Films That Preach

Not so much now, but in yesteryear and yesterdecade, I enjoyed sharing films as a church ministry, calling it “Theology of the Movies.” In these films I would look for a “Christ Figure,” one [or many more] in the movie who recognized people in trouble and liberated them from the controlling and in some cases, the emotional imprisoning of their lives. You can probably name films that did that for you…or identified a situation where someone was in a “box” that kept them from living more fully.

The first film which comes to mind and it’s in my top FIVE is “The Graduate.” Benjamin, time and again was in a box, that in the end included a school bus and a cross wedged on a church door keeping people inside or coming in. And he learned that “plastics” wasn’t in his future and looking into the box of the small aquarium didn’t prescribe his future.

The second on my top 5 is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Randle Patrick McMurphy set the mental hospital patients [read that, inmates] free. Going into the ocean to fish? Ah, salvation in my heart. And evil more than lurked in Nurse Ratchet…who really was a Pharisee who controlled and only functioned at her best [as she self-defined herself] when co-dependence prevailed…on her terms. I always wondered how Louise Fletcher’s life faired after that film. And. It’s not possible for me to see Jack Nicholson anywhere [including a Chicago Bulls game getting his signature] and not see him trying to lift that enormous water table! He didn’t, but the line is never forgotten as he left the room, looking back, “At least I tried, dammit. At least I did that!” When Chief leaped through the window…ah, a moment of liberation. I could go on and on, but won’t. Although I don’t run into enough McMurphy’s today and do see too many Rachet’s. That name is well chosen…it is a wrench that only turns one way.

I also like “E.T.” When I saw it, ET became a Christ Figure. It inspired me that summer long ago. I even shared why I thought ET reflected, at least, a Christ Spirit. Joe Barber, a weekly columnist of the Colorado Springs Gazette, over two fingers Pinch scotch thought the comparison was a curious idea, so wrote a column before the August Sunday I planned to preach on ET. It got attention, because we set up more chairs in worship than for any Easter. Didn’t do that the next Sunday…or the rest of the year…until Christmas Eve. But, that’s life in the church for most of us.

Yesterday I followed a Yahoo column asking a bunch of questions about “Shawshank Redemption,” probably my all-time favorite. I could see it ad infinitum, even if I memorized the script [which I won’t] it captivated me. Good and Evil. And. Some of the lines…never to be forgotten…not all G rated. But, that’s all right. I’ve never appreciated Morgan Freeman [Ellis Boy “Red” Redding] or Tim Robbins [Andy Dufresne] as much as in that movie. It hit home…and the notions were beyond valued. Often, especially when listening to others bemoan their lives and circumstance…not without my own happenstance that echoes there…I share the quote when Andy says, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

More valued quotes and then I’ll sign off:

Red: I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, that place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

Andy: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

And then this dialogue with a personal sign to end:

Andy: You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?
Red: No
Andy: They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory. [Andy escapes prison to seek his warm place with no memory.]
Red: I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement on a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in in my dreams. I hope. [Red is finally released…and seeks his dream.]

And then this on a picture in Cannon Beach, Oregon, with the Pacific Ocean lapping on the shore: HOW MUCH DO I LOVE YOU? ….COUNT THE WAVES….


About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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