Holy Wars

I saw the film “Holy Wars” at this year’s True/False film festival—my favorite this year at T/F. Now to be candid, it was very uncomfortable for me to watch, particularly in an audience such as T/F where many of those watching it were personally critical of Christians and the Christian faith. This film gave skeptics reasons to snub Christians and Christianity even more. In effect, I feared that this film was perhaps constructing a greater intolerance of fundamentalist Christians, even while exposing religious fundamentalists for their intolerance. At least that’s how I felt half way through the film.

In some circles, I do not consider myself a “fundamentalist.” I do not believe the earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old. I do not consider Christianity and America as essentially the same thing—or as essential for one another’s prosperity. Ditto for the Republican Party. I do not cultivate an us vs. them mentality of Christians vs. non-Christians engaged in a culture war. At least I hope I don’t. I do not take the entire Bible “literally,” in that I also believe parts of the Bible to be poetic truth and metaphorical imagery and symbolism in some of its language and narratives. I’m not against drinking alcohol or smoking. I’m not against all rated R movies or all types of gambling. I don’t do boycotts or protests for Christian causes. I’m not a cultural separatist. And I don’t speak in a southern-style, Bible-belt accent. You get the point. Such beliefs and positions put me outside the fundamentalist camp. And I’m happy to be outside. I do not want to be a cultural or social fundamentalist.
But in other circles, I do consider myself a “fundamentalist.” I do believe all of the Bible is God’s truthful message for all humanity. I do believe in absolutes: moral absolutes, spiritual absolutes, theological absolutes, etc. I do believe sin is a real rather than relative thing, and that God is a holy and righteous God. I do believe in a literal Hell. I do believe that the only means by which God forgives anyone is through faith in Jesus’ deity, his death on the cross as payment for their sin, and his literal, bodily, historical resurrection as the means for and guarantee of their own eternal resurrection (i.e., in a literal new heaven and a new earth). And I do believe that Jesus Christ is literally returning to this earth at a specific time in the future as both a Redeemer for his people and a Judge for everyone else. Such theological beliefs place me well inside the fundamentalist camp according to some circles. And if so, I’m happy to be there. I want to be a theological fundamentalist.
But there are ways to be a fundamentalist in theology without being a fundamentalist culturally or attitudinally. There is a way to hold to moral and spiritual and theological absolutes while also being tolerant and respectful and relational toward others who believe something different. In other words, there is always some common ground in things we believe, and we can listen to others’ beliefs with respect and tolerance and understanding in our attitude toward them. There are always things we can and should learn from others. I know I don’t know it all. No one does. We can be fundamentalist in our beliefs without being relational or cultural or social fundamentalists in our approach and in our attitude.
These are just some of the issues that I think Holy Wars can help us wrestle with together in an interesting and fun way this Friday night at The Crossing. We’ll watch the film on our big screen in the auditorium at 7:00. Then we’ll have the director of the film, Stephen Marshal, come up on stage afterward for some insightful Q&A. Joining him will be me and, hopefully, David Wilson (the co-founder/director of T/F). Nathan Tiemeyer will moderate the Q&A session to assure things keep moving in the right direction and end on time. There is no charge and lots of free candy and popcorn. [Update: We also have childcare available for kids infant through 5th grade: see Rachel’s comment below.] I hope you join us.
FYI for parents: this film is safe for kids old enough to understand more complex religious issues. But if you do bring them, make every effort to stay afterward so that they, and you, can benefit from the discussion.

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