There are movies for certain times, and there are times for certain movies. Terrence Malick is definitely a “certain times” filmmaker. You can’t scroll through your social media while watching one of his films. And I’m no Malick expert, but you don’t have to watch much to know that he’s doing something unlike most of what is available. He’s sometimes derided as too arty, too poetic, too philosophical. And it’s unfortunate that many will be put off from watching because of the three-hour run time.
Locked in, shut down, confined to our homes, consuming too much TV while eating comfort food and longing for fresh air and time away from the children. It is enough to make us crazy and finally understand what “cabin fever” is really like. But then again, this is not exactly how its playing out. People go out. They may not go down to the bar or out to eat at a restaurant, but people still go out. They go out for what are deemed essential services, places that stay open amid a pandemic.
There’s something about pastors not acting the way people think pastors ought to act that attracts people—if not in real life, then at least on the screen. From Pale Rider to Machine Gun Preacher, people like to watch preachers pulled out of the regular ruts of how we imagine their lives and into some extraordinary action. Maybe pastors like to watch so they can live vicariously through the actions of guys in collars doing things we ourselves would never do!
When I came out of Seminary I was a staunch liturgical dude. Don’t need no screens or even printed out service. The organ will do just fine. I got myself some incense and added a chasuble to my fine wardrobe. I wore my collar almost every day.
When I became a pastor, one of the questions asked of me in the ordination rite was if, “I would minister faithfully to the sick and dying, and demonstrate to the Church a constant and ready ministry of the Gospel?” To which I answered, “Yes, I will, with the help of God.” This meant my call as a pastor was not to stay within the walls of the church or to remain in my study, but it was, in part, to go to the sick and dying, go to those who could not come to church on their own, to those who needed the gifts of Christ brought to them.
Watching awards shows is all about having the right expectations going in: you know already that it’s going to be an orgy of self-congratulation. You know that people are going to use their acceptance speeches to highlight or push (depending on your perspective) their favorite causes—although I can’t say I was expecting someone to use the slogan “workers of the world unite.”
The Church Doesn’t Need People. People Need the Church
You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world! These might be some of the most famous phrases of Jesus (Matthew 5:12-16), yet I am not sure we often fully engage their meaning. Ultimately, Jesus is saying, “The world needs you.”