Twitter, like my house, is an absolute mess. I’ve seen wildly differing accounts about what is going on and whether Elon is playing 7D chess or is the stupidest person on earth. I’m inclined to lean toward the latter because of the quality of the “discourse” on the platform. Last week this tweet was being “dunked on” (what a beautiful expression) all along the highways and byways of tweetdom:
Instead of “till death do us part” how about “for as long as this feels healthy, safe, and meaningful for both of us”
How can, as they say, such a short sentence be laden with so much foolishness? Truly, the English language is a marvel. The first thing I love is the list—“healthy, safe, and meaningful.” Just what every young lady longs for as she contemplates love—Health and Safety brought right down into the nitty gritty of what used to be called, what was it? Oh yes, “Romance.” What would a “healthy” and a “safe” relationship really look like? Everyone thinks they know—it’s the kind where “my needs are respected,” where, “the work is shared equally,” where, “I have the freedom to explore who I am.” In other words, it’s a “relationship” determined by sloganeering and selfishness, rather than desire or even hope.
All the slogans, ironically, undermine and preclude that last bit—meaning. Of course it has to be a “relationship” for “as long as” because first of all, it isn’t a real relationship—a thing that happens when two people give of themselves without conditions and demands and are united, body and soul, in the covenant of marriage, and are obedient to God, first and foremost, and die to themselves day by day for the good of the other, all an extremely dangerous and unsafe undertaking, which is why people historically have done it when they are young and haven’t had a lot of time to think through the implications—and so it will end very quickly, and second of all, the “meaningful” part is a shallow, tepid, turgid pool of self-feelings and self-health and self-safety. It’s two bubble people banging their plastic circles against each other, screaming through a microphone, and then being angry because both the universe and the relationship have failed them.
If you’re looking for the flaw in her reasoning, it’s that bit she wants to get rid of—the death. So anyway, I clicked on the tweet after seeing it everywhere, and found this delight:
For all those who think the scriptures are not “relevant” for this day, that the Lord hath made, let’s take a look at the gospel text for today:
There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died.Afterward, the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
I think it is safe to say that there were no women present when the Sadducees put this question to Jesus. In the week before his own death, Jesus went to the Temple every day to argue, to discuss, to put the choice to accept him to the leaders of Israel yet again, to offer them himself as their Life and their salvation. Perhaps they had these “discussions” in the Women’s Court, but I sort of doubt it. I do find it funny, though, that no one seems to have asked this question in a large crowd say, in Galilee. “Whose wife will the woman be?” isn’t the sort of conundrum you ponder when your own lady love is likely to hear about it later in the evening.
We should be clear, the Sadducees aren’t asking the same sort of question as Dr. Emily Anhalt, of course, but their assumptions are more like hers than they are like any Christian’s. Like her, they don’t believe in life after death. How can I say that? Because her whole attention is focused on how the couple feels as long as they are together in this temporal situation. She can’t stay with someone longer than she wants to now because she has such very limited time. HashtagYOLO. Therefore, as soon as the meaning and the health are gone, you had better go recover both of those elsewhere. Similarly, the Sadducees are desperately concerned about keeping their forthcoming generations in the land now because that’s their only hope. They won’t have any legacy, any endurance, and “meaning” if seven brothers marry one woman and she still doesn’t manage to have a child. What an epic waste.
But look what a terrible thing happens when you believe with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength that nothing comes next, that there is no other place to go after you have drawn your final breath, that there are no consequences for your behavior here and now. You don’t even notice when you turn the “beloved” into a commodity, a nonperson, a thing rather than a person at all.
The Sadducees are trying to “dunk on” Jesus’ obviously wrong idea that there is a resurrection, a life after this one where people go on forever. How stupid you are, they say, because look, chaos will ensue if there is a life later on. This woman had all those men, who will be her husband? Which is exactly the sort of idea of “heaven” that too many people have now. That what you are doing here on earth is sort of projected up there, the same, basically, only bigger. Maybe your potential self is waiting up there for you. As long as you live your best life down here, your potential up there will be more and more made in your image and likeness. That’s what Rachel Hollis and Ed Mylett think. I imagine Dr. Emily Anhalt hasn’t even thought as far as that. She probably assumes that if there is any life after this one it will be “healthy,” “safe,” and “meaningful” for everyone, but most especially her.
Unfortunately for us all, Jesus does believe in life after death. His whole argument hinges on the fact that God, speaking to Moses out of the burning bush way back in Exodus, says that He is…or rather, AM—present tense—the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Abraham and Jacob and Isaac are with God now. They are not annihilated, dissolved into nothing, nor living exactly the same kind of life that they had when they toiled through suffering, pain, broken relationships, falsehoods, sin, despair, jealousy, ruin, disappointment, doubt, and grief here on earth:
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Two other people are surely with him, alive, this moment. The one cried out for forty or so chapters in the anguish of grief, suffering, and loss, demanding a court case against God for taking all his stuff and his health and all his people. No health and safety for him. In less than a week it was all gone and he sat in the ash heap, scraping his sores and silently wishing his “friends” would go away as well.
And the other? He didn’t wait for God or the Devil to take his stuff. He made a hash of his life all by himself. He looked to his own interests, especially toward the end, rather than the interests of others. He commodified people and made his own desires supreme.
These two, for me, encompass the whole spectrum of human striving. What are you going to do? Keep looking for someone to satisfy you? To give you the “meaning” you require? That’s what Dr. Emily Anholt advises. “Why not” she literally asks every single year. And every year Christians, at least, should give her the same answer—No. This is not all there is. The God who made you goes on forever and you must search him out now while there is still time.
The astonishing thing is not the present tense of eternity, though, it’s that death is the only way to get there. He died and so have you also to die. But just the once. In fact, in your dying, in your acceptance of how disappointing this life is and how you have failed, he catches up your death and makes it nothing by the instrument of his own.
Indeed, Dr. Emily, he is not even remotely safe, and he will not spare your health in his work to make you finally satisfied with who he is. You can tweet all you want, but in the final reckoning, you will see him face to face—not another—Him. Will you be satisfied?