Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our Culture Isn't Stupid, Though It Is Wrong

You know, our culture isn't stupid. It is actually quite intelligent much of the time. Once and a while a movie, book, or television show comes along that insightfully points out the problems Christians can have. "Easy A" is such a movie. In it, Christians are shown to be judgmental and hypocritical. Marianne, played by Amanda Bynes, spends the movie judging Olive, played by Emma Rose, for supposedly losing her virginity. At the same time, Marianne gossips and spreads a lie, made by Olive, throughout the entire school. Christians are also shown as selfish and mean. Nina, another Christian, openly derides and insults Olive in the middle of class for being a "whore." When Olive tries to comfort Marianne, their relationship is restored only because Marianne believes she has "turned" Olive from a whore to a Christian. The Christians also impose their beliefs on everyone. They change the mascot from the Blue Devils to the Woodchucks, because they believe having Blue Devils as mascots is devil worship. Finally, Christians are shown as detached and out of touch. They remain in their own little group and avoid everyone else, especially those who really need community with loving people. They also seem to be oblivious to the condition of their own lives. Marianne's boyfriend (another Christian) is sleeping with the school counselor and Marianne keeps bringing him to the counselor so that she can "comfort" the student over his parents' divorce.

Sound harsh? Though the examples are probably pretty extreme, who amongst us can say we aren't judgmental, hypocritical, mean, selfish, imposing, detached, and oblivious some or all the time? Our culture isn't stupid. It recognizes all of these things amongst Christians and though some of them may not be true for one particular person or denomination, Christianity as a whole is guilty for all of these things. And this movie reminds us that people see it.

"Easy A" uses these insightful observations to suggest that because Christians are useless, God is useless too. This is best observed in the confession scene. After Olive realizes her lies have caused problems in her life and the lives of those around her, she turns to God for help. To do so, she goes to a church and enters the confession booth. She precedes to pour out her heart and soul, culminating with the declaration: "Alot of people hate me, now. I kinda hate me too." The response? Silence. Flash forward to the scene where a teacher realizes his wife (the counselor) is cheating on him with a student. As he walks through the campus, he passes the Christians, who are in their own world singing, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." All the while, the teacher is in obvious pain and needs real help. Implied here is the Christians are caught up in their own world, that they are too selfish, to recognize the real pain this teacher now lives with. More than saying things about Christians, these scenes say something about Jesus. The implication behind both of these scenes is that Jesus is equally as useless. When the characters needed him most, God is silent. He did not comfort Olive as she realized the pain her lies caused other people and the damage it had done to her life. God was not there for the teacher who needed love and understanding from His people.

But, you know, our culture is wrong. God is not useless. God knows the pain our sin causes us and other people in our lives. He knows what it is like to be shattered by the betrayal of those we love. He knows we need people who love and understand us. How? Because he experienced the pain of sin, the betrayal of friends, and the absence of love. As a result, God is not useless. He does not sit in silence as we suffer. He does not ignore us when we need love and understanding. He is always beside us as we suffer. He is always suffering with us.

In summary, "Easy A" reminds us that we aren't perfect. As Christians, we are often judgmental, oblivious, and hypocritical. It reminds us that we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to be better witnesses to those around us. More important, it shows us that people are in pain and need to know that God is not useless. Rather, God is always beside us.

As a practical note, I have enabled the comments for those who do not have a blogger (google) account. Anyone can now comment, either anonymously or by typing his/her name. I hope some of you comment so I can improve my posts!

"Easy A," most notably starring Emma Stone and Amanda Bynes, begins when a high-school girl, Olive, lies about having a date in order to get away from her friend's camping trip. When her friend returns from the trip, Olive's lie grows from one little white lie to a full-fledged system of lies. The movie culminates when Olive realizes her lie has gotten out of hand and cannot bear what it has done to her life.

Though the movie did only somewhat well in theaters, the movie is a smash hit amongst many people. According to, Easy A sold $58.5 million worth of tickets in the United States and ranks as #55 on the top grossing films in 2010. What surprised me is that many people said this movie was the best movie of the year when all the year-end lists started coming out last month. To be honest, I had no intention to see this movie until I heard these lists.

The Christian reviews for this movie surprised me. I expected most Christian reviewers to dismiss this movie completely, because of all the sex, vulgarity, and profanity. However, most reviews praised this movie for pointing out the high-school culture of judgment and hypocrisy, which they say is visible in all spheres of our world. One review said, "You gotta see it! Just in the way that it pokes at the hypocrisy in our culture." Though I'm not entirely sure what he means by that, it is clear that most Christian reviews pay no attention to the ridiculously poor characterization of the Christian evangelical. If they do, they may mention how that the characterization is outdated, incorrect, or, most notably, a true characterization, but of "other" evangelicals.

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