Christians in Pop Culture: Comic Books

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Over the years, being a Christian has became less and less of an okay thing. This is a total truth in Pop Culture. Whether this is due to society only seeing the negative aspects of hypocritical Christians or whether the world at large would rather not involve a benevolent God into their lives; having to traverse this life, when in certain walks of life you are laughed at for your beliefs, makes it extremely cumbersome. As a Christian, I try to bite my tongue when my friends do not share my personal religious beliefs but I have had some ask me how I can watch Doctor Who which in no way supportive of organized religion or even The Big Bang Theory TV show whose lead character, Sheldon, pokes fun at his religious mother. So am I a hypocrite for watching Doctor Who on Saturday night and getting up on Sunday morning to attend church? What about my love for astrology and interest in science? What about my favorite novel; or better yet what do my comic books say about religion? Can my Christian faith exist in a comic book world? 

In the 2012 movie The Avengers, Captain America is advised to ‘sit the fight out’ because, since Black Widow considers Thor and Loki to ‘practically be Gods’. Captain America’s response of “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that,” caused a smile to creep upon my face. Now the atheist movie viewer may have heard this and blew it off as Cap’ averting the confidence in his own abilities but the Christian in me heard something completely different. Cap stood in the face of the Asgardian ‘Gods’ and realized that they were fallible and not anything like the God in which he believed. He knows what Thor himself admitted that the Asgardians aren’t gods. In a pre-Korvac storyline, the Avengers venture into a church and Thor himself feels uneasy because he admits that Christians don’t think much of Thor. It is pointed out by his conversation with Wanda (aka The Scarlet Witch) that even Odin does not consider himself to be a the ‘Supreme Divinity’. Thor again admits to his not being a supreme being in a current issue of the Thor comic, where he is confronted by a small child who calls him a liar. The little child calls him a liar because he is claiming to be a God and that he was taught that there was only one God. Thor tells the child that he is a higher being, but there is a higher being than he and his kind. Thor and the Asgardians are an extremely advanced alien race whose technology made them appear to be all powerful creatures to the humans that they visited long ago. They whether fact or fiction, did have a hand in shaping our culture. So, I think that when Marvel or the Marvel Cinematic Universe refers to these Asgardians or any other celestial creatures as ‘god’ they are simply referring to the fact that they are ‘the thing of legend’ like the beautiful Black Widow says in the 2012 Avengers movie. In contrast with the ecclesiastical Judeo-Christian God whom we refer to as “God”, these other ‘gods’ do not hold absolute power nor are they all knowing. Am I saying that Thor worships Jesus…not by any means. What I am saying is that Thor, much like Captain America acknowledges that THE God exists. 

I started to talk about Captain America but switched to a ‘god’. So am I trying to insinuate that Captain America is a Christian? Maybe he is…maybe he is Chris_Evans_-_Captain_America_2_press_conference.jpgnot. I think that we need to remember that while Cap’ was frozen in time, using bad language sadly became a norm. But I don’t know is what is inside the once frozen heart of America’s greatest Soldier. I do however know what lies within the heart of the mutant whose blue appearance, cloven feet, prehensile tail, pointed ears and an overall demonic appearance: Kurt Wagner. Kurt Wagner, commonly known as the Nightcrawler, came to us in all his blue glory in the 1975 Giant-Size X-Men #1 and hasn’t stopped transporting himself into the Marvel Universe’s story lines since. In my early years as a comic reader and cartoon watcher, I was enthralled by the X-Men. In the early 1990s, the X-Men: The Animated Series was quite simply amazing but an episode in 1995 (Episode 44 titled “Nightcrawler” to be exact) brought the little Christian in me to tears. I, being raised in the church, was not used to seeing any Christians on main stream television. (Other than one of my other favorite shows that I grew up watching: ‘Walker Texas Ranger’. Gotta love Chuck Norris.) On this specific episode of X-Men; Rogue, Wolverine and Gambit go on a vacation and as always, find something eery going on when they get there. They hear tell of a demon haunting the local church, whom we find out to be the friendly yet demonic looking Nightcrawler. Wolverine wants to rip the townspeople apart for their wanting to hurt Nightcrawler based on his appearance but Nightcrawler demonstrates his strong faith in God by forgiving the people that judged him and even helped Wolverine deal with some of his internal demons. Nightcrawler’s confession of faith in this episode as well as episode 68 where Nightcrawler is revealed to be Mystique’s abandoned son. In the event that people want to scrutinize Nightcrawler and say that after becoming a Catholic priest he had many human like struggles with his faith, we cannot deny that just this inclusion of God is impressive to a Christian and a powerful testimony to God. 

In Pop Culture and in the comic universe, there are countless instances where Christians are viewed as back-woodsy and less intelligent humans who distort the word of God for their own motives. So the few times in which a Christian or just a person having faith is shown in a positive light will always be a good thing in my eyes despite many comic characters (such as Ghost Rider, Spawn, The Redeemer, the Anti-Spawn, etc) showing Christianity and the battle between Good and Evil in other lights. Whether the characters who were given power by God, the Devil or have had interaction with God; the mention of religion in comic book universes is not foreign. The historical figure out Jesus actually appeared in comic books many times and Marvel even produced many Biblical stories.

So can a Christian be a fan of the different aspects of Pop Culture and even find a paragon within the comic book universe? The answer is unequivocally yes. While Philippians 4:13 is synonymously linked with finding strength, Superman also is quoted as saying that “(y)ou’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.” So some of the most powerful writing on the planet can be found in your Holy Bible but could be also be found within has been found within the 20+ folded pages of drawings and words. 

jesus superhero



Jesus of Nazareth Comic cover accredited to Marvel Comics, marvel.wikia.com/wiki/jesus_of_Nazaerth_(Earth-616)

An Old Rugged Cross by and accredited to Chris English, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56580686

Chris Evans – Captain America 2 Press Conference photo by and accredited to Elen Nivrae – http://www.flickr.com/photos/nivrae/13222040093/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31731283

 

Time Machine Time: Top 10 Concerts

I have always been proud of my eclectic musical taste and the live performances that I have been blessed to see over the years is the proof in the pudding.  I’ve seen everyone from Metallica to B.B. King to the Celtic Women to the Wu Tang Clan to Big & Rich. To me, the live concert experience is like none other and therefore there are regretfully many concerts or live performances that I was not able to see (mostly because they happened before I was born or where in a different country). So if the Doctor just happened to visit me or Doc Brown and Marty McFly loaned me the Delorean there are many things that I would love to do or see. A big part of that list would be to go back and see certain human events like the Wright Brothers flying for the first time, to see Jesus perform miracles, to walk with Ghandi, or to hear the wisdom of the Buddha. Among the list of amazing human feats that I would love to see many things. How awesome would it be to see the Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight; see Gladiators fight in the Flavian Ampitheatre (aka the Roman Colosseum); or to have been one of the 93,173 attendees in the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan back on March 29th, 1987 when Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre the Giant and when ‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat had one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time.

But…we’re here for music. SO with that being said, here a joint blog representing both the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10 and Time Machine TimeConcerts (representing the Top 10 concerts that I would love to be able to go back in time to see).



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Honorable Mention: Rammstein – Parkbuhne Wuhlheide, Berlin (1998) – Despite their participation in the ever popular Family Values tour (with Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc) in 1998, the solo European tour in 1998 was Rammstein’s finest. The music paired with the wild pyrotechnics must have been a site to behold.

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10. Bob Marley – Kingston, Jamaica (April 22, 1978) – After the Smile Jamaica concert; Bob and his band, the Wailers, exiled themselves in London for about a year. They wrote an album while in England and rightfully so named it Exodus. During their exodus in London, the turmoil in Jamaica was dying down and to prove that they needed Marley to come back to help unify the country; rival gang leaders flew to London to convince Marley to come back. He flew back and put on a free concert in Kingston. The beautiful music, paired with the political unification that Marley brought by bringing together both rival gang members, as well as the opposing governmental factions earned him a United Nations’ Peace Medal. What a completely amazing concert that that must have been.

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9. Fleetwood Mac – Nashville Municipal Auditorium (5/21/1977) – The radio poured out the hits of Fleetwood Mac during the Summer of 1977. The Rumours world tour which took place in two parts went on for almost a year and a half. The tour celebrated the release of the band’s eleventh album (of the same name). The band went everywhere: from all over North America to Europe, their native UK, Japan and Oceania. I have always been a Fleetwood Mac fan after hearing the albums when I was a kid. I was not lucky enough to see them in their prime and the performance at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium would have been a fantastic place to catch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees at their prime.

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8. Beethoven – Theater an der Wien, Vienna (April 1803) – Before he went def, Beethoven had been appointed composer in residence at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna in the early 1800s. In the spring of 1803 Beethoven led the Symphony in a concert where the audience heard the First and Second Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto, and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. To be able to experience some of Beethoven’s greatest works, live from the man himself…would be more than I could bear. Tears would definitely flow.

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7. Led Zeppelin – Madison Square Garden, New York (July 27-29, 1973) – Led Zeppelin performed three-sold out shows at Madison Square Gardens to close out their 1973 North American tour. The filming of these live performances were filmed for a motion picture that was released in 1976. The on-stage theatrics, as described by Jimmy Page, were as far as they could make them and they most definitely took the audiences experience into account. The set-list consisted of songs that will go down as some of the greatest rock songs of all time. Years later, ‘the songs remain the same’ and the DVD allows us to experience, but I would count it an immense blessing to have been able to experience this spectacle in person.

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6. Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock, Bethel, New York (August 18, 1969) – I would have braved the mud and the 400,000 potentially drugged out hippies to witness (who is in my opinion) one of the greatest performers of all time at the infamous festival. The Woodstock Festival is listed as one of the 50 moments that Changed the History of Rock and Roll and with Jimi Hendrix joining a lineup including Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joan Baez, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, and many others…who could imagine that it wouldn’t. Hendrix’s now infamous “Star Spangled Banner” performance was just a drop in the bucket compared to the over 60 minute set. I could definitely have dealt with the 3 days of peace and music as long as I got to hear Jimi Hendrix.

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5. Metallica – Tushino Airfield, Moscow, Russia (Sept 28, 1991) – Despite seeing Metallica multiple times already, I regretfully have missed some amazing performances that I think could have been more epic than the concerts that I was blessed enough to witness. One specific concert was a specific concert on September 28th, 1991 in Moscow. The Monsters of Rock Festival was one of the biggest concerts in the history of the world. The attendance during the Metallica show was slated to have ranged anywhere from 500,000 to almost 2 million fans. This could easily be one of the most epic live performances of all time and to feel the feedback from over a million people would have just been breathtaking.

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4. Queen – Wembley Stadium (11/07/1986) – As many of the concerts from this list, the moments were saved by releasing the video via VHS/DVD. In December of 1990, Queen at Wembley was produced and the DVD version has gone platinum five times in the US alone. Audience members have stated that the energy in the crowd was breathtaking and we as viewers of the DVD since then can attest that Freddie Mercury and Queen presented us with one of the best live performances ever.


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3. Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – Berkley Community Theatre (April 21-22, 1999) – Yes, I know what you’re thinking; “gosh Chris, two Metallica concerts on your top 10 list of concerts that you would go back in time to see?” The answer is unequivocally, yes! Metallica is my favorite musical group/band and I most definitely would want to see these two events. I have seen the DVD but was unable to fly to San Francisco in 1999 to experience this concert in person. Back in 1999, Metallica was trying to find themselves after so many years of being together. They were/are the biggest rock/heavy metal band of all time and taking a cue from their late guitarist Cliff Burton, intertwined classical music and heavy metal to bring about something truly magical. Taking clues from Deep Purple’s 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra (in which Deep Purple performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), did a concert with the additional symphonic accompaniment of Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony orchestra (hence the name of the album: Metallica: S&M). I am not afraid to admit that when I first watched the DVD of the concert, that I wept during the performances of “Bleeding Me” and “- Human”. These two songs, along with the 19 other tracks, brought a total of over 2 hours of complete melodic perfection.


 

nirvana

2. Nirvana – Sony Music Studios, New York City (November 19, 1993) – The American Grunge band Nirvana changed music forever. Some people view it as a bad thing, and some people view it as something that set a pace for music. On December 16, 1993, I was viewed to the TV and it dared not be turned from MTV. As part of the infamous MTV Unplugged series, Nirvana performed an acoustic performance where they covered their lesser-known material and cover versions of many of their favorite bands. The album, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, was certified 5x platinum in the US by 1997. The performance won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and posthumously it is Nirvana’s most successful album. The performance of many of the songs have gained notoriety throughout the years. The song “Where did you sleep last night?” (which was arranged by blues musician Lead Belly) is regarded by many as one of the greatest live performances of all time; whereas Nirvana’s rendition of David Bowie’s classic “The Man who sold the world” (specifically Kurt’s playing) is listed by MTV and Rolling Stones as one of the greatest acoustic performances of all time (despite his use of foot pedals and an amp). To have been one of the select fans that got to witness this concert first hand would have been an amazing adventure to behold.


 

pink floyd the wall

  1.  Pink Floyd – Earl’s Court Exhibition Hall, London (June 17, 1981) – Pink Floyd puts on an amazing show. The lights, the theatrics, the larger than life stage show, and the extra nuances that make them great are only shadows on the wall behind the amazing performers that they are. The Wall is one of my favorite albums of all time and to be able to hear David Gilmour’s “Comfortably Numb” guitar solo in person could quite possibly be one of the closest things to perfection that you can find. There isn’t much to say, except….a Pink Floyd live experience would be just that….a truly awesome experience. The Wall was not a traditional traveling tour. It was a complete theatrical experience. The experience is more than just music and emotion….it was a spectacle.


Images: Featured Image: Pink Floyd 1973 Retouched photo by and accredited to TimDuncanderivative work: Mr. Frank (talk) – PinkFloyd1973.jpg, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10703646
Fleetwood Mac Trade ad for Rumours by and accredited to Warner Bros. Records – Billboard, page 86, 25 Jun 1977, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29477518
Beethoven in his home painting by and accredited to Carl Schloesser – http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuva:Beethovenhome.JPG
Engel by Rammstein image accredited to http://www.flickr.com/photos/closeto94/ – http://www.flickr.com/photos/closeto94/6932258453/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22797146
James Hetfield concert image by and accredited to wonker from London, United Kingdom – James Hetfield, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41529767
Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant image by and attributed to Dina Regine – http://www.flickr.com/photos/divadivadina/465006384/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8022602
Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Strap photo by Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44052647
Queen’s Freddie Mercury image by and attributed to Carl Lender, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5904129
James Hetfield image by and attributed to I, Flowkey, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2427494
Nirvana Unplugged logo attributed to http://theriveranswers.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/nirvana-unplugged_in_new_york.jpg
Pink Floyd “The Wall” logo by and attributed to pink floyd – http://www.seeklogo.com/files/P/Pink_Floyd_The_Wall-vector-logo-15898F56FA-seeklogo.com.zip, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38936704

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 5

We have reached the halfway point in our ten part series where we investigate the history behind some of the most interesting idioms and those clever colloquial phrases that we all use but never take the time to find out what they really mean. Some of my favorites from the series so far have been “Mad as a Hatter” (from Part 1), “Down in the Dumps” (from Part 2), “Cat got your Tongue” (from Part 3), and “Quitting Cold Turkey” (from Part 4). Today’s six idioms/phrases will have a central theme. Today we will discuss: “Go the whole nine yards“, “Raining cats and dogs“, “Face the Music“, “Madder than a wet sitting hen“, “Now you’re cooking with Peanut Oil“, and “What in tarnation“.



 

“Go the whole nine yards” – 

Origin: What should have been one of the easiest ones to answer, the colloquial American phrase “go the whole nine yards” has been described by Yale’s librarian Fred Shapiro as “the most prominent etymological riddle of our time”. The most commonly offered explanation for the phrase was that the gun belts used on aircraft machine guns were nine yards long; thusly why someone would say ‘give them the whole nine yards’. Sadly the phrase predates World War II and the standard belt for guns used in World War I was ‘seven yards’. Another explanation is that it is a unit of fabric measurement because skeins of fabric were routinely sold in lengths of nine (or some other multiple of three yards). In an article in the New Albany Daily Ledger in Indiana, an article called “The Judge’s Big Shirt” uses the phrase to describe a woman making three shirts; instead of three “she has put the whole nine yards into one shirt!” This phrase was used for the next 7 years in that same newspaper. Whether this or the measurement of the unfurled square-rigged sails of full-rigged sailing ships…no one knows.

Meaning: Everything, the whole lot; or when used as an adjective, “all the way”.



“Raining Cats and Dogs” – 

Origin: There is no definitive origin for the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” but just because the precise origin is not known….doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate. The phrase’s origin can definitely be traced to the 17th century, and we definitely know that there has never been any reports of cats and dogs falling from the sky during a storm (despite the occasional frog or fish that has been swept up into a cyclone and thusly brought back down to earth during the storm). More than likely the source of the saying is in dead animals and other debris being washed up into the streets after a heavy rain. Another proposed story could be cats being seen falling past a window after slipping off of a roof during a heavy rain storm. Either of these scenarios could be a grand possibility but there is no definitive way of knowing. Either way its a fun phrase in which we can also have fun speculating the origin.

Meaning: Heavy falling rainstorm.



“Face the Music” – 

Origin: With imagery so concise, you would think that there would be a definitive answer as to what the origin of the phrase “Face the Music” would be, but alas there is not. There are three equally interesting, plausible possibilities that could definitely be within the realm of possibility. The first possibility is that the phrase is based on a tradition of disgraced officers being ‘drummed out’ of their regiment. This would be a ceremony where the drummers would play while the officer was stripped of his title and then he would have to ‘face the music’ as he walked away. The second theory is that it was a theatrical term that meant that actors who were asked to ‘face the music’, were asked to quite literally face the orchestra pit while on stage. The third and slightly more interesting theory is that while during a performance

Meaning: Face the consequences of your action’s.



“Madder than a wet sitting hen”

Origin: If you or your grandma is from the Southeastern part of the United States then you’ve probably heard her or someone else say “I’m madder than a wet sitting hen”. Though there is no exact origin or written proof, the complex metaphor that describes someone who is raging mad is said to have originated in the Appalachian mountains. This phrase derived from the fact that hen’s become quite agitated if and when they get wet. I’m not sure how long it took someone to come to that conclusion but I would hate to be on the receiving end of that upset chicken.

Meaning: Phrase used to express the intensity of someone’s anger.



“Now you’re cooking with peanut oil” – 

Origin: An idiom that has since been made popular by the Duck Dynasty Robertson family patriarch; but the phrase has been around in one form or another, for many years. In the American South, the phrase has taken many forms: “Now we’re cooking with gas”, “now we’re cooking with Crisco”, and many others but the phrase’s definite origin is not necessary a definitely one. The only thing that we know is that the phrase works due to the high smoke point of peanut oil and is used in higher temperature cooking.

Meaning: A colloquial way of showing approval.



“What in Tarnation?” – 

Origin: This idiom, like the central theme of all of these idioms from this post, do not have definite origins. As for United States ‘Southerners’ this specific saying has been around for as long as they can remember. The term ‘tarnation’ originated in the late 1700s as a euphemism for the less offensive ‘damnation’. In the 1700s, the phrase “what in tarnation” would have been something similar to a slightly offensive phrase used currently: ‘what the hell?’. So whether its to replace ‘damnation’ or ‘plainly asking ‘what in the place where you are damned’….either way, I’d rather not visit Tarnation.

Meaning: An idiom used as a rhetorical question that literally means ‘what in damnation?’.



 

Featured Image: Textile Market in Karachi, Pakistan image by and accredited to Steve Evans from Bangalore, India – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=394539