The Collective Sense of Something Larger

Even when there is no testimony to announce him, no miracles to prove his presence, no rapt audience of believers, I believe God sneaks into our culture through every opening he can find.

I noticed this the other night while I was watching "Futurama." The episode was a shade of the movie "Animal House," and about halfway through I realized that both stories were telling the story of the book of Esther, a personal favorite of mine.

In the movie, made long enough ago that ROTC was a term every college student would know, a group of ne'er-do-well college students in the Delta fraternity is stalked by a sadistic college dean bent on making them follow increasingly difficult rules. The ultimate plan from the dean's office is to run the fraternity off campus altogether. Their ways of doing things are not what the dean wants them to be. When most of the Delta members are ready to give up, take their final semester's failing grades and leave quietly, one member speaks up and demands that the group stand up for themselves.

Esther was one woman who stood up against a vicious plan to eliminate her people because they were not the kind of people the king's advisor Haman wanted in the kingdom.

This evening, watching "Stargate: Atlantis" I noticed a lot of parallels between the storyline of the episode and the legend of St. George and the dragon, a well-known allegory of the struggle between good and evil. Col. John Shepard, the main character, is caught inside a shielded community of people who are waiting to "ascend"-- to transform from human creatures into higher beings made of pure energy. The one thing that keeps them from taking this step is a mostly invisible beast, who terrorizes the people, who refuse to fight it. Shepard fights the beast twice, is shrugged off, and healed by the people in the town. He is a classic redemptive figure, and challenges the townspeople to face the beast.

These are only two of the examples of why we must not simply teach our students to avoid culture, but teach them to look at it critically, seeking out the doors that God walks through in it. All people, Christian or not, struggle with the same largest questions, and the ways they express these questions end up with connections that aren't always intended.

St. Augustine of Hippo said that because Christians know the ultimate Truth, in the form of Jesus and his promise for us, we can automatically use everything in the world better than the rest of the world can, because we can apply that Truth to everything else in it. I firmly believe it. Where else does the dragon live in the culture around us? And who might the unlikely Saint Georges be who rise to fight it, shading Christ in the way he sings, or writes, or acts?

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