Last week we examined the Introductory portion of ex-pastor Ryan Bell's year-end recap of his year without God. Here is where I continue it.Read More
Once upon a time, scientists were merely God-lovers who wanted to understand how the stuff God made worked. "You've given us some awesome stuff here; mind if we open it up and take a look at how You've wound the gears?" we asked.
"Go ahead," God said.
And then something happened.Read More
Ah, smell that? It's the sweet smell of backlash.
I've heard it for months already, honestly, which is interesting, considering the topic of today's discussion is a rather new addition to the cinematic repertoire of our world's theaters. By "rather new," I mean it opened to the masses this weekend.
I've debated how I want this to be, whether it should be a film review or a critique of Christian culture; praising or bitter or benign. Perhaps it will develop as I write.
Spoiler: I am a Christian, and I loved Darren Aronofsky's Noah.Read More
This is long and ashamedly rambly. I was just in quite a rambly mood today, I'm afraid. Please read it all, for I have several times and am not yet dead, but know that I won't be offended if you turn it off halfway. Not everyone can handle the burden of truth being poured onto them.** **That was purposely arrogant and inflammatory. I'm trying to catch your attention by being humorously cocky and reproachable right off the get-go. If that didn't work, here's some wisdom from Doctor Who, which should interest every single one of you:
"Have you ever seen monsters?" "Oh yes." "Are you scared of them?" "No. They're scared of me." - The Eleventh Doctor
Doctor Who and Introduction
It is without shame that I tell you I am veritably enthralled by the long-running BBC Television show Doctor Who. I cannot pretend to be a Who-hipster, for I was not alive when it started, nor can I say that I've been a member of the Whovian society for any long period of time. Quite the opposite, in fact: it has been only a few short months. But in these few short months, I have found myself doing very little besides reading profusely, writing (I figure now, while I have the time, means, and motivation, is when I should write that book), and watching the Doctor save the universe in countless situations infinitely more creative than my feeble mind could contrive, and in the meantime highlight the beauty of humanity and their intense dependence on something bigger than themselves.
In the section quoted above, a little boy caught in the middle of a crisis involving your run-of-the-mill otherworldy Who beasties is talking with the Doctor. He senses the threat and accurately gauges the immediacy of the situation, but asks, in a moment of seeking reassurance, about the Doctor's history of dealing with similar things. The Doctor, famous for having dashed alien hopes of universe-domination, foiled plans of genocide, and saved his numerous companions' lives time and again, responds with confidence and appropriate swagger, then characteristically smirks in the face of evil.
Confidence is praised nowadays; misplaced or inappropriate confidence is arrogance and foolishness. We see both in the lives of athletes, in the style of movie stars, in the words of introverted twenty-somethings on blogs on the internet. We are quick to call it "arrogance" in other people, but just as quick to call it "confidence" in ourselves. We are quick to think ourselves unworthy of either, and quick to overcompensate.
Perhaps it is that our mirrors are rather cloudy and dishonest. Perhaps it is our eyes. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: I see a whole lot of loathing and so little efforts for improvement; I see a whole lot arrogance and so little preparation.
What This Is Not, and What This Is
I am not thinking today about image or self-confidence along those lines, necessarily, though those thoughts do come to mind. It deserves a whole spot of its own and is quite pressing, I'm afraid, though today is not the day for it. This is not about the back-end, or how you look at yourself in light of who you truly are, for that is only the second half of the problem. This is not about vanity or even necessarily physical things
What I am addressing is what I see when I look at the majority of my generation. I see a group of people content to be what the generation before them handed down, who can honestly say that apathy is a virtue. Who socially network rather than figure themselves out. I see a generation with access to more information and knowledge than any that has come before them, yet more ignorant than any about how to use it. I see boys seeing domination as strength and girls seeing beauty as worth. I see people who think doing something worthwhile means doing something worth Instagramming; I see people for whom thoughts are merely Tweets. I see an age of humanity defined by what somebody else has said rather than what they have worked for.
And I see so few confronting it. Too many of us see "comfortable" as a good thing. So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound.
We have lost all concept of self, because we have plenty of things to distract from it... and they are sneaky things, at that: the conception that you are what your Facebook says you are or that who you are is defined by your job. Instead of asking ourselves, "who am I?" we post pictures of ourselves and say, "this is who I am."
There is a discrepancy there, and it is extremely bothersome.
The Swelling Hurricane
I dropped a sentence a second ago as sort of preparation for where this was headed, as a gust to store up some energy in these sails. I'll say it again here: So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound. I spent a good deal of time in the Philosophy and Religion department at UTC (since I studied Philosophy) and noticed a particularly fascinating trend: that the grand majority of people involved in it were vehemently atheistic, both professors and students alike.
What happened is they started asking questions and seeking answers anywhere they could find them. And when they couldn't find them easily or the conventional answers of their small Baptist churches just wouldn't cut it anymore, they conceded defeat to the overwhelming pangs of despair. They looked at one group of people claiming Absolute Truth and saw a completely different group halfway across the world and 8 million people big claiming a completely different Absolute Truth and decided everyone was wrong. Or they succumbed to the problem of evil: If one of two contraries is infinite, the other is destroyed. God is infinite goodness; if there were God, there would be no evil. There is evil; so, therefore, there is no God.
The arguments against God are powerful and persuasive, indeed like monsters in the closet of an 8 year old are when it's dark and he's trying to sleep. But they're embedded everywhere, and we're trained not to fight them. We yell at characters in poorly written horror movies when they decide to go towards the creaking under the stairs or the moaning from the attic. We're embedded with a fear of evil and the desire to run when it's scary.
To keep a consistent theme, though: The Doctor tells us, "Never run when you're scared." (Rule 7)
There is a storm in the air, horesemen afoot, and the battle for belief is raging.
And we who believe are not winning.
The War Without a Winner (or, apparently, a study in alliteration)
Sam Harris wrote in his book Letter to a Christian Nation that it is religion, belief, "god" that has poisoned our world, incited wars, dumbed the people, and placated a mass of people to the point of wasting their lives chasing invisible friends and waiting on some future judgment that will never come. Christopher Hitchens calls belief irrational and destructive. Richard Dawkins calls God an unnecessary invention by people incapable of handling reality.
And more believers are believing them every day. The armies are being stacked in their favor, because believers are being convinced by faulty rhetoric that Christ and Reason cannot exist together. That metaphysics and God are equivalent, and that they have a place in haughty classroom discussion and nowhere else. But the thing is that the opposition is using recycled arguments to attack Faith, and Faith is using recycled arguments to respond. We're stuck in a loop with one side crying, "you're ugly!" and the other sticking their fingers in their ears shouting back, "la la la, I can't hear you!"
We've both become dull and insulting: the attackers of Faith have betrayed their god of Reason and the believers their God of Truth.
Here is the bottom line. Christians have become comfortable with their churches and their ideas that God is a exactly the thing that they imagine, so when something comes along and challenges the toy box they keep in their prayer rooms, they panic.
There is a fallacy in the study of logic called the Straw Man. It's basically as you would imagine: to "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. Unbelief attacks Christianity based upon the constraints it has put upon it. Based upon what Christians have made it. It attacks tradition rather than Truth, because Truth is contested only by fools.
Jesus said that His purpose on Earth was to bear witness to Truth, which is why the Jesus we have constructed that exists to ease pain and hug people crumbles under attack. Straw men have no backbone, no substance, and burn easily when touched with fire.
But Christians are doing little to counter it. Instead of arming ourselves, learning the things of God rather the things we've constructed of God, and worshipping Jesus as Truth, we trust in the easy thing - which is also the easy thing to attack, and the easy thing to lose faith in. With a faith in the same Straw Man that is easy to attack comes all of the terrible things we write eloquently to fight: we succumb to vanity and pornography and insecurity and fear and addiction the thought that our dirty pasts are insurmountable and we're not rescued by our god because he's warding off crows from crops. Misrepresentations of God are being attacked because misrepresentations of God are being followed.
So what are those of us who wish to counter unbelief to do? We must figure out what we stand for and then stand for it. We cannot be told answers, we must search them out. We can't be handed faith, we must work it out for ourselves with fear and trembling. We can't forget that something obtainable can be taken away, so we must grasp it ever tighter when the threat of its removal comes upon us.
We must stand with the confidence that we lack, because monsters won't shy from uncertainty. Confidence comes through preparation, and somebody who tells you that God will give it to you just because you asked for it is lying to you. God will do His part - He's told you that.
But the ability to fight a war doesn't come from lying in bed. We must take up arms and learn to use them, study the opposition's tactics to be able to counter them, and face the beasties in our closets atop their black horses and say, "I'm not afraid of you because I know you. You can't say something to dissuade me because I know what you will say. You can't take away my God because He gave you the Reason you think refutes Him."
Salvation is not through works - do not think that I'm trying to say anything of the sort. But it is true that the children of God will be known by their fruit. Take a step back and look at yourself. All aspects of it. Look at who you are at school, at home, on the internet, and tell me what is being glorified: you, your Straw Man, or God? It's one of the three, I promise.
I apologize for the expanse between posts. It seems that life has picked up and time for frivolous scribblings to the simultaneous everything and nothing of the Internet has disappeared like wisps of smoke upon opening a window. Below you will find not a constructed argument for something in particular, like I normally try to do, but a jumble of words that have been stuck between my ears for entirely too long. I absolutely love my field of study. I am able to spend the majority of my school week around artists who, like Keats and Shelley, attempt to capture the Muses flitting about in the corners of our vision because they simply must. I get the opportunity to speak constantly with people who, like it is required of me, are required to think before they do so. I am privileged to exist in a bubble separate from the drab "real" world with people like me who are fascinated with examining the very nature of all that stuff out there.
Greetings from the haven of academia. But in here we are presented a different class (or, if we are seeing the big picture, a different aspect) of problem from the outside world.
We fight wars in here with beasts possessing mouths so enormous they can guzzle you in their sleep. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these beasts are everywhere - I just happen to be able to see the front line a little bit clearer through the windows of a Philosophy class. Where I am if you don't believe in something you'll end up believing in nothing; if you don't bring a gun you'll be taken and not even held for ransom.
Here the gates are wide and every road leads to paradise. Here there exist nights where one moment you stare into infinity packed so dense that even the pillow under your head is pregnant with meaning and the next moment unrational equals unfathomable.
Here we spell God R-E-A-S-O-N.
Immanuel Kant articulated it as the battle cry of the Enlightenment: "Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own reason!" And I wholeheartedly agree with him. In Acts, Paul went into the centers of intellectual prowess and "reasoned in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 18:4). Isaiah implores, "Come, let us reason together" (1:18). God instilled in human beings from the very beginning the ability to use His divine skill of reason by creating us in His image, hereby setting us apart from the rest of creation. Reason is the essence of our humanity, an enormous road block in the construction of evolutionary theory, and the echoes inside our hearts of God Himself.
But here's the catch: instead of using it to find God, we use it to try to find meaning. We forget that meaning is a human explanation of a superhuman existence - in that sense a human construction. Meaning is the desert of the real. In using human applications of Divine characteristics to find human constructions of Divine realities, we are but dogs chasing our tails. Frustrated, existentially lost and intensely desperate dogs.
I am not sure what all I am trying to say, or if there is even a point that I am trying to make. I'm leaking out all of these words that represent the heart of what I have been thinking about and which has been keeping me from writing about lack of sleep or books or whatever it is this blog is for. I've been reading everything from French Aesthetic theory (if you've ever read Derrida you, I'm sure, understand) to Environmental Rhetoric and have been writing next to nothing, and for that I apologize. HOWEVER - if you would like to respond to me in any way or construct arguments against everything I say or tell me to write you a clever ambiguous haiku please do. Sometimes it feels like I am talking to myself (I know I do, but that is beside the point).
I'll post soon with something a little less frustrated and a little more clear and perhaps less (ok, it won't be less) rambl-y. In the meantime, dare to be wise, friends. And, in the words of the brilliant Catherine Bolden, use your powers for good.
Since apparently I've been on this "how is it you can't see what I see" kick, we'll keep going with it. It is disgusting how much of a sucker I am for good writing. When I read or see or hear something that just drips with lexical fluidity or a fresh voice or an appropriately complex story made to sound as simple as a front-porch fish tale, there's a small nerve inside my heart that gets caressed and rubbed back to life. People are unknowingly drawn to these sources of deep emotional warmth without realizing why, and can easily pick "good" writing out from "bad" simply because something makes it stand out from the abyss of modern culture.
There's a touch of something Real to it.
Obligatory Header Number One: Contrasting Examples In my line of thinking, good writing (and good guitar tone... but that's a different story altogether haha) reflects God, whether it means to or not. I drafted something like twenty sentences before settling on that one, because I figured there had to be a more eloquent way to put it... but I don't know that there is, and I think that the point of this post is to explain why.
I recently read the entire Harry Potter series over the course of like two months, and it only took me that long because I had a thousand other things that I should have been doing. Also because I drug out the last few chapters simply because I didn't want it to end (a technique I learned from my Grandmother). Because I'm a man, I don't cry at stupid things like dumb books </burly voice> but if I did, it wouldn't be because of any particular character that JK Rowling crafted or any exotic location she dreamed up, it would be because of the grace she employed in using "ordinary" circumstances to tackle heavy subject matter. It was the ease with which she dipped you into her imagination and the clarity that drenched her language. It was the fact that I disliked Harry's character, which I think was deliberate on her part, but found myself still rooting for his cause and touched by the loyalty of his friends despite their disapproval of his methods because they rooted for the same cause. It was the way that she had the entire series planned before publishing the first book.
It was the way that she demonstrated excellence at her craft.
For the complete opposite side of the coin and the source I will use as my second example, I recently played through, for the first time, the game BioShock. I started it out of curiosity because I had read a review online and I could get it straight from the Mac App store. What I found was a terrifying vision of a very possible future completely consumed with image-making, genetic alteration, and obsession with physical perfection. Where aesthetic is god. And this story captivated me.
Because my readers are less likely to be familiar with this than with Harry Potter, I'll side-chain briefly to give you the lowdown on what this game is about and why it is interesting. Hang on, because it gets kind of sci-fi. Years and years ago, Andrew Ryan, the embodiment of Ayn Rand's idealistic philosophy called Objectivism, built a city at the bottom of the sea where creation and self-perfection could be uninhibited by moral and social boundaries. He harvested stem cells from sea slugs that could be used to genetically modify specific parts of whoever ingested them. People gained the ability to produce electricity, fire, ice, etc. from their hands. They developed telekinesis. They thickened their skin, sped up their legs, strengthened their minds. But, like the businessman that he was, Ryan, completely controlled the supply of these gene "drugs". The rich could afford them and the poor became junkies for the stuff and like that a class war was waged. The city fell to the overwhelming amount of people fiening for more, called "splicers", and, in the alternate, dystopian, steampunked history of 1960, the story of BioShock begins.
Unbeknownst to the majority of those who play it, it is a story drenched in the terror of a Godless society. The imagery is abundant: the genetic modifiers are called Adam. The tonic you need to use more of the Adam is Eve. The city is appropriately called Rapture, and the welcome banner to the fallen Rapture reads: "No gods or kings, only men". The consequences are clear and the horror is palatable.
How Gamers and Nerds Got it (Partially) Right
Both of these stories, completely opposite of each other, can be used to illustrate what I'm talking about. I think about the intricacies of these creations, neither of which was written by people who claim to know the same Savior that I do, and, without meaning to, they both demonstrate qualities reminiscent of my God. Rowling and Ken Levine accomplished something most Christians pathetically overlook - excellence and intricacy. By pouring themselves into their creations, the final results were beautiful. By laboring over minute details which are simply packed into the Potter series, Rowling accomplished a masterpiece. By telling "simple" stories soaked to their roots with passion, they related the mundane to the supernatural. The story of persisting for good in the face of unspeakable (literally... they couldn't say his name) evil and the futility of playing God were told with fresh voices and beauty.
I am not going to turn this into another criticism of "God-culture" because 1) with the exception of a few areas, the content being produced has improved dramatically and 2) we are not here to create culture. What I am going to do is claim "popular culture" as yet another place we can see shadows of the face of God.
Go to the art museum downtown and get lost inside the level of achievement by the most diverse collection of men and women possible and tell me that you aren't overwhelmed with the presence of the Creator who gave those artists their brushes. Read Keats' Great Odes and simply try not to realize that when he is talking about the Spirit of Poetry (or the Nightingale or The Grecian Urn -- "Beauty is Truth"), he's getting at the very nature of God, and then feel sad that he never realized it himself. Surround yourself with city hippies and bands who just love playing music and tell me that the constant amid all of the chaos isn't the Source of music itself.
What I am going to do is claim that you don't have to be in a "Christian" environment to praise Christ. What I am saying is quit trying so hard to act like a Christian and instead act like someone grateful for an infinite gift they have been given.
While there is one very specific, narrow way to actually get to God, what I am saying is that today's age of agnosticism is unfounded, needlessly stubborn, and perpetuated by the blind. Unfortunately, I think that the same thing can be said about today's obsession with mediocrity.
*Warning* This is long. It is, I hope, thought-provoking as well. I suppose we'll see.
For the first time in my life (excluding my remarks about the impossibly catchy and brilliant melody of Paparazzi), I will say that Lady Gaga was on to something. For nowhere near the first time in my life, and equally as far from the last time in my life, the contents of this post may elicit anger from some.
This is my worried face.
It is no secret that I can be somewhat of a hermit occasionally, leading me to be behind on some popular trends and fads and whatnot. I spend time reading books by long-dead authors, obsessing over grammar, staring at walls, altering sixth chords, ignoring phone calls, writing papers, disintegrating slowly into acute and undiscovered forms of madness, and wishing I could do things like pogo stick professionally or own an invitation-only private island. So I was surprised to find out that Lady Gaga had a new (it is new to me, ok?) song out (that apparently came out last September? wow.).
I had no choice but to listen to it. I simply had to.
In the song, Gaga sticks up for her fellow weirdos, challenges racial discrimination, discourages conformity, blahblahblah something bland and generic like the rest of her pop Contemporaries. However, as I was listening to it, I couldn't help but think that the song is not driving at these pro-social messages. I, like Gaga, would love to see this generation raised without the crippling dependency on the approval of others... but her point is different.
"Don't be a drag - just be a queen," she says, blahblah "because God makes no mistakes." Ohhhhhhh ok. I see what we're getting at here. This isn't about racism or individuality, this is about being gay. Or, how does she put it? "No matter gay, straight or bi, / lesbian, transgendered life / I'm on the right track baby."
Gaga isn't to blame, because I have heard this excuse more than any excuse in the book (or lengthy pamphlet.... people's excuses are rapidly lacking the ingenuity they once did) for any number of actions. It is the perfect justification: the ultimate shifting of blame away from yourself - "I was born this way."
I think that we have confused "made" and "born".
Ignoring the grammatical differences between implied actors in each of these cases and approaching it purely from a) a logical point of view and b) a spiritual point of view, we can go ahead and say that Gaga's argument can absolutely hold no water.
Logical If I were the totalitarian dictator of the entire world, the first thing that I would do is require a basic working knowledge of logic proofs. We would eliminate all of the needlessly idiotic statements coming from important and imbecilic people, alike, and help Hamilton's headache wane just a little bit. Oh, if I had the words for the gratuitous logical fallacies encapsulated by this excuse. It is "born this way" that would cause the crumble of society as we know it if we listened to what we were saying. I won't even talk about murderers, rapists, child pornographers, cop killers, drug dealers, sociopaths, etc. who can all claim the same thing, because I am conscious of people taking what I am saying out of context. I don't want somebody to quit reading or ceasing their rational, calm thinking about the subject because I just equated their homosexuality with the Manson killings.
But hear this: in a way I am. You can't pick and choose the people for whom your excuse works. If "I was born this way" works for homosexuality, so should it work for murder and lust.
I was born a liar, a thief, a self-obsessed, self-indulgent, self-worshipping idolater. But I wonder how many people would excuse me if I walked around snubbing my nose at people, spouting absurd lies and doing whatever brought me pleasure because of my obsession with myself if only I started saying "don't worry about it, I was born this way." Would they try to amend the rules to allow me to slam heroin in the streets as long as I wasn't hurting somebody else? I mean, it is my right. I was born that way.
Of course not. But here is where I might lose you, if I didn't already, because it is my transition to the next point.
By establishing a distinction between degrees of heinousness of crimes, we are, necessarily, saying that we believe in some sort of a moral order. A moral order cannot exist without something against which to measure it... a moral law. A moral law cannot exist in solidarity, because it necessitates a contradistinction between "good" and "evil," where one cannot exist without the other. Finally, in order to establish what we see as "good" and what we see as "evil," there must be what Ravi Zacharias calls a "Moral Law-Giver," or something to qualify the relative degrees of what we are seeing.
Spiritual This brings me to the clincher, the basis on which I believe we should be living our lives. We have the single most historically and archaeologically backed document in existence that posits page after page of insight into the nature of this Law Giver. The perfect good. The absence of all that is, what we call, evil, although it is not an entity in itself but rather the total absence of good. The same way as dark is the absence of light. The same way that cold is the absence of heat. God can be countered not by reasoning, because reasoning from humans is tainted by human imperfections, nor can He be countered by science, for science cannot even agree with itself. Within this document, this collection of insight, are very specific things to which we must be held accountable. The moral law given by the Moral Law Giver. And believe it or not, every one of the "evils" I have mentioned above is on that list.
I possess those evils. You possess those evils, and they, in a manner of speaking, possess each one of us. But were we made that way? No. We were not created by God to do evil, because God, the embodiment of all that is good, is incapable of doing evil, just as a candle is incapable of producing heat. It is not a limitation on God, it is an attest to the nature of things. Just as we do not question the limitation of a flashlight because it is incapable of producing dark, we do not question the limitation of God because he is incapable of producing Evil. Because evil cannot be produced.
We were, however, made with free will. And where there is free will there is the option to walk either in the light or the darkness. So we were not made this way, but rather we were, as Gaga so eloquently reiterates, born this way. Hence my saying she(?) was on to something. But it cannot be, as she said, God who made us this way.
God did not make us murders, liars, homosexuals and thieves. But he made each of us capable of being all of those things so that we can put aside ourselves and our selfish nature bent on reproducing as much evil as we can and look to Him instead.
It is that act of self-denial that Christ demanded at the cross. Deny your addictions to pornography. Your propensity to anger. To hate. To lust. To homosexuality. And take Him instead.
We were born for that.
I have such.a.hard.time.dealing.with.stupidity. I contemplated leaving that alone, making those words the only ones you read in the entire post, simply to encourage thought and interpretation the way that modernist poets do with their words. But that drives me crazy too. William Carlos Williams, I don't care how much "depends upon your red wheelbarrow," you made a generation of people who don't know how to write think that they can be poets by splotching words together haphazardly. Ahembobdylanahem.
No, I couldn't leave it at that. The single, condemning statement that would draw attention to my cynicism and lack of faith in humanity as a whole would inevitably incur comments about the hypocrisy of my broken up sentence and would therefore nullify the entire process of thought I intended.
I am tired of unfounded arguments on topics about which one is not nearly as familiar as he claims. The rap guru critiquing musical taste. I am tired of people who don't care to put in the effort to make sure they mean "your" when they say "you're" complaining about not being taken seriously. The bizarre illiteracy of the texting generation. I am tired of people legitimizing in any way they possibly can murder, theft, immorality. The rationalization of evil. I am tired of people pretending like the other side of the argument has no truth whatsoever. That all left-wings are Socialists. That all right-wings are Anarchists. That all those in the middle are unstable. I am tired of arbitrary dismissal because of age or social status. Do not lump all 21 year old college-going males in with frat boys at a kegger. Do not assume that just because I am not paying for rushed decisions I have made like you are that I don't possess the wisdom to avoid them.
I am so tired of the irony of my saying all of those things. Because just as easily could somebody out there be talking about how tired they are of 21 year old bloggers thinking they have things figured out.
I don't have things figured out. And what just ripped me up this morning was Proverbs 24: 17-18: "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased and turn away his anger from him." It is not that I necessarily have enemies, per say, but I just take for granted the humanity of every single person on this planet. Here I am with bitterness in my heart against somebody who arbitrarily dismisses me because of my age and their supposition of my inexperience, when what they ACTUALLY are is a person who is probably dealing with the same stuff I am.
The question I have been asking myself: "Who am I?" not in the existential, what-am-I-doing-here way, but the practical "who am I to judge?" By the nature of the words on this site, I am expressing what I believe to be true. If everybody else in the world is doing that too, even if they are empirically, unflinchingly incorrect, who am I to harbor enmity in my heart?
Does this mean that I don't think we can do better? Absolutely not. Max Bemis put it: "You can do better, you can do better, you can be the greatest man in the world." Especially from people who call themselves believers or who attach my Savior's name to their motives or actions should we expect perfection. Which we will never get.
I would love to see a revolution of rational thought sweep the world. People would stop arbitrarily hating each other and fighting each other and they would recognize that there isn't a person on the Earth who isn't as screwed up as they are. Perhaps it should start with me. Or with you.
Maybe what it takes is the recognition of your own faults, which are many, to make you quit the incessant bickering with which you have been accustomed.
If my degradation of others is a product of elevating myself above them even though I am the chief of sinners, just imagine what would happen should I reverse it!
>Before anybody decides to read half of this and then become irate, I figured I should offer a warning to the majority of the people who read this thing and tell them that if they disagree with what I'm saying, I am more than happy to talk about it. You might even change my mind! Also, everything I say I include myself in. When I say "we" I truly mean myself as well. These statements can be pretty broad and all-inclusive, but they all stem from conversations I've had with real people in real situations (at real Waffle Houses) who use the term "Christian" with similar, negative, broad connotations.
I am completely fed up with "Christian" culture. About a month ago while working the desk, somebody walked up to me and handed me some sort of Christian periodical "Fish Magazine" or something of the sort. It was late, I had forgotten my laptop charger at the house and I was searching for things to occupy my time as I waited for the buzz indicating the end of a wash cycle on a load of towels, so I started reading it. Now, I believe that addressing the content of something like this is a moot point, because as it is an independently published work, it has the right to talk about literally anything that it wants to. So, even though the things the publishers chose to include didn't even catch my attention (which is slightly troubling, considering my beliefs fit right in with the people they are trying to reach), I cannot judge them because of what they think is important. I can say the same things about other reaches of our little Christian bubble, be it radio or music or movies or Godtube, because I firmly believe that they are doing things which could be really great. They are trying to provide a balance to the despicable deluge of just... crap that infiltrates every reach of society, so that when people get sick of being exposed to those things they have a positive alternative.
I just wish that Christian media WAS a positive alternative. As I skimmed the front page of Fish, I immediately felt like I was peer-editing a rough draft of a paper for a fellow student who was writing in a field that was out of his area of expertise. Sentences were poorly constructed, spelling and grammar trampled on the floor, stories delivered with the lackluster and droning tone of Thomas Gradgrind from Dickens' Hard Times... I don't care what they're writing about, all I want is a little bit of passion behind it. Show some professionalism, please, because I can't help but think that anything that slaps the "God" label on it to hide an appalling lack of quality is an insult.
I understand that many of these facets of Christian media (film, television, video broadcasting websites, music, print) operate on extremely low budgets, and that is something I can completely relate to as a college kid who tries to be a musician living in a duplex in Hixson, TN. However, what I just don't understand is how some of these people can be ok with themselves tossing out sub-par material and slapping God's name on it to garner a fanbase. In fact, I find it rather insulting.
Call me crazy, but I feel like we should be the ones pushing the boundaries in all of these areas of creativity, rather than giving in to the cookie-cutter formulas presented before us by both our contemporaries and the world around us. The world should look at what we're accomplishing and begin to question how in the world we can be so inspired, that there might actually be something to this God that many preach but few follow... because right now we are embarrassing. Our television broadcasts are shot with shoddy equipment and antiquated techniques, our writers use third grade devices and cheap hooks with punchlines rather than points, our thinkers are dedicated more to not offending people than to speaking the truth. We recently organized an outreach night at a weeklong secular music festival that took place on... faith and family night. Waiters dread the family that prays before their meal because it generally means they will be tipped 10 percent or a gospel tract after a long meal full of demands and disappointments (and it is so unfortunately true). We are known for rallying against Abortion clinics and Homosexual unions rather than loving the people involved. We'll sooner preach at the pregnant 16 year old about the sin in her life than hold her hand and help her cry through the daunting realization that the rest of her life is changed.
The argument I hear over and over is that we are not to be of the world, and I believe that a lot of Christians have done quite the great job at this, for we are definitely separate from the world. But honestly, if I were an "outsider" looking "in," I would see nothing appealing about the way that we live. In the words of the band Norma Jean, "Mediocrity is the killer." I don't know how God could look at His children and see the mediocrity that we have become and smile. We need to realize that before we are not to be "of the world," we must first be in it.