Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Anniversaries, Sermons, and Violent Video Games

But not necessarily in that order. Chronologically, the sermon came first. I'm sure some of you are curious as to how exactly I utilized The Rock in a sermon. Well, through the magic of the internet and the assurance of Creative Commons License, I will share it with you here!


When Jesus taught, he often taught in stories. And the stories he taught were based in the reality of the people he was talking to. That's why there are so many sheep, and vineyards and wedding celebrations in those stories--because the people Jesus taught were very familiar with sheep, and vineyards, and weddings. So I'm going to share something with you that is familiar to me, and I'm sure is familiar to at least a few of you. I know that it's a point of connection between myself and certain JPF-rs, and if you've paid very close attention to my blog you'll know that I associate it with my younger brother. The rest of you will just have to hear me out, maybe even take my word for a few things, because if you aren't into it, you likely haven't seen any value in it.

So what is it? It, my friends, is known as professional wrestling. There's nothing quite like it--it's like a soap opera mixed with fantastic stunt work, all done before sold out arenas full of screaming fans. The greatest names in the business are solid, well rounded entertainers. They are great athletes, fantastic actors--and the best of the best are very clever and very charismatic people who have an uncanny ability to keep mobs of spectators feeding out of the palm of their hand. Arguably one of the best of these entertainers is someone you all might have heard of, at least in passing, as he has moved on from wrestling into a carrier in the motion picture industry. He was born with the name Dwayne Johnson--but he is known simply... as The Rock.

When The Rock was a professional wrestler his character was very... self assured. He sounded like the star of the high school football team. You all know the one. The guy that was popular and knew it. The guy who could put you down in such a way that made even you laugh. The guy that you suspected was a lot smarter than he acted. The guy who could get away with being boastful because when it came down to it, he could back it up. He would say things like, "It doesn't matter what your name is!" and "The Rock says, 'Know your role, and shut your mouth!'" And the crowd loved him. He was very successful, and as I've mentioned before, he took what he learned and translated it into a growing acting career.

So, I was talking with my brother on the phone this week, and we were remembering things The Rock had done and said when he was wrestling, and one thing stuck out in my mind, because even though it was said with his usual charismatic panache... it struck me as genuine. My brother and I can't remember for sure what the story line was at that point, but I think he was standing in the middle of the ring, by himself, playing the crowd. I think that this was towards the end of his wrestling career, as he was getting involved with his acting, I believe, in fact, that it was in what amounted to his retirement speech. Remember, the crowds loved him, and they didn't want him to stop performing for them in the ring. The unasked question, "Don't you care about us, your adoring fans?" hung heavy in the air. And I was expecting to hear the Rock say, "No, I don't care," just because of the way he played his character, his on screen wrestling persona. I expected to hear something like, "It doesn't matter what your name is!" I was expecting to hear something like, "Know your role, and shut your mouth!" What I heard was, "The Rock Says... Thank you."

You see, Dwayne Johnson knew that if it weren't for the fans, there wouldn't be The Rock. And today I'm telling you that if it weren't for the dedication of the church school teachers, our co-superintendents, and our PF advisors, and countless others, there wouldn't be any church school. There wouldn't be any Pilgrim Fellowship. Heck, there probably wouldn't be any associate pastor position. And so my message this morning is simple. I believe that our church school is one of the best around. I believe that our PF groups are some of the best around. There's always room to grow, but honestly, I'm proud of what we do here. And so to all of you that help make all this happen, I say... Thank you.




You might have noticed that this sermon is more of a sermonette. That's because the Senior Pastor and myself "Tag-Teamed" the sermon. He did the first half and I did the above second. He even walked over and smacked my hand, 'tagging me in,' just like in a wrestling match. And he came up with that on his own, before he knew where I'd gone with my half. Appropriate huh? Oh yes, and when I finished with my big "thank you" there was applause. I'm sure it was applause for our teachers, but I also take it to mean that the congregation as a whole was not offended by my use of professional wrestling as a sermon illustration!


So after church I had a nap, and then our friends Aaron and Faith came home from Faith's graduation. That's right, they're all moved in now, and we went over to their apartment to celebrate. And by celebrate I mean watch them unpack. It's easy to help people move in, but it's a lot more difficult to help them unpack! We ended up watching a movie, and then Aaron put in Halo 2. Now, I never would have played Halo 2 with Aaron if Monday weren't my day off, cause I know that we can (and have) played for hours and hours. And hours. Part of that has to do with our personalities, but a lot has to do with the game, too. There really is a reason that the Halo series is so widely acclaimed. Even if you aren't a gamer, I imagine that you can appreciate how pretty (or at least well rendered) these environments are. If you are a gamer, you probably know how fluid the controls are, and how intriguing the story. So Jenny falls asleep while we're playing, which isn't odd... sort of. I honestly don't know why the such a thrilling game makes her sleepy, but it does. Next thing I knew, I looked up and Faith wasn't unpacking any more and was no-where in sight. We shrugged, figuring she had gone to bed. No big deal. Then Faith came out of the bedroom, stared at us all bleary-eyed and says, "It's five o'clock in the morning!" Naw. Couldn't be that late... is that the sun coming up? Hey Jenny, wake up, we have to go home and go to bed...

I haven't accidentally stayed up all night in a long time (come to think of it, that time was with Aaron, too) and I find this really funny. But, I need to interrupt the narrative for a sec. Now, before you run out and buy this game for your 9 year old, hold up a sec. There's something you should know. This game is rated "M" for "Mature." It is a violent game depicting an intergalactic war. Personally, I can separate fantasy from reality. And I have no urges to go out and shoot real aliens with plasma rifles taken from my fallen enemies. But the video game industry (just like movies and television) are rating their products for a reason, and you should take the time to learn what it all means before you buy your kids a game. All the information you need is listed on the ESRB site. You know what's appropriate for your children. Get informed and make intelligent decisions.
Now, some of you have issues with violence in media in general. And you probably have some pretty good arguments, even if I do disagree with them. (and by and large, I do) I see video games as a rapidly evolving art form, just like television and film, and as such should be protected speechh." Of course children shouldn't be playing gamesintendedd for a more mature audience, just the same for books, and movies, and television. Anyway, I'm curious what you think about Jack Thompson and his Modest Video Game Proposal? It just seems to me that parental responsibility is how to deal with the reality of violence in video games, not this guy...

Speaking of movies, we celebrated our anniversary by going to see X-Men III in the theater. I enjoyed it a lot, it is faithful to the philosophy and characters of The X-Men universe. There are all kinds of ethical andphilosophicall underpinnings, as well as themes of the battle between acceptance and blind hatred, between shame and selffulfillmentt. I've always loved these characters and how they explore all these things, and I hope that maybe you will too.

So that's more than enough out of me today.
Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh
053006

2 comments:

Joe Berenguer said...
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James Baker said...
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