Braveheart Embarrassment and a Life Worth Living

It came like the proverbial thunderclap, the reverberations leaving me staggering in search of some kind of metaphysical certainty.

Okay, not so much. But it was mildly disconcerting.

“It” was the realization that dawned during an otherwise unremarkable channel flipping episode not long ago. I had landed on Braveheart, a fixture in the favorite movie discussions of countless guys. I had predictably been sucked in, just as I had any number of times before. But this time, creeping into my conscious awareness was a twinge of, well…embarrassment.

I was feeling embarrassed that I liked Braveheart. My fingers nearly rebel from the exercise of typing the words.

Here, the mind races for any number of possible explanations. Had I succumbed to priggish cultural elitism? In an effort to appear as a refined movie viewer, had I subconsciously begun to look down on all but tragic character studies from independent filmmakers? Was I developing the suspicion that Mel Gibson’s speeches communicate more modern American sentiment than the spirit of William Wallace’s historic Scottish setting?

Maybe. I wouldn’t say I’m immune to any of those things, with the possible exception of the independent film bit (hey, I love a good indie film, but I’m still looking forward to Iron Man II). Turns out, however, that at least part of the answer comes from a different direction. I think some of my twinge of embarrassment resulted from something I’ll call, in appropriately measured and learned fashion, “Fallout from Over-Referencing and Caricature” or FORC. This phenomenon occurs when (1) some kind of cultural item becomes popular enough to be regularly referenced and parodied, and (2) one begins to downplay his affinity to said item in order to avoid being considered decidedly unoriginal and/or feeling like the object of ridicule himself.

Yes, Braveheart’s day in the sun was many years ago, so I think I suffered from a delayed reaction. But it was wildly popular at the time and, to my recollection, frequently parodied. And raise your hand if you can remember someone referencing the movie as illustration in some kind of presentation, talk, sermon, etc. (if you’re wondering, yes, I’ve done it).

So there I was, dealing with an unsettling occurrence of FORC. But then I remembered something quite important. Understanding that something can only cause FORC by being widely well received, I began to think about what made Braveheart so popular to begin with. Why had I liked it? Why do I still like it, this recent wavering notwithstanding?

Most simply put, it’s because it’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s because it suggests that there is something out there, in the end, worthy of your life. And I think it’s fair to say that nearly every one of us very much wants to be a part of a something like that.

Where am I going with all of this? If that last statement is true, then the Christian faith becomes that much more compelling. Keith alluded to this a couple of weeks ago in his sermon, and it’s something I wanted to echo here. To follow Christ is to be caught up in the oldest and most important of stories. It is to play a role for which you are uniquely suited in a drama that both spans all of time and encompasses all there is. It is realizing that every suffering, every setback, will have been a part of something vastly important and, when the dust settles, a blessing. It is to choose sides in the ultimate battle of good versus evil, finding great comfort in the fact that the good guys, because of their good and gracious God, will finally win in the end. It is to look both back in wonder at an empty tomb and forward to exclaiming, “Where, O death, is your sting?” It is, in the most robust sense, to make one’s life count.

You know those moments when you’re genuinely stirred by theme music at that climactic moment in your favorite epic movie? Imagine the “soundtrack” that will accompany God’s final redemption of his broken, sinful people and the scarred world in which they live. The melody might just come from God himself (see Zephaniah 3:17).

Now that’s something I want to hear.

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