I'd be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge that I haven't posted in almost 3 months. Sorry, folks! I finished school, though! I had to sacrifice a lot of contemplative time to do it, though....sigh.
So as I sit here on the edge of my new life post-academia, I have a few thoughts about Story and our role in the world. Sit tight because the post's a tad long...but worth it!
Last night I watched Air Force One. My boss for my summer internship produced it! She seems like a remarkable woman, and I can't wait to work with her. Sadly, it was one of those classics that I'd only seen parts of on TV, but never seen fully before - much to Kris and Jeannette's chagrin.
Though the movie is a predictable action flick, it has several things going for it - a marketable concept, an astounding cast, and an incredibly tight story. While predictable, the story moves along at a chipper pace and the appropriate level of anxiety is felt at each stage. (This analysis is not meant to be comprehensive, but only to point out something I realized.)
While watching this well-written story, something dawned on me relating to my faith. I often talk about and think of life and faith as a Story. In fact one of my favorite short non-fiction books is called Epic: The Story God is Telling and the Role that is Yours to Play. It's written by evangelical John Eldredge who I sometimes agree with and sometimes don't (specifically with his views on gender roles). But nonetheless it's a great little book about how life is virtually one big Story.
I'm reading some books right now about writing good stories and screenplays for my work this summer in film development. Basically I'll be reading a lot and writing coverage (glorified book summaries with suggestions about how to/if to develop it), which is going to be AWESOME! But all these books talk about the structure of a good story. Like Air Force One, all good stories have the bare bones structure of: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.
According to Wikipedia (very credible source here...ha!), part of the "falling action" includes a "moment of final suspense during which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt." The point of it is that you've built up so much trust and hope in these protagonists, and now to see them almost in defeat produces a lot of anxiety and really keeps you on the edge of your seat. You want them to win out, but will they? So much hangs in the balance.
This reminds me in terms of life and faith, where in my Christian faith we are right now. If you believe this Story, then you believe that Jesus came to make things right on the deepest level possible. Then when he left earth, ascending into heaven, he left 12 lowly men (a ragtag team, really) in charge of making his good Kingdom come to life on earth. A Kingdom full of LOVE, SHARING, JUSTICE and MERCY (not full of capitalism, greed, hate, divisiveness and pride).
So now we have our protagonists, which down through the years has come to mean us, the current people embodying the Way of the Kingdom. And we are certainly a ragtag bunch of protagonists. Very flawed. Interesting character study, actually. But we have this mission to bring peace to earth through love, self-sacrifice, laughter and freedom. Tall order, you know?
I feel like on a broad scale in terms of history post-ascension, we are at the "moment of final suspense" in the Story of history & faith. Will these silly humans ever get it? Will they actually love the way God wants to and embody justice, mercy and hope?
A lot of my friends don't believe in God because of what's known as the Problem of Evil. This is a whole other post/discussion that is not easily solved, though I tried in a philosophy paper once. But the basic issue is that a supposedly all-powerful and benevolent God doesn't stop pain, suffering and evil in the world. This is a contradictory statement in strict philosophy terms. But those philosophers don't always get it right. Cue Jack Johnson, "you don't always have to hold your head higher than your heart."
One big reason this Problem of Evil issue holds water for people is that the followers of Jesus aren't being what they're supposed to be. We're not becoming the hands and feet and embodiment of the God of Love. We aren't crying out for justice and making things right. This moment of final suspense is very much still in play.
Sunday at UNC's Commencement, speaker Desmond Tutu, pissed off people on the left and on the right. He also made friends on both sides by mentioning both the words "Jesus" and "orgy." (In different contexts of course.) It was fabulous! (Video link at end of post.)
But the premise of his speech and his message to us graduates is to become the HOPE in the world! Spend our lives and our efforts to make things better here and to join God in restoring the broken places of the world.
His anecdote about the field will always stick with me. A man comes upon a farmer standing by his beautiful field of corn. The man says, "Look what bounty you and God have produced!" The farmer stood there for a minute and replied, "You should have seen it when God had it to himself."
You see, my friends? God calls us to be his partners on this road of doing good, loving others, helping out, being self-sacrificial, making beauty, laughing, restoring. I hope you'll join me, no matter what your faith, in this quest!
Here's Tutu's full address: Commencement Speech + Video
Here's some fellow dreamers I've been reading lately:
- Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne
- Jon Foreman blogs about Darfur