Trying to Grapple with political tragedy and the Windpocalypse

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Attack on the Two Towers 09/11/2001

The attack on the two towers is a painful memory for many. I, having no connection to news and living in a small town at eight years old, heard the terrible news days after 9/11 itself. I was at daycare, a place soaked through with blissful ignorant innocence and then that ugly truth came into my young life. People can hate each other so much that they will blow each other up. A giant building, protecting thousands of people, will no longer retain its security when determined people seek to bomb it from the sky. The thing that affected me so much as a young child was knowing that people were so volatile. Growing up in a small town without satellite TV, I was always learning about world events when they were in the worst condition possible. This has also been the case for the recent attacks on Paris.

I’m still not sure I understand what exactly happened with the attacks, nor certainly why, but I know that living an effective existence requires that I recognize the hardships of the rest of the world rather than retreating into my bubble of finding happiness no matter what. Sometimes, to have the joy, we need to experience the hardship.

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I Don’t Have to Be Right

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This week, it’s really been hitting me how much I truly want to stay a Christian. Ministry college was actually a lot of fun some times and I learned such valuable lessons. One of which was that no one on the planet is unequivocal

ly right about everything. I discovered the tragic Christian history where people majored on the minors and had my-God-is-bigger-than-your-god(s) debates that often ended in  bloody, drawn-out wars. Where I came from in my understanding of theology was akin to the Spanish Inquisition. People expect you to believe certain things to be called a “Christian”, but if you don’t believe those things, you are ostracized and treated unfairly by those who say they love.

And it’s comparable only in our sanitized, entitled American culture. Sure we don’t kill those who stand up for what they actually believe in, but we keep them out so that the “Truth” will reign in us. Being afraid of people who believe differently than you is not the mark of a true Christian. It is the mark of a coward. Someone who refuses to listen to other sides, for fear they may fall under the sway of the new argument and abandon God altogether, is being cowardly not courageous.

I have been a coward. Sometimes, I still am one.

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The Color of Creativity is Worth the Risk

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When I was in ministry school, I had this epiphany that had been building up inside of me for quite some time. Hollywood, like anything else  is made up of people who have dreams, hurts and pasts that drive them forward. It occurred to me that every creative effort, no matter how small or uninspiring had some merit to its founder. Continue reading

Taboo Subject #1 Gay Marriage should not be Taboo

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I love the idea of raising children with this perspective.

My deepest hope for this blog is that whoever reads it would feel refreshed rather than attacked by the perspective I’ve gleaned over the years. That being said, I want to talk about how God transformed my perspective on gay marriage and gay relationships through media.

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Mourn The World’s Loss: A Tribute to The Boy I Never Knew

There is this grotesque culture out there that enjoys laughing about the misery of others, or they simply love to hate. At one time, I was a part of this culture. As a young child, I hated the popular crowd by virtue of their popularity. I always assumed that every person who was well-known and constantly-mentioned was evil, mean to me and entirely deserving of my spite. Now, as an adult, I realize that most of them did nothing to me. They were polite and easygoing but we never hung out. When some of those kids I knew from age 8 began to party, do drugs and sleep around, I expected a karmic vengeance for their behavior. I imagined they’d eventually end up strung out or stuck in a rut. That’s what scares me about how we express Christianity. We are so nonchalant about the inevitability of these consequences, as if that’s what being a Christian is about. But it’s not, it’s about love, kindness, everything beautiful that you can imagine– that’s God and that’s what I as a Christian wish I had reflected better throughout my earlier years of life.

People who laugh at the misery and misfortune of others, no matter how inevitable such an end may seem, are all over the world, and unfortunately, many are Christians. When a picture is taken of a gratuitously obese person, it is spread all over the internet for people to gawk at and comment upon, reducing this human being to a massive object and dehumanizing them.

When my brother fell off a small cliff and smashed his lip and broke two teeth while he was drunk, everybody saw the picture and they were laughing. Here, a young man, whose life was about to start, catapulted from high school, had experienced something painful, humiliating and physically scarring and people were making jokes about it. I was making jokes about it.

A boy who in high school had been known for rash decisions dove headfirst into a shallow river while drunk and paralyzed himself from the waist down. I knew his mother, I worked with her. She was heartbroken and rushed to live with him in a different state and take care of him.

A young actor overdosed on drugs and died. The whole world judged him in his demise and they judged his company on earth: the staff of the show by which he was made famous, his girlfriend in life and in the show, even his parents. People made assumptions and posted them as fact.

People judge, people hate, people act like they know. Myself included. But the truth is, we don’t know. I don’t know. Even though I’m a Christian, I know absolutely nothing. And I am paralyzed as I consider this most recent tragedy: the loss of a barely-acquaintance. I met him when I was 8, but I never knew him. He moved on with the party crowd, but beyond that, I didn’t know much more. Yesterday, while casually perusing my Facebook Feed, the confused, hurting wall post of an old “bully”-turned-friend stopped me in my tracks. He had been killed as a pedestrian walking on the highway and hit by two semi trucks.

I knew I didn’t know him beyond the rumors, beyond the fleeting moments at Science Camp when I looked at him and saw beyond his popularity status, I knew. But I didn’t care. In the middle of the bus, states away from where the horrific scene happened,  I began to cry. He was eight when I met him. Eight years old. And now he is, was, is 22 years old. And, people that once made me feel tormented are now grieving the loss of a dear life-long friend. And so am I and I feel like I don’t deserve to care. I don’t deserve getting to think about who he was. I didn’t ever think about him while he was alive. Why should I get to consider him and his friends now?

I am praying against what well-meaning but totally off-base things might be said to my friend. Things that Christians say to console those in grief. Things that Christians think or speak behind their backs. See, the world laughs at misery. Homeless people are the brunt of a joke, drunks are comedic relief, heavyset people are sent viral. But the fact that Christians join them, The fact that Christians say in our Bible Study times and as we fellowship, that homeless people are on the streets because they aren’t smart enough, driven enough or sober enough to make it in the world, or that drunks put themselves in danger and need to accept the consequences or that heavyset people need to diet or exercise or even sometimes be shot (people are cruel on the internet) scares me to death. It’s missing the point. What is lost here is a life. And the nonchalant attitude that God takes people when it’s their time or that people who party on earth will face an eternity of torture is what poisons Christianity. The afterlife and the cause of death are not our concern. Someone had life, had breath, had an impact on the world, and now, they don’t anymore. Their influence is halted, never again to be resumed. And people who knew them are affected. Hurting, crying, confused. Nothing makes sense. That’s how grief works. Let’s stop trying to make sense of grief and grieve with the broken. Let’s stop giving them platitudes and quick answers and just cry. Let’s stop blaming the victim and just mourn the world’s loss.

The world is a different place today because he is gone. I never knew him. Not that well. But his life mattered. Whether I let him matter to me or not.

Christian Judgment and South Park

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I have taken a sabbatical of sorts from this blog and in doing so, have rediscovered its purpose in my eyes. God is our Creator, every creative inclination, every perspective that holds truth, He was extremely involved in creating. Thus, every movie, every TV show, every song put out by Hollywood and “The World” is expressing, on some level, a truth that is God-made. Therefore, such expressions of creativity are important and worth discussing.

God is in everything, because He cannot be bound. Everything I have written was written because God first breathed into me His breath of life and His power of creativity. So, I do not hate any movie (though I may always be personally uncomfortable with horror as a genre.) There is always something there to remind me of God.

Many have disagreed with this perspective. They say God can’t be in movies about

promiscuous people,

promiscuous people

those who drink to excess

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and the creation and redemption of a villainous character.

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As Christians, I feel, especially in our movies, we shy away from reality. We imagine this perfect world, clean of any evil and blissfully overrun by people exactly like us. Can that really be the purpose? To destroy Hollywood and every thought that doesn’t evoke the Name of Jesus, to sing only songs that speak of His awesomeness and none that genuinely struggle with understanding why hurt happens?

The world is filled with people, through Hollywood, friends and just strangers you meet in public, who have stories to tell. They have feelings to express and shows that resonate with them because the shows write out what they struggle to understand.

I guess I’ll just throw out the example of South Park. As a kid, I thought South Park was everything wrong with our society. Come to find out it actually points out the wrong that is already there. I have judged in the past people who enjoy South Park because it’s gross and raunchy and anti-Christian. But, as with most of the media out there, South Park is taking what has been experienced and broadcasting it. From a South Park perspective, Christianity makes no sense. You are a sinner and will live in eternal torture but Jesus loves you and wants you to pay TV evangelists money so they can heal you. To South Park, and from the perspective of many, Christianity is just a giant SCAM.

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The crazy thing is that, while He may look differently than expected, South Park’s imagining of God is actually pretty on-point. Jesus is level-headed, caring and transparent. But Christians are ridiculous. I love the interactions with God/Jesus and professing Christians. There’s always a theme: You guys aren’t getting it. It’s about living a life that brings joy to others, not beating yourself down because you suck or telling other people that they suck.

And to quote my own pastor, Heaven and Hell are not really places, one to which we aspire to go, one we aspire to avoid, so much as perspectives on life. The difference between open eyes and closed ones. Waking and sleeping, Love and hate. What if we lived it more like that, than a guilt trip on who is the best kind of Christian. What would that look like?

Forever God’s, no matter who you are.

Due to escalating recent events and the outcry of beloved friends who had never cried out before, I feel it is necessary to share this fairly graphic poem. Racism is still very prevalent and out there, even in my own life. I apologize heartily for any times I didn’t rise to the occasion and defend my fellowman. I thought it was enough to like African Americans, to smile at them and think of icons like “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” Atticus Finch as my heroes.

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But it isn’t. This is a real struggle for everyday people, treated as less for the amount of melanin (susceptibility to sun) they have in their DNA. Irrationally feared because they have darker skin.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this is that I see the light and I’m with these, my friends, to the end of time. No life is more important than another. All people are created equal, whether our forefathers understood what that meant when it was penned or not. Its truth transcends their ignorance and I will no longer stand idly by as God’s human creation is mistreated, no matter who they are.

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This is the story of a man who believed a lie, a lie that said he was better than others and the story of his redemption.

Who Is Your Demon?

Erin Ritchey

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His skin was white, pure and clean,

It bespoke of his worth through its soft, light sheen.

Destined to be the Successor

Over a Klan of angered aggressors,

No one wanted a throne more than he,

Nor deserved it.

He was used to and comfortable with the blood,

The sign of the demonic killed in the mud.

Lynchings and beatings

Never fazed such a warrior,

Chosen at birth to be the Lord’s justice in the land.

Ready to cast out the demons,

descendants of that “curs-ed son of Ham.”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 25:  About one thousand demonstrators temporarily shut down traffic in the Chinatown business district the day after the Ferguson grand jury decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case November 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. A St. Louis County grand jury decided to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in August that sparked riots in Ferguson, Missouri, resulting in violence there Monday night.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Convinced of the demon in skin that was dark,

easily swayed think himself light.

And despite all this,

A seemingly clear venture,

A destiny unchallenged,

A rule unfettered,

The Klan’s rule fell in his eyes.

He began to see those he’d demonized,

And, struggling, he cast out the lies.

Thus the man who was the king of destruction,

Was the one chosen by God to administer salvation.

The demons grew faces, emotions and lives;

Those he had demonized,

Had now become humanized.

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And he could never be the same.

So I ask you, when you think of this man,

Is what you believe a sham?

Who are you calling “demon”

When they’re really just broken?

Whose heart do you claim to know

But actually choose to hate.

Look into your heart

And how you feel,

And recognize, this Klan is real!

People are easily deceived and easily destroyed,

Burned and beaten like an animal or a cheap toy.

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We say Satan has such a hold on our universe,

But he’s defeated, tiny and insignificant.

Though he has power, its hardly formidable.

So, how are you treating others?

Do you look at a human and see a demon?

Don’t fall for this great deception.

We all are created in the image of divinity.

When Jesus took the keys,

It multiplied God’s presence by infinity.

He’s not bound up, He is in all places,

No matter how dark or distorted the faces.

Satan has no image. His identity is no more.

The human person is forever God’s at the core.

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A quick review and lesson from each movie I’ve recently seen.

I mentioned in my previous post that I had seen four movies currently in theaters. These were Pitch Perfect 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland and Spy.

In a few words I will summarize just as an exercise to return to blogging amidst my INSANE work schedule (no worries though, the bosses are working it out.)

Firstly, Pitch Perfect 2 met but did not exceed my expectations. It was crass as expected and I felt it very much followed where the characters might have gone after the win at the NCCAs (with the exception of Chloe who apparently repeatedly failed to stay in the Bellas for three years. Though even that is believable as she was clearly enamored with the Bella way from the beginning. It’s like Greek life, with singing.)

I would have to watch it again as I did its predecessor. Pitch Perfect upset me when I first saw it and then I fell in love with it. It may be similar with its sequel. I’m happy to further elaborate on what I learned from both (in later entries.)

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Mad Max: Fury Road was Transformers, meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (I kept expecting someone to rip someone else’s heart out.) It was dark, grotesque and strange. But, to an extent, I enjoyed it. I was surprised by it’s undertone of hope and valuing life. It was so dreary and was basically a badass car chase/ war throughout the whole movie. The movie revered innocent lives and centered around the protection of five wives to the creepy, decrepit, dictatorial Immorton Joe.

The violence is brutal. Absolutely garish and disgusting. But there’s that tiny flicker of hope that makes it worth my time. If nothing else, I very much enjoyed seeing one of the strange white men riffing on a flamethrower guitar to provide the metalesque music throughout chase and war sequences, persisting even when momentarily separated from his music. I think we can learn something from his determination.

Mad Max Guitarist flamethrower

After that movie, friends and I hopped on over to Tomorrowland. Despite being a Disney nut, I was not anticipating Tomorrowland. I just wanted to clear my palette of the gross intensity of Mad Max before moving on with life. After Fury Road, I was in need of some hope as it held very little. Tomorrowland put hope not only into its own plot but into mine as well. The message hit home. Being lazy and resigning ourselves to the negative projections will not stop them from happening. We live in a fallen world and in a failing one but, especially as Christians, we needn’t simply accept the world’s fate.

Some people have complained that Tomorrowland is about Global Warming. It’s not. It’s about looking at disaster as it happens or even before it happens and doing nothing to stop it. That’s where a positive message is found. When you see the world falling apart, find a way to fix it! So much of Christianity has become about rolling our eyes about the other side. We get so caught up in our own way, calling it “The Way, The Truth and The Life.” But our way was never The Way. It was Jesus’s and He entrusted us with the world to cultivate and protect it. Not to get annoyed with the people who care about it.

Their priorities do often seem displaced, shouting “Save the Whales” while fighting for a woman’s right to abort. But different people have different convictions and our job is not to destroy sin. It is to love the world as Jesus did, and that includes the material world.

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Finally, the other day, I caught up with another friend and despite both of our religious backgrounds, we went to see the movie Spy with Melissa McCarthy. Some of it was very unnecessary like the brief graphic nudity that comes out of nowhere, or quite a few of the f-bombs. But, when you go to see an R-rated movie with Melissa McCarthy, f-bombs are the norm. You should seriously expect them. This movie is hilarious even with the language. Truthfully, I don’t have a problem with language. It was a concern of the Christian crowd that this R-rated spy movie has language.

Whatever else she is, Melissa McCarthy is real and plays real characters. Her characters are expressive and open about who they are. Prior to her transformation with her biggest enemy, her character, Susan is actually the most demure I’ve ever seen Melissa McCarthy post-Gilmore Girls. But what she does, her language, her attitude, she does to survive and protect those she loves. Despite all that, I would take away from this movie that Christians really need to try not to be offended.

When we, as Christians elect to go to an R-rated movie with one of the raunchiest crassest actresses yet to come to Hollywood, we cannot expect the movie to be above reproach. If we are watching R-rated films we should know we will be offended. The friend I went with was Mormon but both of us enjoyed the movie. We liked how ridiculous it all was and the very spot-on comment made by Susan that the villainness looked like a slutty dolphin trainer.

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                                                                                                        She’s in the center! See! She totally looks like a slutty dolphin trainer!

We enjoyed the humor, even with all the raunchiness. And, as Christians, I wish we would realize it’s okay. It’s not necessary to tiptoe around everything and if you’re easily offended, just don’t go to R-rated movies and expect them to respect Jesus and Christians and general human decency. But, if you can go, try to see the good, laugh when it’s funny, smile when it’s sweet, cringe when it’s disturbing. You are a human being and are allowed to be such. React to life, movies like these remind me, I have that permission.

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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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