April 18, 2014

5 on [Good] Friday!

I'm making this a 3 on Friday, because these are so awesome, I don't need five!

3. Finally Some us Time! 
Some of you may remember that we had lots of fun trials last year including having to cancel a much anticipated vacation the day before our departure. We're off this weekend for some time together in Amish country! Glad to have a little time away to ourselves :)

What better way to relax than a nice B&B stay?

2. Crazy ridiculous blessings!
I'm halfway through my probationary period at my new job right now. My boss called me in for a closed door meeting and starts talking about HR evaluations - I was terrified! it sounded like she was telling me they were cutting my position. Nope - turns out they thought I needed more money! No complaints here since we're trying to move closer to work!

1. Duh!

It's Good Friday, guys! Without this day and this coming Sunday, our faith would be meaningless. But we know how the story goes and we know that it's not just a story - so we have such amazing hope!

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April 9, 2014

God's Not Dead: What the critics got right

I recently saw the film God's Not Dead, and while I didn't expect the critics to love any Christian film, I found much irony and disappointment in many points of their reviews. They got a lot wrong in my opinion. But, they also got some things right - things that also merit discussion. So, here goes!

(The entire list of reviews read that contribute to my thoughts can be found here)

  • Stereotypes, Oh my! Multiple races are portrayed in this film from the "average American" to a Chinese boy studying abroad to a Muslim who has secretly converted to Christianity. The biggest complaint deals with the second group mentioned - many reviews cite all sorts of accusations about irresponsibly representing other cultures, in this case, making us consider said student a "godless communist." 
While I personally didn't feel there was any statement being made about communism here, I did feel like they encouraged the typical "academic Asian" stereotype - notably in a scene where the boy's father basically tells him "if the professor says there is no God, then there is no God." These days, when anything can be interpreted as racism or hate, you have to be careful. Especially given the message of love that Christianity ultimately preaches. There are worse things, but I cringed often in the film hoping that certain characters wouldn't be portrayed in ways that would ultimately make the film seem racist or stereotypical.
  • The text "call to action" is bad Christianity. The final scenes of the film take place in a Newsboys concert where attendees are all asked to pull their cell phones out and text "God's Not Dead" to everyone in their contact list. When the film is over, it asks the actual audience to follow suit,. As one reviewer said: 
"Don’t call your friends and loved ones and ask them how their lives are going. Don’t see what you can do to help them with whatever need they may have. Send a brand-building mass text to everyone on your call list. None of them will find this at all annoying."


I couldn't agree more. There has been a trend in evangelism for the longest time that I try to stay away from - the one that says "quantity over quality." Go, win souls, the more the merrier - hand out tracks, ask strangers where they will go if they die today, don't get to know them - just rush to get them to "pray the prayer" so their eternity is secure and you've done your job. No, I don't like that at all. And no, I didn't text. If I'm not doing my job of loving people and meeting their other needs, I have not earned the right to butt in with my religious beliefs to feel better about myself. This isn't love, and it isn't good evangelism. More on that in the next point:
  • "Meeting needs is more practical." Spoiler - the aforementioned Muslim convert is ratted out by her little brother and tossed about before being kicked out of her house by her father. The next we see her, she is in a church office crying to the pastor who tosses some scripture at her and tells her she's made the right choice. The reviewer put it best: "An offer of a place to stay might be more practical."
Yes. Again, we must meet all needs. The scriptures clearly tell us that it's not enough to tell a hungry person "go be full." In other words, faith without works is dead. Sadly, the movie doesn't devote enough time to any of the subplots, really, so in this character's case, we don't really know what happens - after the pep talk with the pastor, we don't see her again until she attends the Newsboys concert in the ending scenes (Sure, she can afford it!)
  • Christians are imperfect. While no reviewer straight out comes out and says this, some reviews feel like the Christians are portrayed as argumentative tyrants while others felt like they were unfairly all portrayed as angelic and perfect. I saw something different - reality. I saw the protagonist who  stood up for his faith and I saw the missionary who demonstrated that with God, the glass is always half full. But, I also saw a Christian who dated an atheist despite knowing better, a girlfriend who tried to control her man and dumped him after six years because she didn't get her way. I saw a pastor who was discouraged by the events of everyday life like we all do - i.e. the car not starting when it's time to go to Disney World. I saw humans who all need Jesus and know it because they know their own imperfections. Although this review was scathing like many, this end statement was perfect:

"Real life Christians are as thoughtful as anyone else. They know that the world is complicated and people aren’t stereotypes. They live among non-believers and believers in other religions, people who are just as kind and thoughtful as themselves, and they do so peacefully, understanding that winning debates and humiliating people with whom they differ is almost always a useless aspiration, one that goes against everything they want to achieve..."

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April 7, 2014

God's Not Dead: What the critics got wrong

After hearing good things, I went to see God's Not Dead with Sean this weekend. I love the Christian film trend despite the fact that they certainly have a tendency to be cheese fests. In this case, I felt like it was well done: while it did leave some loose ends, it spoke truth and wasn't overly corny.


In normal fashion, I came home and got online to stalk the actors on IMDB. In the process, I encountered the Rotten Tomatoes page for the film - it scored a 20% rating. Was I shocked? Of course not. I in no way expect for a religious film to convert the whole country let alone any critic or person in Hollywood. I don't expect them to love it. However, I quickly noticed that in comparison, Noah scored 76%. I haven't seen it, but thanks to Matt Walsh' spoiler and other reviews, I am drawing the conclusion that the movie has very little in common with the actual story.

In other words, two Christian movies are in theatres, and the one that tells the truth is rated at a fraction of one that is apparently full of bold-faced lies. Oh, what a world.

So, I got to reading said reviews of God's not Dead and felt my blood boiling pretty quickly. People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but, like in many cases, these opinions seem strictly biased  because of the fact that Christianity is involved. Those darn, intolerant, melodramatic Christians. We certainly can't have that (that statement was clearly dripping with sarcasm in case you aren't familiar with or don't know me.)

So, here are some favorite complaints of mine along with some rebuttals:

  • "Persecution isn't real." Several reviews basically up and say that Christians aren't persecuted in the US, that this whole thing is grossly exaggerated and melodramatic - like this one here that says "stop whining, 80% of the nations claims to be Christian and their thought used to dominate America", or this one that says the persecution theme is a "fetish," or, simply put, this one that just says the whole thing is "unrealistic."

Really? A fetish? A figment of our imagination? Isn't such a scathing review proof that the bias persecution is made of is very much alive? Surely I don't have to bring up the fact that the same people who call Christians intolerant are thus persecuting us by labeling our intolerance the absence of our agreeing with their opinion only- something that sounds strangely like intolerance. And yes, it does become persecution. Think Chick-Fil-A media attacks. Heck, think the dude from Mozilla who just had to leave his job - whether you agree with him or not, it was persecution - he's in America and has every right to hold and practice whatever opinion is his. So yeah, I'd say persecution in the states right now is both relevant and real.
  • "Standing up for your faith is immature." In the film, the protagonist makes the hard choice despite everyone else (including other Christians) telling him to take the easy one. Many reviewers agree - "report the professor," "drop the class," "just suck it up and sign the paper." It seems the reviewers agree - he should have shut his mouth and taken an easy way out. Staying firm in your beliefs and standing up for them is clearly the weak and irresponsible thing to do.
Wow, way to tell us all to be sniveling cowards. Am I saying we need to stand up in every bio class and debate evolution? No, but come on, back to persecution - people in other countries suffer imprisonment, torture, and death for Christ and here we consider it immature to risk our grade or the opinions of our peers by admitting our belief in Him in a country where we're supposed to be free to do so? Wow.
  • "It's unrealistic" Most reviewers inserted some form of a whine/argument that this situation isn't realistic - either such a professor doesn't exist, or that surely the student would have reacted in another way. In other words, the premise of the movie isn't plausible in real life.
You're absolutely right. I hate to break this to you, but if we're basing our cinematic opinions on the plausibility of the situation, it's time to throw out half your movie collection - guys, throw out anything based on Marvel comic books, girls, toss that Twilight - you may like it, but it clearly sucks, because we all know that would never happen in real life. Nevermind Star Wars or so-called classics like The Wizard of Oz. You all are screwed! Even the films based on true stories throw in some extra fun. Oh, wait, those are OK? If that's the case, you've taken me back to point 1. I smell a little persecution here. Movies are OK to exaggerate a little only if those pesky Christians aren't sharing their beliefs? Oh, and by the way, the film was inspired by a substantial list of campus court cases dealing with religious freedom (all included in the end credits) - so apparently the issue is more relevant and present than you care to give credit for.
  • "The characters are caricatures." The Christians are all Christian and say cliche things, the atheists are all stereotyped - everyone is stereotyped. It's not realistic. It's not fair.
Yeah. Yeah, they are. Sorry. Sure, they could have done a better job. Nobody else has ever turned characters into extreme labels - certainly not every high school movie ever made with the jerky jocks, mean cheerleaders, and nobody geeks. Nope. Movies never exaggerate character types. Oh wait, that's right, there's extra rules stating Christian movies can't do the same things as Hollywood movies. Then that's just offensive.
  • Hasty Generalizations Everywhere! Because the professor is atheist because of a bad experience as a believer, the film must be saying all atheists are this way. Because the atheists in this film are unkind, we must be trying to tell the audience this is how all atheists are, etc. etc.
Logic was discussed often in this film, and hasty generalization, my friends, is what we call a logical fallacy- the argument that something must be true of all if it is true of one. The professor's story is his alone. It is in no way intended to explain atheism as a whole, it is simply something done in all films - giving a character a background to explain his or her personality/actions. It's a big jump to make such accusations as the ones above - it's like saying that Spiderman accuses all superheroes of  getting their powers from a spider bite - there can simply be no other reason for this information! I think this is especially clear when we flip the script and look at the Christian characters who are all very different - the protagonist who takes up a challenge, the bossy girlfriend who literally tells him she forbids his choice, the pastor who is clearly human and gets discouraged when his car breaks down, the christian girl who is dating the atheist....the film clearly is not judging an entire people group based off of one character. Each person has their own story, and that's all there is to it.
  • "It's preaching to the choir." Self-explanatory. It's for Christians more than anyone else.
So? ...really, so? You don't want to be preached at? Fine. But now it's not OK to encourage our own either? I totally agree this film likely has more value to a Christian than to a non-believer. I totally have no problem with that. As my pastor likes to say, church is a hospital for the sick, not a country club for the well - we need the sermon as much as anyone else. We're not perfect, and we can use encouragement and reminders too.  If the film reaches non-believers, it's a blessing, if not, it's still a blessing to the said "choir members" who gleaned any inspiration from the film.

*steps off pulpit* - come back Wednesday to see what I think the reviewers got right!

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April 2, 2014

support missions - giveaway!

Some of you may remember mentions of my friend Tina when discussing Appalachian Trail Days. AT Days is just one of many platforms Tina uses to serve as a missionary - she truly has a heart for missions and serves wherever she is called.

This year, she will be going to 11 countries over 11 months on a missions trip with World Race. Of course, anyone who knows anything about missionary work knows that it's expensive. Tina is trying to raise funds any way she can and one way is through selling all sorts of handmade goods from baked goods to body scrubs to handmade cards.

You can check out her new Etsy store - every cent she makes is set aside for her trip! Currently, there are handmade Easter cards up with Mother's Day and general designs to come! You can also make custom requests!

To get the ball rolling, I bought a card to give to one of you! It's a great simple way to help a fellow Christian (or fellow human if Christianity isn't your thing), and to brighten someone's day!

Enter below for your chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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