One Thing In The Middle East That I Hate

I love to travel to the Middle East.

I love the people – such warmth, such hospitality! The food – outstanding taste, fresh, and healthy! The sights – deserts, mountains, seas – beautiful!

But there is one thing in the Middle East that I hate. I don’t use the word “hate” lightly. I really do hate this part of life there.

What is it?

Well, a hint: it doesn’t originate in the Middle East. It comes from – I am embarrassed and ashamed to say – my beloved home country of America.

What is it?

Hollywood.

Specifically, Hollywood movies.

Not all Hollywood movies, of course. A lot of wonderful movies come from Hollywood – movies that tell great stories, movies that make us laugh (with good, clean humor that is), movies that inspire us in amazing ways.

No, what I am talking about is the all too prevalent trash that we see every time we travel in the Middle East and see a TV: in our hotel room, in a majelis (special room in or near a home for entertaining guests), in a restaurant (where TV’s are always on), or even at a camp in the desert (yes, I was invited to come and sit with men around a large firepit under the stars where a big screen TV was blaring nearby from an electric generator!). Sadly, what do we see coming from these televisions?

Foul language, extreme violence, sensuality, immodesty, immorality, drunkenness, the use of drugs, and the degrading of women – all from Hollywood.

Case in point: we were traveling from Amman in Jordan to the fabulous ancient city of Petra. On the 4 hour tour bus ride, they played a Hollywood movie (something about a bank robbery). I don’t know how many “f” words they used but I would estimate that there was one about every 3-4 minutes. It was that common, that bad. As my wife and I sat on that bus, we were embarrassed to be Americans. Ashamed at the filthy language and violence. We prayed, “God, forgive our country! Forgive us for exporting this horrible trash to the Middle East – and all over the world!”

To my Christian readers from America: do you realize that many people in the Middle East equate “American” with “Christian”? Now think about that as it relates to Hollywood movies! It logically follows (in many of their minds) that Christians in America are what? You guessed it. Immoral, violent people.

Yes, there is one thing in the Middle East that I hate.

But it doesn’t come from the Middle East.

It comes from America.

It comes from Hollywood.

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10 in the Zabur, the Holy Book of King Dawud/David).

(Postscript: If any of you American Christian readers ever travel to the Middle East – or meet someone from the Middle East in the States – try to show them that trashy Hollywood movies like these do not represent our Christian faith at all. Try to show by your behavior and conversation how important purity, morality, and peace-making are to you as followers of Jesus!)

7 thoughts on “One Thing In The Middle East That I Hate

  1. Agree, I am also sickened by Hollywood. There is also one thing I consider paramount in this discussion.

    In my understanding of God, and how nations relate to God, the pinnacle of God likeness is not necessarily a scale of how strict a nation is concerning righteous zeal, it is how much freedom that nation allows. The topic of “rule of law”, is very closely related to this and could be a discussion in itself, but right now I’m mainly considering the willingness of a nation to allow men to choose their moral preferences. Some will choose light, others will choose darkness. But, this is very much in harmony with the character of God; a God that forces no one to follow righteousness and calls all men to make a choice.

    This is what is missing in much of the Middle East and why Islamic Republics Like Iran or countries with similar ideologies fall short and usually end up as we would expect: Oppressive and intolerant. The question is, which is closer to the heart of God?

    Though Islamic Republics or nations that adopt Sharia law may have an outward form of righteousness, the question is, is it really righteous? The ruling elite in Saudi Arabia engage in all manner of debauchery while oppressing free religious expression other than Islam. My point is, what we experience in oppressive regimes or intolerant religious institutions such as Islam, is hypocrisy.

    That is why the bus load of people you traveled with were watching raunchy Hollywood movies. They were absent the righteousness that only comes through personal faith; a righteousness that cannot be obtained by instituted law. A righteousness born out of choice even in the face of evil. That is why, though zealous and willing to die for their faith, the 911 bombers had Porn scattered throughout their apartments and computers. Religious oppression never produces true righteousness, only closets with skeletons.

    My opinion is that God is mainly concerned that we have the ability to choose who we will serve. In that respect, I hope you are encouraged that you are a Christian that just happens to also be an American. A country that finds itself a home to millions of Muslims, Hindu’s, Jews, Atheists, and Christians. In my book, Islam and Christianity are worlds apart and, until one understands this aspect of the nature of God, cannot be reconciled. God is concerned with the heart not the mantra.

    Free moral agency is grafted into our being because God is a free moral agent. No matter how much we feel our standard of righteousness mirrors that of Gods, if it does not allow for the freedom of others to choose, it is an eternity away from the God that calls us to “a righteousness that comes by faith”. A righteousness where right choices and right living are the fruit of an individual heart consecrated to God.

    • Randy,

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

      Here is my take on what you have said. While I agree with some of your points – especially the importantance of freedom to choose our religious beliefs – I think you are being too hard on Muslims in general. The problem I brought up with Hollywood is not just an American problem. It is not a Muslim problem or a Hindu problem or a Buddhist problem. It is a heart problem and it is a problem of religion in general – even within Christianity. Please allow me to elaborate.

      All religions impose external standards of behavior, not just Islam. I think what you are getting at is that external rules and laws can never produce internal righteousness. Is that right? If so, I heartily agree. But here is where I differ with you. You can pick on Muslims or Islam all you want (I won’t) but are you telling me that many so called “Christians” don’t watch raunchy Hollywood movies? Are you telling me that many, many so called “Christian” men don’t have problems with lust and pornography? How about adultery and divorce? How many fallen Christian leaders have we had? (I recall something about getting the log out of our own eye). What I am saying is that no “religion” or religious rules can cleanse a person’s heart or change them from the inside out. But someone can. Jesus can.

      For this reason – as I said in a response to another reader – I do not promote “Christianity” to my Muslim friends. Maybe we need to redefine it but I think it is way too linked to the Crusades, Hollywood (violence, immorality, alcohol), and U.S. military incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan in the minds of many people in the Middle East and elsewhere.

      What I promote is Jesus. Just Jesus. Following him. Obeying him. Being his disciple. Giving him our whole allegiance and affection for what he has done for us. Doing what he says to do. Going where he says to go. Saying what he says to say.

      Jesus can set a person free.

      Jesus can make a person clean on the inside.

      Jesus.

      Only Jesus.

      • I like your point on Christianity, I often wondered in the past what label best described my belief. In a similar sense, I would rather keep it simple and consider myself a follower of Christ- Baptist, Charismatic, Catholic, Fundamentalist…doesn’t seem to contain all of who Jesus is. The question I asked myself was, why should I define a Jesus according to boundary lines created by man?

        And, to answer your comment on my harshness toward Islam, I have to agree. I am hard on religion. I hope to take my fellow man one at a time, but religion? And, about your point on the failings of Christians and Christianity in general, I agree. I am also guilty of lust and greed and all sorts of vileness.

        In my view, religion is bad in just about any form, in me, in the Church, and in the world around. The only way I have experienced freedom from sin in my life is through “standing fast in the Liberty, wherein Christ has made us free”. In fact, because we should know better I seem to have less patience when, as followers of Christ, we choose the course of legalism. I understand this is a hard line to follow and will take a lifetime to learn, but to make a point, let me fetch a sentence from your last post.

        One characteristic of religion, is its insistence on judging according to outward appearance- what we eat, what we drink, where we go, and who we hang out with. But this type of evaluation nearly always misses the truth. What I find interesting is that some things never change. Jesus suffered from the same sort of simple-mindedness and hypocrisy that is prevalent in some sects of the established church today. “a glutton, a drunkard, and socializes with sinners”.

        I am not sure what exactly you meant when you lumped alcohol in with the rest of the phrase, “Maybe we need to redefine it but I think it is way too linked to the Crusades, Hollywood (violence, immorality, alcohol)”. This sentence, in fact, highlights the point I just made. When we become religious, we lose our God compass and find ourselves morally out of step with the Spirit of God. Then we run the risk of opposing God, separating ourselves from the people He loves, and walking in pride.

        Now, if you or me or the church or Islam wanted to include things like “overeating, pride, jealousy, greed, drunkenness, addiction to the praise of men, addiction to TV…” along with (violence, immorality…) the bible might compel us to examine ourselves and consider whether we needed to repent. But Alcohol? That is, to make a point, exactly what I am talking about. How about Food? or Sex?

        There may be many good reasons to abstain from alcohol, but categorizing it as sin or unspiritual is not one of them. We should, instead, thank God we are no longer judged by the standards of this world “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

        • Randy,

          Excellent, thoughtful response. Thank you so much.

          I think you and I agree that “religion” as man made rules is the problem. It keeps people away from God Himself! They can’t fight through all the man-made rules to find out who He is.

          My reference to alcohol was the fact that Hollywood movies show a lot of drunkenness – something the New Testament forbids (Ephesians 5:18). I, like you, agree that the New Testament does not forbid drinking alcohol in moderation. I have chosen to not drink alcohol at all because of the principle that some things are lawful but may not build up a weaker brother (1 Corinthians 10, Romans 14). Some things that are unsinful for me may cause a brother or sister to “stumble.” Love limits its liberties. Love is the way to live. Glorifying God is the way to live.

          Amen?

  2. Amen!
    Alcohol isn’t forbidden in the bible however many times in the scriptures, both Old and New testament we are told about the problems with alcohol particularly when drunk so as it says in Ephesians 5:18 ‘do not be drunk with wine as it ruins your spirit’, we should avoid drinking it whenever we have the will to do so.
    But if you are at a party for example, or taking communion at a church such as the catholic church, then drinking in moderation is fine.
    But remember, we have free will and self-control, beautiful gifts that God has given us, so it’s up to us to know and understand our limits with certain things in this world

    • Marvin,

      It is true that alcohol is not forbidden in the New Testament but that drunkness certainly is. My wife and I don’t drink because we don’t want alcohol to become a problem in our lives as it has so many countless others. And. . .we know if people see us drink, it might cause them to “stumble” – to fall into a pattern of drinking that might lead to problems in their lives (even alcoholism). As someone said, love limits its liberties.

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