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Personal BLog

god in the movie theatre

Anna Naphtali

It was Easter and I was alone and feeling slightly more aware of my alone-ness. I didn’t think I could handle going to church, for many reasons, so I ventured to the movie theatre in pursuit of inspiration. I went to see “The Shack” a book I read about a decade prior, that was left unfinished, as I was uncomfortable with the idea of God as woman. Now, ironically struggling with God as man, I sat alone in a theatre ready for my Sunday morning. Hoping for a life-changing encounter, struggling to stay interested, due to the awkward sequence changes and terrible prop styling, I noticed a ruffling sound happening out of view. It was coming through the only side entrance, but there wasn’t anyone in the theatre with me… or was there. As a figure didn’t emerge, and my sudden fears of movie shootings on Easter were heightening, I started to panic. I was going to have to rush out the same way as the noise to save my life from the shooter. The rustling was getting closer so I hopped up and ran toward the exit, to see a figure standing there with something in it’s hand and it walked toward me revealing a security guard uniform and I laughed outloud and said, “you scared me, I thought you were a shooter.” She came closer, a black woman with a smile said, “no sometimes I like to come in here when no one’s here.” I sat back down in my seat and she joined me for a while, a few rows forward.

With my sudden adrenaline settling and this terrible movie with it’s only redeeming quality being this beautiful black woman being portrayed as God saying soothing words like, “sugar” and “baby”. I calmed down and then on my mystic quest for meaning on this Easter morning, I whispered in my heart, “God is that you, in the security suit? Are you watching this movie with me?”

I used to live in this strange state of supernatural encountering, believing with all my heart, that I’d meet God somewhere dressed up in mysterious ways… that I’d prophetically induce interactions of Christian psychic behavior on street corners, and beg God himself to show up in my room as a child, so I could see him… alas, he never showed up, I faked every “slain” in the Spirit moment in my charismatic church years ago, I tried to feel it all, and always, felt nothing, saw nothing and walked away as the rejected evangelical informant.

Now on the complete opposite side of mystic, I lived questioning the very existence of God in entirety. BUT still with the same whisper, “I don’t know if you’re real, but I hope so.”

But as I was warmed by watching God, the black woman, on the screen, and oddly comforted by the black woman security guard who joined me on this lone venture… In delusional began to hope again that I was finally with God, that she had finally met the requests of three decades of begging for a glimpse. The security guard left before the movie was over, and I left with a smile and went to a nearby café where I sat outside to relish in my private, made-up moment of meeting God alone in the theatre.

As I instagrammed my red pepper and gouda soup on this shining, frail Easter Sunday, I looked up and saw the security guard walking around and checking in on some stores. My heart began to sink… and I began to laugh at how disappointed I truly was that she was an actual security guard and not a God angel sent to join me on my spiritual quest. Cynicism began to form a lump in my throat as I ate my Easter lunch. All the disappointments of “What I believed where God” began to well up and project into this moment. I thought I knew better than to let myself dream up these moments, after all this mysic life of God-searching had left me internally burned. I began to cry into my soup at my own silliness, and my own pain of what I used to believe.

Sniffling, the woman walked by as she made her rounds, and I decided to talk to her to confirm she wasn’t an angel. I asked her to join me and we laughed that I was scared that she was the Easter movie shooter, I didn’t mention that I also thought she was God… and I learned she had a son, and her name, and she learned I had a daughter…  and it was a real interaction and it was ok and nice to meet her and I swallowed my tears and made due with my spirituality and leaned in the sun as she walked away, soaking my indifference and neutrality and chuckling at myself.

After a while of turning my heart to what I know is the only safe spiritual practice I have, I acknowledged the pleasure of the soup that suddenly wasn’t that great, and the sun that was getting too hot, and I opened my eyes to throw away my trash and move on and Berta, the security guard was hobbling toward me holding something. She walked over holding an envelope and recommended, “For you and your daughter to go see the spelling bee movie together.” And muttered something about a false break-in at the store down the street that she had to check on. She put the envelope in my hand, and it took a moment to realize she gave me free movie tickets…

And it all rushed into me like a chorus of laughter as if God him/herself had watched this amusingly unfold and I felt a whisper that said, “you DID meet God in the movie theatre… her name is Berta and she has a son at home and she works at Phillips Place circle and she likes to sneak in theatres and watch movies when no one is in them… and she listened with her human ears and heard you talk about your daughter, and noticed you were alone, and used her human heart of kindness to get you a gift…” and I smiled and teared up again because I remembered… I remembered the lesson I forgot, that while I’d love to transcend dimensions, opportunities to see God are walking all around me every day in crooked smiles, lazy eyes, little squeaky faces and hobbling security guards. That so often I’ve looked for the super-natural, and asked to see God, and stood in meetings, and in prophetic proclamations, and longed for glory dust and shakes and sparkles to know that God is real, and followed dreams and paths and people thinking it would make me closer to heaven and encounter only to leave me high and dry, on the floor, disappointed that when the curtain was pulled back every time, no one was there. It was made up. But on this Sunday on a sneaky search I found what I was looking for, the actual face of God was revealed and has been for this lifetime… in different skin tones, and body shapes, in the flickering eyes of human beings. The lady that let me cut in front of her in the car, the little toddler in target enthralled with joy unafraid to walk up to me and hug my leg, Yvonne the cashier who sneaks my daughter stickers and tells her she’s so pretty and smart and treats us like family for every 10 minute interaction, the man who helped me move boxes when I was overwhelmed, my little roommate who woke me up and pulled me down stairs with soggy cereal waiting for me, the friend who put a wash cloth on my head when I drank on an empty stomach and had my first accidental hangover, my father who saved me when I couldn’t save myself, my mother who hung curtains and re-arranged my living room when I was depressed… the human security guard who changed my life with movie tickets… these are the face of God that I longed to see and the glimpses are eternal. As approximately 7.444 billion opportunities to see God are dwelling among us on this earth.

I’ve been through the hoorah’s of religion only to find that if we seek God but don’t love people we will never find him. You can go to the ends of the earth, and stand on mountains, and drink the juice, and sing the songs, and not cut your hair, or cut it, grow your beard, or pierce your ears... you can speak in the tounges of angels but if you do not have love, and real love, the kind that looks people in the eye and treats every human with dignity and respect then you’ll miss it. You can have your revivals and tent meetings, and glory-fests, you can prance on stages and glow in the dark but if you don’t love people you’ll miss it. You’ll miss the treasure of meeting a stranger and hearing their story and holding their human hands... and finding God.

A co-depandant gospel

Anna Naphtali

There is a dating guru, who has now been banned from the UK, that would hold seminars teaching men how to pick up women. On the surface it seemed like he was helping men, because his methods were very successful, but when I inquired from my friend, who’s a mental health attorney in London, why he was banned from their country, he explained how his operation worked. It goes something like this; you spot a woman, in a bar perhaps, and strike up a conversation, maybe flirting a bit, but within the first few minutes you insult her, watch her face change, let her feel a sense of insecurity, then after a matter of time you compliment her, and build her back up. With charm, you ask her out, and she says yes.  How does this work? The perpetrator either stirs up an already existing insecurity, or creates a new one, which causes the target to have a fast drop in self esteem and puts the prey in a place of vulnerability, and then in that place of susceptibility, that’s the window you game. As you begin to sweep in with compliments building her back up, the predator then gets to be the hero; the charming knight to save her and give her a sense of security. He turns her frown upside down, and re-enforces her sense of desirability by then asking her out, making him seem like a confident savior. The problem is, he is the also the one that stirred up the insecurity in the first place, but then offered himself as the refuge, which puts him in control.

This teaching is the recipe for control. If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship, or heard about those that stayed in them for a lifetime, often times the lover, savior and provider, is wrapped up in the same body as the abuser and tormenter- causing a vicious cycle of pain and attachment. This cycle can become an unaware addiction, thus a co-dependent is born (someone who becomes dependent on their abuser for the relief of pain that their vary savior is inflicting.) It’s like heroine, it feels so good but it’s actually hurting you, making you emptier and more chemically depleted after usage, causing the need for it to be greater each time you take it, a cycle that often leads in death. The drug is both the problem AND the only solution, which is why it can become difficult to decipher which one it is when you’re in the cycle. You need the person causing the pain to (temporarily) relieve you of the pain, leaving you vulnerable for more pain.

This method works. Marketers do it, media does it, politicians do it, pimps do it, Hitler did it, but we expect that at a certain level from those avenues, even though it is easy to be fooled by charm and fame, but where we don’t expect it as much, is sitting in a church where people come to escape the pains and bullies of the world… which unfortunately is a ripe harvest waiting to be picked.

Prophet walks to pulpit, after some light intro, a story, maybe some jokes, he begins to talk about the problems of the world, if he’s political, he’ll get specific giving these problems names, faces etc… he’ll throw in a bible verse to give the impression he’s aligned with God, so you keep listening…  he’ll begin to create insecurity in the people and attach it specifically if he has agenda so that the people begin to associate their insecurity with names, faces, etc… (the continual reinforcement is Pavlov’s Theory of Association) Whether it’s a world-wide epidemic: the swine flu, Ebola, terroism or a more dangerous association, a group of people; Muslims, LGBT, women, pro-choice advocates…Whatever it is, the listener begins to feel fear, that is often already there, but the speaker gives the fear names and associations. Then when you’re in a state of vulnerability overcome with fear about the world we live in, or whoever the speaker wants to pinpoint responsibility, the prophet sweeps in to his prey… “But God.” And suddenly the crowd feels a sense of relief… “But God is on the move, and he’s raising a people… (he begins to build the crowd back up) a move is coming , God is doing something in the land…

In this place, the move can get specific if there’s agenda… the move can endorse an anointed figure- Donald Trump, per example, was used many times in this election so you then feel an association of relief attached to the character endorsed by “God” or if the speaker is endorsing himself or doesn’t have devious intention he might endorse you as the army, or the individual God might raise up (He’s asking you out with a bouquet of verses and promises) and the answer is YES. And if he’s just written a book he’ll sell the step by step process, the explanation of the new move of God coming so you can be a part of it, the answers how to get there, in his book, that you have to buy… You leave with a sense of hope in God, and hey that’s not bad! Or with a sense of belonging to a move attached to God, that’s not bad necessarily either, to feel like you’re a part of something… but you’ve also been left with something else that you’re not thinking about in the moment… a sense of fear that your children aren’t safe in bathrooms or schools anymore, something that you already felt generally as a good parent, concern for your children, but NOW that general fear you had for your child has a name: Caitlyn Jenner, Hillary Clinton, Obama or the LGBT community, but you’re not thinking about that, you’re thinking about the relief from the fear, you feel encouraged. But the seeds of fear now have subconscious names: you’ve been given enemies and possibly ways to fight your enemies with the endorsement that God is on your side. “Fear Not, for I am with you…” says the Lord…

I’m not endorsing a single political figure, celebrity, movement, or even community nor am I saying that there aren’t VERY destructive communities and mindsets in the world to be concerned about, after all we’re all people and people be are, um capable of dark people-y things. But what I’m saying is this mentality is gravely dangerous because it subtly encourages little seeds of prejudice that may have already been there unknowingly, that are watered with more fear every time you’re under this agenda until out of nowhere a child-soldier is born, or a straight arm is lifted- the seed has grown under the surface and when it’s harvest time it is no longer God making bread from wheat, but the inbred self-righteous agenda for bigotry has been released and out of nowhere the group of people that are SUPPOSED to be known for love, become the actual terrorists of the world with a suppressed well-fed hatred of a demographic of PEOPLE, other people, the very people that God came to save.

On a less obvious but still grave scale, this has been the tactic of every evangelistic service I’ve ever attended. The preacher starts with telling the congregation they are full of sin, full of problems, they might even go into detail. Every person begins to feel their insecurities rise to the surface, the secrets, the self-loathing, the addictions; the private hell they’re hiding or how unloved they feel begins to well up… and then in that vulnerable place, the people are ripe, the preacher tells the story of the cross, Jesus died for you etc.… you confess your sin, another act of humiliation, you accept Jesus who builds you back up… you are now clean, righteous, precious, loved by God, you are now his. Started with insult, left the people feeling vulnerable, build the people back up with introduction of a Savior; ask them out on a date or invitation to Christ, people say yes, the people are co-dependent on Jesus, church, conferences, teachers, pastors, religion… in order to maintain their new dependency.

The problem isn’t Jesus, because if you study the actual character of Jesus, kindness, mercy, justice and grace transcend all religions and culture as an acceptable way to live and treat people. The problem is that people are often shamed into believing something, and this something can be good and true, but accomplished through this process creates minions of church, thought and religion disguised as a faith in Jesus, rather than empowered, free-thinking, individual people. 

In church circles you will actually hear people tote phrases of being “addicted” to Jesus, or dependent on him for all of your needs, or married to God…. BUT THESE THINGS AREN’T LITERALLY TRUE. The truth is while God can be holding the very world together and keeping the breath in your lungs…. He doesn’t actually get you dressed in the morning, make your breakfast, control your brain to turn on the car and go to work where you make money to buy the things you need. YOU do that. YOU, powerful, God-saved, YOU.

The danger is not in having a belief, or even a loyal deep, rich devotion to God and by all means the danger is not in loving people as Jesus did, Son of God or not, there hasn’t ever been a more dynamic un-worldly story of loving people and not giving a shit about fame, power and control… the problem, is that churches are creating factories of people who refuse to question, discover, or take responsibility for their real, human lives and measure the words of a prophet by the character of Jesus, which makes them extremely susceptible to a controller or an unhealthy, co-dependent view of Jesus, or Christianity, or Islam or political agenda etc…