I love to read and write. The guy next to me makes videos and plays something like five musical instruments. The audience around us is composed of a wide variety of creatives including photographers, designers, musicians and writers. In the coming days we will hear from poets, preachers, professors, theologians, rappers and singer/songwriters. Canvas 2016 is about to start.
Its a simple fact really. A stunning fact. A fact that should shake us to the bones: We will all die someday. And yet we live most of our lives furiously pushing forward as if tomorrow has no right not to come. This week some of us were shaken out of the stupor. Something may have happened to wake you up, to make you stop, to let the cold reality sink in. Death is inevitable. This happened to me and some of my friends by the death of a young man. I personally never met him but the pain of a young and untimely death spreads like a cold fog through the hearts of friends and loved ones to all around. It weighs down on us. It says to us in an arresting voice, “Pull over. Stop and think.”
This week I have met in my reading an individual who has been challenging me in new and unique ways. Rosaria Butterfield was an English professor at Syracuse University. She was a stalwart feminist and defender of gay and lesbian rights. Rosaria met Jesus in the life and witness of a pastor who was willing to sit and discuss her worldview with her. The book is a fascinating read and very well written. There is so much in it that is challenging me, and so much that could be discussed. But perhaps the biggest thing that stands out to me as I work my way through the first half of the book is her discussion of her entrance into the christian world, and the complexities that this process caused.
We’ve all perhaps heard of Mary Shelley’s dark tale of the genius scientist Victor Frankenstein, who’s curiosity and intellect drive him to create a living monster (yes, yes Frankenstein is the name of the scientist, not the monster). Anyways, as the story goes, the beast haunts Victor everywhere he goes, wreaking havoc on his entire life and eventually leading to his very sad death. Frankenstein has now been told and retold for nearly 200 years, and for good reason. It is a magnificent and horrifying exploration of human nature, the limits of science and our relationship to nature. No matter how you slice it, it is rich with meaning and significance. And yet as I read it last year there was one thread in particular that jumped out at me.
Its interesting how the consistent perception within the world around us is that the christian faith (and all religion for that matter) are an escape from reality. We always get this sense that people of faith are coming into their religious experiences as a way of getting away from the challenges and pressures of life in the real world. I can’t speak definitively on other religions, but this is profoundly untrue about the actual christian message. One of it’s central tenets is that God is invading reality. It is a message of the fact that one of our greatest needs is not escape from but reconciliation to the actual world.
This perhaps sounds like an odd question. What do you mean? Doesn’t it just exist? One of the most difficult concepts for us Westerners to understand is the fact that much of the world is not like us. Though we boast in our pluralism, it actually seems to backfire on us and gets in the way of our ability to truly grasp the core differences that shape our world. One such difference is the presence and nature of true liberty.
There is perhaps no greater value in our society today than the idea of complete personal freedom. We are a generation that looks at the past centuries of cultures and societies and we are pained at the injustice and oppression that seems to fill every chapter of history. It seems that no matter how much the people of the past have sought to come up with comprehensive explanations on how society should see life, they have inevitably led to the ill-treatment and abuse of someone else in the world.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened. But somewhere in these last few years, there grew within me this unshakable awareness that life is very fragile. This awareness came quite unexpectedly. Almost like someone pulled back the curtain in the middle of act three, throwing off both the audience and the actors on stage. It shook up my young and untested sense of the world. It melted that notion that life will always continue to flow as it always had.
The other day, as I was rocking my daughter to sleep and reflecting on how much I love her, I stumbled upon a striking realization. There was a phase in my parenting life, perhaps a year ago, when I really sought to hurry through the whole toddler bedtime routine. Every evening was a race with the clock to get her down nice and early and enjoy the freedom of spending time with my wife without constant interruption. But lately, things have changed. I have really started to enjoy those twilight bedtime minutes.
We are always inevitably building our worldview, and we are always inevitably disagreeing with others around us doing the same thing, though in ways that are different than ours. In a previous post it was noted that it is very important that we learn to disagree correctly. The prevailing tendency in our culture today seems to be to dismiss, to cut ourselves off, to pronounce the others as unreasonable radicals who are not even worthy of our consideration. And yet in this we are perhaps showing, more than anything else, our own radical pride and unwillingness to think and be challenged.
Continue reading “An Enriching Disagreement”