Engaging Gotham (S1E16)


As an exercise in discernment, continuing what we started in the Engaging Culture class in 2014, I decided to check out an episode of Gotham and see what its worldview is and what it espouses either on purpose or by accident. I’m going to write as the show happens:

It’s not a great surprise that the Penguin kills someone who heckled his mother. And since he is evil that seems appropriate. As a Christian I’m not against violence in a story. I just want to be careful about what the violence tells us and how it’s handled. This act of violence confirms Penguin’s character.

Aside: we meet Robin’s parents, the Graysons! Woot!

Fish Mooney offers to lead a rebellion of slaves against organ harvesters. Yeah that sounds crazy. She is evil so there is undoubtedly some plan to save herself rather than anyone else.


The murdered snake handler’s son says, “sex is a healthy human activity” when asked about his mother’s numerous no-commitment sex partners. After all, he continues, without her sex life he wouldn’t be there. What does this tell us about sex? Gordon seems surprised by how blase the teenager is about sex but Gordon has no problem with sex outside of marriage himself. He does have a sort of rule where commitment is required for him. He slept and lived with Barbara. He’s almost gone over for sex with Lee after a date. He doesn’t sleep around. But the morality of sexual relationships on Gotham is definitely more open than a Biblical paradigm.

Mooney kills one of her fellow prisoners instead of giving him up. Knowing that the captors need them alive she uses the threat of violence against themselves to negotiate better living conditions. This confirms again her evil pragmatism. In that situation it’s hard not to see how this new negotiation may work. It was surprisingly selfless of the man to volunteer to die for everyone.

A psychic! Lila sent him a message from the “other side.” It’s a rhyme, of course. Gordon says, “if you were gonna send a message from beyond the grave wouldn’t priority one be a name?” Exactly. This episode is named after the Blind Fortune Teller so the idea that he may have a power is acceptable in this mythology. But the idea that psychics are real or that the dead communicate with the living is myth.

Is Bruce Wayne the rudest, most entitled kid ever? Yeah, very disrespectful to Alfred. But Batman is kinda a Jerk.

Barbara, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman (the two future bad girls are still kids) are eating and drinking and living it up. Barbara is trying to get Gordon back by wearing very short shorts.

Gordon has no issue with saying, “Oh my God” about how good the food is without concern for blasphemy. That used to matter but maybe not so much anymore. I think the Oscars beeped out one of these last week.

They find the murder weapon – a hatchet. It’s tied to a Satanist cult. So God and Satan exist in this world. The questions are where is God and where is/are the church/believers? He doesn’t have to be there, of course. But if he is then how he is depicted matters.

Gordon tells Lee that he wanted to have sex with her instead of pursuing the case that night. This is acceptable in the show but not in life.


Gerome killed his own mother? His father is the fortune teller? Ouch. “Your mother was a cruel person…” Nope. “A cold hearted whore.” Red hair, crazy, joking about his parents. Joker? Yeah, this kid is crazy and evil. The logical consequences of the mother’s sin is not murder but the relationship issues with her son did start and end with her sin. In that way her sin did find her out. But did anyone learn the lesson of free sex equaling trouble? Nope. Gordon and Lee go home to sleep with each other.

PS: the psychic is found out to be a fraud. I foresaw that.

Barbara walked in while they were kissing and storms out. She is so clueless. She left him for a woman (!) and is a drug addict but she expected Jim would just jump back into her arms. Again a lack of learning from mistakes and clear expectations of consequences.

Butch shows up with Zzaz at Penguin’s club. He’s gonna help Penguin make money with the club.

Bruce finally gets his shot at speaking to the board of Wayne Enterprises. Surprise! He’s figured out their secrets.

The carnival kids are getting married. Mr. and Mrs. Grayson!

Gordon got laid. Everyone blushes. Fist bump. Nothing unethical about it according to the show.

Bruce would make sure that the company was run ethically. Good for him!

Fish has a deal. Thomas stays with the prisoners while she is escorted out. Double cross all the prisoners? Probably.

What did we learn? Here’s what I think we learn:

-There are clear good and bad guys based on actions. Bad guys act bad. Good guys do good or at least struggle with trying to do good.

-Origin stories of bad guys have messed up family relations at the root. Could be they are insane as well, but the way the snake handler ignored her son for her own sexual gratification played a big part in his act of murder.

-Open sexuality without committed marriage relationships insidiously depicted as not just acceptable but as a worthy goal. We could have learned a lesson from the snake handler but we didn’t. What we learned was that the uncommitted sex wasn’t the issue, it was who had the sex.

What do you think?


Engaging Blank Space

I admit it: I love Shake It Off by Taylor Swift. It’s catchy and fun. I like the message of shrugging off negative messages from others – especially in light of the video which seems to suggest that the negative messages are based on size, race, looks, sex, etc. I also like many of her other songs. She’s amazing at putting together catchy tunes.

Her current song, Blank Space, just dropped a couple days ago. It’s already got nearly 18 million views on YouTube as of today! I listened to it a few times and I’m so disappointed and bummed! It’s catchy, like what you’d expect, but the message is terrible! What’s up with this message?!

My first red flag was in the first verse when she said, “Love’s a game, want to play?” Maybe it’s just a lyric that rhymed not a message, I think. Then more of the same comes and builds on that thought showing that not taking love seriously (both sexual and relational) is the theme of the song. Here are a couple verses:

So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players
And you love the game

‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless
We’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
But I’ve got a blank space baby
And I’ll write your name

A couple things really bug me about this. First, life isn’t about being looking forward to mistakes. That’s an insidious lie! Too often when people of all ages make mistakes, instead of trying to avoid the mistakes, it seems in vogue to take ownership and become proud of the mistakes. It’s juvenile but pervasive. It’s a “take me as I am” message because, after all, why should someone change? For someone else? “No way!” they cry.

But if life is a journey – and I think it is – and growth and maturity are learned along the way then the opposite of reckless should be true when it comes to life, love and sex. “Reckless” means thoughtless, rash, hasty, without thought of consequence, irresponsible. Reckless is not a virtue. The opposite would be responsible, with thought, considered. Those are virtues.

Is it any wonder that we devalue love and marriage so much in our culture that we go into it and out of it so quickly when we tie it to adjectives like “reckless” as if that were a positive? What if we didn’t look for a casual relationship that could last a month, as she says in her song, but instead looked for people who we could spend our lives with? Considered, thoughtful choices of who we want to hang with, who we think are good influences on us, who consider us when they take actions, who have similar life goals, who we want to have sex with. People who are not reckless with our hearts, in other words.

Love isn’t a game and sex isn’t something that we score. People aren’t points that we tally up in “blank spaces.”

Many of Taylor’s songs are about how she was mistreated by lovers and the honesty and hurt shine through and make us love her. That’s why it’s so out of character for her to glorify that same harmful attitude in this song.

Who Needs Christ During Christmas?

Recently American Atheists posted an advertisement in Times Square asking who needs Christ in Christmas and answering, “Nobody.” In a Fox News segment (read: debate where people yell at each other), the president of that organization, David Silverman, said:

Christmas is actually better without the Christ… we are speculating that for a large majority of Christians, especially the Christians that only go to church on Christmas and Easter because they have to… the religion is not the best part of Christmas. In fact it’s not even a good part of Christmas. All of the fun parts of Christmas… not only predate Christianity, but they are also completely devoid of religion.

I find a lot I can agreed with in what Mr. Silverman said. For instance, I agree that for many people, especially those who only go to church a couple times a year and who feel like they “have to” go to church at Christmas, the religious aspects of Christmas really aren’t that much fun. I believe they aren’t fun because I believe that a person who checks the box, so to speak, by attending on Christmas and Easter, and who doesn’t regularly congregate with other believers to grow in their faith may not actually be a Christian when defined as “Christ follower.” After all, in the most basic terms, Jesus enjoyed going to church every week and he and his apostles encouraged believers to do the same thing.

It then follows that if a Christmas celebrant isn’t actually a “Christian” then they probably don’t mind the unabashed commercialism and greed that, for so many in modern America, Christmas has come to represent. And if that’s the case, then Christmas is absolutely more fun without God, Christ and church. So, by his definitions, Mr. Silverman may be right.

After watching this video and thinking about what Christmas means I’m left with one defining question I think I, as someone who calls myself a “Christian,” should ask myself: Do I look forward to and enjoy the non-religious parts of Christmas more than the religious parts?

If so I may have a problem.

A passage to ponder: 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Tail Lamp

My wife told me the tail lamp went out in our van this week. Sure, I could have come up with the $5 to buy the part but I didn’t have to.

I had a bulb from an old truck of mine (number was off from the van bulb of 3057; I had 3157) but it worked. I needed a special five star large screwdriver and had a bit in a rusty set a neighbor gave me a year ago. Having had my share of old cars that needed work I had the experience necessary to change the bulb safely. Five minutes later and it’s done.

This isn’t a miracle. But it’s another example of God working things out for my good. I want to remember to thank God in these kinds of everyday blessings. So, thank you God!

Sweater Sale

I’ve been listing things on eBay for extra money. I listed a sweater I got last year but never wore. It closed today for $20! It isn’t much but when you need money $20 is much better than a sweater in the closet taking up space!

Thank God for eBay, the person who gave me the sweater, and for the person who bought it! May they all be blessed!

Phone Sold in 2 Hours

I just got paid and it looked bad for the budget. Thanksgiving had wreaked havoc on the money and I needed cash so I started listing things on eBay. I listened a mobile phone on a 7 day listing at $89 with a buy it now of $150. Within 2 hours it was sold at the buy it now price and the payment was received!

That money will be a huge blessing to us as we prepare for Christmas and a New Year trip to see friends. Thank God for the provision of the phone itself (which I got for free a few months ago) and for the quick sale!