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A short reflection on the tale of Eros and Psyche

That which we call a god may be a monster

That which we fear to be a monster may be a god

Either way

We find ourselves in love with it

It loved us first

That’s all that matters

 

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I stand with Doubting Thomas.

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle. The Gospels call him Thomas Didymus, “the Twin”; tradition calls him Doubting Thomas. The Gospel of John gives us the story that is read pretty much every year on the Second Sunday of Easter, Low Sunday, first after Easter Day–how he refused to believe that his fellow disciples had seen Jesus unless he, too, got to see Jesus, and not only see him, but touch him and verify his wounds.

I stand with Thomas, who was not there the first time Jesus appeared to all the disciples together. I stand with his desire to do what the others had no doubt already done: Seen Jesus, heard him, touched him, perhaps embraced him. He told Mary Magdalene not to cling to him, but later he told Thomas explicitly to touch him. And Thomas did.

I stand with Thomas, who asked awkward questions, who stood by Jesus even when he was certain it meant death. I stand with Thomas, who wanted his own experience of the Lord, his own relationship with Jesus, who was not content to rely on hearsay. I stand with Thomas, who wanted to verify that the Risen Lord was also the Crucified One, who demanded to see the holes the nails left and the wound made by a Roman spear.

I stand with Thomas, whom the Gnostics claimed for their own, in whose name one of the earliest Gospels was written, and to whom Christians in India trace their faith tradition. I stand with Thomas, who wanted not only to see Jesus and hear Jesus, but to touch him and perhaps even smell him and taste him. I stand with Thomas, who trusted his own senses, who was willing to give his heart only to Jesus.

“Blessed are they who have not seen yet have believed,” says the Gospel of John, and for centuries people have been encouraged to believe without experience, without relationship, without seeing the wounds of the Risen Lord and touching them in their own lives, and belief has slowly slipped along the scale from trust and faith to idea and opinion, and people have grown hungry and thirsty for God, rigid in “belief”, afraid in their hearts. I stand with Thomas, who tells us that the Lord who conquered death and passed through closed doors to eat and drink with his friends can pass through the doors of history and frozen beliefs to call us by name and invite us to touch his wounds.

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Would Jesus Drop the Nagasaki Bomb? | Consortiumnews.

A saddening, thought-provoking historical essay. In dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, American soldiers destroyed the center of Christianity in Japan.

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When I heard, a few years ago, that there was a drama on cable television about a man who turns to manufacturing crystal meth in order to provide for his family while he is dying of cancer, and after his death, I said to myself, disgusted, “There is no way I’ll ever watch that.”

Then one day I came across an interview with the creator of the show, Vince Gilligan. Aha, I said to myself, that’s the fellow who wrote some of my favorite episodes of The X-Files. It’s worth reading this interview to see what he has to say.

I read the interview, and now, a month later, I am watching the second season of the show, Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White, a bored, burnt-out teacher of high school chemistry who collapses one day and is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Ironically, he is not and never has been a cigarette smoker. Walt has a wife who’s pregnant unexpectedly at the age of 39 and a teenaged son who has cerebral palsy. He also has a brother-in-law who works for the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the offer of a ride-along on a DEA drug bust plants a terrible idea in Walt’s mind: It would be so very easy for a man who knows chemistry to make a boatload of money by cooking crystal meth.

Soon Walt is partnering with a former student of his, a disappointing and disappointed young man named Jesse Pinkman, to manufacture and sell crystal methamphetamine. Walt’s chemistry skills produce high-quality, exceptionally pure and powerful meth, so their success seems assured. But he hasn’t reckoned with the sort of people who sell the drug, or the sort of people who use it, and he is soon neck-deep in a swamp of physical danger, violent action, and many, many lies.

I think the last episodes I watched, and especially episode 2×6, “Peekaboo”, have really established Walt’s and Jesse’s characters for me. Walter White is not a good person. He is justifying his manufacture of a poisonous illegal substance, his involvement in an underground war zone of buying and selling, as a sacrifice for his family. He needs large amounts of money not only to leave something to his family, but to pay for the cancer treatments his wife is desperate that must have. For years he has been a dutiful husband and father, a good teacher, a frustrated scientist who might have gone far in pure research, but now that the cancer is stripping all of that away, what’s left is a greedy, selfish, bitter, ruthless man. He lies to his family, brutally insults an old friend, and is daily cruel to his young business partner, a bright guy whose parents broke him with unreasonable expectations.

Jesse, on the other hand, is basically a good but weak person. He doesn’t have a strong internal compass; he is easily led, easily bullied, but unlike Walt, he doesn’t have any real cruelty in him. He’s placed in a situation where he thinks he supposed to kill a couple of junkies who stole drugs and money from one of his distributors. He sees a bug crawling by his shoe, stoops down, and lets it creep over his hand, with an almost childlike expression on his face. A friend comes along and instantly squashes the bug. And then he finds himself desperately trying to help a helpless person and not having the power to do so effectively. It was a heartbreaking scene.

What Vince Gilligan is really doing in this show is giving us a picture of Sin. Walt’s decision to cook and sell meth in order to pay for his cancer treatments and provide for his family fits the classical definition of sin perfectly: He is doing something, of his own free will, which he *knows* to be wrong. He is justifying it to himself, rationalizing it, as he goes along, but he walks into the meth business knowing it is not only illegal but immoral, viciously destructive of human life, and he does it anyway. That is sin. And it isolates him, damages him, steers him into yet further sin to cover up and compensate, along with doing damage to his customers, his family, and others.

But there’s another side to this beside Walt’s deliberate, knowing wrongdoing. That’s the social side, the corporate injustice. If Walter White had adequate health care, he might not have to do this. Without the immediate problem of thousands and thousands of dollars for treatment, on a public school teacher’s salary, he might not be tempted to cook meth in order to make huge sums of money quickly. If his work as a teacher were better valued and better paid, he might not feel like so much of a failure as Husband and Father and be willing to do anything, however heinous, to make the kind of money he thinks he deserves to leave his wife and son. Gilligan talks very articulately in interviews about wanting to show bad choices and the repercussions of bad choices, the consequences of wrong actions and how they keep going. I think he’s showing us that not only on an individual level, but on a social level, too.

And the voracious little story-eating monster in my head can’t wait to see just how bad Breaking Bad gets.

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I’m starting to feel like a hipster Christian, some days. Everybody suddenly seems to be talking about having a Rule of Life, saying the Office, reading Julian of Norwich. I was into all those things decades ago… before they were cool.

*dons ugly square glasses*

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I grew up an Episcopalian. I went to Sunday school every week; there were years I had perfect attendance. Here are some things I did not learn in my religious education:

  • I did not learn that science was bad.
  • I did not learn that women were inferior to men. (Much of the work of the parish was done by women, and there was a fair percentage of women who had jobs as well as husbands and children.)
  • I did not learn that homosexuality was the worst of all possible sins.
  • I did not learn that abortion was a sin; I’m not sure anybody ever mentioned it.
  • I did not learn that we would all burn in hell if God had not punished Jesus for our sins, and that substitutionary atonement was the only accurate explanation of our redemption.
  • I did not learn a lot about hell, actually.

So what *did* I learn in church? A lot of things:

  • I learned how to punctuate from the Book of Common Prayer.
  • I also learned how to use the second-person singular correctly.
  • I learned how to sing various styles of music from the Hymnal 1940.
  • I learned about the liturgical year and its associated colors and themes.
  • I learned the Bible by hearing it read in church, in the Authorised Version.
  • I learned a good bit about Bible history, especially from one particular teacher.
  • I learned that C.S. Lewis had converted from atheism to Christian faith, and that he put religious symbolism into the Narnia books.
  • When I was a teenager, my rector gave me his collection of newsletters from the C.S. Lewis society of New York: Hours of fascinating reading.
  • I talked with my rector about Anglican writers like Lewis, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, and Madeleine L’Engle, and about my own aspirations as a writer.
  • I *was* taught that premarital sex was a bad idea. Given how many teens in my neighborhood were having sex and getting pregnant before the age of eighteen—including kids in my Sunday school classes—and how few of us ever went to college, I now think this was not unreasonable.
  • I learned that stories, poetry, and music are important.
  • I learned that God loves us so much he wanted to be one of us, regardless of the consequences.
  • I learned that human work is good, human sexuality is good, and I could serve God by writing stories.

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Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

Martin Luther King Jr. (via dduane)

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