12 April 2010

The Faces of Evil? or. . . Pride, Arrogance, and Humility

I attended a Bible study at a neighbor's house last night. It was an interesting mix of people, and overall, a good time was had. But early in the evening I was asked about my denomination, and from that moment on I was under attack by one of the attendees.

Like many an overly-zealous evangelist, he took it upon himself to set me straight about things. The more I ignored his attempts to start an argument, the more persistent he became. It was almost comical - to watch the wheels spinning in his head, watch his frantic thumbing through the Bible in his lap to find yet another out-of-context bible verse to hurl my way - he tied himself in knots. All his energy for two hours was going into fixing me. It never occurred to him that he was the one who came to a Christian gathering and went on the attack. I was not attacking. I was not engaging. I was confident and at peace in my faith. But in his arrogant view - I was the one who needed fixing, and by GOD he was the one fit to do it.

What are these people thinking? Christ's message and Christian love have nothing to do with that sort of behavior. The defiant unwillingness to question your own fallability - to insist on ignoring the log in one's own eye in spite of its obstructing the vision with which you might begin to take the splinter from your brother's eye - is so palatably un-Christian to me. I thought briefly of trying to explain the concept of "humility" in the Christian sense to this man, but the very thought made me tired. So I didn't.

A few years ago, I was subjected to a diatribe from the spouse of a friend. He told me with much delight about his having confronted his own mother about her misguided Christian faith. His eyes danced as he told me how he ripped about her psyche, stripped her beliefs bare. He could hardly contain his delight as he told me how she finally broke down in tears. His demeanor made it clear that he assumed I would applaud his feat, that I shared his commitment to ridding the world of this mythology called Christianity.

I was astounded that day as I listened to him, and I still am as I think of it. What I can't get around is the WHY of it. Why would he take pleasure in destroying someone else's belief? Let's put aside for a few minutes whether that belief is valid or not. The fact is that her belief was doing him no harm, nor was it doing any harm to anyone else. It was bringing joy and completion to his mother's life, whatever he thought about it. Why did he feel a need to destroy it? And why - beyond feeling a need - did he celebrate the destruction?

I don't have an answer. This kind of arrogance that impels a person to attack someone else's Christian faith just because they can. What is that about? I have to wonder, when I consider this phenomenon and its implications, if it is indeed a manifestation of Evil in the world.

I stumbled upon an article tonight by Stanley Lutz of the Hudson Institute. In September 2000 edition of Commentary, he offers some interesting insights as to the motives of gay activists in gaining the right to marriage. He quotes several who state that their goal is not personally to be married, nor to achieve domestic equality with heterosexuals, nor even to attain social respectability, but rather to empty the institution of marriage of its meaning. They wish to end the "bourgeois institution," simply because they want to. Lutz's conclusion is that too many gays share this hidden motive, even while speaking of economic and social motives for fighting to gain these rights. I don't know if that is true. But it doesn't matter: I would wish to address the radicals that he quoted. What evil is it in them that causes them to wish to destroy anything because they don't happen to like and agree with it? The ARROGANCE!

I have been asked to come back to the neighborhood Bible studies. My nemesis will be there as well - he is a regular. I know that in his limited mind, our conversation has yet to happen. It's his job, to set me straight. I suppose.

Oh, Dear Lord, grant me the patience to deal with these people when I encounter them. Help me to hear only your voice, and ignore the hurtfulness of theirs. If indeed Evil is at work in them, help me look it in the eye without engaging, without faltering, and remember that the instruments through which it works are only your poor children. Amen.

Read entire piece.

11 April 2010

The Opportunity in Film...

An interesting thing is happening at theatres in recent days. The film Letters to God is attracting a large mainstream audience, and wowing critics as well.

Perhaps the first miracle is that it was made at all. Imagine - in the ever-secular, and often anti-Christian, atmosphere of today's society - trying to pitch an openly-Christian script to a producer. But Patrick Doughtie did just that, and says that the early success of this film has inspired him to start a few more like projects. Visit the official movie site at www.letterstogodthemovie.com.

I have to wonder where such films have gone. Even in the midst of the anti-establishment mood of the 1960's, few films on St. Francis of Assisi were successful. Becket, the story of St. Thomas Becket, starring Richard Burton, was a blockbuster. Perhaps this was because Richard Burton palyed the part of the saint himself, and Peter O'Toole played his friend/nemesis King Henry II. Both were matinee idols at the time. Imagine now if you would, today's matinee idols consenting to play a religious figure. My guess is that they wouldn't - who would be brave enough to be so politically incorrect?

In 1989 a film was released on St. Francis of Assisi. It starred Mickey Rourke, and it flopped. The critics hated it; the public hardly knew about it. Perhaps the lesson is that if we are going to make a Christian-based film, we need to do it well. After all, the reputation of Christian feature film, needs all the help it can get, and we can't afford sloppy efforts to hurt it.

But that being said, it seems that the time may be ripe for the success of Christian-themed films in mainstream entertainment. People are cynical, having been forcefed anti-Christian rhetoric from all corners in recent decades - but they are also hungry for hope. In an era when militant Islam, which is arguably the ugliest of faith ideologies, offers hate, the hope of Christianity is an enormous weapon.

Preaching at people is a big part of what the current anti-Christian anger is about. For too long, evangelicals have not done well at spreading their message. Too often, they wore their pride on their faces as they used the Christian message to wag an accusatory finger at their fellow man at worst, and speak patronizingly to others at best. They have been slow to understand the error, and to learn a better way.

We need to give serious thought to what makes Letters to God successful. We need to think about its tone toward a mainstream audience, we need to think about the way it has been marketed. And we need to take advantage of the pain and uncertainty of our times to bring Christ's message in the ways that are most meaningful in today's world - through mass entertainment media.

Read entire piece.