Friday’s false start (Part 1)

Click here for Part 2 —>
TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar

Went and listened to TGIF this morning. Click image to enlarge.

This morning I awoke, showered, shaved, gave my wife a tender goodbye kiss on the cheek and hit the road just early enough to watch the sun stretch it’s long golden rays out over God’s beautiful creation. My destination was the Hyde Park Shopping Centre and when I arrived I sought out the Seattle Coffee Company. It was really busy so I patiently stood in a queue, collected a half and half and took a seat near the back of an assembly of people. You see, a group called TGIF, which had been pitched to me as a casual get-together of Christian thinkers who like to converse and debate, meet every Friday morning between 6:15 and 7:30, and I had joined them, keen to hear and see what they were all about.

Well the topic of the day was the movie Avatar. Neil Oosthuizen (a Methodist Minister, I think) guided his audience through a few movie clips, gave a sweeping synopsis and presented the major themes. He enthusiastically gave the show two thumbs up. I’ve not seen the movie yet (although tomorrow evening is date night :)) because between work and church and kids and wife and Bible studies and chess… (not necessarily in that order) I’m left with about 10 minutes to myself… which I usually use for sleep.

TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar

The key themes were positioned as ‘real love’, environmentalism and ‘connectedness’. Click image to enlarge.

The following three points were touted as highlights of the show: [editor: In a gentle rebuke it was pointed out that the headings below weren’t the headings used on the morning, they’re my tongue-in-cheek paraphrases. For the sake of accuracy the morning’s highlights were Love, Connectedness and The Environment.]

‘Real love’ wins through: Not in a Walt Disney ‘boy meets girl’ gushy kind of way but rather the hero, who starts out in a ‘negative place’, goes through a ‘life journey’ and then has a ‘reality check’, finally discovers a ‘love worth dying for’.

The environment matters dude: Nature is beautiful and machines and capitalism are evil. Never, Ever, EVER, murder another tree as long as you live!

We’re all psychedelically connected man: The whole cosmos is reaching out and touching itself. The word ‘connected’ might have been used 300 times during the presentation so I suspect it was the arching theme in the movie? “I see you” and, “have you squeezed my tail today?” were tendered as really good examples of this bubbly bundle of love.

So, what did I think of the morning? An utter waste of time. To think I set the alarm for 5:00 am! It was a bit of psycho babble, mixed in with some “Hollywood is amazing” and capped off with a hat tip to ‘Eastern Religiosity’. I was exceptionally disappointed. 50 people in a room with a pastor in the front does not a Christian gathering make. No tangible connection was made to the bible, neither was there any sign of discerned analysis of the world view depicted in the film.

I was dying to ask the question, “How did the concepts, ‘the environment’ or ‘connectedness’ or ‘real love’ stack up to the way that the Bible presents them?” So much for thinking, conversing and debating, no sooner had I stuck up my hand than the group was adjourned, dispersed and I was left with only my lament.

If it wasn’t for a guy from CESA (I have a really high regard for the Church of England in South Africa), who asked a stellar question which was poorly answered and then chatted to me after, I’d never go back, but judging from his response, and that he’s been attending for over a decade, I will give it one more try. Maybe next week’ll be better?

Click here for Part 2 —>

Did I miss the boat? Plenty of people had encouraged me to attend. Why do you think my experience was so awful?

9 thoughts on “Friday’s false start (Part 1)

  1. Hi Mark, as I was one of those who enthusiastically encourage you to go I had hoped for a better experience.

    I’ve been attending the Brooklyn TGIF for close to three years now and have learnt this: the more you go, the more rewarding it becomes.

    Not because of the speakers (mileage varies) but because of the people who voluntarily get up at 5am. I have often arrived late for work after stimulating discussions (but not everyone has this luxury).

    Lastly, even though the environment is mostly Christian, the agenda is not explicitly Christian. This encourages diverse viewpoints and (hopefully) authentic encounters with people you would not otherwise listen to. It’s definitely not Bible Study.

    But that’s why I can go with a friend who is not a Christian. She is positively allergic to church, but she absolutely loves TGIF. Even if she doesn’t agree with anything anyone says either!

    Anyway, we will discuss Avatar at Brooklyn next week, by a different speaker (a lecturer in art at UP, if I’m not mistaken) and I would like to compare notes.

  2. PS. Why don’t you subscribe to the newsletter. It will give you a head’s up on who’s talking every week. That way you can pick your fights and hopefully avoid another wasted Friday morning!

    • Three thoughts,

      One: As I read what you’ve written I’ve realised I had a completely wrong expectation of the morning. I misread the website blurb and I must have misunderstood the people that relayed reviews of the gathering to me in the past.

      Two: I don’t struggle with the concept that the church should be in the world but I really struggle with the concept that the world should be in the church.

      Three: I also have spent the last few hours considering that this might have been just an issue I have. Something to be dealt with internally. There seemed to be a room full of happy smiling people there this morning. Maybe I’m the odd one out… and to my detriment?

      If nothing else the activity gave me food for thought.

  3. Hey Mark. I’ve seen the movie AVATAR. I don’t know how that ‘pastor’ could be so ‘connected’ with that movie. As any discerning Christian would very quickly notice, that movie demonstrates paganism at its worst! Technology speaking its great but spiritually it’s glamorising witchcraft. As a former Wiccan I know that movie will have many a pagan in tears. Well that’s my discernment. Watch for yourself and let me know.

    • To be honest I don’t have a problem with using movies as a metaphor to explain Biblical truth or literature or whatever but the bottom line is I’m not too keen on getting a bunch of people into a room to give them a secular movie review for a secular movie review’s sake.

      I’m not sure if that makes sense. What I’m saying is that I expected the ‘love’ theme to correspond to brotherly love or be debunked as a false perversion of love. But not to be embraced for the sake of the goose bumps. The same for the ‘connectedness’ and ‘environmental’ themes.

      Does that even make sense?

      What makes me scratch my head a bit is that there were about 5 people in the group taking notes… Of what I’m wondering. I’m thinking I missed something.

  4. I am glad to hear that you don’t have a problem with using secular movies to illustrate Biblical truth. That’s kind of my speciality. (There is a reason they call me Sharkbait, and it’s not just because I can’t swim very good.)

    On the issue of the movie, I found the effects awesome, and the story bland, but decent. I honestly didn’t think it was any more pagan or new-age than Pocohontas.

    On the issue of TGIF, I have heard good things about it, although I have obviosuly never attended. (Too far to swim on a Friday morning.) I attend a men’s prayer group on Friday mornings at 6AM, and I find the experience quite rewarding, and a great start to the day. Perhaps see what they have to offer in future, otherwise I am sure there is something more to your tastes out there.

    If not, what’s stopping you from starting something?

  5. I haven’t seen the movie, and I’m not sure if I want to. But I have been to TGIF in Brooklyn a couple of times. I went purely because I was interested in the topic and/or the speaker. Once was to hear Roger Saner speaking about the new monasticism. I’d met Roger in the blogosphere and wanted to meet him in person, and I was also interested in the topic.

    And the second was someone speaking on Tolkien’s books, I think.

    I get the newsletter for TGIF, and use that to see if there’s anything on that interests me.

  6. Avatar has an anti christian message second to none and should be avoided at all is not fit for christian consumption.
    For mor please check this link.. its error is so serious that I have p it on my blog too.

  7. Hi Simon

    I saw this in the opinions of the PE Herald paper this morn:

    ‘Avatar’ virtually a clone of Bible story


    HAS anyone noticed that the box- office record success movie of all time, Avatar, is almost a clone of the Bible story?

    This innocent (sinless) race of beings (Adam and Eve) lives in this indescribably beautiful garden (Eden) where there is peace and harmony between themselves and the universe. Then evil (the devil) in the form of humans breaks into this idyllic scenario and chaos ensues. Murder, war and bloodshed follow, but then a “Skyman” (Jesus) comes down to them and takes on their bodily form (the Incarnation) and becomes one of them. He becomes their leader and overcomes the humans (the Devil) and banishes them back to the dying earth (Hell). Harmony and peace is restored, the Garden is returned to its original state and the Avatars live in their prior state of bliss.

    For more info read the Bible books of Genesis and Revelations. – John Zenstra, Port Elizabeth

    After seeing this I thought to watch the movie some time and then I was very interested in your comment and followed your link, thank-you for that.

    I imagine that he is just riding the wave of what philosophy sells well at the moment, that said he has caused a stir.


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