Sunday, January 31, 2010

Movie Review: Invictus


Released: 2009

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There is no doubt that Nelson Mandela is one of the truly great men in history. After spending 27years as a political prisoner he emerged to become the first black president of South Africa — a nation that was struggling to overcome its apartheid history.

There are many aspects of Mandela's political achievements that Clint Eastwood (Gran Torina, Million Dollar Baby) could have focused on for his movie Invictus. But, interestingly, he has chosen to tell us the story of how Mandela (Morgan Freeman) used rugby to unite the nation around a common goal. Calling on the captain of the national rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) Mandela indirectly encourages him to lead the team toward victory at the 1995 World Cup which South Africa hosted.

Invictus never quite rises to the heights it seems intended to. Sport does have, of course, the potential to unite a nation and this aspect of the movie is articulated well. However, the dramatic tension isn't enough to evoke the emotional engagement that a story like this should have.

Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon do a great job (especially Damon's tackling of the accent!). But the screenplay they have to work with is so formulaic that it is quite plodding. Certainly, Mandela won a great political victory with the country's winning of the cup and the way it brought people together in the moment. And there are some scenes where the tension between white and black are adequately played — particularly in the first part of the movie. But, overall, the screenplay was repetitive and lacklustre. This is one of those movies where the real history was more significant than this particular telling of it.


Positive Review
'It’s an exciting sports movie, an inspiring tale of prejudice overcome and, above all, a fascinating study of political leadership.' - A O Scott/The New York Times

Negative Review
The result is earnest, admirable and more than a little dull -- a pedestrian movie about a remarkable subject.' - Rene Rodriguez/Miami Herald

Content Advice
Brief strong language

USA: PG-13

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Know Your Onions?

Onions This blog is called the Thinking Christian. I receive a lot of emails forwarded on to me from Christians that promote complete nonsense and/or dangerous misinformation. I thought I would mention some of these on this blog in the hope that I encourage these Christians to think before passing the stuff on. If some Christians are duped by this stuff, I wonder what else they might gullibly adopt, including claims about religion, the Bible, or anything else!

The most recent one I received was entitled Know Your Onions. Here is just part what it said about onions:

In 1919, when the flu killed 40 million people, a certain doctor visited many farmers to help them combat the flu. Many of the farmers and their family had contracted it and many died.
The doctor came upon this one farm household where, to his surprise, everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different, the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home, (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions and place it under the microscope. She gave him one and when he did this, he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria and, therefore, kept the family healthy.

Now, I heard this story from my hairdresser in Arizona. She said that several years ago many of her employees were coming down with the flu and so were many of her customers. The next year she placed several bowls with onions around in her shop. To her surprise, none of her staff got sick. It must work. (And no, she is not in the onion business.)

The moral of the story is, buy some onions and place them in bowls around your home. If you work at a desk, place one or two in your office or under your desk or even on top somewhere. Try it and see what happens. We did it last year and we never got the flu.

If this helps you and your loved ones from getting sick, all the better. If you do get the flu, it just might be a mild case.
Whatever, what have you to lose? Just a few bucks on onions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, this is all complete nonsense. You can read about the problems with this information by clicking here. The danger in spreading this sort of information is that people will try to avoid taking appropriate and necessary steps to avoid things like the H1N1 virus and end up potentially dying!

So I appeal to all Christians — think about what you believe and promote to others. If you don’t, you may be responsible for irreversibly harming them physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar 3D (2009)


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James Cameron's Avatar 3D has to be the most stunning movie experience ever! It is also getting some Christians up-in-arms.

Jake (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine, is sent on a mission to the planet Pandora. Pandora is inhabited by a race of human-like natives called Na'vi. The Na'vi live right on top of a rich mine deposit and the military have been sent to arrange the removal of the Na'vi so that the mineral deposits can be accessed and mined.

Technology has been developed by the corporation which allows an individual to inhabit an avatar of the Na'vi in which human DNA is combined with sample DNA of the Na'vi. This allows Jake (and his colleagues), while located in a unit at the military base, to roam around Pandora in the body of a Na'vi. His job is to infiltrate the Na'vi  to survey their culture, develop their trust, and identify strategies that would enable the corporation to persuade the Na'vi to move their village away from the potential mining site. As Jake learns more about the culture of the Na'vis and is mentored by a Na'vi princess,  Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) he gradually comes to identify with the people and a romantic relationship develops between him and Neytiri. This, of course, creates serious tension between Jake and his employer.

Avatar is an absolutely outstanding movie experience, particularly if seen in 3D (which is a must!). The viewer is truly immersed in the world on the screen and the special effects break new ground in cinema. The world of Pandora is dazzlingly and realistically rendered with startling flora and fauna. James Cameron waited for ten years to bring Avatar to the screen so that the technology could be developed to enable him to realise his vision. Special cameras were developed for the movie which, for the first time, enable facial expressions to be captured and used as part of the CGI generated characters.

The story is, in many senses, not new. But the way the package is delivered is so innovative that the story becomes fresh and truly alive. Apart from a short period in the middle of the movie where it became a bit bogged down, and a couple of cheesy, overdone scenes "preaching" about environmentalism, Avatar is a completely absorbing, edge-of-the-seat, never-to-be-forgotten experience.

A review of Avatar  would not be complete without mentioning some of the themes that dominate the story. One of these is the concept of an avatar. I mention this because some Christians, who seem to have a need to find evil behind every frame of a good movie, have suggested that Avatar is part of a plan of  'the Evil one [who] is preparing and grooming a harlot at an alarming speed by using technology to wow people and to deposit his filth'. (This was actually said by a Christian, in an email that was forwarded to me.) Part of this criticism is based on the definition of avatar from Wikipedia cited by this emailer. The definition cited was:

In Hinduism, Avatar or Avatāra (Devanagari अवतार, Sanskrit for "descent" [viz., from heaven to earth]) refers to a deliberate descent of a deity from heaven to earth, and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".[1]

The term is most often associated with Vishnu, though it has also come to be associated with other deities.[2] .... the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism, are also described as avatars or incarnations by some scholars and followers of Shaktism.[4][5]

On the basis of this definition, the writer of the email has concluded that this movie is a deliberate attempt by Satan to delude the world. The problem is that this definition is only one of a number of definitions of the term avatar. The dictionary I consulted listed these meanings:

    1. A new personification of a familiar idea (synonymous with the ideas of embodiment or incarnation)
    2. The manifestation of a Hindu deity (especially Vishnu) in human, superhuman or animal form
    3. An icon or animation to represent a participant used in Internet chat and games

Clearly, the religious meaning is not the only one and, in fact, more commonly in Western culture, at least, the word avatar is very well known to anyone who plays electronic online games or participates in virtual worlds such as Second Life. In these cases, whatever icon or image is used to represent the player or the user is called an avatar. Obviously, because of the science fiction element of the movie Avatar in which a human can operate virtually embodied in an artificial body, it is an appropriate term for the movie and for the activity at the heart of the story. To assume that the film maker is deliberately foisting Hindu religion on to his viewers is a very unfair representation of the movie. There are a number of reasons the movie is not about the Hindu concept.

Firstly, I can't find anywhere that James Cameron, the director, has claimed such a thing. Secondly, Jake Sully, the main character in the story, doesn't act with the same purpose as a Hindu avatar. According to Maxim Osipov, a student of Sanskrit and Indian philosophy and a follower of the Hare Krishna movement, states, 'an avatar always descends from a higher realm into the lower, restores prosperity, wisdom, and happiness — and moves on unchanged after the mission is accomplished.' This, in no way, describes what happens to Jake Sully in the movie. Just the opposite, in fact (I won't say anymore about this in case I ruin the story for someone).

Thirdly, some Hindus are actually protesting at the possibility that 'Cameron could be using the ... Sasnkrit word "Avatar" in a way that would be deemed insensitive by those to whom it has a lot of meaning.' (See here for full article) It seems that they are worried that Cameron's use of the word avatar could be so far away from what Hindu people understand it to mean that it could be a problem. In fact, accordinig to the Entertainment Daily website, 'Hindus have urged James Cameron to attach a disclaimer in the starting and end of his upcoming film ‘Avatar’ explaining that it has no relationship with Hinduism or its concepts.'

The only reason for promoting the idea that the Devil is behind the movie Avatar, then, is the simplistic paranoia and poor thinking of some people who, the moment they see a "connection" between two things, believe the worst and stir up controversy without proper investigation.

There may be some Christians who would like to capitalise on the idea of incarnation associated with the word avatar and allude to Jesus being the incarnation of God. But this would be just as misguided. There is little in Jake Sully's story that parallels that of the Christian idea of the incarnation of Christ. The initial aim of Jake Sully's character was to enter the Na'vi culture to deceive it — the very opposite of Jesus' purpose in entering our world.

Other themes in Avatar include cultural diversity, environmentalism, cultural imperialism, asymmetric war, and many more. Avatar, while it has its problems (eg, the romanticising of non-Western culture and lifestyle), has so much richness that it will make an interesting springboard for lots of discussion. It's not to be missed!


Positive Review
'It’s been twelve years since "Titanic," but the King of the World has returned with a flawed but fantastic tour de force that, taken on its merits as a film, especially in two dimensions, warrants four stars. However, if you can wrap a pair of 3D glasses round your peepers, this becomes a transcendent, full-on five-star experience that's the closest we'll ever come to setting foot on a strange new world. Just don’t leave it so long next time, eh, Jim?' - Chris Hewitt/Empire

Negative Review
'It is a very expensive-looking, very flashy entertainment, albeit one that groans under the weight of clumsy storytelling in the second half and features some of the most godawful dialogue this side of "Attack of the Clones."' - Stephanie Zacharek/

Content Advice
intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review: Practical Intelligence (2007)

The concept of intelligence has been around for a long time. It has always been controversial with a recognition, for many years now, that the standard measurement of one's intelligence quotient (IQ) is inadequate. Since Howard Gardner's work around the idea of multiple intelligences, the whole field of intelligence has continually shifted and been debated.

According to Karl Albrecht, one intelligence that is necessary for healthy living is practical intelligence. In his book, Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense, he lays out the nature of practical intelligence and describes attitudes and skills that, when developed, support and enhance this form of intelligence.

Albrecht begins his book with a brief survey of the state of thinking in America (the perspective from which the author comes) and what he sees as the 'dumbing' of its culture which has become one dominated by the pursuit of amusement. In the author's view, parents, teachers, mental health professionals, and many others need to take responsibility for promoting practical intelligence in a world that sorely needs practically intelligent people to solve significant personal and social problems.

Albrecht then goes on to discuss the theory of multiple intelligences and describes how two of the intelligences have been developed in terms of their application to everyday life. They are emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Albrecht wants to now develop a third — practical intelligence — and offers his book as a start to that process.

After a section of the book which defines practical intelligence as 'the mental ability to cope with the challenges and opportunities of life', he turns to the heart of the issue with four habits and four megaskills that are integral to the development and application of practical intelligence. The four habits are:

  • Mental flexibility - 'The willingness to let yourself be changed by your experiences. It includes commonly recognized habits like open-mindedness, tolerance for ambiguity and complexity, absence of dogmatism, respect for evidence, and willingness to consider various points of view.' (pp. 364-365)
  • Affirmative thinking - 'A pattern of selective attention and ideation that supports a high level of mental health.' (p. 357)
  • Semantic sanity/flexibility - 'The habit of using words, figures of speech, and language patterns that support adaptability, openness to new information, and willingness to consider various points of view.' (p. 369)
  • Valuing ideas - '[T]he habit of saying a "tentative yes" to all new ideas at the first instant of perception ... rather than reflexively shooting them down.' (p. 84)

The megaskills are:

  • Bivergent thinking - the integration of divergent and convergent thinking
  • Helicopter thinking - the integration of concrete and abstract patterns of ideation
  • Intulogical thinking - the integration of intuition and logical processes
  • Viscerational thinking - the integration of rational and emotional processes of thinking

The last two chapters of the book apply the habits and megaskills to problem solving and successful living.

Practical Intelligence is a very well written, engaging book. Apart from the times the author skates close to speculative thinking and the promotion of trance states, the model he presents offers a holistic approach to practical intelligence for everyday living. Albrecht provides a useful framework that simplifies what is known about practical thinking. Although the book is not written for a Christian audience, it should be very useful for anyone who wishes to become a better thinker — and wouldn't all Christians want that?

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John Lennox vs Michael Shermer: Does God Exist?

Check out this series of YouTube videos for an interesting debate between John Lennox, a scientist and Christian apologist, and Michael Shermer, one of the world's best known skeptics.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Movie Review: The Class (2008)

Entre les murs

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It will have been many years since most of us sat in a high school classroom. If the literature on the modern generation of children is anything to go by, then the classroom has changed a lot. If you wonder what it is like in a modern classroom, then the French film, Entre les murs (The Class) might be just for you.

Based on the teacher and novelist Francois Begaudeau's own experience as a teacher, the semi-improvised The Class takes us inside a contemporary Parisian school for two hours of riveting dialogue. For most of the film, we see one multicultural classroom with flashes out to some of the students' private lives and the teachers' staff room. Francois is brilliant playing himself as the teacher and the classroom of non-actors portray a rich array of different students' attitudes, backgrounds, and approaches to learning and life.

The Class is not flashy or action packed and there is no CGI (oh dear!). It is, in fact, quite mundane as classroom life unfolds over the year we spend with these adolensents. But tensions begin to form and there is a telling, but surely common, climax as one of the students presents a particularly challenging situation for his teacher.

When I started watching The Class I believed it was a documentary. Part way through, I paused the DVD because I had to find out whether it was or not. To my amazement I discovered that the whole thing was a mostly scripted screenplay. French director, Laurent Cantet, has used high definition cameras that prowl around the classroom and amongst the students in a way that makes us feel as though we are right there in the  middle of the action.

The Class is like no other school movie we have seen. Forget the sensationalist offerings like Dead Poets Society or To Sir With Love (both good in their own right!). The Class is about regular kids in a regular classroom challenging  regular teacher to deal with regular problems! We see the self-discovery of some; the resistance of others; the insight of learning; and feel the pain of those who feel excluded.

The Class was the first film to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival since 1987 and, according to Sean Penn, who was the jury president at the time, the vote was unanimous. It was also France's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 2009.

The Class is a delight to watch and is truly a creative production. Being a teacher in the modern world can be a very challenging prospect! This movie should be on the curriculum for all would-be teachers. (Available on DVD)


Positive Review
'Cantet's real-time classroom scenes are revelations: They make you understand that teaching is moment to moment, an endless series of negotiations that hang on intangibles—on imagination and empathy and the struggle to stay centered. This is a remarkable movie.' - David Edelstein/New York Magazine

Negative Review
'The Class is a one-trick show: once you spot its approach, the narrative falls into a routine. To the "insiders," the film is as familiar as an an aerial virtual reality ride would be to an airplane pilot. (This is hardly a surprise, since Bégaudeau was himself once an insider, though now safe in a film critic's chair.)' - Matthew Sorrento/Film Threat

Content Advice

USA: PG-13

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Cleaning out the shed at home yesterday, I came across a scrap of paper on which I had written a poem years ago. I no longer remember when it was written or what specifically prompted it. My guess is that it was written during my major depressive illness which lasted for about 10 years.

Ragged lines scribbled on a page
A child waiting expectantly
What is it that I view?
Dancing around the tangled web
Glistening from the clashing colours
Read the love between the lines
It’s real, it’s deep, the gift is mine

The mirror crack’d
Image blurred
Can’t quite see just who is there
Past the dirt and grime
Image of the divine
Strain my eyes to see
To know, to love, the person who is me

Fractured by the Fall
It’s happened to us all
Beauty obscured
Radiance to behold
In amongst the thorns
Delicate rose is formed
Worth the shedding of blood
To touch, to smell, to caress

Fingertips straining
Touching — only just
Pain and hurting
Clay and iron mixed
Love the potter’s hand
Shaping, molding, building
Gracious union — sweet communion

- Steve Parker

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Best books of 2009

books I have read some great books during 2009. To see a complete list of all the book I read last year, with my scores out of 10 and other details, click here. My top three books I’d recommend are:

Other books I would highly recommend are:

Body Language, James Borg (2008)
The Analyst, John Katzenbach (2003)
Beyond The God Delusion, Richard Grigg (2008)
The Shack, William P Young (2007)
Debating Calvinism, Dave Hunt & James White (2004)
Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson et al (2002)
Pitcairn: Paradise Lost, Kathy Marks (2008)
Truth Led Me Out, Dale Ratzlaff (2008)
Adam, TedDekker (2008)
Plea Of Insanity, Jilliane Hoffman (2008)
God, Actually, Roy Thomas Williams (2008)
How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views On God's Will and Decision Making (2009)
Hyperion, Dan Simmons (2005)
We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver (2006)
The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt; (2007)
Beyond Ellen White, Michael Chamberlain (2008)

See you in the library in 2010!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Best movies in 2009

movies Well… 2009 has gone and it is time to reflect back on the movies and books I have read for the year.

To see a list of all 157 movies I saw in 2009 along with my rating out of 10 click here. The top 5 movies for me were (click on titles to read my reviews):

It was a very good year for movies. Here are 59 other movies I would recommend:

Let the Right One In
State Of Play
Star Trek
Mao's Last Dancer
Sherlock Holmes
Taxi To The Dark Side
Bolt 3D
I've Loved You So Long
Ae Fond Kiss...
The Kite Runner
Standard Operating Procedure
The Painted Veil
Rachel Getting Married
The Investigator
Three Monkeys
Fear Me Not
Dark City
The Reader
The International
Waltz With Bashir
Mary And Max
The Baader Meinhof Komplex
Sunshine Cleaning
Samson And Delilah
Transporter 3
The Falcon And The Snowman
Last Ride
Public Enemies
The Young Victoria
Van Diemen's Land
Wendy And Lucy
Ben X
Funny People
500 Days Of Summer
Whip It!
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Coffin Rock
A Christmas Carol
The Escapist
Bright Star
Broken Embraces
Men's Group

See you at the movies in 2010!

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones (2009)

The Lovely Bones

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I have never lost a child and I can't even imagine what that would be like. But Peter Jackson's movie The Lovely Bones, based on Alice Sebold's novel of the same name, tries to tackle this issue head on. Not only does it attempt to portray the effect on a family after losing a child; it also grapples with the perspective of the child. It's a big ask and, unfortunately, Jackson, fails to deliver.

Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a 14 year old girl who is murdered by a neighbour but whose body is never found except for a part of her elbow and her hat. She watches from "the in-between" (a bit like a limbo) as her family try to cope with her disappearance. Susie attempts to influence people to bring about vengeance on the perpetrator of her murder. As the narrative progresses, our view shifts back and forth from earth to the in-between and we see the tension between Susie's desire for revenge and her desire for her family to heal.

The Lovely Bones had enormous potential and one would think it would reach that potential in the hands of a director like Peter Jackson (King Kong, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Heavenly Creatures). But it would seem that Jackson has become overly enamoured with his abilities with CGI effects, developed in his previous movies, because these dominate The Lovely Bones to such an extent that the human suffering experienced by those who are left behind after Susie's murder is completely diluted. What should have been a deep exploration of human grief and revenge turns out to be a vehicle to show off what Jackson can do with special effects.

Rachel Weisz (who plays Susie's mother), Mark Wahlberg (the father), Stanley Tucci (George Harvey, the murderer) and Saoirse Ronan (Susie Salmon) put in great effort portraying their characters but their performances just do not make up for the inadequacies of the script. Because of the excessive time spent showing Susie wandering around in the "in-between" with cheesy special effects, we are constantly dragged away from the human experience on earth.

There are some very powerful moments. The subtle abduction of Susie and the interaction between her and George Harvey, one of her neighbours, as he seduces her to accompany him into a den he has built underground and where she suddenly becomes aware of what he is about to do, is deeply disturbing (even though we don't actually see the rape and murder itself). In fact, Tucci's performance as the serial killer is very powerful — it stands out along with Ronan's Susie. But the other performances do not come anywhere near Tucci's and we are left with a skewed emphasis on the murderer rather than the very human story of loss, grief, and potential harmfulness of revenge, that should dominate the story.

Interestingly, a relative of mine who saw the movie, couldn't identify what the "message" of the movie was. They said they became so bored with all the time the story spent in the "in-between", that they gave up trying to work it out. But the theme is definitely there: we need to let go of anger and vengeance if we are to work through loss and grief to a healthy place in our lives. But the fact that the fantastical (and I use the word advisedly) existence of Susie in her after-death world, before she can be free to move on to heaven, so absorbs time and attention, that we lose any sense of deeply caring about Susie or her family.

The Lovely Bones novel has been widely acclaimed (I haven't read it) but the movie will not achieve the same regard. If you really must see it, wait for it to come out on DVD.


Positive Review
'Like “The Lord Of The Rings,” The Lovely Bones does a fantastic job with revered, complex source material. As terrific on terra firma as it is audacious in its astral plane, it is doubtful we’ll see a more imaginative, courageous film in 2010.' - Ian Freer/Empire

Negative Review
'A perfect storm of a movie disaster: You've got good actors fighting a poorly conceived script, under the guidance of a director who can no longer make the distinction between imaginativeness and computer-generated effects. The result is an expensive-looking mess that fails to capture the mood, and the poetry, of its source material.' - Stephanie Zacharek/

Content Advice
mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language

USA: PG-13

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Four Habits for the Spiritual Life

05-Practical-Intelligence I am reading a fascinating book at present entitled Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense written by Karl Albrecht. While the book is not directly discussing the spiritual life, I have come across an interesting set of ideas that seem to me to be directly related to it.

Albrecht describes 'four habits that unlock your mental capacity' (pp. 82-84). These habits are:

  1. mental flexibility
  2. affirmative thinking
  3. semantic sanity
  4. valuing ideas

For Albrecht, 'mental flexibility is at the very foundation of [one's] ability to perceive clearly, think clearly, solve problems, persuade others, learn, and grow as a person.' (p. 83) Surely a health spiritual life needs to have mental flexibility. In exploring doctrine, developing theological understandings, and applying what we learn to practical living, we need to have these qualities that are enhanced by mental flexibility. In order to develop mental flexibility and the ability to live with ambiguity, we need to free ourselves, according to Albrecht, from:

  • narrow-mindedness
  • intolerance
  • dogmatic thinking and judgments
  • "opinionitis"
  • fear-based avoidance of new ideas and experiences

By affirmative thinking, Albrecht means 'the habit of perceiving, thinking, speaking, and behaving in ways that support a healthy emotional state in yourself as well as others.' (p. 83) Affirmative thinking, according to Albrecht, also includes discerning what is appropriate to let into your mind, what to give time and attention to, and what we will allow to influence us whether they be people or ideas.

Semantic sanity refers to "the habit of using language consciously and carefully" (p. 83). It is based on the fact that language reflects our thinking and that, by changing the way we use language, we can affect and influence our thinking.

And, finally, valuing ideas refers to 'the habit of saying a "tentative yes" to all new ideas at the first instant of perception—however strange, unfamiliar, or different from our own—rather than reflexively shooting them down." Another term for this might be fair-mindedness—a willingness and commitment to treating other viewpoints with equal respect as we examine them with the same openness as we do our own.

It seems obvious to me that all of these habits of mind would enhance our Christian lives. To rid ourselves of narrow-mindedness, intolerance, dogmatic thinking and judgments, opinionitis, and fear-based avoidance of new ideas and experience is an urgent task. In my spiritual journey I have experienced many of these attitudes and, I am ashamed to say, there was a time when I displayed them myself.

Imagine what sort of Christianity we would have if we practiced these habits of mind and really sought to learn more about them and how to develop them. They would go a long way to enabling us to truly love God and others—the very essence of what it means to be a Christian.

—Steve Parker