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Bible study goes Hollywood

January 5, 2012

By now, many of us in the under-40 evangelical crowd have had some encounter with Donald Miller. I saw him speak a few years back, not long after he had gone to a famous screenwriters’ seminar held by the Robert McKee. Donald spoke to our “young adults” about how God can use our lives to tell stories. He challenged the crowd to get involved in a “bigger” story. To do epic things with and for the Lord. It was all very riveting. At the time, I was leading a group of Christian writers and the topic of story often came up in our conversations. I actually told Donald Miller when I went up to him after he spoke that he must have been bugging the room at our group meetings. I don’t think he fully appreciated the joke.

Ever since then, it seems like the whole “life is story” thing has really taken off. Not that it’s an original idea (sorry, Don) but just that it’s been popularized. Many, many so-called seeker-friendly churches have already tapped into this when pastors do bait-and-switch sermons with titles like “Sex and the City” or whatever show is popular now (I’d personally go to any church that has a 30 Rock tie-in. Even a Unitarian one.). We saw it a lot when we worked in youth ministry: using Indiana Jones clips for almost any teachable moment (but hey, no complaints here). Personally, I’m excited about this trend of mashing up pop culture with Bible knowledge. It’s kind of what I do.

But I’m starting to wonder if we’ve gone too far. My husband is currently in a men’s Bible study group that has been, in a word, transformational. He really enjoys the material and has been greatly encouraged by the men in the group. In fact, our church has done a big campaign to get as many men in these groups as possible. And it’s been done Hollywood-style. Or at least 80’s Hollywood-style. The theme for the studies is, no lie, “Top Gun.”

Men’s things always have to have crazy macho names, but this really is the winner. A book the guys are reading actually describes marriage as “flying together in the cockpit.” I really hope neither of us is the “Goose” in this situation.

It should have been you, Mav. It should have been YOU. You're the one whose ego is writing checks your body can't cash, Scientologist.

After making about 9 “Danger Zone” jokes, I asked DH (dear husband, for people who’ve never been in an online forum about morning sickness) why men’s studies always had to have some epic war-wrought theme to them. He was stumped. I guess even the guys in the thing don’t fully get it.

The whole thing begs the question “What would the female equivalent be?” It would have to be epic. But chicky, because it would have to compliment the Braveheart-esque quality of the men’s groups. And we know John Eldredge would have us choose romantic comedy or somesuch. Could we go Austen? I don’t think “pride” and “prejudice” would make good buzzwords for a Christian women’s Bible study. Or should we get canonical and go for a Meg Ryan one, like “Sleepless in Seattle?” (never “Kate and Leopold.” NEVER.) “City of Angels!” That’s it! Theologically messed up AND chicky AND Meg Ryan, and we have a natural tie to the men’s group:

Talk about a coincidence! Takes my breath away.

Really, my kind of Becky epic would go beyond some piddly F-14’s capability and require you “to boldly go where no one has gone before,” but to each her own.

'Cause Jesus AND Picard love me

Buuuut if we were realists about this—placing people not in stories they want to live, but in the stories they actually live—I’d probably be bringing my Bible to this group every week:

With only slightly less swearing

Yup. That’s where they’d put me. Hanging out in a story about a clumsy girl with a big mouth who (out of insecurity) frequently makes poor choices, but is nonetheless accepted by an occasionally stoic, patient, wise love interest who loves her “just as she is.” Because he’s frikkin’ awesome and so is she (albeit she’s a little trampy. Okay, a good bit trampy).

Of course, none of this cleanly correlates, but that’s the trouble with metaphors. If we get too attached to them, we end up frequently disappointed that our lives aren’t epic. That things don’t get resolved in 90 minutes (because we’ve actually lost patience with even movies that go over that). That romantic love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Our lives ultimately may be stories, but they’re [hopefully] long and [frequently] boring. We all have our moments, but they are moments, not even feature-length grandiose wins. They are often wins in spite of us. And, despite what we “wish,” as the Dread Pirate Roberts says:

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