Sunday, May 27, 2012

Movie Review: Courageous

I usually do not do movie reviews or really watch movies but I received a copy of the movie Courageous for my birthday a few weeks ago. Skeptigirl now is an old lady of 30 and calling herself a girl is sounding more and more absurd. Well anyway my pastor loved it so much that he bought many copies of it and then I opportunely had a birthday and so he gave one to me. At first I thought, how nice of him, I have not gotten a birthday present for some years. Then I thought “’From the makes of Fireproof.’ Doesn’t that have bananaman’s lover acting in it?” Then I calmed my prejudice and reminded myself that I have never seen these actors in anything else so there is no reason to look at it with anything but an open mind. So I entered into the movie watching experience as open mindedly as possible…

…and I was pleasantly surprised. 3/5 stars. I liked it despite the omens and might watch it again, one day. I thought the acting was the best I had seen in a Christian movie. The dialogue was good, natural and funny. I have heard people have conversations like that before. It has a few obligatory preachy spots and witnessing moments but they were not any more awkward than in real life. In fact I have seen many more awkward ones in reality. So I liked it, but I did not love it.

Why did I not love it? Why not 4/5 stars or 5/5? Three reasons: It had no female characters. You, a person who have seen it, may say: “But what about the wives?” Yes, what about them? The men had wives and two of them had daughters. Were the wives real characters in my opinion? No they weren’t. They were props without personality. There is a test ( you can do that will tell you if a movie is female friendly. This movie fails on all but the first criteria, having female characters. The women are never seen in a scene without their husbands. If there is a scene the wife is in without her husband you can bet he is a few seconds away from entering it or she is talking to him on the phone. The women develop in no way whatsoever. Well the last one is fine. The movie is about the men after all. The women are just wives that make them going out and working and having progeny possible. They are the helpmeets and not interesting or important in the movie. In fact they are children.

This move treats women like children. I actually would have liked this movie better if the women had been removed from it and the men would have been single dads or something. The movie is about men taking responsibility for their families and children. I suppose that is fine but they are taking responsibility for their wives too. Instead of giving them the respect as fellow adult human beings equally responsible for raising their shared children they are reduced to these adult children. In their pledge they say they will take responsibility for their wives. Are the wives taking equal responsibility for them? that is not addressed. I think it would be enough for them to just be responsible for their own actions and behavior and their children instead of trying to parent adult women who need to be responsible for their own actions. I am not saying married couples should not help and support each other but there is no way you can be responsible and take care of another adult in that way and not reduce them the a child. It is nasty to be married to one’s own child.

Then lastly, this may be anticlimactic because it is just one scene and not really that big of a deal to me next to the infantilization of adult women. There is this gross saccharine scene where one of the fathers takes his daughter to a fancy restaurant all dressed up for dinner and at the end gives her a worth the wait ring. This scene mirrors, and I think is meant to, a marriage proposal. This seems harmless but it disgusts the crap out of me and it seems incestuous. Why is this? He is just treating her like an adult. I am all for giving your kids the respect of treating them like adults and how will they act like adults if you don’t treat them like it? The problem to me is that he chooses to treat her like an adult in a sexualized context. Sure it is innocent and chaste but he treats her the way he would treat a woman he was dating, in the process of courting that would lead to sex. 

Why does he have to treat her like a woman he is dating? Is that the only way he knows to relate to adult women? Is that all they are good for? All women are to men inside Christian culture is marriage material or sexual objects. Is that so much different than in the main stream culture? After all mating as successfully as possible is what we have been evolved to do and be. Does this mean we need to blindly follow this drive and perpetuate this evolutionary imperative? No. I think Christians have a greater responsibility to rebel against what we have evolved to and not get stuck on the rising ape but try to focus on the fallen angel. We are more than our drive for reproduction. We are souls and we are infinitely valuable and not just in the context of pairing up, marrying and having babies. We are so much more than just men and women; we are immortal souls that thirst after righteousness and God. I really wish we could have Christian media that focused on us as something more than breeding machines, as complex human beings capable of so much more beyond the sum of our parts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Good Reads

I am on the site Good Reads and have no friends on it. If you use it look me up I am Skeptigirl on there and I use the same avatar. You can see my taste in books and (ghasp) romance novels.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Conclusion About Jehovah’s Witnesses

I feel like I have learned a lot during the almost year we have been visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses. For one thing they are nice people, two I like all the ones I have met, three there is no way I would want to be a Jehovah’s Witness. They are not that weird, the way they present the faith is actually incredibly simplistic feeling. I can’t stand reading the Watchtower and other ones of their publications because I feel like I am reading a children’s publication for adults.

I would like to present to you a few things I think are really great about the faith and the things that keep me from wanting to be a part of it.

The Good:

1. They take the sixth commandment seriously. Thou shalt not kill. Pretty basic but they really honor it which is something mainstream Christianity weasels itself out of. They won’t kill even in wars at great peril to themselves. It is a principle I can agree with.

2. When you walk into a Kingdom Hall you feel welcome, they really make an effort and everyone makes you feel like you are a smart and interesting person. I don’t know if it is sincere but I liked it and my church does not exude that level of niceness, not that they are unfriendly, they just don’t make as much of an effort. This, however, is only based on two experiences one at a kingdom hall the other at a conference type of an event I went to one Saturday.

3. They take turns preaching and teaching. I believe there is no pastor and any qualified man gets a turn at the pulpit to deliver the message. I do not know if this is open to women too.

4. There is a discussion of the material that everyone has been studying after the message and anyone; man, woman or child who has read the material and has an answer, example or opinion is called on.

5. Everyone is involved in the ministry regardless of gender or race. They have no history of racial discrimination.

6. Our Jehovah’s witnesses are very knowledgeable about their faith, I assume others are too.

7. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have done a lot for free speech in the US. Their fight for their own religious freedoms gave the rest of us more and better freedoms. Not that it was intentional but they do not grudge others the same freedoms that they have. Thanks to them I was not suspended or disciplined for not pledging allegiance to an indifferent piece of cloth in middle school. I can appreciate that.

Well, on to the bad, or at least the things that do not appeal to me:

1. If I were to sum up the basic message I have heard, so far, the important bit is: Jehovah’s name! I mean, I am starting out with a nitpicky thing I know but it was the first thing that jumped out at me. If the emphasis was: Jehovah! Fine, but his name? I was sure I was merely arguing over semantics but after bringing up the subject I realized there is something incredibly confusing and of putting in this little hair splitty issue here. Not that I care, but they do so that is why I bring it up. I think I mentioned this before but let me do it again. Here I repackage Mrs. JW’s metaphor. If there are a group of men outside and I shout out “husband!” instead of my spouse’s name maybe half of them turn around, assuming they are all married thinking my voice sounds like their wives’ but they quickly turn back around after realizing I am not her. They rest never turned around because my voice was too different. Only my husband will come over and be like “What’s up wifey? May I make you a sandwich?” The Skeptiboy is a sweetheart, isn’t he? After rewriting the metaphor calling him by name no longer seems important because he knows me, just like God, or Jehovah, knows me. Let’s look at it closely and I will now show you why this metaphor is entirely inappropriate and not apt for the situation. The real situation is that my husband, representing God here once again, is alone outside. There is no one else there. No other married men and I can call him whatever the sap I want to because there can be no one else to answer and just like God he will say “Yes?” and ask me what I want. The part that disturbs me is that having to use God’s name assumes that there are other gods that could mistake me calling for them or that God won’t know that I am talking to Him. I am monotheistic, I know the JWs are too but this just makes no sense to me.

2. Everyone is involved in the ministry. I know I listed this as a good thing, it is, but there is really only one ministry that truly counts, the one where you are evangelizing. I do not believe that everyone has that gift. If someone does not the JW’s shove square pegs into round holes. I am not gifted in that area. I am gifted in the start internet fights area. Just kidding about the fights but really, not one of my gifts. Sure you are allowed to use your other God given gifts for His glory as long as you also do this one activity that you may not be gifted at. We cannot all be eyes, some of us are big toes, often over looked and not nearly as important as other parts put still having a function and most importantly being a part of the body. I maybe a big toe; I mean I think serving may be my gift. No glamour in that but I sure feel rewarded helping out and working behind the scenes at my church. Then again, anyone can do that, see what I mean.

3. Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from socializing with non-Witnesses except to convert them. I mean they are allowed to talk to outsiders, no one is an island and they bank and grocery shop and work and have to converse and get acquainted with people but if they start getting to be too friendly the witnessing always has to come in. They only want one thing from you, me, anyone on the outside, but at least they are open about it.

4. They strongly discourage, so strongly that I think I will say that they forbid, reading any criticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This, at least in Mr. JW comes out in a way that almost seems like strong paranoia. So strong that after reading some humorous stories by Tom Sheepandgoats I had to spend several minutes explaining that he really is a JW, not a fake one, not an ex-one and not pretending in anyway and says good things and really is a good JW. The Skeptigirl is skeptical and just could not live not listening to all sides in such subjective matters. I read criticisms of my own faith and it does not shake it, it makes me understand it better. Sometimes people hurt by the system of beliefs that brings so much light and goodness to your life are the ones that can teach you the most about it. A faith unquestioned is not a faith worth having. If it is so fragile that you dare not even entertain thoughts that it may not be true it is not very strong at all. You haven’t even faith the size of a mustard seed. I am not saying Mr. JW’s faith is weak, I am merely saying I cannot live like that.

5. Blood transfusions. I mean I am glad bloodless surgeries and other alternative bloodless therapies are being developed, there is a lot of good in that and the push by JWs in that fields is awesome. I just do not believe that there is anything against the teachings of Jesus Christ in that. This is 100% a matter of interpretation and I really do not see it the way they arrive at this conclusion. I want to not have a moral dilemma when I, or someone I love, is in danger and needs blood.

6. The afterlife not so tempting. Pushing aside that my interpretation of the scriptures makes me arrive at a different sort of an afterlife than they do I want to just talk about the thoughts that I have about theirs. What the Witnesses told me was that all of them would, after Jesus’s dominion was returned to Earth, live in a paradise here. It would be just like now except we would be immortal and all disease and sorrow would be gone. Together with our families and friends forever on a perfect harmonious Earth. What is unattractive about that? Well nothing really except the time spans involved. I mean it would be lovely to live a few thousand years in full health, bloom of my youth, which is starting to fade, exploring this Earth having experiences, not having to worry about money, pollution, sickness or anything. Trying out a few extreme sports. Visiting everywhere beautiful and exotic on this perfect Earth. The only problem is that after a few thousand years I would think it would get a little boring. I think a more infinite existence, nothing like this, full of unimaginable sensations and experiences would be more to my taste as far as heaven or afterlife goes. Unless the Witnesses expect to do space travel. I really must ask them. That would be neat. Maybe they could find other species to evangelize and strange new doors to knock on. Then I may recant my verdict of boring.

7. The Witnesses are not exactly egalitarian when it comes to the sexes. I have made my views clear about the subject on this blog before. I mean the church I go to now is not exactly egalitarian either but showing me into the mold of a normal woman is a little ridiculous. So in light of my current church situation, let’s call it a neither good nor bad point but my heart is Evangelical Quaker. I still am a member of a Quaker congregation in the United States and feel like that is my true spiritual home.

So, there are my thoughts and what I feel like I learned about these warm, friendly, normal people. I am sure I can learn a few more things and I will boldly go and learn about other religions too but I feel like I know enough to form an informed opinion instead of one that is based on hearsay. I will report back to you about the possibility of Jehovah’s Witness space travel as soon as I know anything.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ask a Finn?

It has been suggested to me to start a second blog: Ask a Finn. Who thinks I should? Do you have questions for it? I am sure it would be a fairly low volume in questions so it would probably not take that much of my time.

Let's put it this way. I will start this blog if I recieve atleast three questions from three different people relating to the subject sent to the gmail address attached to this account:, I will start it. Other comments, suggestions, aprovals/disaprovals etc. can be left below.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Opinions on Pentecostalicism: Speaking in Tongues

Finally on the real blogging wagon I guess.

So, I posted a mostly neutral account of how I would describe Pentecostalism and evangelicalism, as in I tried not to include my personal opinions about it. This is the post to include those. How do I feel about my religious heritage, both relating to the topics I covered in the other post and other things not covered?

Let’s start with the craziest seeming bit, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Do I believe in that? Yes, I guess I believe in it with reservation. I am extremely skeptical of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not the gifts necessarily but the people displaying it. 

I believe I received the baptism in the Holy Ghost when I was about thirteen, before I was baptized with water. Do I believe my experience was a genuine one of being touched by God’s spirit? I do. For the sake of context let me tell you how it happened. We were in Sunday school and our teachers taught us one day in the lesson about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Some of us were already going to the youth group meetings Wednesdays, the traditional day for youth services in the USA. One of our class mates had gotten baptized in the spirit and had gotten the call to be a pastor. The teachers shared that with us and decided that at the lesson we would all pray and see if the spirit fell on us. I sighed and got to praying thinking in my little pessimistic mind that everyone else would surely speak in tongues but me. The teacher began to pray and soon slipped into praying in tongues. After a while I felt something in my feet. It was rising up through my body and when it got to my face I began to cry. It was strange but good feeling and I believed it was the Holy Spirit. Did I speak in tongues, no I did not and I never have. I was actually the only one to experience anything that day in Sunday school.

Regardless of this powerful experience, which I believed to be real, I began to have a growing feeling of skepticism about speaking in tongues. My pastor had told us that when the spirit spoke there would be something in it for us, all of us. So whenever someone spoke in tongues I paid close attention to the translation and tried to find some meaning in it. Not only could I find no relevance ever- I mean I can find relevance in anything, give me a phone book, any page and I will find you relevance, I am magnificent at it that thanks to my literature classes in high school- I could not even remember anything said in the translation by the time I got to the car after service. I wondered at this and this started to deepen my skepticism on the subject. Then I started to notice how everyone sounded the same when speaking in tongues and that I could imitate it pretty well after having heard it several times in a row. Then I read the passage in the Bible of the Holy Spirit descending down the first time like flames on people’s heads and the tongues spoken here sounded nothing like what I heard in church. Shouldn’t it have sounded like Finnish to me? Should it not sound like Italian to my father or German to my mother? I pondered at this but did not come to a conclusion; I just dwelled in my skepticism.

I still dwell in my skepticism. I have no idea whether I have ever heard anyone truly praying or speaking in tongues. I am okay with this; I accuse no one of intentional fraud or of self-deception or of mass hysteria. I have never really felt anything when someone speaks in tongues and up on hearing the interpretation I feel less than if the person was reading the phonebook. What is the conclusion here? Whatever, who cares, the gift of tongues is really weird.

What odd spiritual traditions or rituals do you remember from your childhood, or yesterday? Preferably from your own religious tradition, because they all seem weird when looking outside in.