JR. Forasteros pastors Catalyst Church in Dallas, co-hosts the Fascinating Podcast, and wrote Empathy for the Devil. He's on the quest to smoke a perfect brisket. His wife, Amanda, skates for Assassination City Roller Derby as Mother Terrorista. They're always looking for a new adventure, and their board game collection has been described as 'excessive' and 'really fun'. JR. has bylines at Relevant, Think Christian, Reel World Theology and more.

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When Monsters Serve as Prophets

by JR. Forasteros 09-27-2022
Horror can reveal truths about systems and structures that work to protect the status quo.
A close-up screenshot from Alien 3; an alien creature with its mouth open is seen from the side, with its teeth next to the shiny face and ear of a white woman who directly faces the camera.

From Alien 3 (1992)

THE PRIEST WALKS into the bedroom to face the little girl. It’s not a little girl, though. Something dark, something other looks out from her eyes. It opens her mouth to spew blasphemies, obscenities. The priest raises a crucifix, shouting, “The power of Christ compels you!”

So goes The Exorcist, the 1973 Oscar winner directed by William Friedkin. As a 17-year-old, I was not prepared for the visceral horror of seeing a possessed young Regan (Linda Blair) serve as the battleground between God and the devil. Neither were my Southern Baptist youth group friends who watched with me in my home. And neither were their parents, who (according to my long-suffering mother) were quite angry that I had hosted this viewing.

On the surface, those parents’ horror is understandable. The Exorcist more than earns its R rating, with gore and a good bit of blasphemy. But sit with Pazuzu (the demon) for a little longer, and it becomes clear that the film aligns well with conservative evangelical politics — a perspective in which I was raised and which persists in many corners of the U.S. church today.

‘Rings of Power’ Is a Tolkien Tale of the Corruption of Goodness

by JR. Forasteros 09-01-2022

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” via Amazon Studios.

The stories we tell ourselves matter, even if you’re an immortal elf. The first season of Rings of Power, Amazon Studios’ new 8-episode prequel to The Lord of the Rings, opens with the scene of a young Galadriel, the Elvish royalty who will refuse Frodo’s offer to wield the One Ring thousands of years in the future.

Jordan Peele Knows How to Make Bible Verses Scary

by JR. Forasteros 07-27-2022

Universal Pictures, 'Nope'

Nope, writer/director Jordan Peele’s third theatrical release, opens with a Bible verse: “I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle” (Nahum 3:6). Cut to a blood-soaked sitcom set where a chimpanzee — arms and mouth also covered in blood — wanders around before settling down and looking at the audience.

What Good Is a God Who Can't Save Us? Asks ‘Thor: Love & Thunder’

by JR. Forasteros 07-14-2022
Natalie Portman holds a large hammer and is dressed as Thor.

Natalie Portman as Dr. Jane Foster. Photo: Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios.

What makes a god worthy of worship? A heavy question, and probably not one you’d expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But writer, director Taika Waititi’s latest film, Thor: Love and Thunder, takes aim at that very question.

'Top Gun: Maverick' Makes Pentagon Propaganda Fun

by JR. Forasteros 05-27-2022

Tom Cruise stars in Top Gun: Maverick.

I loved watching Top Gun: Maverick. That’s the main problem, actually. The new “lega-sequel” hits all the right notes, including a repeated on-screen instruction not to think. The result is a thrilling jingoistic fable about the inherent heroism of the U.S. military, built on a long legacy of violence.

How Multiverse Stories Invite Us to Envision Jesus’ Alternative Community

by JR. Forasteros 05-12-2022

Image via Marvel Studios

Two films in theaters right now ask if we can find some way to escape the madness of our reality and find something better. Sounds pretty nice, doesn't it?

Andre Henry Helps Us Find the Freedom to Flourish

by JR. Forasteros 05-09-2022
'All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep' teaches readers language, strategies, and habits of nonviolent, anti-racist resistance.

All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep: Hope—and Hard Pills to Swallow—About Fighting for Black Lives, by Andre Henry / Convergent Books

AUSTIN CHANNING BROWN, author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, posted once that she didn’t need “more friends” but rather wanted “partners in the struggle for justice.”

As a white Midwesterner, I’d thought of racial injustice as an individual problem—individuals not liking other individuals who didn’t look like them. Therefore, the answer to racism was friendship. I worked at churches that celebrated calls to the common table in worship, absent confession or repentance, to sanctify my individualistic take on race. Brown’s words shook me—this activist wants co-laborers, not friends? What even is the work if it’s not friendship?

While Andre Henry is Black and grew up in the South, he and I were raised on the same milk of individualistic race relations. In his debut book, All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep, Henry narrates his journey out of the “colorblind” evangelicalism of his childhood to being an artist, activist, and community organizer for systemic racial justice.

‘The Batman' in One Hand, the Book of Judges in the Other

by JR. Forasteros 03-03-2022

 Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman and Robert Pattinson as Batman in The Batman (2022).

This is a tale of two orphans, Bruce and Jephthah. A tale of two cities, Gotham and Gilead. A story of curses and vengeance and redemption.

‘Encanto’ Offers a Warning About Ignoring Young Prophets

by JR. Forasteros 01-13-2022

Mirabel in 'Encanto' via Disney.

My friend Myca pointed out that Encanto doesn't have a villain. Disney villains are almost as popular as the princesses — they even have their own board game. And the animated movie Encanto, available for streaming on Disney+, would seem ripe for villainy. The magical Madrigal family at the heart of the film begins to lose the magic that made them special — surely someone is to blame! But no one lurks in the shadows, twirling a mustache and absconding with magic. Instead, the story of Encanto is one of families, systems, and prophets — one that can serve as a warning and a balm to churches struggling to cope with a changing world.

The Surprising Theology of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’

by JR. Forasteros 12-22-2021

Dr. Strange casts a spell on behalf of Peter Parker in Spider-Man No Way Home. Matt Kennedy, Marvel Studios

Spider-Man: No Way Home is the end of a lot of things. It's the end of the (first) Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man trilogy. It’s the end of a lot of speculation about how the multiverse will play into the MCU’s future (since the Loki TV show broke it open). But it also signals the end of the MCU’s innocence — and by extension, superhero movies in general. Spider-Man: No Way Home insists that true heroism looks markedly different from what superhero movies have offered thus far.

How Can Highways Be Racist?

by JR. Forasteros 11-23-2021

The High Five Interchange in Dallas via shutterstock.com.

Earlier this month, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg made headlines by announcing that the recently-passed $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill will be used in part to address racial inequities in U.S. highway design. “If a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a white and a Black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach … in New York was designed too low for it to pass by, that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” he said.

A number of Americans were confused — how can concrete and paint be racist? But Buttigieg is correct: Highways and bridges are examples of structural racism literally built into the American cityscape. Reconstructing more equitable cities will require prophetic imagination and real, political solutions. They will vary from city to city. From suburb to suburb. So if you’re looking for a place to start, look in your own neighborhood.

I'm a Pastor Who Loves Horror Films. Here's Why

by JR. Forasteros 10-20-2021

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Should Christians have anything to do with horror? Is there anything commendable or worthy of praise in the genre?

As a pastor whose love of horror has only deepened over the years, I offer a resounding yes. Horror is a genre uniquely able to invite us into spaces of confession and lament, if only we have ears to hear.

Queering Robin and Our Modern Mythologies

by JR. Forasteros 09-15-2021

On launch day, Meghan Fitzmartin, one of the writers for the issue (along with Joshua Williamson, Matthew Rosenberg, and Chip Zdarsky) tweeted, “My goal in writing has been and will always be to show just how much God loves you. You are so incredibly loved and important and seen…”