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 ask...is 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?