struggle, spirituality, absurdity

Category: Cynical Devotion (page 2 of 3)

Confessions of an Ex-Evangelical

I remember in high school youth group we had to respond to this particular situation: What two things would you take with you if you woke up with your room was on fire?

It was hilarious, in retrospect, because we all had to be very pious. This meant that our first item was our Bibles, followed by the one item that we really wanted to keep from getting torched. Give me a break. Our Bibles? Unless this is a 200 year old Bible that has been in a family for that long, I somehow doubt that any one of us would have cared at all about the ten-dollar Bible sitting under a pile of dirty laundry.

Of course, by answering such, we all appeared very well behaved and spiritual in front of everyone else. And we perpetuated the stigma that one can only be a part of the group if you were very pious, or at the very least, can fake it really well. We tended toward the latter.

It wasn’t until college that I heard the first accurate response to that question. My friend, Stephen, answered with, “My pants.” After all, we tend to sleep without pants, and if we have to watch the firemen try to save what’s left of our house or protect the houses around us, then it’s probably best to do so with our pants on.

A Musing on the Resurrection

I read somewhere that you don’t beat the Reaper by living longer. Instead, you beat it by living well. That makes sense, of course, and living life to the fullest is important to me, even though I find I am terrible at it. But while it is both inspiring and good advice, I can’t help but think that there is more to it. I’ve been reading “Surprised by Hope,” by N.T. Wright, and it has me thinking about the whole death/living thing. Actually, I’m kind of amused by how tritely I just wrote that, but oh well.

The way I see it, we can’t defeat the Reaper because it has long been defeated. When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, it was not some hyper-spiritual type of resurrection I think I had inherited from an evangelical heritage. If Jesus’ resurrection was physical, which is the thrust of Wright’s book, then so will mine. After all, Baptismal theology says that I will get what Christ got – resurrection from the dead and a glorified body.

All that to say, the reaper is already defeated. Yeah, I’ll die. So will you. But it will be only temporary. I’m not sure I understand why, but that makes it somewhat easier to live a full life, and live it well.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

A german photographer developed a work of art that focused on death. Specifically, the artist produced photos of people when they knew their health was declining and then after they had died. The work represented a fairly diverse group of people at different ages and gave the observer background information leading up to the person’s death. The photos, one of life and the other of death, looked strikingly similar, and combined with each person’s brief life story, the whole work was quite haunting.

I found myself not particularly enjoying the work, however, and like some profound movie, it stuck with me (and bothered me) for several days. But I could not figure out why. It wasn’t that there were pictures of dead people – Leukemia cured me of any acute fear inherent in death. Nor was it the fact that most of the subjects of the piece died of cancer – I found that kind of amusing because “it’s always cancer.” And no, you aren’t allowed to find that funny unless you have dealt with it – think of it like a club. An exclusive club. Expensive, too – even with insurance.

Anyway, After a few days of mulling it over, I finally came to understand why the exhibit unnerved me to such a degree. The artist sought to celebrate both life and death, especially the latter. I am all for celebrating and cherishing life, but I will never do the same for death.


Things were not supposed to be this way. We weren’t meant to die.


Regardless of how readers of the Biblical Narrative interpret the beginning of Genesis, the anthropology is universal: our own mortality is a profound corruption. Life was given as a gift, death is the curse of our own doing.

Culture seems to be moving in a way that idolizes death, using descriptions like “a sweet release,” “a turning to peace,” and “rest.” There are even religious cliches that move in the same direction: “going to be with the Lord.”

But we weren’t meant to experience this separation from those close to us; they weren’t meant to die, and neither are we. Death is not a natural part of the human life cycle, but rather it is decidedly un-natural. Treating death as anything else robs our ability to mourn, feel the pain inherent in death and separation, AND experience life to the fullest.

Life is all we have right now, and death is an abrupt end. Seek to live a full life. Don’t fear death, but hate it – because it is a curse.

Begging and Pleading, for a good cause.

I hate asking people for money, even if it means donating to an undeniably good cause.

The fact remains: without the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I would have died sometime in early-2006. So as my wife continues to raise money for the organization (while I cheer from the sidelines), I am trying to get as much support as possible. The link below goes directly to the Team in Training donation site, which has raised many millions to find cures and treatments for blood cancers. There are no gimmicks, and all donations from this point on go DIRECTLY to the LLS.

It doesn’t take a few gigantic donations, but rather the generosity of many – giving even a dollar at a time – to defeat one of the deadliest forms of cancer. I owe my life to this organization, and so do the generations of patients after me.

Please Donate, even if it is a few dollars: http://www.active.com/donate/tntgmo/teamkaty

Boogers and Westerners: An Alternative reaction to Bad-Astronomer

This is a reaction to Bad-Astronomers’ post on faith and science.

I do not intend to prove you wrong. But there are other points of view – not particularly antagonistic to science – that are rarely heard.

I don’t think we have to split faith and science dualistically. When splitting like this takes place, the result is immediate polarization, and any attempt at communication breaks down into shaking fingers furiously at one another. Then, all anyone can do is shake harder…or make a fist and shake it, because that’ll show ‘em.

[Science is] a method, a way of finding this knowledge. Observe, hypothesize, predict, observe, revise. (emphasis mine)

Defining science as a method is well put. It amazes me how rarely people understand that concept, and in an ideal situation, anyone trumpeting under the banner of science would first have to submit to this method. Granted, I do not like talking about science totally in this way, merely because “submitting to the method” reminds me of some freaky cult – which isn’t science. Engineering, maybe, but not science.

Baseless insults to engineers aside, there stand at least two huge barriers in the way of finally putting an issue like this to rest. From the way I see things, the first problem is in the fact that both sides’ uppity-ness has little to do with the conclusions made and more so in the assumptions about the other party’s assumptions. (what an obnoxious sentence)

If a person has grown up in a spiritual culture that makes a big deal about the Earth being flat, and then a scientist comes along and points out that it is, indeed, round, that person’s entire life becomes shattered. So when Chuck Darwin started spending too much time looking at finches and comes to some astonishing ideas that result in even more astonishing conclusions, does that force any implications on others in a non-scientific realm?

Maybe – or maybe not – but the immediate knee-jerk by everyone opposing C-Dawg might indicate that they merely assumed an imposed-conclusion about their spirituality. Plus, if those who aren’t scientists feel threatened and want to respond to science-based claims with their own science, do they violate their existential integrity in doing so? I say yes. Scientists can say that humanity descended from purple boogers shot from the nose of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but to what degree would that effect the notions of spiritual revelation? And if I decide that it does effect my religion, am I still religious by attacking back with more science?

There’s the rub.

The second of the huge barriers I mentioned is the strange polarization that has come to plague our intellectual realm. The one point on which scientists and creationists seem to agree is that we must choose one or the other.


Why not both/and?

Scientists might say that using both/and violates the methods on which their work rests. Theologians (conservative Christian, typically) often say that without a literal 6-day creation, then systematic theology states that “faith in Jesus” suddenly reduces to vanity.

I think the problem is that I can at least understand what both sides are saying. Spiritually, I have gained more out of life than I would have thought possible (though that is not necessarily the goal), and yet my fingers tap-tap-tap on the keyboard of my MacBook Pro – a pinnacle of science (fan-boyism aside).

Westerners love the comfort of either/or.

Tension that comes from both/and can be unsettling.

But somehow I think that the both/and tension might be the best way to go…

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