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Thoughts on World Vision and Christian and Biblical Movies March 24, 2014

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
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Every now and then Christians on the Internet get a little fired up. Today was one of those days. Two topics, one important and one more trivial, were the cause of the ruckus today. 

First, it was the announcement from orphan relief organization World Vision that stated they would now be hiring openly gay Christians who are in openly gay marriages. Depending on which side of the theological aisle you are on, this was cause for great celebration or massive disappointment. Having usually taken my seat squarely in the center aisle, I have some thoughts on this. I understand World Vision President Rich Stearns reasoning for this. In an interview with Christianity Today, he claimed that this was not about “compromise” but “unity.” I get that. Several churches (most of them mainline protestant) have begun accepting, marrying, and even ordaining gay people in their denominations. To allow people in those denominations to be able to be employed in their organization, this was a necessary step. Stearns also stated that he believes it is up to churches to figure out things like doctrine and theology and parachurch organizations to just mobilize those churches for mission. In essence, World Vision is not making a statement on if homosexuality is a sin or not. They are saying if you are apart of a church who does not think it is sin, however, you are welcome to partner with them and their mission. I think this is wise. You can be either for or against homosexuality and still believe that orphans deserve to be fed and taken care of. Moreover, this will create dialogue between World Vision employees who are on both sides of the issue. That is, if those that believe homosexuality is a sin do not withdraw their support from World Vision. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that will happen. Within minutes of the World Vision announcement, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission blogged his disappointment with the decision. He even went so far as to say “We will see who’s a real evangelical now.” I think he was confusing the word “evangelical” with “fundamentalist.” His statement is another sad example of tribalism within Christianity. Moore basically says “You’re either with us or against us.” The mission of taking care of orphans certainly seems secondary to Moore, when looking at the language he uses. Can a true evangelical Christian partner with a gay Christian to take care of orphans, even if they disagree on what the Bible has to say about homosexuality? Moore does not seem to think so, and also seems to think that if you do think you can…well, then you’re not really an evangelical. Common mission is a wonderful catalyst for dialogue. I think Moore encouraged a lot of Christians to partake in either today. I hope many do not withdraw their help from World Vision. The children they are sponsoring need them, and Christians who are for and against homosexuality really need to talk to each other, instead of yell at each other across the internet.

The other hot topic on the Christian internet today is both the Noah movie and the movie, God’s Not Dead. Apparently, there’s quite a bit of creative license taken in the Noah movie, which is to be expected, but some Christians are pissed about it. Rick Warren encouraged Christians not to see it. A personal friend of mine shared a pastor she is close to’s warnings about the movie. When I commented that I would save my judgement until I saw it, she commented “I’ll trust my pastor’s judgement.” That’s a loaded statement, of course. I want my pastors to make me think, not think for me. And it is concerning that several Christians will take their pastors’ (most of whom, have not seen the movie and are just retelling what they have heard) warnings just as seriously. The trouble is that there is a double standard afoot here. A few weeks ago, many of the same pastors who are now blasting the Noah movie for it’s biblical inaccuracies, were encouraging their congregations to buy out theaters to watch the movie Son of God, a movie that is also full of biblical inaccuracies. So what’s the difference? It seems like Son of God was made by, for, and marketed to Christians. Noah was made by an atheist, for a broad audience, and marketed to that same broad audience. I think Christians feel spurned by this, not realizing that the Son of God producers really just want them to spend money on their movie more than they want to reach people for Christ (which they may want too, but if they really was the main concern, why not give the movie away for free? Oh right, they already did that because it was shown on cable the year before as apart of the “Bible” miniseries. That was popular…so why not monetize it?) The thing is, the Noah movie has a big budget, a prominent director, and an award winning actor. More nonbelievers will see this movie than any of the other biblical or Christian movies out there. And guess what? They will then talk about the source material. I don’t know if the Noah movie will be any good or not. And I’m sure there will be parts of it that I’ll have problems with, but if Christians don’t see it, who will the nonbelievers talk about the real story about? Christians could miss out on a great opportunity if they skip this one and choose to see God’s Not Dead instead. Many Christians are saying they are doing this very thing. God’s Not Dead is the other Christian movie out right now. The previews looked like the typical cheesy Christian fare to me, but several people seemed intrigued. I have not seen it, and just like Noah, I will reserve judgment until I do. But, I did see a review from the A.V. Club (the serious/legit branch of satirical webzine the Onion) that claimed it was horrible even for Christian movies. This was after it came in at a surprising number 5 at the box office over the weekend and several Facebook friends were singing it’s praises. That provides another of my points. The only people who will really enjoy a movie like God’s Not Dead are already people who accept it’s premise. It’s another movie made by Christians, for Christians, and marketed to Christians. Serious movie critics and nonbelievers will only see a poorly acted, poorly written, glorified church drama that made it’s way to the big screen. Worse than that, as the reviewer in the A.V. Club noted, it reinforces the negative stereotypes that Christians fight today. i will probably see God’s Not Dead one day, but I will definitely see Noah before it. I will save my official reviews after I see both. 

Working on the Road to Grace March 23, 2014

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
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I read once (I believe in Jon Acuff’s Quitter) that suicides happen more frequently on Sunday nights than any other night of the week because people literally would rather die than go back into work on Monday morning. This goes beyond not enjoying your job. Millions of people don’t like their jobs and don’t have to consider whether they want to live or continue to work at the same place. These dark actions and thoughts only come when the job has become damaging to your soul. It’s what happens when the place of work becomes a prison that you could walk out of at any time, but the only lock keeping you inside is your need to survive. 

And this is where the problem lives. Some of our jobs do not help us live as much as they help us survive, and when all you are doing is surviving…existing…, life starts to lose it’s appeal. One of my favorite television shows, The Walking Dead, is fundamentally about survival and the moral ramifications of surviving when all life is about is surviving. People are not the same when the whole purpose of each day is to try and get to the next one. They kill others without remorse, join forces with disreputable people,  and do whatever they have to do to ensure that they will see one more sunrise. Those that do not do these things, it is understood, have no other option but death. To survive, one must forsake their own humanity, because humanity is a death sentence. The underlying question on The Walking Dead is this: Is it better to lose your humanity to survive, or keep it and die? To the people in the real world, to those who have dark thoughts on Sunday nights because they have a job that steals their humanity, this is the same question they wrestle with. 

Financial guru Dave Ramsey is fond of saying something on the lines of “Do something you love for a living and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I believe this to be true (even though there will be bad days even if you are working your dream job), but it is not so easy to attain. What some people are really passionate about is not easily monetized. Others have passions that are but they lack the business acumen or people skills to transition it into a sustainable form of income. Then there are people like me. People who are called to vocational ministry have enough questions to answer to begin with (just read the blogs of people who scoff at what they call “professional Christians”). Should being a pastor even be a paid position? If it is, how much money is too much to pay them? What’s too little? How should they be held accountable financially? How are they supposed to tithe? All are valid questions that should be discussed in the Church. But, when one feels called to vocational ministry, these questions are secondary when one cannot find a job in vocational ministry. Since graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Religion five years ago, I have had exactly two interviews with churches. Last year, I decided to start pursuing my Master’s Degree in Theology & Ministry from a prominent seminary because I felt like life had become stagnant and maybe furthering my education would appeal to more churches. As much as this may be true, it does not stall the daily soul-sucking grind of my 9 to 5 (7:30 to 5:30 to be accurate). I go to work miserable and come home miserable and tired. Perhaps, it would be beneficial to just get a different 9 to 5, but the problems I would leave would eventually follow me there. I would still be working to survive and not living. 

I don’t know the answer to this plight, other than stepping into my calling and doing the work that I believe I was made to do. I don’t know when this will happen. But, I do think waiting for the right job is akin to waiting for the right mate. We must work on being the right person before we can worry about finding the right one. This becomes even more difficult when the job we are working shortens our patience, frustrates our emotions, and tires our bodies. When it comes to this, I have found solace in the fact that nobody looks superhuman on the road to grace. We are all stumbling, bumbling fools that eventually collapse into the grace that has been pursuing us all along. As I falter along the path towards this grace, my hope is I will stagger into the place of employment that God has specifically appointed for me, where I can find the most fulfillment, bring help to the most people, and more than anything bring Him the most glory. So tonight, I will go to sleep, with tears in my eyes and a prayer on lips, and get up in the morning and go to work at the job I hate, believing in my heart that this job is just a speed bump on the road to grace. 

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