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.

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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.

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.

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.

God’s Magicians

Some of my greatest memories are of playing outside with my younger brother. All we had was a tree fort and some oddly shaped sticks. At least, that is all we physically had. The other thing we seemed to have plenty of was creativity. With this creativity we were able to access our imagination. With our imagination we were able to transform our sticks into great weapons and glamorous artifacts. We also were able to transform our back yard and fort into hidden cities, wild jungles, and beautiful kingdoms.

At first we did not know what to do with our imagination. We did not know what to do with these cool weapons and magnificent locations. Both of us found out anything was possible. We could run as fast as light, we could fly to other galaxies, and we could destroy armies with a shout or a swing of our sword. For a while having no limitations was fun. I liked being a warrior from a far away land who could defeat any foe and get out of any sticky situation. After a while however I found the games outside to be a little repetitive. I felt that even though I literally could do anything I wanted in the games we were playing something was missing. Maybe I was getting too old. Maybe it was time to stop playing outside and start thinking more about reality.

I would have given up playing outside pretty quickly actually if something didn’t happen one day that changed everything. I was playing outside with my brother and he shot some magical laser at me and somehow I got hurt. The imaginary laser hurt me. I don’t know how. Maybe I tripped and physically hurt myself when he shot it at me. Maybe I just wanted to see what it was like to actually get hit by a laser for a change. But for some reason this pain I felt, this consequence I experienced, intrigued me. I asked myself, what if when we played games and used our imagination we created rules? What if one of those rules was that you get hurt when you get hit? What if you couldn’t always run as fast as light? What if some of the characters we played couldn’t fly or change shape? These limitations I created actually made me think harder and use more of my imagination.

Soon after my brother and I began to work on character development. We began to have stories where we started one way and the adventure we went on changed us. We used our frustrations with each others’ creative styles for the benefit of our stories. Nothing went exactly our way, we needed to deal with each others’ opinions and egos. I needed to think even more on how my character would develop based on the story elements my brother brought to the table. My mother needed to deal with several fights. We would sometimes stay outside for an hour or so arguing about a curtain character or story point. Because of our stubbornness towards each other we needed to develop reasons to why a character would be doing a curtain thing or how a curtain story element would help develop the story as a whole.

The process of creating stories has excited and fulfilled me so much that I have never stopped. I continue to develop characters and explore new worlds. I am actually perusing a career as a storyteller. I am a writer and a filmmaker. My God has given me this amazing gift, it is called the imagination. The imagination is where creativity begins. Literally anything is possible with it. However, God did not want me and does not want you to ever stop developing the imagination. Creativity must never stop growing.

I found out at a very young age that the gift of creativity is not limited to the imagination. If we can imagine it we can create it. Our world needs to see the fruits of this great gift. At some point while playing outside with my little brother I realized that my imagination was not limited to the back yard. I realized that the characters I was developing and stories I was experiencing could effect and even help change the world I lived in.

In a sense I think of storytellers as magicians. We make the audience buy into things that are not physically real. However, no one will be able to convince me that characters such as Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, Steven Spielberg’s E. T., and Andrew Stanton’s Wall-E, aren’t alive. Artists like Walt, Steven, and Stanton were able to develop their imaginations to such a point that they created living breathing characters that both made us laugh and cry. For me these Magicians were able to change my life with their creations.

I believe that Christianity should be built on creativity. Creativity is what makes us unique. Creativity is God’s greatest miracle. Let us not waste it. We must learn to develop our creativity to the point that it begins to impact and transform people’s lives. When it comes to the imagination, anything is possible. What we need to do is figure out how to use it. When we figure out how to use our imagination, we will be the light that so many people are looking for.

(This post was part of a Synchroblog I am part of. Here are the other links. Enjoy!)

Through The Eyes of The Marginalized

To be honest I think I have a curtain amount of experience in the marginalized category. Both when I went to school and when I went to Church I felt slightly on the outside of almost all the social groups. There were many times where I just hung out by myself in the library or in the art room at school. When I went to Church I usually sat by myself having very little interaction with others.

I personally did these things on purpose because I did not really want to be part of the “in crowd”. I have found that being part of the “majority” means thinking a curtain way. That “way”, being the way everyone else thinks. In my personal experiences the “in” and “out” crowd is created based on who is able or willing to adapt to others.

It is good to be able to adapt to others up to a curtain point. However, in my experience I have found being part of the “in crowd” usually means sacrificing many of my own principles and visions. I think with our society in general we marginalize those who do not think or act the way we do.

At school I found people marginalizing me because I did not think the way my fellow teachers and classmates thought. In Church I found myself marginalized because I pushed others to think of things in a different way then they were used to. We as a society usually throw out those who do not go along with the majority of the crowd. The marginalized consists of those who dare to think in different ways then the norm or those who have pushed us to go out of our comfort zone.

Naturally we want to be comfortable while believing that we are intelligent and our way of thinking is the best way of thinking. When someone comes with a different way of seeing things, he or she is frequently rejected. This is one of the greatest problems with the Church. We the Church have tradition. We have a specific interpretation of scripture. We label the interpretation of scripture as “ the infallible word of God”. When others question and deny our interpretation of God we quickly  reject them thus marginalizing them.

The marginalized don’t just consists of the rebellious visionaries however, you can also apply it to the unintentional drug addicts, starving, and homeless of the world. They are all marginalized because they unintentionally push us to get out of our comfort zones. It is much easier to walk past the homeless then to try to find them shelter. It is much easier to close your eyes to the starving then to find them something to eat. It is much easier to shut the drug addicts in their room then to find a way to help them.

The problem with marginalizing is that there is no growth.

If we do not care about the hungry, the drug addicts, or the homeless, there will be no change. If we do not listen to those who think differently from ourselves, there will be no change. Change only comes when we open our eyes to the marginalized. There is a lot we can learn from them and there is a lot we can do for them but first we need to be able to acknowledge them.

We as God’s people should take a lesson from His son. Jesus was not the common thinker of his day. Jesus came to us with ideas that were unheard of. He told us to forgive rather then punish. He told us to love rather then hate. Jesus opened up His Kingdom to those we thought were most unworthy of it. Jesus was the healer of the sick and the servant of the homeless. Jesus came to this earth and saw through the eyes of the marginalized. He was part of the marginalized. We as His followers need to be willing to be seen in those same circumstances. We need to be willing to see the world through eyes of Jesus, where all are equal and worthy of our attention and love.

George at the Love Revolution – The Hierarchy of Dirt

Arthur Stewart – The Bank

Sonnie Swenston – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Wendy McCaig – An Empty Chair at the Debate

Ellen Haroutunian – Reading the Bible from the Margins

Christine Sine – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Alan Knox – Naming the Marginalized

Margaret Boehlman – Just Out of Sight

Liz Dyer – Step Away from the Keyhole

John O’Keefe – Viewing the World in Different Ways

Steve Hayes – Ministry to Refugees–Synchroblog on Marginalised People

Andries Louw – The South African Squatter Problem

Drew Tatusko – Invisible Margins of a White Male Body

K.W. Leslie – Who’s the Man? We Christians Are

The God Drug!

Ever think of God as a drug? The more I look around and study my fellow Christians, the more I get the feeling God is just another way to get high and forget about the hurts and needs of this world. Yes this is a big observation but I do not say it lightly. We live in world full of self indulgence. I can not help but notice how we as “Christians” are looking more and more like the world we claim to be trying to “save”.

There are two things that have inspired this post. First off, I have recently been impacted by a conversation/debate/argument (depending on who you ask) I have had with an old Church friend of mine about the topics of serving “the least of these” (Originating from Matthew 25: 31-46) and eternal damnation. Equally, I have been impacted by reading the book Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. In this book, Gandhi seek after God far better then myself. In Mohandas Gandhi’s autobiography I have seen a man devoted to truth. Gandhi was willing to push himself to extremes for his cause. I have seen a man who had a heart for loving his neighbors and helping the needy. He seemed to use every aspect of his gifting and recourses to seek out God.

A problem arose for me in my discussion with my friend when my friend kept on posing the argument that we, “need to first seek out God”, before something like helping “the least of these” is relevant. My argument was, “When we help ‘the least of these’ we show we are seeking out God”. My friend did not agree. We went on for days with emails back and forth, both posing some good arguments and I think both would admit some “less then par” arguments as well. Eventually my friend requested we end the conversation. I felt we were stopping in a very bad spot, but reluctantly agreed.

The idea we need to first “seek out God” before “helping the least of these is relevant“, bugged me. The problem becomes how then do we seek out God? The only answers from my friend seemed to be through verbal prayer, fasting, and reading the Bible. Through experience and observation I have found that God can easily become a selfish thing. Prayer can easily be just a way to get hyped up and usually does not go much farther then  words. Fasting is often done for attention rather then to seek God out. And, reading the Bible often consists of finding verses that make God who you want Him to be, not figuring out who He really is.

When God is used in these ways He becomes just another drug we get high on. The problem with getting “high” on God is that it does not last. I have gone to Church conferences where the building seemed to be “on fire” for the Holy Spirit. I saw people dancing in the rows and falling down on the ground because they were so overpowered by the presence of God. I am not saying this was fake, that God was not really moving, but my problem was Nothing. Else. Happened. When we got back from the conference we talked a little about “how God moved”. We gave our testimonies to our Church congregations. Then life went back to normal, where we went to Church on Sunday morning and attended the weekly youth group. And, we began to look forward to the next conference where we could get our next high.

When we leave out a way of knowing or seeing God such as “helping the least of these”, we begin to make Christianity a very selfish thing. When we do not realize that loving our  neighbor is directly related to loving God, Christianity becomes stagnate and insignificant to the rest of the world.

In Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied to the Pharisees when asked what is the greatest commandment, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. The “Love your neighbor as yourself” was just as important as loving the Lord. The reason why Jesus answered with both is because they go hand in hand.

Even though we have been commanded to minister in this world we also were told not to be of this world. The world tells us that possession and power is what brings us happiness. However, Jesus taught us to go beyond our selfish desires and turn to humility and forgiveness. Jesus taught us that we are suppose to be God’s hands and feet and start to show the world the selfless love of God.

Just because you know the right name does not mean you are serving God better then those who have not even heard of Christianity. The Pharisees were the ones that were interested in the letter of the law. They knew all the “right names”. But, Jesus made it clear “knowing” was not what was going to save them (John 5:39). What God cares about is how we follow Him. Instead of making God just another drug we get high on, let’s start to own His principles along with His name and change the world.