John Wayne Gacy, I am just like him.

One of my favourite artists ever is Sufjan Stevens because he is simply brilliant and amazing. I am pretty sure he is a Christian as well. Mr Steven’s voice may not be the strongest out there, but his lilting voice makes the words so fluent and personal. Moreover, one of my favourite songs by him is “John Wayne Gacy Jr” from the album, Illinoise. There is this one line that always breaks my heart when I hear it, the line goes:

“And in my best behavior

I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid”

“John Wayne Gacy Jr” by Sufjan Stevens.

The context to the song is Stevens is singing about the life of John Wayne Gacy. Gacy was a convicted serial killer. In the normal rounds of life, he was a popular clown called “Pogo the Clown”. He would often dress up for parties for young children around his apartment block that he lived around. The children loved him as he would prance around, filling them with joy. Yet, when he was arrested the police found 26 children in a small crawl space underneath his home, and a few more around his property and not to mention all the bodies found in the river near his house.

John Wayne Gacy not only killed all these young men and boys, he also raped them as well, disposing their bodies after the deed was done. Perhaps he learnt from a young age when he was molested at age nine by a family friend. Maybe it was his alcoholic father, he would come every night and try to discipline his children, while trying to maintain his balance. His unathletic frame was derided by his father, he was called “stupid” and a “sissy”. Though he tried so hard to please his father, it always seemed fruitless, all he got was a swing of the leather belt. That was all he remembered of his father.

What is underneath our floorboards?

Stevens touches a raw nerve in this song. As Christians, we are keenly aware of our own sinfulness. While we may not kill or rape anyone in our lifetimes, how much worse is it if our ignorance or our pride turns one away from God? While we may not be John Wayne Gacy, we can so easily be Gacy Senior. What we do with our lives and how we live it has such a profound impact on other people’s lives. For example, we may ignore someone because we were busy that night, and that same night, the person committed suicide. We know that blood was on our hands because we had thought that my school work was more important than doing God’s work.

By the same token, we could be that family friend. What we watch on tv, what we view on the internet, what magazines we read and what clothes we wear. We could be introducing people to what is not appropriate to people of a certain age, or even in a lifetime. What I don’t realise is what a huge influence I have, people look up to me believe it or not. Someone mentioned to me, that they heard that it’s good that they should have someone mature in their faith to guide them. I liked how I had made this illusion to other people that i am somewhat mature in my faith, when I don’t consider myself to be anything more than a toddler in Christ.

Even in our blogging influence, we have people coming to read us every day. Surely, you could stop complaining about someone who hurt you and talk about something positive for a change. Why do we have to make other people wrong all the time?

If we were to open up what is hidden underneath our lives, would we do it? If we forgot to put on our spiritual makeup one day would people recognize us? if we decided to show our scars and hurts would people still treat us the same? I am the first to admit I am no better than John Wayne Gacy. I have spoken too many hurtful words. Or perhaps, did not any words at all. If I aim to do nothing to help society, all I’m doing is help create another generation of John Wayne Gacys in the world. I may not be John Wayne Gacy but I would be there helping him dig the holes to try to hide all the wrong he had done.

Just look beneath the floorboards of my life.

PS. Read more about John Wayne Gacy on wikipedia: It’s a truly sad story.

God and Wealth

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.'”
– Mark 10:23-25 (English Standard Version)

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
– Acts 16:14 (ESV)

First, it is interesting that Lydia is mentioned by name in the Scripture where she most likely was not the only individual to be saved in by the apostles in that area. Where it is rendered “purple goods” in the ESV could refer to Lydia being a seller of either purple dye or purple cloth or silk. Purple was the color of royalty and the higher class in Roman society because of their rarity and the expensive means required to obtain it. Therefore, we could infer that she was a rich woman. She sold clothing to the rich people, probably made a bit of money from that, and lived quite comfortably. So it’s pretty much like that Louis Vuitton shop that I walked into recently.

Notice that the two phrases side by side that Lydia was a worshiper of God and a seller of purple goods. She held these two titles at the same time, both as a purveyor of purple goods to the wealthy and a humble worshiper of God. It’s amazing that she could tread that thin line between living for God as well as her business to serve the wealthy. It seems so easy for Lydia to have seen the big bright lights of the world and be attracted to it like a moth to the flame. I remember I thought I used to be strong enough around friends to see them drunk and stoned. I thought I was strong enough to resist it, but in reality I am just as depraved as them and often act contrary to a true worshiper.

Sure, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, but with God, the impossible is possible. The reality is that it is not just hard for rich. It’s hard for the proud, it is hard for the haughty, it is hard for the selfish, it is hard for the licentious, it is hard for the liars, it is hard for the slanderous etc.

What does it mean to be good?

What’s been on my mind is what is good? I’m not going into the philosophy of it all, but I will assume that God is the originator of good and evil. So, I want to talk from a Christian worldview, what is it to be good?

From a concordance check that I went through, a lot of the Bible talks of what is good and bad, especially in the Old Testament, of a set of laws, mostly the Mosaic law, that God gives us as a measure. For example in Deuteronomy after Moses repeats the law to the stubborn Israelites, he concludes:

“Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 12:28 (English Standard Version)

So, what we can see is that the law was definitive in the Old Testament as to what was supposed to be God. But where in Old Testament the notion of good and evil is veiled and portrayed as only a collection of following laws. In light of the New Testament, we know now that the law sheds the truth that in reality we aren’t perfect and that we are not inherently good at all. Living in a New Testament context, we have the full revelation that Jesus is the good person who did not break any laws, died for us. Then, through his sacrifice on the cross we know that he alone is good, how then shall we live if we are already good in Christ?

With the ceremonial laws dissolved, we still have the civil law of God to follow which gives us the terms which God sets out for us to follow.  what does it mean to be a good person inside the new covenant? My suggestion is that while Jesus fulfils OT law and resolves what it does; ultimately Jesus shows what evil is:

Anything apart from God.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost connection with God’s way of life, and subsequently they could no longer live in the Garden of Eden. There was a spiritual disconnection from God. While man cannot fill this void, only Jesus Christ can. Since God is the one who initiates salvation (John 10v.3), then how can we begin to do anything that is pleasing to God in the slightest? It’s like a man trying to build a castle without any stones. He can build his sand castles only so long before the wind blows them away.

One story I found illustrative of my point is in the OT. The context of the passage is a celebration of the Ark of the Covenant is occurring with a good ole party happening in the place:

“And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.”And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.”And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.” 2 Samuel 6:5-7 (English Standard Version)

The motives of Uzzah was good in the story, he was trying to stop the ark of the covenant falling to the ground. But ultimately, his hands were unclean and he shouldn’t have stopped the Ark from falling because it wasn’t consistent with God’s holiness. Therefore, God struck him down, clean and simple like that…some might call it harsh, but it was totally just and already outlined in the law.

As Christian we can live one way, but not seek to glorify God as the ultimate ends. It’s too easy to fall back unto pleasing ourselves and therefore manipulating God’s gifts to us. While we still have the will to do stuff, if it isn’t what God has led us down it is utterly meaningless.

Even with Bill Gates and his foundation, though he is doing a great work for the world, his foundation gives a lot of money to good causes, no doubt. He still isn’t doing good in the absolute sense because he isn’t glorifying God. My analogy is like building a village, but there is a huge difference between building a village for the enemy or for the kingdom of God. Without God we are just building kingdoms to be torn down again when Jesus comes back again.

I guess this post was influenced when I said something similar that nothing is good unless done in God. The conversation occured in the comments section of a post somewhere on Xanga, I don’t remember the post. And I got bashed by a few people, I didn’t really try to fight back too much but I hope that all made sense where I’m coming from. I think the post that it was talking about was about atheists doing good works, and I countered that it wasn’t done at all in glory of God to bring him glory at all.

As Christians it is too easy to live lives that are externally good, we can give 10% of our gross income and continue to live our ways in a ‘good’ type of way. We can feed children in Africa, give some groceries to the food bank every Monday, drop a few coins into the offering bag as it goes by and volunteer outside the abortion clinics. While they are all good things, if not done with God’s glory in mind, it will be as filthy rags to God, because we are trying to earn our own salvation.

“And Samuel said,“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,as in obeying the voice of the LORD?Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 (English Standard Version)