"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, so they may not become discouraged." Eph. 3:21
Politics aside, the movie W. is more the tragic story of a family than a political drama about President George W. Bush.
In this biopic of the president, the events surrounding the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2002 intermix with the memories and emotions of the commander-in-chief (played by Josh Brolin). Here we see how the younger Bush grew from a disobidient frat boy at Yale to a failed businessman and eventually the leader of the free world, all while trying to cope with the demands and expectations of his father, George Bush Sr. (played by James Cromwell).
This movie is, at heart, a father-son story, analyzing both Bushes' strengths and weaknesses, especially in regards to one another. Oliver Stone, who directed W., seems to say that Bush Jr. just wanted to have his dad accept that he was successful and right, and that every decision in his life was colored by this need for his father's approval.
Meanwhile, the elder Bush struggled with being able to show his emotions or express them to his son, except the feeling of "disappointment," which he conveyed to his son quite often.
Even when W. did something successful (such as owning the Texas Rangers or becoming governor of Texas despite the odds), his father never really seemed to care - which further made W. want to try harder to prove he was a success, even to the point of engaging in a war (spurred on, the movie claims, by the advice of people like Dick Cheney, played here by Richard Dreyfuss).
This was a sad story. If only Bush Sr. had shown his son more emotion or respect, would the younger Bush have ever become president or start the Iraq war? If only Bush Jr. would have reacted less aggressively towards pleasing his father, what else could have been different?
Realizing this line of thought leads to politics rather than a movie plot, let us turn our attention to what the Scriptures tell us about family relationships. In Paul's letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, the apostle speaks about families - and their role to love one another and be patient with one another. Fitting to this story, we read: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, so they may not become discouraged." (Eph. 3:21).
We should read this passage not just as an avoidance of anger or violence, but also as a positive endorsement of love, respect, compassion, and openness in the family system. Today, Paul might tell us: "Fathers, be open with your children and speak with them about your love, so they may not become discouraged..."
How many families don't talk, leading children to an unhealthy sense that they need to prove themselves so they get noticed? How many parents discipline their children without also approving of all the successes and joys of their child? Imagine what good would come out of the family unit without all those roadblocks.
W. shows us one very prominent family's struggle with these issues, but they are just one of millions of people who endure the same things in their homes. And as this film shows us, just because we grow up does not mean these issues go away. Just because a son or daughter moves out of the house (or into the White House for that matter) does not mean these problems do not have be addressed anymore. The pains of our youth stay with us for a very long time.
Let us pray for more openness and dialogue within the family. Let us pray for more families to love one another as Christ loves each of us.