“Go ahead! Try to shake my faith! I dare you!”
– R. Christopher Melton II, when he trusted that his faith could not be shaken.
About five or six months ago, I posted a blog where I stated that I was nothing without Christianity. I had so much faith that my trust in the Lord could not be shaken! …but then something happened at the start of December that did. I’ll not go into incredible detail about the feelings that unfolded in December but my anger has subsided long enough for me to take a look at why the Lord might have let this happen. I still visit church about once or twice a month and I’ll even flip through a few verses of the Holy Bible in my free time but, really, most of my time has been spent away from the Lord.
“Let’s Shake Things Up”
I usually start my day by listening to music while I wake up and get ready for the day. I recently learned to appreciate songs like “Closer” or “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers. If I ever figure out how to word it, I want to write about this scene from an elaborate story idea in my head where I’ve lined up the events of the scene to Krewella‘s “We Are One“.1 Martin Garrix is another one of my favorite selections of music with songs like “Animals” or “High on Life“. Songs like Marshmallow’s “Happier” or “Friends” are also among my most played, alongside other songs in my I’m Rocking Out playlist. After I get home from work or on my days off, I’ll busy myself with video games or YouTube.
Before I really began my “relationship” with the Lord, most of my time was spent with video games. So it only makes sense that I would return to them when I’m through trying to please a Deity who never shows any sign of satisfaction! [“…” Ahem.] Anyway, since the long-awaited finale to a “Dearly Beloved” franchise has recently been released, I’ve obviously been enjoying that. Alongside Kingdom Hearts III, I’m also enjoying the splendor of other video games both within the franchise and others. Around Early January, I enrolled in a monthly subscription to Xbox Game Pass so I’ve installed games like Doom or Devil May Cry. The latter of those two franchises is a little too Satanic or sacrilegious for my tastes but the gameplay reminds me of Ghost Rider, the first game I ever played with my PlayStation 2.
Speaking of “the first game I ever played on [any console]”, the first game I ever played on my (original) Xbox was Halo: Combat Evolved. The story behind the Halo franchise is a close second in my list of favorite stories, right behind Kingdom Hearts, but the thought of returning to Halo’s gameplay is not an idea that appeals to me. Whereas my love for Kingdom Hearts‘ story can be enacted through the gameplay, Halo‘s story is one that has little to do with the gameplay but expands into both cinema and literature. So, if I want to understand more about the lore of Halo2, I’ll tune into a YouTube channel, “HiddenXperia“, that focuses on Halo‘s lore. Or if I want to see a scene from one of the games or one of the movies, I’ll look it up on YouTube. Especially since I would never pay for one of their movies as they don’t add a incredible amount to the story and aren’t all that entertaining.
That’s what streaming services are for!
I recently reactivated my Netflix account and am thinking about starting a Hulu.
When I got my Amazon Fire TV, I saw that it had pre-installed apps for Netflix and Hulu in addition to standard movies and television shows included with Amazon Prime. Sure, my Xbox One or PlayStation 4 can download these apps but the Fire TV came with pre-installed! It makes all the difference, really. Netflix is pretty useless right now because I really only use it to rewatch the anime series, Death Note. I tried starting and getting into different shows like The Office or even Lucifer but they just don’t butter my eggroll, ‘know what I mean?
My Netflix account is also used to play some of my less favorite movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I absolutely adore the collection of movies that come together to tell one larger story surrounding the Marvel superheroes. I’ve grown especially fond of Tony Stark’s snarkiness, but every character and every movie really tells parts that contribute to the overall plot and that is what intrigues me about these films. I love these movies so much that I purchased some of my top favorites to my Microsoft “Movies and TV” account. Guardians of the Galaxy, the Iron Man trilogy, Captain America and the Avengers series are all movies I’ve bought through Microsoft but when I want to watch Thor: Ragnarok3, I’ll turn to Netflix. Two movies that I have purchased and watched recently, I would very much like to focus on and draw parallels from: Avengers: Age of Ultron and Spiderman: Homecoming.
Spoilers: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is probably near the top of my list of my favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I understand that there are people who may think it’s a poor film but my interest in Tron: Legacy should probably tell you that I have a taste for movies that are not necessarily popular. Ultron is really what appeals to me about this movie. The way he sounds, how he talks, his betrayal, moving “beyond” his original purpose, his “vision” and goal are all aspects that make me appreciate his character.
[If the scene is viewed, the portion referred to starts at 0:16 and ends at 1:32; skip to Section 2, Paragraph 4.]
One of my favorite scenes that I personally draw parallels from is after he completes a transaction with Ulysses Klaue. The black market weapons manufacturer4 sells Ultron several capsules of “vibranium” and notes that they came at “great personal cost” and reveals they are worth millions. Ultron transfers “millions” from what I can only imagine is Stark’s bank account into the black market seller’s account and quotes, “Keep your friends rich and your enemies rich and wait to find out which is which.” Ulysses recalls that Tony Stark had said that to him before and accuses Ultron of being an agent of Stark.
With great fury, Ultron grabs Ulysses’ arm and questions him, “You think I’m one of Stark’s puppets? His hollow men? I mean, look at me. Do I look like Iron Man?” Ultron exclaims “Stark is nothing!” as he slices through the left arm of Ulysses. After seeing the damage, Ultron calms himself and suggests, “I’m sure that’s gonna be okay.” He then unsympathetically apologizes, “I’m sorry. It’s just [that] I don’t understand. Don’t compare me with Stark!” He kicks Ulysses down a flight of stairs and declaims, “It’s a thing with me. Stark is… He’s a sickness!” Tony Stark appears behind Ultron in his Iron Man suit and responds, “Ah, Junior. You’re gonna break your old man’s heart.” Ultron turns toward him and flatly replies, “If I have to.”
As you can imagine, I made a few friends at work and made plans and started to join them casually and I’ve even gone to a few parties with them. Sometimes, they would joke that I was a “good Christian boy” and that would change the way I behave in certain situations. Acting in defiance of Calvinistic teachings I mentally noted, “I am not the Lord’s puppet.” I paraphrased Ultron, “You think I’m one of Christ’s hollow men? […] Look at me. Do I act like a Christian? Don’t identify me with Christianity!” Don’t think for a second that I am at all offended by their teasing and their jokes about my Christian background because I laugh with them. To recall that I was ever a slave to that [censored: “suggestive adjective, rage-fueled noun”] is a joke to me.
A smaller scene from this movie that I draw similarly from is after he hears the backstory from “The Enhanced”, a set of fraternal twins. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff are from Sokovia and developed their powers from participating in a HYDRA scientist’s experiments with Loki’s scepter following the events of the first Avengers film. The twins relay the events of a horrid two days in the rubble of a bombing attack staring at a missile shell manufactured by Stark Industries explaining, “We wait for two days for Tony Stark to kill us.” Ultron sadistically replies, “I wondered why only you two survived Strucker’s experiments. Now I don’t. We will make it right.” Near early January, I took a step back and thought about who I was and thought, in the same tone, “There was once a time when I wondered who I would be without Christianity. Now I know.”
Spoilers: Spiderman: Homecoming
More recently, I watched Spiderman: Homecoming and there’s really only one scene in the movie that I compare to my relationship with God. Not just in this season of rebellion. My mind wanders from Christ-centered thoughts about once every month or so. One of the reasons this season is lasting so long is because I was tired of going back and forth between focusing on the Lord and fulfilling my own desires which, by nature, are not Christ-centered.5 I’ve compared myself with Spiderman every time I watch this scene and before now, there was always one line that didn’t make sense. Whereas in Age of Ultron, I was replacing the idea of Stark with Christian themes, I see Stark enacting the Lord’s response directly this time and trust me, I know how weird that sounds.
The movie starts out with Iron Man giving Peter Parker a new mechanical Spiderman suit. After spending what I imagine to be a few weeks being a “friendly neighborhood Spiderman”, Peter thinks he’s ready for bigger quests and hacks the multi-million-dollar suit to deactivate his “training wheel protocol”. This activates his suit with a full range of new features and abilities and he traces down the antagonist to the Staten Island Ferry. Upon finding the antagonist, they have a bit of a struggle that splits the ferry in half. Although Spiderman tried to save the ferry by webbing it together, he is unsuccessful and hopelessly tries to undo the mistake he’s done. Incredibly, Iron Man appears and saves the day by summoning an army of metallic helpers to hold the ship afloat as he welds it together.
[If the scene is viewed, the portion referred to starts at 0:28 and ends 1:31; skip to Section 3, Paragraph 5.]
Following this, Peter Parker sits atop a building next to the harbor holding his Spiderman mask as Iron Man shows up. Parker describes that he only went searching for the antagonist because Stark didn’t listen to him. Knowing that the Iron man suit can be controlled remotely, Spiderman assumes that Tony Stark is not in the suit and cries, “If you even cared, you’d actually be here.” Much to his surprise, Stark exits the Iron Man suit and intimidates Peter, “I did listen, kid. Who do you think called the FBI, huh?” He teaches Peter that he was the only one who believed in Parker because everyone else said that Stark was insane to recruit “a 14-year old kid.” Parker corrects him, “I’m fifteen.”
Stark, obviously outraged with Peter, denies his correction, “No. This is where you zip it, all right? The adult is talking.” Stark goes on to inform Peter that if someone had died, Spiderman would have been the one to take responsibility and that if Spiderman dies, Stark would feel like he should accept the responsibility and guilt. “I don’t need that on my conscience.” The next few lines of dialogue involve Parker apologizing and saying that he just wanted to be like Iron Man to which Stark responds, “I wanted you to be better.” Parker looks away. Whatever he was thinking, Stark cuts his thought short by demanding, “Okay, it’s not working out. I’m gonna need the suit back.” When asked how long Stark would take the suit back, Stark replies, “Forever.” Peter then pleads with Stark, “This is all I have. I’m nothing without this suit.” Stark remarks, “If you’re nothing without this suit, you shouldn’t have it.”
Which is crazy, right? “How could the Lord ever revoke my Salvation, huh? Nah, it can’t be a complete parallel because He’d never do that.” This ties back to what I originally wrote in the first paragraph. In October 2018, I did not know who I would be without Christianity. Now I know. “Now I can come back, right?” No. Why would I want to do that? To become a prisoner once again to guilt and self-loathing because, even to the best of my abilities, I can’t live my life according to my Lord and Savior’s will?
End of Line
Has all this been a game? A test from the Lord so that I could know who I would be without Christianity? Jokes on You, Father. You’ve shown me who I am and it’s kinda nice to be on the other side of the prison cell. The question is, which side is really “in prison” and which side is really “free”?
Before a mental challenge in late September6, there was a “series” I played in my mind that symbolized my relationship with sin and the Holy Spirit. If it was true that the Holy Spirit was present, I don’t know if it’s possible He left (which, I know, would argue with the “permanent salvation” TULIP petal) or is just silent because of my blossomed relationship with Lady Lucinda right now. …Not that I’m in any way reinstating the analogy. I am just familiar with the characters and what they represented. For example, a character in the analogy, nicknamed “Suzi”, was a character to represent my suicidal thoughts and I feared her presence very much. When I was in constant argument with the character that represented my sinful nature, Victor “the Commander” Antonio, Suzi would be a constant visitor because I couldn’t live up to the Lord’s commandments and that depressed me. However, I am pleased to report that my suicidal thoughts have only visited me when invited by the imaginary scene that plays in my head whenever “We Are One” by Krewella plays. I’ve learned that if I don’t fight with my sinful nature, agents like depression or suicidal thoughts almost cease to exist! I am the one that’s free!
Guilt, depression, suicidal or pessimistic thoughts: they’re all gone! I’ve finally been released from those chains because I just don’t care anymore. And it’s not like anything’s ever really popped up that makes me think the way I’m living now is unjust. These comparisons to my relationship with God, teemed with the monthly visit to Church and my occasional glance at the Bible, have been just enough to keep me thinking but I remember why I started this rebellion and I’ll not “come back” until I complete my objective and feel proper resolution! It’s why I keep going to church or reading the Bible: I really hope that there is something that will catch my eye or grab my attention that will snap me out of this. What can the Lord do? How can He save me now?
I’ll admit, I’m very confused about all of this. I don’t know if I am a “saved” Christian; I don’t know if I ever was. I am not worried about making it to Heaven because if I ever could, I know that I know as much as a “saved” Christian ought to know. Still, in that knowledge is the knowledge that my knowledge won’t save me. What saves a Christian, though? I don’t have an exact answer on that. Is it love in Jesus Christ? There was a time in my life I thought I loved Christ, but what is love? Why would I love Jesus Christ? Would I love Him because He freed me from the consequence of my sins? If it’s conditional love, could it really be called love? Should it be something I have to force myself to do? I hardly know what “love” really is but I’m through trying to find out who’s going to teach me. It’s not like it matters anymore, though.
Maybe I just wasn’t designed to know. Maybe I just wasn’t designed with the love of Jesus Christ. I’m through trying to be something I’m not. There was always this internal idea that if I resist sin, it gave me the right to believe that I deserved a reward.7 That’s how my mind works. That’s what I need to “persevere” in the faith and keep fighting sin. Although, throughout my Christian life, I was always taught that we don’t deserve anything from the Lord and now, I finally know what that means. I don’t have to pretend or force myself to believe in that teaching anymore because it’s true: I don’t deserve anything.
1 I’ve been thinking about this song a lot.
2 …which is usually recorded in the books
3 …or Halo: Fall of Reach
4 That is, if I understand the movie correctly.
5 That, and I have an objective.
6 This was the same “mental challenge” I wrote about in Musical Influence to give an idea of the time frame. No additional details have been or will be recorded.
7 That is, more immediate than the one in Heaven. (…and yes, this does refer back to the end of the previous paragraph and the topic sentence of this one.)