Saturday, June 13, 2009

Up


Pixar just amazes me. Almost every time I go to one of their films, I have this expectation: This will be, finally, the mediocre one. They can't all be good. Everyone messes up now and again. The creative process just isn't that consistent. Every once in a while, you make something that is very slightly craptacular. You can't help it.

This afternoon, I went with Rache and the boys to go see "Up." Thanks to Beltway traffic, we arrived immediately before it began, which in a sold out theater meant we had to sit in the very front row. I haven't intentionally done that since I was a late-tween, when I plunked my scrawny behind down in the front row for Return of the Jedi. I spent the whole movie looking up at the vast screen before me, which seemed appropriate, if a little taxing on my aging vertebrae.

It ended up not making a difference. The film did not disappoint. What is simply stunning about Pixar is not their technical proficiency, although that is certainly there. It's that the whole 3D CG thing doesn't get in the way of some strikingly effective storytelling. It's real pathos, genuine and potent. It's deep and profoundly human, yet totally accessible. A great film, and one that plays interestingly off of a thread that's been on my mind a whole bunch recently.

That thread is the division of the generations, a deep and systemic rift in our culture that flies in the face of the Christian message. The breaching of that divide was, in part, the whole point of UP. But where Pixar pitches out a story...shoot, a parable...that establishes commonality between young and old, we Jesus people seem totally unable to figger that one out.

In particular, I struggle with how the generational divide has popped it's mutant gopher head out of the emergent church gopherhole. The emergent church, or so the idea goes, is a "young" and "trendy" church that appeals to "young adults" who are looking for a "postmodern" and "relevant" church experience that "speaks to them" and "provides free wifi."

All of these things are fine, up to a point. Where they cease to be fine is when a movement that exists to serve the Gospel starts focusing more on the dynamics and processes of a single demographic than it focuses on the universal values that make Christianity worth bothering with in the first place.

Conversation and relational ethics are at the heart of the emergent movement, and it is in that powerful, creative dynamic that emergence has its strength. If those conversations and relationships are limited to conversations within the movement, as young and youngish folks with hipster glasses natter on to each other about stuff they all can relate to, then the movement will fail. It'll be just another reason for folks to go to conferences where they can find other people like themselves, and when we seek those who are "us" and not "other," we're delimiting our possibilities for growth.

But if the tranforming relationships the emergent movement declares as central to our faith are forged across generations, across cultures, and across theological lines, then...well...then maybe the Spirit is at work.

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