25 February, 2008

Reading the Bible...and actually thinking.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. -Phillipians 2.1-4

2 thoughts:

1) What a sobering challenge in a "me first" world. If the beginning of humility is feeling completely inadequate and unqualified then maybe I'm getting somewhere...

2) Also, in politics, do a large portion of evangelicals feel no obligation to be compassionate as instructed in verse 4? Or are things like universal healthcare just enabling? Or is that just a convenient excuse?

23 February, 2008

Suicide and Beauty

My dear friend John is one of the most honest, inquisitive, feeling people I know. He wrote this:

Last semester in English class, I had argued that there was an element of beauty to be found in suicide. My friend Ashley and I had often joked that she had the "perfect suicide tub" in the "perfect suicide bathroom". Stark, cold, white, tile floors and walls. A vintage, white bathtub with clawed feet and a wrap-around curtain. All the scene needed was a trail of crimson red blood and a love story gone awry. Recently though, my romanticized views on suicide were confronted with the actual reality of suicide.

Last week, my 21 year old cousin, Joe, put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. His Dad, Joe Sr., found him in his bedroom when he returned home from work. He was so beside himself he couldn't speak for days. Last weekend, our family congregated in Philly for the funeral.

At the viewing hours, I "met" suicide. It was written on Joe Sr.'s face. He looked like a ghost. Tears rolled down his cheeks and his body shook a bit while he hugged the people who were quietly filing by. (What's to be said??) Suicide's overwhelmingly sad "presence" was palpable. One particularly moving moment was when my Uncle Tom, who has Down Syndrome, hugged his sister (my Aunt) and cried loudly. Even Tom, who is unable to think critically, could feel suicide for exactly what it was and is: ugly, unnatural and evil.

It was there, sitting in the chairs facing the casket during viewing hours, that my thoughts churned while tears fell: How can something be ugly unless there is a standard of Beauty? How can something be the unnatural and false unless there is a natural order and Truth? How can something be evil unless there is Good? So with no "evidence" other than my experience and feelings to consult, this modernist was startled to uncover the seeming necessity of absolutes or "objectiveness" in regards to Beauty, Truth and Goodness. I had considered these topics before, but never as absolutes. It was certainly an unexpected realization at an unlikely moment. I hurt for Joe Jr. I hurt for Joe Sr. I hurt for all the world in that moment. It all seemed so fucked up, backwards and fallen. I could see why Joe called bullshit on us humanoids blathering on about our sports and celebrities as if anything mattered when we're just distracting ourselves from the very obvious fact that EVERYTHING IS NOT ALRIGHT. From his perspective of no God, Joe's reasoning towards suicide is flawless and his resolve is admirable. We ought not cry, but applaud his success in stepping off the this carousel of absurdity. --But-- It is not the case that there is no God. I'd dare say it is clearly not the case. Turning to God brings life and order. Killing oneself brings the opposite.

Last year I argued passionately that beauty and goodness were subjective. I argued a lot of things that I've since recognized to be false. The fog continues to lift. At every turn, my wrong opinions are being righted and all is beginning to make sense in the world. God exists. Truth exists. Joy exists. Hope exists. Peace exists. Beauty most definitely exists. As the song that I linked at the top of this post questions, these things CAN be found. (Do you think you can find it? Do you think you can see it? Go ahead and scream it!) That song became an accidental theme song for the weekend. I listened to it over and over. My brother, Jeff, showed it to me and the words were hauntingly applicable. A lonely soul . . . questions of the heart . . . questions of fate . . . and the ultimate question: what do we need? We need God.

On Sunday, the day after the funeral, we were driving home when my Dad received a phone call from my Mom saying that Joe Sr. had just accepted Christ as his savior. Whaaat?! There was much rejoicing in the car. The contrast was profound: Joe Jr chose suicide and in doing so chose a wrong way, a lie and a death. Joe Sr chose Christ and in doing so chose the Way, the Truth and best of all: Life.


09 February, 2008