Hollywood does it. Movies are designed to draw the watcher into scenes of pretend life, until, in the very best made movies, the watcher comes to sympathize so intensely with the portrayal on screen, that it is almost as if the watcher was living the experience. When screen lovers portray their excessive animal passions, the watcher is enraptured in internal throes of passion too (often, however, in such artificial degree of misplaced passion, that wrecked homes might trace themselves to the warped sentiment). When Nazi soldiers on screen, tie up an innocent boy, then plug his body full of bullets until the limp form crumples into splattering pools of life-blood, the watcher is enraged and sickened, longing to reach a vengeful hand into the screen and put an immediate stop to the injustice!
The Bible--made up of real life--was also designed in such a way, that if we weren’t so dull of imagination, we would be similarly affected, and all the more so, considering the eternal REALITY it portrays! The Bible is no stale, static, lifeless document--as its reputation with millions of Bible owners might suggest--but a multifaceted epic historic work encompassing a mighty breadth of human experience that spans vast oceans of time--its spyglass penetrating into deep fogs of prehistory. It transports the reader, sprightly attuned and with spirit-sails unfurled, throughout the full gamut of life and death, tragedy and triumph, war and peace, despair and SO pricy priceless redemption, on a scale as limitless for the imagination, as is the reality being portrayed, LIMITLESS.
It is of interest to observe people who, having used little thought in decorating their bodies with gold or silver crucifixes, are for the first time being confronted by a graphically brutal cinematic depiction--made by Hollywood--portraying the very horrible acts associated with those pricy gold and silver ornaments! Somehow, in those conscience-stunning moments, an epic Bible story takes on new meaning to the WORTHY wearers of crosses, because in a newly awakened imagination they have been THERE (as in truth they were), they have felt just a little taste of the horror of a crucifixion, and they know at least, that a crucifix in modern context, is the equivalent to making celebratory jewelry out of the representation of an ELECTRIC CHAIR! (Though the real horror and weight of our sins on the sunken Savior, must ever be unfathomable to perceptive penetrations--as unfathomable as the ocean depths in which our sins are now buried).
Throughout the Bible, extreme emotion-packed dynamics of life are there if we were only awake to them, written down by witnesses of varied personalities who felt and knew deeply--personally--the experiences they were portraying. Their testimony is portrayed in the best mediums their days afforded--something of great passion was put down in contemporary methods of the very best ancient writers. It would enrich us to try and read the story of the multi-storied document, in the way it was FELT by the many writers who wrote it, and the characters contained within it! We can let our minds go wild in imagining the paradise God made in Genesis! Our spirits should feel the melancholy of the infinite sadness Adam and Eve must have felt, when they lost paradise, when they watched their first precious baby-child become the first MURDERER! Even in God’s shoes we can put ourselves, to imagine how the Creator must have felt, after walking with anticipatory joy in the cool of a paradise evening , to that sacred special place--an ancient hearth, so to speak, where the fires of holy passions burned hot--where he and his dear friends met customarily to ‘chew the fat’ of life, to share experience, to explore profound purpose, experience truest meaning, to exult themselves in the subtle thrill of each other’s company--to revel in deepest love--during the pleasant reclining hours of their day. We can feel but a little, the sharp painful thrill of the dejected--the rejected FRIEND--as we see him call out to once bosom friends, who at the sound of his familiar voice run away! Who can measure the sadness of GOD? It can be equaled only by the joy that Christ looked forward to, as he endured the dreadful cross! And even as the cause of that joy brings a weeping kind of joy to OUR hearts, a heaviness also descends, at the same theme, upon our profound spirits, when we too contemplate, the portentous price--along with God’s frightened half-grateful friends--that was paid for the gift of their first pair of clothes. The LEATHER clothes made to cover up their naked reality, which after tasting of one forbidden morsel, ever after caused them unspeakable shame to behold or to expose. In the leather sandals of myriad epic characters--worthy of movies all--we can walk, aided by INSPIRED IMAGINATION! We might even discover from time to time--to our amazement and chagrin--that in spite of the ancient style, THEIR sandals don’t feel all that different from our OWN!
The anxiety of David, fleeing from the unstable, jealous, vindictive king Saul, should make our hearts race from an adrenaline rush, and give us distressing tension pains in our shoulders--the relentless hunt, the incessant pursuit, the tragic experience of fleeing an enemy bent on destruction, until every ounce of vital strength is exhausted, should help us to ourselves feel, and silently mouth, the prayer wrung out of the depths of David’s bowels: “O, that I had wings as a dove, then would I fly away and be at REST!” The vision of an angel announcing the PEACE-maker’s inexplicable conception within a teenage virgin womb, the impregnable walls of Jericho falling to blasts of trumpets--not battering rams--yet leaving one spot firm where lived a blessed lying harlot, the guilty and despondent false-hearted Judas hanging himself, his body breaking the Tree and bursting open on the rocks below, the procession of horsemen in the Apocalypse (the Grim Reaper takes up the rear, after JUSTICE), the rabid ferocious lions whose devouring mouths were shut up--from their wicked plotting and accusing--when they finally got fed to a den of LITERAL lions, the leprous loveless losers healed by the divine touch of compassion, the earth made paradise again and washed by COMPASSIONATE fire--eternal ONLY in its consequence, rightly studied--of the leprosy of SIN! From paradise lost to paradise made new, how many amazing things are contained in this document--portraying eternal REALITY in all of its shame and its transfiguration, unbreakable strings of promise and fulfillment, conditions and consequences, all of its hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, failures and successes, gains and eternal loss, dreams and disappointments, guts and final GLORY!
Just like a well crafted movie, the Bible spares no emotion, however horrifying, in the telling of the story. We should nearly throw up when we read and think of John the Baptizer’s head being asked for and brought in to a celebration of ‘civilized’ familiar acquaintances, just as I nearly threw up, watching graphic video footage of terrorists sawing off the contemporary heads of innocent horror-stricken live hostages, all the while shouting what translates roughly to “God be glorified!” We should be ANGRY along with Jesus, when he is whipping the money-changers and crooked businessmen in the ancient temple of Yahweh--those sophisticated greedy crooks, who not unlike a few modern-day corporations, made their ancient killings off of the sacrificing poorer classes, who had no choice but to purchase a vital product, however trumped the price and false the pretenses, of the inspectors and exchangers of sacrificial beings. We should feel a jet-powered thrill with Mary Magdalene--whom evidence suggests to us was the same committer of adultery thrown fully exposed before the sinless One, by a mob of sinful religionists--when she discovers that the man who “came not to condemn” has truly risen from the grave! We too, when we understand we’re all as guilty as she, should LONG in our spirits to cling to his re-animated bodily form, as SHE did! We should weep bitterly if we love him, with flawed Peter, after he in weakness denies his Lord repeatedly, then looking up, notices only a look of deepest compassionate love, from the betrayed Lord who had called him FRIEND! We--if our experience has been repeatedly flawed--should be just as ready as Peter was, to throw our naked selves into the Sea, wearing only the outer fishing coat of Christ’s own merit, thrown hastily over bare-naked flaws and failures, in a desperate attempt to get ashore faster--depending on NOTHING but the robe of Christ’s grace to recommend ourselves--when we too discover, the man on shore calling out to us, is the very risen Jesus, whom we desperately love now, even as deeply as Peter EVER did!
What material the second coming, the restoration of all things, the great judgment day, the end of sin, suffering and suffocating death, the percussive resurrection from a grave’s prison-irons grip (not to mention the uncontestable evidence of 1 Corinthians 15 that our OWN resurrection WILL one day be fact) could afford for making dynamic movies! If only we might experience these eternal realities as vividly as we do the make-believe, often cheap sentimentalities, of Hollywood “creations” for our RECREATION--which in our post-modern age fills up a void in our lives, where hearth fires of more than one kind once burned hot--what an undying flaming passion would grow in our witness and walk with the Lord of ALL “Creation” and RE-CREATION! And what a PASSION we might inspire for Bible reading.
© Copyright 2004, 2007 Dennis Berlin (www.dennisberlin.com)
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This is truly a magnificent presentation. You took a rapid tour of experiences that raised our passions in the Bible and showed up the cheap imitations shown in Hollywood, most times for the love of money. This is most interesting reading.
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