The Truth About my PTSD Excuse

For many of my quirks and discomforts, I use a recycled excuse. Being raised in a cult and soonafter running away from that, living with a sociopath, I say that I have a sort of PTSD from those super intense experiences. But, much of the time, I say those things rather than saying how I really feel in the moment. That guy I’ve told you about, my old landlord, had some terrifying perspectives on people, he wanted to nuke the downtown area because he felt that people who did drugs and who commit crimes are trash. Barring the fact that many law-abiding citizens spend time downtown and the fact that I am one such citizen, I think it is horrifically problematic to want to wipe out some people because of the few. Today, I shared with some friends who were showing me a movie about two people who decided to go on a killing spree of those they consider idiots, that I have PTSD because of the guy to whom I used to pay rent. But that is not really why such premises in movies give me such discomfort. I absolutely hate watching needless violence. It is why I do not ordinarily watch horror movies and it is why up until about ten years ago, I would not even watch action movies. I feel strongly that life is precious, and despite my frustration with religion, I do not see any life as without purpose.

I understand the point that is being made. People want to blaim religious zealots, reality TV show stars, rednecks and so many other stereotypes for our problems. They consider them the idiots, the disgusting ignorance that so plagues this world, and some suggest that society would be better off without them. Honestly, religious people these days drive me nuts! They have so many perspectives that prevent society from moving forward, they insist on their way without even considering they could ever be wrong. Admittedly, I have despised being around Christians. I have been disgusted with those who seem without kindness. But, what I have felt for years now is that everyone has a story. A bratty television star may someday grow up and figure out life does not revolve around her. Or maybe she will stay as bratty as ever, her parents enabling her forever. Just because she is cruel at school or entitled that does not mean she deserves to die. I guess I just feel it is a slippery slope. I have lived the life of those who society calls “idiots” and many of them mean well. I know I did. I have been the chosen one in many situations and then, almost immediately, the enemy of those same people. That landlord guy originally thought I was badass, intelligent, and had a very very good head on my shoulders. But, time and time again, I have discovered that that kind of prowess in society doesn’t last. One day you are on the side of the intelligent, the next you are the hunted idiot by someone with a finer intellect. I have learned over time that intelligence tends to be relative. You may feel that you are better and more educated than the masses, but there is always somebody else who has more experience and who would corral you in with the rest of society’s mindless cattle in a heartbeat.

Perhaps it is my Christian upbringing that gives me this feeling that everyone should be given attention and care. I was once involved in feeding the homeless, empowering survivors of sex trafficking, being a sounding board for the misunderstood. These are the things about which I am passionate. I just think people of all kinds need to be heard and cared for rather than preached at. Those who are cruel are cruel due to their own insecurities. The times in my life that I have myself been cruel to others, I can definitely chalk up to my own insecurities. They were never out to get me, they are not hopelessly lost, evil people who will never learn to be good. They are complex, nuanced human beings. Slasher films and films about vigilante killers take these individual lives and just cut them down without a thought. The concept that someone can just grab and gun down or whatever the hell and just kill people because of how they perceive them, because they do not like them, is absolutely terrifying, disturbing and fundamentally wrong. Where does it end?

If the vigilante were a fundamentalist Christian who felt society was evil and maybe that God was calling them to purge society of its problems, they would target Hollywood, they would take out the media who dares to question God. They would attack the sexually impure which means they would attack me and my boyfriend. My roommate and her boyfriend. My coworker and her boyfriend. We all are just facing life the way that it makes the most sense to us. Hollywood is not out to destroy Christian values. It is made up of so many people who grew up in the church and who are thinking differently now. Just like me. If a vigilante wanted to get rid of the worst people in society, who would he target? I guess it would depend on perspective, his background and the way he sees the world. From where I am standing, there are plenty of reasons to have faith in the world and in its propensity for goodness.

With this election, it is tempting to blame society’s idiocy. But both sides are saying the same thing about the other’s candidate. The political terrain has split and many are discussing civil war, It is frustrating because to me it seems obvious who is more qualified. But there are many who disagree with me. They are in my workplace, my school, even in my family. Many call these people idiots. I see why, but I also understand their fear, because, as I said before, I have been in their shoes. Society’s true worsts are con-artists, rapists, bigots, hypocrites. But, murder is not the answer. They may never let us reason with them, but murder would destroy what we could potentially accomplish without cheating. We may never agree, but civil war and vigilante justice will solve nothing.

History Repeats Itself

Even as a child, history was one of my favorite subjects. When I heard the saying “history repeats itself”, I took that to heart. I sought to understand as much as I could about historical experiences so I would be prepared to face the future and hopefully prevent the same mistakes being made. History was one of the reasons I left ministry school. History showed me that trying to get everybody to think like them, or else, was a commonly held trait of Christians. They had tortured and killed people in the name of God in order to combat their evil heretical ideas. I was able to see that throughout much of history, religion controlled the masses with fear of death and the threat of eternal damnation. In their terror and wanting to hold back the judgment for a longer period of time, people followed the ideas of the church and paid the church to be in limbo for a little bit longer. My people, as I call them, those whom I knew as a child and who shaped my initial thoughts, like to say that God is peaceful, He is good, and He will help you much more fully if you donate money to the church, He will allow you to be tortured unrelentingly for all eternity if you differ on the modern day Christian interpretation of Scripture.

History repeats itself. We live in a world where, in civilized societies, we don’t kill people for thinking differently, we don’t tell people they have to pay us to prolong purgatory at a time when everyone is dying and fear rules the world. Instead, now, we ostracize the other, spitting hateful, divisive bile in their direction because they had the audacity to consider another option than the Christian “Truth”. Our most respected church leaders work hard to convince people who are sick or in tremendous debt that they must give money to the church if they really truly trust God. It is disturbing then how much today’s society mirrors the society of the Dark Ages especially with regards to religion in religious circles. This, of course is a big reason for why I left the ministry. This is why I am the person I have become today.

Back in World War I, the Big Five nations who came out on top chose to blame the entirety of war, and the debt on Germany. Germany fell to pieces over this and the economy tanked. Out of these ashes rose a man named Adolph Hitler. He was charismatic and likeable on a stage. The people loved him because he spoke up about their destitution, blaming other countries and other religions for Germany’s misfortune. He was nationalistic, and for a country that lay dying, a nationalist was the kick it needed to boost morale and make Germans proud to be German again. He was a Catholic, raised knowing that the Jewish people are the people who crucified Christ. His disgust for an entire people arose from his deeply held religious beliefs that the Jewish people were evil for killing the Savior of the World. Historically, we remember Hitler as an evil man. He is the moral ultimatum we use to make a point. Because of his hatred for these people and many other outcasts, Adolph Hitler instituted concentration camps where people whose skin color and beliefs he didn’t like were sent to be forced into hard labor on very little food intake. Jewish people especially were rounded up and killed in various ways. They were tested upon to further scientific advancement, they were gassed together in massive quantities and their lifeless bodies were stacked carelessly upon one another in gruesome piles. Hitler seemed like a good idea at the time. His people voted him in because he made them feel important. Unfortunately, when he made them feel important, he did it at the expense of the “dangerous” other and Germany has still gone down in history as a horrible country for this evil thing that happened because of their elected leader.

Today in America, we have an election. We have had many elections where accusations of Hitler-esque qualities have been quite prevalent. Based upon history, we try to keep a sharp eye out for the traits of a dictator. They tend to trick people into thinking that they are great and then completely take over when power is handed over. Luckily, our democratic system of government is not set up like that. Even if elected, a dictator would not necessarily be able to enforce all the things he wants to do in the world. But, a hot-headed person who insults world leaders and celebrities alike would definitely cause concern for public relations and could start a ridiculous war because of his rhetoric. Although we have had these accusations before, the hatred and divisiveness has never been so apparent, and still, this candidate rises in the polls. We do not know much about this candidate’s policies. When asked how to defeat ISIS, the answer is “We’re gonna beat ’em but I don’t want to give away my strategy.” When asked how to approach issues with immigration, he replies “We’re gonna build a wall, a huge wall, and the immigrant country will pay for it.” The issue with this, of course, being that none of these are real answers that can work in real life and they leave too much to the imagination. We do not know this guy, and what we do know about him given his publicized life and his divisive rhetoric, he flatly denies. This is not the kind of person I want to see in the White House. With so many similarities to dictators who rose to power, this candidate would be worse for America than any before him. He doesn’t know what he is doing and what little he does know is based on his own agenda alone. He is not beholden to the American people. Neither was Hitler beholden to his own country. History repeats itself.

 

Beyond the Mask: A Surprisingly Refreshing Perspective

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Spanning across continents, set in the Revolutionary War era, Beyond the Mask impressed me with its not-too-preachy message of redemption, its strong and beautiful romance amidst consistent action and its astounding effects and sets (for a $1 million budget.)

I stumbled upon it this afternoon when a friend wanted to go see a movie. I have recently seen four movies currently in theaters so I mentioned this one. After looking at reviews, we decided to check it out. My friend is in a laid back exploratory phase of her religious convictions so when the previews advertised preachy films, I felt bad. I had inadvertently led my friend and myself into a Christian-made film.

I braced myself for a slew of unnecessary references to the cross, constant discussion of the afterlife and a practically platonic approach to romance. I received none of those. Instead I was launched into a world reminiscent of some of my favorite movies. And not unlike those movies, there was redemption for a villain, this time redemption I’ve known to last.

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I say quite a few things on this site in question of my church-guided faith. I think a lot about the way I was raised and have struggled to recognize those places where my faith was coaxed rather than felt, forced rather than accepted. In doing this, I have tended to indict and convict Christianity more than uphold its truths in my writing. But it should be said that this movie resonated with me and that faith, deep belief that God is real and working and that He loves every single person on this earth, propels my very existence.

I roll my eyes at Christian obsession with changing the world media to be honoring to God. I honestly do not believe anything is at stake there. By getting so distracted with changing world media, we rarely create our own things. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as a persecuted class and join the world in living. We ought to recognize that there is much more to life than quoting Scripture.

This is why the movie was refreshing. It didn’t shove itself in your face. The advertising quoted a verse but the movie itself never did. It simply showed redemption from a Christian perspective and brought to mind favorites like Les Miserables, Count of Monte Cristo and Pirates of the Carribean. jeanvaljean

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The romance was clean but not without chemistry and tension, her desire to love a man who loves God was something I can totally understand. Still, her conviction did not run over the plot or raise her up on a pedestal throughout the movie. Moreover, the thing that made her attractive was her kindness, grace and determination to do something to stop cruelty from having the upper hand. What made him attractive besides his generally gorgeous exterior was his desire to thwart darkness, to learn and to be a new man.

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Though this movie seems to have fallen through the cracks with other moviegoers and critics, I thought it was very well done and it reminded me of something I’ve steadily started to lose. I am Christian. And I am very proud of that fact. I simply believe my Christianity is more about how I treat those in my path now than it is about what I will earn in my future. As it pertains to story and film, Christianity is so beautiful when nuanced and it’s so awesome when it’s a whisper in the wind rather than a blaring advertisement, when you almost miss its message but something sinks into your spirit and makes you smile, makes you remember there’s a God.

We forget that we are not at war with the world. We are at war with darkness, with Satan. Light has overcome the darkness, even the smallest of lights can pierce the darkness, whether it comes with screaming sirens or complete silence.

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This is a nearly unexplored territory for Christians, the action/adventure film. We have so much we could begin to explore throughout history. I for one would love to see a Dietrich Bonhoeffer movie with the redemptive/rebellious atmosphere of Amazing Grace and the latest Beyond the Mask. I’m excited to see these sorts of projects happening. Not so much for world redemption (I truly think Jesus has that covered, plus total conversion of the world seems a bit like world domination, not everybody needs revival) but so that Christians can learn about themselves and see that the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil approach does not work in storytelling. It’s entirely okay and wonderful to enjoy action movies and history and things that don’t always have the “Christ” approval stamp on them. We’d do well to realize he probably approves more than we think.

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The Redemption of… Maleficent

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Since Maleficent is a relatively new movie, I will try to be as vague as possible so as to avoid spoilers. I have become irreversibly obsessed with the ABC television show Once Upon a Time which is known for providing its “villains” with back stories, bringing proof to the old adage “Evil isn’t born. It’s made.” I believe this is the forerunner for Hollywood’s current fascination with redefining true love and exploring villainy. Thus the retelling of Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of Maleficent, the self-proclaimed mistress of all evil, was a tough story to tell.

In Finding Pearls, I hope to find what most deeply offends and address that offense, so we can take the dirt and sand and turn it into a beautiful pearl. Some have posited that Maleficent humanizes the villain far too much, so that she is actually very separate from the Disney sorceress. Others have argued that seeking to discover what makes a villain a villain is essentially the same thing as agreeing with a villain’s choices and actions, and should be expressly avoided altogether. A lot of this latter attitude seems to come from the Christian community. I find this troubling.

Do we really think we are so strong and good for not choosing a villainous path? Life is made up of choices. Some good, some bad. I would argue that not a single human being, Christian or otherwise, has made all of one kind of choice their whole life through. That being said. Christianity, and the rules of general human decency is about seeking to understand and love our fellowman no matter where they are at.

I appreciated this movie, though it was difficult to reconcile it with the original Disney. The problem for compassionate people with the original Disney is that there are absolutely no redemptive qualities in the notoriously evil fairy who literally calls on all the “powers of hell” and seems motivated to incredible and despicable evils simply because she was not invited to the christening of Baby Aurora (with whom their appears no personal relation). Much as I love the Disney version, Disney’s most horrendous and terrifying character is literally holding onto a sixteen-year-long grudge over being snubbed for a royal baby’s christening. She is so irrational and disturbingly wicked, it is near impossible to find very much compassion for Disney’s original animated Maleficent.

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Not so with the 2014 live action retelling. We get to see Maleficent as a child, we see her kindness towards her fellow forest friends, we can see her fly and the freedom she gets in flight. We see her innocence. And then we see it taken, we see her harden. And we are able to understand why she would feel offended and wish to curse the Baby Aurora.

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Many people seem to believe that some people are born evil. This goes all the way back to Cain and Abel. And it is probably my biggest pet peeve. I’ve seen it also so often in cinema. This is especially notable in the heralded classic Gone with the Wind in the characters of Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Supposedly they’re bad, and that’s all they’ll ever be. That infuriated me! I really don’t believe this. What makes life so wonderful is that we all have our story. Much as it seems Hitler was always the cold and calculating, racist general whose infamous secret deeds made the world step back in awed disgust and horror to remember the great scope of man’s evil; there was a time that Adolph Hitler was an infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager, and even, a Catholic. We don’t always get the opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes. I believe, Hollywood has made that possible.

I think the most overwhelmingly difficult villain for today’s Disney to redeem has to be Maleficent. But I was impressed by this movie. It had incredible effects, almost Narnian or Tolkienesque. A surprising story, it managed not to scrap, in its entirety, the original Disney version, or the Grimm tale.

Watching movies like Maleficent, helps me to see what motivates others. How they are feeling, what they are thinking, and I see their hopes, wishes, hurts and dreams. I am able to see the whole person. Not just the few isolated moments in history of their seemingly irredeemable evil. As Christians, or even, a simply hopeful race of people, we get to believe in redemption, no questions asked, no one can ever be out of reach.

Image Credit:

Original Animated Comparison picture~ http://www.thereelbits.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/maleficent001.jpg

Live Action Maleficent Comparison picture~ http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/05/08/article-2623624-1DADA5C600000578-704_634x501.jpg

Animated Aurora and Maleficent~ http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/6400000/Maleficent-and-Aurora-sleeping-beauty-6461922-500-375.jpg

Live Action Aurora and Maleficent~ http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/disney/images/d/d9/Maleficent_(2).png/revision/latest?cb=20150329222510

Pearls in a Sea of Sand- Spoken Word

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Here is a poem I wrote while grappling with the Pearls concept. This is the story of my journey. I hope you will join me in choosing to find Pearls in Hollywood’s seemingly endless sea of sand.

Consider this:

Maybe the world isn’t out to get us.

And maybe its adages can have our trust.

People, not just Christians are made in His own reflection.

Yet, when the world speaks, we react with such rejection.

But imagine Continue reading

My Vision for PVXPearls

Hello blog readers! I can’t even begin to explain how long it has taken me to finally sit down and start writing this introductory blog entry. I have, I suppose, so feared that people might write unkind things about my writing, or think me unkind in what I’ve written. And I have thus been very apprehensive at the prospect of sharing my apparent talent for writing and observation.

So, please, do try to bear with me. There will be times I will sound vaguely Old-Englishy, even Jane Austenesque, and still more times where I may sound so laid back as to seem lazy or uneducated. Again, I hope you’ll bear with me! This is a test for me, finally pushing myself to write. I invite constructive criticism, but will not publish comments with outright criticism of me, specific blog content, or any of my readers. This is an environment in which I hope to discuss the good in the world, in the context of the bad.
I call this concept Finding Pearls in a Sea of Sand. Continue reading