A quick recap:
- Serenity – At the Mercy of the Meddlesome
- Equilibrium – For All It’s Worth
- John Adams – Freedom to do the Right, Difficult Things
- Aviator – An Atmosphere of Incentive
- Tears of the Sun – When the Good Have to be Bad to Stop the Ugly
- Black Hawk Down – Honor Thy Defender
- The Way Back – Shining Mirage on the Horizon
- The Lives of Others – Are Not State Property
And now for the final part…
Amazing Grace – Rights Come From God
Every school child in every Western nation should either learn about William Wilberforce or see Amazing Grace (or both). The story of how English abolitionists brought the slave trade to an end is much less heralded than is the mere fact that slavery existed during English history. Yet, one rarely hears how slavery was, up until the rise of the reformation, a wholly accepted practice the world over, as far back as history goes. It took ceaseless, praiseless, wearying, even illness-inducing effort over the course of many decades for shackle-and-chain slavery to become a thing of the past for most of the planet.
William Wilberforce is the reason why slavery’s moral depravity became culturally understood overnight, historically speaking. Consider that the status quo of slavery encompassed the entirety of history. In one sense, it wasn’t a status quo at all, in that status quo is the current way of things. Until the late 18th century, slavery was the only way of things. Many people didn’t realize there could actually be something different.
Amazing Grace recounts the multi-decadal struggle of a lone Member of Parliament in Britain to change that which had always been. His religious mentor was John Newton, a monk that had once been a slave-ship captain, a man who was guilty of delivering thousands through the trade. He was shipwrecked of conscience long before his vessel came under the mercy of God’s stormy seas. But Newton survived, reformed his ways, slowly went blind, and eventually penned the hymn for which the film is named.
If you’ve never heard that story before, give the lyrics some renewed thought. ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! That saved a wretch (a vile, despicable, evil bastard) like me. I once was lost (hopeless and full of hatred, begging the churning sea to end my self-loathing) but now I am found, was blind (in understanding) but now I see!’ It’ll bring a tear to your eye.
It’s also worth noting, this is a fantastically beautiful movie, especially if you can catch a PPV in high def. The costumes, sets, and environments are tastefully lush and offer an appealing landscape for this compelling, and true, story.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – The Greatest Allegory Ever Told
You’re probably thinking, really? Are you nuts? Didn’t they turn this into a series that couldn’t figure out whether it wanted to mimic the Pirates of the Caribbean or Lord of the Rings? I can’t say enough about this movie (the first one). Almost everyone who saw it enjoyed it for a nice, family-friendly fantasy/adventure. Yet the film is rich with allusions to another story, which is in keeping with C.S. Lewis’ original intent for the book.
The White Witch is a beautiful seductress who beguiles Edmund Pevensie into betraying King Aslan of Narnia. Even after Edmund returns to Aslan, the White Witch holds claim over his life. If he is to live, the claim must be redeemed by the King, himself.
Aslan promises the White Witch that he will fulfill the claim. As a liar is eternally unsure of honesty in all others, the Witch demands to know how she can be confident Aslan will abide by the rules of dark magic. Aslan roars a warning, shuddering fear through the Witch. Aslan was demonstrating the truthfulness in his character, that any doubt about his promise is offensive to him.
That night Aslan steals away in private and submits himself to the White Witch’s forces, upon a stone table where they smite him, shave him, slay him, and celebrate; as Lucy and her sister Susan watch, weeping with dismay. With the King dead, the White Witch believes she has victory in hand and marches to battle against Aslan’s remaining force. Susan and Lucy weep upon the mutilated body of their King. Eventually they decide to head back to tell the others, but suddenly there comes a quake and the table is broken in two, the body of the King now missing!
The Witch dons the mane cut away from Aslan the night before (a subtle but powerful reference). As the battle begins in the morning, the lines of the good falter and fail. The Witch’s terrible beasts drive the Narnians into a general retreat toward the hills.
Back at the stone table, King Aslan reappears, not wounded, but radiant in glory, not shaved but mane aglow in splendor. He tells Susan and Lucy, “If the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she might’ve interpreted the deep magic differently; that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery is killed in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack, and even death itself will turn backwards.” Thereafter the victory is assured for the Narnians, not because the King can once again marshal his forces, but because no matter what the White Witch does to anyone, Aslan has the power to fully heal it.
This is the story of Jesus Christ. The allusions are so powerful and plentiful that anyone watching for it can see the gospel in every scene. It is the gift of redemption for all mankind which is offered freely, though the weight of this gift of eternal life is service to the one true King. Only He can perfect mankind, because only He has the power to wash away the blemishes that have stricken us all since the Garden of Eden.
You see, everything you’ve read above, every point in the other movies, are examples of mankind’s limitations. We act economically, because we can do nothing without engaging in tradeoffs. God didn’t have to trade anything. He made it all from the beginning, including the very spacetime that carries all things! We have to operate within the limitations of space and of time, because we’re physically confined. We must act violently in defense of our personal liberties, because we don’t have the power to heal the corruption of the human heart which brings threats to bear. And violence to repel violence only gets us so far; it’s a tourniquet. Even stitches leave scars.
Something intangible plagues mankind. Karl Marx thought it was social impurity; Adolf Hitler thought it was racial impurity; Joseph Stalin thought it was autocratic impurity; Osama Bin Laden thought it was religious impurity; many Western thinkers are sure it is intellectual impurity; but what is never questioned is that something impairs mankind from experiencing the joy we intrinsically know is available. We crave it, though some scientists try to tell us nothing so non-material can exist. We agonize for it, though some philosophers are sure that even material itself is an illusion!
Just look at history. The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality and at the same time the most intellectually resistant fact! (-M. Muggeridge via R. Zacharias) The problem is, man was created in the image of God and we then took the step to distort that image by worshiping it as god.
How can we set this right? How can we unsmear the painting of our souls? Can we, the paintings, equate ourselves with the artist? That’s what man did in the first place. Man looked at his perfect state and decided some things were missing. He decided it was not enough to be the image of God; he had to become God. The painting attempted to make itself into its own artist. So the image can’t repair itself. It takes the original artist to remake perfection.
The artist’s return was a man named Jesus Christ, who embodied the very person of God. He brought to us a renewed image which frees us from the bondage of distortion. The law demands perfection and we all fall short of that. But when we accept Christ, he paints over this smeared image with his own perfect example.
Don’t mistake what I am saying. God doesn’t fix the entire world at once. He fixes people individually because He left our right to make choices intact. This means there will still be hard times and the shadow of death will eventually find your body, but if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as the only way to heal the brokenness of your soul, then you will find that joy with Him and death will fall only upon your physical body. The breath of life will preserve eternity in your spirit.
You see, Edmund betrayed Aslan and though Edmund didn’t understand the cost or even recognize Aslan as King of all, Aslan submitted himself to the punishment that was due to Edmund, because only He could bear it and defeat it. God wrote the law! Mankind broke the law! Jesus fulfilled the law! And He did it for us; we wretched, foolish, scoundrels who, like Joseph Stalin on his deathbed, curse the very heavens and the God who made us and made the heavens and gave us our breath in the first place! We, the most despicable and conceited creatures imaginable, are the treasure of God when redeemed by the blood of the cross.
Allow me to note one more thing for you to think about. If you are reading this and thinking, ‘No, that’s not true, about Jesus and about man;’ ask yourself what is so wrong with any of the above-mentioned crimes against humanity? Why not be meddlesome in people’s lives? Why give them privacy? Why let them have their own emotional experience? Why let them do business? Why defend them? Why not enslave them? Why not kill them? Where did this yearning for justice come from?
C.S. Lewis set this Narnia book against a backdrop of the second World War. There is a fascinating parallel between the battles of men to do what is right in their own eyes and the spiritual war which can assist a man in greasing the lens he puts in front of his eyes. We are told these days that right and wrong is just a matter of opinion and preference. But then, can we prefer that they are not matters of opinion? No, if the truth exist at all, that existence is irrevocable and universal, else the definition of truth cannot apply to it. For the mind to exist, truth is a self-defined necessity. It must be insisted that there can be no moral foundation for liberty, but for the moral law, and there can be no moral law, but for a moral law giver.
Apart from the Old Testament, not one of those listed atrocities is wrong. Apart from the New Testament, not one of them can be rectified!
Freedom for our temporary state is important and it is a reflection of proper relationships between people. But men still die and have to face an eventual judgment for the nature of imperfection that we are all born with. Under many religions in this world, you pay for your sins and you pay and you pay and you pay. How can a good deed overcome death? The repayment of perfection with imperfection means nothing. It can’t be exact, it can’t be permanent, and it can’t absolve fully, since mankind abandoned innocence and attempted to become God. Even worse, to think that good deeds or natural goodness in yourself can redeem you from any wrongs is to call God a liar. It’s the painting telling the artist that it will decide for itself what is good and what is bad, rather than the painter himself. All the good deeds you may do, apart from the power of God, are an extension of your worship for yourself, because you are usurping the power to define what is good and what is bad.
There is one faith where you are given an unlimited gift and that gift is sufficient to wipe away all the brokenness of your soul and make you a new person. It takes the omnipotence of God through Jesus Christ to overcome the limitations of man. Freedom for now, yes, but freedom for eternity is so much sweeter.