Thursday, November 11, 2010

Three in Alignment

Jesus says in the penultimate chapter of the Bible, Behold, I make all things new.* Why is that necessary? It was an inspired stroke to put these words in Christ's mouth in The Passion of the Christ as he carries his cross to Golgotha (the Place of the Skull) to die. Jesus was brutalized by us to remake the world, or rather, to bring it back to the way it was created. As powerful and affecting as it was to have Jesus say those words on the road to Calvary, these words were withheld for the period of the end of days. It has not yet come to pass. All things have not yet been made new. 

If the world is not yet made anew, then it lays now as something that is aging; 
something very old. 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mad Max, and White Dog have an intimate knowledge of this oldness.

Jimmy Stewart is the iconic image of the trustworthy, hardworking patron saint of the good guy. He plays Jefferson Smith, the beloved leader of a statewide Boys Club, he is appointed to the U.S. Senate by the Governor because he is expected to be a naive stooge that can be easily manhandled into place by the bureaucratic beasts of the Great American Lobby. Smith is indeed naive, for he sees the government as something pure that was wisely passed on from the great ancients of old: the Washingtons, Jeffersons, and the rest of lot of Liberty Lovers. 

Mr. Smith is betrayed. His fellow state senator, whom he trusted deeply, slanders his name. Evil men are winning. The stakes are tightened and tightened, as seemingly the whole senate, then the whole state electorate turn against the hapless Smith. And so it goes. 

But Smith never stops believing that truth and goodness can prevail. Also, as some kind of mercy, we are given a handful of advocates that also believe in the things Smith believes in, just like us. While Smith leverages a cunning senatorial ploy to fight his legislative battle, he is informed by the pretty girl that she loves him. Also it appears that the president of the senate, the Vice President of the nation, appears to be rooting for our little man. 

In the end, the truth comes out. We can presume that Smith wins, but it is wholly our presumption. Film ends promptly as soon as we hear the betrayer admit his guilt. Then fade to black. The year was 1939. 

The world has aged since 1939.
I've read 9 of the 12 original "Left Behind" books. The problem was (well, alright, there were a myriad of problems) that by the later books, the world had fallen so far away from anything that my world is like, that the ability to relate was ever receding. The attraction of that series was the sense of 'this could happen tomorrow!'ness. 

Unlike that series, I was a child who was raised on The Road Warrior before I ever laid eyes on the original Mad Max. I knew the young, Aussie Mel as that angry, leather wearing mad dude roaming the post-apocalypse with action awesomnity. I never saw his inception.

Mad Max starts by following a group of deranged bikers. The rape, pillage, murder. Why? We will never be told the answer. But then we meet Max. We meet his wife. We meet his son. They are happy people... not mad maxes. Max is a Happy Max. Then, inevitably, first his partner, then, his son, and finally his wife are bludgeoned. By the time that all goes down, there's only a few minutes of run time left in the film. Time enough for Max to get mad. 

Max is shot in the leg by the derangers. Then his hand is run-over by a motorcycle. Then he handcuffs a dude to a car he lights on fire. But then he shows mercy: he offers wine with vengeance. He offers the aforementioned handcuffed a dull saw. The murderer-rapist can hack his hand off and live to tell the day if he likes. This is Saw circa 1979.

The last shot of the film is of Max driving away. He does not smile. He has exacted wrath. There is no happiness in it, only a brutal truth. Your family is gone. Don't smile. Just drive away.

At last, Samuel Fuller's controversial White Dog knows this world all-to-well. We meet a dog. The dog attacks black people. He attacks them until they are dead. The centerpiece of the film is one African-American animal trainer's effort to fix the dog. This 'white dog' has been taught from a young age to consider darker looking humans as the enemy. This is an old dog. 

Sometime within the re-training process, the white dog escapes to prowl the streets. He sees a black man, and hunts him until he finally catches up with him inside an empty church. The man is ravaged to death. This is an old dog in an old church.

Can the dog be made new? 
Can he be shown grace despite his evil ways? 
Can salvation be created?

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His Kingdom? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation."... But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up... But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.** 

This is truth. The world is old, always getting older.
It will be made new again. 

*Revelation 21:5
** 2nd Peter 3:3-4, 10, 13

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