Monday, June 21, 2010

Waiting for Armageddon. (2009)
Kate Davis, David Heilbroner and Franco Sacchi

I am so conflicted.

I'm going to stay on the previous rant I just had over
The September Issue.

Shouldn't I know the answer by now? I've been in love with this medium for decades. I have tried to challenge myself to think critically about film for at least ten or twelve years. Still there are moments when I just don't know how to respond.

The question, again, is this: What do we do with a well-made film -- especially a documentary, I guess, since that's where I seem to be tripping up -- which perfectly captures and takes great pains in depicting and rendering the world it inhabits, when the world it inhabits is either an empty shell of a mess, with negative points on the substance scale (again, see The September Issue reaction), or in this case, stuffed with such ignorant, seemingly brain-washed masses who make you want to shout and scream and vomit on the screen?

Can I react to a well-made documentary, bragging about its achievements, without reacting to its negative content?

A lot of these docs have been yanking this grievous (and admittedly somewhat knee-jerk) reaction from me, making me uneasy because of the content of a film itself, even when the content is captured as a truth. Shouldn't the content being true and the rendering being just cause me to well up with excitement and brag about its greatness? Shouldn't it be celebrated when a truth about life is well displayed?

Fall From Grace is another perfect example of my confliction. How do we react to a well-made film in which we hate the content, and pretty much all the people in it?

Hate is a strong word. I can't hate these people. That wouldn't be right. That wouldn't be what their Jesus or my Jesus wants. But the folks presented here bring me such turmoil, as a person with great interest in the story of Christ. Because His story can't be their story. It's simply not the same thing -- not even close. I don't ever remember a teaching of Christ causing us to desire war, or want people to die, or want to rise up in violence helping God usher in His end-times.

Such a view is not far off from a word the same people fear and find grossly immoral: jihad.

So here's an accomplished documentary depicting a Bible-tumping, bloodthirsty, supposedly "Christian" people who desire the ushering of jihad for the coming Kingdom. Won't these believed-in end-times come when and if the God they believe in chooses? Why would an all-powerful God even need these people to usher in His big event?

And why do they dwell on the future so much, anyway? Is Jesus doing so little for them here, now? Is their God so limited that he can't bring peace in the world right now, through them, instead of their belief that other religions have to basically die before God can come in and save them from destruction?

What kind of a small God only wants the ones that believe in Him, anyway? I thought this Christ was for all nations. Is it only when they believe that they get to "go up"? And if so, what if some of the people in this film have wrong beliefs about the way they view their precious apocalypse -- do they still get to "go up"?

If I am going to serve this God, if I am going to believe in this story to the point where it touches me, guides me, corrects me when I'm wrong, heals me when I'm sick or wounded -- then I'm willing to let him do this right here, and right now... and tomorrow? Come what may.

If there were a million, or 50 million others concerned with the here and now, maybe we'd usher in the peace God has always claimed as His will for all nations.

But instead we have 50 million people so bloodthirsty for God's war, for God's wrath upon all the wretched unbelievers, for God to replace that Muslim temple in Jerusalem and to erect His own temple so that then, only then, He can come back. As if He can't come back under any circumstance He wants, and as if He won't just put a temple there whenever He wants. And as if He hasn't changed His mind in the Bible on other occasions. Do these people pray every night that God will change His mind and save and bless even the lost?

There are moments where I wish there were only 65 books in the Bible -- the one left out would of course be Revelation. The context of the book, written in its day, is never taken into account -- that it's a form of literature called "apocalyptic." I've not been taught on all the theology around this -- I would like to! -- but I've seen literalism run amuck time and time again. I've seen people pretend they already know the answers when half the questions haven't even been addressed. The book is constantly approached as if written directly to us for contemporary times -- and has been approached that way for thousands of years by thousands of people in hundreds of countries. Which one is right? Perhaps, none?

You can dress up in political garb and mix your American Christianity right in, but when you hope for death and for God to wipe out "The Other," you've got to be missing the point. Are there parts of the Bible that are figurative? Did Jesus always speak direct commands or did he ask sometimes ask meaningful questions? Did he spin parables to lead to one ultimate constant truth, or to create a probing and pondering of our own hearts? Do you have to understand every word he said and every detail in the Big Book in order to get the main point of salvation and peace for all?

My closing thoughts, and this is again about the content and not about the well-made film:

1. From the time of Abraham God has desired to bless all nations. All. Not the ones of your choosing. Not America and the U.K. and all English speaking white people countries. All. Even the ones you don't like. Maybe especially the ones you don't like. Maybe the ones that scare you. All. I do not believe the blessings of God are limited by "Christian" boundaries.

2. I can't understand how rapture theology is Biblical, except by a few old-school non-thinking fundies who opt to literalize one New Testament verse. Add to that a plethora of end-time movies and Tim LaHaye novels and video games, and BOOM! You've got the revolution of Rapture Theology.

3. There are just as many verses in Isaiah that talk about laying down our weapons and taking care of the land, and sexual deviants inheriting the Kingdom, as there are about God wiping out everything and everybody. How can people not see that God wants to wipe out evil -- which is not a fight against flesh and blood? Why do we constantly want to make the enemy someone human, someone "Other," someone other than the evil in our heart?

Sometimes I think the Bible has been turned into a Christian idol. It's a book where the interpretation won't be critically thought out, but still held high to justify hatred of the "Other". Sometimes I think the songs sung to Jesus on any given Sunday morning are idol worship of a kind, too. I don't remember Jesus asking us to sing to him.
I remember him saying take care of the poor, the sick, the oppressed -- something God has always been concerned with.

War-mongering and hate have no place in God's New Kingdom. If there's a war to be fought, he can fight it Himself. Until then, the greatest commandment remains: "Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself."

Bottom line: Waiting For Armageddon gets four out of five Netflix stars -- and I hate it.

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