Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Word on "A Promise to the Dead"

I always feel bad after a morning descrying arguments or ideas I don't like rather than promoting ideas, films, or causes that I found of value.

So I thought I'd add a postscript to my recent post about the silliness of making lists of films that portray Christianity in a positive light by mentioning that of the 2007 films that comprised my ten favorite viewing experiences, "A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman," while not a commercial, Hollywood release, does portray Christianity in a positive light.

At least I think it does.

It tells of individual Christians and parts of their institutions seeking to shelter and help people who were being terrorized by the Pinochet regime.

Of course, it also portrays people who weren't Christian doing the same. And it portrays many who acted who are not specifically identified as Christians but could well have been. Which is, I guess, my point.

There is a scene in the film that affected me emotionally. Dorfman is recollecting taking asylum in an embassy and walking on the grounds when a sleeping bag goes over the wall followed by gunshots. It is unclear whether someone has been killed trying to get into the compound or, knowing he was about to be killed, used his last few seconds to give what little he had to someone else who needed it.

It reminded me of a story my brother once told me about my family history. We had an elder brother who was murdered in a restaurant hold-up. One of the personal effects that was eventually returned to us was the watch my murdered brother was wearing. Eventually, either the glass or the battery had to be replaced, and when the watch face was removed, a ring of dried blood was present around the outer rim of the watch face.

It made my brother realize that someone--someone he or I maybe never met--had to have taken the time to very carefully clean that watch before he or she returned it to us. Not a pleasant job. How much easier it might have been to just tell us it was not retrievable or in a condition we wouldn't want. Yet whoever did it had to know that having the watch back would alleviate some of the family's pain just as getting it back soaked in blood would have added to it.

Have you ever tried to get blood off or out of something that was saturated in it?

My point is, in the face of such acts, it just seems petty 1 to me to ask or wonder whether the person who did it specifically identified himself as a Christian and was consciously motivated by that fact.

The fruits of the spirit include love, joy, peace, kindness, compassion, longsuffering, faithfullness...and my understanding is that these are qualities not natural to fallen men, qualities inspired and motivated by the spirit of God working in us and through us whether we know it or not--for, as George MacDonald says, sometimes God approaches us from behind, and we do not sense or know He is drawing closer until He overtakes us.

I just wish sometimes that we weren't so poor and petty in the things we could thank God our lives or in our films. MacDonald again:

If then we go wrong, it will be in the direction of the right, and with such aberration as will be easier to correct then what must come of refusing to imagine, and leaving the dullest traditional prepossessions to rule our hearts and minds, with no claim but the poverty of their expectation from the paternal riches.

1"Petty" is, I realize, both a snarky and a charged word choice here. But I couldn't think of a more apt word choice.

No comments: