Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I went to see Batman: The Dark Knight on Monday, which was absolutely no disappointment. I had wondered if Heath Ledger's role was hyped up a bit given his sad death, but he really was as good as everyone had claimed in the role of the Joker. A scary, incredibly believable "motiveless malignity" as some have called Iago in Shakespeare's Othello. Now that I've puffed off my knowledge of Shakespeare :) I can continue.

The thought popped into my head during the movie at different times: if only the real world could be so black and white, good and evil. If only we could pick the villains out easily and the real problem was deciding how to respond to them. Of course, the real world is sometimes like that, and it's not exactly pleasant to be one of those people, deciding whether to court death or go along with evil. And it's probably a mark of my incredibly easy life (which I should be thankful for) that I sometimes wish life were more difficult. That evil was always tangible to other people, and that there was a clear process of picking sides.

But then I realised, evil does translate from a movie like Batman into this world. They say that the role of the Joker really messed up Heath Ledger, and caused his death. I have no idea how accurate that is, but if it is, there's a picture of the overwhelming darkness of evil that comes through into any life and can take it over. I feel so saddened for a really great actor that he couldn't find the resources to fight this evil but it makes me even more aware of how determinedly evil must be fought, in all our lives, day to day. Darkness is underneath the surface of even the Western, democratic, fairly non-repressive world, but sometimes tricks us into thinking it's not important, or not powerful. That delusion must be fought.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

am I indoctrinated?

Sometimes it's easy to worry that if you hadn't been brought up in a Christian family (which is the case for many Christians, especially in the West), the Christian message would have no appeal for you. Correct me if I'm wrong. Or replace the "you" in that first sentence with "I".

I'm sure there's an element of truth to the idea. It definitely makes it easier in some cases to become a Christian if you've grown up in a Christian family, if you've seen the fruits of a genuine Christian lifestyle, or even, sadly, if you feel pressured to do the same thing as your parents. Growing up hearing stories about Jesus or Bible characters makes it so much easier to understand what the Bible's about, later. Even if this does count to some extent as spoonfeeding, the opposite is true - it's easier to become a Christian when you haven't been spoonfed or indoctrinated in anti-Christian ideas as you grow up.

Besides that idea, though - that everyone is indoctrinated into certain ideas by their parents - it can still be worrying to think that you are perhaps trapped in your worldview, unable to think outside the Christian box.

I met a seven year old girl last night, the daughter of one of the pastors at the student church I attend. She is obviously a smart little kid, quite sensitive, and has grown up hearing Christianity all around her. She showed me her new Bible, which is pink, and the passages she had highlighted. I was especially amused when she told me this was one of her favourite passages:

Egypt shall become a desolation
and Edom a desolate wilderness,
for the violence done to the people of Judah,
because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
But Judah shall be inhabited forever,
and Jerusalem to all generations.
I will avenge their blood,
blood I have not avenged,
for the LORD dwells in Zion. Joel 3:19-21.

:) Rather sweet.

Then she told me she was going to ask her dad a question about something he had said in his sermon on guidance - what exactly was an apostle? She thought maybe it was a bit like in a flock of penguins, some of the strong older male penguins circle round and round the group, keeping the mothers and babies safe.

Well, I'm not sure how theologically correct that is, but this is what it said to me: If a child like this, who has spent her entire life absorbing Christianity, and still hasn't been exposed to much of the other stuff, can come up with an explanation as imaginative yet valid as that, it bodes well for her spiritual autonomy.

There is so much room for imagination within Christianity. One way this reveals itself is in the denominations, although this is often seen as a negative thing that holds us back from unity. But from what I've learnt in my study this year of Stalin's Russia, there's unity and then there's unity. Absolute, unflinching unity of thought and speech is never a good thing among humans, although we can still be the body of Christ, united in our love for him.

Besides that, the Bible is not like a textbook for mathematics; follow these steps and these rules and you will come out with the right interpretation. A single verse can be relevant (in context) to many differing things, without having to cut out all other methods or interpretations.

I would actually say, and I say this thoughtfully, that all my background of studying the Bible has made it a lot easier for me at university to be imaginative in my interpretation of events (History) or writings (English).

Anyway, here's what I think: I am not indoctrinated, although maybe in the past or even now there are things I believe without having thought much about the reasons why. I know my faith is my own. I have an imagination. I can think outside my Christian box. We should all try to get away from believing things "just because" we always have done so. But that doesn't mean our thought is limited any more than the average non-Christian, and perhaps our imagination is even opened up by the things we have been taught in youth.