Would Anyone Mind Stabbing Me In The Eye With A Cattle Prod?, November 8, 2005
Reviewer: Tristan Rholl "Tristan Rholl"
I heard about this book from Thomas Landrus, a junior at Augsburg College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now let me tell you all a little something about Tom Landrus. He is a great guy, if it's opposite day. Once, when Tom and I were eating in the cafeteria together, I was enjoying a freshly made Greek gyro. He promptly spat out his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and declared that no food native to a country that possesses a majority of Eastern Orthodox Christians should be suitable for consumption. He then went on a fifteen minute diatribe about how Protestantism is the only "real" faith. After I had finally survived the onslaught, I further informed him that the gyro had been prepared by a woman. He ran to the bathroom, where I was later told he was heard vomiting blood into the sink.
If I may, I have one last story about Tom Landrus before I get to the crux of this lengthy entry: The degree of fury this book incited in my bloodstream. But, I digress. Last spring, when our choir (The Choir of Christ Chapel) from Gustavus Adolphus College was touring in Northern Minnesota, we were in the third hour of a lengthy bus ride up to Grand Marais, Minnesota. We passed by a modest, quaint residential home near the shore of Lake Superior. In the front yard stood a man in his early fifties, along with this wife. They were discussing what to do with the pile of logs the man had obviously just split to be stored for use in the wintertime. The woman was wearing a red turtleneck with a large cross stitched onto the front right breast. I remarked to my chums Evan Wilcox and Joel Beachey how heartening I found it that the man and wife cared so much for each other, and were Christians to boot. They agreed, and a smile passed my lips. Just then, Tom, who was sitting in the seat in front of me, turned rather suddenly to face me and spat out such a hate filled remark that I still recall it in my dreams to this day. He said 'They aren't Christian. No Christian would wear such a blasphemous color outdoors within the sight of neighbors and the public. In any truly Christian society we would be within our rights, nay, our duty as Christians, to stop this bus and stone her to death. It's what God would want done...'
Now, back to the real matter at hand. This book is exactly the mightier-than-thou drivel that I would expect someone who sleeps with his pants on to read. Just as he places a bedrock belief in the idea that sleeping with his pants on will protect him from a life of sin, this book only perpetuates that same idea that he-who-lives-in-a-stone-house-without-windows-surrounded-by-a-moat will never know nor experience temptation or 'Ungodly' thoughts and feelings. To this I pose just one question; What is wrong with people like Tom, honestly?? Much like the chapter in Harris' book entitled 'What you'll remember at 50' I would like to turn right around and thrust that statement as a question back at these same self-proclaimed 'servants' of God. So, I will ask it. To everyone like Tom Landrus and Joshua Harris, What will you remember when you are fifty? Will you remember how you proclaimed the message that God frowns upon love? Is your intention to cast guilt and shame upon the souls who have found something better, something brighter in themselves by sharing themselves with another human being through the 'satanic' process known as dating?
Let me share a personal story. I daresay that this is a daring offering on my part, considering that there may be child molesters, terrorists, ex-convicts, and other such bottom feeders reading all of these reviews (for a living). When I was in my freshman year of high school, I was fighting severe (crippling, as some of my friends maintain) depression in lieu of my father's death in a tragic car wreck. My friends, not knowing how to handle me, kept me at arm's length, and my mother numbed herself with grossly excessive amounts of Lexipro. I felt utterly alone, and the only person that confronted me in earnest to help me process my feelings and offer a shoulder to cry on was my childhood friend Sarah, whom I had known since the age of 4. Sarah stuck by my side. She made sure she was there to eat every meal of the day with me, she set up 'movie nights' for just the two of us for 2 straight months, and she often would send me mail to cheer me up (I love mail) even though she lived only two houses away. Several years after my father's death, Sarah and I were still close, and still maintained a healthy friendship. One day, in the summer of 2003, just after our high school graduation, we were talking at lookout point about what had become of our lives and how many memories we would carry with us that included one another when we would go our seperate ways in the fall. I was off to attend Gustavus, while she began undergraduate studies in biochemistry at Stanford. I decided to seize the moment and tell her just how much she had come to mean to me over the years. All I said was, 'You know, I wouldn't even be sitting here with you today if you hadn't sat with me all those years ago. I've known you for so long; you mean more to me than any other person in the entire universe. I'm going to miss you.' She stared back at me with her big brown eyes and then, without a word, she kissed me. 'I wish I knew how to quit you.' she said as a tear ran down here cheek. 'You don't have to.'
We've been dating ever since then, as she chose not to go to Stanford and now attends Gustavus as well, even though it wasn't her academic institution of choice. My life has been blessed beyond belief by Sarah's presence in my life, and I firmly believe that that presence is a gift from God Himself. The notion that dating is unnecessary, or even 'morally reprehensible,' as Harris maintains on page 58 of this 'book' is in itself morally reprehensible. His opinions have motivated me to write a book entitled 'People Who Will Be Slaving Away In A Tar-Pit In Hell After They Die: A New Attitude Toward Joshua Harris.' It has achieved pre-released status and is currently in printing with the reputable publisher Harper and Collins.
So we return now to the formerly proposed question; What IS wrong with people like Joshua Harris and Tom Landrus? Barring any mental development syndrome, what exactly has to take place in these people's lives as far as nature and nurture is concerned to produce people so blatantly hypocritical and shockingly infantile? My guess is that the very first day they were capable of remembering it, both of their mothers got their children's attention with bright acrylic paint colors, stripped them naked in front of their elementary school classmates, and proceeded to paint over all the areas of 'sin' that were present in their children. The trauma incurred upon these two individuals is understandable, what with the shrieking, maniacal howl of their classmates' taunts and laughter echoing in their ears to this day. Sadly, it is still nothing more than an excuse for their classless, insightless views regarding love, friendship, and the human experience. Should either of these individuals ever dare to 'sleep without pants' in a metaphorical sense, they just might build a window up in their ivory towers of moral righteousness, maybe then Harris and Landrus gain some real perspective on the human condition. Perhaps then they would open their eyes to our aching need for love and companionship as human beings and human SOULS, in a world so many of us so often see as abandoned by the very God we pray will rescue us. Love is not the enemy here, dating is an irrevelent issue in this entire debate, and a school of thought that views either as a worthy recipient of our moral indignation does not deserve a place at the table of moral debate in this post 9/11 world. These are the same people that scream about the vulgarity of same-sex relationships when bombs are exploding at Iraqi security checkpoints on an almost hourly basis. These are the same people that vote against affirmative action while they spend their Sunday mornings using their second tongue. These are the same people that contribute vast sums of money to their own children's private educations, while they protest in the street against proposed increases in spending on public schools in lower-income neighborhoods.
God does not (nay, cannot) endorse an abstract moral viewpoint while ignoring the social reality on the other end. The issue of love and dating is absolutely no exception. It may be all well and good to present an abstract argument on how sinful dating is in order to justify deep-rooted personal insecurities and fears about romance and committed relationships, but the second Harris' ideas move into the real world and cease to become theory, they become treasonous against the very God they worship without fail. If Harris is looking to stir the pot, he could start by knocking the dust off of his outdated opinions, which wouldn't pass for contemporary in the early 1800's, let alone in today's society. If he is looking to change some imagined oppressive social institution, he would be well served to turn around and reevaluate the fear-mongering Evangelical Christian church that he so firmly stands by. If he is looking to help others in emotional turmoil about love and relationships, he might do well to first tackle his own emotional anxieties about love and dating, or, to put it in language that Harris might understand, he would do well to worry about the log in his own eye before pointing out the splinter in his neighbor's.
What are we to draw from all this? That the world is divided into two types of people? Daters and those who recoil at the very word 'dating'? I choose to set this gross generalization aside. I think our true duty as believers is to draw on each other for support and for understanding. Understanding of where we come from as individuals in a world run morally amock. It's no secret that sex, promiscuity and true sin have become so rampant in our society that in many cases the best thing we can think of to do is to hide from them. But we can't. Harris' suggestion of retreating from this societal phenomenon into a world of personal seclusion and introversion is nothing more than a guarantee of a brief calm before the storm. As Merry so aptly puts it in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 'We can't go home, Pip. The forests of Brandybuck will burn, and before we know it, there won't BE a shire anymore.' Simply put, retreating from a life of love will accomplish nothing in the war against infatuation. It will buy time, but it will not buy redemption, nor immunity. Our cause is to rally an army of individual human beings who see love for what it is: not as a contractual agreement to mutual procreaton set forth by God and His divine plan, but as an entity in and of itself, to be experienced, felt, and above all, cherished as a gift of His divine plan.