Saturday, March 24, 2012

In Haste: The Descendants

Some friends of mine saw this flick before I had a chance to. Their summation of the film, 
"It was depressing."

Having the opportunity to see the film today, I found it fantastic.

Films of this nature, that turn on the screws of human reaction to unforeseen, yet realistic, situations, produce within them much value.

There's a moment for me that stands out above the rest. The character played by George Clooney is alone with the wife of the man who had an affair with his dying spouse. The scene is tense. But in that frail moment, what the character deems paramount to convey is that, "He never really loved her." He says this as a means of comfort.

Who says that?

This week I have been impressed with the notion of the differences of what people think is most important in life.

Case in point: Buddhism. Earlier this week I sat down and intook a documentary entitled The Buddha. It was informative... and left me depressed.

When it comes down to it, Buddhism as a philosophy, I have no qualms with. But as a religion, it saddens my heart. It seems to me entirely self-centered and not about truth at all. It doesn't begin to answer the questions that I think are most important to human kind as a race. It is only concerned with how to be happy.
Fuck happiness. That's not what this life is about. There are a litany of ways one could work to attain happiness. I want truth. I want to know my Maker. I want the Story.

Tomorrow my fiancee comes to visit Slovenia for one week. Right now, apart from her, I can barely function. Watching The Descendants forced me to think about that moment when either she will or I will die. Most likely, we will not be able to venture off this earthly soil in tandem. We will die alone, one before the other. What will that be like? I can't fathom it... and yet, for one of us, this will be a reality (unless the good Lord chooses to take us away first!)

But the point is...

Well, frankly, I've forgotten the point. MY FIANCEE IS HERE TOMORROW!

I love her and that is the beginning of everything.

Also, The Descendants is a good movie. I award it a score of .5 Bonhoeffers!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chapter 6

The land was an island, and not a very big island at that.

The island appeared to be in the shape of a giant pyramid. From every, every side of the beach rose at roughly a thirty degree angle until at last the island naturally came to a climactic peak. It was an odd form. The boy briefly wondered whether it was this very shape of land that convinced the Egyptians to recreate such a feat by their own hands.

And so, like any boy his age, or, perhaps more truly, any human with free time and a beating heart, the boy found himself ascending the island pyramid. The ground below was a deep red, presumably clay, but nevertheless it was quite brittle and soft, often breaking into small chunks under the strength of the boy's plodding might. Up and up he went. What an odd creation, he continually wondered. The island appeared to support no life whatsoever, as there was not even the smallest of shrubbery about. Nothing. Just this red clay leading him further and further up its scale. This narrator, however, would be remiss not to note that despite the lack of flora and fauna, there did exist large splotches of white amidst the boy during his descent. The lad honestly did not take these splotches into much account at that time. He assumed it was something of a calcium deposit. It was not.

As he neared the summit, the boy caught the outline of a pigeon dart of what appeared to be thin air, bounding straight up into the orbit. The bird had the form of a pigeon, of this the boy was assured, but he'd never had imagined a pigeon catapulting itself into the stratosphere with the intensity that this one had. Never.


Out of nothing, suddenly flying straight up to the clouds went another pigeon-esque specimen.

A mad thought entered the boy. He spoke it to himself out-loud to feel the words leave his lips; "Is this the source of creation."

He was no less than fifteen yards from the peak, scrambling on his hands and knees when the first revelation showed itself to him. A dart slipped down from the heavens. In a straight vertical descent the streak blazed down. It suddenly disappeared at the very pinnacle of the island. Two or three seconds later (and what the boy would later incorrectly estimate as ten or fifteen seconds, when reviewing the scene to himself), a sonic boom shimmied through the course of the island. At this juncture the boy came to understand what was happening.

He finished his ascent with haste. Breathing desperately, his whole body seemingly involved in the intake process, the boy examined the situation. His suspicions were proven accurate. He was right.

Those pigeons were not flying out of nothingness. This was not some ex nihilo wormhole. No. The top of this pyramid was no top at all. It was a hole. The pigeons were flying up from the inside of the island. He peered a glance down the hole. It was brightly lit with white neon lights. The sides were a glimmering steel color. The island, was, after all, artificial. The clay was merely covering this labyrinthine structure.

Reader beware, a normal citizen of this world would have felt some deep dread of fear at such a revelation as this that the boy just experienced -- but the boy was no normal specimen, and having lost his brother, and sailed the open seas with a trove of stuffed animals for company, fear was not a thing to be considered. The young man peered up into the heavens quickly to make sure a torpedo wasn't about to explode down, and, noting the vista above as free of piloting, he dove down the hole. Where those pigeons came from, he would go.

As he descended the steely rabbit hole, the boy pondered that perhaps he was the pawn in someone's giant 'chutes and ladders' game.

The hole curved before it finally spit him out on a long hallway. This drab and somewhat dank corridor held within it the strangest sight the boy had ever comprehended. Here stood door after door on either side. Each door stood to be regular in construct, perhaps slightly taller than normal, each maybe nine or ten feet tall. At the base of every door there was an opening like that of a doggy-door. But in the stead of dogs, there were very prim-and-proper pigeonesque birds, standing single-file, waiting to enter into each door. There were, in front of most doors, conservative little lines of six or seven birds awaiting their door-appointments. For quite some time the boy simply stood and beheld this mechanism at work. As far as the boy surmised, the pigeonesque creatures (let the reader know: the birds are stated as pigeonesque, in that we know them to be in resemblance of form to that of pigeons, but in many other ways the two specimens are distinct, but to how exactly these birds should be called, this narrator does not know, and therefore they are herein referred to simply as pigeonesque) had a two step process they went through.

When a bird first arrived into the hallway, it held something in its beak. The boy couldn't organize the arsenal of things these creatures bore with them. Some of them brought cell phones, some porcelain dolls... one even awkwardly towed a man-sized unicycle somehow. These birds would wait in a seemingly random line, enter through the doggy-door (let the reader understand: the boy only spotted the unicycle in line, he never saw how the bird got the enormous device through the too-small door. This remained a mystery to the lad), and then exit minus the commodity.  Said bird would then get into a new line seemingly randomly. The bird would enter through the hole in the door with nothing in the beak, and then soon enough exit, with a new beakful of random substance. Upon exiting the room, the bird would walk, then flutter, then propel itself to a roar of speed before zooming up and out the hole from which the boy came. This was how it went.

The boy walked down the long hallway. Past door after door. In white paint, often very sloppily, every door had a different set of words painted on. It seemed very random. The first door to the right had written on it, "Beware the ides of August." Another read, "Eat, Sleep, Pray, Love, Sleep." Still another, "What goes around and comes around is a frisbee." Yet another, "Surely you won't die." That one rather scared the lad. He would certainly not choose that one.

The boy wasn't at all sure what he was going to do at all. He just kept walking down the hallway. He couldn't yet see the end; only the horizon. But then he came to a door which read, "O Come, O Come." The boy was drawn to it. One year long ago during a rainy Christmas a bunch of bums huddled around a flaming trashcan bursted out in a cryptic iteration of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". The words to that song always left the boy with a keen and somewhat pleasant sense of longing. For what he was supposed to be yearning and waiting for, he didn't know. But he waited, nonetheless. And now, in this underground bunker in the middle of an island pyramid who-knows-where in the Pacific, the boy felt compelled to open this one door.

What he saw stumped him.

There was a desk, a chair, a pile of stuff that stood taller than the boy... and a donkey. That donkey somehow, and mind you -- this was the first thing that left the lad dumbfounded, was seated on the chair like a human, huddled over the desk as if ready to write down his memoirs. At once the donkey noticed the door's opening, and immediately spoke up.

"Oh good, a human boy! What a joy! O come, O come good sir!"

The boy, not having one of his most profoundest moments, replied, "You can talk."

The donkey was puzzled. He thought too himself for a bit, "I... well, I... I suppose I can." The donkey let out a somewhat fierce sounding hee-haw and then beckoned the boy to come closer with one leg. The boy took one step closer and then paused. "I suppose I can make this easier for you."

At once the donkey removed his head with two of his feet. The reader may expect that this explanation means that the individual took off his donkey mask, but the reader would be wrong in picturing it as such. No. The donkey took off his head. He had a donkey head, and then he did not. Underneath however, was something like a human male's head. It had all the pieces that a human man would have; two ears, two eyes, a mouth, tongue, teeth, a chin, and a nose, sure enough, and all the parts seemed to be in the right places, but somehow it wasn't right. This was not a man. At least, it was not a human man.

The donkey held his donkey head in his lap.

"Hi," the boy suddenly blundered into saying.

"Hi yourself! Why are you here, human boy?"

"I landed here."

"No one just lands here."

"I did."

"Did you fall out of a plane?"


"Well then let it be known. How did you come here?"

"My boat took me here."

"Your boat?"

"Yes sir. I built it."
"Oh. Very well then." The boy was happy that the donkey seemed satisfied with that answer. "But tell me, why did you build a boat?"

"I'm looking for someone."

The donkey got excited. "Me! Are you looking for me? Here I am!" The donkey seemed quite proud of himself.

"Umm... is this yours?" The boy presented his little lock of blonde hair to the creature.

The donkey needn't look at it to know his answer. "Oh no, oh no. That surely is not mine. Say, I bet one of my workers was sent to give that to you."

"One of your workers?"

"My flyers. They take objects and fly them all over the world."


"Oh, that's not for me to know. That's not my job." Then the donkey got an idea, "Say..."


"Would you hold onto my head for a moment?"

Thinking that the donkey needed to get up or something, the boy obliged. He immediately grabbed the head out of the creature's lap, but as soon as he did, something happened. The head turned into a small, black square. Out of surprise, the boy dropped the cube.

"Now now, don't do that," remarked the donkey.

"I'm sorry." The boy shamefully picked the cube back up. "What is it?"

"I'll tell you, but it's a secret."


"It's the secret of life."


"All of it."

"But it was your head!"

"That's what I've been made out of. Don't worry, it'll grow back for me. I'll get more of it."

"More of what?"

"Aren't you listening at all?"

The boy wanted to defend himself, but it came out as more of a whimper, "I'm trying to!"

"You were brought here. You may think you made that boat and brought yourself here, but that is mere illusion, just like the current illusion that I can come to resemble a man human."

"So what are you?"

"I am made from the source."


"You will use the secret of life and be united with your haired one."

"My haired one?"

"Your girl?"

"My what?"


And so the boy went. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Database

Let's quit our jobs.

Let's quit our jobs and spend our lives devoted to creating this new archive.

This archive, or database if you will, would consist of three categories. Each category would be preserved neatly.

Let's devote ourselves to archiving aspects of God's general revelation: that is, the character of God that can be seen through His creation.

  • Category One: People.
    • Every human being is made in God's image. My personal conviction (and therefore, the conviction of this hypothetical database) is that every single individual on this planet can/does reflect God's image in a somehow unique perspective. This Category would document people and their "unique" quality which gives us an added sliver of reflection of God's good beingness. I just experimented with trying to do this on Andrew Kevin Walker.
  • Category Two: Moments in Transcendence.
    • This category captures transcendency in this life of ours -- generally speaking, this would most generally pull from pieces of artwork, but could also be in the form of new discoveries that bear new insight into God's creativity/imagination.
  • Category Three: Miracles.
    • A list of what appear to be bone-fied miracles. Yes.  
So, are we all in? I can't see any reason why we shouldn't be?

Desperately Searched: Andrew Kevin Walker

Let's take a poll: 
Who agrees with this line from the film Doubt
When you take a step to address wrongdoing, you are taking a step away from God, but in his service.
Well, do ya... punk?

This post is long. 

Doubt is a film much like receiving Chickenpox at a young age; it hurts, and sometimes even the memory of it stings, but you are better for having gone through it. It provides you with a sort of invincibility if you can withstand it. 

As a long-time survivor of doubt myself, drinking from that cup is, in some ways, like coming home. It is at once a feeling of warmth as well as shame. 
Warmth: because you can see that others process 
and are affected by the world in a manner similar to yourself. 
Shame: because you now see yourself as a card-carrying club member 
of society you'd rather not be numbered among the ranks of.

A conversation arose in a pub. 
One man was drinking a dark beer, the other hot tea. 
The discussion of why people do the things they came to pass. 
The beer drinker noted, 
"I wouldn't be too quick to label between good and bad people."
He took another swig, 
"I feel uncomfortable saying there is such a thing as good and bad people."
The tea drinker enthusiastically nodded, 
"Yes, because good and evil don't exist."
The beer drinker paused mid-swallow. 
This was not the conclusion he intended the conversation to reach.  

Later in the week, I pondered over such things as this. 
I pondered and pondered.  

After many-a-thought, my mind declared to me that I needed to seek something of an authority on the matter, for it is not good enough merely to show the ramifications of (what I would call) evil actions. The philosopher can decipher any one singular act as the mere consequence of environment, or the psychological progression of an innocent on a certain path by some previous incident. 

No. Showing the effects of maleficience makes no impact. 

What then could be shown? What then could be proven? How do I show that good and evil exist if actions alone are not worthy of judgment? 

I am not akin to the depths of wrongdoing. I am not knowledged in the education of the motion of the deeper of evils. I know not their shadowy ways. But then I ask in fear, if not I, who does know? Who could be my Virgil on this spiral of hell? 
 Enter Andrew Kevin Walker. 
disclaimer: the content of this post gets decidedly darker from here on out. Reader beware.
According to imdb, he has produced only two scripts that are wholly his. The rest of his writing credits are shared. 
The two films that he alone hath penned are 8MM and Seven. Whilst I considered his personal canon, a vague recollection of the drama surrounding the production of 8MM came to mind. 

As it turned out, Mr. Walker walked (ha!) off the set over changes made to his script. Apparently, as studios are apt to do, the ending was changed to bear a more hopeful, optimistic hue. This infuriated Walker to no end, and he later refused to have his name associated with the picture. I knew this story, but also recalled 8MM as a pretty damn dark film. I was curious as to how the script could have been any bleaker.

So I scavenged the internet until I came upon Walker's original script. I read and read and read. 

By tale's end, my soul was flayed open by the nuance of the difference between the script's denouement and that of the film's. It happened as follows: 
In the film: a load of horrific eye-gouging events occur. 
Our protagonist somehow makes it through it all. 
He returns to his wife and child. 
He embraces his wife and says abruptly, "Save me."

In the script: a load of horrific eye-gouging events occur.
 Our protagonist somehow makes it through it all. 
He returns to his wife and child. 
A montage is expressed, showing our protagonist returning back to normal life. 
One day he abruptly burst into tears and cries out, "Why, why, why?!" 
He goes home, embraces his wife and says, "Save me."

All the violence, the murder, the extremes of sex, the snuff -- it's all their in the film. But what the studio balked at, what they couldn't reckon themselves with, is that evil has a lasting effect. You can't just experience it and move on. 

Let's explore the plot for a bit.

Brief Referendum: 
A new film entitled The Hunter has something to do with a search for the Tasmanian Tiger.
The tasmanian tiger went extinct in the thirties. 
The slogan for the film stands as:
Some mysteries should never be solved. 
That may be true, but who can ever resist?

Back to the business at hand. 8MM.
  • Nicholas Cage is a P.I.
    • FYI: That's good.
  • An old lady pays him to watch an 8mm film her recently deceased husband had in his vault.
    • That's good, right? I mean, we all like movies.
  • Turns out the film is of snuff nature. 
    • Shucks. That's bad.
  • Cage is paid to go hunt down the makers of said film.
  • Cage hires a porn-store dayworker to be the Virgil to his Dante.
  • Our Virgil takes us down and down the circles of porn hell.
    • That's bad.
  • Bad stuff happens.
    • That's very bad.
  • A masked-man is our main villain.
  • More bad stuff happens.
    • That's still very bad.
  • Even more bad stuff happens.
    • Make it stop!
  • Masked-man is killed. We never know learn his identity.
    • That's good?
  • Bad stuff stops happening. 
    • Good... I think??
  • The movie is over.
    • ???
Okay, how about Walker's previous movie, Seven?
  • Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are cops.
    • That's good!
  • A fat man is murdered. 
    • That's bad.
  • Turns out the murderer, John Doe, is a serial killing.
    • That's worse.
  • Bad stuff happens.
  • More bad stuff happens.
  • John Doe turns himself in.
    • Hooray!
  • Even more bad stuff happens.
    • Wait... that's bad! But I the bad guy was already caught!
  • John Doe is killed. We never really know his identity.
    • That's good, I think. 
  • Morgan Freeman tells us the world is not a good place.
    • Don't says those words, Morgan... don't say those words!
  • The movie is over.
    • Sigh. 

Both stories deal with the concept of a master play of evil, and a slipping into the recesses of dark knowledge by the ardent protagonists. 
A couple scenes in each story contains very telling monologues which stand -- if we consider our surroundings with care -- as hidden compasses. 

Purview the internet and you'll find several different drafts of Walker's Seven. The most dramatic changes come in the final act. In one draft, while John Doe is being transported into the desert, Freeman (Somerset), Pitt (Mills) and the cold murderer have a brief back-and-forth about the purpose of all Joe's scheming.
You want people to question God's existence?
You want them to...

No!! No!! I want them to question their own existence.
I want people to question their own existence.

You really think what you're doing is 
God's good work?!

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

It should be noted that throughout the story, Detective Somerset, though wholly repulsed by the things has is brought to see, is innately curious to understand it all. Wherein Mills simply writes John Doe off as a lunatic, Somerset sees him as too calculated to be purely motivated by insanity, and so works hard to comprehend the killer's drive. 
See it yet? That police car conversation changed when it made it onto the screen -- it adds a similarly complex nuance to Joe's motive.
Wait, I thought all you did was kill innocent people.

Innocent? Is that supposed to be funny? An obese man... a disgusting man who could barely stand up; a man who if you saw him on the street, you'd point him out to your friends so that they could join you in mocking him; a man, who if you saw him while you were eating, you wouldn't be able to finish your meal. After him, I picked the lawyer and I know you both must have been secretly thanking me for that one. This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the streets!



A woman...

Murderers, John, like yourself?

[interrupts] A woman... so ugly on the inside she couldn't bear to go on living if she couldn't be beautiful on the outside. A drug dealer, a drug dealing pederast, actually! And let's not forget the disease-spreading whore! Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that's the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I'm setting the example. What I've done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed... forever. 

See it yet?
If Se7en exists as a strange testament as to one man's effort to make mankind reflect on his evil ways, then 8MM is the scalpel which focuses finely on the deeds themselves. 

Our Virgil has seen much. We trust him and know him to be true because whilst working in the porn-shop, our P.I. spots him highlighting selections out of what appears to be a porno-mag. Who does that? Answer: no one. He was reading legitimate literature, but hiding it behind the perception that he was the common dreg, getting off on some new comic fantasy. Anyway... the point is, we trust him. That's why we're inclined to believe him when he goes on this rant:

(aka Our Virgil)
Know what else? It's only gonna get worse. More and more you'll see perverse hardcore coming into the mainstream, because that's evolution. Desensitization. 'Oh my G-, Elvis Presley is wiggling his hips, how offensive!' Nowadays, MTV's showing girls dancing around in thong bikinis with their asses hanging out. Know what I mean? For the porn-addict, big tits aren't big enough after awhile. They have to be the biggest tits ever. Some porn chicks are putting in breast implants bigger than your head, literally. Soon, Playboy is gonna be Penthouse, Penthouse'll be Hustler, Hustler'll be hardcore, and hardcore films'll be medical films. People'll be jerking off to women laying around with open wounds. There's nowhere else for it to go. 

As I contemplate that slippery slope argument, I ask you, gentle and patient reader, why are vampires so popular now? What is so alluring about attractive cannibals? 

Look at the most heinous of all crimes.
What do they consist of?
Sex and blood.
It's no coincidence.
From the dawn of time, poets and philosophers alike have recognized BLOOD as the life of a being -- as the essence of a soul. And SEX. As Christians we recognize it as the symbol of God's relationship with us. We see the Church in the New Testament (and Israel in the Old) consistently spoken of as the Bride. Christ Jesus is our Bridegroom. Think of the book of Hosea. The harlotry of Hosea's wife, Gomer, as used as a direct analogy for God's people's unfaithfulness to God. They turned to idols instead of their Lord. God speaks of this as adultery; sex with another. 
It's no coincidence. 
When captured by the bad guys, our protagonist, Nicolas Cage aka Welles, has one question left nagging at him.

Just tell me. Tell me some more of the secrets you and Christian shared. What kind of degenerate pervert was he really? What the fuck did he want with a snuff film?

(aka bad guy lawyer)
You're asking me why.

I'm asking.

A man like Mr. Christian, a great man... all his money, all his power... a man who had everything there was to attain...

Why did he buy a film of some poor, lost girl getting butchered?

Isn't it incredibly obvious?

Enlighten me.

Because he could. He did it because he could.
What other reason were you looking for.

That's the type of evil that our John Doe was evilly trying to destroy
-- killing evil by evil --
 Here's why this discussion is relevant to us.
Andrew Kevin Walker's brief resume shows us something that we ourselves perhaps couldn't see. 
He spares us the action steps of becoming evil -- he shows us its mechanism. And most importantly, he shows us its futility. 
Vainly, I'll try as best as I can to summarize:
  1. Evil exists.
  2. It functions in a certain direction. Always forward.
  3. There is a curiosity that we may have towards dark knowledge, but it will never satisfy.
  4. Evil is never static in that it is insatiable.
  5. Evil is perpetually inclined towards sex and blood. 
  6. Participation, on any level, always ends in futility.
Remember the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? "And Evil". Let us not be so arrogant as to forget that there is such a realm of information; that rabbit hole exists, and it falls forever downward.

Through Andrew Kevin Walker we see a revelation of the reality of evil motivation. My controversial claim is simply this: that such a gift was given to Mr. Walker from the Lord. This is perhaps a part of his cross to bear. This is, in some fashion, a responsibility in that it is a gift, and we are remiss to bury our God-given gifts.

GENESIS 6:5-6, The LORD say that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 

And so are told, and so we can see.

As for us, we are now given a new context in which to understand PHILIPPIANS 3:8 ...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Doubt ends with the two main nuns of the film sitting on a bench. 
I wish I could be like you.


[tearing up] Because I can't sleep anymore.

Sister Aloysius, the nun who gave us the quote about stepping away from God in his service long ago, sighs and admits:

Maybe we're not supposed to sleep so well. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Doggie Heaven

I passed by hitchhikers this morning, two girls stood together with a sign stating their desired locale on one side of the street, while not more than thirty meters away an aged, balding man dressed in an oversized jacket and urban camouflaged khakis leveraged his thumb for cars drivers going the other direction.

Immediately I pitied the man, thinking that the two young girls with an obvious exact destination would, by all means conceivable, receive a ride in no undue time, while the chances that the man would wait all day for a drive that would never come seemed a likely fate.

Because of this preconceived notion, I was taken aback when the man was picked up while still I walked by. The girls were still pining for their destitudinal salvation when my feet carried me out of eye shot of them.

Noting this little incident made me feel a bit sad for the American (or at least, Californian) modern legislation against hitchhiking. My mother even warned me as a child never to pick up hitchhikers, because you never know when they're going to shiv you and steal that which you claim as your own. I've never hitchhiked before, but today I smile at the notion of it. The driver who chooses to pick up the cargo-panted man has very little to gain for their act of service. It is, practically speaking, a sheer act of kindness.

For by grace you have been picked-up, through faith, that not of your thumbs, it is a gift of driver.

You see, grace in this world is in the details.


It is then another small silhouette of grace's charm that I found amidst the biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
that the dear saint and a young boy both felt a degree of anxiety and hopeful splendor in the issue of the eschatology of the animal kingdom.

A little chap, whom is described as normally bubbly and cheerful, came to Bonhoeffer one day in a stir of tears and wretchedness. It was a matter of the boy's beloved dog, 'Herr Wolf'. In a letter to his brother-in-law, Bonhoeffer told the story (printed on page 86 of Metaxas' book):
So the boy, inconsolable, sat down on my knee and could hardly regain his composure; he told me how the dog died and how everything is lost now. He played only with the dog, each morning the dog came to the boy's bed and awakened him -- and now the dog was dead. What could I say? So he talked to me about it for quite a while. Then suddenly his wrenching crying became very quiet and he said: "But I know he's not dead at all." "What do you mean?" "His spirit is now in heaven, where it is happy... but tell me, will I see Herr Wolf again? He's certainly in heaven." So there I stood and was supposed to answer him yes or no. If I said, "no, we don't know" that would have meant "no"... So I quickly made up my mind and said to him: "Look, God created human beings and also animals, and I'm sure he also loves animals. And I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth -- genuinely loved each other -- will remain together with God, for to love is part of God. Just how that happens, though, we admittedly don't know." 
This marvelous response of Bonhoeffer's to the boys suffering over the loss of a loved one, however furry that loved one may be, beguiles me. But equally as rewarding to read is Bonhoeffer's thoughts on the boy's response.

He continues:
You should have seen the happy face on the boy; he had completely stopped crying. "So then I'll see Herr Wolf again when I am dead; then we can play together again" -- in a word, he was ecstatic. I repeated to him a couple of times that we don't really know how this happens. He, however, knew, and knew it quite definitely in thought... This whole affair was as important to the young boy as things are for one of us when something really bad happens. But I am almost surprised -- moved, by the naivete of the piety that awakens at such a moment in an otherwise completely wild young boy who is thinking of nothing. And there I stood -- I who was supposed to "know the answer" -- feeling quite small next to him; and I cannot forget the confident expression he had on his face when he left. 
This, for me is the evidence of a really big man indeed; the sign of a man wholly committed to learning, discovering, and drawing nearer to God. Bonhoeffer allowed himself to be humbled by the young lad's faith. Through his humility he learned to fear God a bit more.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sunday Inquiries: #5

For the wages of sin is death...*

What to do, what to do; what do we do with this pesky sin thing? Ol' Adam took that first bite of betrayal and ever since we human folk have been living in a haze of dereliction and benedictarnoldian civility.

Our theology, our very make-up as Christians, rests firmly on the life and actions of Jesus of Nazareth. We believe and hold ever conscious his act of death, having carried the burden of our sin by the outpouring of his blood. Thousands of years of animal sacrifices looked to this singular moment in history. Isaac, Abraham's only begotten son through his wife Sarah, was nearly sacrificed as what appears now as a Godly foreshadow of this explicit act of substitutionary atonement.

Paul makes it easy-peasy for us in Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Voila! Done and done. Sin equals death. Jesus equals salvation. My sin kills me and Jesus saves me. Sounds good, yes?

Well, yes. It does sound good... but what about sin that doesn't kill you? Hypothetically speaking (and trust me, this is stiiiictly hy-po-thet-hi-cal!), what would the wages of non-deathly sins be?

This conversation can very easily and swiftly fly right on over into the equally mind-numbing topic of degrees of sin and punishment, but for our purposes today we will stick with just one simple premise from one simple passage.

Premise: Not all sin leads to death. 

And without further adieu, let us glance over to old grandfather version of John the Apostle (the one that calls us 'little children' all the times and slips Werther's Originals into our pockets when the parents aren't looking). Just a few ticks before he wraps up his First Letter, he writes a very strange little string of words.
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life -- to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 1 John 5:16-17
Perhaps here John is alluding to the act of blaspheming the Spirit, which Christ informs us is the only unpardonable sin.** But taken as a whole, I'm simply left dumbfounded by the opaqueness of John's statement. He doesn't go to any measure at all to define his terms. Both those sins which lead to death as well as those undeath-leading sins remain decisively unclear in definition.

Such uncertainty brings into question the DNA of what sin is. The overarching description: Sin is that which separates us from God remains wholly intact no matter what wrinkles we come across, but the constitutionality of what falls under the umbrella of sin is always a thing of much fogginess. God sets out to make clear that there are several forms of sacrifice for the Old Testament Israelites, even so far as calling into practice the necessity of atonement for 'sins of accidence'. That one tends to bludgeon my easy-to-comprehend concept that sin is about motive and desire rather than act and substance. Catholic folk through the centuries liked to make categories. They had sins of commission and then the more shrewdly veiled sins of omission. I never liked dwelling on those ones.

Whilst mumbling through High School, I resolutely defined the moral world as a simple place: there were good things and bad things, and that which was bad was nothing more than the perversion of that which was good. Under this worldview, as long as I wasn't overtly going about sinning, I was doing good. I allowed for no hierarchy. I was sinning or I was doing good. There was no gray. This philosophy then allowed me to conceivably live my life as a couch potato with no regrets. But since those days, it just so happens that I have this little thing called a conscience, or, as I would reckon it to truly be, this Ghost living with me. And He makes me feel certain ways about certain things I do or do not do. And this Fella seems to insist gutturally to me that sitting on the couch all day is, in fact, a subtle action which separates me from my Lord.

In order to some semblance of order, I still need some ground rules. I need to get a grasp on what this sin business is and is not. I admit here, I find it hard to find order in John's words here, but rather, am comforted and assured from his writings in his Gospel:
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment... John 16:8
*All photos taken from Tell Your Children (1936) aka Reefer Madness

**And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Luke 12:10