Friday, December 19, 2014

Christianity as an Institution

Here’s a snapshot of a conversation I had about Rob Bell and his expulsion from Evangelicalism.  I think it provides a succinct view of my current take on Christianity, so it’s worth recording.

“To be fare, Bell has questioned important parts of the Gospel itself. Should questions be asked, sure. Should a person be allowed the freedom in church to discover the Gospel without legalism forced upon him, of course. Should the church expel those who disagree, absolutely not. Bell is not however just an "evangelical" or a "Christian". He was and is a Church leader which comes with higher standards and higher responsibilities when it comes to teaching and proclaiming the Gospel.”

Me: Saying a Christian leader has higher standards seems to me to imply that those who come to different conclusions have lower standards or are not as high quality. But your point is, I think, that to be a leader in a particular group, one must maintain most of the doctrines of said group. As true of political parties as it is of religious ones. The problem, if there is one, is not that Evangelicals are too quick to denounce those they disagree with. The problem that I find is that Christianity is like any other human organizational institution that has doctrines that define in and out groups.

“I'm not talking about higher quality of a person, rather the responsibility of a leader is greater than that of his or her followers. There is Biblical president to this is well, James 3:1 for example when speaking about teachers. Also, all those NT sections about the roles and standards of elders.
And as far as the "in" or "out" crowd issue, well, that has been human nature from the beginning of time hasn't it been? This is MY family, this is My tribe, this is MY team, this is MY race, this is MY political party, this is MY religion, and on and on. Christianity, aka, followers of Christ and believers of his salvation, are in essence the "in" crowd because they believe. This however is not a judgment made by man, but by the heart of man before the holy God. The Gospel of Jesus.”

Me: Well this is human nature when we create groups. But ideas or ways of life are above grouping. For instance, being an optimist or a conservative or a liberal or generous are all dispositions that some people have to a greater or lesser extent. I think that being "Christ-like" can and should be in that category. No one get's kicked out of the Generous Ones United for Generosity because they don't give enough. Rather, they are simply more or less generous based on how they live and behave. No human institution is required. However human institutions GROW OUT of this human disposition such as charities and doctors without borders, etc. That's healthy and does not impinge on the basic human impulse because it doesn't stigmatize those who are 'other'. I think when the Christ-like impulse is ratified, doctrinized, institutionalized and reified it turns into something far less then it can and should be.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Sculpting Hollywood Style 2


One decade and two weeks ago I took a sculpting workshop from famous Hollywood creature designer Jordu Schell.  A friend at work had made all the arrangements.  Well over the years, and especially the last one or two Jordu and I kept in touch.  Thanks to Facebook we’ve had some pretty deep conversations, and at some point he asked if I’d arrange another workshop up here.  I’ve never done anything remotely like that before.  I don’t even remember ever buying my own plane tickets, let alone buy them for someone else.  (I don’t know how I made it to age 39 without ever having done so, but there you have it.)  Anyway, I figured it was a good chance to get some life experience and maybe make some contacts.  So I managed to figure out how to work my contacts to advertise, collect money from 30 people, coordinate with a local school (thanks DigiPen) for a room, buy plane tickets, hotel, oh, and I hadn’t even considered a rental car and daily stipend for the guest teacher!  

Well fortunately, even with a few bumps, Jordu is a gracious and easy going guy, and after all was said and done he said his accommodations were some of the most professional he’d had.  It took quite a toll on me, personally.  Being responsible to so many people, a school, and special guest has so many more fiddly bits than I had anticipated.  Still glad I got to learn about that stuff though.  

On top of all that stress I goofed on my class project, making it twice as big as it should have been and distorting my concept with an overly bulky armature.  So halfway through I had to start over.  Also, Jordu pointed out something about my natural inclinations that I had never put to that particular word.  He said my creature designs are ‘whimsical’.  And dammit, he’s right.  That’s all well and good for certain things, but NOT for the world I’ve been developing for the past 20+ years. Talifar is specifically being designed NOT to be whimsical fantasy, but realism/sci-fi fantasy.  I mean, I’ve always known that if I ever really got Talifar rolling I’d need to hire some REAL creature artists to take my rudimentary designs and real-ify them.  But now I’m worried that my designs are fundamentally too unreal, so I’m in a bit of a quandary.  On the plus side, Jordu spent a long time flipping through my decade-long sketch book and was VERY complimentary about my illustration skills and graphic design sense.  (I disagree with him on that; I’d say I’m moderately skilled at best.)  And when he came to my house and looked around my studio he said it was a sin to have all these sculptures hidden away in my garage, that I should be out publicizing them at conventions and such.  I have different plans for publicity, using YouTube tutorials and my Cutscene Subversion Project, but I’ll talk more about that later.


Jordu is quite a character.  Being his coordinator and taxi for most of the week, and sharing many meals with him I was shocked at how open and deep he got with me.  Maybe he could tell I’m the same way, in that I really don’t feel the normal reticence to share the messy parts of life.  However it came about I’m always grateful to have such deep conversations with anyone, and especially someone whose skills I so admire.

So here’s another chance to ruminate on how far my life has come in the last decade.  Last time I took this workshop I was single, desperately fighting for the custody and safety of my kids, and stretched to almost every limit.  This time I have an adoring wife who supports me and has given me the emotional and energy resources to actually coordinate an event like this.  Things have certainly been on the upswing!