@&%^&;$%#!!! (Or….a new look at popular culture)


Just recently I checked out a movie at the local library. I’d seen previews a long time ago. It seemed to be a charming story about a shy guys’ attempts to form a relationship with the female of his dreams, the adorable, erstwhile “Amy.”

And maybe that was what the film was about.

I don’t know. I lasted about five minutes.

I hadn’t even gotten settled down in my ‘movie-watching’ position before I started having serious second, third, and 15th thoughts. Apparently, whoever wrote the script has a very limited vocabulary. I heard more swearing in five minutes than I generally hear at work in a month. More than I’ve heard in my favorite films which include the Godfather trilogy, Scarface, Goodfellas. More than in Eddy Murphy’s movie of his skits, “Delirious”, another of my favorites.

I was getting everything ready to enjoy the movie, but kept turning around because, every other word literally was something offensive. Truly. The way the guys talked to each other didn’t have a trace of respect. I wondered if guys in the traditional home of foul language, the locker room, would get so rude.

I thought about myself at my worst, totally out of the church, with numerous excuses to justify it. Even I hadn’t managed to plumb that kind of low, and trust me, I sunk pretty deep in those days. I was known as someone who, in a warehouse of mostly men, could tell jokes and make comments that embarrassed men who were worldly to the bone. The first five minutes of “Chasing Amy” outdid me.

I turned it off.

I felt a little silly complaining about it. But the library where I got it belongs to a school that prepares people for the ministry. I had no idea why it would be available for general check-out. When I did, somewhat sheepishly complain to the person in charge, she checked, and told me that it was part of a class project on pop culture. The professor in question would show snippets of it in order to explain the things that pass for ‘normal’ in today’s culture.

Wow.

I questioned the wisdom of using such a teaching device. Most of the people I know who are preparing for ministry do not come from “Leave it to Beaver” homes where Pepsodent smiles and G-rated lives are the norm. Most of them are broken people who, if healthy, acknowledge their brokenness, and offer it to God for healing before they step out to minister. Even those with more functional and wholesome upbringings mostly acknowledge the parts of themselves that brought them to the cross in the first place.

I wondered, at first, if it was not enough to be broken already? Why be reminded? Common sense and the Holy Spirit tells us the difference between good and evil. Our human will allows us to choose. Do ministry students (or anyone else) need to see a film to show us what evil and brokenness looks like? Don’t we already know?

Years back, I was impressed by a story of a martyred missionary who, early in life, prayed (perhaps unwisely) that God ‘break his heart with the things that break the heart of God.” This martyr was one of my heroes, and so, I prayed the same prayer.

I was ready with a laundry list of what I expected would break my heart. Poverty. War. Hunger. Child Abuse. Domestic violence. Yet, in the time that followed I found other things crowding forward that would totally rock my world.

Rudeness. Bigotry. Dishonesty. Lack of charity. Intentional cruelty. Manipulative behavior. Greed. Selfishness. Narcissism. Those were the things which, that year broke my heart. Finally, I begged God to end the ‘experiment.’ I no longer wanted to have my heart-broken by the things He had to deal with. In many ways, in a very human way, I just didn’t want to know. It was too much.

I think that we, as Christians, and even those who are not, make choices in a broken world, what we will filter in and out of our lives. I have a friend, preparing to be a minister who has no problem watching movies that make me squirm or feel totally offended. I feel somewhat like a pharisee if I talk to him about it, so I don’t. I know that everyone has different places where temptation can hit us and leave us open to sin. I don’t believe in saying “Just because its bad for me, its got to be bad for you, too…else you’re not a Christian.”

Why? Frankly, because I know how weak my walk as a Christian can be. I know how I struggle with doing things that people I admire seem to do daily, and without seeming hesitation. I know how much pressure I put on myself to be a ‘super-Christian’ and how much condemnation I pour on myself when daily, sometimes hourly, I fail. Pressure and condemnation that Jesus would never, for one second, send my way.

Perhaps the movie offended me because it reminded me of how profanity and a lack of sensitivity for others was once a daily part of my life. Perhaps that is one of my weak places still. I certainly know how I get in traffic….especially when I’m late somewhere. If someone in the car was listening to me then, I don’t think much of a witness would be there. For me, that film and those like it, in ‘pop culture,’ is poison, to be avoided at any cost. I need to listen to my spirit, which tells me this has no part of entertainment which happens in my home.

Okay, so one more thing. Other than a questionable teaching device in a class for ministers to be, what do such films actually teach? I know I made a choice when I looked at the rating and saw it was marked “R.” Generally, such films leave little to the imagination in various ways. Does it teach what creators of entertainment consider’ real life?” Is such language, behavior and descriptions of behavior Hollywood’s idea of ‘normal?’

If so, I’m glad to be abnormal.

I hope my reaction doesn’t mean that I’m growing old and closed-minded. I hope it doesn’t. However, I’m not so sure. Maybe the ‘real’ world really is like that. Maybe I’m the one who has carved out some place of sanctuary, some fantasy place where people act better than what I see onscreen. Or maybe not.

I work in a very worldly restaurant. Most of the folks are unchurched and/or unsaved, and will tell you that. Yet, even there, I don’t see the kind of behavior that I saw in just five minutes of a supposed ‘romantic comedy.’

Without a day in the classroom, this film gave me a rather interesting lesson. What I think the world is like, and what others think the world is like, is obviously different. And even fellow Christians might camp out with the ones who prefer blue language and crude actions in the name of not being proclaimed ‘uncool.’

“That’s their world” I can almost hear one of my friends in the ministry saying. “To reach them, we have to understand it.”

True. But I don’t have to wallow in mud to know that if I do so, my clothes will get dirty. I don’t have to walk in front of a bus and get hit by it to know that its not a good thing to do. Some things are just common sense.

For me, I’ll be a bit more careful when checking out movies, no matter where I get them. And if my conscience ‘pings’ me, I’ll just stop watching, as I did with this film. I can make those choices as a citizen of a free society. I can exercise my freedom of speech and hopefully not sound like a prudish spinster.

Finally it is up to us. The world is out there. Its lost, dying, needing a savior. It’s up to me, you, the church, every day to reach out and bring those folks in. If it takes sitting by them while watching a movie that’s questionable, perhaps that’s okay. But perhaps, it is even better to say to the person the reason why you don’t wish to watch things like that anymore. To tell them about the change that God has made in your heart. To give them freedom to do as they wish, but not to dirty our own souls in the process.

 

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Dear Jack/Dear Jill (a new short story)


by Laura Kathryn Rogers @2012

Ap/Reuters Excavators in London’s East End today found a safe filled with papers that are possibly a hundred years old. They date back to the time of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders in the area. Also in the safe were what appeared to be blood-stained clothing, and mummified human remains. . The papers appear to be some sort of series of letters between Lady Alexandria Seay, a young viscountess of the time, and the gentleman she later married, Patrick Albertson, son of one of the main investigators of the Ripper murders. Upon further verification, the unsolved murder, which claimed the lives of at least 5 prostitutes during 1888 might finally be solved

Sept 3, 1888

My dearest Alex;

I was a bit disappointed about how easy it was. The Nichols woman was drunk, of course, most of her kind are. Drunk, stinking, their skin rough, their teeth missing. Horrid, just horrid.

Nothing like you, my beloved. If not for the sake of our experiment could I have bourne it at all. You so soft, smelling of your lavender sachet, your hazel eyes large and full of laughter, your soft voice, like a caress….

So you will know, since its your turn next, these women will do nearly anything for a few coins. Either for drink, cheap food, or a rat-hole to sleep in for a few hours. Use that to your advantage. Only don’t be too kind. They will get suspicious.

Nichols was
tiresome. On and on she went, bragging about her new ‘bonnet.’ On and on. Dreadful. I thought of you, my Alexandria, with your many fine hats. Or how you look with no hat at all, your honey-blonde hair falling in such beautiful ringlets around your precious face. She, on the other hand, was a whining, filthy termite. She needed to be crushed.

I regret I didn’t get a donation…for the university medical school. The creature fought..until I cut her throat. Even then, she fought. I had to nearly take her head off!

Don’t worry, darling, I had fresh clothing in the satchel you bought me. Just think, when you gave it to me on my birthday, we thought it would be for books!

I’ve heard little about my handiwork in the papers, which is disappointing. It puts the gauntlet out to you, my darling. I trust that you will make the next one, glorious.

Yours,
Patrick

September 12, 1888

My dearest Patrick,

I think you will agree that I rose to your challenge. My father, busy surgeon to the Queen, never time for me, or my dear mother, would even have to admit it. I learned from watching him. He was always surprised that a female child would be so interested in surgery. I even have something for the satchel. When I am sure that it will stay preserved, I’ll bring it for you.

But on to my story. She thought I was a lady evangelist, can you imagine? Up until she saw the knife. I took your august advice and cut twice to her throat…to shut her up. Once she was still, I took the best parts of her womb.

Isn’t it hysterical that your father and others think my handiwork is that of an impotent man? I laughed when I heard my father telling Sir. Geoffrey Reed that. They looked at me as if I were insane. I simpered and told them that Cherisa, my fool lady’s maid had tripped over something. That had made me laugh. Father knows how clumsy Cherisa is.

He dismissed my reaction as silly and pointless—as he regards all women. If only he knew!! His only child and heir is a viper in his nest! How delicious!!

You asked, my darling, for something glorious. I think I have done well. Does your father suspect that it could be someone in the aristocracy? Should we stop for a while? Or should we do something more spectacular?

Your father didn’t become a lead investigator by accident. He’s very sharp. More so than my father. But not more than the two of us. Together, we can do great things. Of this, I am confident.

Please prove my trust in you well-placed.

Your own,

Alex

October 14, 1888

Dearest…..Jill??

Isn’t it wonderful? We have names.

Or….one name. Since they are attributing it to a single man…”Jack”, I take the liberty of christening you, my beloved, my mate, Jill. A twist on the old children’s rhyme. But what a wonderful twist.

I sent half a kidney to that fool, George Lusk with my letter. It was carefully ‘written’ by my illiterate manservant, Tomas. Wasn’t that brilliant? Tomas was copying, what to him was meaningless symbols. I told him we were making artwork. It was an hour he didn’t have to work. He enjoyed it…and the guinea I paid him for doing such a good job. He is faithful, and will be going to live with us in Ireland when we marry. I can count on his discretion.

I thought, having him ‘sign’ it, “From Hell” particularly charming, didn’t you? I suspect my father and the other investigators are practically wetting themselves to find who this mysterious Jack the Ripper is. If only they knew how close they were to him….and her.

However, darling, I must tell you. I never meant to do two murders the same evening. I promise that I was not showing off. The first was actually botched. And, nearly all was lost.

The Stride woman, suspected, somehow. The nasty baggage started to scream. I heard people coming. I’ve gotten quite efficient with your father’s surgical implements, I silenced her quickly. I got over the fence just in time, and got away. Half an hour later, in Mitre Square, I found my next opportunity.

Any good artist can tell you that moments of passion create the greatest of masterpieces. I’m not sure what came over me…except, perhaps….greatness.

When I was done, Eddowes was my own creation.

I took some treasures to our place. Thank you for showing me how to preserve them. They will last for ages, surely. I carved my special signature into Eddowes face. Perhaps I will mail your father her kidney. Or would that be too much?

But it was messy. Clothing went everywhere. I got more bloody than I would have chosen. I looked like a butcher when I got done. Couldn’t wait to take a long bath.

And now, your turn, beloved. One last one and we’ll call it done. We can marry, settle down, and gloat. No one has even considered that a couple could be ‘the ripper.’ And no one, it seems ever will. Unless we choose to let them know. Maybe by burying our souvenirs in a safe of some kind….to be dug up by some future people…who can appreciate our genius and expertise.

Dress warmly, my darling, when you go out to hunt. You know how weak your chest is. I wouldn’t want you to get ill.

Do us proud, beloved. Make it one for the history books,

Yours,

Jack

November 14th, 1888

Dear Jack,

Yes! It is lovely calling you that. In fact, I plan to make that my own special name for you. In years to come, we can call each other by these names, and smile at the secret that only we share.

Maybe someday the safe will be found, maybe not. Holding onto the secret, I know you sometimes burst to tell, will be difficult over the years, but we must stay strong. You recall the reason for the whole experiment. To prove that we were smarter than Scotland yard. Smarter than the aristocracy that blinds itself to the intelligence and abilities of women.

Next week, we will be married, beloved Jack. We will move into the home Father built for us, and raise a whole crop of children as brilliant as ourselves. Perhaps, they too, might inherit some of our more interesting…talents.

I will not mention the Mary Kelley event since you were there, except to say one thing. Thank you, my love. Thank you. She was a very spitfire. There are some things a woman just can’t do her own. After the work of art you did on her face, I’m surprised the policemen were able to identify her. Bravo, my love, bravo.

When you get my letter, please seal it along with everything else, and bury the testimony of our achievements deep down. Forgive me if I hope that we are found out at some point, but hopefully after we die. Prison would be so uncomfortable.

I hope you will forgive me for keeping Mary Kelley’s heart. I have dried it, and put it in preservative. I will keep it close to me at all times, and always, when I look at it, think of you. It is symbol, my dear, of what true love and genius can accomplish.

Yours always,

Jill