The best Lent ever

I kept telling the pastors each week during Lent that it was the best desert season I’ve ever encountered! I have actively observed the traditional fast for a few years and this one moved me the most. It was amazing. Without going into specifics, my Lenten disciplines generally involved sacrificing various things—not so much adding more into my life. And it benefited me greatly. I was really freed up to relate to my friends and loved ones better mainly I eliminated a lot of the stuff that was blocking my path to them.

We often want to avoid each other because we are afraid of a conflict, or we don’t to relate to God because we are worried that we might lose our faith. There are lots of things that can block how we interact with God and each other. A lot of things can be that third corner in our emotional triangle. Cigarettes, alcohol, overeating, desserts (someone just told me “stressed” is “desserts” spell backward). Those are the obvious ones, but still there are others: community can be a way to avoid God, so can our school work, our jobs, other relationships, even our exercise routine. We use those mechanisms to avoid the conflict that we have in our relationships, but those of us that can go through the anxiety that we might experience outside of our triangles live better and relate better.

Go ahead and eliminate that thing that’s enabling you and see what happens. When I did, here’s what I learned.

1)    Fasting hurts the most for the first week. The habits that I had sacrificed during this season hurt the most for the first week or so. I craved my coping mechanisms. I craved the avoidance they provided. I didn’t want to address the real things that might would actually improve the relationships that were causing me the most trouble. The only way out is through, and so when I came to close to the things causing my stress, my instinct was to regress and just say I could not do it. The suffering that one endures might feel like too much, but going through the first week or so will help—be reassured.

2)    Indulging at a fast’s conclusion might not make sense. When all is said and done and the period of fasting over, we might lose all of the lessons we learned and just go back to our old ways. I remember several Lents in a row just going back to cigarettes after ditching them for forty days! I was so amped and ready to go too! One year, I bought pack at 5 a.m. on my way to the sunrise vigil. Going big on Fat Tuesday or big on Easter might defeat the purpose of the fast. It might be helpful to get rid of one thing that you can enjoy on Easter morning that won’t cause you any spiritual regression.

3)    It’s OK if you suffer less and just feel better. I had a crisis in the middle of Lent. I was feeling great and renewed and energized. I was supposed to be suffering with Jesus in the desert, and it felt more like I found an oasis. At the conclusion of the journey, the good habits I formed were too helpful for me to just undue. I didn’t crave them in the same way. My life was so much better, I couldn’t go back to Egypt, so to speak.

Lent is a good excuse to fast. But just because it’s Eastertide doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to enjoy the benefits of making a healthy sacrifice today. Try and make a list of the things or people you might be creating triangles and see what God compels you to do. What does it look like to get rid of something that’s helping you cope with the stress in your life? It might seem painful at first, but by the end of the cycle, you might feel even better.

Three limitations to how we see the Resurrection

Easter Sunday is our independence day, as Christians. 2000 years ago when the first Easter happened, Jesus gave us all the opportunity to celebrate Easter every day of our lives. We are living out of the power of his resurrection. We embrace it every day, and we long for complete resurrection in an age to come. Eternity starts now and it’s coming.  We live in the hope of Christ’s resurrection, just as we were singing Charles Wesley’s classic hymn last night, published in 1739.

We are all singing “Alleluia!” yesterday, celebrating our Risen Savior and the hope he gives us to BE RISEN! In fact, we’re entering a whole new season where we are celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus while we await the coming of the Holy Spirit (on another Christian Holiday: Pentecost—that’s our birthday!).

A few ways you can get into this season.

Change your profile picture to this image on social media for the 50 day celebration. The flame is for the Holy Spirit and the phrase Be Risen is what we want to declare. Use the hashtag #BeRisen to keep it going; or wear a pin (pick it up at one of our PMs)! Just like Wesley writes and we sing—“All creation wakes to say.” The heavens sing it and the earth replies. We’re doing that!

According to Wesley, it’s not just enough to declare that He is Risen, we might want to know a little more about it. Wesley explains that that Jesus died for us and we’re all saved. The glorious king lives again—he sarcastically asks death where its sting is, where is your victory, O grave?

He uses an image of military conflict to describe how Jesus has defeated death. “Love’s redeeming work is done.” Jesus fought death and won. Death in vain tried to keep him dead, and now Jesus has opened up paradise for us, both as a place to live now and a place to live forever. That’s the point of the resurrection—it shows Jesus’ hope for humanity, that the Kingdom can be brought here, on this earth. That despite our flaws, despite the evil that lurks around us, God’s rule is still stronger. Jesus conquered death! And so can we! Today, right now.

When follow Jesus—our exalted head, we are made like Him. We resurrect too! All of the work he’s done—through the cross, through conquering the grave, and His ascension into the skies is ours! We are following Jesus’ lead and resurrecting.

But even through that truth, it isn’t so easy to see God today.

We might wonder where he is, like Mary does in John 20.

It’s so easy to not know where Jesus is in our lives. We might easily feel the anxiety that Mary feels. Through the darkest seasons of our lives, Jesus might feel dead, as dead as he was on Good Friday. How do we get through that? How do we break through that pain of where to find Jesus?

One suggestion: feel your pain, suffer the loss, and wait on God to show up in a new way. It might not be easy. Actually feel your anxiety of not knowing by suffering a loss. The only way out is through.

We might spread of anxiety to our friends and they might begin to share the fear. They might not understand. So often our reaction to Jesus being resurrected isn’t emotional, it’s cerebral. They aren’t worried that they can’t find—they don’t believe or understand that he could be Risen. How do we let go of our obsession with understanding?

Find comfort in the unknown. Let God’s mystery work through you. Control less. Isn’t understanding just about cerebral control? What else are we holding on to? What are we stuck on? How stubborn are we being?

But more than just emotional or logical, we may have a different problem—like Mary seems to have here.

We may know where Jesus is, and understanding (or not, and we’re at peace with it), but we may not want to change. We may be holding on to who Jesus is for us and not letting him to change us again. How does the resurrection apply to us in a new season and in a new life? What are we holding on? Why does Jesus need to move in the same way he always did for us?

Let go of your expectations for God by praying and relating. Become OK with feeling disappointed with God. Try something new this season; something that you wouldn’t normally let yourself try. Listen to someone else’s story and see if it moves you.

Know that all of the doubt, worry, and stuckness that you might feel today and this season is OK. Just because you’re shouting “Be Risen!” doesn’t mean that you always feel that way, but see if you can fake it before you make it. God is alive and moving in you. And if you aren’t there yet, that’s OK. You are still made like Him. You are still made to rise. Yours is still the cross, the grave, and the sky.

Why I’ll use social media for Jesus, and why I won’t.

You know, every now and then I am reminded at how amazing the community I am a part of is. It’s probably not best to brag all the time, but I’m really left no choice sometimes. We have four congregations, 55 cells, eighteen compassion teams, a leadership team of nearly over 30 people, and 14 design teams (we also have church planting teams, mission teams, and capacity teams to boot)! Our leadership team communicates extensively and meets for three hours monthly. Our cell leaders lead a meeting each week, and attend a training and their Coordinating Group meeting (think: a cell for cell leaders) once a month. Our compassion teams have no rubric and are driven by their passion, and without a ton of money (you can help change that here). And our Design Teams lead every third or fourth week, practicing for the entire day, and planning well in advance. When I look at the scape of leaders we have, I truly am endlessly encouraged and humbled.

The Design Team leaders have been impressing me a lot lately. Andrew is a multi-talented law student, who leads a cell and a design team (someone just told me, “I love it when Andrew leads worship.”) Nate probably never thought he’d lead his friends to worship in public, but he goes against all the odds and does it with a high level of seriousness, talent, and not to mention great taste. And Justin ties it all together—he leads a team and he’s also our public meeting coordinator; he is dutiful, and diligent. A loyal follower of Jesus he is.

They were particularly ambitious a few weeks ago. After their long meetings, the Design Team leaders met over some green tea at a friend’s house to discuss the direction God is moving. We started at about 9 p.m. on a Sunday night! We were evaluating our previous season (we actually evaluate each public meeting over Email each Monday morning) and thinking about what God had in store for the next one. It was a special meeting since we were finishing up Lent and moving into the season of Eastertide.

Eastertide gets me really jazzed, so I was excited to do something with it. Last year, we wrote fifty stories that were about 50 words each. You can see it all here. For the 50 days that pass Easter this year, I wanted to celebrate in a wide way. I wanted to celebrate the resurrection. I want to declare to the world that He is Risen, indeed! Just like Charles Wesley writes: “All creation wakes to say…!” I’m ready. Here are two ways I thought of doing it.

be risen button1) Post to your social media websites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) signs of the Resurrection and tag it with #BeRisen too. Lots of my friends and potential friends use these, so I’d like to be intentional. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone could search for that tag and see all of the great stuff you’re doing? It might not be terribly impactful, but it’ll be fun, right?

2) Our communications assistant Luke and I are working on an image that we can make stickers, pins, and profile pictures out of. I’d like us to wear them or paste them around town or even to mark our icons with them. They might be a good conversation starter too.

Our diligent leaders thought a little bit harder about this idea than I did. We got into a good discussion. They have good aesthetic and can sniff out artificiality pretty well. The last thing they want us is to fall into the traps of corporate America. To be wasteful. To be commoditized. Or even just to be lame. In fact, a lot of churches do similar things and then just end up being known for stupid campaigns, instead of Jesus.

Our generation is so overly-marketed to, we are weary from all the images and messages that we are supposed to consume. So an incarnational church, one where the Gospel is spread through relationships? That’s real and genuine. The community is missional, and for us, that seems good enough.

Why should we encourage people to use their computers more? Why does your Facebook profile picture matter? Who wears pins anyway?

1920546_811371663052_6100238205572651906_nI think they’re right. But I wanted to give something new a shot. I like the experiment. What if we are the exception to the rule? Is there even a rule? I want to just try to do something and see what happens. Unfortunately, despite how amazing we are (as I’ve mentioned above), our actions are sometimes a little less influential then we wish. In words, one little idea is usually just that.

I don’t want to be devalued because we’re doing something new—people so easily get cut down and criticized. But I don’t want my anxiety to lead me—whether it leads me to be impulsive or reticent. But I do want my actions, all of them, to help people meet Jesus. Circle of Hope is a well-kept secret; and more and more so is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So why not try? Take a picture of something beautiful and mark it with #BeRisen. Remind your friends and followers that Jesus is changing the world again. Wear a pin, or alter your carefully manicured profile picture, and have someone ask you a question. It’s a mark that you’re a part of the tribe, a part of the family. Who knows? Maybe someone will want to do it with you.

It might be amazing, but it’ll probably just be an experiment. It might work, and it might not. If it does, let’s keep going for it. If it doesn’t, or appears damaging, we can stop. I’m OK with that level of uncertainty. And I’m thankful I’m surrounded by some amazing people to help me discern it all.

Ron Woodroof changed in all the right ways

So my infatuation with Matthew McConaughey continued as I observed him in an astonishing performance in Dallas Buyers Club. He and Jared Leto were so brilliant, I was so easily and readily drawn into Jean-Marc Vallée’s drama. They both won Academy Wards for their performances, and even though McConaughey’s Oscar speech was nonsense, he still won me over.

The film takes place in Dallas, Texas and chronicles Ron Woodroof, a gambling, hard-partying, rodeo-addicted electrician. Ron’s drug use and multiple sex partners have led him down the dark road of HIV, all the way to full-blown AIDS. Ron’s disbelief of the condition only lasts for a moment. He eventually starts swilling whiskey and tons of FDA-approved AZT. AZT is toxic and its dosage was extreme, hurting patience more than helping them. Ron travels to Mexico to find more of the drug, and ends up with its alternatives. He meets a compassion doctor with whom he does business. Ron’s wages a war against the FDA and big pharma, which leads him down many paths and it is a delight to watch the character transform, even as his body struggles through the horrific virus that has held it captive.

It’s always nice when the whole thing is based on a true story because it really helps us realize that all of the lessons Ron learned and Vallée dramatized are real and actually happened to a human being.

One of Ron’s main virtues is that he knows when to change and when not to. He knows when to drop his anchor, and his knows when to lift it. The first thing he needs to change is his substance abuse. The doctor he’s befriended in Mexico tells him the hard drugs he is doing are worsening his condition and he needs to get off of them. He cleans up, and he brings that level of tenacity to his friends.

Rayon, a transsexual person that had contracted AIDS as well, is addicted to drugs. Ron holds her accountable until her untimely death (he storms through the hospital claiming everyone in the joint are murderers when he can’t contain his emotions). Ron is learning how to love, but he doesn’t lose his commitment to the truth through it. Ultimately, Ron’s hostility toward Rayon lessens, as does his homophobia in general.

In one scene, in a grocery store, Ron makes one of his drinking buddies (all of whom have abandoned him due to the stigma attached to HIV) shake Rayon’s hand while putting him in a headlock. Ron’s still impolite, out of touch with his feelings, and harsh. But his compassion increases, that’s for sure.

He uses all of the toughness he’s acquired as an electrician and as a rodeo man to fight the FDA and the corporations that support the government agency. He doesn’t lose his edge, but he uses it for good, to help others. He’s transforms, he uses the good in him and changes the bad.  Even the toxic AZT he advocates against is still used today to help people with HIV/AIDS–it’s not all bad. What is?

Ron’s ambitious when he begins the buyers club, which sells memberships in exchange for the non-toxic and effective protein Peptide T. He eventually focuses less on the money ($400 a month), and more on the good work he is doing.

It’s amazing what a tragedy will do to us even when we open ourselves up to it. Ron denied he had HIV and couldn’t believe he have a disease that was so readily associated with all the people to whom he held a prejudice. But he finally opened himself to it, and that changed him. Embracing our suffering is a game changer.

Ron’s attitude toward people different than him, toward his values, and toward his friends changes as a result of the disease that is debilitating him. He lives for seven years longer than the thirty days his doctor told him he had left. But he doesn’t lose everything, he still uses his gruffness, his shrewdness, and his strong will to do the right thing. And I salute him for that.

In some ways, that’s exactly the transformation that Jesus wants us to have. We do become new creations, but more than anything, we are restored to our original forms.  We still have lots of good stuff and the grace of Jesus completes us. Ron wasn’t all bad, even at his worst, and he uses his good stuff to change the world, truly. He knew when to change, and when not to.

What is God calling you to change? When do you need to lift your anchor? When do you need to drop it?

Are you looking for a false revolution this Easter, too?

In John 12, the people of Jerusalem are excited that Jesus is coming to meet them. They are excited that their liberator is coming to save them from oppression. And they really think the Kingdom that he is bringing, as they term him the king of Israel, is going to conquer the Roman Empire that oppresses them. They are in occupied territory, and Jesus is going to oust the occupiers.

They are looking for a political revolution and as far as they think this is it. In fact, for generations, they’ve been looking for another Exodus. And that story is what’s given them and their children the pulse to survive even the darkest periods of occupation.

What they don’t realize is two things. Jesus is coming to save them—but he’s coming to save the whole world. And the way that he is going to do that is the most backward way they could imagine. Surely, they don’t think that their King is going to save them by dying. I’m not sure anyone would believe that.

The way Jesus saves us is often different than the way we were expecting. It’s so easy to try and go the easy way. And I’m not saying that overthrowing the Roman Empire is easy, but the cycle of violence and counter-violence that Palestine and Israel are currently gridlocked in is still an easier choice than finding a third way.

Jesus is doing that very thing here. He knows he’s walking into a deathtrap, but his disciples and the people that are praising his name don’t realize it. If you read the entire book of John, you’ll know that Jesus is working toward death the whole time. He is slowly revealing who He really is, and the Roman officials and Jewish leaders around him are becoming for cognizant of who He is. In just the previous chapter when he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus knows the nail is in the coffin, so to speak. He’s done the impossible: raise a man from the dead and it is at that moment that the plot to kill Him begins.

His disciples might be aware of what’s happening theoretically, but they aren’t really grasping it yet. Truly, how often do we grasp the call that Jesus has for us before we just start inventing it on our own? Americans have specialized in this, I think. So often being a Christian is such a minor life change—we can basically do everything we did before, except now we have the hope and encouragement of Jesus and the fun of a new social circle.

Our thinking doesn’t venture far off from thinking of the oppressed people here. We actually think that the result of following Jesus is a government that makes sense and a world without oppression. I’m ready to work toward that with you, but for many of us, we won’t see an end to evil by the end of our life—but  life in Christ offered us the hope, the perseverance, and the energy to live through our  oppression.

Jesus’ revolution is so significant, it’s unrecognizable. He’s doing exactly what was predicted and the people around Him, who are actually hoping he might fulfill a prophecy and his disciples whom he warns about this very moment, still don’t get it. Instead of a grand military entrance, Jesus rides in on a colt. His disciples don’t get it. But his reputation precedes him to such a large degree that a large crowd gathers around him.

The people that are plotting to kill him are dumbfounded of course because his entrance was more climactic than they thought—the signs he’s been showing in Gospel of John so far are so compelling and so outstanding, that the movement is already beginning.

Jesus isn’t just trying to build a movement, mainly because he knows another political organization, however “spiritual” and noble it is, isn’t going to be the answer. He’s doing much more than that. Jesus unpacks his actions a little more and leads us to our own lives as we continue to change the world.

Jesus calls his death glorification. He is inverting the meaning. He’s changing how royalty is seen and with that statement he changes the whole world. It’s not necessarily a novel idea in literature and otherwise, to die for a cause, but Jesus signs his own death sentence. He’s dying so that kernel of wheat that he is can multiply and a real revolution can start. Jesus’ death are the reason we are doing this today.

All of his lessons about self-sacrifice and no longer serving ourselves come to fruit in this moment. Jesus is telling his disciples not to hold on to their lives, their possessions, they hopes and dreams too tightly. We might need to change in a more radical way then we expect to when we follow Jesus. If you love your life, you’ll lose it. But if you hate how the world lives and you don’t want to live like it, well then, your place is secure forever.

Jesus is paving the path for Christians everywhere. And he’s not saying it’ll be easy. In this account, he says his soul is troubled—but he is doing it for His father’s glory. He and the Father are one.

Jesus is dying to show us to die to all of things that we treasure in this world, and begin a new way of understanding. It puts our suffering all in a new context, of course. We’re suffering with Jesus. We’re suffering with the ultimate Sufferer, whose suffering saved the whole world.

The way Jesus is going to save the world through death is resurrection. He’s going to do battle with the prince of death and through his resurrection, he’s going to defeat death once and for all.

It’s easy to respond to this action by living free and living excessively. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant. The question that needs to be answered is why didn’t he just have a regular political revolution if he was just looking to make us all prosper? Because that isn’t true freedom, of course.

An addiction to material possessions, to earthly love and companionship, to all of these things that will invariably disappoint us not only leads to a life that isn’t very well differentiated, but a life that will eventually torment us. Paul channels this as he is learning how close he came to Jesus when he spent time in prison. He says,

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

When we die to ourselves and to all of the things we’ve been talking about this Lenten season. When we die to death, we don’t live forever. On the contrary, we simply are free to die without fear, without remorse, without worry. The path before us has been set. It isn’t about living forever that’s the appeal of our faith, it’s about being free from death. Like Paul tells the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Live for Jesus, die with Him.

So as we venture on this Holy Week, let’s dare to feel the pain that Jesus is feeling here as he walks toward his death. The death that frees us all.

Walk with us this week. Be a part of our Holy Week as you are able. It’s a serious time and it’s worth prioritizing. There are many things that make it inconvenient and many ways that it’ll be easy to overlook. But don’t just go about your routine. Let Jesus disrupt you, as he was disrupted on your behalf.

Let go of your pride. Let go of your legalism. But also let go of all the ways that you feel entitled to feel earthly completeness as if that’s going to happen. Embrace the suffering that Jesus has around you. Don’t just cope with it, actually feel it and know it—remember you are a human being, just like Jesus, and you’ll feel some pain along the way. But don’t be afraid to attach. Don’t be afraid to connect. Make a relationship. Make a commitment. It won’t work out. That’s OK. Be real. Be vulnerable. Be open. Be honest.

Following Jesus is almost assuredly going to get you to experience the difficulty of being human. Let Jesus do the unexpected in your life. Let Him move. Don’t write out the story for Him. Let Him write your story.

I love Jesse and Céline, but here’s where they could improve

I used really be into indie films in college. Richard Linklater was a hero of mine. I remember sitting at Temple Towers on Weegie’s bed watching the Before Sunrise and Sunset movies and swooning over Julie Delpy and enamored with Ethan Hawke as they had a beautifully romantic, random interaction. Though they are dialogue-heavy, Hawke and Delpy do such a great job, it’s hard not to be mesmerized. I loved them.

The first of the movies, Before Sunset, surrounds a random meeting of Jesse and Céline on a train, and the subsequent 24 hours they spend together. At the end of the passionate day, they agree to meet again in six months. Jesse shows us, and Céline doesn’t—that’s the start of Before Sunset. Céline’s grandmother dies and she misses the appointment; meanwhile Jesse (who is unhappily married) has written a novel chronicling their first encounter. They meet in Paris and enjoy an afternoon before Jesse catches a flight.

I was really excited to finish the accidental trilogy when Before Midnight came out. It takes place in Greece with a married Jesse and Céline and their twin daughters. Jesse’s son, the one he had with his ex-wife who now hates him, who was visiting for the summer, is now leaving. This causing Jesse to have interior conflict about living in Paris with career-minded Céline (she’s actually supposed to be the leftist) and not being with his son during his most formative years.

The romance and idealism of the first two were a little missing in this film, but I was still charmed. There is still rich dialogue (and this time more characters), but still that faithful dialogue between two lovers that is fun and engaging. This time, the conversation’s end up being more practical—but still sex-obsessed. The movies climaxes with a major conflict that’s been brewing for months, apparently. Jesse desires to be in Chicago (or as he puts it, he just wants to talk about the possibility), meanwhile Céline wants to pursue her “dream job” in Paris (it wasn’t her dream job earlier in the flick).

They question their love for each other and have a genuinely heated argument that feels real and genuine, and familiar to many of us. I liked that they got together and started living a life. I loved the European landscape they were vacationing in, and I enjoyed how they made up. They eventually decide that their relationship is good even if it’s not as romantic as it once was (sex gets interrupted by a phone call that Céline jumps up to get right in the middle of the action).

The doubt that’s in their relationship though might have been cured by a few things.

1)    Faith. Céline calls Jesse a “closeted Christian.” Perhaps a little faith in Jesus would have done them good. They are so often left to pursue their lives without much motivation beyond their children (who seem like a burden most of the time) and their careers which are stressful (mainly because they are so different—an environmental lobbyist and a writer). I suppose any marriage is doomed if it’s all about kids and your job. Jesus and community give it more.

2)    Marriage. This might seem small, but they aren’t married. They live together, act committed, and are virtually married. But they haven’t made that commitment in front of their family, faith community, friends, and God. That little action of seriousness changes how we relate and bonds us a little closer. There is some insecurity in their relationship that might have been cured by more of an overt commitment. Sure, plenty of people get divorced that are married, but I think they could’ve used the promise.

3)    Reality. I don’t know how they got back together or what their experiences were like, but a relationship that’s built on idealism and infatuation is tough to maintain. It only starts getting real when we start having the conflict. In some ways, the Before series is unrealistic in its infatuation (who would actually get off of a train with someone random?), but even in its conflict. The level of intensity exhibited here is possible, but the writing usually isn’t this good, if you know what I mean. It’s a little unbelievable.

The cost of all of this is minimal, so long as we don’t take the films too seriously and enjoy them for what they are. But if you expect your relationship to look like Céline and Jesse’s, you may be missing something.

I couldn’t keep watching Cosmos

My buddy told me I had to watch Cosmos, the new science TV series that’s a follow up to Carl Sagan’s 1980 TV series of the same name. I recently watched the pilot episode and I knew I couldn’t enjoy it any longer. I prefer the softness and the joy of Planet Earth.

I really like some of the ideas, some of the imagery, and I love learning—so I was looking forward to the TV series. I didn’t think it would be perfect, but I didn’t expect it to be so godless! Of course, I didn’t expect it to be evangelical or something, but it was so passively hostile toward faith at all, I could barely stomach it. Apparently Neil deGrasse Tyson is a hardcore atheist (I actually didn’t know who he was or that he was so religiously atheistic until my friend told me), but I could tell how aggressively he disdained those with faith. This quotation was unfortunately confirming of my suspicion: “God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on…”

The pilot episode features a basic summary of the history of the universe both in terms of space and time. In the middle of the show, Tyson makes Giordano Bruno a martyr to science. While acknowledging he is a man of faith, it seems to me like he was highlighting a dark age in the church’s history in order to elevate his point that those who rely on faith for any sort of explanation are weaker than the rest of us. I suppose to Tyson, God is dead. But I think Nietzsche was wrong, and I prefer Kiekegaard’s existential leap of faith.

Tyson makes the point that the only way to go on his odyssey is to agree with the premise that the scientific method is the perfect way to find truth, and that we need to question everything in order to find the real truth. I like asking questions, but I don’t think he would take so kindly of me questioning his method to begin with. If we keep using the same method to get test the truth, we might be questioning the wrong things.

The material he is trying to wrestle with is too humungous for human understanding. To envision the infiniteness of the universe and then to suppose that a multiverse exists proves this, right? Space is too hard to understand, but time is even a greater mystery. He tries to explain the history of the universe by representing it in a calendar year (what Carl Sagan calls a cosmic calendar)—the part that rubbed me the wrong way, of course, is when he lists Jesus being born five seconds ago while listing other religious figures (Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.), and he arrogantly praises the advent of science as occurring .5 seconds ago and explaining everything we’ve just viewed.

I suppose I could’ve tolerate Tyson’s smug arrogance and absolute certainty if he didn’t take shots at people who think differently than him seemingly every other second. If he just didn’t overly praise his method, while also devaluing mine, I might have been able to enjoy the show a little more. It just kept smacking me in the face every time I tried to give it a chance.

When he explains the great mysteries of science (where the matter came from for the big bang or how life itself began), a little humility and less artificial certainty would go a long way. For one, thing, its bad evangelism. I suppose if he wants to convert people who worship God to science worshipers, he should be a little nicer. Even Bill Nye was more respectful to those with faith when he debated Ken Ham at the Creation Museum. A little courtesy goes a long way.

I understand that Christians haven’t always been so courteous (burning Bruno at the stake, for example), but we’ve also been radical examples of faith and have done a remarkable amount of good in the world. It would be nice to be considered thoughtful, as opposed to fools, and not to be pitted against another group of people. Subdividing people is foolish anyway, but causing a fight between two people that didn’t need to have one is even worse. I’m not even sure I disagree much with Tyson’s approach and his thoughts. But it kept feeling like a lecture about vegetables from a holier-than-thou vegetarian–can’t I enjoy vegetables and still eat meat? Can’t I learn about the universe, supposedly from an expert, without my faith also being questioned? A little less arrogance and a little more gentleness might cause me to tune in next week.