Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Blues Brothers & The Vatican

Story of the Week: The Vatican Approves The Blues Brothers

All this week, news outlets around the world have been reporting that the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has deemed the 1980 comedy classic, The Blues Brothers, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this week, a "Catholic classic."

The Vatican newspaper has dedicated several articles this week to the movie, saying that the values presented within are in keeping with Catholic tradition: raising funds for an orphanage, being dedicated to their "mission from God," taking a stance against Nazism and oppression, and even passing up the opportunity for a one-night stand (with Twiggy) to continue on their journey. One article cites Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-32) as a good way of looking at Joliet Jake (Jim Belushi) and Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd).

Some across the spectrum of religious and secular media have called the Vatican out because of their articles. One said that there was very little that had to do with religion in the movie. Public reaction has been mixed - and some have been disappointed in the news.

As someone who seeks and finds the Catholic and Christian elements in popular films, I have to respectfully disagree with everyone who has been saying this. The Blues Brothers reminds us that we're not saints, but we are sinners trying to keep our life's mission - to preach the Gospel, and use words if necessary - on its rightful course. Jake and Elwood aren't perfect - but they recognize that taking care of the poor and under-privledged is worth fighting for, even if it means returning to a life in prison. They exemplify the command of Jesus, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another." (Jn. 15:13).

The Vatican newspaper called this journey of faith an act of "redemption obtained with sacrifice." Yes, on the way, the Blues Brothers have interesting run-in's with the law and with their pasts (such as Carrie Fisher, who plays Jake's stranded-at-the-altar former flame), which make for great comedy.

I applaud the Vatican for their foresight. To rank The Blues Brothers with the Vatican's other inspirational classics - such as The Ten Commandments, It's a Wonderful Life, Gandhi, Schinder's List, and Chariots of Fire - is a great way to highlight the Ignatian understanding that God is truly in all things. While few would argue with these other movies, having a popular comedy in the mix is evidence that God speaks to us through tears as well as laughter.

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