Category Archives: Los Angeles

Responding to an evangelical review of the Noah Movie

When you live close to tinsel town, somehow you start paying more attention to movies. Believe me, it is inescapable. I often get notices at work of streets closing because of some filming event. I never watched (or really cared about) the Oscars yet watched the whole thing last Sunday (and actually enjoyed it a little).  So, I was intrigued by a recent review of the upcoming movie Noah posted in Christianity Today. In it, Dr. Johnson outlines five negative features of the film. His review exposed more his own theological assumptions than the problems of the movie itself. Let me explain.

His first claim is that the movie’s portrayal of Noah, “does not ring true.” Dr. Johnson takes issue of when the movie shows a “darker” side of Noah who is struggling with the evil of humanity. In the theologian’s view, this does not sound like the Biblical Noah who is called “righteous” in the Bible. This then begs the question: Do righteous people never struggle with sin and or anger against evil? It sounds like the Noah does not fit the “Sunday school” picture of Noah as opposed the true biblical Noah. Now really, if the Bible is not shy in showing the sins of the righteous why are we so worried about portraying them as perfect?  So, instead of asking whether the movie’s Noah rings true, I start wondering if Dr. Johnson’s Noah is true.

His second negative feature is that the “environmental agenda is overdone.” That is, the movie shows Noah more concerned with environmental degradation then moral sins (sex and violence). What I find profoundly ironic (and a little sad) was the theologian’s inability to connect violence and environmental abuse. To quote him: “The textual emphasis is on “violence.” Not a word about hunting or mining; knowing this, the environmental agenda feels phony.” Really? So violence against humans is a sin but against the environment is not? Could it be that the movie is shining a light on a blind spot of our Western colonial theology that believes that one should respect human life but has no concern for any other type of life? I found it intriguing how he could not connect hunting and mining with violence. Not to say that these are sinful practices yet their abuse certainly constitute a violence of the worst kind; one that has implications not only for the environment but for humans as well. Maybe God is also concerned about the environment.

I could go on, but in trying to keep these posts under 600 words, I’ll stop here. I guess, what I am realizing is that God can speak through unlikely sources. I am not a defender or even a fan of Hollywood. To me, it is an industry beset by the same problems as any other. Yet, I wonder if God could be using prophets within culture and the arts to speak to us about what we have neglected for so long. Could it be that our theology is too small to accommodate a serious critique of environmental degradation as a sinful practice? Are we too busy making Biblical characters look like safe image while at same time denying the reality that they (and we all) struggle with sin?

I have not watched the movie and may change my mind afterwards. I am sure, I’ll find things I don’t like in it. Yet, is that really the point? I would love for any cultural means of art and entertainment to spread Godly ideas and encourage virtue rather than destruction. Yet, does that mean they have to agree 100% with my own evangelical theology?

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The Last Chapter in Our Move: a Praise Report

As I mentioned in the last blog, my time is severely limited now as I am taking classes. Yet, I could not pass up this opportunity to talk about the last chapter in our move here. As some of you were aware, we had not been able to sell our house before we left. Three weeks ago, to our joy, we closed with a buyer and were able to finally sell our house! This was a tremendous blessing and a huge burden lifted from our shoulders. In some ways, this was the final confirmation that God was present in this move. Yet this was not all.

Selling a house is a long, arduous process that can be very challenging. Given market conditions, we had to lower our price to about 90% of the price we paid. Our margin was going to be thin, barely allowing us to leave the sale with some money in the pocket. In the inspection, the seller pointed out some fixes that would probably cost about the amount we were planning to get from the sale. This was discouraging and could have derailed the negotiation. The most expensive item on the list was the changing of some windows that would cost between $800 and $1000.

Our realtor mentioned she knew somebody that could give us an estimate. Days later she called to tell us the unexpected. Upon hearing about our story and the reason we moved, the contractor decided to change our windows for free! This brought us to tears. First, to see the faithfulness of God and second to see people responding to God’s prompting. We were not expecting that.

So part of this blog is to tell you this blessing but also to let you know about this man’s business. His name is Dean McFadden and his business is United Glass Service. Anyone in the Charlotte area who needs new windows or service existing ones, let me recommend Dean.

Finally, let me acknowledge our realtor Cindy Croswell and Center City realty. If you need to sell or buy a house we highly recommend them. Cindy went above and beyond, not only in providing superior service but also in enlisting her husband to make minor repairs in our house for items that came up in the inspection. This type of dedication and service is rare to find these days especially when our house was not a high-end sale. Cindy has blessed us tremendously throughout this process and we are grateful for her dedication and professionalism.

Thanks for all of you who prayed for us in this process. It took a while for everything to fall in place. As classes have started and we are starting to settle I can only say that this move was 110% worth it. God is opening doors and expanding our horizons. It has been an amazing ride so far.

A Fuller Community

If Los Angeles is a cosmopolitan vibrant urban center of the West coast then Fuller seminary fully fits its metro area. This was week one in the Fuller journey, orientation time. Throughout this week, I prayed, worshiped, heard amazing speakers tell the Fuller story, wept and met a myriad of amazing people. Fuller is the church on the move. You find a little bit of everything here from the common seminary student to second career business person hoping for a fresh start. It is one of the few places on this country where you are forced to hear somebody speak a foreign language in official events to welcome those who are coming from a far. And believe me, the sound of Korean was sweet to my ears. As one who visited and left a part of my heart in that great nation, seeing so many of them here was a bit like coming home.

I knew the Fuller was the larger seminary in North America, diverse in both tradition and nationality. I just did not know what that looked like. I also did not know how entrepreneurial this community is. As I heard professors, administrator and staff, I noticed a relentless desire to reach the world with the powerful gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ through whatever means possible.

This week my world was expanded. I realized there were a lot of things I didn’t know. New perspectives and paradigms flooded my mind. Above all, my vision of the church was enlarged. The immense God sheds his greatness through the vast tapestry of nation and tongue that is His church. In a time where most look at the church with skepticism, I met those working to improve it. Not just clergy but artists, entrepreneurs, geeks all coming together to rethink what it means to be the church in our century.  

I was also encouraged to see a passion to right the wrongs of this world. From classes on development to even the liturgy at convocation, the heart for the poor was clearly present. Fuller represents the best of evangelicalism being fully grounded in Scripture and God’s church but also being actively engaged with the world around it. The very campus is a metaphor for this as it sits in the middle of Pasadena, no walls around it rejecting the ivory-tower tendencies of academic institutions. Fuller is the church in the city engaging music, film and visual arts from a humble apologetic perspective.

I confess that my first reaction to all this was being overwhelmed and confused. Trying to find a concentration or even decide on a degree became exponentially harder. I know this is a good problem to have but when you are 34 and eager to get on with “doing what you are called for,” that is not an encouraging prospect. Later in the week, I found peace in realizing that the next year will be one of exploring. God’s timing is different from mine so I might as well enjoy the ride. Certainly, it is a privilege to be here.

Those of you who have accompanied us on this journey know how long it took to get here. It was years of waiting, months of planning, weeks of moving and an incredible amount of finances and commitment to get our family here. It was all worth it.

There were very few times I ever felt at home around God’s people on this Earth. First was as a teenager in my dad’s church in Brazil. Second was with our beloved Renovatus church community in Charlotte. Now I am thankful to find a place where a Brazilian-Charismatic-Analytical-with a pastoral heart-missionary zeal- Korea and South America loving-with Anglican tendencies can find a home again.

 

Having Lunch with Eddie

A few posts ago, I told the story of how I met Eddie. After that experience, I have been thinking of ways to take the next step. My time is limited as I am working full-time for a bank. So, given these parameters, I’ve been thinking of ways to live out the gospel in downtown LA in a way that is intentional but not necessarily formal. I now make a point to speak and acknowledge all the homeless people I meet downtown and in other places whenever possible. If I have singles in my wallet, I give them one. Beyond that, I felt compelled to get know some of them more. That is when I thought of inviting them for lunch. A few times, I would go downstairs and look for them at lunch time. If I found one, I would invite them. That is what happened this last Friday. Eddie happened to be in his usual place so I invited him for lunch.

He pointed me to a food-truck nearby and so we went. Once we had our food, I invited him to sit with me in one of the tables nearby. He hesitated a bit, mentioning that “they don’t like me eating at these tables.” I assured him that this time he was my guest and therefore had a right to sit at those tables. We then had a 40 minute conversation between friends. I asked him about his story and listened. He told me that he ended up in the streets after a tragic domestic situation back in the East coast. He had moved to LA because he had a dream of becoming a writer. He had been here for over 6 years but was still struggling to settle in. He had gotten an id, now the next step was to get a house so then he could look for a job. He told me that there were some people like myself that were trying to help him. He had noticed that only Christians ever took an interest on him.

I shared that I had just moved from North Carolina. When I mentioned I was in seminary to possibly go into ministry, he remarked: “that is rare.” I then shared with him about the love of God as the main motivation for me and the others to help him. I shared that God loved him though that seamed hard to believe given his condition. I then thanked him for having lunch with me. To get an opportunity to share the love of God is a real treat since I rarely get a chance to do so in the cold corporate world. Then, I prayed for him. I prayed that he would have hope knowing that only then he could really start his path towards recovery. Even as I prayed, I could feel the strong love of God for him. I rarely cry, yet when the Spirit moves this way, I have no recourse but to let the tears flow.

There we sat in a busy street in downtown LA as friends. In spite of the gulf that separated our personal situations, we both shared a common humanity bound by the power of a loving God. He invited me to join a group of 4 individuals who were already having lunch with him on Tuesday to help him. I can’t wait to go. Ever since I moved here I was looking to have fellowship with other believers downtown but found none. Ironically, when I stopped looking for believers and started noticing the least of these; that is when God linked me with His people. Eddie became my link to other believers downtown.  

When I got back to my cube I found a leather folder with a notepad. I gathered a pencil and pen and went back downstairs. That became my gift to Eddie so that even in such difficult situation he would be reminded of his dream of being a writer. It was a dream that brought me to LA and therefore to Eddie. Could it be that God could also use his dream in order to get him out of the streets? I certainly hope so.  

Living in LA County

The movies have it wrong, tinsel town is only one part of LA. The city is not one but many cities connected by highways, mountains, parks and an absolutely incredible weather. The area is diverse with a large Asian community in the northeast, large African-American community in the west and Hispanics everywhere. There are white people here too, especially in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. You also have small communities of Italians, Armenians and others that are less known.

It is a unique geographical place where you can find desert, mountains and beaches from a short driving distance. LA natives joke that they can surf in the morning and go skiing on the mountain in the same day. The weather is dry and temperate. That means an endless chain of blue sky with 80 degrees temperature and a constant cool breeze. No wonder the city has a vibrant outdoors culture with street markets and picnics throughout the year.

If that wasn’t enough this is truly a cultural center. Besides movie festivals and constant film shootings happening throughout town, the area has a number of museums, cultural centers and beautiful architecture.

The downtown is a bit small for a city this size. After all, this is the second largest metro area in the country. LA County alone has almost 9 million people. That is the equivalent of the population of North Carolina. Can you imagine the whole state in one county? Yet, it is not as dense as most world metropolis. LA was built based on sprawl. Given that you have all this people living in a limited space that is constrained by the sea in the southwest and mountains north and east, heavy traffic is inevitable. This is the only place in the country that people refer to their highways with “the”. You take the “5” then go down the “10” so you can reach the beach. They respect their highways. Yet, the system seems unimpressed plaguing them with endless backed up traffic. Add to that a precarious public transportation system and a chaotic airport (folks please fly to Burbank when coming to visit. LAX is insane!); and there you have it: the infamous LA traffic. It can happen anytime and anywhere, making all those GPS time estimates completely useless. Just add 20-35 minutes to it and that is more like it.

The more we stay here the more we realize it is privilege to live here. With all its chaotic richness, Los Angeles is fascinating and daunting at the same time. I make a case to drive my 2003 Hyundai with the sunroof open, windows down, arm hanging out, feeling like a million bucks with the cool breeze touching my face. No air conditioned needed. Remind me of that next time I am sitting in traffic for the nth time or losing my cool over the unreliable and confusing public transportation system I try to use to commute to work or when I visit the DMV.