• Category Archives Theology
  • Saving Narnia

    notaslanFor the last few weeks, I’ve had a strange obsession with anything Narnia related. Be it the books, the movies, or even the dated (yet decent) concept album “Roar Of Love” – I just can’t get enough of Narnia right now. This is the first time I’ve read the books as an adult, and I’ve got to say they hold up quite well. This really shouldn’t surprise me, as CS Lewis really was an intelligent man and an amazing author. Lewis has even written three books that I would consider my own, personal canon (Till we Have Faces, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce). As many of you know, the first book – The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, serves as an allegory for the coming of Christ, his death, and his resurrection. In fact, the deeper one digs into the allegory, the more one sees said allegory. For instance, Christmas comes as Aslan comes – Christmas is the Birth of Christ. Spring comes as Aslan faces his death (and spoilers, resurrection), Easter is in Spring. The two female children whom witness the resurrection of Aslan represent the women at the tomb of Jesus. Peter represents – well, Peter. Edmund represents Judas – I could probably write a 20 page paper on of the symbolism, and this is what makes it a good allegory – it isn’t just the stories lining up, it’s the symbolism. Wait a minute – did I say the stories line up? Because they don’t! True, the Stories of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe serves as an allegory for the Life, death, and Resurrection of Christ – but there are a few sections of the former which divert from the latter. The diversion of the two stories indicate that maybe, just maybe, there’s more to the story…

    Firstly, let’s look at the traitor, Edmund. If the stories were to align, Edmund, who represents Judas, would be killed in a gruesome manner and be hated for thousands of years and counting. Woe would be upon him, and he would have been better unborn. So what happens to Edmund then? Well, he’s forgiven by Aslan and, along with his siblings, becomes a beloved monarch of Narnia. If the stories of Christ and of Narnia (at least the Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) were to align, then Edmund’s fate would indeed be different – more gruesome, and a lot less pleasant.

    But perhaps Edmund is a poor example on how the two stories align. After all – while Edmund represents Judas, a strong argument could also be made to say that Edmund also represents Humanity in general. After all, it was Aslan sacrificing himself for Edmund, just as Christ sacrificed himself for the sake of humanity. If the Judas / Edmund connection were the only case of the two stories not aligning, I seriously doubt I would pursue this subject at all. However, there is another section in particular is a more of a misalignment.

    TheLionWitchWardrobe(1stEd)Aslan has been taken by Jadis to be sacrificed instead of Edmund. Those followers loyal to Aslan prepared to fight the forces of Jadis. If the two stories lined up perfectly, the followers of Aslan would hide in fear of their lives, just as the Disciples of Christ hid after the crucifixion. Those disciples who did not fear repercussions (or perhaps just didn’t care), went back to their old lives – back to their fishing boats. Regardless of the reaction of the disciples, it was not the reaction of the people of Narnia. The disciples of Christ had lost hope. They knew nothing could bring Jesus back. Those loyal to Aslan didn’t seem to care that there was no hope left even though Aslan was dead and they also would die if they fought. Perhaps they could have fled to another land, perhaps they could have made a deal with Jadis – maybe spend a year as a stone statue in punishment – and then back to their normal lives again. Mind you, I digress a little, but the point is that the people of Narnia, much like the disciples of Christ, did not have any hope – yet unlike the disciples of Christ, the people of Narnia did not let the lack of hope change their decision to fight Jadis and her forces. If The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe were a perfect allegory, the people of Narnia would not have fought this battle.

    So – the stories of The lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and that of the Life, death, and resurrection of Christ do not line up. What’s the big deal? I entitled this article “Saving Narnia” for a reason. The fact that the two stories do not intertwine perfectly means that there’s room for other interpretations of the stories of Narnia, other than that of allegory. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with seeing “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and the other stories as an allegory for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ – but it’s far from the only interpretation that can be found in this story. If there is textual evidence for an interpretation can be found, then that interpretation is true regardless of what the author says. Granted, the fact that there might be several interpretations to a story is English Lit 101. Still, there are those that believe if you do not interpret the Narnia stories in their own, narrow, viewpoint, then you are wrong. This is hardly the case, and far be it from me to commit the intellectual fallacy, but I believe that CS Lewis would fully agree that one could find alternative meanings to any story.

    If you have an alternative interpretation to the Narnia books, don’t be afraid to share and discuss them. This shouldn’t be something that needs to be said, but even in our increasingly secular culture, the Jesus interpretation of the Narnia books seems to be the only one that is accepted. Even Robot Chicken describes Aslan as “The Jesus allegory lion.” But one should never push their interpretation of literature (or music, or movies, or video games, or…) on any other person. One should present their case, yes, but one should also be open to other interpretations, as interpretations will differ in a subjective mediums. If you find an “unorthodox” interpretation of the Narnia books – or any books for that matter – fight for it like the followers of Aslan fought the forces of Jadis. Your personal interpretation is your own personal Narnia – and Narnia needs to be saved.

  • To burn, or not to burn…

    Fahrenheit 451 warned us of the dangers involved in book burning and censorship. I grew up hearing stories of libraries in the 1950s burning books they thought were inappropriate. One of the funniest scenes in the Indiana Jones franchise involves Indiana Jones meeting Hitler at a book burning. Book burning has become synonymous with evil and censorship. So when a church in Florida announced that they will be burning copies of the Koran on September 11th, there was, of course an outrage. After all, burning a book some deem as holy says the burners want a religion censored and even banned, never mind the first amendment! Or are they? While I’m sure this group of “Christians” would love for every copy of the Koran to be ripped off of library and bookstore shelves all across the country, thus burning in a fire fit to destroy the one ring of power, there’s also another side of book burning. That side is one of peaceful demonstration and protest.

    Let me clarify my stance on the matter before anyone thinks that I’m siding with the church in Florida. I do not support their efforts to burn the Koran. Having said that, I do support their right to protest, however blindly, anything they wish to protest. Sure, they’re wrong, and downright stupid – not to mention hypocritical – but as Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” These people have the right to peacefully protest Islam, just as the Muslims have the right to practice religion. And like I said, I do NOT side with their beliefs on this matter. I believe they’re being hypocritical and unloving. They are proclaiming their hatred for another religion – one they probably feel should not be covered under the first amendment. However, they are not actually harming anyone, and they are not forcing any censorship – that’s what makes this specific book burning different then the Nazi book burnings.

    Twice in this article, I’ve called these soon to be book burners “hypocritical.” This is true on two levels. There’s the obvious level. They are, essentially saying the first amendment is only for Christians. They are saying that you only have the right to practice religion if you are practicing their religion. The second level of hypocrisy is somewhat ironic. These “Christians” are not following the commands of Christ, and hence they are being hypocritical to their own religion. Christ himself commanded his followers to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” (Luke 10:26) and to “Do to others as you want them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). How is taking another religion’s sacred texts and burning them following either of these commandments? Would these “Christians” like it if the Muslims were burning the Bible? Would these Christians stand up in outrage if another religion wanted Christianity exempt from the first amendment? I guarantee you that these “Christians” would be outraged if either of these things happened. And yet, these “Christians” do the very thing to the Muslims. Oh, and this is not just about banning a religion. They chose to do this on September 11th – this is about vengeance. Never mind Mathew 5: 38-42 (turn the other cheek), never mind Romans 12:19 (Vengeance is mine sayeth the lord) – these “Christians” want revenge.

    Again, I say that while I support the rights of those who plan on burning the Koran, I also wish they wouldn’t. It seems like something that will do more harm than good. It’s not going to attract any more followers to Christianity. It’s not going to change the first amendment – which is a good thing. It’s not going to change the hearts of any Muslim. Rather, it’s going to scare away would be followers of Christianity. It’s going to make more and more people wonder if perhaps the first amendment should exempt Christians, and it will give more ammo to the extremist factions found in Islam. So while I certainly respect the rights of these “Christians” to protest, perhaps it would be better for all parties involved if they worked on other efforts.

  • Joy and Rest Between Christmas and Lent.

    We’re in the time of year that I like to refer to as the most horrible time of the year. The time when the weather gets really cold and wet and miserable. The time of year where we realize the holidays are over, and we have to go back to normal life. The time of year when we can’t wait till Spring to get here already! If there was ever a time of year where we need to feel  joy, hope, peace, and love, this time of year is it! Its almost odd that this time of year feels this way, considering that a mere three weeks ago was what many refer to as the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, i feels downright wrong! Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth, the first coming of Christ. Shouldn’t that Joy stay with us? Shouldn’t we put our mindset to “hooray! Jesus came to save us!” mode a little longer? Shouldn’t we reflect on this joy during this time?

    So, what would it look like to keep the joy of Christmas through the winter months (up until Lent)? Well, one thing it would NOT look like is the Christmas season. Sure, all the parties and presents and hectic schedules and commitments of Christmas can be fun, but they are also very stressful. This brings me to the first thing that should happen during this season: We should REST! Rest our bodies, minds, souls – whatever. The Earth itself rests during the winter months, so why shouldn’t we? True, in this day and age, that’s all but impossible – we have jobs and commitments, and sometimes life just happens. I’m not saying quit your job or back out on a commitment . I am saying that perhaps taking a few days off if you can in late January / early February might not be a bad idea. Again, don’t do anything too stressful – just take off to the beach for a day or so, or maybe just stay at home and do the things you love to do. Whatever you do, it is essential to rest.

    Resting is good for the soul, and its easy to be joyous when we’re well rested. But simply resting is not enough. We should also keep a positive attitude. True, we should always keep a positive attitude no matter what time of year it happens to be, but especially when we’re trying to keep a joyous mindset. Keeping a positive attitude includes avoiding those things which tend to get us in a negative mindset – everything from politics to music to movies to the news to relationships. Don’t get me wrong here; don’t close the door on your best friend if they’re having a hard time, and please keep in touch with what’s happening in the world and how you can help! Like I said, sometimes life happens – people loose jobs, get in accidents, earthquakes devastate countries. But don’t be overwhelmed by these things – don’t focus on all the bad that is happening around you and in the world. Rather focus on what you can do to help, whether its taking your friend out for a nice dinner and talking, or sending donations to those that are in need. There’s a lot of darkness in the world – but Jesus came to cast a light on the darkness, not to emphasize the darkness. Besides, what better way to keep a joyous demeanor, than to spread joy to others?

    So what should worship look like in this time of keeping  a joyous attitude? I am not a very traditional person when it comes to traditions in faith- I pretty much believe in following what the spirit tells one to do, not just what tradition tells us. So perhaps I am not the best person to lay out a traditions for others to follow. Having said that, perhaps it would be in order to keep some (not all) Christmas Carols in rotation until the start of Lent. Songs such as “Joy to the world” or “O come let us adore him” have always given me a sense of such joy to sing, and its almost a shame to box them up for 9 months out of the year anyways. Like I mentioned earlier, this season of rest and joy should NOT be a repeat of Christmas, so there will be of course be Christmas songs totally inappropriate to this season. Don’t sing Rudolph or Frosty! Please! And again, we should have a positive focus during this time, so if a particular Christmas hymn brings about the feeling of dread and stress that often times accompanies Christmas, then do not sing that hymn.

    Lent is never an easy season to face, for Lent is the time when one really observes how much they need to change. And Lent will be here soon. From the time of this writing, Lent will be here in less than a month. So what better time than now to rest and be joyful? What better time to refuse to give into the dreariness life brings? On the Roman Catholic calendar, we’re in one of two seasons called “Ordinary time.” Basically, this is the time of the year we go about our lives and what not. But to observe this as a season of rest and joy, maybe we can transform this from an ordinary season, to an extraordinary season.

  • The almost too good to be true message of the gospel…

    About ten years ago I took the song “Jesus is the answer,” and changed the lyrics. For those of you who do not know the song, the original lyrics were:

    Jesus is the answer for the world today
    Above him there’s no other Jesus is the way
    Jesus is the answer for the world today
    Above him there’s no other Jesus is the way

    If you really want to hear the music and harmony, I’m sure a quick Google will satisfy your curiosity, but the music was very reminiscent of a 1980s Coke commercial.  The song  sounded more like “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” than a song of praise and admiration to God. Well, being the snide and troublesome person I am, I rewrote the lyrics:

    Jesus is not soda, Jesus is not Pop
    He’s not Pepsi-cola, he’s not 7-up
    Jesus is not root beer, Coke , or RC
    Jesus is not Soda, loaded with caffeine

    I’ll admit, probably not the most Christ like thing to do, and my apologies to the author of the song, but dang it! A worship song should not sound like a soda commercial! I really felt (and still feel) bugged that the song sounds like a jingle, because a jingle’s job is to sell and advertise a product.  Christianity is not a product and it is not something you “sell.” We’re not a bunch of snake oil salesmen, and we’re not trying to make a profit (OK, some of us aren’t – but that’s a different subject).

    I work two jobs in television. Because of confidentiality and professionalism, I won’t mention any names, but I can tell you one of my jobs has a lot of religious programing.  I was sitting in master control not too long ago when I hear an announcer say:

    The almost too good to be true message of the gospel

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but the way he said this made him sound like he was on late night television trying to be the next Tony Robbins (or at the very least,  Billy Mays’ replacement). Granted, the context the announcer said this in was indeed trying to sell something (a CD of a message), but Come on! Firstly, the gospel is NOT “too good to be true.” It is not even “almost too good to be true.” The Gospel IS truth – but that’s besides the point.  Why do we feel the need to sell the Gospel? Why do we write songs that sound like soda jingles to present the message of Christ? Why do we insist on using late night infomercial sales theory? I realize that things have changed since the first century AD, but I really doubt  Peter and Paul had an advertising budget, and they seemed to do just fine without one!

    I’ll stop here, because I feel like I’m going into a rant, but I must say something in closing. Instead of buzz words and jingles, how about we rely on the strength of our message? I’m sure the author of “Jesus is the Answer” and the anouncer on the unamed religious program had all the best intentions, but instead of trying to sell the Gospel like soda, money making schemes, or shamwows,  how about we show what the Gospel does to our lives instead?

  • What a singles group SHOULD be…

    My church does not have a singles group, and to be honest, I don’t think I would fit in with a church that had a typical singles group. Why? Well, churches tend to see singles groups as meet and greets. They’re almost like the dance clubs of the Christian world. Yeah…I don’t do so well in that kind of setting. However, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe a singles group would indeed be a good thing for me. But not the typical singles group – I’m not trying to link up with someone – I’m talking about a singles group based on giving each other the support they need.

    Let me elaborate a little further. It is tough being single. Like many other single Christians my age, I’ve loved and lost a few times, and that’s a few times too many. I’ve felt lonliness like no man should ever feel, and I’ve cried myself to sleep more than once because of said lonliness. There’s no guaranetee that I will ever find the right woman. There’s no guarantee that I’ll become a father. I may very well die alone. With no wife, no kids, and maybe no one at my funeral. Well, misery loves company, but even more so – what better people to hang out with, than those who deal with the same, for lack of a better word, issues. And I say for lack of a better word because some people don’t really see being single as being an issue, problem, or any other type of negativity. Some people see singlehood as just the life they lead. I’m not sure if I’m one of those people, but I certiainly would rather be single than married to the wrong person. But I digress.

    My point is this: Singles groups should never be about introducing the single men and women to eachother. Singles group should be about a community of people who have the same life circumstance – ie the fact that they are single. Singles groups should focus on the issues that come with a single’s life, like Men’s groups or woman’s groups or family groups or any other groups. Singlehood is NOT a disease, its just the way some of us happen to be. And while some of us may eventually find ourselves in a different circumstance, some of us will indeed be single for the rest of our lives. Knock on wood that I’m in the former group and not the latter, but if I am in the latter group, I want to be surrounded by the people who can offer me the support and help I need, just as I give them the support and help they need.

  • Social Justice, or social mercy?

    I’ve recently been bothered by the term “social justice” as it relates to Christian cultures. Don’t get me wrong – the actions that come from social justice: feeding the hungry, helping the needy, caring for the widows and etcetera are all basic fundamentals of Christianity. Jesus himself commanded us to do these things! But according to the apostle Paul. “Mercy triumphs over justice” (James 2:13). So if Paul was correct, shouldn’t we, as Christians, be concentrating on social mercy instead of social justice?

    Maybe its just a matter of semantics, but maybe not. Consider the following: Mercy implies lenience and compassion. Justice, however, implies retribution not based on compassion, but rather based on what is fair – what is just.  Mercy is not fair – in fact, mercy is often times the exact opposite of fair.  Justice never gives what one does not deserve, and always gives what one does deserve.  Mercy will give one what they don’t deserve (perhaps food that they did not grow), and will withhold things that they do deserve (perhaps a severe and harsh punishment).

    Now, some might say that if we’re giving food to those who do not deserve it, and withholding punishment from those who deserve punishment, then we are not in the right. While I believe that one who refuses to work should probably not eat, there is also the fact that some people cannot work. Some people cannot contribute to society. Justice would say that it is not fair to the rest of society that these people should eat of the labors of others. But might I remind you: An empty sack cannot stand. Truth be told, we might feed these people all their lives – they may never be able to “stand.” However, the position of mercy is not to say “we’ve fed these people enough.” The position of mercy is to hope they might be able to stand eventually, but also to understand some people will never be able to fulfill their own needs.

    Ultimately, justice is about the law. Mercy is about love.  Both Jesus and Paul repeatedly stated that our actions should always be about love.  Justice, while a good thing in many cases, falls short of love in many other cases. And while most people who are concerned with social justice are doing so out of love, it is still a slippery slope. Where is the line between love and a quest to fight for our rights (as well as the rights of others)? If anything, perhaps using the term “Social Mercy” is about reminding ourselves that we are driven by the compassion of Christ; we are driven by the Love of God.