Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Justice and Mercy

One of the best movies ever made must be "The Gods Must Be Crazy".Have you ever seen it?

I haven't seen this movie in a couple of years, but even now, sitting in my livingroom, I remember that my Dad introduced my brother and I to it. And I can still hear him laughing. And I'm still laughing, too. But now, there's a new element...theology.

First we meet the little Bushman and his family, and their idyllic life. They have no technology, thus live only according to the law of nature; because there is nothing else to disrupt that. It is the introduction of technology, in the form of an empty coke bottle, that throws their lives into an uproar, and, in theological terms, reveals the reality of original sin. Human nature, being what it is, turns their world nasty in a hurry when there is something to cause division.

So he goes off on a quest to rid his family of the "evil thing" that has brought such strife to their little society.

Next we meet the young woman who is sick of technology and just looking for a little simplicity. She was raised in a sterile concrete world, far from the earthy reality that she is seeking. That leads her to Botswana to become a teacher. You must that a GOOD idea?

And we meet the Biologist and his buddy, the Mechanic. The biologist, working on his PhD thesis, is quite intelligent and well spoken...until he is in the presence of a lady. And the mechanic...well, he is the trash-talking guy who would be comedy relief, but ends up being an anchor in a world suddenly turned ridiculous.

Have I mentioned that I love this movie? I love how the little Bushman approaches the world with unwavering logic, and suffers as a result of his matter-of-fact perspective. My budding theological mind has suddenly grasped a concept of justice and mercy which has, previous to this, gone unrecognized.

Those of you who have seen this movie will remember the following part: the Bushman, on his great quest to rid himself and his family of the Evil Thing, comes across a herd of goats. He's never seen goats before, but they look tasty enough, so he goes about the process of catching his dinner. It's the most natural thing in the world!

The shepherd boy shouts at him in an untelligible language much like monkeys or squirrels. So the Bushman simply waves, smiles, and tells him he will share the feast with him. After all...he can't eat it all and his way of life would dictate that he share his repast even with those he does not understand. It's all very simple. His is a very generous and hospitable soul, and he knows nothing but humility. I can tell you that, if I was greeted in this manner, even if I didn't understand what he was saying, I'd be drawn into sitting at his fire. The Bushman just exudes such a spirit of welcoming, even in the face of what is considered to be an illegal act; and it is his very innocence that causes the juxtaposition between it and a crime of civilization.

Instead, the shepherd boy is very rude and runs (bikes, actually) away, and gets the police. The Bushman is building a fire when the police arrive with the boy, and since there are more guests, he welcomes them, smiling, not moving. According to the natural law to which he is accustomed, he is doing nothing wrong. So it makes no sense to him when the cop picks up the goat and throws it on top of the truck; the Bushman thinks that the man is very rude and greedy. So he takes the next logical step...and tells them that now he will have to shoot another goat so that he can eat. He sees no conflict with having to hunt again so that he can eat; he's only shocked at the rudeness of what he sees as he guests.

Well, for his logic, he is shot and imprisoned, and can't eat. He's extremely compliant, polite, and docile to what is happening to him. His innocence is so excruciating!

And in the scene where he sat in his cell, staring out the window, I cried to myself, "This isn't justice!"

The bumbling biologist and the trash-talking mechanic (who speaks the bush language, which is a series of clicks), agree. This is not justice. This little guy is going to die in such captivity. It is contrary to his dignity as a human being. He was not created to sit in prison, and really, has committed no crime. Not according to natural law. Not according to his understanding of the world. This is a very law-abiding citizen of the world, if he only knew the rules.

Now enter the theology...that's exactly how God sees us. There are those who are given a great deal, and with that gift comes amazing responsiblity, and understanding, and, unfortunately, tendency to pride. Then we have those who have been given little, but in their smallness and their poverty, they are so wealthy! This is the Bushman and his family. Their simplicity is, in actuality, great wealth!

From the Christian perspective, certainly, the Bushman is a pagan. After all...he is talking about gods and giving an evil thing back to them! Yet, he and his family are living according to a very natural, peaceful law, which does not interject themselves between they and God. There is no contraception. There are no tools. There is no technology, and no need for a president or political system. It is them in their corner of the world, not even knowing that other people exist. In the movie, the Bushman's first meeting with other people makes him think they are gods.

It is the "civilized" world that brings such a man to a jury trial and sentences him to what is equal to or worse than death. When taking his experience and understanding into perspective, is it proper to sentence such a person according to laws written for "civilization"?


This is how God sees all of us! We are held responsible for that which we understand and which has been taught to us. If a pagan bushman who lived a life according to what we see as Christian principles, but devoid of the name of Jesus (for lack of knowing who He is) dies, would God truly reject him from His divine presence? Is that justice? No! That is not justice. As the words of Our Lord indicate, if, we, who are sinful, know what to give our own children, does God not know what to give us?

So, if we, as sinners, can recognize such injustice, can we not understand that God has a much greater understanding than we do? If we can see that injustice exists in this situation here on earth, how does that influence how we understand the judgment God subjects all of humanity to at the time of our death?

I believe that pagan bushmen will enter Heaven before people like you and I will. Jesus himself said this very thing.

Justice takes circumstances into account. Justice cannot exist devoid of Mercy, and Jesus Himself has taught us this. God Himself revealed this to us through the Old Testament....for all those out there crying for "Justice", if they were faced with Justice devoid of Mercy, they'd be crying ONLY for Mercy. True Mercy cannot exist without Justice, and Justice cannot exist without Mercy.

And neither exists without Reason.

Reason was not applied in the case of the goat-killing bushman. Thus, there was neither Justice or Mercy.

This movie is a great one for philosophical and theological minds. I'd love to watch this movie with a Biblical Anthropologist, a Theologian, and a Philosopher. I'd supply the wine and cheese (or pizza and beer, etc.) just to sit on the side, listen, and take notes!

I'd also love to watch it with someone versed in Theology of the Body. Take the prissy teacher (Kate), for example. On one hand, while she's understandably (and quite wisely) on guard, at the same time, she also seems to be terrified of dirt and willing to accept the role of "damsel in distress" even in the presence of the man she considers to be a threat. (The bumbling biologist). And when he trips and throws her into the water, while she still tries to hang on to this model, she rapidly realizes that it's better just to realize she's suddenly become a part of an unplanned wet t-shirt contest that no one is watching, sucks it up and, with great irritation, gets on with the business of surviving in the African bush.

The poor bumbling biologist is actually the nice guy, a very unlikely hero, and has the UTMOST respect for women. Such that, when he is called to literally rescue the lady, he is faced with his worst fears...actual contact with her! And he has to save her from a plant which has no regard for her modesty. Which leads him to have to assist her out of the "fallen" (in the biblical sense) plant. Even though she is in only her underwear, she demands that he "not look", so he finds that he has to resolve her problem through glances at where the plant has caught her, while avoiding actually gazing upon her. His embarassement is palpable. And as a woman, I can say that HER embarassment is palpable also to me.

To add to the plot, she thinks he has previously come on to her in a major way, likely feels she is at risk of being raped. And this poor guy doesn't even want to be there! He has no interest in doing anything but showing the lady respect...and he does anything but. Because he is a klutz surrounded by weird circumstances.

I could go on, but suspect that in the last few days, I have bored my regular readers. And I further suspect I'm boring you all now. If you're still reading, that is.

But I REALLY hope I have not bored you all out of watching this movie. These days there aren't a lot of movies rellly worth watching. But this one is worth it. It's a good clean movie with lots of topics for discussion, no matter what your viewpoint or affiliation.

Maybe I should watch it again in a year and see how else it could be theologized?

NAH! Sometimes a good movie is just a good movie.

"The Gods Must Be Crazy", though...that one's great for simple entertainment AND intellectual discussions.

Anyone...your thoughts on this movie?


Anonymous said...

It would be worth watching..thanks for the review..

Sarah said...

OK, so now I've added it to the ever-growing list of movies I must see (not being such movie fanatics 'round here). And when you say you'd love to see it with someone who's versed in TOB...well, tell ya what, I'll head to Minnesota and if you can forgive that I've just READ TOB and that I'm not an EXPERT, then we'll watch the movie together and munch popcorn, eat steak, sip good wine, cuddle a baby, and talk-talk-TALK! :)

Adoro te Devote said...

MJP ~ It is absolutely worth watching! This movie is a South African-made movie, I believe, and is just hilariously funny, but with dimensions to it that go beyond simple entertainment. I think you would enjoy it.

Sarah ~ Come on up! I'll stock up on steak and wine and cheese, and anything else we might need! Bring the babies!

Adrienne said...

I first have to see Into Great Silence.

Adoro - you haven't been boring me but you have guilted me 'cause I haven't started back to the gym yet:(

Melody said...

Adoro, I've never seen it, but it sounds like a great movie. We'll have to rent it. This afternoon my hubby and I are going to see "P.S. I Love You". Hopefully it will be good.
Adrienne, I got "Into Great Silence" from one of my sons for Christmas. I haven't seen it yet, because I want to be in the proper frame of mind (i.e. not in a hurry!).

uncle jim said...

it has been a long time since i saw "the gods..."
now i'm gonna have to see it again.
i may be born again and have new eyes with which to see.
or will i have to practice 'averting' my eyes
you women might not understand that as much as men who try to practice it ... and often fail.

Adoro said...

Adrienne and Melody ~ I got "Into Great Silence" back last October when it was first released, and while I enjoyed it, I was not in the proper mindset for it. I do recommend that you be in a very meditative mood otherwise you'll just find yourself sleeping or moving on to other things.

uncle jim ~ Believe you me, I know about averting eyes. But you know, that movie isn't bad. There's no actual nudity (save for the bushmen family in the beginning, and there's NOTHING sexual about that!) And the lady caught in the bush in only her underwear, which covers more than a lot of swimsuits do today! It's not a bad scene, but the embarassment of both parties is palpable. And understandable!

If you have Comcast, it's in the free movies section of "On Demand".

ignorant redneck said...

As far as the movie goes--

I wanna throw my own "coke bottle" off a cliff!

uncle jim said...

well, i did it this eve - i hooked up with comcast on demand freebies and watched this strange movie - i have no idea what the message was when they made it - your version was much more interesting

Adoro te Devote said...

IR ~ Me, too, sometimes!

Uncle Jim ~ You may want to do a google search for movie reviews. There's still a few good ones out there that are still accessable. Rotten Tomatoes has a few, but most have been pulled by now. And I think I found reviews elsewhere, too. That may help you see the movie's intention.

I watched this movie when I was about 15 or so, I think, and it's always been hilarious to me. The comedy of errors, the average everyday people that are drawn together through simple circumstances. And of course, the evil terrorists that thicken the plot.

I liked the fact that this movie mixes things that are serious with the comedic actions/drama of life. And throw in the little bushman who knows only a natural law...LOL! That's where you have to discern the lack of Justice in a system that is supposed to bring justice to the people. And see that a crime on the books isn't necessarily a crime. And there's no relativism in that...just room for mercy to temper justice.

There I go, getting philosophical again. Tell you what...if I ever make it out that direction, we can watch this movie and discuss it as it goes, talking it to the theological/philosophical level.

Oh my goodness, what a geek I am!

Woodrow said...

I read this post on Saturday (but not the comments) then went to visit my parents. They have a TV (I don't) with Comcast, and I looked throrugh the free movies and found "The Gods..." My niece and I cracked up through the whole thing. I saw this movie about ten years ago and had forgotten how hilarious it is. Also, as a Catholic, I'm well able to appreciate the theological points you brought up. As an Evangelical, I'd have rejected any hope of this man's salvation unless he heard the Gospel and accepted it. Of course, I hope everyone on the planet does hear, believe, and obey the Gospel, but I'm glad to know God made it possible for those who've never heard the Name of Jesus to spend eternity with Him.