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Posts Tagged ‘Chronicles of Narnia’

I thought I might be able to have my post-retreat reflections ready for tonight…alas, it didn’t work out.  I’ll try for tomorrow.  In the meantime, hopefully this will more than make up for its absence tonight:

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Noah2014Poster

Note: If you are interested in reading part one, click here

In his great book — which I have referenced before, and which I highly encourage people to read — “Love is Stronger Than Death,” Peter Kreeft makes the following observation about modern man’s scientific/technological dream:

The (immortality) Pill will be the fulfillment of one of our deepest and darkest dreams, the Oedipus complex.  Now we will be able to kill our father (God), and marry our mother (earth).  For without death, and with an earthly technological paradise (. . .) (w)e can now return with our phallic power of technology into our birth canal.”

Neither I nor Kreeft are suggesting that modern technology is bad.  But our technological pride and idolatry of “progress” has led to a certain rape of nature.

Original Sin

What we tend to forget, however, is that this is merely one manifestation of a phenomenon that has been going on since the beginning of human history.  When the first human beings defied God and thus fell from grace, they brought a curse upon the earth.

The harmony in which (our first parents) had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.  (CCC 400 — bold added)

The Bible is very clear that humankind has dominion over the earth.  But this is not, was never, and never will be a dominion of selfish use.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

Animals (. . .) plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.

Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.

(CCC 2415-2417 — bold added)

Ray WinstoneDarren Aronofsky, co-writer/director of “Noah,” gives us a key example of the opposite impulse — the one given rise to by the Fall of Adam and Eve — in Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone).  At one point, we see him grabbing a live animal and biting off its head; he defends his action by saying that God put mankind at the top of creation, and therefore all other creatures on this earth serve man.

The implication is that as masters, we can do whatever we want with the rest of creation, no matter the cost to it.

Noah_Steward

But again, this is not the Divine directive.  The true nature of man’s dominion over the earth is more clearly reflected in the lives of Noah (Russell Crowe) and his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly).  Their family takes on the role of stewards, or caretakers, of God’s creation.  They use only what they need, and they devote themselves to tending the earth and its creatures as they would the Garden of Eden.

Why am I talking about all of this?  Believe it or not, it’s not because today is Earth Day.  The timing of this post is fitting, but purely coincidental (at least as far as my intentions go; I can’t say that God did not, in His providence, have something to do with it).  Many Christians took issue with “Noah,” labeling it vegan propaganda and a mistreatment of God’s Word by imposing modern environmentalist ideas onto it.

I hope, however, that I have demonstrated the film’s portrayal of concern for creation to be, in fact, perfectly Biblical and authentically Christian.

If not…

Jrrt_lotr_cover_design …take a look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”…

Chronicles of Narnia…or at C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.”

Tolkien and Lewis were both deeply Christian and very much immersed in the Biblical worldview.  They saw the connection we have been exploring very clearly, and it comes across powerfully in their work.

Let’s end with a bottom line that goes back to the Kreeft quote: Sin is about making ourselves God; when we make ourselves God, we become selfish and domineering; when we become selfish and domineering, our fellow human beings and the world entrusted to our care suffer.

I do have a little bit more to say about this subject in relation to the movie “Noah.”  But in the interest of a certain kind of “stewardship” over my readers’ eyes and patience, I’ll wait ’till next time.

All “Noah” images other than film poster obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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To recap the main point of part one: Nature shows us the reality of death, and the wolves in Joe Carnahan’s “The Grey” represent this aspect of nature.

Where does this come from?  And how does it fit into the Christian meta-narrative?

The answer, from a Christian perspective, is the Fall.

We all know the story.  Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and they did it anyway.  Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about this:

The harmony in which (our first parents) had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground” (CCC 400 — bold added)

C.S. Lewis drew on this Christian insight when he sent his beloved Pevensie children back to Narnia in “Prince Caspian,” the second book in his Chronicles of Narnia.

If you have read this book or its predecessor, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (or seen the films), you will remember that when the children had left Narnia, it was a place where: 1) animals spoke; and 2) they and human beings enjoyed each other’s friendship.

Now, the throne of Narnia is occupied by a usurper who does not rule according to the will of Aslan (the Christ-figure of Narnia), and many of the animals are wild, mute, brutish, and hostile.

“Cursed is the ground because of you!  In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life.  Thorns and thistles shall it bear for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18, The New American Bible)

Human beings have sinned.  The animals, the trees, and the rest of nature have not.  But when we turned away from God, we dragged the whole of creation down the road to destruction with us.

From that perspective, we can see the hostilities of nature as a sort of “judgment” or “accusation.”  Creation, while also tending to our needs and showering us with beauty, will not let us forget that we have turned away from our loving Creator.

This leads me to draw once again from the writings of Dr. Peter Kreeft, whose magnificent book “Love is Stronger Than Death” I would recommend to anyone.  A basic assertion he makes is that from the standpoint of human reason, we only have hope if death is our fault.

Here is the explanation:

It means that our ultimate hope is not in ourselves, our innocence … To blame ourselves (as the story of Adam does in Genesis) is to clear reality, being, truth, the cosmos … (and) God.  We may yet be reconciled to reality … If reality were out of touch, there would be no hope … all hope of meaning would be gone (Kreeft 16, italics and first parentheses his)

So as depressing as the guilt-death relationship may seem, it dispels the fear we have of a meaningless universe in which all men are simply stuck on an obstacle-laden collision course with death.

And though we find hostility and, in a certain sense, the “taunts” of death in nature, we can find hope and meaning even in these.  I would argue that we can find in them the “sparring partner” that Dr. Kreeft speaks of in his book and to which I referred in my November 26 post, “Why ‘Into the Dance’?”

As I was typing this part of my reflection on “The Grey,” I realized that it is too long for one post.  I tried to avoid this, but as I said, this is a complex subject.  Therefore, I will have mercy on my readers and turn this into a four-part post (as opposed to the three-part post I had originally intended), with “The Grey” comprising three posts.  But the final part of my review of “The Grey” is ready, and will be up tomorrow.

Both photos of “The Grey” from http://www.guardian.co.uk; picture of “Adam and Eve” by Albrecht Dürer from http://www.metmuseum.org; picture of “Prince Caspian” from http://www.e-reading.org.ua (all obtained through a Google image search)

Reference

Kreeft, Peter.  Love is Stronger Than Death.  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992.

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