Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Every Creation Myth Needs a Devil."

I finally saw The Social Network yesterday. Yes, I know I'm well behind the times. But, you know, these things happen. There were many fascinating aspects to the film. I see why they have continually pointed out that this is an unauthorized version of events, and that these are characters based upon the real people, not representations of the people themselves. I see exactly why it has been winning awards left and right. There are great things I could mention about the writing, the directing, and the acting - but those are all well-discussed elsewhere. I don't need to.

Instead, I've been dwelling on one line that caught in my memory, which in the context of the story being told is directed at the main character, Mark Zuckerberg: "Every creation myth needs a devil." The phrase is stated to Zuckerberg at the end of the film, following the depositions which have been used as the framework device to communicate the tale of the origin of Facebook. The character speaking is saying that Zuckerberg himself will play the role of the devil in that particular creation story - that is, the version that arose from the depositions. But what fascinates me is the layering of this creation story throughout the film.

Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter, and David Fincher, the director, have managed, in a single film, to tell at least two creation myths for the phenomenon which is Facebook. Atop the myth that reveals itself through the depositions in the film, casting Zuckerberg as the devil, is the myth revealed by the film overall, in which identifying the devil is more complicated.

In the film's version of the creation story, Zuckerberg certainly is one candidate for the role of devil. He begins the film by eviscerating an ex-girlfriend in a blog; he promises three other students that he will build a website for them, and instead builds Facebook for himself; he begins the company with his best friend, and then dissolves his friend's ownership share in it down to nearly nothing, while keeping his own share absolutely intact. There's plenty of evidence for the deposition version of the creation myth.

But there are enough nuances throughout the film which raise doubt about Zuckerberg's role. When he meets the girl he wrote about in the blog later in the film, he goes to speak to her. He does not apologize, per se, but the audience is not quite sure whether he would have had he been able to. His attitude is such that we think he might truly regret his actions. When he reneges on his promise to build the website, there's a certain amount of understanding we have for him. He was 19 years old. He talked with some guys who had a great idea for a website. He said he'd help them out. Then he started thinking more about it, and came up with a better idea - yes, inspired by the first, but bigger and broader - and got excited about it. Perhaps the fact that he didn't follow through on his promise was not, after all, deliberate perfidy, but rather the immaturity of a teenager who has a brilliant idea. The betrayal of his best friend is, perhaps, the hardest element of Zuckerberg's devil-role to poke holes through, but the film brings in other characters whose influence over him could be the reason for it.

It is one of these characters, Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, who is, in the end, the other best contender for the devil role in the film's version of the creation myth. I was reminded every time Parker came on screen with Zuckerberg of a snake fascinating its prey before it strikes, weaving to and fro before it, beautiful and dangerous. The character Zuckerberg is on the one hand, lured into a world he doesn't really care about.

But here's the thing about humankind: even when they are archetypes in a creation myth, they don't stop being human. Zuckerberg is not innocent. While the character is portrayed as not caring about the money his new company will bring him, he is consumed with a desire for prestige on his own terms. We see that he was not deeply involved in the dissolution of his friend's shares in the company, but we also see that he allowed them to be dissolved. While Parker fascinates him, he buys into the fascination, because he sees in Parker something of what he wants to be.

In the end, the film leaves us with a creation myth that needs a devil, and Zuckerberg is probably the best option for the role. But it also leaves us with questions about the nature of mankind, about brilliance without guidance, and about the idea of influence and power.

And, finally, we're left with a character who could be any one of us: a young man who had a great idea and was capable of accomplishing it. And we're left asking what the cost was for him to do so.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I'm getting on an airplane again!


You know those times when you have something big happening in life, but you just haven't found the time to tell people about it yet? That would be the state of my past couple months. There have been many big things going on in life, and, while this email is about one in particular, I wanted to take a moment and share a few of them.

As many of you know, I've been working at Philadelphia Biblical University for the past 18 months. I started right after graduating with my master's from Arcadia University in Professional and Creative Writing. What do I do at PBU? I'm writing - among many other things. I work as a Communications Specialist in the Communications and Marketing Department at PBU, and I spend my time writing, editing, managing projects, helping build web content, coordinating the upkeep and expansion of our photo library, and generally having a good time. I work on a team of about 10 people who handle everything from making sure people have business cards, to overseeing the University's communications operations with prospective students, to launching a brand new website. The PBU website is one of the major things that's been keeping us all busy in recent months. We launched an entirely new site in January, and are still working on upgrading and working out the kinks. Another big part of my job is writing for and editing the University magazine, PBU Today. I've really enjoyed magazine writing and am looking into freelance opportunities in that field.

In addition to my work in Communications and Marketing, I've been an adjunct professor in the School of Arts and Sciences for the past three semesters, teaching freshman writing courses. I'm taking a break from that part of life this semester, which means that I don't have 10 papers to grade each week - and that's nice. Outside of work I'm involved at my church, Glenside Bible Church, teaching the college-age Sunday School class. I spend lots of time with college students in general, often having small groups over to my apartment to hang out or eat a meal. In the fall, my friend Christine began working full-time as a mobilizer with SEND International (I know, my mission!), and she moved down to be based out of the Philadelphia area as she covers the Northeast and Northwest regions of the US. She moved in with me and we've enjoyed sharing an apartment in Newtown, PA.

All this working with college students and living with Christine and continuing to have a finger (or two) in the world of SEND have converged to bring about a new opportunity. In May, 2011, the Chorale of Philadelphia Biblical University (PBU) will be presenting evangelistic concerts in Poland. Christine and I have been invited to go as co-leaders with the Chorale Director, Dr. David Shockey, to help oversee the group of about 45 students. Christine is also coordinating and leading the pre-trip training for the team and I have been able to help her with that some. In Poland, we’ll be serving with missionaries from SEND International.

Why are we going? SEND International, working with pastors and believers in Poland, is starting churches in strategic regional towns where there are no evangelical churches. Only 1/10 of 1% of Poles are true followers of Christ. Most of these new churches are very small, so the Chorale will perform in community centers. Our concert will give the church an opportunity for many people to hear the gospel and meet local Christians.

We will be going to Poland May 21 – 31, 2011. The cost for each team member is $2,525 which covers airfare, food, lodging, etc. In order to not be a burden to the students who are raising their own support, I am aiming to do the same.

I need ministry partners to join me in prayer and/or financial support for this ministry. Would you consider how the Lord could use you to be part of this team? If you feel led to assist in this trip, either with prayer or financial support, please use the response form below and return to PBU.

I’d appreciate prayer for these needs right now:

1) Pray for the missionaries in Poland as they set up concerts

2) Pray for the Chorale as we train to sing, and start our regular Chorale concerts in churches in the near future.

3) Pray for open hearts among the unreligious people of Poland

4) Pray that God will teach me all He wants me to know through this experience

Thanks for considering your part in what God is going to do through this trip to Poland this summer. You can follow the Chorale as we prepare and as we travel by visiting our blog:


~Carrie Givens~


PBU Chorale Poland Trip

This trip and its ministry will not happen without your prayer and financial support. Would you join me in this ministry opportunity?

Your Name:____________________________________________________________________________________________


Phone: _________________ Email: ___________________Chorale member:___________________________ Acct #______

O Prayer for me and the chorale members as we prepare.

O Financial Support: $25 ____ $50 _____ $100 _____ Other _______

O Prayer support for the trip to Poland

Please mail this completed information with your financial contribution to Philadelphia Biblical University, 200 Manor Avenue, Langhorne, PA 19047, Attention: School of Music and Performing Arts. Please make checks payable to Philadelphia Biblical University. All contributions are tax-deductible.

**Gifts to Philadelphia Biblical University, even though designated for a particular ministry event or individual’s ministry support, are under the control of PBU and that while PBU will seek to apply the gift to the designation, PBU retains the right to redirect use of the gifts based upon the needs as determined by the Board of Trustees and the Administration of the University.