Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’

81st Academy Awards¨ Press Kit ImagesMost of us are familiar with the story of Aaron creating a golden calf for the people of Israel to worship. Aaron apparently made the calf by mistake – “I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf'” [Ex. 32:24]. Hollywood, however, has taken Arron’s lead and forged a golden statue of their own and given it the name ‘Oscar’. This little golden statue represents joy, sorrow, jealousy, anger, covetousness, and just about any emotion imaginable for Hollywood stars and starlets.

Even though I can’t remember the article or publication, I can remember reading Matt Damon’s reflections on his Oscar aspirations. He took a role in Courage Under Fire, which required him to lose a great deal of weight. Without the assistance of a personal trainer (he didn’t have extra cash because he wasn’t the powerhouse he is now), the pounds began to come off. He successfully lost a significant amount of weight, but the film and his acting didn’t get the recognition he hoped for. Plus, he saw a doctor after all the weight loss and he was informed that this rapid decrease in weight almost cost him his life.

It wasn’t until many years later that Damon won an Oscar for Screenplay in his 1997 Best Picture nominated film, Good Will Hunting. Even though I cannot recall his exact words, Damon states that his name was called out, he went onstage, received his little golden man and thought, Is this it? Is this what I’ve been longing for? Is this little golden statue what I almost gave my life for?

I don’t think Matt Damon is a Christian, but I honestly don’t know enough about his personal life to say one way or the other. However, he is illustrating the idolatry that we know is present in each of our hearts. Even though we may not be longing for an Oscar, we have our lists of little golden men. Maybe they come in the form of a new car, a bigger salary, a slimmer waistline, more vacations, or [fill-in-the-blank]. I’m not picking on Damon, because I really enjoy his films and he is like the rest of humanity. Plus, I’m glad that he saw the emptiness of his idol and I pray that he follows after the only One who is able to fill the void in his heart.

In just a few more days, many more golden statues will be passed out to Hollywood hopefuls. Maybe you’ll be cheering alongside these actors, actresses, and filmmakers with a similar desire for them to win. Maybe you won’t even tune in to see who takes home the prize.

Whether or not you care I think it is an important event for Christians to take note of, because it is a window into the heart of our culture. Whether we like to admit it or not, Hollywood wields a great deal of power. Actors and actresses have influence. And, on Oscar night, we get to see which films they think are noteworthy. They let us in on what they consider to be worthy art. We so often want to know what messages are being communicated through film and what truths resonate with this culture. Well, Oscar night takes much of what Hollywood holds dear to their heart and displays if for all to survey.

So go ahead and tune into the Oscars with a watchful eye. Learn a little bit about the culture we live in. And, see if it grants you greater opportunities to bring the Truth to bear in this, often, dark sphere of our culture.

Facing The Impossible

Posted: September 29, 2014 by jperritt in Drama, True Story
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impossible-posterI avoided watching this movie for a while, because a few people told me it was terrible.  However, they did not mean it was terrible artistically, or stylistically.  They would affirm that the acting was good, the story was good (it is based on a true story…even though we know how those often go).  They informed me that the movie was terrible, because of the pain that was depicted on-screen.

The Impossible follows the story of a family traveling to Thailand.  While the family is in Thailand, they become one of the thousands of people afflicted by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  The film’s depiction of this disaster is remarkable.  The acting and special effects marry in such a way that will be deeply moving for most movie-goers.

At many times this movie is very hard to watch, but I would say it’s a necessary movie for Christians to watch.  Why would I say it’s necessary?  At least two reasons:

We Hate Pain

Now, this is an understandable reality.  No one in their right mind enjoys pain.  Pain is a result of the Fall, so mankind understands that something abnormal is happening when we experience pain.  However, pain is now a common part of life that is unavoidable until the return of King Jesus.  Even though Christians will hate pain, we must expect it, prepare for it, and know that God uses pain to grow us into the image of His Son.

Even though Christians understand that God uses pain to grow us, most Christians do everything in their power to avoid it.  Often times this is seen through our idolatry of comfort and pleasure.  Without a doubt, we are commanded to have joy, because of Christ’s finished work.  But, we must know that any comfort or pleasure we have is fleeting.  That is why I say this is a necessary film to watch – it assaults our idol of comfort.

Sharing in Suffering

Secondly, I think a film like The Impossible teaches us what it means to bear each other’s burdens.  As Christians we are called to share in Christ’s sufferings as we also share in his comfort (2 Cor. 1:5).  Instead of simply sharing an apathetic, I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll pray for you.  We must share one another’s burdens and seek to feel the pain they feel – true empathy.

You know, when the Tsunami of 2004 hit, I’m pretty sure I didn’t pray once…maybe it was just once.  But, I can almost guarantee you it wasn’t heartfelt.  Watching The Impossible was deeply convicting.  It was a movie that exposed the selfishness of my own heart.  Why didn’t I pay more attention to those suffering from the tsunami?  Why wasn’t my heart moved to consider families that lost loved ones?  I was too fixated on my little kingdom and my little concerns to stop and consider what people around the world were going through.

The Impossible, however, grabbed my heart and mind and wouldn’t allow my mind to trivially consider the pain these people experienced – it brutally depicted it on-screen.  It was this brutality that convicted me of my prayer life.  Why didn’t I stop to consider what these people were going through?  What else was vying for my attention?  If I went through this, I would want others praying for me.

Something else struck me as I watched this movie on a Saturday night.  We typically don’t watch movies on Saturday, because they can sometimes distract us the following morning during worship.  However, it occurred to me that most people are watching/attending football on Saturdays.  I had watched some football earlier that day and football is often a great time of fun and fellowship.  But, I couldn’t escape the excessive indulgence often surrounded by football with the contrast of what I was watching.  At football there’s so much food at tailgating it’s often tossed in the garbage.  At football we gather to pour so much time, money, and energy into a game.

Please don’t misunderstand me, we don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying something like football – I enjoy football.  However, I couldn’t ignore the suffering in the film, just like I couldn’t ignore how much of our life we spend on trivialities in the midst of so much suffering.

So, I do think The Impossible is a film Christians would do well to watch.  It will assault your comfort, it will assault the pain-free life we often seek, it will convict, but it will encourage at the same time.  You see, the film gets its name because of the joy one family experiences in the midst of such tragedy.  However, when great tragedy strikes any of us we can often think, Why me?  I can’t believe this is happening.  In other words, this is impossible!  Frequently reminding ourselves that we don’t live in a pain-free world can assist us whenever we face the impossible.

 

A Christmas Story

Posted: December 25, 2012 by Josh Kwasny in Comedy, Drama, Family, Seasonal
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a christmas story

A Christmas Story (1983) is, no doubt, one of my favorite Christmas films. IMDB.com summarizes the story: “Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940s.” I won’t spill anymore digital ink with a synopsis. If you would like more about the general content, head to IMDB.com.

I love this film for a number of reasons. 1.) Nostalgia. The story is set in Hammond, Indiana – a town very close to where I grew up. The film’s setting feels like home. 2.) Great narration. The film is like a stroll down memory lane as an adult Ralphie recalls Christmas growing up. 3.) Great characters. The list includes Ralphie’s “old man,” local bully Scut Farkus, a dream-busting store Santa, and Flick – the infamous example of why peer pressure is a dangerous thing. 4.) I can watch it again and again. It’s just one of those films.

A Christmas Story is also a great film, because it vividly illustrates the danger of idolatry. The cast of characters unknowingly warns us of the power of an idol.

Perhaps for many, the mention of idolatry brings to mind little golden statues that people in biblical stories worshipped. While that may be accurate to a point, idolatry can be defined more broadly. Idols are things that take the place of God in our lives. Idols rule us. They control us. Idols are the things that we think about more than anything else. Put simply, an idol is often a good thing that has become a God-thing.

We vividly witness two tell-tale signs of idolatry in Ralphie and his “old man.” How can you tell if something is an idol? If either of the two statements below are true, you have an idol in your life.

images-11. I must have it! – It is an understatement to say that Ralphie would like a “Red Rider” BB gun for Christmas. He doesn’t just want it…he needs it! Throughout the film we watch Ralphie’s desperate attempts to ensure that Red Rider is under the tree Christmas morning. From subtle hints to outright manipulation, Ralphie must have that gun.

Idols are “must haves.” You can spot an idol by answering this question. What must I have in order to be happy?

images2. I must keep it! – One of the plot lines of the film follows Ralphie’s “old man,” Frank, who is the grand prize winner of a fish-net stocking-clad leg lamp. This raunchy table lamp, while prized by Mr. Parker is despised by his wife. Frank becomes so obsessed with his lamp, that his wife “accidentally” breaks it while vacuuming.

Idols are “must keeps.” We will do anything to protect an idol. Answer this – What must I never lose in order to be happy?

Although it may be easy to identify the ridiculous obsession of a leg lamp, the idols in our own lives can be difficult to see and/or acknowledge. Idols are deceitful things. They promise us happiness and satisfaction, but soon enslave us – leaving us dissatisfied and wanting more. We find ourselves trapped in sin – unable to get away from our new masters.

We need help destroying what will ultimately destroy us. We need people like Ralphie’s mother who will risk relationship in order to help us to break the chains of our idolatry. We need others in our lives who will help us to destroy the idols that deceive us.

Hebrews 3:12-13 puts it this way…

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from he living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Do you have people in your life who will encourage and challenge you? Do you do this for others?

Let’s heed this Christmas warning and work together to fight idolatry – remembering that satisfaction will only be found in relationship with the true God – Jesus Christ!

Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie M. That’s what I thought. My wife and I stumbled upon this 1931 film through a Netflix recommendation. M is the first film in cinematic history to bring a serial killer to the silver screen. It is also a highly reviewed film. Rotten Tomatoes has given it a 100% rating from critics and a 94% rating from audiences. Needless to say, the consensus is clear that this film is a timeless masterpiece that should resonate with most audiences.

The content for this 1931 film is somewhat surprising. For starters, it follows the story of a child-murdering serial killer. That is shocking to depict on-screen today, but imagine how it was received 80 years ago. The language in the film was also surprising for that time. According to IMDb, Premier magazine voted this film as one of The 25 Most Dangerous Movies ever made. Peter Lorre, who was Jewish and played the killer Hans Beckert, fled Germany shortly after the release of the film from fear of Nazi persecution. The film premiered in 1931, but was banned in 1934 and wasn’t re-released until 1966. It was said that the iconic Peter Lorre loved and hated this character. He loved the attention it brought him from the critics, but hated that people always viewed him as the psychotic pedophile from the film.

One scene I want to focus on today is a scene that really captures the level of addiction the serial killer, Hans, is going through. Whenever Hans sees a child, his temptation rears its ugly head. One unique quirk that accompanies this addiction is the fact that he begins to whistle the classic tune, In the Hall of the Mountain King by: Edward Grieg.(click the link to listen: In the Hall of the Mountain King.mp3) An interesting fact from the film is that Lorre could not whistle, so the whistling you here on-screen is actually the director, Fritz Lang.

Back to the scene I want to discuss. Hans is looking in a store window and sees the reflection of a child appear behind him. This, of course, begins to feed the addiction to murder that his character is plagued with. As the child innocently walks down the sidewalk, she is followed by the whistling psychopath intent on feeding his addiction. To the relief of the audience, the girl’s mother shows up and the two walk off-screen. Although we are relieved, Hans is not! Hans has just experienced the arousal of a possible fix for his addiction dangled before him like a carrot, but then it was drastically jerked away. Therefore, he must have this craving filled in order for it to leave his body.

In Ed Welch’s book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, he explains that an addiction is ultimately a worship disorder. Every human being on the face of the earth has been designed to worship God, but our sin redirects our worship to everything else; i.e., money, sex, drugs, alcohol, pleasure, and anything the mind can think of – there’s no limit. Anything can ultimately become an idolized addiction in the human mind.

To Hans, his addiction was murdering children, he couldn’t control it. In that scene when the child is rescued, Hans must rescue the longing to fill his addiction by replacing it with another addiction. He immediately walks in to a restaurant and asks the waiter for a drink. After he downs the drink, he asks for another. The false god of Hans requires a sacrifice and when he cannot offer that sacrifice, he must require that by another means…alcohol.

What this illustrates to us is what Blaise Pascal referred to as the ‘God-shaped vacuum’ in the heart of every human. The human heart has been created with the Truth of God, but we all reject that from day-to-day. As Romans 1:16-32 illustrates, we suppress the Truth for a lie. Instead of God filling the void, we shove everything we can think of into that void.

Hans was shoving a sadistic addiction of serial murder into that void, and when that could not be attained he shoved alcohol there. The interesting reality was, he needed another drink after the first. That, in and of itself, shows that it could not fulfill. What Hans was proclaiming was ultimately the gospel. There’s only One thing, or Person, who can satisfy that longing we all have. Everyone of us are the horrifically corrupted Hans. Today you will attempt to shove something into the God-shaped vacuum in your heart. Success, money, sex, pleasure, family, leisure – name your addiction. If you don’t think you’re as bad as Hans, read Romans 1 and 3 and then come talk to me.

We all worship false saviors, promising false hope and comfort, but they all end up robbing us and demanding sacrifice. There is sacrifice required in the Christian life, but Jesus is the only One who is worth it and he is the only One who sacrifices all in order for our deliverance.