Tag Archives: Christian

This Is Not For You

2 Jun

When you’re married to a religious studies professor, you come across some weird stuff. So when we watch this film made by evangelical Christians, I had to ask myself, “Am I their audience? Better yet, do they even KNOW their audience?”

The film is called Awakened, and its about the revival spirit that has flourished on Indian reservations; the growth of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the first nations. At least, that’s what they said in the description. This should be fifteen minutes, right? Interview some pastors, show some revivals, edit it some catchy music, done. Nope. This is ninety minutes long! What else did they cram in there?

It starts off with a description of Native history and how the way missionaries approached the tribes, crushing their culture in favor of WASP Christianity… that was interesting. With the civil rights movement, many natives rejected Christianity, because that faith rejected their culture. Missionaries realized their mistake The film shows clips of Billy Graham in 1975 addressing a conference of Indian pastors saying we need to match their culture with Christ.

Okay – this captured my interest. But then I started noticing something. The native Christians were not showing worship in their culture; the services were indistinguishable from any white protestant service I’ve attended. They sang two songs in… I’m guessing Navajo, but it was How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace – 19th century Protestant hymns. There’s no adapting Christ to culture here! Who is this for?

It was also short on revivals… In fact they deliberately avoided the word. They preferred “awakening.” There were interviews with folks (mostly white) about the power of the Spirit moving, but little on specifics. Then they interview some Messianic Jews and their visions they’ve had.

Wait… what?! What happened to the Native Americans? Well, there was a play on the phrase, “gathering of the tribes” throughout the film, a deliberate author to tie American tribes with the tribes of Israel. So since Messianics are Christians who follow (their interpretation of) Jewish practice, it makes (some sort of) sense. Then we follow this Native missionary who works in Los Angeles preaching to… USC college students? That’s when I stopped watching – in my opinion, the filmmaker completely dropped the point of the film!

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I missed the point of the film. Awakened is not about Native Christians; it’s a piece about how there is a spiritual awakening in America – a sign of Christ’s return. They showed acculturated natives because that’s what the evangelical Christian audience could relate to. If you saw Native dances at a service (the Catholics got this), the real audience would have been confused. This film was not for me. It wasn’t even about Native Christianity. It was about the second coming of Christ… and everyone better look busy.

I do not recommend this film, but watch the trailer, and you get the idea. It’s heavy on (what I call) “the hard sell” and low on content. Great production value, good music, but it’s preaching to the converted. I just wish it had been more honest about that before I watched it.

What is obvious to some…

22 Feb

I made sure to introduce Monty Python’s The Holy Grail to my son at the earliest age possible. So when we sat with other geeks, Asher knew all about it. Then someone asked, “has he seen Life of Brian yet?” I said no. Why? Because he simply wouldn’t get it.

Why wouldn’t he get it? Because he didn’t grow up in a Christian culture. He went to Jewish schools until he was in 3rd Grade. We go to synagogue every week. The only connection he has with Christians are his friends, and as teenage boys, they’re less likely to talk about faith except in the passing. He barely knows about Jesus’ story, Christian holidays, and the New Testament… except from what we taught him.

So although it’s an incredibly funny film, for my son, most of it is only funny in context. Which means I’d have to explain the film as he watched it; that would make it homework and kill the joy out of it. So I figure he should probably discover it later on his own. However, that’s led to another problem… all modern comedy is based on Python. Every single comedic ensemble that Asher enjoys learned initially from watching Python. I tried showing him an episode of Flying Circus once and… he just didn’t get into it. Some of it dated, but more to the point, he’s seen so many other groups do similar jokes, or (gasp) do them better.

It’s like having film students watch Citizen Kane. By modern standards, it’s an okay film; solid, not amazing. It’s only when you have someone explain why the film is amazing that you actually understand. Before Orson Wells, all films showed a scene in front of a backdrop–the camera didn’t move, the lighting was always bright to show the actors on screen, there was no variation. It was much more stilted production. Citizen Kane created cinematography.

The reason you don’t see that when watching Citizen Kane is because every film after that is based on Citizen Kane. So all the ingenious concepts got copied by everybody else. It’s like rewatching The Matrix–you’re not wowed by bullet time or the inventive use of green screen. Thankfully, it’s still a good film; the fight scenes are still enjoyable, but you’ve seen similar stuff since then.

So will Asher seek out Life of Brian? Who knows? But he’s not clamoring for it. There are so many options–so many other movies he wants to see–that unless someone watches it with him, I don’t think he’ll seek it out on his own. Which is a different post for a different day; the loss of a common canon. But what do you think? Would Life of Brian still be good without knowing much about Christianity? How many films do you drag your kids (or someone else’s kids) to, because you know that if they watch it long enough, they’ll love it? Let me know in the comments below!

Pictionary for Adults

13 Feb

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” So when I came across this video, with a Venn diagram and graphics… it’s rather impressive, but taken out of context, it could be a madman.

I didn’t watch this video–nor do I intend to–but the freeze shot of him with this completed white board just amuses me. The gentlemen in question is Robert R. Breaker III, a “missionary evangelist to Spanish-speaking people.” Anyway, he has a YouTube channel, and this is his lecture on The Spirit World vs. The Physical World.

I know enough Protestant Christian theology to know what he’s talking about, but it’s easy to imagine what it looks like if I didn’t. After all, Adam goes from having a purple body to a red body, “washed in His blood!” My favorite is near the bottom: “Empty Spirit. 2/3 = .666,” because nothing turns me off more than gematria, or making points by connecting two unrelated objects through math.

Now Robert is a true believer–he also follows a very specific form of Christianity–so much so that he’s not just an Independent Baptist, he is a non-denominational independent Baptist, which means he’s not following along with anyone else’s organized church. The only true Bible is the King James Version. Sola Scriptura. Sola Fidei. Sola Christus. On his website, he’s got his own testimony, his wife’s testimony, and his father’s testimony. Well… how could you not be convinced?

Bob and his wife Laura look like they’ve got a great family. They live in Florida, he runs his own church, and he continues his mission. And there are plenty of Spanish-speaking peoples in Florida. However, there’s my problem with Pastor Bob. This gets to something I heard as a kid growing up in the 80’s; the idea that Catholics are NOT Christians. Considering one of my best friends was Catholic at the time, I found this very disturbing. It’s a level of hubris to say, “Your brand of Christianity is not good enough.” It’s another to say, “You’re dammed if you follow Christ that way.”

I understand if a denomination splits over practice. The Trefa Banquet (1883) caused the split between Reform and Conservative Jews in America because some thought having clams and shrimp at a rabbinical school graduation party was not just stupid, it was a serious lack of foresight. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) split from the mainline UPCUSA in the 70’s because they got tired of the denomination closing low-performing churches (and going way more liberal). The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints (now called Community of Christ) broke away because they believed a) that Joseph Smith, Jr was the true leader and b) they didn’t feel like schlepping off to Utah with the rest of the Mormons.

The stricter the dogma, though, the smaller your church. There’s an Orthodox Presbyterian Church that makes the PCA’s fundamentalism look weak and liberal. Old Order Amish look down on Amish with cell phones and tractors. And Pastor Bob has a such a narrow view of Christianity that he has to save people who’ve already been saved. I believe he does it out of love, and I’m sure after years being frustrated walking through Honduras, he’s found a niche where he can still accomplish his mission while performing the additional challenges of being a husband and father. Him, I don’t find offensive, just his message.

What do you think? Can you separate the message from the man? Have you ever read the King James Version and found it confusing, instead of enlightening? Do you think that me and Pastor Bob having the same hairstyle is a problem? Let me know in the comments below!

You’ve Just Seen… The Plan!

4 Nov

My eyes were glazing over my feed when I saw “THE PLAN” written in a picture from a post. The post itself didn’t interest me as much as the font choice. When you put “THE” and capital letters on something, it implies importance. But have we all become too jaded to The Font?

To paraphrase Penn Gillette, “If you truly believe in Heaven and Hell and that Jesus is the only way to save your fellow man, then you MUST preach to save them.” He was saying it ironically, because he doesn’t believe most people actually believe it to their core. And yet Campus Crusade for Christ (better known as “triple C”) plays that clip (with Penn’s permission) for their college kids every year.

As a non-Christian, non-Atheist, I respect the “Plan for Salvation,” even if I don’t believe it, and have a similar vibe: “You must believe this enough that you feel you have to reach out on your blog to save me.” I should feel honored or blessed, but instead I think, “Seriously?”

When I was in college, Seth, a friend of mine, would sit at the cafeteria and joke, “The Council demands you give me that slice of pizza.” Until one day, another friend, Andy, replied “No.” Seth replied, “You dare oppose The Council?!” “No,” Andy answered, “because I’m ON The Council!” And thus a running gag was born.

(I’m skipping several key points to that story, none of which you care about.)

The practice of putting “The” in front of a word is rather funny. The Coffee. The Computer. The Cheez Whiz. But my jadedness continues: “This is THE most important election of our lifetime.” Except you said that the last four elections I’ve voted in, but this time you mean it? Or are you just trying to get me to vote for Dukakis?

Speaking of which, I have the Dukakis ’88 coffee mug as my primary vehicle for getting black brew to my face. I think it’s hilarious; I liberated it from my great aunt’s hoard. I’d say she was a diehard Democrat in a Red district in a Blue state, but she saved everything… so how much was the Bill Clinton beer can a decoration of a successful political campaign, or just the fact she hadn’t thrown out anything in decades?

But it’s a symptom of the jadedness in my soul – I’ve seen so much that I thought was important that turned out not to be that it’s hard for me to take seriously. I grew up Fundamentalist Light – I went to a mainline church, but I went to Christian youth group, I listened to CCM, and I lived in fear of being left behind in the Rapture. I believed that when God meant for me to have a girlfriend, that one would appear. No one #*$&ing ever explained, “Oh, and you have to ask a girl out.” Those that preached thought that was obvious – because they didn’t believe in the Immaculate Relationship. They were more concerned with keeping kids from having sex and children out of wedlock. But I didn’t know any better, and between that and being socially awkward, I didn’t get laid until I was 25.

So my experience was similar to many converts; it wasn’t a lack of faith that caused me to leave Christianity, it was believing too strongly. However, my jadedness doesn’t need to infect you. Do you still take Important Times seriously? Do you find the fact I have a salt rock candle holder funny? Do you also need a coffee heater because I don’t drink it fast enough? Let me know in the comments below!

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