Tag Archives: moses

Thin Places in “The Cabin in the Woods”

This is now my fourth post dissecting the film, “Cabin in the Woods“.

You can read the others here, here and here.

For a film I rated three stars, it really has taken up a lot of my time. And I always knew that would be the case.

What the film tries to do is be a dissertation on horror movies whilst still being a horror movie itself. I think Joss Whedon (co-writer) and Drew Goddard (co-writer/director) do an amiable job and I praise them for taking a shot at something really different but like a dissertation paper, it all feels a little too academic.

In my previous posts I discussed the connection between the film and the concept of the atonement and its connection with ‘the hunger games’. In this post I wish to discuss the film and its connect with the theology of ‘thin places’. Like all the previous posts, this will contain SPOILERS.

A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.

There are numerous accounts in the Old Testament where Heaven seems to invade earth. One of the most famous is when Moses encounters God in a bush in Exodus chapter 3. In the Jewish tradition, Moses built a tabernacle that claimed to hold the very presence of God. Later, King Solomon built a Temple (a large scale tabernacle) where it was believed that, in the very centre of the temple (the holy of holies), Heaven invaded earth. The Priest could enter through the curtain and come face to face with the living God. When Jesus was crucified, the gospels record that the curtain was torn in two as a sign that Heaven has now broken out on earth.

There have been times in my own life, where like Moses, it felt like the ground I stood on was holy. That in that moment I encountered another world; that for a brief second i was able to, as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth,

“fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I believe that the mythology of “Cabin in the Woods” also includes this concept. The cabin is the ‘thin place’ where the physical world and the spiritual world collide. It is where the doors open and the creatures and beasts of the spiritual world are unleashed into the physical world. The film conveys that there are ‘thin places’ all over the world where these two worlds collide.

In the film, only ‘Marty’ realises that the cabin is a ‘thin place’. The rest are oblivious. I believe that in our own lives, we can be so focused on the day to day things that we miss the thin places in our lives.  Jesus talk his disciples to prayYour Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.

In that simple prayer, he was showing the disciples that they need to take their eyes off of their lives and open themselves up to the bigger picture. It’s the same with us. If we focus all our attention on our own lives then we miss out on what God is doing, and in some way prevent the Kingdom of Heaven from expanding. There are times when instead of advancing the Kingdom of Heaven, through our words and actions we actually advance the dominion of Hell. When we lie, cheat, steal, horde and oppress, we force the Kingdom of Heaven to retreat.

Here are some questions to explore with the young people you work with who have seen the film?

1) Have you ever encountered a ‘thin place’ where there seemed to be more going on that what you could see? Where things felt differently?

2) What stops you encountering these places more often?

3) What can we do practically to see the Kingdom of Heaven spread wider?

 

Jesus was an atheist…and we should be too!

The title’s a little sensationalist and exploitative. I know. But bear with me.

Jesus was an atheist! I believe that.

But not in the way we understand atheism today.

Traditional atheism is understood as someone choosing not to believe in a particular representation of God.

The new atheists (not a term I came up with) Dawkins, Hitchens et al, are rejecting particular forms of theism (belief in God). For example the belief in a creator God or a God who interacts with humans. Not the concept of God itself.

“atheism, at its best, is always provisional- meaning that it is always limited to a particular expression of belief.”

So, in a traditional understanding of atheism, Jesus was an atheist.

He rejected the Pharisees understanding of who God is. He rejected the Roman’s understanding of who God is.

Anyone with a faith in a particular understanding of God is an atheist because in order to believe in one understanding, we must reject others.

I am an atheist towards fundamentalist understandings of God.

I am an atheist towards a God who condemns those to eternal punishment because of a different understanding of God. A God who encourages picketers at gay soldiers’ funerals. A God who oppresses women, children, homosexuals, other faiths etc.

But let me push things a little further.

Rather than simply be atheists towards the understandings of God that we disagree with, we should be atheists towards any conception of God that takes the place of God.

In Exodus 20, the second commandment declares that we should not make an image of God. We should not bow to any description of God that claims to be the absolute authority of God. This is key to the Judeo-Christian faith.

Yes, we can reflect on the experiences of God that we have encountered personally and in the person of Jesus and help the young people we work with to experience this God but to claim that we have the absolute truth of God would be idolatrous.

Once we understand this, we can, as peter rollins suggests, ” stop arguing about God and…dedicate our lives to being the manifestation of God”.

 

Moses VS Kick-Ass

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

Pretty harsh words don’t you think?

Maybe there’s another way to look at it.

There has already been much discussion about the character of Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass” and whether it is right that a twelve year old girl should be portrayed in that way. Surely giving a girl a gun is dangerous? Well yes, it is. But I think that’s the point.

Big Daddy is hell bent on revenge. The gangster Frank D’Amico took everything from him. And he wants payback. His way of getting this is by training his little girl into the perfect killing machine.

In the context of the exodus passage, Big Daddy has committed idolatry. He has taken on the role of God and in seeking revenge is ultimately saying that he thinks God isn’t doing his job. God should have punished this man. But he didn’t. So now I must. He has replaced God with vengeance and his whole life is ordered around it. He eats, sleeps and breathes revenge.

And in doing so he has robbed his little girl of a childhood. Her innocence has been taken away. This is how I believe the exodus passage is worked out.

I believe we have evolved from the primitive view of a vengeful God who punishes anyone who steps out line. Jesus showed us that.

The punishment that is dealt out for Big Daddy’s sin is that his child no longer gets to be a child. Her playfulness and innocence have been stolen.

The text points to a truth in how the world works. It’s not about God punishing people. There is a natural cycle to everything and if we fall out of the right cycle, then it will come back to punish us.

Take for example a drug addict or alcoholic. Why is it that children of drug addicts or alcoholics are more likely to follow in their parents footsteps? We are connected spiritually to our parents and if they choose to live destructively and turn drugs into idols, filling their lives with them, shaping their lives around them, then that punishment will come our way in one shape or another.

Salvation is the only way to break that cycle. We need freedom from that. We need a freedom that tells us we don’t need to follow the path of our parents. It sometimes doesn’t even have anything to do with our parents. There are young people I work with who are stuck in a cycle because of where they live and the friends they hang around with.

SPOILER ALERT. In the film, Kick-Ass is the salvation that Hit Girl needs. He frees her from the shackles of revenge and allows her to live a normal teenage life (for now).

Are there ways we are living right now that are off kilter? Are there things that we do and say that need to be dealt with so that that cycle of punishment is broken? Are there people are know that are trapped in that cycle? Will you be the salvation that they need?

Maybe that verse isn’t so harsh after all.