Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Finding Faith to Overcome Cultural Doom and Gloom

 by Lisa Gulya

Tags: spirituality, faith, emerging Christianity, New Yorker, No Country for Old Men, Lilipoh,

Jesus radical

Hollywood has been bombarding moviegoers with apocalyptic visions, from 2007’s No Country for Old Men to The Happening to the current Disney/Pixar darling, Wall-E. Faced with their bleak depictions of the future (Wall-E lightens it up for the kids, of course), religion is sometimes offered as a countervailing, hopeful force against such dark visions.

Examining No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road as emblematic of our bleak cultural outlook, the wellness magazine Lilipoh (article not available online) finds hope through pastor and author Brian McLaren’s vision of "emergent Christianity" to fight the “sense of impending doom [that] fills all three works.” Rather than despairing over the ineffably evil of characters like No Country’s mass-murdering Anton Chigurh, Lilipoh suggests turning to Jesus’ original message of helping others to find hope:

Radical forgiveness, service to the poor and sick, a slow and steady aligning of our will with God’s...stripped of the nauseating rhetoric and distorted lens that the Christian church has all too often applied—this message offers a revolutionary and unlikely promise. 

Film critics offer a different way to lessen the depressing effects of hopeless movies: deny their credibility. David Denby's therapeutically harsh appraisal of No Country for Old Men from the New Yorker, for example, credits the film for its skillful opening twenty minutes of “the physical and psychological realization of dread,” but the final judgment is dismissive. “In the end," Denby writes, "the movie’s despair is unearned.” 

Image by Anthony Easton, licensed under Creative Commons