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The Cycle of Revelation, Complication, Contemplation, Revelation

Victor Lams had a spiritual revelation driving home from a Catholic writers' conference (read about the experience here, here, and here). He says, "I don't know how long this new insight will last. Likely it will fade and be forgotten in time." I've come to believe that such insights do not fade; rather, they require new thought and new insights when we ask "then what?" and apply them to complicating matters of practicality or philosophy.

It is wise to try always to leave room for the possibility that another's revelations are different from those that we've experienced. I do have comments and questions about Victor's statements, but first, I want to applaud the central lesson that Victor suggests that he's learned:

[There are] People sick and suffering and desperately miserable to various degrees who need Jesus, though they may not even realize that He is what they need or even that they are sick at all. In an instant I felt twenty years of anger, twenty years of bitter frustration towards all of the people I thought I resented fall away from me. I had been accomplishing nothing with my anger and yet I thought I needed it. I thought I needed it to sustain me, to keep my going, to give me something to fight for. ... I [don't] need to save the world. I [don't] need to set my jaw resolutely and to angrily do battle with the hordes of Vandals at the gate. That's not my job. My job isn't even to chastise or mock or ridicule them. My job is only to help diagnose their illness and hopefully, perhaps though my writing (?), to help them understand how sick they really are — how sick we all are. And then to merely indicate in which direction lies the Cure.

However, I disagree, to an extent, with the thoughts that led to this point:

If there is something Christ-like in the hedonist, drug-addled, bi-sexual character of Tamara L. what does this mean for the rest of the people on this planet? In an instant I found myself shaking (though keeping the car solidly on the road, I should add). Suddenly it all became perfectly clear:

There are no terrorists. There are no gays. There are no criminal executives at work bankrupting their employees and investors. There are no corrupt politicians. There are no Arabs, no Iraqis, no abortionists, no Americans, no Catholics, no Protestants, no pedophile priests, no mealy-mouthed Bishops, no victims. There is only Jesus. Jesus suffering. Jesus in need of our help.

The problem is that he goes from "something Christ-like" to "There is only Jesus." A Christian is called upon to see Christ in his fellow human beings, but he also must realize that those people are the ones who crucify the image of Christ within themselves. We — writers and artists, especially — are called upon to strive to draw out that seed of God in each person, and anger (as much as it is an inevitability of our humanity) can only hinder that endeavor. But none of this means that those we strive to save are free of their blameworthy titles. With free will comes responsibility and culpability.

What I see as the danger in failing to see or to accept this makes an appearance toward the end of Victor's essay:

What does it mean to truly forgive? To realize that the people we call monsters, those who plowed four planes into the buildings and into the ground last September weren't monsters at all: they were people, God's creatures, suffering as we all suffer — as Christ suffered. They were sick in exactly the same way we all are sick when we do not have Christ living within us — sick with anger, with avarice, with spite, misery, hatred, malice, jealousy, sloth, greed, lust, pride: evil — I've had at one time or another a bad case of them all. But what do we as Christians do then, once we realize this? How do we bring others to Christ? How do we help Him cure them? How do we help Him cure ourselves?

Victor offers no answer. Here's mine: There are true monsters in real life. Fictional monsters are monstrous and wicked incidentally (Frankenstein) or as a matter of nature (vampires). Humans have the ability to choose their course — to choose to heed God's urging or to refuse to hear it. Some merely slip, as Victor is claiming to have done in the past; some act out of misunderstanding; and some are beyond the ability of man to change. And we must realize this; there must be a point at which, even as we extend our own forgiveness for harm done (our last attempt to draw out the human Christ), we declare, "This is evil. This is monstrous. This is unacceptable in the eyes of men and God."

Sometimes people must be chastised or mocked or ridiculed. The key is to do so not out of spite or hatred, but with the promise of forgiveness inherent in the chastisement — out of love for them and others who are at risk of falling into the same traps as well as for the shadow of the living God within them.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:10 PM EST