Thursday, February 12, 2004

Transformation Articulation

"You know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don't really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man." The Plague, Albert Camus (who had a great deal to say about heroism and sanctity).

I came across an on-line poll that asked, "Is Mel Gibson one bead short of a full rosary?" My first thought was, Please show me a star of Mr. Gibson's status who isn't. But the poll was on the sidebar of a gossip column that supplied quotes of Gibson admitting his Episcopalian, non-Catholic wife just might burn in hell. Of all the pointless trials a movie star can inflict on his or her marriage, religion must be one of the worst.

Mr. Gibson doesn't see it that way, of course. He's said many times that making this movie saved his life and his soul, as well as one or two members of the cast and crew. I think that aptly summarizes the entire Jesus Movie genre. Having seen my share of Jesus Movies over the last four decades, I'm not much interested in seeing this one. They tend to take great pains to impress on the jaded viewer just what it is about Jesus that has changed the movie-maker's life. So, fine: the audience is confronted with a merciful savior, a man of profound paradox, a stumbling block, etc. These "portraits" are occasionally thought-provoking, sometimes moving, most times risible.

Born and raised in a pastor's home, I am perhaps especially jaded toward these portraits. Christ remains for me a sacred figure, but I am greatly skeptical toward claims of transformation. And entertainers are usually the worst people to attempt transformation articulation: from Cat Stevens to Mel Gibson, the scandal sheet merely changes from an account of the usual misbehavior, to a list of outrageous comments regarding the damnation of "those other guys." Not exactly a recommendation for the process.

So, wherefore: transformation? Obviously, it's probably best if people don't look to celebrities like movie stars and presidents. But everybody knows somebody who, for whatever reason, changed from being Bad News to being Good News. And everybody knows that that somebody ain't them. Can identifying a worthy transformation in The Other person somehow help us nurture worthy transformation in ourselves? Perhaps this is what necessitates, "The fellowship of the saints."

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