Suicide Squad – a review

suicide-squadI am a comic book movie fan so I looked forward to DC’s Super Villain comic book movie “Suicide Squad”. It is made up mostly of second-tier bad guys from the DC Universe who are drawn together because of the fear that a future “metahuman” like Superman (now supposedly dead) could choose to use his or her powers for evil instead of good. The driving force is government clandestine operations organizer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). She proposes to put together a team of Super Villains to fight evil metahumans. The squad she assembles features sharpshooter Deadshot (Will Smith), psychotic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), fire starter Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Aussie thief Boomerang (Jai Courtney). The Joker (Jared Leto) is committed to helping his girlfriend Harley Quinn break free, first from prison then from the Suicide Squad.

Their main threat, however, is a demon named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and her demonic brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine) who plan to kill all humanity and take over the world.

Deadshot, Diablo, Waller, and the soldier that Waller tasks to lead the Suicide Squad Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) are well-written emotionally layered characters, with credible backstories. The other characters not so much. Humor and jokes work mostly thanks to Smith’s Deadshot who brings a fun swagger to the squad.

The Joker and Harley Quinn, arguably the biggest draws to the movie – are laughable, overblown caricatures that work at first but get tiresome after a while. Harley’s psycho-sexpot act is sexy fun at first but finally is just obnoxious, and the Joker’s insanity is all style and no depth. Leto’s Joker portrayal lacks the ominous, formidable layers that Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger each brought to their portrayal of the iconic Joker). The evil Enchantress turns humans into grotesque zombie-like faceless creatures whom the Suicide Squad battles while destroying yet another major DC city.  The special effects save the day for this movie that is big on action and small on plot.

For me as a Christian, the demonic activity was the most problematic element of the movie. The Enchantress is a demonic sorceress, who emerges from captivity by means of demonic possession of an innocent woman. The Enchantress and Incubus, her evil demon brother, create a dark and spiritually oppressive atmosphere. Fortunately, the Suicide Squad super villains become “heroes” and their transformation brings a spiritual and idealistic light to shine in the darkness.

Overall the movie was entertaining and a change of pace for DC comic book movies.

X-Men Apocalypse


Call it an occupational hazard but when I watch a movie, I often try to connect the spiritual aspects and life messages advocated by the filmmakers.. The X-Men movies all are obvious allegories on the virtue of celebrating diversity.  The newest film in the franchise, X-Men Apocalypseexpands on that theme through multiple spiritual references throughout the film. The question is, “Is there an underlined meaning or connection to all of them?” Maybe, maybe not.. At the very least it is an allegory on the classic battle between good and evil. (Watch this very well produced film for its exceptional cinematography then watch it again for its theology).

Some of the spiritual references:

  • Apocalypse (the original mutant) states the names of many false gods that he has gone by.
  • Magneto yells at God about why his life is so full of tragedy.
  • Nightcrawler constantly prays and genuflects.
  • A military leader says on the phone, “Our prayers have been answered.”
  • Even the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from Revelation 6 are referenced.

It is hard to miss the underlying theme that the “ruler of this world” (Apocalypse) and the Christian soldiers (X-Men)are at war. Satan wants to destroy the world and the good in it. He claims to be a god and even tried to get Jesus (God the Son) to bow down to him. In the movie, Apocalypse has one goal; to destroy the world in order to create a world he can rule. He can only do this by using others who have the power to tear the world apart. This is exactly the strategy Satan employs: he convinces people that following him will make them powerful and promises people whatever it takes without regard for telling the truth..

The counter to Apocalypse is Professor Xavier. He stands against Apocalypse by giving his followers a way out. He tells the Horsemen that there is a better way. However, Xavier, who has the power to control any and all people with his mind and to bend them to his will, chooses to allow free will. This is a picture of exactly the way Our Heavenly Father has chosen to deal with us – He grants us free will rather than imposing His will on us. God does not have to give us free will, He can force us to follow Him, but he does not want slaves but willing followers. So He sent His Son to provide a way out and then gives us the freedom to choose whether to follow Him or not.

Choosing to follow God makes us enlisted soldiers engaged in spiritual warfare against the god of this world.  Christians stand for truth, expose Satan’s lies and deception, and stand strong against the destroyer of lives.

Another spiritual aspect in the film, focuses on Magneto. He symbolizes the internal battle that wages within each of us; doing what is easy vs doing what is right. Magneto is living a good life, loving his family and choosing to do no harm. He is doing what is right: which is difficult, not easy.  Then tragedy strikes, he loses his family and this breaks him. He gives up and does what is easy – lash out with his power to destroy humans. The easy way often leads to our destruction: selfishness is easy, selflessness is hard.

No matter how bad things seem or how hopeless and trapped we feel there’s always an escape, always.  But we have to make the choice to allow God to forgive us. We have to choose to do what is right instead of what is easy.  Magneto brings this internal turmoil to the screen. I think it’s why so many of us connect to him as a character. He’s struggles with his choices of right and wrong just as many of us do.

X-Men Apocalypse is a great Bryan Singer film. I enjoyed it visually. I enjoyed the story line. I appreciated seeing the X-Men being portrayed as more grounded characters. The spiritual allegory and helpful life lessons were just icing on the cake!


7de7c0aa10e9f514e1a15dc44c5d0144When I was growing up, media meant network TV. Its voice was the network news broadcaster: a man who  read the news in an authoritative voice devoid of
any discernible accent, personal belief or visible emotion.  How old am I? Old enough to have watched the evening news  on a black and white TV that received only 3 channels. Old enough to remember actually reading the daily newspapers. Old enough to remember when the Net existed only in Science Fiction. In those bygone days the TV network news broadcaster was the voice of authenticity (admittedly he was the only game in town).  No one spoke more authoritatively and appeared more authentic than Walter Cronkite.  Today media means the Net. The internet has given everyone a voice, hence blogs like mine where I make no attempt to hide either my personal belief or emotion. The internet has given everyone the ability to become one of the media. Along the way authenticity has been reimaged.  In social media people who speak from a set perspective as themselves are seen as authentic, even professional media bloggers are expected to speak with all their idiosyncrasies and imperfections intact.

I believe one of the keys to understanding Donald Trump’s political success is that his media voice sounds authentic to modern sensibilities. Read his tweets and there is little doubt that he writes them himself, making him the first major candidate for the presidency to do so. Hillary Clinton’s (whom I don’t support either) tweets are carefully prepared talking points that  obviously are written by her staff — obviously unless she can be two places at once because sometimes she tweets when she is onstage in a live debate. On the other hand Trump apparently just tweets whatever is on his mind at that moment, no matter how nasty, degrading or untrue. He tweets like he speaks, without a filter. He uses the weird spelling and punctuation common on Tweeter which, ironically, makes Trump seem much more authentic than Clinton.

I am not saying that Trump is authentic, just that he appears authentic by social media standards. Authenticity is the quality of being true to yourself. I truly hope that Trump’s internet self is not his true self because if it is then he may be the perfect narcissist, empty and desperate to fill himself with the cheers of others.

I believe that Trump sounds authentic to many of his supporters because he explicitly disavows political correctness. Let me elaborate.

Political correctness began on University campuses in the 1980s in the wake of the sweeping moral re-evaluation of our society’s traditional assumptions about the role of women, people of color and other marginalized people taking place in Academia. A suspicion of ideas that we have inherited from earlier generations is healthy. Academia became sensitive to the fact that language perpetuates assumptions, especially negative assumptions.

PC was ridiculed from the start for two main reasons: First, the “PC police” enforce a mindless and empty adherence to the PC vocabulary, a criticism that is sometimes justified. Second, PC is cowardly, afraid to state the truth for fear someone will be offended. This is why some believe Obama won’t refer to jihadists as “radical Islamic terrorists.” Republican leaders went so far as to label him “cowardly”.  They chose to disbelieve his explanation that he didn’t want to legitimize the idea that these extremists represent Islam (anymore than the KKK represents Christianity).

Trump’s popularity has risen in direct proportion to his claims becoming more outrageous and hateful: his supporters apparently take that as a sign of his bravery. They believe that Trump is speaking truth to power.  As one who believes that “PC” actually is a means to granting basic respect and dignity to all I see his speech quite differently.  I fear that his “speaking truth to power” is really just hateful bullying.

The unparalleled freedom of speech afforded by the Web gave me hope that it would facilitate an appreciation of our differences more than ever. But instead I see a power broker like Trump being lauded as authentic because he “says it like it is”. Apparently what “it is” includes trumpeting his power and wealth and ridiculing anyone who disagrees with him. Rather than his speech producing dignity, respect and compassion, in Trump world the hard truths that only he is authentic enough to acknowledge produce xenophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, racism, and anti-intellectualism.

Trump’s tweets have turned one of the Internet’s greatest virtues into a weapon in the war to keep the marginalized right where they belong. At least until a final solution for them is found.

Worthy – a reblog from Join the Movement blog

CCF%2520Logo%2520%25282%2529During Tim’s talk last Thursday, one of his main points was that Jesus doesn’t give up on anyone, and he used Paul as a great example of this truth.  As he made this very important point, he talked about how Satan tries to make us think less of ourselves, how Satan tries to convince us that we have been given up on – by people, Jesus, ourselves, whoever.  Tim summed this idea up by saying, “Satan plants seeds of unworthiness”    This is so, so true.  Satan absolutely loves making us think that we are unworthy of so many things and in so many ways.

I think a man named Aeneas who we meet near the end of Acts 9 understood what it was like to feel unworthy.  We are told that Aeneas had been “bedridden for eight years” because he was paralyzed.  This is a man who had to question his worth.  He had not been paralyzed his entire life, so I would think knowing what his life was like before the paralysis made it that much more difficult for him to handle being bedridden.  Add to that the common belief in his day that physical ailments were a punishment from God, and we have a powerful combination of factors that contributed to this man questioning his worth.

Then he meets Peter.  We read about their brief encounter in Acts 9:34, “And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose.”  For the first time in 8 years (for perspective, think about where you were 8 years ago), Aeneas stood up and walked.

This is a big deal.  Obviously, the man is physically healed and that’s important.  But there is so much more going on.  First of all, Peter called Aeneas by name.  Don’t miss that.  He called him by name.  Chances are that Aeneas didn’t hear his name called very often, and that is dehumanizing.  He no doubt questioned his worth as a person.  Peter gives that back to him simply by calling him by name.  (This is a huge point.  Advocates for people who are journeying through homelessness frequently talk about the importance of asking someone’s name when you give them some money or food.  That way they’re not a cause; they’re a person.  Remember Joe?)

Satan had been planting seeds of unworthiness in Aeneas’ life for at least 8 years, but in one moment Jesus through Peter weeded out anything that had grown from those seeds.  He helped Aeneas see his worth.

So often our worth is tied up in our identity.  This is so dangerous.  If your identity is being a good student and you have a rough semester, then you begin to question your worth.  If your identity is being wealthy and you lose your money, then you question your worth.  So to keep this from happening to keep from questioning our worth, you have to find your identity in something that won’t leave you.

That’s Jesus, and Jesus alone.  He’s not going anywhere.  He loves you no matter who you are and what you’ve done.  Find your identity in being someone that Jesus loves and you will never have to question your worth.

It Happened Again – a reblog from Join the Movement

CCF%2520Logo%2520%25282%2529  It’s amazing to me how God works things – how He puts multiple things that seem unrelated together to make a powerful point.

Part 1: Last Thursday during his message about Paul’s conversion, Tim told us that we are all called to demonstrate the love of Jesus to everyone we encounter because since Jesus no longer has a body on Earth, God uses our bodies – our hands, feet, etc.

Part 2: I read the story at the end of Acts 9 about Tabitha being raised from the dead.  Tabitha was a woman “full of good works and acts of charity,” (Acts 9:36) who made tunics and other pieces of clothing for the widows in her hometown.

Part 3: My friend, Fred, writes a post on Facebook that included the following quote from Teresa of Avilla (1515 – 1582):

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Part 4: As I type this I am reminded of Casey Kane’s homework assignment for the kids he teaches. It’s always the same thing: LOVE PEOPLE. 

That’s our responsibility.  That’s what we’re supposed to do.  We are supposed to show people the love of God by loving them.  In doing so, we show them Jesus.and acts of charity.  Let’s be Jesus’ hands and feet.  Let’s love people.

source: UGACCF Join the Movement blog

Who’s next?

This is a great follow up with a great example from my talk at CCF 8 Oct 2015

Join the Movement

As he introduced us to Saul/Paul last night, Tim Hudson (former lead campus minister at CCF) made the powerful point of how God made the greatest Christian leader of a generation (Paul) out of one of if not the greatest persecuted of Christians.  He then elaborated on this saying with many examples saying, “the next (insert modern Christian leader here) might currently be (insert non-Christ-like description here).”  Something like – the next Mother Teresa might currently be a prostitute.  His point was God can and does use anybody to accomplish powerful things for His kingdom.  If he can use a man that persecuted Christians the way Paul did to spread the Gospel all over the Mediterranean rim in the 1st century, then He can use you as well.

This idea was struck home to me this morning by a reading from today’s entry in a book I read…

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Science Shows Gluten-Free Food Isn’t Actually Any Healthier for Most of Us

Gluten or not to Gluten? That is the question.

Gluten or not to Gluten? That is the question.

   I found this article by Tom McKay in Mic very interesting.   Any comments?

Bread-eaters, beer drinkers and eating enthusiasts alike now have something to rub in the noses of their gluten-free comrades:

There’s yet more scientific evidence that a gluten-free diet may do little for one’s health.

A recent George Institute for Global Health scientists study has found no evidence that the nutritional value of gluten-free food differs significantly from baseline food products, except they offer less dietary protein.

While those with celiac disease are certainly in their own category, the study found those otherwise eating gluten-free food for their “health benefits” may be grasping at straws.

The science: The research team, whose findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition, compared over 3,200 foods in a variety of categories, including both staples of a healthy diet and junk food like potato chips. The results revealed gluten-free foods contained less protein, but were otherwise mostly identical in levels of sodium, sugar and other nutrients.

“Gluten-free foods are essential for patients who suffer from celiac disease,” Jason Wu, the study‘s lead author, told Mic via email. But, as almost anything labeled “gluten-free” becomes increasingly popular on grocery store shelves, Wu said these products are becoming more of a staple for people who do not necessarily need them but simply associate “products that are gluten-free as being healthier.”

However, when these products are actually examined through a careful scientific lens, any such claims of elevated health properties mostly go out the window.

“We found that many products are now labelled as gluten-free, even amongst junk foods that are typically high in sugar, salt and saturated fat,” Wu told Mic. “Our results indicate that there is in fact little difference in the overall nutrition profile between gluten-free and non-gluten-free products across both core foods (e.g. bread and pasta), or junk foods (e.g. processed meats and cakes).”

Debunking gluten-free food: Claims gluten-free food is healthier have doubtless fueled skyrocketing sales of gluten-free food, which research group Mintel says rose 63% from 2012 to 2014 to $8.8 billion.

Avoiding gluten is very important for the relatively small but growing proportion of the population with celiac disease, which causes gluten to damage the intestines.

However, some gluten-free advocates go further, claiming gluten is responsible for inflammation in the dietary tract in gluten “intolerant” individuals who do not have celiac disease, as well as say gluten-free diet has beneficial impacts on gut flora. Some doctors believe increased consumption of synthetic and processed foods has led to increased gluten sensitivity.

But David S. Seres, director of medical nutrition and associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center’s Institute of Human Nutrition, said these claims lack scientific validity.

“Just like a vitamin making non-claims such as ‘supports heart health,’ people have it in their heads that gluten-free food will improve gut health,” Seres told Mic via email. “I think the food industry is simply riding the tide of hype and frenzy.”

Research from Peter Gibson at Monash University in Melbourne has suggested a specific group of dietary sugars known as FODMAPS typically found in higher quantities in gluten-containing foods is the most likely culprit of many supposed cases of gluten intolerance.

The bottom line: Simply put, there is “no evidence that a gluten-free diet is best for the general health-conscious public,” Seres told Mic, except for those individuals who have been diagnosed with celiac disease by a doctor or who otherwise have a “strong reason” to suspect their symptoms are directly tied to gluten consumption.

“There are numerous people with non-specific GI symptoms who claim to feel better on the diet. For these, there are possibly people with celiac disease but with negative tests,” he said. “But for most others, it is as likely to be a placebo effect as not.”

So if you really think gluten is behind your digestive woes, get a formal medical diagnosis. Otherwise, if the food itself isn’t even any healthier, then it probably isn’t worth shelling out extra for it.