Religious indoctrination in a seminary has been very trying. There is an enormous love of the word “tension”–enormous. Tension between this and that. Tension everyday. Oh. And “unpack”. I have never heard the word “unpack” so many times before. “We’ll unpack this in a bit.” Okay then.
Here’s some unpacking from a Captain. (Former Captain–for those of you who were not privileged enough to make my group text, I am officially in every sense of the words “Honorably Discharged” from the Air Force as of last month.) Back to the unpacking. Here’s the greatest tension as I see it. The church fathers that history presents to us were avid writers. It seems at times that when they heard the bible verses which recommended unceasing prayer, they heard unceasing writing. We’re talking volumes upon volumes, confessions upon confessions. I love it. But I also want to do it myself. And I feel like there’s a unspoken belief that we (humanity) are beyond it. Well I’m not beyond it. I have my doubts and I want to explore them via the written word. This anonymous blog will have to suffice as I’m not entirely convinced I’ll be accepted into the group at school if I share everything with them. Let’s get started then.
One aspect of the seminary I am at, an aspect that distinguishes it from other seminaries, is that there is a character development class. You read that right. I started this adventure with the idea of it being purely academic, and now face the fact that if I want a degree, I have to undergo two and a half years of character development. I’m kind of in love with the idea, while I simultaneously dread undergoing any changes. Because, you know, I’m perfect today.
A part of this character development is the notion that my job has something to do with my religion. As I’ve recorded on this blog already, I kind of disagree with this idea wholeheartedly. The course presents the concept that, generally speaking, church-goers view a missionary as more important to the Kingdom than a plumber. Obviously this presents a huge problem since there are only so many missionaries, and yet my toilet runs right now. I believe that what follows are my most wise and encouraging to plumbers conclusions about life from one semester of introspection thus far. When talking about earning money, and whether or not there is a value in God’s eyes to the type of work you do, there are two questions that must be answered by Christians and whose answering will illustrate the ridiculousness of valuing one form of work over another.
“Should anyone be paid money to have a relationship with God?”
“What portion of your paycheck should be funded by sinners?”
This brings me to another major tension. I confessed with the intent of gaining laughter and respect that I see the world through movies, and the professor responded with a, “Really?” She wasn’t entirely judging me, but her tone suggested some shock. Yet, every single class has referenced a major Hollywood production–every single class. The film Gladiator has made numerous appearances, and regarding a person’s professional endeavors, I have always identified Maximus’ servant Cicero’s line, “Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time I do what I have to do.”
Denver loves the idea of monetizing your passion. It’s horseshit to me. Just pay your bills. What you do when you’re not working is the real test. (In my humble opinion.)
When dealing with God’s providence, by which I mean the notion of to what level God dictates your actions, I find strength in the non-canonical film The Last Samurai when Tom Cruise says about changing his destiny, “I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed.”
Then again, I view all of life through movies.
The other day H- learned how to play We Wish You A Merry Christmas during her piano lesson. The Muppets perform a hilarious version of the song and I had her listen to it. Randomly (and awesomely) H- responded by declaring that she has a new name. She says, “My first name is ‘Won’t Go’ and my last name is ‘Kindergarten’.” Then she looks up and says, “And my middle name is, ‘Light bulb.’ ‘Won’t Go Light bulb Kindergarten.'” I love the Freudian slip nature of that, and also the native american roots.
Lastly, H-, who is 5 1/2 these days, always asks me to open her door when I finally decide to go to bed myself. I have often asked her why she wants the door open, because to me it seems like letting in any light at all would have the opposite effect on my own desire to sleep. In the past when she simply answered, “Because”, I let it go. For some reason tonight I didn’t let it go. I asked three times, “Why do you want the door open?” She finally confessed, “Because I don’t like turning the door handle.”
Honesty on that level is so refreshing. “I don’t like turning the door handle.” So little H- is afraid she might not make it out of her room when she wakes up. I feel like there is a sermon in that admission. Something along the lines of how, metaphorically, the non-Christian, atheistic belief system alternatives give me no way to open the door whereas, on the other hand, Jesus provides the strength to open the door. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just addicted to the opiate of the masses.
Oh, and lastly, if I may indulge myself, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that American Christians must use the word “unfortunate” infinitely more often than they currently do. It is only in asserting how many people on this planet are unfortunate that American Christians will actually begin to recognize the possibly atheistic reasons behind their own good fortunes.
By way of example, I am incredibly fortunate. I come from a culture which values honesty and straight teeth. I have three years of experiential evidence that I will never have a difficult time finding a job that supports my lifestyle. And I can admit that that has nothing to do with Christianity. In fact, I view it as a hindrance to my Christian character.
Actually I can keep going. In the character development course, the professor identified the idea of formal versus hidden curriculum. For example, formal curriculum is that all ages are welcome in a worship service. Hidden curriculum is that crying babies are not welcome (as disapproving glares from old people are gathered).
This is the big point of life, isn’t it? Announcing the hidden curriculum. What are we really saying to each other? From where I sit, humanity just hears the loudest claims. COCA-COLA IS THE GREATEST SOFT DRINK! BUDWEISER IS THE KING OF BEERS! LOUIS VUITTON IS THE BEST PURSE MAKER! WAL-MART IS THE ONLY STORE YOU NEED! HAPPINESS IS THE REALIZATION OF DESIRE!
Of course none of those are true, no matter how many beverages we buy or desires we realize, are they?