I’ve started playing Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny again, this time on PS3. I really recommend it. This is one of the songs in the game, and something struck me about the lyrics:
Spirit of Life, hear my song that I now sing to thee
I sing for you, with my heart and my soul
and my soul
I’m here, waiting for you to answer me!
Open your eyes, feel the air, the earth, and our hearts
Help us to be brave, make us wise, make us strong
Make us strong!
Make us both guardians of this land
Make us both guardians of this land!
This is better praise and worship than most praise and worship.
I mean, when we sing, do we say anything close to this? Do we sing for God with our hearts and our souls? Do we wait for Him to answer us? Do we ask Him to make us brave, wise, and strong? To make us guardians of the world?
It’s funny too, because the first time you meet Odette while she sings this, she says she sings this to help her understand their Guardian Dragon’s thoughts. Her mindset and the song itself has an activity to it that we don’t get in praise and worship. Like praise simply can’t be telling God how wonderful He is, but giving ourselves to His will in song. This song struck me as doing that unintenionally. Giving isn’t only performing, although for some it might be,
…or another rant on why atheism doesn’t work for me.
It’s been a rough day. At times, I suffer from moderate vertigo and nausea upon waking. Usually lying down and time passing lets it cease. However, today I had it after work, and more seriously than I have ever had before. Visiting the walk-in-clinic (and throwing up all over the place) got me a prescription for meds that I thankfully have yet to need, and 6+ hours later, it subsided.
The thing is, this is caused by a virus. It’s not uncommon. You get a virus in your inner ear, and it stays. Every now and then it recurs. Doctors don’t really understand how it works as opposed to the symptoms it causes, and they pretty much can only treat the vertigo. If it gets serious (and mine isn’t) you can adapt via compensation training. But essentially I have this virus in my ear that can choose to flare up, and increasingly incapacitate me for hours in a day. Well, from doing work that is. For some people the symptoms can persist for days or a week.
Linking this to atheism is the fact that for all that belief’s system trust in science and reason, it really never deals with the reality of those things, as opposed to the romantic image of them. A lot of medical conditions are like mine in the sense that science can recognize them, create remedies, but cannot cure or identify causes. Not saying this to diss on the medical profession, but we have a really odd image of it in our mind. We see medical miracles like saving premature babies or transplanting organs, but we don’t often realize how little they know about many other things, or how ill-equipped they are to deal with them. People who suffer from chronic disorders where the symptoms are vague enough to not easily be isolated really understand this, like fibromyalgia. This gives people a romantic view of science and its power to progressively change things where the reality is far more complex.
Let’s take our two nearest planets. Everyone loves what NASA has done with Mars. It’s a stunning achievement in terms of technology and planning. But have you ever wondered why we don’t seem to care about Venus? If you look at the wiki, very little seems to even have been done about it.
It’s mostly because it’s simply too hard to collect data on it because we can’t easily get landers to the surface. Or even stay in orbital distance above it. In the past 20 years there’s been six missions, and most are just orbiters and flybys. For all the talk about human glories in science, the universe tends to throw hard checks at us constantly about the limits of what we can do as human beings. This isn’t to induce fatalism, but instead to point out that the naive science-fiction optimism many of us grew up with was just that. No colonies on Venus, increasingly no manned presence in space due to the absurd cost and lack of real technological innovation possible, etc.
This is why I can’t be an atheist, because there is a huge problem that flows from this.
What if science and reason can’t cure or do anything for you?
A lot of the appeal of atheism is that when everything goes right, it seems awesome. You have all this freedom, elegance, beauty, and appeal in a materialist, rationalist outlook. But when you get a Venus Virus, it literally can offer you nothing and takes away the only consolation you can use to strengthen yourself: God.
Let’s flip it for a moment. If you are atheist, one of the things you really should be thankful for is that Christianity gave you a God to be mad at. Without Him, without Abraham arguing for the salvation for Sodom or Job, you have nothing. You can’t be mad at the world, because a virus doesn’t do what it does morally. I think this is why so many pagan religions that tend to atheism develop philosophies like stoicism or the wheel of rebirth; without a God who cares, you have severely pessimistic and fatalistic ideas about life. Usually when the atheist is prosperous, he is distracted from those ideas, but if he’s not they can crash down on his head like a meteor.
That winds up denying you any consolation. The atheist may say we should face the cold, harsh reality of this world, but nine times out of ten, he says it from a level of prosperity that kings would envy. To say it to someone without that, who carries a burden on his shoulder, is almost cruel. I don’t think I can be an atheist because of that; I’d feel only horror at the way the world is, horror with no relief.
Obergefell has been weighing on me a lot recently.
Not so much the legalization of SSM, but the way it was done. I feel there is a difference. When they legalized no-fault divorce, I don’t think it was done as a repudiation of Christian morality. More as a sense of reality, as an option for bad marriages to be resolved much easier. We still believed in good marriages, but realized sometimes others needed to dissolve them. However Obergefell to me is saying “we want to create a new, post-Christian form of marriage” and that’s something different entirely.
I think this presages changes we will have to deal with. It feels to me like an invisible line has been crossed, one marking two sides. The first side is the nominally Christian philosophy the USA had. Rod Dreher calls it Therapeutic Moralistic Deism, and while it has its own issues, it still took many parts of Christianity and made a culture out of it. The other side though rejects even the weak form of Christianity it used, and now is fully Post-Christian. What that means we aren’t sure yet, but something is forming, something that in time will be hostile to religious faith that refuses to be subjugated.
I think this means Christians will have to change.
I feel that the time for complaining about the church is over. There’s no more time just to talk; if the issues you decry are important enough, you must act to change them. If not, accept them and work on what you must change instead. There is no more luxury of sitting back and tearing down. If we are forced to flee to the church, we have to accept it. We cannot flee to something we judge, and I worry we will soon need to flee to it. I don’t mean literally, but the choice may be where we need to make a life around it, or get swallowed up by the world. Like we can’t weaken it when it needs to be strong, or we cut off the limb of the tree we sit on. When the rain is pouring, no time to point out we need a bigger cabin in the ark.
It’s time to build.
Like culture. There’s going to come a time where Christians have to make their own. It will grow harder and harder to like secular culture the more anti-Christian it gets, and it will get that way. When every cartoon has Korra’s lesbian ending, or every show paints us as evil people, there’s no way we’ll be able to enjoy them. And it will get that way, because when people find their new post-Christian society doesn’t work, they’ll look to indoctrinate harder and scapegoat harder. Who better than us?
So for me, it’s going to be about the building.
- No point in arguing against homeschooling. While we were a part of society, it was an option, and one i believed to be inferior. But we are now not a part of that society, or are heading that way.
- No point talking about Christian culture. We either build it, accept it, or don’t have it.
- No more rants about worship music or little cultural tics Christians have. It’s not the time for that any more.
- Yes, there are bad Christians. No, we are not allowed the luxury to care about them. We have to worry about ourselves now. You cannot let others be the excuse why you do not act. You can worry about others when you are safe, but now, the winds are hinting that soon, we will not be safe at all.
Yeah, this sounds alarmist. But I’m starting to feel very alarmist indeed.
I mean, what happens when we have a few generations of people whose only idea about Christianity is we are homophobic bigots? What happens when liberals decide the next oppressed group is polyamorists, and put the strength of the culture behind that? What comes next?
I don’t know.
I do know that its time to build. Lord give me the strength to.
1. Have a small population of people do an avant-garde thing(AGT).
2. Have that small population catch the eye of people among the larger avant-garde(LAG) set.
3. That behavior becomes, if not trendy, at least known among the LAG. Maybe not everyone is polyamorous, but that witty and charming woman you know through a friend is. The LAG circle is small enough for a lot of people to come into contact with the AGT, and the more adventurous may even try it.
4.One of two things happen:
- The behavior is unsustainable among the LAG. Maybe the AGT person falls out with the social circle, or gets arrested, divorced, sued, etc. Best example is furry culture.
- The behavior endures.
5. Media phase. The LAG people, who are in control of the media, begin to report on this new normal thing with them. Never mind that it’s a relatively small amount of LAG compared to a large amount of normals; they’ll do it all the same.
6. Initial saturation phase. Where we are at now for polyamory. Normal people start trying it. Normal people become aware that this thing exists, and naysayers muster arguments and fight viciously to deny it legitimacy.
7. Maximal saturation phase. Where we are at now for gay marriage. Even if you are opposed to it, it is now a fact of life. There is no more world where it isn’t an issue. Even if the articles are clear about the negative effects of it, there is no going back to make it outlawed or socially sanctioned.
8. God judging us, possibly with fire.
This is simplified, some. I probably should include this step:
5.5. Defanging the behavior. Focusing on the positives and making it safe, downplaying the negatives. The AGT may even evolve to a safer mode of expression over time.
6.5. Make sure the behavior is marketed to win over women. Women tend to be the best consumers and persuaders out there.
For the anime fans, monstergirls are this. That genre has a horrible history, one which I will not go into here. But now it’s been softened a bit, and Daily Life With Monstergirls is a NYT best selling manga. Monstergirls are at point 3 on this list.
In general though, this is how cultural ideas transmit. This is probably the vector we’ll see as polyamorous couples become the new homosexuals. i’ve seen it happen too often. The post-Obergefell world will only intensify this.
Step 8 was done only partly tongue-in-cheek. God has a history of judging the people that are His but choose to reject Him. Increasingly I’m feeling less assured that we can claim that aspect of God is no longer in existence. I think God will be patient with us if we are aware we are broken, but when we call evil good, I’d watch out.
Christianity Today is rapidly becoming horrible that way. Look, I can get finding Christian meaning in the acts of everyday life. But Her.menuetics especially has a bad habit of taking the various cultural tics of being a knowledge-class Christian white woman and trying to plumb them for spiritual depths, to the point of absurdity. Recent articles cover the writer’s love for Amy Poehler, the American Girls toy line, Hypnobirthing (whatever that is), mean people causing bloggers to quit, and Elizabeth Elliot. You find yourself learning more about the neuroticism of the middle-class SAHM than any real spiritual lesson.
I’m going to catch hell for this, but for women to be effective teachers or spiritual leaders, they need to shed the solipism they have. They need to forget themselves and their experiences, and resist the temptation to spiritually justify them. Perhaps that’s a bit too strong. Let me restate.
A woman can teach us through her own experiences; she cannot teach us through her own lifestyle.
The selfie is unintentionally the best example of this. To a point it’s just normal picture-taking. But it’s also become a symbol of the narcissism of young women. To spiritualize this is unintentionally spiritualize that narcissism, and very few people will call them out on that. If it’s done often enough and by enough people, we wind up making a religion of Eve. Or better fitting, Lilith.
No, seriously. Created by Osamu Tezuka, the God of manga. He died though, after a feature film was made, and Osamu Dezaki did the subsequent series. You can find some of the series on Youtube, and it’s full of eighties anime goodness:
I’m not generally a fan of Bible adaptations, because I think there’s a good risk of “adding to the words of this book” whenever you seek to adapt it. I have a huge weakness for that kind of early eighties anime though. It tends to age better than the cheap 90’s throwaway animation most Biblical retellings use. Same with the 60’s Hanna-Barbera style-for all its flaws, it isn’t generic, and generic animation gets forgotten quickly.
When you think about it, it’s kind of cool that big Japanese studios actually were willing to make these kinds of stories.Little historical nuggets of time gone by. You have faith, but combined with some level of quality. There’s some sadness too, in a “finding love in the ruins” sense. These are things that probably will never get made again, and are reminders of a time where it was still possible to make them. I don’t think the climate is the same any more. But at least we have the past.
A long time ago, there was a kingdom called Virdania.
Virdania had its flaws, like other kingdoms.But the people were happy, and on the whole the kingdom was far better than its other neighbors across the seas. They may have failed at doing right at times, but they always tried to do so, and their successes outnumbered their failures.
Unfortunately something curious happened.
Virdania always was a rather loose collection of different tribes and peoples. In one sense, that was its strength. People could look at that country, and say that a place existed for everyone there. But that was also its weakness, as tensions rose to the point where the different factions finally had to openly rebel against the ruling class. The cause was a rather expensive jeweled rose, commissioned by the royal family during a time when bribery and extortion ruled the streets. That rose set off The War of the Flower, which really wasn’t a war at all. It was a quiet series of inter-tribal skirmishes and suppression that lasted for a hundred years, until the royal family was weak enough and the citizens of Virdania tired enough that they had enough. “We don’t want any royal families!” was the cry, and the nation moved to a democratic-style government.
To prevent any further warring, they even went so far as to change the name. No longer Virdania, they were called the Verdant States, and at first there was rejoicing. The people in their hearts however still called themselves Virdanians, and there was still the same debate about what a Virdanian meant. What the moral character of one was, and what the identity of a citizen was. Many people in their hearts understood that they needed the Verdant States, because The War of the Flower was a horrible time, and they couldn’t risk the idea of Virdania being corrupted like that again. But many weren’t all right with it, and in their hearts they wanted the Virdanian flag to fly again. But a curious thing began to happen.
Over time, people began being ashamed of Virdania, in a very specific way.
While people loved Virdania, for some reason they hated hearing about it in song or in poetry.
It was difficult to explain. It was not that they hated the ideal of their nation. Ask them that to their face, and they would deny it intensely. But for some reason, they loved the anthems and pamphlets of the Verdant States more. They were stirring, true, and many skilled artists worked on them. But in them, there was no mention of Virdania at all. Rather than the famous phrase “My treasure, my green jewel, my everlast love,” you had the rather weaker idea “I value you, good nation.” Rather than “I bend the knee and honor Tal,” (Tal being the patron deity of the Virdanians,) you saw “I honor freedom and respect for all men.” Things that Virdanians once did, like Belfast dinners, clasping the Sigil and naming Tal in thanks, or bringing children to the Everglade on their twelfth birthday to be devoted to Virdania seemed to disappear overnight from songs and art.
True, if you squinted really hard you might find a weak allusion or a glancing reflection. Some works might still name Tal, but the Lord of the Greenwood had become a rather wispy thing indeed. But even then you had to admit that the songs were about the Verdant States, and that you were hoping to see Virdania in it rather than acknowledge it was there.
What was worse was that over time, anyone mentioning Verdania was soon seen as second-rate, even by those who claimed to love the ideals of their vanished nation.
True, a lot of bad poets made interminable verse about it. And not all the songs were as good as those composed in its glory days. But people started to believe that even talking about Virdania was the sign of a hack, and preferred the smooth, elegant prose of Verdant artists. That Verdant artists were busy creating an entirely new anthem, and one that was opposed to the old ideals of the country, seemed to escape them. But Verdant soon dominated the songs of the people by skill, by power, and by more, and Virdania became the refuge of minor schools of poets, of random singers, and of the occasional great artist who brought up the past nation to all. But slowly, quickly, any sign of Virdania began to vanish.
And the tragedy was that Virdanians wanted that.
How long do you think the memory of Virdania will last?
One of the things that annoys me these days is how people don’t seem to want any form of Christian culture. That they don’t realize that you cannot have an entirely secular art culture without it affecting how you think or how you believe. One of the common things I say is that for all the talk about finding God in secular works, it’s incredibly rare to find someone just praying outside of Christian fiction. Or going to church. A lot of our values, habits, and culture are simply invisible when you look at the artistic culture of the day, save for a heavily Southernized, redneck form of it, or ritual retellings of the Bible.
I admit we need the secular culture, and the Verdant States isn’t always evil. But because of our own War of the Flower (the Reformation) we wound up becoming a subculture. We had to reduce the power of the state, but what happened is that we didn’t realize that so many Virdanians were only such because the state kept them in check. So the true Virdanians assumed once Virdania, always Virdania, even if the Verdant States had to exist.
It doesn’t, and a culture can dry up pretty fast.
I think this is part of the reason why my desire to find Jesus in anime has dried up recently. I like anime, and for Verdant culture, it’s pretty good. But at some point, you have to raise the standard of Virdania. Secular culture, though good, will never fully satisfy me, because it makes me invisible. I can understand being Verdant out of necessity, but that’s due to our sinfulness. I can’t be Verdant and all its values at heart.
But a lot of people seem to easily be such, recasting what Virdania was into what Verdant is.
Just be careful, okay? Guy Gavriel Kay wrote a book called Tigania, in which there existed a nation. That nation was cursed by a sorcerer, to the point where not only was it forgotten, no one could even say its name. I think in part that was a parable about how government and culture can work to erase the culture of an existing people. Christianity is not too strong to avoid being erased.
Especially if people like the erasing.