Saturday, December 27, 2014

Funny Things Christians Do

Jon Acuff wrote a book awhile back called "Stuff Christians Like."  It was not a mockery of the faith by any means, as Acuff himself is a Christian.  It's just a dig at some of the silly things Christians like to do sometimes.  The Christians reading may act offended, but deep down, they know it's all true.  And it's funny.  The best way to gauge how mature you are is how easy it is for you to laugh at yourself.

All this to say that that book is where I got the idea to do this post.  A couple of the subjects I bring up here are things he talked about, but I talk about them in my own way, so that makes it not plagiarism, right?

-Being slain in the Spirit...but not really

Being slain in the Spirit is considered the ultimate way to prove that you're spiritual.  Consequently, if you don't get slain at the "appropriate time," you figure that you must not be a very good Christian.  So, you have two options now:  You could just sit there and look like an idiot and let everyone know you're not as spiritual as them, or you can fake an overwhelming emotion that you're not actually feeling.  Because manipulating yourself into feeling fake warm-and-fuzzy feelings is what Jesus would want, right?

-Cursing to be "real" with non-Christians

Sometimes, trusting God to help you reach out to a non-believer just isn't enough, at least for some people.  So, they will sometimes deem it necessary to curse when they're talking to them in order to make them understand that Christians are "just like them" and "we get where they're coming from."  Also, it makes us sound edgy, which is pretty damn empowering.  Am I right?  (Just a joke to make the point, people!  Seriously, I can hear everyone now.  "Ooh!  Christian blogger boy said the D-word!!!!")

-Also, cursing, but not cursing

Christians technically aren't supposed to curse, I think, because it's not "becoming."  So, what do we do in situations where we feel like cursing, but our conscience forbids it?  Just say substitutes.  It's like "Napoleon Dynamite."  Never actually curse, but use their similar-sounding counterparts (heck, darn, freaking) as often as you like.  Sure, everybody listening knows what you mean, but at least you're not cursing, right?

-Watching R-rated movies...but only when violence is the main content issue

R-rated movies are a big no-no among a big chunk of Christians.  But at some point somebody must have said, "Hey, wait a minute.  Wasn't the Old Testament super violent?  That must make violent movies okay for us!"  But I think every Christian can still agree that sex/nudity is still off limits.  In other words, movies like "American Pie" or "The Wolf of Wall Street" are still sinful, but movies like "Braveheart" and "300" are A-OK for Christians.  Nipples bad, splattering organs good.

-Our attitudes toward "Christian" content

There are two kinds of Christians when it comes to "Christian" content, whether it be Christian music, movies, or books.  There are the Christians that feel the need to support everything that has a Christian label on it, regardless of whether it's any good or not.  Then there are the ones trying really hard not to pay attention to Christian content to prove that they are still keeping up with what's popular, and constantly slam all Christian content as being bad quality.  (I wonder which kind are reading this "Christian" blog right now?)  Actually, there is a third kind.  There's the kind that listens to both kinds of music.  Just whatever they think sounds good.  I like to call them "normal people."

-Having the debate about whether a band is "Christian" or not (a.k.a. The Switchfoot Effect)

Christians seem to feel obligated to have this debate all the time.  Some bands are known as Christian bands, but sometimes it's hard to know whether they're talking about God or a significant other.  So, the debate rages on because apparently it's against the rules for a Christian artist to sing about anything in the human experience other than "Oh, I'm a Christian, and Jesus is my Savior.  I'm gonna say that 16 more times!"

-Guilt trip

Basically, if you don't contribute something to our mission, you're a terrible Christian.  There's this Christian concert called "Winter Jam" where you can see a load of Christian artists for only $10 total.  But the catch is you'll have to listen to their speaker say that that's actually an unfair price, so you should make up for it by donating to them.  (For more on this phenomenon, watch the new Christian satire film, "Believe Me.")

And I hope nobody is offended by this post.  They shouldn't be really.  You know the old saying right?  "If you can't laugh at yourself, laugh at other people."  Wait a minute...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

10 MORE Movies That It's Okay For Guys To Cry About.

This is basically just picking up where the last post left off because, even though I mentioned quite a few movies before that it's all right for guys to cry about, there are still some doozies out there.  So here are 10 more movies that make men cry.  (Spoilers alert!  And language may be an issue again.)

1.  Hairspray

The audience is forced to watch John Travolta play a morbidly obese woman.  'Nuff said.

(No video clip for this one.  You can thank me later!)

2.  Braveheart

Mel Gibson did not have a good life here.  Honestly, I was a little unsure as to how I would feel about this movie because of its portrayal of violence as the answer.  But, after seeing what came before, I was totally behind Mel Gibson here.  First, he had to see his father killed as a boy.  Then, his wife was almost raped, and if that wasn't enough, she had her throat slit because she had the audacity to try to defend herself.  The end is one of the most heartbreaking ends there ever was, as we're forced to watch Gibson be tortured and killed as he's screaming "Freedom!"

3.  Rain Man

Dustin Hoffman is a math genius with autism who constantly annoys his brother, Tom Cruise.  But, eventually Tom Cruise learns that he hasn't met his brother before this movie because Hoffman was taken away to be put in an institution after he accidentally hurt a young Cruise.  Eventually, they form an important bond, Tom Cruise comes to love his older brother.  Unfortunately, Dustin Hoffman is deemed unable to handle himself in the world, so he has to leave Cruise again and go back to the institution.  Very sad indeed.

4.  Forrest Gump

Any movie with three separate deaths makes the crying list in my book.  First, we have to watch as Tom Hank's buddy, Bubba, dies in combat, and Gary Sinise loses his legs.  Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Hanks' mother also dies.  Finally, Hanks' true love dies in the end, too.  But it's not just the deaths that make this movie sad.  It's the fact that Robin Wright was abused as a child in this movie, and as a result, she keeps looking for love in all the wrong places (drugs, casual sexual relationships) as an adult, and a few times considers suicide.  Tom Hanks is the only person in her life who truly loves her, but as we hear in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, "We accept the love we think we deserve."  (And, no, this movie will not appear on the list.)  And she doesn't, until he's her last hope.

5.  Up

You don't expect this one to make you cry.  After all, it's just an animated kids' movie.  But, if the montage in the first 5 minutes of the movie with Carl losing a child and his wife doesn't make you sad, nothing will.

6.  Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood is a baller here, but not for the reason he usually is.  Like "Up," this movie plays with the idea of a grumpy man who takes a naive youth under his wing.  At first, Eastwood is just a bitter, racist, and foul mouthed old man, but he slowly learns to appreciate his Asian neighbors and becomes a mentor for one of the boys.  Unfortunately, there is a gang that won't stop harassing the family, and one night after they take things too far, Eastwood decides to take a stand.  He goes after the gang unarmed and rebukes them for their violent ways, purposefully attracting attention from others in the neighborhood.  Clint then acts like he's going to go for a gun, which prompts the gang to shoot him down.  As a result, the gang is jailed on the testimony of all the witnesses who saw it happen.  Suicide or self-sacrifice?  I'll let you be the judge.

7.  The Count of Monte Cristo.

Jim Caviezel, who looks suspiciously like Jesus, has all kinds of issues.  At first, he seems to have a promising life, as he has a captain's job and a beautiful fiance.  But then Guy Pearce and a bunch of other people team up to get him jailed.  After receiving some mentoring in the prison from a priest, who looks suspiciously like Dumbledore, he escapes seeking only revenge.  Despite repeated warnings that he's going too far, he presses on, until he learns that Henry Cavill is his son.  He tries to let Guy Pearce off, but he won't have any part of that, and Caviezel is forced to kill him.  After this, Caviezel learns how empty revenge is and promises to live his life for good now.

8.  Lord of the Rings trilogy

So much.  Sean Bean dies (go figure), Gandalf dies and comes back, Theoden misses the death of his son, Sean Bean's brother is hated by their father.  And you will be saddened by the countless scenes of Frodo almost succumbing to the ring and treating his friend Sam like crap.  Speaking of Sam, his speech at the end of the second movie is probably the most moving I've ever seen.  And his other best scene is toward the end as Frodo is losing his inner battle and Sam tells him, "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!"  Sam then proceeds to lift Frodo onto his shoulders and carry him to Mount Doom.

9.  The Godfather

Okay, so you probably won't necessarily cry over this one, but there is still some sadness.  That can't be denied.  Even though he's a ruthless crime boss, Marlon Brando is a benevolent ruthless crime boss, if that's possible.  So, it's hard to see him get shot early in the movie, even though he survives.  He actually ends up dying, as he's just playing outside with his young grandson.  It's also sad when James Caan gets murdered as he's going to avenge his sister.  But, probably the most tragic one here is Al Pacino.  At first, he tries to stay innocent and out the family's dirty business, and even tells the girl he loves so.  But, he ends up being corrupted, surprisingly easily.  ("Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41)  The consequences are dire, as he kills people and has his first wife die in retaliation for the dead men on his hands.  Marlon Brando chooses Al Pacino as his successor, and Pacino fully embraces it, in sharp contrast with how he was in the beginning.  In one of the most ironic scenes in cinematic history, we see his plan to eliminate the heads of the other mob families being carried out, while he's renewing his baptismal vows in church at the same time!  He lies to his second wife about what he does and fully takes on the persona of a mobster. 

And while we're on the subject,

10.  The Godfather Part II

This is possibly the best sequel ever made, even to this day (followed by The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight).  It's so good, I'm willing to overlook the fact that Robert de Niro was trying to hard to sound like Marlon Brando in the first movie.  I purposefully saved this movie for last because I actually did cry while watching this.  A lot of bad stuff happens to Al Pacino here, and the sad thing is that he brought it on himself.  Having taken the reigns of the Corleone crime family, he's learning what that can mean.  He carries out shady deals and has people killed on a regular basis, and the consequences are bad for him.  An attempt is made on his life, and by extension, the lives of his wife and kids.  He learns that his own brother was in on this traitorous plot, and his heart is broken.  Finally, his wife decides that she and the kids can't live with him anymore because of the evil he keeps committing.  We learn that his wife had even gone so far as to have an abortion because she was afraid of giving birth to another son of his.  (Although, I would like to give the movie credit because it correctly defines abortion as the murder of a child.)  At first, it looks beautiful when Pacino reconciles with his rogue brother...until he ends up having him killed, anyway.  And Robert de Niro's (playing the role of Marlon Brando as a younger man for a good portion of the film) life was no bed of roses either.  When he was a kid, he saw his father, brother, and mother all killed by a mob boss in Italy.  Slowly, but surely, de Niro becomes just like the man who hurt him (and de Niro does end up killing the guy).  

So, there's ten more movies to make you cry.  There's probably many more, and maybe I'll mention them someday.  (Probably, since new topics are hard to come up with.)  Anyway, hope you enjoyed this, and have a good night.

Monday, September 29, 2014

10 Movies That It's Okay For Guys to Cry About

I've been seeing a lot of these lists lately, so I've decided to jump on the band wagon myself and give a list of my own.

Movies are great for entertainment and escaping the world around us.  However, there are some movies out there that will literally make you cry.  Normally, we would think that it's mainly girls who are guilty of this, and you would be right if we're talking something like "Titanic" or "The Notebook."  (Seriously, if you're a guy who cries over those movies, or watches them at all for that matter, just stop...unless you're dating someone.)  But, there are some movies out there that guys can become pretty emotional about, too.  Now, if you're thinking, "No, that's not me.  I never cry over movies," you're either a liar or soulless.  Guys shouldn't be afraid to show their emotions, should the need arise.

So, here are 10 movies that it's okay for men to cry about (at least, I hope so because if they're not, that means I'm a wuss).  These are in no particular order.  (Spoilers ahead).  (Also, some clips may contain language you don't prefer.)

1.  The Green Mile

I've seen this movie three times now, the last one being a few days ago.  I honestly think I got more emotional the last time than the other two times.  There are several moments in this film that would induce tears.  One would be when the mouse is crushed, but then it's okay because John Coffey heals it.  The most disturbing moment in the film is definitely Eduard Delacroix's sabotaged execution, where the audience is forced to watch as a malicious guard purposefully forgets to wet the sponge for the electric chair and Del basically burns to death inside his hood.  And, if you've somehow gone most of the movie without emotion, you will definitely lose it at the end when the innocent John Coffey is electrocuted for a crime he didn't commit.  (This is sad to me mainly because it brings to mind another innocent man who died, and, coincidentally, has the same initials as John Coffey.)

2.  Good Will Hunting-At first, the title character appears to be just the standard genius wasting his life that we see all the time.  But, thanks to some digging by his therapist, Sean (played excellently by Robin Williams), we discover he also has a dark past of abuse at the hands of foster parents.  Because of this, Will finds it hard to accept love.  The tear-jerking scene comes at the end when Sean repeatedly tells Will that what happened isn't his fault, and Will breaks down sobbing in Sean's arms.

3.  Saving Private Ryan-Not really any need to explain this one too much.  It shows the reality of war better than most of its peers, which any veteran can tell you is definitely reason to lose it.

4.  Stand By Me-Where to begin?  At first, the movie starts out as just an adventure with typical twelve-year-old boys.  But, this movie does have some surprisingly intense moments, some of which may hit a little close to home for some.  One moment is when Chris Chambers is lamenting his inability to rise above his family's bad reputation and his grim outlook for his future. Another is when Gordie Lachance dreams about his brother's funeral and how his father flat-out said that it should have been Gordie.  Gordie eventually breaks down saying, "My dad hates me!" to which Chris answers, "No, he just doesn't know you."  The last heart-breaking moment is when Gordie, as an adult, tells us the future of his friends, including how they eventually parted ways with two of them and how Chris was stabbed as an adult.


5.  Dead Poets Society-Yet another fantastic Robin Williams vehicle.  This tells the story of a man who taught young boys to "seize the day."  Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with him, particularly the father of one of the boys, whose controlling ways become so bad, that the boy eventually shoots himself.  Robin Williams' character is blamed and fired from the school.  But the boys show him a final tribute as he's leaving his classroom for the last time (shown below).  And, of course, it's even sadder now that Williams truly has left us.

6.  The Shawshank Redemption-If you know me, you knew this one would be coming eventually.  Tear-jerking moments include when the captain of the guards beats a prisoner to death, when Brooks Hatlen hangs himself, when one of the prisoners is shot for no reason, and you might well up a little when Andy talks about his dream of going to a place it doesn't look like he'll ever get to.  But, this movie also produces some tears of joy when Andy finally escapes his personal hell and makes it to freedom.

7.  God's Not Dead-Many emotional moments, so, to save time, I'll just list them all and move on.  Mom has dementia, Amy has cancer, Radisson's mom died of cancer, Ayisha gets slapped and disowned for her faith, Amy has a breakdown when it hits her that she's going to die, Radisson reads the last letter his mother wrote, demented mother has unexpected moment of spiritual clarity, Radisson gets hit by a car and accepts Christ right before dying, and the Newsboys sing "God's Not Dead."

8.  Courageous- Come on, the guy's sweet little daughter died.  Cry, or everyone will know your heartlessness.  Also, Adam's speech at the end truly inspires awe.  And, let's not forget Nathan's speech at his father's grave.

9.  Toy Story 3-Yes, even the animated films are capable of producing tears.  This one is particularly emotional if you're like me and you grew up on the first two movies.  Seriously, that trash incinerator scene?  It's almost like the director said, "Hey, let's forget about the fact that kids are watching this, and just destroy everyone emotionally."  That moment when the toys are holding hands, waiting for their fiery death is among the most intense I've seen in an animated film.  And, of course, the end where Andy gives up the toys is sad because he not only says goodbye to his toys in this moment, but his childhood, too.

10.  The Passion of the Christ-From His condemnation, to His scourging, to His crucifixion, there is not a dry eye in the house when this movie is showing.  Admittedly, if you're not a Christian, you probably wouldn't get too much out of this, but if you are, you will be destroyed by the graphic realism of what our Lord went through for us.

(Warning:  Don't watch if you have a weak stomach or heart.)

So, there you go fellas.  Now you know when it's okay to show your emotions you pretend you don't have.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go somewhere and cry for a very long while...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How Does "Bruce Almighty" Relate To Spirituality...and Me?

"Bruce Almighty" is both a hilarious and touching movie.  It contains probably the most respectful portrayal of God there is in a secular movie (#MorganFreeman'sAwesomeness).  God is shown as a benevolent Creator, who cares for his creation and also has a sense of humor.  And the lesson Bruce (played hilariously by Jim Carrey) learns through Him is a lesson we could all take to heart.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, here's the basic plot:  Bruce is a news anchor who's unhappy with his life.  He's unhappy with his home, his dog refuses to be housebroken, he loses a promotion to a backstabbing co-worker, and he finally loses his job after having an on-air meltdown.  He blames God for his troubles, and rails continuously against the Almighty.  God hears Bruce and gives him a challenge.  If Bruce thinks he can do better, God will give him his powers.  There are only two conditions:  He can't tell anyone, and he can't interfere with free will.

We get a number of great spiritual nuggets as we go along, and, unlike the other two movies I've done this with, the spirituality is explicit, not hidden.

It's no surprise that Bruce uses his powers for himself.  He parts traffic, gets revenge on a gang that mugged him earlier, parts his soup in half a la Moses,get his job and promotion, makes his enemies look stupid, and makes his girlfriend...ahem...more appealing.

But all is not well.  Bruce is hearing voices that he learns are prayers.  He decides to save time by just saying "Yes" to everyone, which leads to disaster for all involved.  Here we learn why some of our prayers don't get quite the answer we want.  We truly don't know what's best for us.  Only God really knows that.

Bruce's selfishness causes his girlfriend to leave him.  Here, we get one of the movies most poignant moments.  Bruce asks God, "How do you make someone love you, without affecting free will?"  God just answers, "Welcome to my world, son.  You figure that one out, you let me know."  Wow.

Bruce does learn to start using his powers for good.  He even gives his promotion back to his arrogant co-worker because he knows he's really the best man for the job.

But, there is still disaster.  And Bruce's separation from his girlfriend becomes even harder when he hears her praying for God to allow her to stop loving him, so she can let him go.  Bruce can no longer stand it.  He kneels down in the street, and cries out to God, "I want You to decide what's best for me.  I surrender to your will!"

Bruce gets hit by a truck and finds himself with God.  He tells God what he wants for his girlfriend.  He wants her to find someone who will make her happy and see her the way he saw her then.  God knows Bruce has learned his lesson and sends him back to Earth where he does his best to be a better man.

Again, while this is all good, there are some potential content concerns that should be mentioned.  The movie does contain some foul language, inappropriate humor, and the fact that Bruce living with his girlfriend is never brought up in the Heavenly chit-chat.  Also, while God is clearly shown, Christianity isn't necessarily.  God also mentions how He's talked with Gandhi before, so the Gospel isn't really communicated, other than that we need God in our lives.  Then again,let's be honest. Expecting an explicit Gospel message in a Jim Carrey film is unrealistic.  We're lucky we got what we got.

I'd also like to address how it relates to me.  I, too, have been in the same place Bruce was.  I have been in a spot where I would become angry with God and say similar things to what he said.  ("Oh, God, why do You hate me?"  "The only one not doing His job is You!"  "You suck!")

And this is why the scene near the end of Bruce kneeling in the street is so beautiful to me.  That scene of complete surrender serves as a great reminder that, no matter what, God is the answer, and He is always ready to help us when we call on Him, no matter what we may have done.  That realization alone is what makes this movie worth watching, even more than once.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Demons

Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I am not a perfect person.  I deal with my own personal demons just like every other person on Earth.  To be honest, I'm not exactly sure why I'm writing about this.  Maybe it'll just be good to get some stuff off my chest.  Obviously, there are too many demons to list them all here, so I'll just go with a few of the big ones.


Yes, I am a ridiculously insecure person, and I really mean ridiculous.  I'm always worried about what others think of me, which is common, but I take it to different levels.  I'm always afraid of being left out or not having my company enjoyed.  Those are two of my biggest fears.  Like, even if people in a certain group straight up tell me they like having me around, I still second guess them and have my doubts.  Honestly, I sometimes wonder whether I would want me around if I were somebody else.  I think my problem is that I just want everyone to be my friend, and it's frustrating that I can't be with every group at once.  Really, my biggest fear is to be left out of the loop.


I have had some serious anger issues in my life.  I may seem calm and collected some of the time, but I can have one heck of a temper at times.  Anyone who was in school with me in grades 6-8 would tell you that I could just lash out at the drop of a hat.  I like to think those issues have become slightly better recently, but I still struggle.  Just ask my family.


If you have ever seen Star Wars, you probably knew that this one would be coming up next.  Yes, I have harbored hatred toward many people that I am still struggling to let go.  Grudges are funny with me.  I can either let things go instantly, or hold on to it for ridiculous amounts of time.  It really just depends.  I fail to often to love other people in the way I'm called to by God.  It's something I wish I could fix.


Probably one of my biggest issues I've been dealing with lately is depression.  The littlest things seem to set it off, too.  I often feel rejected by my peers which is the most common cause of this.  Sometimes, I seriously wonder if it would matter to people if I wasn't here.  I'm not 100% positive, but I believe I may have bipolar disorder.  I hate being bipolar.  It's awesome.  (Just a joke to break the heaviness.)  It gets to the point where I have to straight plead with people to tell me whether I matter to them.  Even when they say yes, it doesn't always fix the problem.  

Conclusion:  Why am I telling you all this?  I don't know.  Maybe, I just wanted to finally expose you to the me I always try to hide.  And if anyone with similar experiences reads this and relates to it, it's all worth it.

But I don't want to end on such a sad note.  There is hope.  Between my starting and my publishing this post, I had the chance to attend Confession, as well as Adoration.  I was reminded that even if I do feel rejected by everyone else, God won't.  And He will love me in spite of everything I've done and felt.

Exorcising these demons will not be an easy thing to do, but, hopefully, with God's help, I will eventually be able to break free and be the man I was made to be.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

First World Problems

So, about a month ago, song parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic released his latest album, "Mandatory Fun," which it certainly was.

One of the songs on the album, "First World Problems," is a jab at how self-absorbed some people are and how angry we get over minor inconveniences.  It's a very funny song, and the video made it funnier.  But, I have to admit, I can't help but feel just a little sorry for the guy in the song.  I don't mean because of the things he says he's going through (okay, maybe I did once or twice.)  What's sad is how the guy in the song is this stinking rich dude, yet the minor things he has to deal with still set him off.

Now, I get that the song isn't serious and meant to be satire, but I still think it serves as a good sign of our times.  Compared to other countries, we have more crap than we know what to do with, yet we're still unhappy in spite of it.  THAT is our first world problem.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Only God can give you the happiness you're really looking for.  I look forward to the day when everyone sees that as a whole world blessing!

Monday, June 9, 2014

How Does "The Shawshank Redemption" Teach Spirituality?

This one is in the same vein as the "Avengers" post I did awhile back.

"The Shawshank Redemption" has recently become a new favorite movie of mine.  It's a gripping movie with a great message of finding hope in a hopeless environment.  And that's only the beginning of the veiled spiritual references.  The adventures of the main character, Andy Dufresne, can be seen as a metaphor for the story of Jesus.

Andy is an innocent man accused of a crime he didn't commit, who gets thrown into the worst prison imaginable, much the way Jesus was a blameless man who went to execution.  However, like Christ, Andy refuses to crack under the strain of the setting he's in.  Also, like Christ, Andy is a man who wouldn't be readily accepted because of his background.  Andy was a banker, and any person in debt wouldn't want to be friends with a banker.  Jesus came from Nazareth, and people at the time believed that nothing good come from Nazareth.  The man who becomes Andy's best friend, a man named Ellis "Red" Redding, once commented, "I could see why some of the men took him for snobby.  He had a quiet way about him.  He had a walk and a talk that just wasn't normal around here."  So, almost immediately, you can see that Andy has chosen to be in the prison, but not of it.

He receives some harsh treatment from both the men who run the prison and the gang of perverts that inhabit the place.  But, as I said, he refuses to crack.  Andy is a smart man who decides to put his skills to work any way he can.

He first does this as he and his fellow prisoners are working to tar a roof.  Andy overhears the cruel captain of the guards complaining about how he just inherited a large sum of money but he will most likely be taxed out of most of it.  Andy risks life and limb to walk over to the man and give him financial advice.  Not only does he end up accepting Andy's help, he also agrees to supply each of Andy's friends with beer to drink to motivate them more on the job.  (Wasn't Jesus' first miracle supplying his friends with drinks?)

Andy's skills do not go unnoticed.  Soon, he's working in the library where his persistence earns the library both funds and books.  He also ends up doing taxes for all the guards from both Shawshank and other prisons, as well.

Unfortunately, what is used for good can also be used for evil.  The corrupt warden uses Andy's skills for some shady purposes.  He has Andy doing money laundering using fake identities for bank accounts.  Jesus' naysayers also tried to use his goodness against him.

One scene I would like to address was a very beautiful scene in which Andy locks himself in the warden's office and starts playing a portion of an opera over the loudspeaker.  Nobody knows what it's about, of course, but the men are captivated by the sheer beauty of the sound.  And just for a moment the other men have hope and a feeling of freedom.

Andy is punished, of course.  After he gets out, he comments that music is a good way to keep hope, to which the cynical Red responds, "Hope is a dangerous thing.  Hope drives a man insane.  It has no place on the inside."

On that note, I would like to mention a character named Brooks Hatlen.  He was an old man who had been in Shawshank most of his life.  He had been there so long that he had become used to the prison.  He depended on it.  When he was finally released, he didn't know what to do with himself because nothing made sense to him.  He eventually hanged himself.  In a way, Brooks serves as sort of a tragic reminder of what happens when we become too deep in sin.  We become comfortable within the bounds of the life we're living, and the thought of leaving it behind can be terrifying.  But, it's necessary.

I would like to focus on the character of Red.  He's "a man who knows how to get things," which is how Andy first comes in contact with him.  The two men form a bond over a course of time.  And Andy works hard to inspire the same spirit of hope in Red that keeps him going.  "Get busy living, or get busy dying," Andy says.  At first, Red worries that this might be a suicide threat from Andy, until the next day when it's discovered that Andy has escaped (in a scene that very clearly brings to mind a picture of a certain empty tomb), and that isn't all he's done.  He's gone to all the banks with the dirty money and removed it all (Andy giveth, Andy taketh away) and exposed the corruption at the prison.  Red misses Andy, but knows that it's the way things should be.

One theme running through the movie that is sometimes used as a joke is how all the men see themselves as innocent victims of circumstance.  Red is the only man willing to admit he's a guilty man, and as a result he's the only one who is "saved", if you will.  Before Andy left, he gave Red instructions on where to find a certain hidden box and he also comments on his dream to go start a business in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.  Red is eventually released on parole, and at first he seems to be walking the same path as Brooks.  The only thing that keeps him from ending it all is his promise to Andy.  He eventually finds the box with a note, telling him that "Hope is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies."  Andy says he'll be waiting for Red over on the other side of the border "with the chess board waiting" because he'll need a partner with Red's skills.  This is very much like Christ's promise to be waiting for us on "the other side" with a better home for us.  The ending scene where the two men are finally reunited is thoroughly satisfying.

I should note, however, that while all this is well and good, I wouldn't recommend the movie for general audiences.  It contains much foul language (over a hundred profanities, approximately sixty of which are f-bombs), violence (brutal beatings and some implied homosexual rape), and the beginning of the movie contains a relatively explicit flashback of an affair Andy's wife was having with another man.  (This affair is said by one of the characters to be a sin, which it is, but still...)  Also, some Christians may be offended that the corrupt warden in the movie is portrayed as a religious hypocrite who uses the Bible for his own ill purposes.  But let's not forget that Christ's main opposers on Earth were also the hypocritical religious leaders of the day.   If I had to put an age range on this movie, I would say older teens and up.

I think I'll conclude this little article by giving some hopes similar to Red's words at the end of the movie.

I hope I can make it to Heaven.  I hope to see my friend and Savior and be embraced by Him.  I hope the Other Side is as wonderful as I've always imagined it.  I hope.