Nearing Easter

We are nearing the end of what is often referred to as Holy Week in the Church. This was the most climactic week of Jesus’ life, without doubt. The crowds already know who he is, and many of them are still hyped because of the miracle they had witnessed not far from Jerusalem – a man who had been dead for four days was walking and talking again, healthy and alive. So a few days later when Jesus stages his “grand entry” into Jerusalem, naturally the crowds are enthusiastic. They are waving palm branches and hailing the arrival of their king. They are celebrating. He is teaching in the temple or outside Jerusalem every day. The people can’t get enough of him.

And four days later they are calling for his death. After being falsely accused of sedition and experiencing a mockery of a trial, and scorned by the rulers of the day, he is finally taken to be scourged and killed in the most painful and humiliating way the Romans could imagine.

They missed it. Their king had come to them, although they were looking for someone else. Someone who would overthrow their oppressors and deliver their nation back to them. Although, if they had been paying attention…

The Messiah was presented to them on the 10th day of the month, just before the Passover, when the sacrificial lamb was selected. The lamb had to be without blemish, and after its selection it was to be out for all to see until the time of sacrifice. And then, on the 14th day of the month the Messiah was put to death at the same time as the Passover lamb, according to John. So on Sunday the Messiah appeared to the people, and on Thursday they killed him.

He spent three days and nights in the tomb, and sometime Saturday night he was resurrected. When women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, he was already gone.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the two pivotal points in history upon which all else hangs. Jesus bore our sins on the cross (it was not technically a payment for our sin, which I’ve mentioned in the past but that’s a topic for another time). He was the sacrifice for our sin, our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the last sacrifice that would ever be required (Heb 10:10-12). Because of this sacrifice, we can be justified before God. We can be forgiven and be spared the wrath of God. We die with him, to use Paul’s terminology, and so we live with him. We are set free from sin and made free to live holy lives, since we have been cleansed of all sin.

But his death would not have meant as much without the resurrection. Indeed, had it not happened, we would be the most pitiable of people. For all that, we would still be doomed to die, because even God would not have been able to conquer death. If he cannot, what hope do we have? If he is not raised, we are all still in our sins. We are all the same way we were when we came to God, and He has done nothing to help us. Thanks be to God that death was defeated that day! We do have hope. We are assured the victory, because it is God who works in us and equips us every day.

On Passion Plays

This afternoon I went to see a passion play put on by a local church. I’d heard about it because a member of the church I go to had told me about it, seeing how he had a part in the play and all that. So he had dual reasons for telling me about it. Now, I’ve seen and been part of multiple passion plays over the years, put on by different churches, so I know more or less how they go and how different churches emphasize different events in Jesus’ life and especially His final week.

This could also mean I’m a little biased when it comes to them.

But I went.

And not ten minutes into it I was thinking, “Oh. My… What. On. Earth. Am. I. Seeing?”

I know plays like this are low-budget. The same goes for the bulk of other Christian performances (such as the woefully inaccurate Tribulation Trail / Judgment Journey events that pop up around October) and movies. I know not to expect a huge blockbuster performance out of them.

But come on. You’re presenting God’s truth to the lost – at least to the lost that the saved drag to these sorts of performances. Can’t you at least make it compelling and interesting, and not laughably bad? The play today was so horrendous that more than once I considered getting up and walking out in the middle of it. That really is not good. I know that as a writer and an amateur performer I can be more critical of others’ work, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re losing at least one audience member. Do you really want to take the chance of alienating those who need to hear the gospel, but who are too busy laughing at your sorry attempts to convey the message to actually hear it? I know the message is the most important part, but if the execution is terrible…

The script today was good, by the way. It could have done without Satan’s evil laugh, because that made Satan look more like a child’s villain and less like the enemy of all of us, but aside from that it was good.

I know people are saved as a result of these events. This is undeniably a good thing, and I will not dare to suggest otherwise. But that does not mean there is no reason to change. Lest you think that the play need not change because it is leading to what God wants to do, also keep in mind that God works in our weaknesses.

And I think, a lot of the time, that is what He is doing.

But is it really so hard to come up with a good, low-budget Christian performance? I know I have seen several. These are the groups that spend weeks on end preparing and working with what they have, refining it until it is as good or better than many other plays. Even little things like keeping the performers from being anachronistic (no glasses or watches, no obvious microphones) goes a long way. You are wanting to present the gospel to many people. This is good, and admirable. But you are also choosing to do it in the form of a play. So please, make it good. You don’t want people laughing at your inability to act or keep a crown of fake thorns on your head while the Messiah is being beaten nearly to death.

Challenge to Christian Furs

A few weeks ago, a friend posed this question to me: why does it seem that furries go to the furry fandom for comfort instead of to Christ? This is a fair question, and one that I have wondered in the past. The answer is simple, yet it is disheartening.

For those who do not know, the furry fandom sees itself as very accepting. Possibly due to the negative image the outside world has of the fandom, it is willing to accept other outcasts of society: sexual deviants, the irreligious, even anarchists. Put another way, the otherwise-minded. I could discuss the feedback loop this mentality creates – and probably will in another post – but for now we can leave it alone. But let me provide you with some data. According to the State of the Fandom 2008, approximately a quarter of furries are homosexual, a quarter heterosexual, and a third bisexual (the others gave no preference). Fewer than 20% of responders identified themselves as “Christian,” with the majority being agnostic and atheist. There were more pagans than Protestants. And furries tend to be much more open about their sexuality, their (anti)religious beliefs, or other behaviors. This adds another dimension to the analysis. But the overall attitude is one that will allow most any socially-marginalized mindset.

In other words, the fandom gives furries an opportunity to “feel good” about themselves, where they can experience what passes for love.

What does this mean for Christian furs? We find ourselves a minority in the fandom, generally opposed to the filth that makes up no small part of it. We are a sub-class of sorts.

Now, I said the furry fandom came across as accepting. I will maintain this position. However, there is a mindset that they are not as willing to tolerate, and that is evangelical Christianity. Why is this? I offer one primary reason: a perceived lack of love.

Mainstream furries see a crowd that has sacrificed the love of God for traditions of man, erecting an arbitrary standard based not on the Scriptures but on what they feel is acceptable. There is no love here. Instead, there is coldness, a silent look that tells the furry that “their kind” isn’t allowed here. And sometimes it isn’t silent, but a word of condemnation. So furries see a Church that is distant, that openly condemns them without knowing them. I think this is the largest hurdle Christians in the furry community face. And some in the fandom propagate this attitude. Without taking the time to see furries as humans, they instead focus on their sinful behavior and rail at them until the furries return the favor and respond with similar, hateful words. Our reputation has been tarnished by those who speak before they think.

This is not to say that we should ignore the darkness in the fandom. We can’t do that; we’d be abandoning our duty as Christians if we let them wallow in their chains, without declaring freedom. But we also can’t treat them as inhuman filth. God created them. They have value. And we must not forget that we were in darkness too, once.

I want to be like Jesus. He went to the ones who needed Him, speaking truth and love because He IS the truth and love! I do not want to wink at the works of darkness, but neither do I want to place myself on a pedestal, viewing those around me as lower than I am. I want to live my life in full surrender to God, seeing His creation as He sees it and doing as He directs, no matter what.

Anyone else?