Have you ever noticed the way people are extremely fascinated with cataclysmic catastrophes? CNN, FOX, MNBC, ABC-TV, all run continuous live-footage from the scene straight into our living-rooms. Yet, after a few weeks or months, we quickly forget all about theses tragedies. Example, the tsunami that nearly wiped out Sri Lanka back in 2004.... Earthquakes, like the one that dropped the highway-overpass on San Franciscans in 1989; these simply don't remain on our minds for long. Last year China had sever flooding that ruptured dams and destroyed entire cities. Even the focus on the current crisis in Haiti will fade with time. One more word: Katrina.
On the other hand, there's one element related to destruction that seems to remain in vogue, though. Growing up through the Cold War and being an adult at its conclusion (Tear down that wall Mr. Gorbachev!), I've observed that people stay perpetually focused on the "Apocalyptic" style/genre of literature/movies. There was even a style of music driven by this, bands like Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth... I remember when I was in high school there was the TV-movie, "The day after" which portrayed life after the "bomb" was dropped and what a nuclear "winter" would be like. Who could forget all of the Mel Gibson movies with his "Mad Max" character?
Recently I read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. The Road is now a movie. The book won a Pulitzer, and I'm sure the movie will be successful too. It is a story that covers several months; it's about a father and son who travel cross-county in the aftermath of a nuclear fallout. It was a very depressing setting for a story, but, a moving story of a father's love and dedication for his son.
Within the last month a new movie staring Denzel Washington, "The Book of Eli," hit the theaters. In this movie, Eli travels for THIRTY years across America. He has the last remaining Bible in the world, and he has to protect it from the bad guy who wants to use the Bible to manipulate the remaining survivors...
All most all of these stories have several themes in common: The main character almost always is traveling; usually headed for the coast. Also, he has to scrounge for food while avoid being eaten by the bad guys (yuck). The characters all lament the loss of technology... Inevitably the world is pretty much hopeless, but, the good guy won't give up. Maybe it's that last part, the un-willingness to give up, that tenacity, that keeps fans coming back? I guess these are all stories of survival. The drive to thrive to survive and stay alive taps into that part of our psyche that cries out, that screams, I want to live forever.
I imagine Apocalyptic plots will continue to drive ticket sales and will be a popular obsession until the end of time.... I'm also sure people will continue to try persevere in hopelessness, on and off the movie set. One of our callings as Christians is to help offer hope and comfort in a world filled with suffering.
Paul wrote in II Cor 1:3-7, "3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort."
It is true for some people that reading books and watching movies provides a much-needed brief escape from reality. May we be insightful enough to share the hope we have which is grounded in reality, and, if it takes a discussion about a new book or movie to get others started talking with us, it's not the end of the world after all....