Kidults

For parents who just dont get it!

Passing my faith along… to my daughter

Posted by samthambu on November 9, 2009

My two and a half year old daughter loves stories.

Stories matter. They give us meaning, significance and (re)shape our behaviour. I enjoy reading stories to her. Sometimes, I sit alongside her and watch her get lost in the cBBC stories. My daughter’s world is filled with cartoons and cartoon characters. She mouths their language, mimics their actions and she gets inspired by Barney, Timmy, Mickey Mouse, Justin and Giglebix. Stories like Beauty and the beast, Lion King and Jungle book have already captured her imagination.

While it is important for her to grow up with these stories, it is equally important for her to grow up with faith stories – stories about men and women of God who inspire faith and instill faith in our hearts. How do I make faith stories interesting and appealing to her? I am beginning to see the difficulty of speaking about faith as her mind gets crowded with cultural products. I have been telling bible stories but I do sense the need to (re)tell the stories within her cultural context of cartoons and attractive programming.

The other day, I recorded Bible cartoon stories and played them to her. She absolutely loved it. Now, Jesus stories have become part of her favourite list. She even comes to me once in a while and asks me to play Jesus stories. I now run a youtube channel specially for her and play kid songs, clips and other things regularly. I sense the need to create more media content for children. We need to produce comic books, computer games and creative material and make faith stories attractive and relevant to kids. We need to re-tell the gospel attractively, intelligibly and responsibly. I am begining to recognize the need to find new ways to speak faith and more importantly in the language that she best understands. And what better way than to speak in cartoons, comics and DIY style content. I have always wanted to do comic books. It seemed a distant dream.

Thank God for the internet. Technology now makes it possible to create comic strips/books online. Now, we can make comic strips with a few clicks. So I decided to make comics to tell her stories, particularly faith stories. Here’s my first comic strip for my daughter. I love the sun.

I love the sun

This is my first attempt and she like it (not a suprise…for she absolutely adores whatever I do).

Lucy loves the flowers

Hopefully, I will be able to do better ones and with better content. It is not enough for just a few to dabble with technology to make ‘stuff”. We need to make cultural products that will capture the minds and hearts of our kids. We do need to pray that God may raise animators, illustrators, novelists, children’s story writers, gaming professionals who will help pass the faith along to our Screen-agers.

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Why engage with popular culture?

Posted by samthambu on April 14, 2008

– by Samuel Thambusamy

I regularly write about films, music videos and popular novels. Many people do not understand why I do what I do. Worse, they do not attempt to understand why I do what I do. For some, it has never been done and therefore if it is done then it is “unacceptable”. Most of what we do in Church is the tried-tested and trusted approaches (however outdated it may be). For some others, it is a dilution of Christian faith – particularly, the one given to us by Western Missionaries. We are so preoccupied with “restatements”. We do not engage in “reflections”. The West becomes our touchstone for Christian beliefs. We are comfortable with our jingoism, empty words and a kind of sophisticated hypochris(tianit)y.

Now, why do I write discussion questions for music videos and movies? I see engagement with popular culture as the need of the hour. Engaging with contemporary culture is nothing new for the followers of Jesus. The Apostles engaged with the cultural assumptions at the heart of Greek Hellenistic culture. They brought the light of God’s Word to cultural questions such as homosexuality, marriage, food offered to idols etc. The early church fathers defended the Christian faith employing terms from Greek religious philosophy. The principle of engagement with culture underlies theological reflection through the centuries.

We approach popular culture with unnecessay fear. Isn’t it true that we fear what we don’t understand. Popular culture is the cultural air that we breathe and its influence is pervasive. What is popular culture? Simply put, it is people’s culture. Are cultural products neutral? No! Music is not just Music. Movies are not just movies. Magazines are not just magazines. They present (and promote) a philosophy of life. In fact, popular culture brings philosophical debates into our ‘lifespace’. Increasingly, rock/movie stars are the philosophers of our time. When a movie, song or a television show becomes extremely popular they become the cultural landmark of our times. Young people can never stay insulated to the dictates of popular culture. We must help our young people to engage with it.

I usually ask Sunday school teachers/ parents to list the 10 most popular songs of the week. It is not unusual to hear a resounding “NO”. I also ask them if they are aware of the movies their kids are watching at home and what it is all about. The answer is always a resounding ‘No’. We like to think that our kids are insulated from the influence of the media. But, whether we like it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not Kids are listening to the songs and watching movies. They are talking about it to their friends. They are reading about it in magazines. They are searching for it on the net. They are looking around to get hold of it

.Let face it! Music/movies/magazines have a way of finding us and entering our ‘mind-space’. Internet connectivity makes music (and videos) available, accessible and affordable. Today, you don’t have to wait endlessly till it becomes outdated in the West to reach India. You can get it instantly or at least access it on the net.

Do we help our children to engage in faith conversations in the REAL world? Often times, the teaching that young people receive is of no relevance to their lifespace. We don’t help them to make connections between the Word and the world. We do not let the gospel enter their lifespace, encounter the alternate visions presented by music videos/movies etc and engage them in a conversation with these competing voices and make an evaluation for themselves. We get into a condemnatory mode and demand that they throw everything out of their lifespace. It is as if we have everything to say about their world and almost nothing to say to their world.

We live in a fantasy world that our kids don’t have access to these cultural products. Most of us are naïve about how kids access these things in spite of parental control. I believe that is important to engage with popular culture. This means that we follow the music/videos/movies/computer games and magazines that are at the heart of contemporary culture (and define it). Shouldn’t we help young people ‘encounter-engage and evaluate’ the cultural products that enters their lifespace. We must help young people understand what it means to be “IN” the world and “NOT OFF” the world. The quicker we do, the easy is the experience of reaching Generation strange ( to borrow the words of Slipknot, a nu metal band)

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Fighting Pottermania?!!

Posted by samthambu on February 23, 2008

 harrypotter4poster051005.jpg

Didn’t we all cry foul about Harry Potter? We disliked JKR and believed that she’s done the greatest damage to generation “why”. We were scared of the potentially dangerous witchcraft elements. In any case, this was borrowed knowledge. We didn’t know it by first hand experience. We were driven mainly by fear. We hated the Pottermania that swept the collective imagination of our kids. But…what did we do to win back our kids?

Reactionary approaches never works. Just in case you thought you have insulated your kid from Harry Potter, you’d never know if your kid has actually stayed away from Pottermania. In anycase, your kid is going to read it when s/he grows old enough to buy them or defy you. What you need to do is to help your kid make the right choices.

Did you know that The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe by C.S. Lewis has been voted as the best children’s book of all times. Surprisingly, Harry Potter fared quite badly in the survey conducted by a UK based booktrust. Kids love stories and they love fantasy. Imagination comes naturally to kids and they are edutained by fantasy novels.

Now, have you got your child a copy of The Chronicles of Narnia? Did you read the book to them or with them? How do you help your child to make the right choices in reading books? There’s no point crying foul if you don’t help your kids and make a positive influence! There are so many story books available at the nearest bookstore. Pick one… right away and help your child grow.

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Rockstar – Nickel Back

Posted by samthambu on February 19, 2008

(commentary on Nickel Back’s song Rockstar by Samuel Thambusamy)

Lyrics  

Rockstar” is a song by the Canadian rock band Nickelback from their 2005 fifth studio album All the Right Reasons. Nickelback is a hard rock band most renowned for the modern post-grunge genre. It was only released in the U.S. and Canada, and has since been re-released worldwide. Since its re-release, the song has experienced great mainstream success, and has become active on most charts again, reaching new peaks on numerous charts. “Rockstar” is also one of the most successful singles of Nickelback’s career in the United Kingdom, where it has so far reached #2 in the UK Singles Chart and #1 in the UK Official Download Chart.This song was #100 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of 2007, despite the fact that the band has been consistently criticized by the publication
Source: Wikipedia

I’m through with standin’ in line
To clubs I’ll never get in
It’s like the bottom of the ninth
And I’m never gonna win
This life hasn’t turned out
Quite the way I want it to be
(Tell me what you want)

I want a brand new house
On an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough
For ten plus me
(Yeah, so tell what you need)

I’ll need a.. a credit card that’s got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club
At thirty-seven thousand feet
–(Been there done that)–

I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My own star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between Cher and
James Dean is fine for me
(So how you gonna do it?)

I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I’d even cut my hair and change my name

[CHORUS]
‘Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in hilltop houses, driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We’ll all stay skinny ’cause we just won’t eat
And we’ll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger’s
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blonde hair
And well…

 nickelback-040614-ls05.jpg

Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar

I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up assholes
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free
(I’ll have the quesadilla, ha ha)

I’m gonna dress my ass
With the latest fashion
Get a front door key to the Playboy mansion
Gonna date a centerfold that loves to
Blow my money for me

And we’ll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary of
Today’s who’s who
They’ll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody’s got a
Drug dealer on speed dial, well
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar

I’m gonna sing those songs
That offend the censors
Gonna pop my pills
From a Pez dispenser

Get washed-up singers writing all my songs
Lip synch ’em every night so I don’t get ’em wrong
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
 

 nickelback_063004_big.jpg

Commentary 

We all live for something (if not for somebody!). All of us chase our (wildest) dreams. Tell me! who doesn’t? We want to “Live Life KINGSIZE and we’d do anything for it. More often than not, we do “things” that we don’t like just to get to “people -places -and things”. It is tragic that our dreams are not fuelled by ambition but hurt and frustrations. We want to get “somewhere” just because it hurts us not to have “things” that others have.

Nickel Back’s Rockstar is all about the craving for – “a been there done that ” life. The dream to be a rockstar is propelled not by a sense of purpose. Rather, it is a desperate attempt to get what others have. He’s hurt. Standing in clubs that would never let him in – all because he is a Nobody. You’ve got to be somebody, somewhere in the corporate ladder. The constant rejection builds a deep sense of failure and defeat at the psyche level. You tell yourself you are never going to win. All is lost and it all over. Well… many of us can identify ourselves with this: Life has not turned quite the way I want it to be.

What is it that we want out of life? We think we know it but we don’t. We all want – a brand new house, a huge bathroom with a king size tub that would hold all our friends. What is that we need? A credit card with absolutely no credit limits – a big black jet with a bedroom – and an out-an-out out of the ordinary experience. We all have a list of “wants’ and “needs”. Why? We desperately seek a been-there-done-that experience.

 nickelback-040614-ls02.jpg

So how you gonna do it?! Simple! I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame. I’ll do anything. I’d even cut my hair and change my name. We all carry a prize tag. We are willing to sell our souls to feed pleasure to our bodies. We kill the soul to excite the heart and the mind. I’m willing to change myself – my values, committments and beliefs. For all I need is a job to help me get what I want. Hey, Hey, I wanna be a rockstar – not because I love to sing or to have a sense of fulfillment.

I wanna be a rockstar because it would help me live in hilltop houses, driving fifteen cars, easy girls, cheap drugs, hang out in the coolest bars, be friends with movie stars, hang out with the rich and the famous (who’s who  will get you anything with that evil smile), sign autographs, date a centerfold model (and live out my wildest imagination). You could do just anything for this kind of life – being the envy of the neighbour. You could offend the censors, do drugs, live that way you want.

But, Is Life just money, pleasure, fame and powerful friends? The poverty of materialism is there for all to see. Such easy life does not come easy. You have to trade Life (as we know it) to get life (as we like it). Is it worth to trade life, change your name (lose your identity) and your appearance all for a fleeting dream? Mr Loser, you end up as a loser! What does it profit to get himself the whole world but lose his soul?

What is the best way to live life fully and meaningfully?Don’t just trade your life for fame and fortune. Live it. Enjoy it. Be yourself. Don’t have a hair cut. Don’t change your face. Don’t kill your soul. Don’t lose life by searching for it. Pursue your dream – not at the expense of your soul. Live life with a sense of pride – not with a sense of hurt. Be a winner – not a loser. Be a rockstar, techie, academic, politician – just anything. Just live it “fully” and “meaningfully”.
 

It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Dumbledore, Harry Potter Series(CS18)

Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them – Dumbledore, Harry Potter Series

Questions for further discussion

Posted in Music Videos | 1 Comment »

Understanding Nu Metal

Posted by samthambu on December 19, 2007

Do your kids talk about “nu” metal and you are confused over what it means? Well… it is important to understand the lifespace of your kids. As parents we need to understand the music that they listen to and help them engage with their cultural moments. Nu metal music is a popular genre. Here is a little video that I chanced upon in youtube that explains to us a little bit of nu metal music.

This is just the beginning. You need to know the group they’re hooked on to and probably help them figure out the music. Because, music is not just music. It’s influence is beyond the entertainment zone.

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Can my Kids read Harry Potter?

Posted by samthambu on October 9, 2007

 By Samuel Thambusamy

Harry Potter – a household name

You just can’t ignore Harry Potter. He has become a household name, courtesy the powerful engines of Globalization. Harry Potter books and its product spin-offs are found everywhere. Even if you don’t want to read the book/s (watch the films), you still cannot manage to stay insulated. Hogwarts’ magic is slowly but steadily invading our living room through everyday conversations. Trust me, it is extremely difficult to be indifferent about Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Few books/films, like the Harry Potter series have evoked such ‘equal’ and ‘opposite’ reactions, all at the same time.

Pottermania: The arguments for and against

Ardent Potter fans find nothing wrong in the imaginative story that seeks to feed the human hunger for enchantment. While others hold author J.K. Rowling guilty of introducing magick to younger children. They allege that although the book/s unfold the proverbial ‘good-versus-evil’ theme, witchcraft and occultism form the subtext of its plotline. The worst fear is that the book/s (and films) would de-sensitize children to the dark shades of spirituality, now resurgent in the West.

Living the question: In the midst of a culture war

Would it be wrong for a Christian to read a compelling novel, which is creative, insightful and funny? How do we respond to the Harry Potter Phenomenon from a Christian faith perspective? What’s wrong about Harry Potter anyway? Can I allow my kids to watch Harry Potter movies? Answers aren’t easy to these questions. Troubled parents are living these questions. The return of Harry Potter through the sixth book in the series: Harry Potter and the Half-blood prince (2005) and the movie version of Harry Potter and the order of the Pheonix (2007) have only re-opened the debate, re-drawn the battle lines and kicked off the latest culture war.

Do not be squeezed into the (cultural) mould of the world

Living out the Christian faith in the contemporaneous world is a counter trend. Christian lifestyle is opposed to self-interests, self-gratification and self-sufficiency, which are at the heart of our culture. Apostle Paul had warned us, ” Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mould”.  It doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot to be able to face the contemporary challenges. The challenges to our faith come in different colors, shapes and sizes and contemporary Christians must skillfully relate their creedal affirmations to the emerging contextual challenges. Unfortunately, most Christians I meet, are unwilling to think through issues ‘Christianly’. The temptation is to settle for either ‘restatements’ or ‘readymade answers’. Some how, I sense a lack of enthusiasm to study God’s Word, stretch the mind and discover biblical principles for everyday life issues.

Thinking ‘Christianly’

Thinking ‘Christianly’ is only possible if we construct a Christian worldview. What is a worldview? A worldview is ” simply the sum total of our beliefs about the world, the big picture that directs our daily decisions and actions”.  A worldview helps us to make sense of the world we live in and also helps us order our lives accordingly. It provides clarity, consistency and coherence to the answers for questions concerning origin, meaning, purpose and destiny. Genuine Christianity is all about accepting the Christian worldview as a framework for the totality of life. Charles Colson contends

” Genuine Christianity is more than a relationship with Jesus as expressed in personal piety, church attendance, Bible Study, and works of charity. It is more than discipleship, more than believing a system of doctrines about God. Genuine Christianity is a way of seeing and comprehending all reality. It is worldview”.

Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Rome, points to the need to be transformed by a constant renewal of the mind

” …As an intelligent act of worship, give him your bodies as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed.”

Faith seeking application

Today, we live in the market place of ideas that compete for our attention and loyalty. The challenge, then, for a Christian is to expose counter claims and defend Christian truth in the everydayness of life. Theology, then, is not an exercise removed from everyday life but it is ” faith seeking application”. Commitment to the Christian worldview requires us to evaluate every truth-claim. Anything we accept as ‘true’, ‘good’ and ‘right’ must be compatible with our Christian worldview. This would mean that any and every idea must pass through the Christian grid, which would either validate a claim or expose its inadequacies.

The challenge ahead

Is the Harry Potter phenomenon a challenge to the Christian faith? I don’t think so. The Harry Potter phenomenon is not a challenge to the Christian faith as a belief system. Nevertheless, it poses new challenges to the Christian readers of the book. The book/s (and film/s) promote a neo-pagan worldview contrary to the biblical understanding of life and hence, the book/s (and films) require us to duly approach it with ‘Christian’ caution. Any compelling novel/movie presents its own challenges to the Christian. There is a tendency to look at life through the eyes of its lead characters, particularly when we are emotionally absorbed into the story. Like any other idea or a cultural product, the Harry Potter books must be evaluated through a Christian grid. It is at this point that Christians need tools to raise and resolve worldview questions.

We fear what we don’t understand

Many parents have been living the question: How do we encounter the Harry Potter from a Christian faith perspective? Would it be wrong if children read it purely for entertainment? Should it be ignored, avoided or at least read with caution? The debate rages endlessly.  Ravi Zacharias has rightly reminded us “it is far better to debate a question before settling it than to settle a question before debating it”.  I guess, the issue needs to be understood through an informed debate, intense scrutiny and diligence and more importantly drawing principles from the Bible to bear upon the debate. It is said, “we fear what we don’t understand”  and often times our responses have only been knee-jerk reactions rather than ‘reasoned’ answers. Children are greatly in need of a framework – a Christian grid – through which all of life is understood and interpreted. An informed discussion would help children acquire skills to address this issue and every other issue in the contemporary world.

Challenging cultures; Changing Individuals

As Christians, we also bear the responsibility of transforming the culture around us. This means, we must detect the socio-cultural underpinnings in the cultural landmarks of our time. This would help us ‘correlate’ the gospel to the questions raised within our context and setting. A study of the Harry Potter phenomenon will help us understand the issues of identity (who am I?), the longing for a new myth (What gives meaning, purpose and destiny for our times?) and the socio-cultural and religious mood (How do we now understand reality?) embedded in the collective consciousness of our children. This would help us to evangelize and nurture our children within our churches and beyond.

Can my kids watch Harry Potter films? Well… you be the judge. Remember, we’ve got to help our kids live out real faith in the real world. Engaging with the films which a christian filter is perphaps the best way forward

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THE TALE OF TWO MIRRORS

Posted by samthambu on October 9, 2007

 A faith commentary on Harry Potter by Samuel Thambusamy

“ It (The mirror of Erised) shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, more desperate desire of our hearts… However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible…It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that…” – Aldus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 12If you hear the message and don’t obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave. But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don’t just hear and forget. – (Jam 1:23-25 CEV)

Dumbledore’s words to Harry Potter are perceptive about human search for meaning and fulfillment in life. Faced with the cultural crisis of purpose, we seek after the desperate desires of our heart. These ‘deepest and more desperate’ desires of the heart are expressed in the realm of arts. Today, media reflects the hungers of the human heart. Off late, sex, sleaze and violence have become Bollywood’s selling mantras (especially if you don’t have Shah Rukh Khan). Film actors hide behind ‘the-script-demands-it’ excuses, movie-makers resort to deliberate padding and producers blame the changing tastes of audiences. Ever wondered why there is an overdose of sex and violence? The cultural products of our time betrays contemporary outlook on life. Media is our mirror of Erised. It reflects ‘nothing more or less than the deepest, more desperate desires of our permissive cultural mindset. Advertising is, Stewart Ewen contends, “ not about the qualities of the products being sold, but about the lives of the people being addressed.” Filmmaker and researcher Vasudevan argues, “ We must historicise media forms and conventions’ and ‘that would tell us more about the media as well as the people who consume its products — and about society.” We watch what we are. Not surprisingly, the dream merchants of our tinsel town tell us, “What you want is what we give”.

True, we watch what we are. But, we are what we watch. ‘We become what we behold”, said Marshall Mcluhan. Media, not only presents the troubled nature of our society but it also promotes the same troubled nature as prescription for the societal dis-ease. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s prophetic words are painfully true now more than ever before. He said, “at first art would imitate life, then life would imitate art and finally, life would draw the very reason for its existence from art”. Our cultural products are bedecked with images and visuals devoid of conscience, story line without conviction, characters without purpose, technical sophistication and finesse devoid of wisdom, music without content and lyrics without meaning. We are technical super giants and yet moral dwarfs. Little wonder then, if we have lost our moral moorings, and consequently distorted the imagination of our hearts and minds .Media, as the mirror of Erised, reflects ‘ the deepest and the most desperate desire of our hearts’. And thereby we know who we really are. And yet, we are lost in the fantasy world and we fail to detect the malaise. The blurring of line between reel and real life, and societal approval of it, is the true horror of the situation.

Info-tainment is not really the answer to the hungers of the human heart. Every attempt to reduce us to mega bytes, mega-pixels or machines has failed. We are more than machines. It is a pity that we do not recognize that media can “ neither give us knowledge or truth”. Media messages are constructs that are designed to gain profit/power. Media content is colored by the intent of media managers. News channels are not neutral. Newsgathering and analysis are not innocent. Entertainment is not value free. Programming is not for public service. Can we rely on the media to give us knowledge or truth? Dumbledore’s words come as a wake up call. Like those who have stood before the mirror of Erised (and wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible) humanity has surrendered its call, conscience, and character to the media. Dumbledore’s closing words are instructive: It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. Likewise, we must not do to dwell in a media-ted world and forget to LISTEN, as we ought to, to LOVE, as we ought to and LIVE humanly as we ought to. Who or what can show us who we really are?

The mirror of Erised shows us what we deeply desire and helps us live out this fantasy. It is of no help when we seek knowledge or truth regarding what makes us human? We must wrestle with the basic questions of origins, destiny, meaning and purpose if we are to find answers to that question.

When we stand before the mirror of Erised we see what we want. When we stand before the mirror of Truth we see who we really are. We see our disfigured faces and fragmented lives. The Bible, as a mirror of truth, discovers our inner most desires and thoughts of our hearts (Heb 4:12-13 ) and moves us into the realm of truth, not fantasy. If we look into this mirror we gain knowledge and Truth about ourselves and about the world around us. Jesus said, Your word is the truth. So let this truth make them completely yours (John 17:17 CEV). How can a disfigured and fragmented humanity belong to God? Bible, as the mirror of truth, leads to life (1 John 1: 1). The mirror of Truth is “ for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live” (2Ti 3:16). Therefore, it we see, listen and obey the mirror of truth we have a grasp on life. We must never stop looking at this mirror of truth, for it sets us free.

We have two mirrors before us: The mirror of Erised and the mirror of Truth. The mirror of Erised shows what we would like to see. The mirror of Truth shows us what we ought to see. The choice of the mirror is completely ours. We watch what we are and we are what we watch. Let us remember Dumbledore’s words: It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.

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Kids finding Faith

Posted by samthambu on October 9, 2007

by Samuel Thambusamy

Read I Samuel 3: 1 -21

” Samuel served the LORD by helping Eli the priest, who was by that time almost blind. In those days, the LORD hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he did not appear to them in dreams very often. But one night, Eli was asleep in his room, and Samuel was sleeping on a mat near the sacred chest in the LORD’s house. They had not been asleep very long when the LORD called out Samuel’s name. “Here I am!” Samuel answered. Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. What do you want?” “I didn’t call you,” Eli answered. “Go back to bed.” Samuel went back. Again the LORD called out Samuel’s name. Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “What do you want?” Eli told him, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to sleep.” The LORD had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice. When the LORD called out his name for the third time, Samuel went to Eli again and said, “Here I am. What do you want?” Eli finally realized that it was the LORD who was speaking to Samuel. So he said, “Go back and lie down! If someone speaks to you again, answer, ‘I’m listening, LORD. What do you want me to do?’ ” Once again Samuel went back and lay down. The LORD then stood beside Samuel and called out as he had done before, “Samuel! Samuel!” “I’m listening,” Samuel answered. “What do you want me to do?” The LORD said: Samuel, I am going to do something in Israel that will shock everyone who hears about it! I will punish Eli and his family, just as I promised. He knew that his sons refused to respect me, and he let them get away with it, even though I said I would punish his family forever. I warned Eli that sacrifices or offerings could never make things right! His family has done too many disgusting things. The next morning, Samuel got up and opened the doors to the LORD’s house. He was afraid to tell Eli what the LORD had said. But Eli told him, “Samuel, my boy, come here!” “Here I am,” Samuel answered. Eli said, “What did God say to you? Tell me everything. I pray that God will punish you terribly if you don’t tell me every word he said!” Samuel told Eli everything. Then Eli said, “He is the LORD, and he will do what’s right.” As Samuel grew up, the LORD helped him and made everything Samuel said come true. From the town of Dan in the north to the town of Beersheba in the south, everyone in the country knew that Samuel was truly the LORD’s prophet. The LORD often appeared to Samuel at Shiloh and told him what to say.”
(1Sa 3:1-21 CEV)

Ideas for Conversations

  • What is this passage about?
  • Who are the characters mentioned in the passage? What do we know about them?
  • The Lord spoke to Samuel. Could Samuel have understood what God told him? Discuss.
  • Do you agree that all children have a natural spirituality? What qualifications would you put on this?
  • Think of groups of children you are journeying with? What evidence can you offer that children have sensitivity or openness towards God?
  • Can you share some spiritual lesson that you have learnt from Children you journey with?
  • What are the factors in our church/community/culture that work to damage or deaden this awareness about God?
  • What is God telling you through the passage? What are you going to do in response to God’s word to you?

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The value of Spiderman Films

Posted by samthambu on September 17, 2007

by Samuel Thambusamy

He came. He spun and He conquered.

Spider-man is a teenage superhero created by Stan Lee and Steve Dikto for Marvel comics. The friendly neighbourhood Spider-man made his first appearance as a comic book hero in the comic book The Amazing Spider-Man in 1967. Marvel has published several Spider-Man comic book series ever since. From its ordinary origins as a ‘teen concept’- dealing with inadequacy, rejection and lonliness – Spider-man has achieved a cultural iconic status. Spider-man has made appearances in other media as well. However, a film version of Spider-man was long overdue. Thanks to Sony Pictures, we have a film version of the Spider-man story. The Spider-Man film series, began with the blockbuster Spider-Man (2002) and continued with its sequels Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007).

All the three Spider-man movies have been a phenomenal success. The movies have earned a whopping $ 2.470 billion dollars at the box office worldwide. Sam Raimi has re-told the story to contemporary audiences and the story has connected well with our generation as well. Stories have the power not only to entertain but also to excite and enrich ones imagination. Robert Johnston writes, “”Film, especially for those under 35, is the medium through which we get our primary stories, our myths, our read on reality.” An ingenious blend of teenage drama, technology sophistry, and relevant message have helped to capture the social and/or spiritual imagination of its audience worldwide.

The need for a hero

What makes Spider-man such a phenomenal success after 40 years of his creation? Perhaps, it’s simply the need for a hero – who speaks to our contemporary fears and hopes. David Lewis, writer and producer of contemporary comics, contends

“ We’re seeing a return to the spirit of heroism. We need heroes again. We want to believe in heroes. We’ll see a return to the spirit of heroism but not the actual military expression of it. Right now, we see enough of that in the news.”

It’s undoubtedly the love for a hero that has made Spider-man an enduring hero. Sam Raimi has made a “visual stamp” on our imagination through his contemporary re-telling of the comic book story.

Spider-man: Everyman’s hero

Secondly, Spiderman’s appeal is also due to his “commonness”. Despite the film’s fair share of superhero action, the story is related to aspects of contemporary working class life. We are introduced to a ordinary working superhero ( much unlike Batman who comes from a rich family and Superman who is a successful journalist) who struggles with the realities of a complex web of personal and social relationships. Peter Parker lives in small house, does the odd jobs to support himself and has to deal with demanding bosses at workplace. He is the typical “boy-next-door” who goes through the same experiences that everyone else gets to experiences one way or another. Stan Lee, the creator contends:

I wanted the character to be a very human guy, someone who makes mistakes, who worries, who gets acne, has trouble with his girlfriend, things like that. [Goodman replied,] ‘He’s a hero! He’s not an average man!’ I said, “No, we make him an average man who happens to have super powers, that’s what will make him good’.

Peter Parker strikes a chord with the audiences at the psychological level. Audiences worldwide are easily able to relate to the same growing pains of adolescence, the sudden discovery of hidden potentials and the discomfiture with the mounting responsibilities of adulthood. Peter Parker (Spider-man’s alter-ego) fights with his own fears, doubts and uncertainties before finding courage to fight for the greater good, even at the cost of letting go his dreams. In Spiderman, we meet our own daily tryst with identity, doubt, insecurity, guilt, relationships and power. Perhaps, this could explain why Spiderman so easily becomes everyman’s hero.

Spider-man: A mirror of our inner moral conflicts

Thirdly, the Spiderman films powerfully speak about “morality” within contemporary culture that suffers moral impoverishment. It makes you think about “morality” even if you are a “just-there-to-watch” kind of a guy”. Uncle Ben and Aunt are the voice of conscience within the movie. They speak to us powerfuly at various points and question both our ignorance and arrogance. Peter Parker’s Peter Parker’s personal struggle to juggle between ‘social responsibility’ and ‘ personal goals” mirrors our own struggles living in contemporary India.

Spider-man and and a host of other characters remind us that there is a battle between good and evil in every person’s heart. Spiderman’s continuing negotiation with the allure of evil mirrors our own inner conflicts and failures. The “ dark suited” Spiderman is a powerful visual metaphor of struggle with evil. The films come so close to expressing theological truths in contemporary language. The real success of Spider-man movies is its packaging of moral themes for popular consumption. In fact, the films raise it to a new level with possibilities for a transforming experience.

Spider-man: A vehicle for personal transformation

Fourthly, Spiderman’s struggle with his own vulnerabilities invites the viewer to undertake a spiritual journey at a much deeper level. Strangely, this superhero is not all about brute power, invincibility and ‘stand alone-ness’. Spiderman is about “growing up”, “moving on in life” , and finding life’s elusive meaning and purpose ‘and’ our existential struggle with the swirling tempest of the evil within. Megan Basham in her world magazine article Complex Webs contends,“ Spider-Man’s preeminence, at least in part, no doubt resides in the audience’s ability to see themselves in his adventures. As you watch the movie, you can easily make the connection and see how it applies to your situation.

Cinematic myths permeate our reality and make us engage in meaning-making, patterns forming and significance giving. It provides a transforming moral and spiritual experience. Herein lies the power of the story. Robert Johnston writes “As the culture has moved from a modern to a postmodern era, we have moved from wanting to understand truth rationally to understanding truth as it’s embedded in story”. Spiderman is more than a morality tale that conveys ethical images/messages to its worldwide audiences. Spiderman as a contemporary myth assumes greater significance for young people in the context of loss of meaning in everyday life – by Samuel Thambusamy

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Help kids pursue a hobby

Posted by samthambu on September 17, 2007

The newspaper article ” modern life leading to depression’ (DC 15 Sept 2007) caught my attention. Every one wants to live ‘fully’ and ‘meaningfully’ and yet…urban life just falls apart.  Computers and Internet (both emails and websites) have become our worst enemy.  They assaults our personhood, assaults our imagination, affect our attitudes and worse, takes away quality time with the family etc. The article stated that there is a direct corelation between increased hours of Internet usage and depression. We drove our kids to computers and even felt proud when they were at it. Now, we trying to woo away kids from computers – the games they play have become more violent, they are vulnerable in the web, we are scared that they’d access inappropriate websites etc. First it was the TV; now it is the computer… How can parents help their kids make the best use of their time and not waste it away in virtual space…. It’s simple… help them pursue a hobby. I was recently visited my friend in Hyderabad. I was pleasantly suprised that his two girls had taken to art. It was very evident that it was the initiative and the encouragement of the mother. I went through their entire paintings. It helped see the world (- their perception of the world of colours, their lifespace, their hopes and their fears) – through their eyes. In our busyness we abdicate our parental responsiblity to the Television and the computer. We think they are the best baby sitters. But then… they do cause a lot of damage in the impressionable mind of the child. Hats off to the family I visited… They have shown me (in their own little way) that it is possible to get children develop their natural ability for imagination. This does not need “expensive” toys but it needs our time… ( if only we can find it?!!) Let us not make our kids victims of our success! Help your kids pursue a hobby….

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