I showed Hunger Games: Catching Fire last Sunday in church. Well, not the whole thing. Just the trailer. I also showed part of the trailer for the forthcoming film, Divergent.
And someone walked out.
Maybe she had to go to the ladies’ room. Who knows? But she never came back. And since she was a visitor, I can’t ask her. And if she was offended by my apparent embracing of violence or pop-culture, she didn’t stay around long enough to learn what I intended by exposing us to the deep human yearning these artistic expressions reveal to us.
Like other forms of art, movies are a window to our souls—all the beauty and ugliness, all the tenderness and cruelty, all the longing and the numbness are revealed on the silver screen.
I think we need to see it, feel it, listen to it.
But I’m afraid so much of religion isn’t interested in this kind of listening. For all its talk of matters of the soul, too much of contemporary religion—and the Christianity that is my spiritual home—is terribly thin, superficial . . . in Saint Paul’s words, “holding to the form of religion but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3.5).
We need religion to listen more deeply to what our culture is telling us, what our artists are showing us—about wealth and greed; about violence and the aching poverty and sense of powerlessness that fuels a lot of it in America and around the world; about the dehumanizing forces too few of us are willing to question and resist; about the longing of long marginalized people who just don’t want to take it anymore; about the feeling that so many people have that we’re living inside a dystopian world that few of us feel we have any real power to change.
I invited religious people to listen more deeply last Sunday—both to some current expressions of an art form I think is trying to get our attention, and to the story of Jesus who came to bring hope to those “living in the land of darkness and under the shadow of death” (Matthew and Isaiah)—and one person walked out.
But no one else did. And that gives me hope that something’s different now. Maybe we’re waking up.
Then again, maybe no one else was really listening to the challenge the Bible and culture were placing before us. Maybe everyone else was asleep.
But I don’t think so. Gawd, I hope not. Not if we're to truly come alive.