Friday, December 7, 2012

Misspelled Books of the Bible

For years now I have made my Intro to Bible students list the books of the Bible in order on their final exams.  I think that Christians should at least know what is in their Bibles, if they have not actually read everything.  Of course, reading it all would be ideal, but at least knowing the table of contents is a start.

Now, this has led to some great misspellings over the years, but I think what I had on one test this year might be an all time high for hilarious misspellings.

Keep in mind, this is not a mashup, these were all on one exam.

The normal misspellings:

Jashua (Joshua)
Esra (Ezra)
Nehimia (Nehemiah)
Isiah (Isaiah)
Lammonations (Lamentations)
Galasians (Galatians)
Phelipians (Philippians)

The funny ones:

Ex Sades (Exodus)
Lavidicus (Leviticus)
Dutereny (Deuteronomy)
1 Colethleans (1 Chronicles)
2 Coletheans (2 Chronicles)
Probers (Proverbs)
Jemiaha (Jeremiah)
Hubbaka (Habakkuk)
Celemons (Colossians)
1 & 2 Thesolionions (1 & 2 Thessalonians)

Runner Up:

Ezekeaskles (Ecclesiastes with an apparent mashup of Ezekiel)

Grand Prize:

Splams (Psalms).  Now, I have seen Pslams before, but never Splams.

Good for a laugh during finals week. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Jesus SeM&Minar

Today in my historical Jesus class we conducted our very own Jesus SeM&Minar.  Now I must admit, I got this brilliant idea from James McGrath of Exploring our Matrix fame as I used his syllabus as the template for my own course this year as I was teaching it for the first time.  I thoroughly modified his syllabus to my own needs, but I had to keep the Jesus SeM&Minar.  

The idea is to, Jesus Seminar style, vote on various sayings and/or deeds of Jesus as to their historical probability, but instead of using colored stones, one uses M&Ms.  More fun, and hey, you get to eat your vote after you are finished. 

Here is how I set up the voting for our class.

Red M&M = He said/did such a thing
Orange M&M = He said/did something like this, but not exactly as the text(s) present it
Green M&M = He probably did not say/do such a thing
Brown M&M = He almost certainly said/did no such thing

These colors more or less correspond to the Jesus Seminar's Red, Pink, Gray, and Black.  

I was a little nervous going into the class because my student makeup is to a great extent on the conservative evangelical end of the spectrum and I was afraid of vote after vote of all red M&Ms, because for many conservatives, if it is in the Bible, it has to be historically factual.  

I chose 6 sayings/deeds that we were to vote on.  They are: 

1.     The Beelzebul Controversy (Mark 3:20-22, Matt 12:24, Luke 11:15)
2.     The cleansing of the Temple (Mark 11:15-16, Matt 21:12, Luke 19:45, John 2:13-16)
3.     Jesus walking on water (Mark 6:47-52, Matt 14:24-33, John 6:16-21)
4.     The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32, Matthew 13:31-32, Luke 13:18-19, Gos Thomas 20)
5.     Let the dead bury their own dead (Luke 9:59-60, Matthew 8:21-22)
6.     Church Discipline (Matthew 18:15-20)

After voting, I had the students defend their positions based on various Jesus criteria (multiple attestation, dissimilarity, embarrassment, coherence, historical plausibility, etc.).

I stacked the deck in my selection of deeds/sayings, choosing some that Jesus scholars clearly think are historical and others that are clearly on the non-historical side. Out of 15 students, plus my vote, here are the results.

Beelzebul: 8 Red, 7 Orange, 1 Green, 0 Brown
Temple Cleansing: 9 Red, 7 Orange, 0 Green, 0 Brown
Water Walking: 6 Red, 2 Orange, 8 Green, 0 Brown
Mustard Seed: 10 Red, 6 Orange, 0 Green, 0 Brown
Dead bury own dead: 9 Red, 5 Orange, 1 Green, 1 Brown
Church Discipline: 4 Red, 6 Orange, 4 Green, 1 Brown

Looking at these vote counts, it was not as I feared.  Obviously there was some conservative tilt with a lot of red and orange.  The biggest red light issue for me was the walking on water with 8 votes going toward historical authenticity, or at least close to authentic.  But, miracles are a touchy issue and I understand the vote, even though I tried to get the students to disengage their belief and try to act under the confines of historical research only. 

The other shock for me was perhaps #6, Matthew's exposition on church discipline.  This is a largely anachronistic use of the ekklesia, portraying Matthew's Sitz im Leben, not that of Jesus.  Yet, this vote was actually the most interesting, because the verses that I had included in the vote really can be broken down into two sections: vv. 15-18 which is talking about church discipline proper, and vv. 19-20, which talk about binding and loosing and where two or more are gathered.  I called a re-vote, this time just on vv. 15-18 and the results were fascinating. 1 Red, 2 Orange, 5 Green, and 8 Brown.  Wow, 13 people in my class were skeptical or outright dismissive that these words belonged to the historical Jesus. I believe I have succeeded in communicating that the gospels do indeed often represent not just the brute facts of history, but also the concerns of the evangelists themselves.

It has been a really fun class this semester.  I have learned a lot, I think my students have learned a lot, and this Jesus SeM&Minar was a great way to bring many themes from throughout the semester into one discussion here at the end of the semester.  Thanks again to McGrath for the idea.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaving the SBL

Well, another year, another SBL. Great weather in Chicago this year. The highlight for me: the biblioblogger's gathering last night. Even though I don't blog much anymore, and i felt a little like a poser last night, those bibliobloggers are just the most fun.

A parting pic down Michigan ave as I waited for the airport shuttle.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:S Michigan Ave,Chicago,United States

Thursday, September 6, 2012

God Declares Independent

In a strangely prophetic post last week, I mentioned that if God were to send a hurricane to Charlotte to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, then we would know that God was truly an independent and not tied to either party, since Hurricane Isaac disrupted the RNC.  Well, we see through a glass dimly, but we see nonetheless.  While it is not a hurricane, strong thunderstorms are expected to roll through Charlotte this evening which has prompted the DNC to move Obama's address from the outdoor venue, Bank of America Stadium, to the Indoor Time Warner Cable Arena.

I guess God thinks that both parties do not represent God's interests right now.

PSA: if you are taking this seriously, see my previous post here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Dangers of Sarcasm in Print

Using sarcasm in print is always dangerous because print cannot convey things like tone of voice, body language, etc.  Therefore, I would like to thank James McGrath for noticing that yesterday's post was indeed a parody. 

McGrath calls for consistency among a certain brand of conservative evangelicals who see every natural disaster as God's judgment on sinners.  At least be consistent and call Isaac God's judgment against the Republican National Convention. 

No doubt, tomorrow morning we will probably read about how Isaac is yet again God's judgment against the "Big Easy," just seven years after his last smackdown of the sinful city with Katrina.  But if these hurricanes were God's judgment against New Orleans, must we not also follow logic and declare that God deliberately took momentum out of the Republican Party's national convention in a similar judgment?

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is: "Don't schedule your party's national convention in a hurricane prone area during the height of hurricane season."

Below is an image from McGrath's blog, speaking to the same issue.

Monday, August 27, 2012

God Declares against the Republicans

It is official, the Republican National Convention has been thrown off by Hurricane Isaac.  As many in the past have claimed, God hurls hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes at the godless.  Therefore, since Isaac has interrupted the Republican National Convention, God must be against the Republicans. 

I guess we will have to wait to see if God also sends a hurricane to Charlotte in a couple of weeks, thus declaring himself an independent. As one who lives in NC, here's to the democrats.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

LOST: The Final Tally

Well, the re-watch is done, and I can say that the show is still every bit as satisfying on re-watch as it was the first time through.

One thing that my wife and I did this time through was to tally up several aspects.  You can see my ragged tally list in this picture.  One tally list records how many flash back/flash forward/flash sideways episodes a certain character got.  That is, how much time did the show spend developing certain characters.  Here is the list in order of episodes each character got.

  1. Jack: 12 episodes (7 flash back, 2 flash forward, 1 present, and 2 flash sideways)
  2. Locke: 10 episodes (9 flash back, 1 flash sideways)
  3. Kate: 9 episodes (7 flash back, 1 flash forward, 1 flash sideways)
  4. Jin and Sun (counted together because they could not be separated): 8 episodes (6 flash back, 1 flash forward/flash back, 1 flash sideways)
  5. Sayeed: 7 episodes (5 flashback, 1 flash forward, 1 flash sideways)
  6. Desmond: 7 episodes (6 flash back, 1 flash sideways)
  7. Sawyer: 6 episodes (5 flash back, 1 flash sideways)
  8. Hurley: 6 episodes (4 flash back, 1 flash forward, 1 flash sideways)
  9. Charlie: 4 episodes (4 flash back)
  10. Ben: 4 episodes (2 flash back, 1 flash forward, 1 flash sideways)
  11. Walt and Michael: 4 episodes (4 flash back)
  12. Eko: 3 episodes (3 flash back)
  13. Juliette: 3 episodes (3 flash back)
  14. Claire: 3 episodes (3 flash back)
  15. Ana Lucia: 2 episodes (2 flash back)
  16. Boone: 1 episode (1 flash back)
  17. Shannon: 1 episode (1 flash back)
  18. Rose and Bernard: 1 episode (1 flash back)
  19. Richard: 1 episode (1 flash back)
  20. Daniel: 1 episode (1 flash back)
  21. Miles: 1 episode (1 flash back)
  22. Jacob and Smokey: 1 episode (1 flash back)
  23. Nikki and Paulo: 1 episode (1 flash back)
Notice the number 23?

Other characters on the show with significant roles but no dedicated episodes: 

Does this list by number of dedicated episodes fairly depict the importance of the characters in LOST?

Some surprises to me: That Desmond jumps ahead of both Sawyer and Hurley, that Daniel, whom I feel fairly connected to, only had 1 flashback, that Nikki and Paulo ever deserved an episode.

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Losties" vs. "Others": Body Count

So, Brooke and I are doing another lost re-watch.  We started one which sputtered out last year, but this will be the first re-watch of the entire series, and the first time we have re-watched season 6 at all.

Several things have struck me during this re-watch, but what I want to post about here is the actual body count of "Others" vs. "Losties."

Lost is a great example of how point of view/perspective can shape our realities.  In Lost, we are, at least for the first 3 seasons, given the point of view of the "Losties."  From their perspective, the "Others" are a brutal and malicious group of practically wild savages, while the "Losties" themselves are a reasonable and logical group of people merely defending themselves.  Yet, one surprising statistic might be all that is needed to show how perspective can change everything.

<> At the end of season 3, the body count of the "Losties" is 18, to 3 for the "Others."  That is, the Losties have killed 18 of the "Others" while the "Others" have only killed 3 of the "Losties."  That statistic might sound surprising to those who have watched the show, but I have kept a fairly rigid count during this re-watch. I have not counted some kills such as "Losties" on "Losties," like Ana Lucia's killing Shannon, Michael's killing of Ana Lucia and Libby.  Nor have I counted "Others" on "Others" kills such as Juliette killing Danny or Mikael killing the two women in the Looking Glass station.  Beyond season 3, keeping a body count becomes pointless as the groups have essentially dissolved or been realigned. 

Some notable kills:

1) Ethan kills Scott or Steve, can't remember which.
2) Goodwin kills Nathan
3) Mikael kills Charlie

That was all the "Others" kills in the first three seasons.  Sure, Ethan tried to kill Charlie, Danny would have shot Kate and Sawyer, but I am going with actual kills.

Charlie kills Ethan
Eko kills two "Others" on the beach in self defense
Ana Lucia kills an "Other" on the beach during a raid
Ana Lucia kills Goodwin
Sun kills Danny's wife on the boat
The grand killing spree comes in the finale of season three when 7 "Others" are killed on their beach raid trying to take the pregnant women and are blown up with dynamite.  3 more "Others," including Tom and Ryan, are killed subsequently as Hurley runs over Ryan, Sayeed snaps the neck of another, and Sawyer shoots Tom at point blank range.
The other 2 kills are of "Other" extras during various skirmishes, one as Kate, Jack, Sawyer and Hurly are on their way to the "Others'" camp, and one during Kate and Sawyer's escape attempt.

So, which group is more malicious, bloodthirsty, and brutal?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saying goodbye to "Pop"

This photo really captures Marvin "Pop" Schwarz' joy and love for life as he mans the grill. He was my wife's grandfather, a larger than life Texas Cowboy. He passed on Friday 3/23 and we will miss him. On the way to South Texas to perform his funeral. I'm glad I got to know him for the short time that I did.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Doctor Who 2-3: Tooth and Claw

In episode 3 of season 2 of Doctor Who, "Tooth and Claw," Rose and the Doctor visit 19th century Scotland and meet Queen Victoria.

Here we get the Doctor Who trope that some creature that has been relegated to folklore and mythology in the world is actually some advanced alien species.  In this case, the werewolf is actually an alien that is passed on through a bite.  None of the werewolf rules really change, but they are now explained through alien technology (although the technology is not explained).

We get another interesting connection between what is relegated to fantasy and what is relegated to science in this episode.  At one point Queen Victoria mentions that to be a learned person means to have knowledge of both Astronomy (the hard sciences) and folklore.  To truly have learning one needs to understand science and literature.

The episode is a fairly typical werewolf story line.  Werewolf attacks, humans run, the Doctor finds the way to defeat the werewolf using technology.  All is well with the world, except the fact that even though the Doctor saved the day, Queen Victoria is not amused.  After knighting the Doctor and Rose, she declares the Doctor and enemies of the state and banishes them from the kingdom.

Interestingly, the episode takes place in Scotland, at the house of a Scottish Lord called the Torchwood Estate. This is now our second reference to Torchwood this season.  At the end of the episode, Queen Victoria vows to set up an institute to study alien life and learn to protect England from its threats.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bringing Order out of Chaos

This is my first Spring in North Carolina, and oh what a beautiful Spring it is.  It is Spring Break for me here at Chowan, and it nicely coincides with plants just beginning to grow.  With that comes yard work.  Thankfully, I now have time to deal with the work, and oh how much there is to do.  I have now spent three full days working with my hands outside.  My body aches in places it has not ached in a long time.

It is easy to just see yard work as a chore, some unpleasant activity that just has to get done.  And believe me, I still see it that way some times.  Yet, this week, I have tried to see more in my actions.  More in my digging, weeding, weed whacking, planting, cutting than I have in the past.  I see it as participating in God's creation.

In Genesis 1 we see God bringing order out of Chaos.  God takes his creation that was tohu va vohu (formless and empty), and he forms it and fills it, bringing order to the creation which at first existed just as a chaotic body of water.  Now, I get to take my yard, which in many places was empty, and in even more places was formless, and I get to bring form.  I get to hack away at the plants until form appears.  I get to fill empty spots with plants that bring beauty.

Perhaps the most chaos that I tamed this week was a plant that we could not identify.  It was about 7 feet tall and just looked like a tangle of growing things.  I started to pull, hack, and cut, and behold, what was once chaos took shape.  Turned out, a tenacious vine had taken over three trees and an Azalea bush.  Well, after the painstaking task of removing the vine, and pruning the trees and bush, I now have what might become an attractive part of the yard.  The Azaleas are just getting ready to bloom.  I have yet to identify the trees, but they are budding as well.  It feels good to bring order out of chaos, even if it hurts at the same time.

Doctor Who 2-2: New Earth

In episode 2 of season 2 of Doctor Who, Rose and the Doctor are off to New Earth in the year 5 Billion.  Earth was recently destroyed by the Sun's supernova (As seen in season 1 episode 2, The End of the World).  Yet, this has led to a renaissance and the founding of New Earth, with its capital city New New York.

There are three story lines in this episode, all of which deal with the concept of death and letting things pass when their time has come.

First, the Doctor is called to the hospital by a patient, the face of Boe, perhaps the oldest being in the universe whom we also met in "The End of the World."  The Face of Boe is just that, a giant face who exists in a glass cylinder.  In a conversation with the Face of Boe's nurse, we hear legends of the Face of Boe, that he is thousands, if not millions of years old, and that there is a legend that at the end of his life he will impart a secret to one like himself, a wanderer, a man without a home, a lonely god.  Is the nurse referring to the Doctor?  The Face of Boe appears to be dying.  Has his time come?  Will he reveal a secret to the Doctor?

The second story is that of the last human being, Cassandra (also encountered in "The End of the World") trying to take over the body of Rose.  Cassandra is a grotesque parody of a human.  Through plastic surgery, she exists, also as only two eyes and a mouth in the middle of a stretched piece of skin.  Her constant call to her attendant is: "moisturize me."  The Face of Boe and Cassandra form interesting foils.  The face of Boe is truly ancient, and is letting himself die.  Cassandra seeks to continue in existence through unnatural means and will not let herself die.  In Rose, a human as they should be, Cassandra sees a way to lengthen her life.  Through a psychic transfer, Cassandra is able to place her consciousness in the body of Rose, giving her a new lease on life.  This story line is about Cassandra realizing, with the help of the Doctor, that there is a time for all things to come to an end.  Cassandra meets her end in this episode, but it is with hope and redemption, not despair.

Third, the Cat-Nurses of the hospital have bred human flesh, infected with all human diseases, as a means of curing human illnesses.  The nurses, through the use of these human clones bred only to be inflicted with human diseases, are able to cure all of these diseases for humanity.  Theirs is pure utilitarian thinking.  The good of the many through the suffering of a few (although there seem to be thousands of these human clones).  Here the Doctor appears as the utmost authority, condescendingly condemning the nurses.  He says that if they seek any higher authority, there is none.

In the end, the Doctor, fully living up to his name, becomes the healer of all, healing all diseases and granting new life, in essence, creating a new human subspecies to which he has given life.  Their time had not yet come, so the Doctor grants life from death.

The Doctor's actions inspire the Face of Boe.  Though he thought his time had come, he now sees that it has not.  He now seeks to continue living, not in a selfish manner like Cassandra, but because he sees that he still has good to do in this world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Doctor Who: 2-1: The Christmas Invasion

"The Christmas Invasion" is the first episode of Doctor Who season 2, and the first episode with David Tennant as the Doctor.  Tennant is my personal favorite Doctor, which goes contrary to what many have said that the first Doctor you meet is your favorite.  From the first episode, his portrayal of the Doctor seems consistent and phenomenal.  Eccleston vacillated back and forth between stern, goofy, conflicted, etc.,  while never really pulling any of them off.

First of all, the plot in a nutshell.  Rose and the new Doctor have crashed at Rose's home. The Doctor is regenerating, and while doing so is pretty much out of commission.  Meanwhile, scary Santas attack Rose and Mickey (remember Mickey, the long lost boyfriend?).  The Doctor wakes again just long enough to tell them that these Santas are looking for him and are only the scouts of a greater enemy, one in the sky.  The Sycorax aliens are coming to earth to take over.  The Doctor regains consciousness just in time to save the day.  He does this in single combat with the Sycorax leader, whom he defeats.  He then sends them packing with a warning, never to return.

Tennant plays the Doctor in all of his glory.  Long monologues with plenty of flare.  Tennant is a crazy, goofball, madhat Doctor who is equal parts court jester and earth's defender all in one.

The regeneration process brings an interesting aspect to this Doctor.  In many senses he is the same person, but in other ways, he is free to re-create/rediscover who he is.  In his monolog on the sycorax ship we see that the Doctor is free to determine what kind of a Doctor he will be.  And in the climactic speech, he sends the defeated sycorax off with a message to the universe: This planet earth is defended.  The Doctor has self defined himself as the defender of Earth and the human race.  The Doctor is the protector of humanity, the Earth's personal God.  There was even a moment in the episode where Harriet Jones (MP Flydale North, whom we met in season 1 episodes 4-5 ("Aliens of London and World War III)), now Prime Minister, offers up what can only be described as a prayer to the Doctor to come and save the earth.

As set up for what is to come, Harriet Jones (MP flydale North) orders Torchwood (England's Alien Taskforce) to shoot down the Sycorax ship as it is fleeing.  This of course greatly enrages the Doctor, who hates the taking of life, especially when it is running away.  Yet, Torchwood will continue to play a big role in what is to come, this season and beyond.

Doctor Who: Bad Wolf and Parting of the Ways

This two part season finale, comprising episodes 12 and 13 ("Bad Wolf" and "Parting of the Ways") of season 1, takes place on the familiar Satellite 5 from the episode "The Long Game."

When we left Satellite 5, the Doctor and Rose had set all things right with the human empire, or so we thought.  Now, upon their return, things are even worse.  The Doctor, Rose, and Jack Harkness have been teleported against their will into three separate game shows, future versions of The Weakest Link, Big Brother, and a makeover show, all run by robots.  Rose is caught as a contestant on the weakest link, where unfortunately the weakest link is disintegrated each round.  The Doctor is caught in Big Brother, where the one voted off is also disintegrated.  Finally, Jack is on the makeover show, where the makeover includes not just a change of clothes but a change of body parts.  Each game is deadly serious.  Yet, people watch, a commentary on human entertainment preferences?

Who could be behind such a dastardly and devilish world?  The Daleks of course.  Turns out, the Daleks have been behind all of the troubles in the 4th great human empire, including our previous run in with Satellite 5.  They have been preparing the world for destruction while they have been rebuilding their armies.

Now, fast forward through the fun action: The Doctor escapes the Big Brother house, Jack escapes the makeover show, and Rose makes it to the final of the weakest link, loses, and then runs, but cannot escape the disintegration ray. Rose disappears right before the eyes of the Doctor and Jack as they are moments too late to rescue her.  This disintegration of Rose, of course, severely ticks off the Doctor, who now makes it his personal vendetta to discover what is behind all of this nonsense.

A trip to floor 500, the control center of satellite 5, finds not an evil editor, like Simon Pegg's character from the previous episode, but rather, a set of innocent human pawns, and a human/computer hybrid controller.  The controller runs satellite 5, but seems to be receiving her orders from elsewhere.  In her last moment of humanity, the controller is able to reveal to the Doctor the true characters behind this plot, the Daleks and there full strength army, on the way to earth bent on destruction.

Jack figures out that the disintegrator beam is not any such thing, but rather a teleportation device that transports the victim straight to the Dalek control ship.  The Doctor, of course, plans his own journey to the Dalek ship via the Tardis.  Mission: rescue Rose and deliver warning to the Daleks.  Here the Doctor looks most like a god.  He has done something (forcefield, the show doesn't explain) that makes him invincible to the Daleks weapons, all the while parading around the Dalek's ship spouting warnings. Here again we see that with the Daleks, The Doctor's usual mode of thinking is skewed.  His willingness to use destructive weapons, i.e., guns comes out.

The Daleks now have religion, a new development for this species.  In the rebuilding of the Dalek empire, the Supreme Dalek, Emperor of the Daleks has come to think of himself as a God.  He is worshiped by the Daleks.  This realization strikes the Doctor insanity.

Get ready for the Final Battle.  Return to Satellite 5 and ready the defenses.  The goal, give the Doctor enough time to produce a delta wave (whatever that is) which can wipe out the entire Dalek army.  As the Doctor gets furiously to work, Jack prepares the ships defenses.

The Doctor's protective instinct, especially toward his companion Rose, causes him to sacrifice himself and send Rose to safety, namely, back to her home in the Tardis.  The Doctor has realized that his delta wave will not only wipe out the Dalek's, but all life within its path, including the earth.  He sends rose in the Tardis back home.  Once there, without the knowledge to fly the Tardis she is stuck.

Enter Bad Wolf.  We have been seeing this name throughout the entire first season.  Here it shows up again all over Rose's neighborhood in graffiti.  Rose takes this as a sign that she can find a way to return to the Doctor.

Remember back in episode 11, "Boom Town" where the heart of the Tardis was opened revealing the time vortex.  Rose is convinced that if she can open the Tardis, revealing its heart, it will return her to the Doctor.  She succeeds in this plan, but in the process, she stares into the very time vortex, absorbing its power (last time we saw that happen, Blond Slitheen reverted to an egg).

Meanwhile, back on Satellite 5, the Dalek army is closing in on floor 500 and the Doctor.  Jack Harkness makes a valiant last stand, but is killed in the end. The Doctor then takes on the most godlike of choices: to take all life or preserve all life.  Destroy the Daleks, and all the earth with them, or refuse and let the Daleks' destruction commence.  This is like the godlike choice from episode 11, where the Doctor had the life of Blond Slitheen in his hands.  Now, he has all life in his hands.

In the end, the goodness of the Doctor shines forth.  He cannot wield the immense power and destroy all life.  Mercy triumphs.  But at what cost?  Will not the Dalek's accomplish the same ends?

Enter Rose, who by looking into the heart of the Tardis, has taken in the power of the time vortex, and has become like a god.  She singlehandedly destroys the Dalek's with her godlike power (Oh, and she also brings Jack Harkness back to life).  She "unmake's" the Daleks with a thought, and scatters the words "Bad Wolf" throughout history as a sign to herself.

Yet, containing such power is beyond her humanity and it is killing her.  The Doctor, in a self-sacrificing move, takes the power of the Tardis and the Time Vortex into himself.  This will effectively kill him, but only temporarily, until his regeneration (resurrection anyone).   Bring on the new series' first regeneration and our new Doctor, David Tennant.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

USS Enterprise

Thanks to a good high school buddy of mine, Lieutenant Commander Zak LaPointe, Brooke and I got a fascinating tour of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier today. Really a once in a lifetime experience.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Doctor Who: Boom Town

In episode 11 of season 1 of Doctor Who, entitled "Boom Town," we have the reintroduction of the family Slitheen from the planet Raxicoricofallipatorious (spelling?).

This was a very interesting episode, especially in relation to the Doctor's characterization as a god.  The series has constantly been playing with the idea that the Doctor should be viewed as some sort of god.  The show's background is, of course, not that of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.  It does not suppose one, all powerful God, besides which everything else is part of creation.  Rather, we are closer to ancient polytheistic mythology.  Each alien species might be considered a "god" due to their advanced technology. Yet, the show is always pushing right up against the notion of the Doctor as a god in relation to humanity.  Indeed, the Doctor does fit into such a characterization, especially in this episode.

The episode starts as if it were going to be just boring day.  The Tardis is recharging (didn't know it had to do that) on the space/time rift in Cardiff of Wales that we encountered in 1-3, "The Unquiet Dead."  Captain Jack Harkness has joined the show and is along for the ride.  The Doctor, Rose, and Jack meet up with Mickey (Rose's old boyfriend) in Cardiff for a day on the town while the Tardis recharges.

The day of relaxation is interrupted when the Doctor notices the image of Margaret, the human body suit that contained one of the family Slitheen members from the double episode 1-4/5 "Aliens of London/World War III"  The Doctor knows something is up, and it is.  In the meanitme, Margaret Slitheen has become Mayor of Cardiff and has plans on building a nuclear power plant designed to fail, causing the time rift to implode, allowing Margaret to ride the shockwave on her special surfboard (huh?).  Of course, the Doctor will not let this pass, and with little ado, the Doctor, Rose, Jack, and Mickey are able to apprehend Margaret and take her into custody.  Now comes the real intrigue in the episode.  Margaret's wicked plan seems to be merely an attempt to escape from Earth.  The Doctor offers to return her to her home planet Raxicoricofallipatorious.  The problem: she has been condemned to death on her home planet, to which the Doctor responds: "not my problem."  The Doctor will coolly and without emotion deliver Margaret Slitheen to the justice she so deserves.

Yet, as the episode plays out, the question shifts: is the Doctor as innocent as he seems?  Is he in the moral position to judge.  He carries the responsibility of a god, to judge or not to judge, yet can he play that role? The Doctor is in a position to either condemn to death or extend mercy and life to this known criminal.  This is nowhere more evident than in the Doctor's dinner conversation with Margaret (known to her own people as "blond) Slitheen.

In their conversation over dinner, Margaret (Blond) Slitheen tries to kill the Doctor 3 times separate times, highlighting her murderous tendencies. After describing the type of death that she will endure after she is taken back to her home planet,  the conversation goes as follows:
Doctor: "I don't make the law."
Slitheen: "But you deliver it...."
And a little bit later, Blond Slitheen explains how she had mercy on a person just that day, she had a moment of conscience and resisted the urge to kill them.  The Doctor responds that that is how she justifies her existence, by the fact that from time to time she lets one go, has mercy on one, saves one.
Doctor: "And that's how you live with yourself.  That's how you slaughter millions.  Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind's in the right direction, you happen to be kind."
Now Blond Slitheen turns the tables.
Blond Slitheen: "Only a killer would know that.  Is that right?  From what I've seen, your funny little happy go lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on because you dare not go back.  Playing with so many people's lives, you might as well be a god.  And you're right Doctor, you're absolutely right, sometimes you let one go."
Back on the Tardis, at the moment of decision, the Doctor opens up the central panel to reveal the heart of the Tardis, the Time Vortex itself.  Upon looking at it, Blond Slitheen is "Reborn."  Contemplating her life and looking at the heart of the Tardis, she regresses to an egg, a restart of her life.  Perhaps the Tardis is the real god, able to extend mercy, forgiveness, and a new life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Doctor Who: Empty Child and The Doctor Dances

Episodes 9 and 10 of season one form a two-part episode: The Empty Child and the Doctor Dances


This still remains one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who.  I did not know this at the time, but it was written by Steven Moffat.  Moffat has written many of my favorite episodes, including "The Girl in the Fireplace," "Blink," and much of seasons 5-7.  Moffat is more into the fairy tale aspects of story telling.

In this episode, the Doctor and Rose are in London during the Blitz in WWII.  We get the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness, who will become a regular on the series and the star of the spinoff Torchwood.  Harkness, a former time agent (what?) turned con man, saves Rose from falling to her death during the Blitz.  He then proceeds to try and seduce her, but his angle is primarily a con.

The episode is high on the creep factor.  The creepy comes in the form of a little kid with a gas mask who keeps repeating, "are you my mommie?" This child can make telephones ring, radios blare, even if the telephone is not connected (like the phone on the Tardis police call box).  Moreover, people all over the area are developing "injuries" that match those of the boy.  Namely, they are replicating his physical injuries, as well as growing gas masks out of their very skin.  The implication, given time, humanity will be reduced to a bunch of walking, mommie-spouting, zombies with gas masks.

There is not a lot of fodder for religious/sci-fi intersections.  The Doctor figures out the problem: the alien tech nano-genes that crashed on earth are doing their best to "heal" the human race, but the best model of the human race that they have to work with is this little boy who was killed during a bombing raid while wearing a gas mask.  With this genetic information, they nano-genes are repairing all with whom they come into contact by replicating the state of the boy.

The Doctor figures out what is happening, but does little beyond making the solution possible. He introduces the nano genes to the boy's mother, and hopes that they will recognize what a human truly should be like.  They do, and the true healing commences.  At the end, the Doctor revels saying "everybody lives."  Life triumphing over death is the greatest possible outcome for the Doctor.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Doctor Who: Father's Day

Episode 8 of season one of Doctor Who deals with the common trope of "changing the past," especially when it comes to interfering in one's own timeline.


This was an interesting episode in that we got to travel into the past to see the death of Rose's father.  At first, Rose just wants to go back in time to be with her father as he dies, having been killed by a hit and run driver.  As the scene unfolds, Rose cannot bring herself to be with her father, but just watches him die from a distance.  She asks for a second try, but when the time comes, she cannot help herself, she rushes past herself and the Doctor (the previous versions) and pushes her father out of the way of the oncoming car, saving her father from death.  She has changed the past, her father survives.  But, as any sci-fi fan will no, all hell is about to break loose.  You cannot mess with history in this way, especially when it comes to your own past (Back to the Future anyone?).

The Doctor, of course, goes on a condescending tirade against Rose, calling her just another "Ape."  He had thought her smarter than that, but in the end he just has another stupid human ape.

The "all hell breaking loose" comes in the form of really cheesy computer animated dinosaur-bird type creatures who are devouring all of time (including the people).  Rose, her father, mother, and a select few are holed up in a church where they were supposed to be attending a wedding.  The "old" walls of the church serve as a protection agains the creatures.

At one point, when one creature manages to get into the church, the Doctor, in a reversal of his M.O., i.e., sacrificing someone else, he actually sacrifices himself, offering himself to the creature as the "oldest thing in here."  His sacrifice is pointless though and is to no avail.  In the end, it is the sacrifice of a human that will set things right.  Pete, Rose's dad, must submit to death by throwing himself in front of the car that was originally meant to kill him, thus healing the wound in time.

Couple of notes.  In this episode, the Doctor seemed really helpless, he literally had no solutions, nothing that could heal the wound in time that Rose had caused.

When the doctor seemed to have a solution, a way to make the Tardis appear in the church and thus bring salvation, the Doctor, like a good authoritative preacher, stepped up to the church pulpit and announced the "good news" of coming salvation.  Unfortunately, like I have noted before, all of the efforts of the Doctor in this episode came to naught and in the end it was the sacrifice of Rose's dad that brought salvation.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Doctor Who: The Long Game


Episode 7 of season 1, "The Long Game" takes place in the year 200,000, the fourth great human empire.  This was supposed to be the height of human achievement.  Yet, things have gone terribly wrong.  Humanity seems stunted, people are rude, and the diverse alien life is nowhere to be seen.

The Doctor and Rose have picked up another passenger in the Tardis, Adam, a tech guru they picked up in the last episode.

This episode was filled with subtle and interesting satires of religion.

First, the setting is on a broadcast satellite, Satellite 5.  This satellite is responsible for broadcasting all of the news from the entire galaxy.  The workers on this satellite all want to be promoted to "floor 500" where apparently the walls are made of gold.  This was an interesting intersection with religion with the commonplace that in heaven the streets are made of gold.  One can see similar motivational tactics on Satellite 5 and in some stereotypes of Christianity:  Do good and you will be promoted to/inherit walls/streets of gold.

Of course, this is a lie.  Floor 500 is actually a frozen waste, and the only people promoted there are done so because they have come too close to discovering the truth that Satellite 5 is actually being controlled by a malicious alien (I won't even try to spell its name) who is controlling the human race by controlling all of their news media.  This served as a double layer satire in my mind.  On the one hand, the show was providing a satire of current news media, perhaps even and especially Fox News, as a media outlet that controls the news stories, thus shaping the realities of its viewers.  On another level, this could be a satire of religion, which once again stereotypically, has been seen as an institution that must carefully guard and control the flow of information in order to control its constituents.

One final and non-related intersection with religion was the short story arc of the character of Adam.  Adam appears on Satellite 5 and is immediately blown away by the strangeness of this new world.  But, as a computer geek it takes him almost no time to get in trouble.  He starts exploring Satellite 5's computer terminals but keeps getting locked out due to his lack of human chip technology.  Adam is directed toward the medical level to have a chip installed, where he is seduced with the possibility of knowledge by having a chip installed in his brain, in fact, having his brain itself become the computer processor.  Adam's primary motivation seems to be self interest, as his plan is to call home and leave a voice message with 200,000 years worth of technological advances, presumably setting himself up to be rich and powerful.   Adam's pursuit of knowledge almost becomes disastrous as he betrays information about the Doctor and Rose to the satellite's administrator, "The Editor" (played by Simon Pegg).  I think Adam's name was chosen nicely, as this is a nice parallel to the biblical Adam sinning in a pursuit of knowledge in the Garden of Eden (though actually it was Eve, but Adam is the more visible of the pair).

In the end, the Alien is defeated, all is set right with the human race, Adam is ditched back on earth, and Rose and the Doctor are off to more adventures.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Doctor Who: Dalek

In episode 6 of season 1, "Dalek," we are once again dealing with a earth-ending crisis.  


We see two things in this episode that are very rare for Doctor Who.  1) The doctor is scared for his life, and 2) The doctor does not mind wielding weapons for himself.  What prompts these Doctor Who rarities? The Dalek, the Time Lords' arch enemies and adversaries in the Time War which wiped out both species save for the Doctor, and it appears, one lone Dalek.  This was obviously an interesting episode as it had the mirror images of two lone survivors.  Both feel alone in the world.  

When the Doctor first recognizes the Dalek, we see true fear.  The Dalek belts out its usual "TERMINATE" slogan, and the Doctor, realizing that he is locked in a room with the Dalek literally tries to claw the doors open, but only for a second.  Once the Doctor realizes that the Dalek is powerless, his fear turns to immense anger, vitriol, hatred, and vengefulness.  Like I said, it is rare to see such emotions from the Doctor.  Sure he is often condescending to humanity's stupidity, penchant for violence, and lack of forethought, yet, here the Doctor seems all too human.  The Dalek brings out what is usually hidden in the Doctor. 

As we've seen in previous episodes, the Doctor's guilt (or possible guilt) over his past or future actions paralyzes the Doctor, and it is no different here.  As the Dalek is regenerated (by Rose's DNA), the Doctor scrambles for a solution.  He knows that this one single Dalek could wipe out humanity and that the only solution is to lock him 53 floors below the earth.  Yet, the complicating factor is that Rose is stuck down there with him.  In the end, his fear/anger toward the Dalek trumps all else and Rose and the Dalek are trapped.  Yet, proving once again that the Doctor cannot think clearly when Rose or the Daleks are involved, he lets them out of the trap. 

In comes the twist.  The Dalek is changing.  It is no longer the purely evil killing machine bent on destroying all things non-Dalek.  It cannot kill Rose.  Her DNA is causing the Dalek to mutate, to change. 

The climactic scene comes as we have a face-off between the Doctor, now wielding an alien tech weapon bent on wiping out the last of the Daleks, Rose, caught in between, and the constantly evolving Dalek who is beginning to see the uselessness of his quest.  The Dalek is evolving into a feeling creature, the Doctor is is devolving into a raging murderer, and Rose brokers the deal between them.  In perhaps one of the more touching scenes of the series so far, the evolving Dalek asks Rose to order him to kill himself.  The Dalek appears unable to act without orders, yet he seeks death as the only solution to his evolving with emotions.  The Doctor wades through this scene with a flabbergasted look on his face.  He can't believe what is happening before his eyes.  

It is good to finally meet the Doctor's arch nemesis and realize that there are primarily two situations in which the Doctor is fairly useless: when he is confronting the Daleks and when he is fearing the loss of his companion.  In those two situations, the Doctor cannot control his emotions, cannot think clearly, and appears to revert to just another "human" character, one as flawed as the next. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Doctor Who: Aliens of London and World War III

"Aliens of London" and "World War III," episodes 4 and 5 of season one form one two-part episode focusing around another grave threat to planet Earth.

The earth has been covertly invaded by a family of aliens intent on sending the world into a nuclear war, effectively wiping out the human race and turning the earth into a radioactive rock which can then be sold to scavengers from across the universe.

The special effects are perhaps less than special, and the directors seemed to love their shot of the aliens unzipping their human costume foreheads to allow the alien to emerge.  The effects were actually somewhat humorous, akin to the early seasons of Buffy, but I digress.

This episode had less to do with the intersection of scifi and religion, so I will keep it short.

We learn a little more information about the Doctor.  In "Aliens of London." Specifically, we learn that he is around 900 years old.  How does he look so young?

We do get some interesting insights in "World War III" about the psychology of the Doctor.  He is asked to promise by Jackie, Rose's mom, that Rose will be safe, a promise he is reticent to make, and in fact never does.  This desire to keep Rose safe, and his apparent knowledge that he cannot guaranty her safety, seems to paralyze the Doctor and keep him from acting.

In the climactic scene, Rose, the Doctor, and Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North, are trapped in the Cabinet room at Downing Street.  The Family Slitheen (the aliens) are about to gain control of nuclear weapons to destroy the earth, and the Doctor knows what he must do, but he cannot because it means putting Rose's life at risk.  It is an interesting ethical moment, where the Doctor cannot bring himself to trade the life of Rose for the lives of all humans (including Rose, himself, and Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North).  At this point, trapped by guilt, or at least possible future guilt, Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North must intervene, take control, and command the Doctor to execute his plan which consists of firing a missile from a British submarine with a target of Downing Street.

It is interesting  that now, in two consecutive episodes (counting 4 and 5 as o episode) we have guilt as a primary motivating factor for the Doctor.  In both cases, submitting to that guilt would have disastrous effects.  In "The Unquiet Dead" it is the Doctor's guilt which causes him to act to bridge the Rift and he almost succeeds in condemning humanity to death, and here,  in "World War III" his (future) guilt keeps him from acting, which would similarly lead to the condemnation of humanity to death.

Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead

On two episode 3 of season 1 of the Doctor reboot for the episode entitled "The Unquiet Dead."


This episode was rife with intersections between scifi and religion.

The year is 1869, the place: Cardiff of Wales.  Charles Dickens is performing in Cardiff and gets caught up in the adventures of the Doctor and Rose.  The problem: ghosts appear to be invading the dead and causing them to walk about.

Dickens plays the consumate man of the enlightenment, a believer in science and only what he can see, taste, touch, feel, and smell.  He sees his lifelong work as dedicated to eradicating superstition in order to fight for social causes.  His world is decidedly unenchanted.  Thus, as he is swept into this adventure of ghosts and zombies, he is at first skeptical, but becomes a convert by the end of the episode after the evidence is undeniable.

Another interesting character is the introduction of Gwyneth, a servant at the undertaker's house.  I say "introduction" because this is the same actress who plays Gwen in the Doctor Who spinoff, Torchwood. I think that the two must be connected, but as I have only watched a few episodes of Torchwood, that I cannot say for sure.  But, the similarities seem to big to ignore: same actress, similar character name, the location of Cardiff, the Rift (more on that below).  Gwyneth has the "sight," an apparent psychic ability.  She can see into Rose's mind.

Enter the Rift, a weak spot in space and time, allowing certain things to slip through.  The "ghosts" of course are not ghosts at all, but a species of alien, all but wiped out by the time war (The war of the Time Lords, of whom The Doctor is the last).  These "gaseous" beings are looking for bodies, and through the "medium" Gwyneth, are able to communicate their plight to the Doctor and his compatriots.  The Doctor, always rushing to the rescue, intends to use Gwyneth as a doorway to lead the aliens to take human corpses as their new bodies.

This is of course highly offensive to Rose who has a sense of propriety and reverence for human corpses which the Doctor clearly does not share.  Here the Doctor clearly asserts his superior morality, in a "my way or the highway" attitude.  He plays off of Gwyneth's "faith" in her "angels" (read ghosts/gaseous aliens) to achieve his ends of providing salvation for these aliens.  He seems more driven than usual, clearly feeling guilty that it was the war of his people that had decimated this alien population.

As the climax approaches, and Gwyneth begins to bridge the gap in the Rift, it becomes clear that these aliens, called the "Gelf" are not so innocent.  They turn from angel-like creatures, to demon-like creatures, bent on earth's destruction as they will use human bodies as vessels to take physical form.  The night of the living dead commences as Rose, the Doctor, and Dickens are forced to run for their lives.  It is Dickens who comes up with the solution: fill the house with gas to draw out the creatures from their host.  This works and then Gwyneth uses a match to light the gas-filled house and destroys the "Gelf."

Couple of notes: As the "Gelf" begin to come through the Rift, they are shouting "Praise be the Doctor," in a first possible reference to the Doctor as some sort of divine being, maybe.

Sacrifice:  Once again it is a human, Gwyneth, who sacrifices herself to save the day, and she only does this after she is dead (how?  Don't ask!).  But she is in this situation because the Doctor pandered to her "faith" in her "angels."  The Doctor shows little, if any, remorse for his actions.  He pushed for the alien crossing to assuage his own guilt, yet takes little or no responsibility for the fact that he was just flat out wrong.  If the show is going for portraying the Doctor as a divine, or semi divine figure, then he is certainly a flawed God.

Finally, in an interesting conversation, Rose notes the difference between humans and the Doctor.  Humans see time in a line and can only experience a specific moment in time "once."  The Doctor, on the other hand, can experience any moment at any time, over and over if he pleases.  I was reminded of Augustine's contemplation of God and time.  God, being "eternal" does not see time as humans do, but being outside of time, he views all times simultaneously.  Though there is a clear difference between Augustine's conception of God as "eternal" and the Doctor's ability to travel through time, the implications are perhaps similar.  The Doctor has a fundamentally different experience of time.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Doctor Who and Religion

This April I will be giving a lecture at the Chowan University interdisciplinary symposium.  The theme of the symposium is: "A Pop Culture Society."

I have chosen to do my lecture on the intersection of science fiction and religion, specifically, Doctor Who and religion (I refer you to James McGrath's blog, Exploring Our Matrix, for one who has been thinking of this intersection of Doctor Who and Religion far more than I have).  To that end, I am beginning a rewatch of the series, starting with the reboot in 2005.

I watched the first two episodes last night, and I have a couple of comments that I want to get down.  First, let me say, this, and following posts of the sort, will serve more as notes to me than as complete coherent essays.  Let my three readers be warned.

Episode 1, "Rose" is where we first meet the Doctor and form some impressions of him.  He is a mysterious character.  He appears out of nowhere, well, actually out of some sort of magical blue box called the Tardis (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).  This Doctor, who only goes by the name "The Doctor" appears to be an alien with advanced technology.  He has a "sonic screwdriver," which, up to this point, appears to do two things, unlock and lock doors, and to disrupt radio signals. His Tardis also is able to move through space and time to wherever and whenever the Doctor wills. His technology seems to be "magic" to the eyes of humans.  This seems to be an example of Arthur C. Clarke's third law, which states, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

The Doctor, besides having advanced "magical" technology, also appears to have further capabilities.  In an interesting conversation with Rose (his human companion) the Doctor states that he can feel the earth rotating on its axis, and revolving around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, falling through space.  Though the Doctor is aware of such awesome realities, he is also a giddy, goofy, good humored person.

The Doctor is also quite condescending to humans.  At one point he points out how stupid and childish they are, yet also notes their tremendous potential.

In this first episode, the Doctor's task is to save the unwitting humans from an alien threat in the form of living plastic which seeks to "devour" the earth as dinner.  Of course, the brilliant and technologically advanced Doctor is more than up for the task, with a little help from Rose.

Episode 2, The end of the world.

Few more clues as to the Doctor's identity.  We find out in this episode that the Doctor is an alien called a "Time Lord."  We find out that his planet was destroyed in a war, his planet passed "before its time."  We also find out that the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, the only survivor of a war which destroyed his race. 

Perhaps more interesting is the Doctor's self revelation, when pressed by Rose as to who he is, the Doctor says that he is what he does, right here and now.  His identity is wrapped up in his present actions and that should be enough.  I was reminded of Yahweh's self revelation in Exodus to Moses, "I am who I am" or "I will be whom I will be."  I don't know if this was a conscious choice on the part of the show writers, but knowing where the show is going, it might be a possibility.

One last note.  Sacrifice:  The tree creature in this episode sacrifices herself so that the Doctor can save the day.  This becomes a recurring motif as the show goes on.  Many sacrifice themselves to save the day, but it is rarely the Doctor.

More to follow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Add-On Gospel: What's Necessary

What's is necessary to your gospel?  Or to put it another way, how much of the Bible could be thrown out without any significant change to your gospel message?

This is a question that has been churning in my mind of late.  I grew up firmly planted in the evangelical world.  I was raised in an evangelical free church, was heavily involved in Young Life and Campus Crusade, and in college, I attended a charismatic evangelical baptist church.  The Gospel message I grew up with went something like this.  God created the world, but Adam and Even sinned and messed that all up.  For all have sinned. Because of that sin, we are liable to the judgment of God and eternal torment in hell.  But, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of a virgin, died on the cross, enduring God's judgment and punishment for my (and everyone's) sins.  Now, if I confess my belief in Jesus, ask forgiveness for my sins, and invite Jesus into my heart, I can be saved and enjoy eternal life.

So, what in the Bible is necessary to this message, and what is, as the title of this post proclaims, an Add-On?

Here are the parts of the Bible I see as necessary to that Gospel message: Genesis 1-3, the creation of the world and Adam and Eve's disobedience.  You can then skip the rest of the whole Old Testament as it does nothing to change the overall gospel message.  Then you must read Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 to hear about Jesus' birth by a virgin.  You can then skip the bulk of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and merely read the passion narratives about the Death of Jesus on the Cross.  Then, you read John's Gospel and Romans for the theological explanation of Christ's death on the cross and there you have it.  There is your gospel message.  Everything else in the entire Bible is a mere Add-On.  Nothing else substantially changes the gospel message described above.

So, what difference does it make the Jesus was Jewish?  None!  What difference does it make that there was an entire narrative of the Jewish people starting from Abraham and moving on down through Moses, to the Judges, to the Kings, to the Prophets and to the Exile and Return? None! None of these things fundamentally change the gospel message.  And, perhaps most shockingly, what difference does one of the most fundamental Christian faith claims, the Resurrection of Jesus, make for such a gospel?  None!.  Here is how Daniel Kirk, who grew up in similar evangelical circles, says it in his book Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?
"The story of salvation as I understood it did not need the resurrection in order for the narrative to come to its climactic conclusion.  All it needed was the cross.  So long as Jesus died for me, my soul could be in personal relationship with God.  The resurrection was, at best, a tack-on, perhaps an empirical validation that God had accepted Jesus' sacrifice."  (Page 44 of 228 in iBooks on iPad, but if you change the font size, the page numbers will change.  iBooks, and Kindle really need to address this problem of how to cite sources with some fixed pagination in their eBooks).
So, is this a problem?  Is it indicative of a major shortcoming of this evangelical gospel that so little of the Bible is necessary to preach the gospel, and that so little of the Bible really has any fundamental impact on the message of the gospel?  I tend to think it is.  What do you think?