Finding Light in an X-Files World

Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent. Advent, for those not familiar with the Liturgical church year, is a time of waiting for the Christ child to be born. It is a time of darkness before light comes into the world. The world is in gestation, awaiting the birth of a Savior. In the spirit of Advent then, I watched the latest X-Files movie, which came to theaters this last August.

xfilesI am a huge X-Files fan. My children and I watched all of the seasons of X-Files from 1993, when it began, all through 2002, when it ended. It was a not-to-be-missed occurrence on par with our dedication to Star-Trek, Next Generation. The X-File were all the strange phenomena and the resultant investigations that the standard FBI would not investigate for fear of public reprisal. Usually, these investigations entailed matters of UFOs, monsters, and faith. Yes, Christian faith was always an under current of Dana Scully’s investigations. Fox Mulder had  faith, usually reckless faith, and always with one goal in mind, finding his sister alive after her abduction by aliens when she was a young child. He wants to believe, not in a higher power so much, but in the fact that there was phenomena that could not be explained away by rational science. He has faith, but cannot wholly believe because the elusive evidence is always just out of his grasp. He is only left with questions.  Scully used her scientific knowledge as a doctor and surgeon to counter-balance Mulder’s faith. She believes in what she can see and prove by science and she longs for faith. Sometimes this faith she searches for is right there, but it too slips away sometimes. They worked well together during the series’ run, sometimes proving Scully’s suspicions right about the supposed “reality” of a case and sometimes proving Mulder right. The whole idea behind the series was that there was convincing evidence to believe, but there were also times where skepticism played a deserved role and judgment had to be reserved or one simply had to accept something on faith. There were no concrete answers, which some found infuriating, but which Chris Carter, the series creator, played to great affect.

The X-Files, I Want to Believe is a dark, gritty movie that plunges us right in the middle of a new, loving Mulder and Scully, who are now living together, but no longer working together as FBI agents. Mulder is reclusive and obsessed with his newspaper clippings while Scully works as a neurosurgeon in Our Lady of Sorrows hospital nearby. After being called in to consult with the FBI on a murder case, they uncover a nefarious plot that involves transplantation and organ stealing. Sounds boring, but throw in a pedophile priest who has visions about the victims and two new FBI agents who reluctantly consult Mulder and you have a very decent stand-alone story about faith and belief. The whole plot centers, I think, around whether one can believe a sinful man can have visions from God and how much faith the two main characters will have in him and each other in order to do their jobs. We also have the priest director of the hospital that does not have faith in science when it comes to curing the disease of a young boy that Scully is concerned about and wants to perform her own experimental surgery on. It’s the godly vs. the ungodly and who speaks for God question, if anyone can or should. In the penultimate scene, Scully and Mulder discuss what they learned from it:

Fox Mulder: Don’t give up.
[he pauses as he follows Scully to her car]
Fox Mulder: Why would he say such a thing to you?
Dana Scully: I think that was clearly meant for you, Mulder.
Fox Mulder: He didn’t say it to me; he said it to you.
Dana Scully: Umm…
Fox Mulder: If Father Joe were the devil, why would he say the opposite of what the devil might say?
[she doesn’t reply, though clearly attempting to rationalize]
Fox Mulder: Maybe that’s the answer, in a larger answer.
Dana Scully: What do you mean?
Fox Mulder: Don’t give up.
Dana Scully: Please don’t make this any harder than it already is.
Fox Mulder: If you have any doubts,
Fox Mulder: [wrapping his arms around Scully, allowing her to rest her head on his chest] any doubts at all, call off that surgery and then we’ll get out of here… just me and you.
Dana Scully: As far away from the darkness as we can get?
Fox Mulder: [he loosens his embrace enough to look into her eyes] I’m not sure it works that way. I think maybe the darkness finds you and me.
Dana Scully: I know it does.
Fox Mulder: Let it try.

Neither Mulder or Scully have the answers after their ordeal. All they have are what they experienced together and separately; a collective experience if you will. They also seem to be gravitating toward asking better questions as they each mature in their love and their own respective “faiths.”

Ultimately, we are born alone and die alone, but we find our communities here and now. We have love and give love and we communicate to beat back darkness and bring about light. It’s what humans try to do best. Because we don’t have to look too far to find that darkness in a world like ours. We have plenty of evidence for that.  But how far do we have to look to find instances of light? Not only that, what are we willing to do to find that light? Can we believe in the Christmas story? Is Jesus the light? My favorite book in the bible says he is:

What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by,
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness,
the darkness couldn’t put it out (John 1:3-5, The Message).

But can we believe what the bible says? Probably no more certainly than what anyone else who has faith says wisely or sagely or anciently. The bible is merely a long conversation with God by people of faith of different cultures and throughout different eras.  Faith in one’s experiences and faith in what others have said are really all we have to go on, ultimately, because no one can prove anything to anyone else’s satisfaction. It’s not enough to believe certainly, that is. So, I was heartened by this seemingly dark and disturbing movie this Advent Sunday because it pointed toward Light rather than leaving us in Darkness yet again. I have the vestiges of faith in a Higher Being and I do believe in Love and Light. The movie pointed toward redemptive love and that’s what I believe in. The movie ended with still more questions  and did not attempt to answer them for us. And for me that’s the wisest route when it comes to dealing with religion and faith and questions about belief. The “moral?” Take what faith you can where you can find it. Believe your experiences and your heart. Communicate love to each other. And always look toward what Light there is that vanquishes Darkness.

Christmas Blessings on all of you.

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Be a Better World Shopper

An associate pastor where I work pointed me to a site that would be a really good idea for a Christmas present this year. Maybe everyone’s heard of it but me, but in the Midwest, some of us are slow on the bandwagon. It’s Better World Shopper and the book is only $10 per copy. It lists all the companies, products, and services that make this a better world to live in. I’m all for making the world a better place to live in if we can and if it’s at all possible. The problems are choices (aren’t they all?)

One problem, the pastor and I discussed that some shops on the “worst” list are the only ones supporting organic foods in our area and the only ones offering them. Now what do you do? Do you buy the organic foods at a non-better world store or refuse to patronize them and buy commercially horrible items that exploit or pollute? Any thoughts?

Oh, No, She’s Baaaaack!

In the immortal words of Randy Quaid’s character in Independence Day, “Remember me boys? I’m Baaaaaaaack!” Me? Stay away? This persona is the closest I come to actually revealing the “real me” online. I tested other blogs. Started them. Deleted them. Wrung my hands in frustration and found them all wanting. Take me or leave me, this is “me” at my most obnoxious and stubborn. And, I might add, my most true. So with that caveat, let’s tour where I’ve been lately:

I love this rumination about the ethical questions surround ebay and their decision not to “sell” “virtual items” from Warcraft or Second Life on their web site. The discussion eventually moves to a philosophical level.

All the Golden Compass brouhaha has made me want to go out and buy Pullman’s books, although my daughter says they are boring. Still, whenever Christians boycott, I’m there buying, reading, or investigating what scares them so much. It’s a sure sign that something needs to be discovered! Read this delicious review from Mark Morford of SFGate. All the Protestant and Catholic fundies enraged by the movie fail to grasp the point: that if their god needs them to defend “him” (sic) from a movie or a book or any other pop culture phenomenon, what does that say about their god?

Pagans are celebrating Winter Solstice today and Wild Hunt Blog has a good summation of what that means for them.

It looks like Killing the Buddha has a new format. What was once a magazine style page has now transformed into blog format. I think I like it.

Let’s not forget some Christmas fun with my absolute favorite musical Christmas light display:

There are many other places I’ve been and to quote Seuss “Oh, the places I’ll go” but for now, enjoy the season! Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, and Blessings for the Holiday!

Fundamentalism is a Disease of the Mind

The more I interact with fundamentalists, either in church or on the Internet, the more I become convinced it is a disease of the mind. Having been a fundamentalist myself I can honestly say that you aren’t in your right mind when your caught in its throes. As a fundamentalist you close your mind to anything but what a 2000+ year old text says. How can this be normal? It’s like confining all your thought to the works of Archimedes or to Shakespeare (that might not be bad) or to Michelangelo and refusing to accept information past that point. However, it is so thrilling to, all of a sudden, “wake up” and realize you’ve been deluding yourselffor many years. You realize that the fundamentalist church/religion is designed solely to keep those delusions fresh and ever present so that you will quickly fall into line if you have doubts. Hell is an ever present threat. It’s brainwashing, pure and simple. Why? Because of two mental tricks foisted upon the weak of mind and ingrained over time:

1) Never trust your mind or your spirit

2) If it’s not in the bible (Koran, etc.), don’t trust it.

fundiesRight there you are guaranteed to become a spiritual robot, willing to take orders from those who will proceed to tell you what to do and how to interpret the bible. If you never trust yourself and believe that “satan” is trying to lure you away when you read other things, then you have successfully stunted your growth for the rest of your life. Is it any wonder that fundamentalists are stuck in the adolescent stage of life? Is it any wonder they cry and bawl if they don’t get their way? Is it any wonder that when faced with opposition, they cajole, threaten, and when these tactice won’t work, they become violent and hateful? There’s nothing more evil than the false smile and “God bless you” of a fundamentalist who won’t accept reason.

Fundamentalists are usually people who have had rough lives and are looking for unconditional love. Every fundamentalist talks of being “saved” from drugs, alcohol, depression, suicide. Rarely does a fundamentalist come from a happy family. Why? Because happiness does not need the remedy fundamentalism provides: a tightly knit group of like minded people who resist the “outside.” Fundamentalists cannot cope with the world as it is. They must invent an ideal world that shelters them from chaos. In a way it’s admirable that we can divert our attention this way to try to “heal” ourselves, but it is only a tiny, tiny step to full fledged mental health. It’s not a cure but a band-aid. Its effects should be temporary, but some never grow out of the mindset and choose to remain in ignorance. The fundamentalist worldview is basically an ideal. It doesn’t exist in the real world and indeed cannot exist in it.

It’s very, very hard to change the brainwashing of fundamentalism. This is why trying to reason with them doesn’t work. But it can be done through self education. The fundamentalist can change if they allow themselves to realize that their worldview is not real, that the false god they worship does not exist, or that the promises that the church keeps teaching them do not work. One has to pull oneself up by the bootstraps so to speak and realize the damage they’ve done to themselves and to their families. But it takes a huge mental effort and commitment to change. Thank the true Divine that I had a strong enough will to fight it. Others have too. Fortunately, you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are perfectly rational, progressive Christians out there waiting to help heal you.

This Christmas season I want to thank all the fundamentalists out there who posted to my blog. Some of you are loving, generous people and are undogmatic about your religion. But others of you have made me realize that I cannot live in the fundy fantasy-land any longer. I’ve got a renewed spirit to start the New Year without any type of fundamentalist religion in my life. I’m officially detoxing from from the fundy religion. I’ve got a renewed sense of my faith in the Divine that includes all people of goodwill and open hearts and minds and a sense of Godde, who is big enough and merciful enough to forgive all people in Christ as promised. I am no longer going to waste my time perpetuating patriarchy inherent in fundamentalism. I’m not longer wasting my energy worrying about the state of my soul after death. Whatever happens after death happens and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I’m going to spend my time helping to make my corner of the universe better for every creature, animal or human.

Blessings to all of you.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

anniversary

Yesterday, my hubby and I celebrated (quietly) our 26th wedding anniversary! Unfortunately, I had to spend the day taking various stress tests for some “ticker” trouble that I’ve been having since we came back from Maine. Cardiologists suspects blockage. I hope it’s nothing serious. I won’t find out ’til Monday, however. Prayers are greatly appreciated! 🙂

In the meantime, Christmas shopping is under way, but when you are on a limited budget and the possibility of medical bills looms large, people will have to accept what we can afford. Imagine! It’s forcing us to reconsider what gifts mean for a time such as Christmas, when the focus isn’t supposed to be on gift giving between humans at all. The only gift is from the Divine and our acceptance of it…freely, without reciprocation. Now there’s a concept….giving without expecting anything in return.

Recultivating a Lost Hope at Christmas

Star of HopeAdvent has never been a meaningful time for me. I’ve always loved Christmas; music, carols, decorations, the tree, but I’ve never consciously practiced an Advent meditation. I identify more with Jesus’ death that I do with his birth. Birth is about hope and hope is not something I’m used to having.

My early life was fairly hopeless. We learned early on that to expect good is an unreasonable expectation. What is good about constant violence? What is hopeful about living your young life with no end in sight? Where’s the hope in that? I wasn’t even mature enough to know that freedom was years away, but still there nonetheless. Christmas was the one time of year where things lightened up a little. Still, it was not the most joyous of times.

Jesus’ death at the hands of others; now that I can understand. That makes sense to me. Waiting for a baby to be born that will save the world makes no sense. An adult Jesus I can deal with, an infant Jesus is absurd. But I am trying this Advent season to cultivate hope. Because what is a Christian but one who HOPES that what she believes is true and will lead to her salvation? “…therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope” (Acts 2:26).

What can I do this season that will cultivate hope for a Christ-filled future? I can be among people that are hopeful rather than those that cultivate hopelessness. I can refuse to watch politics on TV or listen to talk radio; two prime tools that cultivates hopelessness.   I can develop strong hope with my co-workers at the large church I work for. This is itself an atmosphere of hope that I thank God for. All I have to do is envision the work environments of times past and I thank God for the job I have now. I am working for the hope found in the Christian faith daily. I can find the hope first and foremost in my family and the hopeful lives of my children.  I can hope and wait for the future with the congregation I call home in my small rural town. They are not perfect, but they are all I have to hope with; people of like minds and hearts.  Lastly, I will put my hope in Jesus Christ “…through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom. 5)

Character produces hope. Maybe that’s why there is so little hope in myself and in the world at large.  Suffering leads to endurance and endurance produces character. Character produces hope. Well, I’ve suffered. I’ve endured. But my character leaves much to be desired. Maybe this is why hope is so elusive. We learn nothing from our character and our faith fails us. This Advent season, I am going to ask God for faith and hope and work on my character that both may come about.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8).

Best blessings to you this Advent Season!