Category: Muse

Song of Solomon, Images, and Graphic Nudity in Modern Film

Song of Solomon, Images, and Graphic Nudity in Modern Film

Movies and TV shows with explicit sex scenes have consistently been controversial among Christian circles. A series may have great writing, but also an excessive amount of graphic sex, violence, and often times a mixture of both. The question for me is simple: Do the ends justify the means? In counting the cost, does filling my eyes (and subsequently, my mind) with dangerous pornographic images justify my indulgence in just another story? Personally, I don’t think so.

My memory of graphic sexual images will far exceed my memory of a plot progression, and I would go so far as to say that is the case for everyone, not just me. All I need to do is try to remember any series I have not seen in a decade or two. What do I remember more, the plot of such a series, the precise details of the character progression, or certain visual scenes that happened to make an impression on me? It is always the explicit or shocking visuals that have the longest lasting influence on the mind.

I think it is unarguable that the sex scenes of some of these shows (Game of Thrones, for example) are no different from pornography. I guarantee that those scenes are spliced and put on porn sites. So why would I think surrounding such content with a fantasy story makes it okay for me to watch? It isn’t merely Game of Thrones that is guilty, I just find it to be the easiest example. Pretty much anything on HBO has a massive problem with sex and nudity. Even Netflix is becoming problematic in many ways. I have to go to the IMDB parents guide before every new show because graphic content has become a cancer in film. It seems like every Netflix original is rated TV-MA.

Whenever I read articles about Christians who watch some of these shows, they never actually say anything to justify the graphic sex or nudity. The pornographic content is always the elephant in the room, and it is always ignored. It is actually incredibly bizarre and awkward when people so casually recommend a show like Game of Thrones, as if this is something I could watch with them. As if I wasn’t horrified by what IMDB said was in the first episode alone. I once spoke to an agnostic friend of mine who is not in any way religious, and he said even he was uncomfortable watching Game of Thrones with other people, because of the sex.

If Christ said it is better pluck out your eye than to allow yourself to be corrupted through the eye (Mat 5:29), I find it nonsensical to think saying “it has a great story” is a valid excuse before God for indulging the eyes in pornographic content. When pornography gets a decent plot, it does not cease to be pornography. The devil has icons too. Behind every pretty woman with her breasts exposed, and behind every graphic sex scene, is a dragon waiting to chain you to your own passions.

One might say, “But nobody says anything about violence. Isn’t that bad too?” Yes, violence is never a good thing, however comparing depictions of violence with sex is to compare apples and oranges. For one, the sexual content is not fake, like war scenes. Actors actually strip down to nothing and have sex for a camera. This would be considered prostitution if they didn’t actually enjoy it and make a lot of money. Indeed, a poor and ashamed prostitute, stuck in her situation, is more righteous than such actors who do not even know how to blush (Jer 6:15, 8:12). Secondly, watching a violent scene does not, in of itself, tempt the viewer to become more violent. However, watching a graphic sex scene will tempt the viewer to become more sexual. Because the eyes stimulate the body, watching such things will have an involuntary effect on the body. This is why the scriptures say to flee from fornication (1 Cor 6:18). Other sins do not manipulate the body the way sexual sins do, and sexual sins always occur first with the eyes. It was when David “saw” a naked woman washing herself that his passions were tempted (2 Sa 11:2).

However, it should be noted that not every sex scene is equally explicit, therefore not every sex scene is equally destructive to the mind. I can think of a total of zero people who have complained that a movie or TV show was not as good as it could have been, simply because it lacked graphic sex scenes. In fact, the majority of sex scenes have absolutely nothing to do with the plot. If it does have to do with the plot, then the purpose of the action is generally to tell the viewer that so and so had an affair or something. However, the viewer does not need to see the details of how the affair took place, the viewer only needs to know that the affair took place. In modern film, the ‘how’ is extremely overemphasized and put on the screen for extended periods of time, rather than the previous trope of having two couples wake up next to one another in a bed (implicitly revealing what had occurred).

Song of Solomon in Visual Format

Icon depicting aspects of the Song of Solomon as it relates to Christ and the Church. It depicts Song 2:16; 4:12; 5:10; 8:6-7.

One might say, “but the Bible is graphic, read Song of Solomon.” Because this response is inevitable, I will even use Song of Solomon to prove my point. Firstly, Song of Solomon is a text, and one that is shrouded in poetry. It does not bombard your eyes with explicit sex scenes, because the metaphor makes the sexual content implicit. And because it is a text, the content is not visually seen, but imagined. Breasts are even compared to fuzzy little animals (Song 4:5, 7:3), so I don’t think any woman today would find that to be particularly romantic.

Christians do not have icons of the Song of Solomon literally depicting graphic sex. It visually depicts Song of Solomon as metaphor, not as literal sex. Depicting such a thing literally would be absolutely scandalous.

Icon depicting aspects of the Song of Solomon as it relates to Christ and the Church. It depicts Song 2:2, 5, 8-9, 7:6, 12.

Sex and nudity are supposed to be sacred. Sex should not have bystanders, for it is exclusive because romantic love (Eros) ought to be exclusive. When you have tens of thousands of flies on the wall in the form of writers, directors, videographers and HBO subscribers, the act of sexual union is cheapened into a marketing tactic to entice the passions. The phrase “sex sells” exists because people figured out how to exploit human weakness.

We as a culture penalize the one “Peeping Tom” who peers through the neighbor’s window and call him a pervert, and then we sit on our couches, turn on the television, and peer through the bedroom windows of countless couples. Does such actions not also qualify as perverse? It seems like a double-standard to me.

Whenever the scriptures mention nakedness, the expected response is always to cover/clothe (Gen 3:21, 9:23, Eze 18:7, 16, Mat 25:36, Mar 5:15, Jas 2:15-16). This is because, like I said, nudity is sacred and it ought to be respected. It is exclusive, and it ought to be protected. That’s what I think anyway. I do not write this to condemn or judge anyone, I merely seek to work through the details of what it is I believe about the subject.

Venturing into the Quagmire of Human Sexuality

Venturing into the Quagmire of Human Sexuality

Dr. Edith Humphrey wrote a chapter in a forthcoming book about C.S. Lewis and his perspective on the nature of human sexuality. The book is titled Further Up and Further In: Orthodox Conversations with C. S. Lewis on Scripture and Theology, and it is to be published by St. Vladimir’s Press. I think Edith has a lot of good things to say, and I think she brings important tools into the fray that we ought to utilize in continuing to build a distinctly Christian theological framework with regards to the anthropological questions of modernity.

I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, as I have been contemplating the matter for many years now. Therefore, I will attempt to sort through all my thoughts by writing them down here and now. As someone who is naturally wired as a theologian, my anthropological perspective will be primarily rooted in the truth of the scriptures, and I build upon that foundation using complementary dualism from ancient China: the yinyang of Taoist metaphysics. I know, you probably didn’t see that coming, but you’ll see why I find it helpful by the time you finish reading. However, first we must talk of scripture.

“Neither male nor female”

St Paul is usually referenced when it comes to this discussion, because Galatians 3:28 says the following:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

This verse is typically used to suggest that there is no spiritual distinction between men and women, because Paul states how there is “neither male nor female” in Christ. This exegetical conclusion is then expanded to the idea that, concerning gender, the soul of a person is exclusively distinct from the anatomy of the body. An individual’s internal conception of their own maleness or femaleness is then interpreted to be merely a result of their intellectual experience of their own bodies (and how the movements of those bodies are interpreted by culture at large). In other words, such an anthropological speculation is a result of a particular exegesis of the text. Therefore, we must determine whether or not such an exegesis is consistent with the text.

Taken out of context, such a sentence seems persuasive. However, upon reading the surrounding context, the conclusion becomes less and less persuasive. Paul first states the difference between faith and law (Gal 3:23-25). He then says that we (the faithful) are all ‘children of God’ through faith (Gal 3:26), because we have been baptized into Christ and have put on Christ (Gal 3:27). Then he talks about removing the distinctions between Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, men and women. The very next verse, Paul says we belong to Christ, being the descendants of Abraham and are heirs to the promise (Gal 3:29). The most important verse comes next, when he says there is no distinction between a slave and an underage heir, even if the heir owns the estate (Gal 4:1). The reason is because the heir is (temporarily) still under the household authority (Gal 4:2).

In other words, Paul is juxtaposing law and faith to say that everyone now has equal access to the Logos of God through the gospel, because the importance of earthly categories, rankings and distinctions do not carry over to heavenly things. The playing field has been leveled. Ethnicity holds no spiritual weight (“Jew nor Greek”), because even gentiles can come to faith and put on Christ. Status holds no spiritual weight (“bond nor free”), because even slaves can come to faith and put on Christ. It is in this context that Paul adds male and female to the list, because even women can independently come to faith and put on Christ to be heirs of the promise. Rather than concluding that Paul is making complicated metaphysical claims about the nature of men and women, I think Paul is simply emphasizing the holistic and inclusive nature of the gospel.

The Yin-Yang and Lady Wisdom

Edith mentions how the scriptures often use feminine language to describe certain aspects of God, such as wisdom. Yet, at the same time, the scriptures do not refer to God as a she. What are we to make of this? Well, I will certainly not suggest some kind of Sophianism and imply the existence of a female deity, rather, I suggest we take a look at ancient China for some help in developing a framework for discussion.

In Taoist metaphysics, the yin-yang represents two equal and opposite complementary forces working together in harmony. Yin represents shadow, the passive, negative, earth, and feminine, whereas Yang represents light, the active, positive, heaven, and masculine.

It should be observed how ancient China seems to have also understood humanity as a universal microcosm (as the Hebrews understood). The observable world around them was understood in distinctly human terms, and what events take place in nature had significance for one’s individual life (omens, for example). If we really reflect on the intimate dance between a husband and a wife, it isn’t too difficult to see how it is reflected in nature. The husband actively descends from above upon the passive wife to plant seed and water her earth, and the woman receives and grows it in the ground of her womb, so that new life may sprout up from within. Thus, when we observe how seeds are planted in the earth, and how we observe the rain and the process of germination, we see why we call certain things male and certain things female. Men and women have this particular mode of existence that is observed everywhere else in nature, perhaps because nature was created as a prophetic reflection of Adam and Eve and their particular mode of existence: namely, to replenish the earth.

There is a distinction to be made between male/female and masculine/feminine. The former has to do with an outer anatomical reality, and the latter has to do with a continuum of our inward energy. It is my belief that “wisdom” in the Old Testament is classified as feminine precisely because wisdom is a passive agent (yin), not an active agent (yang). Wisdom is not so much like the one who runs around in the grass playing sports, wisdom is like the one quietly reading their favorite book. Wisdom reflects the quiet stillness of an attentive mind, not the active movements of a boisterous speech. I believe this is why something like strength is masculine in nature (yang), since it is an active agent. This is why strong women in ancient times were spoken of (often as a compliment) as being “manly.” Not because the woman was unattractive or not feminine, but because she manifested her masculinity (her “yang” energy) with regards to something like strength, boldness, or courage.

“It is I who am a man, you are all women.” -Amma Sarah, chastising monks

Androgen and Estrogen

In modern times, we might call such energies androgen (yang/masculine) and estrogen (yin/feminine). Both men and women have androgen (such as testosterone) and estrogen, but to different degrees. This is why one ought to see that the male and female are more nuanced than was formerly understood, being confined to certain objects (cars or dolls) or colors (blue or pink), regardless of how the individual manifested their inner “yin-yang” energy. A female may break the stereotype by having a bit more yang energy than her female peers (which manifests itself in an active sense, in that she is more drawn to playing outside rather than secluded reading), this does not make her male. Conversely, a male may break the stereotype by having a bit more yin energy than his male peers (which manifests itself in a passive sense, in that he is more drawn to secluded reading rather than playing outside).

Gender Confusion

It seems to me (based on anecdotal evidence) that the modern reality of gender confusion is generally a male issue. That is, there seems to be more men who struggle with this than women. If this is the case, we should wonder why. Perhaps it is because for far too long, the West has defined what it means to be a man by a certain level of testosterone, and in doing so, a vacuum was created where discontented “yin-males” did not know where exactly they belong. Perhaps the rigidity of such a culture pushed them into the only other visible category: female. However, I believe differentiating between female and feminine is an essential distinction. Female is always a question of anatomy, and feminine is always a question of energy. The problem with using a word like “feminine,” is it has an inescapably misleading connection to the word “female.” A man can be feminine (expressing a particular kind of yin energy, perhaps even down to the physical appearance), but what man would want to be called “feminine?” When a man is called feminine, he immediately interprets such a statement as an attack against not merely his masculinity, but his maleness. This is why even the word feminine is part of the problem, and should be changed to something else entirely. Perhaps articulating the matter in terms like yin-males and yang-males, or yin-females and yang-females, is more helpful in getting to the essence of what we are talking about.

It is my hope that I offer something to this conversation that brings it further along, even if it be nothing more than to be proven wrong. In her last paragraph, Edith says that we are indebted to C.S. Lewis for “venturing into the quagmire” that is the anthropological discussion of sexuality. I like that illustration. No real progress is made when we (as Orthodox Christians in particular) dismiss that which is difficult because of the pseudo-virtues behind that beloved word “mystery.” Mystery is not an excuse for spiritual, intellectual, or conversational stagnation. We must be like the perpetual newness of flowing rivers (or “living water,” as Christ put it), not the stagnant mosquito-infested pond. God says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5), so perhaps we should reflect our Creator.

Mystery is not an excuse to fossilize ourselves, it is the motivating agent to move us further up and further in.

On The Existence of Aliens

On The Existence of Aliens

Ever since the rise of modern technology and the age of space exploration, there has been a growing desire to find life on other planets. Whether we mention TV shows like Doctor Who, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, X-Files, Firefly, or Fringe, the idea that there could be life on other planets completely permeates the genre of science fiction. But why? Why do we care so much about finding life on other planets, and why now?

The Post-Enlightenment Vacuum

Whenever a culture abruptly leaves something to enter something else, the reactionary pendulum swing always creates a vacuum; a silhouette of what once was. In this case, it was departing the spiritual for the sake of the scientific. Prior to the age of secular science, there were spiritual affirmations woven into the cultural DNA. Western humanity has always affirmed the idea that we are not alone in the universe, yet somehow this has become a new concept. Here is how I think this may have happened:

The age of secular science has, as part of its identity, a rejection of all that which cannot be seen. This was where everything changed. When you reject everything but the observable material world, you reject parts of a past societal framework, such as the belief in the incorporeal spiritual bodies of other realms. When you do this, you cannot but believe that we are alone in the universe, because nothing else can be observed. However, because there is an inward vacuum (remnants of a belief that we are not alone in the universe) within the secular person, one cannot help utilizing this new materialist perspective to prove what we inwardly know to be true. Thus, the search for extraterrestrial life begins anew. This leads to the idea of aliens, and why they are the way they are in the modern psyche. And what about the time travel trend, where one can encounter these pseudo-human beings from the future?

The Biblical Aliens

I think it is possible that the concept of the ‘alien’ is merely the materialistic secular approach to broad, distant, but uniquely Christian memories of the past. It is a modern approach to past memories like:

  1. The inward knowledge that we are ultimately not alone.
  2. Mankind is a cosmic microcosm.
  3. Testimony to mysteries of the paranormal.
  4. Religion and anthropomorphic deities.
  5. Manifestations of the Christian saints within the material world.
  6. The liturgical relationship to the nature of time.

All of these things are simply part of who we are as humans, and to try escaping them is always futile. In other words, we as Christians already know aliens exist, we just use words like God, saints, angels, and demons.

When Shame becomes Polyamory

When Shame becomes Polyamory

“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush.” (Jer 6:15a)

If I were to say that America is a ‘shameless’ culture, I would mean, quite literally, a culture without shame. I have noticed an insatiable vitriol against things like ‘slut-shaming,’ ‘fat-shaming,’ ‘body-shaming,’ ‘pet-shaming,’ any kind of shaming, really. Shame is seen as a demon worthy of cultural exorcism. But what is the nature of shame, and would it actually be true to call it ‘evil?’

First, a point of distinction. One cannot simply blame someone else for feeling shame. Shame is merely the conscience doing what it is programmed to do. Specifically, shame occurs when your actions work against your own well-being and what you innately know to be true.

For example, a random person on Twitter saying “What a fat piece of trash,” and a doctor saying, “You need to change your diet,” is not the same thing, despite the similarities between the experiences of being on the receiving end of those comments. Both statements might cause an experience of shame within the individual, but both statements are not intentionally crafted to wound an individual. The pain caused by the former is like being attacked with a dagger, but the pain caused by the latter is more like a surgical operation. The former destroys, but the latter brings life.

However, American society at large has not looked at the subject of shame in a critical manner, and it has interpreted both scenarios as one in the same. Insults (which are obviously wrong) have consequently caused much of culture to ignore all forms of shame, which then results in the inability to discern any real problem that may exist. For instance, even though being overweight is objectively not a healthy thing, the bullying of overweight people have resulted in a harmful counter-reaction, in which being overweight ought to be seen as a good thing because “it makes you, you.” Instead of being inspired to overcome the obstacle, these people are told to identify with their obesity. Thus, if the bar is too high, all you need to do is simply lower the bar and feel good about where the bar is lowered. This constant lowering of the standard across pretty much every aspect of culture (but especially monogamous fidelity) is how we got to where we are today.

The Curve Killer

When I was in AP Biology, there was a girl in my class who was particularly bright. She was no doubt the best in the class, and everyone knew it. I can think of multiple instances when she single-handedly prevented the class from passing exams via curve grading. We would all do poorly and she would get an A, which would then keep our grades where they were. This happened so often that she was named “the curve killer.” Most of the time the moniker was used jokingly, but there was also a passive-aggressive layer of contempt for her. She made us look bad. She made us fail. The standard is just too high, so we shouldn’t be blamed for falling short. This was the type of reasoning that went through our minds.

I was reminded of the curve killer when I saw how polyamory (the concept of being in multiple consensual romantic relationships) is being rushed to the mainstream. NPR published a story this week about it, which happens to be just after a popular story about a woman claiming to be just “too beautiful” to be faithful to her less attractive “plain” husband. Before this, Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks consistently commented on his theory that humans can only be monogamous for about four years. With all the divorces in Hollywood, Scarlett Johansson recently stated that she believes monogamy isn’t natural, simply parroting this recent trend.

I predicted this would happen back when homosexuality was still being debated early on. Most Christians looked to the Mormons and thought polygamy (having multiple spouses) was on its way, but I told people polyamory would come first, and here it is. Popular people failing the fidelity exam has resulted in fidelity no longer being an expectation among romantic relationships. But why is monogamy being increasingly rejected with contempt? Well, it’s because monogamy is the curve killer.

It is a sad state of affairs when affairs are no longer a sad state. The inclusivity of erotic lust loves casting sidelong glances at the exclusivity of romantic love. When it comes to morality, I would much rather ace the test than put my trust in a curve that has already been slain. In a culture that is hell-bent on destroying itself, the Church must simply continue walking on the way that leads to life, that one day we might explain to the world what it means to have such curious redness upon the face.

 

Why Populating Mars Would Be Disastrous

Why Populating Mars Would Be Disastrous

For years now, influential people like Elon Musk have been pushing the idea that humanity can and should populate Mars. In fact, populating Mars was a topic on NPR just this week. At first glance, such an idea is exciting, but are there moral and ethical implications? Have the philosophers and theologians weighed in on this, or will their voices be steamrolled once again by scientists and entrepreneurs?

Let us grant Elon Musk his dream, and let us say people are sent to populate Mars. Do they bring books with them? If so, will not such things be archaic within a few generations? All literature is inherently bound to Earth no matter the language. How would literature even exist without animals (the source of parchment) and trees (the source of papyrus and paper)? Apart from the content of books, even just the material composition of books are completely alien to Mars. One cannot explain to a third and fourth generation Martian that flowers are beautiful, or why they bloom, or what flower and bloom even means. Oceans, animals, weather, and vegetation are essential aspects of our culture and literature, so a book from Earth will begin to rapidly lose its meaning within one generation. All earthly idioms will cease to exist, and earthly language itself will, by necessity, adapt to a Martian way of life. The English of a first generation Martian will rapidly become extinct, and a uniquely Martian language will form.

In addition to the problem of language, there is a problem of religion and spirituality. Unless the religion is one that denies the existence or goodness of matter, religion is also something centralized on Earth. How does one relate to “a land flowing with milk and honey” in a world without cows or bees? What is a cross in a world without wood? What is a rainbow? What is bread and wine? This means that religion on Mars would inevitably be limited to atheism, agnosticism, and dualistic spirituality.

There is also a problem with economics. What constitutes value? Mars does not have gold, silver, or fiat currency. Does it rely on machinery from Earth? Does it become a trade system? Is there even such a thing as Martian economics?

What about the question of politics? Who owns Mars? If Mars is owned by Earth, will they ever gain autonomy? If so, at what point? Who becomes the leader of the new world? Are they elected democratically?

Martian life will inevitably begin as a pseudo-Earth. The first generation of Martians will do everything they can to remember their old life by creating an isolated facility that synthetically makes Mars look more like Earth. They will attempt to grow trees, have access to water, etc. However, perhaps such a task can never happen naturally on Mars, and the people are left living a life contingent upon inorganic material. If suicide does not become a problem and life were to continue, a Martian inferiority complex with Earth will inevitably emerge, and such a yearning to travel to Earth will be woven into the cultural DNA.

This desire to be like Earth mixed with the growth of language barriers (due to the changing language) would cause a cosmic rift between the communication of Earth and Mars. If there were a severing of Mars-Earth communication, and that severing goes prolonged, it would end in Mars coveting Earth as their paradise and mankind would war against itself, and Earth will have then created the very aliens they have always feared.

…Or maybe I should just write a science fiction novel.

 

On the Soul and Body

On the Soul and Body

“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…” (Matt 15:19a)

I have been meditating on this verse ever since I first read it many years ago. It was truly my first epiphany in the scriptures, as it radically altered my perception of reality. For most of my life, I always thought the mind was essentially synonymous with the brain, and scientists work at length to perpetuate this myth as I see it. However, eight words from the creator of mankind alludes to the truth about how humans are wired. “Thought” does not come from the material brain, it comes from the immaterial soul.

Jesus says thoughts comes from the “heart.” By heart, Jesus does not mean the physical organ located in our chest (though the organ plays a part in all this too), but rather the very center of the human person. That is, the soul: the aspect of the human person which brings life, movement, and purpose to the body.

The relationship between the soul and brain has to do with the interior self and the exterior world. When scientists examine the brain, and they observe the activity of synapses, they are not observing the cause of thought, they are observing the result of thought.

The material brain is how we enter the external material world. Without a brain, we are unable to communicate our thoughts for we are unable to activate our mouth and other organs which can be a means of nonverbal communication. We need our brains to activate our salivary glands when we think about McDonald’s french fries. We need our brains to feel the pain of strained lacrimal glands and that lump in our throats when we suffer emotional turmoil. However, if we had a malfunctioning brain, it does not mean we would no longer experience emotional turmoil. The only difference would be that we would not experience the physical side (the material “result” or “effect”) of that turmoil. The soul would still be effected either way.

“ And in hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luk 16:23-24)

In death, though we lose our brain, we mysteriously still have a mind and retain thought (for thought has its origin in the soul, not the brain); Though we lose our eyes, we mysteriously still have sight; Though we lose our mouth, we still retain a mysterious form of communication.

However, what we do not have without a body is the ability to take these things into the external material world. That’s my theory anyway.

 

Creation vs Destruction

Creation vs Destruction

Imagine two children playing together. The one child is focused, slowly placing one card upon another in his attempt to form a house of cards. The other child is doing nothing but watch the sweat drip from his peer’s brow as he struggles to keep a steady but creative hand. After twenty minutes, the house is complete, and the builder cracks a big smile over his accomplishment. Just when he does this, the other child, with a wave of the hand, smacks the entire house down and undoes twenty minutes of work within mere seconds.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” -Theodore Roosevelt

It is difficult to create, because creation has lasting satisfaction. Lasting satisfaction requires a lot of effort, and it may even span many future generations. It is easy to destroy something, and destruction is only satisfying for a moment. The length of satisfaction one receives from creating is multiplied by the amount of time and effort it took to create. However, the satisfaction one receives from destruction only lasts the amount of time it took to destroy.

The child who smacks the house of cards down in one second gets one second of satisfaction. However, the other child may build the world’s biggest house of cards, get featured in the Guinness World Records, and live with his accomplishment for the rest of his (and his children’s) life.

Creation is inherent within the heart of every human being. All of us have a desire to create something, and it is part of what it means to be made in the image of the Creator. However, for every one man that goes out of his way to build a bridge, there are three men sitting around criticizing how he builds it, seeking to tear the man down with his bridge.

May we learn to be creators rather than destroyers, that we may be obedient to goodness rather than evil.

 

Time-Travel and the Kingdom of God

Time-Travel and the Kingdom of God

For decades, Sci-Fi has been continuously enthralled with the concept of time travel. It reveals itself in classic movies like Back To The Future, modern TV shows like The Flash, and the whimsical mixtures of old and new like the dearly beloved Doctor Who. When it comes to pop culture, time travel is always conceived purely in a local/spatial sense. However, what if there is a spiritual layer of time travel already in existence? Even though modernity is endlessly fascinated by quantum theory, Christianity has preached time travel from its inception, in both a spatial and spiritual sense.

The Spatial Sense

Christianity speaks of the eternal God beginning as an infant. It speaks about the endless God meeting death. How is it that a man both ages three decades, and ceases to age? How is it that a man is both inside and outside time and space? The divine incarnation is a spatial paradox, and it remains so to this day.
Christ appeared to people after his resurrection, and has been visiting people for two thousand years. The scriptures say that Jesus was also able to walk through walls (John 20:26), phase through people (Luke 4:29-30), and fly (Acts 1:9-11). And yet, lest we think He is without a material body, scripture is quick to remind us how Christ never departed His incarnation (Luke 24:39, John 20:27).
There are also countless testimonies within the Orthodox Church that testify to visits from those united to Christ, such as St. Poclus accidentally witnessing the Apostle Paul whispering into the ear of St. John Chrysostom. This shows how those united to Christ share in His attributes, and that the Christian reality was never one spatially bound by time and space, but one with spatial mastery over time and space. Christ and the saints are presently time travelers in the literal-spatial sense, but it doesn’t end there. We can be time travelers too, in a spiritual sense.

The Spiritual Sense

There is a most noteworthy line of the Eastern Orthodox “Orthros” service that says,

“…For today death and Hades have been led captive and the human race has been invested with incorruption.

It is subtle, and many people might miss it, but there is a tremendous reality behind the usage of the word “today.” Isn’t it odd that Orthodoxy refers to a two thousand year-old event as occurring “today?” This is yet another instance where Christianity testifies to a reality not bound by time. To us Christians, Christ conquered death and hell today. Salvation is not bound by time, and it is thus a present reality.
Monasticism represents the most vivid icon of another kind of “spiritual time travel,” and that is the kingdom of God. Monastics live a future reality in the present world. We are not all called to be monastics, but we are all called to adopt the realities of a successful discipline:
  1. Living with humility.
  2. Praying without ceasing.
  3. Putting to death the fleshly passions.
  4. Turning the other cheek and doing no violence to anyone.
  5. Being at peace with nature and animals.
  6. Taking no pride in earthly kingdoms, knowing that real citizenship is in heaven.
The kingdom of God is a future reality that is meant to be initiated in the present. We do not sit around and wait for the kingdom, speaking defeatist pragmatisms such as, “Too bad we live in a fallen world.” We Christians are the ones who have the responsibility of installing the ideal world, not accommodating the corrupted world.
Doing all of these things will inevitably cause the world to marvel at you. They may ask, “what alien planet did you come from?” We need only reply, “Earth, but in the future.”
Forest of the Soul

Forest of the Soul

“Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” -Matthew 3:8

The inner life of the soul is comparable to many things, but I like the image of the forest. This forest is populated by one of two types of trees: the tree of life or the tree of death.
The tree of life originates within the seed of humility. As humility grows, it yields the fruit of all virtue. The tree of life produces the fruit of faith, hope, love, joy, peace, compassion, meekness, forgiveness, patience and every manner of good.
The tree of death originates within the seed of pride. As pride grows, the tree withers, having the emptiness of vice (the antithesis of fruit). The tree of death provides rest for fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, arrogance, bitterness, wrath, folly, and every manner of evil.
The seeds we sow will be what we reap. It is up to each one of us to choose how to cultivate our soul and which seed we plant.
Gravity and Sin

Gravity and Sin

Gravity is something I consistently ponder. A deeply mysterious force that is invisible, yet present. However, why is man constantly pulled downward when he is called to ascension?

St. John Chrysostom once wrote,

By the cross we know the gravity of sin...”

When commenting on the Publican and the Pharisee, Chrysostom compares the two men to competing chariots. The Pharisee loses because he is weighed down by the presence of pride.
All throughout the scriptures, sin is associated with “weightiness;” a powerful attraction downward. Like Korah, all those who are grow in sin are eventually pulled downward further into the earth due to the weight of that sin, and they are unable to ascend (Numbers 16:32). Of course, Korah is merely following in the footsteps of Lucifer before him (Isaiah 14:12).
On the contrary, there are those who, by their virtue, ascend upward. Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), Jesus Christ (Acts 1:9-11), and Philip (Acts 8:39) are the ones explicitly recorded in the scriptures, but there are also saints (not recorded in scripture) who also showed themselves having disregard for gravity, such as Mary the “Mother of God,” and St. Mary of Egypt.
Perhaps gravity was always a factor in how God created the world. However, it seems to me that man was not created to be bound by gravity.
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