About the Evil Adolf Hitler


I’ve been learning about Hitler. Everyone kept comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, so I decided I wanted to know what Hitler was actually like. I wanted to know the details of his person, especially the things that had no connection to the evils he perpetrated. So I’ve been carting an enormous book to and from work with Hitler’s pic on the front. Such a book tends to start conversations.

Hitler is the epitome of evil. Whenever someone is looking for the most evil example of a human being, she evokes images of the Holocaust and the man who is most responsible.

Funny thing: when you actually study Hitler, you realize he was kind of artsy and adorable. I know he played a major role in the murders of millions, but if you take away everything he did as German Chancellor and Dictator, and only look at his personal life, you end up seeing him really differently. He wanted to be an artist. He loved going to the theater/symphony/museums. He loved his mom and carried a picture of her with him always. He was awkward with the ladies to the extent that people who knew him teased him as being prudish. He didn’t drink or smoke. He loved dogs and teaching them to do tricks. He was a vegetarian. I haven’t gotten far enough in the biography to be sure about this, but I’m pretty sure he only loved one woman in his life and was completely faithful to  her.

I bring this up because I had a fascinating conversation with my boss about human nature. My boss self-identifies as a Christian who believes that everyone is going to go to Heaven. She believes a lot of things that don’t really fit with the Christian Bible, and I’m not sure she realizes how many tenets of the faith she actually disagrees with… if she were aware, I think she might reconsider the label, or maybe she wouldn’t. She attends church and helps out with the youth group. She’s proud of her Christianity.

Somehow, my boss and I started talking about a documentary I recently watched, called Blindspot: Hitler’s Secretary. It’s a great movie. It’s really just interviews with Traudl Junge, who was one of Hitler’s secretaries, and actually dictated his last will and testament. She was in the bunker when he committed suicide, and she was completely lost to history until about 2001, when she told her story. In 2002, she died.

It’s one of the most engaging interviews I’ve ever watched, because she talks about how hard it was for her to discover the atrocities committed by Hitler, who she’d actually liked.

The weird thing about the conversation with my boss was that she was adamant that Hitler had done horrible things to his secretaries. She interrupted me to claim that he’d slept with them. She even implied that he raped them. And when I told her that wasn’t true, and that men actually teased him for being a prude, she said that he may not have slept with them, but he urinated on them. I told her there wasn’t any evidence of that, but she insisted that her husband had been watching some show that had that on it. I said I would believe it when she showed me a reliable source that corroborated her claim, because everything I’d read said that he was actually a very principled man in his personal life. I told her about his mom, his love of art, his dogs…

And she just wouldn’t believe that he could have been kind to his secretaries.

I said something like, “It must be hard to believe that he could be both kind and evil at the same time,” and she said it wasn’t possible.

This was the moment I probably should’ve turned back. After all, she is my boss. But I saw it as an opportunity, and she talks about Christianity to me nearly every week, telling me what she believes… so I figured it was fair game.

I said something about how all people have both evil and kindness in them; I do both kind and evil things.

She responded by saying that I might do evil things, but I’m not evil.

I told her that I am evil. Everyone is evil.

She acted as if it’s very unChristian of me to say such things and how could I say that? And I said that’s the point of Christianity. The fact that we’re evil is the whole point of salvation… our evil is what we need salvation from…

She said something about how if we look at the big picture like that, then sure… we’re all evil.

It’s difficult for a self-proclaimed Christian to argue that humans don’t need salvation from evil, but it’s hard for me to describe how much it worries me that her day-to-day beliefs suggest that a man can’t murder millions and yet love his mom. It worries me that she thinks murder is a different kind of evil that’s beyond the evil within her.

She and I were talking about infidelity a few months ago. I don’t remember how we got into that conversation either, but she was adamant that she could never forgive a man who cheated on his wife, and she was surprised I was willing to forgive.

It’s always eye-opening to me to talk to people who believe evil is a term that can only be applied to men who’ve done worse than they’ve done. My boss has never murdered or cheated on her spouse, so men who cheat and Adolf Hitler can rightfully be labeled as evil. She wasn’t comfortable labeling me as evil because I’m a victim advocate who helps out at my church. She isn’t comfortable labeling herself as evil… Evil is the slayer of a race, who urinates on his underlings, who was so bad he couldn’t possibly have been kind to anyone in his life. Evil isn’t the vegetarian prude, who dreamed of becoming an artist, loved one woman, loved dogs, and loved his mom… She (and so many self-proclaimed Christians) prefer the narrative where evil has nothing in common with us…

Advertisements

Loving Church


Since I was 19 or so, the church has been a hugely important part of my life, so when church isn’t going well, it wrecks me a little bit. It’s probably the equivalent of family not going well for someone else, partly because I’m a single woman living in a city without family, and partly because I’ve known the church’s potential for both good and evil. I’ve lived my life in the church, intimately connected… I’ve served, attended, hosted and led Bible studies, prayed corporately, eaten dinners, and sang together with the church… it’s hard to describe how much my sense of community and security is attached to the church, regardless of which church I attend or who is a part of that community.

My current church is not wrecking me.

With all of the rest of my life in an uproar – moving towards selling my house, taking the LSAT, looking for scholarships for Law School, losing friends, being without roommate Kendra, etc… – the church is an enormous comfort to me.

I’ve been attending Midtown Church for something like two ish (maybe three ish) years. When I landed there, it was after a long stretch of feeling like there might not be a church in the entire city of Tucson that was a good fit.

I’m a firm believer that churches are broken, and no one should expect to find the perfect church, but I’m also a firm believer that there are a few foundational elements that have to be right, and I feel completely blessed to be at a church where those foundational elements are right.

Midtown Church is prepping to merge with another church. Having been through a failed merge previously that sort of thrashed me around in the waves, you’d think I’d be worried, but it’s really nice that I’m not even remotely stirred up over it.

In large part, I’m not worried because I don’t feel like it’s my job to make it work. There’s a wonderful freedom in knowing that there’s someone else whose job it is to make it work, who is well-equipped to make it work. I’ve always struggled with finding the sweet-spot of church involvement, oscillating between over-involvement and under-involvement, but right now, I’m running a nice, sustainable pace.

I think about Mike sometimes (he was my pastor during the previous merge), and I feel a raging sadness at him, because he wasn’t ready, but couldn’t let go of it enough for anyone to help him. I’ve learned from watching my adoptive parents, my cousin, and Mike how difficult it really is to be a pastor. I have a great respect for the position. And as Brandon, Kira, and I were talking about the merge a few months ago, I realized how much peace I feel in entrusting myself to my current pastor.

Strong, humble leadership is a gift of unmeasurable worth

Batman, Superman, Harry Potter, Vampires, and Donald Trump: a Theological Discussion


I read comic books. Regularly. Granted, my leaning in comic taste is towards social commentary and the obscure, so Batman and Superman aren’t my favorites. I’ve read comics about each of them and watched their movies, but neither is really a personal favorite. I should also disclose that I have a bias for the overtly good. The overwhelmingly good. The characters who would never use one of the unforgivable curses, regardless of how much sense it would make to use them. Yes, I am mixing my genres, but with Harry Potter walking to his death, sacrificing himself to save others, I think he probably fits into this discussion as well as anyone does.

I’m pretty proud of myself for, up until now, restraining from commenting on or even sharing the comments of others on, the current political climate. However, I’m going to try to bring together Superman, Batman, Donald Trump, Jesus, and a few others in one ridiculous blog post.

Let’s start with superheroes in general. Superheroes exist because humanity wants there to be superheroes. There is/was/always will be some sort of hole in the human heart that superheroes fill. I believe that heart hole is a fear that humans are the epitome of existence, and there is no one out there greater than we are to rescue us when things get bad. Superheroes replace that fear with hope.

Superman is the original superhero. Of course, that’s debatable – just ask Google. But, for our purposes, we’re going to consider him to be the first superhero. He entered the stage sort of in the midst of WW2 ish. Superman is superior to humanity in ALL ways, yet he lived as a human. He concerned himself with human concerns, and was, for all intents and purposes, Jesus. He was both human and god. He was completely selfless, sacrificing his own wants/needs to save people who didn’t even fully appreciate him. He never wavers in his goodness or tries to make the ends justify the means. Of course, the cannon does include evil superman stories, but those exist because they are distinctly NOT Superman. Sidenote: Superman also has some obvious Moses in him, but I’m going to ignore that for the purposes of this post.

Batman is the embodiment of everything Americans want to be. He’s rich. He’s athletic. He has the coolest of toys. He’s got a sidekick and a butler. He’s single-handedly populated Arkham Asylum with the baddies he’s defeated. It’s okay that Batman is dark and tragic (aka depressing), because he’s ultimately protecting the rest of us. I’ve been told that Batman is superior to Superman, because he is human and vulnerable, and therefore, it’s more badass that he wins fights, because his natural advantage over most baddies is negligible in contrast to Superman’s enormous advantage in most fights.

I’ve always hated Batman.

While I admired Heath Ledger’s performance, among others, in the Batman cannon, I’ve always hated that Batman is the anti-hero. He is what I would probably be if I were a superhero/superheroine; I’d be hurt by someone very early on in my story, and then I’d exact justice in an attempt to keep others from feeling what I’d felt. Batman is indisputably human… except that he’s a vampire. I’m not even going to qualify that statement, but I am going to say that vampires don’t sparkle, and neither does Bruce Wayne. He is a baddie we’ve tried to make into a good guy.

Superman has always appealed to me. I get that it’s frustrating that he can be really struggling in a fight and then muster all of his strength to finally win… but I also think it’s far more realistic that someone who is very much not like me would save me, as opposed to someone very like me saving me. Also, I think it’s telling that Superman’s villain, Lex Luthor, has A LOT in common with Batman. It makes me think that dirt and grime really do amount to dirt and grime, as opposed to the weird morality of dark heroes where dirt and grime actually amount to fairy dust.

Theologically, Superman is Jesus and Batman is Adam.

Jesus was a God Who became man and saved us from sin and ourselves. Adam was a man who learned of good and evil, and was thrust into an eternal battle that he was ill-equipped to wage, but continues to fight nonetheless.

Batman is an attempt to turn a man into a god.

That’s one of the reasons I hate him. He is an attempt to lower the standard to something that’s achievable by human means. Batman is the idea that you or I could wake up one day with enough motivation to make ourselves into gods.

We (American society/Hollwood/whoever) have been creating and watching A LOT of superhero stories in mainstream media lately. Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, The Avengers, Batman v. Superman, Hulk, X-Men, Ant Man, Man of Steel, Iron Man, etc… We have been obsessed with characters who save the world when it’s doomed.

Prior to that, we were obsessed with the apocalyptic tale of waking up one morning to find that the world has turned to Hell and a handbasket overnight without our notice. I took a Horror Lit. and Film class in college that focused on what was scariest to us, and what my instructor pointed out was the wave of films in which we woke up and discovered that the world had broken, completely and possibly irreversibly, while we were sleeping… 28 days later, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead, Contagion, Signs, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend, The Book of ELi, etc…

Prior to that, the U.S. suffered September 11th.

I was in high school when September 11th occurred. I remember watching the news in Mr. Morrill’s English class and seeing a human being jump 100+ floors to his death. That moment shook me to my core. It changed the world to me. It showed me that the world is bad enough that it might be better to die than to live.

September 11th changed all of us.

It broke us, provided a rude awakening, and forced us to consider how the rest of the world sees us. We’ve looked to our future and seen struggle, hatred, and death.

I honestly think Donald Trump is going to become the next U.S. President.

I do.

I didn’t believe it until this week. I’m not sure what happened this week, but I came to the conclusion that Donald Trump is unstoppable.

Not because he’s qualified – he’s not. He’s got about as much XP in navigating U.S. and world government as I have playing football.

He’s not unstoppable because he’s a decent leader who’s going to fix everything – he’s not. I’m pretty sure he’d sell any one of us to the Islamic nations he so disdains… if he believed it would bring him profit.

He’s actually kind of a big buffoon – a spectacle – who seems to succeed regardless of what he says or does. He’s Razzle Dazzle, and, in true Chicago style, he’s getting away with murder.

Donald Trump is an unstoppable force and he’s going to win because we refuse to believe the Savior we need is One Who is completely different from ourselves. He’s going to win because he’s presented himself as the savior we’ve been seeking. Donald Trump is going to win because September 11th made us feel the impotence that’s always been ours (not to mention the recession that amplified our impotence). What more can we desire for our primary representative than a man who has whatever woman he wants, insults whomever he wants, has cool gadgets and a butler, and claims to be the only person on Earth who can make us strong again? What is America if not a land of extreme power and transcendence… just like Donald Trump is a man of extreme power and transcendence? He is a man who not only builds walls, but persuades the neighbors, who he hates, to build his walls for him. He is a man who wields power as if it doesn’t require caution. He is the American savior. He is the vampire we’ve been waiting to climb into our bedrooms at night, the millionaire we’ve hoped would teach us about sex, the dark hero, whose dirt and grime is actually sparkly pixy dust…

Donald Trump is the fiction we’ve been writing to ourselves for decades.

He has taken the stories of our worst, post-September 11th fears, and combined them with the stories of our last hope in combating world destruction. He has written himself as the Dark Knight who is uniquely-qualified to foil those evil, Islamic aliens who wish to kill off all of humanity to rebuild their own society in its place.

…We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!  We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

Isn’t it interesting how America and its holiday somehow transcended all other nations to defeat the evil alien invaders? Even in our stories in which we are united with all of the rest of the world, we unite under the U.S. banner, the banner that believes we are the leaders of the world. Our fiction for as long as I can remember has told the story Donald Trump has claimed as his own. Beware the man who tells you what you want to hear.

I’m not saying you should vote for Hillary. Hillary is NOT invited to this post. The ONLY concern of this post is the frightful prospect that Batman/Edward Cullen/Christian Grey/Donald Trump has bamboozled a nation… he’s not only deceived a “Christian” nation into believing that he’s the “Christian” candidate, but he’s masqueraded as if he, himself is Jesus Christ.

Donald Trump is NOT the Christian candidate. He is NOT a savior.

The Status that Can Never be Updated


Something Lori said to me about six weeks ago has stayed on my mind, because it so reflects the gospel. She was talking about her family, and she said that you can be completely, fiercely angry with family and they can be completely, fiercely angry with you, but your status doesn’t change: you’re still family. And the next time you talk, family doesn’t think less of you.

I’ve struggled for what seems like ages with the fact that my status with family changed to the degree that I was no longer welcome at the holidays. I’ve struggled with where the line is that just cannot be crossed without a status update: ___________ is no longer sisters with Katie James…

I almost have a numbness to people saying they don’t want me as around; it feels like it happens all the time. It’s really only a few times that it’s happened, but sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think about how I must’ve really done something terrible… I must be a terrible person for family not to want me.

It’s actually been the absurd responses of people who don’t know me very well that have most steadied my nerves about it. They say things like, “What did you do? Have you been selling drugs?” or “They must’ve found out about that time you shot a guy and had to get the hell out of Reno.” People saying that to me is so incredibly and unexpectedly helpful, because it reminds me that I’m not an uncommonly bad person. It helps me put it into perspective… I was disowned because I wrote a blog post… or because I wasn’t good at being a Maid of Honor… or because I…

Sticking with people is really difficult and painful. There’s no denying it. I get that it’s really stressful to work out conflict, and it’s much simpler to just find a person to replace me. There are endless masses who are looking for a new spouse/friend/sister/etc… at the very same moment someone has decided it’s time to move on from me.

But I wonder how it would change the world if each of us looked at our lives right now, listed the top ten most important people to us, and determined we would stick by them no matter what…

Mom, Dad, Jennifer, Dave, Lisa, Lori, Steve, Ashly, Matt, Lauren, and Danny.

Okay, so I picked 11 – that’s not the point.

What if we looked at our lives and committed unconditionally to however many people…?

I really struggle sometimes to believe that my status before God is consistent – that He adopted me once and for all – that He looks at me like I’m His daughter every single day and every single moment. I struggle to believe that He sees me as righteous, blameless, and pure. It’s honestly the greatest struggle of faith to trust that Jesus took care of it and I’m okay. There’s nothing more I can do to be cleaner and more perfect before God. My status before Him is secure.

I think it would be easier to believe if my status before my friends/sister/coworkers/etc… wasn’t so subject to change. I’m going to try to be better at letting those closest to me know that their status isn’t subject to change.

Thoughts and Prayers Ring Hollow in the Presence of a Corpse


John Scalzi wrote a blog post in response to Orlando, and his basic thesis was that it’s not enough to offer thoughts and prayers after the fact. He cited Matthew 6:5-6 and Matthew 7:21-23, and even though I’m fairly certain he labels himself as something other than a Christian, I thought his point was right on.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to post on Facebook that your thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and families affected by tragedy, but I do feel a grating on my nerves every time I see one of those posts.

I had my first Victim Services call where I was in the presence of a corpse. It was a man who had gone out in his backyard to garden and whatnot, and instead, he ended up collapsing face-first and dying there in his yard. By the time his wife found him, ants were crawling on him and the blood had settled into his front half and toward the ground.

I stood with the deceased’s brother-in-law while law enforcement checked the body for personal items.

It was a humbling experience.

As I stood there, I prayed. I always pray when I go out on calls, because I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God hears me even though the people around me don’t hear me. So don’t take this the wrong way, but my prayers would have been hollow if I hadn’t also been there. If I hadn’t stopped what I was doing and gone there.

Right? What if I had received the call, decided there wasn’t anything I could do to be of help, and just posted on Facebook, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family of the man who died in his backyard…”?

If I posted that, you’d think I’m a lunatic. You’d probably be like, “Wtf?”

And yet, that’s what we do with tragedy. We (by we, I mean Christians… not all Christians, but a lot of us) are conspicuously uninvolved when it comes to the broken world around us. We offer our thoughts and prayers, and then we go about the business of living.

I’m feeling particularly stirred up about this right at the moment, because it has been non-stop questions and weird comments since I started volunteering with Victim Services.

Why did you decide to do that? I’m so sorry you had to see that.

At first, I was a little overwhelmed with the number of people who wanted to know why… I think they thought they were asking me why I chose Victim Services rather than something else, but it took me a long time to think of it that way. I honestly thought they were asking me a question with a self-evident answer: I decided to do it because it’s good to help people.

That’s honestly the only answer I have. I didn’t exactly choose it over something else. There wasn’t a profound epiphany or a message from God. There was an opportunity to help others. Roommate Kendra had been talking about it, and I thought I was probably capable of doing it, so I decided to do it.

I don’t believe helping people is a choice. I believe it’s an ethical mandate. I believe it’s about saying yes when an opportunity is in front of you, rather than sidestepping it and hoping for something that’s a little less daunting. I don’t think the Good Samaritan just happened to find exactly the opportunity he was looking for; I think he was walking along and came across someone who needed help. Well… I was walking along and my roommate told me about people who need help.

It’s not about Victim Services; it’s about being what we pretend to be. I can write a status update that says, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims in Orlando,” or I can take an extra shift on the crisis unit and I can donate blood.

As far as saying things like, “I’m sorry you had to see that,” or “I’m sorry you experienced that…” I’m sort of at a loss. You’re sorry I had to see… the brokenness of the world, up-close? You’re sorry I had to experience being there for someone who’d experienced great loss? I just…

Volunteering for Victim Services isn’t an unveiling of the world for me. There are calls that haunt me, for sure, but the world is as it always was. People are sinful and they wound each other. People die. Limiting my interaction with tragedy to New York Times articles and status updates doesn’t change the world… it doesn’t help anyone. It honestly doesn’t even help me sleep better or feel safe.

I stood next to a stranger this weekend and talked to him while his brother in law laid in the sun under a tarp. We talked about all of the losses he’d seen in his life. We talked about God, family, history… we talked. And a police officer went through pockets and struggled to get jewelry off of hot, swollen fingers and a swollen wrist. The stranger I was talking to was there because that’s what he could offer his sister, the spouse of the deceased; he could stand outside in the 115 degree heat while she cried inside. I was there because that’s what I could offer them both; I could stand in the heat and talk so that this stranger didn’t have to be alone when law enforcement put the rings, wrist watch, and pocket contents of a beloved corpse into his hands.

I hope and pray that when tragedy strikes me you will offer more than a Facebook post.

The Sanitization of Christ: People Cannot be Good Enough


I’ve really struggled with how to write this post. This is the third post in a series that I expected to have finished writing by now, but I got hung up writing this one.

If you want to look at the other two posts in this series, you can scroll and click and find them yourself, because I’m too lazy to give you a link.

_________________________________________________

The important doctrine to believe here is that no person can be good enough to earn her own salvation. The problem I’m having with this post is that morality does not have a straight-forward, simple function within Christianity. Morality is important in Christianity, even crucial, but it’s also paradoxically unimportant.

It’s confusing, even if the sole influence on your beliefs about morality is the Bible. However, most people are also influenced by strange beliefs that have nothing to do with the Bible. Take, for instance, the scales at the pearly gates. Someone, somewhere, came up with the idea that a person’s morality will be weighed, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, she’ll get admitted into Heaven. Problem: these scales are not at all Biblical.

Another complication with this post is how desperately I want to rely on the Old Testament for my biblical support. I said I wasn’t going to do that, but the Old Testament is morality-heavy. Reading the book of Leviticus is all it really takes for me to realize that I am not capable of living up to the law of God.

So… with those complications/challenges in mind, let us strike out into the land of Things the Bible does actually say:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9

I have to use these two verses as building blocks. I tried not to, because I’d rather have three verses that state my point, rather than building a foundation to my point, but I really don’t see a way not to start here.

First, “the wages of sin is death…” this means that there is a cost of sin, and that cost is death. There is some interesting interchanging going on with the word death, because it could probably mean both physical death and spiritual death. Regardless, we have to start out by understanding that there is a cost that must be paid for every sin.

Second, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” this is pretty explicit; all people sin.

Third, “the free gift of God is eternal life…” Gifts are given, while trophies are earned. Trying to earn a gift is actually kind of offensive. If I give you a book because we’re friends, and you go online, find out how much the book costs, and give me the dollar amount tomorrow, I’m going to be pissed, because you clearly don’t understand the nature of gifts.

*There is more we can dig out of those two verses, and I didn’t want to cut off anything about God and Jesus, but I’m going to move forward.

_________________________________________

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

This is the classic verse that Christians quote to prove this point, and it’s a good one, because it explicitly states that a person’s salvation is not of her own doing.

________________________________________________________________

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

This is also a passage that lots of Christians know and quote. I’m using it because the verse from Ephesians stops short of explaining what/Who the gift is that saves us. This verse addresses that, and I want to spend some time on it.

Unfortunately, John 14:6 is a verse that’s often wielded, like a weapon, against anyone who isn’t a Christian. It’s something people use to say that people who don’t believe in Jesus are going to burn in Hell, and I suppose it’s effective for that, but I want to go back to just a scoash before this verse, because I think Jesus spoke those words as a comfort, rather than a battering ram. Also, I think the chapter break interrupts an important flow.

John, chapter 13 deals with the Last Supper. It’s a gorgeous depth of the final things Jesus tells His disciples. It’s Him washing their feet, telling them to love one another after He’s gone. The chapter comes to a close when Peter asks Jesus where He is going and, in his arrogance, Peter basically says, “I’ll follow you anywhere. I will die for You.” Jesus corrects Peter and says that actually he (Peter) is going to betray Him (Jesus).

Then the chapter ends.

However, in the very next verse, Jesus tells the disciples not to let their hearts be troubled, and I feel like it’s meant to flow. You are going to deny me three times, but don’t get caught up on that. There’s something more important…

I’ve not read this anywhere. I’ve not looked at commentaries, so we are purely in the land of Katie reading a passage and explaining what she thinks it means.

I believe Jesus is trying to show the disciples that their betrayals of Him should not break them. If they will believe in God and believe in Him (Jesus) – trust that He is preparing a place for them in Heaven, then they will be with Him and the Father in Heaven. I believe He is affectionately comforting them that when they betray Him, they need not hang themselves, because their salvation never rested in their own choices and actions. It always rested only in Him. They don’t need a map so that they can follow Him. They don’t need to know where He is going… He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and He has and will take care of all they require.

I think this verse is really a gentle, beautiful verse, because it’s God telling us He will pay the wages of our betrayal of Him.

_____________________________________________________________

The point of the gospel – the point of Christianity – is that no one is good enough. That’s why Jesus came to Earth. That’s why He was tempted, but did not betray His Father. That’s why He died. He paid wages that no one else can pay.

The Sanitization of Christ: God is Better


There are mountaintop moments in every person’s life.

For me, there was one such moment as I stood on a hill in Mongolia at 5:30 a.m. I’d woken up early to have some time away from the 11 people on my team. For a couple of weeks, I’d been in the introvert’s worst nightmare having trained with 100 people in Colorado, sharing a room, eating meals with all 100 of them, never having a moment for myself. After stateside training, there were several days in airports, on buses, in hotels, and in training rooms in Beijing. Then, our numbers lessened for a few days to 50 when we arrived in U.B. (Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capitol). We did a few more days of training there, and finally 12 of us went on to spend the summer in Zuunmod, a town about an hour outside of U.B.

I’d gone for a run through town and impulsively continued to hike across a large field filled with goats, across a road, and to the top of a huge hill with a strange, man-made mound of rocks on top of it, surrounded by the bones of animals sacrificed over the years. I stood there looking out across the open expanse, and the air felt different. That’s what I love the most about international travel. If you pay attention, you can take a place in through your senses the moment you arrive. The air in Zuunmod was unpolluted, crisp, chilled, and, for me, it was pregnant with hope. It was the moment of a lifetime.

And yet, God is better.

As I was thinking about how to write this post, I really struggled, because there’s cliché to saying that God is great or holy or good. Of course Christians believe that about God, right? That’s one of those things that’s a given… except that it’s really not.

Last week, I posted about why Christians believe men are evil. You can get to that post by clicking here.

This week, I’m writing the second post in a series called: The Sanitization of Christ. While the idea that men are evil is sanitized for obvious reasons, it probably seems a bit of a stretch to say that Christians sanitize the idea of God being better than everything. I promise, it isn’t.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Phillipians 3:7-8

“Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”

I took this a little bit out of context, because Paul is writing here primarily about counting his own righteousness as rubbish, but the thing about Christianity is that Christians are to consider everything in their lives as rubbish in contrast to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus…”

This is really difficult, and I struggle with it a lot. I am NOT saying that a person who struggles with this is not a Christian. What I AM saying is that a Christian must try to view the most sublime experiences in her life, the closest people in her life, and the achievement of her most secret ambitions as rubbish next to Christ.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Matthew 10:37

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

This is one of those verses that aches, because it’s about the love of your life, your family, your friends. It’s about people who have meant the world.

And yet, Jesus, Himself said those people can’t be primary. The most out-spoken Christians take an enormous amount of pride in saying that they put their families first. They judge people around them as less, because they detest the idea of a person putting his job or his hobbies first. And yet, Jesus specifically condemns people who put family first. He said that He has to be more to you than people are.

It is a cheap and false Christianity to believe that any person can be more important than Christ is. Christ claims all (every part of the being) of His followers, not the left-overs after family has had what they want.

_____________________________________________________________________

*This last one is a little long, and pulled from context, but it provides some poetic descriptions of God’s greatness. It’s in the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so the people for whom he gives thanks are the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:16 – 23

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

The sheer volume of doctrine in that passage is overwhelming, so I want to draw out the idea that God the Father “put all things under his [Jesus’s] feet.”

Mongolia is a footstool to God’s enormity.

The only man I’ve loved is a footstool.

My favorite book is a footstool.

My family is a footstool.

Camping at the foot of an iceberg in Peru is a footstool.

Matt and Ashly are a footstool.

Everything is a footstool. Everything and everyone is rubbish.

That’s what Christianity says and is.

When I look at what the New Testament says about God’s ranking in my life among the most valuable people, belongings, and experiences, I have to either concede that they are a footstool God created for Himself, and therefore, insignificant next to Him OR I have to say that the Bible didn’t mean what it says and isn’t the infallible word of God – that Christianity isn’t based on something that really happened, but is rather something I can invent for myself. And, if I can invent it for myself, it is fiction.

Mongolia was awesome. It really, really was, but Christ requires that my heart love him more than it loves Mongolia. He requires that my love of people/mountaintops exist in the shadow of my love for Him.

That is why people sanitize Christianity… they want to love mountaintops more than they love Christ, which Christ, Himself, said makes men and women unworthy of Him.

________________________________________________________________

Finally, I want to deal with one crucial implication of believing that God is better than everything.

If God is better than I am, you are, my friends and family are, Mongolia is, books are, money is… If He is greater than everything, then He can rescue me. If He isn’t, then nothing can rescue me.

I am evil (See previous post) and deserve to be punished for my evil. You are evil and deserve to be punished for your evil. Everyone I know is evil and everyone who exists is evil… If that is true, then I cannot save you and you cannot save me. The Dali Lama, President Obama, and the Pope are all evil. They cannot save themselves, and certainly cannot save me.

We need Someone better. That is the basis of Christianity. Christ entered the world because of our evil and our need for Someone better…

Have a lovely Easter and think on Who Jesus was and is.

___________________________________________________________

More Resources:

In an effort to focus on only New Testament passages and only three of them, I’ve left out some of the most poignant pieces of scripture that point to how great God truly is, so I want to quickly refer to them here so that we don’t end up in a place where we feel forced into a doctrine that says God is great, rather than being wooed into it. Here are some passages that woo me every time I think on them.

  1. “In the beginning, God…” Genesis 1 is a great place to see the surpassing greatness of God, as He speaks creation into being.
  2. “In the beginning was the Word…” John 1 is a great place to see how Jesus fits into Genesis 1 and to marvel at the idea of a God Who relinquished deity to rescue his murderers.
  3. “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’” Exodus 33:12-23 is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture, because it makes tangible my ever-present plea: God – please show me Your glory.
  4. “…stop and consider the wondrous works of God…” The last ten chapters of Job (32-42) are so difficult and beautiful. They make my entire point for me, because both Elihu and God answer Job’s tragedy by pointing to the greatness of God in comparison to all else.

There are other passages. The Book of Psalms, for instance, is a great place to go to see the greatness of God. The whole Bible proclaims the greatness of God, although it’s more explicit at some times than it is at others.

And lastly, a book that changed my life and revealed God’s greatness to me is called Knowledge of the Holy. It’s by A.W. Tozer.