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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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humanity

Living a Paradox

I like order. I like neat boxes that allow me to understand what things are and what they aren’t. Although I am comfortable in the messy, grey-tones of real life (especially life in the arts), I prefer the black-and-white, right-and-wrong, this-or-that of a properly ordered world.

Lately, however, I’ve had to come to terms with the paradoxes of my life.

I am a licensed worker for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and evangelical, Protestant denomination. However, I am also deeply Catholic. I work and worship at my church, but I also attend mass every couple of weeks, and have a deep devotion to my Catholic heritage. I am both Catholic and Protestant.

My moral system is quite conservative. I believe that God laid out the black-and-white of ethics in the Bible and that all people should follow what He says. How that plays out in my life, however, is rather liberal. I lean to the left politically, despite the fact that “the Left’s” moral ideals differ wildly from mine. I am both conservative and liberal.

I am deeply idealistic. I chase after dreams that are huge. I philosophize how life should be, and want nothing less for humanity than union with God and peace on earth. Yet, I live practically, even pragmatically at times. I want people to know they are loved where they are. If ideals must be relaxed to show love, then sometimes, so be it. I am both idealistic and pragmatic.

I am a romantic. I love to spoil my wife, take her on dates, and let her know how cherished she is as often as I can. Yet, I see how our obsession with (a rather shallow notion of) romance in the West has deeply damaged the institution of marriage. I hate how families are torn apart because parents “fall out of love,” or, worse, “fall in love with someone else,” allowing their temporary feelings to dictate their actions. I both love and loath romance.

I am a highly emotional artist and a heady intellectual. A sinner and a saint. An fun-seeking adventurer and a stable homebody. A humanist who believes humans to be deeply fallen.

Some of these paradoxes are comfortable in tension. Others are not. But each is a part of who I am, and each feeds into my work and art.

I think this is also important to realize about the characters we create or portray. People might not all carry such deep paradoxes, but they certainly hold conflicting beliefs about themselves and the world. It’s part of living in this messy world. We believe it’s not okay to lie, and we believe it’s not okay to betray our friends. What do we do when telling the truth betrays our friends? This is interesting.

Now, digging into the paradoxes of our beliefs might not be the most seasonally exciting activity, but I challenge you to think about some of your beliefs, identifiers, and thoughts that are in tension. Chat about them here. I would love to hear what inconsistencies make you human.

Blessings,

 

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Why the Bible is Actually a Romantic Comedy

This is probably going to offend a few people, but hear me out: the Bible is the ultimate telling of the romantic comedy genre.

Now, we all know that almost all romantic comedies follow a very set formula. Swap out the Hollywood leading man and the young, relatable ingenue, throw in an urban or exotic locale, and you have a brand new movie. The film industry makes millions each year because something within many women (and probably more than a few men) is drawn to the simple boy-meets-girl story.

This genre strikes such a deep chord within many because it is the ultimate story of our existence, from the very beginning of humanity until the end of time. It might not look like it now, but that’s because we’re stuck in the middle, when things seem to be going all wrong.  But trust me, it ends up alright.

If we start in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, we find the introduction to any good RomCom: boy meets girl. In this case, God meets Humanity. Now generally, Hollywood does not have the guy CREATE the girl, but bear with me. We see God (perhaps played by Paul Rudd) and Adam and Eve (maybe Katherine Heigl) first becoming acquainted, and everything is magical. The lighting is just right, the location is amazing (imagine Greece, India, and Central Park, all rolled into one), and the animals are grazing peacefully nearby. It appears to be the beginning of a wonderful love story.

However, someone else shows up. The snake (James Marsden or Matthew McConaughey) arrives to put a wrench into God’s plan. Humanity takes the bait, screws up, and everything falls apart. They leave Eden (replaced by the dull grey of inner-city Boston), and are forced to quit their dream career in Animal Naming. Things turn from bad to worse as Humanity starts coming apart at the seams. After a death in the family and a terrible trip on an old boat, it doesn’t look like God and Humanity are ever going to get back together.

But there is hope.

Like any romantic guy, God decides to take the situation into his own hands and pursues his love. He makes over-the-top promises about creating a new place for the two of them to live (a land flowing with milk and honey? Who wouldn’t take him up on that?). He bails her out of jail with the help of his good friend Moses (played by Michael Caine). When she still won’t listen to him, God sends several of his friends (the prophets) with messages, which she quickly ignores.

Finally, God realizes that if he is going to win back the heart of his love, he is going to need to get in the ring himself. Jesus (still Paul Rudd) comes to the earth to pay the cost for all the hurt that has been done throughout the story. He sacrifices everything for Humanity, giving Humanity the chance to turn around and find God still waiting patiently. Tears streaming down her face, Humanity runs back to God (probably in the rain) and they embrace.

We are now at the point in the story where God and Humanity begin working together to put Humanity’s broken life back together. A montage of them paying bills, cleaning the house, getting a puppy. This is where you and I are in the grand meta-narrative of the world. It’s hard sometimes, but we’re at the point where, with God’s help, we can make things better.

In the end, the two lovebirds get married. Revelation shows the bridal feast of the Lamb (Paul Rudd wearing white, maybe with a red tie) and the Bride (Katherine Heigl, in a gleaming white gown). Everyone important from the film shows up again, and the credits roll as the party continues into eternity. They truly live “Happily Ever After.”

This may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think it’s important to take a step back from the seriousness of our lives and realize we’re in the middle of a comedy. If you read to the end, good wins, evil loses, and the guy gets the girl. So next time you watch a romantic comedy, remember that God loves the world even more than the shaggy-haired leading man loves his pretty lady.

Here’s hoping you can find God in any story, especially the ones you least expect.

Blessings

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