Alice and I watched "Penelope" last night and although I didn't think it was an amazing movie, the moral of the story and the conclusion of the film was provocative to me. The film is about a rich girl (Penelope) who is born with a pig's nose because of a fairy tale curse on her family. Her mother spends the majority of the film trying to break the curse by finding her a rich young man to marry her in the hopes that the marriage would break the curse. The conclusion of the film is that she finds out that the only way to break the curse is for her to come to terms with herself and like herself for who she is, and at that point in the film her pig nose magically disappears. The film ends with her telling her fairy tale to a crowd of children who she then asks what the moral of the story is and the last child to answer her question says, "It's not the power of the curse, it's the power you give the curse." This line really stood out to me and I think captures well the churches condition here in America when it comes to our views of pacifism and social justice. The church in America has been lied to and told that "good theology" confesses that we are too weak to "fight the curse" of social injustice, sin, death, and war. This lie gives the enemy far too much power and in saying that we believe that we are helpless, we give power to the curse! What we need to do is to realize that where we were once helpless we are now strong enough in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to fight the curse and win. Not on our own, but as a part of His body. I have heard too many Christians, when presented with the pacifist stance that Jesus Christ teaches, tell me that my understanding of Christ's teachings is impractical and impossible to actually live out. They believe that we are unable to "love our enemies" and that therefore we can only do what we know how to do: fight evil through war. Again, I think in saying this these individuals are granting power to the curse: the curse that Jesus Christ broke at the cross and which we are not supposed to live under anymore. The Church today is like Penelope: It has an ugly pig nose and is only going to be able to rid itself of it when it stops giving power to the curse and starts to live out the gospel of the peaceable kingdom.
I had a dream several years ago that I think is relevant: In the dream I am worshipping with a small group of Christians in a small congregational church building. As we finish our liturgy and wait for the pastor to stand up and deliver the sermon, the side door to the front of the church opens and a man walks in and walks up to the front of the church. The man is extremely deformed and has no face, no arms, and is extremely overweight. He is covered in writing (tattoos?) and I can sense that his presence disgusts us and that we feel uncomfortable that he has taken the pulpit. He walks to the center of the front of the church and begins to make noises as if preaching, but we can't understand him and are revolted by him. We want to tell him to leave but don't know how. Thus the dream ends.
For the longest time I was convinced that the meaning of the dream had something to do with our judgement of the deformed man; that perhaps the dream was about how exclusive the church had become and how we needed to begin to accept people as they were. This interpretation however, had seemed unsatisfactory to me as it didn't quite capture the emotions I felt in the dream. So for the past several years I had been unaware of its real meaning until I recently narrated it to my wife and she wisely and tearfully pointed out to me what it meant: The deformed man in the dream IS the Church; we're supposed to be the beautiful body of Christ to the world but instead we are ugly, hypocritical, and deformed by hatred and sin: no face for people to recognize Jesus in, no arms to serve the poor, no voice to preach the gospel of peace with. We have become fat, ugly, and revolting to the world we were told to love and serve in Christ's name. The Christ we show people today is nothing like the loving, healing, and self sacrificing Christ of the gospels.
So friends, stop giving power to the curse of sin and death! Start looking and acting like Christ who is the head of the church. If we have a beautiful head to follow, we can and will have a beautiful body.