ST. PAUL, 'INSIDE OUT,' AND THE FORGOTTEN VALUE OF SADNESS

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While Inside Out premiered in the U.S. in June, the Philippines had to wait til this week in August to catch the film on the big screen. Oh well—for this moviegoer [Carlo], it was worth the wait.

"Sadness is normal. Sadness is important. 
Sadness is not the opposite of Joy, she's her partner." 
—Matt Zoller Seitz, "In praise of Sadness: the healing insight of Inside Out"

“Sorrow is better than laughter, 
because sober reflection is good for the heart.” 
—Ecclesiastes‬ ‭7:3‬, ‭NET‬‬

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In a world wracked by tragedy and grief, we have taken Happiness and crowned her queen. And the proof—if you will excuse the pun—can be found inside and out.

Today, popular ads on TV hinge on their appeal to our personal happiness. Our life goals are often propelled by self-satisfaction. And even modern theology has frequently pegged human comfort and pleasure as the predominating concerns of the kingdom of God—a quick glance at the titles of many bestselling Christian books the past few years should be enough to confirm this. Now there's nothing wrong with wanting to be happy; we all do, don't we? But our obsession with personal satisfaction both in and outside of the church makes me wonder: with all our good intentions, have we oversimplified what life and health are really all about?

Well, just leave it to Pixar yet again to uncover virtues both fading and long-forgotten.

THE HIP HOP OF HEAVEN ("UNEXPECTED WORSHIP" PT. 2)

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The second installment of the "Five Artists who Inspire Unexpected Worship" series brings things out of the rock genre and into the world of hip hop. But Jay-Z and Kanye this is not. Instead think: the orchestra in the ghetto at the end of the world.

One of my [Carlo's] secret music fixations over the past few years? Collecting well-crafted instrumental hip hop. Don't get me wrong, I do love rappers who can spit fire and turn a phrase. But there's something about the flexibility of instrumental tunes that has often helped me write, reflect, work, relax, and yes—get psyched up to kill the day's task list whatever that might be.

I particularly dig hip hop instrumentalists who blend acoustic and electronic elements in seamless fashion, as in the music of Emancipator, most anything from Cult Classic Records, and our featured artist below—a criminally underrated duo that has frequently left both Pat and myself in awe of more than just their music.

FIVE ARTISTS WHO INSPIRE UNEXPECTED WORSHIP: PAPER ROUTE (PT. 1)

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Carlo kicks off a new five-part series with a Nashville, TN band that knows how to write about loss and grief as well as love and hope.


"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD."
—Psalm 150:6

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Moments of worshipful transcendence are everywhere—even within some popular music.

I wonder how many Christians have attended Paramore shows and wanted to lift their hands in surrender during the climactic bridge of “My Heart”: “This heart / It beats / Beats for only you." (Or is it "You"?) On the folk rock side of things, there are great articles online that discuss the raw spirituality of Mumford & Sons lyrics. And then there are the interviews with Christian singer-songwriter Eric Owyoung (Future of Forestry, Something Like Silas). Since I started following Owyoung's musical exploits back in 2004, he has never been shy in speaking of how his Sigur Rós concert experiences constitute some of the most worshipful experiences he has ever had—and he is not aloneAnd it is on this last note that I can certainly relate.

Now it's not that I’ve had similar “God encounters” at Sigur Rós shows. (One of my biggest life regrets up to this point: missing all the shows they’ve played in Southern California.) It’s just that both Pat and I, like Owyoung, have frequently found ourselves drawn into worship by artists who don’t even label their music as “worship.” Is this sacrilegious or misguided? Let us briefly explore further.

GODS AT WAR, THE GREAT COMMANDMENT, AND CULTURAL IDOLATRY

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Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice for the Idol (1752) - oil on canvas

You may have read one of the more popular articles here at Victapolis entitled “Culture Matters.” Well, yes it does. I make no apologies for that whatsoever. ;) But listen carefully when I say that culture isn’t the only thing that matters in life and ministry—nor is it the most important thing. In fact, when we start saying that “culture is king,” we then move beyond the danger of being irrelevant into another extreme of being idolatrous.

I'm currently reading Kyle Idleman's Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart, and it is shaping up to be a timely read. Sometimes means can become ends, sometimes goals can become gods, and sometimes even good things can become “god things.” For instance, I am reminded that Christian consumers of entertainment culture (TV, movies, video games, etc.) must take care that harmless goals of contextualization and relaxation do not lead to harmful practices and cultural idolatry. Paul toured the Athenian pantheon in Acts 17 and found a helpful sermon intro (the altar to an unknown god); what he didn’t do was set up any of those idols in his home or his heart.

Listen well, dear brothers and sisters: There is nothing wrong with a hobby or a pastime. There is, however, everything wrong with a God-replacing obsession. This is not a given, but rather a possibility: some of our self-proclaimed pastimes may be idols in disguise.

"FIVE FAVORITE FILMS" WITH CARLO VICTA

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Lately I [Carlo] have been browsing Rotten Tomatoes' "Five Favorite Films" series, where actors, directors, and other celebrities discuss the movies that have stayed with them long after the credits stopped rolling. In light of this (and further inspired by Pat, who is currently writing a "theology of film" paper for one of her classes), I thought it might be fun to share my five favorites as well!

NOTE: The five films below haven't been chosen because they're necessarily the best I've seen (otherwise: The Godfather. Where?). Moreover, this list will probably change in a couple years or weeks or tomorrow. Really, the following five are just movies that I flat-out love. Here they are in no particular order (with Pat's short list following):

VICTAPOLIS VIDEO: KEY AND PEELE'S "TEACHINGCENTER"

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Few do comedy quite like Key & Peele. Their brand of socially-aware humor with high production values occasionally provokes and critiques even as it incites gut-busting laughter. Case in point: The recent skit entitled “TeachingCenter,” which poses the question: “What if teachers were treated like pro athletes?” The sketch comes complete with a teacher draft, a “Highlight of the Day,” and even a fancy car commercial with a pro teacher endorsement. Check it out below.

On a related note, it seems all but confirmed that I [Carlo] will be teaching English as a second language for a season here in Baguio starting next month. :-) More on this to come. In the meantime, enjoy the video! --C.

WEB CLASSICS: "WHY SWITCHFOOT WON'T WRITE CHRISTIAN SONGS"

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Some Christians espouse the view that the only music worth listening to is Christian music. But if you ponder this idea long enough, a curious question then arises: What counts as "Christian music" anyway?

When asked in 2004 if the Grammy-nominated Switchfoot was a Christian band, frontman Jon Foreman offered a classic answer. If you haven't read this yet, well, you're in for a treat. Foreman's words lead us to question what we mean exactly when we use the words "Christian" and "secular" to describe the things we make, do, and consume, and they lead us to pursue faithfulness to Christ no matter what our calling in life might be. So tell us, Jon: Is Switchfoot a Christian band or not?

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF [Switchfoot] tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Do Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonatas Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.

The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.

Gilead, Our French Press, and Slow Living

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Marilynne Robinson's Gilead.


 This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.”
― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

I'm often unable to pay attention, especially when the busy seasons start to kick in. Stillness, that oh so needed time to replenish the reserves of the heart and mind, seems to be elusive in our fast-paced world. Productivity is the name of the game (and ironically, I just wrote a post on how to manage your time well so you can get stuff done). Somewhere deep in my heart I know that a frenetic lifestyle isn't sustainable and the day to day is more than a list of tasks to be completed. It is also a challenge to be mindful when our culture seems to value high-speed consumption of goods, including information. We chew and swallow quickly, and before we could even digest it, we're stuffing ourselves with more. Sometimes I find it hard to linger in gatherings when there's a deadline coming up quickly. These thoughts came to my mind as I ate breakfast with my husband today, Coldplay playing in the background. 

I kept thinking about what it means to live slowly while I made my morning coffee and somehow, our French press gave me some nuggets of wisdom. Making pressed coffee is not complicated at all but today I found something special about the method. It requires me to slow down and pay attention to what I'm doing. I was captivated by the process: Boil the water and heat up the pot with some of it, estimate and scoop the amount of coffee needed, pour the rest of the water, stir the coffee to let it bloom, wait, decant, enjoy.

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