As a longtime nonbeliever in things supernatural, I almost hate to admit it, but I watched a Christian video today that actually moved me.
But it was powerful not for the intimations of divine love it necessarily contained but for its soulful humanism, and the endearing performance of it’s lead actor.
Watching it as an atheist, not a Christian believer, I was moved by the very-human yearning for goodness and kindness it evoked, not the faith that only God can ultimately bestow the grace we so often generously and naturally confer on each other.
At heart, it is a film about accepting fellow human beings in full by looking past all their cosmetic flaws and ills, looking instead at what is deep inside, at the heart of a person, as the film recommends.
It’s a lovely sentiment precisely because we humans so chronically fall short of that ideal, too often turning away from if not actively shunning those that are different on the outside, even damaged, but exactly the same as us on the inside.
The video was produced by Skit Guys Studios, an outfit formed by two former high school classmates who now create Christian-themed mini-films like this one, which is part of their “An Original Masterpiece” series.
I found this one online among hundreds after Googling “God’s Masterpiece,” which was the title of another video I watched yesterday — a maddening one — that arrived unsolicited to my Facebook page. It enraged me because every image and word in the entire thing was made up. (I couldn’t figure out how to embed it in this post, so you’ll have to take my word for it.)
The crux of it is a story about a Christian soldier whose comrades teased him for his faith, but he refused to renounce his love for the Lord. Then, one day his commanding officer, wanting to humiliate the pious soldier, ordered him to get in a jeep and park it a distance away, even after the soldier told him he didn’t know how to drive. “Well, then ask for the assistance of your God!” the commander exclaimed. “Show us that he exists!”
According to the video, the soldier walked to the jeep, praying, and got in. “Lord, I trust you in this. I can’t, but I believe in you,” he said before starting the engine.
The soldier then parked the jeep nearby as instructed, we are told, and as he got out and starting walking back toward the rest of his platoon, he saw that they were all crying, including the commander.
Because (the video claims), the commander had beforehand removed the engine. So, when the soldier drove an engine-less jeep — get it? —it was proof positive that his God is real.
The entire platoon then said in unison, according to the video, “We want to serve your God!”
Give. Me. A. Break. Does anyone actually believe such drivel. And why wasn’t it reported by every major news organization in the world?
Because it never happened. It’s fiction. Bad fiction. Even as fiction the video is silly because good fiction at least needs to be somewhat plausible. But this silly invention is only plausible if someone is gullible enough to believe supernatural beings exist that can make a car without an engine drivable — much less take the time out of their busy cosmic schedule directing the moment-to-moment life of every creature in the universe to execute some ridiculous miracle like this.
So, the charming Skit Guys flick is at one end of the Christian proslytizing spectrum, and the embarrassing, dishonest “God’s Masterpiece” the other. One has a compelling human message beyond its godly, yet humanist, heart; the other is just superstitious claptrap designed to appeal to mindless buffoons.
Of course, it would be more real if the Skit Guys’ “An Original Masterpiece” film jettisoned its crediting of the divine for its fictional heroine’s kindness and generosity of heart, and instead credited the natural capacity of some human beings themselves — always too few, truthfully — to be transcendently compassionate and giving. But it’s still mostly lovely. On the other hand, the world would be a better place if the “God’s Masterpiece” video had never been made at all.
My point is that an only-imagined supernatural being will not make us better, less prejudicial people. Only we can do that ourselves, individually, here in the real world. Stories that honor and encourage humanity’s innate impulse toward goodness are the ones we should tell ourselves, not nonsensical fictions involving very improbable deities who spend their time on such trivial stuff.
Disappointingly in the “An Original Masterpiece” video, the sweet girl who befriended the handicapped guy ended up revealing that she had, as all evangelicals do, an ulterior primary motive: she invited him to church.
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FYI, Godzook blogger Rick Snedeker’s new memoir — 3,001 Arabian Days — is now available in paperback and ebook formats on Amazon, here. It’s the story of growing up in an American oil camp in the Saudi Arabian desert from 1953-1962.
“Author Snedeker’s wit and insights illuminate the book’s easy narrative. His journalistic style faithfully recreates the people, places and events, and keeps the story crisp and moving from one chapter to the next. More than a coming of age story, 3,001 Arabian Days is a moving tribute to the intricacies of family, a celebration of Saudi Arabian culture, and a glimpse into a time gone by, but whose shadowy specter you can still almost reach out and touch.” — Mark Kennedy