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Archive for the ‘Bruce Almighty’ Category

Ever since the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres in France was completed in the early 13th century, sunlight streams through its windows and bathes the worshippers at Mass in glorious technicolor.

Each of the three stained glass rose windows tells a different story. The one on the north transept shows the Glorification of the Virgin. The one on the south portrays the Glorification of Christ, while the one on the west front depicts The Last Judgment.

For the first visitors to the Cathedral, the windows were an artistic portrayal of inspirational stories, whose messages of sacrifice, good works, repentance and love enriched their lives outside of the church.

These windows (and the beautiful examples in our local churches) continue to inspire us to this day.

But thanks to modern technology, we have many more media formats in the 21st century through which inspiration touches our lives. Readers of this column know that one of our favorite formats is film.

Robert K. Johnston writes in his book Reel Spirituality that “film has the power to disturb and to enlighten, to make us more aware of both who we are and what our relationship with others could be. It can even usher us into the presence of the holy.”

Some films were created specifically to be inspirational stories of faith:

> A young French shepherd girl holds fast to what she saw, heard and believes, despite the ridicule of her family and the townspeople. (Song of Bernadette)

> An Olympic runner refuses to run on Sunday, but runs on another day, saying “I believe God made me for a purpose…but he also made me fast. When I run, I feel his pleasure. (Chariots of Fire)

> A non-Italian cardinal is elected pope and takes drastic measures to feed the starving people of the world and diffuse the growing threat of nuclear war between two superpowers (The Shoes of the Fisherman)

> A widow and her son offer gentle help and heartfelt words to a recovering alcoholic country music singer, helping him reclaim his life and advance his career. (Tender Mercies)

Other films, while not specifically stories of faith, have scenes that mirror the choices we have to make every day.

> When it is clear that Lord Voldemort has returned, Professor Dumbledore tells Harry that “dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must make the choice between what is right and what is easy.” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

> In the heat of battle, Luke Skywalker realizes that his anger serves the wrong purpose. He regains his peaceful composure, throws away his light saber, and tells the Emperor “I’ll never turn to the Dark Side…I’m a Jedi, like my father.” (Star Wars VI – Return of the Jedi)

Movies can also be metaphors for classic themes (good vs. evil, individual vs. establishment) or for contemporary issues. Consider a film currently in theaters Evan Almighty, starring Steve Carrell.

In this film, Carrell reprises his weatherman role from Bruce Almighty and wins election to Congress. But his wife and three sons recognize Congressman Evan as the same old Dad, who brings work home and never has time for them. Late one night, Evan learns that his wife has prayed that they grow closer as a family. Evan also decides to pray, asking God for help to fulfill his campaign promise to “change the world.”

God listens and asks Evan to build an ark in the middle of his subdivision. God makes the clear distinction that he is not answering Evan’s prayer by changing the world, but that he is giving Evan the opportunity (along with a large supply of gopher wood and the necessary hand tools) to change the world himself.

evan-almighty.gifStill, it’s up to Evan to make the right choice and do what is necessary, even at the risk of losing his job, his family and the respect of his community.

The film becomes a metaphor for the internal conflicts we experience when making a choice in our lives. Do we follow God’s way or the path we want? Evan Almighty also explores the themes of man’s improper use of the Earth’s resources, the misuse of legislative power for personal financial gain, and the influence that Biblical stories should have on our lives and the operations of our government.

Films can inspire us to lead better lives, to respect others and make good choices that affect the lives of our family, friends and even our planet.

In The Lord of the Rings films, we see Frodo’s courage and hear from Galadriel that “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Imagine what we could do for our planet if we combine that sentiment with the suggested energy-saving measures in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

We truly could change the world.

CF
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First published in the July 13, 2007 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2007 Christopher Fenoglio
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Purchase from Amazon.com:
> The Song of Bernadette

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Keep in the middle of the road. – Negro spiritual
According to news reports, last Monday (Jan. 23) was the gloomiest day of 2006.

With dreary weather, letdowns from the joyous holidays, the realization that you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolution and the mail delivery of December credit card bills, many folks would feel overwhelmed and depressed.

In these times of despair, it’s very easy to think how things could be different if only some good fortune came your way. A new job, more money, a new . . . something to make your life better than the way it is now.

Yet, there’s always a catch – the grass only seems greener on the other side of the fence. What you imagine to be a better situation usually turns out to have its own set of problems.

It’s like switching lanes, in traffic or at the store. Ever notice how the first lane you were in moves quicker after you leave it? You’re better off staying put and seeing your temporary setbacks through to the end.

Reporter Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) never wanted to stay put in the film Bruce Almighty. Despite a television reporting career that often made viewers laugh and smile, Bruce wanted more. He wanted an important job that would give him more prestige, money and power.

BruceAfter he is bypassed for the news anchor position, Bruce challenges God (Morgan Freeman) and proclaims that he could do a better job. God decides to let him prove it by giving Bruce all His powers and makes him responsible for everyone’s prayers.

For a while, Bruce is flying high with his new powers and gets everything he wants. He creates favorable traffic patterns, he sabotages his co-worker to get the anchor job, and he even successfully trains his dog.

But this new high doesn’t last forever. He gets overwhelmed with answering prayers and his quick solution to give everyone what they want just causes more problems.

Bruce only finds happiness when he understands how his work brings joy to other people and when he truly listens to the needs of his girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Anniston). Bruce journeys from the highs of almighty powers back to a happy middle of the road.

Conversely, George Bailey experiences a similar journey in It’s a Wonderful Life, but one that hits bottom first before returning to a happy middle ground.

Wonderful LifeAfter George (Jimmy Stewart) accepts responsibility for Uncle Billy’s misplacement of the $8,000, he decides that everyone would be better off if they could collect $15,000 from his life insurance policy. After Clarence (Angel 2nd Class) visits and tries to steer him away from suicide, George ultimately decides that it would have been best if he had never been born.

But as he soon finds out, the world is a lot worse without the influence of George Bailey. Without him, Mr. Gower poisons a boy and spends twenty years in jail. Harry Bailey dies from drowning in an icy pond and dozens of soldiers die from an air raid of a military transport. The charming town of Bedford Falls becomes a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah called Pottersville. Even the loving heart of Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) withers from inactivity – no husband, no home, no children to nourish, cherish and enjoy.

George finally realizes that his life is worth living, even if he has to go to jail. He’d rather live his middle-class life with his loving family, friends and all his troubles than live without them. As his brother Harry toasts the final scene, George is “the richest man in town” because of all of his friends and the good that he does in his life.

No matter what your life situation is, everyone experiences emotional highs and lows. How well we respond to both ends of the emotional roller coaster says a lot about our character and our faith. Of course there’s always room for improvement, for we are only human. We can always work to be more Christ-like.

But life in the middle is good, for it keeps us connected to our family, friends and a merciful God who loves us for who we are today.

There’s a song in the middle of the film White Christmas that Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) sings to Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) when she has trouble sleeping. “When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all, and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”

Here’s to a happy 2006. May you always find happiness in the blessings God has given you.

CF
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First published in the January 27, 2006 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2006 Christopher Fenoglio.

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