Faith: June 2004 Archives

While Googling for a Robert Hall reference I found this insight, in the epilogue of an account of a cross-country bicycle trip taken by Illinois schoolteacher Robert Graham in the summer of 1999:

Without having exact measurements, I'm pretty sure that every foot of slope I coasted or screamed down was met with a corresponding slope I had to climb back up. When people take pictures of bicycle tourers they are always either running down a hill or pedaling easily across the flat. It looks like SUCH fun. But in terms of real time, that picture is way out of whack. Three days up the Sierras, twenty minutes down. Three days up the Rockies, three hours down. And innumerable mountains and hills in between. One hour up at 5 mph, two minutes down at 40 mph. And I don't even want to TALK about the Appalachians!

I'm working on a life analogy here. There is no way I would have enjoyed the thrill of the downhills without the pain of the uphills. Yes, I could have gotten a ride to the top of every hill and just ridden down. What a rush. But the pleasure wouldn't, couldn't have been the same.

American culture has been inundated with advertising that, no matter what the product, has told us over and over for years and years now that we DON'T have to climb the hill in order to enjoy the thrill of the drop. We've heard it so many times it has become a part of our cultural fabric. (And we're spreading it so successfully to the rest of the world!)

Problem: you can TRY to hide from truth, but you can't succeed. So we have a nation full of people who think they're happy. They MUST be happy. Why? Because the TV tells them 10,000 times a day that they ARE happy. Get your pleasure with no pain attached!! And get it NOW! No waiting!!! Who even hears anymore the few true preachers of the Word who are saying the opposite? It's a million against one. No contest. Game over.

But the gut doesn't lie: we feel crappy. We keep buying, using, consuming; keep finding steeper and steeper hills to go down, using stronger and stronger drugs...and it's all so temporary. Nothing makes the ache go away. And we have no idea why. (We used to vaguely remember, but we're in the 2nd television generation now. And the preachers have joined the circus.)

We wonder why our suicide rate is skyrocketing, why our mental health industry is exploding, why our pharmaceutical industries are on top of the stock market (are YOU making money off the nation's death throes?), why illicit drug use continues to plague us, why extreme sports are getting more extreme, why we have that dull blankness in the pit of our stomachs.

There's only one solution. You've got to climb the mountain in order to experience the full joy of zooming down the other side. The climb takes way longer than the zoom. And that's just how it is. People I know who are happiest understand this formula. It gets harder and harder to teach.

And there's more, about America, about fatherhood. Interesting stuff.

Jesus in Beijing


Eve Tushnet reviews a new book by David Aikman, the former Peking bureau chief for Time magazine, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power.

If Aikman's assessment is accurate, China is being transformed from the inside out, and the nation may make a smoother transition to liberty because of it. The rise of Christianity and the rise of capitalism are rebuilding mediating institutions and networks of trust that had been destroyed by Communism as a matter of policy. In the West, civil society preceded civil liberty. In the Third World and in liberated totalitarian societies, the reverse has often been true, with disastrous effects.

This month marks 15 years since the remarkable demonstrations in Tienanmen Square. Our hopes were dashed to see the regime's brutal crushing of dissent, but of course God causes all things to work for good -- even the oppression of tyrants -- and perhaps the delay of freedom and democracy prevented chaos and a return to even fiercer oppression. God's words to the Israelites in Exodus 23:28-30 comes to mind:

I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

Let's keep China's Christians in our prayers.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from June 2004.

Faith: May 2004 is the previous archive.

Faith: July 2004 is the next archive.

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