"Easy A" and Christianity

A portrayal of the Gospel from an unlikely source

Last week, I went with a couple of friends to watch "Easy A."  It's not my type of movie to begin with, and I knew ahead of time that they would bash Christianity, but I went anyway because these were people I care about and I wanted to spend time with them.  So I went.

True to my expectations, this movie horribly bashes Christianity.  At the same time, I can't say that people using the "Christian" label haven't given the secular world good reason to bash us.  I'll get to it eventually, but an analysis of the portrayal of Christians in the movie is simply too easy of a target.  I'm sure there will be plenty of angry bloggers approaching the subject (not to mention very valid feminist issues), and I don't want to add to the fray.  Yet.

I want to do something different.

I would say "spoiler alert" at this point, but the movie is so emphatically predictable that there really isn't anything that I can say that you wouldn't be able to gather from watching the trailer and having a working knowledge of high school movies.  But for those of you who plan on watching (which I don't particularly recommend)- consider yourself warned.

The protagonist basically lies about having sex with someone, and the one lie snowballs into the creation of an entire alter-identity for herself in which people pay to have her lie about having sexual acts with them.  Her lies are only known "underground," but the rest of the school actually thinks that she has been doing these acts, even though she hasn't done them at al.  Along the way, she lies for the token gay guy, the token school "loser" and the like.  They get better reputations as her reputation gets worse- a fact that the movie harps on.  The turning point occurs when a token member of the Christian club comes down with syphilis and blames it on her (though in actuality he has been sleeping with the token school counselor who is married to the token English teacher.)  The protagonist first accepts the blame to keep the counselor's and the teacher's marriage in tact (he's her favorite teacher), but she later reneges.  She tries to undo all her lies- the gay guy comes out, but the others won't budge.  As a result, she produces a video diary (which ends up being the movie).

Of course, there isn't a 1:1 correlation and please don't AT ALL take this as a recommendation of the movie, but I think the protagonist (in an incomplete way) can be an example of what Christ did for us on the cross.  He took our sins and our shame and made them His own.  Not only that, but He also took our consequences.  He was ostracized in our stead.  He died in our stead.  He experienced the wrath of God in our stead.  He took on our adultery and homosexuality* and lies and murderous thoughts and gossip and even our religious hypocrisy- and took it upon Himself.  And we didn't deserve that.  Not only did we not deserve it, but our standing before God increased because of Christ's loss.  But though He had the choice (OK, some people don't believe this, but work with me here), he didn't renege.  He bore it all, and He bore it to the end.  He was the only one who could do that for us, and He fulfilled that role.  And because He did, and because the Father accepted His sacrifice, He's now alive, and those who trust that He did this for them can live with Him.  That's really good news.  That's the Gospel.  That's- dare I say it?- an "Easy A" for us.

*by which I mean lust and the actions that arise from it.  I'm using it in the same way as "adultery"

Meditation of my heart

Photographer: Cornelia Kopp of Flickr under CC2.0.  Use of photo does not imply photographer's endorsement of this new work.

Test Your Strength

Photographer: Justified Sinner of flickr under CC2.0, and this new work is hereby released under a similar CC3.0 license.  Use of this photo does not imply the photographer's endorsement.

Note on the text:  I think I made the first part up on my own, but it's so cheesy that it's entirely possible that I heard/ read it somewhere else.  My apologies to the original author if this is the case.

Note to my new (and old!) readers:  Thanks!  I'm glad to have you here.  If you have any comments on what I've done or suggestions (photos or ideas) for content you would like to see in the future, let me know!  I try to output at least two comics per week (Monday and Wednesday) with an "anything-goes" Friday, which usually means a more "traditional" blog post but it doesn't have to be.

 Well now that you know more about my blog, I would like to know about you!  How have you been relying on God's strength this past week?

Bad Advice

Photographer: Let Ideas Compete of flickr under CC2.0>.  Use of this photo does not imply the photographer's endorsement.


Photographer: elfon of flickr.  (Model: seabamirum, also from flickr.)  Image used under CC2.0.  Use of this photo does not imply the photographer's or model's endorsement of the work.

Text: Something my new friend Maxine said.


It's important to know why we do the things that we do.  It's easy to get stuck into a routine and forget why we started it.  I've been listening to a lot of Switchfoot lately.  I think a lot of it has to do with me holding on to the things that are familiar with me: my old music, my old TV shows, and the like. 

One of their songs off the Oh!  Gravity. album is called "Awakening," and it's basically about "waking up" from our routines and living for something more than deadlines and ourselves.

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We're awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We're awakening

Maybe it's called ambition
You've been talking in your sleep about a dream
We're awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn't look the same tonight

And that's a message I needed to hear, a lesson I needed to learn.  I know why I'm here, but it's easy to forget the importance of it.  The significance of being in a certain place at a certain time with certain resources at  my disposal (also the lack thereof).  "Man-made never made our dreams collide," but the Spirit of God breathes life and creates out of dust.  He makes all things new and redeems all things damned.

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart's still beating
It's beating, I'm bleeding

Sometimes the paths that we're on will bring us pain, but at least we're alive :)  And we're alive to do the good works that God has prepared for us.  And the same Spirit that breathed life into us is the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead, and He is the same Spirit that seals our inheritance and equips us for ministry.

And since it's Free Friday and I can do whatever I want, here's a webcomic for you, too.


Hi all!

Please take a moment to sign a petition asking Governor Schwarzenegger to sign The California Supply Chain Transparency Act of 2010 (SB 657) and The Slave and Sweat Free Code of Conduct for goods sold to the State of California (SB 1231) to bolster accountability for large retailers and inform consumers about products in the supply chain that might have been produced through slave labor. For those visiting my blog, there is a widget to the right where you can sign. For those of you with feeds (thanks for subscribing, btw), you can take a look at the petition and sign here.

Whether you are a resident of California or not, these bills are important for consumers across the country, as they will serve as an example for other states and influence large companies doing business beyond California. 


And here is the completely unrelated webcomic for the day:

Concrete Girl

Photographer: Elisafox of sxc.hu.

Text: Lyrics from Concrete Girl by Switchfoot.

The Gospel According to Jo

This was a bit of a tradition back at the Community Group my friend and I led. We would take turns, not every week, but once in awhile, to give the Gospel narrative, and a different person would do it each time. We called it "The Gospel According to [name of the person speaking." Don't get me wrong, we weren't changing or adding to or detracting from the Bible. We weren't speaking authoritatively. But rather, we were framing the Gospel narrative in a way that was personal to us and in a way that we hoped would be personal to others. By having different people give the narrative, we encouraged every member of the group to think about the Gospel for themselves, and to be ready to share it. We were also able to get different viewpoints and different nuances of the Gospel from each speaker.

All my posts this week (and a lot of my posts recently) have been about identity. It wasn't intentional, and it wasn't something I deliberately sat down to think about, but rather it was just the first thing that came to mind when I sat down to write my posts a couple hours before they were "due." Anyway, I haven't really had anyone in my life to properly remind me of the Gospel lately, so I decided to remind myself.

Edit: Wow, in writing this, I realize that I've gotten rusty :(

The Gospel According to Jo


Before there was Time, there was an entity who simply was. He "wased" with Himself, and indeed, He existed in three persons. Three persons who were not each other yet were the same. We call this entity God. God was not an entity who was a power or "the bright side of the Force," but He was a community of Persons. And within this community, each Person felt and gave love, one to another. God simply was who He was, but at the same time, in their interactions together, each Person sort of defined the other. And God was very joyful as a result of this interaction.

Out of that joy he created what we call the universe. And on a certain planet (much more complex and much more dearly loved than a mere watch) he created and placed two humans. And the two humans shared in the joy that God had in Himself. They were defined by the Goodness of God and their interactions with each other. And it was very good.

But our first parents were tempted. They were told that they could have identities outside of what God had given them. That they could be wise. That they could have knowledge. That they who "merely" partook of the joy of God could in fact be like Him. And they believed the tempter. The sought this identity and gained it, but found that the tempter's words were shadows of the truth. As a result, they became shadows of what they should have been. Defined apart from the joy of God, they were now also subject to His wrath, for they had destroyed a very good thing. And God, though joyful within Himself, was very sad and betrayed that these people rejected Him.

Because our first parents sinned, everything changed. They who had partook of not only God's joy but His eternality (though they had a beginning) would now know death. And the Earth they lived on would know death. This death would define them. Death would cut short their relationships with each other, and in doing so, would change their identities. And death would further damage their relationships with God, forcing them further away from His grace and into His eternal judgment. Death would enter their human relationships, with one exploiting the weaknesses of the other. Toil to work the dying land would define them. Toil to bring life into that same dying world would define them. Whether they laughed or cowered in the face of it, death elicited a response from all of humanity. And it got the last say.

But God had mercy. Christ, one of the Persons of God, became a man. He identified with us, so we could find our identity in Him once again. He spoke to us and healed our infirmities. And the more we interacted with Him, the more he changed us. He experienced our Death, but He conquered it, both spiritually and physically. He took upon Himself all of our sin, all that which separated us from God, all that brought death to our bodies and souls, and suffered our punishment. He died, but He did not stay dead. Rather, He came back to life, and in doing so, paved the way for our own resurrections, both spiritual and physical.

Through Christ, we can again find our identities in God. We become transformed by His goodness. His Spirit lives inside of us, reconnecting us to Himself. He identifies us as His children, His people. As His children, we also find our identities in each other, in our siblings-in-Christ, in the Church. As His people, we have assurance that this world is not our home. And these identities are not transient ones to be cut short by death, but instead are ones that continue into eternity. This is the promise to those who believe.

Is this something you believe in? Why or why not? If "yes," how would you articulate the Gospel? What is the Gospel according to you?

Asking the wrong questions


I'm on a boat?

Photographer: Squirmelia(parents) of Flickr under CC2.0,and this new work is hereby released on a similar CC3.0 license. Use of this photo does not imply endorsement of the photographers or the person photographed.

Contest results

Congratulations to Travis! You have won a hard-cover copy of Sproul's "Surprised by Suffering." Please let me know where I can mail it.

Unfortunately, Travis' comment was deleted in a really bizarre glitch in the IntenseDebate commenting system. For those who didn't get to read it, here is a copy of what he wrote:

I was in the middle of a long (almost a week) argument with my wife. She seemed to be defying me at every turn for the sake of making a point that she didn't have to listen to me if she was mad at me. I was going crazy because all I wanted to do was put it behind us and move on but she seemed intent on making her point. I was getting exhausted from all the arguing, cranky with others, and just overall worn out. I had no idea how I was going to spend the rest of my life with someone so intent on making mine difficult. Divorce was not an option but I still felt helpless and on the verge of giving up.

I was driving to work on day and, just before I left, the arguing continued. I started my 20 minute drive as angry as ever. Out of nowhere, I started praying silently which turned into exasperated yelling. I'm sure cars passing by thought I was nuts. I just could not figure out why God would have me go through such misery with the one who I was so sure He paired me up with. I did not want to spend the rest of my life with someone who purposefully made me so miserable. At that very moment, I became impatient and angry that God would allow me to go through something like that. I never wanted those feelings and I had no idea when it would end...if it would end.

After a few minutes of loud and helpless yelling, I felt something overpowering. Verses such as Philippians 4:6 popped into my head along with a slew of others. I felt like God was placing all these verses on anxiety in my heart reminding me that I had no right to be acting that way. If He made a promise that He would bring peace and has commanded me to cast all my cares on Him while being anxious for nothing, why on Earth was I acting like such a fool and not trusting Him? How could I expect my wife to be obedient to me when I wasn't being obedient to God? I felt like the biggest fool on the planet!

Exasperated yelling turned into loud sorrow and shame. Instead of asking how God could have me go through something like this I began asking Him to forgive me for now trusting in Him when I needed Him the most. Instead of praying that He would change my wife, I started praying that He would change me. I prayed the whole day at work for this and, by the time I got home, I felt completely different.

I sat down with my wife and we had a long talk. I shared with her the experience from the morning on the way to work and it opened up so many doors. I can honestly say that, while there have been rough times, my marriage has never been in such a state as it was that day. All I needed to do was trust God instead of leaning on my own selfish pride.

Thanks, Travis, for sharing your story. I hope you enjoy the new book!

Church...Grafting? A thought experiment.

Don't forget to enter for the free Sproul book if you haven't done so already! I know that there were some issues with the commenting system, but don't worry, I'm keeping track of the comments, even if they aren't displayed anymore. Anyone who comments will be given a number, and that number will be used for the givaway on Monday.

Church Grafting

There's been a lot I've been wanting to talk about, but I haven't had enough time to sufficiently think about them. For the next couple weeks, my "Free Friday" posts are probably going to be a bit half-baked, so I ask for your patience. But if you want to help me develop these ideas, feel free to chime in!

Church planting is the new hip cool thing in modern evangelicalism (except "evangelicalism" is neither new, hip, nor cool anymore, but I'll use it for lack of a better word.) Of course, there are different ways churches are planted, but it generally goes something like this: you have a large or decently sized church, say, in Simi Valley. And members of that church feel called to go do church somewhere else, not because they don't like their Simi church, but because God loves people in...I don't know...West LA, too. So they gather up a team and get a couple pastor/ elders, usually younger guys either straight out of or not to far out from seminary. They move to West LA and plant a church.

It's no secret that church plants are generally in urban areas. I actually read an article awhile back on how rural areas need Jesus, too, and how church planters should consider planting in the country. I thought that was a valid point.

But are we limited to church planting?

What if there are already existing churches in a particular area? What if those churches love Jesus, too? But what if they're struggling a bit, not in purpose or joy or love or dedication, but what if their numbers aren't as good? What if they're missing entire generations of people under 40? 50?...60?

Do we go to the areas where these churches are and set up new churches? Church plants, in addition to being urban, generally attract the young urban. And maybe I'm making gross overexaggerations. This isn't something I've exactly studied in detail. Do we just hope the older churches will be able to get enough members of their own to be viable for a few more years? Or do we let them die out?

Church planting isn't for everyone. What if you're simply not called to lead in that capacity? What if you're not a pastor? What if you're not...a guy?

Is it possible to have a movement of church grafters? People of a certain age willing to leave their churches in favor of filling in age gaps of churches form another certain age? Would it be possible to set up a database of "personal church ads" or something? "Older church seeks young, vibrant adults" "Younger church seeks experienced Christians"

Of course it's easy to see 1) how this will be a logistical nightmare and how 2) how this, if implemented, will present a ton of problems. Ones that immediately come to mind are: who do you let use the list? and what happens when a group of "grafters" disagree with the leadership of the new church?

But problems aside, do you think an argument can be made for what I'm going to call "church grafting?" A move to strengthen existing churches through diversity of membership as an option aside from church planting?

There your heart will be also

Photographer: Jill Clardy of Flickr under CC2.0, and therefore this work is released under a similar CC3.0 license. Use of the photographer's work does not imply her endorsement of its content.

Note: don't forget to enter into the SBS Book contest!