X-men: first class opened in cinemas yesterday. Not content with being a great multi-layered summer blockbuster, X-men (as all the films have been to an extent) is a film bursting with issues and ready made discussions.
Over the next few weeks as I mull the film over, and probably go and see it again, I plan on writing some short thoughts on the film and how you could possibly explore it with your young people.
First up is the worldviews of the men who will become Professor X and Magneto.
What I found fascinating is that neither of these men were painted as good or bad. That is not what the fight is about. It is about love and anger. Charles (Prof X chooses to love humans, Erik (Magneto) chooses to hate them. Erik isn’t an evil man. We understand how he gets to decisions. Just as we understand Charles’.
Our own experiences determine what we will become.
Charles is brought up in a wealthy home and allowed to see the good side of humanity. He has everything he could ever want.
Erik and his family are Jewish. They are captured and sent to camps. Erik’s family are murdered at the hands of the Nazis. They are murdered by people who choose to label and catergorize people.
Charles’ powers are born out of study and love.
Eriks’ powers are born out of hate and anger.
We are all capable of great love and great hate. Charles had the potential to use his powers for ill just as Erik had the potential to use his powers for good. But their experiences determined the paths that they would choose.
I do not believe that people are born good or evil. I believe that the story of Adam and Eve, at the beginning of the Bible, describes how all of us, made in the image of God, have the potential to go either way.
What we listen to, who we surround ourselves with, which worldview we attach ourselves to determines what path we will choose.
I think that’s an important lesson for the young people we work with to grasp. Just last night we were studying 1 John 1 with our older teenage house group where John talks about the reality of walking in darkness and walking in light. I explained to them that my worldview affects my actions. I choose to believe that no one is born evil. We spoke about the kinds of people that they label. The ones who are mean and nasty and do not deserve our attention.
I stressed that those people are products of their environment.
The scottish BBC documentary, ‘the scheme’ has gained all sorts of notoriety because it documents the lives of a group of working class people in an area of Kilmarnock (5 minutes from where I live). It shows warts and all what life is like for some people. But what I learned from the show is that it is extremely hard to break out of the world that we are born into.
For Erik in X-men, because of how his powers were born, because of what he experienced, it was almost impossible for him change the course he was headed on. It paints the character in shades of grey, rather than black and white. And I think that is true of all of us.
What do your young people think? Are there such things as good and bad people?
As a Christian, I choose to believe that people’s paths can be changed. I choose to believe that people can be renewed. I believe that the labels that others put on us and that we put on others do not need to define us. They do not need to last forever.
“Her filthiness clung to her skirts;
she did not consider her future. ” (Lamentations 1:9)
This is brutal language. Israel is describes as a ‘whore’. She is labelled unclean. But then in chapter 2 God says this to her:
“To what can I liken you,
that I may comfort you,
Virgin Daughter Zion? ” (lamentations 2:13)
A new word has been spoken over Israel. “Virgin”. No longer a whore. The labels are no longer.
Do some of our young people need to hear that? Whatever has been said about you, however you have been labelled. God has something new to say to you. We can be renewed.
Erik’s path has been set. He has chosen the path of anger. The wide path that leads to destruction. The destruction of his humanity.
But it could all have been so different.
- Movie Review: X-Men: First Class (blogcritics.org)
- The New Magneto On The Mutant Morality Of X-Men: First Class (bleedingcool.com)
- X-Men: First Class, Witness The Origin (arkhilario.com)
A few things have been on my mind this week.
1) “Rubber”. A film about a group of viewers ‘watching’ a film about a killer tyre in ‘real life’ right in front of their eyes. They watch the film unfold in front of their eyes, comment on it but never enter into the story itself.
3) With our young people on a Sunday night, we’ve been working through the “Soul” DVD series by Christianity Explored. Last night, we looked at the cross and a couple of the young people described how hard they find it, entering into the story as it’s one they’ve heard so often.
4) A boring, lifeless communion I attended yesterday.
So, what’s the connection? I’ll look at each of them in a little more depth.
1)”Rubber”. There are lots of things going on in this movie but let me pick out one of them. The audience watches the proceedings. They comment on it but choose not to get involved. They are spectators and when there are faced with the choice of being part of ‘it’, they panic.
2)”Treme”. I love how, despite everything that they have been through, they don’t lose their spirit. They still have their marches. Music. Dance. Music is what defines them. It’s what they share together. It’s who they are, where they’ve came from and where they’re going. They want to be part of something. They don’t sit and spectate. They get involved.
3)Too often, the young people have simply been told about the Easter story. About what happened. They’ve never been given the chance to enter into it. to experience it. For it to be more than words on a page. More than something that happened two thousand years ago.
4)The communion I attended was a ritual. Now, I don’t have a problem with rituals when you can enter into them. I didn’t feel I could enter into this. It was something I wanted to enter into. There didn’t seem to be any life in it.
5)Dr Brian Cox describes with passion how we are all part of the story of the universe. We all have our part to play in the grand metanarrative.
So, there’s the connection. They are all about the choice of choosing to enter in or out of something.
More and more, I think christian youth workers (and I include myself here) are guilty of not allowing young people to enter into the story. We fill them up with facts, and rules, and theology and forget about helping them live out the story itself.
When I watch the people parading in “Treme” it makes me think, “that’s what communion should be like. that’s what the christian faith should be like”.
Beliefs are important. But beliefs are not the same things as knowledge.
So why is the church so guilty of making their service an intellectual lesson? And how can things change?
I want to help young people embrace the story. A story that transforms how they see the world and their place in it.
Dr Cox gets excited about how we are part of the universal story of the stars. he’s passionate. He’s convincing.
He wants people to step into this reality and I want the same for the young people I work with.
At Easter time, more than ever, I need to help the young people I encounter find space to forget what they know about the story and instead enter into it.
That’s what the Christian faith is about.