I and I,
One says to the other,
No man sees my face and lives.
– Bob Dylan
When I heard that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died from an apparent overdose of heroine, my initial thoughts were about how an obviously intelligent man could do something so stupid. Then I read an article in New York magazine by David Edelstein, a journalist who had studied his work and interviewed him shortly after his brilliant role as Truman Capote in Capote, for which he won an Oscar, and I began to understand. Edelstein points out that “the only Hoffman characters at ease with themselves are the bad ones.” Hoffman learned to play the dark side of humanity – especially nuances of the dark side trying to cover itself up as illustrated in Doubt where he plays a conflicted priest who doesn’t believe he’s a sexual predator.
“I think deep down inside, people understand how flawed they are,” Hoffman said in the interview. “I think the more benign you make somebody, the less truthful it is.”
In this statement, Hoffman may have hit on what makes Christians seem so phony or at least gives us a reputation of being so. The more we go around as flawed people trying to be more benign, the more untruthful we will appear to others. The truth is we are all as deeply flawed as anyone else; we just don’t want to know that.
I often wonder if in this regard we misuse the new life doctrines of being dead to sin and alive to Christ as a coverup instead of a means of facing ourselves. A person who preaches they are dead to sin and alive to Christ without ever facing the sin they are dead to is someone who doesn’t fully know what they are talking about.
The blessed thing is that in the death and resurrection of Jesus who said he was the first fruits of those who believe (in other words, the first one to make it through this terror and come out whole on the other side), we find the means to face ourselves and not despair. There is a way out of our sinful selves, but that doesn’t mean we can avoid our sinful selves. Some people think that Romans 7, where Paul struggles with two natures, happens only once for the believer. I think it happens all the time. I believe in some form we have this struggle every day – the difference being, we always have a way out.
Lots of Christian doctrine can be used to avoid ourselves when, in fact, it was created by God to be a means of facing ourselves and not ending up like Philip Seymour Hoffman. These truths are a means of facing our darkest secrets and coming out with hope and new life, not a means of never having to face ourselves at all.
“I suspect Philip Seymour Hoffman had a lot of shame in his life and dealt with it by going deeper than any actor of his generation in finding its source,” Edelstein wrote. That is something you don’t want to do without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to bring you through.
Many of us who do have access to that hope have yet to put it to use.
SPECIAL GUEST: YOU!
Something a little different tonight on BlogTalkRadio. Marti and I will be hosting the show together and taking calls from any of you who would like to call in and ask a question or make a comment or just chat with us for a little bit. And if you’d rather not call but have a question or comment to submit simply reply to this email and we will be glad to address it on the air. We would love to hear from you so don’t hesitate to call.