Charlie Brown Was No Idiot!

A Charlie Brown Christmas (album)

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As many of you know, my favorite Christmas movie is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  One of the best scenes is when Charlie Brown and Linus go on a search for a Christmas Tree for their Christmas play.  They head into an array of pink, purple, blue and silver aluminum trees all set up in a consumer commercial extravaganza.  Ironically, Charlie Brown picks the little natural tree that’s barely making it.  Linus even protests the choice, saying that his sister Lucy wouldn’t think that this little tree would fit “the modern spirit” of Christmas.

Charles Schultz was so ahead of his time man.  He was making a commentary about the over-commercialization of Christmas.  I suppose this was becoming evident even in 1965, and more so today 45 years later in 2010.

But I love the fact that Charlie Brown picked the outcast tree.  Not long after that, he was laughed at by little Peanut peers for going against the grain.  Yet if we remember, by the end of the cartoon all the Peanuts come together, rip off Snoopy’s prize-winning decorations, and turn that tree into something more beautiful than any aluminum tree could imitate.

It actually reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend, Rich, about six years ago.  Back then, Rich was into Buddhism and some pretty heavy psychadelic drug use.  We used to meet together and go running, or we’d take turns making healthy dinners at each other’s houses.  Once and a while he’d light up a joint around me or something, and I (by God’s grace) would resist the temptation to partake.

I remember my last full conversation with Rich before he took off all over the country to hitchhike and explore the world and his mind.  He started it off by saying, “C’mon Ben- you know this Christianity stuff is a bunch of bull****, right?  You can’t really believe it, can you?”  I then proceeded to tell Rich that I loved him, and wanted him to be in the Kingdom with me when God restored all things and made them right.  I tried giving him a wild analogy.  I said something like this:

Rich, following Jesus is kind of like this…  There’s a huge mountain, and you’re at the bottom of it.  There’s a bunch of cars at the bottom, and someone tells you that only one of them will make it to the top of the mountain.  The cars are a bunch of different varieties and ages.  You immediately go to the ones that seem to make the most sense- the 4-wheel drive trucks and jeeps- they break down…  The economy cars break down- the vans too.  You try them all, from the most attractive ones to the least attractive.  All of them break down until there’s this one left.  It’s the crappiest looking car of the whole bunch, at least you thought it was.  You think “This will never make it”.  But it does make it.  That’s how Jesus is Rich- He’s the only way to God.  I know you believe in a lot of gods- which is a Hindu Philosophy– and you believe that they’ll all get people to heaven.  But its not true Rich- Jesus Christ is the only way to God and eternity in heaven- every other way leads to hell.  Christianity just looks unattractive because there are so many hypocrites that call themselves Christians and don’t live it.  I’m not perfect either, but I know that its true- that Jesus died for my sins and yours.  I’m telling you this because I want you to be in the new Kingdom with me.

I loved Rich’s reply, he said very candidly; “So you’re telling me that Jesus is some piece of **** jalopy at the bottom of a hill that will get me to heaven?  That’s a pile of **** bro.  But I do believe in what you’re doing, and I think you do it well.  I’ve got a lot of respect for you man.” As Rich himself would attest, he didn’t even really believe in any “way” or “religion” that solely could lead to God.  He really rejected all “gods” in a sense, because he was searching for enlightenment beyond any perceived definition.  When Rich left, I told him I loved him, and we had a good hearty man hug.  Not long after that Rich hitchhiked through the U.S. and Canada.  We still keep in touch occasionally by email and the last I heard he was studying at the Oregon College of Oriental medicine.

You have to understand as well that I didn’t have this intense conversation with Rich until I had gone jogging with him many times, invited him for dinner, and had him sit in with some musician friends playing hand percussion.  I really did and do love Rich, because we naturally shared a lot in common and enjoyed each other.  All of us connect with certain people more than others, and it’s certainly no mistake that we do.

That possibly goofy analogy I used in conversation with Rich reminds me of Charlie Brown’s love for the little beat up tree amidst all the flashy aluminum ones.

And I still believe that in our culture- Jesus may seem like the most unpopular, jaded, silly, archaic, mythic, foolish, anti-intellectual “choice” of the many spiritual things out there.

But when we take in this rejected, unloved little tree amidst all the flash and attraction of other paths, He elects us to Himself, takes us in as His own.  And in the end of the story, we find He is more beautiful, and completely true.  Just like the beauty of the tree at the end of the story in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

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2 thoughts on “Charlie Brown Was No Idiot!

  1. so i did find this blog. i remember fondly many of our conversations, jogs, meals and assorted hang-outs. you’re a good friend and an even better man, or perhaps vice-versa? 😛

    in response to all that was written above, i want to say this: i believe what i had taken issue with was not your analogy, or even your christianity, but rather the belief that christianity is the only true or authentic religion.

    it’s also somewhat of a misrepresentation to claim that i believed in many gods. what i believe is that people believe in a lot of gods, and that it is fruitless and stupid for them to argue amongst themselves about which of their gods is the true and authentic one. it strikes me as equally stupid for them to attempt to convert one another, because in my way of thinking the only way to find god, achieve enlightenment, or progress spiritually is to have awareness about oneself, others and the world.

    now, i don’t want to get too deeply into what i believe or don’t believe. we have had such conversations before. one thing i appreciated about you during such conversations was the respect you showed for various belief systems. it would be somewhat of a strike against you if the entire time that we were having honest and open communication about human spirituality, that you were secretly hoping to convert me to christianity. speaking only for myself, i have discovered a path much more profound than anything christianity has to offer, and i can with as much certainty as it is possible to have, say that i am no more likely to convert to christianity than i am to hinduism, islam judaism, shintoism, wicca or the many other paths that people take. though i do believe all of those are equally valid to yours and mine.

    that said, i will still meet you in the kingdom of heaven one day. have no doubt that i will get there, friend, even if i don’t share your occult allegiances. i may even arrive there before you do because it seems to me that one of the surest ways of avoiding spiritual salvation is to become overly concerned with the salvation of others. i hope you don’t go down that path, my friend.

    finally, i might add that while i appreciate your brotherly love, it is not a sign that your path is true to the exclusion of all others. there’s probably a name for the rhetorical device that sounds like this, “i love you, but i’m also saying that you need to do the dishes. but just so you know, i love you. and the dishes are dirty. i love you. don’t forget – they’re in the sink.” just thought you should be aware of that …

    yours sincerely,
    rich

    • Alright bro I’m finally going to give a response here. Sorry I’ve been busy and haven’t had a good moment to respond like I want to 🙂

      I did enjoy all the moments we spent together Rich. You are a good friend and even better man as well. 🙂 I especially always appreciated your hospitality and generosity- which exist within you to a degree that’s uncommon and remarkable in my mind. More than that, I always appreciated the conversations we had, because they delved more deeply into philosophical/theological questions than many of my day to day interactions do. If you were around town again I’d hope you’d wanna hit me up for some coffee.

      For one, I will certainly take your comments into consideration and correct the post accordingly. I’m sorry if I represented a judgement of your belief system here. I will include excerpts from your comment in the post as representative of your beliefs. It’s just a reminder that I can’t know truly what’s in a person’s heart! I do apologize for that man.

      And yes, I’m aware that you generally reject absolutism. I can relate to that, because it’s what I believed for 19 years of my life. (well… maybe the first 10 were less aware but you know what I mean!) Of course at this point I do believe that Jesus is the exclusive way to God, enough to the point that I can say that I know it to be true, which I’m sure sounds arrogant, but I don’t wish that exclusive claim to be an arrogant weapon to look down upon others, because Jesus also taught us to serve His people and all people (“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26-28) ) Also, the entirety of the Old and New Testament message is to love the Lord and serve Him with all our heart, soul mind and strength, and to treat others as we would have them treat us. (Matt. 22:34-40)

      So all that to say I never ever have intended to make friends with kats like yourself or others for the sake of converting them. It’s more that I naturally connect with certain people because of my personality. In the midst of that connection my desire is to share with them what has saved my life, given me true purpose, and even further will give me eternal life. So I share this truth with people I deeply care for. There are plenty of people that I don’t naturally connect with also, and I feel obliged to love them and learn from them. But you are the kind of dude I naturally connect with Rich, so our friendship was always genuine. Now I know that nothing I say will prove my convictions to someone, because no one really can believe all this unless they desire it and God simultaneously reveals it (Matt. 16:15-17). But besides that, it just seems like foolishness to anyone who doesn’t believe it (1 Cor. 1:20-25). And believe me, I totally understand that because I didn’t believe it for quite a time until I asked God to reveal it and began to search it out for myself.

      Yet I still echo what Paul said, that “if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19) Honestly Rich, my desire to follow Jesus has brought a lot of trouble into my life. By this point I could possibly have more popularity, wealth and influence, but I’ve given those up because I know Jesus is true. If it all isn’t true then I’m one of the greatest idiots around! I just keep trying to deny it and it continues to deny me the right to deconstruct it. This truth continues to deconstruct my natural inclinations and simultaneously increases my love and understanding, and yet conversely makes me feel that this earth is not my home.

      The main reason that people killed Jesus is that He claimed to be God. And in all accounts of the Bible He lived without ever “sinning”- i.e. making a mistake that would hurt others or Himself/violating the laws of conscience. I had to come face to face with this reality of whether or not the accounts of Jesus were a pile of garbage, or whether Jesus was really a looney, or whether He was a con-artist, or whether it’s all really true and people really did give up their lives for it (and still do, even more so globally to this day).

      So I suppose I may be concerned with the salvation of others even more so than myself because I really hold all these things to be true. Penn from Penn and Teller- a renowned atheist- really described this well in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdvES4_MJ5Y. I am in accord with the guy he describes. I do wish all to come to know Jesus, as much as I know many will reject Him (yes- even people who call themselves “Christians”- but that’s a whole other issue) 🙂 At times I long for others to know this salvation to the point that I’m more concerned about them than myself, even though I’m naturally egotistical and desire my own benefits in many ways. In my better moments (which I would describe as empowered by the Holy Spirit of God) I fulfill the law of love more greatly- as repeated above- to love my neighbor as myself.

      And finally, I don’t believe that there’s anything we could do to earn this salvation. “For it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one may boast”. If I didn’t believe this I would be hanging out writing concept albums, getting high, and trying to advance myself. I really don’t believe anything I can do will prove that I’m better than anyone else. In fact, as you know, many people who are Christians are morally inferior to some who are not. So how can that be explained? It’s only that we all are imperfect and in a process of growing as human beings. For those that know Jesus- there is an eternal reality that exists. Yet they may struggle with something basic like loving a homeless person more than someone who doesn’t know this. I think it’s sad and I wish more people who say they know Jesus acted like it- including myself. So mostly I write stuff for church folk because I long for all of us to really understand Jesus and see Him as He is.

      I know this was quite a rant. But I really wanted to consider everything and respond well. I do appreciate your response and concern for me. Please don’t ever allow me to be inconsistent or hypocritical! And always call me out on it if you see that in me.

      Anytime you’re in Kent- hit me up.

      Grace & Peace,
      Ben

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