First-time experiences sort of stick in your mind, don’t they? I had a first-time experience at the movies when I was 14—and, no, it didn’t involve a girl, and lip contact didn’t include anything I couldn’t swallow or that wasn’t sold at the concession counter. The experience of going to the movies by itself wasn’t what made it a ‘first time’ thing for me. After all, I was 14, and we were entering the 1960s. My buddies and I had all been appropriately initiated into the rapidly expanding world of cinematic expression and considered ourselves to be sophisticated movie-goers, having sampled from the entire scope of culturally relevant video genre—westerns, war movies, and horror flicks.
We were not just a bunch of brash, naïve kids. We were battle hardened veterans of the second most challenging form of movie viewing for 14-year-olds—horror movies. First place belonging, of course, to the dreaded ‘romance’ category, arguably for us, merely a different variety of horror movie, anyway. Regardless, at this point in our movie viewing careers, we had survived attacks on our adrenaline system from such potentially paralyzing vehicles as ‘Frankenstein’, and ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’, and ‘Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman’, and ‘Frankenstein Meets Igor’s Mother-in-law’ (may be a little off on the title here, but you get the idea). But tonight was going to be different. Tonight we were stepping up to confront Hollywood horror at a whole new level. Tonight the darkened theater would soon be transformed into the ‘House on Haunted Hill’. We were warned that this was not just another horror movie, but we were veterans with a reputation to protect, and backing down was not an option. We donned our hard-earned bravado and wore it right up to the ticket window, maybe even strutting a little bit as we got close. We looked that ticket person right in the eye as she tore off our tickets and said mechanically, “Thanks—now get your glasses out of that box over there.”
Glasses? Wait a minute, all we needed to see ‘Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman’ was a ticket. We didn’t have to don paper glasses and view it through red and green cellophane. But ‘House on Haunted Hill’ wasn’t just horror—this was horror in 3D. The creatures lurking inside that creepy old house were going to break free from the confines of the silver screen and burst right out into the audience—probably drool all over us, too. 3D was serious stuff.
Well… I’m not 14 anymore (thank God), but I’m still intrigued by the phenomenon of 3D projection. We live and move in a three-dimensional world, but most of us are too busy to ever stop to think about the implications of it. God gives us an opportunity to discard that tendency, at least for a minute or two, with a comment made by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. In the midst of pleading with God on behalf of his readers, Paul inserts the idea of multiple dimensions. His passionate desire for his beloved converts was that they would experience a personal intimacy and direct involvement with Jesus Christ that extends far beyond superficial religious rituals, empty clichés, and transient emotional expressions. He knew all too well that when robbed of their deeper internal realities, those external trappings serve only to obscure and obstruct the power of God’s transcendent truth.
In light of that, Paul prayed that they would come to know “…the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge…” (Eph. 3:18).
Three dimensional love? Imagine that. This love that Paul advocated, this life that Jesus demonstrated, was something that exceeded the normal planes of human measurement. This was life with real spiritual depth—another dimension altogether.
What we call ‘3D’ in the movies ought to be called ‘3DD’—three-dimensional deception—because our 3D is really just 2D in disguise. We employ technological devices to make images look like they have depth, but what we really see are three dimensional ideas confined within a two-dimensional reality. Paul’s prayer was reflective of a condition that he feared. That is, that the church would become something like our modern video screens—a mechanism onto which three-dimensional ideas are projected, but left trapped within the rigid, lifeless boundaries of a two-dimensional reality. That’s what happens when we have religious rituals without the Spirit of the living God involved. That’s what we have left when ‘praise and worship’ services are reduced to a means of ecclesiastical entertainment and emotional stimulation.
Manipulative deception is obviously not new to us. Day after day we are bombarded with verbal and visual illusion. Lies and less-than-honest expressions assail us from nearly every quarter—political deception, corporate dishonesty, academic disappointments, and relational fantasies are a part of life. We’ve become so accustomed to them we hardly notice it anymore. We’ve gone beyond tolerance—we’ve accepted their role as normal. After all, 3D can be fun, and we can enjoy the sensations, even when we know that it’s only 2D in disguise. It isn’t news to us that the depth and the life we see displayed on our screens are just an illusion, and that fact is hardly worth mentioning.
Here’s the problem. Our familiarity and comfort with two-dimensional images of three-dimensional reality can get us into trouble that we may not have anticipated. If we’ve allowed what we project as ‘Christianity’ to be little more than just another ‘3D’ image on a ‘2D’ life, it could have tragic eternal consequences. Jesus came to deal with life as it really is, with all of the hard realities that lurk in every dimension. He calls us to abandon our two-dimensional religious deceptions, and follow Him into a world that is eternally three-dimensional. If we decline to do that, we eventually discover the problem with two-dimensional worlds—there’s no personal involvement with anything projected there. In two-dimensional worlds you can only touch the image, not the people, and none of it is real.
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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