Saturday, March 25, 2006

"V" for Vendetta

Last week my son and I went to the preview of "V" for Vendetta. The theater was filled with college-aged students. I did not know what I was getting into, and when Luke asked if I wanted background, I said "No, I'll just watch it on my own." For the next 2 hours (or however long it was), I was alternately moved, bored, perplexed and transfixed. Something was being said in a language I did not know. It certainly was not another "Matrix", but it was haunting. I couldn't get it out of my mind.
The lead character is in a mask for the entire movie. I expected that it might be removed (ala Star Wars) but it wasn't. The female lead moved from innocent to hard, feminine to genderless. There was a lot of gender-bending in the movie and music mixing across genres. So, I tried to consider it something I saw, that I could talk with young people about, but little more than that.
Then, on a night flight from LA to Chicago, I sat next to a guy reading one of those graphic novels (not graphic like pornographic, but fantasy characters with lots of dialogue baloons around them, monochromatic line drawings, cartoon-like, but for adults). I screwed up my nerve and asked him what he was reading. That question turned into a four hour conversation right into OHare airport. My seatmat was a graphic novelist, who was returning from a convention in LA for other graphic novelists. When I demonstrated interest and ignorance, he led me into a fascinating discussion about the independent genre of graphic novels, morphing between literature and film. He told me that "V" for Vendetta was based on a well-known graphic novel. Many of them adapt classic themes and recast them in fantasy settings. He is a Palestinian Muslim from Chicago who hungers for God. We left the plane as new-found friends and I will update you when his novel hits publication.
The third conversation happened on Friday with a young pastor who is working outside the structured church with dischurched people in our community. When we were visiting together, we got into the area of institutional faith, both the pros and the cons. Together we talked about what is core to the church and what are historical, cultural, class and ethnicity accumulations. Then he asked me if I knew about "V" for Vendetta. When I told him I just saw it, his eyes lit up and he said; that's how many young people see the church....it needs blowing up. Yikes! Of course he was not advocating terrorism or violence, but explaning to me the reflexive response young people (and others) have towards any institution of faith, and structure, any hierarchy and overarching authority: make music with it by blowing it up. They automatically distrust the institutional church.
That's a huge impass. I sensed it a bit while living in Minneapolis when someone said: "How do we know Pastor Don is lying? His lips are moving!" Ouch! There was a conditioned suspicion and distrust, not so much of me as a person (I hope) but of the role of the ordained pastor.There was nothing I could do to dissuuade them. I must have sold out. I must have lost my freedom to political expediencey. I must be a lackey for the system. Is that what I'm sensing out here in California with a number of good friends who are believers, but resisters to joining any local church? Does "V" for Vendetta give us a clue?


At 4:55 AM , Blogger Ryan said...

Just wanted to check in and say I think you caught a hold of some good ideas. LIke always anything new wil be fairly diverse. You will get lots of differeing ideas. I think if we look back at some of the things that people were interested in about "generation X" we will see factors that are influeincing the "emergent church. One thing that is important is to realize genration X'ers hate the title and generally will want to avoid catagorization. Things like th graphic novel blend consumer catagories, similarly a lot of independent music is similarly uncatagorizable as what I think is a major trend. Churches that think along similar catagories (how do we reach the youth?) miss this new trend.
i hope we can meet when I return to SB in December.

At 2:16 PM , Anonymous kent said...

I saw the movie last night, and it was fascinating, but it was movie about the abuse of power and justice, and revenge. It was a parable of how the search for security and certainly can allow totalitarian powers to come to the fore. It was an over the topp criticism of how our culture is moving.

I was more interested in how the younger generation view "us". How they distrust us, and how they see us as sold out and lying. Where did this cyncism come from? I have lived inside the institutional church all my life. While there are certain traits and behaviors that drive to distraction I am not their victim. What is more the church has been the steward of the gospel for this next generation. Imperfect steward no doubt, but for the most part fairly effective given there are so many now in the faith. It is easy and enjoyable to take shots at the institutional, but give the emergent movement 30 year and we shall see how structured they become. If anyone looks honerstly at the church, not simply one or 10 disfunctional congregations, there is not much to have a vendetta against.

At 4:34 AM , Blogger Ryan said...

Kent, I would like to eoncourage you to read "Younger Evangelicals" by Robert Weber. I think it will help you see some of the criticism without the emotions.
as a younger person (28) and some one who grew up outside of the church I can understand why this younger generation feels betrayed. The Christian subculture while rebelling against the historic/traditional church which did not meet "modern needs" from the 60's to the 80's; the current church structure does not adress issues of a "post Christian" society. So while every generation has its "heresy" we are also dealing with the fact that many younger Christians have felt very hurt because the "traditional/institutional" church has made them feel like "bad Christians" when they have faithfully been obedient to Christ. I know this was my experience. I was lucky enough to have strong relationships within my church that allowed me to work through these things, but I spent about a year not being able to attend service. i served on the worship team, I was a youth leader, and designed our sound system and trained volunteers to run it, but on a given Sunday, if i didn't have anything to do, then I would just hang out in the back. I hope that helps.


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