A Visit to the Apple iChurch

iChurchI’ve really been struggling lately. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression have been overwhelming. It feels as if my operating system has crashed, and I need to have a complete spiritual reboot.

It’s time to visit the Apple iChurch.

The first thing I do is try to sign on at www.appleichurch.com with my iChurch ID, but I can’t remember my password. Is it isaiah4031 or isaiah4110? I try to enter my password a few times. Too many attempts, and I get locked out. Great. Do they have to make it so complicated?

This means I’ll need to pay a visit to the Pastor’s Bar in an actual brick and mortar Apple iChurch building, so I have to make an appointment. When I check online, they’re all booked up for the next three days. But I can’t wait three days. I need to talk to someone today! I decide to take a chance and drive down to the iChurch building and see if I can sneak in and see one of the pastors between appointments.

When you enter the Apple iChurch building, you immediately notice how big and shiny and minimal everything is. The building is has been purposefully designed to be all metal and wood and industrial. Then you notice the indy Christian music being played in the background. Is that Sufjan Stevens? The Brilliance? Propaganda? The next thing you notice is that the iChurch is constantly packed with people. Whoever said the church is in decline has apparently not stepped foot in an Apple iChurch, because they are always filled with people looking for the latest in spiritual help or theological technology. As you look past the simple wooden tables lined with tablets advertising the latest Christian self-help books, you see the goal: A long industrial-sized table with a half dozen pastors sitting on the other side, talking with the lucky few who booked ahead of time. Video screens behind each pastor flash Bible verses and times of appointments.

It doesn’t look good.

Since I don’t have an appointment, I get in a line that stretches from midway through the building all the way back to the massive glass front doors. And like every person in that line, I’m hoping I can get an appointment to see one of the pastors today.

It really doesn’t look good.

I’ve heard that the greeting ministry at the Apple iChurch is one of the hardest ministry jobs in the church. Everyone thinks that their problem is the Most Important Problem In The Building©, and these are the guys who have to listen to sob story after sob story, all with a patient smile on their face. Personally, I don’t know how they do it.

The young man who we are all waiting to meet is wearing one of the simple iChurch t-shirts with a nametag that says “Brock”. Brock has tired eyes, a Bible-shaped electronic tablet, colorful tats going down his left arm complete with Bible verses and biblical imagery, and an impressive super-beard (I remember when goatees were the poils du visage du jour in church ministry, but trends change). Brock is using the Bible tablet to take down personal information (“Can we contact you about tithing opportunities?” he says with a gentle and persuasive smile) but more importantly, he uses it schedule Pastor Bar appointments.

I’ve been in line for about forty-five minutes now, and I’m finally one person away from young bearded Brock. The woman in front me is in tears, probably telling the earnest greeter how her husband has been unfaithful, or maybe that she caught her children experimenting with drugs, or possibly she’s afraid she will lose her job. Whatever it is, she makes it clear through the sobs that she needs someone to pray with her.

But she doesn’t have an appointment.

Brock nods empathetically and tells her that if she’s willing to wait around, she might be able to see one of the pastors later in the afternoon, but there are no guarantees. The woman gets more insistent, saying that she drove for a couple of hours to get to the iChurch building, that she took time off from her job, that she is too busy to wait around. I guess Brock must hear these sorts of stories a couple of dozen times a day. He nods understandingly, and tells her that she can come back in the morning. Doors open at 10:00, and if she arrives by 9:45 she might be able to score a pastor visit if someone doesn’t show up for their appointment. The woman mutters “hipster doofus” and storms out.

Yeah, she won’t be reaching the Pastor Bar until sometime next summer.

Brock seems unfazed as he turns to me and smiles. But I can see that he has been fazed. His eyes are even more tired than they were a few moments earlier.

But I’m ready for young Brock. Standing in line, watching person after person try the same tactic, I figured out the perfect strategy: I will see his empathy and raise him a healthy dose of sympathy and a sprinkling of small talk. That ought to help with those tired eyes, and might just get me past him to the pastors sitting in the back of the room.

I shake my head, wordlessly communicating my understanding of how difficult people can be. I rub my chin, drawing attention to my own beard, letting Brock know that we are beard brothers. Brock visibly relaxes, and I can tell that my strategy is working. He’s already on my side. This will be a piece of cake.

“How you doing today?” I ask, mustering as much Andy Griffith friendliness into my voice as I can. Come on, pal, lay it on me. Before this is over, I’ll have Brock telling me all about his family, his girl problems, and which vaping bar he’s visiting this weekend.

“I’m well, thanks,” Brock says, looking back at his tablet. “What can I do for you?”

Hmm. So much for the small talk. Guess I’ll have to try a more straightforward approach.

“Well, I’ve been feeling pretty depressed lately,” I say.

“Been reading your Bible every day?” Brock asks, looking at his tablet.

“Of course,” I lie.

Brock looks up at me, his formerly tired eyes now piercing. He doesn’t believe me.

“Alright, not every day,” I admit. “But my brother’s always posting these Bible verse memes on Facebook, and I read those.”

“Umm-hmm,” Brock answers, tapping something onto the tablet. “Prayer life?”

“Oh, I pray all the time,” I answer more confidently. This part is true. I’m always asking God for things, and I pray before every meal.

“Umm-hmm,” Brock answers, tapping more onto the tablet. “Church attendance?”

I’m ready for this one. “Oh, I watch all the sermons that Pastor Axl streams. And I listen to his podcast, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.”

main-qimg-c3534d5cb80e20c01a9b117e0b3040fb-cPastor Axl is the founder of the Apple iChurch. He is a former executive from Silicon Valley who left behind a promising career in the tech world to start a church in his garage in Los Altos.

In the past ten years, Pastor Axl has grown the church to be an international powerhouse. He’s loved by progressives and conservatives alike, and is a rockstar in the world of pastors and skinny jeans. He’s been on Oprah, Colbert, Fallon, even sang carpool karaoke with Corden. Mentioning him is bound to score me some points.

“Umm-hmm,” Brock answers. More tapping. He doesn’t appear to be impressed. I try to catch his eye so I can work on my strategy, but he’s not looking up at me any more. Just tap, tap, tap.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Time to bring out the big guns.

Sincerity and desperation.

“Listen, Brock, I really need to talk to a pastor today. If there’s anything you could do to help, I would really appreciate it.”

Brock looks up and stares at me for what seems like eternity. Finally, he nods empathetically, looking past me at the line that is just as long as it was when I arrived forty five minutes before. He is struggling, trying to decide what to do. Did my big guns actually do the job?

Finally, he leans in and speaks in a quiet, conspiratorial voice. “If you’re willing to wait, there is the chance that we’ll have some time open up this afternoon. But I can’t make any guarantees.”

“This afternoon will be hard,” I mutter, panic rising in my chest. Brock does not see me as a beard brother after all. I’m just another middle-aged beard in the line.

Brock sits back up and nods again, saying, “Well, we open tomorrow morning at 10:00, and if you show up around 9:45 you might be able to score a visit with a pastor if someone is late for their appointment.”

Pastor AxlI look back at the Pastor Bar, and see the pastors talking to the lucky few, some praying, some looking at tablets which probably contain a Bible or the latest Christian self-help book, or Pastor Axl’s autobiography, Pastor Axl.

I guess I have no choice.

“Thanks, I’ll be here in the morning,” I say.

As I turn to leave, I hear Brock talking to the next person in line. “What can I do for you?”

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The 2017 Oscar Nominees

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The 2017 Oscar Nominees are in! What do you think about these nominations? Any big surprises? Any disappointing shutouts? Will La La Land make another sweep like they did at the Golden Globes, or will someone else step up and take a surprise victory?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. But meanwhile, here are your nominees…

Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life Animated

OJ Made in America

13th

Best Documentary Short Subject

Extremis

4.1 mile

Joe’s Violin

Watami My Homeland

The White Helmets

Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

Lead Actor

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortenson, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

Live Action Short Film

Enenemis Interieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

Sound Editing

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

Sound Mixing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Production Design

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

Visual FX

Deep Water Horizon

Dr. Strange

Jungle Book

Kubo And The Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Costume Design

Allied

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

Makeup and Hair

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek: Beyond

Suicide Squad

Original Score

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Herwitz

Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicolas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

“Audition” La La Land

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” Trolls

“City of Stars” La La Land

“The Empty Chair” Jim: The James Foley Story

“How Far I’ll Go” Moana

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

Animated Feature

Kubo And The Two Strings

Moana

My Life As A Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

Animated Short

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper

Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomi Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Film Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

Lead Actress

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Directing

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

Lala Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Nominations

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With some sort of activity happening tomorrow in the far right side of the country, you may have missed a little announcement from the far left side of the country from a right-leaning entertainment organization.

Yes, over the past couple of weeks, MOVIEGUIDE® has been slowly (and strangely – not sure why they’ve been doing it piecemeal) revealing the nominees for their annual awards show. And as is our tradition at Thimblerig’s Ark (well, starting last year), we present the nearly complete list of MOVIEGUIDE® awards nominees for your pleasure.

The 2016 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Nominations 

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Movie of 2016

Ben-Hur

God’s Not Dead 2

Hacksaw Ridge

Hail, Caesar

Miracles from Heaven

Risen

Silence

The Young Messiah

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Television Program of 2016

Agents of Shield: Season 3: Episodes 20-22

The Bridge Part 2

Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Operation Christmas

The Passion: New Orleans

Pocahontas: Dove of Peace

A Time To Dance

Bradley Foundation Faith & Freedom Award for Movies

The Faith & Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values are awarded for entertainment value, for craftsmanship, and for creating programming that is uplifting, moral, insightful, compassionate, and that shows America and its people in a positive light.

Captain America: Civil War

God’s Not Dead 2

Hacksaw Ridge

Hail, Caesar!

Queen of Katwe

Sing

Sully

Best Movie for Families

Finding Dory

The Jungle Book

Miracles from Heaven

Pete’s Dragon

Queen of Katwe

The Secret Life of Pets

Sing

Trolls

The Young Messiah

Zootopia

Best Movie for Mature Audiences

Ben Hur

Captain America: Civil War

Eddie the Eagle

The Finest Hours

God’s Not Dead 2

Hacksaw Ridge

Hail, Caesar!

Risen

Silence

Sully

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for Movies

Awarded annually to an actor or actress in a motion picture or television program who exemplifies God’s grace and mercy toward us as human beings through their outstanding performance.

Rodrigo Santoro, Ben-Hur

David A.R. White, God’s Not Dead 2

Melissa Joan Hart, God’s Not Dead 2

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Josh Brolin, Hail, Caesar!

Rober Pike Daniel, Hail, Caesar!

Jennifer Garner, Miracles from Heaven

Kylie Rogers, Miracles from Heaven

Cliff Curtis, Risen

Joseph Fiennes, Risen

Adam Greaves-Neal, The Young Messiah

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for TV

Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Faith Ford, The Bridge

Ted McGinley, The Bridge

Alyvia Alyn Lind, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Gerald McRaney, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Tyler Perry, The Passion: New Orleans

Devielle Johnson, A Time to Dance


The MOVIEGUIDE® Awards are scheduled for February 10, 2017 at the Universal Hilton Hotel. It’s usually televised a couple of weeks later, but right now that information is not available.

And if anyone from MOVIEGUIDE® happens to read this, I’d love to find out a couple of things from you: first, what is the process for selecting the nominees? Second, why don’t you air the show live?

Finally, for kicks and giggles, here is a picture of Thimblerig’s Ark author Nate Fleming with Dr. Ted Baehr himself. Taken last year at the Variety Faith and Family Summit in Hollywood.

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American Cultural Christianity Roundup • the film edition • January 11, 2017

There have been several notable stories in the world of Christian-made film these past few days, and I wanted to summarize a few of them (and comment, of course) for my faithful readers.

1. The Case for Christ

Deadline ran a story this week about the upcoming PureFlix film, The Case for Christ, based on the successful apologetics book by Lee Strobel. The website ran the story with the provocative title, “‘The Case For Christ’ Teaser: Athiest Vs. Believers, From ‘God’s Not Dead’ Filmmakers

Three interesting points about this story.

First, the teaser trailer was actually released several months ago, but Deadline presented it as if it happened in the past week.

Second, while the title of the story is essentially correct, it does seem like Deadline’s editors are trying to stoke some sort of fires through the headline.

Third, I’m quite fascinated by the current trend in Christian-made filmmaking to take a popular book (even a nonfiction, largely non-narrative one like The Case for Christ) or song (see the other stories discussed in this post) and turn them into narrative movies. This seems like a studio mindset sort of thing to do, because it’s safe. Existing properties and familiar names are always the safer bet for box office returns, but doing this with songs seems to be a throwback to the 70’s and 80’s when it was done with some frequency in secular films (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Convoy, Take This Job And Shove It, Harper Valley PTA, Ode To Billy Jo, etc). But it’s something that has fallen out of fashion in recent years.

And while turning narrative books into movies is nothing new, examples of non-narrative books (like A Case For Christ) being turned into narrative movies are a bit harder to find. How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying did it in the late 1960’s, Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask) in the early 70’s, and more recently, He’s Just Not That Into You.

The Case for Christ is a bit different in that the book does contain narrative elements, but the bulk of the book examines the arguments for and against the Christian faith. It’ll be interesting to see how this material is handled in a narrative film.

Meanwhile, if it is successful, maybe we’ll see faith-based filmmaking pick up this trend and make narrative films for other hit non-narrative books like The Prayer of Jabez or Mere Christianity.

2. I Can Only Imagine

dennis-quaid-cloris-leachman

REX/Shutterstock

Speaking of turning songs into movies, the über-successful Christian song I Can Only Imagine is being turned into a motion picture starring Dennis Quaid, Trace Atkins, and Cloris Leachman.

 

For those who live on Mars, or outside the Christian bubble, I Can Only Imagine is a song that was originally released by the Christian supergroup MercyMe in 2001. The song imagines a person encountering heaven for the first time and being overwhelmed by the reality of being with God and loved ones for eternity. While I’ve enjoyed the song from time to time (even if it is arguably one of the most over-played songs in Christian music) I never dreamed that anyone would consider turning the song into a major motion picture.

I Can Only Imagine has a shelf life that other songs can only dream of. Here we are, over fifteen years after the song was initially released, and it remains in the iTunes top 10 Gospel and Christian song list.  The song has also been named the most played single in Christian radio history.

No wonder someone decided to make it into a movie.

To get an idea of where they will be taking this film (which apparently will tell the story of the writing of the song) you can read this article from Christian Post. That article details Bart Millard’s journey to write the song, and the film will undoubtedly explore that time of his life.

While I’m not terribly keen on the idea of turning a hit Christian song into a film, I’ve generally liked the work of the Erwin brothers in the past. So, I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen the final product, which is due to hit theaters in Spring 2018.

Now I just need to start working on that treatment for Lord, I Lift Your Name On High: The Film

[By the way, if any of my readers are in Oklahoma City, they are filming the last scene of the movie this Friday at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall, and they’re looking for extras. Read more here.]

3. God Bless The Broken Road

The Hollywood Reporter recently posted a story about former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson taking a role in another upcoming movie based on a popular song.

God Bless The Broken Road is also an interesting song-to-movie project, maybe even moreso than I Can Only Imagine, for a number of reasons.

First of all, the song is not a “Christian song”, but a country music song that is being turned into a film that falls into the “faith-based” genre.

Second, the original song (first recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt band, and more recently by Rascall Flatts) was called “Bless the Broken Road”, but the filmmakers added “God” to the title. A small adjustment to increase the appeal to the Big Christian Audience or a more complete title, considering the song lyric is “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you”?

Third, the film is being brought to us by various members of the God’s Not Dead team – director Harold Cronk, actress Robin Givens, producers Troy Duhon and Dustin Solomon, distributed by PureFlix. A filmgoer’s anticipation for this film might be directly impacted by that knowledge – in a good or a bad way – depending on their opinion of the GND movies. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what this team does with a non-GND property.

Fourth, the description of the film in IMDB ends by saying “…the film combines elements of faith, country music, and stock car racing while paying tribute to those who serve in the United States Military.”

Do these categories represent the new four quadrants in American Christian-targeted filmmaking?

4. The Ark Encounter

Finally, in a non-film related note, this past summer I was able to attend the grand opening of The Ark Encounter in Kentucky. I detailed that visit in a review of my experience which you can read here.

However, the folks at the Ark Encounter recently tweeted an announcement about a new display which will be opening soon.

Yes, it is a viscious dinosaur being released into an arena filled with excited fans, like Gladiator meets Jurassic Park. See my review of The Dinosaur Kingdom II for similar displays.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Are Christian Filmmakers Being Tapped To Direct Future Star Wars Stand-Alone Films?

A long time ago in galaxy close, close by…

The church had abandoned Hollywood. Then, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST struck box office gold, studios created FAITH-BASED DIVISIONS, and little Christian films made BUCKETS OF MONEY. Now Christian films have earned over a BILLION DOLLARS for investors and studios over the past thirteen years.

With the recent successes of Dr. Strange, directed by Christian filmmaker SCOTT DERRICKSON and Rogue One, the first Star Wars standalone film, are the forces behind Star Wars hopping on the faith-based bandwagon? Are budding Christian filmmakers being considered as the new hope for the venerable space-based franchise?

Only time will tell….

“The Erwin brothers, Harold Cronk, Kirk Cameron, they’ve all been discussed, especially for a movie about Yoda, which would involve all kinds of spiritual mumbo-jumbo,” an anonymous source told us. But this source, who met with us in a nearby Starbucks dressed in a stormtrooper costume and calling himself “TR-3R”, went on to say that the Christian filmmakers who have risen to the top are veteran brother team, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, creators of the Christian film hits Facing the Giants, Courageous, Fireproof, and 2015’s War Room.

tr3r“The big dogs at Lucasfilm like the Kendrick’s grass-roots style of filmmaking, as well as their overt handling of spiritual issues,” TR-3R said. “They think the Kendricks could take a Yoda standalone to some really interesting places, exploring the spiritual aspects of the Force, maybe telling about how Yoda became converted to the light side in the first place. Me? I imagine it happening in a golden field with lots of sunlight. The Kendricks like to do that. It’s their lens flare.”

Considering the Kendrick’s focus on family issues such as parenting and marriage, we asked the source the odds that a Kendrick-directed standalone film would also explore something of Yoda’s homelife.

“They never tell me the odds, but this is something fans have been clamoring for,” TR-3R said enthusiastically, trying unsuccessfully to sip his coffee through his stormtrooper helmet. “They’ve seen Yoda living as a crotchety old single dude, but was he a good husband? A good dad? He helped train all those force-sensitive kids, but what about his own kids? The big dogs think that the Kendricks could really explore a domestic side of Yoda that we haven’t seen before.”

The source went on to say that a successful Kendrick-directed Star Wars film would also open the door for other filmmakers of faith to step in, as the studio hopes to release a new Star Wars film every year from now until the apocalypse.

When we pressed TR-3R for more details, he grew noticeably agitated and began muttering something about seeing the new VT-16. Then, saying he had to get back to the office, TR-3R quickly slid a folded piece of paper across the table and bolted outside without another word. He jumped into a black 1976 Corvette and drove away.

Incidentally, the Corvette’s license plate read THX-1138.

Unfolding the paper, the first thing we noticed was that it was written on Lucasfilm stationary. It had been stamped multiple times with “TOP SECRET” in bright red letters, and the paper had the heading: “Potential Future Faith-Based Star Wars Projects.”

Then, the following items were listed:

forceThe Force’s Not Dead – set between Episode 3 and 4, a young Luke Skywalker attends Mos Eisley Agricultural College only to find that his moisture farming professor doesn’t believe in the Force. Luke stands up to him, determined to prove that the Force is real. The film ends with an extended Figrin D’an and the Modal Newsboys concert in the cantina while the professor gets run over and killed by a landspeeder outside. Potential director: Harold Cronk. Potential producer: David A.R. White. Release date: December 2019.

Ben Hutt – set in the time between Episodes 3 and 4, Ben Kenobi, masquerading as a Hutt prince, is falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother (a clone soldier in the Republic Clone Army). After spending years exiled in space, Ben returns to Tatooine to seek revenge, but ultimately finds redemption. Possible roles for Ewan MacGregor and Morgan Freeman. Potential producers: Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Release date: May 2020.

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling I’ve Been Left Behind – also set in the time between Episodes 3 and 4, this film would explore the chaos and mayhem resulting when the Jedi vanish in an instant, leaving behind smoking piles of clothes and lightsabers. Possible starring role for Nicolas Cage as a force-sensitive sceptic. Potential director: Paul LaLonde. Release date May 2021.

Droid’s Night Out – set in the time between Episodes 4 and 5, R2D2 decides to take C3PO out on a night on the town, leaving Luke, Han, and Chewie to take on all of the etiquette and protocol responsibilities at the rebel base. Of course, mistaken identities and disastrously hilarious mayhem results. Potential director: The Erwin Brothers. Release Date: December 2022.

Lumpawarrump’s Saving Life Day – set in the time between Episodes 5 and 6, Lumpawarrump is enjoying the annual Life Day extravaganza thrown by his sister until he realizes he needs to help out his visiting father, Chewbacca, who blames himself for Han Solo’s abduction by Boba Fett. Lumpy’s fresh look at Life Day provides Chewbacca the chance to see that the universe is bigger than his little problems, and that he needs to pull up his Wookie panties and go save his friend from the clutches of the vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt. The film ends with an extended wookie dance-off. Potential director: Kirk Cameron. Release Date: Life Day 2023, or perhaps Festivus.

star-war-roomStar War Room – set in the time between Episodes 6 and 7, Han Solo and Princess Leia’s marriage is in trouble, and it will take the efforts of the strange, wizened old Miss Maz to help Leia learn to tap into the force and save her marriage. The film ends with an extended force-enabled jump rope competition. Possible roles for Sadie Robertson as a young Leia and Alden Ehrenreich to continue playing young Han. Potential director: The Kendrick Brothers (if the Yoda movie is a success). Release Date: December 2024.

 

Five Things The Media Is Not Allowed To Do, Post-Election

Dear Media,

Regarding the recent election, you guys really yosted the poodle, didn’t you?

Sorry to be crass, but seriously, media? You gave away billions of dollars worth of free advertising to Donald Trump because you thought he was a big joke, and in the end, the joke was on you. And the irony is that even you couldn’t believe it.

Thanks so much, Media. The 52.8% of the country that didn’t vote for Trump really appreciates that you basically installed him in the office.

[edit: thanks to gilliebean, who corrected me on this: “…there were actually 251,107,000 people in the USA who were eligible to register to vote on Nov 8. Only 24.2% of those people voted for Trump. Only 24.6% of those people voted for Clinton. 51.5% did not vote. So technically, it was 75.8% of the country that did not vote for Trump (not 52.8%). And in all fairness, 75.4% of the country didn’t vote for Clinton.]

The good thing is that you know this, you’ve acknowledged it, and you’ve owned it. We can see examples of this in The New RepublicUSA Today, and MSNBC. But you can find it all over the place – stunned media elites, bemoaning the results, and recognizing their culpability in this scenario that the 52.8% [edit: 75.8%] considers to be nightmarish.

But Media, you must understand that owning it is not enough, not by a long shot. No, media, you also need to make atonement.

That’s right. Atonement. In the form of five things we are taking away from you during the next four to eight years of the Trump Administration.

You might want to sit down for this, Media. Because it’s going to hurt.

  1. No TrumpGate.

Ever since Nixon, you guys have not been able stop putting “-gate” at the end of whatever scandal might crop up. We’ve had BillyGate, DebateGate, IranGate, CableGate, FileGate, HairGate, MonicaGate, EmailGate, IntelGate, and even a GateGate! The list goes on and on and on, and Media, it’s time for you to let it go.

We get it! Gates are terrible things! But as your first act of atonement, you will avoid the temptation to label Trump scandals with names like WallGate, MelaniaGate, NepotismGate, Alt-RightGate, PutinGate, or – God forbid – P*ssyGate.

It’s time for some originality, Media.

But that’s only the beginning.

2. No Trumponomics.

I’m amazed that people complain about the lack of originality in Hollywood, but continue to give the fourth estate a free pass to be as unoriginal as you can be. It all started with Reagonomics, then we had Clintonomics, the Bushonomics, and – silliest sounding of all – Obamanomics.

The madness stops here. As your second act of atonement, you must never refer to the economic policies of Donald Trump as Trumpanomics.

That being said, if you want to use “Trumped-up Trickle Down Economics”, feel free. I don’t think anyone is using it at the moment.

3. No Trumpcare.

untitledYou tried to get this off the ground with Hillary Clinton back in 1993 with Hillarycare, but her healthcare plan flopped. Then, when President Obama announced he was going to push universal healthcare, you quickly grabbed the old nickname and applied it to Obama, and you gave us Obamacare.

And it stops there. Media, after your Election 2016 screwup, you’ve lost the ability to continue this with Trump. John Oliver has already snuck one of these past, but that’s as far as it goes.

As your third act of atonement, you will refrain from dubbing Trump’s new healthcare plan “Trumpcare.” You can call it TrumpHealth, or TrumpMeds, or even InsuriTrump,

But no riffing off Obamacare. You’ve forfeited your right.

4. No “You’re Fired!”

Over the course of these upcoming four years, people will undoubtedly come and go from the Trump administration. As your fourth act of atonement, you will refrain from reporting on that story with headlines like, “Bannon, You’re Fired!”

Also, Trump is liable to send our military to fight somewhere, and you are not permitted to report on that story with headlines like, “ISIS, you’re fired!”

You can extrapolate this out to any situation, and apply the same rule.

untitledThe use of “You’re Fired” is now fired. Take this off your list of possible headlines. Atonement act #4.

5. No “trumps” puns.

The final act of atonement is to avoid the temptation, as great as it will be, to say that Trump has “trumped” things, or someone else has “trumped” him (with the aforementioned exception of Clinton’s brilliant and erudite “Trumped up trickle down.” That, you may use to your heart’s content). But you must not say things like this:

China Trumps Trump When It Comes to Infrastructure

Or this…

Trump Trumps Hate

However, headlines like this are acceptable:

Trump’s Trump Trumps Trump’s Trump

In conclusion, we want you to know, Media, that we realize that you’re hurting. We know that you are apprehensive about what the next four years holds for people in your line of work, and that things don’t bode well for a transparent Trump administration.

But if you do your job from now on: reporting truth rather than promoting sensationalism; putting aside your own personal convictions and reporting with impartially; and holding everyone’s feet to the fire – Republicans, Democrats, whatever, then we might just start listening to you again.

Atonement is, after all, about reconciliation.

Meanwhile, we hope you’ve learned your lesson from this. And every time you have to stop yourself from using one of the easy choices listed above, we hope that it hurts just a little bit. And we hope the little pain that you feel reminds you of how important it is for you to do your job well.

We’re counting on you, media. Don’t let us down again.

Reflections on an American Election

trump

To my friends who have been supporting Trump:

Congratulations on your victory. You worked hard, and you managed to pull off the upset of the century.

But I need to ask: are you prepared for the way things are about to change? After all, for the past eight years you’ve often claimed the role of victim and cried out about persecution. But with today’s victory, especially since it’s looking like the Republicans will sweep both houses as well, those days are over.

You used to be able to watch Star Wars and identify with the Rebellion, but now that you’ve won, you’ve assumed the role of the Empire. What will you do with all of those Star Destroyers and Tie Fighters?

This brings me to the million-dollar question: what will you do with your victory? Will you treat the other side the way you feel like they treated you these past years? Will you use this opportunity to build up and renew things for everyone, or will you use it to oppress and destroy those who are different than you? My hope is that you will turn the other cheek and approach your newfound position with humility and mercy, and maybe even with a smidge of empathy.

The ball’s in your guy’s court now, and I hope to heaven that you were right about Trump being good for this country. I just hope it’s not true only for a certain segment of the population.

Only time will tell.

But here’s the thing. A LOT of people are incredibly freaked out by the man you just elected, and they presume that Trump will do just what he promised to do, just as you were freaked out about what you thought Hillary would do if she won. And can you blame them? If you’re honest, now you have to acknowledge that over the course of this campaign, your guy said some pretty hateful things about a lot of people of a variety of backgrounds. And with your guy’s inability to demonstrate remorse or even step back from things, he’s opened the door for others to feel free to be hateful too, in his image.

And that’s got a lot of people nervous, whether you think that nervousness is justifiable or not.

The point is, your guy’s got a lot of self-inflicted damage to overcome before half the country will come close to being willing to see him as their president. And it would help if you – as the victors now – recognized and owned that truth, because what you do on a personal level could make a world of difference. I know that the majority of you are good and decent people who have been fed up with the way things have been going, but now you are in the position to make things better for everyone.

It’s on you.

To both sides:

We need to be gracious, both in victory and in defeat. There’s more at stake here than simply getting our party into power, or getting our platforms passed. Living in China these past four years, I can tell you from experience that the world is watching closely. Will this vaunted democracy survive this shocking result? We must show them that it will, and that it will thrive in spite of everything that’s gone on these past several months.

To those of you who feel like tonight was a disaster of epic proportions:

I get that. In fact, I’m having trouble accepting that a Donald Trump presidency is actually a reality that is going to happen. Even as a lifelong Republican supporter, I’ve not been able to get behind Trump during the campaign, and I can’t fathom getting behind him now as president.

But ultimately, I have to. We all do.

The only thing that will make this experiment in democracy continue to work, the only way that it’ll be able to survive, thrive, and have any sort of positive repercussions around the world, is if the world sees us making it work. In this case, it means putting our support behind the president-elect, because he is the president-elect. Not for the sake of Donald Trump, but for the sake of the office that he will now hold. And as big as Trump may think that he is, that office is much, much bigger.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we need to give Trump some sort of free pass to do whatever he wants to do. We still need to hold his feet to the fire, while doing everything in our power to keep him from setting the whole place ablaze. But we need to be united behind the essentials that bind us together, not behind the man sitting in the oval office. We need to give him a chance to show that a good deal of what he promised to do will turn out to have been campaign bluster, and that if given the opportunity, he’ll actually attempt to govern.

Only time will tell.

To my fellow Christians, especially those of us who claim to believe in God’s sovereignty:

Do we truly believe that God is in control? Sovereignty says that Trump only wins if God permits it. That means that our job now, whether we were #nevertrump or #draintheswamp, is to pray for Donald Trump while continuing to work in our little corners of the world to build the kingdom of God. Or, as my friend Shane put it, to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with (our) God”.

Just like we should be doing no matter who wins any election.

Finally, a brief note to my fellow Christians who were strong and vocal supporters of Trump:

Reread 1 Samuel 8. Remind yourself that sometimes God gives us what we ask for, not what we need. Remember that it often exacts a high price when he does.

Only time will tell.

Sola Dei Gloria.