Tonight was the launch of this season's "Theatrical Theology" Series of The Episcopal Church of St. Paul in Chatham, NJ.
A group of about 25 members of our congregation viewed the movie "The Valley of Elah" at The Roberts Theater in Chatham, NJ.
It is, in my perspective, a deeply disturbing film about War - it's history in the course of human events - and Heroism - its complexity and imperfection.
Some will dismiss it as a modern anti-war statement from the liberal Hollywood establishment about the US involvement in Iraq, but that would be, I fear, short-sighted as well as incorrect - not to mention irrelevant.
Far from being perfect it is, nonetheless and in my perspective, an important modern morality play about much, much larger and ancient issues, which begin, as the film suggests, in the Valley of Elah.
For those of you who might not know this particular scriptural reference, the Valley of Elah is the place where the young Israeli King David slew the Philistine giant Goliath.
It is a story about how two waring communities have traditionally, over the centuries of the history of the human enterprise, dealt with conflicts over power and ownership of land - by sending out their youngest and ill-equipped to do battle against impossible odds.
On a deeper level, it is a psychodrama about how it is we deal with the presence of evil and those we consider "monsters" in our midst.
A large group met afterwards at the local "Charlie Brown" restaurant for drinks and to "decompress." I chose to come home to decompress in my own way - through meditation and prayer. (Yes, it's THAT disturbing.)
I warn you: it's not an easy film to see, especially if someone you know and love has been affected by any war in any way - WW II, Korea, Viet Nam, Bosnia, Afghanistan, or Iraq.
So, here's what I'm planning for the discussion tomorrow at the church from 9:30 - 11 AM, which I hope will be a template for our discussions about this film and the other two we are going to view - "To Kill a Mockingbird" in November and "Do The Right Thing" in December (see previous post below).
I'm going to do an overview of Ethics in general, as a branch of philosophical thought. I want to present a few General Ethical Foundations in general, before discussing Christian Ethics in particular. This is not an exhaustive course in Ethics, but only to provide a context for our discussion.
I'm using as the focus of our discussions about Christians Ethics the Great Commandment: "Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength and your whole soul, and love your neighbor as yourself."
Here are the Questions for this Series:
1. What is the major ethical issue(s) of this film?
2 What is the "right thing" to do in this film - especially in terms of any tension you see between secular and Christian ethics?
3. Who was the "hero" in this film? Who displayed both courage and self-sacrifice? What, if any, is the difference between the Christian hero and the hero of the secular humanist?
4. Where is God in this story?
5. What is the moral of this story?
6. What, if any, cultural considerations impact our understanding of morality, heroism, and theism?
7. How are you changed by this story? This discussion? What might you do differently because of your ethical reflections?
And, we're off . . . . Keep us in your prayers.
If anyone has seen this movie - or any of the movies in this series - and wishes to engage in an online discussion of any of these questions, please do join us. I'll be sharing your comments with the group.
If this issue raises for you another ethical question that can be applied to all three films, please do raise it for consideration.
I do believe that the church is at its best when She challenges and deeply engages the community in discussions about important questions of our time.
I would encourage you to take the risk and begin a series like this in your own community of faith. This is our third year and we have found it to be a wonderful adult educational series as well as a great evangelism tool.