5 Strategies of Heaven vs. Earth
go along – coast
go against – fight
go away – hide
go backwards – reverse
go forwards – renew
In church history class we used the example of Christian values when confronted with movie choices. As Christians we believe in the arts, in creativity and we know why; because we are made in the image of our Creator. We also value virtue, purity, hope, life and goodness. That’s where the problem comes in. Too many movies make us choose between values. We value our friends, we value fun, we value creativity and we value dignity. So what happens when we have to choose between them?
Sadducess – go along with the Romans (the ruling way of life). Compromise; coast; blend in. This strategy seems to be the most common throughout history, at least for those who learn to benefit from the status quo. The movie strategy would essentially be to watch whatever everyone else is watching and benefit from being included, having fun, appearing confident and informed. All it costs is a bit of integrity. Sadducees find that to be affordable. Compromising the hard to see values like the life to come and the invisible spiritual realm make much more sense to them than losing out in the visible realm. “We can be religious people in the world like the world, no big deal.”
Zealots – go against the Romans (the ruling way of life). Stand up! Fight! Forward e-mails with threats! This strategy is to be aggressive as possible. “Let Heaven rule of Earth even if we have to use the powers of the Earth to beat the Earth for Heaven!” (Zealots like exclamation points). The movie example would be to aggressively pressure others away from distasteful movies, maybe even intimidate people. In extremes it would involve sabatoging the worldly situation by tearing down offensive movie posters or picketing movie lines while shouting at people, or worse. In Jesus day Judas was an example. “For God’s sake rise up and crush the ungodly!!”
Essenes – go away from the Romans (the ruling way of life). Get up and get out of town. When the Romans dominated Jerusalem (with the help of easy going Sadducees) the Essenes headed for the hills. They lived in secluded communities and waited for the wicked world to end by the weight of their own wickedness or by the wrath of God. John the Baptist is a type of this strategy. He left Jerusalem and lived outside warning that it was not safe to be so worldly. The movie example? Don’t watch movies, they are worthless. Just read books, heaven oriented books like the Bible and a few others and hang on, the end is near.
Pharisees – go back to the good old days before the Romans (the ruling way of life). These are the social conservatives who in Jesus time were neither Sadducees (compromising religious worldly people) nor Essenes (wilderness dwelling escapists). They stood in the world agains the world, but not violently like the Zealots (violently revolutionary). Jesus was actually close to them in many ways. He said their problem was not that they were not as righteous as they should have been. That surprised many. What Jesus taught was that their way of going back to the good old days showed that they did not really understand the good old days very well. What was good in the old days was having prophets who could look forward to the Kingdom of Heaven reigning graciously on Earth with Justice and Mercy. The Pharisee movie strategy is to only watch a select number of old movies and to criticize all the new movies for not being like the good old movies.
Jesus – go forward with the Kingdom of Heaven even amongst the Romans (the ruling way of life). The Saducees are such sell outs that not even the world really notices them. The Pharisees engage the world, which is more than we can say for the Essenes, and they do it relatively restrained compared to the Zealots. What they don’t do well is to offer a meaningful example of the Kingdom that is not so visible to Romans and people like them. Jesus came to give life, abundant life, flowing pure life (rivers of living water). Jesus showed how he could take the truths of the LORD’s Law (Torah) and express it in ways that actually renew people tangled in the other options. What does it look like in regard to movie watching? Wisdom. There are some movies that need to be rejected, “Go and sin no more.” There are others where we engage and separate the good from the bad. Jesus did that from within the home of Zaccheus, from within the parties of ‘publicans and sinners’. By wisely seeking a way to express as many of our ideals as faithfully as possible we can be in the world, even of Romans and Californians, without being of the world (Hollywood, Bollywood or Cyberwood).