Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

secret_life_of_walter_mitty_ver6The first time I saw the trailer to this film I was very impressed.  It was a movie that was on my “to-watch” list (not that I have an excel spreadsheet or anything).  However, I heard some mixed reviews from some trusted critics, so I put this film off a while.  But, I finally got around to watching it and I really liked it.

Yes, it is on the quirky side.  Yes, it may be just a little too weird for some of you.  But, if you watch it with any level of honesty, you’ll realize it’s a film about you.  To put it another way, you’re weird.  I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or get your day started off on the wrong foot, but you are a little strange.  Please don’t skip to another blog or run and grab the tissues just yet, hang on and I’ll explain.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is about a quiet, “nobody” who dreams of being somebody.  Walter [Ben Stiller – who also directed the film] is an average guy who often has extraordinary fantasies of courage and success.  However, his job is threatened and he embarks on an adventure that blends fantasy and reality.  You see, the film gives us glimpses into Walter’s head.  Without the screen going black or employing some cinematic visuals that fade into a dream, we are seamlessly carried off into Walter’s fantasies.  Because of this, the viewer often wonders if this is reality or simply one of Walter’s crazy dreams.

Now, back to the part where I called you weird.  If you took offense to the statement, let me ask you this question, would you like for someone to get into your head for a week?  Would you like it if someone could record all of your thoughts and play them for your family and friends?  I think the answer for most of us would be a loud, NO!  Why?  Well, chances are, most of our thoughts are sinful.  After all, our heart is poisoned with sin and we, therefore, end up thinking a lot of things we shouldn’t (see the Sermon on the Mount).

But, what Walter Mitty showed us was that fantasies are normal.  Yes, the movie may have seemed a little too weird, but it captured similar fantasies that are rolling around in your mind.  Who hasn’t had fantasies about being a hero?  Telling off the bully in their life? Or, saying just the right thing at the right moment?  Most of us have.

In fact, I would say that you’re not weird if you have fantasies, I would say you’re weird if you don’t.  Fantasies are typically favorable thoughts.  We rarely have fantasies that end bad for us, do we?  I mean, how many of you have fantasies where you are the villain and someone else is the hero?  Fantasies tell us something is broken.  In Walter’s life, he was the “loser”.  He didn’t have a lot to offer – just think of his conversation with the e-harmony guy.  However, he compensated this lack, by dreaming scenarios that righted the wrongs.  Scenarios that brought about justice, that manifested romance, and that ensured a “happily ever after” ending.

The reason we have fantasies, like Walter, is because this life isn’t what it should be.  Justice is flawed, love is imperfect, we don’t say the right things all the time, people are bullies, there is sadness, the list goes on and on.  Therefore, many of us imagine a life that is perfect, a life without sadness or injustice.  A life that seems to only exist in our minds.  The truth for the Christian, however, is that these “fantasies” about perfect justice, love, and peace are not things that solely exist in our minds.


NEIGHBORS-Poster-1For those of you who have been watching the news over the past week, you’re familiar with the killing spree that has taken place in Santa Barbara.  Elliot Rodger (22) stabbed or shot six people before killing himself.  It’s a tragedy for all those family members involved, this includes the family of Rodger.

As I mentioned previously, my wife and I just had our fourth child, so I was actually unaware of this tragic incident until recently.  While my wife and I were enjoying a new life entering our world, others were mourning the loss of life taken from their world.

As I’ve listened to some of the commentary from various news organizations, I’ve heard conclusions asserted about a specific cause for something like this.  Whenever a horror like this occurs, it’s common to find some avenue to vent our frustrations.  One of those avenues that is not unfamiliar to being viewed as the source of evil…movies.  Movies made Rodger stab and shoot those individuals.  Movies fed Rodger’s appetite for death and destruction.  This has been the assertion of some in the wake of this tragedy.

Whenever one denies God and His Word, one has to create a solution to evils like this.  One columnist in particular has called out – Judd Apatow, Seth Rogan, “Rich white men ruling the cinemas”, etc.  Of course there are outside factors that play a part in a horrible tragedy such as this.  But, the reality of the matter is the fact that Elliot Rodger killed those innocent people because Rodger is broken.  I would agree with psychiatrists who claim Elliot Rodger is sick, but I would disagree with the source of his sickness.  It is not his brain that is sick, but his heart.

A movie like Neighbors does seem to relish debauchery.  I would agree with some who have made the assertion that films like these have degraded women and have fed men with an unhealthy view of manhood, to say the least.  I would also encourage many out there not to see the above film.  However, we need to be reminded that evil is something that comes from within.  Jesus Christ is clear on this in Mark 7, “Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these things come from within.” [vs. 21-23]

A few years ago, The Dark Knight Rises was to blame for the senseless killing spree of the midnight showing and now it is a film like Neighbors.  While these films have depictions of evil, no movie is evil enough to move someone to act out the sinfulness that is already present in their heart.  I will agree that movies can play a factor.  They can feed sinful passions, and we need to be sensitive to that.  But, so can bad parenting, peer relations, substance abuse, lack of sleep, and a whole host of other things.  These, however, do not excuse the sole responsibility of the individual carrying out those actions.  The source of the sin is not the cinema.  The source is Elliot Rodger’s sinful heart.

Let’s stop with the assertions that stricter gun control will solve the problems (be reminded that Rodger also used a knife).  Let’s stop with the assertion that movies are the problem.  The problem comes from within.  Horrible tragedies like this have been in existence since Genesis 3.  Attempting to find a source of evil other than the human heart is futile.  So is attempting to find a solution other than Jesus Christ.

Tangled up in Law and Grace

Posted: November 28, 2013 by jperritt in Action, Adventure, Animation, Family, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

tangledposterTangled has become a Perritt household favorite. There is no telling how many movies nights have featured this soon-to-be Disney classic.

There are many themes to explore in this film, but one scene that resonates with me is when Rapunzel (whom we got to meet at Disney world…not to rub it in) first leaves the tower. If you remember, her “mother-knows-best” Mother Gothel had confined poor Rapunzel to a tower, because of the evil that lurks outside. Of course we understand that Gothel has kidnapped Rapunzel to use her for her anti-aging powers and tells tales of evil to horde this secret. However, Rapunzel’s persistent questioning of “when will her life begin” were too much for the tower’s walls – and Gothel’s wishes – so she uses Flynn Rider, a.k.a. Eugene, to escape.

Once she escapes, she exudes jubilation. She runs. She dances. She sings…until she feels guilt. She feels guilt from disobeying her “mother”. Confinement to the tower was all she ever knew to be right, so while there is joy, it is fleeting because of the confused sense of right and wrong. This got me to thinking about the Christian’s misconceptions about the gospel.

In a sense we are just like Rapunzel, confused over our confinement and freedom. The gospel frees us from our legalistic ways of law-reliance. Prior to our understanding of the gospel, we think we need to observe a bunch of rules, do a lot of good, and abstain from this world to earn our salvation, however, all this does is enslave us further. Yet, this was the “gospel” Mother Gothel was preaching.

It isn’t until Rapunzel breaks free from the walls of legalism, that she sees the freedom she’s been blind to. But, just like all Christians, we go back to our legalistic lifestyle. We doubt our freedom. We feel guilt over the life Christ purchased for us. At times we desire to go back to our tower and just work out our own freedom by adhering to man-made laws.

What we need to be reminded of is the fact that all the law has been fulfilled in Christ’s righteous life. He lived the life we could not life and died the death that we deserved. This, of course, does not purchase a life of license to sin, rather it gives us freedom to obey. We do not strive to obey the law to get us right with God, we obey because we are right with God based on faith in Jesus’ perfect obedience.

I have been a minister in some capacity for almost a decade now, both in the local church setting and I’m in my 6th year on the college campus through Reformed University Fellowship (RUF); and I am now convinced that the greatest enemy to the church is not secularism, nor is it anti-nomianism, it certainly isn’t Barak Obama; it is dualism. Dualism ties sin to places, things and institutions rather than the hearts of people like the Bible teaches. And too often I think dualism has reared its ugly head, even in our own midst, in how we approach art. The end result is the thinking that certain places, drinks, food, institutions, and movies are intrinsically evil and there is nothing to commend them. And we start reducing our evaluation of art to whether or not there is cursing or sex or violence or an overt ‘Christian’ message. Sadly, many Christians, even of the Reformed stripe, end up altogether cloistered away from the world in these privatized, parallel Christian ghettos and there is no attempt at all to live “in the world” as Jesus commands. And why does Jesus want us to live in the world….only so we can evangelize souls?? No, it is actually because He loves this world and intends to redeem it and cause it to flourish again in what will consummate in the New Heavens and New Earth. And here is the biggest shock of all, He actually intends to use broken people like you and me to mend this broken world, not by abandoning culture, but by loving it and recreating it from within. How should the church relate to culture?? At the risk of sounding corny, she is to love the hell out of culture….quite literally.

Now also at the risk of getting too theological, please allow me to explain the subtle distortion we may be making theologically as we approach art and culture. Unfortunately I think many of us have a mistaken understanding of culture altogether. You see, I’m afraid many of us view culture only in a utilitarian sort of way, as if it were a tool that we can take or leave. However, there is an intrinsic quality within culture that is good. Why? Because culture is made up of God’s creation, and mainly the apex of His creation…people. So really, when we speak of culture you cannot separate it from people and for that reason I would say God loves culture because He loves His creation and even more He loves people. To quote Rev. Greg Thompson, who I once heard speak on some related topics, “Culture is creation shaped by human dominion.” So culture is intimately linked with creation and most of us, using our Biblical world and life view, would readily admit that creation has within it an intrinsic quality that is good.

For centuries scholars have wrestled with what the Greek word kosmos means in John 3:16. It isn’t just the created order, nor does it refer to specific people, much less every man, woman, boy and girl that has ever lived. In a way it captures both ideas but in a general way. It is both the created order and those sinful human beings who shape it. I think the best and most current English translation to this usage of ‘world’ in John 3:16 is in fact what we refer to when we say culture. And so we could translate at least the first half of the verse this way: “For God so loved culture He sent His only begotten Son to redeem it, all of it.” In effect what Rev. Thompson was saying was culture IS creation, and therefore it is good.

So what in the world does this have to do with movies? Well, art is both creation and culture and therefore there is an intrinsic value to it. From that point, the ultimate question worth asking is, was the movie ‘good’ or ‘bad?’ And now I just opened up a whole new can of worms didn’t I? How do we know when something is good? Well, exactly. This is what should guide our discussion on art and film. How was the acting? How was the cinematography? Was the storyline good? Was there anything truthful about the human condition? Was there anything beautiful? Was there anything redemptive? Was the movie good or not?

You see, whether its movies, music or moon pies the main question we should ask is NOT: ‘was there any cussing in that,” or “was that Christian,” but was that simply good and then why or why not. It’s not that the question of whether or not a movie is appropriate to a certain audience isn’t an important question, it is; but because the Bible tells us that sin is not tied to inanimate objects like places, things, or movie reels; we must ask much more than that. Art that is good, whether the artist is a Christian or not, is intrinsically worshipful; and as Christians we can, in fact, learn a lot about God, His creation and ourselves by appreciating much in culture that does not have the ‘Christian’ label.

So Christians, instead of putting movies under our microscope, or even worse avoiding good art all together; perhaps we should just shut up and watch the movie!

Not too long ago I wrote two posts (find them here and here) dealing with themes surrounding Liam Neeson’s new film, They Grey. Those post deal well with ideologies in the film, however, I had the chance to see the film and would like to share some additional thoughts. I will warn you that this post will have MAJOR spoilers (I’m going to disclose the ending in the next paragraph). If you do plan on watching this film, you should probably abstain from this post.

The Grey’s main character is Ottway (Neeson). He is a man that’s been given the task of defending Alaskan oil drillers from wolves. Because of this task, he is able to help the men greatly when their plane crash-lands in the wilderness. As the men are slowly picked off by a pack of wolves, they fight for survival against the extreme temperatures and ravenous wolves. However, this is one of those untraditional Hollywood endings where the hero dies…everyone does for that matter.

The title of the film tells you much about what it’s communicating. The word ‘grey’ conjures up cold and bleak feelings, a sense of helplessness. The cinematography for the entirety of the movie communicates exactly that. The attitude of Ottway’s character is cold, & the philosophy of fatalism is communicated throughout the film. Not to mention the feeling one gets as the credits roll right as the hero falls. Even if you were one of those who stayed until the credits had completely rolled, you still see the fallen protagonist laid against the dead alpha wolf.

I have spoken with several who did not care for the film, I did, however. If we simply accepted the message the film tries to communicate, I agree, it is pretty bleak. The characters really don’t give anyone much hope. They constantly state the helplessness of their situation. Ottway, as he communicates to a dying passenger on the plane, makes a statement that sets the tone for the entire story, “You’re going to die.” Although this was a somewhat gracious statement attempting to calm the man down, it was hopeless.

Vanity of Life
As the character of Diaz is dying, he exclaims that he really doesn’t have much to live for. He asks what is the point? He remarks on the fact that even if he lives, there’s no point to his life anyway. He then throws in the towel and accepts his fate.

Ottway makes a similar claim. After all of his comrades have fallen on this journey, we see him at his most vulnerable. He looks up to heaven and screams at God, cursing him to “Show him something!” Pleading with God to give him a reason to believe. When the answer is nothing but silence, Ottway exclaims, “I’ll just do it myself!”

There is no God, there is no hope, everything is predetermined, and we must make our own fate. This would be the surface message of The Grey, however, illuminating this message through the lens of Scripture, there is a deeper meaning.

Ottway’s entire life reflects his exclamation toward God at the end of the film, “I’ll just do it myself.” He doesn’t believe there’s a God and wants to live a life independent from God, especially because of his bitterness over the death of his wife.  Ottway is in rebellion towards God and the entire film is an illustration of what that life looks like. It’s interesting that one of the men even asks the question of the other survivors, “Do you think this was ordained?” Even though they dismissed it, he was exactly right. Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

The Lord is not apathetic towards sin, Scripture is clear that he hates sin because he loves righteousness. We are all rebellious – Christians and unbelievers. The only difference is the fact that Jesus took the wrath on himself so believers don’t have to drink that cup. However, the end of The Grey is a fitting reminder for those outside of Christ. Ottway’s entire path of rebellion led him to a den of wolves. The last place any man would want to find himself. A place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jerry MaGuire is, by far, my favorite Cameron Crowe film and one of my all-time favorite films. Now, I must give the common disclaimer up front, Jerry MaGuire will not be a film everyone will enjoy. It has adult content and language that will be offensive to many, so approach this film with discernment if you plan to watch it.

Jerry MaGuire (Tom Cruise) follows the story of a sports agent who has an epiphany and decides to invest more time in fewer athletes. What this ultimately means is fewer clients and less money. More time for each individual athlete, but this would mean more clients going to other firms, which is why Jerry gets fired…oops, spoiler.

People applaud Jerry for his courage and honesty, yet all his co-workers and clients end up leaving him, except one Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). Tidwell ends up being Jerry’s only client, and one that is very very demanding. One who wants Jerry to show him the cash (did you think I was going to say something else?). Tidwell is your stereotypical NFL player that is completely arrogant and self-focused, which forces Jerry to ask the question was my epiphany correct? Were his thoughts of investing more time in individuals worth it, especially when one of those individuals is Rod Tidwell?

Don’t get me wrong, Tidwell is charming and funny, but he is, nonetheless, annoying. And I would venture to say each of us have people in our lives like this. People that make us feel like we’re Jerry MaGuire. There are those people who are difficult to love and we feel that we sacrifice so much for them. Friends, co-workers, children, spouse, etc.

At one point during the film, Jerry reaches his limit and exclaims what it is like to serve the almighty Tidwell:

I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok?

Jerry has been constantly serving Tidwell, feeding his ego, telling him he’s the best, fighting for him to stay on teams, to get more money, and Tidwell has been fairly ungrateful about it. Not only that, but Jerry isn’t even getting paid to serve in this capacity. He is hardly able to provide for himself while he is constantly listening to his only client’s constant bickering.

The truth is, Jerry MaGuire gives us a small glimpse at our Almighty God, except God does it with love and patience. God is constantly serving, always providing, long-suffering, displaying limitless love and sustaining us on this earth. Yet, we are Rod Tidwell. We feel entitlement. We feel that God owes us more. We complain, we worry, we show discontentment, we are unsatisfied, which all show that we are unappreciative of God and we doubt his provision.

I think of Paul’s charge to do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14) and because Paul doesn’t just state imperatives without indicatives, this command comes on the heels of one of the greatest displays of humility in Scripture (vs. 5-11). Those verses describe, in excellent beauty, what Christ did for those he loved. He left his throne, took on flesh, and in all humility died for an ungrateful bunch of arrogant, unappreciative, complaining Rod Tidwells; i.e., you and me.

You see, God’s job is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that he will never fully disclose and we will never fully grasp, because he loves us. Jerry MaGuire’s love and patience ran out on Rod Tidwell (who can blame him). But our God is a long-suffering God whose love has no limit.

I am not saying that God just overlooks our whining, complaining, arrogant, ungrateful, discontent lives that we live – he doesn’t like that. The reason he can love us is because His beautiful Son lived a life that was absent of whining, complaining and arrogance, so that we are now seen as living that same life. Not because WE did it, but because HE did it and credits that to us by faith.

So the next time you start to whine, complain, worry, etc. be humbled by the example of our Savior that Paul points us to in Philippians. Jesus Christ, who had every reason to whine and complain, refrained because he loved to do the will of his Father and he joyfully offered his life to redeem an arrogant Rod Tidwell, like you and me.

A submission to Reel Thinking by Denis Haack (December 1, 2011)

Nearly two millennia ago four men—three disciples and their teacher—hiked up a mountainside outside the ancient city of Jerusalem to find a place to pray. This much was not all that unusual. The city attracted rabbis and prayer was a spiritual discipline central to Jewish faith. It was also not unusual for Jesus to take three of his followers—Peter, James, and John—aside for periods alone with him. What happened next, however, was very unusual. Suddenly as Jesus began to pray, a glimmer of his divine glory radiated out of his person, a stunning brilliance that burst into the consciousness of the disciples. They had actually gotten sleepy (prayer and all that, you know) and dozed off. And now there were six: Moses and Elijah, lawgiver and prophet, were with Jesus talking about the fulfillment of Jesus’ messianic ministry. We are told that Peter, not certain of what to say, suggested they construct three tents or booths on the spot. “Master,” he said, “it is good that we are here” (Luke 9:33). And so it was. Still, this is not remembered as one of Peter’s better moments because before he got the sentence completed, God interrupted, “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!” (Luke 9:35)

I think Peter gets a bad rap in most of the sermons I’ve heard on this text. His sincerity surely was impeccable, and I can understand his desire to make something more permanent out of the occasion. Who wouldn’t want that? I also know how hard it is to be silent and listen instead of saying something. Still, Peter’s impulse to extend the time together on the mountain was mistaken. Before the divine interruption was completed, the figures of Moses and Elijah vanished, and the group was back to four. Peter was mistaken not because such conversation is not precious or worth extending, but because he was a guest, not the host on this occasion.

Safe conversation, a listening ear, a place of shelter and welcome, all reach into the deepest yearnings of the human heart because they are echoes of home. Add the warm hospitality of simple food and drink provided with unhurried time and we begin experiencing something of grace that beckons us to consider the reality that extends past the narrow horizons of our oh-so-limited experience of space and time.

Another Year is about, well… it’s about another year in the life of Tom and Gerri played with gentle persuasiveness by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. They live in an unimposing London house, tend a lovely garden with a rough shed in a community plot, and open their lives to a series of friends and family for whom disappointment has begun sliding towards despair in a broken world.

There are no explosions in Another Year, no caped crusaders, no special effects, no clever stunts, not even a happy ending where all the problems are solved before the final credits. So, as entertainment I suppose it would receive a low score. The film is more like a visual short story, a profoundly sensitive exploration of what simple hospitality means in a world so broken that humanness can easily get lost.

It is an error of enormous proportions to reduce hospitality as a means to an end, a way to work some agenda in order to achieve some outcome. We are talking about humanness, not programs. Biblically speaking, hospitality is ultimately rooted in the revelation that God himself serves as host. This is why the Hebrew poet celebrates God’s provision for his people in the wilderness in terms that would evoke the image of a host in a nomadic desert culture:

He spread a cloud for a covering,

                and fire to give light by night.

            They asked, and he brought quails,

                and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.

            He opened the rock, and water gushed forth;

                it flowed through the desert like a river.

[Psalms 105:39-41]

I know little about Mike Leigh, who wrote and directed Another Year, but his simple exposition of hospitality and conversation, of listening and meals, of two people willing to grant the gift of unhurried time is common grace made visible. He knows it is a messy business, because guests, like Peter on that mountain often act and speak out of turn. One of the delights of Another Year is one of Gerri and Tom’s guests, Mary, played with subtle power by Leslie Manville. Much of her role is played in close up, and Manville shows how brilliant acting can be achieved with little more than facial expression. Flitting emotions, a glance to the side, a twitch, a pause, or the way she sucks on a cigarette—we read Mary’s heart, with all her brokenness, in her face.

The characters in Another Year are not the surgically enhanced celebrities that adorn the covers of the glossy magazines we read in the dentist’s office. They are ordinary looking people (though superb actors) depicted in ordinary settings doing ordinary things. Perhaps this is why the film did not do well as a box office draw. And that is sad, because I can think of few films that unpack more truth about the human condition.

In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the author writes an imperative about opening our lives in hospitality and then provides a rather startling reason. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” the sacred text reads, “for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (13:2). And yes, the writer is probably thinking of the patriarch Abraham who had just that experience (Genesis 18:1-15). But isn’t the text claiming more than that?

We are products of modernity, enthused with programs and technique, and now entrenched in postmodernity, doubtful anything short of the spectacular has much meaning. Both idolatries are deadly, stripping significance from its true resting place, faithfulness in the ordinary and routine of daily life. In Another Year we are reminded of that fact, and shown how hospitality is a gift that brings a glimmer of grace to the deepest yearning of a fallen world.

And who knows what angels are lurking in the neighborhood?

Yesterday we discussed the fact that the producers of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas abused God’s creation of sex for their own profit. Not only do they mock God’s creation for their own gain, they tell you that’s what their going to do. Because of this, Christians should not have to think too intently on whether or not they should view this film. However, because of the issue of Christian liberty, some Christians still think they can partake in the viewing of this film and just laugh at the ‘graphic nudity’ and ‘strong crude sexual content’.

Well, let me give you one other concern, mocking the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the Christian race. I haven’t seen the movie and I don’t plan on seeing the movie, but the trailer (and the poster to the right) give me enough reason to abstain from this horrifically trashy film. I don’t know exactly how my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is going to be portrayed in this movie, but I can assure you, if the producers are exploiting sex and drugs, they aren’t going to give Christ the honor he is due.

Some other things I do know, is that Heaven is depicted as a strip club and Jesus is hanging out there. There’s really no limit to the amount of dishonor that this film will bring to the only Savior of sinners, so it’s probably best not to continue to speculate.

One other note about Harold & Kumar disgracing The Christ, is the heresy that seems to be communicated about Jesus in the trailer. The dialogue that goes back-and-forth between Neil Patrick Harris and Jesus implies that Jesus is inferior to the Father. This is a heresy and misunderstanding of the Trinity. Again, I don’t know the exact direction the film is going to take on this, but this could get into monarchianism or adoptionism which are heresies. They imply that the Father is superior to the Son and the Spirit, but that is a misunderstanding. God is one being with three distinct personalities. Although those personalities are distinct, they are equal in glory. When we refer to the God-head, we typically give an order (the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit), but this does not imply importance or rank. All of this to say, this movie mocks our Savior and spouts heresy to its viewers.

In Mark Driscoll’s book, Religion Saves + Nine Other Misconceptions, he deals with a chapter on humor. He complies a top 10 list for sanctifying comedy, and places this at the top of the list:

Don’t mock God. God is great. God is not a sinner. God is not to be judged by us. God is God. Further, God has a long history of getting the last laugh. So don’t mock God.

I think this is good advice and should greatly help us in the issue of discernment. Don’t mock God. This is never funny and if you laugh, you must repent of laughing at a perfect, holy God. God deserves all glory, honor, and respect, you don’t. Therefore, who are you to laugh at the only One who is due honor.

So that’s my, somewhat, harsh (truthful) post about H&K3D. Christians should not watch it for the graphic nudity and exploitation of God’s creation of sex. But they also shouldn’t watch it because it mocks the only one who can grant eternal life. Your time and money could be better spent elsewhere and they should be spent elsewhere, because they aren’t your time and money, they are God’s. I do wonder, when the producers, writers, directors, and actors of this film (especially the actor that mocks Christ) bow the knee to Christ one day, what’s the exchange going to look like?

(WARNING: Due to the graphic nature of this film, and the raw honesty of Godawa’s writing, the following post has been rated PG-13)

Yesterday, Brian Godawa discussed the moral honesty in the film, Machine Gun Preacher.  Today is the continuation of that post.

Spiritual Honesty

And that brings me to the spiritual honesty. While Sam becomes a hero, the movie does not white wash him nor whitewash his faith.  His faith and sensitive conscious create a complex moral tension in his life that is not completely solved by the end of the story. Sam becomes so focused on his cause of rescuing people on the other side of the earth that he neglects his own family given by God. Sure, he sells what he owns to save the children, but that means what he owns is taken from providing for his family. This is a common problem with “full time” charity and ministry workers. Christian salvation does not always result in a balanced life. Christians often continue on as a mixed bag of good and bad qualities that God uses in spite of our flaws. Kinda like the Bible. But all too often unlike the Christian movie genre.

When Sam cannot get donations from the selfish rich people around him and he sees that the kids are not being helped, he has a crisis of faith and gets angry with God to the point of cussing him out along with his family. Oh my goodness! A Christian who cusses when he gets angry? Heresy! The film portrays Sam repenting from his suicidal hatred and coming back to a justice orientation, but it does not show a spiritual resolution. Maybe this is just part of that uneasy ambiguity of the tensions in our own lives. The reality is that while Sam remains married, he remains a scarred and imperfect man with a bad attitude, who still screws up. It is a messy situation and no one gets away clean or undamaged. There is redemption, but it is no fairy tale happy talk prosperity salvation.

At the end of the film, we see a video of the real Sam Childers telling us he is not capable of clearly delineating the right and wrong of what he does. But he asks us the question, “If it was your child who was kidnapped, and I could bring them back to you, would it matter how I got them back?” Making it personal challenges the self-righteous who would sacrifice the lives of other’s children on the altar of convenient arm-chair philosophizing. These are real people’s children being kidnapped, raped, enslaved and murdered, not abstractions for an argument. Talk is not enough. Action is required. Evil can only be stopped with violent force. And violent force, even in service to righteousness, is not without its negative effects on us. But the evil will not listen to talk. So your only choices are: Allow innocent children to be kidnapped, raped and murdered or kill the evil perpetrators? Which will you choose?

Portrayal of Evil and Redemption

Straight up, this is a hard R-rated film. Unlike “Christian movies,” It is full of the F-word, has a crude sex scene and is very violent. In other words, many Christians will be offended by it. In my book, Hollywood Worldviews (Read the Preface free along with unused chapters of the book at the URL link) I have a chapter on sex and violence in the movies and the Bible where I explain that in a story, the power of the redemption is only equal to the power of the sin depicted. If you do not portray evil Biblically as the seductive yet destructive reality that it is, your message of redemption will not be truthful or believable.

While I do not condone all portrayals of sin in movies (some of it can be exploitative. Read my book :-), in this case, the depth of the depravity is essential to the potency of the redemption. The problem with some Christian movies is that when they portray real world evil with a filtered “protective” sugar coating like some 1970’s television bad guys, they degrade their redemption story to an unrealistic anachronism that doesn’t ring true to human nature. If the real world they portray is not real, how can the redemption be real? The reason why Sam’s Old time Religion salvation in a corny quirky Evangelical church is not off putting to unbelievers is because it is depicted as a polar opposite of Sam’s equally extreme pre-Christian lifestyle. We understand and accept that it takes extreme measures to save an extreme sinner.

Christians often have a hard time with the F-word in movies. They will sometimes accept violent shootings, stabbings, or riddling bullets (as long as they don’t show too much blood), but for some contradictory reason, they just think that the F-word is too harsh for their holy ears. Look, I’ll agree that sometimes it can become excessive, but I’m sorry, if I see a biker dude in a Christian movie saying “friggin” or “dang” or whatever other substitute cuss word for how they really talk, I do not believe the reality of the character and subsequently do not believe the storytellers understand human nature because they are afraid to face it like the Bible does. Their fear of accuracy is a reflection of a lack of faith, reminiscent of hagiographic biographies of saints. Just too good to be true. The book of Judges depicts far worse than Machine Gun Preacher ever does.

When Sam has quicky car sex with his wife in the car by the side of the road, we are saddened by the dehumanized crudity, and that is Biblical (Don’t worry, wives and girlfriends, they don’t show any skin). That is Biblical because it portrays exactly the kind of dehumanization that has destroyed Sam and destroyed his ability to find intimacy with his own loving wife. Every aspect of this man – love, sexuality, relationships, human concern — is spiritually damaged almost beyond repair. Why, that is almost as bad as the Bible’s detailed description of dehumanizing sexuality in Ezekiel 16 and 23  (Read my book for a whole lot more).

And of course, when we see a person whose lips have been cut off because they talked back to the terrorists, or when we see a child whose legs have been blown off by a mine, or a child forced to murder his own mother, we are repulsed because we cannot imagine such evil. But rather than being “sensitive” to family audiences or avoiding “excessive violence”, this movie does what is morally right: It shows the evil so our consciences will be convicted and we will act (I betya parents don’t let their children read Ezekiel 16 or 23 either). If we never saw the grotesque images of the skeletal myriads of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, we would not have the moral growth necessary to “never again” let it happen. If we do not see what is happening to the innocents in Sudan and around the world, we will remain ignorant and spiritually and morally immature, preferring political arguments in our safely removed lives to actual moral actions.

I will conclude this analysis with a translation of a famous Tony Campolo charge that struck my heart and never left me years ago:

Rebel terrorists have murdered over 400,000 Sudanese, and enslaved over 40,000 children and many Christians just don’t give a shit. And the most tragic fact of all is that many Christians who just read that statement were more offended by my use of the word “shit” than by the fact that 400,000 Sudanese have been killed and 40,000 enslaved by terrorists.

God, forgive us of this sin.

Jesus, thank you for Machine Gun Preacher.

Brian Godawa is the screenwriter for the award-winning feature film, To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland and the newly released, Alleged, starring Brian Dennehy as Clarence Darrow and Fred Thompson and William Jennings Bryan. He previously adapted to film the best-selling supernatural thriller novel The Visitation by author Frank Peretti for Ralph Winter (X-Men, Wolverine). He has traveled around the United States teaching on movies, worldviews, and culture to colleges, churches and community groups. His book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment has been released in a revised edition from InterVarsity Press. Go to his website to get free articles and watch videos of his work.