According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Review: Evangelical Movies - Stereotypes and Bugaboos


"A movie by Christians and for Christians can only be useful if they start intelligent
conversations and not serve as rah-rah movies for insiders and gate keepers."
- RE Slater

This spring's upcoming box office films present the idea of a Christianity that is under fire. A faith that is badgered, beaten, and bloodied, by a supposedly unbelieving society turned off to the message of the church. But I have a different idea when watching these Christian presentations, an idea that what really is at stake is the way the church is presenting itself and refusing any adjustment or re-education to its doctrines. A stubborn faith centered on Jesus is one thing. But a stubborn faith centered upon dogmatic belief about a particular kind of God or Bible is another. Especially when that faith is in tatters when held in the hands of a gender-biased, discriminatory, uncompassionate gospel of conservative politics indifferent to the cold, starving masses of society. One that is full of rage towards anyone that differs with its dictums and certitudes. It then becomes a self-promotion of one's beliefs and values through fear of "the other" and the "pride of belief." Devising impregnable fortresses, writing defensive apologetics, or shouting down public opinion was not what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Go out to all the world and make disciples." He was about getting out into the moiling masses of mankind and mixing it up with all whom He met - dirtying His hands and feet and serving those neglected or forgotten by society. And more curiously, His biggest foe and crucifier became the church crowd angred by His teachings of the good news of God's grace and forgiveness.

So I get the idea behind the upcoming raft of films - and heartily support it - that our Lord Jesus must be the life-giving center to any Christian faith. But I don't think it is Jesus (or God) who is under attack by society, by science, or by atheists beating the air to all who would listen. What is actually under attack - and keenly felt by the evangelical church in particular - is a Christian faith stubbornly clinging to its dogmatic certitudes refusing to become more informed, more adaptive, more doubtful of its policies, and less certain of its ideologies. I touched upon this recurring idea last week when posting the changing disposition of Christian politics since the 1960's (The Loudest Christian Voices are the Humble, the Peacemakers, the Hopeful, and Grace-Givers... ). It is the church itself  that has come under fire... that is, its institutions and religious attitudes. And at a certain point it must repent and seek God's face. We all know the difference between an institutionalized church and a spiritual church. One is without faith and man-made. The other is full of faith and God-made. One is dogmatic and full of hate and judgment. The other holds ameliorating doctrines that are full of grace, truth, and forgiveness. The first would see the "Jesus" on the street and walk by without so much as a second thought to his or her's personage, bearing, or deportment in life. But the second would see that same "Jesus" and fall down repentant and full of conviction re the untruths of their lives and their desperate need for a Savior crying "Send me, dear Lord, send me."

So let us not confuse God's spiritual church with our own institutionalized church of our own making - regardless of denomination, pulpit, lectern, creed, charter, liturgy, or mass. And though it is invaluable to understand and discuss biblical doctrine v. church dogma, let us not get lost in our own rhetoric by so scrutinizing God's laws, heart, mind, and spirit, as to lose the very Creator Himself. Films espousing a particular kind of belief system are only helpful to those within its creedal system looking to defend its mindsets and policies. Which, in this case, is a purposeful misunderstanding of evolutionary creation (Noah); a misrepresentation of the death of God experience in society (God is Dead) bearing extreme secularism, genocidal war, ecological rape, and civil injustice to the masses; and a refusal to recognize the desperate human conditions of many through the evangelization of conservative tea-party politics; the active resistance to, and discrimination of, homosexuals regarding marriage privacy laws (The Bible Series of 2013); and on and on and on the list could go. There is no Spirit-filled Kingdom life here. Only man-inspired kingdom politics set on the doorstep of a church blinded, prideful, and unbowed.

At least that is my first impression  when viewing the evangelical films that have come out since Burnett's five-part "Bible series" in 2013. Mostly I'm reacting to both an indiscriminate, literalistic reading of the Bible, coupled with a Christian subculture that is intolerant of those different from itself and more absorbed in preserving its belief structures and Christian religions. I would rather see a church more open to enfolding a lost, sinful world, into the redemptive love of God. Sharing His forgiveness and serving with eyes wide open to those neglected and ignored by society. My greater concern is to update the church into doctrines that are porous, ameliorating, and full of grace. Forgiving and full of compassion. Inspiring and full of faith, doubt, and less certain than they have been (more mystical without the lost of good doctrine behind them). To let die all the false ideas and misrepresentations of what we think the church is when that same heavenly fellowship must reach beyond the corruptibility of our own human hearts full of sin and pride and submit to the Kingdom tensions of this age.

In Hollywood jargon, the evangelical machine is cranking out great sound bytes for black-and-white faiths clinging to past paradigms and useless religious folklore. But the issue isn't about God being dead, but about ourselves being dead and whether we're willing to unlearn what we think we know, and to relearn a renewed Christian orthodoxy that is God-filled, redeemable, and relevant. Russell Crowe and Kevin Sobo movies aren't going to be the fix that some Christian faiths are hoping for... and I think are actually mis-directional in framing the content they wish to expose. How? By holding to a literal retelling of Noah against the science of an evolutionary earth. Or by denouncing the "death of God" movement by illiterately misunderstanding its basis (Kant, Nietzsche, genocide and cultural suicide in WWI and II, the rise of modern secularism, ecological rape, and on and on). This is to ignore the legitimate concerns experienced so devastatingly by so many at the hands of godless, greedy, nationalistic, even religious, if not humanistic, regimes of despotism and tyranny.

The Christian faith isn't a faith that needs to defend God. I think God is big enough to do that all by Himself. What the Christian faith is in need of is a humble, serving church willing to irenically discuss relevant issues in a post-postmodernistic age full of wonder and mystery. An age moving towards global pluralism as driven by sociological movements of intermixing multi-ethnic cultures and global turmoil. An age of necessary ecological reform demanding mindful sustainability business practices lest we exterminate the human race through careless misuse and provision for clean water, clean air, a preservation of natural resources, and food supplies for the hungry generations destined to come after us. Into these arenas must the Christian faith learn to adapt and grow with the times. Cultic evangelical movies will not help propel indoctrinated church programs into societal mainstreams requiring compassionate politics and selfless governance against the hot issues of injustice and reform, political intolerance and tension, civil unrest and epistemological emptiness. I think we can do better than that, don't you? What do you think?

God's Not Dead | Official Full Movie Trailer

Noah - Official Trailer (2014) [HD] Russel Crowe, Emma Watson

Son Of God | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX

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 The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer [.pdf]

Index to past articles on "An Open Faith and Open Theology"

Index to past articles on "Postmodernism"

Russell Crowe as Noah

'Noah' Film Receives Praise From Christian Evangelicals Unfazed By 'Creative Interpretation'

Posted: 03/22/2014 7:59 am EDT Updated: 03/22/2014 8:59 am EDT

Darren Aronofsky's upcoming Biblical drama "Noah" may be “the least biblical biblical film ever made,” as the director said, but it turns out quite a few Christian leaders enjoy the film in spite of that.

Cooke Pictures, a company that produces media programming for nonprofit and religious organizations, released a video on Friday showing Christian leaders reacting to "Noah." Despite objections from some in the religious community saying the film took unwarranted creative license with the Bible story, not everyone is so critical.

Leaders from organizations like American Bible Society, National Catholic Register, The King's College, Q Ideas, Hollywood Prayer Network, and Focus on the Family offer their opinions in the video -- and, for the most part, they are glowing.

Here are some of the Christian leaders' reactions:
"Darren Aronofsky is not a theologian, nor does he claim to be. He is a filmmaker and a storyteller, and in 'Noah', he has told a compelling story. It is a creative interpretation of the scriptural account that allows us to imagine the deep struggles Noah may have wrestled with as he answered God's call on his life." -- Jim Daly, President, Focus on the Family
"'Noah' is big and bold and entertaining, and without a doubt pro-faith and pro-God." -- Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
"While 'Noah' makes no claims to be an inerrant retelling of the Scripture, it is a great tool to draw genuine intrigue in what the Bible does say. The film draws forward the themes of obedience and its consequences, sin and judgment, and mercy and justice, all in the context of the early interaction between God and man." -- Andrew Palau, Luis Palau Association
"'Noah' tells a wonderful story and still points us to major truths of God: the consequences of sin, a fallen mankind, divine justice and divine mercy. God will definitely use this film in our culture and it's our choice as Christians to decide if we want to join in the conversation or not." -- Karen Covell, Founding Direction, Hollywood Prayer Network
"'Noah' is nothing short of astonishing. I am confident that it will be remembered as a film that helped re-enchant a new generation with the biblical narrative. Honestly, it is path-breaking." -- Greg Thornbury, President, The King's College
Among those who will not be watching 'Noah', however, are Pope Francis and Glenn Beck. In a recent video Beck called the film "dangerous disinformation", saying that, if allowed to watch it, children will believe the film's Noah story over the Bible's.

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