Defending ‘American Sniper’


A reblog of Steve Rose’s discussion of “American Sniper.” He quotes Sebastian Junger, who says “they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. They miss being in a world where human relations are entirely governed by whether you can trust the other person with your life. It’s such a pure, clean standard that men can completely remake themselves in war.

Social Health

American Sniper

With the recent controversy surrounding this movie, I would like to say that those who criticize it for glorifying war are missing the point. The internal struggles represented in this movie are highly reflective of what many Veterans face in the transition to civilian life. Rather than taking this an an opportunity to criticize the war by demonizing those who fought in it, we should learn from the intimate perspective it offers into life in combat and the tragic consequences military service has on Veterans and their families. As Bradley Cooper stated: “’American Sniper’ is meant to be a character study, not a political statement on war.”

Despite this fact, I actually believe the movie is highly political, but not in the sense many are criticizing it for. Rather than a commentary on broader geopolitics, this movie has political implications in the sense that it demonstrates the nuanced reality…

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With My Pen Held High


We can do no less than stand for freedom of the press.
My friend Sarah takes her stand, and with this reblog of her post, I stand with all right-thinking people to affirm my support for the basic freedom of speech, of the press.

thepracticalhistorian

penI tend to avoid controversial topics on this blog, and when I occasionally wander into cultures and histories that are not my own, I try very hard to treat them with respect. I have intentionally chosen to make this little corner of the blogosphere a place where anyone could feel welcome.

But I certainly recognize that people who engage in communication of any kind designed for public consumption are faced with the choice of whether or not they push the envelope into the realm of offensiveness. And I celebrate the freedom of that choice, because it means that when something needs to be said, it can be said in public and it can be considered by the public.

Yesterday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo was a terrible assault on that freedom. With the people of France, with the members of the media, and with all writers, speakers, and illustrators who communicate on a public platform, from the widest national media outlet…

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10 Ways to Bring Christmas Home to You


It’s almost Christmas, and you’re a long ways from home. In fact, you’re so far away that going home is out of the question. 

I’m writing this because that’s been my experience–more than once. It took a few years for me to get to this point but I learned to accept that where I was–that was home. Whether it is or not is not the issue. Facts are facts, and if you’re spending Christmas a continent (figuratively or physically) away from what you used to call home, it can be a downer.

So … I thought of a few ways you might explore to deepen your experience of Christmas.

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, wit...

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, with the Holy Spirit (represented as a dove) and God the Father, with child john the Baptist and saint Elizabeth on the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, it’s not much trouble. It’s still the birth celebration of our Lord and Savior. Consider that you will be celebrating with millions of believers what the day means. Even if it’s …

  • You and your mate,
  • You and the other members of your military unit,
  • You and the other inmates where you are incarcerated,
  • You and the people in the care facility where you live,
  • You and your children,
  • You and a parent, or
  • It’s just you by your lonesome …

In reality: it’s you and God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son.

In fact, having other people around sometimes complicates our ability to approach the Almighty to worship him … to celebrate that holy night when Jesus came to show us what God is like.

So you adapt. Yes, the day is almost upon us but here are ten things you can use, to help you experience this Christmas in your special way:

  1. A journal. Record insights, a prayer for those you love, your emotions, whatever.
  2. A Bible. Prepare for that day by each day reading something from the biblical record the accounts of Christ’s coming: Matthew 1:18-2:23; Luke 1:1-2:40
  3. The Old Testament shimmers with promises of the coming King: Psalm 130:5-7; Isaiah 9:6-7; 40:5. Consider what these prophecies mean to you.
  4. Pick up a book of Advent readings at a used bookstore. Advent (the season of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ) began the fourth Sunday before December 25.
  5. Jim Bishop’s “The Day Christ Was Born” gives a journalist’s view of this event.
  6. Mary Phraner Warren wrote two wonderful books about Christmas: the children’s book, “The City That Forgot About Christmas,” and “The Land of Christmas.” We read them time and again. Can you find something for your children?
  7. Your favorite music from earlier times. Here, my university performs an hour plus of “The Messiah”:http://www.ostate.tv/channels/college-arts-sciences?play=EC858CBD-B98B-9A7F-9CA6-501D53084B10
  8. Gifts: for children or the street person who won’t otherwise experience the joy of Christmas.
  9. Christmas dinner: invite a new acquaintance to dine with you—in your home, or simply at your table in the cafeteria. Share with them what you’ve discovered about Christmas.
  10. Attend a Christmas eve service—alone or take someone with you. Be purposeful. Write in your journal what you expect God to do for you or show you.

A number of years ago, my wife and I and our two small children, Allison and Loren, were ten time zones away from what had been home as Christmas approached. While we appreciated the lack of commercialization of Christmas in our country, we wanted to celebrate Christmas. Though not from a high church tradition, we had found Advent readings to be meaningful, so began daily readings during the season.

We made our own decorations, which was a lot of fun. Getting a tree proved more difficult. Finally, we decide to go to a nearby town (actually an adjoining country!)  and found a spindly pine. It wasn’t much but it gave us a sense of the familiar, of permanence in accepting where we were.

We had our family and we were able to reach out to other people. In small ways, by continuing our traditions, God blessed us as we worshiped in our way.

Is there a way you could share the joy of Christmas with someone who is far, far away from what they call home? If you’re alone, what will you try to do to encounter the Christ?

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

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Drinks with the Devil Lead to Puking Pumpkins


Sarah’s comments are, indeed, a bit quirky. But always entertaining.

thepracticalhistorian

This morning I’ve been living the stay-at-home mom’s dream. I took my children to school, covered my kitchen table in newspaper, and carved jack-o-lanterns. Okay, maybe it’s not every stay-at-home mom’s dream, or even mine, though I’m pretty sure my kids think I make them go to school just so I can play with their toys all day long.

Remember when we were kids and we had to do this with just a spoon and a steak knife. And bandaids. Remember when we were kids and we had to do this with just a spoon and a steak knife. And bandaids.

I really did borrow their carving tools because I haven’t carved a pumpkin on my own since my oldest could manage to rub pumpkin guts in his hair, but tomorrow are the fall parties in my sons’ classrooms and while I did manage to dodge being put entirely in charge this time, I volunteered to help.

And no fall party would be complete without a few Jack-o-lanterns, that bizarre Halloween…

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I Just Thought You Should Know


The Ferguson, MO situation: Sarah gives a thoughtful and balanced overview of this unfortunate incident.

thepracticalhistorian

On January 13, in the year AD 532 Byzantine Emperor Justinian attended a tense chariot race in Constantinople’s Hippodrome. The competing chariot teams were known simply as the Blues and the Greens, the colors they wore. But these were more than sports teams. They had become important political factions with which the people of Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire identified. They had become the face which the people wore to interact with their leaders.

And on this particular January day, the people were angry. Three days earlier, some of the leaders of both the Blues and the Greens organizations were arrested and sentenced to death by Justinian for hooliganism gone too far. When two of the hangings were botched and a surviving representative from each of the Blues and the Greens was carried off to a church to seek asylum, the supporters of both groups united to petition for…

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Don’t Let Anyone Shoot Down Your Moon


Leslie Fields exhorts for a balanced view and response to what others say about you–even the positive things need to pass through the lens of reality. Sometimes when we’re so close to our own situation, it’s hard to determine what truly is reality.

WordServe Water Cooler

Moon
So you discover this morning from a reputable source that a grand nephew twice removed through divorce and adoption thinks your last book was second-rate and “whiny.” Worried, you decide to try therapy to make sure you’re not harboring ingratitude or a pathetic victim mentality. Or, as a cheaper option, you consider hiring an editor for your next manuscript to eradicate any possible language that might be interpreted as “victim-y.”

After this decision, which you feel good about, you get an email from a woman who says your last book is the best book she’s ever read and she wants everyone in the world to read it and would you send some more books with your autograph and maybe even a family photo? You breathe deeply, read the email over several times, and block off time to do this.

Later that day you hear that someone thinks the scarf you…

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John 5:9-10 (Not of God)


BJ hits it big time.

THE RIVER WALK

Legalism

 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
(John 5:9-10)

Read: 1 Samuel 4:12 – 8:22

Relate: In the Old Testament there are 613 Mitzvot, commands. Apparently that wasn’t enough. There was an entire class of people whose sole occupation was to interpret, teach, and enforce these laws. Their intentions were noble, but the results… disastrous. For a good Jew today, you cannot teat toilet paper when using the restroom. You must either have it pre-torn or keep tissues in the bathroom for use on the Sabbath. If for some reason you forgot to unscrew the lightbulb on your refrigerator then you cannot open that door…

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