Monday, April 27, 2009

The Question of Normal

Awhile back I really enjoyed the movie I am Legend, to the extent that I wanted to read the book. Now I had a few worldview issues with the movie, but the book (which only shares a basic premise with the movie) raised many issues. The only one that I want to discuss is what I believe was the authors overall theme; which was the issue of what is normal and who gets to define what normal is.

I was pleased to discover that this was a thoughtful book that was going somewhere and had a point, the author was aiming at something. Now he chose a strange genre to make his point, but the point was clear nonetheless.

The story revolved around a man named Robert Neville who is the last human survivor of a plague that has turned the remainder of the human race into basically a race of vampires (not Bram Stokers however). Neville spends his days discovering the nature of the disease, killing vampires, and trying to survive. Early in the process of his study he reflects on the nature of the vampire myth; that they were a terrifying story of a people who lived in the shadows doing legendary horrible things. By the end of the book he discovers that they have learned how to control their disease and are building a new civilization that has no room for him. After he is captured and is about to be executed he sees many of the vampires looking at him with fear and he realizes that he has become the dark legend that will haunt their dreams in the future.

This is all driving to the subtle point made throughout the book, that normal is a social construct determined by the majority. Before the plague he was part of the majority that had determined that vampires were ok to hate and kill. Now the vampire are the majority so they are normal and now it ok for them to hate and kill him.

I'm sorry it took me so long to get to the point but, this book really got me to thinking about the concept of normal. And it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The Bible doesn’t really seem to have a category for normal. There is true and false, righteous and unrighteous, good and evil, glory and horror, these kind of categories are abundantly found in the Bible but normal versus abnormal, well its difficult to find. But certainly as a Christian I had to believe that if there is a normal then it is God the creator who gets to determine who is normal and who is not.

The conclusion that I have come to is that there are two ways to think about normal as a Christian. For Matheson normal is something that gets voted on, but for us normal isn’t determined by our culture but by our creator, so the closest thing we would have to normal would be the purpose for our existence. There are many reasons given in the Bible for our existence, to exist in a right relationship with Him, to bring glory to Him, or to serve His purposes for the world. But it is here that we find normal, in our design. But I think that normal got a subtle redesign. The Bible says now that we are to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is our new goal. To grow to become like Jesus in His holiness, love, obedience to the Father, etc. So normal for the Christian is set in our design (which was marred at the fall) but is now also looking ahead to the future purpose for the redeemed children of God, likeness to Christ.

There is no voting only receiving from the creator. May we grow into greater conformity to Christ to the glory of God.

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