On Wednesday, we saw the Hobbit in the morning and Les Mis in the evening. It was an epic movie binge on our part, and a satisfying escape at that! But it got me thinking. (Doesn't everything?) Our culture loves loves loves movies of a particular kind, so much so we pay to see sequels and prequels and midquels again and again. They satisfy a certain set of hunger pangs percolating in the heart of every human, pangs that reflect truths that everyone knows deep within.
The Bible tells us that every human is created with a conscience and thus knows right from wrong. It also teaches that we are members of a fallen race corrupted by sin. We express that fallenness by suppressing truth.
So on the one hand we clearly sense right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral. The conscience is alive and well in the human heart. But we push those senses aside when they conflict with self interest and as a result we make wrong choices, evil decisions, immoral actions—not all the time, but enough to prove our fallen condition, for sure!
So back to the movies. Our love of Tolkien-esque stories reveals the presence and influence of the conscience at work in the heart. As we watch, we are moved by—and celebrate—truths like these:
- Life is epic. Epic battle. Epic struggle. Epic beginning. Epic end. Billions of small, daily, mundane transactions do not negate what we know to be true: the universe is speeding toward an epic goal and every little detail plays a part in the total picture. This is a uniquely western world view and flows from good Biblical theology. You won't find “telic” thought in eastern culture, at least not like it permeates western culture, especially America. We like things to begin, climax, and end. It's why we love football and not cricket.
- Evil is real, vicious, unrelenting, and must be defeated. It will not go away on its own. Some forms need to be met with vigilant battle followed by genuine grace. Other forms need to be dispatched, violently, and the sooner the better. Dispatching may mean moral decision making, or it may mean picking up a sword and decapitating an orc. Or a goblin.
- Evil is external and internal. And like the sage said, “The world outside don't pose no threat like the darkness in our hearts” (Charlie Peacock). Both manifestations of evil must be fought, and fought valiantly.
- Valiant fighting is good if the cause is good, and there are good and noble causes worth agonizing over.
- Bravery is an epic character trait, but it won't be revealed without a costly, painful, and unrelenting struggle.
We watch the movie and cheer the good guys and reveal through our natural reactions that we are under the influence of God's gift to every man and woman: a conscience.
But then we leave the theater and suppress that same, sane moral sense in the real world. We have a reckless disregard for identifying real evils of this age. Shoot, we want to legalize some of them! And admit to the darkness in our own hearts? What? In THIS day of blameshifting? It's the fault of my parents/teachers/therapists/guns/medications/fillintheblank—anything but standing up to the fact that I, alone, am evil and capable of great, harmful, hateful behavior. I need restrained in the least, redeemed and regenerated to be sure, and now, lest I sink my ship and drag into the abyss those around me I love.
So for me, watching the Hobbit is not just an experience, it's a reminder of our condition, our need for a Savior, and our longing to be a part of the epic plan we sense MUST be a part of this created world.
And this is, by the way, my favorite way to watch a movie that appeals to the stirrings of my own heart—I examine why it appeals to me, good or bad, and how it proves I am either human, or more, a child of the King.
Speaking of King, I want to watch LOTR 3 again...