Christian Supply

March 21, 2011

As part of a near weekly ritual, my girlfriend and I went to the movies one late afternoon. I can’t remember what it was we went to see but we had some time to kill before the movie started. As we perused the shops we happened upon one that I could not pass up: “Christian Supply”

Unbeknownst to me at the time, there are apparently supplies one should have in order to be a Christian. I thought you just got the name when you went to church and believed in the word of the Bible. From a distance I guess the store could have been an outfitter for people named Christian, but the life-size painting of Jesus holding a weak, western looking, young adult male cleared up that misconception in a hurry. Naturally, I had to go in.

If you couldn’t read, this place would feel like your average gift shop, but I soon found the subtleties that tipped the balance towards Godliness. If someone lead you blindly into this store you would feel the same as when you stumble on the Christian channel on the radio; you enjoy it until you realize what you are listening to. Unfortunately for me I couldn’t pretend that we stumbled in off the street, much to the associates’ chagrin I can imagine. I was there on purpose and I wasn’t going to leave without the full experience. I needed a souvenir.

Christian Supply had taken everything typical in a household and put a Christian twist on it, very appropriately enough; door mats with verses on them, mirrors and coat hangers with crosses engraved on or around them.  I’ll admit there were some cool paintings and clever sayings, and if I were a devout believer I probably would have enjoyed them more. The whole store was split in two halves: one for decorations and the other for literature and entertainment. I picked myself up a little magnet for my bare and lonely refrigerator.

The magnet is an old fashioned, wooden, square rigged ship and I am not quite sure why it was in the Christian Supply. There is no verse or discernable cross anywhere on the ship and it looks way too small to house every species of animal. I can only guess that a ship of this type will appear at some point in the Bible or that there will be an important allusion to a ship later on (no spoilers please). Perhaps the owner of the store really likes old ships.

As we moved from the home décor area of the store into the books, movies and kids toys section I couldn’t help but imagine this place looked a lot different in the late 12th Century. The armor and swords are still there, but they’re made of plastic now. I guess as the times change so do the needs of a religion, but I digress.

In the “fun” section of the store we found books that had Christian themes and documentaries about the Bible. I found one kids’ movie whose main protagonist was “Bibleman”. This superhero wore bright colors and had a cross on both his gauntlets. Just looking at the hero’s name I would guess creativity hasn’t blossomed much since the days of the Bible’s inception.

Titles like “Bibleman” were an exception amongst the movies and books. For the most part, all of the books and films shared a similar theme of being timid and simple. Even if I weren’t Christian but wanted a selection of reading that didn’t involve sex or violence or drug use I could find those books in the Christian Supply shop. That being said, there were still plenty of bestsellers and recognizable titles in the store as well as less common authors.

Overall, my trip to the Christian Supply felt like going to any other gift shop. Naturally, if I were a Christian I probably would have enjoyed the store more. If anything I could find comfort in knowing there was a store that catered so closely to my beliefs. When I think about other stores I can’t think of any that have carved out a place in the market like the Christian Supply. There are men’s stores and women’s stores and sporting goods stores and electronic stores, but rarely if ever, do you see a Yarmulke hut or an Allah’s Treasures. Perhaps this is why the Christian Supply is still operating while other stores go in and out of business around it. The owners have found a need in the community and are supporting that need. While the needs of Christians are not yet my own I am kind of envious they have a store all to themselves.

Even though I don’t need a giant painting of Jesus.

Reflecting on The Book of Eli

February 20, 2010

Although I’ve just begun my reading of the Bible, I have had another experience in the religious realm. Last month, in the company of several friends, I went to see The Book of Eli. I was initially intrigued by the trailers for the movie because I couldn’t really tell what the movie was about; that, and Denzel Washington was kicking some serious ass with that machete-sword. My overall impressions of the movie were good and I was surprised at the correlations between it and the Biblical undertaking I have begun.

I don’t think there are any real spoilers in this review, but apologies to those who think otherwise.

Denzel plays Eli, a wanderer in a post apocalyptic America with a single goal; to get to the west coast. He carries with him a book that Gary Oldman, the film’s villain, believes to hold the key to power over the destitute and rebellious citizens of his shanty town. We soon find out that Eli’s book is indeed the Bible (King James Version).

Oldman’s character, Carnegie, is old enough to remember the time before the apocalyptic events when vast amounts of people were held together under the roof of one faith or another. However, the young people in the apocalyptic, American wasteland cannot read and have no idea what religion is. Carnegie recognizes this as an opportunity to unite people under his leadership if only he had the right words to gain their faith, trust and hope. The words he searches for are the words of the Bible in Eli’s hands.

What I found interesting and entertaining about The Book of Eli is that the villain of the movie aims to use the Bible for power and control. Carnegie would spread the word of the Lord via the Bible as a pseudo-prophet to gain power over the anarchistic world. Although we are led to believe the people would be united, Carnegie would be a ruler throne-bound by greed, and in my mind this would be bad. In a time before the film’s apocalypse (our modern day) to spread the gospel would be seen as a righteous and laudable act, but Eli creates a scenario where such actions have evil undertones. I am impressed at the film’s ability to show the extremely slight change in intentions that can turn the Bible from something inspiring to something controlling.

The movie seems to suggest that the Bible itself is neither good nor evil, and that human interpretation determines how it is accepted. It is for this reason that I would recommend the movie to those hesitant due to the religious sub-plot. There is no blatant pro-Bible or anti-religious theme in the movie as it is clear the true goal of the film was to create an action movie with a new story instead of the tried and true Hollywood methods. That being said, the movie does provide great actions sequences and an eerily cool soundtrack.

I know this partial review is a little late, but if any theatres around you are still playing The Book of Eli I recommend you go see it.

Whether or not interpretation is really all that keeps the Bible from being good or evil, I will have to keep reading to find out.

In the beginning…beginning

December 12, 2009

Now, I didn’t own my own Bible when I decided I was going to embark on this adventure, so I had to go out and buy one. Reaching the bookstore I soon found that there are a ton of bibles. I’m not talking Bibles for every religion, I mean, there were shelves upon shelves for the Catholic/Christian/“that side of religion” Bible. I read the spine of every one hoping for some enlightenment, but soon gave up on that notion given the already mentioned state of my soul. I eventually solicited the help of a fellow shopper who, I came to find, was purchasing a second Bible for herself.

Hold the phone: a second Bible?

Why, I asked myself, would someone need another Bible? I had begun to formulate the question upon seeing the shelves of Bibles and pondering the need for such variety, but this religious shopper hit home. As an example she proceeded in describing to me the tome she had unearthed had two variations/interpretations of the Bible side by side on each page for easy comparison. On top of this, the books in front of us were similar to hers, in that they were all interpretations of the Bible. Well, I was looking for the Bible, and after a short dialogue I narrowed in on what I believe to be the original text. Practically a textbook, I chose: “The New Oxford Annotated Bible” with all the fixin’s. (There’s the link if you want to pick one up yourself and read along, because apparently there are different versions)

My new friend in religion cautioned me upon our separation, with an air of condescension I should add: “The original is difficult!” she said, and I laughed the short and awkward “just-met-a-stranger” laugh despite the fact she was completely serious. Apparently I even give off the sense that I have a weak mind and soul…

My interaction in the bookstore was interesting, more so upon reflection, and here’s why. I don’t know much about the Bible, this much is true, but it seems to me that if I am going to live my life by the written words of an ancient document, I might want to actually read that document myself. I may put faith and trust in my parent or pastor that he or she is indeed telling me the word of the scripture, but if I plan on living my life under such a strict code, it seems only reasonable that I would do some investigation of my own. After all, in the rest of our lives we do make sure of our actions before we check both ways and dive in to something new. Now, I may be too harsh on my Bible informant. As far as I know, she’s read the original, the first edition, the King James Bible, and she’s ready to hear what other people say about it. Unfortunately for her, and for her fellow churchgoers, experience has not given me the ability to grant such logic and worldly aspirations to religion.

I was excited to bring my new book home and introduce it to all the rest, but I was apprehensive as well. I was concerned in between readings that due to its proximity to works of literature, Ayn Rand and general science fiction, that one or the other might explode (which in hind sight wouldn’t have been a bad thing; after the dust settled I would have known which was greater). Alas, my Bible made friends with its new bunk mates and I’m sure they share stories at night. Ha! “stories”…clever.

For any of you interested in purchasing a Bible let me tell you that it is a good investment. Despite its humble width of about 2 inches this thing has close to 2000 pages! I’d probably feel like I was getting a better deal if it was printed on actual paper. I know I’m not the first person to call it “Bible paper” but what the hell is that all about? Maybe that’s why that lady needed another Bible. Her first one probably got destroyed when she opened a window. Needless to say, I find myself taking more care of this book than others I care more about. Irony point to God. Anyway, I did spend a pretty penny on my Bible, but hopefully God will see the selfless opening of my pocketbook as a true sign of my genuine pursuit of Him.

Nah. He’s probably smarter than that.

Why are we here?

November 30, 2009

I bet it has been said somewhere at some point by a profound thinker that to know “where you are” you must first know “who you are”. If not, consider me the first. I am but a simple college student with nothing to my name but, potentially, a sweet quote about “knowing where you are is knowing who you are”, or something like that. I am twenty years old and I have recently started reading the Bible. I have intended this blog to be the chronology of my exploits in the world of religion. I don’t know who you are, but I can only hope that in being here you will find some amusement in the absurdities that will come to pass as I delve deeper into the sacred text.

I am not religious. In my youth I was ordered to church on a regular basis, but somewhere along the way I wandered from the path. Now, I kind of wish I hadn’t….ah, who am I fooling? The freedom that came with releasing my religious ties was cool as a kid, but I never got the opportunity to discover what made so many people give up their Sunday morning and part of their lives. Nowadays, with friends and relations still subscribing to one faith or another, I have a desire to see for myself what makes religion so attractive. And that is how I came to the Bible…

The church I was lead to as a kid was a Catholic one. Today I have friends who are Catholic, or at least some branch of Catholicism (I can’t keep them all straight). If there is one thing that ties all religions it is its ubiquitous and commanding presence amongst the lives of its followers. As a result I am fascinated with not just Catholicism, but with all religion. I have chosen to start with the Bible only because it is noticeably relevant in my community and country.

I have found in my experience debating with religious folk that the conversation ends up with a bible being pulled out of thin air (miracle?) and pages being turned in a fury to find scripture to prove a point. I have never been satisfied with what the living room prophets give me, but I willingly give them the benefit of the doubt. I too find it difficult to supply evidence to support my opinions in the heat of argument. To save them time and energy, and to bolster my own argumentative capabilities, I will be searching for their evidence and several other things as I read:

In my reading I aim to find the answers so many accept to the world’s most difficult and debated questions such as those regarding abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment and evolution to name a few. I want to discover all of the things that make me the outcast and damned person I am. I want to see what it is about God that people like so much, and why Jesus is such a cool guy that strangers in the grocery store feel compelled to tell me so. I want to see if the Bible is persuasive to the point that its followers will consider it history while denouncing history books. I want to find the confidence to be able to point to written words as fact and stand tall while reason and evidence batter my position. I want to find a way to convey cynicism and sarcasm in text better than I can already.

With all of these goals in mind I hope that the religious community can withhold my eternal damnation but temporarily while I pursue the answers they assure me will promise an eternity of happiness. Despite what others may think of the coming documents, I hope that you can find some entertainment in the misinterpretations and cynical bastardizing that comes with a frustrated, young adult’s hopeless attempt at finding the meaning of it all.