Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Deliverance

I'd read a devotional the other day that was pretty basic, but sobering. It made the point that the only sure thing in life is judgment and Hell. Once we accept that fact, then life becomes tolerable in that God by His grace and lovingkindness extend to us deliverance from that harrowing destiny.

But what about those who don't care about that God business? What about those who simply have different beliefs than you do? Are you being mean and telling them they're going to Hell -- how mean!

Well, ahem.

The truth does hurt sometimes.

I happened to catch the terrific 1972 film Deliverance on the classic movie channel the other day. The last time I watched it was probably some 30 or 40 years ago. I'd remembered most of the substance plot and character-wise, but wow. What an eye-opener as to the magnitude of its meaning. Really, I'd finally gathered why it was titled such.

Four stunningly naive and presumptuous men coming to terms with as horrifying a nightmare of Hell as you can imagine.

They all so needed deliverance. Lewis is the most brave and brash among them, but he suffers a gruesome injury on the river. Bobby endures a brutal sexual assault. Drew goes crazy and the river takes his life. And Ed, really the essential protagonist, not only murders an innocent man but after the river takes its toll must tearfully confront the simple graces and charitable kindness of the people who may have known or even been related to the man he killed.

There is so much about this film, but the one thing I wanted to bring up here is the pronounced symbol of the deliverance, an item that you wouldn't have thought a thing about because its three brief appearances seemed so incidental.

At the very conclusion of their river ordeal and the three men arrive closer to the town, a very quick shot of the tree-lined shore reveals a white building -- looks like it has a steeple. They finally reach the boat loading area of the town that will soon be underwater when a dam is completed, and right at the edge of that ramp is a modestly sized church building -- what an odd place for a church. But it is on some kind of transport, apparently to be moved to higher ground. The name of the church? Very simply: "Church of Christ." No overbearing signage, no marquee or elaborate font -- just large sans-serif neatly hand-written over the door.

The plainest edifice you could see, the people of the town are taking the symbol of their Devotion with them.

What's more, the same building shows up a third time. This time Ed and Bobby are going to visit Lewis in the hospital, and on the road in their way is that church being hauled off. The cab driver says, "May have to stop for just a minute for the church to get outta the way." Bobby then simply adds, "Christ," not in any pejorative way, he just says the name gazing at this unusual site, a church with a steeple right in the middle of the road.

That was it. They then turn into the hospital driveway to visit Lewis to make sure all their stories are straight about the murderous things that happened on the river, but still.

They must confront Jesus sometime, in some way.

He is, indeed, their only deliverance.

He is anyone's only deliverance.

How ironic that with today's coronavirus hysteria so many think the hospital is the place of salvation. Errgk. That's the way of the World. Whenever you hear the media or the academia or the politigentsia all talk about the only way to defeat death is by the brilliant policy-making of medical expert apparatchiks, they demonstrate they know nothing about the reality of the Kingdom, just as God made it as described in the fourth chapter of Genesis. The city-builders have no idea about The Deliverance because they've been sent from God's presence to commit the human sacrifice they've decided they want to make a living doing.

Whupp.

Jesus is there in their way.

Eh. Whatever. He's just an obstruction. He's just some annoying fairy tale to which we're all expected to give lip-service lest we be seen as intolerant -- the worst crime anyone could commit. Ahh, such good wholesome graduates of the Frankfurt School, so good and wholesome.

And dead.

One more thing about Deliverance, the film. I'd always considered it a horror film, really. It's just the monsters are not ugly beasts baring big fangs and sharp claws. Some may say for this film one of them is the river itself. No, the monsters are quite obvious: pride, fear, naivete, deceit, dread, guilt -- dissolution of community, made striking when the cab driver pointed out the abandoned buildings of a once thriving town. There was a scene very close to the end that showed the townspeople digging up the coffins in the cemetery for transfer, talk about the dead unburying the dead.

Even law enforcement was a particularly ferocious creature -- the entire final one-fifth of the film was about Ed and Bobby desperately seeking to keep the sheriff off their trail. That sheriff? It was played superbly by James Dickey, who happened to be the author of the story. When he looked down at Ed sitting in his car ready to drive off, and his snarling words, "Don't you ever do something like this again. Don't you ever come this way again." Oh my.

What's worse is the monsters in the film didn't die at the end like they do in the traditional horror film. No, they will follow Ed wherever he goes. There is Ed lying there in bed with his wife, ready to have a nightmare -- one of the most amazing things about this film is that you sense it doesn't really end.

How phenomenally biblical when you look at passages like the 58th and 59th Psalms, those are just two, but read them. Go ahead. Look at the way the conveyors of evil are described. Graphically -- no different than what's in a good horror film. What's more fascinating is the intimation that while the one who genuinely hungers and thirsts for righteousness fervently wants the evil ones to be seriously impeded, he doesn't seek their death. Look, see if you can see it.

Why? Why not just pray for their being wiped off the planet for good? It is simple. It is so people may be reminded about the evil, see it for what it is, and profoundly note how that could be us. It is extraordinarily biblical: often we need reminders.

Often we need our own experiences on the raging river to remind us evil ones will always be around, always, until Jesus as Alpha and Omega, that is, The Beginning And The End make it happen.

Until then, we'll always have the coronavirus hysteria and the necessary evils that law enforcement brings with it. Everything Caesar does to control you will always be more out in the open. Rebellion? Perfect for blowback because so many people will be fine with it. Some of the newest monsters to arrive on the scene are heat scans, retina scans, cell tracking, RFID tracking, coordinated reporting networks, digital passports, flying drone monitoring, data mining, video surveillance, even this virus testing craze that is rampant now (let's see what kinds of health issues you're allowing us to comprehensively identify for which we may keep you "quarantined" in some way) The latest is contact tracing -- keeping track of anyone who is sick. Wow.

Go ahead, try to fight these off with your pathetic river canoeing skills. Ha! You flailing your paddles fiercely but so futilely at them. Comical. You sneer and snarl at them, they just laugh. Your so-very sophisticated bow-and-arrow contraption, if you fire some at them that'll probably make them madder, but will do you no good.

Here's the thing, just to conclude. I opened my first blog post of this month with the exceptionally simple proverb, "All who hate wisdom love death." Well guess what I found. An even simpler one to contrast it, showing up very shortly after -- it is beautiful, it really is. You want freedom from the body of death so exquisitely displayed in Deliverance? Would you truly want that?

Jesus is there, right there, in your way. You can come to Him and find that freedom, that joy, that security, and He'll talk with you and walk with you, right past the monsters, who yes, are still there, for now. That's one of the most profound wonders of the idea that the evil ones hang around for a while, even as they crawl and prowl around as it says in those Psalms, because maybe there'll be time for them to see, to come out of the darkness and be in The Light, dwell rapturously in the Kingdom.

Oh, and that proverb? Second one, tenth chapter:

"Righteousness delivers from death."
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