Spotlight, Outsiders & Church

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Not enough has been written about the role of Liev Schreiber and his role in spotlight. Yes Ruffalo is great, Keaton outstanding and Tucci wonderfully manic in their roles but Liev Schreiber for me was the key role.

Schreiber plays Marty Baron the new boss of the Boston Globe. He is an outsider. His non interest in sports is the first red flag thrown in the film never mind his Jewish faith background in a city dominated by the Catholic church.  This however is the key to Baron he is not like the others and by being an outsider he does not hold the same ideals in relation to the church. While others on the Spotlight team profess to be ‘lapsed’ or ‘non-practicing’ it is the difference that drives him on. He does not hold the church in the same regard and therefore encourages the team to investigate the allegations when the team has reservations.

The outsider holds the key.

So what of the church today? How comfortable are we with the outsider?

How comfortable are we when someone not like us enters ‘our world’ and points out our flaws?

I saw a quote this week that got me thinking

“…we know when we are really preaching and living the way of Jesus because it’s the Christians that are often most offended….”

– David Capener

All too often, when challenged,  offence becomes the go to reaction. Outsiders are not afraid to let us within the church know when we aren’t getting it right. Yet we often take it badly. Offence is so often the go to feeling. Often that is because the truth is uncomfortable. The truth will push us outside our comfort zones.

Personally I’d rather be outside my comfort zone that have my faith stagnate. Without the challenges from outsiders my faith becomes a pointless character accessory that can be reduced to a social media bio point or degraded to a meaningless hashtag.

The outsiders are vital.

We are called to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner.

Yet when we are called on it we become uncomfortable.

We need the outsiders.

They might understand Jesus better than we claim to.

 

 

 

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Room: Innocence lost to wider horizons

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Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is a stunning piece of work. Revolving around the story of Jack (Jacob Tremblay) & Ma (Brie Larson) this tale is simultaneously harrowing and uplifting and will surely be in most end of year polls for film of the year.

Continuing 2016’s cinematic theme of overcoming the odds (which I have previously blogged about) Room is the story of mother and son escaping imprisonment and returning to ‘normality’ and the embrace of their family.

The key to the film is  Trembelay in the role of Jack. He is the hero of the piece and the reason for Ma’s desire to escape. It is Jack who, having known nothing else but Room his entire life, adapts best to the outside world. Ma struggles with the new reality, her family struggle with their guilt over what happened and yet Jack endures.

Jack is the one who arguably has the most to overcome. Everything he knew is blown away once he escapes Room. Sky, trees, dogs, other people all are new and all are to be explored. He has the most to overcome and yet he shows the courage and heart to change.

There is something within us as humans that can adapt, change, evolve to whatever circumstances we encounter. It is important to acknowledge that this occurs at differing speeds for all of us but we all have the capacity if we are so minded.

Recently I have been challenged in my faith by many different things. Podcasts, books, conversations with friends. As I wrestle with what my faith is about and what my understanding of who or what God is these new elements have been very useful.

It’s far to dramatic to describe what I’m experiencing as a deconstruction of my faith. I haven’t lost anything. I may have changed my thinking on certain issues but to my mind this is not loss but gain.

I’m grateful for the new voices I have encountered. I’m thankful for their influence and their input into who I am becoming.

For too long my faith has been held within a small compact Room-like space. It’s time to go bigger than that and step out into the unknown.

 

Some podcasts I have been listening to recently that I’ve given reference to above:

The RobCast

HomeBrewed Christianity

Freestyle Christianity

Revolution Church

 

 

The Revenant, church, exit & entry point

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Ok so a disclaimer to begin.

This will be my last post on The Revenant for a while I promise. I can’t help it, this film has got under my skin in a way that not many have in the last few years. The density, the spectacle, the cinematic wonder it really is a special piece of work. Even in January it will take something really special for it not to be my favourite film of 2016.

Through it all though one scene has stayed with me. Above all the moments of brilliance (and there are many) one scene leapt out more than any other and it is when Glass enters the crumbled edifice of the church.

This dilapidated structure has suffered even in these early days of civilisation but its foundation and structures remain. In fact within the fading church there is life as trees have put down roots bringing new life and growth.

It could be argued by some that the church today is in a similar position.

Dilapidated, fading, crumbling.

Recently I read an article about the majority of people in the UK claiming to have no religion . The truth is churches are closing, numbers are decreasing and desire for any notion of God is fading rapidly. People are searching though. People are searching for understanding. Searching for spirituality and searching in spaces other than churches to find it.

I believe there it still life in the church though. I believe that changes are coming. Changes that will remove old structures, old ways of thinking and an adaption to what church can/should in 2015. Dare I suggest church evolution??

That’s where the gap comes in.

While Glass stands in the church ‘grounds’ he stares at the picture of Christ on the wall at his crucifixion momentarily.

Glass has already experienced death and resurrection. The parallels are clear.

However my eye was drawn not to Christ on the cross but the gap in the wall.

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This gap is significant because this gap allows both entry and exit simultaneously. I would guess that its location is not accidental either.

It is not just the gap in the wall but the cross itself that is both entry and exit point.

In terms of the film and the church today the same points can be made.

Those who enter find shelter here.

Those who enter find signs of life they may not expect.

Those who enter can rest from the constant battering of their surroundings.

 

However the same can be said for those on the way out.

 

Those who exit are ready to take on the next stage of the journey.

Those who exit have sheltered, recovered and found life in its fulness.

Those who exit see a bigger picture and possibly a new frontier.

 

Articles can speak of decline.

The Revenant showed me the foundations and the gap that helps those coming in and those ready to go.

 

 

Review: The Revenant

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I saw Alejandro Iñårritu’s latest film The Revenant six days ago. I tell you this not to show off but because after nearly a week has passed I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about this film.

I am certain I have seen something profound and yet I would struggle to tell you that this was a film that I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

Inspired by true events, The Revenant captures one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a bid to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.

This is a film about the power of the human spirit but it is also a film about suffering and the endurance of pain. Not just the physical pain of the aforementioned bear attack (which is surely one of the most brutal moments in recent cinema) but the suffering caused mental anguish and the consuming desire for revenge.

So the question remains, is it enjoyable to watch a man suffer for slightly under two and  a half hours and watch him strive for vengeance?

My initial reaction was no. However having reflected over the last few days The Revenant has grown on me.

There are some incredible highlights to mention. The wonderful cinematography which elicits memories of Terrence Mallick and his love of nature. The opening sequence of the film where the hunting team is attacked by a native tribe is jaw dropping in it’s simultaneous beauty and brutality.

My favourite thing about this film though is  the performance of Tom Hardy as the wild eyed, manic Fitzgerald. If DiCaprio is to win Best Actor at this year’s Oscars then surely Hardy HAS to be this year’s best supporting actor.

The Revenant is littered with spirituality, the continual resurrection of Glass  regenerating throughout the film to become stronger on his journey home. One memorable scene in a crumbling church is particularly beautiful as Glass gazes on the image of Christ in a way recognising the near death and rebirth parallels of their lives.

The Revenant is a multi layered film that requires a viewer’s maximum concentration. If you invest enough in unpacking the complexities The Revenant is a cinematic wonder. If you are not fully engaged there is the chance that the film could appear pretentious and for art house lovers only.

The Revenant  is not a film to be enjoyed. Much like the vast frontier it plays out in The Revenant is a film to be explored.

The Revenant is on general release from 15th Jan 2016.

Thanks to MovieHouse for advance screening access

Christmas, Home Alone & Church

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It’s the same every year. The boxes are brought down from the attic/roof space, the tree is put together, the branches unfolded and my annual task of untangling the lights begins.

There is one box every year that I can’t wait to get into. The Christmas DVD box. As traditional as the tree itself we have a box full of Christmas DVDs  that are just for this special time of year.

Every year the same rotation, It’s A Wonderful Life, Gremlins, Miracle on 34th Street even Christmas with the Kranks (don’t judge me) are all there to enjoy.

Home Alone however above all others has become a firm family favourite. For starters be honest who hasn’t wished their family would disappear at some point? Kevin being man of the house slapping on some Brut and of course the chaos of Harry and Marv working their way through Kevin’s fun house.

There was one part of the film though that, particularly in my younger days, bored me. The segment in the film where Kevin goes to church.

This year though something changed. Something shifted. This year I watched what Kevin did and listened to what was said.

Kevin goes to church seeking refuge. He is missing his family, is afraid and needs some sanctuary. Unexpectedly he encounters his neighbour Old Man Marley and is shocked to discover the human side of  a man he has previously been terrified of. The realisation comes that Old Man Marley is also in church for refuge. He is in fact very similar to Kevin as he also misses his family. Estranged from his son Marley has to watch the choir practice as this is the only way he can see his grand daughter be close to his family. The refuge he seeks is from his past circumstances whereas Kevin seeks refuge from the present.

During the conversation Marley has the killer line following a misunderstanding with Kevin when he corrects him by saying ‘everyone is welcome at church’.

That’s why Kevin goes to church. That’s why Marley is there. They know deep down even with their problems that church is a place of refuge and a place of welcome to the weary.

I hope that this Christmas you find church (wherever that may be ) to be the same.