The Christian Perception Problem at Comic-Con

I was perusing my twitter feed today, reading a bit from folks who’d been enjoying the madness that is Comic-Con when I came across this:

I was a bit surprised, having never been to Comic-Con (I missed my one chance when I was in Los Angeles a few years ago.  I still regret not going).  Christian protestors?  What’s this all about?  And so I went to Mr. Google to ask him what was going on, and I found this surprisingly kind and evenly-told story over at Verge.com:

 

For Comic-Con’s street preachers, hate gets results

I was surprised, but not, to find that a variety of Christians feel led to stand outside the pop culture beast that is Comic-Con to try and share the Gospel.  It makes sense, considering that you have a huge captive audience of largely unchurched youth who are heavily invested – can I say obsessed? – in and with the entertainment culture.  I do believe that God calls some to be street preachers, and I have heard some really good ones in my day, who are able to communicate the offensive message of the Gospel in a way that is well-received by some who have open hearts.  However, as I read this story, I found myself thinking…

There we go again.

It’s that Christian perception problem, rearing its ugly head once more.

Why does it happen?  Why do Christians – who represent the amazing and fantastic Good News of Jesus Christ – come across to much of the world as being hate-filled, small-minded, and (as the Verge writer said) showing the ugliest of faces?  Yes, the idea that we all sin can be offensive.  Yes, the idea that we need a savior, and that Jesus is the only savior can be offensive.  Yes, the idea that hell is real and many people are going there can be offensive.  But does that mean that we have to be offensive?  There are many adjectives I would use to describe Jesus (who Christians are supposed to emulate), but offensive is not one of them.  And yet so many Christians think that it is their calling to offend, by being hateful, small-minded, and ugly in situations like the one described by the writer of the Verge article.

As I was reading this article, I started thinking that it’s sad because there were plenty of Christians in attendance at Comic-Con.  But these Christians were not having any articles written about them.  They were not making obnoxious noise for Jesus.  They are just quietly toiling away for their faith.

From the inside of Comic-Con.

I thought that it was sad that we aren’t reading stories about these Christians, because I know they are there.  They are writing movies that they want to premiere at a future Comic-Con.  They are creating new comic books that they’d love to have featured on the floor.  They are plotting novels that would be read by the multitudes that attend.  They have the same goals as the guys standing outside with their signs and their tracts, but they have invested their lives to impact not only the crowds at Comic-Con, but the culture at large.

But then I started feeling less sad about this, because of the cool, unspoken, unwritten-about thing about these men and women:  they are being much more effective than the ones who are standing outside, holding signs and handing out tracts.  They are living the same lives of the youth attending the pop culture beast that is Comic-Con, to a point.  They walk beside those youth on a daily basis, at work, in their neighborhood coffee house, on the internet.  They understand them because they love the movies, they are just as excited about the trailers being revealed, they are also willing and enthusiastically standing in the long lines for the opportunity to hear the stars talk about where their favorite shows are going, just like the youth the ones outside are trying to reach.

I want to take a moment and celebrate those quiet Christians at Comic-Con who are walking the floor, buying the merch, wanting the autographs, trying to network, because they deserve to be encouraged and supported.  They are the ones who are presenting the offensive message of Christ in a way that the Comic-Con youth can receive, and they deserve our prayer and our respect.

And I hope that they get that movie made, and that it finds a huge audience at a future Comic-Con, and I can’t wait to stand in line to hear them talk about it, if I ever get a chance to attend again.

Please take a moment and read my blog post, “What’s Wrong with Christian Filmmaking“, and join the Sacred Arts Revolution.

And my novel, Thimblerig’s Ark, will be available for 99 cent download from July 29 to July 31.  Please give Thimblerig a try!

Thimblerig’s Ark 99¢ Sale Coming Soon!

if you liked

Tell your friends, coming up on July 29, in honor of the release of Noah on DVD, Thimblerig’s Ark will be available for 99 cents for two days only! Then, from July 31 to August 2 it will be available for $1.99, and then from August 3 to August 5 it will be $2.99.

Please help spread the word!

And if you’ve already read Thimblerig’s Ark, please go to Amazon and write a short review. Thank you!

A Memorial to the Family of Tambii Jee, lost on MH17

When I heard about the Malaysian airliner going down in Ukraine, I was upset, but upset in the way you are when you hear about bad things happening far away.  It was a pity, but at the end of the day, my life was going on, and I had a book signing to get to.  In the evening, I was on Facebook and saw an update from an old friend with whom I taught in Kazakhstan.  She wrote that she was devastated, having known someone on the flight.   I sent her a PM, and she wrote back that the tragedy had claimed a family we’d all known at the QSI school in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, and suddenly the far away terrible story was personal.

Tambi Jiee, 49, from Kampung Gobielt, was with his wife Ariza Ghazalee, 47, and four children - Mohd Afif, 19, Mohd Afzal, 17, Marsha Azmeena, 15, and Mohd Afruz, 13.

Tambi Jiee, 49, from Kampung Gobielt, was with his wife Ariza Ghazalee, 47, and four children from left – Mohd Afruz, 13, Mohd Afif, 19, Marsha Azmeena, and Mohd Afzal, 17.

I didn’t know the entire family well, but I did teach three of the children.  Two, I only saw once a week in music class, but they were very pleasant, well-natured kids.  I want to speak more specifically of the boy who was in my homeroom, Afruz, the youngest sibling, to remember him, and to honor him.

Afruz came to my fourth grade class in the middle of the year when his father was brought to Kazakhstan with Shell.  He entered school with a handful of other Malaysian boys his age, as the families were brought in at the same time.  When I think of Afruz, those first days, I mostly think of his smile.  He was a nine-year old boy coming to a new school in a foreign country filled with kids from all over the world, who all spoke English (which he didn’t speak very well when he entered), and he could have easily been withdrawn or sulky, having to adapt to this strange new world.  But he wasn’t.  As I said, he was always smiling.  As the year progressed, and as Afruz became more and more proficient in English, he gained more and more confidence to join in the classroom, it became evident that he had a fantastic sense of humor.  All the other kids loved him, and I began to see that it was because his easy-going personality.

All three students were incredibly bright, constantly doing well in school, and pushing themselves to do better.   Another friend who taught Marsha, the young daughter in the family, told me that she learned an entire year of math in four months by coming to him for an extra hour each day to do extra work and get extra tutoring.  On the family’s Facebook pages, there are pictures of all three of the younger students winning science fair competitions for their age groups, and this was par for the course for these kids.  These were kids who would grow up and make a difference.

My family left Kazakhstan that summer, and so my time with Afruz and his siblings was limited.  I was able to keep up a bit with them from China via Facebook, as much as I did many of the students, but I wasn’t so close to the family as to maintain regular communication.  Their pictures on Facebook regularly showed a loving expatriate family, always smiling, enjoying the world together.  They were on flight MH17 because they had completed their time in Kazakhstan, and were returning home to Malaysia.

On Wednesday, that family was lost, senselessly, violently, in a way we all struggle to understand.  We don’t know who is responsible yet, and we may never know exactly.   The world’s hope is that investigators will figure it out, and whoever gave the order and whoever followed the order will face justice.  But even that won’t bring back Afruz’s family, and the others who were lost.

I have to be honest.  This has rocked me to the core, especially when I think of those kids, who were such wonderful members of the school community.  They came from a devout Muslim family, and as a family they were fantastic representations of the Islamic faith to the rest of us.  They will be sorely missed by those who knew them best.   And while my understanding of God’s will has been challenged by this loss, I just can’t help but think that His mercy will extend to this family and the other 292 souls who were lost in such an unfair manner.

At least I pray that it will, because they didn’t come close to deserving to have their lives ended this way.

None of them did.

 اَلرَّبُّ رَاعِيَّ فَلاَ يُعْوِزُنِي شَيْءٌ. 2 فِي مَرَاعٍ خُضْرٍ يُرْبِضُنِي. إِلَى مِيَاهِ الرَّاحَةِ يُورِدُنِي. 3 يَرُدُّ نَفْسِي. يَهْدِينِي إِلَى سُبُلِ الْبِرِّ مِنْ أَجْلِ اسْمِهِ. 4 أَيْضاً إِذَا سِرْتُ فِي وَادِي ظِلِّ الْمَوْتِ لاَ أَخَافُ شَرّاً لأَنَّكَ أَنْتَ مَعِي. عَصَاكَ وَعُكَّازُكَ هُمَا يُعَزِّيَانِنِي. 5 تُرَتِّبُ قُدَّامِي مَائِدَةً تُجَاهَ مُضَايِقِيَّ. مَسَحْتَ بِالدُّهْنِ رَأْسِي. كَأْسِي رَيَّا. 6 إِنَّمَا خَيْرٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ يَتْبَعَانِنِي كُلَّ أَيَّامِ حَيَاتِي وَأَسْكُنُ فِي بَيْتِ الرَّبِّ إِلَى مَدَى الأَيَّامِ.
مزامير 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

Thimblerig’s Ark Book Signing Success

I enjoyed my third book signing of the summer, and was pleased by how many folks stopped in to get a copy of Thimblerig’s Ark here in the burg of Martinsville.  The Binding Time Cafe was a great place to have the event, and I appreciated their hospitality and open doors!

Signed copies of Thimblerig’s Ark are still available before I head back to China in three weeks, and I’d be happy to mail them to folks at the price I was selling at the signing – $10 plus S&H.  If you are interested, please drop me an email and we can discuss details.

How to Support an Author’s New Book: 11 Ideas For You

thimblerigsark:

Great ideas on how to support a new author.

Originally posted on Writers In The Storm Blog:

By Chuck Sambuchino

large_5595133805My Writer’s Digest coworker, Brian A. Klems, recently geared up for the release of his first book — a humorous guide for fathers called OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A DAD’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS (Adams Media). On top of that, my coworker Robert Brewer (editor of Writer’s Market) recently got a publishing deal for a book of his poetry.

So I find myself as a cheerleader for my writing buddies — trying to do what I can to help as their 2013 release dates approach. I help in two ways: 1) I use my own experience of writing & publishing books to share advice on what they can expect and plan for; and 2) I simply do whatever little things I can that help in any way.

This last part brings up an important point: Anyone can support an author’s…

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