Tag Archives: religion

Tomorrow Land’s Messiah

Tomorrow Land, by Disney Movies 2015

Director; Brad Bird

Written by; Damon Lindelof, Jeff Jensen, Brad Bird

Cast:

George Clooney; Frank Walker

Raffey Casidy; Athena

Britt Robertson; Casey Newton

Hugh Laurie; Nix

Tim McGraw; Eddie Newton

Pierce Gagnon; Nate Newton

 

Alert! I must discuss the end of this movie to address my topic.

Tomorrow Land’s Messiah

By Mark Anderson, 2015

            Anyone familiar with Bible themes will easily recognize parallels between Tomorrow Land and Christianity. In Christianity there is a beautiful world, the kingdom of God, which is unseen to the natural eye. In the Tomorrow Land movie there is the place in another dimension unseen to the human eye which is a utopia that appears to be amazing, peaceful and all the people are satisfied. In the movie humans may see and enter the other dimension when given a special pin and in Christianity humans enter the kingdom of God when they believe. In the movie the pin is given by invitation to those who are deemed worthy because they are dreamers; those with a positive attitude and dream of a better world where anything is possible. In Christianity all are invited, worthiness is not the issue, but those with an open heart to trusting God are the ones who choose to receive the gift of Jesus’ free salvation. Here there is a strong, though not identical, correlation between dreamers and believers. To believe one must set aside skepticism and embrace the possibility of a good and gracious God who offers a beautiful land. This is quite similar to the dreamers who are willing to see the possibility of a good and beautiful future. A significant qualification must be made about Christian believers; they are poor in spirit claiming no inherently good quality within themselves that makes them better than others or self-worthy. In the movie there is a messiah figure, Casey Newton, who is referred to as a very “special person” who can “fix the problem” which will save the world. In Christianity there is a special person, Jesus the Messiah, who is special because he is a divine person, the Son of God. Jesus indeed came to “fix the problem” and save the world through his atoning sacrifice. In the movie there is also a sacrificial death. The image of the messiah transfers to Athena who is able to use her self-exploding body to destroy the evil enemy machine. At the end of the movie a new generation robots like Athena are sent out to invite a new generation of human dreamers to the new Tomorrow Land and this is profoundly like Jesus commissioning his disciples to go into the whole earth and preach the good news, or invite people to believe and enter the beautiful kingdom of God.

These types of themes are not unusual. We seem them in literature from most cultures of the world, in ancient and modern writings. It is not demeaning of the movie to make these observations as though the writers plagiarized the plot. These are universal themes. I do not think that the writers were deliberately making a film to advance Christianity or even draw strong allusions to Christ. I do think it shows the universal appeal of the savior archetype and the hunger in the human heart for a better world beyond our corrupted world. I think it is very sad that viewers will be led to embrace an illusion of humans as our own self-messiah. I think it regrettable that when Christians propose a beautiful kingdom that is beyond the veil of human eyes they are mocked but Hollywood still is drawn to the dream. I do agree with the movie that all people should seek to make this world the best that we can. I agree that all people, especially those who embrace the kingdom of God should be leaders in positive attitudes to improve the living conditions of humanity. However, I think the writers of Tomorrow Land are naïve about human nature, proposing that certain creative people are above the greedy corruption that plagues the rest of humanity. Do they think that the great creative minds of human history were exempt from corruption? Even though Tomorrow Land adapts several Biblical archetypes, its premise diverges greatly and does not offer true hope for the desperate situation of humanity.

 


My youth story

The Least Likely

The teacher grabbed me by the hair of my head and shook me, lifting me out of my seat. When she let go she had a fist full of blond hair. I was seven years old, in the second grade at Lincoln Elementary school. It is difficult to recall exactly what I did to provoke this teacher. I vaguely remember using my newly acquired cuss words to her, “you ass”, “fuck”, and she just lost it. My cussing really had nothing to do with the teacher. It was a reflection of what was going on at my home. Obviously even at age seven I had some anger issues going on. I do remember what home was like that year, and I was definitely developing a reservoir of juvenile anger.

During the remaining years in elementary school I didn’t get in much trouble. But in 7th and 8th grade the young hormones started to kick in and I started to act out. I seemed to choose friends who also had a large dose of anger. I engaged in various sorts of teenage deviant behavior, some of it self-destructive, like drugs. But my anger at authority probably characterized my attitude the most. The first time I was arrested at age 15 I was breaking into a school to vandalize it. At the time I was not self-conscious about my anger. But many years later looking back I realized it as the source of much of my crazy behavior.

I remember walking up the street and seeing an axe leaning against a wood pile, I grabbed it and went on up the road with no plan for it. But then I saw a beautiful white fence, the kind you might see in a painting, around a grassy field with horses grazing peacefully, and I just tore into that fence knocking it to pieces. It was sick! I didn’t even know that person who owned the fence and they had never done anything wrong to me. But I made a mess of their beautiful fence.

One morning a teacher called my house. She was crying when she talked with my dad. She said that she couldn’t face her class one more day if I was in it. My dad talked with me and straightened me out. I knew the class was a lot of fun because my best buddies were all in it together. But I had never thought of myself as the instigator of trouble.

I and my friends used to skip school and go hang out in Millcreek Canyon. Actually I have good memories of happy times living pretty carefree, kind of like Tom and Huck. We didn’t really cause any trouble, just wanted to hang out by the stream, be outside. But on one of our longer day hikes we started exploring some old mine shafts and I found a stack of dynamite. I took home about 20 sticks. Wow, what a find for a boy, this was big time! Imagine Bart Simpson with dynamite and you can get the idea. I made an attempt at the ultimate signature vandalism that could have been spectacular; blowing up the pedestrian bridge behind the school. One problem, there were no blasting caps with the dynamite so it wouldn’t go off. I tried several methods but always they resulted in the fuse just going fizz. I sincerely wished the stuff would blow, just once, like in the movies. But it did not, THANK GOD!

I got kicked out of that school and was allowed to attend the brand new Cottonwood High School. From the first day there was something good watching over me there. The principal Dr. Wahlquist befriended me. I think he knew I was having problems and he asked if I wanted an afternoon job at the elementary school as janitor assistant. I did it, and it was good for me. I did nothing wrong. I just went to work every day and stayed out of trouble. There were also other adults in the school, teachers, who saw past my attitude, and treated me pretty good. And a neighborhood police officer that was kind and respectable. Sometimes I would get some unexpected praise for something artistic I had done. I got A’s in woodshop; even though I got kicked out of class more than once.

One day Dr. Wahlquist caught me smoking behind the school. He said he would have to suspend me from school. I told him the absolute truth, my father had just left home to move in with his girlfriend and my mother would not be able to t1971 cottonwoodake the stress right now. I asked him to consider another option and he found a remedy without involving my mother. A few months later, just before graduation, Dr. Wahlquist called me into his office. He said that the Salt Lake Tribune was coming to take pictures of graduates to be published in the graduation edition. Since my name Anderson placed me near the top of the alphabetical order he asked if I would represent Cottonwood High as the first graduate in the newspaper. I was not the actual first graduate. There were many fine honorable students that Dr. Wahlquist could have chosen to represent the school. But that good man chose me, one of the least likely, least deserving scoundrels, to receive that honor. It reminds me of the saying of Jesus regarding who gets into heaven, “Those who are first will be last but those who are last will be first.”

My life did not change immediately. But within a year I did come to Christ and then life changed a lot. I’ve never been in trouble with the law since. I’ve never vandalized anything since. I quit illegal drugs and I’ve never returned to them. I still get angry, sometimes deeply angry. But I believe I have a place to turn with that now. After 30+ years as a carpenter I’ve returned to school, and I love it! And I always show respect to my teachers. I also tutor kids who are slow readers at an elementary school. I think maybe some may be having some struggles at home.


book review: Holes; Curses and Hope

Holes; by Louis Sachar

Curses and Hope

Sachar, Louis. Holes. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. Print.

            This story is about Stanley Yelnats (Yelnats is Stanley in reverse) and his family curse. Stanley is spending time at a youth rehabilitation camp where he and his newly acquired comrades come to terms with a very harsh life but also find incredible sweetness in life when curses are broken. Stanley claims to be innocent of his crime and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time because of an old curse on his family, “It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!” (7). He explains this as the family joke, “he had a great-great-grandfather who had stolen a pig from a one-legged Gypsy, and she put a curse on him and all his descendants” (8). This story is more deeply about a universal curse upon all of humanity, viewing all of humanity as wasting away, vainly digging holes; “When you spend your whole life living in a hole, the only way you can go is up” (160). But the story is also about hope.

            Some of us might personally identify with the characters of this story as; young and in need of maturity, social misfits, and with a background of family curses. This becomes most obvious in the story of Stanley’s friend Zero. The Gypsy’s name was Madam Zeroni, coincidentally the family name of Zero. The name Zero implies someone who has been discarded by society as worthless, “No one cares about Hector Zeroni” (144). We are told the story of his childhood and desperate plight of his mother and how he eventually is abandoned and becomes homeless. This is Zero’s curse but all of the characters have their own version of a curse.

            There is a strong sub-theme of showing racism as evil, or as a curse upon society. Stanley’s companions at camp are not initially identified by their race. They are first described by their character, which is really profound considering our culture’s inclination to describe people first by the category of color. In chapters 25 and 26 we are told the story of the white school teacher Katherine Barlow (who later becomes outlaw Kate Barlow) and her love affair with the black man Sam who sells onions. When a town person sees the two kiss she curses them, “She pointed a quivering finger in their direction and whispered, ‘God will punish you!’” (111). After Sam is killed and Kate turns outlaw the narrator says, “All that happened one hundred and ten years ago. Since then, not one drop of rain has fallen on Green Lake. You make the decision: Whom did God punish?” (115). The issue of racism is significant and is related to the larger theme of curse and blessing.

            The story is a skillfully woven triplet of stories: an old tale of Stanley’s ancestor, the “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-granfather,” who brings a curse on his heirs, a story of a more recent great grandfather who gets robbed by outlaw Kissing Kate Barlow, and Stanley’s story. Sachar’s artistic use of symbolism and allegory make this a fascinating book. I interpret the older story of the original curse as an allusion to the Biblical story of Adam’s sin and the curse brought on humanity, “cursed is the ground for your sake” (Genesis 3). However Stanley and his friends may have acquired their problems, the problems are portrayed as a curse or affliction. In all three stories there is reference to a mystical river that flows against gravity, “the water runs uphill” (30,110). The symbolism of a supernatural river cannot be ignored. I view this as the author’s intentional reference to something spiritual, a reference to the life of God provided for humanity. The Bible uses this symbolism as a theme from beginning to end; rivers that flows out of Eden (Genesis), a river that flows out of a temple (Ezekiel), the river that flows from Jesus (John). I see a very strong allusion to the Biblical drama of mankind’s desperate situation and hope offered to mankind through the work of Jesus to break the power of the old curse and offer life.

            If my interpretation proves too subjective then the story still carries a very valuable message for readers. As Stanley is searching for the water they reach a point of despair, “Big Thumb was his only hope. If there was no water, no refuge, then they’d have nothing, not even hope.” (167). The message of hope is desperately needed and is incredibly healing for young people-all people! This book has a special gift for young people; it shows that being judged by society’s values or being discarded by society is not the end of the story. It shows that curses can be broken.

            I talk to young people weekly, who are incarcerated in our city’s detention center. These teens have family histories that are beyond belief to many people. I have talked to teens whose fathers were killed in gang violence. This week I talked to five teen boys. One said his parents do care about him and he will be glad to go home. Another said his parents are both in jail. One said his parents don’t want him back. Two others were very distant from their families and don’t have any connection with their father. Both of these will go into programs, vaguely similar to Camp Green Lake. The boys were all familiar with Holes. We had a great talk about the concept of having a cursed life and the hope that we can have a new life free from our past. The message of hope is incredibly valuable and Sachar has presented this message beautifully.

 


poor in spirit

Jesus says in the introduction to his Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5-7) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is the primary premise, and the basis of all that will follow. It is the gospel because it proclaims that those who do not deserve heaven can get in!

You may have heard that heaven is something to be earned. Many religions teach, and many people live their lives believing that we must prove ourselves to God. We may assume a kind of Darwinist view of spirituality; survival of the fittest, only the fittest, who deserve heaven, get in. Religions may teach that those who are really worthy, who pay their money, go to church and stuff like that, will enter the kindom of heaven. I’ve heard people dogmatically proclaim that there is nothing free in this life. The doctrine of karma may be like this; we get exactly what our deeds deserve. But Jesus does a reversal, he proclaims that those who do not deserve heaven can get in. This is amazing, and this is why Jesus is so radical. This is why people follow him.

This principle of Jesus means that we can come before God just as we are with no pretense. We come boldly before his throne of grace, we come to the cross for forgiveness. When we see a poor person begging beside the road they are not offering to give us something, they are asking for mercy. When we come to God we are just hitch-hikers catching a ride on Jesus. This is not my assertion or me devising an easy way, it is the rule of Jesus and the way his kingdom works. It is the way I came to God many years ago, and the way I come today.

And what is the kindom of heaven? First and most important, it is relationship with the King. Then it is being wherever he is. There is a large section on the Sermon on the Mount on my blog Ancient Path (see tab at top of page).


prey or pray?

“People are to be prayed upon, not preyed upon”

“We tend to use people and love things. But the rightful design is that we should use things, and love people”


2 prayers

Lord I thank you that so for today I haven’t lost my temper at anyone, offended anyone, haven’t lusted or taken advantage of anyone, haven’t been jealous or resentful; but soon I will have to get out of bed and face the day, then I really really need your help!!! 🙂

It is from a Franciscan Benediction…

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.



Serenity prayer- uncut

SERENITY

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

 the courage to change the things I can,

 and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

Taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it;

Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

 and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

Amen

Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971