Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Toxic Christianity in The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption is at the top of my all-time great movies list. It is pervaded with great lines and rich spiritual symbolism. The warden, Samuel Norton, is an icon of toxic Christianity. When Andy and the other prisoners make their first appearance before the warden, immediately the warden’s self-righteousness dominates the scene. He has one of the prisoners beaten for asking, “When do we eat?” Holding a Bible, he tells the prisoners, “Trust in the Lord, but your ass is mine.” 

The warden presents himself as a socially respectable, church-going, Bible-quoting Christian. But it’s clear from the beginning of his appearance in the story that his Christianity is in name only. In one scene, the warden enters Andy’s cell. He takes Andy’s Bible as Andy and the warden quote Scripture verses back and forth. He does not open the Bible, which is good since the rock hammer Andy uses to tunnel through the cell wall is hidden inside. When he hands the Bible back to Andy he says, “Salvation lies within.” 

The final verse that the warden quotes is John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Of course, the warden does not have the foggiest notion what that verse really means. The warden walks in darkness and is about as blind and un-liberated a person as you would ever find. But he thinks he is a Christian. 

Christianity (as well as toxic religion in general) can be as deadly and destructive as it can be redemptive and life-giving. I sense that for a number of people who wear the badge of Christian faith, their faith has become a cleverly disguised way of protecting the ego. I suppose we are all guilty of this to one degree or another. 

Religion can become a clever way for us to feel secure, to feel superior (we are the ones chosen while the rest are passed over and excluded), and to be in control. Jesus, in the Gospels, saw right through this. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus found hospitable table fellowship, not with the moral majority, but with the immoral minority? Those who thought they could see were actually blind, while those who knew they were blind found spiritual sight (read John 9). 

Authentic spirituality is not about being correct or citing Bible passages. It’s not about wearing the right badges or shouting the right pledges. It’s about being humble enough to admit that we are blind, so that the Divine Spirit can lead us to a place where we can see. 

There is no magic formula: Believe this, do this, practice this. There are no four spiritual laws, five steps, six principles, or seven habits for highly spiritual people. But somehow our illusions must be exposed and we must face the many ways we parade and protect our egos. Somehow we must surrender to a greater Love and greater Story, instead of being so absorbed in our own little stories where we are so easily offended and hurt, and become bitter, jealous and resentful people. Somehow we must let go of our passion for power, prestige, and possessions that dominates Western life, and become more passionate about what Jesus called the kingdom of God

I wish I could offer you a prescription, but there is none, other than following Jesus. Transformative spiritual persons are fairly easy to detect, though. You can see the Love and Compassion in their eyes, their face, their words and gestures. Their whole body radiates the light of Christ. They are gentle, understanding, humble, empathetic, and at the same time, they can be bold, courageous, and unafraid to challenge the powers that be. 

Why are there so few transformed people today in Western/American Christianity? Or even better, why has my own (your own) spiritual growth been so slow and difficult? Interested in your response: cqueen@fewpb.net.      


  1. Have got only one advice for you...Salvation lies within ^_^

  2. Bible-belters can't define it. You can't define it. I can't define it...except for to myself; in which case it is truly absolute - at least to my own intent.
    I have unique yearnings in my soul that are difficult to satisfy, and often even more difficult to define. Each of these are seldom met when I seek the answer. But, when I don't fixate on its ends, answer present itself in mysterious ways and scratch that itch. You can call it random. You can call it the end result of a disciplined approach to personal growth. I call it channeling to divine force that created the universe that is always open to providing answers IMHO, it pays to be thankful to that force and appreciate that it is this creative force that surrounds us in every moment of every day.
    I call that force "God" And I praise Jesus as His most divine prophet. I accept other prophets among us regardless of religion so long as they are open to the same creative, nurturing source. Without judgement or label. I pray that others do the same. At the very least, I pray for their happiness and acceptance of the fact that we yield the energy that we emit. Hatred begets hatred. When we emit love, it is returned

  3. Phoenix Journal #2 Summary

    By Sananda & Judas Iscarioth
    199 Pages (116)

    The story of the life of the one commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth as told by Jesus and the disciple Judas Iscarioth. Absolute clarification of the numerous falsifications, misrepresentations, lies and misconceptions concerning that time period and Jesus' teachings are presented.

    A document was discovered in 1963 by a Greek Catholic Priest who had become a "contact" for the Cosmic Messengers who led him to this "lost" scroll. This Priest was persecuted and finally was killed, but not before he translated part of it and gave it to another man, Billy Meier from Switzerland, who would also become a contact. This document represents the true story of the life of the one commonly known as "Jesus of Nazareth". It is told by Jesus AND his disciple Judas Iscarioth who was also his scribe. For the first time in history Judas Iscarioth's name is cleared because he was NOT the one who "betrayed" Jesus. Absolute clarification of the numerous falsifications, misrepresentations and history 2000 years ago is given. Some of the many questions answered are:

    * How was Christ conceived and why Mary was chosen?

    * What was His true name at birth (Immanuel) and why was it changed to "Jesus" which means "The

    * Who were the actual "teachers" of Immanuel?

    * Who is GOD and what is THE CREATION above God?

    * What are the true Laws of God and The Creation?

    * What did Immanuel teach about Personal Responsibility?

    * Who actually "betrayed" Immanuel and why was Judas Iscarioth blamed?

    * What is the true purpose of Baptism?

    * What was the purpose and meaning of Immanuel's Crucifixion and the Resurrection?
 * What became of Immanuel after His Resurrection?

    * What is the "Curse of Israel" and why is there a curse?

    * What is Immanuel's and OUR connection with Celestial Messengers?

    * Are we on Earth currently living in "The End Times" as predicted in Revelations?

    * Why did Immanuel promise to return to us and do we know when?
    Other topics include:
    Mary seeded by Gabriel, Guardian Angel of the Sons of Heaven - The actual teachings of the Master are given as spoken at that time - Clarification regarding God and The Creation - The Laws of The Creation and The Commandments are given in clear definitive language - The name of Judas Iscarioth is cleared as not being the one who betrayed Jesus - Statements by Jesus are provided, as spoken at that time, concerning falsification of his teachings over two thousand years - Strong warnings regarding false teachings - Words of great strength, power, light and healing at a soul-level. (Index included)


  4. The love of money is the root of all evil. What the warden did shows his backslidden state whilst using the persona of a Christian man.