Friday, November 22, 2013

Kennedy, Lewis and Alanis Morrisette: What does God look like?

Today is an odd day. The 50th anniversary of John Kennedy's assassination. And the 50th anniversary of author-scholar C.S. Lewis's death. The former speaks to the "all is not right" characteristic of the world, and the unmistakeable moment when that truth pierces through to all watching eyes. Five decades later, we are somehow still looking back, shocked by the private pain of our national emblems, as evidenced by a magazine at the check out line impelling us to read new findings on Jackie O's secret agonies. Why is that?

The latter anniversary is quite the opposite. It reminds me of the capacity to squint ahead, beyond our self-made comforts and contracts. To be brave for something better.

My ten year old fell in love with C.S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles about 3 years ago. I bought her a giant, hardback, complete Narnia compendium and she has pored over it to no end. One day, she may discover his Space Trilogy, and perhaps the Screwtape Letters and heavier prose. When I received an English award in highschool in the 1980s, my teacher Norm Hindley presented me with Lewis' "The Business of Heaven", a daily dose of Lewis' insights for adults. Today, this is more profitable for me than dwelling in the suffering exacted on Mrs. Kennedy, and common to man.

Among the many insights Lewis made so easy to grasp that a 7 year old child could take hold of them was this: God will not fit in a box -- and that is good news for you.

From "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" comes this oft quoted line regarding the great Lion Aslan: "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ... "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

And at the close of the book, when the children are feeling the need we all feel, to have some sort of controllable expectation about their Guardian's schedule and attentions, they are told: “One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down — and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion."

I hearken back to the great, sacred masterpiece "Dogma." Yes, bear with me. In this flick, God occasionally visits earth because he likes to play skee ball, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are rebel angels on a rampage to destroy humankind, laughing all the way. Alan Rickman serves as "the Voice of God", because God's actual voice is too overwhelming. In the final scene, the unlikely appearance of Alanis Morrissette, a.k.a. God, wandering barefoot, wordlessly repairing the violent bloodshed, and the moment when Affleck begs her, in her unbearable goodness, to destroy him, has always rung somehow true to me. 

While the theology of the full story line is questionable, I think it quite accurately blows away the "buddy Christ" image the movie parodies and which can seep into our "drive-through" approach to life.

This Sunday, Jordan will be teaching at Bluewater on the second commandment. It's the one about not making graven images to worship. It ties in with this theme surprisingly well. He's an "Everywhere God" -- not a frozen-eyed, jack-in-the-box head that will pop out if you crank the handle a few times. He has indeterminate power, a goodness that could flatten us with its mere proximity, and a roar that can launch a universe. 

Whatever God looks like, it will be truly surprising. If we had our druthers, he would look like a Hollywood-perfect, American president at the height of his influence. But we are the readers, not the authors of this story. So more likely, he looks like a Middle Eastern bastard child. Or a goodness so good, that evil begs to be put out of its misery.

Is this good news for you? What is your graven image of God? How is it serving you?

11/24/13 "Everywhere God" from Bluewater Mission on Vimeo.