You can’t get to heaven on a pair of skates

In my less holy days, my conclusion might have been, “well, if THINKING them is the same as DOING them, you might as well just DO them; same penalty, after all.”

“…’cause you’ll roll, right past those Pearly Gates.” Old song that popped into my head.

So Chris Honeycutt found my villainous thoughts totally inadequate; I’m unsurprisingly all right with that, and she came up with her own here and here and here. My, she’s thought about this a LOT, it would seem.

But in between, she poses this question: Can you be a good Christian and fantasize about being a villain? In the main, I totally agree with her that “we should want to be Christlike, but in reality, we’re, well… not.
“Story is good, IMHO, for exploring those un-Christlike qualities that we possess. If we don’t face them as a reality, we can become repressed. And while suppression (holding back emotion and thought until an appropriate time and expressing them in appropriate ways) is good, repression (trying to hold back emotion forever until we blow like a tea kettle) is very bad.”

Yes, that’s why I read Tea Party blogs, to understand how the minds of people not like me think.

And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any less-than-ideal thoughts of my own regarding others now and then. It was that I never really identified with a particular archetype or methodology. Moreover, I just find my own failing less reprehensible than sad. What can I say?

I’d long wondered about those quotes attributed to Jesus, that if you think evil thoughts, it’s the same as doing so. For instance, in Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Now in my less holy days, my conclusion might have been, “well, if THINKING them is the same as DOING them, you might as well just DO them; the same penalty, after all.” My approach these days is more nuanced.

In any case, I was watching Easter Sunday’s This Week on ABC News. Jake Tapper interviewed Rick Warren of the huge Saddleback church. He shared the fact that dogs and even cats go to heaven. He managed to sound like a politician when he talked about J-O-B-S. But Warren also complained about how magazines exploit Christmas and Easter with religious covers:

JAKE TAPPER: This week’s “Newsweek” magazine, which has a very provocative cover, has a different perspective on what ails America’s religious communities, under the headline “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus,” Andrew Sullivan argues that American Christianity is in a crisis, it’s too focused on politics and policy, too little on spirituality… So what is your reaction to this line of criticism from people who like faith but don’t like religion?
WARREN: Sure. Well, first place, let me give a little personal gripe. I think it’s disingenuous that magazines like “Newsweek” know that their circulation goes up at Christmas and Easter if they put a spiritual issue on the cover, but it’s always bait-and-switch. They never tell the stories, never tell the stories of what the good — what good the church is doing. Never. It’s always some obscure scholar, who’s debating something that kind of supposedly disproves this or that, or Andrew Sullivan — I don’t consider Andrew Sullivan to be a religious authority, okay?
And so it is — they know they’re going to make money, every time you put Jesus on the cover of a magazine, it skyrockets. You go do the history. “Time” magazine, “Life” magazine, “U.S. News and World Report,” those are always the best issues. So they make money on it, but then it’s a bait and switch, and it’s always a disappointment. And I wish they would have a little bit more integrity than that, and tell the other side of the story, maybe just occasionally.

While his premise may be technically true, it’s not Time’s or Newsweek’s job to promote Christianity. On Easter Sunday in my church, we said, “Christ is risen indeed.” We said that last year and we’ll probably say that next year. The magazines’ job is to find a different spin. I didn’t see the Newsweek article, but I did read Heaven Can’t Wait By Jon Meacham, the cover story in TIME. And I found this interesting:

“Yet we don’t necessarily agree on what heaven is. There is, of course, the familiar image… But there is also the competing view of scholars… What if Christianity is not about enduring this sinful, fallen world in search of a reward of eternal rest? What if the authors of the New Testament were actually talking about a bodily resurrection in which God brings together the heavens and the earth in a wholly new, wholly redeemed creation? As more voices preach a view that’s at odds with the pearly gates (but supported, they note, by Scripture), faithful followers must decide which approach they believe in.

“It’s a distinction with some very worldly implications. If heaven is seen as life’s ultimate reward, then one’s vision of paradise shapes how one lives. It is an essential tenet of Christian faith, of course, to love one’s neighbor. But if you believe the world will be destroyed at the last day while the blessed look down from a disembodied heaven, then you are most likely going to view the things of this world in a different light than someone who believes there will be a bodily resurrection on an earth that is to be, in the words of a great hymn, ‘our eternal home.’ Accepting the latter can mean different priorities, conceivably putting issues like saving the environment up there with saving souls.”

So I hope the “secular” press keeps observing the sacred world with a journalist’s eye, rather than a believer’s.

Not a villainous bone in my body

The real problem is that I think about this far too literally. I might want to have the power of Galactus, but the notion that I could consume whole worlds, and the souls therein is so awful to contemplate.

Hi, Chris-

Recently came across your blog, and I really have been enjoying it, especially your Holy Week post, which was sacrilegious, but funny. I added the blog to my blogroll, which, BTW, was my old blog for five years. (Oh, and to others who might want to be added – please let me know.)

I’ve enjoyed the fact that you’ve been going to other blogs I enjoy, such as Byzantium Shores, even when I disagree with you.

But I am having a bear of a time answering your questions:

Can we do another one?

Well, theoretically, yes.

How about what VILLAIN would you most like to be? Or bad guy, evil spirit, etc. Also, what’s the coolest villain, etc.? (Might not be the same; they’re definitely not for me.)

So the real problem is that I think about this far too literally. I might want to have the power of Galactus, but the notion that I could consume whole worlds, and the souls therein is so awful to contemplate. I believe I thought Goldfinger was COOL when I was a kid, but then later felt that suffocation is a lousy way to die.

The only “villains” I ever was drawn to were either silly and not all that harmful, such as Superman’s foe, Mister Mxyzptlk, or the ones that aren’t really evil (Robin Hood, Zorro), or ones who are conflicted (the Hulk, Batman’s Two-Face).

That said, I always was interested in Loki, Thor’s half-brother, at least from the period I was reading comic books, through 1994; I mention this only because characters evolve and I haven’t kept track of him in almost two decades. I think it’s the family dynamic as much as the villain himself that intrigued me.

The Green Goblin, Spider-Man’s arch-rival, as a villain, didn’t interest me as much as the fact that Norman, and then later Harry Osborn were known to Peter Parker, even if Peter didn’t know the man behind the mask at the time.

So, villainy doesn’t interest me that much, except in context. That’s as good as I can answer this question, I’m afraid.

Hey, maybe YOU can answer this question in YOUR blog, Chris. Or anyone else can, for that matter.

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