Yesterday & The Consequences of Lying

THE SKINNY
Story (from IMDb): A struggling musician realizes he’s the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles after waking up in an alternate timeline where they never existed.

Themes: Normal Romantic Comedy “Will they/Won’t They” theme. Also there is a very slight and breezy examination of what the purpose of life is and the ethical dilemma of creative theft.

Age Appropriateness: (Rated PG-13) Teen (13-18) and up [Just a little language and some drug references. However younger children may be bored by the pace and themes of the film].

MY TAKE (major spoilers ahead):
I think “Yesterday” would make a great “date movie.” It is a classic somewhat predictable romantic comedy that is legitimately funny in places. However, I think to fully get behind the movie, you need to buy the premise (or at least for the sake of the movie pretend to accept it). The premise is that the music of the Beatles is both transcendent and foundational to humanity. The movie’s central question (outside the romantic comedy theme) is: if you were a struggling artist and suddenly were the only one to know the music of the Beatles (A) Would you share the music (since the world NEEDs it)? And (B) would you be willing to pretend you wrote the music to get your own career kickstarted? The movie never even entertains the third option (C) would anyone care about the music of the Beatles if the music was taken out of its historical context?
At first, I thought I might write about this theme for the remainder of the blog (maybe I would have titled this post- “Would the Music of the Beatles be the Beatles if the Beatles weren’t the Beatles when they were the Beatles?”). I quickly realized that I don’t know enough about music to say much on this topic. But as I reflected more on “Yesterday,” I realized I didn’t find this theme nearly as interested as another. I kept finding myself thinking about the end of the film.

MAJOR SPOILER TIME!!!

At the end of the film, Jack (the struggling artist), meets one of the Beatles (who in this world never was a Beatle). The Beatle tells Jack that the most important things in life are (1) to love and (2) to tell the truth as much as possible. Jack goes on the admit on stage that none of the music he has been singing is his, Jack goes on to make all the songs free to the public, and then goes off to pursue the love of his life. In the epilogue of the movie we find Jack living in his hometown, teaching, married with kids, and happy. Apparently, there is some merit for Jack to seek the goals of (a) loving and (b) telling the truth as much as possible.

But here’s the thing. I just don’t buy this epilogue at all. The movie postulates that the Beatles music is transcendent. By singing Beatles songs, Jack became an overnight sensation simply due to the power of his approximation of the original Beatles’ lyrics and music. When Jack admits that the music was actually the Beatles and names the true authors, the movie seems to imply that no one would then go look up those names and the band (that does not exist in this world). And once people found out that the Beatles do not exist in this world, wouldn’t they just assume that Jack was lying and was the creator? I don’t think Jack could have returned to his hometown and to a “quiet” life. I think he would be bugged ALL THE TIME, by songwriters and aspiring artists and people moved by the music of the Beatles, who wanted to be near this humble and lying music genius & guru behind that music. I think Jack and his family would need to go into hiding, not live an “ordinary life” in his hometown.

I say all this because I think as a society, we know that people lie all the time. People exaggerate when they talk about the fish they catch, they often lie to themselves when they try to live with the mistakes they’ve made, they lie to their loved ones about how their loved ones look sometimes when trying to be nice, they lie when they are trying to tell stories from their past and forget some of the details. Some of us tell big lies for nefarious reasons… but most of us tell little lies all the time simply to fill in details, be nice, or cover our mistakes a little. In a world full of liars, I think the conclusion most would come to in “Yesterday” is that Jack was lying about not being the creator of all that Beatles music.

But for me the implausibility of the epilogue of the movie just seems to reinforce the overall message which I like… that a good life consists of loving and telling the truth as much as possible. Over the years, I’ve heard lots of sermons that talk about what the Bible teaches about lying. Often these sermons get stuck in the weeds. Are little white lies bad? What about lies that help someone (like hiding a Jew during the Holocaust)? What about lies that spare others feelings? When does a little nice lie become a big bad one? If we do live in a world full of lying and liars, who can be believed?

The good news on this topic that I find in my faith tradition, is that this legalistic debate is not something we have to fall into. We simply accept the grace of God that comes through Christ and try to follow Jesus by loving God and others. And that’s where I like the message of this movie. Maybe we can keep things simple, just understanding that one way we can love others is to “tell the truth as often as we can.”

yesterday-movie

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Godzilla King of Monsters & Being Insignificant

Godzilla
THE SKINNY
Story (from IMDb): The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

Themes: This movie looks at the themes of justice and the environment. It attempts to wrestle with when tje “the ends justify the means?”

Age Appropriateness: (Rated PG-13) Middle Childhood (11-12) and up [lots of people are killed (by mercenaries and Giant Monsters). Aside from a few deaths most seem pretty inconsequential to most others in the movie].

MY TAKE (small spoilers ahead). I did not enjoy the movie Godzilla King of Monsters. I think the movie is guilty of a lot of things… 3 of the main ones are (1) letting characters make illogical decision after illogical decision; (2) having the “bad guy’s” plan have more if’s and maybe’s and holes than I’ve seen in a long time, and (3) including a ludicrous ending.

But I think the biggest problem with this Godzilla movie is one that plagues a lot of movies where big creatures are destroying cities. The bigger the disaster (giant robots, giant monsters, people or things with giant powers, etc.), the more insignificant the average person is. The mistake often with these kind of movies is when we spend a whole lot of time with the insignificant people doing fairly insignificant things while the giant robots, giant monsters, or things with giant powers are doing incredible stuff that you wish the movie was showing a whole lot more of.

Godzilla King of Monsters, has a huge human cast of insignificant people largely doing insignificant things. Occasionally one shines heroically, more often they fail stupidly/miserably, and nearly always I found myself not caring at all. Generally, I just found myself wishing that they showed more of the monsters doing their monstrous stuff. There is a moment toward the climax of the movie, when one of the main insignificant people exclaims that this time when Godzilla attacks King Ghidorah “we” (the U.S. military and Monarch) will be going with him. I snorted, thinking, “So what?” Just so you know in the movie, “we” ended up giving Godzilla exactly how much help you would imagine “we” could give.

Usually it’s not much fun spending most of a BIG cataclysmic movie with insignificant tiny people. And yet, I think that the same can be said about followers of Christ. So often we like to hear about big conversation stories, or hear about (or even be a part of) ministries that are doing giant things- being significant by changing people’s hearts or making the world a better place. But most of our own stories are not nearly that exciting. Few of us are writing the next Christian bestseller or changing the world as a missionary. Most of us are just loving a few, giving some, and helping a little as we go about our daily lives.

Most of our lives appear FAR more insignificant than the Monarch Agency in Godzilla (and that’s saying something). Is it possible that too often we don’t realize that God is up to some great things in our ordinary, routine, day to day lives. In the same way I am sometimes guilty of rubbernecking a car accident I pass on the road (and then end up contributing to the huge back up behind me), does my searching for significance around me sometimes blind me to what God is actually doing in my ordinary life (making me part of the problem)? Is it my own fault that I found the human characters in Godzilla, uninteresting? Do I need to work harder at learning how to enjoy the ordinary?

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Avenger’s Endgame, Thor’s Hammer, & A Competitive Heart

avengers-endgame-thor-1557753634

The Skinny– (from IMDb)- After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.

Age Appropriateness: (Rated PG-13) Pre-Teen (11-12) and up [although younger children (especially those who love the characters) may be able to enjoy this movie, the running time is very long and a big chunk is not all that action packed. The movie also deals with some fairly complex emotional responses to huge losses and heartbreak].

My Take (major Spoilers below of Avenger’s Endgame and earlier Marvel movies)-
Avenger’s Endgame is a pretty incredible movie for anyone who has dedicated hours to watching the 21 Marvel movies that lead up to this very satisfying conclusion. For people like me, who collected Avenger Comics as a kid, this movie was incredibly special.

One scene of Avenger’s Endgame that has stuck with me occurs toward the end of the movie during the final battle. Thor is in battle with Thanos, Thanos is about ready to skewer Thor, and then suddenly Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, begins to shake and move. The hammer flies to the hand of Captain America, who uses it to save Thor. It’s an amazing moment (particularly for someone who knows from previous movies or comic lore that (a) Thor’s hammer can be only lifted by someone worthy, that (b) Captain America tried to lift the hammer before and could only manage to budge it slightly, and (c) that Mjolnir had been destroyed and so the opportunity of anyone welding it again seemed unlikely).

Of course, this awesome movie moment has led to all sorts of speculation on how Captain America could have lifted it….

#1 Was Captain America able to lift it because by Avenger’s Endgame he had done some extra sort of heroics that made him more worthy? This doesn’t seem to make all that much sense. Thor proved he was worthy simply by being willing to sacrifice his life for others, Captain America had done that many times over.

#2 Was Captain America unable to lift it before because of something unworthy in his past? This is a little more possible. Maybe by Avenger’s 2, Captain America had learned of the part Bucky played in the killing of Tony Stark’s parents and was keeping it from Tony. Was the lie enough to keep Steve Rogers from being worthy?

No one really knows. However, I will share with you my favorite theory that I’ve read online. What if Captain America could always lift the hammer? At the party during Avenger’s 2, when everyone was trying to lift the hammer, what if Captain America understood how important it was for Thor to be worthy, saw that he could lift it himself, and then chose not to in order to spare Thor’s ego? It would serve as a very interesting contrast between Steve Rogers’ compassion and maturity with Vision, who later wields the hammer (showing his worthiness but lack of emotional maturity).

I have to admit, that I partly like this theory the most because it is so alien a concept for me. It blows my mind to imagine being in that scenario and doing the same thing. If I was with a group of people trying to lift a magic hammer… and I COULD… I think I would, just to show everyone that I could!

This theory about Captain America’s worthiness makes we wonder about my own competitiveness. I tell people all the time that I am not very competitive and yet this scenario makes me question that assertion. I love playing games of all kinds and I don’t get all bent out of shape when I lose…. And yet, I wonder if maybe it’s not that I’m not competitive but rather I’m just competitive “with rules.” If I am involved in an activity where (a) I lack some important specific skills necessary for success or (b) there is a high element of “chance” in the activity, or (c) if the only way to win is to be a jerk, I still try to do my best to “win” but I have fairly low expectations on the outcome. But these “rules” don’t stop the fact that I still REALLY like to win (games, sports, arguments, even fake competitions I make up like between family members over who can finish their chores first). I’ve always REALLY hated being on a team when I was the one holding everyone back. I’ve always REALLY hated games where the outcome is really just determined by “luck.” And I’ve always been the type to listen VERY carefully to the rules of a game in order see how I might bend those rules in my favor without clearly breaking them. Have I been lying to myself all these years by saying that I’m not that competitive?

And I find myself pondering. What would it be like if I were more like Captain America? What would it be like to think first about others feelings and then winning second (rather than the other way around)? What does it mean that as soon as something turns into a competition (like who can lift a hammer), that my first thoughts go to winning rather than how that competition might make others in the room feel? What does it mean that in Avengers’ 2 my first thought is how cool it would be to wipe off the smug look on Thor’s face, rather than what it might do to his heart? At what point does competition get in the way of Jesus’ two greatest commandments to love God and love neighbor? And what does it mean that even after I’ve pondered all this, given the same situation, I still kind of would rather lift the hammer?

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Shazam! & Christian Identity

Shazam!

THE SKINNY
Story (from IMDb): We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM. – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the grown-up superhero Shazam.

Themes: This movie looks at the theme of family very closely. It examines loss, the foster care system, and being unwanted/alone.

Age Appropriateness: (Rated PG-13) Pre-Teen (11-12) and up [some fairly graphic deaths and very mature take on loss and family abandonment].

MY TAKE (small spoilers ahead)

I have to admit that I really liked the movie Shazam!. I went in expecting a childish superhero movie (the trailers seemed to indicate this). I was initially surprised to see the PG-13 rating. But the movie ended up dealing heavily with themes of abandonment, family brokenness, and identity in a much more mature fashion than one would expect in a children’s superhero movie (actually in many superhero movies). After watching the movie I questioned whether my youngest (age 9) would be emotionally mature enough to see this one.

But if I were rating the movie out of 5 stars, I would probably only give it 4 because of one small but VERY major issue. Really it is a quibble. But this quibble is central to the movie, so I think it makes it a far bigger “problem.” Here’s the problem. Shazam! is about a 14 year old who can say a magic word and become a grown up superhero (like in the Tom Hanks movie Big but with the ability to change back and forth from child to adult at will). My quibble with the move is simple: Asher Angel who plays Billy Batson as a 14 year old child and Zachary Levi who plays Billy Batson as a 14 year old trapped in the body of an adult superhero seemed to be playing 2 different characters. Angel played a Billy who due to childhood trauma was 14 going on 18. Levi played a Billy who was 14 going on 12. And this made it very hard to believe that it was the same Billy.

Now one could make the argument that maybe by becoming the superhero- Billy (the streetwise kid) would regain some of his childlike innocence and exuberance. If the movie had wanted to communicate this, I think it could have very easily. Billy could have just have told some people how different he felt when he was the Superhero, how it made his cares melt away, or how he wished he could be the superhero all the time. In fact, if he said all these things when he looked like the adult superhero, I probably would have bought the transformation… it would have given the adult persona of Billy a little more depth. But ultimately, I just don’t think that the movie cared.

However, as I reflected on the movie, I became surprised at how similar this “quibble” in the identity of Billy can look like the identity of those of us who attempt to follow Christ. In our faith tradition, we argue that through a relationship with Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God), who resides in us and changes us (if we let it). And yet often in my attempts to follow Christ, I sometimes find myself looking like a loving, grace-filled, hopeful Superhero Christian and other times I just look like the snarky, selfish, broken 14 year old. The 2 don’t look much like each other.

In fact in the Bible there are even 2 very different ways that following Christ is described. Sometimes in Scripture it appears that our transformation in Christ is sudden and moves from the inside out (Romans 6:6, 8:5-9, Philippians 2:13, 4:13). But other times Scripture seems to indicate that this transformation happens from the outside in as we are “clothed in Christ.” In passages like Galatians 3:236-27 and Romans 13:13-14 we are invited to “put on” some of the characteristics of God, to give them a test run, and see how they fit. Maybe the Jesus “outfit” will stick.

And maybe that’s one take away for those of us who are followers of Christ from the movie Shazam!. The wizard (who gave Billy his powers) looked for decades to find someone who could replace him. He was looking for someone perfect… and finally had to just settle on Billy. Billy’s identity (both as a mature child and superhero was still in formation) but fortunately he had just joined a family that could help him change inside (much more important than the magical changes happening to him on the outside). Maybe it’s actually realistic that Billy acted different when he was “wearing the body” of the superhero adult. And maybe I need to be a little more forgiving of Billy’s personality disorder in the same way all Christians need to be a little bit more forgiving of one another as we try putting “on Christ” in relationship with God and with the support one another all while our identity in Christ still often appears so incongruent at times.

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Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse

spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-marvel-universe-easter-eggs

THE SKINNY

Story (from IMDb): Miles Morales is a New York teen struggling with school, friends and, on top of that, being the new Spider-Man. When he comes across Peter Parker, the erstwhile saviour of New York, in the multiverse, Miles must train to become the new protector of his city.

Themes: The movie’s strength is in its interacting and believable characters. There is strong focus on family (Morales’ biological family and the “Spider-family”). There are also strong themes of courage, sacrifice, love, and duty.

Age Appropriateness: (Rated PG) middle childhood (7-10) and up [several key characters die, lots of peril, & dealing with complex emotions].

MY TAKE

Just around Thanksgiving I “subscribed?” to the AMC Stubs Program. For $20 a month I can see any 3 movies a week. In real life I only get around to seeing about 3 or 4 a month (which still makes it a pretty good deal). It’s fun to be able to afford to see so many films! But I mention all this simply to say that because of AMC Stubs I have seen a bunch of the movies that came out this holiday season. But I only saw one movie more than once… Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse.

And to be real honest with you, Although it was probably my favorite movie from over the holidays, I only saw the movie a second time because I couldn’t stop thinking about one moment after the first viewing… it’s a 1/2 a second moment that if you blink you might miss. But even weeks after that first viewing I would find myself thinking back to that moment (and when you can see what feels like as many movies as you want “a moment” is sometimes enough of a reason to go watch a movie a second time)!

Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is an animated film following the story of Miles Morales. In the comic books, Morales is a Spiderman from another dimension who eventually ends up in the main comic book universe. The movie is another take on his origin story. But in this version the big baddie (the Kingpin), sets off a gizmo that causes different Spiderpeeps from all sorts of different dimensions to end up in Miles’ world while he is still trying to figure out what it means to be a Spiderman himself.

So here’s the moment that I couldn’t stop thinking about (if you haven’t seen the film don’t worry it won’t spoil the movie)… Part way through the movie, the Spiderbuddies realize that to fix the malfunctioning gizmo problem, one of them would be forced to stay in this dimension forever. After everyone else returned to their home dimension the one remaining Spiderperson would shut down the gizmo but would be trapped in this dimension (a stay that would lead to their untimely death). After they understand the stakes, none of them give it a second thought and all together say, “I’ll do it.”

Now at first glance one could argue that all of these Spiderfolk are possibly reckless or naive to be willing to sacrifice themselves without a second thought. Maybe they are not thinking through the situation or are being falsely brave. And yet later in the movie, as each Spiderdude and Spiderdudette shares with Miles about the friends or family that they have been unable to save, it becomes clear that all of the Spiderveterans truly understand the gravity of the situation and about what sacrifice truly means.

“I’ll do it.” I love the moment. There’s no hesitation. There are no big speeches. There is no long pause with a touching crescendo of background music. Just one person says, “Someone will need to stay behind.” And everyone else without knowing what the others would say just honestly and immediately respond, “I’ll do it.”

In my Christian faith tradition, I have heard a bunch of different explanations for what sin is. Some describe sin as idolatry. Sin are the things that we end up “worshiping” or making more important than God. A second way of looking at sin is as obedience to the rules or ways God wants us to live. Sin is like a game of archery with all those times we miss the bullseye. Still others describe sin like an addiction. Sin are those things that we cling to, that are destructive to our lives but we have such a hard time of letting go. And finally others describe it as selfishness. Sin happens when we make ourselves the center of our lives rather than God. I believe that in reality sin is probably a little bit of all these things. Like a diamond, each of these descriptions give a different facet of what sin looks like.

But even though I think that there is some truth to all these definitions about sin, I know that for me the one that has always rung the most true was the last one. Sin has always seemed to me to be mostly about selfishness. Maybe because this is how I have most often experienced sin in my own life. Putting MYSELF first. Making MY needs more important than others. Making ME the priority. And not only that, but all too often when I see fellow followers of Christ at their worst, I seem to see the same situation…  people caring most about THEMSELVES: focused on the way THEY do things, concerned most about what THEY should receive for THEIR troubles, being able only to see the way THEY look at things, or the things that matters most being THEIR feelings, THEIR situations, or THEIR lives.

And all this is probably why Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse struck me so deeply. In the movie there is a real need, it requires real sacrifice, and the immediately response is, “I’ll do it.” I found it very refreshing… probably because the phrase, “I’ll do it” are words I wish came out of my own lips so readily.

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Blade Runner 2049 & Agency

blade_runner_2049_joi_and_joe

[major spoilers for the movie Blade Runner 2049 are below]

Folks who love Science Fiction know that the best Sci-Fi gives us glimpses of what makes humanity human through the things they create. One of the best ways to see what we are like, is to see ourselves through the eyes of things we make to resemble or even replace us. Blade Runner 2049 continues where the first Blade Runner movie left off, exploring what it means to be “human” in an increasingly inhumane world.
What I found most fascinating from this sequel was the connection the movie placed on “love” and “agency.” One of the central “love stories” of Blade Runner 2049, was the relationship between Officer K (a replicant who hunts down other human-like and human built replicants) and Joi (a programed projected AI purchased by Officer K). Officer K feels like he has very little agency in his position in life. He must obey his senior officers (or be destroyed), he is ostracized by the rest of the police force, he has no friends, and very little perceived freedom. At first glance, it appears that he has one real a real loving relationship with Joi. It is clear he cares for her. But how could you not feel love for something that is programed to meet and grant your every desire? Here’s the thing, Officer K and Joi did not have a true 2 way relationship. And it’s not love if there is no agency.

In our culture, I’m often struck with how often we mislabel love. How often I mislabel it.  We imagine love to be a “feeling” we get. But it’s not, it’s an action. When someone has done something loving for us we say, “I feel loved.” We are saying that we believe that love has been acted upon us.

But often I think we also forget that we cannot receive love from something that can’t choose whether or not to give it. We might love our car, or our phones, or all our shoes. We might actually show love for those things by the way we care for them. But they can’t love us back (even if they were programed to). They can’t love if they don’t have the choice not to love. This is why there is an ethical dilemma with saying that a kidnapped victim “fell in love” with their kidnapper. Is it love if you are unable to choose another option? Maybe in Blade Runner 2049, Joi at some point transcended her programming and actively chose to love Officer K. But I doubt it, because all of Joi’s actions in the film always sought to give Officer K exactly what he wanted. And without agency, there is no love.

Officer K’s relationship with Joi can be contrasted with Rick Deckard’s relationship with his child. Deckard made the choice to never even meet his child, because the child was such a highly desired commodity. If Deckard was found by people in power what he knew would seriously endanger his kid. It could be argued that in choosing to remain completely isolated from his child, Deckard exhibited more love than Joi ever could even though Joi did all sorts of stuff for Officer K…. again, agency.

In the Christian faith, we claim to be free because of Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”). Roger Olson in his article “The Bonds of Freedom” in christianitytoday.com writes:

Because of what Christ has done for [us] and because of [our] faith in Christ, Christians are absolutely free from the bondage of the law. [We] don’t have to do anything. On the other hand, out of gratitude for what Christ has done for [us] and in [us], the Christian is bound in service to God and other people. [We] get to serve freely and joyfully.

It’s a crazy idea. To love others; to serve and care for people even when it doesn’t make sense or the people we are caring for clearly don’t deserve it or want it. Followers of Christ are “freed up” to love this way because we recognize that we’ve been loved in the same way when we didn’t deserve it or want it either. And that we have been loved in a way (through the cross) that didn’t make much sense.

The love relationship between Officer K and Joi may not have been “real.” And yet at the end of the movie, we see Officer K able to finally show true “real” love by saving Deckard and doing his part to help free Deckard’s child from the same sort of prison Officer K felt for most of his life. Officer K gets to love actively. He gets to choose to serve. And in doing so he gets to love for real, maybe for the first time ever. What a very human action from a robot. We could all learn something from it.

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Christian Evangelism and the Movie Moana

Major Spoilers of the Movie Moana follow…

Moana

In the movie Moana, the daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe, Moana, is called to go on a quest to find Maui, a legendary demigod, and with his help return Te Fiti’s heart and save her people. It is a challenging task, since between her and Te Fiti lies Te Ka, a giant angry lava monster. The big twist ending of the movie is that Te Fiti is actually Te Ka. It actually makes a lot of sense… the giant angry lava monster simply lacks its heart.

At the climax of the film, in an incredibly moving moment, Moana realizes that Te Ka is not actually the enemy, all the dramatic action stops, and Moana bravely walks up to Te Fiti/ Te Ka and sings, “I have crossed the horizon to find you. I know your name. They have stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.” Moana returns the heart, Te Ka turns back into a nice goddess lady, and Moana’s people are spared. It is a beautiful moment that I believe can also serve as a powerful reminder to Christians about what evangelism should look like.

Over the history of the Christian church, there have been some good and some not so good analogies of what Christian evangelism is like. I believe, one not so good one has been the “conquering victor” analogy. This analogy describes evangelism as one part battle and one part sporting event. A Christian’s job is to WIN souls in a way that kind of sounds like they are getting points on God’s giant score board in heaven. And the Church needs to TAKE areas for Christ like the military needs to control geographically significant places in war.

Unfortunately, the “conquering victor” evangelism analogy breaks down in one rather significant way. Evangelism is not a sporting event or battle. There is no for sure way to win. There is nothing a Christ follower or church can say or do that will guarantee someone to “come to know the Lord.” Ultimately, that decision and relationship is personal, up to an individual and God. And historically, well-meaning individuals and churches who prescribe to this way of thinking about evangelism, have often been guilty of saying or doing increasingly ridiculous and even un-Christ-like things to try to WIN the day or TAKE the next hill…

A second rather poor analogy for evangelism in my book is the belief that evangelism is a fight against the devil. It is a belief that a Christian must help God bring souls back from brink of hell. Many who ascribe to this analogy seem to eventually forget that evangelism is about sharing “good news.” They often spend most of their time sharing “bad news” instead of the gospel (telling people that they are in the grip of the forces of evil and how terribly corrupt, bad, and yucky they are).

This leads to a third analogy of evangelism. Usually people in this group have seen one of the first two examples of evangelism in action in the church, had a bad experience with it, and have responded by claiming that instead they follow the “Francis of Assisi” model. Francis of Assisi is often attributed with the saying, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” In my experience, often people scared away from other forms of evangelism, come to believe that evangelism only has to be about showing people God’s love. The problem with this perspective is that it does not require anyone to ever mention God, and often it simply shows others that the nice person being nice is nice.

In the movie Moana, if Moana had not listened for her call, if she had just obeyed her dad, stayed on her Island, helped her people… she could have followed the “Francis of Assisi” model (and Te Ka’s heart would not have been returned). If Moana had followed the “conquering victor” strategy of evangelism she could have fought Te Ka, the angry lava monster and maybe even killed it, only to then realize that is was Te Ka whom she was supposed to return the heart to. And if Moana had used the “fight the devil” approach, she could have stepped up to Te Ka/ Te Fiti and sang something like, “I have crossed the horizon to find you. I know your name. You are jerk and a monster who tries to melt people. That is who you are. You know who you are,” and then Moana probably would have been lava-ed to death.

But there is another type of Evangelism analogy, “the gift” analogy. Paul writes about it in 2 Corinthians 2: 14-17:

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

In many ways Paul is arguing that Christians are called to be department store perfumers. You know, those people who stand in the perfume section of the department store with a bottle of perfume and ask if people want a sample waft. Only the perfume Christians offer is not in a bottle, it is Jesus. Christians don’t have to tell people that they smell bad, only that they might smell even better with Jesus. We don’t “win” if someone buys the bottle of Jesus for themselves, it is the aroma of the perfume (God himself) that sells the gospel.

I think that this is the reminder of what evangelism might look like in Moana. Moana reminds Te Ka who she could be if she had her heart back. And Moana offers Te Ka, the heart as a gift. That is what I believe the best sort of evangelism looks like. Just offer the gift. Some people are going to take it, some are not. But isn’t a Christian’s job simply to continue to offer it?

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