happened and described the van as best I could while Kathy described the driver. Since the van was customized, I thought that would make it easier for the police to find, but I was actually informed that without the tag number it would be difficult to locate. Basically, it would take too much manpower to search out the van given the lack of human suffering that had resulted from the accident.

Well, anyway, the police officer completed taking our reports, the couple and I exchanged information, and we went on our not-so-merry way. The front of my car was not damaged too badly, but the rear end was crunched up a lot. But it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t drive it. I took it over to the dealership where I had bought it so they could determine the cost of repairs.

I would dearly love to tell you that the customized van and its driver was caught and brought to justice. Actually, I could tell you that, but I’d be lying. The good news, however, is that our insurance covered everything and all remained well in the hood. Or should I say under the hood. Well, actually, more so in the trunk. State Farm took care of the couple’s car also. But neither I nor my car could foresee what was going to happen just two weeks after the repairs were complete. Tune in to my next post to find out.