The Un-dead and the God Who Undoes Death

Come on! (HT: sheknows.com)

Call me a halloweiner if you want, but I’m not much of a Halloweener.  Nor am I into horror films.  The closest I’ve gotten has probably been “28 Days Later,” which my friend tells me isn’t really a zombie movie.  (OK, I saw “Zombieland” too, but I didn’t pay to see it.)  And so I don’t particularly get the cultural attraction of zombies and vampires and what-not.

I have mixed emotions about Halloween.  On the one hand, I don’t have any particular grudges against it.  I’m all for kids getting free candy.  (Probably because I don’t have any kids of my own.)  I’m all for kids dressing up as things they’ll never be, especially if it’s cute.  (Except for hobos.  Those kids have got to get more creative.)  I don’t even have a problem with adults dressing up for a night, especially if it’s creative.  (Any woman who shows up to a Halloween party dressed as a slutty nurse ought to be sent home.)

On the other hand, I do begrudge the core of Halloween.  This is a day that, in some fashion, celebrates death.  Elementary school teachers hang skeletons in their classrooms.  Our neighbors erect fake gravestones in their front yards.  People do dress up as all sorts of frightening things, including the un-dead.

And yet, I personally profess a faith that believes in a Creator who is passionate about life, who created life in the first place, and whose sworn enemy is death.  Many cultures throughout the world may justify or rationalize death, calling it necessary in the “life cycle” (odd that death would be a significant part of such a concept).  But the Christian God (and indeed the Jewish God) has never flirted with the notion that death (or anything that contributes toward death) was somehow a good or even important part of the created order.  Rather, to God, death is the very signature of disorder.

How fortunate we are to have a God who loves His creation so deeply that He would go to such great lengths to defeat it.  How glorious it is that we have this faith, at the very center of which is the story of the quintessential man died but then raised to new life by this holy Creator.  Indeed, that resurrection is simultaneously a promise to every one who believes it, who trusts in this Creator, that she too will be rescued from death, and ultimately raised in an imperishable body.

It is at times like Halloween, when our culture anoints the dark side of our fallen state, when we ought to pause and remember that death and all its friends have been defeated.  Death has been undone.

Philip’s Conversation with the Ethiopian Goes Horribly Wrong

"So lemme get this straight, Phil. I get dunked, then I just hang on till the rapture?"

And then the Ethiopian said to Philip, “Look, here is a porcelain tub filled with tepid water and some clean white robes beside.  Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

“Because,” replied Philip, “I only sprinkle infants.  And besides, you haven’t gone through catechism.”

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like a Blog

"Now where was I? Ah yes. Now when you blog, do not write on politics or religion, as the Pharisees do. No one wants to hear what you think..."

I’m in a strange mood today.  Thus the paragraph below.  How would you flesh this out or improve upon it?

And Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a blog in which the Son of Man writes his own theological musings.  Many ignore the blog entirely, saying, ‘It’s nice he has a place to voice his thoughts.  But who cares?’  Others are incensed at the ‘heresy’ posted on the blog and loudly defame its author.  Still others, some few, find the content enlightening and liberating.  These the Father calls ‘friends’ on Facebook.”

Ten Years after 9/11 (almost)

My friend Jonathan Fitzgerald over at Patrol alerted me to Mayor Bloomberg’s exclusion of all clergy (Christian, Muslim, or otherwise) from services remembering 9/11 ten years later. (By the way, my approach to most news is a trickle-down method, in which I allow the big news to reach my ears not by checking the daily news, but by hearing mostly what’s blowing in the wind, as it were.  Thus, my late awareness of this bit of news.)  Please do read Fitzgerald’s thoughtful response.  If I love anything, it’s level-headed-ness.

So the mayor of New York City is going to exclude religious figures from official 9/11 programs.  As it just so happens, 9/11/11 is a Sunday, and, to be sure, few churches will exclude 9/11 from their services.  Millions across America will attend worship services and probably expect their pastors to, at least, remark on the terrible event.  I know at my own church we’ve had people asking what we’ll be doing for weeks now.

I want to offer a brief word of caution to my American Christian brethren, however.  Be careful what you do Sunday morning.

When Paul wrote the believers in Philippi, he was writing a community residing in one of the most prominent Roman cities in Asia Minor.  He was writing a congregation that would typically take great pride in their Roman citizenship and the privilege it offered.  Yet Paul makes the point to directly counter that identity.  “Our citizenship is in heaven,” he writes (Phi 3:20).

The point is not to forsake all things Roman or all things American.  The point is not to hunker down and wait for The End, where we’re all vacuumed up to heaven.  The point is that Rome does not come first.  For us, America does not come first.  Rather, Jesus crucified and resurrected comes first.  This is who you are, the ones marked by crucifixion, the ones who will share in Christ’s sufferings, which ultimately saved the whole world.

So when you go to church this weekend, just be sure your worshiping the resurrected Christ, who conquered evil, not with the sword, but through his own sacrifice.  By all means, pray for America, that she come to resemble our crucified Lord.  And pray for her friends.  And pray especially for her enemies, ’cause they’ve been saved too.

On Poor Taste…

The first step in the decline of any advanced civilization (I’m making this up) is the waning of propriety.  Get yourself a helmet and some elbow pads because it’s a dangerously slippery slope from bad manners to a defunct government and rioting in the streets.

Twice in the last couple weeks have I come across a situation that withdrew from my lips the comment, “Now, that’s just poor taste.”

First, I was driving past a local quarry when I noticed a small band of unionized carpenters carry large placards that said simply, “On Strike.”  Now, I have no idea what disputes lay between these skilled craftsmen and their employers, but in the moment I thought to myself, What’s unemployment, like, 9%?  How many people in this small city would do anything for a job?  Striking at a time like this?  That’s just poor taste.

On Friday, two suicide bombers exploded themselves in the midst of a Pakistani paramilitary training center, killing nearly 80.  The Taliban claimed “responsibility” (as if this were the responsibility had anything to do with it), calling it retaliation for bin Laden’s death, which, of course, was executed by US Navy Seals.  Now, Pakistan has more or less been a safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda for some time and bin Laden’s been pretty well protected there for nearly a decade.  So, for the Taliban to assault Pakistani territory like this just seems in poor taste.