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Jesus vs. Cthulhu

I’m sad that October is almost over. I love this time of year. Fall is here and with Halloween in a few days, we all have an excuse to indulge in some spookiness. As such, I decided to draw the themes for our first XLM weekly Bible studies from horror stories.

I love my job.

My notes are below.

~

Cosmic Horror: the Universe Does Not Love You

Jesus vs. Cthulhu

Historical note: R’lyeh is not located at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee.

H.P. Lovecraft was a pioneer of what’s called weird fiction. The bad guys in his stories are often these unspeakable cosmic horrors — vastly old, utterly alien creatures that cause trouble for humanity. Among them is Cthulhu, one of the Great Old Ones. He’s gigantic and has a squid head. Very creepy.

Lovecraft worked with that theme of alienness a lot. Much of the scariness of his stories comes as his characters learn unimaginable secrets about the universe. Because of that, one of the other themes that crops up a lot is madness. In the Cthulhu Mythos, when you learn the truth, the truth will drive you insane. Cthulhu and other figures in the mythos have evil cults that worship them and do terrible things. Their presence corrupts their followers. One of the things that happens in Lovecraft stories is that, if they don’t go nuts, people slowly become monsters.

Lovecraft’s work reflects his personal beliefs about the world. His philosophy is called cosmicism, which holds that the universe is an impersonal, chaotic, mechanical place. The universe was born of chaos, and produced only more chaos.

If that were so, what would it imply?

  • Our lives are completely and totally insignificant.
  • Good and evil are meaningless.
  • Life has no purpose.
  • There is no justice.
  • We could all be wiped out at any moment.
  • Suffering is arbitrary.
  • Love is, at best, a chemical reaction.

Ever feel like that? Ever doubt that your life, your experiences have any meaning? Isn’t it horrifying to think that they might have no meaning at all? Ever get the feeling like no one cares about what you’re going through and life is nothing but chaos?

Let’s look at some contrasts between the universe of the Cthulhu Mythos and the universe that Jesus describes. Read the rest of this entry

The Real Story

Maybe it happened in a comic book. Maybe a TV series. Maybe even within a movie. You find a character you like, someone you identify with. You get to know how they work. Then, suddenly, they say a particular line or make a particular choice, and it just feels wrong. They would never do that, you think. You can tell the writer forced the moment in for convenience, or because they were pressured into it. It just doesn’t work.

I think God has similar moments with us.

You may not believe this, but God has a story in mind for each of us. We’re all hand-crafted, made for a specific purpose. And God cares very much about us fulfilling that purpose.

When we depart from that purpose, it can cause a lot of angst. It can feel like that out-of-character moment in fiction — except we’re living it out.

Sometimes we get there by defying God. We know what we need to do, but we’re too scared or too comfortable to do it. Or we may get there because we don’t think there’s any purpose to our lives. Maybe we never did; maybe we did once, then lost hope.

Whatever the case, believe this: You are not an accident. You are not a mistake.

God didn’t mess up when He made you. He had something good in mind. And He wants each of us to find what that good thing is. He wants us to live out our purpose.

Talk to Him about it. Take a moment in a quiet place. Ask Him what He meant your life to be about, then listen. If He doesn’t show you something right away, keep it in the back of your mind. He’ll find ways to get through to you.

Don’t force a story into your life that’s not your own.

Pieces of God

On the way back from An Artist’s Dozen, Cody and I were talking about what “art” means and what it’s supposed to do. He reminded me that art can basically be anything, but we expect it to impact us in certain ways.

He enjoys works that clearly had meaning to the artist. I usually look for some expression of truth, some comment on reality. He and I can both appreciate good technique, though he’s better trained in how to recognize it.

But one of the things I love to see most is hints of God’s character. I saw some in the exhibit last weekend.

We’re God’s kids. We were each designed to reveal certain aspects of Him. Between the artists and their works, we can see pieces of God.

God is a master craftsman. Take a look at the back of your hand for a second. Hold it up and wiggle your fingers. Flip it over and do the same thing, but look at your wrist. See the tendons moving, the muscles flexing and relaxing? That’s fine engineering. That’s technique. That’s art.

When I glanced at Aarica Martin’s tribute to her grandfather, I saw some paintings and some other stuff: a Bible, a hammer and nails, a keychain, etc. I didn’t realize – until someone told me – that everything but the ring of the keychain was ceramic. I was blown away.

She put a lot of time and love into those little objects. God did the same when He made us.

God cares deeply about how we treat each other. So many of our songs, our stories, and the images we make cry out against injustice. We celebrate love, even between fictional characters. We are disturbed – one may hope – by pictures like Rhea Cutillo’s.

We care how we’re treated, and how others are treated. God does, too. His character defines love, and we’re His kids. When we mess it up, something within us remembers how it should be.

God is beautiful. Philosophical question: where do the idea of beauty come from? Is it a product of society? An evolutionary imperative?

What if it were part of God’s essential nature? What if we were affected by beauty because we were made by a beautiful God? If it were, we’d find people throughout history searching for beauty. Trying to express it. Trying to create it.

Hey, we do have that. Something to consider.

Do you see God in art? What have you seen? What have you made? Tell us about it in the comments.

An Artist’s Dozen: Mills College Senior Thesis Exhibition

My friend Cody and I took a trip to Oakland on Saturday to see a friend’s work in an art exhibit. Click an image to see it enlarged, along with my comments.

Pardon my preachiness, but that’s how I get around art. I poke around the images and the emotions they inspire, looking for truth.

I think we can learn a lot about God from art. I’ll tell you how tomorrow.