Reviews

Reflections on “Heaven Is For Real”

Heaven Is For Real

Release Date: Wednesday April 16, 2014

Run Time: 100 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

As you might remember from my previous post on Parenting Without Faith, religion is something that we think a lot about in our household. I think it’s for that reason that I was so excited to discover “Heaven Is For Real”. The movie (and adapted screenplay of the book with the same name), which has a release date just in time for the Easter holiday, is based on the true story of the Burpo family. After Nebraska born Colton, the son of Todd and Sonja, apparently has what is commonly referred to as a “Near Death Experience”, he begins to recount his journey to Heaven and back rocking his family to the core.

I will be the first to admit my skepticism regarding the accuracy of the story. It’s hard to digest the possibility of a young child actually spending time in the afterlife and one has to wonder whether or not his experiences were influenced by the religion in which he was raised or if he would have witnessed the same regardless. I was also a little bothered by the fact that they kept bringing up the financial situation of the Burpo family throughout the film. As a natural skeptic, I thought they would have had better luck without those details. Regardless of my personal feelings, doubt, and questions regarding the storyline, the movie was very well done.

What I appreciated most about the film was the way that the cast portrayed the familial relationships that were such a huge part of the story. From the performances of Greg Kinnear (Todd Burpo) and Kelly Reilly (Sonja Burpo) as a loving couple who puts Christ at the center of their family to Margo Martindale (Nancy Rawling) and Thomas Haden Church (Jay Wilkins) who perfectly portray the most caring and loving friends a family could ask for, every cast member worked together to bring this story to life.

The intended audience (Christian families in search of a feel good Easter film) will love the message this season. Overall, on my scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Heaven Is For Real” a 7.839 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Hallelujah!”

Culture, Daily Life, Parenting

Parenting Without Faith

I want to preface this by mentioning that this is not an easy post for me to write. Although I’ve been documenting my life as a parent online for well over a year now, it isn’t often that I share intimate details of my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. What I want to discuss tonight is something that’s been weighing heavily on my heart for well over a month and I hope that you’ll allow me the rare opportunity to be vulnerable with you without judgement.

Last month, I had lunch with my incredible friend Bethany. She’s someone I’ve been close with for several years and I was happy for the chance to spend some time with her while she was back in town. As we were eating, we witnessed a father and his young son at a table near us. Before they began eating, they sat together and prayed. It was really moving. But it was also heartbreaking, for me. Heartbreaking because that’s not something that I can share with my own daughter. We’ll never (at least not at this particular moment in our lives) share a moment like that together because I am parenting without faith.

Having grown up in a Christian household, been a leader in my youth group during high school, and active in my religious community during college, I am no stranger to what it means to have faith. While attending undergraduate studies with a major in a religion and culture so vastly different from my own, I began exploring other faith based systems. My journey, thus far, has led me to a place with a lot of unanswered questions. When my husband and I had a child of our own, coming to terms with the fact that we simply don’t know, was even more difficult to accept.

Fast forward to last week when my little family of three was sitting together in the kitchen. My daughter, now almost three, asked my husband (after he let out a loud cough) if he was okay. He replied, without thinking, “I think I’ll live.” Without missing a beat, my daughter said, “I want you to always live. And mommy.” Speechless. As the tears pooled in my eyes, I found myself thinking back to that father and son last month and how I wish, more than anything, that I could provide that same comfort and promise to my own child that this stranger was undoubtedly able to offer his son.

You see, parenting without faith (at least for me and my spouse) is not simply a choice that we’ve made for our family. I want, more than anything, to be able to provide my daughter with answers to life’s biggest questions (Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?) but the truth is, I can’t. We’ve flirted with the idea of attending some sort of religious institution for the sake of giving her a foundation of faith but, for us, that would be disingenuous to where we’re at in our journey and what we believe about life. There is comfort in religion – a comfort my family does not have.

For now, we’re teaching our child that the World is a beautiful place. That life is a precious, precious gift that we should cherish, respect, and enjoy. That we should treat this planet and all of its inhabitants with love and compassion. That people have all sorts of beliefs, ideas, and differing answers on life’s biggest questions and that it’s okay. One day, when she’s old enough, we’ll encourage her to explore and find her own path…wherever that might lead her. While we certainly can’t make any promises about what tomorrow may bring, and as heartbreaking as that may be for us, we’re forced to simply focus on today.

I think it’s important for people to understand that we’re not parenting without faith because we reject God or because we somehow are apathetic or indifferent towards having beliefs. I wish, more than anything, that I could be certain that I had answers. But that’s not my life. We’re not parenting without faith because we don’t care about our child’s future or her (perceived) eternal salvation, we simply don’t have the answers. Parenting without faith doesn’t make us immoral people and it certainly doesn’t mean that our child will grow up to be any less respectful, loving, or compassionate towards herself, others, and the World around her. Our goals, our hopes for our child (and any other subsequent children we may have later on down the road) are the same as yours.

So, please, don’t make assumptions about our lifestyle and don’t assume things about the way we raise our child. I may not be parenting with faith, but I’m still parenting with love.

Culture, Mad About It Mondays, Rants, Society

Mad About It Monday: The Label Makers

Mad About It Monday- Copyright It's An Ordinary BlogWelcome to Mad About It Monday

…because passive aggressive Facebook posts were so yesterday…

Happy Monday, Everyone! If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that I usually take some time each Monday to discuss something that’s been bothering me (either seriously or sarcastically). If you’re new here, you can find some of my old posts here:

Today I want to talk about something that’s been bothering me for years: Labels.

Generalizations | Labels | Stereotypes 

Some labels are okay; like the one that tells you that your favorite beverage contains “100% Juice” or the one that helps you better understand how to care for that 97% cotton, 3% spandex article of clothing. Those labels are great. They’re beneficial and they’re necessary. Nutrition and product labels are the only ones that matter. Society could stand to do without the rest of them, don’t you think?! I’ve talked before about that feeling of never being good enough (Never Enough) but labels are something that other people give us that are beyond our control.

Muslims Are Terrorists | Overweight People Are Lazy | People With Disabilities Aren’t Intelligent

I think one of the most dangerous things about labeling a person is that it is a shortcut.  It creates a false sense of understanding, without having to put in the requisite time and effort to truly comprehend the nature of that which is being labeled, be it an individual, organization, or an entire society.  Labeling something suggests that it can be defined by that one thing, but nothing is ever so black and white.  People are complicated, as are countries, religions, and anything else that one may be tempted to define in a bumper sticker sized sentence.  True understanding requires that we first recognize and then cast aside our preconceived notions.

Last night I listened to a TED talk that summed my feelings towards religion and doubt more eloquently than I ever could.  Though the speaker did not specifically talk about labeling people, I think the need to cast doubt upon our own understanding can be applied to our understanding of individuals as well as the broader subject of religion and faith.  Belief without introspective questioning and doubt is shallow and incomplete.  It is the same kind of intellectual dishonesty as labeling an individual.  Both are the easy path, but the easy path is usually not the best one.

I encourage you all to not take the easy path.  Don’t label someone, because you would not want to be labeled.  You are not that easily defined and neither is anyone else.

You may not be able to prevent others from labeling you but you can set the example by not labeling others. 

When you have the chance, take the time to watch Lesley Hazleton’s TED Talk. I promise, it’ll inspire you.

My friend and new blogger Aimee over at Here Comes Baby B asked me if I was going to offer a link up this week. So I said, “Sure, why not?!” If you’re interested in sharing your own “Mad About It Monday” post, you can do so here:

Culture, Current Events, Daily Life, Mad About It Mondays, Rants, Society

Mad About It Mondays: On Homosexuality

Mad About It Mondays

Welcome to Mad About It Mondays. In last week’s post (which you can find here), I said that I wanted to start linking up with other bloggers for this series. You can find the link up information at the bottom of this post. All I ask is that you include a link to my blog on your page so that others can join in as well. In the meantime, this week’s post might be one of the most important topics I’ve covered on my blog and so if you’re reading this I ask that you please read this post in its entirety. I know this is controversial but I also know how incredibly important it is, so if you don’t have the time to read it all right now, save the link and come back later. That said, this week’s MAM is on homosexuality.

Late last week I ran across two posts, from two different people, on Facebook that discussed the topic of homosexuality. I’m sure you can well imagine what was said because it’s the same thing we’ve all heard time and time again. What bothers me about these two posts is that they both took the same stance of “because I am a Christian I think homosexuality is {fill in the blank: wrong/gross/sinful/etc}. One even went so far as to have a picture with the caption: “Because tolerance is for those with no conviction.” Whoa, whoa, whoa….hold the phone.

Being a Christian = / = being against homosexuality.

Being a Christian = / = intolerance.

I am tired of it and so I want to give anyone who thinks they can use their religion to bash or put people who are different from them down a little piece of my mind. Knock it off. It isn’t funny; It isn’t loving; and it certainly isn’t okay.

When you look at the Bible from its historical context, rather than viewing it as a living word, it stands to reason that the writers were heavily influenced by the societies in which they lived. These societies, like Ancient Egypt and early Rome, were constantly dealing with threats of a declining population.

The book of Leviticus, which has several verses discussing homosexuality, was written during (or directly after, depending on who you ask) the Babylonian captivity when the Jewish people were forced into exile. Paul, the only author in the New Testament to briefly touch same-sex relationships, wrote many of his words for the Christians in Rome. During his time, the Roman Empire was persecuting early Christian churches. Both of these times were instances where strong population growth was in the best interest of the target audiences of these scriptures. For that reason, it makes sense why certain practices (that could hamper population growth) were condemned.

All monotheistic religions, at one point or another, banned the consumption of pork. Unsanitary living conditions for livestock and the spread of food-bourne illnesses were a huge threat to societies. It wasn’t until after the laws of the New Testament that Christianity condoned the practice of eating meat from a pig. With the New Testament (read: death and resurrection of Christ) came a new set of laws. Those of the Old Testament, less the 10 Commandments, no longer applied.

Religions are great at answering life’s biggest questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? But all too often people use religion to push their own agendas (like the IRA in Ireland, Wahhabi Islam, and even the KKK). The words that really matter, the words of Jesus Christ, in the Bible never mention homosexuality at all. The rest are just allegories (because we know that Jonah wasn’t actually swallowed by a whale) and lessons to help sustain a population.

So what did Jesus say?

To love one another.

To respect one another.

Look inside yourself…Why are you intolerant? You don’t get to use religion as an excuse anymore. You don’t get to hide behind your faith to justify why you don’t believe same-sex couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual ones. So what is it?!

Fear? Hatred? A lack of understanding? Apathy?

When people have the same rights that you do, it doesn’t make your rights any less valuable. It doesn’t mean that your relationships don’t matter. Doesn’t everyone deserve to be treated equally?

Love is love and that’s all that matters.

I have always held the belief (and have been saying so since I was much younger) that I firmly believe the world can be a better, more peaceful, more loving place if we all take the time to sit down and listen to one another. The world can be a more beautiful place if we try to understand one another. Put the intolerance away and open your heart to others…you never know what you might discover about the world, about yourself, and about your faith.



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