3 Books and a Funeral

(Written Sunday, March 28th)

Today was a hard one. i had a date with a friend to go to church together. when they cancelled i decided to attend anyway. I luckily saw some friends and didn’t sit alone. I had never been to a traditional Covenant Church before, even after attending 5 semesters at a Covenant school and working at Covenant camp. I’m glad I wasn’t alone because I had no idea how much audience participation there is.

I’m used to going to church where you stand to sing, then sit to listen, then stand to pray and go home. This morning I always had to be on my toes. I’ve done the whole, say hey to your neighbor deal, but I think I offended people this morning by not sticking to the script. They call it the “passing of the peace”. I’ve passed a couple peaces in my younger years, but never so officially and by the book. “The peace of Christ be with you. And also with you!” I assume the exclamation mark was added so one really, really means it when they recite it off their buletin.

I also didn’t know we give thanks to God every time scripture is read. Some might remember, when we were kids when somebody was reading from the Bible it meant that A. we cheered for them if they went to your jr. high or were on our team and B. we all got to yell “HATS OFF!” as loud as we wanted and didn’t get in trouble.

Being Palm Sunday, there were some exceptionally grotesque pictures of a man hanging half naked, bloody from head to foot and with thorns jabbing into his skull hanging upon the walls for people to marvel at and find comfort or peace. I found it odd that the kids’ pastor had the young children of three and four go around and stare at the photos for them to try and understand what Jesus went through. These were probably the bloodiest, most gory image they have ever seen or will see for the next ten years or until their first Quentin Tarantino movie.  I was hanging out with a two year old the other day whose mother scolded him when he said that he was going to shoot me, but when he wanted to play Bible stories and he was David and I Goliath, he could whip me ’till I’m dead as much as his little heart desired. I found it ironic that the only books he has in his young library that deal with and even glorify killing were those of his young picture bibles.


The Unlikely Disciple – Kevin Roose

Oh my this book was good. I liked it. My dad liked it. Rob Bell and Brian McLaren liked it. Matt Vaudrey liked it. If you need more convincing, get over yourself. I wish I had it with me to give a couple quotes, but the basic concept of the books is thus: Liberal non-religious college kid transfers to one of the most conservative, Christian universities in the nation and tries to fit in as a non-swearing, Revelation quoting, masterbation beating, gay defeating, Jerry Falwell loving, born again Christian. Awesome. Hilarious. An easy read. Do it.

Family Happiness – Leo Tolstoy.

Fell in love with this book in college when Steve Yaccino gave me a copy for my birthday. I found it at a book shop and re-read it to find some of my favorite quotes I had lost.

This could be my favorite:

“I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor–such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children perhaps–what can more the heart of man desire?”

A Shattered Visage – Ravi Zacharias

Brian Steck first mentioned this guy to me last month, so I thought I’d give it a look. At no point have i claimed atheism as where i place my hat, but it sure is challenging to think about what the consequences are if one says that there is no god.

Today I, along with a couple hundred other people, said goodybe to a friend of ours. I first got the phone call when I was on my way to breakfast with my girlfriend that he had passed away. I didn’t, and still don’t, know how to respond or act or feel. Peder had been sick for over a year now, so I suppose i saw it coming. A couple months ago I posted a song on here called “Laughing with God” by Regina Spektor. The first couple verses go

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one´s laughing at God when they´re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one´s laughing at God when it´s gotten real late
And their kid´s not back from the party yet
No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one´s laughing at God when they see the one they love
Hand in hand with someone else and they hope they´re mistaken

Well, Peder read and commented on it, saying that if anybody knew what hard times were, he did, and that he knew what it was like to wrestle with God through those hard times and that all he could do is have faith through them.  The last line of the song goes…

“No one´s laughing at God when they´re saying their goodbyes”

And tonight that rings true like a big kick in the ass.

You see, what you Christians can sometimes forget is that you have the one-up on everybody else when it comes to death. While people without faith see death as the end, you guys (for good or for bad, right or wrong) can smile and think peaceful and hopeful thoughts that you will see the person again. That is a luxury that those of us yet left questioning don’t have.

Whenever I attend church or church-like activites for the past six months or so, I can’t bring myself to sing anything I don’t mean. This usually means I do a whole lot of humming and tapping my feet. It’s not that I don’t want to, or I don’t love the songs of miss the memories that they hold. I would just feel like a liar if I did. But today I broke that tradition and sang along with the Benediction we used to sing at camp.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

And for the first time in ages, I longed for it to be true. I wanted Chris Hitchens to be an idiot, I wanted evolution to be joke, I wanted every Bible story I was raised to believe be a solid fact, and I wanted to believe with everything I could muster that Jesus did beat death and that I could too if I trusted him. I wanted to believe it. I really did. I wanted to get in a time machine and go tell myself at 16,18,21, 24 not to question things anymore, not to complicate life, not to search too hard for answers because you might not like what you find. I wanted to give up my search for truth and be satisfied with hope and peace, be it truth or falsity that i believed.

To quote Joe Pantoliano in the Matrix:

“I know what you’re thinking, ’cause right now I’m thinking the same thing. Actually, I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill?”

(if you don’t catch the reference, see  http://www.arrod.co.uk/essays/matrix.php for a small explanation)


2 thoughts on “3 Books and a Funeral

  1. Death still sucks if you know something is coming afterward. It is definitely still an “end”, even if there is more to come. If anything, I willed myself to believe harder so I can see my sister again, because if I don’t have that… then death is just… fucking hopeless.

    Also, Evolution and Creationism can co-exist, provided you don’t view the Genesis account as fact, but rather as a story.
    And your next book to read should be “A Year of Living Biblically”. It won’t answer any questions, but it’s entertaining so far. A guy spends a year following all the rules in the Bible.

  2. I am the sister of someone who knows you (I believe we may also have several mutual friends as I also went to North Park, and funnily enough live and work at a Covenant camp). She was reading your blog and suggested I take a look at it.

    I have had a rough day spiritually. Some events today coupled with reading your blog, somehow, have reminded me how much I love my God. I am no arguer/debater/theologian. All I know and can attest to are the things God has done in my own life. I just love how much Jesus loves people. And I have been fortunate enough to experience that kind of love first hand from others who love Jesus and want to be like him. And that’s enough for me.

    I read a bunch of entries back about an article that Shane Claiborne wrote for Esquire magazine. The kids in my youth group are really into him and talk about him all of the time. That article really made me want to read Jesus for President… like I should have months ago when it was given to me.

    I am not normally the kind of person who rambles on stranger’s blogs, it’s just been one of those days where you do weird things. In a strange way I guess I just wanted to say thank you for writing. I really admire people who wrestle with things, because often I am not so brave. And you made me want to wrestle today. Ha. Or at least read something. So thank you. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

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