I thought of that story immediately when I read a comment on my previous post about Fight Club asking "How do I explain why I watch and love movies like Fight Club to everyday evangelicals (not that I am one)?"
My Solution is I don’t. I very cautiously tread ground mostly, avoid really saying what I think and then I write a blog post about it instead. I guess the real question is why Fight Club kind of films so taboo for evangelicals?
I think the reason why many evangelicals don’t like movies like Fight Club or American Beauty or music like Marylin Manson or Nirvana to name but a few is because evangelicals are usually very conservative and believe that Xy and Jesus is very conservative. For me this was summed up well by an evangelical friend who once said to me, something along the lines of, “I don’t understand why people don't become Xns. They don't have to change anything about their life for most people they just have to accept Jesus.” The assumption behind what he said is that most of us in the west are living Xn lives and all we have to do is just invite Jesus into our hearts and everything will be hunky dory when it comes to the big heaven or hell thing when you die.
I’d like to suggest that not only is Xy much more than that but also something quite opposite to that. The problem that I think evangelicals have with Fight Club etc… is that these movies are rallying against values of our western lives, I think Xy & Jesus is all about that. The Gospel of Mathew especially is all about Jesus clashing with the religious, social and political establishment of his day.
To me it's hard to believe that "family values" people follow Jesus when Jesus said things like...
- (Matt 10:35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
- (Matt 10:37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
- (Matt 12:50) For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
- (Matt 19:29) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.
- (Luke 14:26) "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.
Lester Burnham is just drudging through his meaningless hell of a life. His one dream is to have sex with his daughter’s friend (a minor). Sex with a minor (someone less than half his age) is something that almost everyone would agree as wrong or sinful. Lester is both a slave to the system of western life and a slave to the desire to commit this sin. Along comes Ricky Fitz, a pot selling Christ like figure who’s rejection of his fathers unreasonable authority (Luke 14:5 Then he said to them [the pharisees], "If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?") and freedom from worry of money (Luke 12:24: Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!). He is the only one who is free to live life to the full (John 10:10: I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly) and sees beauty not in the blonde girl Lester lusts after but in a plastic bag blowing in the breeze.
Rikki (with the help of some high grade cannabis) sparks the change in Lester’s life a change where Lester ends up living a life that is both enjoyable meaningful. He tries to seduce his wife instead of masturbating, he starts to pay attention to his daughter instead of her friends and stands up for himself. This culminates when he is put in the position where he finally gets the chance to fulfil his original fantasy of having sex with his daughter’s friend and chooses not to. The film ends with a Lester smiling having found meaning and happiness.
Narratives like Fight Club and America Beauty are all about change and change means confrontation, and a good change narrative that makes us want to change will be confronting. My guess is that many evangelicals (perhaps like the Pharisees in Jesus time) just don't like this. I can remember once reading an interview with Marilyn Manson (despised by many Xns) and he said he wanted the world to end in an apocalypse so their can be the beginning of a new one that’s better. Take away the goth make up and that sounds a lot like what many evangelical Xns might say.
I know this post has been a bit long and rambling and has kind of avoided the original question "How do I explain why I watch and love movies like Fight Club to everyday evangelicals (not that I am one)?" I guess I'd like to say that it's important to remember that narratives like Fight Club are narratives or parables, so they won't be a 100% gospel and That's OK (the Matrix is not gospel and neither is everything Bono has ever said). If the films inspire you to be more like Christ, as Fight Club had done for me then keep reading that kind of book and watching those kind of films. It's probably the inspiring to be more like Christ that's going to be the best starting point if you're talking to an evangelical friend too.