Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Book of Eli Makes the Cut


Last week, I took my wife away for an afternoon date. We watched the Book of Eli. After the movie, I spent the drive home trying to gather my thoughts about the whirlwind that is Denzel Washington, as Eli, on the big screen, a man of violence who longs for peace, a man who doesn’t “want any trouble,” but who brings trouble on all sorts of violent men, a man of simple faith in a world where nothing is simple, and faith isn’t even a memory. I spent some time processing why I was moved by this film.

Without seeking to be a spoiler, I want to mention two scenes that I think might be on my all-time favorite list:

  1. There is a scene where Eli prays over a meal. In normal circumstances, this sounds completely mundane, and unworthy of screen time. But in the ultra-barren landscape of a post-apocalyptic desert, both spiritually and verdantly, this scene almost brought me to tears. There was something so completely holy about a man, a man of violence and faith, teach a young girl, entirely post-christian, completely post-faith, how to pray to God. The prayer is one of astounding simplicity and gratitude. My own mealtime prayer carried greater weight that evening.

  1. There is one scene when Eli recites Scripture. He quotes Psalm 23 in it’s entirety. You know it, probably by heart. But you’ve not heard it in the dusty, desperate, Mad-Maxian world Eli inhabits. The hope it provides is palpable.

There were additional scenes that touched my heart…times when Eli stood honorably and un-tempted by his appetites, times when he listened to the Spirit of God leading him. He’s different, and everyone knows it.

Rarely does Hollywood produce a film that honors the Bible, rarely does it portray a man of simple faith and profound conviction. The whole movie was an incredible reminder of the POWER of the Words of God…an incredible valuing of the memorization of the Word, and reading the Word, and living the Word. In the movie Eil poured over the words of God. “I read it everyday.” Eli says simply.

I actually don’t think The Book of Eli will do well in the box-office, because it’s a paradox. While it doesn’t go completely over the Tarantino/Kill Bill line, my guess is that it’s too violent for the typical Christian movie-goer. (I anticipate some negative feedback from this post.) I want to warn you, if you thought Braveheart was too graphic, you need to skip this one. However, it’s also far too Christian for the typical agnostic, sci-fi, movie buff who went to see some standard negative-utopia film.

Friends, in all fairness, I must tell you that my wife hated this movie (not a good date choice). But I am smitten.

And here is why: I’ve got eight Bibles on my shelf in my church office. I’ve got three that I work from at my home office. I’m a guy who values the Word, who reads it daily, and who memorizes it periodically. But, the sheer value of Scripture that Eli carries. Is. Emotionally. Stirring.

And I want to value God’s Word that much.

9 comments:

John Ohman said...

Was planning on seeing it and with your review it will be sooner, thanks

Tom said...

Okay, I'll admit that I am not the one "without sin" who can cast the first stone. However, I've been reading Francis Chan's book "Crazy Love - Overwhelmed by a Relentless God" (http://crazylovebook.com/) and I'm getting my socks convicted off, so I really feel like I can't keep silent either.

I haven't seen Eli and I consciously chose not to see it after reading the Plugged In Online Review (http://www.pluggedin.com/movies/). No matter how wonderful the background message may be, I just can stomach paying for a movie where the F-bomb is tossed about and more importantly, the Lord's name is taken in vain. I've tried to never go to a movie that I wouldn't be comfortable taking my kids to. Though I've stumbled more times than I'd care to admit, the acid test for me is would I stay in the movie if Jesus was watching it with me...because He is!

Now I know Jesus did a lot of things that the "religious" people of his day didn't expect or approve of, but I can't imagine that sitting through a movie where His name is used in vain would be one of those things. I worry that in some of our striving to become "relevant" to the world, we've made ourselves irrelevant or ineffective for God. He has called us to be set apart and holy in every aspect of our lives, from our work to our relationship with Him and other people as well as our choice in entertainment.

Ephesians 5:3 says "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

There are plenty of great resources out there to make informed choices before you lay down your hard-earned dollars. Plugged In Online or ScreenIt.com will tell you exactly what you'll be seeing and hearing in the movie before you find out the hard way in front of your children.

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Phil said...

WE saw the movie.
I agree with you.
Patti agrees with Jodi.

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Anonymous said...

Oh Mike thank you for doing what Teddy Roosevelt said in th epoem I snet when the emails were flooding your soul with overwhelming criticism..."It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Mike Paddy said...

Anonymous was me....Praying for you, Mike...

-rev said...

"I became all things to all men that by all means some might be saved." I believe when Paul wrote those words, he wrote them in the context of a world that would not understand nor value what is to be valued and appreciated, the truth of God's word.

Violence is part of Christianity's history recorded in scripture. A fictional novel that presents a future of similar sadness should not be condemned or prohibited on the basis of its images of violence, when violence is a necessary part of the story.

Moreover, to portray or illustrate the evil of a world in ways that people can understand, you speak to them on a level that they can relate to. The world in which Eli lives is a world in which the desires of the flesh are in completely control of mankind, save for a few and Eli. This is truly a world without God. It is the ultimate fate of man's depravity unchecked by the Spirit.

God's word never returns void. There will be fruit from this film like it or not. Like Paul knew Pagan myths and ideas that he might be able to when the pagan, Christians must be equipped to use the culture for the good of the gospel. "The book of Eli" is a high point for our secular culture, and instead of condemning the thing to hell, it would serve the Kingdom better to allow to be just another means to win some to Christ.

Holiness never intends for you to separate yourself from within the culture, but that you separate the culture from within you. While we witness to the sexual immoral, we refrain from sexual immorality. While we witness to the drunkard, we abstain from his drink. While we withhold our hand from striking our enemy, we witness to the unmerciful and unjust. Learning and studying the culture for the Kingdom better equips you to interact and use the culture to bring others to the Kingdom. Thus, be cautious with your condemnation and any step towards God is a step to be encouraged. Discouraging such makes the church look hypocritical.

Surplus Titanium said...

I am going to rent this movie as your review was very convincing.