Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts on Cloud Atlas

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to see the new film by the Wachowski Brothers a.k.a. Wachowski Starship, Cloud Atlas.  While I don't want to hash out fully here why I enjoyed the film, I do want to give some of my thoughts.  So here's what I liked, loved, and also what I didn't enjoy and didn't love about the film. 

Artistically, the film is a great film.  Beginning and end shots are linked together very well, filled in the middle by 6 intertwining storylines.  Here's a list of the periods of time:

1.  Mid 19th century - a man aboard a ship in the Pacific Islands, harboring a stowaway
2.  1936 - a homosexual composer trying to write a masterpiece with the help of a composer who hasn't written a good work in years.
3. 1970s - an audacious reporter gets the story of her career fall into her lap that could topple an oil industry.
4.  2012 - a publicist, his rise to prominence, his fall, and his plot to escape an assisted living facility
5.  2312, or somewhere around there - a genetically engineered waitress escapes her confined life and discovers the truth behind her world.
6.  106, "After the Fall", actually some years after 2312, a tribal group hosts a stranger trying to discover truth buried in the past that will benefit mankind.  Meanwhile, the main character of this time period is literally haunted by an "evil conscious".

It should be mentioned at this point that there is a very small core cast playing several different parts, in all 6 timelines.  The makeup work and the incredible acting ability are both on full display in this film.  This adds to the beauty and intricacy of this film.

The storylines are all very different in plot, but in theme, they are all similar.  On the surface, you can definitely see the links between each storyline, but dig deeper and there is a whole network teeming with details to analyze.  To me, a movie that can spark discussion is a movie worth seeing and Cloud Atlas  is no exception.  Themes of freedom, good and evil, love, loss, defying the established order, and relationships are some of the few elements that this film explores.

So in terms of structure, acting, plot, and art, this film earns high marks in my book. 

But here's my problem:

It can clearly be seen by anyone who knows anything about eastern religion, that this movie illustrates re-incarnation.  There are conversations about past lives and how "everything is connnected".

Furthermore, the film has a flippant view of sexuality, especially in the 1930s segment.  Its message:  have sex with whoever you want.  It doesn't matter if you're married or not.  It doesn't matter if you're committing adultery.  It doesn't matter if you're having sex with someone of the same gender.

There was also language and violence in the film, but those were of less significance to me then the issues previously mentioned.

While I did enjoy the film overall, I can't ignore it's problems, and it's problems are enough for me to steer certain Christians away from it.  I believe it's benefits outweigh it's problems, but there are some who this film could affect in a negatively spiritual way.

I haven't come down on a final rating of this film, it has it's good and it's bad.  On one hand, I see it as a great film artistically, but morally and spiritually, it gets an F.  I don't expect every film to adhere to my worldview, but I also don't want anyone buying into reincarnation, past lives, and sexual immorality as acceptable because of a film.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The prosperity gospel... and why it's wrong

I have long wanted to post something about this. Not because I feel the need to criticize or that I want to condemn people, but that I think that truth must be told and false teachings should be exposed. Also, I believe that since I love the Church as a whole, that I should speak the truth in that love. It's one thing to make a mistake here and there from the pulpit, it's quite another to base your entire ministry on a lie. Here's some common teachings I've noticed from various prosperity teachers. Some may preach only some of these principles, but all of them are wrong.

1. Since we are children of God, we deserve and should expect health and wealth.
2. Poverty and sickness for the believer died with Jesus on the cross of Calvary
3. When we give, we should expect something in return.
4. When we pray, we activate the power of God.
5. Freedom includes freedom from poverty.
6. If you're going through sickness, you're out of the will of God.

So, looking at this list, there's an obvious theme running through these verses and that's that God serves us. It's a selfish gospel, one that says that if you're not successful, you're not "good" enough. A gospel that says that God's will is for you to be wealthy. It's a gospel that elevates the position of the believer and lowers the position of the Father.

Let's get one thing straight, God submits to NO ONE. God is sovereign, and ruler of all things. If he chooses to bless us, monetarily or otherwise, it's not because we deserve it. The bible says that "none are righteous", that "all have sinned and fallen short". But let's look at the heresy of the statements above.

Expecting wealth goes against what Jesus said in Matthew "Lay not for yourselves, treasures on earth, where moth and dust corrupt, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven ... for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Clearly, Jesus understood how close money is tied to the condition of the heart. When believers are told that they aren't wealthy, it's because they're mindset is wrong, that they aren't being "freedom minded", or some such nonsense, it enforces the belief that money is a sign of following God, that money is a sign of spiritual success. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The power of God can NOT be activated by the likes of little peons like us. The power of God is awesome, and something that can't be turned on by us through prayer. However, in the economy of God, when we pray, God listens. Sometimes he says "Yes", sometimes he says "No", and sometimes our requests don't meet with his timing. To say that we can activate the power of God shows a total lack of understanding of how biblical prayer works. Prayer is more than requesting God for things. It's a way to show honor, to give praise, to communicate with God, and above all, a way to strengthen our relationship with God.

Paul in I Timothy Chapter 6, clearly addresses those false teachers who would claim that gain equates godliness. Let's take a look:

"If anyone (E)teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with (F)the sound[b] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching (G)that accords with godliness, 4 (H)he is puffed up with conceit and (I)understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for (J)controversy and for (K)quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people (L)who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, (M)imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But (N)godliness (O)with contentment is great gain, 7 for (P)we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But (Q)if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But (R)those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, (S)into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that (T)plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of (U)all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."

I Timothy 6:3-10

Logically, from this context, anyone who teaches that "godliness is a means of gain" is "puffed up with conceit and understands nothing." I'm saying this to expose the heresy and falsehood of the prosperity gospel and their teachers. If you're tracking with me, you can probably already identify a couple. I say these things because I am fed up with people justifying what they believe by saying things such as "they preach Jesus!" Wake up and smell the coffee, people! That's not the Jesus I serve! The Jesus I serve was born into a manger, not a mansion. He wore sandals and ragged robes, not Armani suits. The freedom that he gives is not freedom from poverty and lack, but freedom from sin and freedom from the guilt, depression, and shame that goes along with it.

I say these things in love because I truly believe that God can change anyone's heart and that it wouldn't be right as a brother in Christ to sit idly by while the Church is being swayed to believe an out and out lie. I want this "prosperity gospel" movement to die. This "Jesus" is a cheap substitute for the Son of God whom I love.

Lord, I pray that eyes would open, that your truth would penetrate hearts and that you would give those caught in the trap of the prosperity gospel ears to hear and eyes to see the truth of your Word. Amen.