Movies You Must See: The original HIGHLANDER

Although it’s been overshadowed by a stream of crummy sequels, an awful animated series, and a quite good in its own way TV show, the original 1986 Highlander starring Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, and Sean Connery deserves a serious watch.

It’s the first movie I’d seen about immortals that really addressed the issues that come with being immortal. The central love story between Connor and Heather, is poignant, moving, and powerful.

And although it does hew to the myth of redemptive violence, it does at least show Connor’s disillusionment with violence, his understanding that war – even a clan skirmish – is pain, loss, and suffering.

Even for an immortal.

Although his body heals from all wounds, he carries the scars from violence with him into the present day.

But that isn’t to say that the film is all grim. The dialogue is frequently witty, especially when Connor speaks with some of the less cultured police investigators. And of course Sean Connery is Sean Connery.

There’s a real operatic feel to many of the scenes between the immortals, especially when Clancy Brown’s Kurgan is involved.

And while Highlander is still a product of its times, its gender roles are pretty progressive for a mid-80’s action film. Brenda and Heather are both much more than just damsels or trophies.

I don’t want to say too much, since Highlander is so much better the less you know about it going in, but please, give it a watch. It is well worth your time, and one of the best movies to come out of the 1980’s.

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Who Wants to Live Forever? (Josh Ritter’s “The Curse”)

If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to watch the video for “The Curse.” It’s one of the most melancholy and beautiful love stories I’ve seen in years.

I saw this video (lyrics here), and was floored. I was moved, saddened, and heartened in a way that I really hadn’t felt since I first heard Kansas’s “Dust in the Wind”

or (perhaps the greatest of them all) Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever,” from one of my favorite movies of all time, the criminally underrated Highlander.

 

 

All Things Right and Good

You’re going to reach a point (We all do)

Where you must decide whether you will be right or good.

I know, Jesus never found Himself in such a spot

But he was God made flesh. You and I are not.

And when I reach that point, I want to say:

“I don’t know if this is right.

I don’t know how it fits in with systematic theology

With moral law, with moral codes

But I know how to be good.”

I’ve learned the hard way that right, like rights,

Can be abused, can be abusive:

  • Right and wrong (who decides?)
  • Legal and illegal (who makes the laws?)
  • Winning the argument
  • Contempt for the loser
  • Insiders and outsiders
  • orthodox and heretics
  • Moral panics
  • “They deserve it.”
  • “They would do the same to us.”

These are tools of domination. These are acts of violence

They’re labels and weapons the powerful use to maintain their supremacy

Be it white or male or hetero/cis.

It’s all the same. Power. Money. Control.

The rich men who wield it

The rough men who enforce it

The abuse and domination of women

And the blood of dark-skinned people

And anyone different in religion, sexuality, or creed

The enslavement of millions in for-profit prisons

And the torture of the few with neither trial nor hope

We can be right.

We can be in control.

We can hold the moral high ground

Or we can be good.

Or we can love as Jesus loved.

But we cannot serve both God and mammon.

Stress Part Two: Stressing Over Nothing

​https://youtu.be/rni41c9iq54

Previously, I discussed Kelly McGonigal’s advice to tell yourself,  when you feel stress, that your body’s reaction (faster heartbeat and breathing) is preparing you to face the challenge ahead. 

So what do you do when most of the stress you feel is rumination, fear of disapproval, frustration, or existential anxiety? 

I think pat of the answer may be found in my post on love, fear,  and Frozen, or in 1 John 4:18 “there is no fear in love,  for perfect love casts out fear.”

Try to act out of love for the person you’re worried about.

If they love you, remember that love, and remember that they aren’t just waiting to judge you harshly. 

If you are actually dealing with a harsh judge,  a perfectionist, externalize that to them. For the sake of your job or whatever, you may have to deal with their criticism and ridiculous standards, but keep that voice outside your head.

We’ve all had to deal with people like that. I have in the past. Thankfully, I don’t now, but things could change for the worse. 

And those people can leave deep marks,  especially if you encounter them when you’re a child. 

It’s okay not to like or respect bosses, teachers, or even family members. You have to treat them respectfully, but they don’t get to define your real value. 

Now, keep telling yourself that until you believe it. I’ll be right there with you. 

Love versus Fear: Lessons from The Boss and Frozen


 “On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love and on the left hand the word fear, and in which hand he held his fate was never very clear.” – Bruce Springsteen, Cautious Man.

Love and hate are enemies, true, but love has another,  much more insidious enemy: fear.

We’ve all felt it. We’ve all struggled to find the words our the strength to say them… The strength to say anything at all. 

One of the best popular illustrations of this is the movie Frozen. We watched it as a family tonight (my daughter’s first Disney feature), and I was struck with the battle between love and fear. 

Elsa is dominated by fear from the first incident in the film, when she accidentally strikes Anna in the head with her ice power. 

But it’s clear from their parents’ reactions that they’d been ruled by fear much longer,  probably since Elsa’s power first appeared. 

In all their family, Anna alone is ruled by love.  Granted,  her naive approach does get her into some trouble, but ultimately,  her selfless act of love:

  •  defeats Hans’s  devious,  power-hungry plan
  • saves her from the freezing curse Elsa accidentally placed on her
  • frees Elsa from her overwhelming fear and shows get how to break the curse of eternal winter
  • Reunites their family and heals the rift their parents created when they decided to isolate Elsa. 

    It’s a perfect illustration of what John wrote to the eally church almost 2,000 years ago: 

    “There is no fear in love.  For perfect love casts out fear…” 1 John 4:18

    And that’s how I want to live my life,  more an Anna than an Elsa.

    By temperament, I’m much more off an Elsa,  much more a cautious man. But I love, and am loved, and if I’m willing to let it,  that love can cast out my fear. 

     One more song about live and fear, one of my favorite tracks from Sarah McLachlan (if you want to hear “Let it Go,” you can YouTube it yourself 🙂

    Dies Irae (Compassion and the Wrath of God)

    I’ve always had a problem conceptualizing God’s anger. I always sort of saw it as in conflict with His love and compassion. The “Dies Irae” and “Kyrie Eleison” never seemed to match that well.

    Similarly, I always had trouble with the Penal Substitution theory of atonement. It always seemed like an artificial differentiation between Jesus and God the Father, with Jesus saving us from God.

    But this morning in church, some things I’d been reading and something the preacher said sort of clicked.

    I’d been picturing God’s wrath all wrong, because I’d been thinking of it like mortal anger. Let me explain.

    Humans get mean, careless, and stupid when we get angry. We break things, we hurt people (physically or emotionally), we say things we can’t take back. We lash out.

    But God isn’t mortal. He isn’t fallen, flawed, or stupid. He isn’t a slave to his upbringing, His adrenaline, His sin.

    His wrath isn’t like our anger. When we get angry, we lash out. But what happened when sin kindled God’s wrath and created a separation between us and God? What was God’s plan? What was God’s reaction?

    He came to earth, to walk among us, to suffer and die for us.

    What is the outcome of God’s wrath?

    Compassion.

    Incarnation.

    Salvation.

    Christmas.

    Suddenly, “Kyrie Eleison” seems like a perfectly companion for “Dies Irae.”

    When sin kindled God’s wrath and created a separation between Him and His beloved creations, He found a way back. He made a way back for us.

    Even though it cost Him pain, sadness, death, and – worst of all – even though He had to experience our sin first hand. Of all the tortures Jesus suffered, enduring the flood of evil done by humanity throughout history must have been the worst.

    Even with all that, God made a way.

    That’s love, and compassion, and wrath, all working to bring His loved ones home.

    That’s God.

    Merry Christmas.

    Amputations, Spiritual and Marital (an Analogy)

    Prosthetic Arm

    I think I may not have written clearly enough in my last post, and some of my point may have been lost. So let me try again.

    Too often in the church today we focus on condemning “sin,” which in large part means condemning people after things go off the rails. But we need to be more open, sensitive, and helpful to each other so we can keep each other from getting into desperate situations.

    I’ll address divorce again, using C.S. Lewis’s metaphor of amputation. Though I’ve never gone through a divorce, the thought of separating from Katherine is  horrible –  I’d rather lose an arm.

    The thought of things getting so bad between us that severing our lives seems like an improvement? That’s horrifying.

    Malachi 2:16 flat-out says that God hates divorce. That makes sense. He’s the Great Physician, and what doctor likes to perform amputations? Amputations are only indicated when injury or infection is so terrible that it threatens the life of the body.

    Shouldn’t we, as a church, be washing each others’ wounds? Shouldn’t we be installing guard rails on the dangerous machinery? Shouldn’t we be doing all we can to prevent these amputations, instead of preaching condemnation at one-armed men and women?

    I think so. But during my married life, I’ve never been a member of, or even a regular attender of, a church that provided active support for married couples.

    One church, First Baptist Byram, did at least offer Financial Peace University. Though it wasn’t specifically aimed at “marriage support,” it does help people (or couples) come to terms with their finances, which are one of the top (if not the #1) causes of conflict and divorce.

    But as much emphasis as the church puts on families and marriage, I just haven’t seen much on actually working to strengthen existing marriages.

    But if we hate divorce as God does, shouldn’t we be working to prevent it?

    Shouldn’t those of us who’ve been happily married for many years offer ourselves (without being pushy) as willing listeners to those who are newly married, or who are having troubles?

    Shouldn’t we offer classes that focus on issues that come up? Or if the church is too small for that, shouldn’t we at least suggest books (like The Total Money Makeover and The Five Love Languages) and resources on the community or association/diocese level?

    Shouldn’t we try to be proactive?

    Of course, that would require us to be more honest with each other, and to create an environment in which people feel comfortable talking about their hard times and shortfalls, without fearing condemnation.

    But that’s a problem for another post.