The Fear Factor

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Hard truth: We, the people, can be pretty stupid. No matter how much we’ve learned about the many aspects of the world or how many years of school we can get under our belts, there will still be sporadic moments where someone will do something incredibly foolish. This knowledge serves as something that I relearn every time I watch a horror film. This past summer, the flick of senseless brain destruction that I engaged in was the miniseries based on Stephen King’s book of the same name, It. And seeing as we’re at Halloween, I find it fitting to talk about fear and the movie of bad CGI, over-the-top acting, and Tim Curry dressed as a McDonald reject from Pee Wee’s house of horrors. Disclaimer: There will be a few light spoilers. If for some bizarre reason you want to see the movie for yourself, please don’t read this until you have.

I’m not someone who watches horror movies out of habit, and I definitely don’t read Stephen King fiction. The movie didn’t freak me out at first glance. In practice, the miniseries was pretty terrible. Really, the only scary thing was the clown—but I don’t like clowns anyway. Tim Curry was unbelievably entertaining even in a clown suit, I’ll give him that. But the monster was inconsistent. It had plenty of opportunities to eat the children, and it didn’t take advantage of any of them. I know that it’s just popping up out of nowhere to scare the children out of their wits before eating them—evidently, that’s like salting the meat. But that still creates a plot hole because it killed at least two children without scaring them for two months.

So why did I find the movie so scary? Well, aside from being a clown, I thought that the monster was scarier in theory than it was in practice. What it’s capable of, in comparison to what it does, is absolutely terrifying when you think about it. It can transform into anything, pop up out of anywhere, and attack you in broad daylight without getting caught. It can travel through pipes, come out of the sink, and even pop up out of the drain in the middle of the shower. The fact that children could see it—and not adults—was also a factor. If you can see a monster that your parents can’t, you don’t have a prayer.

Even though the movie didn’t really work, what I think it succeeded in doing was touching on the power of fear, and how fear is really the only thing you need to be afraid of. Curry’s quote in the middle of the movie shows that the monster is supposed to be a representation of fear: “I’m every nightmare you’ve ever had. I’m your worst dream come true.” And each of the seven main characters had a different reaction to fear. One stayed behind for thirty years to keep an eye out for the monster, despite the many risks he was taking. Five came back to face it, while another decided to end his life so that he didn’t have to carry the burden anymore. Almost all of the characters thought about leaving town in order to escape the monster—except for Bill. From the very beginning he was the one who wanted the monster dead. Because of how much he loved his brother—one of the monster’s victims—he wouldn’t rest until that desire became a reality.

Even in the realm of reality, the world is a scary place. There’s terrorism, clowns, natural disasters, poverty, greed, and so many other things I could mention that I don’t blame people for being afraid of. But if we want to live fully for Christ, we need to be able to recognize what’s important and trust that all will be worth it in the end. The reason fear is the only thing we need to be afraid of is because fear can prevent us from doing what’s right. And I know I used this Princess Diaries quote before, but I’m going to use it again to illustrate my point: “Courage is not an absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is far more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.” Do not fear, for the Lord is with you. Be not afraid, for he is your God. He will strengthen you and give you help. He will uphold you with his righteous right hand. If there’s anything I take away from the miniseries after a few months of looking back on it, it’s that. And if it takes a Stephen King miniseries to remind me that God’s the one in charge…well, at least it wasn’t something as freaky as The Exorcist.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Happy Halloween.”

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Gay Rights in a Weary World

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

                Yeah, you read the title and you know what’s coming. I had a few thoughts about it circulating in my head since the government legalized gay marriage, but I wasn’t sure of whether or not I wanted to post my opinion on the matter. But in a couple of days my school is starting something called Unlearn Week, where we raise awareness of persecution, discrimination and prejudice of different groups of people in our society. In addition, there were a few conversations I’ve had in the last few months that led me to thinking about what I believe about homosexuality in the Bible. And then a few days ago I stumbled on an article advertising NALT (Not All Like That), which promotes Christians supporting gay rights. I was so touched by what the people involved in NALT had to say that I decided to write this, partially as a response to NALT and partially as a response to my friends who’ve expressed their opinions on gay marriage with me. And since our school is about to start Unlearn Week, I figured that now would be as good a time as any to voice my thoughts on the subject.

                Before I go any further, I want to express that this is my opinion. This blog exists so that I can express my opinions, gut reactions, and questions to various ideas—both concrete and abstract—to things that happen in this life and the next. If I’m wrong then I’m wrong. If you agree with me on anything I write about, then we have something in common. If you don’t agree with me, then you can get over it and so can I. With that said, here is my opinion on gay rights and how they relate to Christianity.

                I should start with saying that I’m a straight woman. This wasn’t a conscious decision that I made; it’s just the way I was born. I didn’t wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll be attracted to men instead of women,” that’s just the way it happened. I also consider myself a tomboy. I prefer riding a bike to shopping, ankle socks to pantyhose and pants to skirts. So as far as dating and identity go, I’m not a lesbian or bisexual, nor am I transgender.

                With all of that said, I can name a few people who are gay; friends in high school, celebrities in our society, etc. And I’ll be totally honest: I’m more likely to be friends with a gay person (man or woman) then I am with a straight guy. To me, straight men are hard to read; I never know if they just want to be friends with me or if there’s an ulterior motive. Men that I have been attracted to turned out to either be a jerk, in a relationship, not interested, or all of the above. With a gay man I don’t have to worry about that for two reasons. One, if he wants to be friends with me and he’s gay, then there isn’t much of an ulterior motive that I have to worry about. Two, gay people are just as nice as straight people, if not nicer. Neil Patrick Harris? He’s a sweetheart in real life. Heck, if he weren’t gay you’d be hard pressed to find a single girl who didn’t want to marry him. So gentlemen, if your girlfriend loves Neil Patrick Harris, then be grateful that he’s gay. Ellen DeGeneres is gay, and anyone who’s watched her show knows that it’s hard to hate her in general. Jim Parsons, otherwise known as Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. Do I even need to say anything more about him? And there are other really nice gay people that I know personally rather than just by name.

                The Bible calls us to love the sinner and hate the sin—that is, to support people as people whether they make good decisions or bad decisions. With that said, the biggest question I’ve had about homosexuality is “is homosexuality really a sin?” And don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of what the Bible says about homosexuality being considered an abomination. However, I think that was mostly because of some of the cultural norms that were going on in the time the Bible was written. In Rome and Greece, at the time it was normal for men to be closer to each other as friends, mentors and lovers than it was for them to be close to women. Some only had sexual relations with their wives in order to keep the family line going, but otherwise they preferred to spend their time with other men. And in the Bible, you don’t actually see any stories where homosexuality is proven to be a sin, except for in two examples where gangs threatened to gang rape other men.

                Regardless of the lack of examples, there are still verses that speak out against homosexuality and there are people bent on advertising those verses. About a month ago I was having a conversation with my RA, and he asked me if our views of gay marriage would change in forty years now that it was legal. He wanted to know how we could speak out against homosexuality but still demonstrate love for homosexuals in the process. My RA is a sweetheart, but there was something about the conversation that rubbed me the wrong way. After thinking about it for a bit and talking to my roommate later that night, that was when it finally hit me: The verses speaking out against homosexuality don’t seem to bother people so much as people speaking out against homosexuality.

                The best examples I can think of to explain what I mean are Doug Walker’s editorials of The Graduate and Romeo and Juliet. In his review of Romeo and Juliet, Walker explained that the story probably wasn’t about true love so much as it was about young love and the tragedy of prejudice. He said that, were it not for the rivalry between the Montague and Capulet families, Romeo and Juliet’s relationship probably would’ve bloomed more naturally and they would’ve been able to discover for themselves if they really wanted to be together. But because of their rebellious nature and the prejudice of their families, they were denied the chance of a normal relationship. The more their parents dragged them in different directions, the more determined they were to stay together, which ultimately led to their tragedy. It’s almost the same story in The Graduate, according to Walker. The main character is not allowed to live his own life even though he’s a college graduate, and behind the scenes he relieves the pressure of it by having an affair with a family friend’s wife. But when that becomes too much for him, he takes an interest in the woman’s daughter (much to her chagrin) and they fall in love. The two families eventually don’t want their children to be together, but they fight back and they do end up together. But their story didn’t end there. It ended with them reconsidering if what they fought for was really what they wanted in the first place.

                Here’s my point: we’re human beings. It’s in our nature to want what we can’t have. The more pressure we put on someone to not do something, the more likely they’ll be to do it. If Romeo and Juliet’s parents had allowed them to make their own decisions, maybe they would’ve had a more natural relationship and maybe their story wouldn’t have ended in tragedy. If the title character of The Graduate had been allowed to live his own life, he would’ve eventually figured out what he wanted and his story probably would’ve been different. But they weren’t allowed to make their own decisions or live their own lives, they fought back, and they got hurt. I’ve seen too many cases where people got hurt, not necessarily because of the things that they did, but because of how they were pressured not to do those things in the first place.

                I’ll be honest: while I do believe in the Bible, I recognize that it does have imperfections and it was written by humans. Is homosexuality a sin? Given the indirect context, I don’t know. But for me personally, I’m choosing not to worry about it too much because it’s not for me to worry about in the first place. I can only express opinions; I can’t force people to accept them. I can tell gay friends what I think about their situations, but at the end of the day whether or not they choose to accept my opinion is their choice. God doesn’t force people to believe in him and follow him. He tries to guide people to him, but he doesn’t treat people like puppets; he still allows them to decide if they want to follow him or stay where they are. He still allows us to choose our own paths. I can’t be responsible for what other people do; I can only be responsible for what I do and how I react to the world around me.

                If you want to try to convince people not to act on homosexual desires, here’s my advice to you: Shut up and listen to them. I hate to break it to you, but telling people what to do without considering their feelings first is only doing more harm than good. Let people be adults and make their own decisions. Stop trying to live their lives for them; you’ve got enough on your plate with your own life. How would you feel if someone was telling you who to be and how to live without allowing you the right to agree or disagree? If you really want to help someone, the best thing to do is be a real friend.

                If you are gay and reading this post, here’s what I have to say to you: I can’t apologize enough on behalf of the people who’ve hurt you. I can’t even begin to imagine the persecution you’ve experienced and how lonely it must be at times. Please know that I’m on your side and that I support the right for anyone—gay and straight, man and woman, LGBT and otherwise, etc.—to be adults and make their own decisions. But in everything, act wisely: Don’t do something simply because everyone else is doing it, or because people are pressuring you one way or the other. Always think before you act.

                And Stephen, if you’re reading this and still wondering how things are going to look forty years from now as far as homosexuality is concerned, I think there is just as much evolution and regression in society to worry about.

                Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “I’m a Christian woman who supports gay rights.”