Let God Sort It Out

Dr. Karl Meninger wrote years ago, asking Whatever Became of Sin?

Good question, doc. Because that line keeps getting pushed further and further out. Things, only a generation ago, which were considered sin are now not only not, well, sin, but are approved of, applauded.

The collective consciousness (and conscience) it would seem have been given over. This shouldn’t surprise us. It’s there in the scriptures: Romans chapter one: “And God gave them over…”

I’m not here calling out any one particular sin, but a general trend in what is arguably a post-christian society. We (at least we here in America) can’t even agree if this country was ever a “Christian nation,” whether–or not–it was founded on biblical principles.

No, everbody–left, right, centrist, liberal, conservative, progressive–is too busy planting flags, claiming territory. Everybody is saying that God is on their respective side in this cultural divide. (I write here of those who particularly claim to be in the church).

But what does God say?

Matthew 13:24-30 ESV

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Yes, I know the scriptures tell us that we shall know them by their fruits. I’m just sick of arguing. So I’m going to propose a new tack:

Instead of going out on tare patrol, I’ll instead leave the question of who’s in, or who’s out to God. Apparently, He has plan. I have sneaking suspicion that we’ll all be shocked on that day as to who are actually wheat, and who are tares. And the simple fact is that all that each of us can do is reflect Jesus to the best of our abilities.

We never win by arguing. Because people are no longer persuaded by logic. No; they’re looking for love, looking to be heard and understood. They’re looking for a shared connection via a shared story. Let us not forget that the Bible is first a story: God’s story. It’s a story of how He, Creator of all that is seen, and unseen, wants a relationship with each one of us.

It is love which will persuade hearts–not carefully crafted persuasive arguments. Or vitriolic vilifications. First, folks want to know how much we care–before they can even begin to care about what we know. We’re not even on the same page regarding what is, and what is not, sinful. There isn’t a common morality to come to any consensus upon.

There’s just this:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I’m not here talking about being soft on sin; rather, it’s about being soft on the hearts of folks who don’t even know they’re sinners in the first place.

As Jesus was…

Live a life of love, and let God sort it out, my friends. He knows who’s wheat, and who’s a tare.

Another Giant Monster: God, and Godzilla

Spoiler alert:

I loved the new Godzilla. It was everything a kaiju movie should be: the human cost was real, the stakes were high, and the monsters were huge. Plus, Godzilla quite definitively proved that he, and not Heisenberg, is the danger.

I’m not here going to summarize the plot, except to say that in terms of story nothing is wasted. Like Chekhov’s gun, there isn’t introduced in the first act that doesn’t show up later. Bryan Cranston, of course, owns every scene he’s in, and gives the movie much-needed gravitas. Unlike last year’s Pacific Rim, this film plays it close to the chest, and doesn’t give us full on Kaiju porn until much later. By doing this, we get to know the characters, and care about the human element.

We connect.

But make no mistake: when we get that reveal, we get it in spades. You’ve no doubt seen the trailer, wherein soldiers do a HALO jump over San Francisco? The scene alone is worth the price of admission. We really get a sense of scale, of just how massive Godzilla is.

And that is what I truly wish to write about: Godzilla as metaphor, as something so massive as to be entirely out of our control. In a sense, he’s a stand-in for God; a being so massive, so wholly other, as to be completely beyond our feeble comprehension…

Let me put it this way: how many times on your life have you been faced with something seemingly insurmountable–impossible, even–but God provided deliverance? But even that didn’t look like anything you expected. The Godzilla of the current movie is like that: to you, me, anyone looking on, he’s just another monster.

One who saves the day.

It seems that God is often like this, namely showing up in ways that only make sense in hindsight. When he arrives on the scene, we’re often left wondering. Consider how people in Scripture reacted to angels:

They bowed in fear. Until it was made clear that they, in fact, were not God–just His servants. It’s quite natural and understandable to fear the unknown, the other, the numinous, in this way…

In the end, movies like Godzilla remind us of our creatureliness, our infinitesimal smallness in the face of a being like Godzilla.

Or God.

Have you seen the new Godzilla? You should.

Movie Reflections: Notting Hill

'notting hill' photo (c) 2010, Nikos Roussos - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’m a happily married man of many years. As such, it happens that I’m contractually obligated to see a certain number of romantic comedies per annum. As there really haven’t been any romcoms produced of late (what’s up with that, Hollywood?), I’d like to reflect upon one of my favorites (did I just say that?):

Notting Hill.

Starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, they play variations of themselves (shocking, I know). The more I watch it, the more layers I peel back. Because this movie works on so many levels. It’s a meditation on celebrity, society’s obsession with it, and the consequences of that celebrity.

But mainly it’s about wish fullfilment.

There’s a hang dog, down on his luck book shop owner (I’ll leave it to you to puzzle out who plays this part), and a starlet, whose paths cross in the most ordinary of ways: shopping. Upon their first meeting, Grant’s William Thacker is nonplussed by Julia Roberts’s Anna Scott. In fact, excuses himself to deal with a shoplifter. In our world, one wouldn’t think that such souls would be drawn together, right?

Think again.

Upon their second meeting, later that same morning, Thacker bumps into Scott, spilling orange juice all over both them. He prevails upon her to tidy up at his house (it being just eighteen yards away). This is where the movie takes a turn. And for years, this particular turn bothered me.

After Scott returns to retrieve a forgotten bag, she kisses Thacker. In what world would a celebrity do this? It doesn’t seem realistic. Yet, the heart is fickle, right? I believe it is her desire for some degree of normalcy which prompts this. This self-effacing, unassuming Englishman represents something she doesn’t have: a normal life.

And for him, the kiss awakens a repressed desire for anything other than the quiet life of obscurity he’s been living.

Each represents for the other a fulfillment of a wish: a dream of a different life.

All of the best movies, in my opinion, awaken a similar longing in us; namely, that there’s got to be more. The late, great C.S. Lewis said that “If I find in myself desires that nothing in this world can satisfy, it stands to reason that I was made for another world.”

This is what the best movies, whether romcoms or otherwise, do: evoke in us that longing for that other world. That world where love never dies, where all is indeed right…

Where there is neither sickness nor pain nor tears… for all of these have passed away. But this is not that world. We are still in Act III of the play.

Notting Hill, despite its flaws, reminds that the path to lasting love is fraught with difficulty. But it is possible to find it. If we are willing to plunge into the pain, confront our demons, and work at it. That love won’t be perfect, and it often works best when we’re willing to lay aside our expectations–our wishes–and embrace what is.

We are all that girl, are we not? Standing in front of someone, asking them to love us…

Someday it will all be worth it.

What do you think? Have you seen Notting Hill?

Child of Divorce

You may have seen this video as it made the rounds via social media. Like so many of you, I not only saw it, but lived it. I was that kid. The one wondering if he mattered. The one knowing he didn’t.

I’m almost 45 years old, and I still fight that feeling inside that there’s something wrong with me–that I’m wrong. It doesn’t take much at all to take me back to that place. In so many ways I’m still that little boy…

I know God is my Father; yet I so often relate to him like I would my earthly father. That is to say, there’s a distance there that shouldn’t be. Yet I don’t know how to overcome it.

How could he love me?

I know he does. I’m just not good at feeling it. Faith, and trust, are hard to come by when the scars are still so very real. And God, like a faithful surgeon, often wounds right there in those very places of deepest woundedness… I don’t want to hurt, but I also don’t want to mask the pain.

God, are you listening?

How about you? Do you struggle with knowing, deep down, that you are loved by God?

Don’t Talk to Me About White Privilege

I’m sure it’s a thing, white privilege. One need look no further than, say, Donald Sterling to know that there’s something very wrong with the world, that systemic racism exists.

That white privilege is a thing.

But don’t talk to me, a white guy, about it. Because white privilege, insofar as I can tell, never did a damn thing for me.

Let me explain.

Behind the middle class fačade, was an empty home. A home devoid of any real sense of security, or love. Emotionally distant, and uninvolved, my dad couldn’t keep it in his pants, “screwing around” on my mom for fourteen out of sixteen years. And my mom? When he left, she had to take on two, and sometimes three, jobs to keep us fed, and a roof over our heads.

The net effect is that I lost both parents.

While there may in fact have been more creature comforts, I was still latchkey. I came home to an empty house day in and day out. Left to my own devices, I didn’t get into drugs, but rather porn. Nobody cared.

Nobody cared when the centerfolds went up on my bedroom wall. They just closed my door, and pretended they weren’t there. There was no dad, or father figure, to tell me that women were not objects, or hos, that existed just for me. Nobody cared when I stayed up late at night, watching the racy movies.

I was, by and large, ignored.

Like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I was ignored. Until I fucked up, that is. Then it was all OMG! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

But even then it was mostly bark, no bite. People couldn’t bother to really care. I mean my mom once took my cigarettes away, saying she didn’t want me to smoke. She hid them literally on front of face, like I wouldn’t retrieve them almost immediately.

The list goes on. The greatest travesty of my upbringing was that it was virtually consequence-free: there were no real boundaries, and thus no real, tangible, sense of love…

Wait. I can recall one thing that white privilege gave me:

My mom, the counselor, threw me an eighteenth birthday party. She and her boyfriend vacated the house so I could have friends over. Did I mention that she brought me along with her to the videostore to rent pornos? Yep, she did. And she, the youth diversion coordinator, also supplied all the booze we could drink, including hiding a bottle of Southern Comfort in my bed.

Lucky me, right?

So there’s my white privilege upbringing,  people. Didn’t, and still doesn’t, feel very privileged to me. To this day, my relationship with mom is strained; and with my dad, it’s nonexistant.

Divorce and dysfunction hath it’s privileges, eh?

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