MonthJune 2012

Prometheus: Ridley Scott contributes to the conversation on faith and doubt

It is one of my great pleasures to look at popular culture through the lens of the gospel and to eavesdrop on the conversation as artists like John Irving, David Shore, and Cormac McCarthy discuss the complexities of faith and doubt in their works, A Prayer for Owen Meany, House, Sunset Limited respectively.   In Prometheus, Ridley Scott has come into the room and attempted to insert his thoughts into the conversation.  The role of the moviegoer, Christian or otherwise, is not only to mine the film for truth, for all movies will have truth of some kind or another but to evaluate how it wrestles with its central themes.  In other words, do we allow it a seat at the table where faith and doubt are being discussed?

I don’t think Prometheus should be allowed in the room.  Rather, it should be set down in front of television with a large bowl of Cheezies while the grownups talk.

SPOILER ALERT

I saw it opening night and I was tired, so maybe I missed the parts where this movie dealt with the issues surrounding faith and doubt in a post-Christian world.   What I did see was a lady with a cross who believed in some transcendent good in the universe and a robot that didn’t.  Oh, and the woman with the cross, got an abortion.  My critique is that this film doesn’t raise any issue for serious discussion, even though it presumes to deal with the very serious and complex issue of faith/doubt.

I think he may be guilty of the same thing in the title.  Prometheus created man and sorta fell for the little beggars so he stole forbidden fire from the gods and gave it to humans.  For his pains, he enjoyed a quotidian extraction of his liver by a raptor.  At this point, I can’t figure out the relevance of this allusion.  The only connection I see in Scott’s film is that the “engineer,” like Prometheus, created man.  Where’s the Promethean rebellion against the gods?  Where is the perpetual torture that is a result of immortality?  Where’s the idea that humans are in possession of some power beyond their power to control?

Like the abortion, I suspect he just tossed the allusion in there to create the illusion of profundity.

Regarding characterization in the film: characters were very thin, just types actually, possibly even borrowed from cartoons. Did anyone else think that Mr. Weyland and David bore too close a resemblance to Mr. Burns and Smithers from the Simpsons?

If you go to movies because you love special effects or critiquing superficial schlock masquerading as art, you should see this movie.  If you like movies with interesting round characters and honest exploration of the complexity of human experience, go see the Avengers a second time—there’s way more there and they weren’t even trying.

On the other hand, Chris Morrisey finds much more in this movie than I do.  Consider this.

Maybe the day doesn’t start when you wake up.

 

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

After I had finished my little devotional rant about Bad Theology on a Bookmark, one clever image bearer asked, “How I can include God in my sleep—I can’t have Godly dreams every night.”

After a pause an idea came to me, and I turned to Psalm 1.  That didn’t help me a bit, because what I was looking for was in Psalm 4.

My thought is that by adopting a more Hebrew, less Western, concept of the day, we can make our physical act of sleep a little more sacred.  This ancient concept is apparent in the ordering of Psalm 4 and Psalm 5.  Psalm 4 includes these lines: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 5 says, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  The editors of the Psalms placed the evening poem before the Psalm about the morning.

In Genesis 1 we find the same pattern.  The first day of creation is described and then it says, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”  A few verses later, the same thing, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.”  You get the idea; the day begins in the evening.  Anyone who has watched Tevye hurry home before nightfall in Fiddler on the Roof knows that the Sabbath starts on Friday night, but it’s not just the Sabbath Day that starts in the evening; in the culture from which the Bible came, every day starts in the evening.

Already in Progress

Thinking about the day starting at night will change how you think of sleeping and, indeed, yourself.   In our culture, the day begins with me.  I wake up, and then the day begins.  I must be pretty important if the day—and you might as well say, the universe—doesn’t start until I roll out of bed.  It would be quite appropriate to declare upon waking, “I am here, and, thus, the day may now begin.”

Consider the Hebrew concept of the day starting in the evening.  The day starts when I stop.  The first seven hours of every day have passed while I drooled on my pillow.  But God hasn’t slept; He’s been at work through the night.  He has a plan and a pattern for the day and I join it, already in progress, and fit into that plan.

In our culture, we think the day begins when we join it. So, each day begins with a ritual reminder of our personal significance. How might our perspective change if we adopt the Hebrews day? When we wake, we join it…

I’ve been trying to live in Hebrew time for at least 10 years now, and every morning when I wake up, well almost every morning, I say, “Good morning, Lord. Thank you.”

Understanding the day in this way reframes the seven hours that I sleep in that it reminds me of my cosmic insignificance in the context of His divine Providence.  It also reframes the hours I am awake.  It is a quotidian reminder and that the all-powerful king of the universe loves me because he’s there every morning to hear me say, “Good, morning Lord. Thank you”

How to Give God 100% and Still Have a Little Fun

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

I couldn’t find my copy of The Screwtape Letters which I have been reading with my English class so I picked up a Bible that was sitting close by.  As I was turning to Psalm 51 I came across a little slip of paper that someone had presumably used as a bookmark.  What was written on this bookmark caused a bit of a rant, and I never did get around to reading Psalm 51.

On the paper was the following information:

 

Sleeping – 7                    ||                   God:

Eating – 2 hrs                  ||

School – 6 8 10               ||

TV – 30min                      ||

Hobbies – 5 hrs              ||

Total: 24.5 hours/day     ||         Total 2hrs. per week

Between the list of daily activities on the left and God on the right, they had drawn a heavy line.

On the back the calculations continued:

Calculations

Other things:                                       God:

Total 1: (24.5) x 365= A                     Total 2: (2) x 52 = B

A = 8942.5                                          B = 104

Minus 5 years from age                   – 5 years from age

A x 12 = 107310                                   B x 12 = 1248

Again, between these two sets of calculations was this heavy line.

I don’t claim to know the reason for these calculations.  My guess is that some well-meaning adult was trying to make the point with a group of young people–the point being they weren’t giving enough of their life over to God.

Sadly, this sort nonsense is all too common in Christian circles and the young people are particularly susceptible to taking it seriously.  This is the case even if someone isn’t deliberately teaching it to them.

Can you give everything to God and still have some fun? #guilt #dualism

Christian Guilt

The child that made these calculations predictably fell far short of what God demands—God demands a lot, 100%.  This child couldn’t get past 1%.  The certain result is guilt.  With this approach, you can never escape the guilt.  Do we really want to be guilting our young people toward better religious performance?  I think not, for it is contrary to the Gospel.

What if this seventeen-year-old spent an hour a day in prayer and meditation instead of doing homework or wasting time on that hobby?  That’d certainly improve things, for they’d get God bumped up to receive 5%.  Two and a half hours a day would get God around 10%; that’s like the tithe–would that be enough?

No.  God demands our all—everything–so 10% just won’t cut it.  Guilt!

The Separation of Nature and Grace

This whole problem starts with the premise that the things of God—spiritual things—are distinct from the things of “real” life.  It’s the problem of the separation of Nature from Grace, or the Natural from the Supernatural.   (I’ve posted on this problem before, here and here.)

The problem is right there in the line that the child drew down the middle of the bookmark.  Unless you engage in some sort of focused devotional activity every minute of the day, every day of the week, every week of the year, you’d never be able to satisfy God’s demand on your life.  But, even Jesus slept and went to the bathroom.

So get rid of the line!  Hobbies and homework can’t be any less about God than singing and supplication.  The only way to give everything to God is to remove the line and let him have school and eating.  When we stop separating Nature from Grace, he gets both.

So, you can have fun and God at the same time–it means that he doesn’t just get a few hours on Sunday.  He gets hobbies and homework.  He calls the shots in your friendships and family relationships.  He is lord of what comes out of your mouth and what goes in.  Although this may sound restrictive, it is actually the only path to freedom and really having fun.

After this little rant,  one clever image bearer asked, “How I can include God in my sleep—I can’t have Godly dreams every night.”

Here is my answer.

 

 

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