Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
Here is Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones on being a virgin at 30:
So she remains a virgin in order to *gasp* maximize the value of intimacy with her future husband, and thus maximize the strength of the marital bond. This is a reasonable and admirable response from a young woman who follows Christ. And here is my totally unsolicited but at the same time totally free advice to Lolo Jones, Tim Tebow, and other virgin Christians in the public eye on what they should say the next time some reporter’s eyelids flap open in barely disguised terror when they get to the question about virginity:
Listen, Mr. up-to-date 21st century reporter, I really don’t see what all the hoopla’s about. Here’s how I view this whole sex and virginity thing. People always tell me they don’t understand why God is so obsessed with what consenting adults do with each other in the bedroom. I think it’s the opposite. I think it’s people who are obsessed with sex, not God. Sometimes I imagine God up there on his throne, performing a world-shaking facepalm as he shakes his head, his mighty locks swaying across a field of stars as he ponders why his creatures are so inscrutably consumed with the various ways in which skin touches skin and bodily fluids are swapped between human beings. “I made sex for a good purpose, and there’s a right way and a wrong way to use it, like a hammer,” he thinks. “What’s so gosh-forsaken complicated about that?”
I get it. I really do. You just can’t fathom what the church says about sex. We talk about God’s intent for sex within marriage and you act like we told you to throw your grandmother off a bridge. To you it sounds like kooky talk. But it only seems that way to you because you live everyday neck deep in a hyper-sexualized, hyper-pornified culture that continually preaches to everyone that there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t maximizing the pleasure-output of adult sexual relations whenever possible. But to be mercilessly honest, that’s just weird to me. We don’t follow this ethic of “pleasure maximization” in other areas because we recognize it to be downright buffoonery. When people follow the pleasure maximization ethic when it comes to food they get hideously obese. When people follow the pleasure maximization ethic when it comes to alcohol they destroy their liver or kill someone on the Interstate. But when it comes to sex, the message of western society these days seems to be, “No matter how weird what you’re doing in the bedroom would have seemed to your grandparents, as long as consenting adults are involved it’s OK and probably healthy.” So the self-discipline of somebody like me to wait for marriage is treated like some sort of alien plague. The only reason your culturally conditioned brain can’t wrap its jittering neurons around the concept of “waiting for marriage” is because the pleasure maximization ethic has been drilled into you like Pavlov’s dogs. You simply can’t see any other option, like the fish who can’t accept the existence of a world above the water because he’s never known anything else. I assure you that not everyone who held to Christian morals in previous eras was walking around waging bloody inner warfare as they “suppressed” their “natural” sexual urges to mount every attractive person that crossed their field of view. In fact when it comes to sex some of them would probably view contemporary western culture with the same sense of horror as you would view a culture where everyone was fat because they were obsessed with food and unwilling to “judge” an individual’s choices when it came to what they chose to eat.
OK, I admit that I’m speculating there. But here’s another thing. The sexual liberation movement of the ’60s had some positive elements, but the message really went too far. It basically sacramentalized “free love” so that sexual liberation was seen as some sort of profound act that contributed to one’s identity. “We’re free now! We can hump as many people, or as few, as we like, whenever we want, or not! It’s our individual choice. That’s who we are: liberated individuals who aren’t afraid of sexy time!” OK, but that’s really a weird thing to build into your identity. Would we think a man who built his free choices about what he wanted for dinner so deeply into his identity was weird? I think so, and I think our culture has subconsciously adopted sexual liberation as a key platform of human identity, and that’s why people like you get so freaked out when someone like me comes along and has a different message about how sex relates to human identity, because we say that it’s not primarily about pleasure but relational intimacy, and that if you pursue sex primarily for pleasure you’re liable to screw up relational intimacy when it actually counts. And we say it works like this because the guy that created sex says there’s a best way and a not so best way that we can use it to maximize the value of human relationships. Our culture has so sacramentalized individual choice when it comes to sex that we barely fault a man if he leaves his wife and children for a young hottie, just as long as he makes some sober pronouncement about needing to follow his own path in life or about breaking free from the restrictive institution of marriage. But that’s bollocks, and we don’t accept that nonsense in other areas of life. In business, education, politics, and so on, if a man proves to be a promise-breaker and liar who willfully harms those closest to him for his own personal gain, we don’t give him a pass if he tries to excuse his actions by appealing to the sacredness of individual choice.
So that’s where I am. And yeah, it’s tough as an adult these days to stay a virgin until marriage, but who cares? Everything of great value has to be bought with a great price. I’m sorry if that makes you feel funny.
I’m Brian Trapp and I approve this message for use by all adult Christian virgins. And BTW, Lolo is fantastically entertaining on Twitter.
“Reconsidering Religion” at the AV Club is an illuminating group of perspectives on religion from AVC staff writers. An editor asked the writers what works from pop culture challenged their traditional religious beliefs:
Chalk me up on the “raised religious” side of the board; my family was Southern Baptist, which meant thrice-weekly church attendance, weeklong revivals and holiday church events, summer sessions at a Christian camp (where I was later a counselor-in-training as well), and eventually four years at a Christian high school. I’ve identified hugely with Todd’s periodic stories about growing up sheltered, indoctrinated, and scared of things that later became beloved hobbies. I was so sheltered, in fact, that it was a pretty serious shock to the system when I read Robert Heinlein’s JOB: A Comedy Of Justice, the first book I ever happened to encounter that treated Jehovah as just another god among many, and Satan as a pretty cool guy who’s more or less into freedom, choice, and self-actualization. I’d certainly read anti-Christianity screeds of various kinds, but anger and contempt against Christianity actually tends to strengthen a fundamentalist’s resolve, in that “They wouldn’t persecute us if they weren’t so afraid of our truths” kind of way. JOB, on the other hand, downplayed Christianity with humor (though a humor that seems more heavy-handed to me today than it did back in those inexperienced days), and presented an alternative to my enforced world with complete casualness, like it weren’t no thing. When I was a kid, it felt like the most dangerous, daringly sacrilegious thing I’d ever encountered.
The other testimonials are equally fascinating, and although this is only a small sample of apparently deconverted believers, these stories are probably reliable illustrations of bigger trends.
Two common features struck me as I read through these narratives. First, it’s interesting how many of these AV Club writers were raised Southern Baptist and now consider that tradition quaintly outdated. Second, it’s even more interesting how many of them were turned away from their faith by encountering science fiction, specifically the sci-fi novels of writers like Robert Heinlein, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut.
Studies show that 60% of young people raised in the church are leaving it, for a variety of reasons given by young people themselves. Many bogeymen have arisen as candidates for the cause of this troubling exodus: watered-down theology, overly narrow theology, anti-intellectualism (particularly in regard to science), “culture war” style politics (particularly in regard to sexuality and gay marriage), over-emphasis on making church “fun”, over-emphasis on making church piously boring, and so on.
Since this is the internet, home of 350,000,000 websites and billions of unsolicited opinions, I feel comfortable offering an opinion on this topic here on my own humble sliver of this boundless sea of various persuasions created by Al Gore.
The Reason Rally is billing itself as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history.” This is probably true, but whether you’re a supporter, detractor, or merely an inquisitive bystander when it comes to what’s happening today on the National Mall in Washington, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s the first time that atheists and secularists have come together to celebrate reason and secularism. I personally find the notion of celebrating reason to be very odd, but the gathering of Dawkins and the throngs of enlightened and self-assured skeptics with him is thoroughly unremarkable when compared to the original “Festival of Reason” that French secularists celebrated after the French Revolution.
Shortly after the overthrow of the Ancien Régime, the leaders of the Revolution attempted to quash religion by closing churches and replacing Christianity with a new secular religion. In Notre Dame, Reason was actually enshrined as a goddess (although portrayed by an actual woman), and the adherents of this new Cult of Reason held festivals around France as churches were converted into “temples of reason.” Here for your creepy reading pleasure are a few excerpts from a description of one of these festivals in Châlons-sur-Marne in 1794. These are taken from The Portable Enlightenment Reader, edited by Isaac Kramnick:
The festival was announced in the whole Commune the evening before; for this purpose, retreat was sounded by all the drummers and by the trumpeters of the troops in barracks at Châlons, in all parts of the town …
The former church of Notre Dame was, for lack of time and means, cleaned and prepared only provisionally for its new use, and in its former sanctuary there was erected a pedestal supporting the symbolic statue of Reason. It is of simple and free design, decorated only by an inset bearing this inscription:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Read the rest of this entry »
Here is a meditation on my children’s future, a subject that intrudes on a multitude of my waking hours. I have been considering what I will tell them about love, and here I present my thoughts. Call it a paean to love if you will, but a paean to the real thing, not to the double-dealing charlatan that pop culture blindly worships like a wooden god.
As a child and connoisseur of American pop cultural output of the last three decades, I think I can paint a largely accurate picture of how media and the arts (often) depict love. Call this popular picture “the folly of sentiment.” Contemporary western culture certainly has an intimate knowledge of the type of sentimentality and emotional connections that play a role in real love, but it often deletes the other components that complete the picture. Like an artist who thinks all he needs for a masterpiece is paint and canvas, stupidly unwilling to see that he must conjoin them in a formal way, contemporary people are taken with the notion that sexual chemistry, strong emotional ties, and the nebulous “right person” can be put into the blender of life without additional ingredients and thereby produce a magical outcome. (Incidentally, for info on recent books that attempt to explain how we arrived at this strange moment in the history of love, see this set of reviews in the Wall Street Journal).
I’ll give you an example. In our house recently an episode of “The Bachelor” was on the idiot’s lantern. As far as TV shows go, there is no greater offender in promoting the folly of sentiment than “The Bachelor,” and the statements about love that issue from the contestants’ mouths are often cringeworthy on a cosmic scale. On this episode, one of the female contestants was being interviewed about her prospects with the titular man of the world. She herself was a divorcee, but she prattled on about how true love happens when you “meet the right person” and “fall in love” and thereby live happily ever after. Stars flickered in her eyes as she spoke, and it was apparent that she walked by an extraordinary faith in that nebulous thing called “true love.”
Only a fool would view love in this way. Consider an idealized picture of love: young, passionate, beautiful, and most-importantly, existence-affirming, for lack of a more elegant term. In pop songs, films, TV shows, perfume ads, and so on, we often see this ideal pictorialized: two young and beautiful people in a passionate embrace, consumed totally with one another. They have found each other: the right people at the right moment! Further, they “complete” each other. All my life I have been waiting for this man/woman, and the problem with all those other people with whom I had sexual flings and similar emotional attachments was that they weren’t this man/woman. Perhaps most importantly, implicit (and often explicit) in this picture is the idea that in “completing” each other, the lovers have found the highest meaning in life and achieved the highest level of human fulfillment. Romantic love is thus portrayed as an almost religious ideal. Authentic spiritual (and thus ultimate) fulfillment comes when one finds this perfect, life-affirming lover.
Love is thus seated on the throne of God, and the wise see that it sits uncomfortably.
No one with a modicum of experience with personal relationships can accept this overly sentimentalized and idealized picture. I assure you that if my wife had any delusions about me completely fulfilling her life when we got married, I dissolved them almost immediately. Investing one’s total happiness in a human being is an exercise in despair. Even the best of humans are not built for that task.
The folly of sentiment thus cheapens love by making it ultimate, like putting your dog on a pedestal and worshiping him, believing he can fulfill all your needs. No. In doing so you violate the purpose of both yourself and the dog. Instead of creating a meaningful relationship you sow the seeds of its destruction. True love is something more.
That is the first fundamental mistake entailed by the folly of sentiment. The second mistake is the notion that love “just happens” and that sexual chemistry, “passion,” infatuation, and emotional connection somehow lead to lasting love. They do not. In fact I would argue that the highly emotional period of being “in love” isn’t even a necessary condition for authentic love, and on its own it can actually deceive people into thinking they’ve found the real thing when they are nowhere in its locale. Passion, chemistry, and emotional highs certainly help, and for the fortunate among us they serve as catalysts for the real thing, but they are poor candidates for being the foundation of a relationship. I will tell my children that every broken heart, every shattered marriage, every Jerry Springer-like outburst of betrayal and hatred, every violent act of romantic revenge, and practically every out of wedlock child was born in the passionate throes of “being in love.” Sentiment is a harsh and vile god: always promising but never granting. Behind the mask of love it wears there is only the husk of rushing chemicals in the brain. Naked passion ends only in tragedy.
What then should be added to passion, chemistry, and all the rest to get true love? Commitment, sacrifice, a joint moral outlook, and most of all, a shared view of the purpose of life. I cannot speak for all Christian believers but both my wife and I view our relationship as an extension of our Christian faith. It is not primarily an institution for our own mutual benefit but a picture of inter-Trinitarian love and, more specifically, the eternal love of Christ for His church. It is therefore not based merely on emotion or passion. Those things are present, of course, but we view them as extraordinary gifts from God rather than as foundational to our relationship. Neither do we engage in a misguided exaltation of each other as being the answer to all of our problems. My wife is all too aware that putting all her hope for meaning, purpose, and final fulfillment in me would be the same as putting it in a bowl of soup. The irony of a successful marriage is that by demoting passion and chemistry to their proper place, a married couple actually receives the full bounty of their benefits. It is their misuse that makes them cheap and removes their glory.
Consider again love pictorialized. The image of two beautiful young people in a passionate embrace loses some of its teeth when compared against the folly of sentiment that often fuels it. Perhaps a better picture of love is two older people in the golden years of their life, joined not in the sexual image of bodies twisted around one another but in the childlike image of holding hands, their love not symbolized by unrestrained fire but unwavering commitment and the simple enjoyment of the other’s presence. Not the bonfire of passion but the slow burn of a shared eternal vision.
What is true of one man, said the judge, is true of many. The people who once lived here are called the Anasazi. The old ones. They quit these parts, routed by drought or disease or by wandering bands of marauders, quit these parts ages since and of them there is no memory. They are rumors and ghosts in this land and they are much revered. The tools, the art, the building – these things stand in judgment on the latter races. Yet there is nothing for them to grapple with. The old ones are gone like phantoms and the savages wander these canyons to the sound of ancient laughter. In their crude huts they crouch in darkness and listen to the fear seeping out of the rock. All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery and a residue of nameless rage. So. Here are the dead fathers. Their spirit is entombed in the stone. It lies upon the land with the same weight and the same ubiquity. For whoever makes a shelter of reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the structure of the universe and so it was with these masons however primitive their works may seem to us.
It’s strange how such prose can set a man’s mind on unknown paths. I read these lines from McCarthy’s epic and have the following thought: modern man (if I may use a well-worn term, multifariously defined) takes himself to be very clever. See his iPods, his moving machines, his paper stories, his homes built light and strong! Wonder at his tricks: minimal work but maximal comfort, physical love without the worry of natural consequences. Marvel at his cleverness! But his time is made of straw. In distant ages future no trace of him will be found. His houses will turn to dust, his achievements to ruin. But the work of the savages to which he considers himself superior will remain, those crude predecessors who knew nothing of Facebook or frozen corn dogs or quantum mechanics. In their quest for survival they created something that will outlast the so-called wisdom of those who walked the same land after them.
This billboard just showed up near one of the locations where I work:
I don’t imagine they’ll win many converts with this sort of message. In fact, I wonder if this massive atheist PR campaign is starting to wear a little thin with the public. When you’re getting lampooned by the unfunny Dane Cook, you’re probably doing something wrong:
But of course no one does bad PR like American evangelicals. Here’s a sign that’s been on the side of I-65 near Montgomery, Alabama for as long as I can remember:
Sigh. Sometimes I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
Edward Feser quotes Lady Gaga, the reigning queen of pop weirdness, from an article in this month’s Vanity Fair:
Listen, I prayed for a lunacy, and he gave it to me. It’s a bit of a sick thing when a 17-year-old says in her nightly prayers that I would rather die young and a legend than be married with children and die an old lady in my bed.
One of the commenters at Feser’s blog points out that the media-savvy Ms. Gaga seems to treat her interviews as a kind of performance art, so she makes all kind of outrageous statements designed to reinforce her public persona as a wacky pop goddess. I have no idea if Ms. Gaga actually prayed to the Almighty for such a lunacy, but it wouldn’t suprise me if she did. She certainly seems to be pursuing the ideal of living young and famous rather than dying old and responsible.
I am tempted to make a comment here about Ms. Gaga’s prayer being emblematic of modern man’s desire to have fame, fortune, and youth at the expense of traditional human ideals like growing old, marrying, and having children. But then I am reminded that the quest for this kind of worldly immortality isn’t limited to western, 21st century, post-Christian figures like Ms. Gaga. Homer essentially says the same thing of Achilles in The Iliad. The gods offer Achilles the choice of either dying young in glorious battle or living a long, obscure life at home. In the end, Achilles chooses the former, and three thousand years later his name is still heard in Literature departments and sports medicine clinics across the globe.
Achilles’ feats will almost certainly outlast the vapid babble of Gaga and her contemporaries, but they share a common view of human meaningfulness: that the only way to stave off the threat of historical obscurity is to make oneself into a god among men. It’s foolish, of course, but for some it’s certainly appealing in the absence of some more transcendent view of human purpose. I think this view of life represents a total selfishness, an abandonment of those traditional human roles that actually benefit society, such as marrying and raising children, for a me-centered worldview that subordinates other human goods to the personal goal of receiving eternal adoration. It’s odd, but for those whose god is themselves it makes perfect sense.
[I'm reposting this from my old blog since I've had a few discussions with coworkers on this topic recently. It originally appeared at ChristianThinker.net back in May of 2009.]
This video has been very popular on Youtube recently, with over 6 million views:
I’ve blogged about this before, and this is the drum that conservative commentators like Mark Steyn have been beating for years. However, projecting long-term cultural change from current demographic data is always a tricky business. Cultural and demographic changes are often the results of numerous processes and trends. It’s true that fertility rates are a huge factor in projecting these types of cultural changes, maybe even the biggest, but there are other factors to consider. The Network for Strategic Missions has a few quotes up by missions researchers about the video. Hence Jason Mandryk of Operation World:
One element that we cannot possibly accurately estimate (at least I cannot see a mechanism for accurate estimation) is the secularizing effect of European society on immigrants with a religious affiliation and on the children of religion parents . . . Can we have ANY idea about how effective secular materialism will be in converting Muslims, Hindus, non-Western Christians, etc to non-religion? I don’t know, but on an anecdotal basis, the large majority of the Muslims I know in the UK – which would consist of about 40 people, predominantly male and Pakistani and under 35 years old – demonstrate high degrees of nominalism and almost all of the same traits which have seen the exodus of a younger generation from Christianity to non-faith in the last 10-20 years. Many younger Muslims in the UK (and in other Western nations) show the same social values that nominal Christians do – and as great a personal commitment to secular materialism as to their religion – and as such, make for perfectly acceptable and indeed welcomed citizens of a pluralist society.
And Peter Crossing of the World Christian Database questions some of the stats used in the video:
The grain of truth that the Muslim population percentage is increasing in Europe is correct, but WCD projections show Europe overall at 7% by 2050. It may partly be the difference between a straight mathematical extrapolation, and a projection which includes factors that change current growth. (Large growth rates are only sustainable for small populations and inevitably level out as the percentage increases. ie. it’s easy for a population to increase from 20 to 40, but much harder from 20m to 40m).
The base data too, from which the extrapolation is calculated, is very different to WCD:
e.g. Britain Muslims (WCD)
1970: 635,000 1.14%
2010: 1,680,000 2.73%
(as against YouTube’s something like 80,000 in 1970 to 2.5m in 2009–big difference in the extrapolation!)
WCD has 2050: 2,850,000 4.15%
And, by the way, it just seems really unlikely that 1m Muslims in the Netherlands are having the same number of children as 15m non-Muslims. UN says 180,000 births per year, which would mean 90,000 Muslim births. There are 500,000 Muslim females, but say 250,000 at a stretch of child-bearing age–that’s almost every second female giving birth, every year.
If I were a betting man, I’d say the demographic shift described in the video is definitely happening, but not quite at the drastic rates reported. I’ll remain skeptical about any supposed certainties that such demographic numbers can deliver about the future. However, it’s definitely something to think about. If the numbers about European and American birth rates are even close to correct, then it seems clear that the combination of secularism and affluence is poison to a culture’s ability to reproduce itself.
Nevertheless, there are things I like about the movement. Or perhaps I should say that the new atheism may have unintended consequences that I like. Here is a review for a new book that apparently makes the argument that at least one way Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al serve Christendom is by holding believers’ feet to the fire in regard to intellectual honesty. This is true and valuable, because I think many Christians tend to be intellectually lazy. From their perspective, they’re already in possession of “truth with a capital T”, and therefore they don’t think they need to think very much about their faith. When the new atheists point out that religious believers don’t have a solid intellectual foundation for their faith, they are partially correct. There are unfortunately very many Christians who are utterly incapable of giving a coherent reason for why they believe in Christianity (a fact that has no bearing on whether Christianity is true or rationally acceptable, however, a point I made to Uncle Skeptic on my old blog).
When an intellectually shallow Christian encounters the arguments of the new atheists, he must either (1) reevaluate the epistemic foundations of his faith and think critically about Christianity in a way he hasn’t done before, (2) stick his head in the sand and ignore their arguments, or (3) accept their arguments, leading to a crisis of faith and possibly unbelief. The new atheists want the results of their efforts to be (3), but I think they miscalculate that many Christians will take option (1). New atheist arguments, febrile as I find them to be, can have a strengthening effect on the church by driving individual Christians to a stronger and more rational intellectual position.
Likewise, although it’s certainly tragic when someone takes option (3) and apostasizes, it’s probably better for the church. Those who leave the faith because they read Richard Dawkins or develop an obsessive fascination with the mountain of atheist polemics online probably never had a very strong faith to begin with. If I read one more “deconversion” story where someone says they were a believer for 20 years but then started reading infidels.org and “realized” God was just a fantasy drilled into their head by pastors and Sunday School teachers, I just might puke. If your faith is this shallow and your cognitive capacities so susceptible to cheap rhetoric passing for logic, you probably have no business being in a church anyway. That’s not to say that there aren’t intelligent Christians who honestly wrestle with their faith and eventually leave it behind for intellectually respectable reasons (see here for a tragic and heartbreaking example), but there are plenty of gullible churchgoers who accept their newfound atheism for reasons that are probably just as unwarranted as the reasons they accepted Christianity to begin with. Hence the new atheism gives the church a bonus by separating the sheep from the goats.
[This post originally appeared at my old blog on April 27, 2006. The original is here.]
“Christianity is a myth,” declared the professor in my college folklore class. “However,” he continued, “that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true.” The word “myth” as it has come to be used in the common vernacular simply means “something that isn’t true.” So in this sense the idea that President Bush was behind the attacks of 9/11 is clearly a myth.
But let’s distinguish for a moment between this common definition of myth and the somewhat different notion of mythology. What is a myth in this second sense? According to the Encyclopedia Mythica, a myth is
a story of forgotten or vague origin, basically religious or supernatural in nature, which seeks to explain or rationalize one or more aspects of the world or a society … Broadly speaking myths and mythologies seek to rationalize and explain the universe and all that is in it. Thus, they have a similar function to science, theology, religion and history in modern societies.
Mythology, then, serves the same function as a worldview, but in narrative form. It is a way in which people understand themselves in relation to reality, what there actually is, and thus it is a way in which people understand their own meaning.
Now back to my question: is Christianity mythology? Well, not in the first sense of being a story that isn’t factually true. But do mythic stories have to be false? To put it another way, does the concept of myth entail falsehood? C. S. Lewis certainly didn’t think so. In his excellent essay, “Myth Became Fact,” he defends the idea that Christianity is the one, true, factual myth. He sees the function of myth as that of taking abstract truths and completing them, and thus completing human knowledge:
In the enjoyment of a great myth we come nearest to the experiencing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction … When we translate we get abstraction – or rather, dozens of abstractions. What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something, but reality is that about which truth is), and, therefore, every myth becomes the father of innumerable truths on the abstract level. Myth is the mountain whence all the different streams arise which become truths down here in the valley; in hac valle abstractionis ["In this valley of separation"]. Or, if you prefer, myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with that vast continent we really belong to. It is not, like truth, abstract; nor is it, like direct experience, bound to the particular.
For Lewis then, mythology may help us better understand those ultimate, metaphysical, and sometimes mysterious truths about the world in which we live. However, Lewis sees the Christian story as the myth, the one that teaches us the ultimate truth about reality itself. But unlike the other mythologies, the Christian story is factually true, and that is what makes it so important:
Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from the religion they professed. To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other …
Those who do not know that this great myth became Fact when the Virgin conceived are, indeed, to be pitied … We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’: they ought to be there – it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic — and is not the sky itself a myth — shall we refuse to be mythopathic? For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.
In a world of where rationalism and materialism act as usurpers to the epistemological throne, the declaration of the true myth of Christianity – the story of the world above reaching down to the world below – is essential. The fact is that many people do believe in various mythologies: they literally idolize their favorite sports teams, or musicians, or pop singers, or political theories, and yet none of these can do the job, for they are all unfortunately tied to the finite and temporary realm in which we live. The myth of the dying, atoning God, of eternity’s Messiah who saves mankind, is also fact. It is the one true mythology, the one true story by which faltering humanity may chart its course to eternity.
[Note: "Myth Became Fact" can be found in the excellent anthology of Lewis' essays and articles, God in the Dock.]