Jan and I are on a Hunger Games marathon. I am not much of a movie guy, but the last several days we’ve been watching the series. It culminates this fall with the final of four films. I’ve been struck once again by something philosopher Charles Taylor is reported to have said in his book on secularism. It goes kind of like this, “This is the first time in human history that God has not been a part of people’s lives.” Amazing!
But then back to the Hunger Games. “I wish we were all dead,” said one character in the movie. “Really?” I thought to myself. “Dead?! Then what? Eternity!” But if you die, and go into the ground, like any other animal, and that’s it, as one friend said to me, sure! Death is a great way out of pain; a great way to flee from trouble. But what if death is more like a portal than a dead end street?
I think Pascal’s wager is a decent reason to believe there is more to life than this life. The wager goes something like this, “If you believe, and God exists, you gain everything. If you disbelieve, and God exists, you lose everything.” (You can find his description of the wager in his book Penses) That’s very simplistic but incredibly compelling since a true believer not only rejects sin with all its ugly implications, but accepts righteousness with all its corresponding beauty. In other words, you truly do gain everything if you follow Christ. Christianity, if not lived out for the glory of God and the good of others, isn’t Christianity. There should be no such thing as a self absorbed, selfish Christian.
The wager, despite some arguments to the contrary, makes sense to me and to many others. But we in the west don’t think that way. Everything is about today, about our safety and ease, about money and possessions and the good life. So at the first sign of trouble, we question God. It makes me wonder. Do I live as if there is only today? Do I live as if the only real solution to my pain is the silence and peace of death, and that’s it? Am I selfish and self-absorbed?
It’s Thanksgiving this week, but there are millions of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe who don’t think they have much to be thankful for. Islamic Terrorists live to hurt, maim, and destroy. They are Nazi’s with turbans! But if we are followers of Christ, this is not new territory. The first century Romans, if you got on the wrong side of them, weren’t exactly the most hospitable people in the world. The early church thrived in spite of it. Perhaps we can do the same again. But our motivation must be their motivation; Gods beauty, Gods glory, Gods goodness, and Gods revelation of himself in the person and work of Christ, and the hope of eternal life. Death is not the end. This must be the motivation for our philanthropy or witness or even our living out of the Christian life. If the motivating factor is guilt, like it is for so much of modern evangelicalism, I think our philanthropy and godliness will fall flat on its face with the first sign of trouble. As C.S. Lewis said in chapter 10 of Mere Christianity, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. …It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth, you will get neither.” At any rate, the Hunger Games are making me think. I’ll catch the end of the story this week. Those are my thoughts for now.