One day a few summers later, for some reason, we all turned up at Paul’s house... The whole gang. Paul came out all excited and started to immediately talk about a comic book character as though we had just finished a fantasy war and were still 12 years old. Paul was now 16 and we were 14. We tried to be enthusiastic, but we were stunned at how extreme Paul was acting. He thought because he felt one way about the comic book world that everyone should feel the same way about it. He was still seeing the world through comic book eyes and wanted us to see it that way too. Had we been that extreme?
However much we tried to humor him, he sensed our disinterest and I think he got downright depressed. The depression turned to anger as we talked about baseball and started to separate into teams. Paul stormed into the house and slammed the door.
If we weren't going to see the world the way Paul saw it, we were lost, and so was our friendship. We were now enemies of his worldview and we must be shut out. Even talk of things other than comics was considered persecution.
I think that was the last time I ever saw Paul.
I remember back to those days of Comic Book Extreme Living, and honestly, I am thankful for them. At the time, it was healthy. It was infusing my imagination with a bright and burning light. It gave me inspiration and helped me get my mind off of the big bullies picking on me at school. I started to draw because of comics. I became a pretty good artist. I won an award later in High school and had my art posted on the wall of the State Capital. The experience helped me to grow.
For Paul, the experience had enslaved him and he liked the comfort of the cold and lonely extreme.
It is easy for me to look back on Paul and yuck it up at how silly he was to be quoting X-men at 16 and getting mad at us for not reciprocating. But I still love a good extreme as much at thirty somethin’ as much as I did at 12 and I can get mad and feel dumb when someone doesn’t see it my way as well. If I’m not careful, those feelings quickly turn into resentment and finally hatred.
We search like wild men for those new extremes. As Christians, that extreme usually comes in the form of our religion.
A journey to the extreme may help you grow, just as a hard rain does for a thirsty lawn, but if it rains for days, it will flood everything and drown the neighbors.
For Paul, it made him run and hide in his house from growing up.
There are several times where we go through things and revelations that burn hot. We feel as though everyone else should burn hot and we are tempted to believe that everyone that doesn't believe the way you believe is an enemy and your persecutor or they just “don’t get it.”
Just ask the guys who slammed the Airline Jets into the Twin Towers. They had nothing but pure conviction. They saw the world through that lens and could see no other.
Christians think they are soooo much better than these fellows but we can be just as bad. So can an atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, Universalist… whomever. We are human. Humans like extremes. It gives us a high. It makes us feel safe. And we will guard that safety with ferocity. Even if that means hating everyone around us. Even if it means killing those who threaten it.
Shoot, didn’t Jesus say that loving him meant hating your mom and dad?
Jesus never meant for us to actually “Hate” in the sense of “despise” our mother and father if they disagree with us. He would be contradicting himself when he said to “Love on another.” Or contradicting the character of God when he says that he “so loved the world.” That love may cause division but only because hatred cannot abide where there is Love.
The unique thing about Christianity, is that that if we are living in the extremities, our extreme is suppose to materialize into supernatural love. It loves past our differences and our different world and eschatology views. It loves past 7 days or 4 billion years. It loves past a tub of water or a sprinkle. It loves through a Priest's Cassock or a flashy suit. It should bring a peace that passes understanding and if you feel anything but love for the people around you, then something else has a hold of you. Some extremity that makes you “feel” safe because you are afraid so you mask your doubt with a fanatical intolerance for others.
God calls us to talk and act in and out of the extreme power of Love. Not necessarily from the extreme revelations of our Religious fire. It took me a while to realize that there is a difference between Religious fire and Love. But luckily, there are plenty of people around to Love me off my throne just like they Loved me out of my Light Saber at 8, my fake Wolverine claws at 12, and my Bible club in my early twenties.