The Theology of “Breaking Bad”

“Breaking Bad” is a crime western that aired on the AMC network from 2008-2013, and full of drama, crime, mystery, and western style fights.  It is also full of theology.  The term “breaking bad” equates to saying “raising Hell” or being problematic.  Thee main character, Walter White, is a high school chemistry teacher that becomes a meth dealer in his New Mexico town, which later expands to all of the Southwest.  He does so, as the series suggests, because he is diagnosed with a terminal lung cancer.

Due to his condition, and the poor state of his family finances (his wife is a bookkeeper, he has a special needs son, and a newborn daughter) all while living on a teacher’s salary.  However, throughout the series, he is offered chances of redemption, but turns it down each time.  First, due to pride (one of the seven deadly sins), he refuses charity from a friend who is an affluent chemist in New Mexico to pay for all of his medical bills.  He refuses because he doesn’t like the idea of taking charity, and so he makes and sells meth instead.

Second, he goes into remission from his cancer.  He no longer needs the extra financial support, but he states he needs to have money for his family after he dies, and so stays in the illegal drug trade of meth.  Time and again, he refuses help, and becomes a villain in the process that kills other drug dealers, drug lords from Mexico, and etc.  In the end, he is shot and dies alone.

The moral of the story: if you are given a chance for redemption, take it.

The Sacred

 

Recently, I was baptized (sprinkling on the head with water) in the United Church of Christ.  I have been a member of North Congregational United Church of Christ since 2013.  It may have been my imagination, but I felt a sweet spirit surrounding me after it happened.  Churches are sacred spaces.  Any place that is holy is sacred regardless of religious affiliation.  In my opinion, nature is also sacred and has a free will of its own.

We should respect the places that are sacred and respect the ministers who have the duty of initiating the rites of the sacred.  I am not Roman Catholic, obviously; I just stated I belong to the United Church of Christ (www.ucc.org).  However, when I see a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian church, one appreciates its sacred nature.  Statues and icons of divine figures from Christianity are throughout these churches, such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus, and the Archangel Michael.  Sometimes, saint figures are displayed too, especially on their feast days (when he or she is celebrated).

Christian churches do not hold an exclusive right to being sacred.  Jewish temples and synagogues, mosques from Islam, Hindu temples (which in style are somewhat similar to Roman Catholic), Buddhist temples, Sikh temples, Jain temples, and any faith or denomination’s holy place I neglected to mention are sacred too.  Nature is sacred to Neo-Pagans and Wiccans – those that worship nature itself represented by a God and Goddess (some include entire pantheons of deities not unlike Hinduism).

I am writing this to connect to you to honor the sacred places of your own and of others.  This forum, Spirit Walk, in its latest incarnation, is my personal and public space to talk to you how I honor the sacred.  As I stated earlier, I am a progressive Christian (belonging to the U.C.C.), but I honor all the sacred places.  I remember the first time I went to a mosque in seminary in Columbus, Ohio.  It is also a holy place even if it is not my religion.  I do not hold exclusive rights to say what is holy and sacred and neither do you.  Think about it and I hope you enjoy reading about my spiritual journey as expressed in contact with me and on this blog, Spirit Walk.

Namaste.

Creation

Many religions and mythologies tell the story of how the world and universe was created.  The Bible says it began with a word, and perhaps God did say a word that initiated the Big Bang and sent the universe into being.  This is how I view the Creation of the universe as science tells us and most progressive Christians like myself view it this way.

Let me tell you that story.  The universe was nothing and then suddenly with a big bang, the universe began forming and continues to form as it ever expands.  Our planet Earth was a lifeless rock until it collided with another planet, which also resulted in the moon, and that was the beginning of life itself on our third planet from the Sun.

Slowly, over time, atoms formed.  Much later, lifeforms began to form and evolve.  Over many, many million years, humans would eventually come into the picture.  This is the part I love of humanity’s story.  We are all made of stardust.  Yes, the collisions in the universe (that still happen today) slowly formed stars, and that dust, it’s debris, created us ultimately.

This version does not contradict the origins of the universe (it just didn’t happen in 6 literal days) in Genesis.  If anything, it supports it, and even the stubborn Vatican came to agree with this assessment.  This is what I do not understand: if the conservative Roman Catholic Church can and does support that Creation was the Big Bang and evolution: why won’t other conservative Christians jump on board.  Why is it that only liturgical and progressive Christians, progressive Jews, and other progressives of faith support this worldview?

Lost…and Found

 

Today, I re-watched the series finale of the great series Lost titled “The End.”  I have to admit I cried watching it.  It was so emotional and touching.  Anyway, for a theological nerd like me, the series is full of theological metaphors.  The final scene has Jack and the others involved in the jet crash reunite in a church.  The windows have icons from all religions and ironically, Jack’s father, is named Christian Shepherd.

These characters have been in metaphorical  Heaven and Hell together.  Some have bad pasts they must atone for and do.  Others explore science and faith on the island.  It is Jack who, the true skeptic, finally accepts the truth at the end: they all died in the plane trash.  The island was a place they somehow metaphysically created to work out their life issues together so that they could eventually move in to the next phase of existence: heaven or reincarnation.  The show doesn’t give us that answer as no one really knows what happen or where we go when we die for a fact.  Yes, we all have theories and speculations, and some have had near death experiences, such as myself.

However, I do believe the Roman Catholics are right about Purgatory: a state of limbo where we repent for our sins until we are able to go to Heaven.  This is essentially what happens on the series Lost.  Some find redemption sooner than later and leave the island, but when they arrive at the church: no time has passed there.  As Jack discovers when he enters the church sanctuary, he sees all of his friends there, and they all talk and hug.  Then, Jack’s father opens the door, and they see a great light, and move on…  They are no longer lost, but found.

Reflections on the movie “The Shack”

I recently saw a great movie at a local theater.  I went and watched The Shack, based on the bestselling inspirational book.  It is about a man who loses his daughter to death (she is kidnapped and murdered) and his loses his faith in God, but God hasn’t lost his faith in him.  The man’s name is Mack and one winter morning he receives a letter in the mailbox saying “Come to the shack, Papa” (parahrased).  The shack was the place where his daughter was murdered.  Papa is the name his family gave to God.

This movie breaks all traditional perceptions of God.  He is not a man with a big white beard standing on a mountain.  Papa exclaims when Met states that description, “I think you have me confused with Santa Claus.”  We are shown Papa as the Trinity- Papa (in 2 different forms; a kind, compassionate mother figure portrayed by black actress Octavia Butler and a Native American man), Jesus (in Middle Eastern Jewish form, naturally), and the Holy Spirit portrayed by an ethereal Asian woman.  They all help Mack see that he is judging God based on his limited perceptions and that God doesn’t cause pain – people do that to people due to sin in the world.  We have free will, after all.

“Love leaves a mark” – Papa.  Papa and Jesus show their marks from the crucifixion.  I don’t want to give too much information away on this beautiful movie, but it is ultimately a love story between humanity and God.  The Trinity is explained in such an understandable way.  The relationship between God and humanity is made simple so that anyone can understand.  Theology doesn’t seem so difficult to understand after watching this movie or reading the book.

Please go watch this movie, cry as I cried during the movie, and listen to what the film has to say.  The film is also about forgiveness and mercy, a lost concept in these modern times, but it’s wonderfully there.

Peace be with you & Blessings,

Josh

Revolutionary Love

Jesus came to Earth to preach a revolutionary and universal understanding of love.  He said it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles; not comes from the body as the majority of Jewish sects believed in the 1st century CE.  He preached that we must love everyone, including our enemy, and our neighbor.  I did an exegesis of Galatians and discovered that the verse has a universal meaning: we are to love everyone, no exceptions.

This is what Jesus taught.  I will admit loving everyone, especially the worst of people, is hard, but we must do it as the Lord Jesus commands it.  This type of love is revolutionary even for today’s standards and in today’s divisive times.  We must love the most conservative Republican and the most liberal Democrat as the same.  We must love the bigot and the tree huger.

However, we must not be the bigot ourselves.  Jesus’ love is universal.  You must love everyone, and that includes yourself.  Do not hate anyone.  You must love the undocumented, the migrant, the atheist, the LGBT community, the fellow Christian, those of other faiths, and anyone not mentioned.  Jesus did not insert a period.  In the United Church of Christ, we are known as the “comma people” because our motto is “never place a period where God has put a comma.”  Love is hard, but wonderful too.  It is bigger than one individual and it surpasses the population of this world.

Universal Salvation

Universal Salvation

To begin, universal salvation is the belief that everyone goes to Heaven after death.  I believe in universal salvation.  The reason being, why would a deity be so cruel as to send all of his / her creation to Hell (actually, the word is Hades used in the Bible, the ancient Greek Underworld) for any reason.  Yes, we have free will (or do we?  That is a debate for another time).

Indeed, according to legend, on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), Jesus is said to have visited Hades and liberated all the souls to Heaven.  The Catholic and Anglican traditions hold this belief to this day.  For Protestants, it is a mixed bag: some believe this story, while others simply don’t believe it.

Roman Catholics also believe in Purgatory, a place between Heaven and Hell, and a place where one may repent for one’s sins until they have achieved liberation and go to Heaven.  I can accept this, but I don’t believe anyone goes to a fiery Hell or to Hades in the Afterlife.  Throughout the New Testament, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God is full of love and we must all love one another.  If one is sent to a fiery Hell, then it rather moots the point that God is all loving; for a loving God would not send his/her children to burn for eternity: it is beyond cruel.  Keep in mind, this is my opinion and I would not force my views on anyone.

Indeed, while in seminary, I received a few odd stares when I stated I believe in universal salvation.  It is nothing to be ashamed about in any way.