Retaliation, Vengeance and VeggieTales

How do we respond to those who mistreat us? With vengeance? With love?

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I posted recently about my experiences with bullying and why Christians should build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I stand by that post still, but there's one part of the story I mentioned, but I feel deserves an extended look. Today, I'd like to talk about retaliation (or taking revenge). 

I'd like to direct your attention to an episode of VeggieTales. I can't help seeing the comparison here— I grew up basically addicted to the show (though not understanding the lessons until much later). The episode I'd like to refer to today is Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush

This episode was a parody of Indiana Jones (obviously) and it even had a theme song performed by THE CHARLIE DANIELS. No joke. https://youtu.be/CVoIkzGMnwM

In the episode, Larry (or Minnesota, I guess) tries to get back at his jerk nemesis, Professor Rattan, by bullying him back. He learns that if you bully a bully, that makes you a bully. When you say something mean back or hurt them back, you're stooping down to that level. You're now no better than them. It's the same reason Batman refuses to kill— it's crossing a line, and it means you're just as bad as those persecuting you. It's pretty meaty stuff for a VeggieTales episode, and I recommend you watch it.

When we're on the receiving end of abuse, our instinctive reaction is to retaliate. We start shooting back. When kids would pick on me, I'd pick back harder, and then I would get in trouble. Granted, the teachers weren't doing anything to help the issue (just perpetuating more by turning a blind eye to the cause of the issue), but they were right to get onto me for what I did. I can't remember where I heard it from, but I learned recently that we can't control our surroundings or what happens to us. The only thing we can control is how we react to those things. I'm not victimizing myself here— wrong was done to me, but I'll be the first to admit I wasn't innocent in the situation, either.

Back when I was being bullied, my hands weren't clean. I had even been a bully to others who didn't attack me first. Once you have a mindset of vengeance and retaliation, you begin to just attack everybody. Lines are blurred, and eventually you're picking fights with people who didn't really do anything  to you. Going back to the Batman analogy, it's a line you cross. Once you cross the line one time, it gets easier to cross the next time. And then easier the next time. And the next time. You get the picture. 

I read recently in Bob Goff's book Love Does that it's much easier to get defensive if you live with clenched fists. He offers that we instead lives with our palms up, because it's much harder to get defensive with your palms up. As Christians, we are supposed to be a light in the darkness. If we use Satan's tactics and try to get vengeance on those who wrong us, we're no better than them. What should we do instead, you ask? Kill them with kindness. Proverbs 25:21-22 says:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. 

If you react lovingly and nonviolently, your enemies will see that there's something different about you. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How about we start now? Two wrongs never make a right, but if you choose to do right to those who do you wrong, Christ's love and light shines through you. 

It’s Not About the Destination— It’s About the Journey

Can we apply rules of good storytelling to how we live our lives?

Think about it. You've seen it a thousand times in the movies— somebody's living a boring, normal life until something happens that calls them on a great adventure that changes their lives forever. That's the beginning of most stories we humans have ever told— normalcy, call to adventure, character development. It's a great basis for a story, which is why we use it for every one of 'em we tell. 

Except for our lives. 

The most important story we tell is the story of our lives. Yet, in life, we don't tell the best story we can. We settle for staleness and ignore the story God has called us to. He's got a grand adventure planned for us, but we'd rather just sit around and eat Doritos. 

Where is this all coming from? I read a book recently that changed how I think about life— Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In the book, Miller shares the lessons he learned while turning his life story into a movie. It's a great read, and throughout the book he teaches principles of storytelling and tells us how we can implement them in our life story. After reading the book, I began to think. When was the last time I answered a call to adventure? When was the last time I got out of my comfort zone? I shocked myself when I realized that it had been a very long time. Like seriously, I couldn't remember the last time I'd done it. It startled me. So, I began to think, 'What adventure does God have planned for me? Why am I ignoring the call?" 

Think about Finding Nemo. It's one of my favorite films, but think about how boring the story would have been had Marlin just given up after Nemo was taken. The whole movie is Marlin being forced out of his comfort zone. When he finds Nemo and returns home, he's changed forever. He's no longer constantly in fear and worry, and he no longer wants to hinder Nemo and keep him inside. If he'd never gone out in search of Nemo, he'd never have changed. He'd still be the same character. 

The journey is a time of refining and change. Going on the adventure God has planned for us won't leave us the same once we come out on the other side. If we live without changing or without undergoing character development, we're not living a great story. 

In our lives, we need to get out there and live. We need to continue using our brains and following our morals, yes, but we need to start living great stories. 

Here comes the challenge. I took it upon myself to make a list of fun little adventures I'd like to go on. Not a bucket list. That's too confining. Once this list is complete, I want to start another one. I picked 24 items (you don't have to do that many), including poke a live fish, grow a beard, play bagpipes, learn to juggle, and many more. 

Start an adventure list to start tackling with your loved ones. Make some memories you'll regale others with around the fire twenty years from now. As stated in the movie Up,  "Adventure is out there!" Go find it. Go grow as a character. But still use your brain and your better judgement. God's calling for you probably isn't to die like that hairy El Macho guy from the second Despicable Me movie. 

Lift People Up Instead of Tearing Them Down

In elementary school, I was bullied pretty hard. I was convinced that I was not good enough. That I was a failure. I was too short. I was too weak. I’d try to tell my teachers what was going on, but they didn’t care. Saving my sanity and my soul wasn’t part of their job description. So, they did nothing. The bullying continued. Just about all of my friends left. Those that didn’t— well, let’s just say they weren’t good company. They made disgusting, perverted remarks all the time, and I knew something was wrong. So I walked away.

The problem now was that I had nobody left. So, I began to sit alone at recess, with a clipboard and piece of paper. It was then I began to draw seriously. God used that dark time for good— I became serious about drawing. I’d always drawn growing up, but now I began to imagine whole worlds and stories. This was an important beginning. Back then, I didn’t see how God was using this situation. All I saw was that I was reviled and hated. So, I sat alone in the playground. Nobody told me there was a God I could turn to. I was in church, but I didn’t really hear what they were saying.

The bullying put me on an emotional roller coaster. I began to lash back at them verbally. My teachers only saw that, so I began to get into trouble. What I’d told them about what the other kids were doing didn’t matter. These teachers would act like they cared for me, but when I needed them they turned their backs. These weren’t bad people, but they had better things to do at the time than worry about one of their students going through hell on their watch. I quickly became a trainwreck, thinking that nobody really cared, and anything even slightly demeaning (even if it was just a joke) put me either in a defensive rage or a tearful meltdown. Even mild rudeness would push me over the edge. This happened throughout 5th and 6th grade. 

Last night, at a church event, somebody said something that made all these memories flood back this morning. What this person said was unprovoked and was very rude and offensive, as this person attacked my appearance. This wasn’t the first time it happened either— it’s a pretty regular occurence. I came home confused and offended. I forgave the offender, but I was confused. This person is a Christian— don’t Christians know better than this? 

Jesus commanded us to love one another. What this person said was hurtful. If we are to follow His commands, we must stop treating others like they are yesterday’s trash. We must stop saying intentionally offensive things to others. You can’t be a Christian bully. Build your siblings in Christ up— don’t tear them down. Words can either bring life or death. Choose to use your words to bring life. If you say you’re a Christian, and in the next breath put somebody down, you’re showing the opposite of God’s love— you’re working for the Enemy’s purposes. Show God’s love in all you do and say. Watch what you say. Build others up instead of tearing them down. 

Another New Fantastic Four Reboot? 

Wait, they’re working on another Fantastic Four reboot…?

Back in 2015, 20th Century Fox pooped out a new reboot of Fantastic Four called "Fant4stic." It bombed really hard. From what everybody has said, it was a really bad movie. Before that, Fox released FF movies in 2005 and 2007. Both weren't good. So, after all this, Fox hasn't given us confidence in their ability to make a good FF movie. 

Now, the news broke yesterday that they're developing a new reboot—but this one has a twist.

http://screenrant.com/fantastic-four-reboot-kid-friendly-rumor/

Basically, it's supposed to be a kid-friendly movie that focuses on Reed and Sue's kids instead of the Fantastic Four team itself. The report says that The Thing and the Human Torch will appear. Take this with a grain of salt, as it is just a report.

What do I think? I like the kid-friendliness idea a lot. This could be an entirely different discussion, but superhero movies shove in lots of sex and language for really no reason. A family-friendly superhero movie is a great idea. However, the idea of focusing on Franklin and Valeria (the children of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman) is a really dumb one. The thing Fox botched with the last two attempts is that they didn't pay attention to the source material. The Fantastic Four are a family of explorers that go on bombastic adventures and explore the deepest, most sci-fi parts of the multiverse. They aren't just a generic superhero team. It doesn't help that they botched Doctor Doom TWICE, too. 

On a side note, can we have The Thing wear pants, please?


Will we ever get a great Fantastic Four movie? I don't know. The FF deserve much better than what they've gotten. What do you think? Do you care about the Fantastic Four? Do you wish we could get a good movie out of them?

Some Things I Learned From Being a Church Camp Counselor

This week, I volunteered as a teen counselor at a Christian church camp. What’d I learn?

So, my church puts on a very large 5-day church camp each year, and because I’m a foolish man, I signed up to be a teen counselor. I’d done it previously last year, and apparently I thought it was a good idea to do it again, and volunteered to work with 5th graders (boys, of course). Little did I know, this week would be much more life-changing for me than it seemed to be for the kids. I thought I’d share what I learned (and tell you what you can do with it.

1. Show love. It’s what Jesus would do.

I volunteered with fifth-grade boys. I’ll give you one guess how they behaved the first couple days. Yeah, it was bad. One kid especially quickly became the bane of my existence. 


Nope, not that Bane. Pretty close tho.

This kid rebelled in every way possible. Everything I said, he argued with it endlessly and did the opposite. He refused to do just about anything both me or the two adult counselors in my group told him to do. I won’t burden you with the details, but needless to say— he was a handful. Not only him, but all the other kids weren’t behaving well either. Instead of showing mercy and love (but still being authoritative), I focused only on dealing out punishment. On Wednesday (day 3) afternoon, the woman onstage teaching the kids said that “leadership wasn’t just bossing people around.” This changed my world. You can’t just tell them what they can’t do. You have to be encouraging. You have to be loving. You can’t focus on being God’s swift-and-terrible sword of judgement. While discouraging bad behavior is part of the job description, encouraging good behavior and being loving to the people you’re leading is, too.

2. Don’t try to do things on your own power. Turn to God when things get hard.

When I was having the most trouble, I would sit and complain about it or try to fix things by my own strengths or abilities. Therein was the flaw that kept any change from happening. I was trying to do it with Spencer’s (mine) power, not God’s. That whole time, I could have prayed for the situation to get better,  but instead I got bogged down in the frustration and didn’t even think about it. Pray to God when things get hard. It’ll do ya good.

So, About Women-Only Screenings of Wonder Woman…

Do we have a right to be upset about Alamo Drafthouse’s women-only Wonder Woman screenings?

So, the Wonder Woman movie is now out, and it’s getting pretty good reviews. I myself have no opinion on it (haven’t seen it yet, but I’m planning on going tonight), something came out recently in the news that to me seems absolutely idiotic.

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/05/25/alamo-drafthouse-launches-women-only-screening-wonder-woman-sparks-outrage.html

So, in case you didn’t click on the article (you had one job), I’ll give you the gist— Texas theater is having “women-only” screenings of the Wonder Woman movie. Before the rant begins, I’d like to point one thing out that really rustles my jimmies.


It’s not even women only… they’re looping in “people who identify as women.” As if this idea wasn’t stupid enough… Do I really have to say it? People who identify as women aren’t women. It takes more than desire to be a woman to actually be a woman. So, already, this is pretty hypocritical of Alamo Drafthouse.

Now back to your regularly-scheduled soapbox. What does this have to do with me, you might ask? Well, think about it— isn’t this discriminatory? In my mind, it echoes segregation, except it’s now about gender instead of race. Telling people they can’t watch this showing because they’re a dude (or at least they identify as one) just seems, well, wrong. 

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why do you care? You don’t live in Texas, and even if you did, you could just go to another showing.” Yes, I could, but roll with me for a second. Imagine, when the new Thor movie comes out, somebody does men-only screenings. Or when Black Panther comes out, somebody does blacks-only screenings. That’s not okay. As a nation, we all agree that segregation and discrimination aren’t cool… unless it’s against white, straight men of course. As a culture controversy about this has been mostly limited to Facebook comments that get slammed for being “bigoted and misogynistic.” This is seen as a win for women. However, if it was women being discriminated against with a men’s-only screening of a blockbuster movie, there would be bedlam and riots in the streets.  Feminists are jubilant about this, but if it was women on the side being discriminated against, they’d be indescribably furious. 

If something is morally acceptable, it’s acceptable for all people. Not just a certain people group. Morality doesn’t change depending on what people group (women, men, blacks, whites, etc.) we’re talking about. If it’s wrong for a white guy to kill someone, it’s also wrong for a black guy. Segregation and discrimination aren’t okay just because it’s against men and not women. If discrimination is wrong, it wrong for everybody. That’s how morality works.

DC Rebirth, Escapism, and Men In Tights

What role does escapism play in comic books?

Let's get this started with one admission—

I freaking love comic books. Shocking, I know. I also don't like to pick sides— I love Marvel and DC  characters equally. But DC's comic books right now are waaaaayyy better. While I won't go into great depth, the main reason? A little word called escapism.

Case in point— Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman. It's a fun, action-packed story about Superman protecting his wife and son and just being heroic. There's not even any swearing in this volume (though swearing is present in other DC Rebirth books). It's not hyper-violent, either (thought that's also present in other books.) That's what we want superheroes for. We want them to be heroes. Most superhero stories now feature a grim antihero causing wanton destruction, killing unabashedly, swearing up a storm, and doing other morally reprehensible things. A lot of stories— like a lot of the stuff Marvel is spewing these days, like Champions and Captain America: Sam Wilson, are all about forcing political agendas down your throats.

But not Superman. Or Batman. Well, maybe Green Arrow, but that's not the point. Most of these comics have one goal in mind— telling good stories. They aren't focused on shoving leftist agendas down your throats. Just good stories.

Superman especially. When we read comics, we want escapism. We want to be transported to another world, one filled with men and women in bright costumes fighting evil and saving the day. We don't want to read about problems we currently have. We don't want to read about whatever platform the left wants us to swallow. We want to see inspirational figures that point us to what's right.

So, take notes, Marvel and others— tell good stories.

(Note: I do exercise restraint and research before giving your kids these. Superman is okay, but some of the other DC books aren't exactly kid-friendly all the time, like Batman, Harley Quinn, and others.)