Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Cousin Vinny and the Judges

The American Bar Association listed the movie My Cousin Vinny as #3 on the all-time list of their 25 Greatest Courtroom Movies. In this movie Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei played an engaged couple from Brooklyn who traveled to the South so he could sever as a lawyer for his cousin who had been wrongly accused of murder. You might be able to guess that people from Brooklyn talk differently than people from the South. Both areas have distinct accents. There are times in the movie when the southerners can't understand what Vinny is saying. And Vinny has a lot to learn when it comes to Southern culture. In fact, even though Vinny is a lawyer, he has a lot to learn when it comes to courtroom behavior. It turns out that Vinny is actually an auto mechanic who studied law at night school. This will be his first case.

When Vinny gets in front of the judge, his New York brashness and lack of respect for courtroom procedure get him thrown in jail every day for contempt of court. It is abundantly clear that the judge doesn't like him. His life was made far more complicated because of this judge who was always getting mad at him. By the end of the movie, Vinny was trying to skip town in a hurry (after winning the case) because he thought that the judge had just figured out his true credentials. Instead, the judge came up and said how great it was to have Vinny and that he had finally been able to verify Vinny's qualifications. It turned out that Vinny's girlfriend had called a judge that knew Vinny and had him send the positive recommendation. Having a judge that liked him was what eventually overcame having a judge that couldn't stand him.

While I don't think that this movie has much of anything to commend it to us spiritually, the attitudes of the judges illustrate and important truth. It is always better to have a judge who is pleased with you than a judge who doesn't like you. Remember that God is our ultimate judge. When the time comes for you to be judged by God, would you like to approach Him as a friend or as a foe? Would you rater come before God for judgement as someone who has made Him happy or as someone who has disappointed Him. The Bible tells us how we can have a relationship with God in which He is happy with us.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin

In 1852 a woman named Harriet Beecher Stowe published the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. This book became the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century. Stowe clearly wrote the book with the purpose of undermining the slavery of the American South. The book is rightly or wrongly credited for influencing people to bring about the Civil War which lead to the freedom of the slaves.

Not wanting to rush into anything, I finally read this novel (now more than 150 years after it was published). I must admit that I was shocked at how compelling the story of the book actually was. It is a real page-clicker (if you read an electronic edition as I did). No doubt one of the reasons for the terrific interest in the book was because the book itself was terrifically interesting.

I believe that what made this book interesting were the plot, the characters, and the conversations. Even though I had a good idea of what the book was about and what the impact of the book had been, I was still surprised by the many plot twists throughout the book. The characters were made life-like through an assortment of interesting observations and through the way they acted. The characters were written in such a way that you would not have any trouble imagining them as real people. The conversations between the characters seemed like real conversations that would have taken place at that time in America's history. Most likely the reason that Stowe was able to make the events, characters, and conversation seem so true to life was because she admitted that she based the story on composites of real people and on conversations she had had and on events of which she knew to be true.

Stowe very clearly argues against the evils of slavery. She wrote in order to encourage people to set the slaves free. But while she encouraged freedom, she did not write against the South completely or exclusively. Surprisingly, she showed that the prejudice of Northern people was often more severe and just as wrong as the prejudice of those in the South. She also showed that people in the South often treated their slaves as part of their family, though they might have never considered granting them their freedom. While the positive aspects of some slave holders were shown, the evils of the system and the heart-wrenching way in which it continually ripped families apart was highlighted even more.

Very few novels impact their generation the way this one did. Very few novels take on a societal issue and encourage people to do something about the issue the way this one did. Very few novels draw you into their story with such life-like characters, facts, and plot the way this one does. These are some of the reasons that very few novels stand the test of time the way this one has. If you haven't already read Uncle Tom's Cabin, it is certainly worth taking the time to enjoy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Church Covenant

The elders at Grace Church have initiated a Church Covenant. A Covenant might be a new concept to you. Basically, a covenant is an agreement. It is a promise. A church covenant is an agreement that a church member makes to the members of the church.

While church covenants were once a common, they are far less common today. We thought that bringing in a covenant would be beneficial to our membership. Our covenant is a reminder of the things that we promise to do for each other. We would like each member of the church to read and affirm the covenant each year. I don't think that our new covenant makes new requirements for us. Instead, our covenant spells out plainly some of the expectations that any church has and calls us to live up to these standards.

Here is a copy of the covenant that we are proposing for Grace Church of Old Bridge.


I welcome any feedback regarding the wording of the covenant or questions about how the covenant will actually function.