I love history and I enjoy looking back at where we’ve come from – be it the 1660s with Samuel Pepys and Charles II or the 1770s with Jane Austin and her clear-eyed look at the sense and sensibilities of those around her. Every time I reencounter humanity, no matter the age, I reencounter an aspect of our larger culture as human beings.
One thing remains the same, no matter the era—we struggle for control. We struggle to understand the natural forces which can so easily destroy us. We also struggle with the God who made us, defining Him by our standards or rejecting Him—to our peril. In these duel struggles, we find some small measure of security. By studying the elemental forces around us, we manage our natural fate. By defining God, we manage our supernatural reality.
Or do we?
Samuel Pepys lived an odd faith life, going to church every Sunday, frequently sleeping through the sermons, but he also made personal vows before God, which enhanced his business success, though he was a rake and a scoundrel when it came to women. Jane Austin does not often refer to a personal relationship with God, but her characters reflect the faith values which held her society together, however fragilely. Both were aware, however grimly, of their limits and their need for introspection.
Today we live in a time where faith in God is frequently treated as a child’s game, a myth to be swept aside by the serious work of “real” lives—lives ironically filled with games and fantasy. It seems that truth must be spoon fed to us through fiction in order to be acceptable. We can tolerate the good and evil of Star Wars, the corruption of Sauron and orcs through The Lord of the Rings but not the convictions of people of faith. Even real-life stories of “good people” is too didactic, since we all know we are a mixed lot with good and evil inside each of us.
Yet, history teaches us, and current world events should remind us, that good and evil can be rather simple and obvious.
I have been enjoying some Christian movies this Christmas season, though not all of them would be classified that way: A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and some modern movies – Do You Believe? Little Boy and Mom’s Night Out. They each speak to the reality of good and evil in the world of human beings. I am looking forward to seeing
God’s Not Dead 2. I am relieved that some people are unafraid to see what is right in front of them. Truth is present in every age, with or without the sermon. Perhaps the reason we have become so intolerant of Christian stories is that we have become intolerant of the truth they tell.