‘The Book of Eli’- the view from there…

I have just watched this film;

It is a troubled, mixed up mess of a movie-  a kind of religious Mad Max with swords. What makes it interesting (if not necessarily entertaining) is the theological underpinnings of it all.

I use the word troubled, as a more dystopian, distorted version of religion than the one portrayed in the film is hard to imagine.

The central character (Denzil Washington) is walking through a post apocalyptic world. He meets lots of low life’s and chops many of them up. He ends up in a town ruled by a despot who is sending out murderous road parties in search of ‘the Book’. The book will give him the power and authority.

The book in question is a Bible, and Denzil happens to have one.

Casual sex is offered, and turned down. Sex is bad (but chopping people up is fine.)

Denzil has a mission you see- to take the Book to a place where it will be received properly. By nice people who chop people up but do not have casual sex.

Denzil gets shot, and it goes all mystical. Turns out he is blind and knows the whole book by memory.

Why the book of Eli?

Why not Matthew, or Mark, or Thessalonians?

Perhaps in part this is to do with an Old Testament perspective- all that violence, polarized good and evil. Bad things justified by the mission of God. It simply fits better into the world view of the the culture that the film grew from.

There is something else however- the centrality of The Book.

As if the only means by which God could inspire and engage with people was through the written pages of the Bible- owned and interpreted by a country full of good people- Americans, British people- like you and me.

Nothing about the Word of God made flesh to dwell amongst us.

Or the Spirit who fills us.

Or the presence in the midst.

Nothing about the central vitalising idea called love.

Nothing about the way of peace making and the open hand to the stranger.

This is the ‘prayer’ at the end of the film;

Watch it if you will (you may already have done so.) But watch for what is missing, and watch so you can look through the eyes of the machine that made the film.

And remember that they thought they were giving us what we wanted- what would entertain and engage us- not to shock alienate.

It is all hollow.

Biutiful film…

I have just watched this film…

It  is the story of Uxbal – a single father who struggles to reconcile fatherhood, love, spirituality, crime, guilt and mortality amid the dangerous underworld of modern Barcelona — all before his life is over. He must deal with his loving but unreliable, reckless, and bipolar wife (from whom he is separated and who poses a threat to the safety of their children), and a large group of illegal immigrants for whom he obtains material so that they may not be deported. In the middle of all of this, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer, which he tries to hide from his two children.

It is a gut wrenching masterpiece of cinematography, and is soaked with a wonderful kind of broken loving humanity.

It also tells the story of globalisation, and the poverty on the frontiers of capitalism.

Watch it- but be warned. It will open something up inside…

Gods great big hoover. Or the last noo noo.

When I was but a lad, growing up in Nottinghamshire, I watched this film…

We attended a local Anglican church, and things started swinging with a bit of Holy Spirit revival. We sang choruses rather than hymns, I learnt to play the guitar, we had healing services and people ‘spoke in tongues’. All in a C-of-E church in small town Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

And there are memories that I cherish.

And some that I do not. Some still make me twist inside with that old faithful adolescent companion- pervasive raging cringing embarrassment.

Some of the memories that I shelved as just plain dysfunctional I have in recent times reached down, dusted off, and managed to look at through the eyes of the 41 year old man that now I am. And some of it, I can now even laugh at.

One of these things is the aforementioned film.

You see, there was a lot of fuss about the ‘end times’ in the 1970’s and 80’s. I suppose there always is a section of people somewhere in every generation, in some part of the planet, who are proclaiming the imminent return of Jesus, and the time of judgment and tribulation.

So in our church- the chick cartoons were circulating. If you have never had the pleasure- check them out here– you can still buy them. There was one spelling out the ‘truth’ about the second coming, along with rapture, tribulation, and most memorably, the lake of fire in which sinners (like I surely was- I was a teenage boy after all) would burn for eternity. Here is a sample;

There was also Chuck Smith, who I believe still is a big cheese in Evangelical circles, who told the world that Jesus was coming again in, I think, 1980. Jesus did not, but Chuck seems to have been able to recalibrate. We watched a film that came from Calvary Chapel in those days all about the end times, and the signs of the coming age that could be seen in the world around us- particularly in the re-birth of the Jewish nation. Compelling stuff- most of which was nonsense, and this is not the film that I am talking about.

We were also taken to see a film in a church hall. Where this was, I have no idea- because I remember having to travel in the church mini-bus to get there.

And this too gave me nightmares.

The film began with a song by the late great Larry Norman. Should have got him to sing it…

…and then the terrifying story unfolded. All ‘biblical’ and straight from the pages of the book of Revelation, or so we were told.

A woman wakes up, and her husband has gone. Rapturously raised up to heaven by (as my friend Janet described it) God’s Dyson.

And so came the rise of the beast, and the time of tribulation. All in cheesecloth.

Quite why people thought this was good material for kids, I have no idea.

There are still many who would use versions of this story to frighten people into the pews. Babylon is built anew each time they do, say I.

Church abuse 3

I have posted previously about abusive situations in churches (see Church abuse and church abuse 2.)

I felt justified in focusing on such negative aspects of the people of faith as I keep coming across people who used to go to church. When I ask them to tell me their stories, my heart breaks. I have had two conversations in the last week that trod the same path.

But lest it seem as though I just want to bash church- here is something that I hope will redress the balance…

Another film from America, called ‘Lord save us from your followers’ explores the image that Christians portray to the wider US nation and finds evidence that Jesus is at work…

For more info, and a download for the film- check out this link.

Here is another short trailer…

Ordinary Radicals film

A new film is being released in the USA, trying to get to grips with emerging Christian movements across America, called ‘Ordinary radicals’ check out information and trailer clips here– looks interesting…

Not sure whether it will be released over here, but I think we will be able to download it when it is released.

This is the synopsis;

In the margins of the United States, there lives a revolutionary Christianity. One with a quiet disposition that seeks to do “small things with great love,” and in so doing is breaking 21st Century stereotypes surrounding this 2000 year old faith. “The Ordinary Radicals” is set against thie modern American political and social backdrop of the next Great Awakening. Traveling across the United States on a tour to promote the book “Jesus for President”, Shane Claiborne and a rag-tag group of “ordinary radicals” interpret Biblical history and its correlation with the current state of American politics. Sharing a relevant outlook for people with all faith perspectives, director Jamie Moffett examines this growing movement.

As Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw write in the book, “This is not a set of political suggestions for the world; this is about invoking and embodying the alternative. All of this is an invitation to join a peculiar people- those with no king but God, who practice jubilee economics and make the world new. This is not the old-time religion of going to heaven; this is about bringing heaven to the world.”

Featuring Interviews with: Becky Garrison, Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, John Perkins, Brooke Sexton, Michael Heneise, St. Margret Mckenna, Logan Laituri, Zack Exley, Aaron Weiss and many more Ordinary Radicals.

Here is a taster…

Into the wild…

A few weeks ago I watched this film.

I had already read the book, but this was one of those few occasions when the film some how took the raw material of the words and took them further. Like taking a charcoal drawing and turning it into a canvas laden with rich oil paint, in wonderful colour.

The film tells the real story of a young man from a privileged but dysfunctional background who turns his back on the modern culture, and decides to live a simple life- one of vital experience, deep relationships and particularly, one of absolute one-ness with the world and it’s wild places. He found his way into the Alaskan wilderness, where his ideals were tested to his own destruction, and he perished alone in an abandoned bus miles from anywhere.

This tragic event is somehow recorded in a way that is life enhancing, and beautiful. In his beautiful life, but tragic death, we are fed little slices of hope.

Life is so fragile, but those who really live- who transcend the narrow half lives that many of us fall into- these people, they seem to have found cracks through which has filtered something eternal, and somehow, more real.

Almost as if the Kingdom of God shines like a shaft of sunlight on the opposite side of the valley.

I was speaking to a friend of mine today who is a policeman. We were discussing the case of a missing woman who walked into the hills locally over a year ago now. No trace of her has ever been found. He told me that this is not such a rare thing in Scotland. People walk into the wilderness, perhaps to escape their demons, perhaps to celebrate them. Some perhaps are looking for an end to life, others it comes to as a surprise.

Not so long ago some forestry workers found a tent as they were clearing an area of forest. Inside the tent was the skeleton of a man who had lain there undisturbed for around 10 years.

Life is fragile.

But life is beautiful.

Lets not waste it.

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