Monday, January 01, 2007

Does Hollywood 'Get' God (Better Than Evangelical Christianity Does)?

I put off seeing Bruce Almighty for a long time. I didn't go see it at the theaters. I didn't rent it. I enjoy a good Jim Carrey flick - maybe more than the next average guy - but I didn't expect to like Bruce at all.

More accurately, I didn't expect to like the depiction of God in Bruce.

Finally, a very obviously-sanitized version of the movie came on USA Network last week while I was sick and, having nothing better to do, I took it in.

And I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised. Morgan Freeman's version of the Deity was someone you would actually like - and someone who would actually like you, even though knowing everything about you. This God would take time out to page you on your phone and pull a cheap stunt or two to get you off-balance and chat with you and trust you with ultimate power ... well, within a fourteen-block area of Buffalo, New York, anyway. Without neglecting everyone else, he would still care enough about you to let you learn the hard way that your girl - with whom you have been unforgiveably selfish - prays about you every night, until she just can't pray any more.

He'd listen to your questions: "How do you make people love you without interfering with free will?" Answer: "Welcome to my world."

He would even help you learn how to pray. Not just a little peace-on-earth-wish-from-a-Miss-America-candidate kind of prayer, but one that comes straight out of your heart and your unselfishness and your own love.

So I actually wondered: In spite of all the flaws, pratfalls and downright inaccuracies that any movie Hollywood makes about God must have, is it possible that Hollywood sometimes actually hits the mark?

In the first of the Oh, God movies, George Burns as the Deity takes a turn at answering mankind's questions, posed through grocer John Denver. High on the list: "Is Jesus your son?" The answer: "Jesus was my son. Buddha was my son. The guy who overcharged for this room-service steak is my son. Next question."

Corny, politically-correct drivel, right? Sure. And perfectly true. Evangelical Christianity wants to claim God as its exclusive property, and vice-versa. It says, "Validate me! Tell them I'm right, God!" But God isn't in that business. Everyone is His child ... some already adopted; others waiting. There weren't any that He didn't send Jesus to redeem.

Too bad the movie's God didn't have a stronger message than "You can make it work."

That's the same message you hear from too many of evangelical Christianity's televised prophets. "You can make it work," they'll tell you; "... and God wants to make it work for you."

So buy God in the convenient cosmic size, good for all uses and guaranteed to work for you. God wants you to have it all!

Not the God I read about in scripture. He's truly almighty. The kind of God people fall down in front of and beg for rocks to fall on them; the kind of God before whom people feel so unworthy to speak that they'd only feel cleansed by having their tongues cauterized by a burning coal. He's no chummy fellow bent on blessing exclusively me or exclusively you. He's more pragmatic. He agrees with comedian Stephen Wright's musing: "You can't have it all. Where would you put it?" And more importantly, would you spend more of yourself trying to figure out how to keep it, rather than redistribute it to help those who have nothing? The God I read about just says, "Come work for Me. Help it work out right for others. You don't have to worry about yourself; I'll take care of you."

Morgan Freeman's Deity returns to bedevil (sorry; couldn't help myself) the hapless anchor of the news station in Buffalo in an upcoming sequel, Evan Almighty. You remember Evan, don't you? The poor fellow that omnipotent Bruce terrorized by forcing him to babble incoherently during his first moments as anchor? In this go-around, he's being asked to build an ark.

In a preview, Evan sees the Deity in the back seat of his car via the rear-view mirror and goes absolutely blithering beserk. "Let it all out, son," he is encouraged. "It's the beginning of wisdom."

Yeah.

We could all use a bit of that.

7 comments:

brian said...

I was pleasantly surprised as well with bruce almighty, but be glad you saw the TV version.

the scene you reference about love and free-will says it all. I would take that scene over the most scenes in any religious films

Ray Fleming said...

I had that movie in my hand at the movie store this past Saturday. I thought to myself, "Nah, not this time." But it's good to know the movie might be worth seeing. It's also good to know that the theatrical version is a bit more raw and unsanitized. (But I would expect that.)

You touch on a point I've encountered recently myself when you say that "Evangelical Christianity wants to claim God as its exclusive property, and vice-versa. It says, 'Validate me! Tell them I'm right, God!'"

I'm not so sure I haven't been guilty of this kind of idea myself.

Your post leads me to this thought: Why would it be so odd (knowing what I think I know about God) that sometimes, in some form or fashion, a person or group traditionally connected with 'unbelievers' would 'get' a message from God that 'believers' either didn't 'get' or had forgotten?

It might not be that odd at all.

TCS said...

well we were watching that one together Keith. I had never seen it before either. I too had reservations. I didn't see it to the end, but was glued to the tube for what part I could watch.

salguod said...

It's been a long time, but I remember watching Bruce with a little trepidation but being very pleasantly surprised. I thought it was great over all. I remember being particularly impressed as God explains the unseen good that comes from suffering in a few examples.

JP Manzi said...

I really enjoyed that movie and I loved the depiction they gave of God. I'm with Salugod, I like the explanation of suffering that was given. It was elementary, but I needed it.

don said...

ray said "Your post leads me to this thought: Why would it be so odd (knowing what I think I know about God) that sometimes, in some form or fashion, a person or group traditionally connected with 'unbelievers' would 'get' a message from God that 'believers' either didn't 'get' or had forgotten?

It might not be that odd at all."

I like that.

Bill said...

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