Evangelization at the Movies

Here is that post I was teasing last night.  It actually works out a lot better to write this tonight.  Father talked about evangelization at Mass tonight, and now I’m watching the Oscars.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of these topics, mostly because I have a theology degree and work in a movie theater.

Oh yes… and because we’re currently showing Son of God in my theater.

Confession time: I really dislike the weekends when we’re showing “religious” films.  Is that bad?  Should I be happy that we have a movie about Jesus showing in one or two of our twenty auditoriums?  Does my disgruntled attitude betray a lack of priority (maybe) or a lack of charity (probably)?

As a creative person, I love the idea of using art to evangelize, and I do consider movies to be art.  I think we need to reach people using the languages they speak, and film is such a common language these days.

I am perhaps disappointed in the quality of most of the current offerings, and I am suspicious of the motives of most people involved.  This video review by the critic “MovieBob” Chipman sums up my feelings rather accurately and amusingly (note: this video carries a language & attitude warning.  If you don’t want to watch, the key phrases to note are “bad, boring and laughable,” “blatant, cynical cash grab,” and “just read the book”.).  Church groups buy out entire showtimes for Son of God and similar offerings, but they don’t necessarily fill the seats.  That’s more money for everybody up the supply chain.  

The majority of the customers who attend the show are polite, kind, cheerful people, but there are some who act as though a Christian has never walked through the doors of the theater before.  Some of these people, it seems, are attempting to inflict God upon me, as though He is a weapon.  One such customer pointed out to me that the soft drink cups advertising the next big release should, instead, have Jesus on them.  I did not reply with what I was thinking.  I am all for making God more visible, but I can think of better ways to treat my Savior than slapping His face on a disposable pop container.

When it comes to evangelization, these efforts seem to be failing.  They target an audience who is already so in love with God that they are willing to pay weekend theater prices to watch a bland film they have probably already watched on television.  They aren’t reaching anyone who hasn’t already heard the message.

Why, instead, don’t we spend our money and our creative energy on truly imaginative efforts?  Let’s tell stories that are deep and beautiful and charged with the grandeur of God.  Let’s be true and honest and heart-breakingly open and reflective of grace.  Let’s not just spout out, again and again, the verses we all have memorized, but let’s find surprising moments of sacrament and faith.  Let’s be like Darlene Love belting out a hymn in Oscar acceptance speeches.  Let’s be like Sr. Helena Burns pointing out authentic love in movies.  Let’s challenge our own preconceptions and sneak that message out to the audience that least expects it.

The movie theater is definitely a place for evangelization, but it doesn’t happen because you buy a ticket.  It happens when I’ve been smiling at customers for six hours straight and am so tired, but one man says to me, “I can tell you care about people.  Keep loving!” and I am inspired.  It happens when a lady asks an employee to exchange her ticket for a different movie, because she walks out of any show that takes the Lord’s name in vain three times, and that employee himself starts making the effort to choose different words.  It happens when employees start talking among themselves behind the stand about where they worship and how they pray.

Evangelization happens when people make an authentic connection and notice that God is in their midst.  Whatever facilitates that connection is necessarily a good thing.  I just think there are better ways to do this than we currently have up on the big screen.

Creative Week 1: Tuesday

Today’s theme of “Surrender” was suggested by Nick, and I’m going to be brave about it.

The title of this blog is “Singing Into the Dark” and it’s about time you got to hear me sing.  Music is very important in my life, which you might have guessed from all the random YouTube videos I insert at the bottom of my posts.  However, most of the singing I do these days is anonymously from a pew at Mass or in the solitude of my car.

However, I have a secret: I write a lot of songs.  Most of them, I don’t even bother to write down.  The few that I significantly work on don’t really even get musical accompaniment worked out– my piano is drastically out of tune and I haven’t quite managed to get comfortable on my guitar yet.

Tonight, that secret is revealed.  I present a rough, acapella recording of my new song “Down”.  The lyrics are below.

She told him in the morning
she didn’t think she’d stay.
He begged her just to think awhile
before she went away.
Her eyes looked on the ocean,
her gaze, somewhere beyond.
He knew his heart would follow hers;
it was already gone.

But desperately he’s with her.
He knows he’s going to drown.
His love went
Down to the water’s edge and he
followed her down.

In the older days ’twas simpler,
though you might not feel at ease
on the path God laid before you
unaffected by your pleas
while the idols of your enemies
threw curses at your soul.
When you knew you’d none to start with,
you’d never lose control.

So he pondered ancient tragedies,
great losses of renown.
His love went
down to the water’s edge and he
followed her down.

She was drifting on some currents
that only she could know,
but she always found him watching her
wherever she would go.
There are nights when it’s too hard;
her heart is much too full.
His love is slowly adding weight;
she’s sinking from its pull.

It’s such a needy world she sees–
could she bear its thorny crown?
His love went
down to the water’s edge and he
followed her down.

She cried, “I’ve so much more to give!”
He sighed, “I’ve not enough.”
She wept down at the ocean’s edge
in currents cold and rough.
She fears she’s lost without him now;
he’s lost in her embrace.
She’ll dissipate to fill the sky;
he’ll never fill her space.

They’re desperately together now,
praying not to drown.
His love went
down to the water’s edge and he
followed her down.

Thanks for listening.  What do you think?  Only two days left in this first week!

Creative Week 1: Monday

I decided on the theme my sister suggested, “Each Step of the Journey”.  I knew exactly where she got the idea.  Our college choir director, Karen Schneider Kirner, composes sacred music, in addition to all of her work leading and mentoring students.  She has set some of the prayers from the Carmina Gadelica to music, and one of my favorites is “Each Step of the Journey.”  I can no longer find the video that our choir made, but here is one of another Notre Dame choir singing it, because it’s a great prayer.

My plan for today’s project was to make a banner for use atop a blog or as a Facebook cover photo.  It would include some words of the prayer and some appropriate imagery.

However, plans have gone sideways.  Events have transpired such that instead of wrestling with Photoshop and making what no doubt would have been a lovely and inspirational piece of digital art…

…I have made an origami hopping frog.

ribbet ribbet

ribbit ribbit

 

Yes, in case you were wondering, they really do hop.  I have video proof!

It is SO MUCH more satisfying some days to just work with my hands.

Continue reading

Creative Week 1: Sunday

Today’s theme comes from Jeff.  He & I teach 8th grade Confirmation prep together, which is always an adventure.

On Twitter, Jeff suggested “the Assumption”.  I thought this was an excellent theme for my Sunday project.  I may have gone a more generic Marian route than specifically the Assumption, but if you look into her eyes, you may see some echoes.

the Assumption

pencil sketch, 8.5 x 11 inches

In case you missed the first few days, I explain my Creative Week plan here, and feel free to look back at Friday’s and Saturday’s projects.

Also, want to keep up to date in all of the social media places?  Click the heart icon up in the header to find your social site of preference.  Thanks!

Creative Week 1: Saturday

We had a new crop of potential hires go through the interview process at work today.  I cannot describe for you the exact flavor of panic in their eyes as they waited next to me, waiting to be called in, as I attempted to answer two ringing phones at once, switch out tickets to one show for a different show, manually add points to someone’s reward account and placate hungry customers who thought the concession line was ridiculously long.  I never quite had time to tell any of the candidates that it would be months before they would have to work the guest services desk, nor that today was an exceptionally busy day.

I knew today was going to be crunched.  I proctored a standardized test all morning and then I worked an almost eight hour shift at the movie theater this evening.  Even knowing how crazy today had the potential to be, I was still overwhelmed when it all came crashing down on me.

So, in other words, I’m really glad I went with the theme of “Baptism by Fire” for today’s project.  This idea was suggested by Rhonda Ortiz, who blogs at The Naptime Novelist.  You should definitely stop by and say hello.

In the meantime, it’s late, it’s very much a first draft, but it’s here before I go to sleep.  Here is a brand new poem for you all to read.

Baptism by Fire

In the dim light from the bulb
around the corner we have
found ourselves survived.

Still gasping breath, gulping
life in deep, the air around
crackling with energy, heat.

there is scar tissue in
my lungs but I am
breathing I am
reborn

The hum from outside our separate
room is routine continuing. Only
in this space, here, is the
dark pause, the little death,
the refining burn and the
breath that follows. Only here
is you and me, initiated.

You are grasp my hair.
I hold your chin. This
was it. The worst
is over now and our hot,
pink skin will heal.

please please I can’t
ever do this again

A new impulse is discovered
and an old peace
smolders in the breadth.

Creative Week 1: Friday

I announced my intention to participate in a Creative Week earlier today in my 7QT post.  I am now pleased to present my very first project.

My awesome friend Christine was the very first to suggest a theme, and I absolutely loved it, so I decided to make it my first day.

Idea: Expectation

actual size: 5 by 7 inches

acrylic painting, 5 by 7 inches

I’m pleased with the painting.  I rushed it, a little, but that’s part of Creative Week.  If I made all of these absolute masterpieces, I probably couldn’t fit them all in.  The point is to get back to actively creating things.  I want to stretch my creative muscles.  I want to be able to point and say, there, that is a Thing of Beauty that I have done.

I am a little less pleased with the photograph of the painting.  In real life, it’s a lot easier to tell that the woman in the center has both a face and a dress.  Who knows?  Maybe at the end of the week, I will go back and retouch those features to make the contrast between light and shadow more obvious.

But probably not.

SO!  What do you think?  Am I off to an all right start with this Creative Week?  Or am I just crazy?

7 Quick Takes: How is it this late?

It’s the second link-up in two days!  But it’s also the second blog post in two days, so I know at least one of my relatives is probably happy.  Check out Jen at the Conversion Diary for the rest of the Quick Takes.  It’s her party and I’m just happy to be invited.

-1-

I know I promised a picture of the barn in my backyard.  It’ll come.  But I completely forgot that when I get off work at midnight, it is too dark to take photos of my backyard.  I really want you to see the piles of snow that have been there since December, so I’m going to take a picture in the morning.

UPDATE: Here is a barn, a backyard and a bunch of snow.

barn

-2-

Why am I even typing this up at all tonight?  Why don’t I wait until it’s Friday morning and light outside and everybody else is typing up their quick takes?  Because I have in my brain right now the things I want to say.  I know myself to know that when I get up in the morning, I will probably not be this mentally organized.  One of the big massive down sides to my current employment situation is that some days I work until midnight… and some days I start work at 8:00am.  It makes a sleep schedule difficult to maintain, especially considering how wound up I am whenever I get off my shift.

So I’m sleeping in tomorrow.  Maybe expect the barn picture in the early afternoon.

-3-

Speaking of work and unfortunate aspects, the schedule comes out once a week (a week that starts Friday and ends the next Thursday), and if all goes according to the proper plan, it becomes available on Tuesday evening.  Very rarely does the plan come to perfect fruition.  This was an especially bad week due to weather, technology and other intangibles, and the schedule was not finished until about 1:30 this afternoon.  Another technological snafu followed, whereby every employee logged on to see his or her schedule online… only to find that he or she did not have any hours this week at all.  It turns out that the “let everybody see the schedule” button hadn’t quite been pressed.  I eventually heard the whole story.

But for an hour there this afternoon, I was pretty darn freaked out.  I cannot afford to take an unexpected week off work.  I don’t make a whole lot of money, and so the money I do make goes pretty quickly to cover some pretty specific things.

In order to calm myself down, I started thinking about what I would do with my time if, in fact, I really was being presented with a whole week without any work shifts at all.

I knew almost instantly… I would work on creative projects.  I have this notion that I am a creative person, that I am a seeker of originality, that I have gifts and talents that lend themselves to actually forming a Thing of Beauty with my brain and my hands.  An idea spun itself together in my mind, a way to keep myself inspired and involve my blog readers and social media buddies.  I was actually a little disappointed when the schedule came through properly.

-4-

So I decided to go ahead with my plan anyway.

I am therefore announcing my first Creative Week.

What is a Creative Week?  It is when I undertake and complete one creative project every day of the week.  The media I use will vary.  I may write something, I may draw or paint, I may take a photo… who knows?  I may even sew.  The important part is one day will equal one project; each day will bring a new stretch for my creative powers.

How do you help?  You nominate a theme.  You inspire me.  What makes a good theme?  One word, or one short phrase, that is broad enough that I can interpret it, make it my own, and run with it.  Or maybe something that is even a little more specific, maybe a quote or an image you have in your head… but remember that you have no idea what kind of project I will create in response.

The results will be shared on this blog… maybe once a day, maybe in groups, maybe just at the end of the week.  I don’t know.  We’ll see how well I keep on schedule and make that call as it needs to be made.

So comment below with an idea or inspiration for me.  I can’t wait!

-5-

This is a song I have been listening to a lot for the past few days.  Not sure why, but gosh darn does it stick in my head!

-6-

So, Valentine’s Day is next week.  I really like Valentine’s Day.  I think it is a good excuse to show the people in your life that you love them, whether these people are your family, your friends or your significant other.  I will probably be working on the day itself, which is fine, I guess.  Yay movie theater.  It’s not like I have plans with my boyfriend, because at this point in time we happen to live in separate states.

Which brings me to the question: do you guys have any ideas on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day long distance?  I’m still brainstorming a bit here.

-7-

I am so ready for winter to be over.  I have not seen the grass since before Christmas.  There has literally been snow on the ground for that long.  There’s not much point here… just some complaining.  I saved it for last so it wouldn’t take over the whole post.

So that’s something, at least.

Happy weekend, friends!