Just the other day I was privy to a few conversations that left me thinking hard as the day wore on. Two of them took place at my workplace. I work in what I refer to as the “bubble.” The “bubble” is essentially the hub of the capitalistic, commercial Christian subculture—the local Christian bookstore. I’m not entirely anti-Christian bookstore. However, I am anti-Scripture candy, gum, Pez dispensers, action figures (although they are kind of fun) and the like. There’s just something about associating Christ with random foodstuffs and trinkets like those that turns my stomach a bit sour. But, I digress.
The first conversation began simply. A co-worker and I were talking about work stuff when she dropped a simple movie reference into the conversation that I didn’t hear clearly. When I asked for clarification with an oh-so-intelligent sounding, “Huh?” she shook her head that it was nothing. Thinking for a moment, she then whispered, “It’s from Dogma.” I think that perhaps she thought I would cry out, “Here ye! Here ye! Young Amanda has seen the Dogma! Now she must die, for her eyes and ears have tasted of the evil film!” Instead, I replied, “Hilarious movie!” as she repeated her statement from earlier, referencing a scene that was, in fact, quite funny.
Now, if the story stopped there, we’d be OK. Film references were shared in the bubble, and all is well. However, it came quick and swift as one of our co-workers, a guy I really want to like, apparently equipped with ears like a CIA satellite and the gift of terrible timing, decided to add his two cents to our conversation. “Dogma!?” he said. “That’s such a heretical movie! Just terrible!”
Well, I agree with him on one point. It’s not exactly a non-heretical film. I do disagree with him that it’s terrible. I, for instance, happen to think Affleck and Damon are great as the angels who are all about bringing doom and justice. I also think their discussion of the subtleties of fire and brimstone was freaking hilarious (“Any moron with a pack of matches can set a fire. Raining down sulphur is like an endurance trial, man. Mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, outside of soccer.”) Even more so, I think that this is a film that Christians need to see, or at least acknowledge, in order to understand how others perceive the Church and our faith. In some ways, whether or not it is heretical, we have to open our eyes to the fact that perhaps, just perhaps, we’ve done a poor job of communicating the Gospel of Christ.
Well, not much further into my day, as the simple conversation of Dogma was running the mile around my mind, another movie discussion burst upon the scene. Interesting how this keeps occurring in the bubble, isn’t it? Well, this time we were in Brokeback central. Apparently, someone had expressed a desire to see the film in order to engage others with firsthand knowledge as opposed to offering Dr. Dobson’s view. I thought this was a good idea. Apparently, some of my fellow workers did not share my thinking. “What do you need to see a movie like that for? Do you need to go commit adultery before you understand it? That’s crazy!”
Hmmm … I shook my head and stared deep into my monitor. “Please, please, please,” I pleaded, “Calgon, take me away.” Well, Calgon sold me up the river, and I was now blessed with a new conversation to wind its way around my head as I drove the two hours to my class. As I drove, I decided to listen to the newest RELEVANT Podcast. This happened to be the one in which Mute Math’s pending lawsuit of Warner Bros. Records and Word Distribution due to misrepresentation as a “Christian band” was discussed and debated. A fascinating discussion ensued, and good points were made all around. As the podcast ended, I found myself thinking back over the events of the day and sighing.
I once thought that if you were a Christian, you had to wear it on your sleeve, literally. You had to look the part, whether it was your unfashionably short hair, your way cool “God’s Gym” T-shirt or your kickin’ Michael W. Smith or, better yet, Carman tunes pumping out of your Sony Walkman. If you were carrying a Bible, as if it were a question, you were carrying something big and profound looking. Salvation was a formula, and the fact that you were a Republican, at least if you were of voting age, went without saying. Movies, at least the ones rated “R” for anything other than violence were a definite no-no. Books containing anything other than five simple steps to holiness were also a no-no, although Christian fiction and the occasional classic was allowed. It was a bizarre world into which fundamental Christianity tried to adapt me.
In years since, I’ve broken out of that mold, and conversations like these cause my heart pain. It pains me that we are afraid of movies like Dogma and Brokeback Mountain. The truth is that if a movie so shakes our faith, it wasn’t that solid to begin with. Instead, perhaps some of us need to jump onto Mute Math’s bandwagon and abandon the “Christian” bubble and head out into the world of the secular. Maybe, just maybe, we can start working toward helping others to have a healthy understanding of the Gospel of Christ and the Church. Perhaps we’ll realize that we are all fallen and that it is simply an act of grace that saves us. Perhaps we’ll even think to befriend others, love them and share that message with them when it’s appropriate because we love them, not because it’s expected. In the meantime, I’ve got to go watch Monty Python’s Holy Grail. It’s calling to me …