Going To The Movies Instead Of Moving (What Harry Potter and Joan of Arc Have In Common)

I’m always intrigued how art and popular culture use themes such as redemption and transcendence. This thread is most apparent in the movies.

Captain America, Batman, Harry Potter and all cultural blockbusters grapple with major philosophical concerns such as good vs. evil, justice, and sacrificial love. This is an undeniable God-planted yearning in the heart of every man, even those bred on the post modern values of Hollywood or Broadway. Many times in film and literature, the most hardened unbeliever, in creating his own art, will necessarily borrow from a worldview he scoffs at.

This Imageo Dei must make its way out in some way, even if inadvertently.

Just Move!

Tom, the lead character of Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, knows of this internal groping. He wants more to life than his nightly routine of movie screening after another monotonous workday. He’s not buying what his culture is selling anymore.

“I’m tired of movies… Look at them! All of those glamorous people – having adventures – hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! Yes, until there’s a war. That’s when adventure becomes available to the masses! Everyone’s dish, not only Gable’s! Then the people in the dark room come out of the dark room to have some adventure themselves Goody, goody! – It’s our turn now, to go to the South Sea Islands – to make a safari – to be exotic, far-off! – But I’m not patient. I don’t want to wait till then. I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!”

Tom’s aching for self-actualization is misplaced. He knows he’s made for more than watching movies. But he deduces that means he should be the star and the center of the screenplay. As always there is a mixed  bag of truth here for us.

People go to the movies instead of moving. I like the way Tom puts it. People go through the motions of life instead of living. The pit we can fall into is very similar. A self-professed Christian may go to church instead going out into the world. They sit in comfortable pews instead of reaching and loving until in hurts. They gaze into their narcissistic mirrors in preparation every morning instead of beholding the face of Christ in prayer and study. They watch T.V. programs about fictional families and friends instead of spending quality time with their own family and friends. In many ways, and many times quite literally, many of us go to the movies instead of moving.

Move Like An Illiterate Farm Girl

This trap of mere examination can be fallen into by philosophers, authors and theologians. G.K. Chesterton observes the common snare when comparing Joan of Arc to some of the respected thinkers of his day, Tolstoy and Nietzsche:

Joan of Arc, age 19, burnt at the stake for "heresy"

Joan of Arc….chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. I thought of all that was noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially plain pity, the actualities in earth, the reverence of the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find its secret…I thought of his (Nietzsche) cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their antagonistic ideals….she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.

Unfortunately, I find a large portion of my life strongly parallels that of Nietzsche and Tolstoy rather than that of Joan of Arc. Many times I am no more than an onlooker in the spectator sport of careful scrutiny. The sad narrative may be that many 21st century cultural Christians do have more in common with an atheist philosopher than a fearless crusader and national hero. The dilemma for the elitist philosopher and peasant believer is one and the same: We have grown accustomed to going to movies instead of moving. Nietzsche had a belief system but it rarely compelled him to any valuable action (and when his belief system was really strictly adhered to in Nazi Germany it was ultimately exposed as the malicious sham it was).

Move Like A Nerdy British Boy With A Wand

An illiterate teenage farm girl is rebuke to all ivory tower speculators and intellectuals who talk much and do little. The same is true for our modern-day cultural icons. We don’t admire Harry Potter for his views on evolution or the string theory, we admire him for his fearless stand for justice in the face of utter darkness and evil.

What Harry is in fiction, the saints of God have been (and are) in fact.

Similarly, we may have a stalwart of good doctrine but no accompaniment of sound action. A Christian worldview means little if not lived out in view of the world.

You know, those inescapable elementary twin truths of “faith and works”.

I pray my theology has hands and feet.

And I pray I find myself swept up into the only real eternal drama of good vs. evil, justice, and sacrificial love. It’s not found in a nerdy teenager with a magic wand, or a cheesy grown man wearing red, white, and blue tights.

It’s found at the cross of Jesus Christ. Forevermore. There every knee, expression of art, and philosophical musing will bow in humble awestruck reverence and fascination.

Bryan Daniels

Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

12 thoughts on “Going To The Movies Instead Of Moving (What Harry Potter and Joan of Arc Have In Common)”

  1. As usual, captivating reading Coach. Keep up the great work. I don’t read many blogs, but yours is my favorite. By far. I look forward to your next post.

  2. I love this! But I know I’ve been praising movers and peasants and nightingales – instead of moving and loving and singing. I need to change.

  3. So true, so true. Thanks for adding to my motivation to work more tirelessly on the things God is calling me to do. Hey, compared to Joan of Arc, computer illiteracy is no excuse. Keep up the great blogs.

  4. Very well put Bryan. A well spotted truth of our society and contemporary Christianity. Even though you may confess to being more of a Tolstoy or Nietzsche, I wish more people would just even THINK of their walk. Even if it doesn’t lead to immediate change, it is the open door that will allow the Holy Spirit to speak. God bless. Darryl.

  5. I suppose it could be a dumb founding and a combigned enviroment where contexts is made into the set , setting the subject of the Gospel aside sort of washing the hands of reasoning; whether of deception or of truth, the dumbing is a weight of a shield of faith, and a giant like innocence can seem to mock, but as oposed to entertaining a David and Goliath type movement into a sceneario that has the audiance captured and has only their volnurability opened , allowing individuals their choice as if it is an inspiring possability, and although the only relativity of choices are simply those in that environment…
    …okay, now there could be a clear and present danger yet the environment now leaves the choice of answers from the good guys being strip mined of so much that not of flesh and blood but pricipalities and powers can be and probably has been for ages, been turned into an alternate story.
    The mixing of Christian Holidays into the days of similar other cultural days might be the same slant.
    It is very important not to get so drawn into modern streams of the day and not give in to the slants that claim real or more important reality, or the ones that down play the comforts of imagination.
    David gave the armor back because he just wasn’t comfortable.
    And I have a hard time quoting scripture and making sense too.
    Story tellars are important.
    We should have a good ballance like a natural taste for salt but caution all the added industry aditives that could keep us from our purest and healthiest sources and combinations.
    Personally with all the recent Hollywood features I leaned a little towards Thor for some of both human and spiritual and story telling senses of reasoning.
    Another of a painting : The frieze tells the story of Northumbria from the building of Hadrian’s Wall to the growth of industrial Tyneside and is the centrepiece to Wallington’s Pre-Raphaelite decorative scheme. One of the tapestry paintings, Building the Wall, William Bell Scott. © NTPL
    An older story of a biography of Merlin lent to the idea that Merlin himself was a Nazarite living a duel lifestyle of both Rome and his native culture of Wales in a catholoism by the same apostles yet that was not recognised by Rome.
    Homers Odyssey …THE iLLIAD…
    Where this post may seem lengthy and out of place by volume of content, a rather larger scope of more length I’ve kept on my own posts stretch both imagination modern economic and Christianity; i.e. by post title CREWING WINGED HORSE
    THOR, Marvel’s film, marvels of relationships. Today’s marvel’s and marvel; Thor.
    {i will repost that on Wp if need)
    The wand and the shield here do not compare enough to me, to match that of the focus adhered to by Saint Joan Of Ark as portraid in The Messenger.

  6. Thanks for the “like,” Bryan.

    And, I enjoyed this post. Any brother who draws from Tennessee Williams, Captain America and Harry Potter in a single post gets a grateful pat on the back from me! Well done. As my wife are fond of saying… all good stories are merely reflections of the Great Story. Or, as Tolkien liked saying – each story is just another leaf pulled from the Tree of Tales.

    And all the better when they inspire us to move.

    Well said.

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