Election 2016: ORIGINS

The President sat in his leather chair in the Oval Office. A withered gentleman with ruddy cheeks sat across the desk, running a wrinkled hand over his hairless scalp. A small pile of orange fur sat in the bald man's lap. It purred.

"You're our best agent. Please say you'll do this," said President Obama.

"I'm old, Obie," said the bald man, "And I'm retired. I'm done. I'm out of the game. Get someone else."

"There is no one else," said the President. "Please. One last mission, that's all I ask. The country needs you, Don. *I* need you."

The bald man slumped in his seat, and he pet the purring lump of hair pensively.

"One last job, you say?"

The President nodded.

The bald man sighed, then nodded. He grunted as he labored to his feet, holding the orange tabby in one hand and bracing himself on the chair's arm with the other. The President likewise stood up. He saluted the bald man.

"For America, Don. For America," said President Obama.

The bald man took the cat in both hands and slid it over his scalp. The cat curled in a ball and thrust its claws into the bald man's skull. Small lines of red trickled down the back of the man's head. Once secure, the cat fell back asleep. It purred more loudly than before. With the cat secured, the bald man's face suddenly transformed: no longer a tired old agent, but a shifty-eyed, fiery businessman. The President had never seen the transformation up close before. It frightened him.

The cat-wearing man thrust a finger at the President.

"You're sitting in my seat!" he shouted, his voice just loud enough to mask the cat's purring.

"There he is," said the President. "Go get 'em."

The cat-wearing man strode over to the great mahogany door that lead out of the Oval Office and pounded it twice with a balled fist. The Secret Service agent on the other side opened the door and nodded.

"Don," called President Obama.

The cat-wearing man turned. He was scowling.

"Say it just once. For me."

The agent leaned back and drew a deep, dramatic breath, as if though he were about to spit out a hurricane.

"Mister President," he shouted, wildly jabbing the air with his pointer finger.


The 76 Theses of a Christian Videogame Critic

Skip to #40 if you'd rather skip the discourse on theistic cosmogony and theology of the Resurrection.

  1. The universe exists.
  2. The universe had a fixed beginning in time.
  3. Without a fixed beginning in time, reality would have to cross an actual infinite of time before arriving at the present.
  4. The universe had a cause.
  5. The cause of the universe is external to nature.
  6. Nature, having finite usable energy which is always decreasing, is not causa sui.
  7. An uncaused cause, causa sui, created the universe, and time and space with it.
  8. This "First Cause" has a mind and therefore a will.
  9. The First Cause has properties which may be described positively or negatively (aphopatically).
  10. Amongst these properties is that of love.
  11. Love is relational, between persons.
  12. The First Cause loves between persons.
  13. The First Cause is a community of persons.
  14. The First Cause (hereafter "God") is also creative.
  15. God created the universe, assigning it properties (natural laws) and creating celestial bodies.
  16. God deemed his creation good.
  17. God, out of love, created a relational creature on one planet and placed him within a garden.
  18. This creature he called man, whom he made "in his image."
  19. Man, an image of the Creator, was given rule over lower creatures.
  20. Man was given language, conscience, and free will.
  21. Man's purpose was to enjoy both Creator and creation.
  22. Man rejected his Creator.
  23. To reject God is to reject the only true source of life and light in the universe.
  24. In rejecting life, man suffers the curse of sin, decay, and mortality.
  25. God removed man from the primeval garden.
  26. God revealed his nature, character, and purposes to the descendants of the first man.
  27. God chose a people to become the nation through which his plans would be accomplished.
  28. At the appointed time in history, God the Son (the second person of God, who is a community), entered creation as both divine (supernatural) and man (natural).
  29. The Son died a traitor's death, on the cross, at the hands of an occupying nation.
  30. The Son's death fulfilled the sacrificial laws of the chosen nation.
  31. The Son, blameless himself, bore the sins of all men at his sacrifice.
  32. After three days the Son rose from the grave, breaking the curse of sin over mankind.
  33. Through the Son man once again enjoys communion with God, as he once did in the garden.
  34. The Son appointed his followers to carry the news of his works, perform deeds in his name, and to prepare for the eschaton, or time's end.
  35. The Son gifted his followers the seal of the Spirit, who is the third and last member of God, who is a trinity.
  36. The followers of the Son too become sons and daughters of God, and thus become fellow heirs with the Son of God.
  37. In the Son, creation is redeemed.
  38. The Son has authority over all creation.
  39. Material reality, therefore, is not evil (as the pagan ancients feared).
  40. Creation reveals truth to the nature of God.
  41. Natural works and works created by the hands of men may reveal such truths.
  42. Truth is reality as known by God, who is the omniscient and omnipresent author of reality.
  43. Any truths are God's truths.
  44. A truth revealed by nature, industry, or art, is necessarily God's truth.
  45. Art is any creative expression of man.
  46. Art is material, therefore redeemed and under the dominion of the Son.
  47. As the Son is the divine made flesh, that is, incarnational, art, being truth made material, is an image of the image of God.
  48. Art is the hypostatic union of form and content.
  49. Art communicates via this union.
  50. Art may communicate emotion, experience, or even information.
  51. Art reveals and expresses aspects of creation, human nature, and even the divine.
  52. Art may even speak of that which it does not know, such as the altar to the unknown god at the Aeropagus.
  53. It is commanded, "Be quick to listen and slow to speak."
  54. It is commanded, "Regard others as better than yourselves."
  55. It is commanded, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
  56. Therefore, when art speaks, be quick to listen, regard the artist with humility, and think of them in love.
  57. Let the art speak its mind on fears, follies, joys, sorrows, frustrations, hopes, and desires.
  58. Criticism too is an art.
  59. Criticism is an art parallel to the medium which it analyzes.
  60. Criticism is literature that attempts to describe the communion between art and viewer.
  61. Much of art cannot be reduced to words. That is why it is expressed in different mediums.
  62. Criticism can only try to render that experience into words.
  63. Criticism is therefore not identical to the art. It cannot replace the art it describes or supersede it.
  64. A videogame is a creative expression of man, and is therefore an art.
  65. Videogame criticism is art dependent upon but distinct from videogames themselves.
  66. Videogame criticism is a literary endeavor that describes what the hypostatic union of a videogame's form and content communicates to the player.
  67. The Christian videogame critic, sealed with the Spirit, in communion with God, understanding God's redemption and sovereignty over creation, understanding that videogames communicate truths that point us towards God, may therefore write on the truths of God which the videogame illumines.
  68. But don't make your criticism an altar call.
  69. Nobody wants to read that.
  70. And videogames aren't microwaves.
  71. Don't rate them on numeric scales based on how much bang for your buck you get.
  72. Numeric scales for qualitative assessments are stupid anyway.
  73. In general, consumer views of videogames are the most boring thing to read ever.
  74. Ultimately, Christian videogame criticism is this: to enter into the videogame as on object of contemplation itself, to listen with a sympathetic ear to what it says through its form and content about the universals of human experience (which, being universal, reveal something of man as seen by God or man's relationship with God), and to record that contemplation, that communion, in your own literary style, understanding that as a critic you are also an artist.
  75. As an artist, people will respond with their own criticism. Receive it charitably.
  76. Above all, love God, and love your neighbor. Criticism, done in this spirit, succeeds in both.

Stephen Colbert on joy, Pope Francis, and being a fool for Christ

Back in April, Comedian extraordinaire Stephen Colbert sat down for an interview with the Salt + Light Media, which has finally seen the light of day. Colbert sheds his famous persona for an earnest, thoughtful discussion, and the results are compelling and heart-warming. Below the video, I've hastily transcribed some highlights.

On the Colbert Report:
"When people invite me to do things, I don't always know who they've invited....me, or the the guy on the television show."

"[Colbert's on-air character] was an idiot....but a fool is a hard thing to consistently achieve as a performer."

Colbert: "He's a fool because he doesn't act according to logic and he doesn't act according to social norms and he doesn't act according to social expectations[....]"
Rosica: "Aren't We're all fools for Christ?"
Colbert: *Breathes* "Yeah, willing to be wrong in society or wrong according to the time, but right according to our conscience, which is guided by the Holy Spirit."
"Are you writing this down, by the way? I should have this in Latin."

Rosica: "When did you have trouble staying in character?"
Colbert: "When I had interviews with someone on subjects I was truly interested in."

On the Charlie Hedbo attacks:
"There is no sufficient response I could have thought of. I feel very lucky to not have been on air....finding humor in the horror and tragedy of others is not my job. Part of my job is to have the discretion not to have to do that. That was my first reaction. It was kind of a selfish one."

"My second reaction is that this was the 14th century, Christians could have done this....in the ultimate sense, I don't perceive that action as indicative of Islam....every religion has in so defense of its beliefs it has actually abandoned its beliefs at times."

"This is, I hope, the right relationship to have with your faith, which is to love it, but not to exclude it from your intellect."

On faith and reason:
"Carl Sagan said that 'Buddhists believe that their God is so great that he need not actually exist'....I really like that, because it reminds me of St. Anselm of Canterbury's ontological argument for the existence of God. You know, "the fool says in his heart that there is no God, but by God he means that being then which no greater being can be conceived," and he goes into this lovely 13 step proof that God must exist because we conceive of the word. It's logically perfect. It's completely unsatisfying. Faith ultimately can't be argued. Faith has to be felt. Hopefully you can still feel your faith fully and let your mind have a logical life of its own. They do not defy each other, but compliment each other. Because logic itself, I don't think--for me, Aquinas might say differently--logic itself will not lead me to God. But my love of the world and my gratitude toward it will. Hopefully I can use my mind to make my jokes and not deny my love for God at the same time."

On Jesus and laughter:
Rosica: "One thing I don't find in the New Testament is that Jesus laughed."
Colbert: *laughing* "No! You do find that Jesus wept. That's tough for a comedian. Nowhere does it say that Jesus, you know, guffawed....nowhere does it say, 'Jesus busted a gut.' It does say Judas busted a gut."

"Here's where I think Jesus had to have been laughing. Or at least smiling. Where were they? Off of Capernaum somewhere. Caupernaum was Peter's hometown, right? Sea of Gallilee. There's a storm, the fishermen are out there. Peter, his brother Andrew? He was out there with the other apostles, or the other fishermen. Storm, they don't know what they do, and they see Jesus walking across the water toward them, calming the waves as he goes. Peter, you know, he does his best. [*laughs*] He takes a risk. 'I believe I can do that too.' He throws a leg over, walks across the water a bit. But then he looks down, loses his faith, and drops. I have to imagine that looked like Wile E. Coyote running too far off a cliff and then going 'Huh?' and going WSHHH down into the canyon. If Jesus didn't laugh then, I'm in big trouble, because that's the God I worship."

Rosica: "What's your understanding of humor? Why is humor important for the human condition?...What's your role in humor?"
Colbert: "Well, on one level, humor's a release valve of tension. The world doesn't make sense to us sometimes, and the incongruity of jokes is actually like a release."

"[Humor] is a communication tool. It's communicating the incongruities of life."

"In flippancy, no joke has been made....it armors the soul against joy and deadens the intellect."

"If you're flippant, it's the opposite of joy."

"Here's a purpose of humor, of laughter really, because humor is a soft term. I've said this before, but you can't laugh and be afraid at the same time. And I don't mean mentally you can't hold both things at the same time. It's autonomic, somehow physical. I think it's one of the reasons we laugh when we're afraid. Our body is trying to get rid of that feeling inside of us. But if you're laughing, you know, you just won't be afraid. Why is why it's so important to laugh at the devil.  I forgot who said it, it might have been Milton who said, 'You must laugh at the devil, because mockery alone cannot abide.'"

"Joy is super important...the only way to approach something that is really hard is with joy, because if you don't approach it with joy, it's just a machine, and it will grind you up. The lesson I learned is that doing something joyfully doesn't make it easier, but it does make it better."

"What do we want to be? Not alone."

On Pope Francis's joy:
"I don't presume to know exactly, but I assume that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. You know, my favorite passage from the Gospel is, 'So I say to you, do not worry, for who among you by worrying can change the hair his head or add a cubit to the span of his life" sort of thing. The opposite of worry is joy. The opposite anger is peace. The opposite of fear would be laughter. I assume that [Pope Francis] takes the Gospel to heart and does not worry. When people are angry, I think mostly they're afraid."

"It's the Beatles of the Bible, the Sermon of the Mount."

"If you take that line of the Gospel to heart, and it's hard you know, it's hard, then I think you have a much better chance of living in joy, because you're living in acceptance. You're not afraid of what's going to happen to you."

"Christ doesn't say 'try not to worry.' He says do not worry. It's close to a commandment."

"One of the reasons we don't give to the poor is the fear that we won't have anything."

"I like the recapitulation of the Last Supper. I really like it. The physical action of it makes the Eucharist real for me."

"When I heard a woman say [this is my body], who I don't perceive of as a priest, it invited me to perceive everyone who isn't a priest as engaging in the Sacrament in an active way. It opened my eyes to the message of the moment, of the Gospel and the Mass, in a way I hadn't before. And now I invite everyone to attack me for suggesting women should be priests."

On what he would ask Pope Francis if interviewed on Colbert's new show:
"I would ask him one of the questions you asked me, which is 'How do you achieve joy?' Because it is *breathes*...well, no. Joy ad love.  Joy hangs in the expression of love of the moment you're in right now and the love of the person you're with right now. I would ask him about how love leads him to joy, or does love lead him to joy. e. e. cummings said that 'Love is the ever only God who breathes this world so glad and big.' He also said that, 'who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you. wholly to be a fool my blood approves.' So I would ask him about being a fool for Christ." 

"To be a fool for Christ is to love. We are here to dig our brief moment in time. I would ask him how he puts that first. How you get to where you are in the church and not to be consumed by the law, as opposed to the love that lead to the law."

Rosica: "Do you have a favorite moment of Saint Francis?"
Colbert: "I like it when he spends time with developmentally disabled people in St. Peter's Square, to take a moment to give them dignity of his attention and respect, is also very moving to me. Washing the feet of a Muslim woman."

"The Church is a flawed and human institution for whom I always have hope. I have no doubt he is far from a perfect man, but he gives me hope that the message of joy that he wants to spread right now an be seen not as revolutionary, but as a manifestation of something that's always been there."