Wednesday, May 17, 2006


So it's been a while since I posted on sojourn - life has been too busy for me to think about big questions and all. However, there is one question that has nagged me all my life - what does it mean to be a Christian, especially in a "Christian environment"?
I'm not going to be able to answer this question here, but I watched a movie over choir tour that sort of deals with this question - Saved!, starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, and Macaulay Culkin.

This review contains spoilers and plot information, so please watch the movie first!

Saved! is set in a Christian high school, in which Mary (Malone) attempts to save her boyfriend from becoming gay, but gets pregnant in the process. Her friends, including the oh-so-pious Hilary Faye (Moore) do not understand, and ostracize her, forcing her to make friends with the outsiders at the school. The film does a superb job of portraying life in a Christian high school, including what values seem to be most important, and accurately describing what some people would describe the "perfect Christian" as.
There are two characters I would like to take a look at: Mary and Hilary Faye. Mary, the protagonist of the film, is a normal girl who makes a mistake in the film. Hilary Faye is the loud, popular, attractive girl who uses the word "Jesus" in every other sentence (in a non-blasphemous way). Mary is utterly normal, while Hilary Faye is the "perfect Christian girl", who leads worship, does student council, and holds prayer meetings at her house. Oddly enough, in this film, Hilary Faye is the antagonist, causing Mary to become a social outcast, and generally ruining lives, while Mary is the one who really "gets it".
Is this film anti-Christian? While many people would say it is, I would wholeheartedly disagree with them. I have spent 16 years in Christian schools, and I have to say that the portrayal of Christians is fairly accurate. Even though the "perfect Christian" Hilary Faye is the antagonist, which would seem anti-Christian, I would agree that she should be the antagonist, and that in fact, Mary is the "perfect Christian". Mary is the one who (albeit under duress) befriends the outcasts at the school, who does not cause grief for everyone around her, and who is completely genuine. Hilary Faye, in her zeal for Christ, seems to be blind to what is actually important.
Looking at Hilary Faye again, it is important to know why she is being so "Christian" to the point of terrorizing other people - she is completely human as well. In my experience, especially at my Christian high school, the following equation is true:
Spirituality = popularity.
The more "spirituality" one has, the more Christian they seem, and the more popular they become. I have never seen anything as extreme as Hilary Faye is portrayed to be, but I cannot deny that the temptation is there. There are many people who raise their hands during worship, lead Bible studies and prayer times, organize outreaches, or sing in chapel that do so because (probably unconsciously) they believe that it will make them more popular, and especially more accepted. As I began to realize this in high school, I made a choice to have my own inward spirituality, because anything outward could easily be an effort to become popular or accepted, and it would not be real.
Just so you know, I am not saying that everyone who raises their hands in chapel is trying to gain attention. There are many honest, committed Christians who raise their hands. However, in a high school environment, where the biggest thing on everyone's minds is fitting in, external spirituality can be a way to fit in. And I have seen people whose lives inside chapel were completely opposite to the way they acted on the streets.
I could go on for a while, but I think this is enough to chew on for now. I would like to hear your opinions, for those of you who have seen the movie.
Final thoughts: Saved! is an excellent "reality check" for Christians - to help us realize what it actually means to live a Christian life. A Christian life is not necessarily perfect, but our mission is to befriend those who need us the most. I do not agree with all the conclusions the film comes to, but I will say this: I think that Saved! is more important for Christians to watch than Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ is. Watch and sober up.