According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, May 5, 2014

Noah - A Man Marked by the Loss of God but Able to Return to the World Where God Is


Noah: Aronofsky on Obsession, Madness and Loss

by Peter Rollins
April 1, 2014

With the financial success of films like God’s Not Dead and Son of Man, alongside the fact that other religious movies are being feverishly produced, 2014 has been christened “year of the bible” in Hollywood.

The first big budget film of the year that aims to cash in on this relatively untapped religious market is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. At first blush it can be read as little more than a cynical Hollywood attempt to tap into a new monetary vein while still sucking from the one that’s fed them thus far. Offer up the relatively safe mix of eye-popping CGI, highly choreographed battles, and simple emotional motivations to appeal to the average moviegoer, while wooing the faithful with a literalistic retelling of a biblical story.

Indeed it seem like the next logical step following the success that came from the producers of Superman, who created a series of sermons based on the film. Sermons written especially so that evangelical leaders could preach from the pulpit about how spiritual it was.

Yet, if this was the motivation of the producers, then it quickly becomes evident that Aronofsky outsmarted them by effectively building a Trojan horse out of the big budget blockbuster format so as to smuggle in a subversive and religiously disturbing content.

The exquisite scandal of Noah becomes clear when one views it in light of Aronofsky’s directorial debut, the darkly mesmerizing Pi. For while Noah is indeed Aronofsky’s first big budget film, it is his second cinematic exploration of the link between religious obsession and madness.

In Pi, the protagonist’s unrelenting drive for a formula that will unlock the secrets of the universe is revealed to be nothing less than a search for the name of God, a search that ends up in his mental and physical breakdown. In Noah, the protagonist undergoes a similar mental collapse when attempting to remain true to his divine call. While both films offer up different conclusions they each share the same fundamental theme.

It’s hard to miss the similarities that exist between Aronofsky’s Noah and Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. For in both a deeply literal and faithful reading of a biblical event is employed to explore a monstrous horror embedded within it. For Kierkegaard; Abraham and Isaac. For Aronofsky; Noah and the flood.

It’s not surprising then that the religious market has broadly rejected the film even though it seems to support their cause. The problem for a religious believer is not that it fails to be literal enough, but that its very literalism uncovers a disturbing truth: that too close a relation to the Other results in a form of madness and death.

Just as Abraham and Isaac are a type of cipher for Kierkegaard, so to is Noah for Aronofsky. In Fear and Trembling we must take a step back from the text in order to see that this is in fact a deeply personal book in which he is wrestling with his love for Regina: the woman who owns his heart, and yet who remains, of necessity, forever distant. Regina stands in for the ultimate object of Kierkegaard’s desire, she is a sun that enslaves him in an impossible orbit, an orbit that prevents him from spinning into space or crashing into the flames (in a painfully poetic way this proximate distance continues to play out even in death, for Kierkegaard is buried just across the way from where Regina lies with her husband).

In the same way it is possible to perceive in Noah a very personal wrestling with what it means to obsessively love something, while maintaining a distance from it.

Psychoanalytically speaking, one might say that Noah is then dealing with the incestuous temptation to transcend the barrier separating us from the desire of The Thing (that Other which we want more than life itself). The choices we have in the face of this temptation being either to (i) break through the prohibition and succumb to a form of death, or (ii) accept the barrier and live with an insatiable sense of loss.

Theologically speaking Noah (alongside Pi) can be read as cinematic expressions of Radical Theology, for Radical Theology can be said to precisely contend with the problematic of separation and loss from The Thing. Structurally speaking then, both Noah and Pi can be read as complex cinematic narratives exploring the consequences of getting too close to the object of our desire.

While Pi has a more radical, and pessimistic, conclusion, Noah offers us some hope. For as Noah is finally able to lay down his obsessive desire, and enter into the play of interpretation, he begins to heal. He is ultimately successful in separating himself from his incestuous desire to be a mouthpiece for his God and is reborn as a man marked by a loss, yet able to return once more to his family and to the everyday concerns of being in the world.

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