Ponder this: one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences. What would you do?
This is the question throughout the film entitled “The Purge.” Written and directed by James DeManaco, I found this concept to be an interesting, though admittedly unsettling idea. The story line is set for the year 2022 in the United States, and all is well. Unemployment is 1%, economic strength and peace at home have been regained, and crime has almost been eliminated, because of a program our new “founding fathers” have created called the “Purge.” The Purge is a federal plan that allows people the opportunity to commit murder and mayhem for one twelve hour period a year. The thought process here is that the Purge allows the upper-middle class and above to go out on a homicidal rampage and wipe out anyone they deem unworthy. In true Darwinian fashion, only the strong will survive.
The Christian Perspective
As a Christian, I couldn’t help but view the film in the light of good verses evil. However, it is our own interpretation that determines who is “good” and who is “evil,” which we see play out. And the film depicts the “loser” as a typical homeless drug addict/alcoholic initially. However, later on in the movie, we see that evil doesn’t always reside in what is apparent, and that goodness can be found within the most unseemly character.
Another film I recently viewed also spoke to me with its initial premise being an obvious “bad” event, and then later, with many shades of grey, the event that is “bad” turns out to have a silver lining. The film is entitled “Flight,” and it stars Denzel Washington who boards South Jet Flight 227 as a pilot flying from Orlando to Atlanta. (SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who have no yet seen it!) Washington’s character (Whip Whitaker), has something in common with the “loser” from “The Purge,” and that is he is a raging alcoholic and addict. The airplane is doomed from the start due to mechanical problems, and Captain Whitaker is heralded as a hero for landing the crippled plane while saving 96 out of 102 people on board, losing two crew and four passengers. Although not much later, it is discovered that he was intoxicated significantly while manning the flight. He stays protected by attorneys, and enabled as well throughout most of the movie. But finally, he does the right thing, and takes responsibility.
Lastly, we see Whitaker in jail, telling this story – his story – to fellow inmates. And what he says at the end is something to which I could so relate. He said, “I’m in here for a long time, and that’s fair. The FAA took away my pilot’s license so I will never fly again, and I’ve accepted that. But the one thing that really matters to me is that in here, I’m finally free.” Oh, the irony and truth in this statement!
Freedom From Addiction
I reference both of these movies, because I appreciate how the alcoholic/addict is portrayed, because in both cases the characters seem very true to life. Working in the County Jail doing jail ministry, I have had the experience of meeting with women whom much of society seems to have forgotten. Most of the women I have met are self professed addicts and alcoholics. They have little or no coping skills to make it “on the outside.” Indeed, like Captain Whitaker, while many of the ladies are miserable on one hand being locked up, on the other hand, they express a sense of relief. There is relief from the drug and alcohol abuse, or relief from the physical abuse. There is even relief in just knowing they could stop trying to take care of themselves and others, and just be taken care of by someone else if only being taken care meant, as they say in the clink, “Three hots and a cot.”
Life is simple in prison no doubt, which is a welcome respite for many who live in chaos non-stop in the real world. Being no stranger to addiction myself, I completely believe that when we become addicts, we stop growing emotionally, and we also stop growing in Christ. Since becoming an addict/alcoholic at age 14, I’m most certain I remained at that emotional stage until about 10 years ago, at age 35. Biblically, what this all relates to in my mind is: Luke 9:23 ~ \”And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Taking up one’s cross isn’t something that comes easily to most people. Of course, the irony here is that the burdens we heap upon ourselves are far more taxing than any sort of cross we bear with His help. We just don’t know it. Until we truly let go of our worldly attachments, we will forever be running a race that can not be won.
With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island in South Africa for opposing Apartheid, I found this quote from him to be quite timely: \”As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.\” I would say from this, he purged himself of that poison of negativity, knowing that to hold onto it would be detrimental to himself.
The Catholic writer and Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, had this to say on the subject of freedom: \”….As for freedom, it grows no greater by being wasted, or spent, but it is given to us as a talent to be traded with until the coming of Christ. In this trading we part with what is ours only to recover it with interest. We do not destroy it or throw it away. We dedicate it to some purpose, and this dedication makes us freer than we were before.” (No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton)
I think what disturbs me most about the film, \”The Purge\” is the fact that not only is an entire night given over to violence, even on innocent people, but that this \”purging\” could never last very long. Wisdom of the ages has proven that violence begets violence, never relieving anything. The only true freedom man can ever know is found when he dies to himself, and chooses to act in the right manner, even if it is in contrast to his feelings. When you begin the difficult task of doing the next right thing all of the time, even when no one is watching, it builds upon itself, and sooner or later, your feelings catch up. This is where faith comes in. We believe even though we may not feel like believing. There is the beauty of the complexity of our humanness in that we don\’t have to live by feelings.
Today for me, it\’s all about choices. Sometimes I still fail to make the right choice. Yet, I always know that forgiveness and grace are right there where I fall. I know it. I believe it. Even when I don\’t feel it. And not being enslaved to my feelings is true freedom indeed.
© 2013 Robbe Lyn Sebesta All rights reserved.