Thursday, March 20, 2008

Horton Hears a Who

"Blessed are those who do not see, yet still believe." John 20:29

The elephant Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey) believes there is a whole world on a grain of sand, but his whole world doesn't seem to believe him.

Where do you find yourself in this story?

Are you like Horton who believes despite not being able to see what he believes to be there? Are you like the Mayor of Whoville (voiced by Steve Carrell) who prophetically challenges his peers who blindly believe what they cannot prove? Or are you like the majority of the animals of the forest or the Who's of Whoville, most of whom go about their daily routine without a care in the world (big or small) and who have lost their passions whatsoever?

Whether you are the ardent believer or the prophetic challenger, the movie Horton Hears a Who seems to be asking us to do one thing: be passionate and enthusiastic, and even dare to be different... and don't be like the forest or Whoville crowds, who are neither passionate or enthusiasitc.

The world needs believers and prophets. Sometimes they might sit on different sides of an argument, but they are both passionate about their world. And this film shows us that the story is complete when we can all work together (as the Mayor and Horton do).

When I was in college, I belonged to a student political group. I found myself having more fun debating and having conversations with students on the other end of the political spectrum or on the opposite side of an issue on campus. The students on campus who didn't care one way or another, who sat on the sidelines or who showed no passion, were the ones who I had a more difficult time working with.

In a sense, both passionate groups are strong believers.

Both believe that faith can move mountains and both are dedicated to making that faith a reality. And both might be guilty of having "blind faith" because they follow in the footsteps of the disciples that Jesus spoke of when speaking with "doubting" Thomas in the New Testament: "Blessed are those who do not see, yet still believe." (John 20:29)

When I find myself getting lukewarm in my faith life, I pray that God may infuse in me a passion and zeal for the gospel and the wisdom to know what to do with that enthusiasm.

Horton did not back down from his faith. The Mayor did not back down from his challenge to Whoville. And because they had this incredible enthusiasm, they remained true believers that their world would be saved and transformed.

In my work with young adults, I often tell people that belief is great, but passion and energy for that faith is even better. Don't be a lukewarm believer. Don't be a Who, but strive always to be Horton or the Mayor.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Other Bolyn Girl

Have far have we come since then?

On the way out of the movie, The Other Bolyn Girl, my wife and I had an interesting discussion.

I initially commented that I was glad that we had progressed as a society and no longer lived in a medieval mindset where women were bought and sold, used and abused like they were in this movie, set in Tudor England of the 1500s.

But my wife responded that we may not have come as far as I thought. She brought up the fact that, while it may not happen in the exact same way, many still look at marriage as a way to move ahead in society, that divorces are a dime a dozen, that people are still treated like objects, that it's not so much what you know but who you know, and that people are still tortured and even killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have to confess. She was right.

Perhaps we fool ourselves into thinking that, as a human race, we have evolved, grown, and learned our lessons since the Dark Ages. And while some parts of our world have developed, are we committing the same silly sins as Henry VIII was guilty of five centuries ago.

In this film (as in history), Henry (Eric Bana) goes through love affairs and wives so he can either have his lustful passions fulfilled or produce a male heir to the throne of England. Into this mess step two young girls Mary and Anne Boylyn (played by Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, respectively) - both of whom are forced into the king's court by a father (Mark Rylance) who just wants more power and prestige for his family name.

Sadly, while centuries seperate us from these events, we still haven't learned much. In fact, there are so many issues that are brought up in The Other Bolyn Girl, from the horror of capital punishment to nasty sibling rivalty (and everything in between), that to blog about every one of them would be excessively long-winded.

For me, this movie spoke most loudly about our view of marriage.

Marriage is sacred, and love is central to its success. It should not be arranged, nor should we even hope that our sons or daughters might "marry up" and find a nice doctor or lawyer. Marriage should not be entered into lightly, and because of its permanence, there should be no thought to the concept of a "starter marriage," an increasingly popular term these days. And while children are very important, marriage of a man and a woman is - at its core - about a husband and wife and their bond of friendship, intimacy, and love.

Henry Tudor and Anne Bolyn, in this movie, did not understand this, and because of that, they spiraled into a miserable existance, torturing themselves and ultimately dying too early.

Even if we find ourselves stuck in this pattern, we can move ahead and learn our lessons. That is the power of grace. Mary Bolyn seems to have understood that, and by the movie's end, she has come around to a better image of marriage, love, and responsibility.

Through the centuries, marriage has been used and abused, and in many cases, still happens to this day. I believe God still has hope for us yet, though. God hopes that we might be the generations that turn the tide and make marriage meaningful as a society. Then we can be proud to say that we truly have evolved as a human race.