Monday, February 26, 2007

Jesus Camp

Last night I was watching Joan and Melissa Rivers on TV Guide Channel. I had better things to do but hey... it was something to watch while I waited for GodTV's televised program of Novel Hayes Campmeeting.

Anyway, up comes the directors of the film Jesus Camp, a documentary about a fundamentalist Christian camp where kids go to learn about Jesus. Ted Haggard, BTW, shows up in this film. Now, I don't know how fundamentalist I am. But I often call myself a fundamentalist Christian because I share the belief in the same Fundamentals that they do. Plus I'm a bit of a curmudgeon. If someone's going to pick on a group, part of me wants to be part of the picked on group. I hate going along with the herd, and in the US the herd tends to be people who mock Biblical Christianity.

Anyway, the directors come up in their great gowns and they say something to the effect like this to Joan Rivers: "Well, I'm Orthodox Jewish and I'm Roman Catholic and so we went into this experience of filming without any bias." Okay, my mouth kinda fell open. Certainly anyone not belonging to a particular religion will be surprised and shocked by the belief of that religion...and that surprise will feel like being turned off to that religion. If a person who was not an-Orthodox Jew or not an Chassidic Jew went in to film the Jewish religion, wouldn't they also find something strange? Wouldn't they have unrecognized biases that would shock and surprise them? Even the Chassidic ultra-traditional idea of women and childbearing would be surprising. And wouldn't certain aspects of Roman Catholicism turn off a lot of people who have not been reared in that religion. What I'm saying is this: those folks thought they were unbiased when, the way human nature is, they were biased without knowing it.

Anyway, I'm not going to see Jesus Camp anytime soon.
But the other thing that shows how locked in we are in our own minds is how the people in Jesus Camp behaved. Call me a cynic but why in heaven's sake did the Jesus Camp folks even allow non-fundamentalists to their camp? Like the directors of the documentary they themselves are unaware of biases and of Paul's warning that "we are a sweet savor to those who are being saved and a stink to those who aren't being saved." No, I'm not saying that the directors of Jesus Camp aren't being saved. Only God knows that. But I AM saying that the directors of Jesus Camp seemed woefully unaware that they were showing spiritual things, things that are spiritually revealed as true, to the world...which cannot accept truth. (Okay, I didn't see the film and there might have been some political stuff in the film I disagree with, but even if there was no political stuff, did these Jesus Camp people really believe that the non-believing types would be won over? Even the idea of hell -- true as it is-- will annoy the heck out of people who don't understand that hell exists.)

How many times have I see this kind of stupidity! Christian churches think they are witnessing to the world by allowing a worldly secular bunch of filmmakers to come into their church and film them! Or Christian filmamkers also do films and show things that are holy to swine. And it gets even weirder when the directors are allowed to film laying on of hands, falling in the spirit, sermons about hell, sermons about homosexuality, tongues, etc.

People, people, people!!!! Yes we are called to be witnesses, but didn't Paul warn us about what we share with non-believers? Didn't he say that when people come into a church service and see people doing certain spiritual things that it's not a witness to them but that they'll think we're insane? I, for one, would be careful what to show in a film. We must be careful not to show Christians doing Christiany-things: speaking about false religions? speaking about hell? showing people speaking in tongues? showing people dancing in the spirit? Because these are spiritually-understood, the carnal mind will consider them foolishness. And no matter how "fair" an earthly-minded non-believer tries to be...certain things will be "evident" to them that we Christians are evil or just plain stupid. Our white is often the world's black...and the filmmakers know that. We might be inspired to see the film but what inspires us and rejoices our heart is a smell of death and disgust in the mind of the viewer and the filmmakers know this. (And -- as the worst of luck (or demonic planning) would have it: Ted Haggard is in the film.) It just makes us look like psychologically messed up people who are damaging our kids. And make no mistake about it: this is how the secular world perceives it. So why do we do films which we know the secular world will use to condemn us? Can't we step outside our need to "witness" and "show the world our joy" and get some sophisticated knowledge of how communication works in this world?

Brothers and sisters, let's be really careful about what we share with outsiders.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How I love your Word

The Bible tells us that the world lies in darkness and cannot receive the spirit of truth. Sooo true. How many times has my head simply reeled when I hear someone doing a job of Scripture twisting! Especially when they're indoctrinated!

How many times have I seen court trials or reality shows or even those times when I see something in person (Am not always in front of the tube) only to hear someone give a version of what supposedly happen. Like looking at Anna Nicole's trial and then hearing on the news how it went. I'm like: "Wait, were we watching the same program?" This is not just a matter of taste or of people not "getting" some particular issue or point? Sometimes it is -- no one is perfect and I and other folks can miss stuff-- but often it's just human issues coming in to cloud stuff up.

But other kinds of deceptions pop up. A very cynical friend of mine said, "if it's advertised on TV, it's not true, and it's on tv in order to make money." She included in that list of untruth: mammograms, commercials, etc. Hey it's good to be suspicious of mammograms, headache relievers, sleep aids, ritalin, etc. I mean, "Aren't there other cures out there? Aren't there other procedures?" God has made man upright, The Preacher says, but man has sought out many inventions. Perhaps the thermogram is better than mammos, perhaps not living a stressed life and drinking more water is better than all those over-the-counter or prescribed medicines. Anyways, lately..there was this big advertising push to tell every woman about human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer. I, of course, grew suspicious. Partly because mention was not made that HPV was also an STD. Next thing I hear: the makers of the drug were lobbying Congress to make vaccinating young girls with the anti-HPV vaccine mandatory! Ah life! But of course, that's why they were telling us all that lovely news about the virus and scaring us silly. Not because they want to save our lives so much...but because they wanted our money.

When we see a documentary talking about a specific disease we Christians must remind ourselves that the drug company is probably behind the documentary. Ciba-Geigy, for instance, are the only company that makes Ritalin. They did a great job of getting parents, teachers and doctors to know about ADD-ADHD. Especially teachers. Why? Because they had to make you know about this "illness" -- an illness that only seems to affect school issues mind you-- that could only be cured by ONLY their medicine. So the search to cure ADD is now over with because well, the one medicine exists to cure it. There's a new film out there about Chronic Illness...and yes, you guessed was made by the folks at Centocor, the folks who make the medicine. Remember, too, that most drugs are researched by sick people who have seen advertisements for a particular drug...then they ask their doctors to prescribe it for them.


Another aspect of truth is how the definition of words change. There was a time when the word whore meant someone who had sex for money. But now it also means a girl who sleeps around. And yet, from the way it's used, the definition of sleeps around also comes into the mix. And it often means a girl who sleeps around more than the one who is calling her a whore. Humans and their need to be self-righteous! Humans and their need to be good in their own eyes! So if a girl has two boyfriends a year and -- ten boyfriends in twenty-years...not to mention a few sexual dates and those friends with benefits, she feels quite right in saying that she is not a whore but that someone else who had three boyfriends in the space of three months is a whore. I would be funny if it weren't so scary and creepy.

It reminds me of the Book of Hosea where God tells the prophet Hosea to marry two women. One of the women represents Israel and the other represents Judah. Both women, however, are pretty whorish and Hosea thinks their infighting about who is a better wife is laughable.

Another word is "born-again." Jesus said anyone who believes in him must be born-again of the spirit. So why do certain Christians not like the phrase?

Folks, in an age of media stuff we must learn not to be deceived. We must learn to discern. C S Lewis said it better in his fiction spec-fic books: Those who are the most educated are likely to be the ones most deceived.

Step Up Bring It

Wow, Lately I've really been understanding the meaning of the phrase: "step up" and "bring it."

First, on I LOVE NEW YORK! I LOOOOOVED Rico. But he was so laid back. If you want to win the prize, you've got to step up. Then there was AMERICAN IDOL. What's with some of those folks? Are they aiming for the prize or just trying to kinda get in.

"Bring" all you have. You can't be laid back. You have to go all out. Now, as a Christians, sometimes we have to not strive...we have to rest in the finished work of God. But at the same time, we have to push violently into the kingdom because the kingdom is not for the faint.

If you want the healing given to us through the blood of Jesus to manifest in your life, if you want the gift of the holy spirit, if you want to receive a great reward in heaven, you've got to step up. Too many of us are satisfied with skin of our teeth salvation and with status-quo Christianity. Don't you want to heal the sick? Raise the Dead? Then folks...READ YOUR BIBLE. BELIEVE IT. REST IN GOD'S FINISHED WORK. That's what you're called to do. The big work, Jesus said, is to only believe in HIS WORDS. That is how we rest. That is how we strive.

In both these areas: the problem of deception and the problem of being a lax powerless Christian, there is one answer: THE WORD OF GOD. Read it. Every day. Meditate on it. Believe it. Trust it. Use its definitions!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Here is a little Bible Study I did on the Bible story of Lot. As you can see, my annoyance with scapegoats and sacred cows in Bible studies is evident.

Genesis 19
Lot is a different kind of scapegoat. Unlike Cain, Lot did not commit a crime. Unlike Abraham his uncle, he was much like us. Many Christians, however, like to think of Lot as a carnal Christian who "pitched his tent" symbolically and literally towards Sodom. (Gen 13:12) Thus they see his story and the events surrounding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a kind of come-uppance for Lot and his family. This "come-uppance" factor is a kind of righteous "serves-them-right" spitefulness that occurs in many Bible studies. Basically, the underlying feeling is that Lot deserved what he got because people who don’t do right have to suffer. We see this kind of thing also in sermons about Samson. Yet not in sermons about Noah. Or about Jesus. But if we read the Bible we certainly should understand that the end of a Bible character’s life or story may or may not be a judgement on that person’s life. The death of good people are more complicated than this. A good ending does not imply a good life, just as a good death does not imply that a character has lived a good life.

Few people are called "just" in the Bible. It is a high and huge compliment. Lot is called (2 Peter 2:7) a "just" man whose spirit was daily vexed because he lived among evil people. If we believe that the writers of Scripture spoke as the Holy Spirit moved them, then we should accept the Holy Spirit’s witness that Lot was a ‘just’ man.

But many sermonizers disagree with this. They begin by showing that when Abraham gave Lot a choice of choosing where he wanted to graze his flocks, Lot chose to live near Sodom because the land was green and lush. This, we Christians have been taught, is a sign of Lot’s carnal thinking: Abraham could look at something that seemed empty and doomed to failure but, seeing the invisible, he could imagine God’s power working in any atmosphere. Lot, on the other hand, we are told was so enslaved to his eyes and to the non-spiritual ways of seeing things that he chose the path that looked easy. Of course, this is partially true. But before we judge Lot, let us ask ourselves what we would have done if given the same choice. Very few of us would willingly choose to work in a field which seemed doomed to failure.

So Lot lived near Sodom and later actually entered the city and lived there. The writer of Genesis states that Sodom was such a wicked place that a cry against it had reached heaven. God heard the cries when Sodom’s cup of sinfulness had overflowed its brim. He therefore, in one of his pre-New Testament human appearances, to arrive at Abraham’s tent where he told Abraham that He intended to investigate the city and destroy it. After seeing what later happens in Sodom –-an entire town filled with men who have only murderous rape on their minds–- the reader has no doubt that Sodom deserves to be wiped off the face of the earth, although one does wonder about who made the cry against it. One can only assume that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had been raping and destroying innocent travelers for quite a while. But isn’t it also possible that Lot’s own vexation against the place had also been part of the general cry against Sodom?

When Abraham heard God’s plans, knowing he had relatives in the city, he made a bargain with God: He made God promise that if God could find ten good people in the city, the city would be spared. Ten persons would include Lot, his wife, his daughters and future sons-in-law.
As the story goes, angels were then sent to the city, and being supernaturally beautiful, they attracted the lust of the men of Sodom who demanded that Lot turn the angels over to them. Lot refused. He then offered his daughters to the lustful men.

The importance of hospitality was what prompted this; protecting one’s guest was very important, even if it meant sacrificing one’s family. The men of Sodom, however, wanted the angels. They grew enraged and reminded Lot that he was a stranger in a strange land and shouldn’t bring his moralizing to them. This behavior only proved that the cry against Sodom was true. As the men of Sodom became more violent, the angels repaired matters by blinding them. This put a quick end to the problem as the men began stumbling about looking for someone to lead them by the hand. Disregarding them, the angels turned to Lot and declared that the city would be destroyed. Now Lot had to convince his family. His daughters and wife believed him but his future sons-in-law did not. At this point, this is where our tendency to scapegoat begins.

It starts out very often with ministers or Bible study teachers saying that Lot’s sons-in-law (or future sons-in-laws) did not believe Lot’s witness about the coming destruction of the city because Lot had compromised himself and lived among them as a backsliding believer for so long that they couldn’t possibly take him seriously. Well, of course that kind of stuff happens. One cannot be quiet about one’s morals and faith and then suddenly rise up and speak as a religious prophet and expect to be believed.

But why is this charge laid against Lot? In his day, Noah (Hebrews 11) prophesied about a coming flood. In our days, many Christians say that the end of the world is near. No one listened to Noah. And now modern Christians will mock. Therefore, the fact that the sons-in-laws or fiances didn’t believe Lot shouldn’t be the first nail used to lock Lot in the "bad guy" category.
If we analyze the story, we would realize that since many of the men of Sodom were presumably blinded by the angels, the entire town should have stood up and noticed this great miracle in their midst. But, in the face of this astounding evidence, the sons-in-law still refused to believe Lot. Their refusal to believe Lot had little to do with Lot’s reputation. The sons-in-law either could not believe that God interceded into human lives. Or they found the idea too unworldly to take seriously. But Lot’s supposedly "carnal" compromising lifestyle is not the reason.

Something else: Lot was a sojourner in the city of Sodom. This meant his religion was probably different than theirs. How difficult is it for people with one type of God to actually be converted by a stranger, especially when the stranger tells them that "his" God is going to destroy their world!

Abraham met people of other cultures only when he had to. For the most part, he wandered in and out of the lives of gentiles and –with the exception of Melchizedek– he tended to believe the worse of the gentiles he meant, expecting them to behave immorally or unspiritually. But Lot was more cosmopolitan. He lived among other people and he was a holy man who lived in an unholy world. In many ways Lot was more like the typical North American multicultural Christian than Abraham was. When Peter writes in his second epistle that Lot’s spirit was vexed continually because of evil he saw every day, shouldn’t most Christians immediately feel a similarity to Lot? Don’t we feel our separateness when we ask a non-Christian to refrain from cursing or taking the Lord’s name in vain? But instead, malicious self-righteous judgmentalism enters the Bible study and Lot is constantly made to appear as if he deserves his plight.
As the story proceeds, the time arrives for Lot to leave Sodom. But Lot dawdles. Finally the angels have to take matters into their own hands and they grab Lot, his wife and daughters and drag them out of Sodom. When this is being studied, this is where another instance of "serves-them-right" judging pops up. This "serves-them-right" attitude is another way of scapegoating a character and turning them into "bad guys."

The angel had warned Lot’s family not to look back as they fled the city. But during the escape, Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a "pillar of salt." A note about this "pillar of salt" is needed.

There are many salt formations at the southern end of the Dead Sea and since many believe she was turned into a real pillar of salt, there is actually a formation that has been so named. Others believe that the sulfur falling from the destroyed city engulfed her or that she became dehydrated from the heat. But those who are knowledgeable in Arabian linguistics believe this phrase "turning into a pillar of salt" is much like our English word, "petrified" which means "turned to stone" and which we use when someone is overwhelmed with. When we say that a person is petrified, we do not believe that they have literally turned to stone.

Everyone has his own reasons for his interpretation of the "pillar of salt." It is, after all, a situation that almost seems to require an apology. People who consider themselves scientific cringe at the idea of God stepping into history to destroy a city just to do something so unnatural as turning a woman into a block of salt. But even those who don’t feel the need to apologize for the miraculous or folklore sometimes have a problem with this scenario. Kinder-hearted folks can understand the destruction of Sodom but they are uncomfortable with a God who seems petulant and who "fingers" Mrs Lot for destruction. The big question then is "Did God ‘do something’ to Lot’s wife? And if He didn’t, why do we want to believe that He did?

Sadly, many Christians over the centuries feel a need to "defend" God and because of this, they feel that Mrs Lot should be judged. This means that they must find a reason to turn her into salt. The popular opinion is that Lot’s wife was carnal-minded and that the carnal concupiscence in her heart made her look back longingly on the carnal joys of the Cities of the Plains. But again, this is unthinking and heartless judgmentalism. Mrs Lot may have looked back, but certainly she had more important things to think about.

Depending on your Bible translation Lot either had four daughters –two married and two unmarried, or he had only two unmarried daughters who were engaged to men who were natives of Sodom, or he had married daughters and sons-in-laws. Once again, she should remember that Lot lingered. Isn’t it logical to assume that Lot is waiting for his sons-in-law (or his daughters’ fiances) to appear? Families and friends who had not escaped with Lot were now wiped out in the sudden heaven-sent flames. In such a situation, would not Mrs Lot look back in grief and loss? The heart of anyone who saw such a conflagration would probably fail them from fear, even more so the heart of someone who had lost someone she loved such as future or actual sons-in-law.

When prophesying about the last days in the gospel of Luke (Luke 17:32) Jesus warned, "Remember Lot's wife." Many think Jesus was judging her and showing how evil she was, but from the context Jesus did not seem to have disdain for her but sorrow. After all, the family separation and stress that will occur in the last days will be difficult. Two women will be grinding at the wheel, one will be taken and one left. Two people will be in a house, one will be taken one left. There will be tears wiped from our eyes before we enter heaven and those tears will be for those of our families who were "left." The word "remember" does not mean "judge this person harshly." It means, you will probably be in the same situation. You will want to look back, but no matter what you do, do not look back and do not fear. Jesus warned that in the last days emotional anguish and anxiety would be so common that people’s hearts would be failing them because of fear? John in Revelations told his reader that God will wipe away tears from our eyes? (Rev 21:4) Isn’t it possible that those tears will be, like the tears of Lot’s wife, shed for lost friends and relatives, because some will be taken and some left?

The next building block against Lot and another episode which makes him easy prey for scapegoating is what happens after Lot escapes to the cave with his daughters.
Like Tamar who deceived Judah into having children, Lot’s daughters felt that having children was expedient. The world had to be repopulated and they had no other choice but to do their part. His daughters devise a plan. They give Lot wine. We don’t know where the wine came from or how long Lot was in the cave, but the entire episode echoes the incidents that happened after the flood when Noah became drunk.

The Bible tells us that Lot was afraid to go to Zoar, the smallest city of the Plains. But it doesn’t say why his daughters didn’t press him to go to Zoar to find good men. Perhaps they thought the destruction was not localized and that all the rest of the world had been destroyed. Perhaps they thought that, like Noah’s family, their family had been chosen to repopulate the world. As far as they could see, their father was the only man who could help bring children back to the world. As we read in Genesis, the girls said to each other, "There is no one else on earth who will give us children." It is obvious from their conversation that they thought they were the only family left on earth, and their father was the only man.

Perhaps this was shortsightedness on their part. Perhaps it was arrogance and genuine respect for their father’s goodness. They knew how the just Lot was daily vexed (2 Peter 2:8) to live in that unholy city. He was probably the holiest person they knew. Perhaps their misguided expedience was brought on by despair and by a confused theology. Perhaps they knew that God had destroyed the earth by water in Noah’s time and now believed the world (not just Sodom and Gomorrah) was entirely under God’s wrath. Not knowing Abraham or whether his family had lived or whether he had a son, the girls felt they had no other way to create a holy human line. Whatever their reasons, the daughters of Lot did that which was "right in their own eyes" and had sex with their father.

One can assume that this was evil in the sight of God without scapegoating them. One of the reasons Moses wrote this account is because he wanted to show the Israelites why the land of the Ammonites and Moabites were now being reassigned to them. Yet Moses also showed the Israelites that they were related to these two peoples. And of course, Jesus would be descended from a Moabitess, David likewise. Therefore, the descendants of Lot would be redeemed in spite of their origins.

But when we study the story of Lot, we should examine ourselves to see our hidden motivations in believing certain things about these characters.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Unthinking Bible Study

Foxfaith films is a new production company created by Fox. Its aim is to make inspirational and Christian films. A worthy idea! And yet, I find myself fearing and worrying that they will only contribute to the bad Christian films out there. I don't mean "bad" in the sense of incompetent -- although many Christian movies do kinda make me cringe. What I mean by bad is: films with really bad theology, unquestioned assumptions, non-Biblical stories, and American biases.

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?Most Christians will agree with Jeremiah’s statement that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and yet...even so, we often think we know our own hearts.The Word of God states that the Holy Spirit came that the thoughts of many will be revealed.We can often see when the thoughts of our hearts are evil, but when we read the Bible with self-serving interpretations – especially those interpretations which other Christians also falsely believe– that we are being deceitful and falling into Scripture Twisting.

One of the greatest delusions in Christendom occurs in the way we read into Bible stories things that are simply not there. Our human carnal and fleshly mind "sees" what simply isn’t there. Because our denomination, our preachers, our own mindset "understand" these verses in one way, we don’t really read what the Bible says.Throughout the generations, false teaching has built upon false teaching and even now we Christians are allowing those false teachings to veil God’s words from us.

The funny thing is that one really sees how attached people are to these false teachings when one tries to reason them out of their misguided selfish interpretations.

Often if a verse in the Bible conflicts with a reader’s life-style, the reader is faced with four choices.

(A) Believe that the Bible is the True Word of God and agree that the Biblical verse disagrees with her lifestyle but live unaffected by the Biblical prohibition.
(B) Believe that the Bible is the True Word of God and agree that the verse disagrees with her lifestyle and change her lifestyle.
(C) Believe that the Bible is the True Word of God but that the common interpretation of the Biblical verse prohibiting her lifestyle is the wrong interpretation and is being used by rigid judgmental people to make other people feel guilty.
(D) Believe that the Bible is not the Word of God at all but only a collection of sayings by wise but misguided people.

Racism, sexism, denominational doctrine, all contribute to these false "understandings" of Scripture passages:For instance RACISM was responsible – IS STILL RESPONSIBLE– for some mis-interpretations:

I have heard many white Baptist ministers preach against interracial marriage when there is nothing in the Bible against it.

A subtle Anti-Semitism is seen in the Roman Catholic understanding of the Book of the Revelation. In Roman Catholic paintings the woman crowned with twelve stars who escapes into the desert represents the Virgin Mary. It is not. The woman represents Israel. And the Roman Catholic notion that the Roman Catholic church is God's first Church is also wrong because the Christian church first consisted of many home churches made up of Jewish and Gentile believers.

Many preachers preach as if the problems between the Jews and the Arabs came about because Ishmael was born. First let’s begin with the very strange assumption that all Arabs are descended from Ishmael. Before Ishmael’s birth, Syria, Egypt, and countless cultures existed. Did these cultures simply disappear and get swallowed up by Ishmael’s descendants? But one can argue that Abraham had other children (Keturah’s children) and grand-children (Esau and the Edomites) who also turned against the Jews. In fact, Esau’s descendants and Ishmael’s slowly merge and it is perhaps the prophecy of Esau’s enmity against Israel that is the major cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

SEXISM is also responsible for folks reading things into Scripture that just isn’t there. Not only sexism but, I dare say, prurience and male wishfulfillment. The interpretations of many stories would be vastly different if we allowed the influence of women preachers more often. We've already seen One Night With the King. Talk about a movie mired in male fantasy! Male preachers have preached as if the story of Esther is a romantic love story. Why? Because Esther is obedient and beautiful. Many preachers preach about Esther as if she is their true love. When they do this, I can only think they’re in love with her. Often they're as bad as Xerxes who was nothing more than a rich powerful shallow man who wanted an obedient submissive wife he could show off. The Bible tells us that Esther was chosen for "such a time as this." Most people think that God made her beautiful and good in order to catch Xerxes' eye. But a woman preacher would not have forgotten that Esther had lost her parents and had been raised by her Uncle. This is a wounded girl who knew how to keep silent in order to survive. She was not the type to challenge anyone. I have no doubt that, unlike Vashti, Esther would have removed her veil and let all the drunken princes of the kingdom look upon her. A perfect trophy wife whose needs are unmet, she marries a man who sees her once a month if that – and who has other lovely women in his harem to deal with. Esther is doomed to live without her Jewish neighbors, to live without children (a Jewish girl's great dream), to share her husband with other women, and yet Christian preachers have turned her into a fantasy figure, not the tragic living sacrifice that she is.

Sometimes sexism and racism work together to create misreadings. Sometimes they are even joined to a kind of favortism. Consider the way preachers treat Hagar, Delilah, and Job’s wife.Hagar is a married woman who is divorced and sent out into the desert with her small child to die because the first wife says in a very racist manner, "Divorce her! I don’t want this slave woman’s child to be heir with my son." I have yet to hear a sermon which addresses Sarah’s racism. Why not? Because many preachers have a childlike attitude that turns some Bible characters into sacred cows who never do wrong, and scapegoats who are always wrong. In this way, although ministers are against divorce and Hagar is a married woman, they are unable to identify with her and see her only as an uppity slave. (They forget that she is a slave who was probably given to Sarah because of Sarah’s and Abram’s lie to the Pharoah – something that would make me not respect Sarah much either. ) In the Bible Ishmael is shown as being a decent fellow. The one possibly questionable act he does –when he was a little kid, mind you– was teasing baby Isaac. And this word is translated as mocking in The King James Version of the Bible. But in other translations it is translated as playing with. Sarah could have been angry because her son was being teased but she would have been just as angry that her son was playing on an equal footing with a half-brother she considered racially and socially beneath him. But ministers never question this.

What ministers do to Job’s wife is equally obnoxious. Just as they –being men– completely ignore Hagar’s pain, they also ignore the pain of Job’s wife. Because they consider Job a prophet, they consider her comment to him, "Curse God and die" as an insult to a prophet. I often want to say to them, "Wake up and smell the coffee, guys. I know men are always ignoring women, but get real here. The woman has lost all her children in a single day, has lost all her property, and is preparing to see the death of her beloved husband!" Male preachers, show their utter lack of understanding of grief by their insistence on thinking Mrs Job was trying to get rid of her husband. Folks, she lost her children. It is very possible she is talking about both of them committing suicide and just giving up on trusting a God who has destroyed them. Which is understandable. What we are dealing with here are a glimpse of words spoken by extremely stressed grieving parents in an intimate moment of grief. Would we judge a grieving woman because she thinks the God she has trusted in has destroyed her children? Alas, many Christians do! T D Jakes even goes so far as to say that when Job is blessed in the end, God gets rid of Job’s wife and gives him a new wife so he can have new kids. But, where in the Bible does it say that? And truly if God did such a thing, it would show that he was concerned only with caring for a man’s pain and not for a woman’s. But it's clear that TD -- who seems to think he understands women so well (Woman, thou art loosed!" only sees these stories from a man's viewpoint. An unloving man's viewpoint, I might add.

As for Delilah, the carnality of preachers, their concept of "impure races" and "foreigners" and their need to be on the side of the favorite is very evident here. True, Delilah is a betrayer. But why do so many preachers want to see her as a prostitute? And why do they see her as a Philistine? This is all misreading, and second-hand readings. Nowhere does it say Delilah is a prostitute or a Philistine. She could be a simple Israelite country girl, or a simple Philistine farmer’s daughter, who gets caught up in powers greater than she can handle. Actually, her name seems more an Israelite name than a Phillistine one. The preachers often forget that the Philistines were threatening to kill her parents. Hey, if one has a choice between betraying one’s lover or betraying one’s parents, what would one do? But there is such a xenophobic mentality in the Christian church, and such a dislike of the "foreign tainted woman" that we can't help but slip in our own racism and sexism when interpreting this story. As in the case of Job’s wife, we have never experienced Delilah’s situation. And yet we feel free to judge these people.

Lord Jesus, you said, "If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit." Jeremiah tells us our heart is deceitful. Help me to see and read what the Holy Spirit and your prophets have written. I want to live an honest life. Amen.

BTW, at the FoxFaith films website ( you are able to sign up for free tickets to your local theater for fox films. Might as well go and sign up. True, the movies may not be the greatest, but they're the best we have.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Daddy's Little Girls

I don’t like formulaic movies. I don’t like date movies. I don’t like formulaic date movies. And yet I do love a good love story.

Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girl is so formulaic that one has to look very hard to find the love. Yep, it’s a date movie. But because it’s a black date movie it brings in issues from the black community.

Heroine Julia Rossman (played by Gabrielle Union) is typically stereotypically up-and-coming educated successful Black and Monty (Ildris Elba) is typically good-but-poor-and troubled hard-working racially-affected black man. Yet, for all that, the story’s possibilities weren’t explored. The plot just grinds away; coincidence, improbable (but cute and plot-pushing) scenes follow one after the other…that the character’s actual lives never really get explored.
Okay, I’m a terrible person to see movies with. I’ll admit it. I cringe at bad plots. I (rolls eyes) cringe at preachiness. I wince at characters doing out-of-character things, and I absolutely freak at emotional scenes that are utterly unearned. Yep, I hate unearned emotion. If someone is gonna fall apart and stress out in the climactic scene of the movie because life is hard, that scene better have had its foundations well-laid and well-played. There ain’t nothing worse than some weird emotional scene – love or hate, I don’t care—coming at me from out of the blue.
I kept thinking: "Dang, that’s not what the character should be doing! Dang, that’s not where this story should be going! Dang, that just wouldn't happen."

Okay, okay, a lot of folks in the theater were laughing and chuckling. Well, obviously they aren’t anal writers like moi-meme.

So, is there anything good about this movie?

Well, I’ve got to say that Tyler Perry’s good points and bad points seem to stem from the same sources. He’s very aware of what to do to make an audience feel as if they’re "connected" to the characters and "in the know" about the culture. He touches on little (or deep) bits of black culture that audiences will recognize. Thus they will claim the movies as their own. For instance, he is good at the homey bar scene, the sorrowing black male, the church meeting.
(As an aside, here, I’ve got to say that black male filmmakers have done a really good job of slickly intertweaving a good church scene into their movies. Like Capra, they slip in a good sermon in such a way that one never really feels preached at. I actually was encouraged by the sermon and the church scene. Perhaps we Black Christians will make movies at least make a nod to God and church again.)

But back to my main objection. The film seems tooo toooo toooo aware of its audience. Okay, there’s the cornbread circuit and all those Black plays but honestly!

Call me a pain but the main part of a romance is about the growth of the characters and how they overcome their own issues to accept and love each other. If heroine is black woman who makes 6 figures and falls in love with poor hard-working neighborhood guy with kids and baby-mama, the psychological aspects had better be explored, if you ask me! But the heroine is nothing more than her job. She connects to her true love by rescuing him because she’s his lawyer. Where is her PRLONGED SHAME AND STRESS about reconnecting with poor folks? Where is her fight with the baby mama? Why couldn't we see the main female character as a woman -- not as a job title-- dealing with baby mama drama as a real woman and not as a lawyer? Come on! And what about that ending? Honestly, I didn't see that coming. If Tyler wants to talk about stressed black men under pressure, then he should have shown the tension growing and increasing throughout the story. I'm not against violence but dang! That ending was kinda over the top. And then, our hero !!!! ???!!!! is saved by the law. Is the ideal woman for a good black man a female lawyer? And can anyone tell me why Tyler has sooo many druggie abandoning-their-children ho-bitches in his films? In real life, isn't it usually the guys who abandon their kids? More so than women. I think I've got to stop the review here because if I'm not careful I'll start psycho-analyzing Tyler.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Amazing Grace - The Movie

It's about Wilberforce. Nice!
I'm gonna try to see it. Wilberforce was the committed Christian who fought against slavery almost all his life. A great Christian whom many Christians should know about.


Okay, folks! There is yet another movie out there in which a black man is being meanspirited against a fat black woman. What is that about?
I'm not overly bothered by it because I've grown numb to it. I kinda started getting numb with Martin's Shenaynay, the Wayan's In Living Color, etc. Of course we do have a lot of fat dark-skinned women in our culture --hey I'm one-- but there's such a thing as laughing with us and laughing against us. The skinny white guys in my hood all have fat dark-skinned girlfriends so when they laugh there's no real cruelty in it. They know girls like the woman in Norbit. But folks in racist towns in this country have their ideas and this feeds into it. And Hollywood is willing to pay for anything that is a cheap laugh. About the mainstream media seems to allow certain images of black folks more than others.
And yet....even in non-mainstream media....we black folks also seem to allow certain images. I mean, when was the last time you saw some fat girl hosting a show on BET? And most of the videos by black movie-makers (which are geared toward a black audience) are pretty subtly racist. Light-skin, anti-fat. So our own
self-loathing plays into it also. I mean, I don't mind the folks Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, the Wayans describe are all part of my reality. And I look at them lovingly. And Tyler Perry does a good job of showing his characters lovingly. But the other guys just seem to be working off an anti-female issue. We've got to admit to ourselves that there are some heavy sexual issues between black men and black women. If we had more powerful black women filmmakers, would we have stories where men were all scrubs and low-down with "potential" ? And would the black guys be screaming -- like they did with Alice Walker and Ntozake Shange-- that we women were being unfair? Probably. But, as far as I women wouldn't do films about men with weight issues.
Media has a tendency to become historical myth and "fact" If we consider the truth that in real life no wagon train was ever attacked by Native Americans, but all Americans believe they were because of the illustrations and pulp novels of the late 19th century, and now authors write books about those poor frontier folks being attacked and assume what they're writing is true, then we understand how powerful the media is. The creation of the big-mouthed proud black woman who is fool enough to think she's sexy and intelligent shows the pathological hatred some black guys have against black women (am sure there are tons of social reasons for that..most probably being that their mom had to be strong and the guys resented it.) But it also shows the need the white world has to believe stuff like that against black folks.
It's a tough situation because black folks have always handled life with humor and have been able to laugh at ourselves. Life's hard. But no other culture picks on its culture as we do, and no other minority men pick on women as much as the men in our culture pick on us. I like seeing fat black women represented in films. There are a lot of us around. But the meanspiritedness in some of the depictions doesn't help us. Whites can see that meanspiritedness. Knowledgeable white folks despise it, but the ignorant ones incorporate it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

By our love

Anna Nicole Smith died this week. That really upset me. I liked her. But then again, I'm a Christian. I like all the wounded, rejected outcasts in the world. When I saw her I often wanted to hug her and give her the peace of Jesus.

Anna Nicole Smith died this week. That really upset me. But what really upset me was how many so-called Christians reacted to it.

Let me see, now. Some called her a fame addict, some a talentless floozy. One person actually called her a bimbo, and said, "the media only spent an hour or so on mother Theresa's death but they're spending all the time and air space and money on Anna Nicole. Ah the self-righteousness!

Jesus told us that people will know we are Christians by our love. But once again, Christians --ah, we're a judgmental pious bunch, aren't we?-- were on the attack.

Once again I was reminded that Jesus' gospel has yet to be preached. We are to be loving. We are to be the salt of the earth. We are to show faith in God's love and constant care. Jesus told us that men will see our good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven. Our good miraculous works and our love! Those are the two things that we are to use to show we are Christians.

But often Christians seem to think that being a Christian is a matter of doctrine and behavior. Christians talk among ourselves as if it's all about if it's all about words. God said it was about power, the power of the gospel. We behavior towards people as if their behavior --and our behavior-- is what God is primarily concerned about. Honestly, my behavior is pretty good. I'm one of the nicest persons in the world and I read my Bible and pray every day. But that's not gonna put me in heaven. The blood of Jesus is what saves me. And in the eyes of God my behavior --or Anna Nicole's-- doesn't matter one tiny bit. And it shames me whenever I hear Christians saying cruel judgmental things about other people. It scares me, too. And I bet it scares non-Christians as well. Our judgemental attitude towards other people is not evangelical and we must learn to truly love people as God does.


Carole McDonnell Wind Follower June 2007 Juno Books

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