“If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.” ~C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce
Most mornings I read the news online. It strikes me as the most unbiased way to take in news; I can read several angles on the same story and draw my own conclusions. Yesterday morning I saw a very interesting headline: “Ex-Pastor: I Was On A Porn Crusade.” Alright, they had me. I had to see what this was about.
So there’s this pastor in Texas who was caught with 63 images of child porn on his work computer. The police also found a locked black box with a few hundred more photos printed and stored in it. The pastor claims that all the pictures, which were collected over the last 10 months, were all for evidence against websites. He claims to be on a personal anti-porn campaign in which he is collecting evidence that he is planning to eventually take to his congressman to push for harsher laws and legal actions against pornographers. (click here to read the story from the Waco Tribune. You can also read follow up stories as the trial has now taken place but this is the story as it first caught my eye.)
This is a tough one. So let me be the first to say that I’m not in a position to judge whether this pastor is telling the truth or not. So please don’t think me judgemental. I want to discuss the human condition in the light of this story and not the specific guilt or innocence of this pastor. I’m aware that many of you are thinking that this is a guy just covering his hind end and hoping to get out of trouble. To be honest, that would be my knee-jerk reaction too if I wasn’t careful. But this guy was either devious enough to learn all the facts and buzz words of the anti-porn cause to have a plausible defense in place just in case he was caught or he really does believe himself to be telling the truth and thus involved in a good cause.
As I said, I’m not willing to judge this guy. But this situation does bring something very serious to mind: Reese’s Cups.
Are any of you old enough to remember those commercials from the late 70s and early 80s? One person is enjoying a chocolate bar, which is believable. Another person is enjoying a jar of peanut butter, which isn’t really believable. The two of them collide or somehow come together. The chocolate bar falls in the peanut butter jar. The chocolate lover exclaims, “Your peanut butter is on my chocolate!” The peanut butter jar lover yells, “Your chocolate is in my peanut butter!” They both take a bite. They both smile. An announcer says, “Two great tastes that taste great together.” The commercial ends and hopefully then we all hold hands and skip merrily out to buy Reese’s Cups. (example #1) (example #2)
Isn’t this all of us? We’re holding on to some things in our lives that are believable. We’re holding on to other things that are unbelievable but we try to convince ourselves that we can’t be rid of them. In all honesty, I think this pastor believes he’s on an anti-porn campaign and at the same time he’s probably erotically involved with the evidence he’s collecting. I think it’s both. He’s guilty and he’s innocent. Aren’t we all? This pastor probably can’t give up the erotic side of the porn partly because he has an emotional tie to the anti-porn cause. He’d have to quit what he sees as helping in order to help himself. I know that’s the height of irony but aren’t we all the height of irony?
I could extrapolate on this situation for hours with conjectures and psychological guess work but let’s not. Let’s just call it what it is: duplicity. It’s in all of us. Good and bad existing in each of us. We really do love good but we have so much trouble giving up the bad. It’s like Reese’s Cups: “Two great tastes that taste great together.”
We’re contradictory people. Duplicity rules many of our lives as we keep what C.S. Lewis called ‘souvenirs of hell.’ We just can’t make ourselves let go of the selfish areas of our lives. We keep them like pets; tied up and mingling with the good things to such an extent that the spiritual surgery required to remove them is too painful to consider, like amputating a part of ourselves. Helping others but slandering them as we do it. Opening our lives in hospitality but complaining bitterly for being asked to. Keeping our bad attitudes and just taking them with us as we do our duties. Smiling to their face but cutting them to pieces behind their backs. Blessing people with the same lips you curse with. Loving yet lusting. Serving yet coveting. Healing yet condemning. Sacrificing yet stealing. Broadly giving yet with miserly keeping. All great tastes that taste great together.
Good God in Heaven, this is me! As sure as God is on His throne, I’m a picture of duplicity and I’ll bet you are too. Showing the good; hiding the bad but keeping it. Pretending I’m not able to extricate myself from it but knowing the truth is I don’t fully desire to remove the pieces of Hell from who I am. God help me.
How can we ever feel genuine or honest or real until we give up duplicity? How can we ever rid ourselves of the guilt that duplicity brings unless we first kill it in ourselves? This chases me. It haunts me at times. Duplicity dogs my steps and steals my joy. I know it does and yet I allow it to remain. What powerful, wonderful or disastrous thing would need to happen in my life to bring me to the point of killing this part of me? I need to pray for its killing but it’s too fearful a prayer to utter. So I wait. And wait.
Heaven knows I wait. Hell knows I wait. What in Heaven for? What in Hell for?
Are you waiting with me? And for what?