The Lorax

by Robert Johns | July 17, 2015

The Lorax  State of nature and the state of your heart

written by Mike Ellsworth

A few weeks ago we talked about Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change and why we should care.  Let’s continue the environmentalism discussion using another classic source, Dr. Seuss.  “The Lorax” is a wonderful book and movie that has a pretty focused environmental theme.  If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, you should.  It focuses on the story of the Once-Ler, who destroyed an entire ecosystem.  Truffula trees are chopped down and the Brown Bar-ba-Loots, Swomee Swans, and Humming fish (Dr. Seuss sure is creative) are all forced to abandon their homes due to pollution, food shortage and disease.  The Once-Ler’s remorse over his initial removal of the trees is short-lived and he gets lost in his dreams of success. He becomes self-absorbed, unloving, and full of greed. 

Some of the principles in this story really resonate with the staff here at Student Activities Outdoor Recreation.  We have adopted the seven principals of Leave No Trace and try our best to use resources responsibly and teach participants these same ethics.  We are in no means perfect in our execution, but we believe in opening up more discussion about these ideas and are regularly making changes to our programs.  Our care for the environment is not act of worship towards creation; we see it as an act of service to our Creator.

John Piper makes a case for stewardship in a recent podcast by asking “Are you loving others”?  He uses the biblical command from Matthew 22 where Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  You may not personally be destroying rainforests or creating toxic sludge, but the everyday decisions that you make do have a role.  Do you care about the people who drink the water that you pollute with your unnecessary waste?  Or do you love the people who do not get to take advantage of the extra energy that you use?  In this sense, do we become any less self-centered than the Once-Ler in Dr. Seuss’s story?

Taking care of the environment is first loving God.  He created the Earth and stewardship becomes an act of gratitude towards the Creator.  We are also demonstrating compassion for our current and future neighbors, whoever they may be.  We may never even meet them, but we are caring for their land and loving them.

Dr. Seuss intentionally left the face of the Once-Ler unseen because he believed that the Once-Ler should represent big business industrialists and not be a single individual.  But, I believe that the Once-Ler could have been left faceless because we each can see a sinful part of us demonstrated in the Once-Ler’s actions.  When we think selfishly and believe that throwing that gum wrapper out the window is no big deal, think about God’s creation you just dirtied, or the person who picks it up four months from now.  These actions may come from our own egocentric attitude.  It isn’t just an issue of global warming, fossil fuels, or recycling; for the Christian, environmentalism is an issue of personal sanctification.

How are your everyday actions in regards to nature, to creation, indicative of the state of your own heart?

Mad Max: Fury Road & Fallout 4

by Robert Johns | July 14, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road & Fallout 4: Our Fear and Love of The End

written by Brian Shesko

If you are a fan of popular, dystopian/post-apocalyptic visions of the future, then you are probably loving 2015. The Walking Dead, aka the most popular show on television, returns this fall for its sixth season, Terminator: Genisys added the fifth installment to the Terminator franchise this summer, and Muse (the OFFICIAL band of the apocalypse) released Drones in June, just to name a few examples. But two of the most interesting and anxiously anticipated entries to this field have been this spring’s Mad Max: Fury Road and the yet-to-be-released video game Fallout 4. Fans of both have waited a long time for each of these sequels (30 and 7 years, respectively) and expectations were and are high. Fury Road exceeded nearly all expectations (as far as critics are concerned, at least), and if the response to its E3 video game conference presentation is any indication, so will Fallout 4. Though both Fury Road and Fallout are worth considering for the merit of their craft and artistry, I want to look briefly at their content and, subsequently, some of the reasons for their lasting appeal and influence.

Consider the basic questions of setting when looking at a work of science fiction - “Where in the world am I? What in the world is going on? What am I going to do?”* The natural outcome of these questions inevitably leads to a fourth: “What in the world have we done?” Even if you were to find yourself in the middle of post-apocalyptic chaos, it seems natural that you would want to know how things got to be that way, whether or not that information provided any strategic benefit. The narrative of Fallout provides the surface answer to that question – nuclear war as the result of a global struggle for control of natural resources. Characters in Fury Road are less fortunate, as probably the most pained question of the movie is asked twice: “Who killed the world?” This is especially difficult knowledge as revealed so far in the previews for Fallout 4, since the protagonist is shown in both pre and post-war settings, so the loss of the older reality is especially poignant. We can identify fairly easily with these ideas because they are the flipside of our current situation. We are faced with a growing tension between the optimism of progress, especially in terms of technological advancement, and the underlying pessimism that things cannot possibly stay this way. It is pessimism driven by the feeling that no matter how good it gets, at some point, there will be a loss of moral restraint or an unchecked “progress” that leads to the end of us all.

Despite the pessimism, stories like these are not only enjoyed, they are beloved. We fear the idea of “the end” and we love it, too. Despite our pessimism and our fears, these are stories about survivors. And not only survivors, they are here, on this earth. What else can explain this but our undying capacity for hope? Part of this, as author Ann Morisy says, is the “desire” (and I would add expectation) “for a hero who can rescue humankind.”** The other part is the hope that there is somewhere to be rescued to, which at least means a temporary place away from the chaos, but ultimately it is a hope for the reformation or restoration of the ruins. In Fury Road, Furiosa searches the wasteland for her former home, carrying passengers with her who, as she tells Max, are “looking for hope”. Fallout 4 will have building and rebuilding as a primary function of the protagonist, a natural sequel to Fallout 3, which centered on the restoration of the wasteland made possible by the cleansing of the water supply (spoken of in the game as “living water”/the waters of life - pulled directly from Revelation 21:6). This is where knowledge of the overarching, biblical story - Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration - becomes essential to our understanding of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories: Our home has been broken, yet we have hope, we hope for a rescuer, and that rescuer can make things right again.

What makes movies and games like Fury Road and Fallout so compelling is that they act as cautionary tales for us as we ask slightly different questions than those of our sci-fi worlds, the questions asked by everyone alive: “Who am I? Why am I here? What is wrong with the world? How can what is wrong be made right?”*** We recognize that something is wrong, and we may even recognize that something is tied to us.  The difference for Christians is that our hope is for a full restoration of all things to the beauty and perfection intended by our Creator, not simply a reassembly or patching together of the broken pieces to make something like we had “before”, or even something better than we have now. Fury Road concludes by asking: “Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves?” It is ultimately a question of identity, and a terrifying question, until you find that the answer is in being forever bound to your Rescuer. 


* -  See Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia by Tom Moylan

**-  See Bothered and Bewildered: Enacting Hope in Troubled Times by Ann Morisy

*** -  See The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Postmodern World by Voddie Baucham

Why Should I Care?

by Robert Johns | June 22, 2015

written by Josh Yeoman

As you may have noticed in the news this week, Pope Francis addressed the subject of the environment head on with his encyclical on climate change. I highly encourage anyone to read the transcript. I am not going to attempt to tackle the issues Pope Francis raises in his encyclical. However, I would like to address one theme that seems to run throughout his address. The common issue that permeates his writing is a lack of care by people in regards to nature and the environment, which I believe is an important issue regardless of your position on the Pope’s other diagnoses.

It is truly difficult to care for something that we do not first know. This is true of many things, but I believe we can apply this notion specifically to the subject of our natural environment. Think of it this way: how well do you know your environment? Can you identify the species of birds outside your window? Do you know which vegetables are in season? What is the difference between a cirrus and a cirrocumulus cloud? These should be simple answers, but you would be surprised how many people would struggle to answer them today. I would bet these are easy answers for our grandparents (most definitely for our great grandparents).

It can be difficult to stay in contact with our natural environment in a society so used to the conveniences of modern technologies. I am not talking about viewing Instagram pictures of sunsets. I am talking about actually going outside and watching a sunset. Experiencing God’s beautiful creation WITHOUT the urge to constantly take pictures and share them with your friends is a wonderful thing. We spend a lot of time in virtual environments, and it is a challenge to disconnect from our own devices and re-connect with God’s creation. God did declare it good after all. So why do we not enjoy it more?

Student Activities Outdoor Recreation is one way you can connect to your natural environment at Liberty. Anyone who has been to Camp Hydaway or participated in any of our river trips can attest to the solace and pleasure there is in being outside. I invite you to participate with us as we seek to engage God’s beautiful creation!

Summer In Lynchburg

by Stephanie Ward | June 3, 2015

written by Haley Hicks

You may not know this, but Lynchburg is actually a pretty cool place to live, even when the population decreases by 60% and the latest Liberty Campus Band album is no longer blaring through the speakers in the middle of campus. Contrary to popular belief, life still goes on from May to August in central Virginia. If you’re still living in Lynchburg this summer, this is a handy guide to surviving summer in the Burg. And if you’re (un)lucky enough to be miles away from the Hill City, this is a detailed account of what life is like minus 14,000 rowdy kids.

So go ahead, take a look at these 10 great places to explore and things to appreciate about Lynchburg during the summer months.

1. Panera During the school year, you’ll never know the exhilarating feeling of waltzing into Panera only to discover that there is no line to receive your morning cup of coffee, and then being able to choose from a plethora of comfy booths.

2. LOVE Sign Now’s your chance to get the perfect picture to post on Instagram! There are no lines of Liberty girls trying to figure out the best angle or the cleverest caption for their photos at the LOVE sign downtown. So don’t worry, you have no competition on social media in the summer months.

3. Convocation Frustrated with seating arrangements at convo? Be frustrated no more! On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the summer, you will have your choice of over 7,000 seats in the Vines Center. 

4. Cookout According to the wise words of Liberty students, “Hunger has no curfew”. On midnight Cookout runs during the school year, you may find yourself wasting away before you can even read the cluttered menu. But take heart: throughout the summer you can walk in and out of Cookout with your prized Chocolate, Cherry, Mint, Bubblegum heart attack in under 3 minutes. 

5. Wards Road Your car hates you during the school year. It guzzles gas due to the constant stop and go traffic that can turn your small trek from Target to the tunnel into a full-fledged 3-hour road trip. But don’t worry, your beat up old Chevy will thank you for driving in Lynchburg when there are 14,000 less crazy kids hitting the road, blaring Trip Lee and Lecrae everywhere they go.

Don’t think these first summer tips are legit? Well, now that we’re done bashing how Liberty has engulfed/swallowed/overtaken/choked Lynchburg culture, here are a few more realistic and exciting ways to enjoy your summer break in the Burg.

6. Historic Home Ever been downtown by the historic Lynchburg homes? You should take a look at the fantastic architecture and history in the city (Hint: this place has awesome photo ops for Instagram). You may think that this is something only your grandma would do, but don’t knock it until you try it.

7. Farm Basket Because Liberty doesn’t have enough coffee shops and cafes, you should check out Farm Basket. Their food and drinks are great, and so is the WiFi, so you don’t even have to worry about not having enough bandwidth to keep up with Parks and Rec.

8. Ivy Lake Going to the beach isn’t a bad option, either. Ever heard of Ivy Lake? It might not be a tropical waterfront, but it’s still pretty good, not to mention that geographically, it’s much closer than a tropical waterfront.

9. Hollins Mill Park Although this view may lead you to believe that I traveled to Northern New York to fool you through this post, this gorgeous waterfall is actually located right in Lynchburg. You should definitely check out Hollins Mill Park if you get the chance. 

10. Food Truck Thursday If you haven’t savored the melt-in-your-mouth delicacies from Mama Crockett’s or the tantalizing and spicy tacos from Taco Shark, you need to plan your schedule better this summer. Food Truck Thursday is one of the most unhealthy and absolutely incredible options for summer fun.

So there you have it. 10 incredible and completely underrated things to do during the summer in Lynchburg. You now have no excuse for hanging out on the first floor of DeMoss or wandering around campus looking for friends. Get out there and enjoy your city!

I Love Spotify, I Hate Spotify

by Robert Johns | May 21, 2015

written by Robert Johns

Confused yet?

When I first heard that Spotify was coming to the U.S. in 2011, I was thrilled - finally, I can listen to music at no cost and it’s legal! It was a sigh of relief because I could finally put my Napster days behind me. Spotify is great - you get to listen to all your favorite music without paying a dime (or breaking any laws) and all you have to do is listen to the occasional advertisement.

Sounds like a win-win, right? I thought so, until I saw how little artists make from services like Spotify. Artists ARE ok with it in the sense that you aren’t stealing their product. But when it comes to the financials, Spotify pays fractions of pennies to most artists. In fact, Spotify pays so little that many artists are removing their music from the service - Taylor Swift being the most recent high-profile star to do so. In order to better illustrate what I mean, take a look at this infographic.

Crazy, right? In order to make minimum wage from Spotify plays, you need to have play counts with the likes of Justin Bieber.

So what’s the point? Spotify is generally not good for bands/artists/musicians. Personally, I’ve decided to use Spotify strictly as a music discovery tool. If friends tell me about a new artist or I hear something on the radio, I’ll check it out on Spotify. If I like it enough to keep listening, I’ll buy it. Why? Because I want to support the artists that I enjoy and give them resources to keep creating music. The music industry can seem like a lucrative business, and for a select few it is. But I’ve seen first-hand that for many artists, there’s just not a whole lot of money to be made, even for ones that are getting radio play and gigging regularly.

So consider using Spotify to discover new music and then help support the artists you like by purchasing their albums in stores or on iTunes (or even better, at their merch tables) - I’m sure they’d appreciate it!

How do you use Spotify or other streaming services? Do you pay for premium options? How do you discover new music? Let us know – hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!