Confronting Death

In the 1950's when Christian Existential philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich was asked the question "What would you think is the best present-day Protestant religious picture," without skipping a beat, he answered it as Picasso's famous Guernica.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas

He responds that it illustrates our "disruptiveness, existential doubt, emptiness and meaninglessness...And if Protestantism means that, first of all, we do not have to cover up anything, but have to look at the human situation in its depths of estrangement and despair, then this is one of the most powerful religious pictures." 

I am reminded of Pastor Jeff speaking last Sunday about how in our existence here in this world, we fight against the spin of this planet that moves toward death. As we participate in this 10-day countdown that ends on Good Friday, commemorating Christ's crucifixion and death, I feel motivated to confront this image and peer into the depths of my own human situation. If I am to say that Christ overcame death for me, how much of a win is that for me if I have yet to hold any relation to death and my own existential depths?   

This thought comes to me: Nobody ever begins a fight that they don't think will end in victory. Only through Him and what Jesus has done on the cross can we even confront this empty image. Only can I look at the void and meaninglessness of my life with His everlasting words, "It is finished."

Being both a fan of NPR's This American Life and Wired Magazine, where I got my first job out of college, I share with you Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly's amazing testimony while sleeping on the spot where Christ was crucified and his confrontation with death in a segment called "Shoulda Been Dead."  The 15-minute story can be found by cueing up to 04:22 in the player below or by simply clicking to the official website here.

James was a journalist for national magazines, including Wired, Outside, Rolling Stone, and Time Out New York. With his beautiful wife Tiffany, he is the father—with the biased opinion—of the most beautiful baby in the history of babies. He is currently getting his doctorate degree in clinical psychology, working on a dissertation on bearing witness to others in the face of crisis.