Why does it seem like the popular view of Christianity is one of a crochety old God sitting around waiting for you to screw up so he can damn you to hell? It’s no wonder people don’t want anything to do with it. I wouldn’t.
These are extremely fascinating short essays from 100 of the world’s high thinkers. Most of it is pretty dense reading, but it’s at least worth a look. If nothing else, many of these will probably provoke strong reactions. I guess that’s what dangerous ideas are supposed to do.
The thing is, I guess the idea of grace is very appealing to me. Where it seems like alot of people I talk to have pent-up contempt and hatred, I feel more sadness and sympathy than anything. My heart breaks to see the masses of misguided, mixed up people in the world. Myself included. It’s horrendous to be exposed to our ugly, festering human nature, but in my more lucid moments, I can’t help but feel a great trick has been played on us all. If God created us to only be satisfied when we are in communion with Him, then the entirety of human suffering can be attributed to our floundering around trying to find any sort of cheap, temporary satisfaction to fufill that need. The clever trick would be to make us so addicted to these substitutes that we fail to even realize our own dire situation.
Sometimes I feel like as Christians we have this idea that we are climbing up this ladder(stairway?) to heaven. This is a very tempting idea, because the higher we climb the more people we get to put below us. Way down at the bottom are the murderers and drug dealers and rapists, and way up at the top are the breadwinners of our faith, maybe Pat Robertson or something, I don’t know. When we feel like we’re being a better Christian we take a step up, and vice versa. When people start to talk like this, I get very worried because I don’t think my ladder is very sturdy. I get the feeling like a certain change of circumstance here or there, and I would make the painful fall back into the “pit” of evil people who can’t get it together. That’s when I remember that we’ve all distanced ourselves from God equally and that climbing up a latter isn’t going to get us any closer. That’s what Jesus is for.
I’ve just finished reading Donald Miller’s latest book, Searching for God Knows What, and it really has me thinking. I was particularly taken by the chapter on what he has dubbed “Lifeboat Theory”. It is essentially Miller’s observation that we act as if we are all stuck in a lifeboat, constantly having to prove our worth in order not be thrown overboard. Here’s an excerpt:
“The thing is, if people are in a lifeboat, the reason they feel passionately about being a good person and all is because if they aren’t, they are going to be thrown overboard; they are going to be killed…Because when you really think about it, these wants we have, like wanting to be right, wanting to be good, wanting to be percieved as humble, wanting to be important to people and wanting to be loved, feel perilous, as though by not getting them something terrible is going to happen. People wouldn’t get upset about being disrespected if there weren’t some kind of penalty in play.”
And that really hit home. When I’m really honest with myself, I know that an embarrassingly large portion of what I do is motivated by what other people are going to think about me. I’m constantly trying to prove to everyone that I’m worthy of staying in the lifeboat. What’s worse, we are desperate to associate ourselves with more valuable people, hoping that we might be looked at as more valuable ourselves, and conversely trying to dissociate with those who are less valuable. This leads to our natural, inevitable tendency to place people on a ladder of worth, which I’m so used to doing it seems almost unthinkable not to. The irony is, to someone removed from this model, the whole thing might seem baffling. Miller argues that to people who know God intimately, and feel His complete, quenching love (think Adam and Eve before the Fall), there would be no need for this ultimately unsatisfying pursuit.
While none of this may seem revolutionary, it has really forced me to look at things in a different light. In the recent aftermath of the book, I see a constant stream of this theory at work. I have found myself questioning the mechanisms I have developed to belittle what I perceive as foreign or cheap or unintelligent or uncool or a myriad of other things. And maybe more importantly, I have become more aware of the reality of our human need to feel loved. God has blessed me in many ways, and it seems for a long time I have been blinded to this simple reality, much like a prince who grows up in a palace and is surprised to learn of the relative poverty of his kingdom. I realize that sounds like bragging, but I assure you, I’m more ashamed that I have done such a bad job of showing the love which has been so graciously handed to me.
From the New York Times, about a group of artists who have locked themeselves away in a giant wooden box where people input any item, and the artists output the original and a handmade replica. Make sure to check out the pictures.
There are certain bands that just seem to have that special something, a synergy that is hard to describe but easily recognizable. And I think Deerhoof is one of them. Granted I’m a relatively new fan, but I was immediately intrigued by their new realase, The Runner’s Four. We were able to see them live tonight at Common Grounds, and they did not dissapoint. All extrememly talented musicians, they obviously draw heavily from free-form jazz, with an incredible sense of syncopation and dynamics, but still able to kick your ass with their heavier sections. These are complex, meticulously crafted songs that come across as almost improvisational at times, which is a testament to their superb songwriting abilities. And I haven’t even mentioned little Satomi Matsuzaki, the pint-sized lead vocalist who is irresitibly cute with her choreographed hand movements and rock poses. It’s refreshing to find a band with an original, accessible sound who don’t seem to be trying too hard.
I would be hard pressed to concoct a better couple of days. Florida-Georgia weekend always promises excitement (Steve does not have a good history with Jacksonville, but has improved his record to 1 in 3), but this tripped proved to be all at once stimulating, relaxing and more than anything, just plain fun. These are the highlights:
The Nates’ hospitality. They opened up their apartment to 12 or so of us. When we arrived Friday night they had delicious grilled treats and cold beer waiting for us. This morning before anyone woke up, Nate R. snuck out to have two dozen Dunkin Donuts waiting for us. Bravo, Nate, bravo.
Friday night at the Landing is always a relatively similar experience: very loud and very crowded. Most people are more or less intoxicated (mostly more). On a side note, I think they are trying to reduce the Average Intoxication Level (or A.I.L. in tech speak) by charging exorbitant amounts for alcohol. An African child could eat for a month with the amount of money I spent on the three drinks I purchased over the course of the night. Also the jam/cover band wasn’t anything to write home about. Not that most are. Let’s just say that this particular band didn’t really seem to have its finger to the collective “pulse” of what 50,000 drunken college kids want to hear. The “Play That Funky Music White Boy” extended jam was a nice touch, however. Two guys right next to us nearly came to blows because one had reason to believe that he had been peed on by the other. It doesn’t get much better than that. Despite all the negatives, it just wouldn’t be a real Florida-Georgia weekend without a Friday night Landing experience.
Mr. Stuart’s hospitality. The Stuart’s have always been very generous to us, and Saturday was no exception. We rolled up probably 10 deep to his tailgate party, where he had already paid for us to park. They had ribs, wings, and an impressive assortment of beer, which was shared freely. The weather was beautiful and we hung out for several hours beforethe game throwing the football and engaging in other standard pre-game activities. I haven’t done anything like that in a long time. It was a lot of fun.
The Game. Not the most spectacular game of football I’ve ever witnessed but we laid the smack down on them early with two impressive touchdown drives, and held on for dear life. It was close enough to stay interesting, and after Georgia missed a field goal in the fourth quarter, our whole group of friends was on national TV as we celebrated. The camera man must have thought to himself, “Look at that group of young, attractive Florida students having the time of their lives! Get them on TV quick!”. Something like that. We’re all pretty much celebrities now. So final score 14-10 Florida, bada bing bada bang…great weekend.