One Faith, Many Paths: Mike Bezalel

mikeb

This time for my One Faith Many Paths Project, I interview one of my newest Facebook Friends, Mike Bezalel.

1. You’ve told me that your father was a member of the KKK. Can you tell me what that was like?

Growing up with that mentality hanging over me was terrible, to be flatly honest with you. I was led to believe that simply because of my race that I was superior to all others. He refferred to anyone who was not white always in reprehensible racist terms. I was punished for associating with htem, beaten. My parents were both just terrible human beings.

2. How did your Maw-maw help you unlearn what your father was trying to pass on to you?

Well she resucued me. Saved my life in very real terms. I was taken away from my parents at around 13 because of the physical and mental abuse I had suffered. My maw-maw, my paternal grandmother, helped me to overcome all of the refuse I had been forcefully inundated with over the years. I never felt like I was worth anything. A person spends years being told they are worthless…it kind of stays with you, you know? I still battle with that sometimes. It was the gift to me that still seems to be giving back, I guess.

Maw-maw gave me the space that I needed to grow as well. Perhaps a little too much I was very angry after I escaped from the hell of my early life and I went wild. Drugs, partying, drinking…and even worse at times. I was even angry with God and dabbled in Satanism at one point of my teenage years. I fled from that after about a year, though, and never allowed myself to return to that point.

3. You have epilepsy. When did this first manifest?

The doctors seem to think it stemmed from a steries of head injuries over a 3 year period. A fall down a flight of stairs that resulted in a severe concussion, another concusion about 8 months later and then the big one, a motorcycle injury that resulted in a TBI so severe that I was in a coma for about 2 weeks. The seizures first began when I was in a coma. That was 26 years ago this September.

Unfortunately, I have what has been deemed as an intractable case of epilepsy.. I have been on at least two dozen different medications over the years and none of them stop the seizures completely. MMJ comes the closest, but it is not covered by insurance, and being medically disabled, I cannot afford it. Seems to be my luck…lol.

4. How did you become a Christian?

My maternal grandfather, who I called Pap-paw, was a devout Methodist minister. I grew up in his church every Sunday for much of my childhood. He instilled i nme a love for God and the pursuit of life, love, and light.  He was the best man I have ever known and I could never stray away from what he taught me. He was also the very reason I didn’t believe th garbage my mom and dad tried to brainwash me with I know they hid their beliefs from my grandparents for a reason, after all.

Anyway, later as a teenager, when I went through that period where I was mad at God and messed around with devil worship, I even knew then that I was wrong. I was just very, very angry and was lashing out. I had a dream with my Pap-paw in it, and he was just staring at me with disappointed eyes. When I woke, I began weeping and asked God to forgive me.

A few days later, my friend Steve and I were at a Perkin’s restaurant at around 3 AM. he and I both were longhaired metalhead kids. I looked at him and commented, “Man you kind of look like Jesus this morning.” He really did at that moment–scruffy beard, dark hair. Kind eyes…a little glazed from weed, but it was true. He began to witness to me. It didn’t take much coaxing or convincing to help me find my way. We went to a parak just about a mile away and I prayed the acceptance prayer. Right before I prayed, I implored to God, “I want to believe in You, God, but so much evil has happened to me. I need You to show me a sign. Please God, if You are there, please show me. I know I shouldn’t ask You…but if you exist, You know my heart. I need this.”

When I closed my eyes and prayed the prayer, I felt peace like I had not felt for so long. That would have been enough, but God is good. I opened my eyes and saw the night sky in all its glory. Then the single brightest shooting star I have ever seen flew across my line of sight, exploding right in the center of the sky, and then vanished. I broke down in tears. I have never doubted for an instance since that day.

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My response to Fr. James Martin

A couple weeks ago, on the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest from New York, tweeted a controversial statement on Twitter. He said that the time is right for women to become priests and invoked the name of St. Mary Magdalene, using her as an example of a woman who was sort of like an apostle. In fact, we Catholics often call her the “apostle to the apostles”. This got him under the ire not only of his fellow clergymen, but also many laypeople who disagreed with him. This is not the first time he’s caused this kid of fervor, but I’m not here to discuss those other times. Let’s just focus on this one.

I disagree with this notion. Now, in a way the Christian religion was indeed started by a woman. When Mary said yes to God and yes to becoming a mother to Jesus, she became, in essence, the first Christian. Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus resurrected after he died on Good Friday. Jesus appointed 12 apostles, all men. If he had wanted to use women, he naturally would’ve appointed either his own mother or Mary Magdalene, as they were both worthy candidates considering their status as models for His followers. But they never were appointed. And it’s not like Jesus didn’t treat women differently from the way Jewish people of his time did. He would address them as he would anyone else, as illustrated when he did not admonish Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, when she sat at his feet when He visited their house. It was considered against Jewish culture for a woman to do such a thing, and yet Jesus did not admonish her.

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My thoughts on God Friended Me

godfriended

CBS has a great show on Sundays after 60 minutes called God Friended Me. The show is created by Greg Berlanti, best know for producing all of the DC Comics TV shows on WB. Since it just got renewed for another season, I’ll give my thoughts on it so far.

First of all, let’s look at the premise. Our protagonist is Miles Fine, a podcaster out of NYC with a show called “The Millennial Prophet”. Despite the title, Miles is actually an atheist. His father, Rev. Andrew Finer, is an Episcopalian priest, and they’ve had an estranged relationship ever since his mother died when he was very young. One day, he receives a friend request from an anonymous source claiming to be God. He thinks it’s a prank at first, but decides to check it out and meets a journalist named Cara, who’s begging for a big break. He decides to help her out, and this starts the show’s mystery. Every week, the anonymous account sends Miles a new person, and he and Cara help that person with whatever crisis he/she is facing. Another character he meets later on is Rakesh Singh, a hacker who tries to discover the account and helps them get past firewalls and such.

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My Favorite Saints: St. Francis of Assisi

francis“Go Francis, and repair my house, which you see is falling into ruin.”–Those were the words St. Francis heard one day while praying in St. Damian’s chapel in Assisi. Words that would inspire him to become the founder of what we know today as the Franciscan Order of friars.

St. Francis was born in Assisi Italy in the late 12th Century (the exact year is unknown, but it is believed to be either 1181 or 1182.) He died there forty-four years later. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. Although he would later denounce it, he lived a rather lavish lifestyle off his father’s status.

When he turned twenty, he fought the Perugians and was taken prisoner. This was when he received a dream that inspired him to take a different path, returning home in 1205. He gave away all his money to a leper and said he was taking “Lady Poverty” as his wife. He gave his clothes to a merchant and fasted among the beggars. His father heard of his actions and thought that he had become a madman. He had him dragged home and beaten, bound and locked in a dark closet. His mother freed him and he sought sanctuary with a priest.  His father searched and found him. He told his father he had denounced his wealthy origin and was now in service to his Heavenly Father. He stripped his garments and gave them to his father, walking away naked. This was to show that he didn’t want to own anything, not even the clothes on his back!

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Pearl: An Interview with a Monster

pearl.jpgIt’s that time again! Time for me to promote another upcoming book by my friend, science fiction and fantasy writer Clay Gilbert. I’ve promoted his books in his Annah series on here before, but now I’m promoting his new series featuring a rather unusual girl named Pearl. How unusual is she? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out! But in the meantime, let’s get to know her a little in this interview I did.

  1. I know you like stories about monsters. Do you have a favorite monster? Why? *chuckles* Matt-he’s my adopted dad–asked me that one time. Gotta be either Frankenstein or the Wolf Man, if you mean classic monsters, but I like Godzilla a lot too. And King Kong. And I know Frankenstein ain’t really the monster’s name, but the name of the doctor. But yeah, Frankenstein’s monster wants to get along with people, but people treat him mean and it makes him mean too. Maybe if I never had father figures like Matt or Dr. Steve back in the lab where I grew up, I woulda been sad and angry and mean to folks like Frankenstein’s monster. I got lucky, I guess.
  2. What’s your favorite food? Hmm, I like food. (looks around) Ya got any? (laughs) Scrambled eggs and bacon’s prob’ly my favorite breakfast food. Hot dogs or pizza prob’ly are my two favorite other foods. Matt–Dad–would say those ain’t very good for me, but I can’t help that. (laugh again) I like pepperonis and green peppers and onions on my pizza. But not anchovies. (in Gollum voice) we HATES anchovies, preciousss.
  3. You were named after a verse from the Bible; the “pearl of great price”. What’s your favorite part of the Bible? Anything with Jesus in it. Specially I liked how he talked about people needing to be like children to enter God’s kingdom.  I think people overlook kids a lot of the time, and don’t give ’em enough credit or treat ’em like real people, and I think it mighta been that way in Jesus’s time, too. I know I ain’t like most other ten-year-old kids, but I still know what it’s like not to be listened to by some folks cause of my age, even though I’m smart. Oops, Dad says that’s braggin’ and folks don’t like people who brag too much. Sorry. But yeah, Jesus loved everybody–loves everybody–and he don’t care what color skin someone’s got, whether it’s dark like mine or light yours, or whether somebody got silver eyes or pointy teeth and nails, or not, so long as they good to people and kind to people.
  4. Do you have any favorite musicians? Any you don’t like? I love Johnny Cash. He prob’ly my favorite of all. Love that song “Wabash Cannonball”. and “Man in Black”. I like Tracy Chapman–she makes of think of me. I like LL Cool J and Tupac, even though it sounds like he had a rough time. Maybe even BECAUSE he sounds like he had a rough life . He got hold of a lot of money, but ‘fore he did, sounds like he went through stuff about as bad as the stuff I seen before Dr. Steve or Dad came along. Different stuff, but just as bad. Ain’t no music I don’t like, not really. There’s some good to all of it.
  5. Have you read Firestarter by Stephen King? Your story seems similar in a way. Yeah I read that. I felt sorry for Charlie, the little girl in the book. She coulda been like any normal little girl, well mostly. Guess I’s kind of jealous of her, too. She could go to a normal school, if folks woulda left her and her Dad alone. My dad couldn’t get me in no normal school, no way. He’s homeschooled me though. I mean, I know I talk like a hick, but I’ve read stuff some kids don’t read till college.

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Film Freak: God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

godsnotdead3.pngGod’s Not Dead is the final movie in the PureFlix trilogy of movies. In addition to this trilogy, they released a movie based on Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ”, and a remake of the “Left Behind” movie starring Nicholas Cage. What I found interesting is that “The Case For Christ” was actually able to tell a story while presenting information from the book, presenting it as an arc. It gave me more hope that this company does know how to tell a story without relying on the persecution complex these movies have.

This movie has a different writer and director from the previous movies. I think the change in director and writer resulted in a better movie. The persecution complex is still there, but less pronounced. There’s only one plot! (But now, this makes the subplots of the other two movies even more irrelevant.)

Our focus is on Pastor Dave, who in my opinion was the only good thing about these movies. He is a flawed character and tries to live his life as an example. He’s the only character who doesn’t quote chapter and verse. The closest thing he says to a theological message is his motto “God is good all the time.” He lives his life the best he can. THIS is the character to build a movie around, not some stupid persecution complex that couldn’t happen in the real world. No more leaving out facts to fit an agenda here, like in the previous movies. We also see Josh Wheton, the protagonist of the first movie, but only for a few scenes.

Here, the plot is more focused on reconciliation. Dave is trying to stop his church from being moved off the evil atheist college. But once he hires his brother as a lawyer, the persecution complex stops! The movie then moves into its new plot: Dave and his brother Adam healing the rift caused by their dysfunctional family. Dave is an atheist, but the movie does not make him the bad guy! He actually does help his brother.

Another thing I can applaud is that there is no easy solution. Adam works out his problems, but he does not easily convert back to Christianity. The movie actually understands that faith is not that easy. It realizes that sometimes we can’t find the answers, and sometimes we think God doesn’t care. There are no easy solutions in this movie.

It’s far from a perfect movie. As I said, it still harps on its persecution complex for about the first 30 minutes of its run time. But once that’s out of the way, there’s no more preachiness. I have nothing against Christian movies. But I feel we shouldn’t act like we’re being persecuted in a country that has freedom of religion in its Bill of Rights. We shouldn’t be given a covert message to vote for a certain candidate and leave out key information that doesn’t fit an agenda. That’s not how you evangelize. You evangelize by sending God’s actual message, not one muddled with politics.

I’m not done with Pureflix yet. They’ve made a movie out of Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned. When I see that movie, I’ll talk about it here.

 

Film Freak: God’s Not Dead 2

notdead2A few years back, I reviewed the Pure Flix movie God’s Not Dead. I was not too happy with it, and at the time I was unaware that there was going to be a sequel, much less two. I believe that all three of these movies are terrible tools for evangelization. Now that Pure Flix has actually made a “franchise” out of this trilogy, I have decided I should go back and review the other two movies.

Although this movie is billed as  a sequel, it really has very little to do with the first movie. This time our main protagonist is not Josh Wheaton, but a high school teacher named Grace Westley. Josh is only mentioned in passing. Like the previous movie, this one has several different arcs, although much fewer and more tightly connected. The ones that don’t carry over now seem even more unnecessary than they were in the previous movie. If they weren’t going to carry over, why even have them in the first place?

Our story begins when Grace is talking with her class about Martin Luther King Jr. (coincidentally, it’s also the namesake of the school) When Brooke, a student she’s been consoling since the death of her brother, asks her about King’s own beliefs as a Christian, Grace affirms this. While this is going on, we see several students taking out their cell phones and texting to others, implying disbelief that a teacher would dare to bring up Jesus.

Brooke’s parents are outraged and even decide to get the ACLU to help them. This is one of my biggest problems with the movie. Despite what the right-wing propaganda people who made this movie want you to think, the ACLU is not some evil organization manned by atheists to persecute Christians. While they have brought cases against Christians (such as the infamous cases where bakers are sued because they refuse to bake cakes for same-sex marriages), the ACLU has actually helped Christians in many cases to defend their beliefs.  The whole name is AMERICAN Civil Liberties Union. I used to believe they were the enemy myself, but ever since I left the “right-wing” Christian mentality, I have reexamined my beliefs and learned that they are in fact an organization that helps ALL Americans, not just those who attack Christians. If you want proof of cases where they have assisted Christians, here’s a link! Yet every time we see their lawyer, he just can’t stop making evil glares and smiles. It’s a wonder we don’t see the lawyer rip a puppy’s head off the way they want us to know THIS IS THE BAD GUY!

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