Malcolm in the (not quite) Middle

The following is a debate I had with the operator of this site: www.starfast.org, a site conscripting Christians to “fast” from watching the upcoming episode of Star Wars…

So struck was I at the absurdity of such an effort, I felt compelled to comment. My comments are in Blue, his are in Red.

Arbitrary. That’s the word that first pops into my mind when I read your site. You’re simply capitalizing on a very popular movie franchise to get out your message. That’s an agenda. Why wouldn’t you focus instead on a less dubious movie candidate? Like, Hitch Fast. (Hitch is the small Will Smith comedy, also rated PG-13). For that matter, why not any other medium of entertainment? Remember, bad publicity is good publicity for George Lucas.

From: Malcolm
Subject: RE: Star Fast Home Page
Date: April 22, 2005 6:07:55 PM CDT
To: Rob

Greetings in the name of Jesus,

So what you’re saying is that, instead of choosing a high-profile movie in order to garner attention and get out the message of the gospel, we should have chosen a less high-profile movie that no-one really cares about in order to reach as few people as possible?

Well, to give a short answer to why we didn’t do that, please read 1 Corinthians 13.

Also, we’re not giving Star Wars Episode III any bad publicity. The Star Fast website is not an attack on Star Wars Episode III in any way. It’s an opportunity for lukewarm, wishy-washy “Christians” to repent of their worldliness and lust for entertainment and take a stand for holiness and righteousness. So do you fall into this category, or have you already signed up for Star Fast?

in His service,
Malcolm Fraser

From: Rob
Subject: Re: Star Fast Home Page
Date: April 22, 2005 6:34:28 PM CDT
To: Malcolm

Wow, I’m quite surprised by your arrogance. You don’t come across as a lover of grace to me. Forgive me if I’m wrong — something I freely admit to when I am — but a site like yours is so quickly regarded as “stereotypical Christian fundamentalism.” It looks like, contrary to what you purport, you are attacking Star Wars’ philosophy and/or religious undertones. I know that’s not what you’re about. I realize that it’s for Christians only.

But you have to admit that it doesn’t hurt your “cause” at all that there has been prior controversy between Star Wars and Christian fundamentalism in the past. You see my point? It only marginalizes your efforts. A typical reaction from the secular world will sound like this: “Oh, there go those rabid Christians again.”

Let me ask you — just how effective do you think a Lordship witness will be to a lost person when you make all these prerequisites for salvation? How does one get saved? Well, first you have to:

1) stop watching Star Wars.
2) stop watching movies, for that matter because they’re “of the world.”
3) stop listening to “secular” music, etc.
4) generally get cleaned up first, and then think about how God will find you acceptable to be one of His children.

I think the real question your site missed out on is: “how do we affect the culture without becoming part of it?” But your essential answer is a radical amputation from it. Take for instance the Amish. They have effectively extricated themselves from nearly all reaches of American culture by basically creating their own. Valid reasoning, utterly ineffective way of reaching lost people.

To answer your question, no I have certainly not signed up to fast from watching Episode 3. I’ll see it when it releases and I’ll enjoy it. Again, I believe to sign up on your site is completely arbitrary. Have you ever read a novel? If so, why didn’t you chose to fast from it, since reading fiction would be evidence of your lust for worldly entertainment? Have you ever listened to a secular song? If so… etc., etc.

You say that you aren’t attacking Star Wars, but I beg to differ. Your logic implies as much. Let me quote: It’s an opportunity for lukewarm, wishy-washy “Christians” to repent of their worldliness and lust for entertainment and take a stand for holiness and righteousness. You use Star Wars as the flagship example. Therefore, it follows that Star Wars is “worldly”, “unholy”, and “unrighteous”.

From: Malcolm
Subject: RE: Re: Star Fast Home Page
Date: April 22, 2005 6:56:55 PM CDT
To: Rob

Greetings in the name of Jesus,

James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

I would suggest reading the teaching materials on Legalism and Let The Good Times Roll before airing any more of your own opinions. Clearly, you know nothing of the message of the cross or the power of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 18:2 A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

in His name,
Malcolm

From: Rob
Subject: Re: Star Fast Home Page
Date: April 22, 2005 7:13:27 PM CDT
To: Malcolm

I see by your disregarding and patronizing response that you’re really not open to dialog or conversation. So with that, I’ll say farewell and God speed. Thanks for the great blogging material, Malcolm!

From: Malcolm
Subject: RE: Re: Star Fast Home Page
Date: April 22, 2005 10:10:31 PM CDT
To: Rob

Greetings in the name of Jesus,
If you consider the Word of God to be “disregarding” and “patronizing” then there is indeed little point in continuing a dialog.

Proverbs 1:22 How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?

in His service,
Malcolm

From: Rob
Subject: Re: Star Fast Home Page
Date: April 22, 2005 11:37:21 PM CDT
To: Malcolm

No, no, Malc if you read my email carefully, I said “your patronizing response”. I don’t look to you as God’s personal agent of his word. I look to the Word to be His Word.

I said you were disregarding because you very obviously decided not to entertain my hypothetical questions. Here, I’ll ask one of them again for your convenience:

Have you ever read a novel?

It’s claimed in your pastor’s essay on legalism that “lukewarm Christians” pick and choose which scriptures to follow. I’d agree with him, actually. The basic point of my above question is that you and your website are doing that very thing. You’re picking arbitrarily one example from popular culture, attacking it, and claiming your “fasting” from it to be a form of holiness.

But why would you draw the line there instead of over here (any particular novel or song, for instance). I still haven’t heard any thoughtful response to this rather specific question.

How about it? If you think I’m antagonizing you, that’s not my intention. I’m trying to engage you in dialog. I would wager a guess that the secular world would love to do the same with us, but we (fundamentalists, evangelicals, etc.) are not willing. Instead, we throw up walls of dogma and legalism that shout “You are not welcome here (until you clean up your act)!” I could be totally wrong, and if I’m being judgmental, please forgive me.

Regards,
Rob


I haven’t heard back from him. Am I so far off here? This sure smacks of legalism to me. For the record, I have no problem with fasting. I have no problem with those that choose not to partake of the media, films, music, or what have you. But to orchestrate a site strictly for the sake of corralling others to adopt your own ascetic lifestyle, that I have problems with. That is legalism.

25 Replies to “Malcolm in the (not quite) Middle”

  1. Good post by the way, Rob.

    This is another example of why I don’t like to get into these debate things. I told someone once that when I get in these type of debates with someone who is so off base that I usually end up thinking they are an ignorant ass and get upset with them rather than just letting it go and walking away.

    You did good, you tried to pin him down and open a dialogue but he refused. Good for you!

  2. Great thought, Patty. I have never considered that aspect of the planks before. Wonderful allusion. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Carl, I couldn’t agree more.

  3. I think God is trying to teach me something. Yesterday, the verse Ephesian 4:32 came to mind and I posted it. Last night at church it was one of the key verses that the pastor taught on about love. Kind, compassionate and forgiving… I guess I better pay attention!!!

  4. I was feeling guilty about jumping into this discussion without reading the Star Fast site so I popped over there and gave it a read. Unfortunately it is as I suspected, a blanket statement misusing scripture to infer that anyone who derives entertainment from this..or by default ANY…form of entertainment that is not blatantly biblical is in some way sinning and putting their own self interests before their love of God. I’ll be the first to admit that at times I put worldly things, my own self interest, etc before God. I’m human and striving to grow to become the person God created me to be. However I believe that God gives men and women the talent and creativity to make exciting movies, write wonderful novels, create fantastic works of art etc and that it is not, in fact, wrong to enjoy these things….like everything else they need to be held up to the Word and judged. I’m not defending Star Wars as being godly or ungodly, that is something that can be debated forever and turn foolish. What I’m defending is every believers right to live free of the condemnation that is inherent in the insidious idea that everything not overtly Christian is somehow sinful. That is an immature, childish, baby-Christian thing to believe. It is an attitude that protects us while we grow up in Him but is not where we should stay. Staying at that level of maturity hinders our ability to grow in our relationship with God and with our fellow man. It also makes us less than effective witnesses to those around us.

    And lest you think this I want to be clear that I am in no way saying that we water down the Word of God, etc. I believe in absolutes and believe there are many things Christians who are doing things that they shouldn’t be doing and are somehow justifying those things but the fact is that there is no truth to your maxim that entertainment=sin. I encourage you and others who have signed up on your site to continue to be bold in your stand for God but to spend some quality time praying and seeking God’s heart on these issues.

  5. It is rather like arguing with a brick, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚ Its too bad but there really is no reasoning with people like this..they hide behind the scriptures but only have the most basic knowledge of what they mean. Their motives may be good but by acting that way it seems to me that they are not helping the Kingdom of God in any way.

  6. Like you have said before. To some christians, in the end, it is all a ‘how spiritual are you’ competition. They hate the thought of someone ‘less spiritual’ than them making it into heaven. Therefore, they are going to spend as much time as possible trying to get as many people as possible to follow their convections. Of course they get their convictions mixed up with what the bible actually teaches.

  7. Malcolm, this was a much better response then your previous ones but still unfortunately misses the point. I think God will occasionally ask people to fast from very specific things during different points in their lives for very personal reasons but I don’t see Him getting a great deal of glory out of people fasting from Star Wars, food, etc. just to do it or to somehow prove their love or commitment to Him. Unless the Lord leads someone to fast then its often a wasted exercise done solely for selfish reasons.

    The point is you can love God, serve Him faithfully, and see Star Wars, etc. Things like popular entertainment are never a black and white issue and I believe God deals with us in these areas individually depending on our maturity levels, priorities, etc. If God specifically laid it on your heart to fast SW for Him then I commend you for being obedient…the problem is that your comments seem to suggest that Christians who do not do this sort of thing are somehow less committed, less holy, and don’t have God first in their lives…if you really feel this way then no matter what you say you are wrong and all that you are doing in the name of holiness is really garbed in legalism. Remember that the point of fasting anything isn’t to give up something just for the sake of doing it…it is what you do with the time that fasting frees up and what you allow God to do in you that matters.

  8. This is embarrassing!! I wish Christians would stop trying to be the Holy Spirit! If there is someone in my life who has an active relationship with the Lord and they are inclining their ear to him, then I will listen to what they have to say because they care for me and I trust them. I would be foolish not to consider their words. This guy, though, why in the world should we listen to him? I have a one on one relationship with the Lord. If He wants to tell me somethiing, I can listen for myself.

  9. Too bad Patty, I read your post despite you thinking that no one would get to it!

    Nice thoughts and I agree totally. You’ve brought up another aspect of the argument. Not only is Malcom’s position completely wrong…and I believe it is and is a misuse of scripture…but his methods of trying to express Christ to others is an ineffective way to do it. As you said, intimacy is the key….and I don’t recall any relationship that I’ve ever had in which people considered being beat over the head as intimacy.

  10. Well, the more I think of it, Carl, the more I think that the most graceful thing for me to have done would have been not to initiate the debate. What did that accomplish, but a prideful sparring match?

    I guess I have to just admit to myself that I used the excuse of “correcting” someone for the sake of clearing our collective Judeo-Christian name. That’s a bad motive.

    It’s aggravating to me when someone takes such a polar stand, as you say, but is unable to backup their arguments.

  11. When I read this type of stuff I *try* to remember that only a baby Christian thinks this way. Just like in the stages of growth that we go through mentally/psychologically, it is easy to get *stuck* in a certain stage. People like this are clearly stuck in that concrete thinking stage and cannot truly entertain abstract thought. Sure, I get pissed off like everyone else at morons like this but I have to remember that I was there at one time but thankfully grew! His passion is in the right place even if his way of doing things isn’t. God bless him in his child-like ignorance and help him to mature!

    It is a hard thing to be *in* the world but not *of* it…its definitely not something that I’ve even come close to figuring out…I like too much of what the world has to offer. But being there I still think that the Holy Spirit leads and guides me and helps me to be a witness to those around me that ultimately points to Jesus. Being “holy” and not being a freak can be a hard thing to do and people like Malcolm have chosen the easier way to deal with it…make everything completely black and white, be legalistic, and then you don’t have to think for yourself anymore or make choices…you just don’t do anything and hence are *holy* (I’m kidding of course). It actually takes much more courage to be a Christian and not be a freak…to live life as an example of what Christ can do in and through a person rather than living life to deny yourself thinking that this will lead people to Jesus. I feel sorry for this guy.

  12. I agree with the passion thing, Carl. He is very passionate and as he matures God will be able to use him in big ways.

    James’ mom talks about when they were first born again. She was very committed to the Lord, and she adopted some strict convictions. Now they are very balanced, and I respect them a lot. She still has that same commitment and passion. She has just matured. I don’t know anyone as outspoken about God as her. Women are drawn to her, because of her enthusiasm.

    Good points, Carl. I enjoyed your thoughts!

    Edited By Siteowner

  13. Carl, your post made me think of this verse. I had to look it up to find the reference.

    Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

    I guess your compassion for Malcolm is what made me think of it.

  14. Greetings Rob,

    I didn’t get your last message to me, but found it on your weblog anyway.

    In answer to your question, yes, I have read a novel. Actually, I’ve read many novels. I’ve also watched many movies, including Star Wars. I was even a fairly big Star Wars fan. And, in fact, I still like Star Wars. I would also like to see Episode III. However, I signed up for Star Fast.

    I’ve now seen a lot of responses from people visiting the Star Fast site and, although most of the “flames” don’t surprise me, they are very disappointing. After all, it’s only a movie, right? If people aren’t engrossed in it, if they love God so much, and if they don’t for a minute put a movie before God, then what’s the big deal?

    It’s all very well for people like you to write messages and blogs asking, essentially, “Why should I give up watching Star Wars? What’s the point? Why are you picking on Star Wars? This is just legalism, etc, etc.” But, seriously, why not turn it around. Why does there need to be any point other than loving God and wanting to show Him that you love Him by denying yourself something that you want? Is fasting from a movie the only way you should show God you love Him? Of course not! But, if you love someone, you look for any and every opportunity to show that love, right? Even if it might seem a little outlandish or extreme. After all, it’s LOVE. Right?

    I mean, God is God and Star Wars is just a movie. So if you’re really not putting Star Wars before God, then why not put God before Star Wars?

    Of course, people always want to turn this into an argument about legalism or false doctrines or religious fundamentalism. Why? Because it distracts attention away from the very simple point that they just don’t want to give up going to see a movie. I mean, sure, criticize our doctrine, argue about what the Scriptures say or don’t say, but why not sign up for Star Fast first? Whether we’re legalistic or not doesn’t make any difference to what’s in your heart, right? So if you love God, why not deny yourself going to see Star Wars anyway? It’s not really such a wacky idea, is it? After all, Jesus does say that anyone who wants to be His disciple will deny himself. And, of course, it’s just a move and you’re not engrossed in it or anything? Right?

    Not to mention, that people accuse us of being legalistic or fundamentalist, but have you seen some of the knee-jerk judgments that are made about us, by people who don’t even know us? But, wait, if we post up some stuff challenging lukewarm Christians, we’re judgmental and legalistic? Sorry, but isn’t there a some fairly blatant hypocrisy going on here?

    Bottom line: If the Holy Spirit is really telling you to go see Episode III, go see it. But if you just want to see it because you want to see it, and you’re not prepared to deny yourself one movie for God, don’t just tack on the name of God and throw out all kinds of self-righteous justifications for why God wants you to do exactly what you want. Just be honest and go do what you want. If you don’t like Star Fast, don’t sign up for it. But don’t go making all kinds of ignorant judgments about people who simply take the Bible seriously enough to want to deny themselves a movie out of love for God.

    Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

    in His service,
    Malcolm

  15. Oh my, I love this.

    Q: Can I still watch Episode III as soon as it is released on DVD?

    A: If it’s God’s will. But, if you’re already thinking about that, you definitely need to extend your fast.

    Admit it, Malcolm, as soon as Episode 3 is released on DVD you’re adding it to your netflix account!

  16. well…i have been following this thread for a few days now…silently standing in the shadow of the corner…being a cyberflower…just wondering where the conversation would go…and its gone on so long now that perhaps no one will read my little comment here, but regardless, i thought i would share what i have been thinking as i read the dialogue…

    when i read conversations like this, i think of the verses that talk about removing the planks from our eyes…you know removing the planks from our own first, then assisting our brothers in removing theirs. there are so many things that i think we forget about planks. mainly, that they obstruct our vision, cause us pain, and need removal.

    the second thought that occurs to me is this: do you have any idea how close you have to get to someone in order to remove a plank from their eye? it is a “surgery” that cannot be done from across the room. rather, you have to get as close to the person as a dentist or an optometrist. you have to be comfortable enough with a person to put your face right next to theirs- your eyes peering into theirs- in order to remove it. it’s almost an intimate experience. if you weren’t removing the plank, you would probably otherwise be kissing.

    you understand what i mean here? that removing planks requires some serious movement toward one another- when what we tend to do is scatter for the polar corner- choosing sides and shooting flaming arrows at each other’s hearts.

    so, what i dislike most about positions like malcolm’s (which, God bless you Malcolm, your passion for God is noteworthy. certainly we could all express our love for Christ more than we do) is that to me, it feels like the cannon fodder from a distant army that is standing far away, closed to communication and conversation. and what i want to say to them is, you probably have something to teach me, and i probably have something to teach you…so let’s start walking toward one another…let’s get comfortable enough with one another and close enough with one another to look each other in the eyes and start removing planks.

    well, now. there i have done off and practically written a sermon. i swear…someday i am going to go to seminary.

  17. I’ll throw my final thoughts into this nightmare.

    I have found other sites like this one. All they do is attack the body of Christ. Very little of these sights are focused on evangelizing the lost. Instead, they spend all of their time attacking other believers because they don’t conform to their own beliefs. I don’t understand these people and IMO it is a waste of energy to try and do so.

    This Malcolm, I found his ‘official’ church site. It is full of further attacks on the body. No where does it say that God loves anyone. No where is there hope. It attacks, patriotism, all religious holidays, the prayer of Jabez and pretty much anything else most of us would consider ‘christian’.

    The humor in it all is most of the time, when talking about God, Malcolm spells ‘Him’ with a small “h” which basically proves he has lost track of who he is writing about.

    He talks about realizing God regrets making man and man is worthless. If I am worthless then why did Jesus die? I’m sorry but God did not send Jesus to die for the worthless. He sent Jesus to die for the hopeless. Yes, man is sinful and deserves hell but God’s mercy is there for all to receive.

  18. Well, you have missed it all over the place at your many sites.

    Congratulations on starfast being a success. According to your site you kept $620 from Lucas. Now all you gotta do is contact everyone and make sure they haven’t gone to see the movie and update your stats. I’m sure you can ask them all this Sunday in church, though.

    Just so you know, I’ll be going to see it for the third time this week. I also like money and plan on getting more this friday.

    See you in heaven!

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