A Bit of Gospel in 'The Invention of Lying'
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The Invention of Lying centers on a very intriguing concept. The story takes place in a world run on the basis of pure factual, empirical reality. The viewer is invited on the first date between the classically beautiful Anna (Jennifer Garner) and the proverbially portly Mark (Ricky Gervais, co-creator of BBC's The Office). When Anna's cell phone rings halfway through dinner, she proceeds to belittle Mark by describing her date as "a bit fat with a funny little snub nose".
One day shortly after the disastrous date, Mark is fired from his job as a writer for a movie company. As you may imagine, the movies in such a world are rarely worth watching. Mark had received the short end of the stick, so to speak, having to write all of his stories on his assigned century, the 14th. His Black Plague stories worn thin, Mark clears out his desk in shame to the cheers of his own secretary, Shelley (Tina Fey), who mocks him on his way out the door.
His firing could not have come at a worse time. His Black Plague stories have left Mark with a bank account incapable of meeting his month's rent. When the landlord tells him to gather his gear and move out, Mark sulks to the bank to withdraw his entire account- two hundred dollars- and rent a moving truck.
Ashamed and at the end of his rope, Mark walks into the bank and does what many of us would do in his situation. He tells a joke. The teller asked him how much money he would like to withdraw and he answered: "Eight hundred dollars." When the teller handed him the money, it suddenly dawned on him that he was capable of saying things that were "not."
As the viewer would anticipate, Mark begins to use these powers in all types of predicable ways, from lying for sex (which he does not go through with) to withdrawing money for the homeless. The big shift in the movie comes when Mark's mother is dying. She fearfully says: "I do not want to die and enter eternal nothingness."
Mark, in an effort to comfort his mother, begins to tell her something that is "not." He tells her about a place of eternal peace, where strivings cease and loved ones are reunited. Mark tells his mother about an eternity of everything made right with "The Man in the sky." In the story, Mark's comforting words to his mother turn him into a worldwide prophet. His message is something that everybody clamors and even longs to hear. For a while, his listeners have a reason to live that goes beyond their hopeless perception of empirical reality.
What became clear to me as I watched this movie was this hopelessness of life lived without faith. If we only believe what we can see, our lives will be stale imitations of what they ought to be. Maybe this is why we are like the people in the movie, longing for something beyond what can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, and heard.
Jesus has given us so much more to live for than what we can see right in front of us. After he entered into time and flesh just like ours, was crucified, died and was risen, Jesus ascended into heaven. That means that there is truly a Man in heaven- and he is pleading our case (Hebrews 4:14-15)!
Strange as it may sound, I'm taking a cue from Hollywood. I'm looking beyond this world, as it seems to me. I am trusting in the God-Man in heaven. Only what he says is real. Only his take on reality can satisfy you and me.
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