I just finished the book God is Closer Than You Think by John Ortberg. Ortberg is a gifted communicator and this book comes across as what it is meant to be a written sermon. I am sure that is how it started or ended up: as a sermon series at Meno Park. It was a fast read and here are a few quotes from it that I found interesting:
“Thomas Merton once said that if you find God with great ease, perhaps it is not God that you have found.” As a guy who is half introverted and half extroverted and a contemplative it was a great reminder that my struggle at times to find God is a good struggle and an essential part of my spirituality.
I was also struck by the quote from Karl Barth: “God would rather be the suffering God of a suffering people than the blest God of an unblest people.” Ortberg adds to this by talking about “the cross as the ultimate paradox: God experiencing the absence of God so that he can draw close to us in our loss and grief.” The whole paradox idea in Christianity is something I want to explore further with a movie review I want to write soon on “Primer.”
One of the worship teams I play guitar with (called Acoustic Skyline) is leading the worship at Camp Nakamun this weekend for Family Camp. I am looking forward to hanging out and playing with my friends and enjoying time with my family, although it will get a bit crazy when I have to leave Sunday morning to preach in church and then rush back to Camp to play for the evening session. It will be fun and I hope a great weekend!!!
I am in the process of reading a book I bought in the bargain center of chapters entitled Evil: An Investigation by Lance Morrow. I am about a quarter of the way through it and it seems as if it has been written on the heels of Sept. 11. It seems as if it is Lance Morrow’s way of trying to figure out and discern evil. One of the things I have found most interesting is the discussion on the relationship between evil and humour in the brain – which are somehow linked. I am not sure what to do with that but to say that I think, like Lance discusses, that the emotions and reactions that are linked to evil are similarly located with humour which I think explains why humour is often our coping mechanism for evil. I have to admit that when I have experienced evil it is often coped with on an emotional level with humour to some degree not in an unsympathetic way but with humour none-the-less.
I have also found some of the stories of societies in the world that have so deteriorated that some have accepted steeling food from children and pushing elderly people into the fire as entertainment. I think it goes to show the depravity of man and not just in isolated power crazed ways (like Hitler, Stalin, etc.) but in everyday places and in everyday ways.
However, I have to disagree with Lance in that to me, and I could be wrong, he assumes that evil is just in specific places doing specific things where I think it is way more subversive than that. I agree that our medieval concept and picture of Satan is distorted but evil exists and as C.S. Lewis describes in The Screwtape Letters it is more subversive than we give it credit for. I think evil exists as much in apathy as it does in intentionality.
I watched War of the Worlds last week and after processing the movie and the experience I have come up with a few observations and thoughts about it.Caution…this blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film and care about the ending don’t read on.First, let me say that it had some of the best special effects that I have every seen in a movie. Second, I was not fond of the acting and that increasingly crazy Tom Cruise in this film. But beyond that, it was the holes in the plot that irritated me most. As much as I realize that I have to check part of my sense of reality and logic at the door and go for fun, I can’t completely turn off all of my brain (much to the theatres dismay – I am sure that is part of their sales strategy for charging $15.00 for popcorn and pop). Here are a few examples of those plot holes I mentioned: How does Tom find a flashlight that works when any other electronic devices are dead? How do they end up with the only vehicle that works, as if the solenoid from their wood-paneled Caravan was stored in a lead box in the part shop? Most importantly, how does an advanced alien species, who has been preparing for this invasion for over a million years, not think about the potential contagious viruses on planet earth? We know, as lesser intelligent species, that we wouldn’t go to a planet without thinking or preparing for that – that is planet invasion 101. Beyond all of that, the movie brings up an interesting discussion. If we were to find and communicate with an advanced intelligence in space, wouldn’t it reason that they are more likely to crush us like an ant hill or look at us like an annoying stray dog following them home or howling at night with our crazy satellite signals? I think humanities perspective is that advanced life wants to talk to us, and even more telling that “advanced life” means more moral, good, pure, loving, etc. What history has taught me is that with all the technology and advancements we have made, we still struggle with the same things and the same addictions. Men and women have always struggled with lust and the advancement of technology has been used to that end and alarmingly so. Pharmaceutical companies spend ridiculous amounts of money on curing Erectile Dysfunction rather than Cancer or HIV. The internet has fuelled a desire for pornography that is growing bigger and bigger. In terms of greed…people have just learned how to use technology to steal in different and more efficient ways (identity theft, etc). In terms of our pride…we assume that we know more, have a better way of life, eat better, etc.I think that we believe and have accepted the notion that humanity is getting better and better. I am not saying we are getting worse, just that our state of moral corruptness has always been with us and will continue to until, as I believe, Jesus returns bringing his kingdom in full. The nature of humanity is that we are God’s treasured who, apart from him, are also lost. But the larger story is that there is a God who is seeking to redeem us. I believe humanity’s true hope is not in an invention or a medical advancement, although there is nothing wrong with those things and they are to be pursued. However, humanity’s true hope is in a God that creates, loves and wants to redeem it. Imagine if we spent the same about of time and energy fuelling our desire and hunger for spirituality and communicating with the divine as we do with possible alien civilizations.But you may be saying…isn’t that what you believe, that God is an intelligent being that we as human being are trying to communicate with. I think it is and I think that is part of what drives us to pursue alien life. I think we have been created with a desire to find and pursue God but I would add that we are looking in the wrong place. The God who created us also wants to redeem us. I think our pursuit for intelligent life is part of that internal desire that has been wired into humanity. My belief is that God is pursing us more then we can ever pursue him and he is doing so with perfect love.
I recently watched this movie out of interest from the movie jacket at my local video store. Two things caught my attention. First, it was about quantum physics – a subject I know little about but have some basic interest in. Second was the comment of its spiritual nature on the video jacket. I am always interested when I hear scientists talk about spirituality (we often in the Church don’t think science has anything to do with spirituality but I believe it has everything to do with it). Anyway those were my expectations when I watched it. Oh ya, I can’t forget the lady at the video store who warned me it was a documentary and told me she lasted 20 minutes before she was too bored and turned it off.In terms of just communicating their ideas the movie was clear and laymen enough (although the graphics went way overboard and cheesy) but it was NOT a documentary. It was obvious to me that all the people in the movie had their taking points because they all oddly said similar phrases and no one was giving the other side of the “argument” as you would see in any documentary. That is why a lot of the studies and things they talk about were interesting but also speculative to say the least. I obviously, as an extreme lay person in quantum physics let alone regular math, had and have no idea how to critically and intelligently think about the subject. As a result it leads one to believe that their point of view or at least application of their “studies” has to be correct and fact. But to do that would be like believing those automotive awards, the ones that rate a certain car “top in its class” and then you read the fine print to learn that the award was given by the car’s manufacture.The movie make an interesting point, that everything in the past that people have believed was true about the world (earth was flat, sun revolved around earth, etc.) we now know to be false and so how arrogant are we to assume that everything we know now we will believe is true 500 or even 100 years from now. That is an interesting point and puts a lot in perspective and for me to live in the mystery of my spirituality is often better then in the know. The mystery in some ways for me provides hope and help my faith although in the modern matrix of belief seems contradictive.I also found the fact that all of the people and physicists in the movie believe in God interesting. They don’t believe in the God I do but it is interesting that they recognize the fact that quantum physics in their estimation and from their perspective leads us to a belief in God and spirituality.But the parts I struggled with are also the parts, as I alluded to earlier, that come from a “perspective of one.” In other words, without hearing the other side of the debate you are left, because you are a layperson, with just the “facts” they present – which is always dangerous. After seeing this movie I am struck but the vastness and complexity of creation and God’s design but also disturbed by the one-sidedness of the application and the science behind it. I would caution anyone who watches it to at least pursue truth and not just one person or one group’s perspective or belief of it – that is always dangerous.Would I recommend this movie? Maybe but with the caution to always read and watch everything discerningly and intelligently.