-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.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I cannot say this loud enough, so here I go saying it again for the dullards in the back:
I want to preach with more than the traditional means to do so. I want to preach through narrative, and paint. I want to rethink worship from the ground up.
About a month ago I went to God in prayer and just cried. I don't want to give it up.
That might sound silly. Like, who's asking me to give something up? More than you think.
You know how it feels when I get families who tell me, "I'm looking for [insert traditional mode of worship here]"? I know why they're saying it. I can't give them what they crave, and they're explaining why they have chosen not to take all this seriously.
That's a very alluring drug.
If I just do what everyone else is doing, then I'll have they physical help.
I'm already saying things most local pastors are not saying, and it makes sense. If I just put the other stuff up and away, then I'll finally be accepted as an actual minister.
At the very same time, going into the workforce as something other than a minister has it's allure too. This summer Fig Tree will have existed for a decade. That's a long time to do any form of internet ministry and not throw one's hands up in the air in defeat. It's not wrong for me to want stability.
I cried because I realized what I was already doing.
The above picture was me on Easter Sunday. Let me tell you about this picture.
It's all an act of worship.
Writing is an act of worship.
Creating music (which I've also done) is an act of worship.
My art is an act of worship.
When I think to all the times people tried to shoehorn me into their definition of what they thought I was, well, it brought me to tears. Because I can see it now. I have an extremely close and incredibly diverse relationship with God. To sever any of those connections would be heartbreaking. I can't give it up.
Where it's led me
I used to live to make sure I got a post out a week. I'm incredibly self motivated, and it was blasphemy if I couldn't get to the computer and consider something from a Spiritual/Biblical way.
I'm still self motivated, but where I'm feeling motivated is different.
These past two weeks, I felt a deep desire to give a book I've written one more epic edit. The whole time, feeling like the time was running short to get that done.
There are days when I have an image in my brain and I just have to create it. I'm feeling like something huge is coming for me, and if I don't get things in order, I'll regret it later.
It's the same feeling I had a Christmas, when I knew I needed to recreate ornaments for the tree. It was a completion of sorts, and I've made peace with it.
Just the realization that I need to get it done before it's too late. What is it too late for? I have no earthly idea. I just feel I'm running out of time, and I need to wrap some things up. It's an urgency that takes me away from the meditations.
My drive has not diminished, it's just focused a bit differently. I'm still here. I can't give it up. Don't make me give it up.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
My daughter, son, and I are in Scouts BSA. Last weekend was Spring Fling for Cub Scouts, and Camporee for the full on Scouts.
The three of us packed up.
My daughter and I had initially planned to go to Spring Fling the weekend of April 8th. I don’t know if you remember that weekend in the way long ago of a few weeks, but it wasn’t pleasant.
Thankfully, they canceled it, and we were moved to the campout on the 22nd.
Most of my daughter’s Pack chose not to move to the new time and location. I was, but only if we could upgrade up to the adventure tents.
What are adventure tents? Well, I’m glad you “pretend-asked” me.
Every Summer, Council Camps host Summer Camps for the Scouts BSA and Cub Scouts. Those happen in prefabricated tents. Most of these tents are taken down at the conclusion of Summer. The rest are permanent tents. They are relabeled “Adventure Tents,” and cost a little extra to use. They have wood floors and a cot already built in. They go fast.
That’s not the reason I want them.
The general camping area is far from the nice bathrooms.
I know this sounds elitist. It’s not. I can camp with the best of them with a weekend set of porta potties.
I know I’m losing you, so I need you to stay with me here, and trust it will be worth it, especially with my next sentence.
The bathrooms in the general camping area have systemic issues that make it more difficult for the girls to camp.
How longevity can play against you:
I know there are those of you who read the word “systemic” and big alarms go off in your brain. “Systemic” is neither scary nor bad. Let me explain.
Systems exist. We create systems to make our world easier. For example, the Drive Thru is a system. Systems contain rules. Treat the drive thru box like an order line. Stay to the left, closest to the building so cars can drive around. Drive around to pay. Pick up your food at the window closest to the opposite side of the building.
In good systems, the rules change as the world around it changes. Two drive thru windows were cumbersome and confusing. The restaurants that had them, closed down the first in favor of only having the second. It altered the system of using the drive thru without completely destroying it.
When girls, who were already part of the BSA through Venture Crews and leaders, were expanded into the Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA, there were some systemic changes that took place.
First of all, it wasn’t to the program, which beyond a few gender terms remained exactly the same, (“boys” became “boys and girls”). Right after the BSA made their announcement to include girls, there were people who made uneducated statements regarding the future of the program. I’m here to say, the program might actually be more intense since the girls joined, as they encourage sportsmanship.
The systemic changes I’m talking about were related to other things.
With Chartered Organizations, the Churches took it upon themselves to be the last beacon of hope for the souls of these boys and girls. Many included girls, but made very hard line rules about single gender dens. The systemic issue, in this situation, was a leniency for the boys that didn’t exist for the girls. Basically, if there was a lone girl in an age bracket, she was forced to be a lone scout or drop out. Conversely, if there was a lone boy in an age bracket, the rules suddenly changed to incorporate mixed genders into the Packs.
That’s not because the systemic issue was rooted in sexism. (Thought I was going there? You don’t know me very well.) The system of Cub Scouts is rooted in preparing the kids for full on Scouts. It’s not to “have fun.” Having fun is what you do to create a desire to continue in a program.
When girls were added, there were no Troops for them. As Girl Troops were added, they were few and far between.
Almost all of the Cub Scout programs were the roots to a Boy Troop. The systemic issue is the Boy Troops need new boys. That’s not against the girls. It just pushes them out of the system to get the thing they really want.
Back to the campout
The bathrooms at these summer camps are old and were created for the boys.
When the BSA allowed girls, Camp Comer was in a great situation. They had just built bath houses with closing doors. Once the door was closed to the bathroom or shower there was complete privacy. They were not going to build another bath house for the girls. Instead, they tore down the outside walls. It gives the girls and boys equal access to the facilities.
Meanwhile, Camp Bert Adams doesn’t have the same luxury. They have these permanent port-a-potties in the camping area. Boys don’t have to sit to pee, so they are really for emergency poop issues. The boys just pee out the back of the tent. They have for generations. Girls cannot do that. “Pop a squat” is a real thing, and has a learning curve, and not something you wanna do at 3 in the morning.
That’s what makes the whole thing systemic. The system, which was created for the boys, doesn’t work as well for the girls. I will pay a little more to be near the bath houses, where three of the adult entrances have been relabeled for the girls. At least, until the council can fix the systemic issue. To name that issue doesn’t mean I hate the program or the people running the program. I love Scouts, and I am so grateful my daughter has been able to participate within it. It doesn’t change the truth that the system must change with the changes.
Broken systems and church
Sometimes I think I can talk gently about another topic, and you can put the dots together. I think many of us have pretty big blinders when it comes to the Church, so let me explain one of the systemic issues there.
Back in the 1950’s, fresh off the back of WWII, people wanted community. They didn’t know their neighbor before the war. They saw that as a problem. Therefore, the organizations that grew were organizations that gathered the community together. It was passive growth. We simply existed, and people came to it.
It also meant the most important job in the Christian world was the lead pastor job. If everyone is willingly going to Church, you put someone in a church to lead them.
Then society began to change.
Then people began to define a relationship with God outside the Church.
Then people began to justify our relationship with God as we didn't need a communal identity.
The whole while- the Church still defined the most important job in the Christian world as being the lead pastor.
This is a systemic issue. Close to no one in our lifetime has ever done Evangelism the way it was intended. They took advantage of a religious climate that played in their favor. As the energy of that event began to fade, no one did anything differently.
Now we have denominations that refuse to see any ministry disassociated with the church building. You have to either be leading the people within it, or one of the people worshiping to maintain standing. More and more ministers are crying out, “I’m a minister too, even though I’m not in the Church building!”
We are far closer to the 1920’s where people were disassociating with one another, and we scorned the idea of community. There is no energy to draw people into your buildings, yet you keep trying.
I love the people trying to save those buildings. It doesn’t change that there are systemic issues that must be resolved. It’s a much more difficult problem than fixing the bathrooms at a Scout Camp. That’s what has me worried. I feel time is running out, and no one is listening. Even if they were listening, no one is acting.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
You know what happens when you die in Christ?
I have knowingly witnessed the undeath of a Zombie Church twice in my lifetime. Both times were terrifying. I saw the dying church sit on the precipice of choice, die or be undead, and choose undeath. I watched their collective brains work up the old songs, and do the old movements, unaware that the only reason the manic desires were working was because of the new undeath they were choosing. The muscles hadn’t begun to atrophy and rot yet. Only it was coming, and it came, and it will always come if a church chooses undeath over death.
Easter this year was a nationwide Zombie event.
Let me say this first: I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I haven’t been yet. Please keep that in mind. I want to be wrong, but I don’t see this going any other way.
I’m going to lay out some bitter truths none of y’all want to hear. Gird up your loins, because here it comes:
On Easter Sunday 2022, we used it as our chance to bring it all back. We wanted the lilies and the banners, the preludes and the choirs. We wanted the past, and God wouldn’t keep us from something we loved. Right?! … Right? As a Nation we became the Holy Undead Church.
By the way, I’m okay with you scoffing at my words right now, if that’s what you’re doing. In return, you need to be okay that I can’t get too close. Undead, when they finally realize what they did, will bite. They won’t understand why things went the way it did, and blame will be thrown in all directions but themselves. I get it. It’s not fair. You just want your normal experience back. You just want the songs. You just want [insert selfish want here].
If now you’re bristling because I’m calling last Sunday a selfish desire- check yourself. Did you want an Easter Cantata because it would help a greater need for the human race? Did you do it because you knew the community needed it? Or, did you do it because you wanted to wear your fancy outfit, and sing the songs you haven’t sung in two years? Did you want a “normal” Easter because you’re afraid of what would happen to YOUR church if you didn’t?
The Ace Up Your Sleeve is Really a Snake
You need to know I’ve spent my lifetime in the Church. I gave my soul to the system, and I know it forwards, backwards and sideways.
I have watched church after church use Children’s and Youth programming as evangelism tools. If you have a counter, that’s it. “But my children need the church, and I’m willing to sacrifice my experience to give it to them.”
Do you know how many grown up adults would probably say that now? Way more than any of us should be comfortable with. That’s not healthy, and that’s not church. Church needs to be for the entire family or it ceases to function as a working Body of Christ.
Let me say what you are really thinking. “I want a Church for all of us, but I see that most of them are not really working, so I’ll find something for the kids because I’m afraid what will happen if I try to fix the problem myself.” Namely, you’ll have to start seriously considering what churches are spiritually feeding your children. You will also have to work, and that’s where God’s Wilderness comes back into play. When we choose to not follow the call to die and be reborn, we become undead, and now we’ve brought our kids into it too.
We communally knew there was a problem. We chose to ignore the problem, and choose to live into the lie. We wanted the lie.
For those who’ve been sitting in those dwindling sanctuaries, and found hope at the full pews last Sunday: Don’t.
Another way to see last Sunday as a Nationwide Palm Sunday. We were the crowds. We were the manic screamers singing a “Hallelujah” that we didn’t realize meant, “Save us!”
If last Sunday was a modern Palm Sunday… Well, it’s going to be a rough ride.
You know what happens when an undead church finally dies?
It stays dead.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I need to do something a little different today.
Tomorrow marks the last day of women’s history month. It came and went without much fanfare.
As a form of celebration, and in honor of Lent, I’ve decided to share a few of the pieces I’ve done over the past month, and explain them. You already saw New Creation. As a reminder, it’s a piece that looks at God’s gifts and promises, and whether they can be held by women. It doesn’t answer that question, but simply asks it.
But What If She Could?
The whole time I was working on the above piece, I was asking the question, "But what if I could?"
I knew what I'd draw. First, a transition from day to night. Second, an explosion of light, that can only be properly experienced when started in darkness.
This is my imaginary playground. Every once in awhile, I can see the potential- it explodes out. Then I realize it can't happen, and I'm left with the idea, and no way to do it. See, I am constantly living in the world of "what if," knowing there is little more that I can do.
I wrote two scriptures into this drawing's foundation.
The first is John 1:1- "In the beginning was the Word, and the world was with God, and the Word was God." It tells the viewer this is still a new creation. You can tell from all the chaos that needs ordering. Beautiful new chaos. This image is exciting in it's potential. This image is fun. There's protection too. The "1:1" looks like 7:7- "The world can’t hate you. It hates me, though, because I testify that its works are evil." A little proof texty, I know- but when you have image to tell a story, you have to tell so much with so little. It speaks to Christ taking the burden. God's love made known through the new creation.
The second is Luke 13:34- "Jerusalem, Jerusalem. The city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent to it. How I've longed to gather your children, like a hen gathers her chicks." That turns this drawing against itself. I told you it was potential. Jesus' words were potential too. He's speaking to the potential to care and save Jerusalem, knowing they would crucify him in return. Notice the ground. It's a hidden rainbow. She is standing on God's promise. The rainbow was considered God's war bow, pointed away from the earth, but now she's standing on it.
It's so beautiful, but in it's beauty it's sad too.
When I was a child, I wanted to be part of church. The only way I could, was to light the candles at the beginning of church, and be part of the children's moment.
The children's moment, was a 5 minute mini-sermon given before Communion. The kid's would come up. An adult would tell a story, ask a couple of questions, and sometimes we'd get a treat.
There came a point, where the adults felt I had aged out of the children's moment. To be fair, I was still a kid- 4th grade. They just decided I was done. The problem was, they couldn't keep me from going to the front of the church. My dad sung in the choir, so no one was there to tell me, "No!"
One of the matriarchs took it upon herself to be that person. She took it upon herself to sit next to me one Sunday. When it came time for the children's moment, she firmly told me no. I ignored her, because she wasn't my dad, and started to go up. She grabbed my arm, and tried to hold me back. In shock and fear, I pulled away.
That was how the church decided to tell me, and I had multiple nightmares about that event throughout the rest of my childhood.
Gals keep other gals from God's promise in a multitude of ways.
Maybe it's under the guise of reciprocity. One generation didn't get something, so a future generation shouldn't have it either. Only the previous group can't see it wasn't fair for them, and in turn, it's not fair now.
Maybe it's under the guise of justice. "These are the rules and we've been following them for generations." The matriarch was only enforcing the rules, and her sense of justice gave me nightmares about God's house. But, I've seen the guise of justice being used in other ways too. Maybe it's the way the rules are harsher on women in ministry to prove a point. If one can find a single grain of guilt in a sea of ministry, that's it. It's stifling.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's the feeling women get that puts ministry as a limited resource. The churches only have so many jobs for women in their building. The media only has one woman they can raise up as their spiritual darling. It forces us to fight one another for something God promised abundantly. We lose sight of the fact that me getting it, helps you get it later. You getting it, is celebration, because you getting it helps us all.
We also become far more critical of one another, because we know that failure speaks to all of us, not just the woman who failed. It's painful, and it's real.
She Had, and She Will
Flipped Mitten Press is a publishing company started by Kristy Burmeister. She used her words to begin to tell the story of trauma suffered through the institution of Church.
I made this for her.
She is doing it. She took God's promise and made something with it. She will continue to do so. There is nothing in this image, but love.
The Word Was God
This piece is the entire reason all of this exists.
I've been spending 12 weeks long-term subbing for high school art class. Whenever I long term sub, I always immerse myself in the content. That's why the pieces look so diverse in their media. With the exception of a few pieces I went home and did because I was inspired, they are all pieces to help me, help the students. This was the first week with Drawing/Painting II. The prompt was "Illuminated pages." While they took on Fairy Tales, I took on John 1:1-4.
It's currently hanging in Fig Tree's worship area, and you can see it behind me Sunday mornings.
This piece lit the flame to get me to explore how to preach without physical words, but with Word.
Oh, I know how uncomfortable this piece is. I can simply explain it, and you should see it differently than you are probably looking at it now.
Their are two images fighting for your focus: Communion and Dead Church.
Communion was broken and made whole. (Notice the mended cup.)
The Church was whole and is now broken.
This is an image of focus. What are you going to focus on? The building that will eventually decay and go back to dust? OR The Communion that is eternal?
And finally... "Goddess of Life."
I want to end here for a couple of reasons:
First, I don't want to end on Dead Church. I find it to be a solid piece, and I love it, but it's dense, and let's end on a lighter note.
Second, we're ending on life, and that makes this piece perfect.
The image on her brow is one of the Native American symbols for life.
There are four quadrants, and each quadrant has four meanings.
There is only one type of person who has fully lived in all four: and older person.
This person knows all of life.
What I love even more are her wrinkles. As we age, our skin creases in ways that show how we lived. This woman laughed! You can tell from her crows feet.