Christianity versus Mashed Potatoes

My daughter doesn’t always enjoy eating, and being a stubborn little girl–I can’t imagine who she inherited that from–she simply won’t eat unless it suits her fancy.  We’re trying to break this particular habit by removing alternatives: if she doesn’t eat her dinner, she can’t have anything else to eat until morning.  We save her dinner though, in the event she decides to get hungry later.  That way we can say, “You’re hungry?  Well, that’s because you didn’t eat this.  Here’s another chance.”

So far it’s not working.  She takes stubbornness to Olympian heights.  And maybe this is a bad plan on our part anyway.  Parenting is a hit or miss endeavor.  But in any event, this is why we had a pile of mashed potatoes in our garbage this morning.

And then I needed to throw something out.  Being the sort of person who assigns fairly arbitrary goals for my minor tasks, I decided that I would try to land my garbage in the middle of the mashed potatoes.  I succeeded, creating a bizarre sculpture of garbage standing at a strange angle in a plane of white goop.  In garbage.

Here is my point.  When the thing I dropped hit the mashed potatoes, it plowed into them a bit.  If I were to take it out again, assuming I could extricate it carefully, I would see in the potatoes a perfect impression of what I had dropped.

This is not what Christians mean when we talk about the image of Christ.  It isn’t an impression that’s stamped into us, or a brand, or any such.  All of those things involve removal and replacement.  Christianity is about death and resurrection, which is entirely different.

Now, there are some obvious objections, not from non-Christians, who may or may not care about the distinction, but from Christians.  For example, they might quote Paul who says that he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him (Gal 2:19).  That certainly sounds like replacement.  (It actually sounds like possession.)  Or they might quote John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NASB).

Actually, the second is said far too often to mean something entirely horrible, but that’s for another time.

In any event, Christ’s goal was redemption, not destruction.  We were each created to be ourselves, and we were created through the Son (John 1:3).  To abolish that creation by replacement would be to work at cross purposes, hardly fitting if Christ is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NASB).

Contrariwise, Christ living in us provides fulfillment.  It’s the returning of a broken creation to the one who designed it and cares for it, a returning of a broken toy to the toymaker, so that he might finish in us what he started in us.

Now as it happens, that fulfillment isn’t easy.  Nothing can be resurrected that is not first allowed to die.  That’s a hard thing to think about, and much harder to experience.  It’s relatively easy to misunderstand.  The goal of it isn’t loss but release.

For example, I might give to Christ my desire for affirmation–which tends to manifest in the pursuit of popularity and such–because it’s a broken part of created me with which I cannot be trusted.  The part of me that demands control over it has to be silenced.  The part of me that opposes Christ’s entire freedom with created me, that part has to die.

But so that created me might live.  It isn’t the joy of the toymaker to collect toys, but to give toys away.  It isn’t the joy of Christ to destroy creation but to complete it.  I stop demanding the right to mistreat a thing, so that he can give the thing back to me.

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It Is What It Is

Sometimes the things we don’t have a choice about are things to which we’re supposed to submit.

That’s the thought I’m starting with today.  I have a point I want to make–I probably won’t though–and have too many issues between me and it.  Each of my posts for the last several days–since I started this strange exercise–have been me approaching a single topic from a different direction.

This is actually one of the things I like about theology, or philosophy, and why Christianity is–in my estimation at least–the most rational available.  Everything ties together.  At least in the sense of there not being loose ends.  It’s thorough, and thoroughly consistent, but not circular.  (Whereas, as an obvious example, the atheism of Richard Dawkins is consistent only when shallow, and circular at the best of times.  I could talk about his views for a while; they’re annoying proportional to their popularity, which is greater than they could possibly earn on their own merits.)

Either way, as I meandered around yesterday, my society tends to view submission to anything, even, nature, as contrary to freedom.  One political party tends to focus liberty on the economic side of things–we should not be egregiously subject to regulation and government–whereas the other tends to focus liberty on the social side of things–regulation and government protect us from being egregiously subject to our neighbor–but both have their “hot button issues.”  (What is a hot button?  Wouldn’t that be a sign of some sort of electrical problem?)

And see, I’m meandering again.  I try very hard not to care about politics, possibly the way that an alcoholic tries not to drink.  But it comes up.  I try to sound impartial, but I’m really not.  I generally despise both sides.  Despising is a failure, I suspect,  but objection isn’t.

Contrary to the occasional pundit, Christianity is pretty clearly against the sort of gluttony that undergirds one of the prominent political positions.  I won’t spend much time on that, because it’s obvious.  The occasional Christian thinks that Christianity is about getting rich on the backs of the poor, but that’s an individual failure to appreciate what the overwhelming majority understand.

More dangerous I think, at least in terms of its insidious attractiveness, is the message of the other side.  Christianity is also pretty clearly against the sort of easy egalitarianism that’s called “liberal.”  (Christianity is constant, and constantly a corrective.  The world dances around it and tugs at it, but the world’s philosophy’s are always distortions or reductions.  More on this another time.)

I tried to say this the other day.  Couched in language of justice, freedom, and love, is an evil that belittles the value of the very people it claims to help.  In very broad terms, it’s a cultural trend to pursue equality at the expense of difference, to pretend that differences don’t matter so that we can pretend that they don’t exist.

Sigh.  I’m trapped trying to say something more complicated than I am.

And I’m running out of time again.

Christianity has no interest in treating everyone the same; it would be a bad theology of Creation.  The theology of Creation is the theology of difference.  This idea is immediately unpopular.  I’ve typed it and am struck by the way it offends people from my culture.  (Since I’m a person from my culture.)  Nevertheless it’s true, and Christians abandon it only as they conform to culture rather than Christ.  It seems loving but is not loving to be as egalitarian as Culture tempts us to be.

Some inequalities are social.  They’re the product of sinful humanity and should be combated.  (Racism and poverty spring to mind as obvious examples.)  We ought to be free of those things, and ought to work to make sure that other people are free of them as well.

Other inequalities are part of how we are each created.  They’re the product of a good and gracious God.  It isn’t Christian to oppose God, even his will as expressed in our births.  The most obvious example here is sex.  I’m a man, which entails certain things.  My wife is a woman, which entails other things.  We trod upon that difference at our peril.  Sometimes the things we don’t have a choice about are things to which we’re supposed to submit, for our own and everyone’s benefit.

Bill Nye Doesn’t Understand Science

I saw an interview today in which Bill Nye talked about the need for a scientifically literate future.  Specifically, he thought that people needed to understand that Creationism was “clearly wrong,” and harmful to our economic future.  As an explanation he suggested that science holds the keys to all sorts of technology, which we use everyday, whereas Creationism taught children not to use their critical thinking skills.

I’m a scientifically literate person; I really enjoy science.  From early childhood I was also taught to use my critical thinking skills effectively and thoroughly.  I have a masters degree even, gained primarily through coursework in critical engagement.  This is why I know that Bill Nye is the one who’s “clearly wrong.” Continue reading