I love the show called “Mythbusters.” When ever I’m at a friend’s house that has cable (I refuse to pay 40$ for 40 channels I don’t use) I am inexorably drawn to this show where the hosts test myths to see if they have any basis in fact. Can an eel skin wallet erase your credit cards (busted) Can cola get out blood stains? (confirmed) Does punching a shark in the nose make it back off (plausible). Last week’s show was dedicated to testing the myths of ninjas. Is it possible to catch a sword with your bare hands? Can ninjas walk on water? I am so hoping there will be a show dedicated to the Myths of Chuck Norris next. That (Walker Texas Ranger guy seems to fight six guys at once and seem to just walk into his foot or fist . . . but Chuck if you are reading this, you are the man!)
All of this mythbusting got me thinking about some of the myths that grow up around modern Christianity. Kathleen Parker, the suddenly popular chief coroner of the republican morgue, wrote a series of columns that serve as an election post-mortem. In one column she blames the downfall of republicanism partially on the ” the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP.” I wasn’t sure what the oogedy-boogedy was doing in that sentence, and apparently I wasn’t alone. I could say “much ink spilled” defining “oogedy-boogedy” but this is the blogosphere so what is the analog? Many electrons were pushed? Much ram was expended defining oogedy boogedy. So much that Parker felt the need to elaborate in another column titled “God Isn’t hurting the GOP, His Fan Club Is” Now these two iconoclastic warning shots over the evangelical right’s bow I will deal with in my next post. For now I just want to deal with her conception of “oogedy boogedy” Here’s her clarification: “If Jim and Tammy Faye put you in mind of oogedy-boogedy, you’re getting warm.”
And there it is. The myth that the majority of Christians are crazy or wicked. In the case of Jim and Tammy, we have a bit of both. How many times have you had to disabuse someone of the myth that all Christians a) want your money b) cross between the spanish inquisition and a used car salesman? I can hear the prophet of the AIDS generation, Bono of U2, saying it now. “There a preacher on the ole time gospel hour taking money from the sick and old. Well my God isn’t short of cash mister.”
Recently my office has become the place to discuss religion. I couldn’t be more happy. It seems that some of the non-Christians in our department have started coming in and testing some myths with me and the other two Christians here. Just yesterday, we got into some mythbusting about Hell as a place where the devil rules with a iron cloven hoof while demons take turns torturing people with farm implements. My non-Christian friends were happy to hear that such myths are more a product of Holywood than holy word. The hell as demonic playground has been perpetuated by movies like Hellraiser, Event Horizon, and even Disney’s Blackhole. Nothing could be more mythical. Hell is depicted as a place where Satan wants to be not a place he must be chained and tossed kicking and screaming.
Heaven, on the other hand, is usually mythologized as a place of boredom. Nothing to do but play the harp on a cloud and wear alot of really really white jumpsuits. What’s up with that? What part of “pleasures for ever more” does the secular world not get? What get’s deemphasized is the best part of heaven–an unending, ever creative, unfolding of God and man in relationship. I get to talk to God! How cool is that!
No wonder the secular world sees heaven as boring. Nothing on this earth ever satisfies forever. Not harp playing, not sex, not entertainment–all of these grow very stale at some point. All we can hope for in this life is some kind of cycle or what C.S. Lewis in the voice of Screwtape called “undulation.” from momentary to sustained pleasure broken up by some kind of pain. If that’s all there is for eternity, sign me up for atheism. One big dirt nap.
But that isn’t the case, we don’t believe in the myth of heaven where you get wings and eat Philadelphia brand cream cheese while you get whatever it is that you want. We believe in the reality of an eternal and perfected relationship with the infinite mind that gave us galaxies, Elvis, and chocolate. Because the one thing that doesn’t grow stale is a perfect relationship with a being of infinite goodness, love, and imagination. Let’s recap
Hell as a torture chamber ruled by demons? (busted)
Heaven as a place of boredom and everything white including the food? (busted)
Chuck Norris can whoop six guys at once? (plausible)