If you don’t believe that Jesus is God, why not Tom Cruise? Or FM-2030?

If you’re not sure Tom Cruise is crazy, check out his interview expressing his hope to “create a new reality… with enough love, compassion, and toughness.”  I miss Jesus already.  (Helpful explanations of his jargon here.)

Yet Scientology is part of the larger movement of transhumanism, and they’re not even the craziest ones in the movement.  Not to be confused with transsexuality, which this is not the place to discuss, transhumanists hope to incorporate advances in technology and “spirituality” to become immortal, post-human entities (and sometimes cyborgs).

I originally entitled this post “Science Fiction + religion – God = 😦 ” but changed when I realized that some might infer atheist non-cult-members, many of whose views I greatly respect, as being lumped along with self-theist psychos. I value dialog with people of other beliefs, but even I have my limits and and some point have to cry, “Dude, that’s loco!”

Worship someone, please, but not your future self.

Pride Comes Before Redemption… Sometimes

Bad things have a way of being twisted versions of something good.  Take pride, for example.  There’s good pride, and then there’s bad pride.

 Good pride is the opposite of shame.  “I’m proud of you!” says your mother.  “I take pride in my work,” says an earnest student.  “You should be proud of your roots,” says your grandfather.  Such pride is rooted in self-respect and self-confidence.  I wish we all had pride like that.

 Then there’s bad pride, which is the opposite of humility.  As in “I am a proud person” and “pride comes before a fall.”  She’s “prideful.”  Such pride is like vanity in both senses: it’s useless (old sense of vanity), and it’s self-absorbed (as in “you’re so vain”).  Such pride destroys because in it we elevate our own identities and contributions to the expense of others.  Aloof, too proud to ask for help, too proud to care.

For all of it’s predictable cheesiness, the film Pride vividly depicts almost all of the characters transitioning from the latter to the former.  Plus, when was the last time someone made a decent movie about swimming?

To Be Gay or Not To Be Gay: Is That the Question?

Further Reflections on a Complicated Issue 

In “The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!Sufjan Stevens gives us what “is tempting to describe… as a story of male-male agape—just touching on the erotic, with mentions of falling asleep in the backseat of a car—between Stevens and his best friend, but Stevens also lets you see right through it as a love story between himself and Jesus, God born human, a man stung and mocked and wrestled with” (Daddino, Seattle Weekly). 

This may ignore the most straightforward interpretation of the song: “male-male agape” plus eros/philia.  “He runs washing his face in his hands.  Oh how I meant to tease him.
Oh how I meant no harm.  Touching his back with my hand I kiss him.  I see the wasp on the length of my arm.”  And “We were in love!” repeats the chorus jubilantly.  This love was a means of experiencing God’s glory: “Halelu!”  But this love really didn’t work out: “My friend is gone, he ran away….  Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged. I can tell you I love him each day….” 

All of this has led many people to ask, “Is Sufjan Stevens gay?”  To this I would respond: a) you’re missing the point of the song, and b) our culture assumes that the world is divided into a gay/not-gay dichotomy.  Kinsey showed this to be a blatant falsehood, although his numbers were probably skewed due to his sampling methods.  Regardless, Sufjan has recounted in concerts that he was well before puberty when the incident occurred.  This isn’t proof that he’s “gay.”  This is proof that a lot of people experience a lot of things that our culture would use to say, “Hey, you’re gay!”  What if the truth isn’t that simple?

Hey! That wasn’t a spy movie….

I did not know what to expect with “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”  All I wanted as another spy movie.  Instead, I got “The Mysterious Yearning Secretive Sad Lonely Troubled Confused Loving Musical Gifted Intelligent Beautiful Tender Sensitive Haunted Passionate Talented Mr. Ripley” (full U.S. title). 

(plot spoiler imminent)

A man who is very insecure about his identity succeeds in assuming the identity of his new best friend, whom he admires, loathes, resents, sexualizes (w/o having sex w/), and kills in the process (2nd degree murder). 

What is fascinating about this depiction is the clarity with which we see Tom Ripley seek his own identity in Dickie Greenleaf.  For him, to love is to become.  When that fails, he must kill in order to become the object of his obession.  He has no self, or very little stable sense of one. 

Is it possible that sexual identity is just one of the more vivid/controversial/painful/awkward-to-talk-about manifestations of our whole being?  A surface symptom of deeper things going on?  Or is what you see what you get?

Why Straight, Christian Men Should Listen to Lesbian, Agnostic Songwriters

When I bought the Indigo Girls’ Retrospective, I endured some awkward questions from the cashier. 

“Is this a gift?” she asked. 

“No, it’s for me.” 

“I thought most of their fans were… you know….” 

I shrugged.  “They’re amazing lyricists and musicians.” 

And it’s true.  Whatever criticism one might have of their views, one cannot deny that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers speak with great clarity and beauty.  To be sure, in their protest songs they may shout at you.  But, in their love songs and life songs, they warmly invite you to walk in their shoes.

What is the nature of love, as expressed by the Indigo Girls?  With shocking Biblical imagery, Amy Ray presents it as “Strange Fire.”  This is a reference to Leviticuts 10, when two priests gave an unauthorized offering to God and were destroyed by his wrath.  But here, that fire is love, which is offered to each other, not to God, and forms a “refuge from the wrath.”  The poet then lashes out against those who oppose that love, with “haughty eyes and lying tongues and hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17, quoted verbatim in the song).  At the very least, the song illuminates the greatest transgression of Christians toward those experiencing homosexual desires: by stigmatizing the struggle and “casting stones,” we have committed greater sins than the sin we sought to oppose.  (“Is it a sin?” is a conversation for another day.)

It is not my place to attempt to summarize the entire body of the Indigo Girls’ work, but I would be amiss not to at least mention “Ghost.”  Emily Saliers captures the utter bitter-sweetness of unrequited love: “I burn up in your presence and I know now how it feels to be weakened like Achilles with you always at my heels….  I can’t swim free the river is too deep, though I’m baptized by your touch, I am no worse than most…. in love with your ghost.”  Is this unrequited love the same as that between a man and a woman?  How can you know if you don’t listen?

Unwashable

I washed off the wilderness but not the wildness, the dirt that untamed my soul.

Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 9:32 pm  Comments (2)