well, i didn't think i would start off the blog bat on such an emotional topic; but i needed to process all this.
i also do not have the attention span, generally, to read other people's lonnnnng bloggings, so will also not be offended if no one chooses to commit to the 27 hours it will take to read this in its entirety. i tried being concise. it didn't work for this topic.
my friend ryan, who is doing a documentary on the baptist pastor fred phelps, asked me to accompany him to this screening of a movie called "the god who wasn't there" by director Brian Flemming, who calls himself a "former fundamentalist." if you can't tell from the title, the movie is a documentary that mocks religion--- christianity, specifically, and stands on the fact that many christians don't know much about what they believe, why they believe it, or the history their beliefs stem from.
the interest in this movie overwhelmed the tivoli, and when the original 1-time-showing sold out the day before, they had to add a second showing (which filled up in no time) because of the high volume of people itching to see this movie. lines upon lines...young and old, waiting to see this movie and ryan and i right in the middle of them.
we got there a good 45 minutes early, and had lots of time to people-watch. it was such an odd experience, i was watching everyone mulling around...wondering why they had come...what they hoped to hear or confirm...wondering what their story was...and who God was to them.
the movie consisted of a brief 6-minute slapstick rendition of the life and death of jesus, right down to jesus' flogging (which was represented by a 2 second shot of a man boinking jesus on the forehead with what looked like a little piece of wheat).
then it went on to interview 4 very intelligent, charming, and likable athiests and 2 bumbling, audacious, and inarticulate christians...(one of whom, to give you an idea, has started a website called "rapture letters" that offers a post-rapture service to anyone who would like an EMAIL (of all things!) to be sent to their non-believing loved ones after they themselves have gone on to heaven. because, as we all must assume, there is no email in heaven. when the loved one recieved the email it would remind them to repent and come to heaven, too.) i know.
but, as ryan said, that is the documentarian's right. the director chose to convey HIS belief through clear, compelling speakers and chose to undermine the beliefs he refutes with end-times entrepreneurs, cyclical reasoning and question-dodgers.
after the movie, there was a short Q&A with the director. (the first showing was followed by a panel of theologians & scholars discussing and taking questions. but we just got the director). i was expecting a range of emotions from the people who stood up to ask questions, but was surprised when the overwhelming majority said: thank you for making this film.
one man was especially memorable. he was old, gray hair and shabby pants. he was sitting right in front of me. he stood up and said, "I want to thank you for making this film. I am a son of a missionary, was raised baptist, and it took me 60 years to break free." More gratitude, more gushing.
another man made a very similar comment: "It's taken me 70 years, but I can finally say: I do not believe in God." This greeted with applause that pierced my heart and shook my insides.
i felt alone in that auditorium...close to tears and aching. ryan made the point that it was like being on the outside of an inside joke...which I imagine is how many non-christians have felt their whole lives- in a circle of believers using "churchy" terminology or when they visit a church, feeling like they don't belong, that they don't get the joke, or worse: that they are the joke.
we were the joke tonight.
i am trying to be concise, here, but i can't really describe how it felt to leave there. i felt attacked, and in every sentence i began to form afterward with ryan as we tried to pick apart his message, i heard the voice of the simple-minded christian bumblers in his film, using emotion to try and combat "reason." it made them look foolish. which is exactly how the director wanted me to feel. questioning myself, and my reasoning.
it was like hearing your closest friend be cruelly made fun of behind their back and you are too ashamed to say anything. all the darkened faces tossed back in laughter as they watch a mockery made of christ's death. the defining moment of your heart's life simplified to absurdity, to fluff, to jibberish. not just meaningless, but humorously so.
still: here's what i am taking away:
(now that i have processed for a week)
i think he is right to point out that a large percentage of christians don't know much about the God they believe in. they don't know his history, and many don't even know much about his character, though they may profess to doing his work. (i.e. fred phelps) He drove this point home in the movie by taking a random poll of people coming out of a Billy Graham conference. He asked everyone who Jesus was to them, and then asked them a question about the history of the church and the spread of Christianity. People smiled and could name who God was to them, but tripped up on the second question, tossing in vague answers before they hustled by the camera to their safe cars.
so this challenged me to know more, to be immersed in all parts of the story and not just my own. to be active and authentic, we should be exploring the bible and history and other perspectives so that we do not come to think that OUR bubble is how life is and always has been. We need to understand ourselves as we relate to history: to biblical times: to other cultures, countries, belief systems. We need to not have blinders on. we should be knowledgable about the facts. but not depend on them to prove our case.
because evidential facts are not what make me want to believe in God. my heart is what makes me believe in God.
the heart. the yearning. which is abstract, and unprovable. how do you prove it when something significant has taken place in your heart? how do you prove you love someone?
doesn't it say something that a desire to believe in God is so deeply ingrained in us? so ingrained that the men that stood up celebrating their atheism said it was a 70-year long battle of resistance. to finally speak those words and to give up hope.
so that's what it boils down to. hoping. or ceasing to hope.
no one can prove their case one way or another. so we the hopeful must be more inclusive, and less afraid. we must be more vocal, and less sure. we must be willing to hear in order to be heard. and we must continue to hope. not just for ourselves, or for God, but for everyone's sake that they would experience the joy and peace of knowing him.
for hope does not disappoint us.