Apr 20 2011

Celebrating Easter with 15 Moments of Redemption in Movies


Sometimes truth dawns slowly and change comes in fits and spurts. We begin thinking about eternity and seeking purpose. We recognize our baggage and want something better. We find ourselves inching toward truth in the choices we make and the causes we embrace. We want peace and reconciliation and community. While redemption happens in a moment of decision, the journey toward that decision and transformation that follows  is often a process.

Jules Winnfield – Pulp Fiction. Jules recognizes that redemptive forces are at work though he has not yet connected the dots. He finds himself longing to change his role from avenger to shepherd.   They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. Rom 2:15

Charlie Babbitt – Rain Man. When Charlie realizes that Raymond is the secret friend, the “Rain Man” of his childhood, his self-centeredness and greed begins to break down. It’s not the moment of truth but the truth that leads to the moment.  Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34 Continue reading

Apr 7 2011

Redemption in The Wire


I just finished all five seasons of The Wire on DVD.  The Wire is an astounding artistic achievement and devastating social commentary. I think its going to take  several blog posts to discuss it’s effect on me. As profound as it is profane, fans of Dickens, Shakespeare, Classical Dramas, or the Bible will find echoes of those literary themes and characters in The Wire. It deals with big themes like power, compromise, deception, and redemption in the lives of broken people in a broken society. Baltimore is full of the social ills that plague modern society.

The beginning credits run to Tom Waits’ song Way Down in the Hole. Lyrics about about holding on to Jesus, avoiding temptation, and keeping the devil “way down in the hole” are sung against a backdrop of flawed characters and gritty street life. Many reviewers have identified the City of Baltimore as the main character in The Wire. The 2nd  and 3rd chapters of The Revelation of John call out churches in particular cities for sinful behavior, compromise, and sins of omission in light of the evils in each of those cities. Just as in the cities described in the Biblical Revelation, the devil is on the loose in Baltimore and its institutions are unable to stem the tide of evil. Season one establishes the police and drug cultures and carries their stories throughout all five seasons of the series. Different artists sing the theme song as subsequent seasons explore corruption and temptation in different city institutions: season two- unions; season three- city hall; season four- schools; and season five- the media. Continue reading

May 25 2010

The Themes and Theology of Redemption and Interdependence in the End of LOST


Of the contest between good and evil Carleton Cuse said that he and Damon Lindelof wanted to “make if feel different than in other big mythological tales…there is that sort of fundamental conflict between good and evil. And what we feel is really interesting about Lost is that the central way that plays out is… within each character their own struggle to find – win the battle good versus evil is the thing that fascinates us most as storytellers.”  So after all the complicated plot lines, the science, the references and clues, ultimately Lost was about relationships and redemption.  I sort of understood the idea of the sideways as a kind of Purgatory, but for some characters that redemption arc came through experiences on the Island itself, while for others it came in one of the flashes (back or sideways).  Beyond the redemption theme, what strikes me is that nobody does it alone.

What I found most interesting about LOST is the interdependence that is part of the mythology. In the final episode, the reunions between the couples were intense and sweet. I’m glad Cuse and Lindelof were brave enough to chick-flick it. It was a bold move.

Throughout the series there has been a science vs. faith tension and the last episode clearly took a more philosophical bent. I’m still sort of hung up on the quantum theory aspects of LOST, specifically symmetry, pairs, and the concept of interdependence.  We are used to the idea of independent, individual redemption.  In the Lost universe moving through the process seems to need to occur in groups. Even when one character seems to have a specific quest or purpose it often takes more than one to accomplish it.  In some cases everyone needs to be together; and within the group each person seems to have a specific person who is his or her constant. Continue reading

Feb 6 2010

Heroes Redemption and Forgiveness for Sylar


Repentance and forgiveness bring down the wall in the most recent episode of Heroes, Season 4 Episode 18. Guilt is a wall that separates us from others and locks us into ourselves. Bitterness does the same thing.  Gabriel Gray, aka Sylar, reaches a personal arch in Heroes. He doesn’t want to be Sylar anymore. He wants to change. Vengeance, fear, and doubt drive Matt Parkman to entrap Sylar in the isolation of his own mind. With motives that have nothing to do with rescue, Peter Petrelli goes into Sylar’s isolation to bring him back.

This reminds me so much of Paul’s conversion.  Sylar wants redemption but, like Paul, has to wait for someone to come and lead him out.  It must have been frightening for Ananias to be asked to go to Paul. Paul had the power to kill him or have him arrested. Paul may have hurt some of Ananias’ friends and it’s possible Ananias wasn’t all that excited about letting Paul off the hook after all he’d done to make life miserable for Christians. Paul had to wait around in Damascus, blind, until someone from the community he had tortured came to help him. Moving on for both Paul and Sylar required being forgiven.

Trapped together in an empty world, Peter and Gabriel/Sylar struggle to find a way out. They cooperate because they have a common goal, but Peter feels compelled to continue to hate Gabriel/Sylar who killed his brother Nathan. Gabriel feels he’s changed but cannot begin to function as a changed person until Peter forgives him. We make redemption more difficult for others by harboring resentments or saddling them with baggage from the past. Peter’s forgiveness not only releases Gabriel but restores Peter so that his memories of his brother can be based on love rather than anger. Whatever happens on Heroes next,  watching Peter and Gabriel knock down that wall created a visual image for me of how redemption and forgiveness work together to free us.