Sunday, February 19, 2012

Movie Bible Study: Take Shelter

It's a little scene, perhaps quite inconsequential to many. Nevertheless, if we bring our bags into the screening, if we dare to read between the lines our own apocalyptic timepieces, then maybe, just maybe, the small, intimate scene illuminates the devastation that is to follow.

We have Curtis as our main protagonist. He is short on speech, certainly midwestern in his various customs, and perhaps a bit on edge, but we see the affection he has for his wife and child and take him for what he is; a decent human being. The question of 'how decent?' is one that he and us both will continue to dialogue about throughout the rest of the film. But for now, for tonight, for this scene unfolding, Curtis sits in his car dropping off his colleague and best friend, Dewart.

They arrive in front of Dewart's house. This is the congenial pause where life speculations and sharings occur; the last moment before departure.

Dewart looks consterned. He pauses briefly, shakes his head, and then mentions the strangest thing. He tells Curtis that he and his wife are considering having a threesome with some large-o heifer from Columbus. Curtis asks how large. Dewart responds through laughing teeth, something like 250 pounds. Large. The two share an awkward chuckle before Curtis answers humbly from his perspective that he can't imagine that he and his wife would ever get into that type of thing.

Nodding solemnly, Dewart becomes deeply introspective before offering a telling praise:
You've got a good life, Curtis. I think that's the best compliment you can give a man; take a look at his life and say, 'That's good'.
How telling indeed. Good men don't need threesomes -- that seems to be the jist of Dewart's words. Throw that back at Dewart and the only answer is that Dewart sees his own li e as something less than good. Less than good = threesome needed.

Once upon a time God formed man out of the dust of the earth and said that it was,  
Very good. 
 And then things changed. Things changed greatly. Very good became something less. 

The man who was called by God 'the Son of Man' was taken up by God in a vision to Jerusalem. God said to him then, 
Son of Man, do you see what they are doing?
And then God showed Ezekiel what this group of 'they' were doing. 
And he (God) brought me to the entrance of the court (of the temple), and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. Then he said to me, "Son of Man, dig in the wall." So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. And he said to me, "Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here." So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel... Then he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, 'The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.'"
After that night, nightmares of ever worsening effect haunt Curtis. These dreams tend to be about extreme weather and the madness of the people caught in it. It bothers Curtis greatly. 

Wanting to be wise, yearning to not alienate and abandon his family, Curtis looks into the possibility that he is beginning to suffer from psychoses. He doesn't trust himself. This, of course, over the span of weeks, only raises his paranoia. What do you do amidst torment when you can't even trust yourself? Who do you turn to?

Take Shelter offers no omniscient third person voice. We get only the occurrences as according to Curtis. Ezekiel the prophet, on the other hand, is burdened with God's perspective. Multiple times in the book God gives him a warning as to what will happen if he does not heed God's word. God commands him to pass on his oncoming judgment. He even commands our man Ezek to eat a scroll as a symbol of his responsibility, so that Ezekiel would know with all assurance that he carries God's words in him. From him must unspool the coming judgment. He may not stay silent.

Curtis is not one to speak. He resists, for as long as he can muster, to keep the recent visions in his mind from even his wife, only relenting when his dreams cannot remain hidden. He spasms and bleeds from his mouth while asleep. Such horrors he knows cannot be hidden eternal. But what of the people? The plague in his mind remains: 'what if I'm right?' More and more he suspects that he is. Curtis acts on it. He builds a bunker for his family. He will protect them. Of this he is certain. 

But what of the people? 
Who will save the people? Who will save the others?

Long ago the world was judged with a flood, but God salvaged Noah and his families. 
Long ago Sodom and Gomorrah were burned into annihilation for their deeds, but Lot and his family were set free from that tragedy.
Long ago a Spirit came to execute first born males, but God kept his chosen safe from that desolation.

And now a storm is coming. 

Who will be saved?

After being pushed and pushed, Curtis, at a Club banquet, finally lets his tongue be unleashed:
You think I'm crazy? Well, listen up, there's a storm coming like nothing you've ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it. 
The show Curtis puts on is intense beyond description. His words hang somewhere between hysteria and rage. 

True prophecy comes from a place of knowing.
Knowing can be a violent affair. 

Again and again Ezekiel vainly pleads with the nation to listen to the scroll coming from within him. 
They don't listen. 

More signs and wonders are necessary. In chapter 24, Ezekiel, the chosen prophet, is used by God yet again, to show the people; to show them what is coming. 
The world of the LORD came to me: "Son of Man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you..." So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died... And the people said to me, "Will you not tell us what these things mean for us...?" And I said to them, "Thus says the Lord God; "Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword... and you shall rot away in your iniquities... thus shall Ezekiel be a sign to you."
God comforts Ezekiel only in saying, 
You will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the Lord.

Does Curtis suffer as a prophet? As a one to bear foreknowledge as a sign to the people?


Are we then, these Christian men and women, the prophets of our day? Are we the signs and wonders for those around us? Do we not believe in hell? Do we not perceive where the ends of our friends and family will be?

If we are the Noahs, the Lots, and the Ezekiels, do we not also carry the burden of proclamation? 


But, though there is pain in the sacrifice, though there are undoubtedly stories that absolutely end in tragedy, though there is blood --- there is always a Savior... a man in linen. And thankfully, he is not us.

Ezekiel was the prophet for Judah, indeed. But he was never assigned to be their savior. No, that role was for another. 

Hear the Word of the Lord Ezekiel 9:3-6:
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested on the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing case at he waist. And the Lord said to him, "Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark."

Come and see -- your friends and community around you are practicing injustice. 
Look closely and you will see it -- they know they are something less than good.

 But fear not, we are neither judge nor jury.
We do not mark foreheads.

That role belongs to another.
And behold, the man clothed in linen, with the writing case at his waist, brought back word, saying, "I have done as you commanded me." Ezekiel 9:11