-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I was reading a commentary on the Book of Hosea last week, when a parallel hit me. Remember how this moment feels. In forty years, people will be asking us why we didn’t know.
When I was in Grad School we were using Karl Barth to understand the idea of Systematic Theology.
Systematic Theology is basically consistency. If you say A about one idea, it will mean the same thing whether you are talking about B, D, or even Z. To say someone has a systematic theology is to say they have connected the dots. It’s not a piecemeal set of thoughts. Every way the theology works should be interconnected.
I say, “should,” because breaking a systematic theology is all about finding even one time it does not. Like pulling a bad loop from a metal chain, the whole chain loses its tension and becomes worthless. Then, you can’t just decide to work with a smaller chain, because the theology is systematic, it must include all.
It’s actually for that reason I’d consider myself a Systematic Theologian. I’m never done. It’s a thought process that can continue to evolve and layer itself, as I understand more about myself, others, and the world around me.
Theology in General
What you believe, and how you believe is important no matter who you are. Theologies are not the sole property of religious groups. I know, for those of you who know how theology is defined, that might seem backwards, but hear me out.
A theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief.
Now, you might hear that definition and completely discount my above statement. However, there are many ‘studies’ that still fit the definition while not including the subject of the study. Here are some examples:
I’m sure there are hydrologists (those who study water) studying the lack of water at Lake Mead right now.
There are atmospheric scientists (those who study the atmosphere) who are interested in the lack of atmosphere on other planets.
There are food scientists very aware of food deserts, and are trying to figure out how to change them.
Even those who talk about religious experience, delve into the subject of what it means if God did not exist.
The problem with Atheistic views on the Divine, is it takes extreme points of view. Either, a lack of God would be total depravity (the religious take on a universe without a God), or an enlightened utopia (the Atheist take on a universe without a God). Let me put it this way, I have yet to see a solid Atheistic Theology. Either it’s Christian demonizing Atheists, or it’s Atheists demonizing Christians. When the person writing the theology is doing so with the express purpose of demonization, you are bound to find yourself in some sort of hell- whether it’s utopian or depraved. I personally don’t like hanging out in man-made hells.
I’m getting off track. I believe everyone, Atheist or Religious, needs to openly consider what they believe. If one does not openly seek those answers, other people can take advantage, and sneak their belief systems in.
This is actually my major issue with just going to churches just for their programs. The theology of the institution influences everything. You are going for the sweet Children’s Programming, but the programs are where some of the worst theologies are introduced. If I had the means, I’d purchase every VBS program out there and just rip them to shreds in videos.
I think our modern fractured nature is one of the biggest issues we have today. We don’t consider the consequences. Good actions could lead to bad effects. Bad choices can help certain people. An action for or against a specific person could actually be for or against a large group of people. It would help us so much to just see the systematic nature of the world around us. That’s not going to happen.
Kinda off topic, but go with me. Have you ever seen a factory explode? If you haven’t, here is a short video highlighting an actual factory explosion of the Imperial Sugar Plant, in Savannah, Georgia.
If you don’t read anything else, read this.
You might feel unhinged. You might feel broken.
In the above video it was failure to collect sugar dust and dropped sugar that led to the Imperial Sugar Plant explosion. Everything was working correctly EXCEPT for dust collection. That one issue caused a complete failure of the entire plant.
The world is a giant machine. We have creation, distribution and consumption down to a science. In 2020, small pieces were broken. Those small pieces, even though you might not see them or even be near them, are related to each and every one of us. Up until recently, those small pieces only caused small inconveniences. Perhaps you didn’t get the good you wanted at the grocery store, or you had an extra long wait at the hospital. Maybe your school did a digital learning day because they couldn’t find the bus drivers to drive the kids. We felt those things, and that small break, broke us a little too.
Now, in 2022, there has been a huge break. What Russia did, and is doing, has done more than kill the Ukraine people. It’s an act of destabilization. The United States is openly talking to China in talks to not give Russia help. This is why the recent trip of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, completely counter to what China wanted, is something we need to remember in the coming months.
You feel these actions. Even if you don’t follow the news and actively try to avoid it, these are systemic issues that are playing out in the world around us. If you are thinking, “I feel broken, but I’ve been good about self-care, and setting healthy boundaries,” that’s because this is all like a factory explosion. It’s not you, it’s the world. You’re broken because the global machine is broken. Now, whether it grinds to a halt or explodes is the question.
Systematic Theology and me
Here’s the thing, I don’t just do things. Oftentimes, I’m secretly acting behind the scenes to move people in the right direction. It still baffles me that people don’t ask me why I act a certain way. Unlike many cultish leaders, I don’t want death and destruction. At the same time, unlike many passive leaders, I don’t want to avoid the subject matter either. It doesn’t go away just because we’ve refused to look in its direction. In many cases, it only gets worse if we don’t see it. In this climate, I can’t listen to all hope and joy, because they're empty. Is that what you want? Sorry, I’m out. Despite how all my work towards creating an online ministry looks, I’m the mayor of Realville. I’ve seen too much ignorance in my own childhood to be peddling beautiful lies. Beautiful lies are often laced with poison.
That’s why it all has to connect for me. Christ died for my sins, and I’m called to act in Godly love because of it. Love is not always fun. It’s not always joyous. Love is in the trenches, speaking truth to a world who has forgotten what is real. That is all.
Yes, I feel it. Yes, I know you feel it too. Every day is a chance to do what God has called you to do. You do your part just day by day. Maybe you’ll meet someone else doing the same, and then you can work together. Maybe those groups can join up, and then you have the beginnings of a new machine, a machine that can bring this fractured world back together in healthy ways.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Before I really get into it today, I wish others have the same urgency I have. I also wish there were more people with the creative energy to join up with what I want to do. Every passing day feels like I'm failing, because what needs to happen isn't happening. More are hurt the longer this takes. I'm not sure you could understand the kind of sadness I feel at making something good. It's sadness in knowing I can do something, but also knowing no one wants it. There are few things as heartbreaking as knowing ones value, and knowing that value is not being used to it's full potential. My husband sees it. While I am sad, he is frustrated. That frustration doesn't help me, other than knowing my value could be cut down and replaced with something else. Then, once again, I'm sad.
Where my prayer has been.
Something very strange happened last Sunday. I was thinking about a project I've been working on for years now. And, by years, I mean years. It has been growing in my brain and evolving since I was a young child.
I've recently reached a point, where I've considered just giving it up, and by giving it up, I mean giving it all up. Like I said before, I feel rather defeated as of late. I don't feel bad telling you that, because feeling defeated is a human feeling. I'm not a god, and I don't play one on TV. I'm mortal, and as such, I'm allowed to feel mortal feelings. Being honest with my emotions is part of what it means to be a Pastor.
My most recent prayer has been two words and mirrors Psalm 13. "How long?"
Those two words are filled with meaning though.
How long does your children need to suffer the abuse of their own Christian family, without action?
Our theologies are weaponized from all sides, and they are striking out. Meanwhile, more people are leaving faith all together over our ambivalence towards the pain our faith tradition doles out. It feels like Christians are either the ones hurting, or the ones ignoring that hurt. How we have failed as faith.
How long are we going to pretend we are seeking solutions when we're not?
We haven't had our woman theological darling since Rachael Held Evans. She passed away in 2019, leaving this hole, that has slowly been filled and dismissed. Meanwhile, we are ignoring the new alter that has been erected: Online ministry. We are all drooling at the potential, and wanting to take the pulpit, no one is seeking what that actually looks like. All I can do is sit back and watch the Fundie-Progressive fight, knowing neither side has really done anything.
How long am I to keep going on this path?
This might shock you, but part of praying "how long," is also praying, "if it's not going to do what I believe you want it to do, destroy it."
I know, personally, as long as there is a need, I will keep going until it breaks or I do. If God destroyed Fig Tree, that would not be a curse, but a blessing. Not because I want it destroyed. No. I want what I'm doing to have value and meaning. It would be a blessing because it would be God telling me my job has finished. I weary. I could do this for 30 more years, if I had more than the meager supplies that I have. If I wasn't buried under the student loan debt of a minister who will never work in an institutional church again. Yet, it continues, and the same weight, that was easy to carry a decade ago, now feels overbearing, because I've mostly been carrying it alone.
Do you see?
God talks in many ways.
Getting back to last Sunday, I once again prayed, "How long?" I was talking about a plethora of things. All the ones listed above, but also that project I've been attached to since I was a kid.
It was while talking about Tolkien and his writings that my husband said something:
"Anything of value takes an incredible amount of work and time."
It just felt like it was more than my husband talking.
It was like the answer to my prayer was, "It will amount to something, so don't give up."
And before you rally around this answer, realize Tolkien was paid full time wages for his work his entire life. He had the ability to focus on his passion projects while also being comfortable in life.
And really, that's the problem with most ministers today as well. They are not living in it. There is something very sanitized about their messages, that lack the reality of life.
I actually had a dream many years ago (a literal dream) where I met God. She was steering a wagon, and invited me to sit next to her. As we were talking, people came up to her with prayers. I watched as she answered prayer after prayer. People would ask for things, and she would grant their requests. So I asked for everything I needed to make Fig Tree a reality. She told me no. I was shocked! I pointed to all the people she said yes to, and asked why was she telling me no. Her answer, "It doesn't mean anything if you don't earn it yourself."
I must admit, I was a bit salty waking up from that dream. Now I wonder, "How long?" At what point does my work has enough value?
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Today marks the 10 year anniversary of when I first began this journey with God to create Fig Tree Christian. Ten years ago I would have imagined it would look much different than it actually does. By this point, I imagined there would be an actual team I'd be working with. You know, people with the creative desire to figure out what Church will look like in the future. I imagined I'd be planning out videos and Bible studies.
I guess the biggest thing I hoped was for "we" instead of just "me."
That being said, what I hoped would be a celebration ten years in, is not a good day for me today.
Understanding the lack of support.
I did not come back to Georgia at a good time.
The Regional Minister at the time called me to tell me he was retiring. He expressed sorrow that he wasn't going to be there to help me. I immediately knew that raised the difficulty. It was the first struggle of many.
The region was also in financial trouble. Churches were already dying, and some had flat out stopped giving.
The region also had a race problem. The biggest church in the region, Ray of Hope, had flat out stopped sending kids to the regional conference center.
That's why Georgia brought in Rev. Dr. Denise Bell. She was good with the finances, and could work specifically with the race issues Georgia needed to work on.
Her focus wasn't on new Church plants. Conversely, she wanted to focus on revitalizing the Churches that already existed over and beyond new Church plants.
We'd talk. I'd tell her Fig Tree needed assistance. She would offer prayer, but explain there was nothing she could give on a regional level.
If you want me to be mad about that, I'm not.
Others were though. My sister wanted me to seek out the Alabama region, which was only an hour from us. Anything but a region that was going to boldly express exclusion over possibility.
What it means to work from nothing.
One of the big ideas of the past decade came from the late Rev. Dr. Roger Sizemore. He believed in me. He wanted to get me going again. Working with Dr. Bell, they hatched a plan to plant Fig Tree Christian in First Christian Church of Marietta, (Disciples of Christ). Marietta was dying. What they didn't tell me, was the bigger plan was to have the dying church, devore Fig Tree, and I stay as a minister.
I was livid. The death of Fig Tree wasn't going to save Marietta. It was also completely ignoring real people who found real connection through everything Fig Tree had done up to that point.
We left Marietta, and started livecasting in a coffee house. We were one of the very first Churches in the nation to livecast a form of worship back in July of 2016! We were figuring out what online worship looked like when people were boldly telling me that wasn't worship.
I knew I was doing something that needed to be done, but no one could see the potential in it. We got nothing from the region the entire time we livecasted. Could you imagine what we'd be, if the Georgia region had trusted God enough to support Fig Tree in becoming online presence? Once again, I'm not angry.
That's why in 2019 Fig Tree left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I prayed about it for years, and my prayer was answered with this thought, "Do it now when it holds power."
When 2020 hit, and everyone was home, I realized how much power that move made.
What the region did in return was horrible. They kept us as a church on the website, but didn't include us as an online presence during the pandemic. They had their cake and ate it too. That one I'm mad at. We were used. People who heard about Fig Tree looked for us, and found other congregations livecasting their worships.
So- for the most part, I'm sad.
I feel like, every single day, is a day people are being failed.
We are so caught up in saving dying relics of a bygone age, we are just ignoring the wailing cry of the broken.
I am not online because I think it's fun. It's not.
I'm not online because I want to be famous. That's just stupid, and no one should go into ministry for that.
I'm online because this is where the broken go, and we can't get our heads out of our asses to see we need to be more than copy/pasting our worships.
I'm sad, because no one wants to physically help me reach them.
There I am. I don't peddle beautiful lies; just hard truths. If you hear it from me, it's because I believe it. Know that. Maybe 2032 will be different...
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Just information- this website turns TEN on July 12th! I don't know how that makes me feel. I kinda hoped we'd be further along than we are. I'm not sure what I'll write. I'm in prayer.
This movie was my bait and switch!
In 2006 two movies came out about magicians: The Prestige and The Illusionist.
The Prestige stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Scarlett Johansson.
The Illusionist stars Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti.
You all know I'm going to spoil The Illusionist, but you didn't come here for me to spoil The Prestige. This is basically what you need to know about both: Lower class person becomes a magician and has tricks an upper class person can't figure out. Upper class person then tries to destroy the lower class magician, and people die.
Sometime around 2012 I wanted to watch the Edward Norton version of the poor magician foiling the rich people, but couldn't remember the name. That's when I accidently watched The Prestige instead, and liked it.
Then, for this movie series, I thought, I wonder if that Christian Bale movie about magicians is available for free on TubiTv. That's how I found The Illusionist, and it became the movie for today instead of The Prestige. I find it kinda funny that two movies about a similar subject of slight of hand, could confuse me into watching the opposite movie I'm looking for.
The Illusionist shows us Jesus
I do not think Jesus was just a fancy magician. Let me just get that one out of the way, so I don't get haters online telling me I'm an atheist in disguise or something to that effect. I do think Edward Norton's character shows us the power Jesus held to protect himself from tyrannical forms of government.
There's this scene, where Giamatti's character has arrested Norton's character under suspicion of fraud. Giamatti tells Norton to reveal to him the truth of the trick or he would be forced to take him to jail. Outside there are throngs of Norton supporters. Giamatti adds that the punishment would be far worse if those fans storm the building.
In this moment, Giamatti has set a trap. It's an either/or situation. Either Norton reveals his trick, thus destroying everything he's built up to this moment, or he keeps his secrets but spends the remainder of his days in jail.
That moment feels very much like the moments in the Bible the Pharisee's have used to trap Jesus. More than that, Giamatti feels very much like a Pharisee. I say this, because the Pharisee's had painting themselves into their own trap. Either they could support Herod and keep their shiny new temple with a leader who "supports" Judaism, or they could support Jesus and leave all their power. We need to remember, it was lose/lose for the Pharisee's too. It was also lose/lose for Giamatti's character.
What Norton's character does in response to this trap, is also very Jesus. He steps outside and tells the crowd they were illusions. Now the crowd wouldn't believe him, and he knew that, but it gives a third option. Now Giamatti has no reason to keep Norton, and lets him go.
I said this so many times. The world isn't either/or. When an organization tries to herd you into a yes/no situation, those are almost always their lines they've drawn.
What we see in The Illusionist is what Jesus' danger looked like having those stark choices laid before him in an attempt to destroy him. We can also see how a corrupt system can pit people who shouldn't be on opposite sides against one another. Maybe we should consider that one today. Perhaps?
This Sunday I'll be talking about Apollo 13. They took it off at the end of June, so watch this video to prep for Sunday worship:
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
This summer we are going to the movies!
Today's movie is The Devil's Advocate. You can watch it free on TubiTv. Spoilers if you just want to read, and don't want to see it first.
About the Movie
Kevin Lomax is a hotshot defender in Gainesville, Florida. He has never lost a case. As the audience meets him, that is all about to change. Thinking he was defending an innocent man, he realizes he is actually a pedophile. Disgusted, he recollects himself, swallows back the abhorrence, and goes on the win the case.
His wife, Mary Anne, is thrilled for him as they go out and celebrate another win.
While they are out, Kevin gets a card to go up to New York and help a firm pick a jury. The couple are ecstatic. This was the big break they were hoping for.
That's when things do not go as planned. See, the head of the law firm is the literal devil. The couple is moved into a high rise that is filled with literal demons. Mary Anne catches on as the ladies sometimes reveal their demonic smiles. Whether this is on accident or on purpose, it causes her to second guess herself, and want to go home. They also convince her to let go of the best parts of herself. Her vibrant curly blonde hair. Her go-to attitude to own her first choice. Her very joy.
All this is happening, as the world is being given to Kevin. Only, with every choice he has to sacrifice a piece of this marriage.
This comes to a head when Mary Anne kills herself and he confronts the devil. Come to find out, Kevin is a child of the devil and the devil wants him to procreate to create the literal Anti-Christ. Mourning his lost wife, Kevin chooses to end his own life, taking away the devil's future.
That's when time rewinds to the moment he decided to win for the pedophile. Realizing his luck, he kisses his now alive wife, and recuses himself from the trial because he can no longer be his client's attorney.
The last scene is a reporter asking for an interview. This choice will make Kevin big. Kevin relents. He'll do the interview the next day. As Kevin and Mary Anne leave, the reporter morphs into the devil. His favorite sin is vanity.
In Job the devil is part of the divine council.
One of the many great failures of Christendom is the phrase, "the Devil made me do it," being taken and used so seriously. The phrase takes away accountability. No longer is "sin" something we must understand and change in ourselves. Sin becomes something a devil made us do, and therefore, our failure was a moment of supernatural puppeteering, and that's all.
Meanwhile, the view of an Ancient Near East devil is not one who puppeteers unsuspecting good guys and gals at all. In fact, in Job, Satan is part of the divine council. It's Satan's job to test people and see how they react. In Job, the whole worldview was good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Only good things had happened to Job, so it appears his friends believe he's a good person. When God takes everything away (and yes, it was God that took it away, not Satan), his friends believe Job must have done something wrong. Satan only states something that might happen if everything is taken away from Job, then God takes everything away from Job.
What I love about Devil's Advocate is the devil doesn't technically do anything to Kevin. Conversely, he gives him good advice. He tells him to let the case go and take care of his wife. At the end of the movie, Kevin tries to pin it on the devil, telling him the devil made him do those things. That's when he's corrected. No, the devil didn't make Kevin do anything. In actuality, the devil suggested he do the right thing. Kevin was the one who kept making the wrong choices.
Here's a crazy idea: What if, Kevin being a child of the devil, the devil actually was testing Kevin to keep him on the right path? This isn't the devil that sits in Hell trying to ruin humanity to stick it to the big guy. This is a devil who made some poor choices, and doesn't want anyone else to make the same choices. The devil didn't need to restart time at the end of the movie. Maybe it was all a dream, a chance for a parent to help a child see what could happen if he followed the path he was taking.
You might ask, why am I suggesting the devil is the good one in this movie? It's because we, as a nation, have either turned our neighbor into an object, or villainized beyond their humanity. We need to be following someone who has hope in the unity and restoration of a new world. No, not the world we left. That is an old hope, and old hopes will never take us anywhere. Maybe that starts with seeing the humanity in the most villainized creature in Biblical canon: The devil.
And yes, I'm a Christian, and proud to be a Christian. Just realize- those you villainize today, was yesterday's neighbor.
This coming week's movies:
7/3 Worship: Family Man
7/5 Meditation: The Illusionist
Remember, this can be found to watch for free on TubiTv.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Not all things that feel good are good.
Not all things that look beautiful are right.
When we watch Coraline it makes sense. As the movie progresses, we see the world decay around her. The Other Mother wants to eat her, not love her.
Neil Gaiman, the author of the book Coraline, is one of the authors I love. Don’t think that means I’ve read most of his books. I’ve read three: Coraline, Stardust, and Good Omens. I have a special super power that allows me to see the “trick” in other writers when I’ve read enough of their works. In that, every writer has his or her fingerprint. If I read enough of their material, I can begin to see where the story will go. I try my hardest to not get too invested in the writer, so I can keep the magic in the books I’ve already read.
Let’s just say, I’ve been writing fiction, and I want to have my books published. A good review from Neil Gaiman would make my decade. His world building is on point, and the conversational style of his characters is genius. He also is not afraid to write about powerful women who are not perfect. It is in the imperfections that the tension builds, and you get invested in the story.
Coraline is a girl who has normal girl thoughts. She was moved out to the middle of nowhere, and doesn’t see anything redeemable about her new situation. What she doesn’t realize is her new home is the consequence of her parents trying to create a better life for them all. Sometimes before things get better, they have to get worse first. You can’t explain that to a child.
That’s how the “Other Mother” picks her bait. She gives Coraline what she wants. She feeds her delicious food, puts her in a beautiful home, and gives her fantastical neighbors. This causes her to resent her real life, where she must make sacrifices she doesn’t understand.
People are not destroyed by outcomes. People are destroyed by the beautiful lies that lead to those outcomes. We buy into the lies all the time! We choose to believe things that sound too good to be true. Only, unlike Coraline, we can’t just walk away from those choices once we learn we’ve been tricked into making them. In real life, we often don’t find out we’ve been tricked into a bad decision until many years after the fact. The easy choice becomes the terrible outcome.
Anything worth having, is worth earning first. That’s actually what Coraline was missing. It didn’t matter if her situation was good or bad if she didn’t earn it, it didn’t mean anything to her. By the end of the book/movie, she saves her parents and her life. She appreciates where she is because it was hard earned, and hers.
Even though the reality wasn’t as pretty as the beautiful lie, it was the better choice all along.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Before I begin, this movie is free to watch on multiple streaming services from YouTube to Redbox. Find the one you like, and go see it before you read what my opinion.
Also- if you read this and haven't watched the movie... that's on you. Spoilers from here on out.
Loved this movie when it released in the long long ago of 1998.
This is a movie based on a book, written by Alexander Dumas.
When the movie came out, I loved it. In my high school days, I'd read the books of the movies I really liked. If you are trying to get into reading, this is a great way to go. It's like the training wheels of reading. You already have the mental image of how something looks, because you saw the movie. Now I typically do the opposite. I'll read the book first, and then watch the movie. The book is often better than the movie anyway.
When Man in the Iron Mask came out, I read Dumas' book. I can't tell you what was different from the movie. It was so long ago, it all just blends together. I can say, I remember enjoying the book. I can also say, since I know I read the book, that must mean I liked the movie.
I was drawn to how Leonardo DiCaprio was able to be both hated and loved in the same movie. It felt like two different characters.
I also REALLY loved The Three Musketeers (1993). In my mind, Man in the Iron Mask felt like a sequel to that specific version of The Three Musketeers.
All that in mind, I'm not as sold today.
Blink and you'll miss it.
All the women in the movie serve to move the men's narrative forward. With the exception of the queen, all the women are tools, not people. None of the women have agency to move the plot of the story forward. The choices of the men are the choices of the women.
Christine, for example: Her entire journey was pre-determined by the men around her. Raoul loves her, so he is going to propose. The king wants her, so he gets Raoul killed to take her as a mistress. Her only agency was choosing to kill herself.
Notice who was mourned in this movie. The men. Raul and D'Artagnan.
Notice who is completely forgotten about once she jumps from the window: Christine. Not even Athos, Raul's father, seek to free her from her gilded cage in the name of Raul. As far as the story is concerned, Raul had an object the king wanted, the killed off Raul to get that object. Then, when Christine kills herself, it shows the king doesn't know how to take care of his things.
The book was written in the 1660s, and the movie was made in the late 1990s.
I'm not going to put modern feminism on Alexander Dumas.
I am going to compare this to David and Bathsheba to make a point.
Stop putting David's story on Bathsheba!
There are some clear parallels between David and Bathsheba and King Louis and Christine.
King sees pretty girl.
Pretty girl is already promised to a man.
King calls man to war, and man's duty to king leads to him getting killed on the front line.
King takes pretty girl as his own.
Do you know what's true of this story, whether it's King Louis or King David?
It's not the pretty girl's story.
No matter how you see the Bible, the inerrant Word of God, the inspired Word of God, or a bunch of stories of fiction, it's clear who's story this is: David's.
That means it is not our place to see what Bathsheba did right or wrong. Bathsheba is a tool, a thing, in this story. She is a prize. David is the person in this story.
I actually saw a post yesterday (which I'd share here, but I don't have permission from the original poster) where he was recounting a sermon where Bathsheba knew what she was doing, and she was trying to lure the King to her bed. Nothing even alludes to that conclusion.
Don't make Bathsheba the main character in your Biblical narrative to write off what David did. The prophet doesn't chastise her in the story, he chastises David. That means, God saw David as being in the wrong.
If you want to write about Bathsheba write to mourn the loss of her personhood. Then look at Christine in Alexander Dumont's book and realize in the 1600's women still didn't have strong agency. Then look at Christine in Man in the Iron Mask, and realize we still couldn't write women as anything but tools in the late 1990's.
Then look at now. Like seriously look at now. We are just now attempting to write stories where the focus on a woman isn't to raise up or help validate a man. Right now, we're not doing it great. Most of our female leads are glorified man-face. In other words, they read like they were written for a guy, and they put a gal in it's place.
Looking at Christine, I see Bathsheba a little different. Christine didn't fight the King because she already knew she was powerless. She does what she does because it will help her take care of her family. Wouldn't that be a reason Bathsheba would do whatever King David asked? Wouldn't that make David even worse? He's willing to leverage Bathsheba's relationships in order to get what he wants? See? I can play that game too. Read into the subtext to understand motivations. The difference is, I'm looking at the one without power, and sympathizing with her plight. Maybe we should do more of that when we read the Bible. After all, it was Bathsheba's line God chose. God often chooses the least of these to be part of the greater narrative.
This Sunday's movie will be Overboard, the 1987 version. It's free on multiple platforms.
See you then!
Summer Movie Series
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
It is my plan to use this Summer to theology discuss some secular movies.
When I made this plan, Galaxy Quest was free to watch. They have, within a week, taken it off the free site.
I am continuing. I'll be better in the future.
Here's how this will go. I'll start with posting where the movie can be watched for free. (In this case it is on Paramount Plus, if you have it.)
Then I'll do a quick synopsis of the part of the movie I'm discussing, while also connecting the synopsis to the Bible or a theological view.
Finally, I will write what Sunday's movie will be. (On Sunday I'll share the meditation movie.)
Galaxy Quest and Alexander Dane
From the moment it hit the theaters I have loved the movie Galaxy Quest. Not only does it capture the essence of Star Trek, but it is just good storytelling at its core.
At the beginning the story we see our supporting character, Alexander Dane, completely and totally lost. They are at a convention, where the throngs of fans are there for them. Only, in his mind, they are not there for all of them. They are really there for John Nesbit, who played the lead character of Captain Jason Quincy Taggart.
In Alexander's mind, his entire career was a complete and total waste. This is a fact the entire cast is aware of, because it is part of the drill that Alexander will have a melt down at some point during an event. He hates his character and his stupid chatch phrase: "By Grabthar's Hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged."
Poor Alex is in the throws of a true lament. He is mourning what can never be, while seeing no hope for his future situation. As the story progresses, and the Thermians take them to their ship, his lament continues. We see him save the day, while his co-star Jason, gets the praise. He is completely and totally lost, finding no value in anything he has done, is doing, or will do.
Meanwhile, one of the Thermians, Quellek, attempts to bond with Alex. Quellek's favorite character from "the historical documents" was Dr. Lazarus. He modeled his life after him.
Alexander spends most of the movie treating him like he would one of this fans. Not well. He doesn't think highly of anyone who would love the character of Dr. Lazarus. In his mind, he's better than Dr. Lazarus, and he doesn't like the character. Anyone who would like that character clearly didn't understand good drama.
Here's where everything changes. When the big baddie comes back, and tries to suffocate all the Thermians in their quarters, it is Quellek (using a technique he got from Dr. Lazarus in "the historical documents") that escapes being held in the room with his shipmates.
This is the first time Alexander can see he might have been part of something important. But, it's not until they freed the Thermians that everything changes. Quellek get's shot, and is dying. Alexander is holding him as Quellek exclaims in death that it has been the greatest honor to work next to the great Dr. Lazarus.
This Thermian, in his death, was first showing that even in the darkest places on can find praise. He was also giving Alexander meaning to everything. Quellek taught Alexander praise, and as a result Alexander says the line and means it to a dying Quellek, "By Grabthar's Hammer, but the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged."
When our praise is authentic
Our culture shuns the darkness and negativity.
Bad things happening is not a sign that God doesn't love you.
Bad people getting good things are not a sign that they have God's blessing.
Praise not tied to some form of lament leading up to it, is hollow.
Genuine praise, as seen from the outsider, doesn't look like anything has changed.
Notice that Alexander was still the supporting cast member on a show that would never find it's way on the Shakespearian Stage. It wasn't the situation that changed (that was clearly more dangerous after Quellek's death). It was his view of the situation that changed. He suddenly saw purpose and meaning in what he had been doing all along.
One of my favorite IRL events that help me understand why it's so easy to get a group to do the wrong thing, and why it's so difficult to change a system:
Free to stream on Red Box- I will be preaching on "The Experimenter"
Coming after Pentecost!
Summer Movie Series!
Gotta a movie you wanna me to consider theologically?
Is it on a free streaming service?
Comment below and over the next two months I might make it a sermon topic or a meditation!
Some free sites:
To get us started, we'll start with Galaxy Quest. It's free to watch on FreeVee.
Next Tuesday, I'll post a meditation on the character Alexander Dane, or Dr. Lazarus (so pay attention to his character arc as you are watching it.)
On Tuesday, I'll let you know what's coming Sunday and for the next meditation.
Most importantly, if you don't tell me what you want me to watch, I'll watch what I want to watch! It's a win/win for me! It can be a win for you too. Comment below!
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Every time I go to write I feel this mania. It is part of the reason I haven't written anything. (That, and the previous post I wrote, but never shared on social media.) Oh, and the National Zombie Church Apocalypse we've just entered. I'm not going to say I'm through speaking to those inside the brick and mortar church, but I'm not jumping at the bit to talk directly to them.
Consider this one a freebee.
I'm tired of reading post after post that basically begin, "But why my church?" The church congregant couldn't understand when they had great programs, and a loving congregation. Why would someone intentionally not go to something like that?
Let me throw it down for you as simply as I can.
1. Getting along with those who agree with you isn't the point:
I have always had a problem with monasticism. I shouldn't. It's not like I have that sage leader that suggested I should be skeptical of the monastic lifestyle. Nothing in my church career have I had reason to not appreciate monks and nuns. (In my church career, but I'll get back to that.)
Last week, talking about Church abuse, I felt I had a Paradox I needed to revisit. How could I suggest someone leave the Church when they are victimized by the Church, but I'm not cool with monks and nuns separating themselves from the world?
I'm just going to say this. I'm not looking for sympathy, and I don't want you to be mad a the parties involved. I spent a few years of my life in a neglectful home. First it was my mother's home, as she found dependency in an abusive drunk. Then in the home of a grandmother that was slowly losing her mind to the drugs that were meant to save her life.
As an adult I can see what my child-brain couldn't. The church wanted me to escape my neglect, not solve it. They didn't want me bringing it into the sanctuary, and warping the communion table with the truth of life.
I dislike monasticism because we were created to live this life, not escape it.
The Church, at the exact same time, became little temporary escape hatches for life. The only way for this to work is to ostracize those who bring reality into her building. And don't get me wrong, most of it has been unknowingly.
Maybe the space set aside for worship is sacred, but the Church is life. When you cut out life, you create this fake-utopia.
Last note on pulling yourself out of context with people who think exactly like you: I cried every time I came home from Summer Camp. First, I tried to bring my reality to camp every single year and no one wanted real. They wanted their fake real. Second, it was still an alluring trick to bring a camp full of people who believed the same thing together and pretend Utopia for a week. It was even worse when I had to come home and live in reality again.
2. Even if the abuse didn't happen in your specific church, it's your problem:
How are we the Body of Christ again? We are all members? That's right! We are all connected. The second we shift blame is the second it becomes worse. The second we ignore and deflect is the second it becomes worse.
You have no sympathy from me.
I may have left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) but I didn't leave the Church. I sure as hell didn't leave God.
I do believe we need to be in community with one another as Christians. That's where we are so desperate to save the identity of institutionalized church, we are losing everyone in the process.
Church abuse is my abuse.
Church abuse is your abuse. ANY CHURCH abuse.
You were so insistent of being outside the world, the worst parts of the world came to you.