Thursday, November 03, 2005

Edification: It’s Not That Simple

I think that when faced with the questionable movie, art show, or book, the first instinct of many Christians is simply to cast out the material or ignore it. I recall one respected Christian leader characterizing material that had a mixture of good and bad moral content as “half a poison pill.” The message was that if media contains anything bad, anything “poisonous,” it’s fully harmful. The syllogism (if A=B and B=C, then A=C) is simple and forceful. After all, who of us mixes a little poison in our morning coffee? Can you see it at Starbucks? “Tall no-whip pumpkin spice latte two pumps of caramel and a little poison for Roger?” It’s preposterous.

Humor aside, I want to step carefully here. I hold in high esteem the preacher who introduced the “poison-pill” illustration. And as I’ve already covered this week, there is much in this world that is overwhelmingly harmful and must be avoided at all costs. So there is truth in this illustration. There is also, however, sweeping generalization. It’s of the kind that quickly convinces many who don’t think about it. For those who do, particularly those who blab away on blogs, however, something smells wrong, like recently purchased milk that’s a bit sour.

The world is filled with ugliness. It winds through everything and anything we see, infecting what is good, making what is bad worse. It is found in pre-school, middle school, and in high school. It is found at Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, warm feelings not withstanding. It’s in Sunday school, the morning service, the evening service, the midweek service, and the Bible study. It is found in the best of motives, the purest of intentions, the strongest moral fiber. It sneaks into our mind during prayer, distracts us when we read our Bible, sucker punches us when all seems well and good. It’s in darling babies, really cute two-year olds, sparkling teens, idealistic college students, and charming businessmen. It’s in movies, plays, tv shows, biographies, children’s books, fables, nursery rhymes, rap songs, country songs, and Christian music. It’s in our favorite pastor’s sermon, our best friend’s advice, our trusted politician’s rhetoric. It’s seen on our faces. It’s hidden in our hearts. It’s never far. It’s always here. It’s a disease, a terminal illness, an affliction, a hindrance, an enemy, a force. Though it is our mortal enemy, it is our constant companion.

All the above explodes the idea that everything and everyone in the world is divided neatly and equally into two discernable categories—really good and really bad. Such thinking is naïve almost to the extreme. Now, I promised I would step carefully, and so I do. It is certainly true that much in this world is really good, and much is really bad. I hope that this is abundantly clear. But—and this is a hairpin but- much is neither bad nor good. To pretend this is so is head-scratchingly naïve. I would urge you to accept this idea right now: this is a conflicted, mixed, confusing little planet we inhabit. Often good stands removed from bad. But often good mixes with bad. Often falsehood tucks in beside truth. Often immorality blissfully coexists with morality. This is simply the fabric of our lives. Tomorrow, we’ll flesh this out more.


Blogger leo myshkin said...

there is a ying and yang to everything.

i have found you can focus on the beauty or the ugliness, it's up to each of us.

we get a short ride on this lovely little planet so you might as well seek the beauty.

4:27 PM  

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