Tag Archives: review

X-men: First Class ‘No Such Thing as Good and Evil’

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?

Can people be changed?

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.

The book of Lamentations talks poetically about the fall of Israel. It compares the city to an adulteress.

“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.

Inception and the Power of Ideas

***SPOILER WARNING***

I could write pages and pages about the different theories and thoughts I had when watching the film but for this particular post I will focus solely on the power of ideas.

Cobb (Dicaprio’s character) explains to Ariadne (Page’s character) the power of ideas.

“What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.”

He later discusses that an idea can change who a person becomes. It affects every part of them.

Ideas are dangerous. They affect everything we do or say.

Almost two thousand years ago a man called Paul shared an idea with a church in Colossae:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Paul was transformed by an idea. The disciples were transformed by an idea. I am transformed by an idea.

It is not about words or complex theology or right intellectual understandings, but about images.

Jesus, the image of the invisible God.

In a couple of weeks I take up the post as youth worker for South Beach Baptist Church in Saltcoats. I am reminded that the young people I see will not be captivated by words or musings. They will be captivated by images. by ideas.

Ideas that transform the way they see the world. The way they act.

“An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.”

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.

What Would Jesus Say to Bruno?

In 2006 ‘Borat’ brought to light the xenophobia at the heart of America. ‘Bruno’s’ attack was a little more scattershot. Over the course of 86 minutes he took aim at celebrity culture, fame, homophobia and how Osama Bin Laden looks like a “dirty wizard”. As Tim Berroth says on “Hollywood Jesus”, it would be too easy to dismiss the film as juvenile filth (but I am sure many will). Cohen is toobruno_poster intelligent for that.

But if we can sit through the film, what else can we come away with apart from sore ribs and an off taste in our mouth?

1 Corinthians 4:5 reads,

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” Bruno seems to be doing God’s job here.

What is so alarming about the film is not the amount of screen time dedicated to Cohen’s manhood but to the dark hearts of human beings. Witness the parents who will do anything to get their children a modelling gig. Even if that means the child needs to lose ten pounds in a week. “She’ll do it”, quotes one mother. The mother is so happy when she hears the news that her child is going to be in the shoot even if that means the baby will be playing the part of a nazi officer pushing a barrel that has another child in it who will be “the jew” on their way to the gas chamber.

That when faced with homosexual PDA, a group of men and women storm the set, tossing chairs at Cohen and crying out for his blood!

That there are PR companies set up to find celebrities the “in” issue at the moment that if they campaign for will get them lots of media attention.

Justice has been served to these people. The real question is whether we should be laughing at them. If we ever needed proof that the world is slightly askew, then Bruno will do the trick.

The cult of celebrity also gets taken to town in the film as the main plot involves Bruno trying to find the best way to get famous. We live in a culture where people will do anything to be famous and this is highlighted several times by the film. Is this really what our life is meant to be about?

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

We have a God who loves us for who we are. Psalm 139 is a call to be content with who we are. ‘Bruno’ shows us how empty the pursuit of fame is.

Paul writes in Colossians 3 , ”

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

I think Paul would say today, “don’t get caught up in the fruitless pursuit of fame. God has something better in mind. Not something that constrains you, but something that frees you.”

Yes there are things in Bruno that many may find vile and offensive but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it opens our eyes to the alternative.