Monday, August 29, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
“It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved. That is true of the relationship between God and scientific knowledge, but it is also true of the wider human problems of death, suffering, and guilt. It is now possible to find, even for these questions, human answers that take no account whatever of God. In point of fact, people deal with these questions without God (it has always been so), and it is simply not true to say that only Christianity has the answers to them. As to the idea of ‘solving’ problems, it may be that the Christian answers are just as unconvincing – or convincing – as any others. Here again, God is no stop-gap; he must be recognized as the centre of life, not when we are at the end of our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigour, and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. He is the centre of life, and he certainly didn’t ‘come’ to answer our unsolved problems. From the centre of life certain questions, and their answers, are seen to be wholly irrelevant (I’m thinking of the judgment pronounced on Job’s friends). In Christ there are not ‘Christian problems’. – Enough of this; I’ve just been disturbed again.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison
Monday, August 8, 2011
I was on a walk this morning, in between summer storms, and found something white on the sidewalk(the R part begins here). Without investigating, even with the toe of my sneaker, I assumed from its size, shape, color&location that it was girls underwear tossed out the window of a car the night before. (Yes, this could be a puerile male fantasy, but read on as I think my reflections are worthwhile beyond any relation to the actual physical evidence.)
SOMEBODY LOST SOMETHING last night. Perhaps her virginity (if the first time) or her self respect (if the 5th or 50th). It matters a lot less than you think whether or not she “asked for it,” as that only determines whether it is rape or not. Maybe this guy was her dream date, maybe not. In any such transaction, the girl loses something important, and the boy gets something for nothing. Maybe he paid for dinner, maybe he just paid. That hardly matters either; it only determines if it is prostitution or not.
While I have no desire to trivialize the ugly violence of rape, the importance of sex goes far beyond its current legal or political status, and far, far, far beyond what two 15 year olds, or 50 year olds, give it on a certain night in a certain place. (At least that was the conclusion back when people actually studied these things.) Occasionally, as in Mary Pipher's frequently excellent “Reviving Ophelia” people still “get it” and actually write about how demeaning sex is for teen girls. The religion taught in public middle schools says that sex is OK if you've thought about it enough. I disagree, unless by "thought about it" your thinking leads you to realize that sex belongs exclusively within marriage, as previously taught by all cultures, even those that wink or even celebrate violations of this heretofore obvious fact.
In the 19th century, Leo Tolstoy found meaning in the simple faith of the peasants. Today, Dallas Willard tells us, “there are no more peasants.” We convince ourselves that even the most obvious truths are just “lifestyle choices” and think we are sophisticated. Instead of just stupid.
A friend told me a story; hopefully it's not true. Year after year, a certain parent would tell their young child, as they went outside to play: “Have fun, and if things get too hot, put your panties back on and come home!” They thought they were being supremely clever, especially when, as a teen, the child finally got the “joke.” It's not a joke; it's immature parenting at best. And, yes, it would be of some comfort to learn that the parent made up this sick story to demonstrate their “cleverness” to an adult, and never actually spoke to a child this way. But in the end, perhaps it doesn't matter:
We trivialize sex, and then wonder why it doesn't satisfy us. The same lawgiver that governed the rising of the sun this beautiful summer day also said “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The celestial bodies have no choice in their obedience; human bodies do have choice, we abuse it sorely, and feign surprise when teen girls and many others suffer consequences. . .
How the Christian engages culture and particularly pop culture are interesting questions. There are two bad answers: “We can avoid sinful influences by simply avoiding it or condemning it” and “I can do anything I please”
The former thinks of sin as contamination (usually); but sin starts in our hearts before it exists in something discrete and external that can be “consumed”
The latter is willful and ignorant, and not freedom at all: it is bondage to self will and to what others may think of us for consuming, or not consuming, a particular aspect of culture. We DO have the power to choose, but the people that talk about choice all the time are nearly always those that are bound by sin. There really is NO freedom except in Christ. Non-believers have widely varying degrees of overt sinfulness, obviously, but none of them, not even one, is free at all.
(Pop culture is merely a large, and obvious, part of the overall culture: business, ideas, politics. When one shops, one is either cheap, or indulgent, or occasionally thoughtful and purposeful, but you are always engaging the culture.)
While the “don't go to movies” crowd is right that much of what depicted is sinful, it can't be avoided simply by staying home. The other extreme is right in the sense that it may be OK to attend, but is often naïve about how much they are influenced by something simply because it is well done, or because it contains one good idea. Avatar, for example, contained the idea that systemic evil should be resisted, but it also promoted pantheism in a big way that was doubtless overlooked by a lot of admirers.
Our pastor had a whole series on engaging pop culture a few years ago: sports one week; I should look up the other topics. He and his wife are huge movie fans, but they are conscious about their Christian worldview.