This morning I got a pop up from a periodical I subscribe too. I don’t remember giving them permission to do that, but I’m sure it was one of those boxes I failed to uncheck. Anyways, it was letting me know about a recent review by one of their regular authors on the movie The Shack.
Now this is an academic theological journal that has been becoming more and more conservative over the years, so I’m pretty sure I can guess where this review is going to go. But what the heck, I click the link anyways.
Now, I haven’t seen the movie. We don’t really go to the movies much. The last twenty movies I’ve watched have been Moana. But I did read the book years ago and remember the stir it had created then. Usually some version of, “can you believe they made God a girl and not a boy???” Which is such a silly concern. I do remember thinking that it was a brave idea to tackle the problem of evil like it did as well as pondering more deeply the nature of the Trinity. We can all do with more of that.
As I read the review, I wasn’t surprised at all with the writer’s criticisms. Accusations of the theology being self-help, or new-age, or sophomoric. I didn’t pay too close attention. Because the tone of the article was like finger nails on a chalkboard. Smarmy. Pedantic. Doctrinaire. Why do we do this?
I know why. Because it makes us feel right. It makes us feel just a smidge better than the next guy. We feel enlightened and superior.
The funny thing is, the author confessed to have once believed like the people that are liking the movie. He used to be into all that rebellious progressive evangelicalism. He used to look down on all the conservative, NRA, republicans too. But then something changed, I guess. He doesn’t really say. Maybe he outgrew it. Clearly, those days are behind him.
He puts down the movie as self-help Christianity, but as I’m listening to him I’m thinking, “what you really need is a good therapist.” Because that self-righteous kid that you think you’ve left behind is still in there. And he is still self-righteous. He’s just switched teams. And you know what? He probably had some pretty good thoughts and ideas back in the day, that you now resent or are embarrassed about. The point is, you’re the same guy.
And that is okay. But rather than pretend that guy doesn’t exist anymore, you should make friends with him. Rather than living in embarrassment of all those bad haircuts you’ve had in the past, you need to learn to embrace it. Learn to not take yourself so seriously. So that you stop criticizing everyone from a place of insecurity or worse, self-loathing.
Because my hunch is, when you stop trying to pretend that you’re smarter than everyone because you’re reading Wittgenstein, you might surprise yourself by actually enjoying a movie like The Shack for what it offers or how it is helping others, and not ruling it out because it doesn’t live up to your standards.
I write this, because I know you, dude. You’re me. And I’ve spent way too many hours invested in finding what is wrong, instead of discovering and celebrating and clinging to what is good.
So here’s to embracing that awkward, sophomoric, insecure Jeff. I don’t want to be the critic anymore.