"The only thing that counts, is faith expressing itself through love." (Gal 5:6);
I would have to say that my gateway drug, was Madea.
A few years back, some friends invited my husband and I to come over and watch a Madea movie with them. We had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that a lot of my views of the world and God were about to be challenged and changed dramatically.
Madea is a character created and played by an actor/director named, Tyler Perry. If you've never heard of this character, go out and rent
"Madea's Family Reunion" or "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and THEN come read this...
Here is a little sample of Classic Madea:
(Here he is playing two of his roles, Madea and her nephew who is a lawyer)
What I love about Tyler Perry, is where he came from. (From Wikipedia)
Perry was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, as Emmitt Perry, Jr., the son of Willie Maxine Perry (née Campbell) and Emmitt Perry, Sr., a carpenter. He has three siblings. Perry once said his father's "answer to everything was to beat it out of you". As a child, Perry once went so far as to attempt suicide in an effort to escape his father's beatings. In contrast to his father, his mother took him to church each week, where he sensed a certain refuge and contentment. At age 16, he had his first name legally changed from Emmitt to Tyler in an effort to distance himself from his father.
Many years later, after seeing the film Precious, he was moved to relate for the first time accounts of being molested by a friend's mother at age 10; he was also molested by three men prior to this, and later learned his own father had molested his friend.
He spent time in jail and even lived out of his car for awhile. He has lived the life that he writes about in his fictional stories.
Tyler Perry also clung to God through his life. His Mother instilled a deep love of Jesus in him as he grew up. He found Hope in his ability to write stories about some of the pain he had experienced and lessons he has learned and to present these as plays at various churches. He wanted to let others know that they too, could rise above the pain and the cycles of abuse and dysfunction.
What I love about the Madea stories is the reminder that God is EVERY WHERE. God is not afraid or inhibited by our dysfunction, pain and ugliness. H/She is always reaching in and providing a way Out and a way Up. God never gives up on us as we are so often quick to give up on one another.
The Madea stories show a God that is present and IS Love in the midst of REAL life. In the same way that Jesus was always present among prostitutes and "Sinners". The prevailing religious idea of Jesus' time was that God would NEVER be found among that type. Yet there He was. Always forgiving, always healing, always loving.
I find it interesting that the same thought is alive and well today. The idea that God waits for us, somewhere else. Usually waiting in some church building or denomination. Waiting for us to "repent" to get cleaned up first and completely change our lives and... THEN, Jesus can finally hang out with us.
This is NOT the Jesus I've read about in the Gospels. It is not the Jesus who has been Present through my whole life no matter where I've been or what I've done. This is the God I see in the Madea stories.
The other thing I love about Madea is the humor. I understand this humor might not appeal to everyone, but I personally have some pretty good gut laughs when I watch these movies. I love how beautiful comedy is in the way that laughter is used to stir up some enormous truths about humanity. We would not listen to these truths in any other way and we're too busy laughing to get offended by them!
That is another thing that I appreciate about Madea. Is the people groups who DO get mad at the idea of her... The extreme "Left-wing Liberals" hate her because she presents the idea of sexual purity, a love for Jesus, the value of ALL life, and disciplining children! Which is very interesting, seeing as how Tyler Perry was abused by his Father and yet still sees a need for some good old fashioned discipline in today's generation!
The extreme "Right-wing Conservatives", well... they hate her for all the rest! LOL
I have Hope in today's modern day parables and stories that share the heart of God that is present in the places we would least expect it. The heart of Faith, Hope and Love.
Go out and rent one tonight! Enjoy some chuckles and tears in the middle of this crazy thing called Life.