For those that have read any number of my posts, it is probably clear that I do not hold a conservative view when it comes to the Christian faith.
Now, I am not one for labels as I find there only use is to reduce and flatten people to a series of dogmatic statements. I would never define my theology as liberal because of that. I say it only so you can get a sense of where I am coming from. When I studied at bible college, the New Testament lecturer labelled me a heretic. It was good to see that in bible college there was an openness to dialogue and debate (that last sentence was sarcastic).
I’ll be honest and say that my last position, as youth worker for a conservative baptist church, was a difficult one. Many judgements about who I was because of what I believe were made.
We have since moved and as a family we have started attending a small anglican community church. A few weeks ago I went out to the pub with a few of the other folks from the church and through the various discussions, it became clear that the leadership of the church would be, what I term, conservative. Again, I want to be careful with that label.
This sent my mind racing. Can we be part of this church? What happens when I express my supposedly unorthodox views of sexuality, adam and eve, hell, atonement, swearing, horror movies etc? Will we be thrown out? Should we even bother building relationships with people who have such opposing views to ourselves?
We are still at the church.
After several discussions with my wife, it became clear that I was making the same errors in judgement that I felt some of the congregation of the Baptist Church had been guilty of. I was labelling people. And more than that, I was dismissing people because of these labels. I had flattened these people into a label.
I do not want to be that kind of person. I don’t want to be the kind of person who only hangs around with those who share a similar view point; who make judgements on someone because of the views they hold.
So I’m taking a step of faith. My family and I are taking a step of faith. We are going to invest in this church. We are going to seek truth together. We are going to fellowship with one another.
And I hope I can become more like Jesus in the process.
Yesterday, the sermon at church was about discipleship, specifically around this passage in Luke 14:
“25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
The preacher said that your love and allegiance to Jesus must be above that of your family. He said it was that simple.
I don’t find that simple. I don’t think it’s that straightforward.
In two weeks, I’ll step down as youth worker of South Beach Baptist Church in Saltcoats and move my family three hours away to Preston where I’ll take up the position of youth minister at Hutton Grammar School. My last two weeks will involve a number of meetings where I seek to hand the work over as smoothly as possible to the youth work volunteers as the church is not seeking another full time youth worker for the time being.
I have many questions about moving away from the church. Is this God’s will? What about the young people who feel I am deserting them? Is this the right thing to do? How do you know if you’re following God’s will? Does God even have a plan for my life?
I know there are people in the church who will be quite happy that I am leaving; people that believe I am unbiblical. But there are also people who are really upset that I am going, including some of the young people. I know some of them think that I am abandoning them.
One of the older members of the congregation, who took the news quite hard, said to me, “well if you’re sure it’s Gods will for you…”
The truth is, I don’t. I’m not sure I’ve heard anything from God on the matter.
Around Christmas time, a friend of mine said that there was a job coming up near where he worked that I should apply for. He is doing a similar job in a school and I saw how much he enjoyed it (and that the pay was really good too). So when it came up, I applied for it. There was no lightning bolt from God. No clear word that this was ‘right’ but I went for it and got it.
I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable doing church youth work as some of my theology is not ‘mainstream’ and I’ve had a lot of criticism for it. Also, church youth work does not pay that well either. The new job allows me to share my views without fear of judgement and gives our family financial security for the next few years.
So, I sat in church yesterday hearing that Jesus should be put first and I’m thinking, “well that’s all good in theory but does it work in practice?” It may have been Gods will for me to stay in the church (and get further into debt financially) but instead I’ve thought about my family and went for the better paid job. I’ll be honest. the wage was the reason I went for it in the first place. It’s the only reason I would move from Scotland to England; move away from the rest of my family and friends. Yes, the job will be challenging and exciting and play to my strengths but, first and foremost, it will provide for us as a family.
So I’m left wondering, am I putting Jesus first or my family first? Am I putting security and a ‘comfortable’ life over being a true disciple?
It’s a hard one isn’t it? It’s not the first time I’ve wrestled with this and it certainly won’t be the last.
On reflection, I guess this situation has taught me two things:
1) Trust. I have to trust that things will work out for my family as well as the church. In everything we do there is an element of trust that we are throwing out there and this situation is no different. I have to trust God. I have to trust those that have been left with the youth work.
2) I really don’t like pithy statements about faith. It’s easy to say you should love God more than your family but it’s far more difficult to know what that means in practice. Let’s not pretend that things are that easy. Life is complicated. Decisions and motives are complicated.
Do you agree? Surely I’m not the only one who thinks like this?
As a straight up fright machine, paranormal activity 3 does the job. yes it’s not to everyones tastes; yes when viewed as part of an ever-expanding story, it fails miserably; yes its another ‘found footage’ film; but as a standalone film who’s sole purpose is to make you jump; it works.
I saw the film a couple of months ago at a midnight screening in Dunfermline. I was there for a Baptist conference of all things. The main evening session finished at 9.30pm and I began the walk back to the hotel I was staying in. Upon returning to my room, I turned on the TV and faced with the prospect of several hours of mindnumbing reality/game shows, I decided to walk over to the local cinema to see what was on.
I bought my ticket for ‘paranormal activity 3′, took my seat in the empty cinema and for the next hour and a half, jumped, laughed and shifted uncomfortably in my seat. It helped that the rest of the cinema was filled with teenagers who would jump at the mere thought of the word ‘boo’.
Now, I am an avid horror film watcher and I’ll be honest, it takes a lot to make me jump, but let me tell you, this did it. many times.
But I’m not here to tell you about that. I’m here to tell you that many of the young people who work with and interact with will have seen it and so it’s good to have an idea of what it’s about and discussions you can have around it with them.
What’s it about?
Paranormal Activity 3 is (you guessed it) the 3rd film in the increasingly popular ‘found footage’ series that follows Katie and Kristi and the evil that has possessed their family. This film is a prequel to the 2nd film which was in turn a prequel to the first. For a full plot breakdown, click here.
Whenever I want to explore the issues in a film, I start with 3 basic questions:
1) What the key themes that this film is trying to engage with?
2) Can you see yourself in any roles / do you identify yourself with any characters?
3) Are there any background influences from writers/directors that shape the view?
For me, there are a number of themes that the film is trying to engage with but I want to explore a couple briefly.
Where do we feel safe? That’s a big question of PA3. The family get to the stage that they do not feel safe in their own home anymore and (spoiler) go to Kristis’ mums home, which turns out to be the worst decision they could have made. What do you do when your home is no longer a place you feel safe? For many young people this is an experience they face.
As an aside, horror films in general seem to reflect the culture at the time, In the 50s and 60s there was a plethora of films about bodysnatchers etc which were a thinly veiled analogy of communism and the cold war (they look like us but they’re not, they’re evil). Skip forward to the late 90′s and early 00s and we get the ‘torture porn’ or ‘gorno’ films which some argue is all about the abuse of the West in Guantanamo. Now during the recession, where people know longer feel secure in their homes because they might get reposessed because of late payments, we get a whole raft of films about entities coming in and taking away their safety and security. Makes you think eh?
Do your young people feel safe in their home? Do they feel safe with God? Is he the strong tower and refuge of the psalms? What would help them feel like that?
During the 90s, horror films had moved away from the supernatural. Villains were explained away by science. Zombies were created because of viruses; monsters were created in labs. Horror films reflected the strong hold that modernity still had on culture. What’s interesting is that since the start of the new millennium the West has seen an increase in supernatural films again and the success of The Paranormal Activity series demonstrates that people are believing in this idea again.
What do the young people you work with think of ghosts?
Last week I was speaking in school to a group of 3rd year students who were all happy to admit they believed in ghosts but the idea of a god seemed ridiculous. What do your young people think of the spirit realm and are there ways to bring god in to this type of discussion.
The general split between the cast are those who don’t believe it and need physical proof, those who do believe it and want to run away, and those who are far too nosy for their own good. Who do your young people relate to? Is it the same when it comes to thinking about God?
I’ll leave it at that just now as I could go on and on but I urge you chat to young people about this movie (especially if they’ve seen it) as it is guaranteed to bring up some great discussions.