Friday, January 14, 2011

You Only Think I'm Kidding Chapter 1


("You Only Think I'm Kidding" is a random collection of hopefully-comedic rants about our social lives and norms. It stems from a series of jokes I made with friends in college. Most got the joke and laughed, or at least pretended to think it was funny to get me to shut up. Either way, someone suggested I should write a book on relationships because several ended up being relationship-themed. Credit to Hether Scheel for the title; it's a perfect fit even though the series really is a joke. Maybe.)

Am I allowed to say that I hate first dates? If I ever want to get married I oughtn't, but I will anyway.

First dates are the worst invention since the Iron Maiden. I actually prefer the Iron Maiden because I learned in college that it was never really used as a form of execution. Sadly, the first date is all too real and future generations will no doubt watch laser-holograms of our 21st-century courtship rituals and balk that we were ever so backward. Put aside all the stupid drug-store novels and over-idealized nonsense and remember first dates for what they really are.


"That's just the bad ones," some may say, but hear me out. You spend most of your time wondering if there's anything there or if there could ever be anything there. There's a great deal of introspection going on. Any misplaced word or gesture may signal true love or immanent disaster. Every twitch of body language could be the deeper implication of a potential problem or the makings of a timeless romance. And who will draw first blood? When is the right time to step up--to make that ever-so-risky declaration of, "This was fun. I want to see you again" or "I sure do wish we would spend more time together"?

When we recognize this worrying, we gloss over it by saying, "Calm down! Just be yourself. Relax and be confident in who you are." But let's get real... Who is ever really himself on the first date? And I mean really, really himself? Let me throw this assertion out there: Everyone is a bit crazy in some form or fashion. For myself, I'm a recovering nerd trying to drown out the inner Trekkie with college football and attempts at witty social commentary. Yet no matter how much I learn to have friends and skip on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer marathons, I will never stop being a huge geek. So let me be myself--and really myself--on this example first date:

Pretty Lady: "So, tell me about yourself." *bats eyelashes*

Me: "I can identify every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation based solely on the cold open (that is, the first five minutes before the credits roll). I can give you the season, a rough plot synopsis, and usually the name of the episode."

Pretty Lady: "I'm walking home."

This example is flawed I confess; a woman would never ask a man about himself on the first date. But do you see my larger point?

We cover up our crazy because, let's face it, any normal person would run away screaming if they knew what our malfunction was. We never go into "full-crazy" mode right out the gate. That happens over the course of several weeks as we let on more and more of our flaws, insecurities, or cripplingly-nerdy hobbies. We gloss and smooth over all our rough edges like Accutane on a pimply teenager. Our very best may be on display on that first awkward afternoon at the Starbucks, but our worst comes out later. We are the plastic, Barbie-and-Ken versions of ourselves on the first date. We're on our best behavior, all the while hoping to behave well enough to make it Date #2, relax, and let some blemishes show. Isn't that really the goal of Date #1; to get to Date #2? Sure is. Hence, Date #1 is usually a performance.

Now, I have no solution to the problem of the first date. It simply has to happen. Much like day-timers, laundry, and weight-loss programs, they are an established fact of living in a world polluted by sin. God never intended any of these things to be. He loves us and would never make us go through this grueling process in His perfect world just in order to be married. Yet just like day-timers, laundry, and weight-loss, there are people out there who actually delight in first dates. We call them "Satanists".

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christianity and Comedy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the funniest movies ever filmed. I hope that after the bombs have fallen and the survivors of mankind must war against the super-intelligent cockroaches, someone finds this movie in a vault. It will give our descendants an 89-minute release from the horrors of post-nuclear life. It should be a part of our cultural legacy for centuries. Those of you who haven't seen it are probably annoyed with those who have because we quote the movie all the time. That's on purpose; if we tick you off enough, you'll just break down and watch it. Then you will join us. Join us. Join us.

However, the Christian viewer ought to stop and think about its depiction of God. God is shown to be annoyed at the overly-pious response of the faithful Arthur and his knights. He is frustrated that their apparently sincere reverence is keeping Him from His important business. He has arrived simply to give Arthur his mission to find the Holy Grail. An excerpt from the exchange:

GOD: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's "sorry this" and "forgive me that" and "I'm not worthy". What are you doing now!?

ARTHUR: I'm averting my eyes, oh Lord.

GOD: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms-- they're so depressing. Now knock it off!

What has Scripture to say? God the Father tells Moses that man shall not see God and live. In the New Testament, the Apostle John twice tells us that no one has ever seen God the Father. Paul speaks of the unapproachable glory of God in his encouragement to Timothy. So is Arthur's reaction really so ridiculous?

It would also be serious if this Monty Python scene is an attempt to make a joke of God. Paul elsewhere tells us that God is not mocked. We are told that mocking God and His prophets is what caused God to lead Judah into exile and lose the Promised Land. The Third Commandment given to Moses forbids God's chosen to use His name vainly. This is proven serious some time later when a guy is actually stoned to death for cursing another in God's name.

So how do those of us who love God and take Him seriously and adore Him above all else take away from all this? I think the very first thing is to not make too light of this subject. God is to be held in reverence. There can be nothing held higher than Him in our hearts or on our lips; to do so would be idolatry. Second, we should sift through this treatment of God critically and recognize it for what it is--an author who does not know God as He really is.

I don't mean to sound like a wacky fundamentalist or a killjoy. Those guys are the worst. They can't laugh at anything, either because they are too literally-minded or because they take lots of other things that aren't God and hold them in a similar position to God. You know the type. 'You mustn't listen to rock music because somehow voodoo African rhythms hypnotize you into smoking pot." "You can't watch movies with 'grown-up' language because you'll get desensitized to it and next thing you know you'll be cursing your parents' graves and fornicating with a streetwalker." But honestly, some things ought not be taken lightly. The big two are God Himself and the suffering of innocent victims; those two subjects aren't funny at all because they make a farce out of something very serious.

I still love The Holy Grail. The truth is that God still comes out of the movie looking very competent, which isn't really true of anyone else. I also considered the possibility that the creators were mocking people's idea of God and not Yahweh Himself--an idea which would have been fine. However, the point of the joke is that people must get on God's nerves by being constantly afraid of Him. Yet the Bible says three different times that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So keep the good of Holy Grail because it is very clever; endure this scene because you must.

...And because the nuclear cockroaches have no laughter.