I love to watch movies. In all honesty, have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like movies? I am not sure that person exists. Perhaps they only like a type of movie, but if someone were to swear off movies altogether I would have some real concerns in judgment.
Easily one of my favorite movies of all time is Batman the Dark Knight. I could watch it on repeat and on one occasion did just that. The late Heath Ledger played the Joker and many have said it was the defining moment of his career. It shortly after that Ledger passed away, however the Dark Knight was not his final film.
If you saw the movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus you were not among a majority. The movie, debuting in 2009 was actually Heath Ledger’s final film. Ledger passed away halfway through the filming. The Imaginarium follows a traveling theater troupe throughout London sort of like a traveling sideshow offering viewers participation in an exploration of their dreams and imagination. The movie itself was not overly compelling however the specific scene that sets the trajectory for the entire plot stands as an interesting theological commentary.
The storyline is driven by an initial exchange between Dr. Parnassus and the Devil. The two meet within an ancient monastery where Dr. Parnassus is head of a monastic group commissioned with telling “the eternal story… the story that sustains the universe, the story without which there is nothing.” The Devil challenges Parnassus, “how can you believe something that can be so easily disproved?” following which he silences the storytellers. In the silence, the devil jests that the universe is still in motion. Parnassus insists that it is simply because others are still telling stories elsewhere within the world. The two proceed to wager who can “win more souls,” Parnassus, by telling and commissioning others to tell stories of imagination, or the Devil, by encouraging humanity to pursue feeble and carnal desires.
That’s really the problem with the world isn’t it? We are commissioned to listen to God’s story and continue its telling by the living of our own. All the while, the world is pulled astray, us included toward the feeblest of desires. To summarize C.S. Lewis, it is not that we make God to big, to powerful, but instead we make him to small, not powerful enough. We place God on a scale opposite all the world can offer us, money, sex, fame, power, and we in our falleness believe the scales to be of move value toward things that are fleeting, fading, and in the end will leave us still searching for ourselves and our story.
It is the sin of humanity that God continuously seeks us as we continuously seek for someone or something to take his place. The power of the Christian story is to disprove this cosmic untruth; by meeting God as he calls us, and living a life in pursuit of him, we turn the world on its head. Our story is part of an epic revolution of truth, commissioned to show that God does not indeed belong on the scales in the first place. Our story is the story that sustains the universe and although the darkness that envelops creation would have us convinced otherwise, it cannot be disproved. The proof however is not in the telling but in the living, one is not merely convinced simply by observation, but rather in participation.
While there is a mission to silence the Christian story, whether the reason is antiquation, lack of intelligibility or otherwise, God’s mission is and always has been to prove his love for the world and his power to overcome the falleness of creation by divine subversive intervention: inviting humanity to participate in the suffering of Christ and in doing so, allowing humanity to become co-heirs to a new world, one of hope and not of sadness, one focused on a redemptive future not a painful past, on the resounding story of God not the silence of falseness of empty desires (Romans 8). It is our mission to overcome the silence, not by who can yell the loudest, but who can live