God’s Not Dead – Part 2

God's Not Dead Poster #2God’s not dead, but why is it I felt I attended his funeral?

From the last sentence you might already be getting the idea my experience watching God’s Not Dead wasn’t the happiest. In fact, I was visibly angry by the time the film ended. I feel sorry for my poor mother and sister who needed to hear me rant about my problems with the film the whole way back from the theater and then during the walk with the dogs afterword. To get to the core of my problem with the film I am going to need to go into some spoilers. So those who still might be wanting to go to the movie might want to check this out afterword.

As I explained in my last post I was not looking forward to this movie. From seeing both the title and the film’s trailers I had an overwhelming feeling this movie was more interested in telling us what to think then giving us something to think about. I chose to go because I didn’t want to judge the film on preconceived ideas. To the best of my ability I tried to be open to the movie being different from it’s advertisements. As the old saying goes you shouldn’t always judge a book by it’s cover. I wanted this movie to impact me like any other movie. I was interested in the basic concept of a student standing up for what he believes in even when it might mean he would be condemned. And trailers have a hard time expressing depth. They only have a few seconds to introduce characters and concepts. A two hour movie however obviously has much more time to get into character motivations and express more nuanced ideas.

This movie however left nuance at the door. All the characters were created to represent stereotypes, both of Christians and the secular world. None of them showed any depth. People who did not believe in the Christian God were all portrayed as evil; whether it be the Muslim father who beats and kicks his daughter out of the house after she claims to love Jesus or the mean boyfriend who gets angry at his girlfriend for bringing up her cancer after he tells her about his promotion. All the Christians the film concentrated on were true servants of God. Sure, there was the pastor who kept getting frustrated about his car not starting. But none of them really faltered when it came to choosing to do the right thing in the end. The character most representative of the “selfless man of God” was the main protagonist of the story Josh Wheaton.

It was clear Josh’s character particularly represented the Christian industries expectation for a good Christian youth. He did everything right in the eyes of the Christian base. He isn’t willing to put down on paper, “God is dead”. He goes to his elders for instruction. He reads the Bible and stands up to his God hatting professor in class. I mean this guy doesn’t miss a beat. There is no attempt to allow the audience to understand Josh’s unwavering faith in God. There is no insight to when he became a Christian or why he feels the need to stand up for his faith except for the generic comment of, “I think God wants me to”. I call the comment generic because it is the same excuse Muslim extremists use to blow things up and kill innocent woman and children. Josh is a shell with no real personality or meaning outside his mission to convert the unbeliever. There are tones of opportunities for him to actually interact with the world around him yet he is too focused on his mission to convert to give a crap about anything else. The best example of Josh’s ignorance comes when interacting with a fellow student Martin Yip. Martin is actually the one who reaches out to Josh by asking him about why he is speaking up in class. Josh takes this as a opportunity to preach and tells Martin about how he believes in Jesus and doesn’t want to disappoint Him. I almost yelled at Josh in the theater to ask a question about who Martin was. Start up a actual conversation and maybe ask Martin what he believes. But no luck. As soon as Josh was done with his preaching he left Martin sitting at the table. The only time Josh really becomes interested in Martin is when Martin turns to Jesus at the end of the movie.

There were so many missed opportunities. This could have been an authentic look at the secular world and why at times it seems so against Christianity. Yet, after watching the movie you get an overwhelming feeling the only thing Christian media thinks they do wrong is stay quiet. The only open Christian in the movie who was portrayed in a negative light was Josh’s girlfriend who adamantly encouraged Josh not to speak up in class. Christians might point to this character as daring, but I thought of her as just shallow. The writers did everything but put a sign on her spelling out, “This is not a real Christian”. She never talks about God and always spoke about how Josh fighting his professor in class would make her look bad. She finally broke up with him because he wouldn’t sign the paper that God was dead or leave the class. Why do I or anyone else in the audience care she she left Josh? I mean there was nothing about her that was interesting or made me care. I couldn’t figure out how the morally unshakable Josh Wheaton would have hooked up with someone like his girlfriend in the first place?

The farther into the movie we went the more this movie looked like a carefully planned out propaganda film. Their mission was to keep the Christian base confident in their faith and reinforce a narrow view of the outside world. It reminded me of the countless messages I sat through in Church where in the end I was told to give my heart to Jesus and tell others about the good news. Quite literally the movie told us to tell people, “God’s Not dead”. It wanted me to text all my friends telling them God wasn’t dead. As if that was going to do the trick. The frustrating things is there were tons of people who did this. As I explained in my last post I saw tons of status updates declaring God wasn’t dead. Put yourself in the secular worlds shoes. What if one of your friends had text you, “God’s dead”? How would this make you feel? Would it really make you more acceptable to thinking God’s dead? Or would it get you frustrated because you are being told bluntly something you believe is not true. For many the text “God’s Not dead” are fighting words. The text is starting a debate few Christians are interested in or prepared for. Heck, I believe there is no batter proof for how unprepared we are then this very movie.

The premise of this movie revolved around Josh’s debate with his professor about the existence of God. While the atheist professor had a board with a few atheist philosophers and scientists names on it as explanation for why the class did not need to look into the idea of there being a God, Josh had a fully realized video display, he somehow found the time to put together, to help argue his case. Each time Josh made his arguments for God’s existence this display helped guide us into feeling comfortable Josh’s arguments made sense. On the other hand while some of the first arguments the professor makes feels partly thought out it becomes more and more apparent his real problem is a personal grudge against God. There was no attempt to treat the debate fairly. In the end we see the Professor show his true colors and admit his real reasons for not allowing God in his class room was because he was angry at Him for not saving his mother from cancer. For this to be the main argument in the movie for why the secular world denies the Christian God is completely ridiculous. Yet, this philosophy seems to be picked up by more and more Christians. Most Christians I listen to seem convinced the reason the secular world denies God is because they are selfish and have a personal grudge against Him.

Movies like God’s Not Dead are why the secular world isn’t interested in the Christian God. As I said at the beginning of my post I felt I was attending God’s funeral while watching this. I just couldn’t find any substance in the movie. This film claims to be a light. Yet it is a light that holds little warmth and shows no depth. The film was an encouragement for believers to go out into the world and preach with ears plugged and eyes closed. The more Christians take on this kind of instruction the farther they will find themselves from both this world and their God they claim to love so much.

God’s Not Dead – Part 1

God's Not Dead PosterFor those who don’t know I work two blogs. One concentrates on my ambitions to understand the technique and art of storytelling/filmmaking and the other covers my views on faith and politics.  Even though both blogs revolve around my pursuit of art and efforts to understand God the subjects don’t usually intersect. However, just the other day I accompanied my mother and sister to the movie God’s Not Dead and I knew immediately I needed to write about my experience. Seeing it was a movie and concentrated on a the issue of faith I have decided to post my views about this movie on both my blogs. I am also going to break my thoughts into two posts. For this post I will try to explain why I chose to watch this movie and my next post will concentrate on what I felt about the film.

To be honest this movie never appealed to me. From seeing the very title God’s Not Dead I was afraid it was going to be another Christian produced film that never really tried to give us something to think about but rather told us what to think. There is an argument to be made I, along with many other secular audiences, had already made preconceived judgments on the movie without being willing to give it a chance. I will not try to suggest I went into the theater with a completely open frame of mind. I tried to have an open frame of mind but I couldn’t help but be influenced by the title, the advertisements, and the second hand comments I had already heard regarding the film.

Lets first look at the title. Why would the title God’s Not Dead turn me off? Well, you tell me the last good film you watched with a title telling the audience precisely what to think? I mean the movie didn’t even want me to think about the possibility God could be dead. I did not need to watch a frame of the movie to know we were going to see a story trying to prove the existence of God. It might just be a malfunction of how I was brought up but I was taught to think for myself. The teachers who really mattered to me allowed me to come up with my own conclusions about what I believed. However, this film with its very title suggested it didn’t want to trust the audience in that way.

The advertising for God’s Not Dead felt just as manipulative as the title. Here is the first trailer I had seen for the film:

Here is another example of the movie not trying to leave anything up to the imagination. Sure the movie suggest the premise is “We are going to put God on trial”. But based on the characters we see in the trailer and the Newsboys song playing in the background with the lyrics “God’s not Dead, he is surely alive” we could tell this premise is only there to thinly disguise a cookie cut message about the evils and dangers of the secular world and the need for us to choose God. The reporter in the trailer even asks about those who don’t believe and the famous Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson replies, “If we disown Him (God), He will disown us”. The secular world is represented by a power hungry professor who calls himself god. We also see another secular businessman who is asked to visit his mom and replies back, “What’s in it for me?”. They don’t want us to question the story arc of the freshman either. The trailer makes sure to show us a clean cut collage Christian who ends up standing for what he believes and confronting his power hungry professor. I felt like the trailer showed a movie aiming to make the Christian audience feel good about themselves at the expense of the rest of the world. The trailer offended me because it seemed to be further proof of a film interested in talking down to it’s audience by not even giving them the chance to discover any truths for themselves.

Now the title and the advertising of the film are prime examples of why I wasn’t interested in going to the movie. So the big question is, why did I end up going? After God’s Not Dead came out I found the reaction from friends and across the internet interesting. What was most intriguing was the difference in opinion I heard from the Christian base compared to the secular base. There were advertisements all over my Facebook wall where Christian friends were posting statuses declaring “God’s Not Dead” and suggesting I and the rest of Facebook go see the movie. I also saw flyers posted claiming the film was #2 in the Country’s Box Office. I didn’t really understand where this stat was coming from since Box Office Mojo and IMDb claimed it took fifth in the box office nationally. Absolutely none of my none Christian friends claimed to see the movie. I did look on Rotten Tomatoes and out of the few people who chose to review the movie, it received a 20% rotten Tomato rating. For those who don’t know it takes a 60% or higher for a film to receive a “fresh” rating.

So what was this huge separation about? Why were so many outside the faith criticizing the movie and so many inside the faith praising it? Why was an advertising campaign that felt manipulative and demeaning to me seem to intrigue so many of my Christian friends?  I knew I needed to check out the movie for myself to find out these answers. Rather then make this post excessively long I will leave you guys with a cliff hanger and give my thoughts on the actual movie in my next post.

Followers of Christ

What God declares the believing heart confesses without the need for further proof. Indeed, to seek proof is to admit doubt, and to obtain proof is to render faith superfluous. – A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy

Boy I was mad when I read this quote on my Facebook page the other day. The quote seemed to be used to excuse our ignorance and encourage us to avoid looking into the context to back our beliefs.

I recently have been part of a few frustrating conversations on Facebook. I was questioning the literalness of the Genesis story. There are many Christians who still consider the Earth to be six thousand years old. There are also many Christians who think it is wrong to question whether the Bible is infallible. Not only do the scriptures need to be divinely inspired, they must not have faults. What do these Christians use to back up their claim of the Bible’s infallibility? Well the Bible of course. This is like me saying I am without error because I say so. It doesn’t make sense. So here is where the quote comes in. We are not supposed to make sense of it. In fact, if we are to seek out proof of the Bible being infallible we are showing ourselves to be with doubt. Having doubt is a big no no in Christianity.

Well I must admit, I have my doubts about my faith. I find myself constantly questioning the validity of scriptures and sometimes even have my doubts as to whether or not God is there for me. But, to me the ones who show the most doubt are those who are not willing to ask or look into the tough questions. If one truly has faith in something he or she should be willing to test it. Instead most Christians I have encountered close themselves up. When I question one of their beliefs I am accused of wanting to start an argument. I am told Facebook isn’t a good forum for conversation or debate. Face to face conversation doesn’t seem to work out much better. I left Church about four years ago. Before I left however I sat down with many friends and talked with my youth pastor about the reasons I was frustrated. I told them about my problems with the Church and asked some tough questions about leadership’s doctrines and beliefs. My questions were almost entirely ignored. My pastors told me they would get back to me and never did. I wasn’t doing my job. I wasn’t playing my role as a mindless sheep.

Christians look at the world and say, “It needs salvation”. I want to know what is “salvation” to most Christians? Is it saying, “I accept Jesus”? Is it going to Church? Is it getting drunk in the Holy Spirit? I have seen people do all these things and nothing really fruitful has come out of it. I remember every year going to the Vision Conference with my Church’s youth ministry and observing countless people get “blown away by the Holly Spirit”. Leadership spent tons of time and resources getting videos made, surround sound working, and big name Christian speakers to come in so they could convert the unsaved youth. After each conference we heard about how lives were changed and God was going to show up and grow the numbers. As of now the youth ministry I attended is less than half the size it was when I left but they’re still preaching the same message.

An emotionally charged service can give you a high just like any other drug. I need to keep reminding myself when most Christians post statuses on Facebook like, “I am so hungry for God’s mysteries” they are not inviting conversation as much as inviting people to “like” their status or write a nice short, “Amen” or “That is so good bro”. I can’t blame them. Living on a high feels good. Seeing people “like” or complement me on my status makes me feel special. These are not unnatural things to want. However, they are selfish. What bothers me is the way some disguise them to seem noble and righteous.

I am reminded of a quote from Gandhi, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”. I think this is because where Gandhi found Christ open minded he found Christians closed off. Where he found Christ to be inclusive he found most Christians to exclusive. Jesus had no need to be in a building in order to minister. He did not go to the people who considered themselves religious; instead he went to the tax collectors, prostitutes, and those on the fringes. Jesus had us reexamine the scriptures. He built upon the teachings of the scriptures and made the people see His father outside the Jewish religion. Just look at Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Bible does not become stronger when you deny its faults. Instead you are making it inaccessible by claiming righteousness where there is fault. Literally thousands of people were involved with creating what we now consider the Bible. And as of today there are several dozen different version of the English translation alone. You will read different commentaries from each theologian who writes the study notes you see on the bottom half of your Bible. This is because the Bible isn’t black and white. The Bible consists of sixty-six different pieces of writings, chosen from many other pieces that for holy or political reasons were left out.

The Pharisees could not see who Jesus really was because their religion blinded them. Let us not make the same mistake. I like the phrase, “The proof is in the pudding”. When we see religions advocating for feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and providing for the homeless, we need to stop and see where God can be seen. As Christians lets seek out the proof of our God, no matter where it takes us. We must not fall into the same trap the followers of the crusades, supporters of slavery, or those responsible for the many massacres of the Native Americans used to justify their follies. Even today the Bible is being used as support for dehumanizing homosexual relationships, justification for woman to not be allowed in leadership, and an excuse to not to take care of the natural resources of this world. Without our God given ability to reason we can make something as wonderful as the Bible support awful and destructive things. God does not want mindless followers. He wants followers who are so confident in their faith proof will only strengthen it.

Born A Sinner

Through out my childhood of being raised in the Church I was told by my pastors and Sunday school teachers  I was born a sinner. It was the great warning given to the Church. All you need to do is look at the Bible and you can see how sinful we really are. Verses like Psalms 58:3 “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies”, Proverbs 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him”, and Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”, have all been used to prove we are sick and evil creatures. The trump card when trying to prove our original sinful nature often comes from John 8:44 when Jesus was talking to a group of Jews who questioned who he was and the truth he spoke. He said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires”.  Gosh! It can’t get much worse then being told you are the devils child.

Knowing these verses are part of most Christians foundational beliefs you can see why they have such a hard time connecting to the secular world. The foundation of our faith tells us not to trust the world. We are told the world is an evil place full of deceit and folly. Quite literally all of you non-Christians are considered no better then the devil. Am I the only one here who sees how this is setting both sides up for failure?

Let me first explain my original philosophy on what my job was as a Christian. When I was still part of the Church my main mission was to bring people to Jesus. The world outside the Church was a world in need of salvation. It was a world all damned to hell unless I and my fellow Christians did something about it. We were God’s soldiers. We were sent into the world to invite people to our youth groups and bible studies so they could be converted to Christianity. The main mission was to see the secular friends we invited to Church raise their hands when asked if they wanted to give their souls to Jesus and go up to the front of the alter so they could accept Jesus into their hearts. The Church rejoiced with “Hallelujah” and clapping when our pastor told us at the beginning of service, “We had twenty five people give their soul to God last week”.

I believed it was my job as a Christian to protect my soul from the evils of the world. Those who did not know Jesus were enemies in the eyes of the Church. I may have had secular friends but I was careful not to be influenced by them. I was warned numerous times their hearts were evil and if I let down my guard I would fall into their sinful ways. My secular friends were those who went out drinking, disobeyed their parents, and thought only of themselves. I never cared enough to know who they were; learn about their hobbies, understand their views on life, or hear about what they wanted to do in the future. I didn’t get to know these things because I was so convinced it wasn’t worth anything unless they first accepted Jesus into their hearts. I was ignorant and naive. I had the audacity to believe they should care about me and my views without giving a crap about theirs. I pursued relationships thinking myself superior and neglecting the truth in my secular friends lives. Is there any greater sin then denying Jesus where he is evident? That is what I did for a good portion of my life. It is what much of the Church still does today.

Christians must understand when they deny Jesus in the lives of nonbelievers, they are look in the faces of Mahatma Gandhi, Tenzin Gyatso (the Dali Lama), and Malala Yousafzai and say “God does not live in you”. I like to bring up these names to Christians when discussing salvation and truth. Most Christians I know still stick to the idea God is only in Christianity. Even more Christians I know stick to the idea that “accepting Jesus” (becoming Christian) is the most important thing we can do in this life. Well Mahatma Gandhi, Tenzin Gyatso, and Malala Yousafzai are not Christian and either did not or will not convert to the Christian faith. Much of their humanitarian work is inspired by their personal faith in Buddhism, Islam, or Hindu. As a youth being raised in a Christian Church I would have been worried about these peoples souls. I would have looked past the work they have done for God because they don’t attribute their faith to the right name. I would have said I, as a 14 year old Christian boy who was mostly just minding his own business not doing anything for the poor, the sick, or the uneducated, was closer to God then these people. Can’t you see something is wrong with this picture?

I am sure a good portion of you would reply, “Nope”.  There is nothing wrong with the way I once thought. The problem I am making in my last paragraph is putting works ahead of faith. When I first began to question these things the biggest argument was always, “God does not judge us based on works but rather faith”. All the things I see non-Christians do for others is done out of their selfish sinful nature. It sure looks as if the sixteen year old girl Malala is advocating for education for all and pushing towards non-violence because of her faith and her love for the others, but in reality she is just trying to fill the empty void that only can truly be filled by Jesus Christ. Sure Gandhi might have been the main one responsible for the freedom of the Indian people from Europe and might have saved countless lives through advocating fighting with none violence, but he was a Hindu when he died and thus suffering in an eternal Hell. After countless conversations of putting up with these arguments and trying to diplomatically reply to why I don’t agree with them I want to give you a definitive answer to what I think of this line of thinking. BULL SHIT!

I am tired of needing to argue whether humanitarians who have done greater things then I could imagine are in question of damnation. I am tired of talking to Christian friends who deny God in a sixteen year old girl who was able to forgive the man who shot her, or in a man who has spent his whole life teaching the importance of living for others, or in a leader who won a war through not being willing to pick up a sword or fire a gun.  I am tired of seeing Christians constantly give sin and “the devil” more power and influence then their own God. How narrow minded is it to say our God can only be seen in one religion?!  How naive is it for us Christians to say we have a monopoly on truth?! Not only does this hurt our ability to recognize God in others, it hurts our ability to recognize His absence in ourselves. Thinking ourselves closer to God then people like Malala, The Dali Lama, and Gandhi, allows us to feel good about living a mediocre life where we go to our Bible studies and Church services but don’t live our faith out in the regular world. It is so much easier to ignore people when you see them as the child of the devil instead of a child of God. Words like, “I believe in Jesus” become more important to us then feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the poor, and taking care of the sick.

Realize when I am talking about feeding the hungry, sheltering the poor, and taking care of the sick, I am talking about spiritual growth. We mistake doing these things as physical acts of goodness. I rather believe those who are committed to these things are people who have a spiritual urge to do them. Whether they know it or not, someone has put the need to help others in their heart. I watch someone like Malala speak about her faith in God and I can no longer help but see my savior in the God she speaks of.

This I know is blasphemy to some of my friends. Many of the Christians who have stuck through reading this are probably throwing my comments out just because I have not used verses to back up my statements. I don’t want to get into a bible thumping debate. For some reasons Christians think the world should put a huge amount of weight on what they say the Bible says, even though they think very little of the other religious books of faith. However, I do want to close this post with one verse. Genesis 1: 27, “So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them”. Human kind was not created by the devil. We were not created in the image of the devil. We were created by God, in His image. We are all born children of God. Let us not forget we are seeing God’s creation when looking into the faces of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists. And Let us not be so naive to think God isn’t seen in those faiths. I consider myself to still be a Christian but I am not willing to limit God and His wonders to my personal faith. The more I look into other faiths and religions the more I can see God in them. I want to learn from the scientist inspired by the beauty of evolution. I want to understand the peace seen in Hinduism. I want to look upon the true face of God. The only way we will be able to do this is if we open ourselves to all of God’s creation.

Education

I always hated the school system. There was little substance in it. I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was doing it for. When I left home school and joined public school my 8th grade year I always counted the hours until I could go home. I was behind in every subject. I was never able to get my reading done, didn’t know how to speak up in class, and was horrid when it came to tests. To be honest I had few friends and only one teacher who gave a crap about me.  Things didn’t get much better in high school. They found out what was wrong with me- I was diagnosed with dyslexia. After a few weeks of special treatment for my “disability” I knew I wanted no part of the help the school provided. I was treated like I was stupid and put in the classes with students who had behavior problems and did drugs during lunch. There was little reason for me to try in school. The only thing that saved me was art. Painting and drawing were what got me through the day. I chose to pursue the subjects with as much passion as I saw star athletes and 4.0 students pursue their subjects.

The problem was everyone got an “A” in art class. Even the 4.0 students, who usually were the worst at making any kind of substantial piece of art. They were too used to working inside the frame, doing the assignments just the way they were told for their artwork to really mean anything. Education only became relevant when I chose to learn for myself. I was no longer going to figure something out in order to make the teacher happy. I wasn’t going to turn in an assignment when it was due; I was going to turn it in when I felt it was done. To tell you the truth I never had top grades in my art classes. Even though I had some natural talent in the area, came in almost every lunch period, and stayed many times after school, I was never able to get my assignments in on time or finish the ones in which I lost interest. At the end of my junior year I was a mess when it came to grades. If I had taken my SAT’s I would most likely have scored in the lowest percentile. Collage just seemed like a nightmare I would never be able to do even if I wanted to.

Then something happened that changed my life. My mother gave me a priceless gift I will never be able to repay. She gave me an education. My senior year I dropped out of high school. My mother, who majored in English, chose to home school me. My mom’s dad (my grandfather) told her she was going to ruin my life. She was  sacrificing a huge amount of time. On top of all this she had a student who didn’t care anymore, someone who was sucked dry by the school system. I didn’t want to learn. I didn’t need to know how to write. I didn’t need to learn about politics. I thought I knew how to reason and I didn’t need to understand how other people thought. If someone didn’t agree with me then screw them. Yet my mom didn’t give up. She pushed me in my art and then worked from there. She talked to me about my ideas and she allowed me to dream. The stupid stories I had in my head were interesting to my mom. However, she wouldn’t let me keep my ideas to myself, she made me express them.

Learning to write wasn’t easy. I didn’t know the difference between “there” and “their”, an adverb from a verb, or why one shouldn’t start a sentence with “that” or “this”. I hardly knew how to write a proper sentence. In my opinion people were just supposed to know what I was saying.

Slowly my teacher showed me how to write a sentence, build a paragraph, and express my ideas. I began to want to learn. I began to value other people’s opinions. I began to believe in myself.

She gave me a priceless gift. A gift I use every day. A gift that can truly change the world. I write this today because I feel everyone deserves my mother’s gift.

One of the figures who has entranced me of late is Malala Yousafzai. She is a sixteen year old Pakistani who was shot in the head because she thought woman should be educated. Yet now her voice is stronger then ever and she is going everywhere advocating education for all. She even says she forgives her shooters and wants them to be educated just as much as anyone else. She is absolutely convinced education will bring on peace and understanding. She says letters and words can be stronger then any weapon. 

I felt frustrated at times hearing Malala speak so heartily about the importance of creating an education system. I thought to myself the education system she believes in will never work. There are just too many teachers who don’t care, not enough money for funding, and too many people who need to be educated. How much can a teacher truly do in a class room of thirty? I suffered through a system that told me I was stupid and incapable of learning. Malala faced the same problem with her society telling her she wasn’t capable. However, Malala is convinced the traditional text based system of education will open doors for her. The very place I considered a prison she considers a paradise.

Malala is a strong advocate of reading and writing. The school system considers these two things to be the pinocle of what one needs to know to be educated. Subjects like math, science, and even music are taught through verbal linguistic means. We use textbooks and memorize symbols to learn about math and science. We are taught how to read music before we are allowed to play music. Art and physical education are considered the slacker classes where everyone gets an “A”.

There needs to be a great change in the way we think and the way we teach before Malala call for “education for all” could be recognized. Just as important as allowing the woman the right to be educated is the need to create a system where visual, spacial, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, and musical thinkers  can be educated. What if we had a system in place that allowed multiple intelligences to succeed? I have a family full of dyslexics. My mother has constantly tried to explain to her children’s teachers the importance of understanding multiple intelligences and teaching different kids in the way they think. Instead my teachers and my siblings teachers kept pushing us verbal linguistically. All we ended up learning was how stupid we were. All we ended up feeling was exhausted and frustrated. All we ended up wanting to do was shut down.

There are millions out there who don’t think they are smart. They think this because they are faced with a school system that tells them they are incapable of learning. My history teacher my junior year told my mother I was incapable of learning his subject. He didn’t know I had been going home each night repeating the stories I had heard in his lecture that day. I was telling my mom about the interesting characters we were discussing in class and the influence they had on the building of our nation. I even began doing my own research in American history, studying great American figures like Abraham Lincoln and looking into the rich history of American pastime Baseball. The only thing my teacher knew is I couldn’t do well on his essay and fill in the blank tests, which accounted for 80% of the grade.

I am not saying there is no significance in understanding symbols and equations. I am not saying we should neglect to teach students how to read or write. In order to compose this very essay I need to have a firm grasp on reading and writing. However, I also need to know how develop an argument. I need to have a firm idea to build upon. And I need to have a unique voice. Yet in school all my teachers could see was I couldn’t spell and didn’t understand grammar. Why was it that I was never told about my strengths in creating original ideas, developing my points, and having a unique voice? If the student who couldn’t spell still got credit for understanding the meaning of a word, if the student who couldn’t read still received credit for grasping the value of a piece of literature, if the student who couldn’t recite their math facts still was acknowledged for understanding the concepts of addition or subtraction, then we would be getting closer to a fair education system. The education system is only as good as the future it prepares us for. If the system does not take into account how each individual learns it can not prepare the individual for his or her best future.

Sex!

I am sure if I post this on my Facebook or Twitter feed many people will be turned off just because I had “Sex!” as the title of my blog post. However, it is a topic that needs to be talked about. I struggle talking about sex because I don’t know if I am pure enough. I mean in all honesty I am someone who isn’t too happy with the way I have dealt with the subject in my won lifetime. I was brought up in a conservative Christian environment that preached about sexual sin being the worst kind of sin a human could commit. I think my pastor felt like it was his job to scare us into absence until marriage. I even had some messages suggest we shouldn’t kiss until marriage. Imagine my guilt when I began struggling with sexual urges. How could I tell someone I was struggling with masturbation if they considered the simple act of kissing questionable?

There has been a big difference between my experiences in the Christian community and experiences in the secular world with regard to sex. The Christian community thinks sex should not be an option unless you are hitched. Boatloads of messages were all about keeping clean until marriage. Heck, my youth group had purity month every year in which they worked tirelessly to scare us away from sex. It was suggested woman needed to keep themselves dressed properly so not to attract men. This usually meant no short skirts, no makeup, and no wrong looks igniting men’s impure desires. Men had it a bit easier. We were told to resist the temptation and make sure to be in groups when interacting with the opposite sex. This brings me to one of the key problems with the Christian communities view on sex. No matter how politically correct they try to be, the bottom line is sexual corruption is usually blamed on the woman.

When my friends point out to me our society’s nosedive into impurity the core problem usually revolves around the woman. The women are committing abortions, going into prostitution, and over sexualizing the media and entertainment industry. For example, look all the hoopla surrounding Miley Syrus. I have seen several posts about her since her MTV performance a few days ago. Most of the posts talk about how sorry the Christian community feels for her and how they are hurt by Miley’s poor example in front of the youth. However, none of the ones I have read so far say anything about the man who was singing and dancing alongside Miley. You know, the much older man who was singing “Let me liberate you” and “You know I want it” while Miley danced all over him?

Think about the people who benefit the most from abortion, prostitution, and the porn industry. It’s not the women who get the most money out of those areas; it’s the doctors, pimps, and producers. Why don’t the other participants get as bad of a rap? Why aren’t I seeing negative articles about them posted on Facebook or Twitter? Don’t think for a second it’s the women who create the demand for sex in the media today.

The problem is both the Christian and secular community treat women as objects not people. Christians feel women are objects to be shamed and shunned. The secular world treats women as objects to be used for their own desire. I can’t understand the philosophy that goes into thinking sex doesn’t have consequences, thinking our minds are not affected by sexual imagery, and thinking intercourse does not impact us emotionally. When we indulge in something that makes us think it’s perfectly okay to look at someone’s boob size or curves before their personality and opinions, something is very wrong.

Now I am not saying you need to wait until marriage for sex. I am frankly not willing to make that judgment for you. Personally I believe too many people go into marriage in order to feel good about having sex. However, I don’t think it is possible to look at women as intelligent human beings while we scream for them to take off more cloths in strip bars or masturbate while watching them having sex on our computer screens.

The greatest problem is we don’t deal with the real issues. Christians think it is good enough just to tell us God is against sex before marriage. The secular world thinks protection and abortion rights will solve everything. But, these attitudesavoid the issues. They don’t deal with them. Both the Christian and secular mindsets needs to change. We need to stop believing in the lie that marriage stops people from being harmed by sex. We need to stop thinking sex is “just sex” and it doesn’t have an impact on relationship.

The bottom line is sex must not be a selfish thing. We must be willing see what it is communicating. Sex cannot be a resource for selfish indulgence. It cannot be a means of manipulation. Sex must be an extension of relationship, a symbol of love, not one-way desire or control. There is a difference. We will continue to see prostitution, divorce and gender inequality until we as a society figure out the difference.

Ignorance

It would be quite ignorant for me to suggest I have not been ignorant about many things in my life. Gosh, where to start?! First off, I thought I was the main focus of a reality TV show for a long time and conducted my interviews with myself in the mirror. I thought I could become a professional baseball player with only practicing an hour or two every week. I thought I didn’t need to know how to construct a sentence or paragraph in order to write a good paper. The idea essays needed an introduction to set up the body of a paper and a conclusion that lead to some kind of point others could understand seemed stupid to me. The place where I was most ignorant however was in my faith. For the longest time I thought it was perfectly reasonable to think all non-Christians would not make it to heaven. Not only would they not make it to heaven but they would suffer. They would suffer for eternity in fire and brimstone with a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth. I was taught the world was completely lost and full of sin. I was warned against becoming too good of friends with non-Christians and I was tricked into thinking if I did not give my time and money to the Church I was not supporting God.

As a Christian I was ignorant for a long time. As soon as I began to open my eyes and look at different views my church began to close it’s doors to me. I was slowly pushed out of leadership and relationships I had held for a long time. I made the mistake of being honest with my Church leaders about my changing views. I began to ask questions and argue points with leadership. They were not ready. I had conversations with leadership that were cut off mid point because of “time” issues, but were never picked up again. I suddenly felt I was intentionally ignored. I was given the polite “hello” at the beginning of Church or youth group, but never asked the big questions like, “How are you (honestly) doing?” or “What has God been talking to you about lately?”.

The more I looked outside the Church the less interesting the box of Christianity seemed to be. The places I looked at outside seemed to be willing to ask the big questions and fight with differing opinions. The more I looked outside the Church the more I needed to come face to face with my own ignorance. I needed to face the fact I had built up judgment of the rest of the world without ever looking into that which I was judging. It’s hard to stand on the belief all non-Christians will spend eternity in hell when you open your eyes and see so many non-Christians being more Christlike then your Christian friends. It’s hard to deny Woman’s stance in leadership when you see how effective they have been in those roles outside the Church. It is hard to deny things like Gay rights when we see so many homosexual relationships with as strong a love bond and commitment to one another as heterosexual relationships.

Ignorance is a beautiful thing really. It makes life easier. I see so many Christians these days who seem so confident in their beliefs. They are convinced they are doing God’s work by denying the godliness in those who don’t believe in their God. They feel righteously appointed to deny relationships they have not taken the time to understand. And they feel the blanket of security in only listening to the groups they have formed, groups who have had a whole life time of being taught not to question the word of God as interpreted through their leadership. Prayer is used as an excuse to not work at changing the world or oneself.

I am tired of the Church teaching ignorance. I am tired of it manipulating its followers into seeing differing view points as sin worthy of a eternity in hell. If you want to know and understand the world you must be willing to open yourself up to it. You must be willing to consider them as no less deceived as you might be. Yes you can point to the Bible and suggest it supports your view points. However, that is the same thing the Roman Catholics did during the crusades. It’s the same thing we Americans did when denying the rights of woman and blacks, and subjecting hundreds of thousands to slavery. It’s the same thing the Nazis did when committing genocide against the Jews. The “truth” has been manipulated by man throughout history in order to justify what one group wanted to do to another group. To suggest anyone or any religion has a monopoly on truth is the essence of ignorance.

If you are not willing to consider truth can be found in the Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist’s faith why should you expect them to consider truth can be found in ours? The search for truth will never end. It is much easier for us as Christians to go with the crowd, suggest the Bible is infallible, think our denomination is the right denomination, and assume the world is full of corruption not worth God’s eternal love or our time. I see so many of my friends taking this rout. It deeply saddens me. Ignorance leads to destruction and suffering. In the end we will all suffer because of it. If we don’t choose to embrace what is good in each one of us, what is love in each one of us, what is truth in each one of us, then we are missing out on seeing God.