Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Solitary Man

The new film starring Michael Douglas, Solitary Man, is a disquieting look at what a lot of people base their lives on: money, sex, and power. I had read a review that said something like it's a movie you will love but not enjoy. I ditto that. I saw the movie last weekend, and I did love it but didn't enjoy it. Because it takes the laminate off the sinful nature that, truthfully, still resides in this heart.

Michael Douglas plays the role of Ben Kalmen, a car salesman who had been at the top of his game but lost everything because of shady deals and illicit love affairs. He's bereft of decency, faithfulness, and empathy. He reminds me of the man Jesus talks about in Luke 12:16-21 - a greedy narcissist. There is redemption here, however. It's offered at the end of the movie by his ex-wife, played by Susan Sarandon. Ben's story demonstrates the truth that "the way up is down."

A particularly sad scene was the one where Ben forgets his grandson's birthday. Ben's daughter, played ably by Jenna Fischer, does a good job of giving tough love to her boundary-ignoring father.

Douglas is perfect for this role because it complements so well his interpretation of Gordon Gecko in 1987's Wall Street.

John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory. In Solitary Man, you see the futility of searching for life in the idols of wealth, youth, and sexual freedom. Without God in the center, we are truly solitary. Not only are we alienated from others but we are alienated from God. We must "repent" - that is, return to the God who created us and who alone can fill the aching void in the heart.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What you won't find in the Bible

Ray Ortlund's recent post on his blog, "Christ Is Deeper Still," is an interesting take on the "one anothers" of the New Testament. As you may know, there are a lot of "one another" statements in the New Testament that tell believers how they ought to treat one another. Examples are "love one another," "bear one another's burdens," "admonish one another," and so forth.

Ray came up with this list of "one anothers" that are NOT in the Bible, yet unfortunately are often practiced by Christians:

"Humble one another, scrutinize one another, pressure one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, interrupt one another, defeat one another, disapprove of one another, run one another's lives, confess one another's sins, intensify one another's sufferings, point out one another's failings..."

Here are a few more I came up with:

  • Avoid one another
  • Gossip about one another
  • Judge one another
  • Lose patience with one another
  • Feel superior to one another

Each one is a call to repentance.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Big Love

Suzy and I have been renting DVDs of the HBO television series Big Love. We're now into Season 3. The series stars Bill Paxton as Bill Henrickson, a polygamist married to three women. Henrickson is a "reformed" former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and runs a home improvement warehouse business near Salt Lake City. His three wives are (l to r) Nicki, Margene, and Barb. The family is portrayed as inactive Mormons, disaffected with (and rejected by) both the ultra-weird FLDS sect as well as the local mainstream LDS church.

The acting is generally quite good. There is constant drama within the Henrickson household, as well as between the Henricksons and various members of the FLDS cult who live in nearby Juniper Creek. And the neighborhood Mormons are constantly trying to woo the Henricksons back into the LDS fold. In the episode Suzy and I just watched, Bill and his wives are "dating" a potential fourth wife named Ana. We'll see where that leads.

It all makes for a fascinating albeit disturbing expose of both Mormon beliefs and those of its radical FLDS off-shoot.

Coincidentally, I was reading Escape by Carolyn Jessop when we got interested in Big Love. Escape is Jessop's true account of her years in the FLDS and as wife of polygamist Merril Jessop, now the sect's de facto leader. As the title of her book indicates, Carolyn Jessop escaped the tight grip of the cult and her abusive husband a few years ago and started a new life with her eight children.

In Big Love, the Henricksons do not look like their troubled, legalistic counterparts in Juniper Creek. They come off as decent, hard-working, moral people who love their country and love each other. However, under the veneer they are constantly deceiving each other, trying to get their own way, and refusing to deal with the honest questions and struggles of their children. Bill Henrickson is just as chauvinistic, authoritarian, and manipulative as the husbands in the FLDS, he just wears a coat and tie.

The show's writers do a good job of revealing the characters' nagging doubts about the ethics of polygamy. It's like Bill and his three wives must constantly tell themselves, "Polygamy is OK...right?" Methinks they do protest too much their own morality. What is especially telling is the unhappy, promiscuous lifestyles of the Henricksons' teenage children. Of course, that doesn't surprise me. The parents are rarely shown having a meaningful, lengthy dialogue with any of their kids.

If you've forgotten how wonderful is the gospel of grace, or how beautiful is the Biblical pattern of marriage, watch Big Love.

(Disclaimer: If Big Love were a movie, it would be rated R for some sexual dialogue and nudity.)