Sunday, December 29, 2013
Two More Gems of Truth from Frank Schaeffer's 2013 Novel: AND GOD SAID, "BILLY!"
This post continues my reflections on Frank Schaeffer's 2013 novel: And God Said, "Billy!" The misadventures of ultra-fundamentalist Christian film-maker Billy Graham (named after the famous evangelist) culminate in four chapters containing exquisite gems of truth. I explored two such gems in my previous post, and here I will explore two more, saving a fifth and final gem for a post of its own. I reviewed the novel two posts ago.
Note the SPOILER ALERT for this post: this post could spoil the ending of the novel for someone who hasn't yet read it.
GEM #3: ATHEISM HAS A PLACE ON THE CONTINUUM OF BELIEF.
Atheism has a place on the continuum of belief. Frank Schaeffer makes this point in And God Said, "Billy!" and I believe it is true. It can make perfect sense for a person not to believe in God. It certainly makes sense for Billy to turn away from the judgmental, wrathful, rules-bound God to whom he has devoted so much of his life. Belief in this God has been extremely harmful to Billy. Father Tryphon recognizes this, and even performs an unbaptism, freeing Billy from this tyrannical God. Billy's unbaptism is described on page 298:
I guess I first really woke up the moment that you (very unexpectedly!) poured a stream of dry silvery sand over my head that you'd just scooped from the cave floor. It was so dry and powdery that it flowed like water over my head and shoulders. You said, "I unbaptize you in the name of truth, love and beauty! You are free!" and Miss Honeychurch swooped over us and you laughed and said, "A dove for Jesus and a crow for you, Billy! Perfect!"
I can imagine an unbaptism being very freeing and healing for someone like Billy, whose life has been so cramped by belief in a confining God. An unbaptism forces you to make your own conscious decisions about how you really and deeply want your life to be. You no longer simply obey God's orders without thought. Since you no longer rely on God, you are free to look deep into your own soul to decide how you will live. I think that most people will find a well of goodness there, deep within themselves.
GEM #4: LITURGY PROVIDES CONTINUITY FOR A CHANGING FAITH.
I really like Father Tryphon's views on liturgy. Liturgy provides continuity for our faith, connecting us through time across the ages and through space across the globe. Father Tryphon, on page 289, speaks of "our wonderful liturgies and traditions which bind our communities together with blessedly familiar and comfortable predictability." I agree. I do believe, though, that changes need to be made in those places of the liturgy where we have come to a different understanding of our faith. For example, I believe that the language of liturgy should not suggest that God is exclusively male, nor should it curse people who practice certain behaviors (such as same-sex intimacy) or hold certain beliefs (such as paganism).
My next post will explore a fifth and final gem of truth in Frank Schaeffer's And God Said, "Billy!"