Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For the Movie-Goers

Consider this graphic Hollywood plotline: A man travels to Las Vegas to retrieve his cheating wife. On the way back to Los Angeles, the two stop at a rundown motel in Death Valley. During the night, a mob of sexual degenerates surrounds their cabin, threatening to sodomize the man. Hoping to appease the bloodlust, the man throws his wife outside—and when morning comes, the mob has left nothing of her but a corpse. The man cuts up her body and sends pieces of it to his friends… But that's nothing compared to the bloodbath that follows.

No, this isn't the synopsis for Saw IV or the latest Quentin Tarantino gore-fest. It's an update of a not-so-familiar biblical story from Judges 20-21. But imagine if that story were made into a film. How the critics would rant, Christian and otherwise. If told without flinching, the story would earn an NC-17 rating for sure; and there's probably no way to tell it in a fashion that would cut the rating to PG-13. Of what possible redemptive value could such a story be?

But there it is in Scripture, nonetheless. Why? In the context of the book of Judges, it sums up, in brutal clarity and with little or no ethical commentary, what it looks like when a society does what it pleases, with no moral authority to guide it. In the larger context of pre-exile history, it demonstrates how Israel abandoned God's headship in favor of corrupt human governance. In the context of God's plan for salvation, it shows how man's self-preoccupation can run counter to God's agenda: Israel's retribution in this story almost wipes out the tribe of Benjamin, from whom Jesus' human lineage—and the Apostle Paul's—later springs.

Context is everything.

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