Tag Archives: Christianity

Truth. Justice. The American Way. How Does Jesus Rank Up to Superman’s Ideology?

“Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in HELL.”

I’ve had a lot of *God-given* time on my hands recently and have taken up to reading/rereading anything and everything that has caught my eye and fancy. Two such books—which, admittedly are starkly different in every sense of being different is Francis Chan’s “Erasing Hell,” and The Superman story arc, “Grounded.”

“Erasing Hell,” appears to have much to say about the recent topic of whether or not Hell exists, just what it is, and who’s going. While there is much I can say about it (all critical of its errancies and detriments), I will simply say that the feeling you get at the end—be it a follower of Christianity or not, is one of fear, doing more damage than good. Jesus is your only ticket of escape from Hell (a place of both ‘judgment,’ but also ‘punishment’), and you only get the opportunity to “choose” in this lifetime. If you haven’t chosen yet, are you sure you wanna go to Hell? And if you have chosen already, are you sure that you’ve really chosen?

I will warrant that Chan seems to have a good heart; a heroically large heart for Justice.

But not—as they say, a heart in the right place.

In “Grounded,” Superman—who feels he has lost touch with (not only*) humanity (*but American humanity), decides to take a walk (not fly) across America in order to regain a connection to why he became a hero in the first place.
Now it must be known that two different authors with two very different views as to what should be conveyed of Superman in this series wrote it. The author of the first half apparently wished to convey that superheroes have a disconnect from the common person, while the later chalks it up to Superman himself merely being depressed and grieving over recent events, the former shows Superman as he deals (apparently) for the first time with moral ambiguity, while the later shares in this struggle, but credits it to his clouded judgment caused by grief and depression.
I don’t need to get into a critique of which I preferred or thought was better, I merely wish to convey that both had their aspects and points which I took away.

(For the best critique I found on the series in its entirety, look here for a comparison, and here for just on the first volume.)

The story does indeed take an interesting twist when—in the penultimate issue of the series, Clark Kent goes out with a “Superman expert” somewhere in Portland, and asks various locals—strangers—the common man, questions about the hero. And while it is a great note that in the first volume, a woman—the voice of critique of Superman, calls him a gun, meaning that he being around can only be dangerous, it ends with the affirmation that Superman himself, is loved and appreciated for what he does, not the potential he has to do.

The following are the questions, and responses:

To a young boy: [whilst pointing to his Superman shirt] “Are you afraid of the guy this stands for?”

“Are you kidding? It stands for Superman! Who would be afraid of him?”… “Superman can do anything! But he only beats up bad guys, right? So why should I be afraid of him?”

To a woman: “Do you fear or distrust Superman?”

“What? Well, no! If you ask me, he’s all about the Truth.”… “It[is] more important to Superman to tell us a harsh but necessary truth than it was to go with a comforting lie.”

To a man: “Do you think that Superman harms or even kills the villains he captures?”

“Superman? Kill a dude? No WAY. Sometimes you kind of wish he would, when you see some of the monsters he goes up against.”… “I mean, I don’t know if I’d be able to hold back.”

Lastly, asking a family: “Do you resent the fact that Superman has superpowers and you don’t?”

“Resent him? We thank heaven every day that he can do things we cannot do.”… “He helps everyone who needs him.”

This last one can be seen at the end of the previous comic when Superman has an argument with his long time pal, Jimmy Olsen, about his redeeming an out of control super powered girl from destroying Las Vegas. (At one point, Superman noting that, “She’s acting like a child throwing a tantrum.”) Jimmy questions Superman’s willingness to not only save her from herself, but “sticking up” for her in court, noting how much—even after all this, that she hates him (Superman). Superman states that “We’ve all made mistakes. And everybody deserves a second chance.”

Ending the series left me curious just how people felt about the concept of Jesus.
So I printed out the two pictures below, and went around my neighborhood asking random people the same questions; first about the image of the Superman symbol, then about the image of the Cross and Jesus.

*Note* I did NOT—however, ask the same demographic of people the same questions. (That being, I did not try to find a young boy, a woman, a man, and a family of immigrants. I simply asked who was willing to talk the questions.)

1) “Are you afraid of the guy this stands for?”

Superman responses ranged from, “No, he’s a comic book character, he doesn’t exist,” to me clarifying the question of if he did exist, would you be afraid of him, “sort of. I mean, who’s to say I’m not as bad as the bad guys he faces? I don’t know what he would think about good and bad in our world. Would he seek me out for ‘justice’?”
Jesus responses also ran about the same: “No, I mean, I believe Jesus existed, but not what Christianity says about him, and I think he would say something like ‘keep on trying to be good,’ you know, ‘love people,’ ‘don’t start wars,’ that kind of thing. So yeah, I wouldn’t be afraid of him.”

This was the best capture, thought it is interesting to note that many felt a bit ‘superstitious,’ and that flat out saying, “I’m not afraid of Jesus,” would cause something bad to happen to them. Which would cause one to surmise that yes indeed, on some level, there is a fear of Jesus.

2) “Do you fear or distrust Superman/Jesus?”

This question ran a bit similar to the first in both cases of Superman and Jesus, but when it came to the concept of ‘truth’—when I probed a bit to get more of the response shown in the comic, I ended up changing the question to: “Do you think Superman/Jesus has a true character? That is to say, does Superman/Jesus represent a value for truth above all?”

It was then that I found that people’s responses shifted to a sense of knowing a person. They seemed to say that yes—at first token, both Superman and Jesus are about Truth. Various people spouted off slogans and coined phrases of each, to say that yes, Superman and Jesus are all about truth. Some responded that Superman stands for “truth, justice, and the American way,” and that Jesus said he was, “the truth, the life, and the light, and the way (though—many didn’t get all that, it was something that their mind went to, even if they didn’t know the full phrase.).”

Yet when further questioned, almost everyone stated that there was no way of knowing for sure, save for knowing them personally. (Some deeper thinkers even asserted the question as to whether or not they—being “higher beings” have a different, or even fuller concept of truth than we have.) That to know if they believe in truth, in absolute truth, value truth, fight for it; to know for sure can only be to know them personally; that it could just as easily be something attributed to them.

3) “Do you think that Superman harms or even kills the villains he captures?”

To Superman, near everyone—whether having some, none, or vast knowledge of the Super Hero, responded that no, Superman doesn’t kill, nor torture. Those that had more knowledge emphasized that he only did when he was under the control of Red Kryptonite,’ a substance which—essentially, changes Superman into an entirely different character.

When it came to the Jesus side of the questioning, this got a little tricky and I had to rephrase it as follows:

“Do you think that Jesus punishes or turns away—sends to Hell, bad people?”

And to this, resoundingly the answer was yes. Many would say that Jesus ate and hung out with ‘sinners,’ bad people, but if they didn’t choose him, or follow him, God would send them to Hell. And that that’s where ‘bad people’ go.

Depending on how the conversation was going, I would then follow up by asking the first question again: “Does this make you afraid of Jesus—if you felt Him to actually be real?”

To which, the answer became, “yes.” Generally the consensus was that how are we to be judged as ‘bad’ if we spend our whole lives trying to be ‘good?’ That someone I don’t know sends me to Hell just for not knowing him is evil and scary, so ‘yes,’ there is reason to be afraid.

4) “Do you resent the fact that Superman has superpowers and you don’t?”

This was fun one to ask. For in our world, there aren’t super powered heroes (and if there were, they’d end up looking a lot more that characters from the comic/film “Kick-Ass,” than super powered beings), and so everyone wishes for some sort of power. When I brought up the mantra that “with power comes responsibility,” responses all kept generally the same. “I would use them to take care of my family and loved ones,” to “yeah, I do some stuff to people, like get back at people that wronged me, mess with jerks at work, but mostly help people.” While people generally found that they’d desire to mess with people, for the most part, if they had powers, they’d (like to think so, anyway) use them for ‘good.’
As with question three, this one is a bit tricky when it comes to Jesus, and the rephrase was as follows:

“Do you think it’s fair that Jesus has the power to save you, and you don’t?”

This I found especially interesting. Not just as a question, but as something to respond to. For when it came to having powers, people generally stuck with using their powers to help people. No one thought nor brought up the concept of saving one’s self. Yet merely positing this question suggests that the people I questioned themselves may in fact need saving.

And not only that, but that they are powerless themselves to do so.

It was generally at this point, I was asked if I work for a church, or was doing some sort of ‘city evangelism,’ and was either dismissed or—to some, allowed to say that I’m just a guy who’s curious—a reporter of sorts; and in those cases share my own personal views on Jesus, on God, and on Hell.

These are my thoughts.

Jesus is indeed recorded by two different gospel authors as saying the line I began this post with:
“Be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”Matt. 10: 28

And this is exactly the mentality that—at least in his book, ‘Erasing Hell,’ Francis Chan seems to convey having.

Be afraid.
Be very afraid.

Yet what is not stated in his book is that following this Jesus talks of sparrows, and tells all that are listening not to be afraid.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matt. 10: 29-30

Is it scary that Jesus can ‘fry’ us? That He has the ability to obliterate us completely?

Yeah.

Yeah, it is.

And it should be.

Yet Jesus does not want this to be the final thought on the matter. He wants to make clear that while there is that power, there is also that love and care. That those He’s speaking to—humanity is worth so much more to God.

So is it His intention to ‘punish,’ as Chan would have you believe? I feel a closer look at the whole of Scripture without the dogmatic lenses will show that no, that’s not only not His intention, but that’s not His plan either.

Colossians 1:16 says at the end “ALL THINGS were created by Him and for Him.” This means that everything that has been created, has been created for Him. I don’t know a way to argue that what is meant here is “all manner of things,” or “all types of things,” rather than EVERYTHING, ALL THINGS, as Francis Chan would lead you to believe it means. For to say what Chan says, is to then say that ALL THINGS were not actually created by Jesus, which would make Him not the Word that John begins His Gospel stating.

John goes on to quote Jesus in chapter 6: 37-39 as saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”

God gave Jesus ALL THINGS. And all that the Father gives Him will come to Him. And He’ll raise them up at the last day.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is constantly referred to as atonement, as justice, as God’s judgment—the place where God’s ‘wrath’ was placed. You can see for yourself in just some I’ll post here: Col. 2: 13-15, Romans 3: 21-26, John 12: 31-33 Yet the question is often posited, “What is Justice?” With many taking it to mean and refer to something that will happen when we are ‘judged’ at the end times—the last day. But judgment has already happened. Further, is ‘justice’ getting what ‘we deserve?’ Lastly, what do we ‘deserve?’

Many—like Chan I would surmise, say that we ‘deserve’ Hell. But Jesus came in and saved the Day.

I would say that what we ‘deserve’ is not Hell, but grace.

We ‘deserve’ GRACE.

For what is grace but something undeserved? And if someone would argue against deserving grace, then they would be saying that they don’t deserve something that’s undeserved—thus in effect stating that they have to earn it.

Yet is it really about us? Or is it about God?

Is ‘justice’ really about us getting what we deserve, or about God getting what God deserves?

So then what does God deserve? His will come to completion? All glory and honor and praise?

What would have that come about?

Salvation for all?

Grace poured out over all?

All to come to ‘know’ Him?

And anyway, what’s Jesus role in that?

So where does that leave us (humanity, and each of us individually)?

Superman is known to stand for truth, justice, and the American way. Yet if Superman were real, I would have my reservations. Someone that powerful, that pure, will always divide people. It will bring out the best, and the worst. He is indeed like having a weapon around—the mere fact of his being brings danger.

So yes, in some ways I would be quite afraid of Superman. His power, his ideals, AND what he would ask of me, someone so insignificant and powerless.

Could I trust him?
Could I trust him knowing that he could at any point become influenced by red kryptonite or magic, and thereby become an entirely different person?

In many ways Jesus is exactly the same way. Does he have all power and authority? T
he Bible says He does.
Could He destroy me—both body and soul, in an instant?
He says He can.

Should I be afraid?
Yes. Most definitely.

Is fear the end of it?
Not at all.

The Bible does indeed say that “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” but it does not say it’s the end. In fact, in 1 John it says that perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.

Fear of God may be the beginning, but it’s not the end.

What is?

Well, Jesus said “it is finished,” on the cross. Further, in the passage where that says perfect love casts out fear, it also says that this is love: God loving us and sending His son as an atoning sacrifice—as judgment, as justice, for our sins.

The ‘end’ is the cross, the end is love.

God is love.

God is the end.

I think the main struggle facing Superman in his quest to reconnect is to know for sure if—even if he isn’t safe to be around, that who he is and what he stands for is worth something, has meaning: that he is good.

I also think in many ways we struggle with Jesus in this same capacity. Yet while Superman can be affected by things to turn him into something he’s not. God never changes. “The steadfast love of God endures forever.” Jesus is that steadfast love, he never changes.

Is he safe to be around?

Not
at
all.

But not because he has the propensity to be two different people—one who loves and one who condemns who he chooses, but because Jesus—like Superman, is a dividing force. He has the ability to bring out both the good and the bad. And indeed in all there is both good and bad.

Yet when we (Francis Chan included) make him out to be someone that loves and condemns, saves some, sends others to hell and punishment, we make Jesus out to be two.

But He’s one.

We are two.

And ‘on the last day’ we will be separated. The good of us from the bad of us. Read the end of Isaiah—66: 22-24 and try to tell me that that doesn’t mean to say that God will redeem all at the cost of splitting them, that the part of us (every one of us) that ‘rebels’ against God is not cast in the fire, while the part that is created and redeemed by God in Jesus (ALL MANKIND) celebrates and praises.

To quote C.S. Lewis talking of Aslan, Jesus isn’t safe. Nobody said anything about safe. He’s A LION.

But He is good.

And that is truth, justice, and the American way.

For Jesus IS [THE] Truth.
His atonement and joyful sacrifice IS Justice for all mankind.
And He IS The Way [far grander than merely American], The Life, and The Light.

And the world will be better for this.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Peter Pan, Pirates, 6 Points, and The 6th Day

We recently had to clean the basement at the school I work, which—no joke, is hoarder central down there. There were troves of things we just decided to chuck (making a big pile in the center of the room); and for a group of Montessorians, is crazy and unheard of due to the fact that Montessorians are just a step down…or over, from hoarders.

Well one of the things that I found that was set to be merely thrown away was the original story of Peter Pan. It drove me to thinking about how if and when I have kids some day, I’d love to read that story to them. Visions of beautiful nights, curled up in their beds, reading through a chapter a night and having them beg for just one more page—I know, I’m an idealist, and a romanticist. Thus, I took it from the trash pile and took it home. (I must note to all those out there, not only is it hoarder central, but there were so many books that weren’t age appropriate and were just tossed; I understand, digging through trash from a school is wrong, forgive me, but I couldn’t help feeling like simply throwing that book away was a waste…I’ll face the jury if I need to.)

Anyway, as I’ve been in school this summer (really grueling 8 weeks of 8-4 Monday through Friday) to get my certification for teaching (I’m not certifiable yet…), my mind has continued to go back to that story and the theme of “growing up.” As I continued to sit…and sit…and sit… for hours in class learning about the Montessori philosophy, Maria Montessori herself, the method, and each of the environments, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something to “growing up” that we just haven’t got quite right. So I began to ponder my own childhood, my own upbringing, and my own nature (I don’t mean to not focus in class…again, I’ll face the jury if I must), and the thought that came up was the concept of mistakes; moreover the idea of correcting mistakes. Something about that thought struck a chord in my heart and mind and I began connecting dots that I didn’t see before—nor during; kinda like doing a connect the dots puzzle where you don’t really know what and where the dots are going to appear.

(That, in itself sounds pretty awesome, and I would totally do connect the dot puzzles if the dots were invisible until you started and then appeared on the paper as you were doing it and you wouldn’t really know what the picture is or if you’re done until it’s all finished, and no more dots appear.)

I don’t know about any of my readers, but I personally am my own worst critic. Nothing anyone says to me comes close to the own judgment I put on myself. Go ahead…try. Moreover, I know that my “nature”, my “natural inclination” when correction mistakes that have been made—be it by an adult or a child, is to drive the point home and make sure that this lesson is learned. I feel the need to make sure that this mistake is never made again. It can’t just be me though. I know I’ve been on the receiving end of someone’s rant at my expense over something I’ve done and should never do again.

So Peter Pan; as I said, my mind took me to so many places over this topic but the centralized focus was the story of Peter Pan. Now I’m not literary agent—my undergrad was in Philosophy, not English, so before I dive right in here please note, these are my thoughts, not a literary interpretation of Peter Pan and any theme therein.

Peter Pan was a boy who refused to grow up. He fought alongside fellow displaced boys with the same mindset, against Pirate Men who wanted to wipe them out—or make them grow up, as the ultimate defeat. I loved reading this story as a child, mostly for the thoughts of being able to fly, and sword fighting, for sleeping in trees, and having adventures in a land without limits. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself playing the role of adult. Further, I find that I do this because it’s what is expected of me. Be a man. Have a trajectory. Set goals. Accomplish them. Take life by the balls and show it whose boss.

I think God has other plans for me. That or I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m still a kid just playing dress up. I find myself doing things without an explainable reason or purpose. I can’t seem to fully integrate into “adult” society or the throngs of conformity.
I don’t shower as often as I should.
I eat sometimes til I’m sick, not til I’m full.
I glance at ladies for a few seconds longer than I should.
I tell dirty jokes.
I burp. I fart.
I laugh at farts and I laugh at South Park.
I want to see movies I probably shouldn’t.
I mess up. I make errors of judgment. I fall seemingly all too quickly. I’m humbled; I make mistake after mistake after mistake.
And mistake after mistake I make, I treat myself as I was either raised to do so, or am inherently inclined to do so: by drilling it into myself that this is bad. And I’m bad. And I shouldn’t be making these mistakes. I should be past making these mistakes. I’m too old to be doing this, Damn it. “

I need to grow up.

And then I work at a school with the most awesome age of kids, 3-6 year olds. And I find myself treating them completely different than I treat myself. I have love. Compassion. Grace. I hold them when they fall; I hold them when they come to me after they make mistakes. I help them with whatever it is they’ve done “wrong.” I desire to see them do what’s right themselves, not do what’s right for them. I desire them to be independent, but always knowing I’m there to help.
I don’t want them to “grow up” and struggle with making mistakes, but know that it’s okay.
And I realize that maybe what is my nature isn’t really what’s right.

Maria Montessori should’ve been a saint. Before I ever came along and struggled with this myself, she crafted an approach so simple, yet so profound: help the child be independent, not a “grown up.” When a child makes a mistake, understand that they’re kids in a foreign world. Mistakes are gonna happen. A teacher should never draw attention to the mistake made, but to dealing with it and moving on. We have only recently discovered in the realm of science, of psychology, and all that stuff that I was interested in but never to pursue, that the brain learns better after correcting a mistake than by doing it right the first time.
Inventors like Thomas Edison pointed this out. With that quote about finding a million ways a light bulb doesn’t work. The lesson just seems to stick more when we’ve screwed it up one or many times—unless of course, you refuse to be okay making these mistakes, when your mind is so blinded by making yourself mistake free, by never making mistakes.

I really feel like what this does is turn us from people to machines. And when we do that, the story of it all becomes a textbook to teach us how to get it right.
But it isn’t a textbook, not really, not unless you make it one.

This is all a story and we are all characters in it. And characters need to rise and fall. It’s why we connect with protagonists and characters in stories we read or see in film; and what makes us love the story. It’s what makes a damn good stories that stay with us.

Yet it’s not our story. It’s God’s. And He’s telling it. Yet He seemingly gives His characters the ability to be part of the story telling or not; to be self aware, to think they can fully know the story, to think they can change the plot. And what is the plot? Well the gospel of John says it’s Jesus. He’s the Word, the Logos, the Reason, the Plot.

So what we make Him out to be decides what we think the story is all about.

(Keep in mind, I really think that even this—our ability to be part of the story telling or not, to think we can change the plot, or the apparent ability to tell the plot as characters of the story itself, is all part of the story teller’s telling of the story. )
Here’s how the story has been read and how it’s usually read today:

God created everything in Genesis One and it was all good. We, humanity screwed it up—it became not all good, and now God is spending the rest of time correcting our mistake. He did this by sending His Son to die for us so that we can get back to the place where it was all good. And the story isn’t finished yet, but we’ve had a prophet right a book about how it’s all gonna end, so we pretty much know the end of the story and feel we understand it all. Cause the story’s been written and given to us which tells the whole story. And now we can spend the rest of our lives as grownups, cause we have book telling us how, and to be ready and grown up for the end of the story.

Hmmmm…..yep. That about sums up everything I’ve been taught.

I’ve had the privilege (or by the Story teller’s intention) to be/become part of a church which is stepping away from this dogma that was in each of our pasts. I can’t escape it. I’ll readily admit I once thought that way, and still have times catching myself thinking that way. But thanks to my Pastor, Peter Hiett, thoughts and feelings I’ve had for a long time are now able to be put to words and expressed. I don’t want to claim anything as wholly my ideas, my profound, ground breaking theological concepts, but express that a door has been opened to theology I hadn’t come into contact with before.

Pistol Peter Hiett’s writings and study himself has led me to see that there is a field of Theology which believes that this is how the story should actually be read:

God is still creating, and we are on the verge of the 7th day. Genesis One is the big picture of it all, and the rest is the story of the 6th day—of humanity being made in God’s image. It isn’t going to be finished, it IS finished(like Jesus said on the cross); we just don’t see it yet.

Firstly, this actually made sense when you study Genesis, as that chapter one is supposed to be a separate text from Genesis two and three, not read combined. But more importantly, this means we didn’t just screw up God’s “intended will” (as I’ve was lead to believe that there’s a difference between His intended will and His apparent will), but its all part of God telling His story. This makes Jesus not a correction for our mistakes, but the center, the point—the plot.

And this makes the sin that started it all something more (or less) than what we’ve made it.

What was the original sin? Taking a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, so that we ourselves could know right from wrong, good from evil. And we convolute on dilute it into so many different theological concepts that layer upon layer covers up the most simple of truths until we forget it and humanity itself becomes guilty time after time of that original sin.

Cause after all, what is the most basic thing we as humans strive for? What is our most basic goal? To know what is good and do it, and to know what is evil and avoid it. And this has taken so many forms from hedonism to asceticism, that we forget that it’s all the same really.

Even Christians. God to church and learn good from the pastor to do good and not do evil. Learn what God want s and how to do it, learn what God doesn’t want and how to avoid it. Join church groups that help with this. Go to seminars and lectures and worship services and small groups and dinners for 8, and make yourself into what God wants. Grow UP.

It’s still taking the fruit.

Maybe the two trees at the center of the Garden—the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil weren’t/aren’t two trees at all. Maybe they’re one and the same. And maybe God’s plan was for us to eat of that tree, but not TAKE the fruit, rather receive it. Be given it.
But like in a Montessori classroom, we haven’t been given a lesson on that work yet. So we made a mistake. Not THE mistake, a mistake.
Now I know it can be totally gotten into about whether God intended it or not (again, that whole theology of God’s intended will and actual will), but it’s interesting to work in a classroom full of kids just itching to grow and learn. You know that putting something in their reach is just asking for trouble and simply expecting them not to be curious or touch it is being stupid.

God knew what He was doing, and this is where the story can diverge depending on how you see this act.
If it’s all part of the story, and we’re still in that 6th day, then God had a point in putting the tree out; He knew the nature He created us with and what we would do, and did it anyway. Just like a teacher who puts out a challenging work, and says to the child, “please don’t do this work until I’ve given you a lesson,” and then walks away, and the child decides to try it anyway.

But…if it was all good, and we screwed it up, then the story can get so convoluted, and we spend all our efforts and energy trying to get it to make sense. We try to form an understanding of God by asking—and in the end, seeming to blame God, saying, “Why did He put that tree (that work) out at all if He knew we’d fall?” Or, we say we have such a vile filthy nature, thanks to Adam Eve, and we need to do whatever we can so that we don’t make mistakes like them again. We need to learn all the rules and we need to grow up. No more being kids and making mistakes.
We become pirates.

And we turn God into one as well.

Whether we agree fully, in part, or so we think, not at all, by viewing God and the story in this light, we are all in some way following the 5 (or, by result 6) points of Calvinism. Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P. the 5 points:

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)
(If you want an expanded text on these, click HERE)

Derived from these 5 points though, is what many Calvinists come to call the 6th point—which, I say if you follow these, then really this point is a given and you should simply make it known to be part of your dogma and 5 points; anyway it’s this: the concept of “double predestination.” It can simply be stated as the other side to the coin of predestination—that just as God sovereignty chooses those whom He will save, in the same way He chooses those whom He will not save.
Again, you may not believe all of these, but there is a thread running through many the Christian churches that sticks rather closely to these. God creates the world, we mess it up, and now are totally depraved, from birth—or come the age of atonement (whatever that is). God has to send His Son to correct our mistakes (I so badly want to say f*** up), but just as we were free to choose or not choose the fruit in the Garden, we are free to choose or not choose Jesus. As a result, God “intends” for all to be saved, but is stopped short by our free will to choose. Yet at the same time, God is all knowing and so from before time began knows or “predestines” which ones are gonna choose Him and spend eternity in Paradise, and which ones are gonna burn in Hell and damnation.

If you don’t believe all of this, namely the predestination part, then God to you becomes captain of a ship which you can choose to get aboard or not—by choosing to believe in His son, and ask Him to be Lord and Savior of your life (which is really kinda like telling your Mom she can be the one that squeezed you out of her…well, out of her), but if you don’t….you’re gonna burn in Hell and damnation.

And how do we get aboard this ship? Well, we grow up. We see that we need the ship, and the Captain, and it’s up to us to get on board. He’s extended the invitation, but it’s up to us to make the Peter Pan in all of us Grow Up.

I’ve come to realize that for most of my life, I’ve viewed the story of the Prodigal Son in this light. He screws up, realizes he’s hurt, dirty, and living in a reality of a Pig Sty, and logically decides to return to His father. Yes yes. Humble myself, turn from my filth and pig sty, and tell my Father that I am not fit to be His son, but I will be a servant if He’ll take me. Yeah. That way, I can still get outta this filth and back to what I’ve decided is Good.
Never mind that His father runs out to him on the road and hugs him. This was his mindset. And this is the mindset we expect everyone who “chooses” Jesus to have. We tell them, “He’ll be waiting on the road to hug you and welcome you and throw you a party, but you have to be a man, you have to grow up, see what you’re living in, pull yourself up by your boot straps, and decide to make the long journey to Him.”

To find love, Peter Pan, you have to leave the imaginary Neverland of your mind, and grow up. What was that line from the beloved film of my generation, Hook? “Why Peter, you’ve become a pirate.”

In our quest to be what God wants us to be, we’ve forgotten what He’s created us as. In growing up ourselves, we’ve forgotten that we were ever—and still are, children. So much so that the process to “become a child of God” has become something that requires us to grow up (as the Prodigal Son).
We’ve lost sight that to save us, God didn’t wait for us to come to him, but entered our world—as imaginary as we’ve let it become. And he did it gently. I want to avoid gender stereotypes and roles of male and female, and father and mother, because it can get too convoluted. But I need to point out that (who some have dubbed a Christian Mystic, whatever that means) Julian of Norwich thought of Jesus as a Mother, and that the pains on the cross were like the pains of child birth.
I hesitate in this side of the topic because I don’t want to make this about gender, but about adults and children. And how we treat adults and how we treat children. And how we think God treats us, as adults or as children. What I can say is that I love this image because of how beautiful it is to think that rather than acting like we picture the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus didn’t/doesn’t just wait for us to come to Him, He entered our world. And what is He really like? What does He really expect from us? Is it to come to Him as adults, self aware and disgusted with our being, or as children? What was that thing He said about children and the kingdom of heaven?

What do we do when we’re hurt as kids? What do we do when we realize we’re dirty as kids? What do we do when we feel guilty as kids? We cry to our parents and want nothing but to curl up in their lap and rest our heads on their chest. It has nothing to do with logic, just emotion. Something snaps us out of our imaginary play world, and we want to run to our parents. And what does a good parent do? They’re not off somewhere waiting for us, or to come to us and express our humility, they’re right there the whole time; they’ve been there the whole time. All it takes is snapping out of it to see they’re right there to hold us.

I realize how unnerving this can be. But I think there’s a part in all of us that truly, doesn’t want to be grown up, instead, we want to fly, we want to fight, we want to crow.

But in the notion of needing to make ourselves something, in becoming Pirates to be saved, we make God a Pirate. And because Jesus is the image of an invisible God, we make him a Pirate. We think that He came into this world with the mindset of fighting fire with fire. We need to have this in order to make sense of the story as we see it. We turn the plot into something it’s not so that the story can be as we want it to be.

So we love and crave the plot, Jesus, to be like people like Mark Driscoll envision: A balls to the wall manly man Jesus, who could take both Chuck Norris and Macho Man Randy Savage in a fight and who came into our world kicking ass and taking names and inviting us on a quest to do the same, and who conquered Jerusalem…by…riding in on a donkey.

We make Jesus a pirate because we think that’s what we’re supposed to be. And Jesus has to be this in order for our views of ourselves, the story, and our role in it to not be shaken.

But what if…what if there was another way to look at it?

What if the story is still being told? What if no matter how old we get, we’re still in the 6th day of creation, being made in God’s image, and so we will always be learning, always growing, always kids? What if, just like a (Montessori) Teacher, God knew the nature He created us with? He knew in putting out a work (the tree) we weren’t ready for, that we’d eventually make our way to that work and try it before we were able to? What if then, the rest is His giving us a lesson in the work, teaching us about Good and Evil, about Life, so that come the 7th day, we’re ready for it?
What if this whole existence is God still telling a story that ends with “it’s all good.”
What does that make us?

In the film Batman Begins, there’s a line that the film emphasizes and kinda comes back to here and again. It happens when a young Bruce Wayne falls down the well. His loving father comes and does not criticize his actions but simply says this, “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

What if God isn’t trying to correct our mistake and to make us grow up, what if He doesn’t want us as pirates, but as Peter Pans, to see ourselves as He sees us—as His children? What if through this whole fallen existence what He is telling us is this:

“And why are we fallen, Adam (humanity)? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

3 Comments

Filed under God stuff

‘Them Gays’ and The Church

UPDATE: 1st. August. 2012

This being one of the top viewed posts on my blog, I felt the need to add a minor blip to it, in order to convey what I believe the Bible is saying about homosexuality. The post itself is a specific response to a specific conversation and–while still worth reading, only conveys a broad picture of what I hold true.

The large scope of the matter, I feel, rests on the word Sodomite.
In the New Testament, the passages concerning homosexuality–and all the times in the various translations the word ‘homosexuality’ is used, the actual word that it’s translated from is ‘Sodomite.’ Sodomite was a term familiar to the Jew, and it’s history does in fact date back to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the story of Lot there.
Yet what is intrinsically tied to this term, Sodomite, has been lost in modernity, lost in translation, and lost in meaning.
You see, Sodomite was a term used to reference male temple prostitutes. Whereas female temple prostitutes were referred to as Harlots, to distinguish a temple prostitute that was male as opposed to one that was female, they referred to them as Sodomites.
As I said, it was indeed coined based on the story of Lot in Sodom, and the gang rape and desire to rape the angels visiting Lot, but I believe that there is an enormous difference between what we call and consider homosexuals today, and what was termed a Sodomite in Scripture.
You see, if we’re referring to Sodomites, we’re not only referring to the male version of a prostitute, but there’s a whole ideology and cultural understanding of specifically ‘Temple’ prostitution that we do not seem to grasp.
Temple prostitutes were known for vile sexual acts, what we would deem presently/modernly as ‘Sexual Deviancy.’

There is no love represented in Temple Prostitution. It is vile sexual action in the mindset of ‘worship’ of false deities.
Now, we know according to John’s letters (1st John) that God is LOVE, and where the Spirit of God is, there is Freedom.
When Paul was writing about Sodomites in the New Testament, he was referencing the Greek and Roman community present in his time, and noting to his followers, to the churches he was writing to, not to become embedded in that culture. The gratuitous sexuality for the sake of itself and pleasure what was what Paul was warning against.
For in it, there is no love, and without love, there is no freedom.

So I ask, if Paul was really warning about ‘giving in to our sexual desires,’ our lusts, no matter what they are, was he warning against homosexuality, or against actions that contain no love, and therefore, no freedom, and thus, are binding, addicting, enslaving?

While I will state that the “Gay Pride” movement–especially men in it, has the strong appearance of what can only now be described as ‘Temple Prostitute’ ideology–flagrant sexual acts for the sake of the acts themselves, the friends I have in the GLBT community can only be considered as seeking love.

So how then, can those that seek love, even if it is in a way which runs contrary to what and how we consider to be the ‘natural order of things,’ be faulted as not loved by God as they are, for who they are?

Even still, the crazy thing about God is that he not only is Love, but He seeks out the lost and the low–the prostitutes. He even commanded one of His prophets to marry a Harlot so for Hosea (the prophet) to better understand God’s relationship and abounding, unrelenting love for us.

As such, I will forever hold that God is love, and where love is, God is.
Yet the funny thing about scripture, is that it cleaves us, like we were two people, not one. The very passage that says, “but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us,” and “we love because He first loved us,” goes on to say that “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

Part of me thinks, “Alright, God lives in me, and His love is made complete in me, cause I have loved.”
And then part of me thinks, “Crap, there are people I struggle with loving, and if I can’t say I love them while saying that I love God, not only am I a liar, but I don’t truly love God.”

See?
Two people. One of me loves, yet one of me doesn’t.
The good news is that that one that doesn’t will one day be cut from me and thrown into the fire forever, while the one that loves will live on IN LOVE, to Love, forever and ever.
And I hold this to be true of EVERYONE, regardless of gender, orientation, or sexual preference.

~And the world will be better for this.

(PREVIOUS POST, WRITTEN 10. June. 2011)
In recent conversations with some online friends, I really felt the need to express my thoughts/heart on homosexuality and the GLBT community.

Here we go:

I think too often we take the story of the horrific sexuality that happened in Sodom and Gomorrah, combine it with Romans 1, where it says “God gave them over to their shameful lusts” and then make some sort of theological doctrinal dogma…stuff about homosexuality. Without covering terrible English translating (the actual translation of Romans 1 would read something more like “God let them have their dishonorable sufferings,” note, sufferings, which is a more broad category that somehow–translation wise, the “Church” has attributed to homosexuals only.), let’s just take it as is for argument’s sake.

Firstly, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways.”God
If we are to know him, we are to know his Son. Who…as it turns out, was significantly silent on the subject of homosexuality. What He was loud and proud about was love. Love to such a degree that those who may be our “enemies” are who we are supposed to love, which will then make us perfect, as the Father is perfect. Love to such a degree that the last and the least were made first, and the first (Jesus), was made last for such a feat. But herein lies the problem. Modern Evangelicalism claims to be followers of Christ—to be Christians, but we’ve got an awful lot of Darwinism (the philosophy, not the science) in our doctrine.
We (I’ll lump myself in even though I’m ashamed of it) by our actions seem to say, “God came to save the world, yeah, but there are those of us who are winners, and those who are losers.” Sounds a lot like the Christian version of “survival of the fittest” to me. So…why does that need for a loser rear its ugly head in a religion whose King became the very last and least, the loser, so that we all could win?* (Insert obligatory Rob Bell reference that “Love Wins.” God wins in the End)

Why do we need to have villains, losers? Gays. Muslims. Mormons. Obama. The people that shop at Wal-Mart. Osama. Harold Camping.
Why?
So that we can know we are right? How is that Christianity? When our God became the scapegoat, so that all of us losers (that’s right, we all are; maybe in a later post I’ll tell you why I am) could win?
Mull on that for a bit and I’ll continue with point number B.

Number 2: “for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” Pretty sure that’s what Paul was getting at in that Romans 1 passage. The byproduct of that was everything else which follows in the passage. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just “the gays” that “exchanged the truth of God for a lie,” but all humanity at one time or another.
You. Me. Everyone.

So…God consigned us to a destruction of the body…in any and every perverse way we ourselves had the freedom to think of. Cause after all, what is shameful lusts but sin? And what is sin? Paul goes on to call it lawlessness. And what does the bible say is the law? Pretty sure it says it’s summed up in this: love.
So…sin is lovelessness…which is essentially selfishness.
And that looks an awful lot like all of humanity, not one single group.

So how does all that seem to translate to what the notion now seems to be: “God has made some sort of more shameful sin that looks like people are born with it, and I guess I just don’t know ‘cause it’s so damn confusing.”

Now we come to some of the more “liberal” Christian views. Some say, “hey, you know what, this whole homosexual thing is just your sin nature. And as such—while I myself can’t seem to work out an “abstinence from sin” program for my sin, we’re gonna tell you that all you have to do to be a Christian and serve God is to abstain from being Gay. Just…stay single, and…don’t rock the boat. And we’ll love you as a single person in the church struggling with an addictive sin just like we do alcoholic Christians and the like. Because quite frankly, when it boils down to it, we can’t fathom a God who might create someone to be something like a homosexual and yet still desire Christ.”
I think it’s easier to just lump it in with “other sins” because of not understanding it. “You’re not really Gay, you’re just a sinner. And when we get to heaven, you’ll see. Just as when you become a Christian you get a new heart and a new spirit, someday when we get to heaven, you’ll get a new body. And that’ll be a non-gay body. So…YAY GOD!”
Sorry, but I just don’t think it’s too clear on whether that entails gays getting a brand spanking new non-gay body. In fact, it really is rather vague on that. It says the sin, the lawlessness—which is lovelessness will be gone; that it will be burned away. But as for whether that entails homosexuality…not so clearly defined…
Who knows what heaven is gonna be like? Maybe it will entail the freedom and ability to share yours, your neighbor’s, my neighbor’s, and anyone else we(I) come into contact with’s ecstasy and joy. Pure, unadulterated, heavenly joy, with no heterosexual/homosexual labels coined and pertaining. That deserves to be said again… WITH NO HETEROSEXUAL AND HOMOSEXUAL LABELS COINED OR PERTAINING.
I think when we get to heaven the only sexuality that is going to exist is…heavenosexuality.(just made that up on the fly, copyright, gotta give me mad proppas if you wanna use it.)
What I’m saying is this: doesn’t it kinda make more sense that just as when we are in Heaven there will be “people from every tribe, nation, race, and people group,” yet our focus will not be on those defining traits, but on the fact that truly, we are of one nation—that of Zion; wouldn’t it make sense that maybe there won’t be any “earthly” defined sexuality? That we will all share in each others joys and praises and heavenly ecstasy?

Thus, we will all be heavensexuals.

It’s here I feel like I need to clarify on the point of Gender vs. Sexuality. I believe they are two differing aspects. In that, I don’t think gender necessarily garnishes sexuality, nor sexuality, gender. Now I know that that has seemed to become perverted in our state and time, that there seems to have been a rickety bridge constructed between gender and sexuality, but I think its false. So when I talk of Heaven, understand that I do not mean we will give up our gender—that there will be no male or no female, but just as everything, it may not matter once we’re there. . I don’t know how that’ll look. I mean, Lewis gets into some pretty crazy descriptions of such in Perelandra–that of gender and male/female debate, and he is able to word it much more eloquently than I find myself able to, so I’m just going to point people that way, to that book if they want to see a great description of Gender and the whole “male/female” shtick.

For now, I rest with this: we are all family. Sons and daughters of a Father we may not fully know or understand, but a day will come when we know just as we are known. Until then, we are called to Love God, and Love each other. IN that makes the kingdom now, if we so choose to see it. But as for me–though I may interact with some awkward stupidity, love is love is God is love, and if anyone (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Muslim, Obama, Wal-Mart shoppers, etc) can see who Jesus really is, and love Him—or at least allow themselves to be loved by Him, just as I struggle to do day after day, moment after moment, you’re welcome to do so in my church, standing next to me.

14 Comments

Filed under God stuff