The Husbands of River Song And the Road to Emmaus

In The Husbands of River Song, River has no idea that the Time Lord she loves and holds dear has regenerated. As a result she kept expecting the Doctor to look and behave a specific way. This of course leads to some amusing instances. For example, when the Doctor gets to pretend that he does not know that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside and he gets to give what he thinks is the proper reaction to being confronted with this fact.

And of course, it’s always amusing to see the Doctor’s reaction when River opens up a hidden cabinet of whiskey or when she explains that pressing a particular button would evacuate the waste on deck seven. Not to mention the sarcastic comment she makes as he watches River make out with Ramone.

DOCTOR: Urgh! Doesn’t it get dull after a while? As an activity, it’s not hugely varied, is it? 
RIVER: I’m so sorry. This is my husband, Ramone. 
DOCTOR: Another one? Are you going to kill him, too? 

In addition to making snog comments and witnessing how River acts  when she’s not aware of the Doctor’s presence, the Doctor also gets to learn not only how River feels about him (which I am sure he knew all along) but also how she believes the Doctor views her.

FLEMMING: You’re the woman he loves.
RIVER: No, I’m not.
FLEMMING: She’s lying.                                                                                                                                 RIVER: The Doctor does not and has never loved me. I’m not lying.
CYBORG: Confirmed. The life form is not lying.
FLEMMING: Impossible. This is a trick.
RIVER: No, it isn’t.
pizap-com14740729946411  And one of the funniest and poignant scenes is when the River finally realizes that the Doctor is standing right beside her:

RIVER: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me! 
DOCTOR: Hello, sweetie. 
RIVER: You are so doing those roots. 
DOCTOR: What, the roots of the sunset

Watching River and the 12th Doctor interact, especially when River doesn’t realize she’s with the Doctor is pretty funny and amusing. For the most part. Then there are the scenes mentioned above. Where River essentially says that she doesn’t think the Doctor loves her. When she discovers that the Doctor is standing next to her and he starts lightly teasing her about her comments about the sunset and stars, she tries to play off her statements that she was just talking to keep them alive. But what we the audience knows, what River knows, and what the Doctor knows is that there is an sliver of truth in her statements. The Doctor isn’t particularly known for being apt at giving and receiving love. While one could argue that perhaps he shows love in a different way, it’s hard to argue with the fact that he can be incredibly selfish. And while he cares deeply about those he travels with, he is also known to use them; sometimes for a noble great purpose, sometimes just because he can be self-centered and selfish. He does care about River Song. But it is easy to see why she would have felt as if he didn’t love her back.  But I can imagine how it must have felt to be convinced that the Doctor was not by her side, only to look over and discover he was there all along. It’s not a conventional declaration of love, because well the Doctor doesn’t do that, but it does demonstrate that he does care for her and that he is there for her.

The thing is, when we get to know and love people, our familiarity can blind us. When we meet someone new, especially a potential friend, romantic partner, or even business partner or colleague, we are paying attention to every little detail. We might have preconceived notions of a person, it’s hard not to. But if we want to get to know a person we try not to hold on too tightly to those preconceived notions. But when we know someone or more accurately when we think we know all there is to know about a person, we stop trying to learn about them.

Christians, at least Christians in America, seem to think that we know all there is about Jesus and God. I know I fall into that trap. Maybe even more so since I got an M.Div., which to be honest, I have been mainly using to annoy evangelicals who pretend they are interested in having a conversation but really just want to convert me to their way of thinking. But there is this sense of, “I don’t need to learn anything else. I have a degree.” Or for Christians who don’t have an M.Div. it’s, “I go to church every Sunday.” Or “I read the Bible every day.” Sometimes these assumptions don’t cause too much harm. We go about our day, holding onto our ideas about Jesus and God and make it through life. Sometime however, what we think about God can cause harm. Because when we go around saying, “well this is God. Or this is Jesus” then we need to think about what or whom we are excluding. When we paint Jesus as a beautiful, blonde hair white man, what are we saying about women and people of color? When we envision Jesus as sinless and flawless and God as a punishing judge, how then do we view those in the prison system or even those who society projects as being dangerous and lawless (ie black men and women, Native Americans)? When we act as if Jesus is/was American and God is on our side, then what are we saying about the young kids, and the men and women who are being slaughtered by American bombs and guns? When we present God as police officer, judge, juror, and executioner, then how do we react when a police officer slaughters a young black boy, a mentally ill person, or an unarmed man or woman? Our ideas about God can have life and death consequences. Our ideas about God can expose how we view the “other,” whoever that “other” may be. Our ideas about God in fact prevent us from knowing God.

The Bible is filled with stories where the disciples are unable at least at first to recognize Jesus. One of the most popular is found in Luke 24:13-35. This story is often referred to as, “The Road to Emmaus.” Two disciples are asked by a strange man what they were discussing. And they talk about Jesus and the miracles that he did and they talk about the hope they had, that seemed to be dashed when Jesus was crucified:

“He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.” (The Message,  24:19-24)

The man responds, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.” (The Message, 24: 25-27)

But it isn’t until the two disciples are about to eat and break bed with the strange man that they recognize that it was Jesus and like a ghost, he vanishes.

Like the disciples, we can be “so thick headed! So slow hearted.” We have these ideas about Jesus and God that we hold on so tightly that we allow them to blind us. Like the disciples, like River Song, we don’t recognize the person standing right next to us. Who is Jesus? Jesus is Tyre King, the young boy shot and killed by police for carrying a BB gun. A young boy that so many are condemning. But then again when we view Jesus and God as   police officers guarding the gates of heaven, keeping certain people out, then it is not surprising that we believe the words of police officers and will do anything to justify the death of someone who we consider to be unworthy of love and life.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the children and women and men being killed in the Middle East because of the United States “War on Terror.” But when we view Jesus and God as synonymous with the American soldier and the military, then of course we don’t give a second thought to the people being forced to live through a 9/11 experience every day.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Palestinian child being shot dead by an Israeli soldier. No, this isn’t an anti-Semitic claim. Christianity has blamed Judaism for the death of Jesus and has used it as an excuse to bully, kill, and discriminate against Jewish people. And although some Christians stood up against Hitler, far too many were all too happy to go along with his “final solution.” But recognizing the horrors of the holocaust and how Christians have discriminated against and killed Jewish people, does not mean that one needs to blindly accept what the Israeli government does. Many Christians are using faith to blindly support the Israeli government because they believe that is what God wants and demands. But do we really want to believe in a God that is ok with shooting children in the head? Do we really want to believe in a God that endorses collective punishment? In the Bible, we have stories about a God that endorsed slaughtering people and taking over land. That was how one community/nation understood God a long time ago, and they weren’t the only ones. Ancient Babylonians, Persians,  etc also believed that their gods were telling them to take over land. Do we still want to hold onto that idea of God today?

Our preconceptions about people can blind us to who they are-even if they are standing right in front of us. To be fair, River didn’t know the Doctor had regenerated and most of us won’t have to deal with people who frequently change their body and face. Yet preconceived notions can be just as disorienting and blinding. We see that in the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus and we see that today when preconceived notions about God and Jesus get people killed.  And it is difficult having to do the hard work of periodically re-evaluating what we think we know about other people, about God, about ourselves. Bu it’s worth it if it saves lives. And it’s not something we do alone. There’s a lot about God I don’t know and won’t pretend to know. But there’s one idea I hold on tightly too: that God is with us as we navigate this complicated, unpredictable, beautiful, messy, tragic, life.

DOCTOR: Mmm. What do you think of the towers?
RIVER: I love them.
DOCTOR: Then why are you ignoring them?
RIVER: They’re ignoring me. But then you can’t expect a monolith to love you back.
DOCTOR: No, you can’t.

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The Girl Who Died

DOCTOR: Yes, I am a false Odin. That’s exactly right, I lied. The big fella in the sky, he lied too. You all know it. Because what’s the one thing that gods never do? Gods never actually show up! 

Life is unpredictable and scary. For those of us living with some degree of privilege we are able to contain that unpredictability by focusing on our jobs or work. Money can give us an illusion of control and stability. Yet we also seek control and protection in other ways. For many of us we look to our images of God to sustain us.  And one image that many of us hold onto is one of an all powerful God, who controls everything but who can sometimes be appeased if we pray or worship the right way.  This God can be manipulated to do what we want-though of course we don’t exactly use those terms, nor are we even aware that we have created a God that can be manipulated. We get the job that we prayed for, cancer goes into remission, and when things fall apart? Well if it happens to us or someone we care about we try to counsel ourselves and our loved ones with the thought that it was all in God’s plan, or that we are somehow being tested or that the devil is to blame for our pain and suffering. If suffering comes to those we don’t like then it is obviously their own fault. They disobeyed God and are being punished.

Many of us still view God as a cosmic figure living in the sky who decides, seemingly arbitrarily when to get involved. Yes, God answered your prayer for a job, but somehow the prayers of that family seeking to leave Syria and find safety in Europe, didn’t convince God to actively prevent their drowning. Or God saved you from a horrific crash, yet for some reason God decided that the others involved including a small child, needed to die.

We look for any proof of this God-even if this proof leads us to commit or endorse atrocities. Many members traveling to join the Islamic State, for instance, believe that the mere fact that the group has declared a caliphate and is gaining land is an answer to some prophetic revelation. There are some Christians, who believe that in order for the “end times” to occur and God’s reign to be manifested on earth, Israel needs to essentially wipe out the Palestinians and they use their money and political clout to endorse any action that furthers that goal, even if it means more dead Palestinian children.

In many ways the God imagined by many is not that much different from the ‘god’ the Doctor faces in this episode. The one he rightfully condemns as fake. He points out to the Vikings that this god tricked them in order to kill their best men. This ‘god’, who is in reality the leader of the Mire, is excited by war and destruction.

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If we were honest with ourselves, the God many of us claim to worship really is no better. We have crafted an image of God who is vengeful and all powerful. Yeah sure, we talk about God’s love for humanity but in many cases we do so by focusing on the threat of hellfire.  This is the type of God I vehemently reject: an angry, supernatural deity that randomly decides to show prayer to some while rejecting others.

But is there an alternative? Yes. But it would mean letting go of notions of control and power. Power and control are often equated. The more power someone has the more control this person has. Humans project that desire onto a deity figure who we can then lay the responsibility and blame for anything that goes wrong or right in our lives. But what if-instead of an all powerful, distant deity we  imagined a God that  can’t help being hopelessly entangled in the chaos that is humanity.For Christians the notion of an actively involved God isn’t that far of a stretch. Many Christians believe that in some way, Jesus represents God’s involvement in the world. Whether Jesus is God or an agent of God-he represents a God who is not afraid to become a part of humanity.  This means letting go of some of our projections of an all powerful deity who randomly chooses to engage. It means being open to a God that wants a relationship with humanity-and relationships are mutual. We are changed by the other person, but the other person also changes us. Why not the same for God?  What if we asserted that God worked through us instead of against us or through divine supernatural acts?

As I was watching this episode, allowing myself to suspend disbelief for a second, I remember thinking, “you know if this were a ‘real’ situation, I would believe that God was working through the Doctor.” The Doctor claims that gods don’t show up, but God does-it just often takes the form of imperfect humans trying their best to not make things worse.

DOCTOR: The earth is safe, humanity is not in danger. It’s just one village.
CLARA: Just one village?
DOCTOR: Suppose I saved it by some miracle. No Tardis, no sonic. Just one village defeats the Mire. What then? Word gets around. Earth becomes a target of strategic value, and the Mire come back. And God knows what else. Ripples into tidal waves until everybody dies.

If the world were ever invaded by the Mire, and the Doctor existed, I would see God in the way the Doctor is convinced by Clara to not give up. To not just dismiss this small “village.” I would see God in how he changes his mind and decides to stay in the village. I would see God in how the Doctor finds a different way to defeat the Mire, a way that does not involve bloodshed or death. And I would see God when the Doctor, for better or for worse remembers why he chose this particular incarnation.

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Now of course, this isn’t real life. But yet I still see God working in the world. In those who say no to another meaningless war. In those who say that “Black Lives Matter” and that state oppression and brutality needs to be stopped. I see God in those who stand up against those in power. Things don’t always end well for those who stand up against injustice. Our actions can have unattended consequences. The Doctor wanted to save Ashildr, but in doing so, he may have caused her great pain. A God that is perfectly in control can erase some of the chaos and messiness of life. But a God that works with and through humanity is working with a flawed creation that does the best it cans, but makes mistakes. Things don’t always neatly settled. Pain and suffering remains.  This image of God does not promise us stability and comfort, only the promise of working through us to make the world a better place.

Torchwood: Cyberwoman

We are made in the image of God. While I am not a literalist and do not believe that the creation stories in genesis detail the origin of life, I believe that the narratives serve to remind us that each individual person is cared for and loved by God. Being made in the image of God means that we are loved beyond our wildest imagination and that we also have a worth that goes beyond whatever arbitrary characteristics that society deems to be the epitome of human perfection. It doesn’t matter if you have blonde hair and blue eyes, or dark skin, hair, and eyes. It doesn’t matter if your face is symmetrical or if you think that your face should be hidden under a plastic bag. God loves you. And those who claim to follow God are called to advocate for the least of these and for the despised in society. We are called to help bring bout the kingdom of God-a kingdom defined by compassion and justice.

Most people, when reading over the above paragraph will nod their heads in agreement. “Of course we should advocate for love and justice. Of course every person is made in the image of God.” Such sentiments are nice when spoken out loud or written in a blog post that one can read and walk away from. But in the real world such sentiments are difficult. What does it mean to say that everyone is made in the image of God? It means that the cute, minute old newborn is made in God’s image, that she has value and that she is cherished. But it also means that those whom we consider to be monsters, who have discarded their humanity are also loved by God. Even though their horrendous actions and words make seeing them in the image of God difficult, that does not change the fact that despite their actions they are still loved by God. Imagine a person or a group of people who have committed horrible atrocities and yet pause to think that they too are loved by God. That seems-wrong. Can one hold onto the notion that yeah God loves them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be stopped? It is tempting to say, “God loves them, but I don’t.” But even if one were to embrace whole heartedly that God’s love is for all-how does one live that out in the real world? Does it mean that those who are committing atrocious actions get a free pass and that they shouldn’t be stopped? Of course not. But talking about being made in the image of God and about God’s encompassing love can become clichéd when it is done without acknowledgement of what is going on around us.

In Cyberwoman we are introduced to Lisa, a young 25 year old woman who had worked at Torchwood London during the battle of Canary Wharf. During that battle, the cybermen began to convert the members of Torchwood London into cybermen. Towards the end of the battle, instead of simply transplanting brains they began to upgrade bodies. Lisa’s conversion was not finished, and she was left as a human-cyberman hybrid (though she looks more like an interesting cross between a BDSM mistress and a Doctor Who cosplayer). When we first meet her at the beginning of the episode, not only is it surprising that she still looks human, but she is able to express human emotion. It becomes clear very early on, that she and Ianto are in love. It also seems as if the process of turning her human will be fairly straight forward since she looks human, feels emotion, and is able to survive being disconnected from a cybermen conversion unit that Ianto had been using as her life support system.

LISA: Why aren’t I connected?
IANTO: You’re alive. He kept you alive.
LISA: Thank you.
TANIZAKI: This is only the start.
(A monitor beeps. Ianto calls up the image of the four walking across the Plass towards Torchwood.)
IANTO: We’ve got to move. Quickly!
LISA: I’ll walk.
IANTO: You’ve only just woken up. You can’t.
LISA: I want to walk. Please.
IANTO: Help her downstairs. I’ll clear up here.
LISA: I’m alive!

This being Torchwood, things start going badly fairly quickly. While Ianto is attempting to make things at the station look normal, as the other Torchwood members unexpectedly return to the station, Lisa kills Dr. Tanizaki, who was supposed aid in converting her back into full functioning human. Lisa had attempted to convert him and failed. Things go from bad to worse when Owen and Gwen start looking for the source that is draining the station’s power. Owen is knocked out and Lisa immediately attempts to upgrade Gwen. Luckily Captain Jack saves Gwen but he is unable to kill Lisa because Ianto prevents him from shooting her. It immediately becomes apparent that Jack and Ianto are at odds with how to deal with the situation. Jack has only seen Lisa as a cyberwoman, a dangerous creation that has lost her humanity. Ianto, however, having kept her hidden for months, has seen glimpses of her humanity and has fallen in love with her. Jack only sees the monster and Ianto only sees his lover.

IANTO: My loyalty’s to her. She worked for Torchwood. She was caught up in battle. I owe it to Lisa, we owe it to her, to find a cure.
JACK: Ianto, you have to believe me, there is no cure. There never will be. Those who are converted stay that way. Your girlfriend will not be the exception.
IANTO: You can’t know that for sure.
JACK: Look, you need to know what’s happening here. Because this is where these things start. Small decisions that become mass slaughter. These creatures regain a foothold by exploiting human weakness. Then they take a base, rebuild their forces, and before you know it, the Cyber race is spreading out across the universe, erasing worlds, assimilating populations, all because of the tiny beginnings here. We need to stop her together.

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Captain Jack, clearly has a point. She is dangerous and capable of killing vast amounts of people. And if she ever successfully manages to figure out how to complete her upgrade or convert others, the whole planet could be in danger. Yet, as Ianto points out, the conversion is not complete. As a result, there is a possibility that she could be redeemed. She could become fully human again.

Even when Ianto tries to talk to her and to make contact with what is left of her humanity and he is rebuffed, he refuses to give up on her.

LISA: The upgrade is incomplete.
IANTO: You’re still human.
LISA: I am disgusting. I have. I am wrong.
IANTO: We can help you.
LISA: I must start again. Upgrade properly.
IANTO: For God’s sake, have you heard yourself? Lisa, please. I brought you here to heal you, so we could be together.
LISA: Together. Yes. Transplant my brain into your body. The two of us together, fused. We’ll be one complete person. Isn’t that what love is?
IANTO: No.
LISA: Then we are not compatible.

After Captain Jack attempts to kill her, by having Torchwood’s pterodactyl attack her (only in the Torchwood and doctor who universe would that sentence make sense), Ianto accuses Jack of being heartless:

IANTO: You could have saved her. You’re worse than anything locked up down there. One day, I’ll have the chance to save you, and I’ll watch you suffer and die.
JACK: It was the only thing that would stop her!

Lisa survives the pterodactyl attack, though she has taken over the body of an innocent woman who had simply been stuck with the task of delivering pizza to the station. Bits of her humanity show through-even though it is mixed with the horror that she killed another person without a second thought.

ANNIE/LISA: You fought so hard for me, I had to hold on for you, so I took this body and transplanted the brain.
IANTO: You’re not Lisa.
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IANTO: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Lisa.
ANNIE/LISA: We can be upgraded together.

Lisa is finally killed when the rest of the Torchwood gang opens fire on her. Captain Jack’s actions are understandable-hell, they were probably necessary to stop Lisa from wrecking more death and destruction. Yet, watching the episode, I couldn’t help but imagine God has reacting more like Ianto (without threatening to allow Jack to suffer and die) then Jack. As someone who rejects notions of hell and eternal punishment, I am left with a God who unabashedly loves everyone. That idea is fine when I think about all the people I love-but it comes difficult when I think about those I consider to be monsters. The Islamic State for instance. I don’t think I can describe the disgust I feel towards them as they continue to massacre men, women, and children in the name of God. They point out the atrocities of American foreign policy yet they continue to kill and enslave people. To me, they are monsters. And to be honest I have to admit I wouldn’t mind if every single adult member of the organization was killed. They need to be stopped. Yet at the same time-if I believe God loves everyone-it means everyone. Some of the recruits that have gotten the most media attention have been young men and women-teenagers who for whatever reason have decided that they want to back a group that regularly ad gleefully beheads people just to make a point. The Islamic State is comprised of people that have families and people who love them yet they regularly kill others, leaving their victims’ family members devastated and heart broken.

The Islamic State needs to be stopped. But the annoying thing about God is that for God redemption is always possible and God’s love is limitless. While I want the Islamic State and all who comprise it to be destroyed, God frequently reminds me that they are God’s children too. Made in God’s image. I don’t have any solutions-I don’t know how they should be stopped. I don’t have any answers so I can’t dictate what those in authority should do. But what I do know is that as horrific as their actions are, God loves them. And that makes me uncomfortable and it also challenges me. It is easy to talk about God’s love as a theoretical idea, it’s much harder to make it concrete.

Every Christmas is Last Christmas and this is Ours.

Underneath the jokes and silliness (the scene where Santa Claus triumphantly rides Rudolph, comes to mind) lies an undercurrent of sorrow and regret. After all, the end of season 8 saw Danny die and Clara and the Doctor lying to one another, believing that doing so was in the other person’s best interest. Clara, who is more shocked by the appearance of the Doctor, than with the appearance of Santa Claus and his elves on her roof, tells the Doctor that she never thought she would see him again. In fact when he first appears she does not utter a word and simply stares at him in shock. And as the TARDIS starts up she remarks,

Clara: Oh that noise. I never knew how much I loved it.

Clara and the Doctor together again, facing a new and confusing danger. Before the Doctor showed up, Clara was grieving her double loss. She lost Danny, the person she loves and the person she lied to on a consistent basis, taking for granted that he would always be at home waiting for her to return from her adventures. And she lost the Doctor and with him the possibilities of exploring new worlds and encountering strange creatures. She was alone in her grief. The life she knew with the Doctor was over and the life she had with Danny along with the future she planned to have with him was nothing more than a dream. But the Doctor coming back into her life represented not only the possibility of a new beginning but also serves as a connection to her past, the past she wants so badly to return to. It makes sense that when the Doctor asks her about her beliefs in Santa Claus that she would answer in the affirmative:

Doctor: There’s something you have to ask yourself and it’s important. Your life may depend on it, everybody’s life. Do you really believe in Santa clause?

Clara: Do you know what? Yeah. Right now…yeah I think I do.

Santa Claus represents a fantasy and the fulfillment of deeply cherished wishes. Clara’s reaction to the Doctor’s sudden return is reminiscent of a child on Christmas morning getting the one gift that he/she was pinning and hoping for. And when Clara later learns that this is a dream and that what is happening is not real, her voice registers the disappointment.

But despite the cheerful and perplexing beginning to the episode, we are quickly reminded that Clara is still grieving. Clara, frightened, confused, and perhaps a bit excited at the dangerous situation she and the Doctor have just landed in, quickly becomes awash in anger, regret, and guilt when the Doctor, in an attempt to protect her from the dream crabs mentions Danny and states that he is probably flirting and texting other women. She slaps the Doctor, not simply because no woman would want to hear that said about a loved one, but because she knew that Danny was dead and he was never coming back.

Doctor: I was only…

Clara: Danny Pink is dead.

Doctor: No he’s not.

Clara: He’s dead.

Her grief over Danny’s death remains palpable. In one scene as Clara desperately attempts to stop thinking about the dream crab that is slowly making its way towards her, she sits on the floor, expressing her remorse and guilt over how she treated Danny:

Clara: Danny…Danny… Danny pink, I love you. I know I’ll never see you again and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I lied. I’m sorry.

In the next moment, she is transported into a world where Danny Pink is still alive and where she gets to spend Christmas with him. The happiness in her face is evident and when the Doctor comes to inform her that she is not only dreaming but dying, she doesn’t want to leave. She would rather continue dreaming than go back to a reality without Danny. In fact, it’s not the Doctor who convinces her to wake up-but Danny. Clara, in her subconscious knows, that Danny would want her to get on with her life. He would want her to live.

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For many Christians, Christmas, at least theologically speaking, is a celebratory holiday. Christmas celebrates the story of the incarnation (whether one believes it to be a “literal, historical event” or a metaphor)-of God becoming flesh, of God coming into our messy, broken, world through the form of a helpless baby. The incarnation tells the story of God breaking into our world, to protest violence and injustice, and to bring healing to a broken world. Christmas is viewed as a day of hope, yet it is also a day of suffering, pain and death. Being human means confronting finitude and death. The celebration of new life is always paired with the knowledge that all life eventually ends

Some people this year are reeling from the fact that Christmas 2013, was the last holiday they would spend with a loved one and that this year their loved one’s presence is reduced to a memory, an empty table or bed. Others are struggling with the fact that this Christmas might very well be the last one they have with their loved one, as they witness family members or friends struggle with illnesses and failing health etc. And yet for others, we don’t know what the future holds-our loved ones are healthy, (or appear so) and there is no reason to suspect that next year’s Christmas will be any different from this year’s. Yet all it takes is a couple of minutes for life to be uprooted. Neither Danny nor Clara ever imagined that he would be killed in a car accident. They never imagined that in the minutes between the last words he uttered and Clara’s brief pause as she waited for him to respond, that he would be killed.

Likewise, every day, somewhere in the world, family members and friends are coming to terms with a loved one’s unexpected death. A car accident, a fast moving illness, a fall, a suicide, events which seem to come out of nowhere and irrevocably change the lives of those left behind. I imagine that the family and friends of those on flight Air Asia QZ8501, never expected that a routine, short flight would bring their world crashing down. Yes there have been two incidents earlier in the year with Malaysian airlines, yet the chances of such an incident occurring in the first place is astronomical, and for it to happen again within the same year strikes one as impossible. It’s the stuff of movies, but not something that happens in this day and age. Millions of planes take off and land safely throughout the world multiple times a day. This particular air craft had completed over 13,000 successful flights before embarking on this one. Yet the family and friends of Air Asia QZ8501 are facing hours and days (hopefully no more than that) of uncertainty. The life that they were enjoying just a few days ago has irrevocably been changed and as the hours drag into days the chances of finding their loved ones alive decreases. I imagine their mind goes back to the last conversation, the last time they spoke with a loved one.

It is easy to see why Clara didn’t want to wake up. Waking up meant going back to a reality where Danny no longer exists but staying in the dream world would ultimately cause her death. In a similar way so many Christians seem to be caught in their own version of a dream world-they embrace a theological worldview that states that if they only pray hard enough, or go to church enough, or act “good” enough that everything will turn out ok. The pains and bruises of life won’t hurt them. Or they embrace a sentimentalized version of the incarnation-one with cute baby animals, an adorable baby Jesus, and a remarkably clean and relaxed Mary. All traces of pain and suffering are neatly left out of the commercialized representation of Jesus’ birth. Others hold on to the idea of an afterlife. I am not saying that an afterlife does or does not exist, I don’t know. However, there are some who focus so much on the possibility of an afterlife that they forget to live in the here and now. They hold on desperately to a notion of heaven that will provide them with a second chance to see their loved ones or to make amends. Living in the real world requires an acknowledgment of the messiness of life.

Yet, in the midst of the undercurrents of sorrow and grief in the episode, hope is also embraced. In some cases, second chances are possible. Danny was gone, Clara was going to spend the rest of her life without his physical presence. But yet she and the Doctor do get a second chance. They get to start again.

Doctor: We should do this every Christmas;

Clara: Because every Christmas is last Christmas.

Doctor: I’m sorry. I was stupid. I should have come back earlier. I wish that I had.

Santa: Doctor, how much do you wish that?

The Doctor thought he waited too long to go help Clara. He believed that 62 years had passed and he arrived to find Clara older, frailer, and dying. He very well may have been saying goodbye to her. And of course he regrets it. He grieves the adventures they never had, the years he missed. But in this case, the Doctor and Clara are still under the influence of the dream crabs, meaning that he still has time to save her before it is too late. He still has time to go on adventures with her while she is young and able.

Clara: Well look at you all happy. That’s rare.

Doctor: You know what’s rarer? Second chances. I never get a second chance, so what happened this time? I don’t even know who to thank.

There is a fine line between having hope and getting lost in a fantasy world of wishful thinking. In fact, it’s not always easy to tell the difference. I wish  a checklist existed that one can consult that will let one know, “ok you are acting out of hope,” or “you need a reality check.” But like most things in life, hope isn’t that easy to define. But there is one major difference between hope and living in a dream world: hope takes pain, suffering and death seriously. It does not seek to present a sanitized and pristine version of life, but it takes into account the sorrow and grief that encompasses life. Yet hope states that one will not be destroyed by death and anguish.

Hope confronts the reality of death yet it also holds on to the idea that life is meaningful. It grieves the loss of a loved one while also cherishing the time and moments that were shared. Hope looks at the incarnation story and refuses to sanitize it, it recognizes that Jesus came into the world as we all do-through a process that is painful (for the mother) and messy, yet it recognizes the beauty in that moment. Hope recognizes that Jesus’ life would be one of anguish and trouble, but that good would come out of all the betrayal, persecution, and violence Jesus would suffer.

Death in Heaven: Give a good man firepower, and he’ll never run out of people to kill…

DOCTOR: I had a friend once. We ran together when I was little. And I thought we were the same. But when we grew up, we weren’t. Now, she’s trying to tear the world apart, and I can’t run fast enough to hold it together. The difference is this. Pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain, we can’t feel the hurt we inflict.

CYBER-DANNY: Are you telling me seriously, for real, that you can?
DOCTOR: Of course I can.
CYBER-DANNY: Then shame on you, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Yes. Oh, yes.

I love graduate school. I get to go to school and study what I love (though the prospect of not getting a job and being able to pay off my loans does frighten me…). But one thing that I’ve noticed after reading various theological opinions is how beautiful some words can be but in practice they seem to fall short. There are some theologians who are able to capture the hope and promise that God gives. A promise that states that blood, violence, and oppression will not have the last word. But the more I study the more I realize how big the gap is between how things are and how they should be. I’ve written on numerous occasions about a loving deity, about compassion, about perhaps finding different ways of dealing with oppression outside of violence. But to be honest there are times, where I look back at what I have written and it feels like nothing more than empty words on a page. Don’t get me wrong, while I am writing I fully believe and am committed to what I am saying, but sometimes, after learning about a friend’s struggle, or reading about injustice, or the cycle of oppression that keeps on going, no matter what anyone does, I find myself thinking, “words. These are just empty words that I was able to string together to sound vaguely beautiful or interesting.”

I do hope for a loving God, a God of compassion and justice. But when I continue to have to live in a society where I am devalued-for my race, my gender, my sexuality, I get angry. Hearing again and again, the voices of people crying for justice-structural racism that continues to cause deaths, dictators or revolutionaries who promised their people that a day of change is coming only to continue the cycle of oppression, makes me feel enraged and hopeless. As a result I find myself wishing not just that the structures that enable such suffering are dismantled, but that those that are intentionally perpetrating them be destroyed. On those occasions, violence makes sense to me. If those in power won’t hear the cries for justice then perhaps we should make them listen. If authority will only give lip service to human rights and justice, fine, let’s take justice into our own hands.

I have little patience for those who have ignored the cries of those being slaughtered and then decide to try and take the moral high ground and tell the oppressed how they should act. “Fuck you.” I want to scream. And quite frankly, I try to give them as little of my time and energy as possible. Those who have ignored the cries of the hurting, who get angry when the truth is bought to their ears already have enough people listening to their fake cries of victimhood. I don’t want to dignify them with even more attention.

But do I really believe that violence is a useful response? Do I really believe violence, even done in the name of goodness, really accomplishes a more just and peaceful world?

DOCTOR: You’re part of a hive mind now. Presumably that’s how you found Clara. Just look.
CYBER-DANNY: I can’t see much.
DOCTOR: Look harder.
CYBER-DANNY: Clara, watch this. This is who the Doctor is. Watch the blood-soaked old general in action. I can’t see properly, sir, because this needs activating. If you want to know what’s coming, you have to switch it on. And didn’t all of those beautiful speeches just disappear in the face of a tactical advantage? Sir.
DOCTOR: (sighs) I need to know. I need to know.

The Doctor tried to convince Clara and Danny the value of emotions. The Doctor argues that the only difference between him and Missy, is that the he feels pain. Danny of course, sees right through the Doctor’s bull shit. The Doctor is good at giving nice little speeches, but he has no qualms disregarding them if he feels that he needs too.

In many ways I feel like I do the same. I talk about the importance of demonstrating a new way of living. Of working together with the oppressed-not trying to “save” them, but trying to listen and understand. I encourage those of us part of marginalized groups to advocate for justice without stooping to the level of our oppressors. But how do you do that when you are constantly ignored? When God’s promise-of love, justice, seems so far away that they appear to be nothing more than shallow words? There are time where I read back what I have written and wonder if I really believe that justice will one day reign and that God is actually a God of love who sides with those who are systematically abused.

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The Doctor is disgusted by the army that Missy has given him and the seemingly unlimited power she offers. Yet I have to wonder, did the Doctor even feel a tiny bit tempted? He not only has a TARDIS but an endless army that could right any wrong. Did he not see that as a way to use violence in a redemptive fashion?

I have to admit, that if given the same opportunity, I am not sure I would have so easily turned it down. Can you imagine? The power and ability to forcibly stop those who use others as mere play things to be exploited? Imagine all the evil that could be stopped. I care deeply about ending tyranny and domination. And there’s a lot in this world. Not just in places that are often reported on the news-but the places that are long forgotten and that are engulfed in civil wars. Or places that were the focus of media attention a few years ago for their resistance to tyranny only to be taken over by new tyrants. If given an army, if given that amount of power, who wouldn’t want to take it?

“Give a good man firepower, and he’ll never run out of people to kill.” But then again, where would I stop? Isn’t it the same old story repeated over and over again in history? Those tired of being oppressed, rise up, sometimes through violent means. And if they succeed-if they manage to kill or drive the old leader into exile, a new system ostensibly rises up claiming to be different. And perhaps for a while they are. But then those who have risen to power find that they don’t want to give up power. “Evil” isn’t concentrated in a few individuals. You get rid of those who are supposedly evil only to find that the system of domination continues. And once again, more people need to be stopped and killed. The number of people, who would have to be killed would never end and ultimately I would become just like those I seek to overthrow.

DOCTOR: Why are you doing this?
MISSY: I need you to know we’re not so different. I need my friend back. Every battle, every war, every invasion. From now on, you decide the outcome. What’s the matter, Mister President? Don’t you trust yourself?

God’s promises often seem so far away. And while I would never dare to tell others living through oppression how they should or should not react* I need to deeply examine my gut reaction to oppression and injustice. It is easy to look at those who have been pushed to violence and condemn them, especially if one has been ignoring their cries and pleas for justice. But it is much harder to look within ourselves and see how far we have fallen. To see the gap between what we profess to believe and how we act.

Missy was offering the Doctor a false promise. Yes the Doctor could use the army to stop injustices and to prevent the “bad guys” from winning, but she knew that by doing so, the Doctor would be admitting that he really isn’t that different from her. Missy now and in her previous incarnations sought power and was willing to kill for it. Ostensibly the Doctor would have power, but would be using it for good. Yet to have that much power is dangerous. There comes a tipping point where it becomes difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys because they use the same violent and exploitative means.

I want to stop injustice and part of me wants to advocate that by any means possible. But by doing so what would that make me? Like I said before, I refuse to condemn those who have been pushed to violent action by injustice, especially if I have not experienced what they have. Those within the marginalized community acting out will have to speak out if they so choose too. (ie, since I am not in Mexico, I will not tell those protesting violently against the government that they should stop and do something else instead.) But all I can do is examine my own reactions and motives. Am I acting in a way that leads me closer to the world I envision or further away?

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Questions of identity were central to this season. The Doctor needed to figure out what type of person he was-was he a good man? Was he evil? Was he a hero? He didn’t know who he was, and his uncertainty showed. There were moments he acted heroically and there were moments he acted cruelly. But finally at the end of this season he figured out who he was. An idiot. Someone who makes mistakes. Someone who gets it wrong sometimes. Someone whose best intentions can harm others and who has selfish and manipulative tendencies.

So who am I? Well I’m NOT a violent revolutionist, going out into battle to topple oppressive governments. I’m also not a nonviolent activist dedicating all of my time to various causes. I’m not a politician seeking to directly influence the political system. Those aren’t my gifts or skills. I’m not the world’s savior. And I don’t know what the right answer is. I don’t know how to be particularly helpful to those who are expressing pain that I will never know. I’m just an idiot. Who loves to learn. Who hopes that in some small way, even as I struggle to live authentically to my beliefs (and figure out what my beliefs are) that I am contributing to the type of world I envision.

Because love, it’s not an emotion. Love is a promise. I don’t feel God’s love a lot of times. And I don’t particularly feel loving all the time, especially to those whom I believe contribute to systematic violence. (But in all reality, we all contribute, even in some small way to institutional injustice). I don’t particularly feel like advocating for a new way of living, when it seems as if most people could care less about who they intentionally or inadvertently hurt. I am a hypocritical wreck who struggles with what I believe, but who can string together words in such a way that I give the impression that I know what the hell I’m talking about. I don’t know. The only thing I can do, the only scrape of knowledge and hope I can hold onto is the notion that love is indeed a promise. That God’s love isn’t fickle or conditional, that God not only loves me, but loves a hurting world enough to take part in our suffering in pain. I hold on, even weakly, to the promise that working towards justice, working towards of world of peace, makes some small difference.

*Theologian Walter Wink said it best: “When an oppressive regime has squandered every opportunity to do justice, and the capacity of the people to continue suffering snaps, then the violence visited on the nation is a kind of apocalyptic judgment. In such a time. Christians have no business judging those who take up violence out of desperation. The guilt lies with those who turned justice aside and did not know the hour of their visitation…”

Dark Water: “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

Dark Water starts off with a twist: Danny dies within the first five minutes. And he dies, as Clara describes it, a boring and ordinary death.
GRAN: It’s a terrible thing. Just a terrible, terrible thing.
CLARA: It wasn’t terrible.
GRAN: Clara?
CLARA: It was boring.
GRAN: Boring?
CLARA: It was ordinary. People just kept walking with their iPods and their shopping bags. He was alive, and then he was dead and it was nothing. Like stepping off a bus.
GRAN: He deserved better. And so did you.
CLARA: I don’t deserve anything. Nobody deserves anything. But I am owed better. I am owed.
Clara isn’t a stranger to death-she lost her mother as a teenager and of course during her travels with the Doctor she has witnessed numerous deaths-some very gruesome. She herself, has also faced death on more than one occasion. Yet she has also helped the Doctor save an untold number of lives. She reminded the Doctor there was another way to end the Time War and she has helped save the world and universe. She-the impossible girl-has done so many amazing things. And yet, Danny-the person she loves- dies by getting hit by a car. Danny-who had survived a war zone dies a simple death. There is nothing particularly heroic or memorable about getting hit by a car. Yet, Clara isn’t willing to accept that he is dead. She wants Danny back, and she feels that she is owed at least that much. How many times has she saved the Doctor? How many times has she had his back?

None of us will face homicidal aliens, Daleks, or a mummy soldier. Yet we will all face the death of a loved one. If one watches the news-it seems as if those of us in the western world are facing numerous catastrophic dangers. Terrorist attacks, deadly illnesses, brutal murders (because regular shootings, especially in low income neighborhoods are so blasé and not noteworthy), kidnappings, etc. are presented as very real risks, but the reality is that for a good number of us, our loved ones will die a boring, ordinary death: Old age, health problems, accidents; deaths that might warrant a paragraph in the local newspaper/website. Deaths that are so ordinary-that they are largely ignored except by those directly affected. And while the world happily moves on, we are left struggling to make sense of a new world without our loved ones.

And of course, some of us like Clara, will feel as if we are owed better. Growing up Pentecostal, we were taught to treat God with the utmost reverence. We weren’t to question why certain things happened-they were all part of God’s plan. Even in many mainline denominations, stating that one is owed something by God would be pretty presumptuous. We are to accept that life is unfair and move on. To question God, to demand that things be different is viewed at best as misguided and at worse as blasphemous. But damn it, sometimes the pain is just so much that we have no choice but to cry out in agony and anger. And based on various theological understandings of God, which in one form or another construe God as manipulative, puppet master, God deserves our anger.
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Clara knows the Doctor and she knows how he would react if she asked him for help in bringing Danny back-or she at least thinks she knows his response. As a result she feels as if she needs to manipulate and threaten the Doctor in order to get her desired response. Her grief and anger, have in fact, alienated her from the Doctor. He is no longer a friend that one can confide in and ask for help, but someone that needs to be forced into helping her.

Clara’s response is borne out of grief and anger, but it is also based on a misunderstanding of the Doctor. She’s seen how cold and uncaring he can be, and even though he has thawed a bit since the beginning of the season, she still feels as if she needs to try and control him in order to get him to help her. Her understanding of who the Doctor is, directly impacts how she approaches him while she was in pain and grieving over Danny’s death.

In a similar way, our notions of God impact how/if we turn to God in the midst of our suffering. Some of us have grown up with a theology that states that God is in control of everything-nothing bad or good happens without God’s permission. In this theological framework, God at best, allows someone we care about to die or suffer, and at worst actively caused said death or suffering. We our left questioning, “Why did God allow/cause this to happen?” While some people do gain comfort from an all-powerful God-others wonder how God could be so uncaring and heartless. How can we trust and seek love from a God that seems to act like a cosmic puppet master, deciding when some will die, saving others, etc? This God deserves our anger and perhaps our hate.

Other theological frameworks focus on God’s anger and humanity’s sinfulness. Death and suffering is viewed as a punishment for humanity’s sin. For instance, natural disasters are interpreted as God’s punishment towards a nation living in sin. The hurricane that killed hundreds of people, including infants and children, occurred because of the legality of abortion or because of the LGBT community’s instance on living a life of “perversion.” Individuals die, because of some sin they had not repented of. Instead of viewing those who die from suicide as being in unbearable emotional and mental anguish, they are portrayed as sinners who refused to look to God for help and sustenance. Those who die from illness or poverty, have only themselves to blame for somehow disobeying God. This God needs to be appeased and feared.
For others God is a heavenly Santa Clause watching our every move and keeping track of how “good” or “bad” we are. If we manage to stay on God’s nice lists, than we and our loved ones will enjoy God’s love and protection. But if we get on God’s “naughty” list-than we can expect God to withhold love and protection from us.

And of course in my blog post, Kill the Moon, I talk about a God that seems to arbitrarily decide when to get involved with the pain of humanity and when to respect humanity’s “free will” and allow things to unfold.

DOCTOR: Clara? You asked me what we’re going to do. I told you. We’re going to hell. Or wherever it is people go when they die. If there is anywhere. Wherever it is, we’re going to go there and we’re going to find Danny. And if it is in any way possible, we’re going to bring him home. Almost every culture in the universe has some concept of an afterlife. I always meant to have a look around, see if I could find one.
CLARA: You’re going to help me?
DOCTOR: Well, why wouldn’t I help you?
CLARA: Because of what I just did. I just
DOCTOR: You betrayed me. Betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I’ve ever stood for. You let me down!
CLARA: Then why are you helping me?
DOCTOR: Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?

So much of our theology is based on fear and appeasing God. But what if like Clara, we have misunderstood the level of compassion God has for us? Clara thought she needed to manipulate the Doctor in order to convince him to help her, so when the Doctor reveals that the previous scenario hadn’t actually occurred, she is left wondering where their relationship stands. When the Doctor insists that he is going to help her despite her actions, she is shocked. The Doctor cares about her. He is willing to try and find Danny and bring him back from the dead-even though he is not exactly sure such a thing is even possible. Yet he is willing to try because he cares about her. He loves her. Clara under-estimated how much the Doctor truly does care for her.

Likewise, so many of our ideas about God severely underestimate how loved we are. When it comes to death and suffering, God is seen as the cause or as a being that we need to fear and appease in order to avoid pain. God’s love is directly tied to our actions. When we do good, God loves us more, when we make mistakes or sin, than God loves us a little less. This idea under-girds traditional understandings of the afterlife. God loves us and wants to be with us-but first we have to accept doctrinal statements that weren’t completely formulated until the fourth century. God’s love is conditional and limited. As a result, our interactions with God are about avoiding punishment or trying to get God to help us, protect us etc.

But what if God isn’t an angry puppet master, who for some reason or other, decides that one person will die while another lives? What if we understood God as our companion in our suffering? What if we let go of defining God primarily in terms of power and instead focus on God’s love and desire for relationship with humanity? Christians- often offer theological notions that simply support the lopsided power structures dominant in our world. To minimize or even question God’s omnipotence, is seen as discarding a central, necessary tenant of Christianity. But why do we desire an all-powerful God so much-one who cause or at least wills bad events to happen, one who decides when and where to get involved in the suffering of humanity?

The Doctor is betrayed by Clara. He saw how far she is willing to go in order to manipulate him and get what she wants. Yet he essentially dismisses her actions as unimportant. He doesn’t demand an apology, he simply tells her that his love for her is greater than her betrayal. Of course he will help her, even though he thinks what she is asking is impossible, of course he will stay by her side. Steven Moffat, through the Doctor, seems to understand the nature of love, yet somehow we insist that God’s love is based on power, control, and fear. God doesn’t cause our suffering. God’s heart breaks when we are in pain. And when we get angry, curse God, etc God isn’t ready to strike us down with a lightning bolt, or humble us. God is willing to listen to us, to hear our pain, and when we calm down, God reassures us of God’s love. When we behave in ways that are terrible, when we hurt others and hurt God, God loves us. Of course God hold us accountable, but accountability is not necessarily synonymous with punishment. God is a God of love and grace. And no matter what we go through or what we do, nothing will ever change God’s love for us.

What if God, like the Doctor wonders, “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” Do we think that our actions, our emotions, our pain could cause God to love us less?

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In the Forest of the Night: Seeing the Things in Front of Us.

DOCTOR: You can’t really tell if something’s an addiction till you try and give it up.
CLARA: And you never have.
DOCTOR: Let me know how it goes.

After Kill the Moon Clara is intent on ending her travels with the Doctor. In the beginning of Mummy on the Orient Express, we find that weeks have passed since the previous episode and while Clara still resolves to stop traveling, she no longer declares her hatred for the Doctor. Yet despite her insistence that she cannot continue to live life the way the Doctor does-recklessly and with little consequence for how others are effected and despite her promise to Danny to finally walk out of the TARDIS for good, she finds that she is unable to do so. So she lies to both the Doctor and Danny. Of course the Doctor and Danny eventually find out she has been lying. In this episode, In the Forest of the Night Danny knows that she has not completely cut ties with the Doctor. He knows that she immediately called the Doctor after seeing London taken over by a forest that sprung up overnight, even though he sensibly thought about calling all of the parents to reassure them. And when Danny tells her towards the end of the episode that he saw the stacks of homework that she needs to grade and that the date on them said Friday, she still tries to lie to Danny. Moreover in this episode, we see how she is more concerned about figuring out the puzzle of the forest, than she is about ensuring that the kids are safe. She cares about the kids, but they are an afterthought.

The thing about addictions is that they quickly begin to consume one’s life. Think about the other companions that have traveled with the Doctor. Sarah Jane in, High School Reunion admits how she had a difficult time going back to normal life.  Donna, when she first left the Doctor at the end of the Runway Bride apparently struggled with going back to her boring life. It is only when the Doctor forces her to forget about their adventures does she integrate successfully into the “real” world. Martha, who although chose to leave the Doctor joins Unit. And Rose, after being left on Bad Wolf Bay works with Unit in the parallel universe-not to mention she finds a way to travel between universes to get back to the Doctor. For many of the companions, especially in NuWho traveling with the Doctor means placing one’s life on hold. While Amy and Rory did navigate back and forth between their real life and their time with the Doctor-the Doctor was the one who originally made that decision for them, deciding when and where to pop back into their lives. Clara, right from the beginning of her time with the Doctor, makes it perfectly clear that she will not be giving up her whole life to travel with him. Yet this season balancing her two lives has become increasingly difficult, especially since she has fallen in love with Danny.

The one moment she seems content to give up traveling is when she thinks that she and everyone else is going to be killed.

DOCTOR: I can save you.
CLARA: I don’t want you to.
DOCTOR: What, you don’t want to live?
CLARA: Of course I want to live. I just
DOCTOR: What?
CLARA: Don’t make me say it.
DOCTOR: Say what?
CLARA: I don’t want to be the last of my kind.

it is only when she faces the following decision: would she rather travel with the Doctor or stay behind with Danny and the rest of the human race and face extinction, that at that moment she is able to leave the Doctor behind. It takes a potentially drastic and devastating event to temporally break her “addiction.” However, once it turns out that the world is not going to be destroyed, she immediately forgets about her previous decision. She is unable to stay away from the lure of traveling throughout space and time. When she tries to convince the children and Danny to watch the solar flare, she is disappointed when they refuse. The children want to be with their parents, understandably, they almost died and they want to be with the people that matter the most to them. And Danny, while he encourages Clara to go reminds her about life on earth:

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Well what’s wrong with wanting to travel through space and time? Most of us if given the opportunity would react no differently than Clara. However, while most of will never get the opportunity to travel through space, and I am pretty sure that in our lifetime none of us will travel through time, as humans we always seem to be grasping for something more. When it comes to striving for more equality and justice, we can make great progress towards ending oppression. Yet most of us, individually and as a society get caught up in grasping for things that will make us happy. Seeking happiness or buying things are not necessarily wrong, but they become dangerous when we seek to prove our self-worth or provide meaning to our lives by what we buy and/or consume. We spend so much of our lives wishing for an alternative reality-we wish we weren’t sick, we wish we didn’t have debt, we wish the economy didn’t suck and we tell ourselves that if we only everything were ok then we could be happy. But unfortunately, most of us will rarely have moments where everything goes well. But if we keep focusing on what we don’t have or pining for what we never had, life will pass us by.

Christianity on the surface, is supposed to provide an alternative way of living that serves as a counterpoint to the shallow consumerism that plagues our society. But popular American Christianity tends to be based on shallow theology. Christianity is reduced to getting into heaven and avoiding hell. In some congregations/denominations, each sermon preached is a variation on the whole, “accept Christ as your savior or you will end up in hell” spiel. Rapture theology, despite having weak biblical and historical roots, continues to fascinate an untold number of Christians who seem to almost relish the thought of having most of humanity suffer and be condemned to hell. And while the notion of heaven-whether as a literal place or understood in a more metaphorical sense with the primary focus being on God’s reign of love, justice, and compassion rather than on a physical afterlife, can provide comfort for those who are grieving and suffering and can inspire others to fight for social justice, it can also serve the same purpose as secular materialism. We become so focused on heaven-yearning for our pain to end, for justice and compassion to reign in the future, that we lose sight of what we have now. What if heaven does not exist as a literal place? What if there is no single moment where everything will magically be ok, where hunger will cease to exist and wars will be eradicated? What if progress will continue like it always has, in fits and starts? Does that render our lives in the here and now meaningless?

Of course there is nothing wrong with seeking progress. And I understand the comfort that notions of heaven, whether literal or metaphorical can have, and I am no way suggesting that heaven does not exist. I can’t say for sure whether an afterlife definitively exists or whether there will be a time period where justice and peace will reign (though I continue to strive for that day). But what I’ve been learning is to embrace a theology that finds meaning in everyday life. I want, when pain and depression are threatening to overwhelm me, to be able to find a flicker of hope-not in some future that may never happen, but in what I see around me. I want to be able find God’s presence around me now.

Clara couldn’t muster up the will to give up traveling until she thought that humanity faced death and once the threat was gone she went back to her lust after adventure. In a similar way, how many of us have faced a life changing situation? How many of us have faced the death of a loved one, or come close to dying and vow that we shall learn to appreciate each day only to seem to forget about that promise within a few days, months, or years?

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Forgetting can be beneficial. Forgetting helps us move forward individually and as a society. But forgetting can also cause us to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, to believe that violence is redemptive, or that we can be happy if only everything went the way we want/need. We constantly need to remind ourselves that there are wonders in front of us. That there is beauty surrounding us even in the midst of all the pain and suffering. Our moments with friends and loved ones, wrapping ourselves up in our TARDIS blanket on a cold night sipping hot chocolate, studying what we love, playing with our animals-all those little things that seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things matter. It’s those little things that hurt the most when for whatever reason we forget them. Like when a loved one dies-it hurts to forget the sound of their voice, or the feel of their hands. For me this episode is a call to remember what we have. Not necessarily a discouragement against seeking-but a reminder that sometimes we don’t have to go very far to find what we long for and need.