Et Cetera Steven Seagal and Graceland: A Pilgrimage to See the Me

1
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January 29, Winter Issue 3
Steven Seagal and
Me
-Alexander Grudem
I grew up watching action movies of
all kinds. On the weekends my friends and
I would ride our bikes to the Libertyville
Video. There we would spend our hardearned lawn mowing/shoveling walks cash
renting one Nintendo game (usually sports
related) and one action movie. For some
reason the people at the rental store didn’t
have a problem renting R rated movies
to a bunch of 12 year old boys. Because of
this I got to see pretty much every action
movie that came out before 1994. I have a
working knowledge of pre-Erasure Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s oeuvre that would shock
most cine-files. I have seen 17 Jean-Claude
Van Damme films (it really does not get
better, or more mullet-tastic, than Hard
Target). I had, at one moment in my life,
committed most of Rocky III to memory.
Lone Wolf McQuade is, in my opinion, the
best Chuck Norris film. Dolph Lundgren
is still my favorite Fulbright Scholarship
winner/MIT dropout/action film star with a
supposed 160 IQ/universal soldier.
My love of action movies changed
forever in 1992. It was then I had my first
Steven Seagal experience. In Under Siege a
non-über-muscled action hero saves the day
using aikido. I knew I had found a new hero.
Anyone who could singlehandedly take on
a boatload, literally, of former CIA agents
now turned terrorists, who had taken over
the decommissioned USS Missouri intent on
selling off its nuclear warheads was a man to
be idolized. That and he had a cool ponytail.
I started studying aikido and taekwondo; I
knew that I would be just like Steven Seagal
when I grew up. I would have the ponytail,
and the dry wit to go with it, to make me
sufficiently badass.
I have yet to grow the ponytail, and I
gave up marital arts years ago, but I still love
action movies, especially bad action movies;
it doesn’t get much than a tub full of popcorn
and explosions lighting up the screen. What
draws me most to bad action movies, other
than exploding cars, is the lack of ambiguity.
I know who the hero is, and I know who the
villain is—I don’t have to make moral choices
because everything is laid out for me: cocaine
dealers, kidnappers, and rogue CIA agents
are bad. Army commandos, police officers
with martial arts training, and hardworking
FBI agents are good. The violence that ensues
is a byproduct of a society gone to waste
because of the dastardly evildoers. These
malevolent miscreants must be stopped, and
it is up to one man (usually), and his comedic
partner, to stop these malfeasant ruffians.
Graceland: A Pilgrimage to See the
King
-Paul McClure
upon his gravestone, a trip to Graceland
is for many an act of worship. The
devotion paid to him today, now 35
years later, proves that his charisma left
an indelible stamp on history. During
my visit, I met a nice elderly couple who
had driven down from Alberta, Canada.
Tellingly, this was their second trip to
Graceland, and when I told them this
happened to be my first and that I was a
native Memphian, they gasped in sheer
disbelief. “What!? What took you so
long?” they wondered.
All this, I think, raises some fun
questions: What does Graceland tell
us about our propensity to worship?
What is the value of a pilgrimage in the
modern world? And what is the purpose
of paying homage to a deceased person,
especially an entertainer like Elvis?
First, seeing Graceland not
simply as a tourist attraction but as a
place of worship forces us to realize
that most (maybe all?) humans desire
to worship someone or something. To
be sure, it’s possible for many to go
about life in the 21st century without
asking those pressing, existential
questions: Is there a God? Why am I
here? What happens when I die? The
distractions and entertainments of our
culture discourage deep philosophical
and theological thinking. Nevertheless,
I find the arguments related to the
human instinct to worship compelling.
St. Paul takes this approach in his visit
to Athens: “Men of Athens, I see that
in every way you are very religious….”1
(Cont. pg 3)
In recent years Steven Seagal
has not so much burnt out as faded
away. He became a U.S. boarder patrol
agent in 2011, and moved to the reality
TV/bit part circuit. His show Steven
Seagal: Lawman is an interesting
portrait of a man who reached his peak
twenty years ago and has since started
the slow decline into obscurity. Seagal
is still clinging to the idea that in the
real world violence is still the ultimate
solution to the violence of others. In his
show, this real life violence is glorified
and often times comedic in the worst
sense of the word. Though he still
possesses his dry wit, and still maintains
his swagger (accompanied by a strange
accent that only a person born in
Michigan would think was southern)—
Mr. Seagal has lost his edge. What made
him so admirable to youthful me, his
cocksureness and ability to beat up
riff-raff, now makes him a caricature of
the bygone era of certainty. Mr. Seagal
takes himself too seriously, and in that
solemnity violent reaction becomes
the norm. In this he reveals what is
so disturbing about violent backlash:
the need to be morally right. Seagal,
the moral judge, needs to impose his
righteous vision of the world on anyone
who stands in his way, by whatever
means necessary. This certainly makes
morality less ambiguous. It allows the
viewer to escape into the warm bath
of moral certitude. Why else do we
love celebrities and polititians, other
than the fact that they make our moral
decisions easier for us, all the while
entertaining us along the way?
Over the holidays I made
a pilgrimage to see the King. My
pilgrimage, I must confess, was not the
most exacting of journeys. I traveled a
mere 5 miles by car to see the home of
a man whose impact on the world has
been one of the greatest in history. I’m
talking about Elvis Presley, of course,
the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll. His mansion,
known by countless fans as Graceland,
is the holy site visited annually by more
than 600,000 pilgrims.
For some, visiting Graceland
amounts to nothing more than a fun
cultural experience. The glitz and
glamour of Graceland are unparalleled
by 1950s standards. The “Jungle
Room,” for example, boasts an indoor
waterfall, dark green shag carpeting,
and totemic wooden furniture. Though
born in an austere shotgun home in
Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis climbed to
stardom in his early 20s. His financial
success aided a lavish lifestyle at
Graceland, which included a $200,000
racquetball court, a meditation
garden, and a TV room where the King
would watch up to three TVs at once.
Attractions aside, Elvis continues to
capture the hearts and souls of his fans.
With over 1 billion records sold, the
King shares the pedestal with only The
Beatles as the most revered musician in
history.
Perhaps this helps explain why,
for others, visiting Graceland is a
religious experience. Whether it’s the
overflowing crowds at the annual Elvis
Vigil or the daily flower offerings laid
2
January 29, Winter Issue 3
Silver Lining Playbook
-Duncan Ris
The Academy Award nominated feelgood romantic comedy has gotten some
extremely high praise and a significant amount
of buzz. Starring Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger
Games) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) it
has been nominated for a total of 8 Oscars. But
is it worthy?
The film opens with Pat (Cooper) getting
picked up by his mother from a court ordered
8 month stay in a mental institute. This
opening sequence and the first half of the
film are by far the strongest parts of the
film, with Cooper in a state of spectacular
dysfunction and near incomprehensibility on
numerous occasions. Determined to win back
his unfaithful wife, Pat begins a disciplined
regimen of reading American classics and
running.
An unexpected dinner invite sits Pat next to
Tiffany (Lawrence), an equally dysfunctional,
mentally unstable individual, whose husband
has recently died. Sparks fly as they emote
their simultaneous physical attraction, and
intellectual disdain for each other, arguing
about who is more mentally ill. It is this
love/hate dynamic, which provides the most
interesting tension in the film, with Cooper
and Lawrence delivering undeniable on screen
chemistry.
However, the movie falls apart as it moves
away from complex character study of
individuals with mental illness and develops
an unlikely and clichéd plot about a wager on
a football game, made by Pat’s OCD father
(Robert De Niro), and a dance competition
Pat and Tiffany have entered. What is more
disturbing is that Cooper’s performance
suggests such a radical transformation, under
the guidance of some equally suspect therapy,
as to imply that “love” cures mental illness.
What is love? A question to big to be discussed
here, however, Silver Linings Playbook is an
impassioned plea by Hollywood to return to
the faith of the romantic comedy, the happy
ending and the cult of a relationship that is the
answer to everything… Silver Linings Playbook
denies love rooted in commitment or honesty
and continues the celebration of love bound up
in passion and chemistry.
While the actors deliver up some big
performances, in my opinion it was Robert De
Niro who stands out. De Niro’s performance
demonstrates a consistency and subtlety
lacking in both Lawerence and Cooper’s. The
two leads, though especially Cooper, present
big performances of a subject unfamiliar and
often scary for many of us. Without expertise,
it can be difficult to determine the authenticity
of these performances. However, it is my
suggestion that the ability to play “big, loud
and crazy” in such away as impresses lots of
people is not necessarily the best test of acting
ability, but rather great acting is in the subtlety
of performance, something that the film
lacks generally but is particularly deficient in
Coopers role.
Overall, the film is fun and feel-good-starting out quite strongly but gets bogged
down in clichéd plot devices. With strong but
overrated performances, interesting and clever
cinematography, ultimately it is the story,
which over reaches itself, and fails to deliver a
truly earned and satisfying journey. If it wins
Best Picture the Academy should be ashamed.
THE MI’s ATTEMPT TO
PROVIDE CHRISTIANS
WITH A NEW VISION
FOR CREATION
- Steve Shaw (ed. Kathy Kwon)
In recent years, Christian practice has received some justified condemnation for either
publicly opposing policies and movements
that acknowledge and address the significant negative human impact on the environment, or privately ignoring this impact. We
at Regent recognize that over the course of
Christian history, caring for our planet and
our creaturely neighbours has been an important lived theology of the church. This can, at
times, be a difficult reality to communicate to
those unaware of this new vision for creation.
Here is our approach.
Why Christians Should Care for the
Environment
The word “environmentalist” has strong
associations for many of us. For some, it
might signify those who care about what is
happening to the earth, while for others it
might signify radical ideologies that prioritize
wildlife over people—foliage over children.
Recognizing, however, that our planet is not
a replaceable commodity, and that the future
of humanity on earth is inseparable from that
of the rest of creation can help us reorient our
understanding of the environment. In order
for creation to thrive, humanity must properly fulfill its role to care for it. Likewise, humanity thrives when its environment thrives.
Insofar as an environmentalist is understood
as one concerned for the environment, as an
advocate, and as a caretaker, such concern is
part of our very purpose as humans.
Creation Care as a Response to God’s
Call to Humankind
People were uniquely called by God to act as
regents within the world on his behalf (Gen
1:28). We have been equipped to fulfill this
call through our capacity to dramatically
transform the world, and through our conscious ability to act with care for creation. We
therefore have a remarkable responsibility to
benevolently govern the world as God’s ap-
pointed regents.
The Difference Between Dominion
Over and Destruction of Creation
Our livelihood and that of creation are intimately intertwined, so to care for ourselves is
to care for creation. Scripture does, however,
acknowledge that humankind has “dominion…over every living thing that moves on
the earth.” (Gen 1:26-30). What does this
mean? There are ways creation can be drawn
upon in a sustainable manner of which the
Bible provides examples (Lev 25:1-7). If we
consider the world as an unlimited fountain
of resources that merely exists for the sake of
our own consumption, the world will not be
able to sustain our insatiable desires. What
we need instead is an alternative approach to
our role here on earth that carefully considers
how our actions serve the rest of creation as
those endowed with the responsibility to have
dominion over it. In this way, our dominion is
bounded by this purposeful responsibility.
Why the Future of the Earth Matters
Our physical world is not just an interim
placeholder in God’s plan for the human
race—a stopping point on the journey to
heaven. Instead, the biblical story starts and
concludes here in creation; this is—and always will be—our home. Of course, the story
the Bible tells is not about a static world, but
one that is growing and changing from the
garden found in Eden, to a garden city in
which heaven has come down to earth. Between these two bookends, there are signs
of how deeply creation has fallen out of relationship with God, such as hatred, sickness,
death, and pain. As the regents of creation,
we need to care not just for ourselves but also
for the world as a whole, and work towards its
health and wellbeing (Rom 8:18-25).
This column is brought to you by the Marketplace Institute:
The Marketplace Institute (MI) is a theological research and design institute that runs
out of Regent College. Find out more on our
website at marketplace.regent-college.edu.
Broken Beauty
-Genevieve Sechter
Jesus whispered to me like a sweet dove cooing in the wind
He carved delicate secrets into my heart about the mysteries of His Love
He said in tender words, beloved beauty, be bold
For the times are shifting like kaleidoscopes of faith filled puzzles dispersed
He held my soul in His hand and said, I made this
So be the creature that you are, for you are mine
I wept sacred tears for my soul remembered the moment that I left Him
And came as a crying babe into this world
And yet, as I have come to know, He never left me
His voice is in the rain falling on the landscape
His tears are the force that helps us grow
Our tears are the gift that lets Him know
3
January 29, Winter Issue 3
(Graceland Cont. from pg 1)
John Calvin, too, speaks of our
propensity to worship in his Institutes
of the Christian Religion. For Calvin, all
humans have a sensus divinitatus, or
an “awareness of divinity,”2 but struggle
to worship God properly because our
hearts are idol factories. In more recent
times, the sociologist Peter Berger echoes
these thoughts: “Men are congenitally
compelled to impose a meaningful order
upon reality.”3 The religious act of a
pilgrimage, I think, serves precisely this
function.
While pilgrimages might seem like
an antiquated practice in our globalized
world, the very fact that droves of
devotees pay homage to Elvis each year
suggests that pilgrimages are not dead.
We should not write off Elvis fans as if
they were simply an eccentric, one-ofa-kind bunch. From India to Indiana,
people are constantly paying homage
to their lords and heroes, whether
it’s Lord Vishnu or the Notre Dame
football team. Pilgrimages not only
educate people about the uniqueness
of a particular place, but they generate
shared experiences and promote a
sense of community, both of which are
desirable in modern cultures which foster
loneliness and isolation.
Finally, besides the benefits
mentioned above, pilgrimages are
alive and well today because people
find meaning in paying homage to
the deceased. Fans flock to Graceland
because they emulate a man whose music
and charm transcended the ordinariness
Enough
-Jake Tucker
Esau said, “I have enough, my brother;
keep what you have for yourself.”
Gen. 33: 8-9
of daily life and became a formative part
of their own upbringing. Reminding us of
our own mortality, visiting a gravestone
can evoke powerful emotions and
memories that tell us something more
about who we are and who we hope to be.
To close, I would contend that
any discussion of pilgrimages and their
value in the modern world should be
reframed to reflect our innate proclivity
to worship. The question, therefore, is
not, “Will I go on a pilgrimage in 2013?”
Nope, the better question is this: “What
kind of pilgrimage will I go on this year?”
In other words: Where will you direct
your religious devotion? What holy sites
will you visit, and what community will
shape you the most? As another famed
musician, Bob Dylan, once wrote, “You’re
gonna have to serve somebody.” So who’s
it gonna be? Who will be your King?
1. Acts 17:22-33
2. John Calvin, The Institutes of
the Christian Religion, ed. John T.
McNeill. Trans. by Ford Lewis Battles
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977),
43.
3. Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy:
Elements of a Sociological Theory of
Religion (New York: Anchor, 1969), 26.
This was published earlier on
Wonderingfair.com 6 January 2013
I threw up my hands:
enough is enough.
I learned to let go,
that is my blessing.
Now, I make my own lentil stew.
I eat it every day.
I was born with five tiny bruises
on my heel. That little shit
was good at grasping.
I still walk with a limp.
-Sarah To
Minnesota Wild Rice Chicken
Soup
for 8
For the chicken stock:
1.5 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in, skin
on*
1 carrot, halved
4 celery stalks, halved
1 large onion, halved, skin on
1 garlic bulb, ends removed
salt and peppercorns
Fill a pot with cold water and add all
the chicken and vegetables.
Bring to a boil then turn down heat to
medium and simmer for 2 hours.
Remove the chicken and discard all
the vegetables
For the soup:
2 tbsp butter
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
8 cups home made chicken broth
1 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice, rinsed
and drained
chicken thighs, bones removed,
shredded
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
4 cups half & half cream
salt
pepper
Heat the 2 tbsp of butter in a large
pot, add the carrots, onions and
celery, cook for 6 minutes on medium
heat.
Add the wild rice and chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and
simmer covered for 30 mins
Add the shredded chicken and simmer
covered for 20 mins or until the rice is
tender
I grew up, my brother stole
my inheritance. I would’ve killed him then,
but my mother warned him. He slunk away.
Out of reach,
not out of mind.
In a small bowl, combine the flour
with the 4 tbsp of butter until it forms
a smooth paste. Add 1 cup of your
soup broth to the paste and whisk
well. Pour it back into your soup pot
and stir until well mixed.
I was left
to look after my lost inheritance,
with a father who gave it away,
and a mother who nagged me about
how Jacob would have done things:
it’s better to work smart than hard.
I wrestled
with visions of my brother
wearing his hand-me-down blessing
in a land of milk and honey,
spent my time revising:
if only I had packed a lunch.
I put my muscle against these thoughts,
and won only exhaustion.
Last Week’s
Soup
Add the half & half cream and stir well
on medium heat until heated through.
Season well with salt and pepper
before serving.
Et Cetera welcomes your input. Article
submission guidlines can be found on p. 4
*Optional: Remove the skin from the
chicken thighs and lay flat on a baking
tray. Season with salt and pepper and
bake in the oven for 20-25 mins at
400F or until crispy. Remove, break
into pieces and sprinkle it over the
soup as a topping
4
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January 29, Winter Issue 3
On Women and Writing: Celebrating
Pride and Prejudice’s Birthday
-Monica Westerholm
Pride and Prejudice was
first published on January
28, 1813. For two hundred
years now, Mr. Darcy has
found pleasure in “a pair
of fine eyes in the face of a
pretty woman,” Miss Bingley
has taken “a turn about
the room,” Mr. Collins has
jumbled the order of his
“reasons for marrying,” and
Elizabeth has accompanied
Lady Catherine on one of
the most intense strolls of
all time through “a prettyish
kind of little wilderness.”
I first read Pride and
Prejudice when I was
ten and I have continued
reading it over and over
since then. It still makes me
laugh out loud every time.
I love Jane Austen’s irony,
her ear for dialogue, her
creation of characters almost
too ridiculous to believe
(were it not for the fact
that I keep meeting people
who remind me of them).
I have appreciated Pride
and Prejudice as a modest
work, dealing only with
such subjects as a woman
of Jane Austen’s time could
be expected to encounter.
It is not an epic. It has
no grandiose heroes. It is
simply a highly entertaining
piece of fiction. Having read
it as such, I wasn’t exactly
prepared for the view of
Jane Austen that I found in
Virginia Woolf’s A Room
of One’s Own. A Room of
One’s Own is a short piece
on women and fiction and
when I first read it, I had
never thought about women
and fiction, beyond knowing
that I was a woman who
enjoyed fiction.
Woolf’s title refers to her
conviction that in order to
write, one must have a room
of one’s own in which to
write and enough money to
support oneself in taking the
time to write. She marvels
that Austen did without
these. She wrote at a desk
in a common room, shoving
slips of paper aside as people
passed through her creative
space, careful that none but
her family should know her
occupation. Woolf looks
over her copy of Pride and
Prejudice and recognizes it
as a good book, one which
no one should be the least
ashamed of writing. She
wonders to herself if Pride
and Prejudice might have
been better had Austen’s
circumstances allowed her
writing more freedom, but
concludes that its most
remarkable feature is the
lack of any sign that this
would be the case: “Here
was a woman about the year
1800 writing without hate,
without bitterness, without
fear, without protest,
without preaching.”
This is all the more
wonderful to Woolf because
most of what she reads in
her study of women and
fiction, whether written
by men or by women,
seems to have been
written by someone who
is angry. She comments
that Charlotte Brontë
may have possessed more
natural genius than Jane
Austen did, but Brontë’s
writing is “deformed and
twisted” because she
remains intensely aware of
limitations imposed upon
her and writes “in a rage
where she should write
calmly.” Austen appears to
have simply turned a deaf
ear to the “now grumbling,
now patronizing, now
domineering, now grieved,
now shocked, now angry
. . . voice which cannot
let women alone.” Woolf
writes that Austen was thus
uniquely able to write as a
woman and not as a man.
Woolf notes the importance
of Austen’s choice to write
novels instead of epics,
taking a rather new genre
instead of one deeply rooted
in a tradition of masculine
writing. She describes
Austen’s refusal to write
with “a man’s sentence,”
(which is “swift but not
slovenly, expressive but not
precious”), a tool that she
believes caused authors like
George Eliot (Mary Anne
Evans) to stumble. Austen,
instead, “looked at [the
man’s sentence] and laughed
at it and devised a perfectly
natural, shapely sentence
proper for her own use and
never departed from it.”
And so, “with less genius
for writing than Charlotte
Brontë, she got infinitely
more said.”
I remember feeling
perplexed when I first read
A Room of One’s Own. I had
never thought about writing
as a woman and I was
pretty sure my sentences
lacked the shapeliness of
Austen’s. Was I attempting
to write with a tool devised
by men for men? Was I
stumbling over it? Did I
have some sort of duty to
my sex to discover what
a truly feminine sentence
looks like and to promote
it? This is, I think, the
feeling most women have in
first encountering feminist
criticism in hermeneutics
class (a lecture that actually
begins with Jane Austen)
and having to consider that
they may be women trained
to read as men who should
actually start reading as
women.
Let me here confess that I
haven’t gotten much further
in my thinking on the
matter in the six years since
I first encountered Woolf’s
argument. Nonetheless,
six years later, writing on
Pride and Prejudice’s two
hundredth birthday, it is
Virginia Woolf and Austen’s
feminine sentence that
comes to mind. So where do
we go from here? I’m afraid
the best advice I can think to
give is to make a cup of tea
and sit down with a copy of
Pride and Prejudice, enjoy
Austen’s humour and the
fact that she as a woman
wrote what was in her mind.
And let us pray that God,
who made us in his image,
male and female, would
teach us what it means to
live and to create as the
people he designed us to be.