Thursday, March 22, 2007


There's a scene in Apocalypse Now depicting a battle over the fictional Dulong Bridge. I think Coppola intends it to show the madness of war, and if that's the case, it serves its purpose. P.B.R. Streetgang pulls up to a carnival of war; rockets launch like fireworks over the bridge only otherwise illuminated by a rakish string of paper lanterns. Soldiers alternately scurry away from the fallout and play cards. It becomes apparent to the men on board (at least one of them in the midst of an acid trip) that the situation has deteriorated beyond their ability to comprehend. At one point, Martin Sheen's character approaches a young GI (who has, incidentally, just launched a grenade at a V.C. caught in some wire) and asks him who is in charge. Looking back with the thousand-yard stare of a man who has spent more than his share of time "in country", the soldier answers, "Aren't you?"

It's my favorite scene in any movie ever and it reminds me a lot of what's been happening in my small world lately. Those captains we thought were standing in the gap are stumbling around looking at each other and saying "Who is in charge here?" And and answering back, "Aren't you?"

I think there's a reason why so much of the Christian life is compared to warfare. Sometimes, I look around me and think that we resemble a platoon of soldiers loaded in a Huey and plonked smack down in the middle of the jungle. (Or the desert.) If the disciples and early apostles were the Marines, we must be the follow-up forces sent in to hunker down in inhospitable territory for an indefinite period of time. We've got Medivac units and communications units and commissary units. Etcetera. Ad Nauseum. We're not home and we're not happy about it. (Like our grandfathers before us, we stumble off the field only to be offered coffee by the Red Cross. For 5 cents a cup. When the church starts asking us to donate blood, we'll know we've really got a problem. And that's a post for another day.)

It's hard to choose the right path through the battle. None of us knows the truth and nothing but the truth. We know bits and we know pieces. We know enough to make it through, but we're all faced with the moment in time when we've got to rely on God's love for us and our own good intentions. I think God did this on purpose. He told us what we had to know. For the rest, we're going to have to walk according to the Spirit and very much by faith. Everyone has their own way to cope with this "unknown."

Some people say we'll never really make it through and that our best bet is to look for the beauty in the ugly, the righteousness in the reprobate and the comfort in earthly community. I like this idea. It seems hopeful yet safe. The problem comes with the crushing realization that we're all alone in the world. We're created for community, but community will always disappoint. We're destined to be misunderstood. Not to say that we won't have meaningful relationships and receive encouragement from others, only that it won't be consistent and it won't be entirely trustworthy. Each of us is a rabid monster underneath a thin veneer of restraint. We rip each other to bits inevitably. Inevitably. If we are so blessed as to find one person, just one, who can see us truly and understand, we should presume upon the goodness of God no more. All the evil that exists in the world exists in the soul of Everyman.

Some people try to tie knots in the strings of truth we do have in order to unify them. To make them whole and cogent. To make them reach the areas of our experience they weren't designed to reach. I've learned that if I fail to mask my own uncertainty, there is always someone ready to flog me with an easy answer. Sometimes, I feel like an antelope surrounded by all-knowing hyenas who smell the blood of my uncertainty. I don't understand. All of my struggle for insight into this leads me only to a greater ability to describe the problem.

I've made it my habit here to be positive. Honestly, I am a happy person with a charmed life. Never never never would I have believed you had you been able to come to me when I was younger and tell me what a beautiful thing my life would be. Unfortunately (or very fortunately, depending how you look at it), the only only thing I have to offer here is a certainty that One Bright Morning, that Huey will come back. And take us home. Where we'll be able to be what we were meant to be and live how we were meant to live. Until then, we cling to the cross and try not to kill each other.

In the meantime, who is in charge here?

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