The Call Collective

Exploring God's presence and call within the culture.

Tag: G.K. Chesterton

How to Live a Life of Risk and Meaning

A little while back, I heard about a zombie run that a friend was interested in participating in for fun. As it turns out, by signing up for such a race, you are tasked with running safely to a destination without being caught by a legion of zombies: actors fully decked in gruesome, Hollywood-esque makeup. It’s incredible, as these actors literally resemble the undead, complete with decomposed flesh, gore, and blood. I can’t say the rush of adrenaline wouldn’t be fun, and definitely not a bad way to ensure the next coming Saturday is anything but mundane.

It’s one of the many modern attractions these days, from various themed runs like The Tough Mudder and The Color Run to a host of cleverly-devised escape rooms where you and a team of friends must solve puzzles and riddles in order to escape within an hour. I personally think these are great, and I totally get the appeal. There is something enjoyable about illusory risk and adventure, about being able to collaborate with your friends on a clear goal while temporarily suspending all of the real dangers and challenges in our lives. But I began wondering why attractions that create hypothetical danger have become so popular. It seems, in a way, we now have the luxury in our restless comfort to subject ourselves to what would be a deranged nightmare, all for the sake of entertainment and fun. And this may perhaps be indicative of a culture that craves an opportunity for a worthy challenge—for meaningful risk.

The unquenchable curiosity and thirst to overcome new challenges is ingredient to being human. We are willing to risk our own safety for something greater—a loved one, a noble idea, a better world. As a race, we ascend to the moon while burrowing into the depths of the ocean, we construct urban kingdoms while designing digital terrains of communication and commerce. These are great things we’ve accomplished from that human desire—that stamp from God—to reach toward a new and better creation. And our culture still very much reveals this reality, as we continuously strive toward the frontiers of medicine, technology, communication, and so on. Continue reading

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Why I’ve Always Believed in God

I was hanging out at a bar once in college and some guy I didn’t know made a comment about how foolish the idea of God was. He was some smug engineering student, and I remember feeling angry, resentful, and — to be honest—a bit fearful. I mean, who was I — a lowly humanities major — to have a worthwhile opinion on the existence (or lack thereof) of a divine being? Now, let me be clear. At this time in my life, though I believed in God, I wasn’t a faithful Christian. Sure, I would try to get to Mass on Sundays if it wasn’t too much trouble, and I committed myself to prayer — the petition sort mostly — when finals neared or I wanted a girl I liked to work out.

But still, I felt angry and fearful when this guy scoffed at the idea of God, as if he was implying, “Haven’t you heard? Everyone knows God is an illusion of humanity’s collective existential neuroses and fears, dude!” At the time, I wasn’t exactly equipped to engage in a vigorous debate with the fellow. Somehow, contending that God exists because I feel his presence and just know there is something beyond what we see wouldn’t be supremely convincing for a self-proclaimed man of reason. Instead, the conversation veered thanks to the arrival of another round of hearty stouts. And that was that.

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Saving Souls by Being Merry This Christmas

As Christmas draws near, many of us welcome the season with great joy. This festive time affords an outpouring of great mirth—the reuniting with friends and relatives, the pleasant nostalgia of past Christmastimes, the giving and receiving of gifts, baked treats and warm affection. However, such feelings of joy can be dampened by the laundry list of to-dos before the big day, and the unrelenting stress and busyness can snuff out the holiday cheer. We can get caught up in the many distractions of the Yuletide season, and amidst the sound of Christmas carols and the smell of gingerbread, fail to image the joy of the season to the world. Not to mention, there are many others who face the season with dread. It’s well known that the Holidays can be a particularly difficult time for people. Such joyous occasions can point instead to their stark absence in one’s own life. Sadly, this time of year can stir feelings of loneliness and loss as well.

Christmas stories like A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life can fan flames of empathy and goodwill toward all, lest we forget what the season is all about. But as Christians we are called to be a light to others all year round. We are called to be a city on a hilltop, a lamp on a stand. That’s why Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas tale, a staple this time of year, speaks a great truth about Christianity that can never be lost: Christians are called to be people of unshakable joy in order to draw the lost back to God.

In Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, the selfish, wizened Scrooge is converted through God’s initial act of grace, which manifests in the form of three oneiric spirits. There are two major elements to his conversion, which occur during the course of the night: the first is a witnessing of his inevitable end if he continues to live a life of selfishness. While in the company of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he foresees his own death devoid of dignity, as his lifeless body is scoured for valuables by the undertaker, laundress and charwoman (implying he is more valuable dead than alive). Additionally, very few care about his passing—his legacy stands frigid, dishonored and meaningless to the rest of the world. In that moment, Scrooge glances the interior of his own soul—a type of heightened examination of conscience—and is jarred by his current fate.

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Giving Up the Faith That Leads to Loss

I had a conversation with a friend once. It was well past midnight and we were sitting outside a bar patio along a sparse, urban street. My friend was talking about what he wanted to do for a living, and specifically, what he hoped to accomplish professionally this next year. He knew he needed a good job and that when it came to plucking one of those the harvest wasn’t particularly abundant. He was worried, unsure of his ability to be successful competing against a swath of qualified prospects just like him.

“Well, at the end of the day, I have to have faith.” He continued, “But not faith in God, or something like that…but faith in myself. I have to trust that things will just work out.”

As human beings, many of us feel compelled to believe in something—anything—in order to secure a remnant of comfort. Even if we believe in nothing, we make a decision to claim that vision of existence for ourselves and then live in it with a vague sense of understanding, expectation. We choose to believe something, igniting a torch that gives light to our reality. If we choose to believe in God, we believe in a world infused with meaning, intentionality, and love, even when it glares back at us. If not, then we have to confer our own sense of meaning in order to get by.

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.
Saint Augustine

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Mad Max and the Quest for Redemption

This post was first published at Fr. Robert Barron’s Word On Fire blog.

(Warning: This piece contains some spoilers.)

Much of our entertainment these days seeps of Christian imagery and symbolism—what can rightly be called a Catholic imagination—that Hollywood just can’t seem to avoid. Our culture has yet to shake a rooted Christian worldview that served as the foundation of modern Western civilization. Filmmakers who don’t intend to draw on Christianity’s wisdom and beauty, by exploring general human themes and struggles, still find themselves unintentionally pointing to Christ.

One of Hollywood’s latest blockbuster flicks, Mad Max: Fury Road, is loaded with this religious imagery and symbolism. In this case, I don’t believe the director and creator, George Miller, set out to draw parallels to Christ. Yet, with a depiction of a fallen world in search of redemption, it’s hard not to see, at least loosely, a story redolent of the Christian Redeemer.

This film marks Miller’s fourth installment of the cult classic trilogy originally starring Mel Gibson and it’s masterfully done. Aside from the out-of-this-world special effects, oddly endearing though grotesque characters and a gripping story that never lets up, it provides a level of depth that one would not expect from a sci-fi summer action flick. And what a lovely action flick it is. Continue reading

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Poltergeists & Demons: Our (Twisted) Desire for God

We just can’t get enough of these horror movies, can we? This week, Hollywood rolled out—yet again—another famous movie from the 80s, Poltergeist. I appreciate the original one for what it is, but I doubt very much I’ll shell out the cash to see this one which I know will be forgotten in a few weeks. I probably wouldn’t even offer up the dollar or two at a Redbox to see it. It’s just another horror film in the a long line of ones designed to offer cheap scares and gratuitous violence. Yet, there is something about being scared, especially by the supernatural, that our culture finds appealing.

I recall one Halloween, packed on a couch with friends in college, watching The Grudge. This was a fairly mediocre horror movie about an American woman (Sarah Michelle Gellar—what ever happened to her?) who goes to Tokyo to stay with and help an American family living out there as a nurse. She soon finds there is something lurking within the house—something dark, unpleasant, supernatural.

Yawn. Same old same old. Continue reading

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