With the Bricker out of town, I’ll take this opportunity to write about my latest favorite book. One Step Closer is really good, and I’m not just saying that because the author went out of his way to befriend me when I was up at Yale, or because he is hospitable and humble and probably really smart. Or, because the book is allowing me to rationalize my acquisition of more music.
Disguised as a piece of fandom, Chris has managed to contain a great survey of Biblical literary genres and a brilliant theological exploration of Martin Luther’s theology of the cross. And along the way, he offers some insightful commentary on some great music.
The real weight of the book comes in the second half, as Chris contrasts the popular Theology of Glory (which would ignore the realities of the world around us and ensconse us in a pristine cathedral somewhere) with the theology of the cross, “a worldly and doubtful interpretation of the Christian faith that seeks above all to speak the truth about humanity, the world, and God” (p. 174). He shows how U2 once stood at this crossroads, and then boldly walked into the gritty casino of the world and bet all of their money on grace. And as they did, they saw Jesus sharing drinks with the rabble.
The best chapter details Luther’s theology, an honest assessment of the human condition and God’s response: not ‘if you do this, then God will do that,’, but ‘because you are in this state, God will therefore offer you grace’. A chapter later, Chris shares his experience of he and his wife’s first pregnancy, when he was haunted with nighmares of a serious birth defect in his son. They declined available testing, and he tried to combat his fears with hope. Not the hope of his friends who said, “oh, everything will be alright!”, but the hope that says, “God will somehow supply me to endure this, and to provide my child with what he will need”. Chris contrasts the former ‘cultural’ sense of hope with what he calls a more ‘Christian’ sense of hope.
I can relate. Some of the most painful things that I hear from well-meaning people are these expressions of positive thinking, usually expressed as “I’m sure it will be ok,” or “everything will be fine”.
Well, excuse me, but fuck that shit. If anything ever was fine, it will never be fine, not ever again. This is not self-pity, or drama, or hopelessness– it is reality. I’m not going to be sad or angry forever, but I doubt I’ll ever be quite the same. The wounds will heal, but their scars will remain. I won’t be broken, but I’ll always walk with a limp.
And I’m fine with that, really. I’ll show my scars, and limp with pride, and remember when I was touched by God. Not the God of the cathedral, but the God of the stable. The God who felt the cross, and who feels love, anyway.