Christian Stereotypes and Easy "A"
Last weekend I rented "Easy A".
The movie was pretty enjoyable and very funny although it seemed to be missing an ending. Loved Emma Stone though, and I'm excited to see her in "The Help." Also, the moral of the story was....ummm..what??
While I thought the moral of the story was that you shouldn't lie because it can spiral out of control, Olive's statement of "If I have sex it's NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS" seemed to imply that the moral of the story was, um, don't talk about people who are wearing corsets to school emblazoned with the letter A? Sure, gossip is not a good thing, but I thought that this was all about Olive, and how she let herself be defined by something that wasn't true just so she got noticed by her peers.
This was all background though, to my red, boiling anger. I was infuriated with their lazy Christian stereotyping.
First of all, let me just say that I have never, EVER met a single Christian like Amanda Bynes character. I've gone to church all my life, went to a Christian high school and a Christian college, and then joined my husband at a Christian Seminary. Our friends are mostly Christians, our parents, and our church community is as well. Sometimes I worry that we are TOO much in the bubble, if you know what I mean. We're working on it.
So, needless to say, I know a lot of Christians. And I have never, ever, run across anyone like that. EVER.
And if I did, I would probably slap them across the face.
I am equal parts heart sick and furious of movies and tv's portrayal of Christians. Besides Friday Night Lights, I have yet to see a portrayal of Christians that felt real or true to life in any way.
So many times, like in the case of Easy A, it is so easy to see that the director and/or writer have a strong bias against Christian that they want to get across. A true artist should be able to make a film apart from their own biases, and yet, we are seeing it again and again.
There is no other religion that is mocked, parodied and slammed to the floor as much as Christianity. If you say one negative thing about Islam, Judaism, Hindiusm you are immediately shushed in American culture. It's not politically correct to talk of Women's Rights under Islam or about the Caste system under Hinduism.
How is it that we cry "Tolerance" so loudly, and yet, we feel free to mock just ONE faith? Suddenly, we are "Right-wingers". Suddenly, my beliefs are aligned with a political party. Suddenly, we are Amanda Bynes. Who okay'd this? Not me. Not anyone I know. I'm not a Right-Winger. I'm just a Christian.
Yet, Christians take it with a smile. Smile after bloody smile. Punch us again, because it's easy to punch someone who follows a man who preaches in Matthew 5:39, "But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." So I guess I won't be slapping anyone. That makes me kinda sad.
In Easy A, Amanda Bynes character is positively the most LAZY stereotype I've ever seen. For one, she's wearing a naughty schoolgirl outfit, not seen since before Brittany Spears was a zombie. Really, no one wears that. Especially if she's the conservative Christian that she claims to be. She sits around with her little prayer group, slamming Olive (the main character) before praying for her and then singing an old Christian hymn with her small group of friends. Her Dad is the world's WORST pastor (played by Fred Armitage, channeling all the experience that he has as a man of God from his days at SNL), a pervert and an all around horrible guy. Amanda Bynes's characters boyfriend is cheating on her with a school guidance counselor. With very little screen time, these stereotypes manage all kinds of flung dirty insults towards the Christian.
Christians are not true to their word.
Christians are out to hurt other people.
Christians are hypocrites.
Christians are crazy white people.
Christian leaders are all some sort of sexual deviants.
Christians are unlikeable, unreasonable, unintelligent and NOT people that you should talk with.
It made me sad -it made me angry - it convicted me. Part of my job as a Christian is to make sure that these Christian stereotypes are not put forth by me or anyone I know. It is my job, if I see a Christian behaving in this way, to talk to them about it, and if need be, tie them to a fire hydrant somewhere before they do anymore harm. I don't want to be a part of something untrue, and these stereotypes persist because we, as Christians, don't always act when we see someone perpetuating them. I'm not saying a Christian has never done the things above. They for sure have. But no more than any other grouping in society. But these stereotypes also exist out of the bitterness of other people, people who would love to see nothing more than a Christian fall in the mud. Schadenfreude.
My experience with Christians is so different than the stereotypes in Easy A. Let's break them down a little.
Christians are not true to their word. Just like anyone else, Christians sometimes negate on their word. They lie, steal, cheat and...then they try to do better. We are trying to emulate Christ, but most of the time, being human and all, we aren't that great at it. But we're trying.
Christians are out to hurt other people. Not at all. In fact, if you visit most churches this Sunday, you will see a bulletin full of outreach opportunities. Homeless outreach, family outreach, Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, Lutheran World Relief, Food for the Hungry, The Salvation Army, Disaster Relief, medical outreach,..the list goes on and on. Christianity, at it's deepest point, is about caring or the needs of others through the love that Christ has given us. In fact, Christian charities make up about 30% of the top 100 charities in the world. If you are getting relief somewhere in the world right now, there is a good chance that someone paid for that grain bag in an offering plate.
Christians are hypocrites. Yup, this is true. Only because we are human beings, who will fail each other. There is a mistaken perception that if a Christian doesn't act in a necessarily Christian way that the whole institution is somehow wrong. If I have a bad teacher, do I assume that the education system itself is totally ridiculous and decide that I will have no part of education? No. Because it would be silly to judge an entire organization by the failure of one person. People will fail you 100% of the time. And that is a fact. But Jesus does not. And that is all the difference. Just because a Christian didn't act right does not mean that Christianity is not right.
FYI, we think this guy is nuts too!!
Christians are crazy white people. It seems, like all types of races and religions, that we cannot keep the worst of us off the news. You know why? Because regular Christians aren't newsworthy. Would you like to watch a report on Joe Christian, who goes to church on Sundays, raises his family and hands out sandwiches to homeless people on Friday nights? No? Why, would you rather watch the Ted Haggard debacle? Me too!! Because scandal is what makes news. 99.9% of Christians don't do anything really newsworthy on their best day. And the 1% who does, usually does not represent us. The WestBoro Baptist Church people? Those aren't Christians! They're just crazy! Horrible, crazy people!!! They don't represent us, we hate them! Just like I refuse to believe that the 9-11 Terrorists represent Muslims, so you shouldn't believe that crazy TV preacher speaks for us. For me. Let me just say this for all the Christians out there: He doesn't!!!! And as for the race thing - the majority of Christians are African American. Where are they in these filmed stereotypes? Oh, that's right, they're not. Because we wouldn't want to seem racist when we are bashing a religion, now would we?
Christian leaders are all some sort of sexual deviants. To this I would like to say: THANK YOU CATHOLIC CHURCH SCANDAL!! I cannot even tell you what a headache the actions of something around 200 men made for the remaining HALF A MILLION Catholic clergy out there. Not to mention, the headache for clergy everywhere. It's funny that the church, by large, is now so defined by that. If a bunch of teenagers decided to go on a shooting rampage, I wouldn't assume that all teenagers are psycho killers waiting to happen. That would be silly of me. And yet, this is what has happened with the Catholic Church. Now, that aside.. yes, Christians (just like anybody else) has struggles with sexuality. They are normal people, dealing with temptation and sexual issues same as every other person in the world. We're sinners. Just because we go to church doesn't mean that our struggles with sin are over. Hardly. But most of us aren't harboring some weird repressed sexuality. Really, we're not that interesting.
Christians are unlikeable, unreasonable, unintelligent and NOT people that you should talk to. So, I hope this isn't true. I mean, I hope that you wouldn't think this about me, about my friends and my sister and my parents. I think people are unlikeable and most of the time, that has nothing to do with their religion. And I can't stress enough that you shouldn't get your information about faith and religion from A) the media or B) people that don't know what they are talking about. And sadly, there are Christians out there who have no idea what they are talking about. In fact, the other day I heard someone (A Christian!) say "Christians..they believe in purgatory, right?" I shake my head. No. No, we don't.
Maybe the reason I got so upset with Easy A is because the Christianity I see isn't the Christianity of Easy A. It looks like nothing like it. Easy A's Christianity is Justin Bieber and my Christianity is Johnny Cash. It's more real, more down to earth. Less flashy lights, more quiet conversations.
My reality of Christianity is seeing a congregation raise enough money to help those who cannot help themselves. My reality of Christianity is seeing a family of four baptized, holding each other and weeping. My reality of Christianity is friends, leaning on each other in weakness and strength. My reality is seeing my husband get up at two in the morning to comfort a grieving family. My reality of Christianity is... Jesus.
My Christianity is real, dirt-under-your-nails, heartbreaking and world-changing and ecstatic and devastating. It is so good and so hard at the same time.
So Easy A, you can take your smug and infinitely lazy and careless definition of Christianity and you can have it back. We don't want it.
Come back with something that requires understanding and compassion. Than we'll talk. Thanks.