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Saved

Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, "Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful." And Jesus says to us, "...I have called you friends...." Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (16 June,"'Will You Lay Down Your Life?'")


Deeply thankful this morning for God's gentle, consistent lovingkindness with me. My discipline, especially spiritually, has been awful for a while. Acting that way is somewhere between foolishness and madness. Yet the Lord of all Creation, who has every right to demand my obedience or to pour out wrath on me for my sin, simply bids me to come to Him. The One who could condemn me, woos me. I want to learn to spend time with Him again.

Saw Saved! with John yesterday afternoon. I expected to get a big kick out of it, and in some ways I did, but I was surprised by the ways it left me literally sick to my stomach. The broad criticisms and incisive satire weren't the problem at all—in fact, these elements were hilarious to me. But the underlying premises and message were seriously misleading in significant respects. Overall, the film painted a world where Jesus continually failed people, where their efforts to ask His will and seek it, from hero and villain alike, resulted in gross misunderstanding and tragedy. It was a world where there really weren't any answers at all, His place in it filled only with clichés or absence, where He was for whatever reason silent, and the best anyone could hope for is to muddle through with the help of friends and family.

That's not true. He's not absent, no matter how far the Church and Christian culture may have strayed. And the major questions and dilemmas the characters struggled with called for the laying down of their lives, the yielding of their rights to themselves and trusting in Him. No one did that; it didn't even seem like a valid option. The sense of brokenness and alienation, the need for loving community—these are true things. But there is good news—gospel—and a ministry of reconciliation between God and us, and between us, that was represented as impotent and ultimately absent.

Community Group was just what I needed after that—a living, breathing, active, loving picture of what it looks like for people not only to seek Him together here on Earth, but to know the living, breathing, active, loving presence and ministry of Christ through the Holy Spirit. He is with us, ministering in and through us. Life is more than a struggle, and following Him is more than a guessing game. It was a perfect time to begin looking at Acts together, to see how He was active in His church after His resurrection and learn how He is still at work. By grace we are witnesses and recipients of this.

Comments

I saw Saved and was pretty disappointed by it as well. It left the film at the end with an 'inclusive'/universalist prespective completely void of what salvation/freewill is all about.
Yes. And none of that should surprise me, but I'd rather see Jesus turned away from outright than represented as something/one He isn't.
i completely agree.
amen and amen.
I"m glad you wrote about Saved. I am refusing to see that movie, because I knew I'd come out of it sick, for one reason or another.
I was surprised by my reaction, honestly. And I wouldn't recommend against it to everyone—it's certainly thought provoking and raises some good questions—but whether to see it and what to come away with calls for a lot of discernment.

re: saved

I've heard interviews with the director and with some of the people who were in the movie, and what I got from it was that they looked at Christianity, and in particular, evangelicals, as a community, which they respected to a degree. But I also got the impression that they had no understanding of Christ - that He's alive and working and *real*.

The one thing I'm personally getting from all of the recent pop culture interest in Christianity (from The Passion to The DaVinci Code to Saved! - none of which I've seen/read) is constant reminders of how important it is to be in the word and in prayer - because regardless of intention or position of the makers, whether coming from within a Christian perspective or without, none of it is as important as growing in one's walk with God. And I'm thankful for and need those reminders.

Re: saved

Well said, and Amen. I like the way you wrote that.

Re: saved

You're so right. And if our faith is just "faith," if He isn't alive and working and real, then things really are as awful as they're painted and we are to be pitied. Only He can open eyes, minds, and hearts to Himself.
Thanks for the insightful review of </i>Saved.</i>

I'm afraid I'd be depressed if I watched it--and what is the point? I think I'm pretty much in touch with the culture as it is, anyway.

What you said about true Christianity and true community was beautiful. Thanks for the affirmation of our shared faith.
I'm having more and more of those "what is the point?" moments in regard to what I watch, listen to, and think about. Thankfully, it's a different sensibility than simply switching over to "Christian" alternatives and continuing to gorge myself on meaningless drivel because it has the "right" label—it's more of a realization that this constant hunger for entertainment is a distraction that encourages me to settle for so much less that what life and living are really about.

Philippians 4:8 is becoming more deeply meaningful to me: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." That's such a grace.
I had a feeling the message in saved was not going to be one that points people towards God. I'd still like to see it however.
Like I said to mszimbolist, I wouldn't necessarily recommend against it. Like you, I didn't expect it to point people to God, but I'd hoped it would be more redemptive in general than it was. Instead, it seems to encourage acceptance of this world not being the way it's supposed to be, and I don't want to concede failure when victory has been fully won and secured. It's a good place for discernment.
...but how can they depict a redemption they have never known...?
That is indeed the danger of dealing with Jesus without trusting the gospel. In other works, themes of redemption point to Him in ways the artists may never have consciously intended—this is part of our being creative in His image, and one of the ways all creation points to God. But reflections don't have the substance of their objects, and echoes never have the full resonance of the orginal source. So when Jesus is presented, it's often a lesser substitute.

I wrote a ton more along these lines below.
good food for thought, all of it.
While I agree that there are many flaws with Saved, I am not certain how else a secular studio could or should have made the film.
Thoughout my life as a Christian God's work and plan has rarely if ever been immediately apparent to me in my daily life. This is especially true when I was in Highschool and praying for all sorts of rediculous things I thought I wanted or needed. The truth is that God's plan does remain largely invisible to us. While the ending of the film can be interpreted as morally ambiguous I think you can also see it as the characters surrendering themselves to Jesus and admitting they don't know the answers. In a way the main character has moved from imposing her own ideas of what God ought to do "make him straight... etc" to a more mature listening for God's will.

The reality is Girls do get pregnant at a young age and become ostricized from the church. The church has had a caustic response to homosexuals. While Christ's message to us is one of grace and reconciliation this is something that can be hard to find in the worldly church for these individuals. The Church for the most part does a crappy job of emulating Jesus' compassion and grace. So I'm not sure what the film makers should have done- since the representation of the church was relatively accurate. Should the main character have had a vision in which Jesus tells her "its okay, you messed up, but I love you anyways?" I know I wish I'd had that kind of reassurance sometimes.

But lets not forget that this is a comedy. The goal was to create a light hearted look at a conservative christian highschool. I'm not sure how the film makers could have made it more theologically deep and still had it remain enjoyable and popular.
Good thoughts. My responses:

Good effort doesn't always earn an "A": I don't disagree that the writers, producers, directors, studio, et al have some limitations on what they can authenitically produce. That doesn't mean I believe their efforts should be received without criticism and discernment from Christians. Much of the film is indeed very insightful and has the makings of good satire. What they miss, of course, is the gospel (Jesus is living and active, etc.). It's appropriate to point out where they've missed the mark and what's lacking as a result. We can't be afraid of bearing witness to the truth that's been revealed to us—that denies Christ. That doesn't mean that the filmmakers had the ability to make a better movie; neither does the fact that they lacked that ability mean that they didn't miss the truth of the gospel.

Abuse doesn't negate proper use: I've seen every flaw in the church that the film highlights. Though satirical, I don't believe any of the jokes or criticisms were unfair (I laughed my ass off). That said, I don't think the right conclusion is to toss it all in favor of some vague sense of "something out there" and a hope no greater than trying to figure out what Jesus would do. Likewise, I agree that the church has often been far less than compassionate with those dealing with unwed pregnancy and same-sex attraction. The church's failure to be compassionate does not mean that, therefore, there is no design for sexuality and all expressions should be equally embraced.

Bottom line: As I suggested in my entry, the film's world is one in which Jesus, the great moral teacher, either died and stayed dead, or rose and is not currently active in the world and His church. In that kind of world, the best any of us can hope for is a bit of acceptance until (or if) He returns to rescue us. Though there may be moments of beauty, it's largely an ambiguous living Hell. I certainly wouldn't be a Christian under those conditions; it's just crazy.

The irony is, even much of the church believes this. It's one of the reasons we aren't more compassionate—we don't believe Jesus is continually advancing His Kingdom. Instead, many Christians, particularly conservatives, are waiting in lifeboats for the rest of the ship to sink, occasionally pulling others to the perceived safety of their station. But I believe the message and power of the Kingdom is saving the ship, redeeming the culture, healing the brokenness. That's not an agenda item to be tabled for a later date; it's the mission of the church and the reason the Holy Spirit has been given to Christians.

His presence is with the church and the Christian daily, whether we are faithful to listen to and express this or not. "God is not dead, nor does He sleep."

In the final analysis, what got to me and made me ill in Saved! was the vague notion of acceptance that was substituted for the person of Christ. Honestly, if we could get ourselves out of the muck by ourselves, or by following His teachings and trying to be good, wouldn't we be out by now? We need a Savior, and the good news is that not only has One been given and accepted, but He is living and active still.

If the film hadn't tried to moralize—perhaps a satire something more along the lines of This Is Spinal Tap and its successors—I think I'd have loved it. It's the counterfeiting an empty notion for Christ that left me unhappy, and the filmmakers could have opted not to do so without compromising the satire.

I'm not defensive about the film's portrayal of the church, but I am very critical of its portrayal of Christ. If more of the church had a better sense of humor about itself, we could do better. I love things like Lark News in that regard.
thanks for summing it up. i haven't seen the movie yet, but i was sort of expecting from it what you described. i was also expecting to be a little insulted, but that wasn't the biggest issue.

and Lark News is hilarious.
"Remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life."
I want to remember this. I need to constantly believe that my life, my actions, my circumstances, are not about me, but rather about His magnificence. Press on....