Skip to main content

Religion: The DVD

By Cheryl Ensom Dack ~

I would not say I’m an atheist and I resist labeling myself as an agnostic, mostly because I can’t stand labels anymore. But I definitely am not a Christian. I’m at a place where I no longer feel the need to believe or disbelieve anything. I know what I’m experiencing. I’m honest about it. I don’t need to label it. I don’t need to change or move. I’m where I’m at.

Description unavailableImage by ~Liliana via Flickr
Because the shifts that have gradually occurred in me didn’t happen overnight, I think it’s important to write about the various stages I went through in the deconstruction of my Christianity. I know I am not alone in the feelings I have or had, but I often feel like there is a lot written from a Christian stand-point and a lot written from an atheist or agnostic paradigm, but not a lot written about the “process” people go through in between. What about the places in between belief and unbelief? Lots of people are there, but unless they read something about someone else’s similar experience or feelings, they inevitably feel alone.

Who do you talk to about the “in-between” places? Sometimes it feels like everyone – Christians and atheists, alike – would have you “hurry up and get on board, already!” There has to be a place for the process. In fact, I think I always WILL be in process and I don’t see myself ever pigeon-holing myself as “this” or “that.” I want to just be where I’m at and be honest about it, from here on out.

In the effort to talk about the in-between places, I’d like to share something I wrote about a year ago, when some questions began to surface that I think are important in the “deconstruction” process for a lot of people. Where I was at the time, it made sense to me to frame them like this:

Winter 2008 –

What if religion is the world’s effort to package up God in a manner we can offer to another at arms' length...we don't have to get too close, don't have to get the weepy, hurting friend's runny mascara on our clean shirts and we don't have to love in a palpable way that makes a difference in their circumstances?

After all, we aren't loved that way by others, so why should we get messy for someone else when no one is getting messy for us? Religion was handed to us at arm's length.

Many of us received religion as a neat and tidy package we didn’t dare unwrap. Religion was like a DVD still in the package we based our whole lives on even though we never opened or watched it ourselves.

Everybody we know gives and receives the same DVD in its' sealed form; we have forgotten there is something inside. Instead we talk about the DVD as if we've watched it. We repeat the little summary from the back cover, talking and acting as though we have seen it ourselves, when in fact we have not. We, along with our fellow-unopened-DVD owners, make special clubs we advertise as a place to talk about the DVD in depth. Instead, the clubs all go the same way: everyone repeating the description from the back cover in all the same ways. We forget the DVD is anything but the package it's inside of.

We all feel a vague discomfort- a feeling that there is something missing. Every once in awhile we might have a tiny flash of insight: what if we open up the DVD and actually watch it? What if, when we watch it, we find the story is different than our simple little clubs had interpreted it as being? What if, after actually watching it for ourselves, we can no longer stomach the "pat" conversation at our clubs? What then? This line of thinking is so uncomfortable, we more often than not push it from our minds.

We are too busy, too tired, too....afraid. We know deep inside that watching the DVD would change our lives, change our relationships, change how we do things. We, like the rich young ruler Jesus challenged to actually act on his beliefs, are willing to buy and distribute copies of the DVD to the world, stand in front of crowds and recite the blurb on the back cover and attend every single club meeting discussing the DVD. But open it up and watch it, knowing it could potentially change everything...hell, no. That is far too scary.

We give this same DVD to our children. We teach our impressionable children to memorize the blurb on the back of the DVD. We at least imply, and sometimes overtly teach, that if our children and/or other DVD-less acquaintances do not take the DVD we offer them and attend the discussion clubs, they will quite possibly go to hell. They are made to understand that if that happens, they are in danger of losing not only God's approval, but perhaps even our love.

When our children reach an age where they begin to think independently, they of course begin to doubt the "magical powers" of the DVD we touted: the rest of the world is watching all sorts of interesting DVDs, talking about them and don't live with the fear and numbed-out brains our children inherited from us. Why should they risk opening and watching the DVD for themselves; they already know the basic plot by rote, thank you very much, and they're frankly not impressed. Everywhere they look people are living their lives and watching fascinating DVDs.

And even if they had the gumption to open and watch the DVD we gave them, they'd likely meet with disapproval from us, as well as from our clubs, anyway. So why bother? It's much easier, more attractive and less of a bother to dump our DVD entirely and just subscribe to Netflix like everyone else in the world. Who cares what the movies the world watches are about; at least they WATCH them!!

What if we watched the DVD rather than leaving it unwrapped and having silly, shallow discussion groups about what someone else decided to say ABOUT the movie? What if we watch the movie, running the risk that it could change us? What if we were always meant to live in the truth the movie so beautifully pictures? What if there is no need for clubs? After all, why talk about watching it with other people, when we could be WATCHING it with other people?

Perhaps God created the movie TO change us as we watch it. If so, we shouldn't be standing arm's length from people, telling them ABOUT the movie and expecting them to be changed because they know what it's about. What if it's a movie only appreciated, only understood and only life-changing because the individual watches it themselves?

Perhaps watching the DVD yourself rather than basing your life on someone's tidy little summary would mean that the movie relates differently, personally and specifically to each individual. What if God made this movie specifically for each person, knowing exactly what that person needed to hear, see and feel? To give someone my interpretation or tell them about my experience is only helpful if they have already experienced it and been impacted by it in the way that is specific to them. If they already know the movie, they would enjoy hearing how it impacted me, what was personal to me and the individualized message I uncovered in it.

I can be told I am loved every day and twice on Sundays but until I am loved in a palpable, personal, wipe-your-snot-on-my-new-sweater-while-I-listen-to-you kind of way, others' statements of love are worth nothing to mePerhaps the main difference between reading the description on the back cover and actually watching it myself is, quite simply, love. I can be told I am loved every day and twice on Sundays but until I am loved in a palpable, personal, wipe-your-snot-on-my-new-sweater-while-I-listen-to-you kind of way, others' statements of love are worth nothing to me; in fact their emptiness eventually hurts so much, I numb out to it. And yet, am I doing anything different when it comes to my interactions with others?

To be handed the DVD while the person offering it sits and watches the DVD-less person's child cry because she's hungry is insensitive and even hateful. And you better believe that when that person shouts, "goodbye!" over the deafening cries of that hungry child, the DVD-less person will be throwing their DVD, unopened, into the next rubbish bin. If she is given a DVD about African salamanders, while the cries of her child and her own tears rolling down her cheeks are ignored, the giver is worse than those that walked right by her, pretending they don't see her plight. In her world of pain, she has no use for DVDs...doesn't matter whether they are about salamanders or love. Same thing in her reality. The tidy giver doesn't see her; he or she doesn't care. They just want to go back to their happy little club and tell all their buddies how many DVDs they distributed this week.

"She wasn't very receptive," he or she will tell their friends, when asked about what the person they offered the DVD to did and said when given the DVD. These friends shake their carefully-coiffed heads sadly.

"We'll just pray that she looks at it. That's all God asks of us, after all," they say. "We've planted the seed..."

How despicable is it to distribute a DVD about love in an unloving way. We might as well replace the real cover with a new one that is entitled, "Fuck You." At least that cover is honest about what the giver really thinks and feels about the person who doesn't own the DVD. I know for a fact that such a person would rather they just ignored her. But instead we shout over the sounds of her cries what will happen to her if she continues to refuse what we are offering.

What if we just toss the DVD altogether? Or maybe we watch the DVD ourselves and then put it away. What if we meet one another, DVD-less, and simply offer the compassion, support, acceptance and love we all want? Who needs to watch a DVD about something when they can experience it themselves? I enjoy a good love story, but I'd much rather experience one than watch a movie about it.


Popular posts from this blog


By David Andrew Dugle ~ O ctober. Halloween. It's time to visit the haunted house I used to live in. When I was five my dad was able to build a big modern house. Moving in before it was complete, my younger brother and I were sleeping in a large unfinished area directly under the living room. It should have been too new to be a haunted house, but now and then I would wake up in the tiny, dark hours and see the blurry image of a face, or at least what I took to be a face, glowing, faintly yellow, high up on the wall near the ceiling. I'm not kidding! Most nights it didn’t appear at all. But when it did show itself, at first I thought it was a ghost and it scared me like nothing else I’d ever seen. But the face never did anything; unmoving, it just stayed in that one spot. Turning on the lights would make it disappear, making my fears difficult to explain, so I never told anyone. My Sunday School teachers had always told me to be good because God was just behind m

The Blame Game or Shit Happens

By Webmdave ~ A relative suffering from Type 1 diabetes was recently hospitalized for an emergency amputation. The physicians hoped to halt the spread of septic gangrene seeping from an incurable foot wound. Naturally, family and friends were very concerned. His wife was especially concerned. She bemoaned, “I just don’t want this (the advanced sepsis and the resultant amputation) to be my fault.” It may be that this couple didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation. It may be that their choice of treatment was less than ideal. Perhaps their home diabetes maintenance was inconsistent. Some Christians I know might say the culprit was a lack of spiritual faith. Others would credit it all to God’s mysterious will. Surely there is someone or something to blame. Someone to whom to ascribe credit. Isn’t there? A few days after the operation, I was talking to a man who had family members who had suffered similar diabetic experiences. Some of those also suffered ea

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

Reasons for my disbelief

By Rebekah ~ T here are many layers to the reasons for my disbelief, most of which I haven't even touched on here... When I think of Evangelical Christianity, two concepts come to mind: intense psychological traps, and the danger of glossing over and missing a true appreciation for the one life we know that we have. I am actually agnostic when it comes to a being who set creation in motion and remains separated from us in a different realm. If there is a deistic God, then he/she doesn't particularly care if I believe in them, so I won't force belief and instead I will focus on this one life that I know I have, with the people I can see and feel. But I do have a lot of experience with the ideas of God put forth by Evangelical Christianity, and am confident it isn't true. If it's the case god has indeed created both a physical and a heavenly spiritual realm, then why did God even need to create a physical realm? If the point of its existence is to evolve to pas

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two