God’s Anointed Leaders Don’t Have A Great Track Record

Ugh.  I’m doing the thing.  I’m talking about politics.


I hate politics a lot.  I’ve talked before on this site about how the internet is a terrible place to argue and how people of faith often invalidate their point by presenting it in a way that is less than loving, and talking about politics online in any way, shape, or form tends to go against both of those ideas.  But it’s been a weird year, it’s been a weird election, and as the aftermath shakes out I find myself increasingly frustrated with the rhetoric being used by people of faith to support our new president-elect.

A great many well-reasoned people, people I love and respect, have expressed their support for Donald Trump along the lines of “We get it, he’s a divisive and disagreeable human being, but his policies make more sense to me than Clinton’s policies.”  I may not agree with their conclusions, but I can respect that reasoning.

This is not about those people.  This is about the people who are loudly complaining about any form of resistance whatsoever to our president-elect, who are suggesting that all ought to fall in line without any sort of dissent, and are using their faith in God as justification for such a position.  That justification takes a lot of forms, from the “God is in control, do you fear Trump more than you trust God?” all the way up to the lunatic-fringe “If Trump won, God obviously WANTED him to be President of the United States and YOU DON’T WANT TO ARGUE WITH GOD, DO YOU????”  Some cite Scriptures such as Romans 13, which is a really convenient Scripture to recite as long as the people you backed are in a position of power.

But here’s the thing I keep coming back to–let’s pretend, just for the sake of argument, that we are absolutely certain that God backed Donald Trump.  God, for his own sovereign and inscrutable reasons, decided to place America under the governance of a man who has repeatedly demonstrated an irascible temper and seems so far to be struggling with the transition into leadership.

Even if we believe that is 100% true, that does not mean that Donald Trump’s leadership is going to be a good thing.

My Bible is filled with the stories of people who were, directly and uncontroversially, placed into leadership by God Himself.  In several of those instances, their leadership was filled with disaster and pain for the people of God.

For example, there is no doubt in my mind or in the words of Scripture that God placed into leadership Israel’s first king, a man known as Saul.  He did it in response to an evil request by the people of Israel, who demanded a king instead of submitting to the theocratic rule that God had desired for their nation.  Saul’s leadership included such highlights as the time he almost killed his own son because of a rash oath he had taken in order to gain more glory for himself, and was only stopped because his entire army intervened. There was also the time that he got impatient waiting for God’s appointed judge, Samuel, and didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his people, so he offered a sacrifice that he had no right to offer.  He famously kept for himself the spoils of war with the Amalekites, after God explicitly commanded him not to, and then tried to “spin” it positively as sacrifices reserved for the Lord.  He spent the majority of his final years trying to murder a young man that God had chosen to be his successor.

There is no doubt in my mind or in the words of Scripture that God placed into leadership the king of the Babylonians, a man known as Nebuchadnezzar.  He became the ruler of the Israelites as God responded to the continual evil of the people of Israel, who had rejected God’s teachings about caring for the poor and downtrodden and had spent years in self-serving luxury while committing such vile sins as child sacrifice.  Nebuchadnezzar’s interactions with the Israelites included kidnapping young nobility and forcing them to serve in his court.  He once constructed a gigantic golden idol and forced everyone to bow down and worship it, and those who resisted he attempted to burn alive.  God eventually humbled him by giving him a psychotic break, causing him to live as a savage animal until he acknowledged God’s supremacy.

Another Babylonian ruler, chosen and used by God, was Darius.  He issued a decree, egged on by status-hungry advisors, requiring all people to pray only to Him.  When his trusted advisor Daniel resisted, he had no choice but to honor his own law even though he realized its foolishness, and threw Daniel into a pit of hungry lions.

I could go on and talk about the rulers of Persia that God used, or the Roman rule under which Paul was writing Romans 13–the very same rule that was torturing and killing Christians and would lay siege to Jerusalem.  I could even talk about good kings like David, whose self-serving sins caused plague and death and military devastation for the people of Israel.  But I hope the trend of this discussion is very clear at this point.

In Scripture, God’s sovereign decisions work in tandem with human free will and decisions–even when those decisions are stupid, even when they run against God’s desires for the very best for his people.  In those instances, God raises up faithful people to challenge the ruling powers and to remain faithful to the core tenets of His covenant–holiness, love, and care for those who cannot care for themselves.

Does good come even in the darkest places? Of course.  Does God continue to work even through the sorrow? Without a doubt.  But these truths do not erase the darkness and the sorrow completely, and people still suffer and even die because of the sinful and arrogant decisions of human beings.

Whether or not it was or is “God’s will” for Donald Trump to be President-elect, his governance will be determined by his own decisions, whether they are wise or foolish.  The witness of Scripture is that the faithful will obediently submit to the rule of law–insofar as it does not violate the call to love and serve God in all things.  The witness of Scripture is that the faithful will resist those decisions that would put God’s people in danger.  The witness of Scripture is that the faithful will challenge the leadership to do better, to BE better.  They will protect the suffering and call sin what it is.  They will recognize that the decisions that lead to this point, even if they are decisions made by the people of God, do not necessarily reflect the best intentions of God.  They will recognize that our forefathers recognized a responsibility to stand up against governance they saw was unjust–and several of them did so while serving the same God who produced Romans 13.

My challenge to myself is to be a voice for the voiceless–those who feel that Mr. Trump does not hold their best interests at heart.  God cares about those people too.  And I can obediently submit to the laws of my nation while resisting policies and positions that will do harm.

I hope desperately that all people of faith–whether they support Mr. Trump’s leadership or not–will do the same.

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Pokemon, Family, and passing on the Geekiness

So I have about a zillion half-formed blog posts that need finishing and I’m sorry I’ve been slacking here.  But today I have to share this.  Because today I saw this video:

If you grew up in the 90s and played Pokemon, and you watched that, you probably got chills just now.

I read a little more about how the game is going to work, and it just filled me up with so much joy and nerdiness and emotion that it just begged to be blogged about.

Let me tell you why.

When I was a kid, like most children who grew up in the 90s, I fell in love with Pokemon.  Pokemon was like oxygen back then–you didn’t take an interest in it so much as you absorbed it.  I resisted for a long time (I really never got into the card game as a child), but when I discovered the Game Boy games it was all over.  I was a sold-out Pokemon dork from then on.

But you probably could have guessed that from my enthusiasm about any kind of new Pokemon anything.  What you probably couldn’t guess is how my mother would react.

When I first started getting into Pokemon, my mom helped me design a board game to share with my friends at school based on the Pokemon tokens I got on the back of Lunchables boxes.  She asked questions and was interested in my new hobby.  And one day, I came home from school to find my mom curled up on the couch with my game boy, playing Pokemon Blue, and she said, “I’m going to need a game of my own because I’m ON THE SECOND GYM LEADER AND I CAN’T SAVE BECAUSE I’LL OVERWRITE YOUR FILE.”

She got Pokemon Red and we played together for a long time.

Eventually, my dad would get in on the fun, too, getting his own game.  We would trade together or battle or just talk about the game.  It was awesome to be able to share that with my family.

So when I see that video, besides the awesomeness of the app itself and what is coming, here is what I see:

  • adults
  • with their children
  • trading Pokemon together

I see families getting together around a shared love of silly geekery.  I read about the accessory that can be paired with a phone so that kids can run around and catch pokemon with their little pokewatch and play together with their family, and I see that Nintendo GETS it.  They understand that they are marketing to a generation that grew up on Pokemon, and now have families and children of their own, and they want to make something that people can enjoy together.

And I think about my own childhood, and how my parents both took an interest in my geeky pursuits and shared with me a love of their own nerdiness, and it makes me really proud and happy to think I’ll be able to do the same in the years to come with my son and daughter.

My 3-year-old, C, ADORES Pokemon.  He doesn’t know much about them but he gets really excited whenever he sees them and I let him sit with me while I play on my 3DS.  So to think that I will have a game that I can really share with him, that he can strap on a little plastic doohickey and we can run around outside together and “catch pokemon” and then he can sit with me and SEE them on my phone. . . I can’t express how happy it makes me to think that I’ll be able to share that with him in this way.

Obviously, my children will develop their own passions and interests.  It’s my joy and responsibility as their mother to learn and get excited about the things they will love.  But it’s also my joy to share the things that I love with my kids.  And Pokemon, which was a huge part of my childhood, is giving me a way to do that.  That means more to me than I could ever express.

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Doctor Who and Devotions: Love is a Promise

The Doctor: I don’t need an army. I never have! Because I’ve got them. Always them! Because love, it’s not an emotion. Love is a promise. And he will never hurt her. PE, catch!

Danny Pink: Attention! This is not a good day. This is earth’s darkest hour! And look at you miserable lot. We are the fallen and today we shall rise, the Army of the Dead shall save the Land of the Living. This is not the order of a general, nor the whim of a lunatic. This is a promise! The promise of a soldier! You will sleep safe tonight.

I mean, you knew this was coming, guys.  This was too perfect to go un-blogged.

Death in Heaven was a SUPER emotional finale.  I haven’t been on to talk about it, but holy wow you guys I just love the twelfth Doctor SO STINKING MUCH.  He’s quirky and funny and doesn’t understand humanity in some really essential ways, which I really love because it adds to the “other”ness of the Doctor.  And I love him with Clara.  I still ship it like FedEx (in vernacular: I WANT THEM TO SMOOCH AND RUN OFF INTO THE SUNSET HOLDING HANDS AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER), their chemistry is so beautiful and their interactions are absolutely spot-on for a turbulent but maturing relationship.

And yet, in the midst of that, we had Clara’s tragic romance with Danny Pink.  I loved it and it broke me.  It was a really interesting look into Clara’s psyche, and Danny was just AMAZING.  And this moment, where Danny loses all of his emotion, where he makes his final speech and dies heroically to save all of humanity–but mostly Clara–was heart-wrenching and beautiful.

I have always loved the things that Doctor Who says about love.  The way that it takes these ridiculous, crazy, over-the-top stories about time travel and aliens and turns them around to be about humanity, about the heart, about what it means to love, is always surprising and beautiful and a little bit (or a lot) heart-wrenching.  Danny Pink and Twelve finally understanding one another, finally coming to terms with their differences, and banding together to save humanity, was no different.  It hit on an idea that cuts right to the heart of my problem with so many depictions of love in today’s culture–the idea of love as an emotion over and against love as a commitment.

Love is tied to emotion–that isn’t up for argument.  When we love, we feel deeply about a person.  Love can make us incandescently happy; it can make us desperately sad.  But love itself is deeper and truer and purer and more enduring than any emotion.

There are probably very few people reading this who aren’t at least somewhat familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter” of the Bible.  It gets read at weddings all the time, it gets scrawled across walls in pretty hangings and skin in pretty tattoos.  It’s a beautiful piece of poetry.  The most famous part of the chapter goes like this:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  IT does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

All of those famous qualities of love are actions and attitudes, not emotions.  They are decisions that one makes even when things are tough.  Love means being patient not just when I’m in a particularly patient mood, but choosing to be patient even when my son has asked if he can watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates for the five hundredth time in the last fifteen minutes.  Love means not just “keeping no record of wrongs” when the offenses are small, it means actively choosing to put aside my natural urge to keep score, even when Husband has done something I think is really worth holding over his head for a while.
Love is a promise.  It is a commitment that we make to see the best, believe the best, and act on behalf of the best for the people we love, even when it’s the last possible thing we want to do.  When we’re feeling good about it, feeling awful about it, or even not feeling anything at all, the choice remains the same.

When Danny loses all of his emotion, he doesn’t lose sight of the promise he made to the woman he loves.  “You will sleep safe tonight.”

Love always protects.

Clara remains close to Danny, letting him hold her and comfort her and reassure her, even when the last vestiges of his humanity have been taken away.

Love always trusts.  Love always hopes.

Danny is able to rally the entire army of the dead, emotion-purged humans, reformatted into Cybermen, to use the last bit of free will they have left to rise up and rescue humanity from the calamity about to befall it.

Love always perseveres.  Love never fails.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine love working like that outside of fiction.  Even in Scripture, the lofty words and poetic feel of 1 Corinthians 13 somehow removes those truths from reality; makes them something pretty we say or write or broadcast but that we all really know is just a pretty story, just a lovely lie.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Love is a promise, but it’s not one I make on my own.  It’s not one I’m capable of staying true to by myself.  Because I do rely pretty heavily on my emotions, and they don’t always want to keep those promises.

Fortunately, I know a God who has kept all of those promises since the dawn of time.

The love that is written about in 1 Corinthians 13 is the love that is expressed in its purest form by God, and demonstrated visibly to us through His Son, Jesus.  It would be beyond the scope of a single blog post to detail out the many ways that He has demonstrated these qualities.  But on that cross, when he paid the price for the darkness and cruelty and brokenness of all of creation, and three days later, when he emerged victorious from the grave, Jesus made a promise to all of creation that things will be finally made right.  That darkness does not have the final say.  That what is awful in this place is being defeated, can be defeated, WILL be defeated in our lives and in the whole universe.  That He is making everything new.

“You will sleep safe tonight.”

What a promise to claim.

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Saying Goodbyes–a tribute to Husband

He asked me out the night before we moved out of our respective dorms.

He’d be living on-campus over the summer, but I would be two hours away at my parents’ house.  Immediately.  I had less than 24 hours with my new boyfriend before I got in a car with all of my stuff and hit the road.  He’d be visiting in a week or so, sure, and we’d trade off driving the 90 or so miles that separated us over the next few months . . . but it was still rough timing.

I remember saying goodbye, face pressed into his chest as we hugged.  I remember promising we’d see each other soon.  I remember hoping we’d see each other sooner than that.  And even though we’d only just begun, goodbye was painful because all I wanted at that moment was to stay.

About a month and a half later, I said three words I’d promised myself I would NEVER say so early.

He’d said them to me a week before, visiting my house on the way to a church function, and I was dumbstruck.  I had been burned on those words before, and I was scared I’d be burned once again.  I told him I didn’t know if I was ready.  He understood, drew me into a hug, and said goodbye.

I agonized over it for a week.  What if he was just as immature as the boys I’d had in my life before?  What if he changed and became someone I was afraid of?  What if he hurt me?  I paced the floor of my bedroom nearly every night, going through all the reasons it was too soon, too much, too fast.

But then that night, together at yet another church meeting, several things happened.  He stood with me as I bumped into my ex, supporting me and quickly navigating us past a VERY awkward encounter.  As we sat together, I overheard some people talking about him with great respect–people I had grown up admiring, people who had been married for years, people who had loved me and helped raise me since I was tiny, admiring this young man beside me and the way he treated me and the way he carried himself.  I realized I admired him too.  I realized maybe sometimes things move faster when you’re older than you were, when you’ve learned things from past mistakes.  I realized I loved this guy.

So I told him, pressed into his chest, held close, lips touching.  I whispered those words, and he whispered them right back to me. And then we said goodbye.

As I drove home, I realized things were a lot different than they had ever been, and I had just made a very important decision.  And I couldn’t have been happier.

He waited with me for my parents to pick me up for a long weekend excursion.

We sat there, next to my suitcase, chatting and holding hands.  He exchanged a few words with my parents and brother as we loaded up my stuff, and then he kissed me goodbye.  I climbed into the car next to my brother and waved until he was out of sight.

“So,” my dad began brightly, grinning wide beneath his beard, “When is that boy going to ask you to marry him?”

Daaaaaaaad,” I protested.  We’d only been dating for almost six months.  It was WAY too early to be thinking about marriage.  My parents chuckled.

That month, we’d pick out and buy a promise ring together, “as a joke” because everyone kept saying we’d be getting engaged soon.

When I lost it, I was devastated.

He bought me another one the next day.  It had “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” engraved around it in Hebrew.  I wore it everywhere.

Saying goodbye this time had more nerves in it.

“So you’re really going to ask them?” I wondered as he packed for his week-long trip to see his parents in Alabama.

“I’m going to tell them.” He corrected me.  “I’ll ask your parents when I get back, but I’m telling my parents.  We’re getting engaged.”

We kissed goodbye, and the next day he began the long drive home.

His parents did raise a few questions (you’ve only known her a year–are you sure?  do you really want to get married so young?) but they were satisfied with his confident response.  His mother went with him to look at rings.  I counted down the days to when he’d be back, when we’d visit my own parents, when he’d ask them for my hand.

They were surprised he asked for permission at all, surprised we weren’t engaged already.  A month later, when he popped the question, their response was “FINALLY.  Can we tell people now???”

The hardest goodbye was when we left for our internships.

Ten weeks in two different states, while planning a wedding in a third state.  We would barely see each other until the week of the wedding.

It was a grueling 2 1/2 months.  We did manage to meet at my parents’ house for the occasional meet-up, but it was always short and exhausting.  We survived almost entirely on skype and our phones.  It was how we planned the wedding, it was how we worked through the death of my grandmother a few days before our internships ended.  We’d see each other again for the funeral, and then he was gone again–back to Alabama to get the last of his things to move into our new apartment, and to bring his family up for the big day.

When he said goodbye at the rehearsal dinner, and I left for the hotel with my bridesmaids, I don’t think it really sank in that it was the last goodbye before we would share a home forever.

On July 31st, 2015, it is 5 years since I said “I Do” to the man I affectionately call “Husband” here on the internet.  We’ve been through 3 homes, become parents to 2 children, graduated college together, started our careers together. . . really we have faced all of becoming adults together, as husband and wife.  I have so many wonderful memories, and I look forward to many more.  But maybe some of the most powerful memories are those goodbyes, because they have changed so much.  Because Christmas break our senior year, we didn’t say goodbye and travel back to our parents’ homes.  We went home together.  Every time our friends went home, it hit me all over again that I didn’t have to say goodbye like I used to.  I’d wake up next to him again.

He kissed me goodbye last Monday afternoon, and got on a plane to Florida for a work seminar.  We talked every night, but less than we used to when we were younger and didn’t know when we’d see each other again.  He came back to me on Thursday night, with a kiss and a hug and souvenirs for me and the children.  Then we collapsed into bed, because it was REALLY REALLY late.  And he kissed me goodbye before he headed to work the next morning.  And he came home the next evening, just as he does every day, and the adventure of our life continues on.

Happy Anniversary, my love.  I’m forever grateful that you are the one with whom I share all my goodbyes, and all the reunions that follow.

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Thank You, Jane Foster

Okay. so. this is a letter I wrote for a very special project, started by a very special blogger.  Katie over at Nerdy Girl Notes is one of my geek girl heroes–she is incredibly positive and thoughtful and her reviews of OUAT are just SO spot-on that I generally find myself nodding enthusiastically and whispering “YES” as I read.

She challenged her readers to join her in writing a book.  This book is going to be a compilation of letters to female characters from all over pop culture.  The idea is to see ladies speaking positively about female representation in media, publicly appreciating the fictional women who have spoken to us in our own very real lives.  This is ABSOLUTELY something I can get behind.

I had a moment of self-reflection recently that prompted me to write my first letter for this project.  The letter is below.

If YOU are interested in writing a letter for Katie’s project, check out the details on her blog!

You have a pretty awesome (fictional) life, Jane.

For starters, you’re completely brilliant.  You have multiple Ph.D’s.  You can recognize and understand alien technology that is far beyond regular human comprehension.  You dive into the study of incredibly advanced concepts from other species and dimensions without even batting an eye.

You’re also absolutely ROCKING it in the romance department, let’s be honest.  You are literally dating a god.  He’s gorgeous, he’s heroic, he’s gallant and considerate, and he’s head-over-heels for you.  He brags about you to his superhero buddies.  He’s willing to abandon his entire past and background to be with you.  That’s something that would make anybody envious.

In some versions of your story, you’re even a superhero yourself–taking up Thor’s mantle when he is no longer worthy.  YOU are worthy to lift the hammer of Thor.  On top of all your other incredible gifts and talents, you can pick up a superweapon and bash in the skulls of the bad guys.  That says a lot about your character as well as your abilities, because only people of true upright character are worthy.

In short, you’re a pretty amazing person.

So why did I dislike you so much?

I’m going to be blunt here, you were my absolute least favorite of all the Marvel ladies until very recently.  I found you whiny and annoying.  I was disgusted with how forward and doe-eyed you were whenever Thor was nearby.  I was bored with you being in constant need of rescue.  It felt so odd–with all of these great, combat-ready Marvel ladies surrounding you, here you were, so. . . human.  So ordinary.  Why weren’t you “strong” like the others?

It wasn’t until I took one of those dumb Buzzfeed personality quizzes that I really understood what was going on.  It was a “which Marvel woman are you?” quiz.  I filled out all the answers, clicked “submit”, and was disappointed–but not surprised.  I was most similar to you, Jane Foster.

And that’s when it hit me, all at once–I disliked you so much because you reminded me so much of myself.

I’ve long identified with “smart” characters, that wasn’t a surprise.  Good-natured friends and loved ones have called me “Hermione” in jest for as long as I’ve been a fan of Harry Potter, because that was me–frizzy brown hair and a hand in the air at all times.  But it is more than just your intelligence that I find myself relating to–it’s your overall personality.  It’s the way you aren’t even a little bit subtle about your emotions, the way you hold nothing back–from disappointment to frustration to crushing ridiculously hard on Thor.  Even if you try to be subtle, you fail.

It’s the way you don’t have any kind of combat skills of your own, the way you have to rely on other people to help you.  It’s the way you can get hurt, and other people want to keep you safe.  It makes you so vulnerable, and that is how I feel a lot of the time.  I have a very narrow range of skills, and self-defense really isn’t on the list.  In a culture that screams at me that strong women can save themselves, your need to be rescued by physically strong people reminds me that I, too, am not what the world calls strong.

And so for a very long time, I hated seeing you on screen.  I hated it because you remind me so much of the flaws that I see in myself.  The things that the world screams at me are unacceptable for a “strong” woman.  I couldn’t see you as strong or capable or interesting because I couldn’t see those things in myself, either.

All that self-reflection from a Buzzfeed quiz.  Crazy, right?

And yet, I had to go back to the things about you that make you so wonderful.  You ARE gifted.  You ARE brilliant.  You ARE in love with someone awesome.  You ARE pure of heart, worthy enough to become a superhero on the strength of your character alone.  When I started to think about that, I started to realize that maybe the problem isn’t me or my traits being “strong” enough.  Maybe the problem is my own understanding of what makes a woman strong.

When I started thinking that way, and remembering the person that you are is a person that others look up to and superheroes admire and brag on, I started seeing you–and me–in a different light.  I started seeing us as people who don’t have to fire a gun or know kung-fu.  I started seeing us as ladies who don’t have to play hard-to-get or keep our emotions carefully guarded.  I started seeing us as ladies who are interesting, and valuable, and even heroic, on the pure merit of who we are.  That has changed a lot for me.  It’s changed how I see the writing for female characters, looking for depth instead of specific “strong” traits.  It’s changed my own estimation of my value.  It’s made me realize that maybe I don’t need to change who I am to be strong, but instead I just need to be confident in the strength I already have.

So thank you, Jane.  Thank you for being smart, and silly, and vulnerable, and worthy.  Thank you for making me see myself as all of those things.  Thank you for being a character I hated, so that I could realize that you could become a character I love.

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An Open Letter to Open Letters

Ah, the open letter.  We see these all the time now.

They clog our RSS feeds (is that what people even call them anymore? well that’s what i call it whoops).  They fill Huffington Post.  They are written by offended customers and the workers who offend them.  Breastfeeding mothers and disgruntled celebrities.  They have sort of become a staple of internet culture.  There is no better way to declare to the world, “I HAVE AN OPINION THAT EVERYBODY SHOULD LISTEN TO.”

Because in a lot of ways, that’s what the internet has become: a vehicle by which all may voice their (obviously very important) opinions.

Since the Internet is a place where all posts are launched into the world equally capable of being read, heard, and processed by others, it hasn’t taken us very long to realize that now everyone has a forum within which to air grievances and make broad declarations about life and the way it should be.  And in a lot of ways, that can be a good thing.  We can all learn from each other.  We can witness the different perspectives offered by the world.  We can listen to voices that we would have no ability to listen to otherwise.  And that is good!  I love learning and, slowly, I am beginning to love listening.  I am beginning to discover (as I probably should have ages ago, but I can be pretty dense) that there is no sharing of the gospel until I have listened.

Alas, there is a dark side to every bright spot of internet freedom, and open access to an audience in front of which to air one’s grievances is no different.  Because everybody is capable of shouting their opinions into this giant mass of people, there is something of an arrogance that has developed in internet culture.  We see it everywhere–anonymous hate mail, the pits of darkness and despair that are YouTube comment threads, passive-aggressive facebook statuses.  But I think the Open Letter is probably the most eloquent expression of human arrogance the internet has created.

You see, for the most part, when people write open letters, it’s not even about the issue that they say they’re discussing.  Oh, it may be tangentially about that.  They’ll want you to think it’s about that.  But it’s not.  It’s about getting offended and having everyone agree with them.  It’s about getting pats on the back for having the “courage” to speak up.  It’s about the obsession that internet has with righteous (or perceived righteous) indignation.  Everybody loves to think that they are part of the crusade against injustice, whether that injustice is something real and tangible like racial inequality or something incredibly petty like the behavior of an errant Starbucks barista.  Maybe if we all shout about the slights visited upon us by the world, and then shout about each other’s slights, we’ll accomplish some real good!

Except we won’t.  More often than not, open letters do nothing except generate meaningless anger and lots of pageviews.  Occasionally one will actually effect some change in the world–Taylor Swift’s recent open letter to Apple is now famous for prompting the tech company to alter its policies for musicians in its upcoming streaming service, Apple Music.  But make no mistake, that is the exception and not the rule–and it is an exception made possible only by Taylor’s incredible fame, overall good reputation among fans, and the general culture’s predisposition to distrust big corporations.  This is not to take away from her victory, which will benefit lots of independent musicians who couldn’t speak with the voice of authority that she has.  It’s just to say that her success says a lot more about the influence of Taylor Swift than it does the efficacy of open letters.

It’s a delicate line to walk, critiquing the ways that the internet addresses problems.  Because, as I mentioned, some problems do need to be addressed.  If we can’t use this wonderful tool to accomplish some real work in the world, then it’s basically just a vehicle for cat pictures and shopping that doesn’t require pants.  Which, to be fair, are virtues of the internet that I highly value.  But the internet is, and can be, so much more.

I’m not sure what the solution is.  I do think, though, that it begins with less shouting and more listening.  I’m learning that those are the first steps to a LOT of different solutions.  Let’s all challenge ourselves to get off our soapboxes a little more often.  Let’s challenge ourselves to broadcast fewer self-righteous thoughts out to the people of the web, and instead really listen and learn about the world around us.  Let’s be willing to tone down our righteous indignation and settle for curious study.  Maybe we can penetrate some of the meaningless anger and replace it with some creative problem-solving.

At the very least, we’ll learn that maybe the world can live without our angry thoughts about public breastfeeding after all.

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God, Science, and Fiction

I’ve been thinking a lot about science lately.

And no, fellow OUAT fans. Not THIS kind of science.

I’m doing a lot of reading to finish up my graduate studies.  It’s been so rewarding to go back and read some of the books that have shaped my education as a pastor.  So far, I’ve knocked out two of the three rereads I’m supposed to do.  And both of them, oddly enough, focus a lot on the physical world and its relation to my faith.

Seasoned Christians tend to dismiss this sort of thing out-of-hand.  After all, we know that everything physical is temporary and corrupted by sin, and will all be destroyed by fire so that we can go to heaven.  The real work of Christianity is in the heart, the soul, if you will, and it flows out of the body in basic good deeds and dragging your tuckus to church on Sundays and other such things.

Except that’s really not the case at all.

The argument made by the books I’ve been reading* is that the body and the physical world are the very things that were corrupted by the fall.  Jesus came to save that which was corrupted by the fall.  Therefore, this physical world is the very thing that Jesus died to save.

That’s an oversimplification (it kind of has to be since I just condensed like 500 pages of reading into 3 sentences), but it’s a really important truth that has had great impact on the way I view my faith and my role in the world around me.

Specifically, it’s made me think a lot about science–the study of physical things, both here on earth and in the universe beyond.

The purpose of humanity, at creation’s very inception, was to participate in God’s task of reigning.  We were to “rule over” the created order–plants and animals and all kinds of things (Genesis 1:28).  The idea here isn’t of some kind of totalitarian dictator.  Unfortunately, the idea of “ruling” has been tainted by sin as well.  But think about the way we understand God’s rule over us–lovingly guiding us to become our best selves, strengthening us when we are weak, disciplining us when we need to grow.  Now imagine mankind, doing the same thing for the creative order.

I was reading about this, and my mind instantly went to science.

At its best, science shows us how to take care of the world around us.  It gives us knowledge about the earth, the plants, the animals, and even the massive expanse of celestial bodies within which we find ourselves.  It’s amazing.  When we, as a people, apply that knowledge wisely, we are able to cure diseases.  We are able to rescue struggling species.  We are able to do all kinds of things that I’m having a lot of trouble thinking up right now because doggone it Jim I’m a pastor not a scientist.  But the point remains–when we do science right, we learn some cool stuff, and we are able to use it to accomplish great things in our world.

What will science look like when Jesus comes back?  When the resurrection takes place and all evil and corruption and selfish ambition is banished forever?  When the entire created order as we know it is totally transformed so that it never has to endure decay or death ever again?

I don’t know.  But I think it’ll be amazing.  And I cannot imagine that the God who created our minds and placed in us an incredible thirst for knowledge would send His Son to redeem all things, including those minds, and then just say “WELP.  Eternity time, you guys.  Put down those beakers and pick up some harps, it’s time to play “Old Rugged Cross” for 10,000 years!!!”  I think God has some reigning, some ruling, for us to do.  And to do it, we’re going to have to learn a lot about the created order over which we’ll be presiding.

That means a lot of things.  It means that we, as Christians, need to get our collective rears in gear when it comes to academics.  We need to stop warring with the findings of science, recognizing that in reality, faith and science are not mutually exclusive.  It means that perhaps we should spend less time dwelling on the possible “How”s of creation embedded in some evocative, poetic words, and instead focus on the “Why”s–the purpose for which we and all around us were made.  It means that we should rejoice when new things are discovered about our world, because perhaps these new things we’ve discovered can be part of bringing light and hope where there is currently darkness and decay.

I don’t know.  I’m certainly not out to bring the entirety of the “faith vs. science” debate onto my doorstep.  I just think maybe it doesn’t need to be a debate at all.  Just something I’ve been thinking about.

I’ve also been thinking about science fiction.

Work with me. I’m going somewhere with this.

It is so hard for us to conceptualize a universe untainted by sin–we’ve never experienced it, and we won’t until Jesus does come back.  But what if we started viewing the cosmos through the lens of the new creation?  What if we let our vision of the future be shaped by the oncoming resurrection power?  And what if we cast that vision into the hearts of others through the stories we tell?

It has been said, by more knowledgeable and more eloquent people than me, that Star Trek portrayed an incredibly optimistic view of the future.  I wonder if that has anything to do with its longevity.  A future where all races band together as one and head towards the stars to learn and to make peace.  That captures our hearts, deep in that place where we want the restoration of all things.  We want peace.  We want to be purely altruistic in our pursuit of knowledge and our interaction with the created order.

I think that as we tell our stories, as we build our worlds in our hearts and minds and then share them with the world, we would do well to let the desires God places in us for our future–for His future–give shape to our fiction.  As we consume media that captures our hearts, we would do well to examine the ways that it projects our hope.  Whether our science is real or involves laser guns and rubber-suited aliens, I think it’s a vital component to visualizing the things Christ has in store for us, and building for that future when He does come.

* the books I’ve read recently are Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright and Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, for any curious souls looking for some in-depth but fascinating reading)

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