One of the things this current pandemic has done is highlight the disjointed nature of the individual Christian. We are of this world, we have responsibilities amongst our neighbors, a duty to serve, protect and care for others. Yet, we are a peculiar people who have their eyes on the horizon, looking off to something beyond this age. Our hope is not rooted in the outcomes of the here and now but in the promises of Christ. These are promises which have us long for something that has not yet been revealed to us. So, as we want to love our neighbor and protect them from this virus, or to help them keep their business during the lockdown, we also stand with an unmovable spirit before the specter of fear and death knowing this age is temporary and will fade as the withering grass.
Two weeks ago, when I wrote about The Seventh Seal, I had one kind of response to it. Kyle Smith (and his commenters) at National Review had a very different response. Over the past year, people have had strikingly opposite reviews of movies like Joker, The Irishman, A Hidden Life, and Parasite. No doubt preference and taste account for some of those differences. Probably the egalitarian and democratic nature of the internet accounts for a few more (as “reviewing” movies is not limited to experts). When it comes to classic movies—cult or otherwise—some of it is inevitably nostalgia. But in terms of my own feelings about movies, I am more and more convinced that current circumstances play a determinative role in the experience of watching something.
As we are beginning to see the signs of our economy opening up (well not here in CA, but in some others states), and as we catch glimpses of life beyond this crisis, our thoughts begin to settle again on the future. I, for one, have been thinking a lot about the lessons we will learn from COVID-19. What will be the takeaway for the Christian congregation that tried to navigate the waters of uncertainty and fear while striving to be faithful to their confession and mission?
On that first Easter day the women went to the tomb and were greeted not by death but by life. They were directed not to weeping but called to not be afraid. After this, in Luke’s Gospel we find a radically different account of something that transpires and only he records it for us. It is something which happens not with the 11 disciples in the upper room but to two previously unknown, at least to us, disciples.
In Georges Bernanos’ 1926 novel Under the Sun of Satan (Sous le soleil de Satan), Mr Malorthy is described as knowing “very little about that superior form of cheek which the clever call cynicism.” Today cynicism seems like just about the only stance left for anyone to take. There is very little room, it seems, for the sincere and the unironic.
I have a difficult time viewing safety as a virtue. Resilience perhaps, fortitude to be sure, but not just safety. I want my kids to be safe, of course. I want them to take reasonable precautions when doing dangerous or risky things. Safety serves the risk; it serves a life marked by danger. It is calculated and reasonably weighed out. But danger, why, danger is the stuff that makes life worth living. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “As soon as there is life, there is danger.” To elevate safety above engagement is a cowardly and timid way to engage this world.
Everyone is up in arms in some way. We all probably have friends on every side who have dug in their heals, marked out their enemy, and are hunkered down at war. Over what? Over whether this whole thing is a hoax or the Black Plague. Or we are up in arms about our neighbor biking without his mask or the government conspiring to rob us of all our rights. I get it.
Sweet song of heaven calls from above
Weighting freighting the glorious clouds
Soaring out pouring out she tastes the sky
Ambitiously swallowed that deep song of love
Every year on the Sunday after Easter, we read from John chapter 20 and hear again the appearance of our resurrected Lord to His disciples. Every year, whether it is in the midst of a pandemic and you are watching church from your living room or you are sitting in church with your family, we get caught up in the story of doubting Thomas and his desire to poke around in the holes of Jesus’ hands. It is a powerful text, from which we get perhaps the greatest confession of faith ever spoken.
After our last episode of Saints and Cinema, where we talked a little bit about movies for watching during a pandemic, one of our brothers commented that The Seventh Seal was the best plague movie. I had watched three or four Ingmar Bergman movies in the past year, but I had held out on The Seventh Seal.