Monday, April 14, 2014

Warm Fuzzies

When I was a girl I remember a Pioneer Girl lesson. First there was a  craft where we  were given some yarn. Some we turned into little pom-pom puffs called “warm fuzzies” and some we wrapped around sweetgum seed pods to make “cold pricklies” We all agreed that “warm fuzzies” were nicer to feel than “cold pricklies.” and were were told this was a demonstration of why it was better to love than hate.
Cold Pricklies
    I think I remember this because something always struck me as slightly off about this lesson, even beyond, whether human touch preference proves anything. It’s certainly not that I disagree that it is better to love than to hate. Nor do I quarrel with the need to teach little kids to be nice to each other. It’s that I don’t think you can equate the two lessons.
    The two types of balls are good examples of positive and negative social interactions. A social interaction where you feel accepted and connected, where you experience care you are looking for or the possibility of such care in the future, feels emotionally like a warm fuzzie feels to your fingers. And an interaction where you feel rejected, held apart, or have your ideas and identity poked at does have the same affect as a cold prickly.
    Love does often manifest in the type of affection warm fuzzies indicate, softness and comfort and making the other person feel good. We all want and need that manifestation of love. But we can get in trouble if we mistake that for all of love or even the central essence of love. Even a loving critique can feel more like a cold prickly if it pops a bubble of unjustified self-satisfaction. A child may experience being taken to the doctor’s for a shot as painful even as it is in fact very loving.
    You have an emotional need to be loved. The care you get from loved ones meets physical needs. But love is much more than the emotional high you get from cuddling. It is the knowledge of the intrinsic value of the beloved in the intellect of the lover. It is the settled expectation of abstractly good results in and from the beloved. It is a committed attitude by the lover to pursue the best interest of the beloved.  When you think of love as just the warm fuzzies not only are you missing the depth and richness of love but it can lead you to pursuing love in the wrong places and by the wrong means.
Warm Fuzzies
    It gets even more problematic when we get to the idea of unconditional love. This is often held up not just a theoretical ideal but as a real expectation in a family, a church or a community. It is often unacknowledged that unconditional love is a perfection and therefore no natural human is going to practice it completely or all the time. This issue is magnified when you start equating the subjective experience of warm fuzzies with receiving love. When I have a toothache or even when I’m just having a very bad day  the nicest expressions of care can irritate me and feel like poking. In times uncertainty and doubt we’re going to want a warm fuzzy and want one “now!” to prove that we’re loved. And we usually won’t get that feeling of soft emotional glow we think means love. And that in itself will be an additional hurt and disappointment.
    If we’re thinking of love as a good feeling available on demand we won’t ever know a permanent and reliable “love.” Love is such basic need in our lives, that we are cheating ourselves of something vital if we are only chasing warm fuzzies.

Friday, April 4, 2014


    Last weekend I went to see Noah, the movie, and I enjoyed it. But I’m the type of person who enjoys something that invites analysis and critique more than I would something that actually drew me in and made me care about the characters. So I wouldn’t exactly call this good entertainment but there was a lot of fun to be had in dissecting it.
    I also wouldn’t call it a biblical movie. The most biblical theology is stated by a psychotically evil character as blood drips out of his mouth because he has just bitten the head off a live lizard. The movie is more of a narrative argument against the biblical idea that  humans and humanity have a purpose and that indeed the earth was created as a place for humanity.
    If you haven't seen the movie yet, here are a few good plot summaries.
    What I really liked that most was that the ways the movie showed the opposite of the biblical story highlighted the wonder of God’s story and the bleakness of a world with it.

*Aloneness vs. community.
In the movie, Instead of Noah being a man who has remained righteous despite being embedded in the comminuted of Adam's descendants that have becomes decadent and sinful, Noah’s family is isolated and seems totally disconnected from the wider society who seem to be all descendants of Cain. After traveling a great distance to see his grandfather, Methuselah, and settling near him, Noah then doesn’t seem to have talked to him for years. Methuselah lives entirely alone in his old age, Ila is found alone among the dead. The characters all seem to be alone with their thoughts as they make most of the decisions.
This makes me cherish the way the bible is always showing community, designing us for community, calling for us to follow him as a community rather than as individuals. Sometimes it can feel like an imposition when you need to work with other flawed humans it worshiping God and this movie helped remind me how gracious God was in setting it up this way.

*Taboos and fetishes about creation vs. enjoying creation
In the movie, apparently it’s sinful to express appreciation for the beauty of God’s creation by picking flowers. Nature is only shown as vibrate and prospering where it is untouched by man. The earth is seen unable to sustain man.
In the bible even the fact that we have to work so hard to have the earth sustain us is talked about as a curse and a departure from the original plan. It makes me cherish all the beauty, joy, and sustenance I get from God’s creation to remember that God created us to be gardeners of his garden.

*purposeless humanity vs. cherished humanity.
In the move, instead of God’s first communication being a clear command to build an ark Noah first has a dream that the effect of men is evil and God is going to destroy the world with a flood. Only after a harrowing journey to his grandfather, Methuselah, is Noah shown the possibility of an ark. There is a sense that saving Noah’s family is more a result of special pleading and Methuselah’s magic then a central part of God’s plan.
But in the Bible it shows God’s first thought in destroying sin was to save a righteous remnant. It creates a beautiful reminder of the picture of baptism and how God wants to save us by the blood of his son.

*confusion vs. covenant
    In the movie God communicates in vague dreams and Noah is never quite sure what God wants. At the end of the movie there is a spectacular rainbow shown so soring music. It has an emotional feeling of magic, but there is no actual content conveyed at all.
    In the Bible Noah understand what God is saying, and the story ends with God giving a specific covenant, affirming God’s ongoing relationship and promising never to destroy the world with water again.And this reminds me how precious the Bible itself is. We may wish the communication was in a form that took less study or that the promises were more extensive, but we when God does make a covenant He keeps it and it’s remarkable that He chooses to at all.

*nihilism vs. vision
    There are other contrasts I could make, violence vs. life, condemnation vs. salvation, but overall this is a film about nihilism. Noah is a failed nihilist. He sees humans as having no purpose and being a drain on the world. The only reason he doesn’t end the race is that he wimps out at the very end. At least one sign seems to indicate that God approves of Noah’s resolution to end humanity. And it’s not clear at the end whether God really wanted humanity to continue or if He has just relented temporarily.
All this is of course very different from the picture in the the Bible where God has a plan for mankind.God has a vision for mankind’s future, where they can be sons and daughters of God. And he knows how He will redeem them, not by sacrificing humanity’s daughters but His own So, who will go to the cross willingly that we all might live.