Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

AFRICA and movies

I left America this weekend, and visited Africa. I watched “The Constant Gardener” with my wife and friends last night, and “Lord of War” tonight with my son and a friend. I hadn’t been to two movies all summer, and now two in a weekend, and both of them are heartbreakers about Africa. (R- and be warned - violence - sexuality - extensive language and drug use, particularly in Lord of War)

But they aren’t really about Africa… they’re about greed, and violence, and lust, and dishonesty, and the death that men know even while still living because of the ten thousand lies we tell ourselves, and because our self preservation and self advancement can only be bought at the price of our soul. They’re movies about everyman. Yet somehow it seems the poison nectar that is the fruit of greed and corruption flows like a mighty ocean through every corner of that continent. And what can I do? What shall I do?

We’re having the conversation, my wife and me, about what it means for us to live generously, and serve, and love – because the place that I can change the most is the space of my heart, and our heart as a family. There are more, yet unknown ways we will be changed – but the things we’re talking about tonight are concrete responses to conviction from Christ, as we ask the questions about how we can embody the kingdom more fully here – and now.

There are resources to help guide our thinking and acting. But when the day is done - meaning when the movie is over and I’m back at home, lying in bed with images of injustice and poverty, greed and violence juxtaposed in my head so powerfully that I know I can’t remain the same – when the day is literally done, I can only sit with Christ and pour out my heart. Pouring one’s heart out like this doesn’t lead to a simple or immediate action plan, but to a broken heart – maybe that’s the most important thing.

Christian argue about seeing R or G or PG-13. I understand the importance of the argument. I also understand being particularly sensitive to violence or language and therefore needing to stay away from movies like these. I wouldn't commend a movie to someone without knowing their sensitivities. But the real issue for me in deciding on a movie is story. I watched these movies because I live in a world that largely insulates me from global suffering and find that the imagery of film speaks more powerfully than sanitized news because it tells a story, or two, or twenty-two, and it's the stories that lead to conviction and transformation and action.


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