Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Along Came A Spider

Along Came a Spider: The story of Saeed Hanaei

I've just seen a documentary that reminded me of how lovely it is to have a God who loves all sinners and who doesn't judge people-- especially women-- as "moral corrupters."

It's an Iranian film about a serial killer who went on a rampage killing 16 women in 2000 and 2001. The women were prostitutes. Many were drug addicts. I don't know if you've seen the film The Circle, which is a great film about how women are treated in Islamic society. In Islamic societies, a raped woman or a woman whose husband has chosen another wife and deserted her, or a widowed woman whose in-laws don't like her...are victims who are treated very badly and cruelly. They are like many of the women prostitutes found in the Bible, women whom God loved very much but whom the world judged.

We westerners often forget what a wonderful blessing Jesus brought us. Sure, we have male chauvinist pigs and all that. But we do not systematically equate women with moral corruption. In the west for instance, prostitution is considered either a victimless crime or a situation where both parties (male and female) are equally sinful. Not so the Islamic countries.

Saeed Hanaei was a soldier in the Iran-Iraqi war and when he returned he was so upset at seeing how evil the world had become that he decided to kill prostitutes. He knew things were going to the devil when he could see women's hair peeking out from the front of their scarf and from under the back of their scarf.

We see many interviews with his family, friends, etc. Most of them consider him a martyr who followed Islamic law by trying to free the soil world of the evil "waste of blood." (Waste of blood is a term meant for someone who deserves to die. A person who changes from being a Muslim to being a Christian would be "a waste of blood" for instance.) In his interview, Saeed himself is convinced he is a martyr. The only person who says that "we are all sinners" and we shouldn't kill other people is a man who said killing a prostitute is not in the Koran (it is definitely in the koran! the reporter mentions that the Koran states that all prostitutes must be killed.) and he sounds like someone who is influenced by the west, by a Christian neighbor, or who hasn't read some of the more judgemntal parts of the Koran. Everyone --including the very chilling scary son of Saeed-- seems to think of themselves as the height of holiness and goodness. There is no self-judgement in all this.

Sometimes I consider myself morbidly introspective. I'm always thinking about my sins. It was odd to see an entire culture where people sit around thinking about other people's sins...and who actually feel it's right to kill people who sin...especially if the sinner is a woman.

Saeed gets hanged in the end. A good thing too. And yet, what is that one death if he represents such hatred and fear of women! I have many friends who read the Koran. But they read it with a Christian mindset in a western Christianized world. They see Allah through the eyes of a Christian. While Allah says in the Koran that no murderer can ever go to heaven, my friends don't see this. They seem to not realize that Allah has one hundred names and not one of those names is "God is Love."

As I watched I was reminded of the lovely fact that Jesus came into the world to save those who consider themselves sinners. God loves the outcast. This is why it is often the wounded and rejected in other societies who become Christians. For instance, the higher castes in India do not become Christians generally. It is the Dalit, the untouchable outcaste who sees and needs a Loving God. I thought of all those prostitutes and rejected women in Islamic societies. Would they turn toward a loving God even though they had been indoctrinated against Christianity, Jews, the Bible and the cross? Who knows?

Carole McDonnell Wind Follower June 2007 Juno

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Okay, about Isaiah Washington's slur against his co-worker. The "f" word. It's pretty rude to say anything that will hurt a colleague or an entire group of people. He shouldn't have said it. That said, folks in hollywood DO seem to get upset over certain kinds of prejudice while they indulge in others. And they DO seem to pick on certain folks more than others. For instance, if a black person does something socially unacceptable, the media treats it as if it's the crime of the century. Their attitude reminds me that racism in the supposedly liberal media is alive and well. We must not forget that most of these media folks probably had childhoods where they didn't really know any black people. They may have microphones in their hands and they might be pontificators but at heart they are not socially-educated about racism and its subtleties. They DO believe that black women and men are touchy and overly-sensitive and apt to go overboard emotionally. That's their deep-seated idea but they don't realize they have it.

They also are unaware of their prejudices against non-normal physical attributes. Of course they are all into beauty and cosmetic surgery and looking good for the cameras. But it goes even further. For instance, on idol chat, Rosanna and Kimberly were mocking Justin Guarini's afro, comparing his hair to Bozo the clown. On E's commentary on the golden globe fashions, the hosts -- and Miss Jay a black person with transgender issues should know better-- got a lot of laughs mocking Vanessa Williams and Will Farrell's hair. Why? Because of the afros and curly hair. Why should curly hair and afros bring knee-jerk laughter? Yet, all over television there is a continued mockery about afros which shows that subtle racism is still alive.

On American Idol, Simon Cowell (or the producers) always set up fat or disabled people or oddballs as a butt for laughter and Hollywood poo-poohs their cruelty but don't really fire any one. Nor do Hollywood execs fire people who mock are disdainful of Christians and Catholics or fat people.

Ah yes! They are pretty sneering about Christians. I can tell you all the types of Christians who pop up in TV shows: the innocent indoctrinated not too bright young girl with simple faith. The intellectual who leads those with simple faith but who tolerates their beliefs because they're obviously not as deep as he is. The innocent searcher who grows to realize his religion is too old-fashioned and intolerant. The crazed abortion-clinic bomber. The deluded believer who believes God actually guides him and talks to him. The cruel judgemental evangelical with no sensitivity to other people who thumps his Bible. Ah I could go on. So, yes, there is a bit of imbalance there about how "offended" Hollywood gets when certain groups are picked on.

Ah brothers and sisters! We can do nothing about the world, but we can do something about ourselves. As Christians we mustn't pick and choose what offends us. The world can do that. Not us. Some of us don't get mad when another denomination is picked on, but we get mad when our denominati0n is mocked. Some of us get mad when Christians are slammed but we don't mind when Blacks or Jews are picked on. Let us search our hearts. Remember what the apostle John said, "if you don't love your brother, you are a murderer. And no murderer has eternal life" That's pretty clear. We Christians are often ready to put Christian homosexuals in hell, why aren't we just as willing to put Christian racists in hell?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Musical Cues

One of my pet peeves in movie-viewing are musical cues. You know what I mean: the music that cues you to what the main characters are feeling. Whether a rising swelling, sweet, horrifying, throbbing, musical cues are placed in films and TV shows to help us see the character's heart.

Without musical scores --or even laugh tracks-- a movie or TV show might fall flat.Often, however, the cues go overboard, giving us knee-jerk disdain (making us hate, mock, or pity people for no good reason except that some musical chords or melody have been added to train us to hate, pity, or mock.

Musical cues are also used for knee-jerk sentimentality. Often --usually-- it is used when the writing hasn't been strong enough. The swelling crescendo pops up and suddenly we think of a character as noble. Or the tinka-tinka of a playful melody is added to a scene and we think of a character as childlike.

It's a wonderful and manipulative art form. And I'll allow that most art forms --especially drama-- is manipulative. But what really annoys me is when the cues are used to tell us that a person's viewpoint on a particular issue is the right viewpoint, indeed THE right view for ALL viewers everywhere.We Christians have seen television drama or comedy shows where some "liberal atheist intellectual thinker" is having a discussion about a spiritual point (or with a Christian) and although the atheist's thinking is stupid and worldly and not that deep, suddenly the simple intrusion of a musical cue tells the viewer know that the atheist intellectual thinker is Solomon himself -- so wise in his worldly disdain for religion.Every abortion discussion I've ever seen in a film has musical cues to let the viewer know which side has scored the enlightened point.

I don't know what we'll do about this kind of thing. All we can do is train our children to understand that just because the music tells us to feel one way about a scene we are not required to accept the music's dictates. Feeling is a choice, and a character isn't right just because the music tells us he is.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The delicacy of hint and the mellowness of sneer.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed it but one of the few public discussions of racism is in the Geico caveman commercials. You know the one: Neanderthal caveman repeatedly tried to get Modern Homo Sapiens to understand how hurtful their racist comments are and they just don’t get it. That’s the joke: they don’t get it. And because Homo Sapiens are the powerful majority they deem themselves right and impugn our hero by implying that he is overly-touchy about racism.

Commercials are great teachers. Firstly, because they are ever-present. Secondly, because they are short and have little time to hammer at their hearers. But thirdly because they are so subtle. In the guise of selling a product, they hint at and skate around the hedges of some theological, cultural, personal, or inspirational idea.

Of course there are other commercials which urge humans to look within.
Nike’s Just Do It certainly was successful. Not only did it get a few people to exercise, but because of its subtlety and spareness, it pretty much hinted that we "do" more than exercise. Write that novel. Apologize to your mother-in-law and learn to live with her. Learn to Drive. Whatever.

In Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s novel, "The School For Scandal," a character dismisses another character’s speaking skills by saying she "lacked the delicacy of hint and the mellowness of sneer." There’s a lot to be said for delicacy and mellowness. The racist (anti-caveman) people in the Geico commercial have that mellowness of snare down-pat. Most Americans recognize the types: the sleazy spokesman who insists on speaking about a subject even though a small minority had objected; the primly-dressed self-satisfied middle-class woman pundit who smugly psychoanalyzes the overly-sensitive-but-nevertheless-right minority spokesman, the supposedly-open-minded liberal therapist who tries to help the troubled minority but really has no clue about her own prejudices. Sneer is all over the place.

But thank heavens for delicacy. The average American knows what’s going on in this commercial. Or perhaps I should say that they "should" know. Sometimes delicacy goes over the heads of some people. But only some. In hearts hardened against any talk of racism, it’s hard to sow any kind of seed of understanding. But I’m a believer in creativity and the power of creativity. On some level the caveman’s trials are understood by the Homo Sapien audience. In some powerful way which only story-lovers can understand, the lot of being a member of an unheard minority is being acknowledged. Whether it opens the minds of its homo Sapien audience is another matter. But it’s one of the only continuous public discussions of racism out there. I’ll give the commercial its honorable due.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Reality, reality

My confession

It's that time of year again, the new season of reality TV shows litter the airwaves like so many wonderful boxes of chocolate. Oh, I am all a flutter. It was tough there, weaning myself from Tim Gunn and waiting foro Simon Cowell, but I managed. Anyway, one never knows what one will find in those little boxes.

So far my loves are:

High Maintenance 90210, I Love NY, and American Idol, Dirty Jobs. I've got to say though that the rich folks on High Maintenance are pretty hard to take. Perhaps Oprah has convinced us that all rich people aim to do good with their money, but this show reminds us that there are folks out there who are way too shallow and worldly and self-impressed. I like Beauty and the Geek but I always lose interest once the last (only) black person leaves. So, of course, I'm not watching it now. And incidentally I find myself getting very annoyed at these beautiful black girls who lose their chance at a share of $250,000 dollars because they refuse to pick up a book. I've even decided that some of them simply can't read and they won't admit it. I'm not kidding here. I really mean it. When I used to be a teaching assistant in the high school, I used to deal with beautiful black girls who couldn't read, and they went into all kind of tearful drama just to hide the fact.

As for I Love New York, I'll admit it. I Loooove New York. And I Looooove the show. As a Christian, I suppose I shouldn't be watching all that unrestrained passion and sexuality all over the place. And as a black woman, I should be wary about stereotypes of drama queen "bitchy" black women, but my desire to see a black woman be the center of love attention has thrown all propriety out the window. Hey, we black girls need healing...and it's about time our beauty is put up on the pedestal. And if Miss New York is a drama queen flake, so much the better! I've had it with comparing myself to the mirror of the well-mannered prim ice-princess. Hey, New York even talks about her "hair." And it IS her hair. She bought it, didn't she?

Of course, as a Christian I really should focus on Proverbs 31 and on Peter's description of what a good woman should dress like. But in the media realm, I DO believe America can learn from this show, if they can get past the stereotypes.

First of all, the people are real. Everyone knows white and black people who behave like these guys and like New York. The United States media and Christian community has an extreme desire to believe all Americans are prim proper stalwart noble farm types. But that isn't true. There are a lot of urban cities in this country. A lot of hood types. And what's wrong with a hood type, really? God isn't in heaven getting peeved because folks in the hood wear baggy pants. And, contrary to America's heartfelt desire to be reflected as salt-of-the earth cookie-cutter movie star farmer types, the United States is full of salt of the earth folks who dress baggy, who want to date a black girl, who smoke, who drink and who are good-hearted Christian souls.

Second, I am wondering if the folks in the US want to understand modern mating rituals. On the one hand, it's pure and simple voyeurism. But on the other hand, shows like I love NY shows guys with no game how to woo a girl. Let's hope it doesn't show them too much, of course. I'm trying to think. Do you remember any meeting in church where guys are told how to woo women? Especially women from another class, race, or culture? Ah multiculturalism!

Thirdly, I just love competition. I want to see how much a guy will do and how far he'll go to win a girl. This is also why I like American Idol. I like to see people strive under pressure. Competition reminds me of judgement. The judges on these shows are often ruthless. And rightly so. We live in a world where people think way too highly of themselves, want to be "respected" and are often coddled. Some folks need a reality check. And we always need to be reminded that we should try harder.

Fourth reason: I totally distrust my ability to understand human nature. I want to see if I end up disliking someone I had liked at the start. Even at age 47 I am still surprised at what a pushover I am. This will definitely help me read people.

Fifth reason: I like human beings. I like regular people. Abraham Lincoln said God must have loved the common people because he made so many of us. Ah so true. TV movies and Hollywood are soo lacking in depictions of real people, there's a dearth of recognition. And strange but true, the only time we can recognize ourselves on TV -- without watching the news-- is when we see folks -- usually poor folks and normal folks-- on TV.

Now I've got to my point: How wonderful normal folks are! I, for once, find it hard to watch many Christian shows because there is an aura of a priggish coffee klatch to them. The properness of Christian folks is not only off-putting to me -- a Christian!-- but to me as a black person. In some ways, those TV talk shows seem to be trying in a subtle way to tell me how to dress and how to speak and how to be proper. They seem like walking examples in short, but not examples of freedom and joy, but examples of how people in good social standing should behave.

God loves the outcast. Jesus hung out with some odd folks. When I hear some flaky person, in some flaky dress, talk about her love of Jesus, it just makes my heart sing! It doesn't matter if the person is black or white. "That's my people!" I want to say. "God loves this person so much!" Of course, the ultimate reality is heaven. And the truest thing we have that shows us reality is the Bible. When we look into it we are looking into a mirror. It tells us who we are. It tells us we are saved, loved, strong. It tells us that we have the mind of Christ and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that we are powerful and more than conquerors. It tells us we have defeated the evil one. Oh, of course, we don't see that at all in our lives. We see what the world tells us about ourselves. But we have to get to the place where the spirit of God and the word of God is so in us that we are no longer conformed to the world but are transformed by the renewing of our mind. This means, of course, avoiding putting media garbage into our minds. We must avoid news stories which tell us we are bound to die if we get cancer, that we are bound to be divorced, that black folks die earlier, etc. But we must also avoid the bad theology other Christians tells us. And we must not judge anything by earthly standards but by the reality of the Word of God in His Bible which states that Jesus is working within us to save us to the uttermost.

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