Standard for Christian movies needs improvement

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Often, after seeing a Christian film, there’s one comment that reoccurs in post-movie discussions: “That was a great movie,” someone says, “… for a Christian movie.”

That last little phrase irks me. Not necessarily because it’s inaccurate – (it’s often very accurate, and sometimes I’m the one saying it) – but because of what it implies.

The phrase implies that Christian movies can be judged by a different standard than most films.

Initially, this might seem like a good thing. Christian films should be held to a different standard than other films, since we are called by God to do everything we do in order to serve and please God, rather than people. And so, in this sense, the remark that a movie is a good Christian movie is a compliment.

Unfortunately, there’s a difference between a movie that is “a good Christian movie” and one that is “good, for a Christian movie.”

These two very similar phrases have two very different implications.

While the first phrase implies the movie is good and also Christian, the second phrase carries a more demeaning implication. “It was good, for a Christian movie” implies the same kind of backhanded compliment that could be found in other sentences that use the same grammatic structure.

Saying that a female athlete is good, “for a female athlete”, carries the unspoken implication that when compared with all athletes – male and female – she is no longer good enough.

Similarly, saying that a Christian film is good compared to Christian films, implies that it’s not worthy of comparison with mainstream films.

It suggests that Christian filmmakers produce a lower quality of work than main-stream filmmakers.

Even more unfortunate, this suggestion is typically accurate.

Christian films frequently fall short of the quality standards of mainstream fi lms.

This is partially due to the budget limitations of smaller Christian indie films compared to Hollywood-backed film budgets. But it is also partially due to failures of plot and storytelling.

It is easy for Christian films to oversimplify their storylines – writing fables, or apologetic arguments in the disguise of stories. And while sermons and fables are generally good things, the movie theatre is not usually the most effective venue for them.

Many of these films try to wrap up their plots into a pretty little bow in the two hour time span of the film, by telling the story of a huge problem that was easily cured by God.

Take the 2015 film “90 Minutes in Heaven,” for example. The film tells the story of Don Piper – played by Hayden Christensen of Star Wars prequels fame, who dies in an accident, goes to heaven, then comes back to life and endures a grueling physical recovery process while battling depression.

Yet near the end of the fi lm, his entire struggle with de-pression is cured by a single inspirational conversation with a Christian friend, and in the closing scene he gives an inspirational speech, urg-ing his fellow Christians to believe that God really does answer prayer.

Although this particular film is based on a true story, this basic plotline is perhaps one of the most common of all Christian movie plotlines. Despite the detailed character work of Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth, the film lacks the level of artistry required to acknowledge all of the conflicting aspects of physical and psychological recovery.

And like many Christian movie endings – the physical healing and cure for the character’s depression depicted in the film offers Christian moviegoers a reminder of the Christian hope, but potentially turns away others.

When most people attend a movie theatre, they don’t go in order to learn moral lessons, they go to be entertained and perhaps to experience empathy with the characters on the screen – think of your friends who talk about their favorite films being so good they cried, for example.

Moviegoers know that they live in a messed up sinful world, and trying to tell stories to them that promise conversion to Christianity as the wonder drug for all their problems won’t change their minds.

These filmmakers mean well, but their films are unlikely to be viewed or thought highly of by audiences other than converted Christians.

Instead, Christian films should tell high-quality stories that can only be told through film.

Telling an honest, gripping, detailed and nuanced story is an incredibly powerful thing but in order to achieve this we need to tell not just the success stories, but the failures.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with telling stories such as “90 Minutes in Heaven,” we just need to make sure that we’re also telling the stories of those who’s prayers do seem to go unanswered.

Telling both of these kinds of stories is important for three reasons:

1). It allows Christians to see a Christian world-view applied in a context that they can relate to, no matter if they’re on the mountain top in their lives, or going through a valley of sin and suffering with no end in sight.

2). It shows the rest of the world that Christians are relatable human beings, by acknowledging that the answers to life’s struggles are not easy for Christians.

3). Most importantly, it glorifies God by building respect for Christian film-making in non-Christian and mainstream circles.

If we can tell nuanced stories that truly acknowledge the difficulties of life, we show the world we can do better than, “good, for a Christian movie.”

We can make good Christian films.

OBU’s spiritual foundation will be missed

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

There are a lot of things for a graduating senior to be anxious about.

First of all, of course, you have to be sure that you do graduate, which means taking care of the schoolwork that remains on your plate.

For many, this includes wrapping up capstones or final theses, meaning that those ideas you’ve had in your head for two years finally have to actually coalesce into something real.

You’re actually going to have to finish – and you’re going to have to do so while writing those final papers or completing those final projects that are a part of the end of every semester, including your senior semester.

Not an easy task.

Then you have to figure out what comes next. Now, I’m not saying this is hard for every senior – there are friends of mine who know exactly what they’re doing after May 17.

Some of them are headed to grad school, and others have jobs and apartments lined up.

They’re going to step seamlessly into their new life, no prob. They’re excited, and I’m excited for them.

But I know just as many others who have no idea what’s happening next. I include myself and my wife in this category.

We have leads, sure. Lines in the water. Eventually, something’s going to bite, and we’ll be fine.

But until that point, what we have is stress. Loads of it.

And we’re not alone.

Even with all of these stressors bouncing around inside my skull for the past few months, I’ve become aware of something else that I’m worried about: losing my spiritual foundation.

That sounds more ominous than I mean it to. I’m not talking about losing my faith or rejecting the church; I’m talking about leaving the strong spiritual environment that I’ve come to enjoy here on Bison Hill, and leaving some of the people that have become mentors in my life.

Because I am leaving. It’s happening.

My wife and I are leaving Oklahoma, we’re headed to a new adventure.

The church that we’ve come to be a part of will be left behind.

Our professors and mentors here on Bison Hill can’t come with us.

We’ll have to find a new church family. A new small group. New people that we can open up to about our faith, that we can encourage and be encouraged by.

And like it or not, I’m going to miss the environment of faithfulness that Bison Hill encourages.

Think about it. First of all, we have chapel. I know that these can be annoying at times – I know that you’re certainly not just amped to go every Wednesday.

But these services, I’ve found, have a way of really sneaking up on you.

Often it was the Wednesdays when I least wanted to be there that I found God speaking to me the clearest – and what He was telling me, often, was to slow down. To focus up.

Then there’s the classes themselves.

It’s an unusual thing to have Christian truths sprinkled into your study, into your disciplines.

This isn’t going to happen at work. My boss isn’t going to stop a staff meeting to make connections to the Gospel.

There won’t be a spiritual life office at my company. There won’t be an RA or an RN asking me how my walk with the Lord is going.

I’m trying to say that we’re inundated with the Christian message around here, and while I know that can feel annoying at times during your college career, it’s a blessing. An unusual blessing.

At no other time of my life will I have all these resources to grow spiritually.

I’m leaving that behind, and it’s a worry to me.

Sure, OBU is a bubble. But there’s a part of me that’s going to miss that bubble

 

Hobbs College presents honors theses

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

As the school year rapidly comes to a close over the next few weeks, the hard work and dedication of honors students across the campus is coming to fruition.

Students from different disciplines across campus are presenting their honors theses at various afternoons in the months of April and May, and many of these presentations include the final projects from students in the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry.

Chandler Warren presented his final thesis on April 15.

His project, titled “The God of Hell: The Relationship Between the Divine and The Damned,” was concerned with the doctrine of a literal hell, and how God’s inherent attributes interact and in-form on that doctrine.

Warren’s research ranged from a number of aspects, the most interesting aspect being the relation of God to time.

“Chandler’s thesis presentation is a model for OBU Honors students, whether in Hobbs or some other discipline,” Dickinson Associate Professor of Religion and the faculty advisor for Warren’s thesis Matthew Emerson said.

“His argument is sophisticated, his methodology is careful, and his presentation was both witty and informative.”

Other presentations from students in the department included Jonathan Knox, who brought forth his project titled “The Nature of Sin: Inward, Outward, Ultimate,” April 22.

In the future, there are three more presentations dealing with subjects relating to religion.

Matthew Shively will present “Predestination, Election, and Encouragement to Christlike-ness in Paul’s Epistles” Thursday, May 2.

John Ellis’ thesis – “What has Darwin to do with Design? Are Evolution and Christianity Compatible?” – will be presented Tuesday, May 7.

Noah Jones will finish off the honors presentation Wednesday May 8, with his thesis, “The Mereology of God Incarnate: A Critique of Part-Whole Approaches to Christ’s Attributes.”

Jones says that the title of his project sounds more complicated than it really is.

“I explore ways to understand traditional Christian beliefs about Jesus,” Jones said. “For example, I explore and critique some answers to questions like ‘If Jesus was fully God and fully man, was He material or immaterial?’ I also discuss similar questions related to Jesus’ omniscience and whether He was inside or outside time.”

For Jones, completing this thesis project was taxing.

“[It] was very difficult,” he said. “My thesis required more work by far than any other task I’ve had at OBU.”

That challenge, though, made the process memorable.

“It was especially rewarding to me to focus in so much detail on a single topic and become an expert (as much as is possible for an undergraduate) on some small thing,” Jones said.

All theses presentations take place in the Tulsa Royalties Auditorium in Bailey Business Center, and all presentations are open to the public.

Student finds strength through testimony

By Ashton Smith, Assistant Faith Editor

Junior forensic psychology major Brooke Goodale is a hardworking student, a confident friend and steadfast believer in Jesus Christ.

Her life, testimony and friends all reflect this to be true of her.

Although Goodale’s testimony is what some people might call a ‘typical Christian testimony,’ it holds no less power in her life and still has a lot of meaning to her today.

“When I was a toddler, I asked Jesus into my heart several times because I knew it was the right thing to do and I loved learning about God at church every week,” Goodale said. “However, it wasn’t until I was nine years old that I understood the reality of Salvation and ‘officially’ prayed the prayer and became a Believer. I was confident that it was real this time and I would be going to Heaven.”

The person that had the most effect on Goodale when she finally chose to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior was her grandmother.

They were very close while she was growing up and she helped lead her in the right direction.

“My grandmother was the one who guided me through the prayer of Salvation and helped me fully grasp the significance of following Jesus,” Goodale said. “Even though I knew I was ready to take that step; I was still unsure how to go about becoming an official follower of Christ. My grandmother walked me through the prayer, and I repeated each line after her. I felt so much comfort in my heart when the prayer was finished.”

Now that she’s at OBU, her faith is able to flourish even more in the environment she’s been placed. Goodale said she feels that OBU has aided to the growth of her faith and her walk with God and has allowed her to become bolder in her faith than she might have been.

“My relationship with God at OBU is a lot easier to interact with because this campus is such a safe and welcoming space for Christianity and its believers,” Goodale said. “This was not the case when I was attending public school prior to college. It is so freeing to be able to talk about your beliefs and know that others around you want to build you up in Christ as well.”

Her friends can also see this in her day-to-day life around campus, in classes and the clubs in which she participates.

They see her boldness to speak out against wrongdoings and her ability to love others as well.

“I see Christ in Brooke’s life because no matter what someone has done or who they identify as, Brook tries to understand them and love them as Christ loves,” sophomore Psychology major Kaitlyn Patterson said. “She never backs down from the truth and asks the hard question to further her faith and other’s faith.”

Not only that, but she pushes people to be themselves and to live out their lives unapologetically.

It has had quite the impact on people close to her and has pushed people closer to Christ as well.

“Brooke has helped me realize that my job as a Christ follower is not to change people,” Patterson said. “I am called to love them where they are at to show them Christ. She also helped me to learn to love myself.”

Apathy is hard to conquer, but necessary

By Garrett Jones, Contributing Writer

The biggest enemy of success is apathy.

How do you complete any task you don’t care about? It only gets more difficult when you feel like you can’t care about it.

The more apathy takes over one thing, the more it creeps into other parts of your life. It can start with something you don’t want to do, school or work. Then it slowly creeps into your relationships with friends and family.

Maybe you stop seeing your friends as much. With apathy taking over your life, before you know it, it’s been months since you’ve seen your friends. If you let it get that far, it can suddenly take over your relationship with God. This one hurts the most. It might be the hardest to get back.

The best way to restore or even maintain a relationship with Christ is by spending time with Him in the Word or through prayer. How do you do those things when apathy has taken over your life?

It feels like you just forget to read Scripture at first. Eventually, it has completely become a chore. You don’t want to do it. Even if you can force yourself, you don’t care enough to comprehend what it means and certainly not enough to apply it to your life.

So, what do you do?

Obviously, you’re stuck in this spiderweb of detachment. It probably seems like there is no way out. It’s amazing how the lack of emotion toward something can cause more emotion than the thing itself. From my experience, there is one way out.

I will warn you, it’s not very easy. You have to be completely fed up with your apathy. The desire to destroy it has to overcome all of your natural instincts.

Pray without ceasing. I know, it sounds too simple. Quite frankly, it is too simple, but it’s the only thing that is guaranteed to work. I’ve already said prayer is something hard to care about when struggling with apathy; that’s what makes it difficult. You have to force yourself.

Set reminders on your phone. Wear a rubber band around your wrist or something. As long as you can remember, you can make yourself pray. Not only does this praying open up communication between you and God, but it changes your perspective on life. Everything you say or do is done with the mentality that God is present in your life always. Even your thoughts change.

I know it’s a difficult challenge, but if you can’t stand feeling apathetic anymore, it’s what you have to do.

Social clubs encourage community in Christ

By Ashton Smith, Assistant Faith Editor

Although the female social clubs may have different events and philanthropies that make them unique in each of their own ways, there is something that unites them all: faith. Each of the social clubs aim to bring their members closer together as sisters in Christ, and to raise one another up, to encourage each other and to have a place to turn when times get tough.

Through these clubs, many friends have been brought together that otherwise may not have met. This is one of the most special aspects of social clubs and something that many of the girls cherish.

“Kappa’s, to me, is a huge support system,” junior Kappa Phi Beta member Isabel Palos said. “I’ve met girls from all different types of classifications, majors, and every person possesses a unique set of interests. It’s a really beautiful thing to see how the Lord has brought this sisterhood together.”

The girls also are a major support system for one another, as they are each other’s ‘sisters’ in the context of being in a social club. From praying for one another to coffee runs, to even just helping out with some homework, there is no shortage of love that is given to each girl in each social club.

“Honestly, fellowship and doing life together is a huge part of the Christian walk that isn’t focused on,” junior Pi Sigma Phi member Jillian Walker said. “The girls in Pi Sigma Phi played a part in helping me find a church when I was church hopping. They helped me get connected and feel a part of church instead of just attending.”

Another thing that social clubs do in their faith aspect? They have different ways that they encourage the group, such as prayer groups, prayer retreats, and devotions that they do in their club meetings. They help each other in their good times and bad, and they share their prayer requests and praises as well.

“I’ve had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life lately,” junior Theta Sigma Chi member Taylor Boyd said. “And every time I would come to them with something, they never fail to let me know they love me and are praying for me.”

Not only that, but these social clubs are open to every girl on campus, and they do their best to make sure that every girl feels like she has a place and is free to share what’s on her heart with her fellow sisters in Christ. Social clubs are a growing opportunity to grow stronger in both their friendships and their faith.

“I personally find it hard to get into those conversations on my own,” junior Theta Sigma Chi member Sierra Davis said. “But Theta’s is a safe place where Christ-centered conversations just flourish – and you feel safe in sharing your insecurities or questions concerning your spiritual life and journey.”

Connect Chapels include artistic emphasis

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

The church’s relationship with art has been turbulent at times over the past decades, but OBU’s Connect Chapels are helping, in their own small way, to change that.

The students and faculty involved in organizing this year’s Connect Chapels have made a concerted effort to include more artistic expressions of worship in their programs.

This has included poetry readings, by both students and faculty, the showing of visual arts pieces, and even rap and spoken word.

The inclusion of such expressions in the worship services has allowed students who might otherwise not be able to contribute to an event like chapel to be included.

The desire to begin including creative expressions of worship came out of a desire to shake things up. Heath McClure, who is one of the Co-Chairs of Chapel Crew along with Ivy Penwell, said that he and his team wanted to move away from some of the old models.

“Having been a part of Chapel Crew for three-years I have seen a wide variety of approaches to the idea of a student-led chapel,” he said. “At times it has leaned towards a somewhat bland model of student testimony only, with little else,” he said.

“While this has merit, it fails to capture the student body’s attention often and confines the idea of student representation to a small box in which a select few capable of speaking in front of others and with an appropriate story have the chance to share. Testimony is great but it loses its depth and value when it’s the only thing.”

Penwell, the other Co-Chair, agrees that it was important to include students who might not be as geared toward a traditional “church service.”

“One of our goals in chapel crew is to involve different types of majors and students in chapel, not just those who are gifted in worship or speaking,” she said. “We know that the Gospel can be so beautifully presented in a thousand different mediums.”

This idea fights against a kind of chapel “clique,” as well, against the same select students being on stage each week.

“We realized a large part of the student body was underrepresented and we desired to find ways to incorporate them,” McClure said.

Director of Student Ministry Clay Phillips, who preaches during Connect Chapels and who works with Chapel Crew to plan the services, is quick to point out that the credit for the artistic emphasis goes to the students.

“All of the credit goes to your peers on Chapel Crew for the ideas and creativity,” he said.

And while it was the students’ ideas, Phillips saw the potential immediately.

“I really felt like it was a great way to utilize the talents God has given to our brothers and sisters who are gifted in artistic ways,” he said. “Those talents aren’t always seen in our worship gatherings, so I thought it’d be a great avenue to allow them to be.”

All those involved with the services are enthusiastic about the results of the new artistic emphasis.

“[It’s] really been such an unexpected blessing this semester,” Penwell said. “We all know what it looks like to encounter the Holy Spirit in worship or in listening to a speaker, but to hear from Him by looking at a painting or by listening to a rap? It’s a little different, but it’s been really cool to see.”

Phillips notes that including art in the service is meaningful to all people, not just those students who are artistically inclined.

“They add to our worship of God in a way that people like me, who are not gifted with those abilities, can see Him in new and fresh ways,” he said.

Dr. Ben Myers, the Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature, has become involved in the Connect Chapels, and has read poetry for the services a few times over the past year. He’s glad to see students using art as a worshipful expression, and especially poetry.

“Art is a gift from God — a reflection of His Truth, Goodness, and Beauty — and, like all His gifts, we should return it to Him as an act of worship,” he said.

Everyone involved in the chapel services is excited to see how this avenue of worship can be explored and expanded in the future.

“I hope that in future Connect Chapels we will continue to find new ways of highlighting the gifts God has given to our campus community, so that we can offer worship to Him in a way that gives fuller expression to who He is and what He does in and through us,” Phillips said.

Penwell agrees.

“It has become a really beautiful way to see the Holy Spirit moving in a new and fresh context, through fresh people and fresh mediums,” she said. “I hope we keep doing stuff like this.”

McClure perhaps sums it up best.

“We have the privilege to steward elements of creation in such a way to utilize the members of the body to exalt the name of Christ,” he said. “We believe that any way we can get more students involved in this desire, the better, so we will continue to explore ways in which that can happen.”