“The Road”- Movie Review

And you thought the past few weeks were a rough winter?

I had the chance back in November to attend a screening of The Road, a new film based on Cormac McCarthy’s (No Country for Old Men) award-winning book of the same title.

The Road is a gritty tale, not for the faint of heart.  Viggo Mortensen (“Aragorn” in Lord of the Rings) once again proves as tough as any movie monsters thrown at him, whether man or myth.  (I’m not sure how much weight he lost for this role, but it’s disturbing–rightfully so.)  He plays the father of a young boy, both of whom are living in a post-apocalyptic world that is bleaker than any nightmare I’ve ever had.  We aren’t told in the film what caused the end of the world (nuclear war seems most likely, based on a few descriptions), but the end came and it was nastier than cafeteria meatloaf.  Planet and animal life is all but non-existent.  What few humans remain are either on the hunt or the run.  Forget dog-eat-dog–this is a man-eat-man world, and the filmmakers do little to spare us along those lines.  Find food or be food, seem the options left.

The father and his son struggle to survive as they attempt to find help (and hope, which they have little of).  This is more than man vs. nature, though.  The father’s sleep is haunted by the world that was–specifically the memory of his wife.  (I don’t want to give away too much here.)  McCarthy’s narrative draws on mythological themes, and one sees that in several of the scenes, including an almost-unrecognizable appearance by Robert Duvall.

The film explores the issues of love (father-son), hope (or lack of), and ultimately faith.  One major idea of the film is its fleshed-out humanism, though it is the bold and honest kind envisioned by someone like Nietzsche, not the cream-puff “there is no God, but let’s love each other anyway and everything will be alright” philosophy so popular.  One scene involves the young boy praying in thanks for food discovered.  Not knowing any better, he simply prays to the people who left it, though the father cannot even bring himself to that. Having an unreasonable hope is one thing; but operating with no hope is an entirely different animal to be confronted with.  McCarthy drives that home.

The Road is the kind of movie that you shouldn’t even think about taking your kids to see.  But it is a movie that perhaps you need to.  The ideas in it will have you thinking for days (I saw it almost two months ago, and I’m still disturbed and perplexed and intrigued.)  It will perhaps inspire you in revolt to anchor your hopes a little deeper and a little surer.  If nothing else, you’ll stock up on more canned goods next trip to the grocery store.

Sunny Day Theology and Lewis’ “A Grief Observed”

“Sunny day theology” is important.  Thinking deeply about the important issues of life, even things like death and suffering, is important in general, but more so in the times when, quite honestly, you’re not facing many of those problems head-on.  I don’t think reading the book of Job really is that helpful when you’re riding in the funeral limousine or sitting in one of those uncomfortable waiting room chairs in the hospital.  What you believe about the goodness and wisdom of God, the reality of evil and suffering, and the response of human beings to events largely outside their immediate control can’t be figured out in the rainy times.  One’s choices and beliefs during those dark seasons will largely be a reflection of choices/beliefs shaped during the happy times.  What I call “sunny day theology.”

https://i1.wp.com/biblebarn.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/a-grief-observed.jpg CS Lewis’ book A Grief Observed stands as a great example of this.  This is perhaps one of the most heart-breaking and emotional pieces of anything I have ever read of Lewis.  In the wake of his wife’s death, Lewis simply chronicles the reactions and thoughts of his own heart.  Those who find themselves in or near such a rainy season will probably discover a strong emotional reaction to portions of the book.  Those in the sunny times may honestly not fare much better.

But for those who have read much of Lewis, we see that even in what at times is a tumultuous relationship between himself and God, Lewis’ “sunny day theology” sneaks through.  Major themes of his core beliefs– joy in God himself (not just the gifts), praise as both culmination and act of enjoyment, etc.–show up at key points to help Lewis along in his journey of grief.  It’s not as if his grief and pain caused him to abandon his sunny day theology, but rather they caused him to ask new questions which found many of the same answers he had known before.

New questions for old answers.  I like that.  But you don’t that without having some old answers…aka “Sunny Day Theology.”

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 10-11

These chapters are titled “The Faculty of Impromptu Speech” and “The Minister’s Fainting Fits”.

(Remember any commentary by the blogger will be in italics.)

10- The Faculty of Impromptu Speech

On impromptu speech- “We would not recommend any man to attempt preaching in this style as a general rule.”

Regarding preparation- “He [God] will never do for us what we can do for ourselves.”

“Very strongly do I warn all of you against reading your sermons, but I recommend, as a most healthful exercise, and as a great aid towards attaining extemporising power, the frequent writing of them.” A little later, “The pen is the scalpel which dissects the thoughts, and never, except when you write down what you behold internally, can you succeed in clearly discerning all that is contained in a conception, or in obtaining its well-marked scope.  You then understand yourself, and make others understand you.”

Chapter 11- The Minister’s Fainting Fits

This chapter is extremely personal for Spurgeon, whose struggle with depression is well-known.

I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.”

“Even under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in them.”

“Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock.”  This reminds me of the great quote- “Remember, you are preaching to hurting people.”

“Men, and men subject to human passions, the all-wise God has chosen to be vessels of grace; hence, these tears, hence these perplexities and castings down.”

“We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh.”

Regarding the loneliness of leadership- “The mountain-tops stand solemnly apart, and talk only with God as He visits their terrible solitudes.  Men of God who rise above their fellows into nearer communion with heavenly things, in their weaker moments feels the lack of human sympathy.”

Regarding the use of nature and recreation as an aid for the soul- “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”

Regarding the path to a big ministry that was laid before him at such an early age- “I dreaded the work which a gracious providence had prepared for me.”

Regarding false brothers and sisters- “Ten years of toil do not take so much life out of us as we lose in a few hours by Ahithophel the traitor, or Demas the apostate…Hard words wound some delicate minds very keenly…A kick that scarce would move a horse would kill a sound divine.”

“Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing the honour due to the Great Worker.  The man shall be emptied of self, and then filled with the Holy Ghost.”

“Heaven shall be all the fuller of bliss because because we have been filled with anguish here below, and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.”

“Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him.  Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not His saints.”

Finally,

“Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are.  When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.”