Facebook: A Failed Experiment

I have become completely sick of Facebook. Originally, I joined Facebook to communicate with my friends. Mostly though, it has just been a corrosive parasite eating away at my soul. It has been just a black holes of time and energy since it entered my life. It just sucks in time, energy and selfies. To misquote Pirates of the Caribbean, it “takes what it can and gives nothing back.” It is a raging fire fueled by the very people that it is consuming. The worst part is that it is stealthy. People don’t know that they are being destroyed by it. People love it actually.

Facebook, the social network that is 1% social and 99% total crap. Every time that I open Facebook, I expect to talk to people but I end up just scrolling through my news feed, silently watching and throwing in a paltry ‘Like’ every once and a while. What exactly does “total crap” consist of? Narcissistic self-promotion, stupid people posting annoying things, people who think that everybody wants to hear everything that they ever did, people who think that they are being deep when really they aren’t, linkbait articles about fluffy and pointless things, ‘funny’ pictures, memes, Bitstrip comics, Tumblr reposts, angry peoples’ overbearing opinions, pointless debate, pages trying to be funny, pages begging you to buy their product, Facebook “hacks,” people bragging about how great they are, dozens and dozens of pictures that literally nobody cares about, “witty” status updates, pictures of peoples’ snotty nosed bratty kids, game invitations, a lack of any ability to spell properly or use grammar, people who whine about how they hate their lives, people who complain about everybody else, and a crap ton of advertising. Basically, everything but social interaction.

I’m sure that there are some that somehow, amid the mess, are able to actually communicate with others, but for most of us, that just isn’t possible. Be honest with yourself. Do you actually communicate with people, or do you just participate in a mumble of meaningless electronic interaction? Are you actually getting to know your friends more, or are you slowly drifting apart? When is the last time that Facebook actually lead to a new meeting or new relationship? Are you really being social with others, or are you just fulfilling your own need for attention? Are you expressing meaningful thoughts and sentiments, or are you just sharing whatever pops into your head in the hopes of getting a few ‘likes’? Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve taken a picture just because I thought other people would like it, or gotten into stupid debates with strangers. I’ve wasted more time on Facebook than what I care to recount. Almost everything that I criticise about Facebook users I have done myself at one point. That is why I want to get away from it.

According to Dunbar’s Number, humans can only actually know about 150 people, and for most of us, we can only really be close friends with fewer people than that. Why then do we try to keep in touch with hundreds of ‘friends’ on Facebook? We are only 3.74 “degrees of separation” from anybody else on Earth through the power of Facebook, yet do we actually truly know those people? From what I have found, Facebook is nothing but a distraction from real social interaction with the people that I care about.

Communication is about getting to know other people. Facebook is about yourself.

This is why I am quitting Facebook. I know you have probably seen dozens of people who dramatically “quit” Facebook only to come back a week later, but I really can’t deal with this anymore. I was fooled by Facebook and its promises of being a “social” network before, but no more. I will be trying some alternatives, (such as the promising social network Path that is designed to crate meaningful connections), but if that doesn’t work out then I guess I will go back to the old telephone. If I get desperate, I might have to actually go visit someone. Then, maybe, just maybe, I will have some actual communication with someone. Actual meaningful communication.

Facebook is a failed experiment. An experiment of huge proportions that was supposed to bring people together, but instead it has alienated us from each other and killed communication. It drove a stake right through the heart of communication- it killed the meaningfulness, thoughtfulness and deliberateness of communication and instead replaced it with impulse, narcissism and stupidity. It has become a mindless output of white noise. If the extent of your social life is sharing pictures and tweeting, then you are not really being social. I am risking sounding like your grandma in saying this, but if you really want to be social, put that phone down, walk away from the computer, and go actually talk to people.

The Innovation of Loneliness from Shimi Cohen on Vimeo.




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The Meaning of Life

Study hard to pass the course

Then forget everything you learned

Good grades are all you need in life

Just do your work

There’s no room for play

Forget about your imagination

Work for that vital sheet of paper

What you need to secure a stable career

You have to fight hard for that big pay cheque

Quick, abandon your ambitions

Only do what you know is safe

Dreams can be dangerous

You’ve got your big house and your nice car

The latest phone, the biggest TV

Money can get you everything you ever wanted

There will always be someone richer

You’ll be fighting forever and never win

Left drowning in your precious junk

Sit comfortably in your recliner

Only believing what makes you feel good

Never moving a muscle for anyone but yourself

Your ease is complacent, your comfort misplaced

Something is still missing, you feel empty

You live a hollow, purposeless existence

You’re here to enjoy yourself

And the world is your oyster

So eat, drink and be merry

Your throne on a mountain of corpses

You care only about yourself and your pleasure

 The more you get, the more miserable you become

You die with the most toys and win

All your friends line up at your grave

Your body adorned with the finest threads

But all your wealth can’t help you now

You’re gone and your friends will soon forget you

As your carcass rots into the ground and your soul weeps

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Pop Music is Pathetic

I love music. I love listening to music and occasionally (trying to) make my own music too. I generally enjoy most genres of music, and those that I don’t love I can generally appreciate. There are really only two genres that I don’t like at all, country and pop. Country is just personal preference. Pop… well, that’s a different story.

Many people enjoy pop music and I won’t deny that there are some good qualities to it. It’s easy to listen to, often fun and catchy and most people won’t complain if you turn it on. It’s just the standard choice for music. Pop music used to be good, too, maybe back in the 80s and before that, but since then pop has morphed into something a lot scarier and monstrous. Really, if you ask me, modern pop music is actually quite pathetic.

My first main objection is how it has failed to be an art and has become a business. The “artists” in pop music are often just stage fronts for huge record companies to make millions on. Most “artists” don’t even write their own music or play a very small part in it and just act as voices for the songs that their team of 20 people wrote. On that note, it apparently takes 20 people to figure out that you just need to sing about sex to get people to listen (but we’ll get to that later). In pop music, it’s all about sucking as much money out of the “artists” as they can, often leading to the “artists'” own destruction. The “artists” themselves get all the credit (and the blame) for their music, when really they were just the singer, the front on a much larger business. Look at the duo LMFAO. As I understand their story, they just got into the business because of a relative in the music business. They don’t actually do much except appear in the videos and sing (under heavy auto-tune). They aren’t artists.

The huge industry side of pop music has also completely killed the art side of it. Because pop “artists” are just run by their record companies, the companies look at statistics and trends closely to figure out what kind of music will sell well. That means that there is absolutely no innovation, no attempt to express anything, just making music that can be easily digested by the common people. That makes the pop music genre one that follows instead of leads. Most pop music sounds the same because the industries are scarred to step out of what would sell. They aren’t as willing to try anything new because it could weaken their chances of sales. Just slap new lyrics (about one of two possible themes) and a slightly different melody and BLAM a new hit single. Even the “innovation” in pop music is just borrowing from other genres, such as the current trend in borrowing from EDM. Just look at Daft Punk. I used to like Daft Punk, but as of their newest album, (Random Access Memories,) they’ve become sell outs. Their record company wanted to make more money, so they started producing music that was similar to other pop music and generic. Easy to swallow. Wasn’t “weird” like their previous music. Every single song on that album sounds practically the same. That isn’t an art, it’s a business.

Another thing that kills me about pop music is the meaningless and often harmful lyrics. There is an unwritten rule in pop. You can only sing about two things: love/sex (which pop culture confuses a lot) and partying. They know it will sell, but it’s pathetic. There are so many more positive things that they could sing about, but yet meaningless takes presence. This party lifestyle not only degrades the music, but has a negative effect on those young impressionable teens that listen to it. Don’t the songwriters think about the pre-teens and youth that listen to the music when they write about partying and sex? Take a look at the music video for Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night“. What kind of message does that send to kids. “You can be liked by people, you just have to dress a certain (sexually appealing) way, act a certain way and live a reckless, self-destructive lifestyle.” Oh yeah, that’s all… I especially hate it when I see/hear of grade 4 students listening to pop music. Don’t the parents care what they are listening to?

The final reason that I hate pop music,  the biggest bombshell of the whole thing, is pop music’s use of sex to sell. This is the part that bugs me the most. There isn’t a single female pop artist out there who hasn’t been made by the industry some sort of sex idol. Why can’t females just dress normal when they sing? Because it doesn’t sell. It also has the negative effect of convincing female listeners that they to have to dress that way too and it takes advantage of males’ visual-sexual drives. Sex sells, and it sucks because it is turning our whole culture into a culture centred around sex that doesn’t know the difference between love and sex. Yes, it’s not just the music, but the music does play a huge part in the whole grand scheme of pop culture. As seen in LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It”, even the males play some part in using sex to sell music. A more recent example of this is Miley Cyrus’ sudden change in public view from teen pop singer to a mature, sexually desirable pop icon. She realized that in keeping the common public view of being still like that  little girl she started out as, soon she would not sell music any more, so she decided to sell her body. It started with her “twerking” performance at the VMAs and continued with appearing naked in a recent music video. Her single “Wrecking Ball” is currently #1 in the charts. It wasn’t an innovative song, or even really good, but she was riding a wrecking ball naked in it, so it sold. And that’s why I hate pop music.

Why do people even listen to pop music? That’s a question I ask myself every day. It’s the music for “popular people”. It’s the music that is easy to listen to and doesn’t challenge you at all. It’s easy to find and is shoved in your face on TV and online. It’s the music choice for people who don’t have a music choice. It makes you feel young and free (while dooming you to a destructive lifestyle). And of course, as mentioned above, it sells with sex.

If you currently listen to pop music, I urge you to at least try another genre. If you like the EDM aspects of the music, try EDM. If you like the rock aspects of it, try rock. Even try country if you must. Just, please, think about what you are listening to. Even if you enjoy the music, think about the lyrics. If you still insist on listening to pop, just think about this: pop music is a business about sucking the loose change out of anyone who they can pull in. You are buying into that and are being manipulated the way they want you to be. Make your own choices about what you want to listen to, not what “everyone else” wants you to listen to.

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Drunk on Technology

Recently I have begun to realize how much time I actually waste.

As school ended in June, I was excited in anticipation of all the free time that the summer would offer. I made a mental list of all the things that I wanted to do. I would get out my bike. I would practice my writing. I would read many books. I would get my driver’s license, finally, after much procrastination. I would spend lots of time with my friends before we all part ways.

Yet, here it is on my final week of the summer before I start a new busy routine, and I have done nothing of what I planned.

Most of the time I would just blame this on how busy this summer has been (and trust me, it has been a busy one). I would say that I didn’t really have much free time, but in reality, I had a lot of free time.

Enough free time run out of things to see on Facebook.

Enough free time to watch countless Youtube videos.

Enough free time to spend playing games until early in the morning.

Enough free time to waste away doing pointless fluff for hours until I get bored of doing nothing and end up doing something equally as pointless and time wasting.

As I lay here in silence, (which, I admit, is actually rare for me in the evenings as of late) I look back at my day. Excluding my time at work, (which is pretty much mandatory anyways) my biggest accomplishment for today was reheating a chicken burger. The rest of my time was spent doing nothing. A few minutes of this game, a few minutes of that, checking my social feeds, reading this article, like this, share that, comment, watch, play, like, comment, scroll, look, read, like, watch…

Really, out of all of that, what did I do? One might say that I actually did a lot, but what did I accomplish? I managed to entertain my media-demented brain for a few hours, break long enough to make a lunch, then come back and do the same for a few more hours. It’s pathetic really.

For my grade 12 senior project, I did a research paper on problematic computer usage and more generally how computers are changing how we think and act. You would think that after writing such a paper, I would be less susceptible to letting the computer suck up all my time, but alas, these things move slowly into our lives and catch us when we are least expecting it in ways that we would not suspect.

The base behind the paper- and why computers cause us to spend so much time with them- is in the neuroscience. I’ll explain this in layman’s terms. Let’s say that there is a button on your brain. Every time you see, hear, feel, taste or smell something that is good, someone smacks down that button on your head and it makes your brain feel good. Now imagine that you are watching a well done play, engaged in a challenging match of your favourite sport or are deep in a beautifully crafted novel. Your button is being pushed repeatedly over a long period of time and it is giving you a satisfactory feeling, but you needed a bit of work to get there. You had to get into nice clothes and drive to the theatre, go to practices and work out before the game or get through the long boring part at the beginning of the book before it got good. These things are satisfying and gratifying, but over a period of time.

Now imaging that you are watching a funny Youtube series, playing a fast paced shooter game or scrolling through Facebook. You are getting what you want when you want it and all this entertainment is pouring into your noggin at 1 million miles per hour through your eyes and ears. Your button is getting pressed rapidly as you receive this media. It makes you feel great at first and there is no wait time for the good parts, because it is all the “good parts”.

You might question then, if Internet media is so much more stimulating, what the big deal is. The problem arises as you continue to use the computer. While your button is being spammed by stimulation, changes are happening in your brain. While before, let’s say 5 pushes per minute was the normal, now as your brain becomes used to the increase in button pushes, now 100 per minute is the normal. Where you would before be content with just reading a good novel, now that seems like a gruesome boring task and this video of a cat seems like a much better alternative.

As a media saturated brain, now a certain level of media is required psychologically to be content. When your brain gets used to so much instant entertainment, anything less than that quickly becomes boring. This is where laziness and procrastination come into play. You don’t want to do anything else because your brain needs its fix of stimulant.

Now, because what was once a great increase in entertainment is now simply the norm, to be actually entertained, we need to start cramming more and more into our already buzzing minds. We start to lose interests in our old hobbies and interests and focus more on our intense computer needs. We start to lose sleep or miss social events that would have otherwise been of interest. At this point, things that we have to do still come first, but other optional things, like quiet time, fade away as our new ‘friend’ takes over.

When you really get to this level, odd things start to happen.

You go to Google an article for a research paper and end up reading about Batman for an hour.

You sit down to play a game for an hour and soon it becomes three.

You keep checking Facebook every 5 minutes as long as you are at the computer.

Even though it is 1 AM and your brain is screaming for sleep, you still continue to watch Youtube for another hour.

This is where I am probably at now. For most of high school, games like Minecraft and things like Facebook took over my free time. I read, wrote, and did what I actually enjoyed not nearly as much as I would have liked to. I almost even ended up on the wrong career path because I pretty much forgot my true passion of writing. During my senior year, I managed to pull together my first novel (with almost no recent writing experience) thanks to the help of others and an internet free 3 hours a day bus ride. Since then, this summer has just been work and an Internet blur.

People like me tend to get “drunk” on technology. Well meaning, we start out will just one drink, a small interaction. We find the drink satisfying and order another, then after that comes another. Soon, your mind is warped by the foul liquid, you begin to consume more and more. Your mind becomes a blur (as can literally happen after hours of mindless use), and everything else fades into the background. Things that are intelligent and good fall behind to cheap humour and instant gratification. You begin to do things that you wouldn’t normally do, such as stay up until 2 AM. Before you know it, you have spent your whole summer in a mindless blur and are still found looking for more.

I am not here to tell you to turn off your computers or delete your Facebook accounts. These things are okay in doses and to most people. I just want you to think about how you are spending your time. Is what you are doing really worthwhile of your few days on Earth (not to mention your even shorter youth)? Could you be doing something much better with your time that will leave you with a greater satisfaction? Are you really doing what you love to do, or just what you find entertaining?

I know personally I more or less just wasted two months. I’m not going to moap about it. There is no real use in that. All I can really do is take action against my pathetic brain and use up my time doing what I am good at and what I truly love to do.

Don’t waste time like I do. Go out, work on what you are good at and what you love. Don’t settle for cheap entertainment. Doing something harder usually pays off.


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Christians and the Music World

For many Christians, music today is split into two categories: Christian and secular. “Christian” music is simply music by a self-declared Christian artist who sings about God and who doesn’t use profane language. “Secular” music then is any band who doesn’t meet that specific criteria. In many Christians’ lives, Christian music is the only way to go and anything secular is forbidden. What is it that makes Christian music so infinitely holy all the time and secular music so indefinitely evil? Is there really such a fine line between good and bad music?

There are many varying views on what kinds of music Christians should listen to. Views range from those that say all music is permissible to those who believe that only worship music should be allowed. There are no verses specifically about what kind of music to listen to, so who then should we listen to? On the one side, we have people telling us about “freedom in Christ” and on the other we have the “whatever is good… think on such things” crowd.

While many Christians are stuck in the moral dilemma of what we are allowed to do, there is a bigger problem at hand. Some Christians stick within their fortress of Christian music and some embrace secular music without a second thought, but there is a whole aspect of our faith that is being missed: We are forgetting that we are supposed to do work in the world, causing change in all aspects of society, including music.

Possibly one of the reasons that secular music has gotten so bad is that Christians have had very little influence in it. Those that separate themselves are basically saying “Leave them to their sinful ways” and not realising the impact that music has on other people (including their own children). On the other hand, those who embrace secular music with no problems say “It’s not that bad” and are affected themselves. By not engaging the secular music world, we are not only missing a huge ministering opportunity, but we are also letting the ever worsening music to infiltrate the lives of those around us.

If you think that you are safe from “evil” music then consider the following: Every time you turn on the TV, radio or go outside, you are bound to see or hear the consequences of fallen music. You have probably heard “I’m Sexy and I Know It” or something along those lines in commercials on TV or seen large billboard ads of promiscuously dressed female pop singers. Nearly all stores and public places play some form of secular music that often includes vulgar and suggestive lyrics. Many Christian parents shelter their kids from secular music, telling them that the world’s music is all evil. This may keep them safe for as long as they are in the parents’ control, but as soon as the kids get out into the real world they will be opened to a sphere of music they never knew about (often better in quality to what they have known). With no real teaching of how to deal with it, they may cave into music and a lifestyle that causes them to fall from their faith. In a setting where secular music is already embraced, this fall may come much faster and easier.

The problem of corrupted music is like a growing tumor. We can choose to ignore it and do nothing about it, but in truth unless we do something about it, then it will come back to not only cause harm to us, but also cause harm to the entire body of society. This corruption is the result of two main problems with how Christians create and interact with music. The first problem is the overall failure of Christian music to produce genuine, honest and well-made art that not only benefits and equips Christians, but also attracts those who are not yet saved. The second is the lack of Christian artists with a strong influence in secular music. Both can be dealt with by a reform of what how we see music and by breaking down traditional boundaries of Christian musicians.

To effectively engage culture and combat the corruption in music, we must first realize that there is no such thing as “Christian music” and “secular music”. The problem is not “evil music” but evil in music. Both Christian music and secular music are made by fallen humans who have the ability to show beauty and corruption. Both have the potential to bring glory to God or to man. Just because a piece of music wasn’t originally written with the purpose of glorifying God doesn’t mean that it can’t still be used for the glory of God. Inversely, just because a song is written about God doesn’t mean that it is always used for God’s glory. As Drew Dixon puts it, “If all people are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and God is the source of all beauty, we should expect to see beauty in every human being.” Music created by secular artists is still created using creativity that God has given them and still brings some glory to God even though it may not directionally point people to God. We must realize that everything in this world is fallen to some degree and all music both glorifies and dishonors God, whether it has Christian themes or not, before we can begin to try and redeem the mess of the music world.

While the motives of creating a separate Christian music genre are good, the consequences of such are actually devastating to art. The main problem with the Christian music genre is that it has created a narrow criteria for its artists that generally only allow for shallow and overly positive themes. As put by Derek Webb,

“I feel like a lot of what I see coming out of the church in terms of Christian music… unfortunately, deals in probably the most spiritual two percent of life and culture… And yet the Bible gives us a framework and a language to deal with all one hundred percent of stuff that we find, that we come up against in life. And so, it’s kind of no wonder that when people look at the art that comes out of the church in Christian music… that they see Christianity as this kind of one dimensional, kind of irrelevant worldview to modern life that only deals with transcendent moments of worship and the afterlife and that’s kind of it. That’s kind of all that our art is covering.”

Basically, the classification of Christian music restricts the majority of artists to overly spiritual “Christian themes” such as worship, the faith walk and God. It misses many other aspects of life that also need to be dealt with. Most Christian music also only focuses on shallow “positive” themes and ignores much of the brokenness of the world. In fact, much of secular music is actually more honest about human brokenness than Christian music is. That’s troublesome if you consider that we’re the ones who are supposed to be healing the broken. Basically, the modern classification of Christian music is a restriction in creating meaningful music, in reaching the fallen and in equipping Christians to deal with the world.

Another way in which Christian music is problematic is in how it restricts artists to a particular style. Most Christian artists either feel restricted to a particular contemporary style of music that they know will be accepted or try to emulate popular styles of music to reach out to a broader audience. Unfortunately, both approaches at making music end up making boring, unoriginal and sometimes horrible music. While talking about Christian rock, David Bazan of Pedro the Lion says, “It turns the music and the message into crap. The message is degraded when it’s made into slogans and low-level propaganda. They’re attempting to reach a certain audience just like advertisers do – and that, ultimately, degrades the art.” Because of the low quality and Christian music’s superficial themes, Christian music often seems unauthentic and forced, leading many music enthusiasts to be scared away from the church and look to other sources for music.

While most Christian artists stay within the bounds of Christian music, there are some who realize the limitations of being stuck in a classification, such as Derek Webb and David Bazan. Many of these artists still identify as Christians, but do not pack their music with as many obvious references to Jesus as they can. Unfortunately, most Christian artists in the secular music world have only a weak voice in the industry. Many seem to only be Christian in the background and don’t seem to extend their faith much more than through a prayer before a concert or in the occasional interview about their faith. Most appear to be genuine followers of Christ but don’t do as much as they could to direct people towards Christ. Bono from U2 is an example of that. Bono openly (and intelligently) talks about his faith and seems to witness on a personal level. There have even been testimonies of people who have been lead to Christ through meeting Bono. If Bono is truly saved, he is giving up a great opportunity to show the light of Christ. He could easily do much good through his popularity and U2’s cult-like following.

On the other hand we have artists seem to do more bad than good by calling themselves Christian, but acting the complete opposite. Take Kings of Leon for example: They claim to be Christians but create vulgar music contrary to everything Christianity tries to promote, including their popular song Sex on Fire. This gives people, including other Christians, the idea that faith is just something you do in the background that doesn’t affect your whole life. Even some pop artists such as Katy Perry and Justin Bieber claim to be Christians but sing empty lyrics full of worldly lies that promote a sinful and meaningless lifestyle. Often, for these kinds of artists, the religious title is just for a popularity’s sake or a feeble attempt to hold on to their family’s faith.

While most aren’t doing their job as Christians, there are several artists who are working well in the music world and in pushing the boundaries of traditional Christian music. There are several Christians that have managed to branch out into the secular music world and bring the light of Christ into dark places. A great example of an artist who just makes music without the worry of if he is being “Christian” enough is Adam Young (known most commonly by the name Owl City). Young originally wasn’t considered a Christian artist, but is still played on secular and Christian radio alike. He is very open about his faith and does not hide it in his music, but his faith is not forced into his music either. Because of his permeation to both markets, Owl City has been able to touch many peoples’ lives. In an interview with Christian Post, Young tells a story of how once his music saved a young girl’s life.

“One girl told me she was at the end of her rope and had a handful of oxycotton pills, ready to end her life … and then my song started playing over the radio and it made her stop and think. She thanked me for saving her life and that meant more to me than you can imagine!”

Another example of a group who is popular in both the Christian and secular music industry is the rock band Thousand Foot Krutch. They don’t care about labels either. They simply make honest, real music that reaches out to both the saved and unsaved. In an interview, lead singer, Trevor McNevan, says,

“Our heart has always been to make music for everyone. At the end of the day, we hope people can walk away enjoying the music but also hearing a message of hope. Our faith is a big part of who we are. It’s our lifestyle. That comes out in what we do and that’s important to us. I hope people can appreciate those two things from this band. Each record just comes back to what’s on our heart and what we’re supposed to say at the time… I don’t think we realized for a long time how important it was to be a bridge to both markets. We never really thought about it. But then when you talk to people, you realize it is something special. It’s totally a God thing and we’re thankful to be a band that connects to both Christians and people that have never been to church. Music can be a bridge between those two places.”

It’s artists like Owl City and Thousand Foot Krutch that are beginning to really get it. They are the musicians that don’t worry about their classification and just write what comes on their hearts. They are the ones that make creative, meaningful and genuine music that has real potential to change lives. If Christians choose to create and support real and honest music, then it could create a huge impact on the rest of the musical world that has been so far neglected. It’s not to say that there isn’t still a place for Christian music in the church and in worship, but there is no reason for Christian musicians to be restricted to only making spiritual music. God didn’t command us to go and fill only the Christian part of the world, nor did Jesus come just to help those who are already saved. While there is a place for Christian music, Christian musicians need to eliminate the need for classifications and simply make music. Through honest, good and unrestricted music, we can begin to redeem this corrupt area of society.

Thank you for reading. I hope you consider what I am saying, especially if you are involved in the music industry or plan to one day. Please leave a comment telling me what you think.

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The best thing about the Internet is that everybody has a say.

The worst thing about the Internet is that everybody has a say.

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Sci-fi is evil?

A few months ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to an article published by Answers in Genesis called “Science Fiction: A Christian Perspecitve” by David J. Laughlin. While I usually love the articles that Answers in Genesis presents, I had to disagree with this one on many points. Being a Christian science fiction author myself, this actually kind of annoys me. I will point out what I agree with and disagree with below. You can read the article for yourself at http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/tj/v15/n2/science-fiction.

Laughlin starts the article by pointing out how science fiction has grown into the mainstream sphere and how one of the main appeals of sci-fi is that it often is able to predict useful technologies. This part is true, but most of what comes next is what I disagree with.

The author then goes on to complain about the unreality of science fiction. He says

“Regrettably, however, too much of science fiction depicts phenomena or technologies that could never exist. Franz Rottensteiner acknowledges that ‘the “science” of science fiction is often indistinguishable from magic ’. For example, animals becoming half-human (or vice versa), contradicts everything scientists know about the limits of genetic variation. The creation of mass/energy from nothing, or its annihilation (e.g. by a mere laser blast), violates the First Law of Thermodynamics, one of the best proven laws of science. And the notion that dead matter can transform itself into a living organism (spontaneous generation) has never been observed and flatly contradicts the Laws of Biogenesis (that life always comes from life).”

He then goes to try and support this claim by quoting Philippians 4:8

 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true… let your minds dwell on these things”

First of all, this is a gross misuse of Philippians 4:8. If what the author is saying is correct, then basically any form of literature or fiction is evil. He is missing the whole point of science fiction. I wonder if Laughlin would object to the half human animals in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia (a series written by a Christian author containing strong Christian symbolism and themes). If unrealism is so bad, then why doesn’t he also crack down on fantasy and other forms of fiction?

Secondly, while the science of science fiction does often go beyond what we currently scientifically understand, much science fiction actually has well thought out systems and technologies. The “creation of mass/energy from nothing, or its annihilation (e.g. by a mere laser blast)” actually shows the author’s ignorance on the subject as many popular science fictions, such as Star Wars, actually have schematics of how a laser gun or lightsaber would work in that setting. The creators of science fiction usually aren’t just making stuff up. Often the technologies are planned out and realistic (to an extent). Besides, even if they weren’t possible, is that really a horrible thing? It is, after all, fiction.

His next part of the argument goes on to blame sci-fi for the escapism in some sci-fi fans’ lives.

“Second, because of mankind’s rejection of God, he has not found genuine meaning or peace in this world. So, he searches elsewhere to fulfil these needs. Maybe, he reasons, outer space has something to offer that cannot be found here. Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side of the galaxy.”

While it is true that sometimes people look to a fictitious world as an escape, you can’t blame an entire genre for a few peoples’ sociological problems. Any medium of art could become an escape for anybody. It’s not just a problem with science fiction. I recently did a major project on problematic usage of computers, including people who use the virtual world for escaping the real world. I found that many people used that as a reason to believe that video games and online communities were inherently evil and drag anyone who uses them in, but my research actually showed that a very small percent of people who used those games/websites actually formed any sort of problem. Think about it, millions of people use Facebook and World of Warcraft (for example) every day without forming any sort of dependency. Only a small amount of people actually have problems with it. On top of that, people who do form problematic usage patters usually have some deeper psychological need that is not being otherwise met. The medium is just a vessel that they use to try and fulfil that sector of their lives that are lacking.

Laughlin’s third main point is that much of science fiction is very humanistic and also goes to bash robots in science fiction as being unrealistic and for the glory of man, not God. While this is true sometimes, that is not a reason to disown the entire genre. Science fiction is simply a genre. Rap, rock and reggae are all genres of music that can be used for or against God, as is similar with genres of literature. As for the robots, if we were made in the image of God (containing many of the desires and traits of God, such as creativity) and God made us, would it not be logical then that we would want to also make a creation in our own image. While many may view this as a humanistic point, I feel that this is all just part of our cultural commission to build and develop. Like anything else, how we use the robots will determine if they are good or bad.

In the next section shows a few examples of how humanism/atheism is seen in science fiction. His main example is shown below.

“One of the most powerful examples is seen in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called ‘The Outcast’, written by supervising producer Jeri Taylor. In the story, Commander Riker of the Enterprise falls in love with an alien named Soren, a member of the J’naii race. Long ago, the J’naii were male and female, but evolved into their present genderless state. They now reproduce by artificial means and consider those few among the J’naii who have strong inclinations of gender to be throwbacks to their primitive past. Therefore, expressing feelings of gender is forbidden. Soren is among those who have gender, so when her intolerant superiors learn of her affair with Riker, they administer the dreaded psychotechic therapy which brings her back to ‘normal’. Although the story is an allegory, it draws an obvious parallel with today’s conflict between ‘bigoted’ Christian fundamentalists and ‘persecuted’ homosexuals. Mark A. Altman, regular contributor to Cinefantastique, comments: ‘Taylor’s script is a stunning reminder of how effective the science fiction genre can be in providing allegorical explorations of political and social concerns.’”

The example given here is actually an accurate cultural observation. I find it kind of sad that the author of this article sees simply sees this as an expression of humanism and as an attack to Christianity. Really, this should be a wake up call to the church that we are obviously doing something wrong if all culture sees us as are people who hate homosexuals. I don’t want to open up another can of worms here, but I think he is looking at that example all wrong.

In the next section, he talks about occultism in science fiction. While it is true that there is some occultism and mysticism in some science fiction, really realistic and evil occultism is rare, especially along true-to-the-term science fiction. The “occultism” in Star Wars and Star Trek is so mild. It’s basically like magic in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (another Christian author). Again, this is not a reason to avoid all science fiction.

In the final section, Laughlin talks about how evolutionary ideas have permeated science fiction. Basically, his point is that science fiction books inspire evolutionary thoughts. First of all, again I must say that just because a genre or things has roots in something untrue or wrong, it doesn’t have to ruin everything of that genre. Not all sci-fi is based in evolution. Some science fictions works don’t even mention origins. Secondly, a book or movie about evolution will not automatically sway anybody. It may be harmful for some weak Christians or children, but for mature believers, as long as we have good judgement on what is true, than we should be okay and be able to appreciate the writing, plot, themes, predicted technologies, etc. in the work.

While it is clear that science fiction does contain high amounts of evolutionary material, the examples that he uses in this section fail in several ways. One of the examples that Laughlin uses is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine where the main character travels forward in time to find that mankind has divided into two races, the strong animalistic Morlocks and the weak passive Eloi. Laughlin uses this as an example of evolution in science fiction, but he is really missing the entire point of the novel. The book isn’t about evolution, even though it contains it. It’s a warning about the growing difference between the upper class (represented by the Eloi) and the lower class (the Morlocks) and showing how inhumane it really is.

In the article, the author also uses an interesting quote to try and show Wells’ atheism.

“If all the animals and man had been evolved in this ascendant manner, then there had been no first parents, no Eden and no Fall. And if there had been no fall, then the entire historical fabric of Christianity, the story of the first sin and the reason for an atonement, upon which the current teaching based Christian emotion and morality, collapsed like a house of cards.”

Ironically enough, I feel that Wells actually very accurately portrays the problem with the Christian evolutionary theory.

In conclusion, I feel that Laughlin misses the point of fiction and can not see past a few small untruths to see the whole beautiful picture of many works of science fiction art. The author wants us to can an entire genre due to some bad works, but we aren’t like the Israelites anymore. We now have the spirit and the power to discern truth from lies and good from evil. We can’t completely eliminate a genre of literature and films simply because of some works. I recently finished writing a short 180 page science fiction novel. Are you trying to tell me now that my writing is evil, that hour and hours of work put into writing about human struggles while exploring scientific themes is bad? Also, how can we hand someone a Bible and say “Here, read this.” and then completely avoid anything from their perspective? I feel that the title of that article should be changed from “A Biblical Perspective” to “One Christian’s Perspective” as, evidently, not all Christians believe that what is being said here is truly a Biblical perspective.

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