Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Watch The Iron Giant and Show It To Your Friends!

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.   God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
- Genesis 1:27

On a friend’s recommendation I revisited the 1999 (largely overlooked but...) out of sight film The Iron Giant.   I cannot recommend this movie highly enough; It wrecked me.   It seemed to me the perfect example of the kind of work of art that exalts The Gospel yet intentionally refuses to exclusively cater to a Christian audience.  It's what my friend, Kevin Gosa, calls a poignant, pre-gospel piece of art in that it softens the heart to the beauty of what Christ perfectly exemplified in life and death and in so doing makes our world more beautiful.

Hogarth Hughes is raised by his mother in the small town of Rockwall, MN sometime in the late 50's.   He’s the kind of misfit that is picked on by others but who, in suffering well, learns to hold his own with a rebellious self-confidence and unwavering optimism (kind of Leave It Beaver all-American boy).

When an Iron Giant collides with the earth landing in Rockwell, the real story begins.  The Giant's ominous footsteps can be heard crashing down for miles as it moves towards the food it needs to survive: Metal.   When the giant begins to feast on an electrical plant Hogarth, the adventurous boy who's been tracking the giant through the woods, notices it being electrocuted and pities The Giant.  He runs to power plant and flips off the power switch.   A friendship is born.
Enter the conflict: throughout the story the giant robot, considered a threat by the cold-war era (stereotypically paranoid) FBI agent and the military, becomes a friend to the boy who encourages The Giant.   Hogarth tells the robot that he doesn't have to be a menace to the society instead, "it can choose who it wants to be!".
We love because he first loved us. - 1st John 4:19

I won't spoil the film for you except to say that the love Hogarth shows The Giant transforms it/him into the Christ figure in the most beautiful way.   In essence he's transformed from the presumed other-worldly antagonist that the military presumes him to be to a self-sacrificing savior of Hogarth's whole world.
According to the Bible, our repentance and faith are gifts of God to us; our conversion, our great change, occurs only by God’s grace. - Mark Dever

Author of Culture Making, Andy Crouch insists that the conversion of Anton Ego from critic (of creation) to ambassador (for creation) in Pixar's Ratatouille is a radical shift in story-telling and exemplifies the journey that kingdom-minded Christians must make from condemning culture to cultivating culture.    

Crouch writes that historically the church has first condemned culture like Ego, the food critic who would not be pleased, "You don't want to disappoint me!", standing in judgement and separating itself from culture (read: sacred-secular split (church=all good, world=all bad)).

There is much to be said for critiquing particular cultural goods. But when critique becomes a posture, we end up strangely passive, waiting for culture to deliver us some new item to talk about. Critique as a posture, while an improvement over condemnation, can leave us strangely unable simply to enjoy cultural goods, preoccupied with our interrogation of their "worldview" and "presuppositions."
- Andy Crouch (more here...)

First the church came to take a further reactive stance by embracing forms that the culture had contributed and copying them  (Think: the mega-church's wholesale embrace of U2-esque arena-rock style worship).  Crouch's concern here is that as we increasingly employ professionals to "worship for us on stage" we are losing the crucial culture-creating element inherent in offering the amateur the opportunity to create and express themselves artistically and them pushing them out in to the culture (read: outside the walls of the church!).

Over the decades, condemning culture turned into critiquing it, then copying, and now, Christians mainly consume culture.  Crouch notes that above all the American church's relationship to culture has become one of consumption.  Yet we are made in the image of our creator; so what does the collective church do to create or support culture-making activities that reclaim the culture working redemptively to make humans more aware of God's beauty?

Most people die before they are fully born.   Creativeness means to be born before one dies. 
- Erich Fromm

The fear of the unquantifiable, mystical movement of The Spirit within the arts has for too long sent supposedly "more than conquering" (Rom. 8:37) Christians running for the hills.  Consequently artists have been on the run from the church.

(I vacillated on weather or not to insert the following quote; see if there's any truth in it.....)

If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. He is to be the violin on which the master is to play. And the more completely he can suppress his own silly views, his own foolish prejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or should not be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question.
- Oscar Wilde

By God's grace and ultimately for His Glory, the tide is shifting.   Christians confident in Revelations 21's description of The New Jerusalem know that "He is making all things new" (Rev. 21:5).  Here are a few resources do an excellent job highlighting evidence of cultural renewal:

Speaking of Mockingbird.....Our guest speaker at this weekend's The Gospel According to Pixar conference at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX is David Zahl.   David is the founder of Mockingbird Ministries and runs an extremely popular blog www.mbird.com.   He'll also be at Rick's on The Square in Tyler for a men's luncheon.   If you live in East Texas make sure to make plans to attend!

I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess - Martin Luther

May we see with increasing clarity how Christ calls us to trust Him with changing our world by reclaiming the culture.   Come join the conversation this weekend!
Hope to see you Friday!
Grace and Peace,
More of Mr. Crouch....here!

This Week

* Wednesday Men's Group - Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore - Chapter 2 @ 7am - 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)


Friday - Men's Luncheon at 12pm at Rick's on The Square - $10 at the door - Grace in the Trenches: The Gospel for Alpha Males and Other Weary Scorekeepers w/ David Zahl

The Gospel According to Pixar featuring David Zahl of Mbird.com, Chris Legg and The Magills - Friday November 11, 2011 and PLEASE "like" this event on Facebook.com
Saturday November 12 - Panel Discussion with David Zahl, Chris Legg and Matt Magill

Next Week...

* Monday Men's Lunch - Dakota's 12pm -
Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore - Chapter 2


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