A New Adventure

After 10 years of working in the Software field, here I, on my last day of work am looking back with happy contentment and looking forward with an anxious excitement! Looking back to the cherished times I enjoyed working in the twilight zone between human beings and  technology. Looking forward to the adventurous journey of going to Seminary to pursue my call to become a Theologian, Writer and Preacher, where I will navigate through the world of timeless ideas to bring new meaning into the lives of people.

After 10 years of working in the Software field, here I, on my last day of work am looking back with happy contentment and looking forward with an anxious excitement! Looking back to the cherished times I enjoyed working in the twilight zone between human beings and  technology. Looking forward to the adventurous journey of going to Seminary to pursue my call to become a Theologian, Writer and Preacher, where I will navigate through the world of timeless ideas to bring new meaning into the lives of people.
 

Looking Back:

Looking back, there are three things I have cherished in my work life in the twilight zone.

1. Being a software Project manager, I have enjoyed working in the area of interface of people and technology – computers on one side and human relationships on the other, facing the best and the worst of both worlds (depending on the day :P).
2. Being a Subject Matter Expert in some specific domains, I have enjoyed helping people get to where they want to get to using the SME knowledge. There is a deep satisfaction in acquiring knowledge and then using that to help people achieve their goals.
3. Having started my work life in India, and then moving to Houston I have had the opportunity to build relationships at my work life with very diverse group of people. I have enjoyed having conversations with them about a lot of things ranging from politics to movies. Those are conversations and memories I will carry with me.

If there is one thing I will miss the most from my past 10 years of life working with/at MphasiS/AIG, it will be the people. (And of course, the easy pay checks too. :P).
 

Looking Forward:

Since the time I was in my late teens, the deeper questions of life have beckoned me to come explore them. I have been enthralled by the deeper questions pertaining to the meaning of life: Why is man the way he is – as Pascal calls him, “the thinking reed”, incredibly special but inexorably fragile; “a wretched angel” with so much good and bad comingled? How can man live the FULLEST life as Thoreau said, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”?

I always knew that at some point, I will have to embark on a journey into the world of ideas to explore my way through them and make my mark – the mark pointing to the Truth and bringing it to bear ‘fruit’ in the lives of people. Yes, ideas change people, starting from Pythagoras who talked about Truths being eternal to Foucault who said all truths were relative – mere tools in the hands of the powerful to manipulate the weak. As for me, to make my journey into the world of ideas, I choose Theology, or I should say Theology chose me! For it is in theology that philosophy, history and psychology blend with Revelation and Redemption into a strong portion that gives me the fortitude to wrestle with questions that bear fruit in the lives of people.

Being a Tolkien and Lewis fan, if I may borrow analogies from them to describe my venture, I would say that my new adventure is not unlike the adventure that Samwise Gamgee embarked on to rescue Middle Earth from Sauron and restore it to the true King. Nor is it unlike Sastha (from Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia – ‘Horse and His Boy’) who found himself hurled into a journey in the unknown realms to discover at the end that the point of his journey was to save his Father’s kingdom.The call to go on this journey has been indelibly written in my DNA. Like Bilbo (in Tolkien’s Hobbit) who with initial reluctance yet lasting resoluteness gives-in to his Tookishness (Took being his adventurous ancestor) to set about on a journey with Gandalf to rescue the lonely mountain from the Dragon Smaug, I too, with a resoluteness that has overwhelmed my reluctance am giving-in to my Call to go on my journey to glorify the King!

From a corner of my conscience
There has been a call
Steadily building into a crescendo
To build in the Kingdom, a castle

Not one of brick and mortar
But one of ideas and emotions
Of hearts and the minds
Of life and eternity

So I embark on an adventure
To explore deeper, that corner of my conscience
And build the castle that is comfort to the weary,
Built not on sand, but on the Rock!

The Rock that is the stone
The stone that will become a mountain
A mountain that will become a Temple-city
Filling the Cosmos in a crescendo of Praise!

(I am not so much of a poet. I know the last stanza may seem cryptic. Clue to interpret the last stanza: Imagery from the Book of Daniel and Revelation.)

PS: It is interesting that my last working day at my job is Oct-31 which is Reformation Day, the day when Luther nailed 95 thesis on the church door which got the ball rolling for the Protestant reformation movement. Of course, it is also All Saints Day when the Saints are celebrated as a symbol of the powers of evil being overcome – which actually has morphed into what we call the Halloween (for the good and the bad of it).

Robin Williams, and the Hunger for Hope

When I was a kid, Robin Williams was enough to make me happy and hopeful for more happiness. Now that I have grown and become more aware of the cynical hopeless of life, my need for wonder and hunger for hope to compensate for the ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’ life has grown such that I need more than a phenomenally talented Robin William, I need a powerful and loving, transcended and immanent God to make my happy.

Robin Williams’ ability to cheer people was so contagious that it reached me even as I was a kid living in India, thanks to the movies Ms. Doubtfire and Jumanji. Now that I am older, I can’t but help ponder about life’s poignant vagaries that someone who could bring so much cheer to people around the world could himself get bankrupt of hope. Hearing about Williams death, I remembered an observation that Robert McKnee made in his book about movie script writing, ‘Story’. McKnee said that in hollywood the most depressing parties were the ones where too many comedy writers were invited. Apparently, the best comedy in one that grows as a coping mechanism for the pain the comedians feel in their life. If as Bertand Russell said, ‘life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, then it makes sense that we all need dozes of comedy to put up with it and survive. Of course, even with the best comedic assistance, none truly survives. One day, we all die one day, it is just a question of  the time.

Given Williams unique life as a talented comedian, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that so much has been written about the circumstances of the demise. It also shouldn’t be surprising that much of what has been written has been on the questions on ethics surrounding suicide. After all, being ethical creatures, we can’t help but debate the right and wrong of things (even when someone disagree that categories of right or wrong, they still are affirming a unique view point as right and other view points as wrong). I do not so much intend to add new twists to the question on ethics as much as try to make sense of the tangled mass (or mess). As I see it, there are 2 broad opinion-camps…
1. Those that debate whether or not suicides resulting from depression should be treated as a disease or as a choice. I’ll call the former group as Debating-diseasers and the latter Debating-choicers.
2.  Those who do not want to get into the moral debate on justified suicide, instead want to enjoy the reminiscence of a spectacularly interesting life. I’ll call this group the ‘Rememberers’ hence fort in this write-up.

Easy Little Boxes for Images of God?:

‘Debating choicers’ wish to use Robin William’s suicide as an opportunity to teach other people that suicide is a choice and that none has an excuse to take their life away no matter what. They intend to make this into a cautionary tale to the living, so that the instance of suicide will reduce. On the other hand, ‘Debating diseasers’ see suicide as the result of the disease of depression over which one has no choice or control. They intend to not be judgemental on those suffering depression and suicidal thoughts. Least the feeling of guilt should tip one over into ceasing to live.

Here is my opinion on the Debating Choicers and the Diseasers, I think without enough data we cannot make an assessment of whether or not Williams suicide was a choice or a disease. Man, being made in the Image of God (fallen as he may be) still has a vestiges of the lofty mystery which defies being fitted into any easy categories (unless it is God who is doing the ‘fitting’ which He will on the day of Judgement, on His terms). What is to be noted here is that both of these groups intend to classify the act of suicide into an ‘easy little box’ of choice or disease. Of course, there is nothing wrong with putting things in a box, we all do it, not just when we are moving stuff. The problem with putting things is a box is if the box is too small, we miss the BIG picture life. To not attempt to see the BIG picture in order to fit something into an easy box we are comfortable with is if not stupidity, ignorance*.

To state my position from a different vantage point… To see the BIG picture of life, that takes into account the mysterious image of God we have been made into, it behooves us to not resort to fitting people and events into easy categories and little boxes of choice or disease. Defining little boxes to categorize people in is an attempt to not disrupt something that has already been neatly filed away into ossified cabinets in the mental synapses. A mind which seeks to ossify the experience of mystery is not worth of the deep mysteries imbued in God’s creation.

A Hunger for Meaning:

Now on to the Rememberers… the rememberers because they fear the ossification of their minds, run a million miles away in the opposite direction and commit the other error of defying all possible definitions. They are looking for something more than mere definitions, they are looking for meaning. They want someone’s life to ‘mean’ something. They do not want the circumstances of ones death to rob someone off of the meaning that that life contributed. This urge to find meaning in the midst of pain and suffering is not escapism as some (in the debaters camp) might argue. Rather, this urge to find meaning is a reflection of the deeper reality of the mysterious Image of God in man (fallen as it is, there still is a vestige).

If there is meaning, then human being has a great potential to forebear pain and suffering. An athlete will be willing to undergo pain and suffering in training or olympic because to compete in Olympics means something. A soldier in a the army would throw himself on a grenade to save his comrades because his saving them MEANS something (technically, this soldier’s act is suicide too). In fact, in the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’, a whole battalion losses their lives so that the son of a widowed mother, who had lost two of her other sons in the war, might be saved. And in his dying words the captain of the battalion exhorts the disaffected soldier to life for the sake of all who died to save him, thus bring meaning to the pain and suffering they endured.

My sympathy is with the Rememberers for in trying to bring meaning into the equation of the experience of loss, they turn the experience into something that is ‘more than a memory’ as C.S.Lewis would call it in his book ‘A Grief Observed’. To have ‘more than a memory’ is to not be bogged down by the loss, but to orient oneself to the bigger meaning of the experience. 

However, I do think the Rememberers too like the Debaters, are missing out on seeing the BIG picture of life by avoiding the debate on the causes of suicide all together.

No Brushing it Away Under the Rug:

Albert Camus put the importance of discussing suicide this way…

“There is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is whether or not to commit suicide”

Camus was no coward. He was an thinker to be reckoned with. Suicide is not just a problem at the philosophic realm, it is in fact the 3rd highest cause of death among teens in the world. Suicidal tendencies is not a problem of the weak and the stupid. Ironically, the strong ones who ponder suicide too. Winston Churchill, the man with the indomitable will who was happy to fight the Nazis with the skin of his teeth if it came to that told his Doctor, “I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through, Churchill told his doctor. A second’s action would end everything”**.

To want to brush discussing the topic of suicide under the rug and not even talk about it as the
‘Rememberers’ seem to want to do is a disservice to humanity. Just like we are told again and again by the media that we should have healthy conversations about sex with kids, perhaps it is time to have healthy conversations about suicide too. After all, sex isn’t killing as many teens as suicide does. I do not think discussions about suicide should be repressed.


The Suicide Mindset – Loss of Hope:

I am not expert in suicide studies. I don’t know enough to discuss how to about about talking about suicide. However, I would like to give a couple of quick pointers on the causes of suicide.

In broad general terms, there are three types of caused for suicide
1. Financial failures -the suicides that happen with every financial collapse.
2. Health reasons -the older people who would rather die than be a burden.
3. Prolonged Trauma – some unresolved issue in ones life that becomes a prolonged trauma and slowly saps the will to live.

The one thing that is common among all these three is the loss of hope for a happy future. When someone feels like they no longer can hope for a better future, then they lose the will to fight for it. Life is a fight. We all need to have a will to fight. We all need a cause that encourages us to fight. When a person experiences trauma through some life event, they begin to value life differently. When they begin to see life differently, the causes (family, a principle, desire for more happiness) that kept them alive suddenly lose staying power. If something else does not happen to snap them out of this spell of losing hope for a better future, they will quickly begin to lose the will to live, someday sooner or later, they will surrender this fight. Surrender takes courage of a certain sort. Only when the loss of hope become so unbearable does on get the courage to surrender the fight.

Basis for Hope – Immanent or Transcended?:


I would venture to suggest that the way to teach our kids to not commit suicide it to teach them to be hopeful. But here is the BIG question. What do we hope for? What is the basis for our hope?

The formidable philosopher of Enlightenment Immanuel Kant said that the most important questions of philosophy are,
1. What do we know?
2. What should we do?
3. What can we hope for? The question of what can we hope for is of crucial importance for a life well lived.

I would submit that there are two ways to think about hope. 1. Immanent hope. 2. Transcended hope.

I define Immanent hope as one in which the hope for one’s well being is entirely dependent upon ones own effort. The ‘American Dream’ is a classic example of immanent hope. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a great example of the ‘American Dream’. Born in Austria, the young Arnold told his parents he wanted to be the strongest man in the world, they thought he was mad. But then they were proved wrong. Then after holding on to Mr. Universe title for a record seven consecutive times, he decided he wanted to become a famous actor. Given his heavy accent and wooden mannerisms none thought it credible. But then he again proved them wrong. Then he went into politics to become the Governor of California. He is a man of immense energy who sleeps just six hours each day. This hopeful pursuit of success keeps one alive. The key in this ‘Immanent Hope’ is to choose to make ones life mean something by pulling the bootstraps, working the butt-off, reaching for ones dreams.

There are two potential problems with this ‘immanent hope’.
1. Not everyone can win and be successful.
2. Upon facing failure, not everyone has strength to cope with failure (it should be no surprise that among teenagers suicide is the 3rd highest cause of death).

Immanent hope is not a comprehensive solution, it works for some it does not for other. People always fall through the cracks. When someone falls through the cracks, if nothing happens to stop the descent one may quickly reach a point where one would rather die than live. When there is nothing to hope for, when there is nothing to live for why not just put oneself out of ones misery. After all, Camus wasn’t joking when he said, “There is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is whether or not to commit suicide”.

Transcended hope on the other hand is one in which ones hope is not buttressed on the choices one makes to bring meaning to ones lives, rather ‘transcended hope’ sees meaning as being given them from an external source that is beyond the immanent world.

For example, in the Bible Abraham’s hope was in a God who promised to make him into a great nation and be his Friend and Protector. This transcended hope that he would be a great nation gives Abraham the courage to fight the conquerors of notorious Kings and to redeem those taken captive without getting any spoils in return. In St. Paul’s life, when life gets so tough and he ‘despairs of living’, it is his vision of Christ’s glory that spurs him on to live and to ‘fight the good fight’. When Hagar wandering in the desert with Ishmael is ready to die, the Angel of God appears to give her a bigger vision of what Ishmael will grown into that fills her with hope and meaning to live on. When the prophet Elisha decides that he is done with this life, God intervenes to tell him about the bigger community of Saints he is a part of to spur him to keep going.

This principle of such hope coming from a transcended source to spur to fight the good fight is seen in a crucial scene in the book “Lord of the Rings”, it is the scene where Frodo and Sam have entered Mordor through the evil marshes. They are tired and desperate. Gollum has given them the slip to plan their murder. At this point of deep despair, Sam looks up at the star of Earendil (the saviour of mankind in the battle against Morgoth – Sauron’s boss). Sam tells Frodo, “Look Mr. Frodo, the light of the phail you have is the same light from the Star of Earendil. We are still a part of the same story (of battle against good and evil). Don’t great tales ever end?”. Frodo replies, “No Sam, great tales never end, we just come play our part and go”. This recognition of transcended hope gives Sam and Frodo the courage to press into the evil of Mordor even to the point of death. The rest is history, at least mythic-history!

This transcended power of the bigger story the bigger vision of hope is what kept Sam and Frodo going on their fight against evil. All human beings, need the the transcended hope of the bigger story and bigger vision from beyond that would draw us from our narcissistic selves, into something bigger that would perpetually enchant us and would perennially fill us with meaning buttressed on the hope that the story we live would be victorious no matter what, that there is Someone outside the system who will guarantee that.

Just to clarify, ‘Transcended hope’ is not about losing hope for this life and then transferring it to the next life in Heaven. ‘Transcended hope’ rather is about meaning ‘incarnating’ into our lives from a Transcended source so that we would live our life ‘to all its fullness’. Jesus Christ incarnated into this world to bring to us a Transcended meaning and a Transcended story to see ourselves in. He did so to set us free and to help us live our lives to all it FULLNESS. He gave us fullness by dying what seemed a hopeless death on the Cross, but He resurrected to bring a new Transcended meaning to Death itself. It is a fullness in which Death isn’t a defeat. A fullness in which hope defeats Death. It is a fullness in which meaning is not limited to looking back at ones life after death (as the Rememberers want to do), but continues on in the flourishing life one will live in Heaven.

A Hunger for Hope:


Every human being, who is made in the image of God (fallen as it is), will have to make a choice about whether they are going to put their trust in some form of ‘immanent hope’ or in some form of ‘transcended hope’. We will have to decide what will truly satisfy our hunger of hope. Ones choice may be dependent on ones own philosophy and experience of life. As for me, I being a Christian, my ontological belief is that human beings are not just made as spiritual images of God, but also as embodied temples of God. So, I see my life as meaningful because I am ‘known’ by a Transcended God who is also Immanent, living within me. Of course, this does not mean that I will not despair. There have been, and there will be moments of desperation. At such moments of loss of hope, I do not have to depend on comedians to cheer me up, rather it is God’s incarational intervention through the Holy Spirit that comes to my rescue to remind me of the hope buttressed on the Truth (incarnated) and orient me toward the BIGGER vision of God’s glory in which is my happiness.

After all as the Westminster catechism says, “man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. When I was a kid, Robin Williams was enough to make me happy and hopeful for more happiness. Now that I have grown and become more aware of the cynical hopeless of life, my need for wonder and hunger for hope to compensate for the ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’ life has grown such that I need more than a phenomenally talented Robin William, I need a powerful and loving, transcended and immanent God to make my happy.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

************************************************************

*So what is the benefit of seeing the BIG picture and not put things in
easy-boxes one might ask. Answer: To attempt to get a better
understanding of life is to have lived a good life. Of course, that was a
restatement of Greek philosophy, ‘an unexamined life isn’t worth
living’. It is not just the Greeks, the Bible encourages seeing the BIG
picture too, ‘it is the glory of God to hide mysteries and it is the
glory of kings to uncover them’, ‘my people perish for they lack
understanding’, ‘you predict the weather but can’t read the signs of the
time we live in’. (Of course, biblically, seeing the BIG picture has to
be done within a covenental and incarnational context, which is the
topic for a different blog post).

**In fact, Nassir Ghaemi in his book ‘A First Rate Maddness: Uncovering
Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness’ argues that it was
episodes of depressive mental illness which made Great men into who they
were, the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King
Jr., FDR. When a person has stared death in the eye and come out
victorious, they are stronger than before. But then, there are other
people who don’t quite make it out of the staring contest.

The Conjuring: A Parable that Disturbs…

Evangelical Christians, as is normally the case, have rightly diagnosed the problem of obsessive demonology, but unfortunately the strategy evangelicals appear to be pursuing, of running a million miles in the opposite direction, suffers from the  mistake exchanging simplicity for a complex all encompassing worldview.

I normally do not like scary movies. I like movies that are a ‘parable’ which says something in a way that changes my outlook of life. I think most scary movies don’t fit into this parable model. But ‘The Conjuring’ is, I think, an exception. ‘The Conjuring’ is a movie that helps engage the Church and the culture with the scriptural Truths, as disturbing as it may be to some, about the reality of the supernatural.

Theological Enough for Hollywood
I liked Conjuring for multiple reasons
1. It is based on a true life incident.
2. It is based on the work of paranormal researchers (Ed and Lorraine Warner) who looked for rational explanations for the paranormal but also believed sometimes it is reasonable to believe in the reality of the supernatural.
3. If they sensed the supernatural was involved, then they resorted to the Catholic tradition of exorcism, (which I believe is more or less theologically sound). Of course, there were parts where the movie veered away from Christian principles of exorcism.

I want to expand a bit on point # 3 a bit. Here is one scene in the movie which I felt the movie accurately portrayed the Christian worldview.

At the beginning of the movie, Ed and Lorrine Warner interview a family that has experiences some weird stuff with their doll. They contend to Ed and Lorrine that the doll is demon possessed. Ed hears their story and then says something like, “the possession of the doll is only an illusion. What is really going on is the devil, if it is possessing something, it is you. Devils like to possess other living beings.” I believe this way of thinking ties well with the Biblical principles of demon possessions (there are some devils that have dominion over places Dan 10:13 etc… but that is a different topic). We see in the Bible that the Devil’s job is not just to tempt people to sin. We do see the Devil possessing people. We see Jesus exorcising them. We see Paul doing likewise too. I would suggest that some of us may be called to imitate Jesus and Paul on that (Matt 10:1,8, Mark 6:13, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:17).

The movie ends with a quote from Ed Warren which went something like this, “The world is filled with unseen forces… forces of good and evil… forces of light and darkness… the destiny of man depends on which force you elect to align with”. When I read that, I was in the movie theater praising God! You couldn’t get more theological than that… for a Hollywood movie, if you know what I mean.

A Vehicle Carrying Disturbing Truth that can Save
Here is what surprised me… when the quote was put up on the screen, I could distinctly hear people hissing, sighing aloud… Their hissing gave credence to the view that such Truths disturb people. I read umpteen movie reviews about how this movie is scary – don’t see it alone, will scare the underpants off, an uncommonly frightening experience. The fact of the matter is the movie in and of itself isn’t really scary at all. What scares people is the Truth depicted in and through the movie.

I know at least one person who told me he became a Christian after he saw the original movie classic ‘The Exorcist’. I have heard of others having similar experiences in coming to Christ. The basic thrust of such movies is not so much scare people into the arms of Christ as much as helps them realize the bigger Truths and bigger Realities (of the principalities and power of evil Ephesians 6:12) that they have been oblivious to. Such exposure to the Truth helps some people reorient themselves to the bigger realities of life that revolves around God and His goodness in overcoming evil. Movies can be vehicles of such disturbing Truth that can save people.

Truth is a powerful weapon. I am not alone on this view. Dave Mustine the Christian Heavy Metal legend, the founding-member of the heavy metal band ‘Metallica’ and later the founder of the heavier metal band ‘Megadeath’, who was originally into witchcraft and such, before he became Christian, talks about how he would cast spells on people when he was into into witchcraft. Towards the end of the video interview, Dave replies (presumably to a question from the interviewer if he was a dangerous guy when he was into witchcraft), “I am actually more dangerous now (after becoming a Christian)… because, I am armed with the Truth now”. Boom!!! You can see the video.

The Evangelical Christian Response: Fear, Suspicion and/or Indifference
What I was surprised by even more than the hissing of the (presumed) pagans in the movies, is the response to the movie on the evangelical Christian side. A Christian posted on Facebook that it was the most ‘uneasy disturbing’ 2 hours of his recent life. Other Christians commented empathizing with him. I almost commented saying, “Don’t we all worship Someone whose miracle workings involved exorcisms?”, but then I didn’t. I decided to write this post instead. As Christians, we shouldn’t fear these evil spirits or their manifestations. After all we worship the God who has bequeathed to us ‘His dominion and authority in the world’.

Then I was speaking with another friend over lunch and told him about my thoughts on the movie and that Jesus did not shy away from exorcisms, he encouraged his Disciples to exercise dominion over demons (Matt 10:1,8, Mark 6:13, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:17). Paul didn’t shy away from exorcisms either (Acts 16:16-18, Acts 19:13-16). My good friend said he belonged in the John MacArthur school of theological thinking where things such as exorcisms are view upon with suspicion. MacArthur’s position, as my friend stated, is that we are called to preach and teach the Gospel, not to exorcise. I believe this position is ‘very narrow’ reading of he Scriptures. Jesus commissioned us to sent people free which may or may not involve exorcisms. My friend replied, “I don’t disagree. But we need to be careful that exorcism shouldn’t become an obsession either”.

My friend had a valid point. Yes, it is true that we shouldn’t develop an obsession for exorcism. It is true that may be 0.00001% Christians are obsessed with exorcisms. But this does not mean that rest of the 99.99999% of Christians have to run a million miles in the opposite direction and not even talk or discuss or teach about demonology and exorcism. Unfortunately much of evangelical christendom chooses to forget that Christ taught his disciples about exorcism (Matt 17:18-20, Mark 9:28-29) out of fear that talking about it would cause people to misuse it or talking about it wouldn’t help the cause of evangelism, on the contrary, may even hurt it. Christ wasn’t reticent about exorcisms. Neither should we be. He did not sweep it under the rug. Neither should we. Christendom treating the topic of demonology with sheer indifference pays heavily for it. As C.S.Lewis says in ‘Screwtape Letters’, the key strategy of the devil is to make us believe he and his ‘minions’ do not exist. Anyways, isn’t is a pity when 99.99999% Christians become the foil for his strategy by being indifferent to it. (Of course, I love the ‘Despicable Me’ ‘minions’ as the next guy, just saying).

People of the Truth Who Embrace Complexity
Again, I want to stress the point that Evangelical Christians have good reasons to be suspicious of  potential for obsession of Christians about demonology. The culprit here is a character flaw that humans have, which is that humans crave simplicity. We see this craving for simplicity even in philosophy, from Greek Anaximenses who wanted to explain everything in terms of air to post modern Sartre who wanted to explain everything in terms of the absurd. Evangelical Christians rightly fear that if someone gets into exorcism, then they will explain everything in terms of demonology and miss the point of the Gospel. Evangelical Christians, as is normally the case, have rightly diagnosed the problem of obsessive demonology, but unfortunately the strategy evangelicals appear to be pursuing, of running a million miles in the opposite direction, suffers from the  mistake exchanging simplicity for a complex all encompassing worldview. Instead of embracing a complex world which involves a nuanced theology of demonology, creation’s fallen-ness and God’s sovereignty held in balance they want a simpler version where demonology is removed from the equation.

As my friend and Bible teacher Kemper Crabb teach in his class ‘The Revolutions’, as Christians we need to embrace the complexity of theology and hold a nuanced view of life that reflects Biblical worldview. Or as my other friend and Bible teacher Chuck Dotson would say, we should resist the tendency to put theology in small neat boxes with every looking perfect and tidy… nothing overflowing. NO! life is too terrible, complex and beautiful to fit into cute little cubes.

Called to be People of the Truth
We as Christians are called to be ‘people of the Truth’. Truth is never simple. Truth is complex and mysterious as Christ is. As we live this life and get more and more sanctified, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and the community of the Saints, we get to a deeper and more complex understanding of the Scriptures, and consequently of life too. As we bring every thought ‘captive to Christ’, the world/culture around us will follow too. We are called to live the Truth in the culture around us, even if 0.00001% people misuse the Truth. There will always be people misusing the Truth. We need not let them dictate the manifestation of Christian Truth in the culture, whether it be the topic of exorcism or exercise of Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church for that matter.

Back to the Parable
A parable is a simple story told in a way that can disturb us from a sense of complacency and awakes us to that ubiquitous truth we have consciously or subconsciously been oblivious to. Movies can be such ‘parables’ which engage the culture/church with the Truth of the Word of God. If Christ were to have incarnated into the 21st century world, it wouldn’t have been very far off for him to make movies to communicate his ‘parable-Truths’. People who find movies like ‘The Conjuring’ disturbing, may be in a good place after all, for they are being woken up to the Truth which some part of their subconscious mind acknowledges to be true, no matter how much their conscious mind may try to resist it.

Don’t Let a Crisis Go Waste – Soar on Eagle Wings Instead…

The shrewd people of the world use crisis for personal benefit. The foolish people of the world let the crisis define them and waste away. As wise Christians we use the crisis to know ourselves by involving in healthy enterprises, know people around by being vulnerable about our weaknesses and to know God by looking up at Him for help.

There is a saying in politics, ‘Don’t let a crisis go waste’ meaning when bad stuff happens, after the immediate crisis is over, during the ‘crisis recovery’ phase when people are vulnerable and impressionable, the shrewd politician should attempt to channel the emotions poured out into avenues that further desired policy agendas. Case in point… the President Bush used the opportune window that 911 to pass the in the Patriot Act,the President Obama sees the Newton incident as an opportunity to promote his agenda on gun control laws.

Politics apart, the idea of ‘don’t let a crisis go waste’ has some significant applications to Christian living too. Often in life we come across disappointments. A disappointment depending upon the magnitude of it can be a crisis. Every time we face disappointments there is accompanying set of emotions from anxiety to anger to despondency. During the ‘crisis recovery’ phase, depending on the nature of the crisis and the personality of the individual, people will process and respond to it differently. Some live in a state of depression of regret over the past, others are anxious about the prospects of future and some others live in a state of denial ‘kicking the can down the road’ (if you will) and then there are people who to escape the dreariness will get into addictions and waste away.

The question to the Christian is how do we channel ourselves as we get through the crisis recovery phase. There are three aspects to channeling the emotions as we work through a crisis recover phase which are distinct and stand on their own but still are related to each other as well.

1. Take up a healthy enterprise you enjoy and discover yourself. In C.S.Lewis’ last novel ‘Till We Have Faces’, Orual is depressed out of her senses. In her recovery phase, she finds pleasure and a way back to stability by learning the skills of warfare and governance from the King’s Commander Bardia. When I went through a minor personal crisis, I found my joys in reading good books, watching good movies, and at work. Books I read were the Holy Bible, ‘Doctrine of Knowledge of God’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ etc… I watched good movies made by independent filmmakers, ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ etc… Then I worked hard at the office, my journal then at the gym… In all of this, I experienced God extending the grace to me so that I will enjoy them and worship Him through them. Such healthy enterprises were also a means to spend some time in solitude and get to know myself.

2. Share your burdens with the community and allow them to provide for you understanding, companionship and comfort. A deep instinct that we have when they are in phases of ‘crisis recovery’ is that we crave anonymity  We want to disappear. We do not want anyone else to know about the vulnerability, pain and suffering. In wanting to disappear from the community some may follow a healthy pleasure in some enterprise (# 1 stated above) and find comfort in seclusion. Though # 1 is good, in an off itself, it will not help. We need the community. It is at such times that you really know who really cares about you. Being away from family, I found comfort in the community among my christian friends. I spent time eating dinner, watching movies, talking, having coffee at Starbucks etc… The community is a place were you get to know other people and experience God’s grace by hanging-out with folks that love the Lord.

3. Look up to God to save you! Even as # 1 & 2 (stated above) are good and great, they are still not complete. Ultimately, you need to know that you are eternally loved with a steadfast love… If we aren’t assured of this eternally secure love, doing # 1 and 2 no matter how great it may be, amounts only to enjoying a peg of wine, a game of poker or some other indulgence on deck of the sinking Titanic. It is the assurance of the eternal love of God that gives us the security to freely enjoy # 1 and 2 as God’s gifts to us. Enjoying a healthy enterprise (# 1), enjoying community (# 2) cannot truly flourish unless God gives us eternal protection in Him. All this to say, that when we go through challenging crisis recovery phases, primarily, we need to look up ‘unto the Hills from where comes help’. Every time we look up at Him through the crisis, we get to know Him better. By the time you get out of the crisis recovery period you’ll be glad you went through it. For, by losing a part of you in the pain and suffering, by looking up at God, you would have gained knowledge of God that is invaluable. After all, Paul compares ‘everything else’ to manure when compared with pleasure of ‘knowing Christ’.

As I was looking up at the Lord by reading through the Word of God to soothe my soul during my crisis recovery, I came across the passage below that showed me how much God really loved me, and that my soul being in turmoil is ok, for ultimately my salvation is in the Lord. I just have to remember His ‘steadfast love’ and prayerfully be in His presence.

Psalm 42

5. Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation
6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Of course, what I have described isn’t a 1-2-3 technique… To say, ‘Just perform this 3 step technique, and you’ll be fine’ is a hoax. Life is too messed up for there to be an easy way out of loss, pain and suffering. After all even Christ wasn’t exempt from life’s crisis.

Even as you enjoy healthy enterprises, commune with healthy people and look up to the Lord for help, you’ll still find yourself slipping through the cracks, you’ll have ups and downs, but for a while the overall trajectory may continue to be downward. You’ll keep going down until you hit the rock-bottom. Depending on the nature of the crisis it may take only a little bit, or it may take a long time. But you will hit the rock-bottom. Once you have hit the rock-bottom you will realize that you really are standing on the Rock, the Redeemer the Christ. From that point you will ‘soar up in Eagle wings’…

Isaiah 40
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

As we feel like we are going down the spiral, we may be tempted to complain and ask God what it is about. It is ok to complain to God as long as we also listen to 1) God’s response that He is ‘understanding’ of things is better than ours and 2) God’s promise that no matter what happens He will not allow us to grow weary or be faint (even when we are at the end of our strength). Christian life is a long road, we will come across many a crisis. God promises that no matter what we will be renewed in strength, even as we walk long tough paths, we  may complain, but will not grow weary. It is through crisis that we get to experience God’s grace that upholds us through our long lonely walks. Such experiences of God’s grace are worth the long lonely walks.

The shrewd people of the world use crisis for personal benefit. The foolish people of the world let the crisis define them and waste away. As wise Christians we use the crisis to know ourselves by involving in healthy enterprises, know people around by being vulnerable about our weaknesses and to know God by looking up at Him for help. Even when things are bleak, we keep walking onward trusting God’s got our back. Every crisis is an opportunity for us to courageously cherish life, commune with sympathetic people and worship a Brilliant and loving God more. After all, the crisis is worth it if we don’t waste it but with God’s help use it to walk, run and soar up on Eagle wings.