Chocolat and me

Last night, the high schoolers from church came over and we watched Chocolat.

The writer, director, or both of the movie have a very negative view of the church. Although that view might not be unwarranted, it saddens me that it is out there. I wish the church wasn't the way people perceive it to be. The movie contrasts the loving, full of grace, yet immoral chocolate lady with the callous and pious "Christian" count of the town.

There is a woman with diabetes. The church is condescending and calls her a drug addict. The chocolate lady throws her a birthday party.

There is a group of river people that float into town. The church posts signs that say "boycott immorality." The chocolate lady befriends them. She actually sleeps with one of them.

There is a lady being abused by her drunk husband. The church ignores that it is happening. The chocolate lady rescues her and at one point puts her life on the line to keep her free.

The church at the end seems to get it right, but maybe it just rocks the pendulum too far the other way.

"Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about his divinity; I'd rather talk about his humanity. I mean, you know, how he lived his life here on earth, His kindness, His tolerance. Listen, here is what I think, I think we can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include."

But the moral of the story seems to be off kilter. The chocolate lady says at one point a phrase that seems to express the point of the movie: "Don't worry so much about 'not supposed to.'"

The world, and this movie, tries to pit holiness against grace. We need to emphasize both. We need to try to be holy people, but we also need to be people full of grace. We need to express both fully in our life and words. John Wesley is recorded as saying, "I would not advise to preach the law without the Gospel any more than the Gospel without the law." Chrisitanity isn't either holiness or grace. We see in Christ's life and the rest of the Scriptures a combination of the two that we are supposed to live out. We need to not exclude one for the sake of the other.

It saddens me that the church is in such a state that people feel this way about it. The following story about Tony Campolo describes an action that if the church was known for, it would change the world. I wonder if the abused women, over-worked single mothers, drug addicts, prostitutes, and people of all other sorts of problems feel that the church is the place they can find relief. I tend to think not. That needs to change and it starts with each of us making a difference in our churches and where we live.

Birthday Parties For Prostitutes

This was taken from some guy's sermon on the internet. He didn't give credit to the original source, so I will not give him credit. I have a book written by Tony Campolo that tells the story. I just can't find it. This story challenges me and inspires me each time I read it. I hope it does the same to you.

"It reminds me of a story told by the noted Christian preacher and professor of sociology, Tony Campolo. He had just arrived in Hawaii for a conference, and thanks to jet lag he woke up around three in the morning. Hungry, he went out looking for a place to eat. He finally found a tiny coffee shop. As he sipped his coffee and munched on his donut he was joined by eight or nine skimpily dressed and very loud prostitutes.

Nice, pious Campolo, overwhelmed by all the noise and flesh, was about to leave when he heard the woman sitting next to him say, "You know, tomorrow is my birthday. I'm going to be 39." Her friend responded in a rather nasty tone, "So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Do you want me to get a cake, and sing happy birthday to you?"

"Come on," the woman sitting next to Campolo said, "why do you have to be so mean? I'm just telling you that's all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you that it is my birthday. I don't want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?"

It was then that Campolo knew he had to do something really foolish. After the women finally left, he turned to the guy behind the counter and asked, "Do they come in here every night?" "Yeah," he answered.

"The one right next to me," [Campolo] aasked, "does she come in here every night?"

"Yeah," he said, "that's Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why do you want to know?" "Because," Campolo replied, "I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you say we do something special for her? What do you think about throwing a birthday party for her, right here in the diner?"

The counter guy agreed, and even offered to bake the cake. The next morning, at 2:30am, Campolo went to the diner and decorated the place. As he says, "The word must have gotten out on the street because by 3:15 that next morning every prostitute in Honolulu was in that place. There was wall-to-wall prostitutes--and me."

When Agnes walked in, everyone jumped up and yelled, "Happy Birthday!" She was floored. She burst into tears. She was so moved, she couldn't even cut the cake. Instead, she meekly asked if she could take the cake home, to keep for a while, not eat right away. After all, it was the only birthday present she'd ever received. She promised to be right back.

As she left, Campolo broke the silence by offering a prayer. The guy behind the counter looked at him skeptically and said, "Hey, you never told me you were a preacher. What kind of preacher are you anyway? What church do you belong to?"

Campolo answered quietly, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning." The counter guy thought a moment, and then almost sneered as he answered, "no you don't; there is no church like that. In fact," he concluded, "if there was, I'd join it."