America (in)dependence – Where Freedom Falls Short

Happy fourth everyone! This holiday is always funny to me, I like the irony of celebrating the treason committed by 56 men signing a remarkably well-written document in the heat of summer. Plus the fireworks are good too.

It is clear though that this treason is no longer what we truly celebrate on the fourth of July each year, instead we celebrate the bigger notion of our country, and the even bigger dream of freedom it represents.

What does that freedom really include though? And what does it cost us?

Monday night I caved in and went to see the movie Magic Mike with two friends. I had pretty low expectations, which were unfortunately proved true, but it was a good experience to help me see where our culture is at. I will probably write another post on it soon so stay tuned.

There was a scene that stuck out to me in relation to today being the Fourth of July though. One of the many dance scenes in the movie included a special tribute for the very occasion of Independence Day. The boys marched out in camouflage uniforms, did their thing, then lowered their ranks till they were down to nothing but some very small red white and blue thongs. As they struck their final pose, their audience hooted and hollered for the grand finale of a large American flag to be lowered behind them.

is this what makes our country great?

My response – a strongly sarcastic “God Bless America” under my breath. My two friends I was with still say that was the best joke I ever made (not hard to believe) and the funniest part of the night.

Let’s be honest though – I wasn’t trying to be funny when I said it. Admittedly, I tend to use that phrase more often in times of frustration or despair than as an exclamation of pride. That was it’s initial usage anyways, to say a small prayer that God may bless this country, that He would save it from evil and help it to live up to its noble intentions.

On this Independence day, I would say we need that prayer now more than ever. We are supposed to be celebrating freedom, but is freedom really free? What cost have we paid for these things, or who else is paying the cost for us?

Don’t get me wrong I think the ideal of freedom is a great one, and it is part of why I can support our country, but we must admit that we fall short of true freedom in many places. Some people would bring up immigration, our prison system, or various human rights violations around the world. After seeing a movie like Magic Mike – the first thing I think of is our bondage to sex and the importance it has gained in our culture.

The way that Hollywood portrays sex, in movies like Magic Mike, makes it seem carefree and fun. Maybe it is in the moment, but they don’t emphasize the way that it imprisons people in loneliness, traps them into unhealthy relationships, or forces them to view love as defined by sex. Sex can be a good thing, the way God intended it, but the way that our culture has championed it as an independent choice free from consequence is a lie that only breeds further dependence.

Women in real strip clubs or prostitution houses, ones who are stuck in a system we allow, they are not free. Those traded into human trafficking who are herded like cattle for these industries, they are not free. The girl on the news, who was raped and abused, she is not free. Even the men, who are locked into the unrealistic expectations generated by Magic Mike of Fifty Shades of Grey, they are not free.

As a Christian, I hesitate to say that I am ever truly independent, or that I want to be. On one hand I completely support the tolerance freedom allows, and I support the belief that we all have our right to choose what we believe in. Yet I must remind myself that when I committed myself to following Christ, I gave up all independence to surrender myself to God’s will – and in all honesty, I am much happier without that freedom. When I trust his commands for my life instead of what culture demands of me, I am happier. That includes taking God’s word on sex instead of Hollywood’s.

It is difficult when everything about our American culture denounces rules and regulations, things that hold us back and restrict the dream of freedom. I think that’s why a lot of times people turn away from the church, because they don’t like to be told what to do. But we must remember that we are broken people, we all sin, and when given independence we often trade that for other forms of slavery because we don’t know how to use it correctly.

Celebrating freedom today is a good thing, it is good to remember what the founders of our country fought so hard for. It is also good for us to remember that we need to keep fighting for it. Freedom does have a cost, and personally I would much rather be a servant of Christ than a slave to sex or drugs or money. Believe it or not, true freedom is found when we submit to God first, then we can really hope for God to bless America.

What holds you back from true freedom?

How could we improve as a country to actually give freedom to everyone?


Movie Monday: Whimsy and Wonder inside Moonrise Kingdom

Earlier today I was in a sour, Monday-type of mood. The only cure: a new movie filled with whimsy and hope. So off to the theater I went to trek into a whole new world from the mind of director Wes Anderson, a world called “Moonrise Kingdom.”

with a cast like this it had to be good…

The New York Times introduced the movie this way:

Wes Anderson makes films about small worlds in which big things happen: love, heartbreak, calamities, death. In his latest, the wondrous storybook tale “Moonrise Kingdom,” a girl and a boy, both 12, run off to a remote inlet on an island where most of the adults seem disappointed and more than a little sad. The girl and the boy are very serious — about love, their plans, books, life itself — and often act older than their age. She wears bright blue eyeliner; he puffs on a corncob pipe. You wonder what their hurry is, given that here adulthood, with its quarrels, regrets and anguished pillow talk, can feel as dangerous as the storm that’s hurtling toward the island, ready to blow it all down.”


The storm certainly does hit, but the island wasn’t the only thing blown away as my imagination tried to hold on to my seat. By the end I could let it sail away in the off-shore winds of whimsy and wonder this movie inspired.

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Movie Monday: Brave Expectations

Finally, in a packed theater on Friday afternoon, I sat and watched the long-awaited flick of the summer: Brave. The audience ooed and awwed at the stellar animation and daring courage of a girl pushing the boundaries of what it means to be strong. Although it’s a familiar story, they don’t call things classic for no reason.

Overall I really enjoyed it. There was a good balance of action, humor, sentiment, and lesson that made it a very engaging movie. Plus, the main character Merida is a wonderful example of a quirky, independent individual who doesn’t fit the princess mold and is easily relatable to young girls.

Now I am completely biased when it comes to Disney and Pixar, but the reviews and other ratings still agree with me that this was a pretty good movie. The one recurring negative comment I found was that in comparison to other Pixar films this one was sub-standard and “safe.” Honestly, I think that is a result of people holding Pixar to a ridiculously high standard. It is understandable to expect a lot from the company that created hits like the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo, and Cars, but what is actually realistic?

Summer Movie Lineup: Is there anything good out there?

Instead of focusing on one movie today I decided to look ahead to what I can hope to see this summer. So I eagerly clicked over to Fandango, scrolled down the Coming Soon link, and let my face turn into a crinkled mess of disappointment.
Understand that I love movies just like anybody else, but I have grown tired of the same line-up and plot lines each summer: one or two animated features (usually at least one is a sequel), the alien movie, the superhero movie, the crude funny movies, and the just plain scary why the heck is that fun to watch movie. Unfortunately, this summer’s expected box office hits don’t look much better:
Snow White and the Huntsmen: This one is for anyone who didn’t see the other Snow White movie a month ago, or anyone who did and wants to see the same plot line in a darker setting.  Next time they should just combine the two so that Julia Roberts can fight Charlize Theron in a duel for the best wicked queen. For some reason Hollywood is really into remakes of the old classics lately, and for an even odder reason we continue to be ok with the same story in a slightly different angle.

Prometheus: Again we are fascinated with the possibility of life on other planets. It is an eternal shoe-in for a Hollywood hit to stun us with the terrorizing possibilities of what else might be out there. Personally, I’m happy to be oblivious here on Earth.

Look’s kind of like Indiana Jones mixed with The Walking Dead mixed with something really frightening – sounds fun huh?

The Amazing Spiderman: Since I’m not very knowledgeable about the plethora of superheroes out there, as you might have realized after my post on The Avengers, this one puzzled me because I thought the same movie already came out a few years ago, and then again. Either way this shows that we can continue to be entertained by the same storyline as long as the special effects and action scenes are improved.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – Here’s that sequel I mentioned! I’m sure kids will love it, and if they don’t Ice Age 3 comes out in late July (maybe as some kind of heat escape joke). But really, wouldn’t we all have been fine if they stopped at 1?

Rock of Ages – Finally our one heart-warming, funny, probably very cheesy, musical number for all the nostalgic 80’s fans out there. This reminds me of when Hairspray came out many summers ago – it’s either going to be a total flop or a big win. But who doesn’t want to see Alec Baldwin in tight leather pants? (for my sarcastic-deficient audience out there I am kidding about Alec Baldwin)

In Rock of Ages you get Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise at their best looking – how could you resist?

That’s My Boy: Although I am a fan of classic Adam Sandler movies like Happy Gilmore, this movie seems to be another set of crude, wild antics disguised as humor. It is also following the comedic trend of playing off of wedding disasters, taking the lead from The Hangover and Bridesmaids. Although many people consider these to be comedy gold mines, I wonder why our funny movies must all be rated-R nowadays…

Ted: Releasing later in the summer is the same kind of funny mentioned above, an R-rated “funny” sure to ruin all of our ideas about the beloved teddy bear we had as a kid. Again – why?

Now that is some good clean funny – oh wait never mind.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – I suppose saving America from slavery wasn’t enough, because now we need the story of how “Lincoln vows to save America from the walking dead.” Well with a synopsis like that who wouldn’t want to see a revered American president slice off a vampire’s head? This proves though that the vampire trend is still alive and well in Hollywood, this one is just the alternate to the final Twilight.

Katy Perry: Part of Me – This is the sequel to the Justin Beiber movie that came out two summers ago – oh it’s not? But they both wear the same pants… No matter, this proves the American fascination with famous people’s personal lives, because we can’t be satisfied with our own. Nice marketing strategy Hollywood, I see how this works out… for your already loaded pocketbook.

Brave: Now I am totally biased on this one (well technically all of them because this is a list of my silly opinions but ya) because I love Disney and Pixar, but this will probably be one of the only movies this summer without cursing, alcohol, sex, drugs, or any of that other hoo-ha we are mesmerized by. So ya I think this one will be good.