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Monday, October 24, 2005
The senior high Sunday School class I co-teach finished up our controversial study of The Gospel According to The Simpsons a few weeks ago. We've moved on to a different curriculum now, one that is focusing on who we are as United Methodists--our similiaries with other denominations and maybe just how we're a bit different.

One of the books we're using in the study is called How to Be Methodist in the Bible Belt.

We're about three weeks into the study (OK, two really since I got back late from the UT vs Georgia game and didn't have time to whip up a lesson, so we did Bible trivia) and while I can tell they're not quite as psyched about this study as they were about watching an episode of The Simpsons and then discussing a Biblical principle behind it, I think we had a pretty good discussion last week and yesterday. We were taking a moment to study what the Methodist church believes about salvation.

Now, I'm not a United Methodist minister. Nor am I an expert in the field. (Nor do I play one on TV) Nor do I have the book or my notes in front of me as I type this. So if I get something horribly wrong, blame my faulty memory and not the Methodist church.

The Methodist church has what I'd define as a big picture view of Scripture and your relationship with Jesus Christ. It seems, to me, to be more about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself, rather than coming up with a luandry list of rules and regulations on just how you can and can't be a Christian. Basically, it comes down to the basic principle of "love the sinner, not the sin." In the Methodist church, we accept that salvation can be this "lights and alarms go off" type of moment that many people seem to have, but also that it can be a gradual thing, taking place over the course of a lifetime and not have one defining moment where you feel like your whole life changed.

The analogy the book used (and which I tried to explain to the kids) was that the it's like a house. Salvation is the porch that gets you to the house. You go through the door which is faith and you live in the house, which is your relationship with Jesus Christ. Getting to the porch is important, but it's not the be all, end all goal. It's a step in the overall life time journey. And it's one way that we differ from other groups and denominations. The Methodist church, as I understand it, subscribes to the one saved, always save can't necessarily backslide and "lose" your salvation as it were.

It was interesting to talk about this after I'd just watched the satire Saved! the night before. For those of you who haven't seen it, it's an interesting little film. In the movie, we meet Mary, a high-school senior at a Christian school who seems to have it all--friends, boyfriend, grades, etc. But a series of events slowly undermine her comfort zone. Her boyfriend announces he's gay. Mary thinks she sees Jesus in a swimming pool when she almost drowns and thinks Jesus told her to sleep with her boyfriend in order to save him. They do, but he's sent off to be de-gayed by his parents and Mary ends up pregnant.

Mary's "best friend" Hilary Faye is extremely religious. She seems to do and say all the right things on the outside--including learning how to shoot a gun in case she needs to protect her virginity that way--but overall, you'd be hard pressed to call her a loving Christian. Hillary Faye uses her Christianity as a weapon to judge others and feel better about herself. It's not about God, it's all about Hillary Faye. In the course of the film, we find out that Hillary Faye is obsessed with "saving" Cassandra, a Jewish girl taking classes at the Christian school.

Interestingly enough, as Mary's dilemma gets greaters and her faith is tested, it's Hillary Faye who cuts her off, while the outcasts of Cassandra and Hillary Faye's brother, Roland, are the ones who love, accept and offer friendship to Mary when she needs it most. (At one point, Cassandra sits through Hillary Faye's "saving ritual" so Mary can have some time to talk with the cute minister's son who has taken a shine to her).

I brought up the movie in class--pointing out how Hillary Faye said and did all the right things to look saved and was obsessed with others salvation so she could feel good about saving another soul and was missing something. She had no personal walk and she judged herself by others around her. Hillary feels that becuase she's been good, God should smile upon her and make her way easier. In a lot of ways, this is the big misconception of Christianity. If anyone tells you that by becoming a Christian, life is gonna be a bed of roses and a cake walk all the time, they are lying. It's not easier--it's just we have our relationship with God during both good and bad times to help us get through them all.

Now, I didn't point out any particular denominations that seem to be full of Hillary Fayes. Honestly, I think every denomination has our own Hillary Faye in it....some just have more than others. But it was interesting in talking about this topic, that a movie that is secular would generate some discussion. Now, only one person besides myself had seen it, but the others in the class said they'd think about checking it out (esp. the guys after finding out Mandy Moore is in it) sometime. Now, I know the movie was somewhat "controversial" in that it's a satire of Christian life in some ways and it pokes fun at certain things about organized religion. So, I have a strange feeling I'll be called to task for bringing up this PG-13 movie in class and encouraging young adults 13 and older to watch it with an open mind and think about what it's really trying to say about some real issues and ideas. And there may be some parents who'd object at one point where Mary stands before a cross etched on a church and curses at it. But, if you understand why she does it and the context, it makes sense. Not that I'm saying we should run out and do it, but it does have a reasoning behind in terms of the character arc of the story.

I also made sure to point out that it Hillary Faye didn't have a bad idea--salvation is important. But it's if you use your personal salvation as a weapon or the Bible as a weapon (which is done one point Hillary Faye throws the Bible at Mary), it can turn a good thing into a negative one.

Which it's interesting--who'd've figured a movie with Mandy Mooore would be this "deep"?

If you've not seen it, I recommend giving it a try.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/24/2005 02:54:00 PM | |
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