I am glad to announce that the web site for the Grace Agenda this spring is now live. You may take a gander here. One significant change this year is that registrations for the conference are now free. We will be happy to take donations, of course, but there is no charge for the conference itself this year. There is a short video invitation there — be sure to watch that.
A few weeks ago, I wrote briefly on Saving Christmas here, but I reserved a few extra things to say until after the movie released. It has now released, reviews are coming in, and lots of people have seen it. So here we are.
Let me begin with a proposition to discuss: Saving Christmas is a very successful fillintheblank. I want to say this proposition is manifestly true, but this is clearly going to depend on how I fill in that blank. Obviously this proposition could be made false if you fillintheblank with espionage thriller, or cinematic haiku. So how do I fill it in?
The reviews from the secular establishment have been really negative, and the reactions on social media from the world inhabited by tubby organizers of slut walk parades have been savage. But this is because they are incapable of recognizing what Saving Christmas actually is. This may be due to ignorance, or it may be due to hatred, but they are applying all the wrong criteria in their evaluation. This movie is a nationwide Christmas pageant, up on the screen for everybody. The basic elements are there — a Christmas theme, a Nativity family without a speaking role, surrounding vignettes, a narrator, and so forth. This is all presented in an unpretentious and straightforward way, and in reaction people who hate Christmas pageants give voice to their hate — which should surprise nobody.
For example, The New York Times review by Ben Kenigsberg says this about Kirk: “With a smile so wide and laughter that sounds so forced you half-expect the camera to pull back to reveal hostage takers, Mr. Cameron explains how several facets of the holiday — the tree, Santa Claus, gifts — have roots in religious tradition.”
Now that line about hostage takers is admittedly clever, but it is a clever lie. Anyone who knows Kirk knows that the smile and the laugh are absolutely genuine, and one can only conclude that Kenigsberg lives in a world clearly unable to recognize sincerity. It is hard to fault people for this, though, if they live in a place where they have never seen it — which is likely if someone writes for The New York Times.
For various reasons, to gruber someone or a group of people seems to me to show promise as an up and coming verb. It is a verb that has shown up just in time too — because that is what is happening right now to Kirk Cameron. To gruber someone is to dismiss the stupid peons out there with a supercilious arrogance, and with the critic blissfully unaware of the tiny bubble of self-congratulatory hubris he lives in.
And in the meantime, while doing publicity for his movie, Kirk has been conducting himself like an intelligent gentleman, which is exactly what he is.
After opening night, Saving Christmas was trending around #10 in the country, which is quite a respectable opening night. The next couple days will obviously show whether the opening weekend was as successful as opening night, but I would encourage all of you who appreciate Christmas pageants to make a point of seeing it this weekend. Prepare to enjoy yourself, and then prepare to be grubered. And if you know what that is, it can actually be enjoyable too.
Below is a very kind Facebook post that Kirk Cameron put up. After that are a few more comments from me about the furor his movie Saving Christmas appears to be causing. This was apparently a rumpus we needed to have.
Okay, some backstory. Kirk has a movie coming out called Saving Christmas. I have a short preliminary review here. As part of promoting the movie, Kirk and I had a brief conversation about Thor and Jesus that you can read here. And the book we are talking about, and the book that Kirk references in the Facebook post above can be found here.
Now I think I mentioned in my short review that the movie was not directly about saving Christmas from the Forces of Secularism (although that is related, at least indirectly). No, the movie is about saving Christmas from the forces of overly-precise Christians, who couldn’t find Christmas in their Bible search software, and who think we shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Now while this might seem kind of extra-Christiany, this is actually falling for one of the basic lies that the enemy is trying to tell us.
And from the comment thread on Kirk’s Facebook post where we are talking about Jesus and Thor, it is manifest that Kirk’s movie is absolutely the right thing at the right time. D.L. Moody once said that if you throw a rock into a pack of stray dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit. This message of saving Christmas from Christians is generating a lot of yelps.
In my time with Kirk, I cited a verse from somewhere in Hosea. Here it is: “For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.” (Hosea 2:17, ESV).
It is not the path of discernment to judge things by what they used to be. Wedding rings were a pagan custom — the Romans thought that a vein ran from your ring finger to your heart, and the way you bound your heart was by putting a ring on that finger. They used the right hand, and we use the left, but that is why we do that. Thor’s day is Thursday, but not anymore. I use that example because Thor’s name is not quite forgotten. Woden’s name is a little more distant (Wednesday), and Tuesday and Friday are almost clean out of the picture (Tiw or Tyr, the god of single combat, and Frigg, the Old English Venus). And the reason you make a wish before you blow out your birthday candles is because back in the day a soothsayer would then come ambling up to the table and tell your fortune from the patterns that the smoke made. When was the last time you made a little smoke for the soothsayer at your birthday? Well, you made the smoke but it wasn’t for the soothsayer, because you’re a Christian and you don’t believe in soothsayers. No capnomancy for you.
Instead of being ashamed of the superstition, you ought to thank God that the increase of His Son’s government will have no end, and then memorize Hos. 2:17. That, and you should take the scroogiest Christian friend you can persuade to go see Saving Christmas.
Now here is a fun thing for you to do. Not only would it be fun, but it is a combination of kingdom work, Christmas shopping, being nice to Canon, and brings a host of other correlative bennies in its train.
As it happens, Target has picked up a Canon title to carry, which is now for sale in all of their stores (except for the ones that have sold out). The book in question is Hello Ninja, and it would be good for pretty much all concerned if Target had a great experience with this title moving off their shelves at a rapid clip. They like that kind of thing.
So if you see the book, go ahead and give in to your nobler urges and buy it — the chances are excellent that you have a short member of your family who will read it over and over again. If you don’t see the book, please ask about it. That helps raise ninja awareness, and what is being a ninja about, if not awareness?
Below is a book trailer for this little board book, narrated by my granddaughter Marisol, to whom this book is dedicated.
Nancy and I got to see Saving Christmas last night, and I wanted to say just a few things about it right away. I plan on writing more about it in detail after the movie releases in a few weeks, but here are just a few anticipatory thoughts.
First, I recommend you make a point to see it. We saw it with a fairly large group last night, half of which had to have been under ten, and everybody had a grand time. In one sense, this is just what it purports to be — a seasonal flick. Enjoy it on its own terms.
Second, it is probably not going to be what you expect. This is not about saving Christmas from the secularists, but rather from overly conscientious Christians. This is not about saving Christmas from “them,” but rather from “us.”
Third, before anybody reacts to the “typology,” make sure, especially if you are not familiar with typology, that you grasp the actual point being made — e.g. it is not that the tree of life is the type and the Christmas tree is the antitype. It is that Christmas trees should be understood the way trees are understood throughout the Bible. Don’t treat Christmas trees any differently, in other words.
And last, this movie is the right kind of subversive. I expect a pretty big ruckus, and the two guys in the car are on the right side of it.
The Hound of Heaven is premiering in London later this week at the Raindance Film Festival, and you can see the trailer for it here at The Hollywood Reporter. It is a short film, so it will not be releasing in the usual theater way. When it is available I will beat the drum here in such a way as to help you find out how to see it.
This short film is remarkable in any number of ways, but the most remarkable thing about it is that it exists at all. A Victorian opium addict wrote a Victorian poem about all the baubles he had decided to pursue instead of Christ, and as he pursued them, he realized that he was being inexorably pursued. Bring this poem into a 21st century setting, have the pursuing hound of Heaven be represented by the rap artist Propaganda, mix in a hard series of surrealistic images, and you have a short movie that can speak across centuries.
When you consider the dilemma of mankind, you realize that there is nothing peculiarly Victorian about it — although the Victorians were full participants in this mess, just as we are.
Nate and Aaron rented an abandoned car dealership, built a subway tunnel in it, and a pool for the water shots, and a set house. My daughter Bekah designed the posters that were to line the tunnel, had them printed in Asia somewhere, just for kicks I think, whence they arrived just in time to be wallpapered up. Propaganda came up from California to give The Hound of Heaven his spoken word treatment, and did a fantastic job. Danielle Smith, an NSA student here in Moscow, gave a marvelous performance in capturing what it is like to run like a heroine in a horror flick. But the looming horror she runs from is . . . life.
I am not sure how many times I have seen it, but it stays powerful. We will let you know how to get it when it releases, so stay tuned — especially if you have any friends who are still running.