Monday, September 26, 2005

Miss Clairol and Squeaky Clean Christians

I rented a great movie the other night-- Woman Thou Art Loosed. I've passed it in Blockbuster about a million times, but have always hestitated to rent it. Frankly, I'm all squeaky-cleaned out. As someone who never grew up in church, I always saw Christians and other church people as a bunch of head-in-the-clouds hoity-toities with no idea what it was like to live in The Real World, where Really Horrible Things can happen. When you hear about a movie, song, or TV show that is Christian-inspired, you can usually assume a few things:
1) Nobody will cuss.
2) Nothing remotely gritty will happen.
3) Anybody who does bad stuff will be stereotypically portrayed as an evildoer.
4) Somebody who was an evildoer will find Jesus, thus becoming squeaky-clean, super-happy, and bleached-blonde pure.
5) All loose ends will be neatly tied up, thus proving that if you turn to Jesus, you will never have a bad day again.
6) Chances of sucking are relatively high, as a good number of people throw artistic integrity and creativity out the window, trusting that the moral fortitude will provide all the necessary credibility.

So, renting a movie by Bishop T. D. Jakes was not high on my to-do list, particularly when the movie title sounded a bit chick-flicky and my husband would vomit if I made him watch it.

Sweet husband went out of town over the weekend, so I figured, what the hey. It may be stripped of any real grit and intensity, and it may feature extended discussions of romance, haircolor, and dreamguys, but maybe it will be okay for a night alone.

When I'm wrong, I admit it. This was one of the most intense, gritty, real-life, real-issues, speaks-to-me, put-it-out-there, what-it's-really-like-to-be-a-Christian movies I've ever seen. It's about paying for your sins, learning to look to a future you never thought you deserved, and realizing that forgiveness involves more than coming to the altar and declaring yourself to be free from your past. It's about the silly and pretentious ways we puff ourselves up for others, and how highly we value looking the part when it comes to sanctity. It's about self-sabotage and self-aggrandizement; and it's about stepping into the presence of God wretched, hateful, fearful, and bound, all the while reaching for the peace of mind and love you'd never before experienced.

And it really made me aware of how very rarely we see church people honestly portrayed as struggling the way I'm sure they must. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that all church people are former crack-addicted, child-molesting wife beaters. But everyone has their pasts, and everyone's present is speckled with questions and gray area. This is what it is to be human. And some church people-- many more than you would ever think-- DO have seriously intense sinful lifestyles in their pasts. Jesus invited prostitutes to the table 2000 years ago; they're still taking Him up on the offer.

So why do we so rarely see this accurately portrayed in Christian media? For that matter, why is this so rarely acknowledged by the congregations of our churches? Full and public self-disclosure doesn't have to be a requirement to become a member of the church; Internal honesty about who we, the church, are does.

To those of you who look at yourselves wondering if someone like you could ever be accepted in church-- you already have been by the One who matters the most.

And to those of you who are so doggone saved that you can't even relate anymore to the YOU you used to be-- get over yourselves and get real. Jesus came to save us and to wash us clean-- NOT to bleach us beyond human recognition. You may think that you've covered your tracks and that everyone sees you as a pure work of God, but trust me, your roots are showing.


Stacey said...

As a Christian, I find you have hit hte nail on the head, and it is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the church in general. Or at least it is the biggest problem non-christians have with the church. A quote I heard once said something like "The biggest problem with Christians is that they come to church and leave, and go back to their lives." Basically, they don't come across any different than anyone else. No one can see a change in them. Now, that's not to say, we're not going to sin. We are... maybe more than before, but people should be able to see changes in us. They should begin and continue to see Christ's love for this lost world shining thorugh our being. No, we're not perfect, but we know and trust the one who is, and people should be able to see that.

Also, like you mentioned, we need to relate to those who aren't Christians. They need to see that we do struggle with the same things they struggle with, but they need to see that they don't need to struggle alone. We don't need to condemn them. We are just as bad off. Another quote that comes to mind is "The Gospel is one beggar showing another beggar where to find food."

I am glad that there is Christian media out there not portraying false impressions of the Christian lifestyle. Kudos to Bishop T.D. Jakes.

The Thinking Southerner said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Stacey. I'm glad to know someone out there is reading the blog! Thanks for the nod in your blog, and (as a hobbyist amateur photographer myself), I love the pictures you post.

I do think the body of Christ needs to be a little more "real" about who we are-- pretending not only keeps people from coming into the Church, it keeps us from being what we can through Christ.

Thanks again for commenting.

Stacey said...

You are so right. I meet many people from time to time who now claim they are atheist or agnostic, and if you are able to get them to open up, many have been hurt by a "Christian" in some way, or by a aprticular church denomination, and as a result, regard all Christians with Disdain, and in turn come to the conclusion that God does not exist, or that he doesn't care about us because of that.

I think when we are real, and when we don't try to sugar coat our faults, or our beliefs, we will get a lot more respect, and in turn, others might take a second look. The early church had a huge impact on the world, so much so that we are still feeling the effects. And from scripture we can clearly see they didn't hide their faults, and when they tried, Paul called them on it.

As for the photos, I just do the amateur thing. I enjoy finding the beauty in the things around me. I started taking some macro flower shots yesterday, and I plan on posting some of those as well.