1. An article in The New York Times this week about “Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide”. A number of Evangelical churches have turned to martial arts as a means to reach out to disaffected young men. While I certainly applaud the efforts of churches to engage with the widespread and tragic “fatherlessness” epidemic, I find this particular approach fairly disturbing – as if American Christians weren’t already obsessed with “conflict” enough (ht JS):

The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”

Count me out!

2. Our beloved Bill Watterson, creator of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip, granted a very rare and very short interview this past week to an Ohio-based website. His take on the power of the strip is characteristically wise, and frankly sounds a bit akin to preaching (ht JS):

“The only part I understand is what went into the creation of the strip. What readers take away from it is up to them. Once the strip is published, readers bring their own experiences to it, and the work takes on a life of its own. Everyone responds differently to different parts. I just tried to write honestly, and I tried to make this little world fun to look at, so people would take the time to read it. That was the full extent of my concern. You mix a bunch of ingredients, and once in a great while, chemistry happens. I can’t explain why the strip caught on the way it did, and I don’t think I could ever duplicate it.”

3. A great little piece over at The Resurgence from Mbird contributor Justin Holcomb, entitled “What Would Luther Do?”. He concludes, “In the face of suffocating religion and moralism, [Luther] would offend boldly and celebrate the liberty of faith for the sake of the gospel.”

4. I love Mel Gibson. Though certainly not without his (significant) foibles, I believe he is a genius filmmaker, with Apocalypto standing as one of the greatest cinematic works of the past decade. And though I may give Edge Of Darkness a miss, Gibson’s recent remarks about Tiger Woods only increased my affection for the man. He certainly understands what it means to call Jesus “the friend of sinners”. No doubt his comments will not serve his cause – or Tiger’s (ht RC):

5. In other TV/Movie news: the next Muppet movie has a new director! None other than James Bobin, one of the principal forces behind Flight Of The Conchords. This, plus the fact that script was co-written by Jason Segal (Freaks and Geeks, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), more than makes up for the omnipresent muppefied Disney commercials now invading the small screen. I am very very excited about this.

The finale of the 4th season of Friday Night Lights airs next Weds and will conclude what I consider to be one of the more powerful and best seasons of television ever aired. If you haven’t caught up, and don’t want to wait until the episodes finally air on NBC in April, you can do so here. Speaking as a compete non-football person, I could not recommend this series more highly (it featured prominently in my recent breakout session down in FL – stay tuned…) This past season has had the Theology of the Cross – of God working through suffering and defeat – oozing out of every pore. The show also contains the greatest on-screen marriage I have ever witnessed.

The second and final season of Dollhouse wrapped up two weeks ago, concluding yet another chapter in the current Golden Age of TV – as well as one of Joss Whedon’s greatest episode arcs (which is really saying something). A more clever, penetrating and ultimately profound look at the whole identity question would be hard to find. Dollhouse is a mindtrip of the most engrossing kind. Unfortunately, in order to have even a chance at understanding it, you must begin from the beginning, sitting through the rather lackluster first half of the first season.

And about that LOST premiere – Kierkegaard, anyone?!

p.s. Coming soon: the round-up of our Florida mini-conference!