A Rant on Religion and Reindeer

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(Heck yeah, alliteration.)

Oh, religion. It’s such a funny thing.

I don’t like it very much.

Because here’s the thing: religion doesn’t save you. Religion doesn’t make you a good person. I’ve met Muslims who displayed the love of Jesus better than some Christians. I’ve been snubbed and disdained by Jewish people because of my belief in Jesus as the Messiah, only to be welcomed with love and acceptance by atheists.

I took a Diversity in American Literature class during the last semester of my undergrad. We talked all semester long about the danger and pointlessness of ethnocentrism: the belief that one’s culture is better than anyone else’s. As a culture, we frown at racism, sexism, and classism, but we don’t hesitate to damn each other to hell if our religious beliefs differ.

Do I have certain aspects of my belief system that I follow? Absolutely. I didn’t create this post to talk about those points. (Believe me, it’d take more than a post. I’m kind of complicated.) It’s also not to talk about salvation issues. This post is (going to attempt) to point out how stupid it is to mock other people because of their belief system.

I’ve never understood hating or mocking someone because of what they believe. I can disagree with someone (strongly!) and still be able to have an open, respectful conversation. I’m always blindsided when I overhear rants about stupid Christians and their barbaric belief in human sacrificing. I don’t understand telling atheists or Muslims or Catholics that they’re going to go to hell for their beliefs. It doesn’t solve anything. It just further alienates one human being from another.

I recently read a book in which two characters were talking about the discord between Palestinians and Israelis. “Why so much hate between relatives?” one questions.

“It’s because we haven’t learned much from the prophets and hardly anything about the rules of life,” the other responds.

“Then what’s to be done?”

“Give God back His freedom. He’s been hostage to our bigotries too long.”

Here’s the deal:

I’ll respect someone’s views as an atheist.

I won’t respect the fact that he/she shames, berates, and mocks people who do believe in God.

I’ll respect someone’s views as a Christian.

I won’t respect the fact that he/she self-righteously condemns other non-Christians, going against everything Jesus stood for.

I’ll respect someone’s views as an _______ (fill in the blank with any religion)

I won’t respect the fact that he/she supports extremist ideas or beliefs that injure themselves and other people, or views certain individuals as lower than others.

I’ll respect reindeers.

I won’t respect the fact that they bully and exclude another reindeer simply because of his red, shiny nose.

It’s as simple as that.

Yet Another Blog Post on the New Noah Movie

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I know, Noah. I make that same face whenever I see a new post about how this film is either an atrocity or a masterpiece, depending on who’s talking about it.

This, however, is an objection to the objections of objections to the Noah movie.

….it hurt my brain a little bit to write that, I’m not gonna lie. Basically, I’m causing trouble again, but when is that unusual?

I’m going to admit right now that I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I plan on it. This is not because I have moral objections to the movie or because I believe it’s unbiblical and people are supporting blasphemy if they watch it, as some vehement reviewers have been claiming. (By the way: it’s horrible comments like those that make the world hate any religion, but especially Christianity. But that’s another blog post.)

No, I’m simply not seeing it because I’m a movie hermit. I don’t watch movies very often and rarely rave over them. (See my previous post about being selective in what I like picky.) My objection to this whole shebang goes deeper than criticizing how well done the actual film is. Since I haven’t seen it, I can’t fairly judge that.

This isn’t even a “Oh, all art is beautiful, people; let’s just bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone can eat it and be happy and it’s okay if you don’t even go here” post.

This post is due to a chain reaction. The new Noah movie came out. Christians everywhere rioted, claiming it was unbiblical and offensive. Other people, including some Christians, responded to these objections and their comments were less than pleasing, resulting in my objection to the objections of objections. (Dang, that is starting to be really fun to write.)

My objections are a result of the blog posts, comments, and Facebook statuses that I’ve seen, such as:

“Why are we even concerned with a movie about a story from the Old Testament?”

“Who cares if it’s unbiblical? It’s not like they messed up an important story like Mel Gibson did with The Passion of the Christ.” (Which I actually enjoyed. But that’s another blog post.)

“Why are we, as Christians, worried about whether or not a Jewish story, in the Jewish Old Testament, written by Jews, is accurate?”

…..we’re gonna have some issues.

I raise an eyebrow and frown and even get a little irritated because not only does that smack of anti-semitism, but it is also a faulty and irrational argument. Last time I read my Bible, Jesus was a Jew and most of His stories were written by other Jews. It’s easy to forget that, though. We don’t like to think of Jesus as Jewish, nor do we like to acknowledge the fact that Christianity is largely based off of Judaism. We like to disregard the Old Testament except for the Psalms and maybe that cool verse in Jeremiah about God having a plan for us. When connections are made between Christianity and Judaism, however, we squirm and mutter something about being under grace and not the law.

It’s wrong. It does injustice to the many people and writers of both the New and Old Testament, most of whom were Jewish. Do I even need to mention Paul? To quote Adam Sandler: “also a Jew!”

Let me be clear: This is not a post about the negative aspects of Christianity, a religion in which I identify. I’m also not asking all Christians to adopt aspects of Judaism into their lives; that’s not my place and would actually be super obnoxious of me.

Basically, I’m calling for the elimination of apathy.

Do you object to the new Noah movie because you find the fact that Noah wants to murder his newborn granddaughter a slap in the face to all that God stands for? I’ll support you.

Do you love it because you think any instance of the Bible being told to the masses is a positive thing? Cool. Let’s talk about that.

Do you hate it because it’s only slightly based off of the account in Genesis and has some pretty glaring inaccuracies? I’ll see where you’re coming from.

Are you turning up your nose because you’re still bitter and disgusted over Russell Crowe’s singing in Les Misérables? I’ll…okay, I actually liked him as Javier so you’re basically on your own there. 

But please, don’t have a passive attitude simply because it’s a “Jewish” story and therefore not applicable for us and our Christian lives. It’s a weak argument that discredits the entire Bible.

Besides, we can never truly bash a Russell Crowe character as long as this guy exists.

 

Creepy Marius

Purim: God’s Faithfulness Then and Now

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God is a huge part of my life. I like my writing to reflect that. Even though my capstone project isn’t necessarily a “Christian” or “religious” one (Ugh. I hate both of those terms), the idea of God heavily influences it. I love writing about the faithfulness of God. I’m so blessed to have a Savior who will never let me down.

Purim is a Jewish holiday that falls between the months of February and March and commemorates the story of the book of Esther. This year, it begins March 14 and ends March 15. We throw big, loud crazy parties where everyone dresses up in a variety costumes and eats fruit filled cookies called Hamentaschen that are supposedly shaped after the hat Haman wore. (They’re triangle shaped, so apparently Haman was part pirate.) Last year, my congregation held a contest for the best costume and we had everything from Willy Wonka to a gypsy to a bunch of grapes. True story.

Somewhere in the midst of all the laughter and celebrating, someone reads the whole book of Esther out loud while all of the little kids cheer and boo respectively when Mordecai and Haman’s names are mentioned. It’s considered a mitzvah (good deed) to give time and money to different homeless shelters and charities, helping out those less fortunate than us. It’s a loud, boisterous and busy holiday, and it’s frequently easy to get caught up in the fun and noise and exciting chaos, while losing sight of the true meaning of the holiday. (And you guys thought I wouldn’t have that problem by not celebrating Christmas!) The truth is that just because I’m Messianic doesn’t mean I get to avoid commercialism.

There’s a story behind Purim (as is frequently the case with holidays.) Esther was stuck in a pretty tough situation. When the Persian King Xerxes decided to kick out his first wife after she wouldn’t parade herself through his court for his drunken friends to admire, he decided he needed a new woman to replace her as queen. He chose Esther, whose uncle Mordecai had raised her from birth and advised her not to tell anyone at the palace that she was Jewish. This turned out to be a wise choice, as Haman began to slowly work his way into power and create a plot to completely destroy the entire Jewish race. Thanks to Persian politics, Esther couldn’t visit the King unless he had invited her first. It was an act punishable by death. With all of her people facing annihilation, Esther stepped out in faith and went before him, anyway. He decided not to lop off her head (spoiler alert), and she revealed Haman’s plot. The King had him killed for his treachery and the people were saved, hence the big day of celebration, even thousands of years later.

Cool story, bro, you’re probably thinking. What in the world does this obscure Jewish holiday have to do with me?

My point is that we’ve all been Esther. We’ve all been in situations where it was terrifying to even consider taking one more step forward, because the way was dark and we didn’t know what was around the corner. We could fall. We could get hurt. It’s hard to step out in faith when it would be much easier (and safer!) to stay within our comfort zones. We can boldly move forward, confident, because our God is not uninvolved or apathetic. He cared about Esther’s life-threatening situation, and He cares about our struggles, no matter how small or enormous they may seem to us. Whether the situation is a problem emotionally, financially, physically, or spiritually, He’s involved….even when it doesn’t feel like it. He’s never failed before, and I don’t expect Him to now. He’ll come through. It may be right at the moment that I’m facing the king, bracing myself for that final, fatal blow, but He’ll step in. He’s never late.

He was faithful for Esther. He’ll be faithful for you. Trust in Him.