“I will say that Christianity has this interesting compromise where we’re both divine and wretched.”
~ Norm MacDonald
Confession: When I can’t sleep, I listen to Norm MacDonald. There is something about the Saturday Night Live alum’s voice that puts my mind at ease. Sometimes I place my phone next to my bed and play video clips of Norm on Letterman, Conan, or wherever else. And it puts me to sleep. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of it. But I do think it’s strange. You might too. That’s ok. I understand.
On one particularly sleepless night, I listened to Norm do an interview on something called the “What’s So Funny?” podcast. To my surprise, he shared an off-the-cuff yet thoughtful view of humanity.
Listen to the short clip below:
Using both logic and introspection, he says that we as humans are both divine and wretched. In other words, we are both good and bad. Beautiful and broken.
This view of the human condition is obvious to most all of us. No one, except under extreme delusions, believes themselves to be the best person in the world or the worst. So why did Norm strike such a chord with me?
First, I was shocked by a comedian philosophizing about the biblical view of humanity. The Bible claims that we as humans were made in the image of God (i.e., divine or good) and are sinful beyond repair (i.e., wretched or bad). Norm rightly points out that Christianity embraces and explains the tension between these two coexisting realities. It provides substantiating language for our dual capacities for compassion, creativity, and goodness in addition to selfishness, destruction, and evil.
Second, Norm openly shared his intrigue with the Christian solution to our wretchedness, the Savior. In our culture today, we are taught to keep our spiritual journeys to ourselves. Norm ignores the cultural pressure to keep quiet about religious philosophy, especially when it was his own self-reflection that led to it. We can learn something from this. This is bold and it is honest. But, more importantly, it promotes authentic conversation and relationships.
Third, I believe one of our pervading societal ills is our refusal to apply this view of humanity to ourselves and to others. Even though we instinctively know that good and bad coexist in our hearts, we love to deify or vilify those around us. We do it in our thoughts, with our words, and on social media. People are either heroes or villains. Honorable or despicable. Good or evil. And the collective temptation is to define people (or groups) as one extreme or the other. It’s easy to do and it is often rewarded with likes on Facebook. However, it is dehumanizing. It puts up walls, hinders civil discourse, and destroys the potential for authentic relationships. We weren’t meant to treat others as gods or demons nor were we meant to be treated as such. We were meant to live as neighbors with mutual respect for one another. This understanding is relevant to all of our communities, even those online.
The path to authentic relationship is found when “that Christian idea” (as Norm calls it) becomes the lens by which we view ourselves and others. Divine and wretched. Good and bad. Beautiful and broken. Every significant relationship we enjoy has embraced this view of humanity as its foundation.
Not bad Norm. I was not expecting this at 3am.