This month, I interview an old friend of mine from my days at Christian Anime Alliance, just like Arri Lemons. Here’s Nicholas Tieman!
1) How did you become a Christian?
I was claimed by Christ in baptism in the first month of my life. I’ve been growing into it ever since.
2. What denomination are you?
I am a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. My family has been a member of this church body as long as it’s been around, and it’s a spiritual heritage I’m very happy for. Here in the South, the dominant paradigm is Baptist, which is prone to legalism. Many people overcorrect into antinominianism, or by rejecting faith entirely. The Lutheran emphasis on ongoing repentance is particularly helpful to people in churches who feel like they can never be good enough but still want to follow God.
3. What is your current job?
I help Hilton Hotels maintain websites. I mainly work on a collection of foreign language web sites, like this one: http://www.hiltonhotels.com/fr_FR/france/trianon-palace-versailles-a-waldorf-astoria hotel
My job is interesting and not too stressful. I’m constantly having to learn something new. I love it.
4. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?
I went through a time where I felt severely challenged in my faith, to the point where I wondered if I was just fooling myself. One day I got my butt handed to me in a forum argument (this was in the olden times, before all the social interaction was consumed by the Book of Faces) and concluded that I should just give it up. I was at the office that day and happened to mention it to a coworker. Before I then I never knew he was a Christian. I only knew him as a hard partying loudmouth, and I don’t remember him saying anything particularly insightful before or after that. But he managed to say exactly what I needed to hear.
I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember that after I talked to him I focused more on Jesus. A lot of anti-theists these days like to focus on questions of evolution and creation, or God’s existence as an abstract concept. I sincerely believe that the fixation on these discussion is the work of the devil, because when you focus on Jesus, the question is much, much clearer. The academic consensus, even among atheist experts, is that denying the existence of Jesus is pure tinfoil hat territory. Beyond that, it’s generally accepted that the Gospels are at the very least a response to events that happened in his life. I would add that to my experience , most of the evidence against takes the form of attempting to construct just-so narratives to make the facts fit.
For example, one of my professors in college argued that Jesus did not actually die, but fainted from blood loss and then climbed out of the tomb later when he had regained some strength. He didn’t even bother to make the case that the resurrection account was unreliable, because he had studied the evidence and couldn’t believe that. His only out was acknowledging that something that looked exactly like the resurrection actually happened! At this point you have to wonder what takes more faith: believing that Jesus is the biggest conspiracy ever, or following in the footsteps of Lewis, Strobel, and others who argue that the divine Jesus and the events of the Gospels and Epistles are the best explanation of history.
Lest I leave you with the impression that I’m exclusively about Jesus over God to the point of becoming a Marcionite, let me add that a funny thing happens when you believe in Jesus: you get everything else in the bargain. Jesus believes in God, and beyond that Jesus believes in the Bible. The way he spoke, a word from the scriptures was as good as one from him personally, or straight out of the sky in the voice of Morgan Freeman. I believe in God, but more than that, I believe in the Jesus who believes in God.
5. How did you and Ashley meet?
Ashley ran Christian Anime Alliance. This site grew out of the perception that evangelical culture was overly dismissive of certain forms of pop culture, even when it wasn’t more averse to Christian values than anything a “good Christian” might enjoy. I really admired this ethos, and her winsome and effective leadership.
Both of us fell out of the forum after awhile. Partly because our lives got busier; partly because other new sites were beginning to make forums obsolete. And partly because the struggles that had brought CAA into being had really changed over the years. In some sense, we had basically won the war. Not everybody liked anime, but most people knew what it was. It wouldn’t automatically get a kid kicked out of most youth groups. Open enthusiasts are welcome in all the Christian circles I know. There are still some people who object, but these days the objections are based in the more accurate perception that a lot (not all!) of anime is made to cater to juvenile or prurient interests, rather than the blanket assumption that all cartoons from Japan are bad.
But she and I are still very interested in how Christians should relate to culture and entertainment. We’ve both contributed articles at Christ and Pop Culture (a very interesting community!) and strive to live this question in our daily lives.
6. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?
Leviathan. I take great comfort knowing that something everyone sees as a scary, dangerous monster was not only created by God, but represents something God can take pride in. If God can use the Leviathan to his glory, he can use anything.
7. What is your favorite biblical passage and why?
Luke 13: 1-5. Questions of theodicy are very popular in our age, and I love how Jesus just flips the table on the usual paradigm. Everyone’s so worried about justifying God to man, when man should be worried about justifying himself to God! It also highlights the continuity of the Old and New Testaments, and the reality that the God that humbled Egypt is the same one that came to us in Jesus. Loving and merciful, but also mysterious and dangerous. Truly worthy of worship.
8. What’s your family like?
I live in a house in the suburbs with my wife and two young children. My little boy is exactly like me. I remember how I was, so I’m buckling in for a long ride. My little girl is still a sweet little baby doll.
We’ve decided to home school, so Ashley spends most of the day looking after them and teaching them as much as they’ll tolerate, which isn’t much given that the oldest is only four right now. I work all day and then come home and do my best to give her a break with the kids and clean up and fix the house so it doesn’t fall down. Lately we’ve been making a point to enjoy a few cartoons together after dark. The days are long but it’s worth it.
9. How has God made you a getter person?
God has really changed me through marriage. I never would have thought of myself as a selfish person, but before marriage, and especially before children, I didn’t really have an idea of just how far humility and self-sacrifice could go. I never would have done so much if I didn’t have to. Maybe other people don’t need marriage to get there, but I sure did.
I’d recommend it to everyone, on the condition that they accept it as it should be. If you’re thinking of marriage as something you could try, or leaving open the possibility that you could leave if things went south, it’s not for you. There’s a chance things will be okay, but it won’t take much of a challenge if things turn sour. Marriage can only be a force for positive transformation when the only way out is through.