On a search for a better world, finding it in the most unlikely places
I recently spent some time in conversation with another follower of Jesus, one who has a much different opinion than myself on the perspective and ideals of discipleship. At some point in the conversation, I realized there would be no reconciling of our viewpoints, no mutual appreciation of differing perspectives. The chasm between our paradigms was too great to bridge in a single conversation. The essence of our disagreement (albeit amicable) was over how truth is portrayed in story. Quite frankly, I believe this is a problem with much of “christian” culture in what I call “The Bubble” (that is to say, mainstream american Christianity). Somehow the stories we tell all end up resembling some modern adaptation of a 50’s sitcom. Modern Christian movies, music, and literature (in majority) all seem unable to grapple with the reality of good or evil, presenting both as pathetic, shallow caricatures of their reality. This is ironic when you consider that the core standard that we as Christians claim adherence to, the Bible, suffers no such literary allusions. As a book, the Bible contains unsparing accounts of evil, detailed (though not indulgent) descriptions of the sexual escapades of numerous kings and powerful men, and even a (rather graphic) romance novel in Song of Solomon. Both Jesus and Paul used language that can only be described as colorful, and the very nicknames of the disciples call into question our highly romanticized 21st century icons.
I’m sure by now that many of you are ready to stop reading, so I’ll get to the point: as someone who is about to embark on a voyage into the uncharted waters of fatherhood, I have been putting much thought into what I will teach Lux (my daughter). So many of my fellow Christians have raised their children in a sort of spiritual biosphere, completely isolated from honesty in regards to the world we live in and the chapter of history we find ourselves in. These children live out a kind of gnostic dualism, and sadly many enter adulthood with a seriously atrophied spirituality…but I am digressing into a matter that is unfortunately too broad for a late-night blog. My point is this: Lux will be raised with an authentic view of both good and evil in all areas of life. She will be taught to recognize both good and evil, to see the light AND the darkness, and to love the light. We will, of course, limit her exposure with regard to her age, but the most important thing I can teach her in regards to the story that she will find herself in is the ability to find beauty in broken people, wholeness in a fractured reality, and truth in a world of lies. I hope and pray she will be able to draw out the “Imago Dei”, the image of God from the messed-up people around her, and that regardless of her path in life, that she will find a dark corner of humanity’s story on which to shine truth, beauty, and hope. I don’t want to give her a perspective of cloistered, fearful, puritanical piety. Rather the sacrificial, overcoming, prophetic, and creative path of a true holiness, one that must often be lived out in the very teeth of evil.
In conclusion, what we don’t need is more “Christian” stories, we need Christians who see the beauty in all stories, who can wade into the darkness and bring the light. Light-bearers who will not cower in church buildings but who dare to stand up to the evil in our world and in our hearts, invading its darkest lairs and vanquishing by the power of good manifested in the beauty of the Way of Jesus. We need to stop telling fairy-tales about “facing the giants” and truly face our own fearful way of life. We need to stop living as if evil doesn’t exist, and stop deceiving ourselves about the nature of evil, and we need to teach our children to do the same. Then, what was true of Jesus will be true of us…
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” [John 1:5 NIV]