Category Archives: Wrestling with Movies
I already know that the theology police are not super happy, their citation pads are out and they are furiously scribbling down infractions. What has them so upset? The Shack is now a movie. It’s not just the theology police either, I imagine the theatrical police have their issues as well. It’s always difficult for actors to depict convincingly for the screen spiritual struggle. I will leave the varying theological and theatrical policing blogs to do their necessary work. As for me, I only want to comment on how I believe the movie managed to capture powerfully the big ideas of what it means to be a Christian person connected to God in the midst of grief.
A Christian person — To be a Christian, is to get to a point where you agree with God that he is good and to be trusted. Jesus, God in the flesh, is the vital link in getting us to that place. We are told, that when you’ve seen Jesus you’ve seen God. You must walk with Jesus to avoid sinking into the black abyss of guilt, shame and bitterness. In this movie Christianity is portrayed simply as being friends with Jesus, trusting him. It’s not about religion, or keeping a list of rules, or paying for past sins. Both Mack and his older daughter blamed themselves for the death of Missy. The older daughter was fooling around in the canoe. In her mind it was her irresponsibility cost Missy’s life. For Mack he was sure that this unspeakable tragedy was the result of his own past sins. Both their lives became stuck in the quicksand of guilt and shame. Because of Jesus’ love and sacrifice they both came to believe that the time for blame and guilt was over. Bad stuff happens, our hearts break, we suffer, great sadness occurs, but we don’t get stuck, we trust that through it all God will do what is good and right and true. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
Connected to God — God is depicted as a trinity so that we can see that the Christian God is fundamentally relational. Love is possible only in relationship and the Father, Son and Spirit have that in bucket loads. God’s invites us into this love. In the movie God reminds Mack regularly that he is especially fond of him and all humans. That was a tough one for Mack to accept, and it’s a tough one for all humans to accept. We all must suffer and we all must die. Reconciling human suffering with God’s goodness is not a new conundrum, and this movie offers nothing new in resolving that tension, except in this movie God gets to answer directly the charges levelled against him. I found God’s explanations in the context of this movie powerful and helpful. All three persons of the trinity, are shown to feel our pain. That’s the reason all three have nail prints. God changes his appearance in order to help us understand that he knows what we need when we need it. God is portrayed as all knowing, but yet keenly interested in our lives. And though God loves all his children, he is not disinterested in justice either. In the end we are told that God will make right judgements upon his wayward children, however, we are also told in compelling fashion, that this job of ultimate justice is better left with God. The perpetrator is never caught, justice never served in the movie. Even still Papa wants Mack to “remove his hand from the throat” of this terrible predator. Forgiveness is the only way forward, but by forgiving Mack is also entrusting himself to the judge of all the earth who will judge rightly.
In the midst of Grief — When we suffer, we have to realize that we don’t have the complete perspective. We can only see through the “knothole of our own grief.” The garden in the movie is an absolute mess from Mack’s perspective, but when the shot pans out and you see the garden from the air, mess turns into beauty. God is not the ultimate source of evil, human free will prevents that conclusion, however, God is actively working in and through evil to bring about a greater good, good that we can’t always see, but must learn to trust is there.
I think if every person walked away from this movie, having taken into their hearts the above conclusions about Christianity, God, and grief. The world would be an infinitely better place.
Romantic love is good for warm fuzzes and box office sales, but it’s lousy for human flourishing.
The stories are all variations of the same thing. In about 2 hours time, a boy meets a girl, he is strong and handsome, she is beautiful, there is chemistry and connection. As the movie unfolds, there is a series of incredible circumstances that catapult the couple together, they become intimate, and romantic love triumphs once again. Over and over again we are visually educated that love is little more than a connection, a feeling oriented superficial gush that leads to bodies intwined in passionate embrace. This electric feeling is what results in happily ever after. In our deep hearts we know better and so does Maleficent.
“True loves kiss” goes badly for her. The handsome boy in a ploy to gain kingship uses romance to steal her wings and shatter her heart. Maleficent’s deep sorrow turns to hatred. She becomes violent, selfish, evil. She is ready with her revenge when the king finally has a daughter. Eternal sleep will befall the child when she turns 16, a sleep that only “true loves kiss” can awaken. Maleficent is delighted with her sinister plot. The child will never awake because “true loves kiss” is only a fantasy. The child is spirited away to a secluded forest cottage in hopes that the curse won’t find her there when she turns 16. Maleficent regularly visit the cottage to make miserable the lives of the 3 fairies who have been tasked to care for the child. However, slowly over the course of 16 years, Maleficent begins to develop an affection for the child. She begins to care for her in quiet ways, to protect and provide for her, so much so, that she tries to revoke the curse on the eve of the girls 16 birthday, but to no avail. Sadly, the curse falls upon her and she is laid to rest in the kings palace. In desperation, Maleficent takes a handsome young man to the palace, maybe “true loves kiss” is real? The boy kisses the sleeping beauty but nothing happens. Finally, Maleficent emerges from the shadows, tears falling freely, she repents of her wickedness and makes a promise to the girl. Even though this girl will never awake, will never fill Maleficent’s heart with joy again, Maleficent determines to care for her, she will make sure that no harm comes to her as she lies in repose. Gently Maleficent seals her covenant promise with a kiss. The girl awakes!
The heart of true love is not an electric feeling, or great sex, or good chemistry. It is a promise kept, a commitment to care for someone no matter what. Feelings are important, but they are fickle, they come and go, they change and fluctuate. They should never define what we believe about true love. Falling in and out of love is tiresome business that results in way too much pain and suffering. Romantic feeling oriented love is over rated. I am with Maleficent on this one, covenant love is the better path.