Running on the front page of this week’s Boston Sunday Globe, below the fold, was Ty Burr’s article, “A singular message: We’re on our own.” Burr, a film critic, notes a trend in recent movies which basically says, “that we are on our own now.” I commend Burr for making what I consider to be an accurate appraisal of what popular culture is trying to tell us (what is present in films is also present throughout media). Admittedly, Burr’s does not directly touch directly on questions of faith or a supposition that God no longer provides providential care. But, it seems to me, that the logical conclusion of his observations is that salvation comes from oneself–there is no recourse to the divine.
Theories which say that man is capable, in and of himself, of achieving his own salvation are not new. Perhaps the most infamous of these is the Pelagian heresy which dates from the fifth century. Pelagianism, most basically understood, is a denial of original sin and the necessity of grace for salvation. In a word, man can do it on his own–better yet, man has to do it on his own. Burr notes that, in these movies, one would have to be a “fool” to expect assistance from an outside source–human or divine.
Clearly, the makers of these movies are either ignorant of God’s active involvement in the world, or they are in denial of it. Their motivation, however, cannot mitigate the error. God cares for the world and we can always turn to him. Prayer is not a sort of ineffectual psychological crutch for the weak; prayer is an appropriate response to the presence of God. In the film, Gravity, Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Stone, says in a moment of existential crisis, “I’ve never said a prayer in my life. Nobody ever taught me how.” The worst sort of poverty is being in need and not knowing that there is place where one can go for help. Such is the poverty of those do not know that God wants to be their friend and help them when they are in need.
The poplar films of today start from false premises. We are not on our own. Salvation does not comes from oneself. At every moment God is in control of the cosmos. I am thankful to Burr for his astute social commentary on current films, though he did not state what I consider to be the logical conclusion of his observations. May each of us know God’s providential care and presence in our lives.