Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Universe's Song - A Christian Perspective

Are you feeling really important right now? Like everyone's counting on you, expecting you to be the one who makes life better, who'll keep things going? That's a lot of pressure, isn't it?

Maybe you're feeling irrelevant. Like no one cares about you, like if you vanished tomorrow, no one would even notice.

You're wrong. In either case you're wrong.

Here, watch this:

Now, maybe you were feeling pretty balanced before, and that video had the effect on you that it had on me - it made you feel very, very small and unimportant.

When people ask me what I "get out of being a Christian," I think sometimes what they're really asking is, "Why do you matter?" And it's kind of hard to deal with that question because, well, I don't. I mean, not really. Here, another video:
What? Nothing we do matters. Is that even remotely true? Can a Christian believe such a thing and still believe in God?

Yeah. Sort of. Stick with me here.

If you're a Christian, you believe that one day, there will be a "big victory." Some people boil Revelation, Micah, Daniel and bits of Isaiah in a stewpot until they get the notion that they know exactly how the world will end - with a one-world government lead by The Antichrist* versus Israel in a great climactic battle, at which point God will rule the world for a thousand years. Some people think that we build that kingdom here on Earth, that the battle of Armageddon is metaphorical. Still others read the book of Revelation as pure apocalyptic literature that's meant to be read and not necessarily understood and pay more attention to the letters to the churches than anything else.

Whatever. In the end, God wins.

In the end GOD wins. In His time, and His will and by His power. Sure, we have a bit of a role to play. In fact, you can't talk about God's eventual victory without talking about what we're supposed to do:

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

That's it. Visit those in prison (whether the prison of their mind or body, or, y'know, actual prison), offer food to the hungry and water to the thirsty, be open to strangers and clothe the naked. Be maximally decent to other people.

There's a phrase I heard once at Houghton College. I remember hearing it, but it was in passing by a couple of divinity students and I honestly never  figured out what it meant: immanentizing the eschaton. I frankly had no clue what it meant. A few years ago, I looked it up. It refers to bringing Earth into it's final form, ready for God to come down and destroy it and/or save it.** To immanentize is to make something immanent, to make it real. The eschaton is the end of all things.

This is kind of ridiculous on its face. Here we are, a mere couple billion humans *** scraping across the barest crust of our planet, believe that, in service to an infinite God of infinite power, we can set things up just right so that we can read his inscrutable and impossible wisdom to bring about his fiery and destructive return. Seriously? When the border between summoning Cthulhu and worshiping God becomes that blurry, it's a good idea to step back and reconsider your ecclesiology a bit.

So, immanentizing the eschaton is out.

We still need to be about the business of immanentizing, though, of making things real.

" I fought for so long for redemption, for reward and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it," Angel says in the video above.

I did that I lot. I still do. I do the things that I do and I act like they're victories or something that justifies my other excesses, or that should curry favour with God or with man. Sometimes just because I think that they make me better than other people. And I'm wrong, each and every time.

I don't want that. I want to help because I don't think people should suffer as they do.

Immanentizing righteousness.

* There is no Antichrist. Well, rather, there are lots of little antichrists. I John has more to say about that. (Oh, and yes, if you cross the streams and combine 2 Thessalonians with 1 John, you kind of get the idea there might be one Antichrist whose sort of like the boss at the end of the video game. This has lead people to identify various figures in Revelation as The Antichrist - the beast from the earth is popular right now, but it used to be the beast from the earth and, for a little bit, even the Whore of Babylon got in on the action. To be clear, from the description of their behaviour, I think both apostles, John and Paul, would be totally cool with calling them antichrists.)

** The end of the world, it turns out is rather complicated. Myself, I favour fire as well.

*** Every day, every single day, your body produces about 200 billion new red blood cells. It's taken us 7000 years to get even close to breaking the 10 billion human limit. Don't go taking on airs.

No comments:

Post a Comment