Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings

  As with the movie Noah, which came out last year, I was greatly excited to see another movie based upon a story from the Bible.  Exodus is one of the most epic books of the Bible, and the story of the release of hundreds of thousands of Hebrews from bondage in Egypt has been one of the archetypal stories of human history!
  Of course, with most epic 21st century movies of this caliber there are the usual accoutrements of sweet special effects, dramatic music and compelling acting.  I loved this movie for all those elements.  But, this story is one where one of the most compelling character duels is the battle between the supposed gods of Egypt and the God of the Hebrews (Yahweh).
  I could wax on quite a bit about the details, but what interests me more is the theology presented, even though there are parts which deviate from the biblical storyline, it is worth seeing for two reasons.  First, yet again, Hollywood has handed Christians a theological conversation on a silver platter.  You don't have to work very hard to share your faith with a non-believer when they are seeing elements of your core story (the Bible) portrayed on the big screen!  It baffles me how some Christians can sit back and even boycott a movie like this or Noah when clearly you have a wide open door to talk about the God you believe in!  This is a great opportunity!
  The second observation is that this movie portrays faith more closely to the biblical witness than I have ever seen.  From the beginning Moses (played by Christian Bale) describes and lives out the faith of a believer as a wrestling.   In one of the earliest scenes he is talking with an Egyptian higher up official about the Hebrews, and he corrects the official on the name Israelite - it means they wrestle with God. 
  That is what faith is.  Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, faith that continues with the life of Jesus Christ and continues through the Church today is a wrestling.  We wrestle with who God says He is, and how He operates.  We wrestle with His commands to Love Him, Love Others, and Love ourselves (and Love our enemies). 
  We wrestle with hope and fear, love and wounds, sin and grace.  We wrestle.  This movie talks about that a bit, but more than that, Moses lives it. 
  Watch the movie, engage the theology (how it talks about God) and then discuss it with friends.  There are people who need to know that our faith is deep and multidimensional.  Above all, there are people asking questions about the God we say we believe.  In order to share with them what our faith means, we too, need to be wrestling with God.  That is how we are shaped more and more into his likeness.

Finding Jesus in Frozen

I had heard about the frenzied passion with which small children were being frothed by a new Disney movie titled Frozen, but I didn't know why so many were in such an uproar over this film.  I saw it once, and because I have a son (age 4) and a daughter (age 2) I came to realize the power of the film.  Great animation, great music, great characters.  It is a good movie! 
It wasn't until I saw it for what was probably the 17th time that I came to realize something about this movie that made me "love it even more" (Olaf - the talking snowman, in the movie). 
The movie talks about the relationship between fear and love.  Elsa is a future queen, who for nearly her entire life has been told to hide her magic freezing power, because of what other people might think about it.  Near the very beginning someone tells her and her family that fear will be her enemy, but it is from that point on that she and her parents give into fear by sequestering her from the rest of the world, including her younger sister.
The end of the movie is where the theological teeth of this movie come to the foreground.  Anna, the younger sister has to decide whether or not she is going to save herself and watch her sister die, or put her life on the line for her sister.  Spoiler alert! (not that I am spoiling this for very many people, it is Disney's largest money making film of all time).  She sacrifices herself for her sister, thus saving her sister, her home country and it turns out herself as well. 
It is through a profoundly self-sacrificial act of love, that one person saves everyone else.  Sound a lot like Jesus to me!  And as if that wasn't cool enough, Elsa, has a revelation in that moment.  She realizes that love is the counter to fear and her love thaws the ice which has covered the kingdom for much of the movie!  The creators of this movie probably didn't have the Bible in mind while making the film, but they were harnessing a theme that comes right out of a New Testament letter.  In 1 John, the Apostle John, says: "Perfect love casts out fear."  Elsa, Anna and the rest of the main characters standing there for this scene see the power of love to thaw what had been a fear filled frozen wasteland.
It is the perfect love of God for humanity that brought the Son of God, Jesus Christ to earth to live, minister, die and rise again on our behalf!  It is the love of God which transforms us from fear filled people into faith filled people.  And it is the love of God which will thaw the world of its frozen broken nature and bring about the transformation of humanity more into the likeness of Jesus!
This wonderful musical movie may be entertainment for most other people, and it may be the most common theme for girl's birthday parties for an entire generation, but near the heart of it all it has some really insightful theology!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jurrasic World

I wish it was June 12th! I can't wait to see this!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Photography Portfolio Online

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Noah, the Movie

  I recently went to the theater to see the movie Noah which has been creating quite a stir among conservative Christians in the U.S.  Many Evangelical Christians I have talked to since the movie's release have wrestled with whether or not to go see a movie which they have been told by others is not factually aligned with the telling of the Flood story in Genesis, thus seeing the movie is akin to allowing yourself to be deceived (so the logic goes).  And this is not the only issue they have cited.  I have heard others say things like "I don't want non-believers to be deceived since what they see on the big screen is not aligned with the facts of the story in Genesis." or "I don't want my teenager to be deceived by how the story is told in the theater and think that this is how it is told in the Bible." or "I don't want less mature believers to be misled by the story line of this movie."
  I think the questioning of whether or not to go see the movie is revealing of what is going on in the hearts and minds of many of my brothers and sisters in faith.  We are more concerned about facts and information than we are about truth, wisdom and mission.  We are more filled with fear than we are with faith.  We are more concerned about getting facts straight than engaging a culture which is wrestling with our sacred text, and in so doing is handing us a God conversation on a silver platter.
  The logic put forth in the thoughts I mentioned above also betrays the Evangelical Christian's under appreciation for the gift of the mind.  It is as if they believe to watch a movie or read a book means you will automatically agree with it!  But, where is the use of the mind?!  Where is the process of thinking about the messages portrayed and then weighing those messages against the theology of the historic Christian faith? Where is the willingness to engage the messages of our culture and discuss them with non believers and believers?!
  When people say the things like what I mentioned above, and make the choice to not engage the movie at all, they are telling Paul that he was wrong to walk into Athens in Acts 17!  They are telling him that it was wrong for him to make his way through the idol filled city of pagan poets and philosophers.  They are telling him that it was wrong for him to have read (and memorized) the pagan poetry which he quotes in his sermon on the Areopagus. They are telling him that it was wrong to not quote the Scripture (which for Paul had only the Old Testament).  And they are telling Paul that the people who came to faith in Jesus Christ there in the beating heart of the Ancient World's most intellectual city was some sort of mistake and they were probably misguided since Paul was obviously making several huge mistakes by even being in that city.  And they are telling Luke that he made a big mistake by including that story in his telling of the early Church's infancy narrative in our New Testament canon!
  Cultural disengagement by followers of Jesus, is the death of Christian Mission.  What if Paul had not gone into the city of Athens?  Several people mentioned by name in that story would not have come to faith in Jesus Christ.  What conversations with non-believers are we missing because we are afraid of seeing a movie and allowing ourselves to assess what it presents and if need be disagree with it.  What mission fields are we avoiding by neglecting to engage the questions our culture is putting forward?  What would happen if the Church were not afraid of culture, but rather so in touch with Jesus that they actively walked into all of the conversations our culture is having and shared how the Good News of Jesus impacted the conversation?
  What would happen if we went to see the Noah movie and saw the things in there that are true to the biblical portrayal of God - that He cares about every piece of His good creation, that he hates violence, that sin is in all of us even those he lifts up (like Noah).  What if we engaged rather than avoided and chided?
  What if we took advantage of a conversation starter like this movie and gave our non-Christian friends freedom to as their questions and we introduced them to the full narrative of the Bible?  I can only imagine how God might use his church to speak to our culture if we were less afraid of our culture and more faith-filled such that we could engage messages, movies, music, books, etc. and not fear being deceived but remember that if we are filled with the Holy Spirit than we are being led into all truth by the Trinity itself.  Don't avoid movies out of fear, engage the culture, use your minds, and make God the center of your conversations.