Sundays – a stunning short film

Mischa Rozema released his stunning 14-minute science fiction short film last Monday and created a three-studio bidding war between Warner, Sony, and Fox. By Friday Rozema had closed a deal with Warner. I find it visually compelling.

This narrated short film has to me the feel of the Matrix, The Adjustment Bureau, and Inception. Enjoy this short and let it feed your imagination. When the feature film comes out, you’re going to want to refer to it because a lot of the people in your audience will have seen it. Enjoy.

SUNDAYS from PostPanic on Vimeo.

Artists (like Gungor) have much to teach theologians about scripture

Recently two Christian artists crossed my radar. The first is Gungor, who does not take the Bible “literally.” The second is evangelical recording artist, Vicky Beeching, who came out as gay.

This post is about Gungor. Now, I don’t know Gungor or his music. I’m listening to his music for the first time as I write this. My tastes tend more towards Thievery Corp, Zero 7, Bjork, Koop, Fau, Brae, Gypsy Kings, and Bebel Gilberto. But as I read this interview about Gungor’s “drift” from biblical orthodoxy as described by World Magazine, I was reminded that orthodoxy is the heresy that won.

Just about every week I read an article about how theologians wrestle with scripture in light of the science of evolution. Let’s be clear, this post is not about evolution as much as it is about scripture. And, for full transparency, I have evolutionary frameworks for understanding how the world came to be as it is. But I could care less if evolution were overturned or established tomorrow. Quite the contrary, I would be delighted by whatever new thing could be learned and discovered.

This post is about how we understand the scripture. Theologians wonder how we can understand the biblical figures of Adam and Eve in light of the fact that, given the evolution of our species, they had ancestors reaching back millions of years. They struggle with how there could have been death and suffering in the world for millions and millions of years before the “fall of man.” They struggle with how the creation story fits with what we know today about the emergence of life in the world, as if they were somehow parallel.

So many of us listen to theologians, academics, and other fundamentalist christians wrestle with these questions with the same incredulity we would if they were wrestling with how to understand cosmology in light of the church doctrine that the earth is the center of the universe.

The challenge for Christians is not that we don’t understand the science. It’s that we don’t understand the Bible… at least not the way millions of believers will understand it the farther we get into this century.

Enter the artist.

Michael Gungor reads the creation stories as a poem.

(This may also be a minority opinion, so far. In any case, majorities are overrated. After all, Christ was crucified with the majority in agreement).

The opening chapters of Genesis are a poetic saga. The creation story of Genesis is an epic myth thoughtfully and intentionally constructed from a multiplicity of sources including the babylonian poem known as the Enuma Elish.

Genesis does not record the chronological origins of the universe. It is the consolidation of stories from multiple sources (and cultures) which had substantial oral histories. These stories were brought together to express a particular and new faith that emerged four to five thousand years ago. This new faith is arrived at by a nomadic tribe whose patriarch, a man –whether a composite or an individual– named Abraham, had encounters with a guiding spirit in the wild. Their intention in pulling together these stories may have been to offer an apologetic for faith in Abraham’s God in a world full of gods.

For so many Christians it seems impossible to maintain this kind of point of view and still follow Christ. But Christians who have an evolutionary framework for understanding the world listen to Gungor and hear nothing but common sense. And they have fewer problems integrating new science with ancient faith than those who read Genesis like it was written by an ancient community that was somehow up to date with 21st century science. This may be one of the fault lines between Modern Christianity and the Christ-following faith of the 22nd century that is still in vitro.

To those within these frameworks, it is the theologians, academics, fundamentalists, and Christian organizations –especially the “watchdogs” of orthodoxy who are cemented in the past —  that seem biblically illiterate.

Are artists like Gungor, with or without intending, parting a theological sea? Are they, with or without knowing, raising a staff and prophesying the way of faith forward? Many who cannot understand the fundamentalist faith will run through these waters and begin to shape a tribe of faith that will populate the latter 21st century. They will read the scriptures with different eyes.

But, even fundamentalists can be saved. That’s the beauty of the courageous leadership offered by Gungor. (And, Im not saying here that he’s got it all figured out or even claims to have it figured out. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t know much about him.) After Israel left Egypt, things went back to “life as usual” in the land of the Pharaohs. The Egyptians probably didn’t even miss a step. But the narrative arc of the story followed the nomadic tribe who found their way across the desert and through the waters led by a guiding wind.

I suspect that the narrative arc of the story of scripture may be headed out into the wilds again and the artists may be leading the way.

By the way, Michael and Lisa, enjoyed your music.

Alex McManus

Author, Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

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On Becoming Human

human-body-leonard-da-vinci

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1.26)

Three Ideas to Ponder on Becoming Human…

There’s a saying you’ve probably heard: God’s not finished with me yet. What if that were actually true species wide? What if the creating God began in Genesis 1 is still ongoing? Perhaps the whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a creation story pointing towards the goal to be accomplished far in the future: to give birth to the human. So, this short post is just a brain twister, the kind of thing I think about late at night.

Here are the three ideas:

1. We are not human yet…

To be human is an aspiration, not a present reality. Think about this word, inhumane. It means “not human like.” Why do we even have a word that expresses the negation of what we are? When a lion makes a kill, we don’t think, how inlione. That’s just not lion like. When they maul another animal, they’re acting according to their nature. But when we are inhumane, are we acting according to our nature or contradicting it? Whichever way you answer, the result  is pretty scary. We are both “human like” and “not human like.” Perhaps somewhen down the road we will actually become human.

What do you think? Chime in on our survey below.

2. Neither are we human beings

Every now and then I’ll hear someone say, we’re not human doings, we’re human beings. Probably they’re trying to emphasize our identity, the priority of who we are, over our works, the value of what we do. However, this term human being doesn’t sit well either.  We don’t have “being” in and of ourselves. We’re not immortal “beings.” The term human creature is closer. Whether you’re a theist or not, you recognize that humans had a beginning.  Whether through an act of God or through naturally occurring evolutionary forces or both,  we came into existence. We are creatures just like all the other life forms that populate the eco system.

3. We are human becomings

Still even human creature sticks a little. How can we emphasize our creatureliness and the fact that we are not yet human? We are human becomings. We had a beginning and we are on a journey towards that which we aspire to be: human. We are a story in the middle of the telling. There is value both in what we aspire to “be” and what we “do.” Both are necessary for “becoming.”

So rejoice. God is indeed not yet finished with you. And, as I’ve often said, Jesus did not come to make the world Christian. We can set our sights higher. He came to make it (and us) human.

Shapeshifting Marriage and Family Constructs for the 21st Century

marriage_dictionary
Where is the social construct of marriage headed in the 21st century?

Is it possible that rather than dividing along the lines of “for” or “against” gay marriage, we may see a new dividing line of …

on the one side…
a more conservative and traditional “pro-marriage and pro-family” construct advocated by both gay and straight constituents

against…
on the other side…
“anti-marriage” or “freedom of relationships” advocates (again made up of both gay and straight constituents) that adopt progressive views about relationships and child bearing.

Imagine… a legally married gay person arguing for pro-family values and against the practice of childbearing outside the bonds of matrimony, or against polygamous relationships, or arguing against the practice of serial “living together” relationships.

These images of possible futures came to mind when child advocate David Blankenhorn had a change of heart. An avid supporter of traditional marriage who emphasized the need for fathers in the home, Blackenhorn has not changed his basic values about marriage and family. He views marriage as “the” institution that exists as a gift to children. It exists to assure children that their birth parents who brought them into the world will nurture and care for them. As such, “marriage” can never truly apply to gay couples.

But for him, the debate about gay marriage was about the child and about society. For his opposition, the debate was about the adults and their individual rights. After years of debating, Blankenhorn concluded that, by and large, regardless of the merits, he simply did not make his case. The elites and younger Americans did not see things his way. His opposition successfully framed marriage as a private and personal matter, the meaning of which can be determined by the individuals involved, and not about society’s obligation to structure itself for the benefit of the young.

Now what? For political purposes, Blankenhorn has changed strategies. He has chosen to join forces with pro-marriage gay activists in his cause to strengthen the institution of marriage.

Will his strategy work? Is this a possible realignment that will gain strength? What will be the pro-family values of a “post-traditional marriage” world?

Let this sink in… We’re experiencing a civilizational shift.

Survey –Click here to Select ONE

  • Are we…seeing the creation of a new moral norm– a pro-marriage, pro-family agenda — in which gay and straight activists work together to raise a cultural standard.
  • Are we… seeing the first steps towards the recognition of other forms of nontraditional relationships such as polygamous, polyamorous, interspecies, and eventually man and machine.
  • Are we… seeing the emergence of a world that is more hostile to children.

Here are the source links:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/us/in-shift-blankenhorn-forges-a-pro-marriage-coalition-for-all.html?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/opinion/how-my-view-on-gay-marriage-changed.html

Participate in the survey

A Thanksgiving Proclamation from George Washington, 1798

The desire to give thanks is (to me) one of the more interesting of human compulsions. We give thanks to one another and that’s understandable. But what about those moments in which we encounter such beauty — like when, in the autumn of the year, we reach the top of a hill and a valley of color spreads out before us — and a feeling of gratitude wells up inside of us? Who or what do we thank?  We thank our lucky stars, the gods, nature, or our good fortune because our instincts, our hearts, our minds somehow know to reach out to whatever is the source of everything.

thanksgiving
So, as Thanksgiving is my favorite celebration of the year, and, as I write much about the future, I thought I would offer you something from the past: A Thanksgiving Proclamation from George Washington dated October 3, 1789.

Enjoy.
George

Thanksgiving Proclamation
President George Washington
City of New York, October 3, 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Two Mysterious Human Behaviors

Bobo_women_carrying_children
Every now and then we hear reports of whales stranding themselves on shore. Why they do this is a mystery.

Moving from whales to humans, two human behaviors seem to me to be equally mysterious. First, the loss of a desire to have children. This is not too common but it is more and more visible, especially among the more affluent. Second, the loss (among the young) of a desire to have sex.

Our world is full of children and explorations of sexuality run rampant and often destructively among us. The desire to have children and to have sex (with or without thought of children) are biologically embedded instincts. Would not the loss of these desires run counter to our biologically derived instincts? If these attitudes and behaviors continued and expanded, what kind of future would we create?

THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN

What is the future of children? I don’t mean the future of the children in the world. I mean the future of having children.

One of my favorite movies is Children of Men. The premise of the movie is that couples, for some unexplained reason, stopped having children. It is a dystopian vision of a future with no children and, thus, no hope. (For an interesting take on this thought – http://nyti.ms/1c0HoEp).

An essay I read in the New York Times, Opting out of Parenthood with Finances in Mind, made me wonder if the reverse is also true. Is the loss of hope tied to loss of a desire to have children?

The essayist, a married, affluent, and urban young woman, writes about the economic sacrifices of having children. According to her, when she explained the article she was writing to other mothers, their words to her were: “good for you”. Not exactly the kind of mothers I’m used to.

What stands out to me from her essay is not the economics of having children. What stands out to me is that she could find no good reasons for having a child. Ironically, I could not escape the deep sense of poverty in her view of life.

I’m sure the essayist is a fine, loving, and healthy person, but this article made me ask a dark, dark question about the worldview it suggests. I have to ask, What if children were free, a dime a dozen? Would she and her husband (who is very concerned with the way humans tax the planet) find a reason or the space in their lives for a child?

I wonder, how similar is the worldview of this essay to that of Toni Vernelli who aborted her child to save the planet and about whom I wrote in an earlier post?

This question is not about the authors of the articles in particular. I’m sure there’s a world of difference between them as individuals. But there seems to be larger cultural questions here. After all, there is a culture wide decline in births. Somewhere around midcentury, the world’s population will plateau and then decline.

children_of_men

Demographically speaking, the single most important measurement of humankind is the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). The magic number in measuring TFR is 2.1. That’s how many births per household a population needs to replace itself.

Many of the western democracies are experiencing birth rates lower than 2.1. In other words, our whole culture seems to be stepping into a worldview similar to the one mentioned above. Is our culture concluding that having children just isn’t worth it?

If demography is destiny, then is it the destiny of the west to disappear? Are we having our very own “Children of Men” moment?

Earlier generations delighted in the birth of a child. I wonder, has the loss of a religious view of life so disoriented us that we cannot be bothered with even the most basic evolutionary compulsions? (The irony of that last sentence does not escape me.)

Or, do the young somehow intuit that they live at the twilight of their society and from this deep lack of hope feel nothing worth sharing and passing on to a new generation?

Is it a good thing now to not have children? Since we seem to have lost the natural instinct of it, perhaps it is better to stop. At least until we discover a reason to live, to enjoy life, and to love it enough to want to be part of expanding the experience.

This is HUGE.

THE FUTURE OF PROCREATION
Here’s another even more mysterious symptom of the same malaise. Not only did Japan have fewer births in 2012 than any previous year, young people in Japan have stopped having sex.  Just in case you read what your brain thought should appear in the text, let me put an emphasis on the key word: “Stopped.”  You can’t even get to the question of should we or should we not have children, if you despise physical contact.
Japanese man and woman lean away from each other

Just when you thought the impossible never happened. Here it is.
The article stated: “A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 ‘were not interested in or despised sexual contact’. More than a quarter of men felt the same way.”
It feels weird to ask this but, is not having sex becoming an epidemic in Japan?

What’s going on here? Is it a positive? Are we finally gaining mastery over our naturally evolved instincts?

Or, Is this a surrender to the meaninglessness of it all? Are these attitudes symptoms of the dis-ease of hopelessness that can attack all humans anywhere at anytime? Both situations mentioned here are a manifestation of their own context and culture. At very least, we can say that not having children and not having sex are, biologically, dead ends. Are they the human equivalent of diseased whales beaching themselves on the shore? Something about life stops working. And we run counter to the most basic drives within us.

In the negative, we can postulate that human societies start by dismissing Spirit or Meaning which leads to hating life and evolves to despising each other. In the positive, we can experiment by breathing faith, hope, and love into a culture that can’t seem to figure out why humans are worth saving, worth bringing into the world, or even worth touching.

What do you think?

See you in the mystic…

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When it comes to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, Is the Universe “a lot of wasted space”?

A rendering of Kepler 62f and two outer planets, which may lie in a habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.

A rendering of Kepler 62f and two outer planets, which may lie in a habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.

About 10 months ago we discussed an article from the Guardian on the discovery of a planet that could possibly support life.

“A planet with conditions that could support life orbits a twin neighbour of the sun visible to the naked eye, scientists have revealed. The world is one of five thought to be circling Tau Ceti, a star just 12 light years away that is almost identical to the sun.”  https://alexmcmanus.org/2012/12/19/anotherearth/

This month’s New York Times reports:

“Astronomers reported that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in the galaxy.”

In the movie Contact, Jodie Foster plays Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, a SETI scientist who finds strong evidence of extraterrestrial life. Foster’s character suggests that if there is no other life out there in the universe, that it seems like an awful waste of space.

As you consider the night sky, do you resonate with Foster’s character? Are we the only ones to turn on a lightbulb in the universe? Or are we one of many? When it comes to habitable earth-size planets, it seems that number just got larger. God, I love this universe.


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/cosmic-census-finds-billions-of-planets-that-could-be-like-earth.html?_r=2&