Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Musings On The Road

I had a pretty awesome weekend. I got in my beat-up car and visited friends in Charlotte, Spruce Pine, and Asheville. I spent about 15 hours on the road in all, and I just felt so grown-up. I also visited some different people. I stayed with an ex-gay couple who works for Exodus in Charlotte, and I stayed with an actively gay Buddhist in Asheville. As a gay celibate Christian with liberal politics, I had major disagreements with both sets of people, and have had online arguments with all of them before. In person, though, they were all nice, sweet, engaging people. The disagreements still exist, but it was nice to stay the night with folks without arguing. We all have so much more in common than we have in disagreement.

Other than that, things are going well. I'm really excited about graduate school. The one I visited this weekend was awesome and everyone was so nice, and it's only my backup! I love how my backup is somewhere I would be 100% happy with.

On the spiritual side of things, my Bible study (great dudes) have been going through 1 John this semester. There's been a lot of conviction about being in the world but not of the world. For example, I was watching "Slumdog Millionaire" with friends the other day. It's a great movie, but at the end of it, even though it ended fairly happily, I couldn't feel too joyful. The characters were still all Muslim and Hindu. Even though they were happy, I just couldn't forget that their happiness was nothing without Christ. They would still be unsaved. I've been really convicted about this recently. Should I root for characters that I know aren't saved? I should be preoccupied with the salvation of others, and I need to more boldly proclaim the Gospel, because Hell is a reality. Eternal life and joy, far better than the joy of this Earth, is a reality. I want everyone I know and love on the joyful side of the divide, and even though I'm not going to start listening to all hymns and watching only Christian-themed television, my faith in Jesus needs to influence how I see art as well. I obviously should not use depictions of sin for my entertainment (which means I might have to let "Mad Men" go, since you can't watch that show without being forced to root for someone committing adultery). But even in other films or TV shows, if there are happy endings, but no one is saved, can they really be called happy?

As always, it's something to think about. This is what happens when you put me in a car for a few days with little else to do. :)


Daemon said...

Road trips, both alone and with friends, are some of the best and revealing times in out life. Those long internal monologues or never ending conversations reveal so much more that a few simple words in passing or hanging out.

Life on the road brings out the "us" is "us". We are a mobile people. That is what built this country.

Great to hear of your heart for others salvation and transformation! I too have been burdened lately about old friends and new people that I meet that have yet to find the awesome grace that I live with on a daily basis.

Prayers for ya man. There are some big plans God has for you. Let him use you!


Norm! said...

Hi Jay,

I've always enjoyed your thoughtful comments. While I disagree with your theology, I always thought I could rely on your reasonable and considerate comments -- especially considered to some other online bloggers and commenters.

So, I was shocked by your post questioning the happiness of non-conservative Christians like Muslims, Hindus, and other hell-bound folks. I suppose as a unrepentant liberal, gay person who questions many of the supposedly fundamental doctrines of Christianity, I also fall into the hell-bound and less-than-truly-happy status. :)

On the other hand though, I do appreciate your honesty and I'm not sure why I'm surprised considering that I know a little bit of your conservative beliefs. While hell is an essential aspect of Christian fundamentalism, very few conservative Christians speak openly about their belief in it. Many Christians gloss-over hell to make their faith seem positive, friendly, modern, and more progressive from old fashion fire-and-brimstone preachers. So, I can't fault you for being honest.

And I have to admit that I'm probably just as dismissive about the happiness and intentions of conservative/fundamentalist Christians. I suspect your concern about others' salvation may be self-serving and essentially based in affirming your own faith. I question how a seemingly loving and educated person can believe that a just and lovely creator could allow so many of his creations be damned for being born into the wrong culture or religion -- like the characters in Slumdog. So, I do hope for your salvation from fundamentalist ideology and that you'll be enlightened to the truth of liberal/progressive philosophy -- well, as long as your enlightenment re-affirms my right philosophy. :)

Jay said...

Daemon: Thanks for the prayers. :)

Norm: No, I totally understand what you are saying. Maybe I should have made myself a little more clear. I'm not doubting that the unsaved can be truly happy in this life. I don't think that salvation necessarily means Earthly happiness, wealth, or prosperity. I tend to get annoyed with the "health and wealth" pastors who promote such ideas.

My question is not about temporal happiness, but about ultimate happiness. If someone has a life that is prosperous, healthy, and happy, but does not know Christ, then from a conservative Christian perspective their life was a tragic one because that Earthly happiness (which is only a faint shadow of what Heaven offers) is all they will ever know.

And, as a Calvinist, I do believe that we are all totally depraved and deserving of death. It's not a matter of being born in one culture over another. We have all sinned against God. God is a just God and punishment for our sins is a just thing. That's what Christ came for, though, to take the wrath that was meant for us. I know it's a lot of difficult doctrine. I question it and grapple with it all the time. It is, however, what I believe is true.

And I appreciate you appreciating my honesty. I appreciate yours as well. :)

donsands said...

Thanks for sharing your heart Jay. A lot of good stuff to relate to, as usual.

The Gospel rules for sure. It's the Lord's good news to sinners. And since we, who have tasted His love and mercy, are so grateful we are forgiven by His great mercy we long to tell others.

Some won't want to hear, which is amazing really, because God is saying, "Come unto Me and I will give you rest, and I will grant you my presence and eternal life with Me, if you trust in Christ".

But sinners don't want to come His way. We want to tell God how we will come to Him, and He can take it or leave it.
That's a sad state to be in. I know, because I was there. I have lived on both sides now, as the saying goes.

I'm glad you had an awesome weekend. The Lord loves you, and He is pleased to bless us and fill us with joy. He surely, at times, calls us to suffer and sacrifice, but He compensates with His peace in our hearts, and also with "awesome weekends", every now and then.

And the ultimate "awesome weekend" is going to be ours one day, when Christ returns, and makes this wornout cursed earth a New Earth of pure love and righteousness for us to enjoy together forever and ever. Amen.

Have a nother great weekend, and Lord's day.

Brandon said...

I see your mind has been wandering. :)

I'm glad the school turned out to be a good place. I'm also glad you enjoyed your road trip and got to meet and be with some good people.

I think you're right about the entertainment. I used to really be into watching "Nip/Tuck", but after awhile I realized the show was only about people ruining and hurting their lives and the lives of others. There are really no redeeming characters on that show. And so I gave up watching it. I did turn in last season to an episode, and was quickly appauled and realized why I'd quit watching it to begin with. But yeah, I do think a happy ending can sometimes not really be so happy when you really get to thinking about it all. Happy for a while, maybe, but not lasting.

tilts_at_windmills said...

I'm curious what you'd count as using "depictions of sin" for entertainment. It seems to me that pretty much any story is going to involve depictions of sin, since stories are about people, and people do bad things.

To take the Mad Men example, I've never thought the show was endorsing Don Draper's serial adultery. His dalliances always end badly, and it's terribly clear they don't make him (or his wife) happy. If anything, the central theme of Mad Men is the hole at the center of Don's life and Don's soul, and his failed attempts to fill it with money, love, and sex. I do "root" for Don in the sense that I love the character, and would like to see things work out for him, but that doesn't mean I approve of a lot of the choices he makes. I don't think I'm supposed to.

As a writer yourself, where do you draw that line? Is it only okay to show bad behavior when it's punished? And if so, what defines "punishment?" Does it have to be a full-on, King Lear level of degradation, or could it be more subtle? I think a case could be made that Don Draper's behavior is punished--sure, he has the beautiful wife, lavish house, and glamorous job, but he drove his brother to suicide to keep it, and he's still fundamentally unhappy.

Jay said...

Oh, I totally agree with you, Tilts (and welcome back, by the way!) It's not that I only want to watch Christian themed TV shows or read Christian themed books. I just want to make sure that, when I watch something, that I keep my own worldview in mind when analyzing and assessing the characters and their choices. That's what I mean, if that makes sense.

pursuegod said...

So, umm, why did not you not visit me in Durham??? All that driving and seeing people and you go right past me. Yeah, I see how it is. . .

So, the next time, come stay at the intentional Christian community house I am living in. We have a guest room. :)

Neo said...

Karen, he didn't take I-40, so he didn't come by here. I asked him about that on Facebook before he left. And I already offered him a place to stay whenever he comes by this area, although a guest room would be nicer than a couch in my apartment. Well, now we can fight over him. ;-)

Ophir said...

Why don't you focus on your own sins instead of those of the Hindus and Muslims in "Slumdog Millionaire"?

How are you so certain that hell exists and that those Indians will be sent there? How do you know that eternal life and joy are a reality? And how do you know that you'll be on the joyful side of the divide?

Jay said...

Hey Ophir. Long time no see. Hope you're doing well. I'll start from the bottom up with those questions.

I have faith in Christ, and in His Word. As such, I do believe that eternal life and joy are a reality, and that one's faith in Christ puts them on the joyful side of the divide. Those who don't have that faith, but bow to other gods, will not be on the side of joy. Do I doubt all this sometimes? Of course. We are not perfect and faith will naturally have doubt coming along with it. But, faith is believing that something is true, even without evidence, and I do believe that what I believe is true.

And the fact that I have this faith means that I want to share it, and that I want as many people as possible to share it and experience Christ and be on the joyful side of the divide. I am not focusing on the sins of Hindus and Muslims. They are no worse sinners than I. I am focusing on the fact that I know Christ and they don't, and I want them to know Christ and experience what I've experienced, so that we can all be in Heaven together. This isn't judgment. It's wanting to share the Gospel, and having a genuine heart and love for the lost people of the world.

Ophir said...

Hey. I'm doing fine, thanks. Still alive, so I've got some time until my eternal suffering. I'm glad to hear you're doing fine too and ejoying life (even if it's only in this temporal world). I'm working now. It's meant to be a part-time job, but lately I'm working even more than full-time. Anyway, I'm not complaining. It's nice to check my bank account and see the numbers increase, instead of decrease.

I know my words can be harsh, and I really don't want to sound mean (or worse, be mean) but I feel I must defend something - not me, I'm an idolator and I know it - and so because the subject is so deep and personal, it may also be painful (but you're a tough guy and a smart one and you know that nothing I say in a debate is meant personally).

There is only one God and there are no "other" gods, only idols. The difference between God and an idol is not quantitative (I accept that - despite the trinity - Christians worship one god, though I view him as an idol), it is even not qualitative, as God has no qualities (none in the sense we're familiar with or can understand). Any god with qualities is an idol. I believe your god is an idol and as far as idols go, I find him a wicked one. What kind of game is he playing? He's handing out salvation but only to those who accept him? And it would be one thing if he didn't offer salvation to Muslims and Hindus, but to damn them for eternity in some underworld? No thanks, you can keep your god and your salvation. I have much more appealing idols.

Jesus promised you salvation and so you worship him. But now read Genesis, chapter 22. God promised Abraham that Isaac will bear him a great nation (no one in the Hebrew Bible is promised "salvation" or an afterlife and the word messiah means something else than what it came to mean. Several people are called God's messiah, including the Persian king, Cyrus II), and now he demands Abraham sacrifice Isaac. Abraham agrees, even though this obviously means that with his beloved son he also kills the chance for a great nation that God promised him. Abraham is the true believer who puts aside all idols, even the most fundamental ones that most people, myself included, cannot abandon - love, humanity, morality, perpetuance. (Luckily for believers, they are usually not faced with anything quite as dramatic as the binding of Isaac. Though some are, such as some of my people who preferred death for themselves and their families over the "salvation" that for 2,000 years your people have been pestering us with - sometimes out of love, like I'm sure is the case with you, though sometimes out of darker motives). I know people who worship God because he is God and who make sacrifices great and small for their faith, and they don't expect anything - least of all an afterlife - in return.

One last thing, how do you know Jesus's Word is in fact his words? Surely you know the Bible was written by humans, edited by humans and compiled by humans. Someone or some group decided that the Gospel of John was his words and that the Gospel of Thomas wasn't. And it wasn't Jesus or anybody who knew him who made that decision.

To use your words, these are some things to think about (I'm a big fan of thinking, though sometimes it gives me a headache).

Now. Big Line Break. Another. In case it wasn't clear amidst my sarcasm before, I really am glad to hear that all is going well with you and that you're excited about grad school. Incidentally, don't you know that the only god is Google? Submit already and maybe we'll be in touch more often. I'm certainly not going to bow down to any idols such as Facebook.

Jay said...

Ophir, I like you, you know that. We can argue about theology and I can go look up all the best apologetics resources I know, but in the end it comes down to faith on my part. We'd just keep arguing in circles since I think we're both pretty set in our positions. Just know that all my concern is just that -- concern. I know it's going to sound condescending no matter what I do, but the fact is I love you and I do want you to experience Christ as I have.

I'm glad that your job is going well. I could certainly use some extra incomone right now. Hopefully we'll get a chance to talk soon. I'm on Google chat every now and then. E-mail me with your screen name and I'll add you. Take care.

TRiG said...

I missed most of what you said about Slumdog, because that playlist thing breaks out of the sidebar on my browser and covers half of the text, and there's no obvious way to get rid of it. I'm a geek, I'll work it out, but not now.

I've not visited your blog in a while. Glad to hear all's okay.

However, since we're discussing Calvinism in the comments, this seems to be an excellent opportunity to quote something I wrote elsewhere:


The real damage to me, I think, was the faux morality. You're taught, as a Witness, that the worst thing you can do is to upset Jehovah. Morality is about what does or does not offend God. Real morality, by contrast, is about people. And rebuilding a moral code from scratch in your early-to-mid twenties is tough. The old one keeps leaking through.


I actually suspect I would have left the Witnesses earlier if I wasn't gay. If you leave a religion merely because it doesn't suit you, you're never going to be happy. You'll have gnawing doubts in the back of your mind for the rest of your life: little whispers running around your head telling you you're doing the wrong thing. At least, I'm pretty sure that's how it would work for me. I left my religion because I didn't think it was true. This was, I thought at the time, the only good reason to leave any religion. (I've since revised that opinion. It's also good to leave a religion if you think God is an immoral monster. If I truly believed in the Calvinist deity I hope I would have the courage and moral fortitude to spit in his face.) And, because I was gay, the religion didn't suit me. And I wanted to be absolutely certain, before I walked away, that I was doing it for the right reasons. So I stayed. I stayed for quite a while, wrestling with myself, until I was certain my disbelief was honest, and not merely doubts made up to suit myself. As I said, if I wasn't gay, I would probably have left earlier.


(Why oh why doesn't Blogger allow blockquote tags?)

I may have raised your hackles there, Jay. No harm. You've raised mine.


Jay said...

For one, I'm sorry about the Playlist. It never does that on IE or Firefox. I haven't tried it out on Safari yet, though. What kind of browser are you using?

Two, you haven't really raised my hackles. You think any Calvinist has never heard the, "Your God is a monster" or "I'd spit in your God's face" comments before? If you're trying to raise my hackles, you're going to have to say something more interesting than that. Cheers!

TRiG said...

Firefox 3.0.15 on Ubuntu 8.04. I do know that later versions of both are available, but downloading on this slow computer is a pain. I think I'll back everything up and do a fresh installation.

It's ten to two in the morning, so I'll say nothing more about Calvinism.


TRiG said...

Faith is believing that something is true, even without evidence.

Odd. When I use that definition to my parents they tell me I'm wrong. Yet another reason to avoid using the word: no one can agree on what it means.

Faith, by your definition, is not only silly, it's dangerous.