I'm often profoundly impacted by stories, particularly stories in film, which is probably why filmmaking is what I do.
One of my favorite films is Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.
Warning, I am going to spoil this movie for you a bit, so read on at your own peril.
In the film, the Catholic Church royally screws over Philomena (Judi Dench's character). Philomena traveled around with this guy named Martin (Steve Coogan), who being the voice of the viewer and this generation, is deeply angered by this injustice done to her by the Church.
The film climaxes as Philomena and Martin return to a particular group of nuns who were to blame for Philomena's current situation. Martin hunts down one nun in particular in order to force her to answer for her crimes; he vents his hurt and frustrations with malice, and she spews religious venom right back at him.
A powerful picture of our current religious-political discussion.
Philomena walks in, hearing the bile that the nun is saying about her, while also hearing the unrelenting anger and hurt in Martin's voice. She asks him to stop yelling, and Martin confronts her, "Are you going to do nothing?" he asks. She narrows her eyes, "No." She turns to the now wheel-chair bound nun and simply says, "I forgive you."
As if awoken from a charm or hypnotic state, the viewer is forced to realize that both the voices of Martin and the nun are self-righteous and bitter, and that both are silenced and confounded by unconditional love.
These past few years has been ripe with controversy for Christians, being a Christian myself, it's becoming easier and easier for me to dismiss my own brothers and sisters, because I see them so easily embodying the very labels that society has for us, things that Jesus was NEVER accused of being: obtuse, hypocritical, religious, close-minded, hard-hearted, self-righteous...judgmental.
A little about myself, I left my home in Michigan three years ago to pursue the dream of becoming a filmmaker in Brisbane, Australia.
Nothing can really prepare you for how difficult it is to leave everyone and everything you know and love and start a new life for yourself. Nothing brings out your true character like it either. After many heated discussions with my fellow staff and leaders, I was accused of something that I was very uncomfortable with. They told me that I was judgmental.
I thought myself open-minded and thoughtful. How on earth could I be judgmental?
But, for all my kind-heartedness and open-mindedness, I came to see that I was just as judgmental and hypocritical as everyone else.
I see now that you don't have to be a zealot to be judgmental, you just have to be afraid.
Ultimately this is what I am afraid of; being seen as what I truly am...a sinner. An imperfect human that is at his core, completely broken. Somewhere along the way I decided that being broken made me unworthy of love and belonging, which is the very opposite of what the gospel message is all about.
You see folks, the saddest reality of all is that if you're judgmental, the person you judge the most harshly is yourself. You isolate yourself because you think you're bad, and then in your mind, find ways that everyone else around you is too...worse in fact, in order to justify your isolation.
Let's not be like Martin, who judges Christians too harshly because of "injustice" caused by them, and let's not be like the nun (in the movie) who holds herself to an impossible standard, isolates and insulates herself from the world and then thinks less of those who don't do the same.
Let's be like Philomena (or Jesus, really)...who loves both Martin and the nun unconditionally, and walks in forgiveness toward those who have hurt her, not judgment or fear.
Brenden Bell is working as a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization in Brisbane. He works as a screenwriter, editor and teacher with their film production team.
Brenden Bell's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brenden-bell.html