Friday, February 19, 2010

Lovely Bones--A Review

I recently saw the movie Lovely Bones. It’s the story of a girl who is murdered by a predator and then narrates, in the first person, the resulting journeys of her family, the predator, and surprisingly enough, herself. The first person narration of the movie lends itself to an interesting set of questions: What does death really bring? Does death produce growth in us? How does our death affect others? What is the nature of justice and its relationship to death? What is heaven and hell really like? Do we need a savior or are we saved on our own and is there some interim period after death that leads, perhaps if we are good enough, to heaven?

The movie is well produced with the predator’s vile actions being contrast with the purity of his personal hobby. While killing young women satisfies him at a level too terrible to comprehend, he also makes miniature doll houses; the kind of toy a young girl would love. The producers and writers also examine the kind of person that actually kills at such a perverted level.

In the end, the movie is about justice and revenge. The dead girls family seeks justice but goes about it in the wrong way. The dead girl herself creates a second death of sorts by her deep-seated desire to take revenge on her killer. Her heaven becomes hell in some ways; a hell she creates on her own by her post death hatred. In the end, justice appears to have been served. I’ll not reveal the climax of the story but I was told that the guy who played the predator said he wouldn’t have taken the part had not the just demise of the predator been part of the story.

It was not a satisfying justice for me. I’ll leave it at that. Frankly, I didn’t see it as justice though its obvious the writer and producers did. Real justice is more just!! I think God is more just than what this movie presents as justice. Real justice isn’t bad Karma. Real justice is not an accident. Furthermore, the writers view of heaven and hell seem to merge in an uncomfortable ebb and flow created by the dead girls interactions with the characters continued lives on earth. I’m not sure the exact religious orientation of the writers. Check out movie. If you have daughters, be ready for an emotional punch to the gut. But it’s worth watching.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday Ain't So Fat

Today, Tuesday February 16, is called Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Carnival depending on who you talk to. It’s the traditional “party down” day just before the start of Lent. Ash Wednesday is when the Christian church begins preparation for the Easter season. Ashes are prepared and smeared in the form of a cross on the foreheads of devotees as a form of repentance. In the past I’ve tended to govern my life around the cultural calendar instead of the Christian calendar. That means that a high point used to be the start of baseball, another event that begins this week. But in recent years I’ve begun to observe Lent more intentionally. In this post I want to focus, not so much on Lent as on Fat Tuesday or Carnival.

The point of Carnival or Fat Tuesday is to live in excess, to really enjoy oneself, because tomorrow, if you are a real Christian, you have to fast. There is a famous painting called The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by a 16th century artist named Pieter Bruegel depicting the inner conflict many feel over this season. In the painting the Inn on the left is full of life, fun, and parties. On the right you have the church. It’s drab, boring and sort of righteous. Which side of the painting would you rather live in? Duhhhh!

The point of my post is that Mardi Gras, Carnival (which in Latin means farewell to meat), and Fat Tuesday miss the point of Christianity all together. The scripture, speaking of God notes, “In your presence is fullness of joy and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). People have forgotten the reality that as followers of Jesus we are invited into a deep relationship with the creator of every beautiful facet of the universe. When we dabble in drunken splendor we aren’t really being happy. Oh, its fun. But in reality, we don’t want to be happy enough. We think the life-style of the Inn in Bruegel’s painting will satisfy us. It won’t and it never does. But of course, neither will the religious stuff on the right!! It’s not religious observance that satisfies the thirsty soul but an embracing of the kingdom of God described by Jesus in the New Testament. Frankly its the religious guys who really fed this want for excess. With all the fasts the Church put on people in the Medieval period of history people couldn't eat meat nearly a 1/3 of the year. You can't blame them for pigging out at the Inn!

If you want an interesting study of real happiness read Blaise Pascal’s Penses chapter VIII entitled Diversion. Pascal notes, “Man is so unhappy that he would be bored even if he had no cause for boredom.” Fascinating. I think C.S. Lewis got it right when he said we don’t want to be happy enough. “We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us.” (The Weight of Glory) I don’t want to live in either side of Bruegel’s painting. I want to experience the real happiness found in the gospel. That’s worth partying for!