Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Great Gatsby

My wife and I recently watched the movie rendition of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. This is one of her favorite films, so she has seen it many times.  The last time I watched it was when it first came to the theaters way back in the seventies.

As with all great works of literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald powerfully captures the human condition, this time in the mileau of American aristocratic decadence of the roaring twenties.  The story depicts for us how people attempt to buy relationships--that is, love--but of course, utterly fail with tragic consequences.  The best money can buy is a cheap facsimile of loyal love; like a well crafted prop used in theater, what money buys looks good only from twenty feet away.

You may be thinking I'm stating the obvious.  Yes, there are many more important ideas to be fished out of this piece written at the height of Existentialism.  But obvious or not, I know all too many people who have reduced relationships to commodities.  Nothing has changed with humankind except the dress, technology, and, perhaps, the latest philosophical vogue.  And contemporaries of Fitzgerald would have said the same.  The message as conspicuous as it is, is apparently lost on most people, and there is a reason for this, but we won't go into that, now.

You might also be wondering why I have this tendency to be a bummer in my blogs.  I'm sorry.  What hope do we have, though, if we believe we have evolved away from the shallow bankruptcy, decadence, and prejudice of eighty years ago, when we clearly haven't?  Let's be honest; our entire society is structured around the lie that money--that is, power--can buy me love.  As painful as this is to admit about ourselves, I would be remiss to not bring it up just to avoid being a bummer; I really care about all of us; in every great story you can't have the resolution of the third act without the dire straits of the second act--unless of course,  you were one of the early twentieth century American writers who didn't believe there was any resolution to be had (there's that Existentialism I mentioned, rearing its ugly head).

The Great Gatsby poignantly shows us how powerless money (power) is at securing for us love and justice--the two things we secretly desire most of all.

Anyway, I didn't really start off to talk about all that; I have another point to make.

As I said, the last time I watched The Great Gatsby was when it first came out in the theater thirty odd years ago.  My girlfriend and I (actually, Melissa was a close friend who was a girl; so it is somewhat misleading to call her my girlfriend) loved to go to movies, and since we had met in American Lit. class, what better movie to see together than The Great Gatsby.

Well, there we were sitting side-by-side in the dark theater watching the film, as any boy and girl would if they were only good friends, when the climatic scene came where Gatsby is shot while he was floating in his swimming pool.  Some lady sitting behind us gasped and cried out, "Good god, he shot Robert Redford!"  Melissa and I turned around and glared at the women, incredulous.

It dawned on me that most people respond to the Gospel of Christ much the same way as that woman did the tragic end of Gatsby.  What is the Gospel of Christ?  The Gospel is this.  Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was raised to life on the third day, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.  God brought the long sweeping epic of the story of Israel, which was for the benefit of the whole world, to the promised climax of the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Israel's representative, Jesus the Messiah (Christ), Lord, Master, King.  The typical response seen, I'm sad to admit, both in myself and much of American Christendom is "What's in it for me?"  And from outside American Christendom the typical response is "By god, who does god think he is?"

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father [God] except through Me."  We know Jesus isn't blowing smoke because He was raised from the dead back to life.  The historically proven fact of Jesus' resurrection validates all of His claims, and puts Him on the throne as King over all creation, which includes you and me.  Shouldn't our response to the Gospel be markedly different?

I wonder if all those who have preceded us, who, when they heard the Gospel, cried out "What must I do?" and submitted themselves to the King, I wonder if they aren't facing us with that same bewilderment Melissa and I felt towards that clueless woman.


Jon Kokko said...

"You might also be wondering why I have this tendency to be a bummer in my blogs." -- ECC 1:18.

Jeff said...

ECC 2:15-16

We've been talking about Isaiah in one of my study groups. "Here I am Lord, Send me!" Isaiah cried. Makes a nice lyric and sounds uplifting but you need to remember God sent Isaiah to preach to a people who would not listen - ever! "Send me" of course, but don't expect to be rewarded with some earthly "success" if that is not God's plan.