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On May 4, 2009

Promises and Prophets

We have a nighttime tradition around our house. After feeding and bathing Eden, Leslie or I read her a couple of stories from the Children’s Bible. It’s kind of like the Bible’s greatest hits, all with fully animated pictures. It’s a great resource for kids, but it bugs me to death.

I find myself over and over again wanting to say, “No, that’s actually not what happened Eden.” For example, tonight we were reading about the prophet Elijah, how after he stood toe to toe with King Ahab he went through some real bouts of depression, he even wanted to die. But it doesn’t mention that, just that God fed Elijah with birds. I guess ravens are more kid-friendly than depression. The showdown on Mt. Carmel ends with the prophets of Ba’al being embarrassed, not murdered.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad that Eden doesn’t hear all the gory bits of the Bible just yet. But the problem comes when we grow up and keep reading the Bible the same way.

This weekend a friend of ours from Harding was murdered. Leslie and her were in the same club in college, she was a kind, sweet girl named Micah. At first, everyone thought she was just missing. People combed through her neighborhood for hours, and they prayed and prayed for her safe return.

A preacher buddy of mine was a part of search party looking for her while they thought she was lost. And after everyone realized what had actually happened, someone anonymously left the comment on my friend’s blog: “Could someone please tell me where God was when all the praying was going on?”

What a great question.

Over the weekend I also did a graduation ceremony. And the verse I heard repeated several times was Jeremiah’s famous statement in chapter 29 “For I know the plans that I have for you. Plans to prosper and not harm you.” It’s a really inspiring verse. With only one problem.

Taken out of context, you might forget that before that verse there were 28 chapters of God telling Jeremiah that he is about to make life really hard on the Israelites. They are going to be captured, enslaved and oppressed by another nations. And that’s just the lucky ones.

The Bible is filled with hope and promises of blessings. But that’s not all it’s full of. It’s a story filled with the messiness of God partnering with flawed people. It’s filled with God allowing people to feel the brunt of their own choices, and sometimes feeling the brunt of other people’s choices.

I think this is a large problem for American churches. We love to read the promises of God, the hope of the story. Nobody’s favorite verse is Elijah battling depression; but if that’s all we know than we are in trouble. Scot Mcknight says that when we take these promises of hope and restoration out of the context that they are in, and put them on a Daily Bible calendar, we lose something.

And we figure out what we’ve lost when we hurt. We find ourselves asking where was God when we prayed? We find ourselves confused and disappointed when God didn’t stop tragedy from happening.

I don’t know why God allowed such a sweet kind girl to lose her life. I don’t get why God ca seem so absent when we are at our lowest. But the Bible tells a story that doesn’t white wash over these moments. That actually, it is in these events that God is the most present, suffering with us. And in light of the darkest times of our lives those promises really stand out.

That there will be a day when God restores all things. When the sorrow and pain of today will be a distant reality. Where swords are beaten into plowshares, and the lion and the lamb lay down together. Where death gives back what it owes.

And that’s a story I want Eden to know.

On May 1, 2009

Graduations

So I’ve never done a graduation speech before. I’ve been asked a couple of times, but always had a scheduling conflict. But to be honest, speeches like that don’t really get me too excited. I’m not a public speaker, I’m a preacher. But tomorrow feels a bit different. I’m speaking to the graduating class of the very homeschool organization I graduated from.

To be honest it’s a pretty weird feeling. Ten years ago I sat in a crowded church auditorium and listened to a guy tell me something about the future, and all I could think about was how scared I was.

I assume it’s a pretty different feeling graduating from homeschool/highschool. It’s not that my family isolated me from other people, we have a pretty large organization of homeschooled families. It’s that my world was always pretty small. I had never flown on a plane, been out of the country, or even the tri-state area. And now I was being told that I needed to go off to school somewhere.

I actually just wanted to do construction work for a living and preach at a few different country churches on the side. But there were a few people who believed in me and recognized the fear behind those decisions, and they called potential out of me that I didn’t even know I had.

And so I left everything familiar and went to the large metropolis of Searcy, Arkansas.

Okay, so I took baby steps to a larger world.

That’s why I’m excited about today. I hope I can be a voice of encouragement for this graduating class. I know how scary this can be, but I also know how rewarding it is.

In the next few months, they are going to meet people who are going to be their groomsmen and bridesmaids in their wedding. They will meet friends that will be dear for the rest of their lives.

They will also get a whole lot of homeschool jokes. Were you the valedictorian? Who was voted most likely to succeed in your school? Who’d you go to prom with? Your mom?

But I believe God honors risk. And so what I hope to tell them today is that when anybody steps out in faith, that they can make a difference, it may be an uphill climb, but if they stick with it…they can do something significant.

I love Margart Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of people devoted to a cause can change the world. It is, in fact, the only thing that ever has.”

And if not, at least they can always fall back on spelling bee’s.

On April 28, 2009

Torture

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 1
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Did you see this last night? Jon Stewart had the President of the Center for the Defense of Democracies on the Daily Show. The guy’s name is Cliff May, and he was very likable, friendly, and a good debater.

And he was in favor of torture.

To be fair he would say he was against torture except in extreme circumstances. And he laid out in a thoughtful way what those circumstances might be. Now John Stewart is about as left-wing as you can get, so they obviously were coming from two very different view points, but it was a great interview to watch.

So here’s my observation/question. I have noticed that a lot of the times the same people who say that we need to bring America back to being a “Christian Nation” are the same ones who would say if the situation got bad enough than we should empower our government to be able to torture enemies.

Does this seem ironic to anyone else?

We follow a man who actually was killed by the worst form of government approved torture. Flash forward a couple of thousand years, and then some of his followers are calling for these same tactics to be used on others.

Jesus, and the earliest Christians, were brilliant with how they talked about the cross. Rome used it as a symbol for the way their power worked. Mess with us and we will destroy you. But the early Christians realized that the symbol could work the other way (think Colossians 2:15). They were actually claiming that the Cross wasn’t Rome’s symbol of victory over Jesus. It was Jesus symbol of victory over Rome, and actually all evil anywhere.

I want to start a blog series in a couple of weeks on Christian ethics, but consider this an early post.

Just for the sake of discussion, let’s just say that torture does work. It gets information that leads to lives being saved. Does that justify doing it? Also, what role does fear play in this discussion? And how do people who claim to believe in a resurrection talk about a fear of death? Those may seem like leading parameters, but I think they are core to starting off this conversation.

So what do you think about this issue? How should a Christian approach this topic? Can a Christian condone torture, ever?

On April 27, 2009

Victims

So one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting, came on T.V. again over the weekend. It’s such a great movie, (but the cable edited version may work better for a house with kids) the plot is fantastic, the dialogue rocks, and the acting is phenomenal.

There’s a scene where the title character, Will Hunting, is visiting with Robin Williams, the therapist. They are finally getting to a break through in Will’s therapy, and all the years of physical and emotional abuse as a kid get peeled away. Will starts to get really defensive, and Robin Williams just begins to repeat over and over again, “It’s not your fault.”

    In Mark 5, Jesus is just getting to the shores of the Gerasenes after a long night and is met by a demoniac. Not your most anticipated welcoming party, but Jesus doesn’t flip out. They have a conversation where they exchange introductions (but the whole scene sounds like it was written for the Poltergeist) and then Jesus does his whole thing, and gets rid of the demons. 

    Now Mark writes the story on several levels. On one level this story stands as symbol for Rome. Rome was occupying Israel at the time and the way Mark writes the story is the “Legion,” same word for a platoon of Roman Soldiers, goes to the bottom of the sea. Which is exactly what happened to Pharaoh’s army when Israel was being delivered from captivity. 

    Mark also uses resurrection language here. The same command that was given to the post-excorcism demoniac to “go and tell” is the same language Jesus uses to instruct his disciples after his resurrection. It’s the only other time this phrase is used in the gospel. 

    And this is what I want to focus in on. 

    Post-modernism has done a great job of pointing out the deep flaws in modernism, but it is a reaction that offers no real solution. It knows what’s wrong. But there is no alternative solution.

    Despair is the easiest emotion to give into, isn’t it? The world is filled with victims. I don’t say that patronizing. I mean it. Almost every person in this world probably has a good reason for doing the stuff that they do. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be that way. 

    The Demoniac asks Jesus to let him go with him. And Jesus says no. Now you haven’t been rejected till you’ve been rejected by Jesus. He tells him to stay here and to tell others about what has happened to him. 

    Think about this. This guy is the thorn in the town’s side. You just couldn’t have a good funeral, you couldn’t have a good wedding without this nut busting in and ruining your event. He is less than popular. He’s got no formal education, no friends, probably no family. 

    He’s a product of his environment. 

    He’s the poster child for victims everywhere.

    And Jesus calls him past that. He calls strength out of this man, that he didn’t even know was there. He delivers the man from his current situation on more levels than one. He sees something in this guy that no one else could see, and he asks him to live into a different reality. 

    And he does. 

    A few chapters later we find Jesus back at the village and the entire town comes out to meet Him. Because this man shared his story…they want to meet the guy who changed him. 

Which makes me think back to Will Hunting. Remember that scene at the end, the one where he leaves his past behind…to see about a girl? I think the reason that scene gets me every time is because I want to believe that is possible.

That the events that define our past, don’t have to define our future.

    It seems to me Jesus doesn’t believe in victims.

Now that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about the suffering that we have gone through. I think if we told him our story, he might say “you’re right, that’s horrible. I can’t believe he/she did that to you. I can’t believe you grew up around that. Why wouldn’t they give you a childhood that every kid deserved?” 

   But then he would call us past that. 

   Because Jesus knows a bit about being a victim. 

   But he also knows something about resurrection. 

On April 23, 2009

Miss California

So you’ve probably already heard about this week’s Miss USA pageant. Miss California was one of two finalists. For her question and answer time Perez Hilton asked her about the homosexual marriage, and the recent proposition 8 that was passed in California. That’s the proposition that banned gay marriage.

I think the question was unfair for a couple of reasons. One because of the explosive nature of the question. Perez Hilton is a well-known homosexual, and an advocate for gay rights. Miss California is a beauty pageant contestant, and a Christian.

Perez Hilton said later in an interview that when she answered that marriage was for a man and a woman she lost the title. He then went on to say with righteous indignation that faith and politics should be left out of Beauty Contests. But there is one problem with that.

Perez Hilton asked this political question.

However, I want to talk about Miss California. Yeah, it sucks that she didn’t get the title, especially if she didn’t win because she drew the wrong question.* She tried to nuance her answer somewhat, but now she’s going on every television station defending her answer.

So once more this question takes center stage in a culture war that polarizes an already divided country. People spin and angle for their particular agenda on both sides. And the stakes are a bit higher than a Miss USA crown.

Rick and I taught on a Christian response to homosexuality last Wednesday. We did it to help equip the church to navigate how a follower of Jesus should react to situations like this. And I think a couple of observations are pertinent for today:

1. Some conversations don’t need to happen on national media. The way of Jesus is incredibly personal, and when Christians disagree with others about social issues, maybe the first response isn’t to be a pundit on CNN.
2. Homosexuality isn’t the unforgivable sin. It’s one in a list of many for symptoms of living in a broken world.
3. Christians have done a lot of damage already to people who have a homosexual orientation. It’s hard for Christians to be able to lovingly disagree when there are so many nuts who say hateful things in the name of Jesus.
4. We Christians have to stop blaming homosexual for destroying marriage in America. Especially when Christians are divorcing at a higher rate than non-Christians in this country. We must get the proverbial plank out of our own eye, before mentioning the speck in our brothers. (That was Rick’s…brilliant).
5. This is not an issue. It’s real, living, breathing people who are made in the image of God. They needed to be treated accordingly.
6. Extreme people on both sides have made this issue hard to discuss kindly because we assume that “they” are “like that.”

Last week, a professor at Pepperdine came out with a suggestion that I happen to like for this issue. He suggests that the state stops doing marriage altogether. Since that’s a word found in the Bible, and defined by the Bible. Let the churches do marriage, and let the state respect legal relationships.

That’s across the board. Heterosexual relationships and homosexual relationships are legalized by the government for tax and will purposes. But churches are where you go if you want to be married.

I just returned from Burbank for the weekend, and this topic came up several times. Christians talked about how their gay friends were hurt by the churches political action against them. And they were wrestling with how to show them that not all Christians were trying to change the world through just political action.

So here is my question. How do Christians address this issue? It seems like the church should wrestle with this issue more internally for a bit. So what do you think? Do you like this idea? Why or Why not?

*For the lack of time I am going to ignore the reality that beauty contests in and of themselves seem to be a deeply un-Christian activity.

On April 20, 2009

Postmodernism and Evil #3

A couple of decades ago in Florida, a guy named Walt bought up several thousand acres of marshy swamp land. His goal was to start a new, futuristic community. A city of utopia. His plan was to name this community the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

But you know it as Epcot.

Nothing stands up as a better example of modernism’s failed attempt at dealing with the problem of evil in the world than Epcot. We thought that if we could just organize and manage the world better that we wouldn’t have to worry about evil anymore.

But all we ended up with was the worst theme park in history.

In John 9, Jesus is asked why a man was born blind. And Jesus answers their question…kind of.

He doesn’t answer it the way that the disciples ask it, because they are asking about it from the perspective of Why? Why does evil happen? Instead, Jesus’ orientation is a future one. The Disciples are looking for a way to blame, Jesus is looking toward hope. He basically sidesteps their question and says “God is going to do something really cool with this.”

And he does.

One of the unique things about the Jewish-Christian faith is what it claims as the end of the story. Correct me if I’m wrong, but most of the systems of world religions have developed some way to talk about evil in pretty escapist terms.

In other words, if you adhere to a certain set of rules or set of beliefs then at the end of your life you will be taken to another place. You can fill in the blanks here, nirvana or paradise, but you will be rescued and deported from this world to a much better place.

This is a typical religious response to evil in this world. And lately it’s been the Christian response as well.

But that’s because we have forgotten our story.

God says in Genesis that creation is good, right? And even though death has entered the world, in all it’s forms, God hasn’t given up on this place. He is, in fact, working through history to redeem it. There is a Jewish concept called Tikkun Olam, which means the repair of the world. Now think about that. The Repair of the World…what a beautiful sentiment!

But it is going to take some doing.

So we find Jesus in a garden, before and after the cross, fulfilling all the imagery of this repair of the world. It was after all, a garden that this whole evil thing started in, and it is in a garden that it is being dealt with fully. Jesus embraces the conclusion to his story, trusting that it would not be final.

And then three days later he wakes up.

Too often Christianity wants to talk about forgiveness of sins, and then resurrection as a promise of some far off distant Heaven. But the resurrection IS the Forgiveness of Sins. After all, our story maintains that the deepest symptom of sin, is death. And the Scriptures seem to claim that what God did for Jesus is going to happen to every molecule of creation.

This is very much about this world.

Compare that to the popular theology that emerged not too long ago. It said that Jesus would just rapture us up and we would leave this world for a place that looked like it was in a Charmin commercial. Now, this view operates very much from the perspective of deism, that God lives upstairs, and we are left to organize and control the world below. And God’s deepest desire is to get us all out of his “not so good” creation.

In this theology the worst thing that can happen to you is that you are “Left Behind.”

But this is not the direction of Scripture. God hasn’t given up on his creation. God is planning on Heaven (or his dwelling place) coming down.

Did you know that one of the fastest growing groups of Christians in the country among the younger generation is Calvinism? Why do you think that is? I don’ think it’s because they started to like Complex theologies that fit neatly into 5 points. I think it’s because it says somebody, somewhere is in control of what is going on both out there, and in me.

One of the things that characterizes the postmodern generation is it’s hope for mosaics. That is that somehow all of life’s brokenness can somehow collude into something worthwhile or beautiful. Think of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” There is a reason that stories like this tap into something deep within us. Most people dream of a god/force/power that can somehow redeem all of the world’s brokenness and make it worth going through.

And the message of Scripture seems to be that God is sovereign over evil, and He is bending it back toward his purposes, even while suffering along side His creation.

That people may do things meant for evil, but God can use it for good.

The Jewish-Christian faith seems to be the one story that has something to say about evil without leaving this world behind. It’s about here. It’s about this place.

It’s about the Repair of the world.

Which is a bit better than a golf-ball shaped theme park.

On April 16, 2009

The Institutional Church

So the other day, one of my best friends, Michael Peters, and I drove down to the Metro church in Dallas to spend the afternoon with one of our favorite preachers, Dr. Ken Greene.

Dr. Greene is a black preacher in every sense of the word. He is a fiery, passionate man who has a cadence when he’s preaching. But he is more than just a great preacher. He is a visionary church leader who has a different take on what it means to be the church.

A few months ago some of his church members noticed that some guys in an apartment down the street were selling drugs. When they reported this to the police, the cops told them that they were aware of this, but that those selling narcotics were the “little fish” and they were going after the bigger ones.

But that was unacceptable for the church.

See they knew that it didn’t matter what size the fish were to those kids living in that apartment. That if they didn’t do something then those kids had no chance of getting out a vicious cycle. And so that’s when they decided to act. They organized a calling campaign, where the people of the church took turns calling the Police station all day long and reporting it. And they did this for weeks.

Then one day they walked outside to see a pair of police helicopters hovering over the apartment complex, and a dozen squad cars sitting outside. But that’s not where their story ends. After the drug dealers were out, the church moved in. They noticed that the apartment complex was really just a glorified roach hotel. These people were living in horrible conditions. So the church found out who owned the apartment complex. It was a large bank, so they went down there and asked them to clean it up. They made it clear that if they didn’t they were going to let the media know who owned that apartment complex, and the living conditions that those people lived in.

And so the bank did it.

A few weeks later Dr. Green was purchasing a suit in a nearby store, and the clerk wouldn’t let him write a check. He explained that they were in what was called a Red Zone, and that in this area of the city no checks over a certain amount were accepted by the bank. It also turns out that anyone living in that Zone couldn’t get a loan.

But that was unacceptable for the church.

So that went back to the same bank. This time with some lawyers from their church. They said this whole Red Zone business was unconstitutional, and if it wasn’t lifted from the community they would take them to court.

And so the bank lifted it.

This, Dr. Greene explained, is part of what it means to be the church. We are not simply a private religious community. Because we are the only institution that exists not for the sake of itself but to serve the world around us we fight evil in all the forms it takes. Including systematic evil.

It’s easy for churches to slip into thinking that what it means to be church is simply to gather together and sing nice songs, and tell good stories. But it’s not enough for Dr. Greene.

Sometimes I react to calling the community of faith an institution. And what I mean by that is that I don’t like the nature of impersonal, machine-like structures that institutions seem to represent. But if that institution uses it’s influence as a means of giving a voice to the voiceless, to fight the injustice in other institutions. If it doesn’t see self-preservation as it’s main goal than I don’t care what label you put on it.

Because we call that church.

On April 13, 2009

Postmodernism and Evil #2

Tim was a young idealist as a teenager. Raised in New York, his parents divorced when he was ten, but him and his father remained devout Roman Catholics, going to mass weekly. He was picked on often by bullies at school and always seemed to mess up his words when talking to girls.

When he was grown, Tim enlisted in the Army, served the U.S. in Desert Storm, then he moved to Oklahoma and got a job as a security guard.

Then Timothy McVeigh blew up the building he worked in.

N.T. Wright says that Post-modernism’s greatest contribution is that it preached the fall to arrogant modernity. That our theories of scientific progress as the solution to the evil in the world have been exposed by what we have done with our technological advances.

But the problem is that while post-modernism has no problem recognizing that there is such a thing as evil in the world. It has a hard time placing where that evil actually is. Most people would say that what McVeigh did was evil, but what if you knew the conditions that led up to it?

Every movie director knows this. If they let you see a person’s story, no matter how bad what they do, you will relate, identify and route for them. It’s harder to say that’s the face of evil if you know the story behind the face. The movie “Crash” is a great example of this. Once you see the origins of people’s racism, bigotry or selfishness its hard to hold them responsible for it.

The Christian story makes no qualms about the reality of evil. But like I said last week, it also recognizes that no one is immune. It says that the battle against evil is not against flesh and blood but with another, deeper stream of reality.

And that’s why it is so important to talk about our struggle.

There is a temptation in Christian circles to kind of sanitize what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Everything is neat and tidy, once your saved your problems are gone, or at least extremely well hidden. We have traded in our fig leaves for stained glass versions of them.

But we aren’t helping anybody with this. In fact, that adds to the problem. A good friend of mine told me recently that Christians will readily admit that God saved them from their sin. But when they say that they typically mean some distant past, vague kind of sin.

But what has God saved you from? What sin specifically? What is God saving you from now? What did he save you from yesterday, and what do you depend on Him to save you from tomorrow?

The reason this is important is because evil needs a face. And the world doesn’t need people pointing to a scape goat. They need a someone to be brave enough to say if you want to see what evil…look at me.

This is why the people of God must learn to live confessionally. Because we are showing in our lives how God deals with evil.

Have you ever been to an AA meeting? It’s one of the most powerful things I have ever seen. People all sit in a circle without any pretense of being somebody they aren’t. They have come to terms with their brokenness, and it’s this honesty that makes it possible for others to be free.

Followers of Jesus should take note of this. I believe that 12 step groups have tapped into a something deeply true. That the first step to defeating evil is to name it fully. And in naming our evil we give permission to others to do the same.

It’s time to let down our fig leaves.

Because, as Henri Nouwen said, we are God’s wounded healers.

On April 11, 2009

Hope and Optimism

When I was in high school, my best friend Bub and I made a decision never to have a bad day again. We were talking about the hope of Heaven, how great it was going to be, and the idea was that basically since we were going there we shouldn’t allow the day-to-day life to get us down.

It was a good idea at the time. It helped me to get a bigger perspective on life’s problems at the time, like acne, or no girls liking me, or my genetic height problem. And we stuck with it. We were genuinely happy, and didn’t let the little stuff get us down.

But I have had several bad days since then.

Since my freshmen year of college I have had six close friends die. I learned that death sucks. And it’s not just death, it’s death in all the form he takes. Relationships that fail to communicate, marriages that end in divorce, Homelessness, poverty, betrayal, AIDS, Fox News, and Tsunami’s.

For where I was at during that season in my life, it was a good thing to choose to be optimistic about life. And my general personality type is to be an optimist. But I have noticed that over the past few years that has changed.

I have had deep seasons of cynicism. I dug up children’s shoes while cleaning debris for Tsunami relief in Sri Lanka. There was a short time where I didn’t like God. While doing a funeral for my closest childhood friend I wept over the casket and prayed a very angry prayer. I went to a Children’s ICU this week for a 4 year old girl who was in a coma. I sat in a room this week with a dear friend who tried to kill himself the day before (and should have succeeded) because despair had beaten him down so much he thought he had no choice.

But I still hope.

Hope is a very different thing from optimism isn’t it?

Optimism says that the glass is half full. Hope says that the cup will one day be refilled. It’s ironic that on this holy week so much suffering is going on right around our church. On this week we have tasted death in all his forms. But on Easter we celebrate that death is being undone.

I have noticed that the more I see and taste suffering the deeper my hope goes. Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is looking fully into the darkness and choosing to see the dim light. Hope is the enemy of despair. Because it believes that the way things are is not the way things will be. During Stalin’s reign, the anti-god regime (that was a real name) tried to stamp out religion in Russia. And one of the officers said something interesting about Christians.

He said, “Christianity is like a nail. The harder you drive it, the deeper it goes.”

Easter may seem like naive optimism to some, but to me it is the exact opposite. It’s the day where we celebrate the one who entered into the darkness fully to show it has no finality. Because hope is the most powerful thing we have in the midst of suffering Easter makes sense this week.

May this holy week you come to see that death in all it’s forms has been defeated. It doesn’t win. May you come to believe that even if you suffer, you don’t do it alone, and it is not permanent. May you come to hope in the one who meet evil at it’s worst, dealt with it fully, and walked away saying, “You should see the other guy.”

And that one of course is Jesus, the Victory of God.

On April 6, 2009

Post-Modernism and Evil #1

Michael Guglielmucci is a worship leader for the Hillsong church. He’s recently made news because he wrote a song called “Healer.” It’s a particularly powerful song for Guglielmucci because he has a terminal form of cancer. On videos you can see him leading the song with oxygen tubes in his nose just to help him breathe. It’s a very powerful scene. Only one problem.

Michael Guglielmucci doesn’t have cancer.

He made the whole thing up.

And no one really knows why. Even Gugliemucci.

In the beginning of the Scriptures, right after Adam and Eve disobey God they are expelled from the garden of Eden. And this is the story of how evil enters into the world. For Genesis 3-11, we see several different responses to evil from man. A guy named Lamech threatens to mess anyone up exponentially if they do anything wrong to him. His way to limit evil done to him would be what we call redemptive violence.

In Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel mankind decides to build a tower to the sky, to make a name for themselves. This was a huge moment for them because as Genesis says, “They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.” The brick was the PlayStation 3 of the day. It was innovative, it was progress.

And God’s response was interesting. He stops their little project. He says that if they put their minds together then nothing will be impossible for them. God doesn’t seem to think that progress is always a good thing.

For the past few hundred years modernity has told us that the best way to deal with evil was through progress. We thought we could invent or organize our way into a better world. But along with good inventions like antibiotics we also developed things like gas chambers and A-bombs. And we learned that evil has a tendency to stick around.

The problem with the way we think and have acted against evil in the past is that we have forgotten that evil is not just “out there.” It’s in us too. Think of the shock that we had when America was fighting the “Axis of evil” and then saw the pictures of American soldiers mocking and torturing the Muslim extremists.

The comic book “Watchmen” is actually a post-modern commentary on this. The heroes are also the bad guys, and the catch-phrase for the book is “Who watches the Watchmen?”

Right after the whole, tower of Babel fiasco, God does something interesting about the problem of evil. He calls Abraham. He develops a people to be a solution to the problem of evil in the world. But this story is different than your typical hero story. The main characters of our stories are revealed as deeply flawed human beings who have a lot of evil in themselves. They themselves, are exiled from the land God gave them as punishment for their evil, or sin (this part of the story is written to mirror the exile from the garden of Eden). The solution to the world’s problem, turns out to be carriers of the problem.

But as a Christian I don’t think the story ends there.

The Christian story says that Jesus died to forgive sins right?

But forgiveness of sins to them doesn’t just mean to take away guilt. It meant a return from exile. They could be the people of God again. They could make the world better. Abraham’s family gets a mulligan.

The problem that any worldview faces in talking about evil is that we are all kind of infected with it. We all have this selfish bent in us. And the greatest offenders tend to be those who don’t see it in themselves. The line of good and evil runs through every single one of us.

But the Jewish-Christian faith has something to say to this. Because the solution to evil came through us, but also for us. We are just as jacked up as everyone else. When we don’t admit that we fail to acknowledge one of the unique things about the gospel.

Western Christianity (or at least Bible-Belt Christianity) has acted like for the past few decades that what it means to be a Christian is to be nice. We are polished and kind…sometimes. And when we aren’t we hide it. We want to act like our junk is in order. But the gospel has two stages. It was God’s dealing with the evil in us, so He might do something about the evil in the world through us.

Which brings me back to Michael Guglielmucci. Yeah what he did was really, really bad. In fact, you could say it was evil. God doesn’t take it lightly. But the gospel is that God can still redeem him, to use him for the redemption of the world.

But I’ll write more about that next week.