Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Phantom of the Opera as a Metaphor for the Human Decision – Part Two

I haven’t been happy with the previous post. It was poorly written and reading back over it, there were some foundational elements that I begged the question on that resulted in some leaps of logic that many may not be able to follow. The purpose for making the following points may not be evident at first, but I’ll explain afterward

1. Choice involves the chooser’s desire to be identified with a relationship rather than the attaining of an object. For example, if I choose to overeat I don’t choose the food. I choose the relationship of being satiated by the food. This is an important distinction. If I sin, I don’t choose to sin. Rather, I choose the perceived benefit of the sin. The sin, therefore, becomes a matter of self-identification because it is I who made the decision.

2. Choices are contextual. The choice to identify with one thing can be different depending on what one knows about the thing. For example, I may choose to be associated with a bad church because I believe that church is a “safe” place to commit my sin and find justification. I may choose to be associated with a bad church because someone I know goes there and I lack the discernment to tell that it’s a bad church. Or, I may choose to be associated with a bad church because I’m a minister and believe I have the ability to help the church get past her spiritual problems.

3. With regard to the metaphor, the Phantom and Raoul are the same choice. I already stated that I identify with both. They are as though they were different aspects of the same person.

The Phantom believes that Christine’s choice is between him or Raoul. But she has already chosen to love Raoul. Her choice is how to best love Raoul given the Phantom’s condition of relationship.

She also already has a relationship with the Phantom. When she believed he was the Angel of Music she had a relationship based on his deception and her desire. Then when she first discovered his deception, she continued the relationship because of her desire alone. However, he sought a different relationship than they already had and his treachery was geared to force her to spend her life with him. Her choice of the Phantom over Raoul was actually not a choice of the Phantom over Raoul. She couldn’t have what she wanted, but she could offer herself to the Phantom for Raoul’s life. Her relationship was one of unwilling servitude, not the willing desire that the Phantom wanted. Her identity became that of a coerced companion.

A fourth point is that choice communicates our identity. For example, a love out of season may cause a woman to shun certain contact with the man of her affection, but inordinate lack of contact will communicate her true desire. It can be more intentional that that. For example, planted signals such as the innocent stroke of a thumb down one’s cheek or asking an otherwise innocent question can communicate volumes within the context of a relationship.

For Christine, the Phantom was intelligent enough to realize that his conundrum for Christine had failed. Christine knew she had to be convincing enough to make the Phantom believe that she had truly chosen him so that he would set Raoul free. And she genuinely pitied the Phantom. However, the Phantom knew that he would never have the relationship he desired. He was defeated.

Our relationship with sin is the same way. Once we have been made alive by the Holy Spirit, just as Christine found the potential for a better life with Raoul, then we are made aware of our sin. We already have a relationship with sin, just as Christine already had a relationship with the Phantom. However, with this new revelation the relationship changes. We desire Christ but are faced with the conundrum of our sin. When we “accept Christ” we submit ourselves to his authority and own our sin to him. We are willing to identify ourselves with out sin openly so that he can remove it. Although we are in bondage to sin, sin has no power over us. We submit to God’s judgment and he gives us grace. We are set free.

Now, you may wonder what a Calvinist is doing talking about the great human decision. There is no decision that we make outside of a relationship we already have – just like Christine. She couldn’t of her own power spend the rest of her life with Raoul. But as I said, her choice was already made before she chose the Phantom, and that not to choose the Phantom, but how to best love Raoul. Likewise, owning our sin so that we can offer it to Christ is like Christine choosing the Phantom so that he would set Raoul free. No matter what, the choice is already made. The rest is just playing that choice out.

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