Thursday, February 23, 2012

Animal Tips for Writers: Venomous Snakes of America

There are only four kinds of venomous snakes that can menace your hero in the United States:

The rattlesnake,

the copperhead,

the cottonmouth (water moccasin),

and the coral snake.

No matter what some people may claim, there are no puff adders. Puff adder is an erroneous name for the hog-nosed snake,

which can puff up like a cobra but is actually non-venomous, relatively gentle, and prone to playing dead.

I’ll probably write articles with more details about each kind of venomous snake in America.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, February 20, 2012

Careless Words

I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. -- Matthew 12:36

This verse is an important and sobering one. If every word we say is going to be weighed for or against us, we need to choose the words we speak carefully. Our words should be words of life and not words of death.

The tongue has the power of life and death. -- Proverbs 18:21a

This is equally true of the words we put into entertainment. The prose of a novel, the dialogue of a film, the lyrics of a song--all will be weighed for or against us. The words we write are just as important as the words we say.

God has given us the ability to create entertainment, and He expects us to use it well. We must watch out for unintentional bad messages that may creep into our works, and seek to present godly messages as effectively as possible.

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. -- Proverbs 15:2

Additionally, we must evaluate any content that is “edgy” for appropriateness rather than realism. The point is not that we create entertainment that most vividly depicts a sinful world, but that we create entertainment that most vividly depicts God’s love in a sinful world.

When you get to heaven, do you think God is going to ask why you didn’t make that murder scene just a little bit edgier? On the other hand, you can be sure He’ll ask you why you succumbed to peer pressure and added swearing to your novel to be “realistic.”

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint. -- Proverbs 17:27a

We are responsible for the entertainment we create. What we create is going to be seen by many eyes--including God’s. The message and the content should be honoring to God, and if the entertainment we create has a message that goes against God’s Word, or has unnecessary content, that will weigh against us.

With both the words we speak and the words we write, we should strive to be able to say:

All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. -- Proverbs 8:8

Bible verses from the NIV.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Animal Tips for Writers: Slimy Reptiles

This is a series of short articles explaining common mistakes writers make about animals and giving cool facts about animals that might be useful for writers. Anyone who's interested in animals may also find this series interesting. Let me know what you think.

No matter how fond some authors are of describing them otherwise, reptiles are not slimy. Snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, and other reptiles are scaly and rough and dry, not smooth and covered in slime. Your hero is not going to encounter “slimy snakes” unless the snakes happen to be slithering through something slimy. If a reptile is slimy, it is due to living in a wet environment and not because it secretes slime like an amphibian.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: Winter by Keven Newsome

A young Christian woman who has embraced her faith without leaving behind her goth style heads to college and finds herself plagued by visions that coincide with attacks upon other students. As she comes to understand that her visions are prophetic, she also digs deeper into the mysteries on campus, and finds herself facing an enemy who has been waiting for her powers to be revealed.

Winter by Keven Newsome is a fast-paced horror thriller, smoothly intertwining a present day narrative with the story of Winter’s past. Both stories are powerful on their own and even more so in combination. While it goes on a bit long at the end after the climactic showdown, and some of its spirituality may not be entirely theologically accurate, overall it is a good novel both in its thrilling story and its presentation of faith, so I look forward to the sequels it seems to promise. Due to violence, scary scenes, and references to torture, nudity, and other carefully handled adult content, it is recommended for older teens and adults only.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Friday, February 10, 2012

Animal Tips for Writers: Reptiles Versus Amphibians

This is the first in a series of short articles explaining common mistakes writers make about animals and giving cool facts about animals that might be useful for writers. Anyone who's interested in animals may also find this series interesting. Let me know what you think.

Though some authors use the terms interchangeably, reptile and amphibian are not synonymous. Reptiles have scaly, rough, dry skin, while amphibians have smooth (with the exception of toads, who have warts) and moist or slimy skin. Reptiles tend to prefer the land, though some spend most of their lives in water, while amphibians need a moist environment and many live most or all of their lives near or in water. Reptiles lay hard eggs on land, while amphibians lay soft eggs in the water. Reptiles include snakes, lizards, turtles, and alligators, while amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Monday, February 6, 2012

Choosing Godly Entertainment

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -- Philippians 4:8

Do you choose the entertainment you consume carefully? When choosing what entertainment to consume, whether it is a movie, television show, song, novel, video game, or any other type of entertainment, there are at least six reasons for Christians to carefully choose the entertainment they consume and hold all entertainment to a Biblical standard.

Reason #1: To Please God

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. -- Romans 8:5-6

Watching a funny TV show or a hero stopping a bad guy in a movie, listening to a song about love, reading a book about kids going on an adventure, or playing a video game where the world is saved from monsters can please God. Watching the sleazy uncle chase women or the anti-hero blasting the bad guy’s brains across a car windshield, listening to a song about promiscuous sex, reading a book about kids who use the “f” word in every sentence, or playing a video game with an elven brothel does not please God.

The entertainment we consume shows who we want to please: The Spirit that blesses heroics, love, and adventure, or the sinful nature that is thrilled by graphic content and immorality. Entertainment, like every other area of our life, is either going to please or displease God, depending on what we choose.

Reason #2: To Avoid Corruption

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. -- Ephesians 4:22-24

If the entertainment we consume is filled with content and messages that corrupt, we will become corrupted. You are what you watch, listen to, read, and play. You cannot consume corruption without it having an affect upon your heart, mind, and spirit. You are replacing faith, character, and responsibility with lust, darkness, and filth.

Even when certain content is portrayed as negative, if it is too graphic it is almost always robbed of redeeming value. The sin that is being condemned is, in the same instance, glorified. This glorification is usually intentional, to thrill while pretending to be righteous. However, often the corruption is so obvious that there is not even a pretense of morality while sin is glorified.

Reason #3: To Avoid Corrupting Children

If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. -- Jesus, Matthew 18:6

When consuming entertainment, it is important to keep children in mind--your own children, or younger siblings, or other children you would want to protect. While sometimes a certain amount of content is truly needed to get a point across, enough content that children shouldn’t see it, it should not be so much content that a child who stumbled upon it would be harmed by it. Corrupting themes are to be avoided entirely, since they have no value at all.

Even if children are shielded from such things, it does little good if their parents are not protecting themselves from corruption. Such behavior sends mixed messages to their children and has the potential to expose them to the corrupting entertainment. Many parents raise their children to be pure, while explaining that certain corrupting entertainment can be consumed when “they’re old enough”. But adults protecting themselves and being good examples is part of protecting children. No one is ever “old enough” for corrupting content.

Reason #4: To Avoid Corrupting Others

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! -- Jesus, Matthew 18:7

Many professing Christians loudly announce how hilarious the latest comedy about a cool criminal was, how catchy the new hit song with the “d” word in the title was, how fascinating the bestselling novel about a well-intentioned serial killer was, or how fun it was to illegally street race in a popular video game.

Then other Christians, who similarly lack discernment, see them endorse such things, and go and consume the same corrupting entertainment, or else feel justified for already having consumed it, since “other Christians” approve of it. Corrupting entertainment is spread from one Christian to the next like a disease, and the few with enough discernment to not swallow it like everyone else are derided as old-fashioned.

Reason #5: To Avoid Being a Hypocrite

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. -- Matthew 23:25-26

If you believe certain things are wrong, why would you view entertainment that not only endorses but glorifies such behavior? Certainly, we live in a fallen world, and there will never be perfect entertainment. But Christians should give themselves Biblical guidelines to protect against corruption as well as to keep from being hypocritical in their entertainment choices.

It is common for Christians to endorse films with content and messages that they view as immoral and offensive in real life, but seem to love in entertainment. If you are consuming and supporting the same corrupting entertainment that everyone else does as if there is nothing wrong with it, then as far as anyone can tell, you love the same immorality that the world does.

Reason #6: To Avoid Supporting Corruption

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. -- Ephesians 5:6-7

Whenever you consume corrupting entertainment, you are supporting it, often by paying money to consume the entertainment. Not only have you allowed the corruption into your own life, but you are telling the makers of the immoral entertainment that you want more of it, and likely giving money to the creators so that they can afford to make more such entertainment and get rich in the process.

If all professing Christians stopped supporting corrupting entertainment, much of it would vanish almost overnight. The sad fact is that much immoral entertainment relies on professing Christians as a sizable chunk of their consumers, and many Christians are quite happy to give time and money to people who are equally happy to further corrupt them in return.

You Have A Choice

Many professing Christians can see nothing wrong with watching the latest slasher film or raunchy sit-com, listening to the latest hit song about staying perpetually drunk, reading the latest bestseller about an adulterer, or playing the latest video game where you can use bonus points to tip a stripper.

But the entertainment you choose to consume reflects your heart. The content and messages contained within the entertainment is going into you, and if you are choosing corrupting entertainment, it means one of two things: Either you are foolishly letting yourself be corrupted, or you are already corrupted and no longer care about godliness.

What are you going to choose?

*All Bible verses are from the NIV.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Secret of Kells

In seventh century Ireland, a boy finds that helping to illuminate (illustrate) the Book of Kells is quite an adventure. He soon becomes friends with a fairy girl and faces off against a pagan deity, even as Viking invaders threaten the land and the abbey where the boy lives.

The Secret of Kells is a unique animated film. The animation does have some weak spots, but in most scenes it is dazzling and colorful. The story is interesting and has some powerful moments. However, the spiritual side of this film is rather murky. Despite being about monks illustrating the four Gospels, I do not recall God or the Bible ever being directly alluded to, and magical beings of both good and evil have major roles.

By suppressing the spiritual significance of the Book of Kells and treating the Book as a sort of magical charm rather than the Word of God, the film is robbed of a transcendent ending, leaving confusion instead of triumph. The beautiful animation and solid story remain, but are overshadowed by the sense that something is missing. Content issues are limited to mild violence and scariness.

(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner