Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tomorrowland, Society, and Christians

This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to go on a date to a movie theatre that was closing (it was where we had our first date, so we absolutely had to have one more before it closed. We chose to watch Tomorrowland, which is an excellent film, though a little intense for younger viewers, but I digress.

The main theme of the movie was that it was discovered, in the 40s, when the earth was going to die, well, the probability was discovered. When Earth was warned, the probability began to escalate as society latched onto this idea. (Disney did their history - this correlates with dystopianism and a rise in a fear of science and its capabilities, and general Malthusianism). Spoiler alert, highlight to read: The plot twist and solution to the issue was optimism, refusal to accept the end, and a willingness to act and change it.

My wife and I sat and chatted over this for a while afterwards, talking about the general distrust of science and progressing towards the prevailing "Doom & Gloom" mentality that society has about the future, how the wealthy, with their ability to choose, limit the poor (see the GMO debate), and how there's plenty present today that would help contribute to a more optimistic outlook, from science, to sociology, to religion, should society actually take the time to educate itself.

You see, as far as the dystopian future goes, advances in agriculture and a realistic concept of the amount of space present on the earth actually detract from malthusian arguments. Of course, this means stepping outside of our immediate bubbles and allowing GMOs to continue. Added to that, we have the whole fear of science, which often isn't really a fear of science, but of what science could do in the hands of someone else, but the answer to both is a better persective of the various redundant safety checks and conventions present in may ground-breaking science technologies, think, for exmple, nuclear power - it's safer than ever before, yet we still only ever think of Chernobyl.

The answer for society, though, comes from deeper issues. You see, as I've said before, Western society is becoming increasingly more insular, with the very divisive belief prevailing that

  1. Only you, as the individual, can determine what is right for you
  2. You cannot know what others have determined in themselves to be right
These posits are detrimental to society, breeding fear and retaliation based upon fear into every aspect of  modern society.

So, we see all these ills in society, which feed into the continual dystopic outlook, but where does the church fit in?

The church fits in, truly, in three key areas:
  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Love
We have the belief that truth is universal. We hold to the idea (in theory) of corporate worship, where the body of believers comes together in community, as one, in support of one another. The church is a powerful vector for a revolutionary social philosophy that works for the building of community - one body of believers, united under the headship of Christ.

The church has long held to a twofold hope. The first aspect is that, despite what wrongs may assail us, that God will work all things ultimately for our betterment as a whole. That doesn't mean we will all be rich and well-fed eventually, but that we will have what we need and will be stronger in our faith compared to where we began. The second is the hope of the resurrection, that Christ himself overcame death when he took our punishment and was raised from death three days later. From Christ, we have the hope, based upon faith, that we, too, will take part in the resurrection, being united in fellowship with Christ in heaven.

So far, Faith and Hope have been largely individualised, which is great, for the individual believer, but that doesn't impact society. From just these two alone, we see no effect on the greater perspective of dystopia and ruin that is so prevalent in society today. Ironically, this is where many Christians stop, possibly because it's comfortable, it's easy. Faith and Hope by themselves demand very little of us to step outside of ourselves. Thankfully, we're not quite finished.

Love is difficult. Love is radical. To truly love another is uncomfortable, irrational, and unwise, but that is exactly what society needs. You see, to love the Lord with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength is already uncomfortable - it demands superseding God above oneself. It necessitates the surrender of one's life is every aspect - physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The second half of Christ's summary of the law, though, is what has the capacity to drastically change the way society lives. 

To love one's neighbour as oneself sounds all nice and catchphrase-y, but, truly, it asks more of us than we imagine. How do we love ourselves? We make sure we have not just enough food to nourish us, but enough to satisfy and fortify us. We make sure we have enough not just for our needs, but our wants. We make sure we have shelter, and luxury shelter at that. We have excellent healthcare, well-paying jobs, top-quality education, and the list goes on. These are things we want for ourselves, things we give ourselves, because, frankly, we want them and we love ourselves in these manners. 

Would we want to live in a dirt-floored, scrap-walled shack, with unseasoned rice and beans whenever what little money we get comes in, no healthcare, no profitable job, and little, if any education? 

Of course not, but that is exactly how the majority of this world's population lives. If we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, then shouldn't we do something about this? A man even asked Jesus what he meant by our neighbours, because, you know, we tend to choose pretty well-off individuals to live near, if we can help it. Christ answered the man with the parable of the good samaritan. Our neighbour is our fellow man. What are we doing, then, sitting in our luxury, not looking after those in need? We should be, as verse 37 implies, doing likewise and helping those in need. Even earlier in Luke, in chapter 6, verses 20-38, we see Christ laying down even further how a Christian should be living. Do you see a common thread? Love is selfless. I was reading this passage this morning and verse 30 stood out to me:
"Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back."
I remember seeing beggars outside every shopping center and on almost every street corner. I nearly cried as I read that, recalling how many times I, with money in my pocket, lied and said I had nothing.

True Love is radical. It is self-sacrificial. We see in some of Christ's last words to his disciples what Love truly entails:

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:12-13
Christ considered as friends all who followed him, but the emphasis here is not on friends, but on the laying down of one's life. We see in Romans how Paul  talks about Christ having laid down his life for not just his friends, but his enemies, those who did not believe in him. If Christ loved us enough to lay down his life for us, friend or enemy, we, who are commanded to love as he did, should be doing the same, should we not?

Love is the answer to our issue today. Church, while we have Faith and Hope, if we do not have Love, how could we ever communicate the difference that Christ makes in us? How else could we even begin to combat the dystopianism and fear so prevalent in society today? We have the answer, but why do we not broadcast that? What do we try and assimilate ourselves into the very same culture from which we should stand apart? Has anyone ever changed the path of a river by flowing along with the current? No, we must stand up and live out what Christ commanded. We must come together and Love those around us - the early church had the right idea, pooling their resources and giving to those who were in need. If we want to make a change in the world today, we need to begin to love radically and lavishly. 

Who cares if the world mocks and derides us? We were already told that would be the case from the beginning. We have an opportunity to speak hope into this society, to avert the cycles of fear and fearmongering in society today, we just need to act now, to lean on God, and to Love.