Thursday, June 25, 2015

Neil Gaiman's Interworld Trilogy: Heroes And Cautionary Tales

I was first introduced to the writings of Neil Gaiman through Neverwhere, a dark, moving, parallel universe fantasy that takes place beneath the streets of London. As I further explored his writing, I found him to be constantly creative, often profound, and entirely capable of writing books for both adult and youth audiences (American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, respectively).

The three books I have mentioned only scratch the surface: he has multiple best-selling and critically acclaimed books and graphic novels to his credit as well. Gaiman’s recently finished InterWorld trilogy is an excellent addition to his canon. It is inventive, thought-provoking, and filled with characters who embody many of that attributes to which we all should aspire.

A brief synopsis of the plot: Joey Harker discovers he is a Walker, a person with the ability to “walk” between parallel realities. He also discovers that Joeys of all shapes and sizes from these realities are part of InterWorld, and organization that seeks to keep two opposing forces, Binary and HEX, from taking complete control of all the worlds. Binary sees everything through the lenses of science and logic; Hex sees it all through the lenses of magic. One character notes:
“New worlds are always being created. Some are worlds in which science holds sway, others are worlds in which magic is the motive power. Most worlds are mixtures of the two. We of InterWorld have no problem with either ideology. Our problem is with HEX and with the Binary, who both seek to impose their belief systems and methods of reality on other worlds —sometimes through war, sometimes more subtly. InterWorld exists to maintain the balance…. 
The Binary and HEX are locked in struggle, both overt and covert, for the ultimate control of the Altiverse. They’ve been going at it for centuries, making real slow headway because of the sheer magnitude of the task. I think the last census we intercepted indicated somewhere in the neighborhood of several million billion trillions of Earths— with more of ’em popping out of the vacuum faster than bubbles in champagne… Each of them wants only one thing— to run the whole shebang.”

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Down The Rabbit Hole: On Caitlyn and Culture

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' 
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where -' said Alice. 
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat. 
'- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation. 
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner story has given us a window into the culture in which this shift in identity has taken place. This post is not about Caitlyn as a person. Caitlyn's difficult internal struggle is very real, and it deserves compassion. Though I'm guessing Caitlyn and I disagree on how resolution and healing can be found, I hope that Caitlyn finds them.

What follows are not observations on Bruce/Caitlyn as much as thoughts on trends in our culture's ability to process complex issues such as this one. Supporting Jenner's new self-identity does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a manner of reasoning and a particular worldview perspective that I believe is leading us haphazardly down a rabbit hole of deeply confusing philosophical and moral dilemmas.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Duggars, Duplicity, and Dilemmas In Christian Community

The recent Duggar scandal reveals some huge problems for the Christian community. I'm not going to pile on the family here - plenty of other blogs are doing that. It's a sad story on many levels. I am simply going to note that the Christian community must learn some important lessons from this situation or we are destined to see this scenario play out over and over.

First, we must commit to being people of integrity.  Jesus offered an important caution to those who were rushing to judgment: “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:7). It wasn't a call to overlook sin; it was a reminder that hypocrisy haunts us all. That's in important verse for a family (and a son) who are very publicly involved in political causes centered around Christian family values.  For a family with Josh's history embedded in their familial DNA, the Duggars were remarkably outspoken in public policy causes that focused on the sexual sins of other people.

It’s a bad idea to position ourselves as if we are speaking from a pristine pedestal of purity in any area of life. We Christians must own our stuff. We shouldn’t be calling out the skeletons in the closets of others if we can’t acknowledge our own (see Paul's instruction in Romans 2:17-24). Our past sins don't automatically deny us the right to speak about the same issue when we see it in others - maybe we are passionate because we want to warn others of the  wages of sin. That's understandable, but without honesty, transparency, love and grace, it's going to end badly. If we are really all about protecting victims and changing people’s hearts, we need to start in our own homes or churches. (Google “mote” and “eye” for more detail.)*