Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Blockbusters, Revenge, Forgiveness, and Jesus

Ryan Parker, a fellow classmate and founder of PopTheology - providing theological reflection to cinematic features - reviews three blockbuster movies (Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels and Demons) and ponders the notion of revenge and forgiveness. He begins intriguingly:
Jesus is a disappointing superhero ... at least by Hollywood blockbuster standards. Sure, he had a host of super-powers, but he never used them to hurt anyone or save himself from danger. All Jesus did was walk around and heal people, forgive sins, preach about love and the Kingdom of God, and, oh yeah, rise from the dead.
The three highlighted movies center on notions of revenge, revenge of loss of loved ones, revenge for wrongful past actions. Forgiveness, however, as history concludes, is a positive force political reconciliation, and, assumedly, the same is true on a personal level. But the summer blockbuster movies neglect the element of forgiveness. Money quote:
Much of the violence that necessitates forgiveness in our world centers on otherness. The violence in the films discussed here certainly does as well. Somehow, difference has been equated with evil: mutants or different alien races must be eradicated while different worldviews (scientific or religious) cannot co-exist. In his book, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Worldview of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Miroslav Volf brilliantly outlines this crisis and provides a way forward by looking back at salvation as reconciliation. If we as humans are plagued by exclusion, then we must combat it with embrace. In the event of reconciliation, God embraces us, and in turn, we must embrace the other if we are to be reconciled with one another. For Volf, forgiveness is a central, and most difficult, component of this embrace.

Thus, it seems that to truly be human beings, according to Shriver and Volf, we must be forgiving beings. In the first three blockbusters of the summer, forgiveness appears to be light years away. Instead, we have super-humans who use their super-powers to exact revenge that destroys the self and the other. In the end, these characters often prove to be prime examples of super-humans, but disappointing examples of humans. It is also frustrating that our filmmakers and script-writers are more creative in thinking up elaborate fight scenes and revenge plots that employ impossible acts of violence, but fail to apply that creativity to imagine what forgiveness and reconciliation might look like in the face of evil. (emphasis mine)

Despite, Mel Gibson's christological perversity, where the humanity of Jesus is reduced to a recipient of immense human violence, Jesus does provide great theological insight into forgiveness. Concludes Parker:

Perhaps the Jesus of scripture, the Jesus who cried from the cross, "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do," is quite simply more human than any of us dare to realize.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are right...

It's too bad Hollywood isn't like it used to be.

Nice blog, Drew.