MORALISM VERSUS GODSPEAK

WHY GOD’S KINGDOM IS A FAR CRY FROM WHAT MORALISM PREACHES

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Oftentimes, I tend to hear both friends and strangers alike ask me about why I study theology. Nearly nine times out of ten, I am also asked-in the same breath-why I did not want to pursue another occupation and ‘top up’ to my theological studies. These queries, though distressing and frustrating at times, are in my opinion, vital to bringing clarity to my innate affinity for all things God. It is this very thing that I’d like to tackle today in hopes that it will shed light on some critical issues that vex the heart and trouble the mind in matters regarding the divine.

I’ve grown up in a Christian home, with a godly family–all of whom are devoted followers of Jesus. My parents have always tried their best to ensure that my sister and I lived morally acceptable lives in the sight of God and men. Whereas I do not have any qualms with this perception-primarily because parents have a special kind of wisdom when it comes to handling their children-I still struggled with this matter. And struggle with it did I do, for a very long time. You see, I understood then as I understand now that parents’ intentions reflect their hearts. They are wired to ensure that their children flourish, prosper and become people of good-standing and repute in the community.

Now, my struggles came in a two-fold manner; I did not know what it really meant to be good and how that was accomplished, and secondly I did not understand what God’s big deal was and what he intended/desired from me. In all honesty, growing up, these two struggles gave me a warped view of what the very definition of good and evil was! For example, if I never drank alcohol or slept around, I saw myself as a ‘better’ person than the ones who did these things. As though to add insult to injury (as old as this cliche expression is), I would judge these people by my own moral standards. What a darkness I lived in, and I did not even have a clue of how wrong I truly was.

The other struggle manifested itself in my life when I realized that I really liked moralists/teachers of moralism. The televangelists who belted out fire and brimstone on the television screen would quickly receive a huge, thundering “Amen!” from me. Yet, in my deepest, darkest hours during those times I sat alone with no one watching me, I struggled in silence. As Lecrae once rightly put it (God bless his heart), “I was sipping on some secret scene, [believing that] no one would ever love you [i.e. me]”. I really did not get it and these problems really began to show up in my high school years. I really did not know what I was doing or what I had believed in was truly something I could call “Christianity” (How many people right now are masquerading under this identity but are doing ill and hurting many in the process? Is it possible to pray for them and hope they encounter the Living God of whom they claim to represent?).

This dark veil over my eyes began to break over my eyes in those very high school years. I sincerely did not know that I, a kid studying to become a physicist would end up desiring to study something else entirely, theology/the Bible. It was during this period that, although I still struggled with my holier than thou disease that I truly met God. No, it wasn’t through some moralistic teaching on how to behave and how to do right but by God, through his Scriptures speaking to me. He addressed my selfishness, my weaknesses, my errors and began to use me in school.

One of the most important things to ever happen to me was seeing a friend of mine fully have his broken arm healed and restored, although it was due for surgery just three days away from the healing! Wow! Not only did this blow my mind entirely, but it flipped my world. This was NOT what I expected. Since then, I have been learning. Yes, I do make mistakes and sin, but I do not resort to my old moralistic ways. I have simply learnt to submit. I am humbled by him because I have realized that it’s his mission, not mine to save the world. He is the Judge, not I. He is the center of my faith, not I.

Living free is what I have come to experience because I have learned to hear his voice over my own. You know what’s even better (especially for you out there who have been hurt and wounded by those professing to be ‘Christians’) it really doesn’t matter what you are struggling with. What matters is your heart and your willingness to hear from him and be healed, be restored. For in this his reign is made manifest in your life and mine. And as the Apostle Paul once said, “The Kingdom of God is not merely a matter of eating and drinking, but it consists of right-standing with God/right-living, peace (restoration of your person as well as peace with others, including enemies), and joy in the Holy Spirit.

May healing flow,

Peace to you…

 

 

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ODD VISION: MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE THEOLOGY

WHY THE MCU IS ESSENCIALLY A THEOLOGICAL PLAY

“Finally, I’ll do it myself.”

-Thanos

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The MCU; this franchise has got to be one of the largest and greatest franchises seen on earth in history. Since its inception, it has given comic book lovers as well as newbies to the comic book lore plenty to think about regarding the comic book genre. Initially-and some of you might not know this-comic book companies such as Marvel and DC struggled for a long time to have their material taken seriously among the general populace. This was a phenomenon that could not be blamed on the wider youthful audience who devoured their content so much so as their parent/guardian influence who largely opposed the comic book industry as soon as it began to tackle real-life problems through metaphors and allusions in their highly illustrated pages. This was a great turn in history according to many comic historians as it saw the rise and prominence of the comic book genre as a serious category of literature.

Who knew that comic books once struggled with such things? It’s child’s play, isn’t it…or is it really? There is plenty of history concerning this matter and I wanted you to get acquainted with it before we moved on to my point today. [I sincerely hope that the great minds behind the MCU do not forget this]. If this history is not clear enough, another thing to be established right off the bat is the fact that the series, as well as the movies follow specific themes; a matter that Anthony and Joe Russo alluded to in their interviews about the films. If this is anything to come by, we can all agree to a great extent too that the MCU has been stupendously successful in executing this plan.

Whereas Marvel heroes and stories tend to be incredible as well as tragic, heart-wrenching, uplifting…basically human at its core, the emphases in the comics echo the same things. It is not the power-set/skills/abilities that make the hero but their character and person. Who over what is the main point preached in the pages of the comic books. If this point is in any causing doubt; Iron Man, his caption was ‘Heroes are Made..’, with Daredevil, his caption was ‘The Man without Fear’, and with Spider Man, his caption is ‘With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility’. Each of these captions summarize the characters as well as their stories.

Extending the heart of the comics into the MCU as Marvel has done so far is nothing short of incredible (no pun intended, sorry Hulk). Each of these characters have become more relatable as their worldviews, goals and aspirations, as well as their deepest desires and stances are communicated to fans and newcomers alike to the big and small screens. It is with this in mind that I want to make my point.

With all that’s been said about the comics, the characters, their development, as well as the MCU as a whole, it is clear that there’s something else intended to be communicated to the audience from the midst of all this knowledge. Think about it for a second; the success of a good story relies on the development of the characters, the story as well as their own as well as the greater external enemy. I know that right now some of you know who I am talking about. This is Thanos (I couldn’t use his quote and not discuss him now, could I?).

Thanos in the comics is supposed to be to the Avengers what Apocalypse is supposed to have been to the X Men in X Men: (Age of) Apocalypse the 2016 film. Although the movie was a let down, I have to point out that this was not due to the characters’ power set but because of lack of his development in the story and this robbed him of his menacing personality as we know him to be in the comic books. Thanos on the other hand is odd, he, like Apocalypse views himself as a god, but his aspiration is not mere power for the sake of it but for love.

Yes, essentially the MCU is about the extent of a being who fancies himself a god, demonstrating his love to mankind. Not in the Judeo-Christian manner of self sacrifice of the deity but of the sacrifice and manipulation of others to achieve a single goal; ultimate power. Some of you must be like, “Waaait a minute, are you saying that the MCU is actually something akin to a divine tale?” The answer, “Yes. Yes, it is”. The downside as well as the beauty of this lies in the fact that audiences get to see that the Infinity Stones do not reveal Thanos’ power in the end, but rather his greatest weakness. Kinda odd, right? But that’s the point. It’s kinda like a reverse biblical Tower of Babel scenario. The ‘god’ is brought down by ‘mankind’ (i.e. the superheroes who are ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’) when he seeks to disband them and ruin their already-strained interpersonal relationship. In the end, the ‘god’ is shown to be powerless as the highest tower of humanism and auto-soteriology is built. The message? Well, I’ll let Nick Fury say it from the first Avengers’ film;

“Yes, they [i.e. the Avengers] are dangerous. Our world knows that…every world knows that (now”