Monday, April 23, 2007

VT Shooting and Hope

It's been about a week since the shootings at Virginia Tech. I normally don't think much about news events such as this, but I came across something rather interesting. During times such as these, a lot of people turn to their churches for guidance and consolation. What I'm going to give you is a pair of prayers released from different Christian denominations. First is the prayer from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod:

Gracious Father in heaven, You know the shock and sorrow that have resulted following the deaths of 33 students and faculty at Virginia Tech. We are helpless before the evil that afflicts us and therefore cry out to You for comfort, shelter, and protection. Mercifully embrace the frightened in Your love, empower the weak with Your strength, restrain the wicked by Your might, and preserve and comfort the righteous in Your grace, giving us Your peace and turning tragedy to triumph. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

And the second from the United Methodist Church:

The bullets ripped their flesh, and tear our souls, Lord God. Flashing from nowhere, unseen, unforeseen, perhaps unforeseeable, lives of promise ended, others mangled by hot steel and the shrapnel lodged in hearts too stunned to cry. How long, O Lord? How long? And for the shooter, Lord, Forgive. What break in heart, or mind, or flesh moved, possessed, demanded him to stalk these down like prey? We cringe, paralyzed before the mystery of evil. We open our mouths, and join the silence of the disbelieving. Hear us, Lord. Heal us, Lord. Grant them, and us, your peace. Amen.

Blogger Seth Zirkle examined both these prayers with the theology of the cross in mind. "A theology of the cross seeks the beauty of God's grace in the bloody agony of Christ's suffering. At the very least it recognizes that man ... is stained with his fallen nature and Christ's blood; it realizes that even in the face of suffering there is good. And not just any good, but Christ, the ultimate Good. Truly a development of Luther's Deus absconditus, his hidden God, a theology of the cross stands in stark contrast to a theology of glory which goes to the cross once and walks away on the road of the good life in Christ."

I would never have been as eloquent as that. Even as a Missouri Lutheran myself, I probably wouldn't have thought of looking at it through a theology of the cross if not for Seth's comments. What was most striking to me was the hope expressed by the Lutheran prayer contrasted with the near despair of the Methodist prayer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Genius of Film Noir

I came across an interesting article by critic Stanley Crouch the other day. It's all about the popularity of film noir in American culture. I'm happy to say I've seen most of the films he mentions. Here's a quick excerpt:

The huge screens in movie theaters provided lurid masks for the resentments that pulse within Americana. Our hatred of the upper class and of goody-two-shoes morality got plenty of play. So did our repulsive puritanical troubles with sexual attraction, our reluctant but ultimate belief in the righteousness of force, and our tendency to answer life's pervasive horrors with conspiracy theories.

Noir's popularity was inevitable. How could American audiences resist the combative stance of an unimpressed hero whose ethos could be reduced to: "Is that so?" How could they fail to be lured by all of the actresses cast as Venus' flytraps? Everything in film noir takes place at the bottom, in the sewers of sensibility. It holds that the force of the world is not only indifferent to, but obviously bigger than, the individual, which is why personal satisfaction, whether illegal or immoral, is the solution to the obligatory ride through an unavoidably brittle universe.
(Full article available on

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Raines: Stone Dead

Since I was away this weekend, I didn't get a chance to see Raines until tonight. Another strong ep, in my opinion. We really got to see a bit more inside Raines instead of just his wisecracking exterior. The scenes with his murdered partner's son were especially touching. As for the mystery? I liked it. The whole "Jimmy's dead?" conversation cracked me up along with the pot smoking granny.

I may have to rewatch this episode to see if there are any, but there seem to be some subtle nods to the inspirations for this show in each episode. Just a couple I've noticed:

  • Double Indemnity poster in a victim's house
  • "Rick's Cafe American" neon sign
  • A Maltese Falcon sitting on the desk at the escort service of the first (?) episode.
  • A private detective named MacSweeny (from Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest)
Anyone else see any?