March 25, 2010

A Fallacious Notion

Last night Daniel and I watched Woody Allen's latest movie, Whatever Works. 
I like Woody Allen's movies sometimes. Manhattan Murder Mystery, Small Time Crooks, Everyone Says I Love You and Hollywood Ending are among some of my favorites. Daniel and I saw Vicki, Christina, Barcelona a couple of years ago and it was stupid. Although I did enjoy the Spanish scenery and guitar music. It was very romantic. But the story was stupid.
Whatever Works is sort of in the same vein. It's a story of people who discover "love" (or lust?) in unconventional or unexpected places, and they let go of their morals and traditions and beliefs and hesitations and fall headlong into dysfunctional but "fulfilling" relationships. I use so many "" because it all feels very contrived in the movie. I felt like a particular worldview was not just being examined and explored in the movie, but completely shoved down my throat.

The basic message of the film was very clear: whatever comfort, joy, and love you are able to find in life, grasp hold of it. Whatever works for you. The main character, Boris Yelnikoff boils it down to:

My story is, whatever works as long as you don't hurt anybody. Any way you can filtch a little joy in this life cruel and pointless life, that's my story.
And as the movie tries to communicate this theme, it launches an attack on Christians and political conservatives. (Well, in the beginning it acts like it is attacking anyone religious, but it pinpoints Christianity as the movie progresses).
Now let me be clear, a lot of it is funny. Because a lot of it is true, unfortunately. And rather than get sad about it I laugh...then I get sad later.

From the very beginning however, it becomes clear that Boris Yelnikoff (he is the Woody Allen type of the film) bases his theories and assumptions about Christianity and other religions on a false premise. A fundamental flaw.
Actually, his premise may be correct about other religions. But about Christianity, it is not.
He claims that,
...they all suffer from one fatal flaw...Which is they're all based on the fallacious notion that people are fundamentally decent...They're not stupid, selfish, greedy,cowardly, short-sighted worms.

I can just picture Woody, so pleased with himself for unveiling this clever, shockingly cynical belief that man is not all that good!

Well Woody (if that's even your real name), I agree with you. But I'm a Calvinist. So the whole total depravity thing is fundamental to my Christian beliefs. Woe is me. I believe that without Christ I am a stupid, selfish, greedy, cowardly, short-sighted (so short-sighted!) worm (a worm, I tell you!).
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
In the movie, the southern, conservative Christians are characterized as superstitious, unintelligent, sexually-repressed nincompoops. One of them ends up cheating on her husband, one ends up living in a ménage trois, and one ends up discovering he's a homosexual. And in the end they abandon that silly religion and prayer and faith and finally discover "Whatever Works" is the only thing that matters in this pointless, tiny, fatal existence we call life.

Blah, blah, blah.

But still, it made me think a lot about how those who are not Christians perceive Christians. Does the church widely represent itself as a place where self-righteous people gather together to get away from the non-believers? Does the church refuse to recognize scientific truths out of fear that the Scriptures will not stand the test?

And now for the rabbit trail.

I compared it to another movie I watched the other night, Angels and Demons. Though the two are nothing alike in genre, story, message, or style.
I know a lot of people think Dan Brown is aggressively persecuting the Catholic church and Christians, and maybe he is. I haven't read his books. But when I watched the movie (which I enjoyed), I recognized a degree of reverance and respect for the church. The movie didn't write off every Christian as an ignorant maniac trying to repress the truths of science (as Whatever Works seemed to want to do).  I liked how one of the main characters in Angels and Demons spoke about science and faith:
... but science and religion are not enemies! There are simply some things that science is just too young to understand. So the church pleads: "stop", "slow down", "think", "wait"... and for this - they call us backward. But who is more ignorant: the man who cannot define lightening, or the man who does not respect its natural awesome power?

My very favorite part of Whatever Works was the opening credits.
The song that played, actually, because other than that it was just white text against a black screen. It made me giggle and I've been singing the song and giggling to myself every waking moment since.
This appeals to my sense of humor in a big way. It's just who I am. 
And this morning, I set out to find the clip. Here it is, I hope you enjoy it as I do.
(I just love it when he sings, I'll stay the summer throuuuuugh. Ha ha ha)

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