life

Intolerance

It was a hot and steamy Saturday, too hot to do anything but go to the movies. So to the movies we went.

We saw Indignation.

I am about to spoil the ending, and maybe most of the middle, so if you are thinking of seeing it, stop reading now. But before you go, hit the “like”switch on your way out, just for the heck of it.

As we were exiting the theater my daughter labeled it a “sad, strange movie.”

When asked what he thought of it on the car ride home, the hub said he wanted to shake the guy.

I suggested that the movie might have been better named “Intolerance.”

Perhaps the misnomer was calculated, to lure an audience. The brief plot summary paired with the title gave me the impression that it was going to be about the unfair treatment of a young Jewish man at an Ohio College in the 1950’s.

That would have been something about which to be indignant.

And who doesn’t like their indignation riled once in a while in the confines of the movie theater?

But this was about a young atheist, who happened to be Jewish, who was indignant at the requirement to sit through 10 hours of chapel per year, 40 hours of chapel in all.

Indignant even though, when he accepted a scholarship to the college, he surely knew chapel was a requirement. I say surely because he was a bright, serious, studious, logic-driven young man who surely would have read the student manual, the requirements, the fine print.

He would have read the terms and accepted them in order to be the first in his family to go to college and, more precisely, in order to escape the draft.

The narration at the start of the story set up the ending.  All the little decisions along the way, the narrator said, make a difference in one’s life, bring about one’s death.

There were scenes I could have happily lived without, included perhaps to confuse the viewer – to suggest that the demise of the bright-futured young man would be at the hands of a beautiful, messed up woman (a la The Natural). Or perhaps merely included for those who enjoy gratuitous defilement. But the decision to pursue a beautiful, messed up woman is not what lead to his demise. It wasn’t the decision that revoked his scholarship, got him booted from the college, landed him on the battlefield.

It was his religious intolerance.

His intolerance of religion.

Indignation is a cautionary tale; a warning to all religion-intolerant atheists; to all imtheists.

And perhaps to all the modern college students who demand to be protected from ideas/beliefs that are contrary to their own.

#confused

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Jesus, Light

No Empty Words Spoken Here

An atheist asked this of me in the comment section of another blogger’s post:

“May I inquire what was the evidence that convinced you of the truth of the biblical claims?”

I went to the trouble of typing up a rather lengthy reply knowing it would likely be wasted on him. And since I hate wasted efforts, I’ll share it with you. I don’t think I’ve ever told you my testimony…  Here’s what I told him:

My dad was raised Protestant and my mom was raised Catholic. When they married, my dad converted to Catholicism because that was the deal back then.  He took the classes and then he taught the classes.

We said grace at dinner, we said our prayers before bed, we sat in the cry room on Sunday mornings.

When I was in first grade I started attending catechism classes. I was given a workbook with Jesus on the cover. He was sitting under a tree with a big smile on His face and children on His lap. I was drawn to that smiling face, to those eyes that delighted in the children. I felt Love emanating from the cover of that book and I couldn’t wait to learn all about Him.

But there were some boys in the class, minions. I spent 95% of the class time with my hands folded quietly on my desk waiting for the teachers to chase the boys back into their seats.

Not long after that we stopped going to church. Something about abortion and excommunication and my fourth grade sister making something up to confess and being too intelligent for such nonsense….

No more grace, no more bedtime prayers. It felt like we were booting a member of our family.

Laying in my trundle bed one night I said, “That’s okay, Jesus, you can stay with me.”

But over barren years I forgot all about Him.

I had a work-study job in the Fisheries and Wildlife office when I was in college. One of the secretaries befriended me.  She sometimes invited me to softball games at her church but I was way too cool.

One weekend home I learned that my dad’s journey through lots of metaphysical readings ended with faith in Christ. His wife told me he was praying for my sisters and me.  I thought that was nice and that, as a result, I would probably be a Christian, too, one day. Whichever day God decided it would be. I went on my merry way not feeling any need, desire or compulsion to do anything about it.

I graduated and moved home to my mother’s house not too long afterward while my secretary friend fought Hodgkin’s disease.  She told me that people she didn’t even know were coming up to her at church to say they were praying for her.

So laying on the sofa in the library at my mom’s house one night, I thought, Well, if I’m going to be a Christian some day, I might as well start now. So I prayed for her, too, and I asked God to bring something good out of her suffering.

Immediately my spirit, still attached to my body by a thin silver strand, was before the throne.  It was like a zoom lens. And I saw God. Just as I zoomed in, Jesus stood up to greet me. He was transparent and I could see His Father seated behind him holding a scepter and smiling.  It was an unforgettable smile that said “I have everything under control and I am pleased.”

And then I was startled by this thought, If I stay too long I might not be able to go back.

And with that buzz-killing thought I was back on the sofa.

I whispered into the air, “I remember You!” I remembered the cover of that book and my longing to know Him. It was like being reunited with and old forgotten friend.

That is when our 32-year-long-and-continuing conversation began. It’s when I started studying the Bible, too.

Sometimes I regret not opening my mouth and asking, when I was there at the throne, if it would be okay to stay.

But that glimpse was enough – enough to sustain me through tough and confusing times in the past, enough to give me peace in this unsettling present and, I trust, enough to get me through even tougher times in the future.

I know you asked for Biblical evidence you could refute, but it isn’t Biblical evidence that convinced me. It was that glimpse, that smile.

Arguing with me would be no fun for you because my faith is not in the Bible and I will not twist myself into a pretzel trying to defend the inerrancy of it.  God is without error but those who have taken His dictation, translated and taught it are not.

And then I asked God to do for him what He did for me. Maybe you’ll say a prayer for him, too.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

#empty

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Light, Revelation

Let Go of the Dang Door!

Twister

Remember the opening scene in Twister? When the dad held onto the door of the storm cellar (or was it a root cellar?) and got carried away by a tornado?

“Let go of the door!” I shout whenever I watch that movie. “Let go of the dang door and get down there with your family!”

That scene always exasperates me because that little girl’s dad didn’t have to be swept away. I know it adds to the drama, to the heroine’s motive for chasing storms, but it still makes me mad. Except today. Today it’s coming in kind of handy.

I’ve been pondering how to explain the compatibility of God’s love and wrath to a bunch of high school students. And it occurred to me.

In Revelation 14 it says, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’  The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.”

We assume that evil people are being harvested and thrown into the winepress  because  of all the blood.

But what if evil is the only intended harvest?

What if “they”, the grapes = evil, not evil people?

Those who cling to the evil that is being harvested, who refuse to let go of it, end up in the winepress. Like bugs clinging to grapes, they get unintentionally swept up in the harvest. Like dads clinging to storm cellar doors.

I’m liking that possibility. It’s compatible with God’s character. It goes with His aim to save us. It goes with His desire that none should perish. I can see love in His wrath against evil. I can see Him thoroughly rooting it out because evil hurts all of us – those who love Him, and those who don’t.

Plus it goes with what He said back in Genesis 3 – that He was going to crush Satan’s head (like a grape).

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faith, Light

As Good As It Gets

sunset-limited

As Black opened the door
and White rushed out,
it was profoundly and sadly clear:
No one is in hell by accident.
Every eternal resident has made a clear choice.
Why do they rush forth, headstrong
while we servants of Love
mourn their final decisions?

White was repeatedly dumbfounded by Black’s choice of dismal living conditions among such hopeless tenants and yet those were exactly the eternal conditions to which he was determined to jump.

For those who believe, this life on earth – no matter how good – is as bad as it gets.

And for those who won’t believe, this life on earth – no matter how bad – is as good as it gets.

If anyone is looking for something to rent or borrow this weekend – especially those hunkering down in the frozen North – check out The Sunset Limited.  I found it at my local library.

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist

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