To Christians With “Overprotective” Parents

Here are two things you should know.

1: This post is a letter written to Christian kids under age eighteen. If you’re not a Christian and/or child and you want to read this post, take it for what it is: not written for you.

2: This is an insanely-super-long post, so if you don’t have a lot of time and/or are highly distractable, don’t read this post right now. Bookmark it and come back later after you’ve taken care of your important to-do things.

What to do about overprotective parents?

Full confession: I’m eighteen now and make my own decisions. Before I turned eighteen, though, my parents were what they jokingly call “overprotective.” Meaning, I didn’t read Harry Potter until one year ago, the kids in our family couldn’t watch the Disney movies with ghosts until we were too old to appreciate the slapstick humor, and most of my siblings still don’t have Facebook. Basically, I’m saying I know what it’s like to have parents who say no.

Maybe you’ve said/heard people say things like this:

Dad shouldn’t try to control me so much!

I may not know everything, but neither do my parents, and I know myself a heck of a lot better than they do.

Harry Potter isn’t going to damage me; it actually teaches some really good lessons.

I know my parents are well-meaning, but they don’t understand me.

It just hurts that Mom doesn’t trust me with something as harmless as a children’s book series.

But are we looking at this all wrong? I’d posit that we might be, that maybe overprotective parents are not a curse, but rather a blessing. I thank God and my parents for most, if not all, of the decisions they made, even though I disagreed with them at the time.

To explain why, I need to start from square one:

Everyone is overprotective sometimes- and thank God that we are.

When people say “overprotective,” what do they really mean? No one knows the future, obviously, so there is no way to be just the right amount of “protective.” People have to be either under- or over-protective, and most folks like to err on the side of caution.

Let’s just take the most basic example: a seatbelt. Every time you get into your car and put on a seatbelt, you are necessarily being overprotective. Gee whiz, you’re probably not going to wreck every single time you’re in a motor vehicle. What’s the big deal? In fact, while we’re at it, we could probably do away with those giant concrete barriers in the middle of the highway and just use one yellow line instead of two. It would definitely save the government some money. Buckling up is a time waster.

Yet, if you’re smart, you buckle up. You know that if you don’t have a seatbelt on, you could get hurt– just like my friend. Last month, driving back from vacation, a distracted driver rear-ended her car at high speed, totaled the vehicle, and gave her whole family whiplash. If my friend hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt, she would have flown through the windshield and probably died. This is why the law requires people to buckle up.

If you don’t crash, a seatbelt is an inconvenience that wastes maybe five seconds on every drive; if you’re in a bad wreck, it’s that fine line between life and death. Next time you pull into the driveway safely after a road trip, thank God that He made people to be overprotective.

Of course, overprotection can be a good or bad thing. Where do overprotective parents fit in? Well, let’s get to the next point:

The keyword is not “overprotective.” It is “parent.”

Let’s say you’re a mom or dad who just brought home your first child. Congratulations, balloons, meal trains. Now what do you need to do? More than you think. Contrary to popular belief, your job as a parent is not just to clothe and feed that hypothetical child and make sure he/she doesn’t do bad stuff at parties until age eighteen; you as a parent are now responsible for an actual soul. When God creates a child, He doesn’t just make a body with a brain that sometimes functions with ample caffeine. He creates a person with a soul that will live forever. (C.S. Lewis wrote a good explanation.) God gives children to you, the parent, with the responsibility to make sure that you take care of their little souls, lead them to seek out and obey His plan, and teach them diligently in the hope that they will come to a saving relationship with Christ.

This is why we have Mother’s and Father’s Days. Because, all things considered, your parents are doing a pretty freaking awesome job.

I don’t know about you, but when I step back and realize the overwhelming responsibility of my parents to care for my soul, I find it really hard to be mad about not reading TwilightIn fact, I even have a little bit of gratitude that Mom and Dad made the best decision they could for my benefit. They probably didn’t enjoy some of those decisions any more than I did. (It can be hard to say no to people you love, especially if it makes them sad.) Some of those safeguards were probably unnecessary, but my parents didn’t put them there because they were monsters. They put them there because they cared.

If you understand all this, yet you still fundamentally disagree with your parents’ Hunger Games policiesthen here’s another bit of truth that might help:

You probably aren’t missing out on much.

If you really miss out on something good, you can catch up on it later. I don’t think it takes that long to read The Hunger GamesIn fact, you’ll probably enjoy it more if you take your parents’ advice and wait.

Now if your parents are starving you, then by all means argue, disobey, and do whatever it takes to eat and survive. That’s not overprotection; that’s abuse. (Metabolism is one of the four biological criteria for life.) If they aren’t letting you encounter opposing worldviews and you’re in your teens, maybe have a talk about that one- or else college is gonna be tough for you. But if your parents tell you not to do something you want but don’t need… then don’t do it. Face it, you don’t need Harry Potter in your life. Queen Victoria never read Harry Potter, and she ruled the British Empire for over sixty years. Tell yourself you’re being like Victoria. It will do wonders for your attitude.

And if you think that you should be able to make your own decisions because you know best, think again. Many times, when my parents told me not to do something, I later realized they were right. For example, a few years ago when I was probably fifteen, maybe younger, I wanted to watch Sherlock. Dad said no because it had a lot of swearing, it could be scary, and it would probably do me no good. I disagreed with him on that last bit quite strongly; but I decided to do the right thing and obey.

Now, as an adult (and Sherlockian), I can see at least two reasons why it was a good idea to skip the show at that age. One, Sherlock is in fact scary, and being my usual empathetic, prone-to-depression self, I would not have handled Moriarty’s psychopathic tendencies very well at all. It would have done me more emotional harm than good. Two, Sherlock has some particular themes in a particular episode (if you don’t know, don’t look it up) which my dad didn’t know about because he never finished the show. If I had stumbled upon that episode a few years ago, I would have been too disgusted to finish the show, and thus I would never have watched “The Sign of Three.”

There was no way for me to know all that at age fifteen. Good thing my parents were overprotective about a show they never finished.

And lastly, if you still disagree, I just have one more thing to tell you:

You should obey anyway.

Even if nothing else in this post has inspired you to obey, this should be enough to convince you. As a Christian, you have a responsibility to obey your parents in everything. Look at Colossians 3:20. In context, “children” means “people under the legal age of adulthood.” That means that if you’re a Christian under age eighteen, you have to obey your parents whether you like it or not. (Even adult Christians are still required to show honor to their parents.) Unless they command you to do something sinful, disobedience to parents is disobedience to God. Obey them, if for no other reason than your desire to obey God.

Ultimately, it helps to know that your parents do actually care about you.

They aren’t always right. Parents can be wrong sometimes; I know my parents make mistakes because I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my few years of life, and they’ve been around a lot longer than I have. But now that Mom and Dad have messed up a few times, they can help us avoid doing those things. They can protect us from things that just might be dangerous. When they say no to something, try asking why- I’m sure they’d love to explain it to you if you just ask them nicely. You can disagree and present your reasons for why they should change their mind; in fact, you may actually get them to agree with you. But in the end, it’s the job of Christian parents to make a wise decision, and it’s the job of a Christian son or daughter to accept it.

And it’s worth mentioning that the sooner you decide to trust your parents, the likelier they are to start trusting you with more of those things you want to do.

Doctor Strange; or, Why I Won’t Recommend My New Favorite Movie

#Doctor #Strange #Fan #Art. (Doctor Strange Movie Poster) By: Marvel. ÅWESOMENESS!!!™ ÅÅÅ+: Long story short, I saw Doctor Strange in theaters twice and am now slightly obsessed.

What else to say? This film is by far the most skillful rehash of the Marvel storyline, with a solid story and some more thoughtful themes than we’ve seen previously. It has beautiful cinematography and CGI, masterful storytelling, and an epic soundtrack by Michael Giacchino. Oh, and it’s now one of the five movies that have ever made me cry. I loved almost everything about it.

And yet I won’t recommend it? No, sir- that is, not to just anyone. And therein lies a tale.

Anywho, I’ve been wondering how to format this post, and at last I decided that it will be what I call a “rant,” in which I simultaneously review a movie and rave about all the little details I like, all the while striving to avoid spoilers- but beware of the comments section, because I can make no promises there!

Like all good reviews, rants begin with an attempt at a plot summary, in case you, like me, have never read any comic books or don’t know anything about this new addition to the Marvel canon.

Stephen Strange, a genius with a photographic memory, is the finest neurosurgeon around, and he knows it. All of which makes it humiliating when a nasty accident destroys the nerves in the arrogant physician’s hands and threatens his career. After blowing his fortune on world-famous doctors who try and fail to help him, Strange uses the last of his money to fly to Kathmandu in the hopes that the stories of miraculous healing at Kamar Taj might somehow come true for him.

There Strange meets the Ancient One and her wizarding folk, who are not what everyone claimed they were- but not as they seem, either. It’s the beginning of Strange’s journey into a whole new world of infinite dimensions. And of course, learning of an infinite dimension, as the Ancient One says, means learning of infinite dangers.

So… the pros.

chiwetel ejioforLet’s start with the obvious- can we just appreciate the characters? There’s Strange,
arrogant and brilliant like Tony Stark, but more likeable and dorky. Then there’s the Ancient One, an awesome fighter and slightly sassy take on the mentor archetype. Baron Mordo, a mentor/sidekick of sorts, is Inspector Javert- end of story. Kaecilius, the main baddie, is powerful enough to challenge the heroes, and his skewed worldview almost makes enough sense to defeat Strange’s will to fight. And then there’s Christine Palmer, the love interest and possibly the only normal person in the whole film. I call her Molly Hooper. 

None of the characters is a true hero- not at the beginning, at least- but are what we call “grey characters,” with their own sometimes-questionable goals. Like Strange, each has a unique perspective on the world, and we follow each arc to a logical end (for the first movie in a trilogy, of course).

And oh yes, they all bring their own humor on the adventure. If there’s one thing Marvel can do right, it’s humor.

As for the story itself… I know a lot of bloggers have talked about this already, but Doctor Strange doesn’t shy away from questions about the nature of the universe. (One reviewer calls it “the most religious superhero movie ever.“) Are we matter and nothing more? Is there really no ghost in the machine? Strange thinks so- until the Ancient One literally knocks his ghost (called his astral form) out of him and through a series of colorful spiritual worlds. Strange, like us, is forced to face the very real spiritual realm and find his place in a world that’s bigger than himself.

My favorite scene of the film takes place in a hospital room, where Christine stitches up Strange after an encounter with Kaecilius. One of the minions attacks- in his astral form- and Strange has to fight the guy off. Lights flash and equipment rattles as the two ghostlike figures whirl through the air. Maybe it’s just a cool little addition to an action movie, but it’s more likely supposed to be an allegorical look at the spiritual war in our own world.

And then we have that fantastic mingling of theme and plot that writers always love. At the end of the film, as Dormammu and his Dark Dimension threaten to consume the entire world, Strange makes a bold choice to keep the earth safe. I won’t go into spoilers, but Strange’s plan for counterattack is simultaneously a clever plot twist and a picture of sacrificing everything for a cause that’s bigger than oneself. Besides, it’s a vivid illustration of the gospel in that Strange gives up what matters most to him and faces pain and death in an effort to save the world from the darkness. For me personally, this film gave the opportunity to look at the greatest story ever told from a new angle I’d never seen before.

Did I mention that we have a new Marvel villain?

Besides all this, it’s worth mentioning that the directors take a few shots at some false worldviews. Kaecilius and his little friends, devout followers of something like Buddhism with Gnostic tendencies, spend the film striving for eternal life and enlightenment as part of the One. And- this shouldn’t be a spoiler– it’s this desire that ultimately leads to their defeat. The film also tackles morality: the line between good and evil isn’t the Jedi-like dualism of films like Star Wars, but rather a distinction between right and wrong based on common sense and the ultimate purpose. Magic spells have consequences. Mordo may be an inflexible bringer of justice, but he’s right when he says the bill always comes due.

So why not watch it?

The simple fact is that this movie has the same potential pitfalls as a Harry Potter- if HP had been made by a Christian director of horror films- which is to say, it’s really hard to tell where the line is between Christian and anti-Christian elements. We have on one hand Christian undertones and obvious biblical parallels, and on the other, dark rituals and other confusing territory.

Another gif in case you wanted severe nausea.

Kamar Taj is a mystical school of sorcery, and it wears that badge more prominently than Hogwarts would ever dream of doing. Strange studies occult books like “The Key of Solomon”  and uses a relic called the Eye of Agamotto to manipulate time. Characters meditate and chant, and Kaecilius uses dark spells to open a portal to the Dark Dimension (a Satanic realm) in a Catholic church. I could go on, but you get the idea: Doctor Strange could easily lead a naive person, especially a Christian one, into some dark territory. (Watch this vodcast for more discussion on the occult elements.)

So… who should watch Doctor Strange?

Here’s the way I look at it- if you’re pretty good at discerning truth from lies in twisty stories like Harry Potter or Batman Begins, go right ahead and enjoy what may be the finest Marvel movie ever made. Invite a friend and chat about it- two minds are better than one when it comes to philosophy. But if that isn’t you, better opt for the second best Marvel film, Captain America (being sure to skip that terrible ending, of course).

[GIF] DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) ~ Benedict Cumberbatch. Trailer 2.

Because capes.

Did you go see Doctor Strange? If so, what’d you think? If not, do you think you’ll give it a try?

Dear Fellow Writers: It’s Not for Adults, Either

Dear fellow writers,

Let me begin with a story. It’s what I do best, after all.

It is a sunny afternoon. You and I are walking down a country lane next to a brook of water. We have talked about everything from philosophy to chocolate to characterization, and now we are on the subject of the lovely summer weather.

“Such a beautiful day,” I comment.

“Yes,” you answer with a smile. “I just love walking underneath the clear blue skies.”

Without warning I slap your face. Hard. On purpose.

With pain shooting through your cheeks and anger rising in your stomach, you turn and stare at me. “Why on earth would you hit me?” you demand.

“Because it makes this story seem more realistic.” I shrug, grin, then skip off down the lane.

Now, friends, what do you think?

Rather, do you even have to think about it? I just can’t do a thing like that. Hitting you for no reason was gratuitous, hurtful, and just plain cruel. I would never really do a thing like that, and neither would you. Slapping people like that makes me look like a selfish child who doesn’t know anything.

Now, then. If you wouldn’t slap a person across the face for the sake of realism, why on earth would you slap them with a curse word, a mindlessly violent act, or a pornographic scene in a book?

I talked about this some time ago in my article “The Wince Factor” at Kingdom Pen. A Wince Factor is a sudden, unexpected slap that authors put into their stories for various purposes. As I said then, some of these Wince Factors have a legitimate place in the story- like, say, slapping Bruce Wayne for trying to get illegal revenge on a crook. Others, though, have absolutely no place in a story- like having a Tyrannosaurus Rex swear in a children’s movie for no apparent reason, or like putting “adult” scenes in Titanic.

So what’s the difference? Here’s a better question- do you want your future children doing the same things you make your characters do?

Let me say it this way: gratuitously putting so-called “adult content” in books is abusive to the reader and only proves the author to be a lazy amateur.

If I have to use swear words, sex scenes, or sword-killings to make my story seem real and “juicy,” then I am either lazy or an amateur, or perhaps both. Whatever the situation, at some point I must grow up and start putting some educated effort into my occupation. 

Mine is not an unqualified opinion. I’m a published author myself, and I’m learning to make indie films and podcasts. As far as audiences are concerned, I’m eighteen years old and a second-year college student who watches lots of kids’ movies with my siblings. I also read the books that were intended for people well into their thirties or forties. All in all, I’m the intended audience for most television shows and books. Therefore, I am more than qualified to make a statement about all the stuff writers are putting into books and movies.

But is the media really playing to the tastes of the 32% or more of consumers who share my values? I don’t use swear words, and I get uncomfortable every time someone uses a swear word around my younger siblings. I don’t like watching excessively violent character deaths. I have a zero-tolerance policy for gratuitous sexual content in media.

Now I know some of you are about to go to the comments section and start flaming me for being a Christian bigot. I don’t blame you; Western culture in general has the uncivilized notion that to be an adult is to drink alcohol, watch pornographic movies, and use swear words, and their only defense against opposing viewpoints is to slap them with a label and call it a draw.

But it seems that a person who cannot discern the best action in these cases is simply an oversized version of the child who throws a tantrum at the grocery store when his mother doesn’t buy him all the candy in the store, and who sticks out his tongue when told that he is misbehaving. Who is the bigot- the mother, or the child? Writers ought to know that there is a distinction: growing older is getting the ability to purchase all the candy, but being an adult is discerning whether it’s good for your waistline and your wallet. Likewise, being an adult writer is choosing to have a positive impact on the worldview and behavior of your audience.

Think of it this way- if the good guys like something, the readers love it. If the bad guys are motivated by something, the readers loathe it. The author’s opinion becomes the reader’s. Whether or not mass murderers are inspired by films, you can see evidence of a storyteller’s power even in the grocery store: Elsa and Anna on party napkins, or Captain America’s shield on a cereal box. Think about that- Marvel influences your choice of breakfast foods. We writers have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.

Media rules the world, so don’t be a tyrant.

Here’s a big news flash- you don’t have to describe every detail in order for readers to know that a thing happened. Andrew Klavan, author of If We Survive, knew that it was crucial for one of his protagonists to use a swear word as part of her character arc, but he was still writing for Christian teenagers who don’t appreciate those sorts of things. So what did the ingenious Klavan do? He made the swearing scene happen off-screen. The character’s arc was completely developed and the story still packed quite as much of a punch, but Klavan didn’t have to verbally abuse his readers to achieve that effect.

Again, in the 1950s, if someone was beheaded in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness or if the Duke of Gloucester had a you-know-what scene with Lady Anne, Mark Robson and Laurence Olivier just made those things happen off-screen. And no one ever criticized Olivier for being a bad storyteller. So are our stories in the 2010s more developed, or just more debauched?

No more excuses. At this point, we all have two options. One, we can take out the bad stuff and write purpose-filled books, proving that we know right from wrong and care about helping people to understand the world we live in. Or two, we can leave the bad stuff in and prove that we don’t really care about anything but the money.

It’s your choice.

Sincerely,
Hannah A. Krynicki

Am I right or wrong? What do you think about gratuitous content in media?