Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are There Somber Calvinists in Springfield?

Last week I mentioned that I am reading David Dark's book Everyday Apocalypse, which surveys popular culture from Flannery O'Connor and the Coen brothers to Radiohead and The Matrix, seeking to recognize the ways in which the apocalyptic truths of the coming age creep into this one, even in ways unbeknownst to the artists themselves.

While Dark, so far anyway, refrains from calling all of life sacramental, he has no love for the sacred/secular distinction that two-kingdoms proponents insist upon. To be fair, though, he doesn't seem like he is all that aware of the doctrine of the two kingdoms, so who's to say he wouldn't appreciate it for its love of earth and it hatred of all things Gnostic?

In his chapter on The Simpsons he writes:

Unfortunately, the humility that is marked by a genuine readiness to know and acknowledge our own weaknesses and fears comes no more naturally to us than it does to the characters on The Simpsons. Yet without this humility of mind, no story, no art, and no apocalyptic can do its work on us. We walk through life unaffected, unmoved, and forever consigned to an invincible ignorance.

When viewed attentively, comedy like The Simpsons can awaken us to our disordered desires and motivations, breaking down our illusions of order, while holding back (temporarily) whatever false gods deceive us into regarding one another unkindly.
He then quotes Jean Bethke Elshtain: "We are not perched on top of the earth as sovereigns; rather, we are invited into companionship with the earth as the torn and paradoxical creatures that we are."

To put this all more simply, we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously. As long as we are expending all our energy seeking to maintain the facade we have created for ourselves to hide behind, we will be incapable of being made fun of. And once we reach the point of resentment when the mask is pulled back, we have become immune to all things apocalyptic.

I'm reminded of what the late Rich Mullins said about how he would rather live on the verge of radical sin than to maintain some Pharisaical fortress mentality that cannot admit weakness for fear of the bubble being burst.

Like it or not, this is the reputation we Calvinists have. Is it fairly attributed to us? And if not, is there anything we can do to dispel the myth?