Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why CS Lewis was Smarter than Me Am

Having read Lewis' autobiography some years ago, I realized why I would never become the kind of scholar he was. (Shouldn't it have been obvious already?) This post by Fred Sanders, which includes a description by Lewis of his studies as a teenager, was like a nail in the coffin. So read no further unless you are looking for (1) an excuse for your own shotty intellect, (2) a good reason to be depressed about your future prospects as a scholar, or (3) fuel for your contempt of CS Lewis (and by 'contempt' I mean envy.)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Finally Saw "The Dark Knight"

Yes, I confess to holding back The Dark Knight from reaching it's full potential as a block-buster. But I finally joined rank and coughed up $6 (matinee price) today to see the arresting and adumbral flick (thanks Thesaurus.com).
So many ideas, so, so many thoughts. Here's the question that struck me most: Why do we love dark heroes? There's been no shortage of them -- Dirty Harry, Lieutenant Spears (Band of Brothers), Hellboy, Spawn, The Punisher, William Munny (Unforgiven), the Hulk, Danny Archer (Blood Diamond), Michael Corleone, Paul Kersy (Death Wish), Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), "V" (V for Vendetta), Wolverine, and perhaps the greatest of them all, the Batman.

So what generates their appeal? Here's a guess -- they can do bad-guy stuff and maintain (more or less) good-guy status. They channel their anger, vengeance and destructive power into a good cause. I think many of us have these impulses at times, but we can't indulge them. How many of you have patched a hole-in-the-wall or two? You may even imagine the satisfaction of punching some idiot's lights out occasionally. If you doubt the truth of my suspicion, I have three words for you: N - F - L. Even you girls have to admit that you played Rockem-Sockem Robots as a kid. We love vicarious violence. Watching Batman bring the full measure of his fury down on some crook's jaw is soooo satisfying.

Unfortunately, aside from the futuristic, military-doesn't-even-have-that-technology-yet body armor and Batmobile, this is all sadly out of touch with reality. You just can't do bad-guys stuff and stay good. All these stories get it dangerously wrong. Know who got it right? You guessed it: George Lucas. In his saga, the anti-hero is slowly but steadily ruined by his fits of rage and uncontrolled passion. But in The Dark Knight, Batman is able to do what Annakin could not -- he uses the Dark Side of the force without being consumed by it.

But we all know that Yoda and Aristotle are right. Doing evil, even for good reasons, does damage to your soul, and repeated evil doing will eventually make you evil. So, as badly as we want there to be Dirty Harrys and Wolverines, as badly as some of us want to be such characters, you simply can't have your proverbial cake of violence and eat it too. You can't continuously perform evil actions and still be the hero.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Forgotten Gardener

Maybe this was obvious to everyone but me, but I think most of the talk about John 15:1-5 ignores God. Sound crazy? Here's the sort of thing I usually hear in discussion of John 15: our job (as branches) is to abide in the vine (Jesus), and he will produce fruit (love, justice, impact on people, etc.) through us; Jesus wants us to be fruitful and not useless branches. Then there is a good bit of talk about how we can go about abiding and what sorts of attitudes or behaviors that entails. So there's Jesus (the vine) and us (the branches).
The problem is, we have entirely flown past verse 1, which introduces the most important character in the metaphor: the gardener. Vinedresser, husbandman, viticulturist, whatever -- it's God the Father. This metaphor is ALL ABOUT HIM. "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit . . ."

My wife, Kristin, has something of a green thumb. This past spring, she entered the wonderful world of vegetable gardening. Her lettuce and broccoli exploded into enourmous blossoms of wide, green leafyness. People would observe the bounty and correctly conclude that Kristin is an excellent gardener. The same is true of us and God. When we flourish, God beams with righteous pride, knowing that this success reveals his expert workmanship. That is the point of John 15, and that is the point of life. "To glorify God and enjoy him forever," as they say.
So what rides on this? Here's one thing -- when we think (as I often do) about whether we are abiding or flourishing in the vine and whether we are bearing (enough) fruit, let's not forget who is ultimately responsible for this. The Father-gardener. He is tenderly watching each branch, caring more about it than we ever could care about even ourselves, caressing it, pruning it, adjusting its position in order to see it grow and blossom. The Gardener's deep desire is to see his vine thrive, and he is able to bring it about.
I'm not saying that John 15 teaches only this idea, or that I've unearthed something new. I'm only suggesting that there isn't enough talk of the Gardener in expositions and meditations of John 15. So the next time you or I read or teach from that passage, maybe we can help alleviate the deficit.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bert & Ernie Gangsta Rap

Just had to post this. I have no idea what they're saying. Someone let me know if the "lyrics" are not PG.