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The Reality Intern: Academy Awards, Jesus and Lionel Logue

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Most of us probably don’t go to the movies looking for Jesus. Indiana Jones perhaps, or even Optimus Prime, but probably not Jesus.  But every once in a while, a character will come along and generate comparisons with Christ. William Walllace from “Braveheart’.   Neo from “The Matrix”.  Carl Spackler.  And while there may be merit to these associations, it’s usually broad themes, such as charismatic leadership, or being some sort of savior, or being willing to lay down your life for others, even if they’re gophers, that spawns them.  But exactly how similar are they to the Biblical Jesus, and do they really capture who he was?

In spite of the fact he’s the most famous person in the history of the planet, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that the majority of us, even Christians, spend very little time imagining what Jesus was like. It’s one thing to study his words, or even try to gain a better understanding of his character, but how often do we think about him as a person?

Which brings us to Lionel Logue, the speech therapist employed by the soon-to-be-King of England to help deal with his oratorical difficulties in “The King’s Speech”.  Although he fights no battles, wields no weapon (other than a piercing dry wit), and doesn’t die for the sake of others, I’d like to suggest that the character of Logue presents as clear a picture of the character of Jesus as we’re likely to see on screen.  But perhaps not in the way we’re accustomed, nor in a way that we usually associate with Jesus.

In order to get a clear picture of Lionel Logue, it will help to start by taking a brief look at his client, the Duke of Windsor, who eventually ascends to the throne.  Afflicted with a “stammer” since childhood, “Bertie” as he’s known by his family, can barely navigate personal conversation, much less the public orations that nearly give him a coronary.  Having spent years in therapy and trying every imaginable cure, the Duke declares “no one can fix it”.  He is, in effect, lost and unable to help himself.

Enter Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist enlisted by the Duke’s wife to help her husband.  From the get-go, Logue is completely clear about how the relationship will work.  His demeanor towards his royal client is one of simple, humble, confidence.  He tells the Duke he will treat him “only if you’re interested in being treated”.   He also demands respect, letting the heir to the British throne know that when the Duke visits him in his office, it’s “my castle, my rules”.   It wasn’t a matter of pride for Logue, but a reflection of his deep understanding of what needed to happen in order to maximize the benefit for his patient.  He was explaining reality, much in the same way Jesus explained that “no one comes to the Father but through me”.  Our culture finds statements like these to be rigid and repressive, if not prejudiced or, shudder the thought, intolerant.  But Logue understood that in order for him to do the Duke the most good, it would have to be “my game, my turf, my rules”. Jesus is no different.

Logue also displays a penetrating understanding of his patient.  The Duke sees his stammer as ingrained in him, yet Logue makes a startling claim, telling him “your impediment isn’t a permanent part of you.”  How similar is this to the way Jesus deals with the woman at the well? Or the rich young ruler? Or the woman caught in adultery? In each case Jesus shows that he has a deeper insight into the plight of the individual than even they do of themselves, a realization they eventually come to as well.

The most interesting parallel is how Logue approaches and deals with the Duke’s affliction.  He initially attempts to search the soon-to-be-King’s past for clues as to the origin of the stammer; he wants to understand the root cause.  And when the Duke resists, Logue is flexible enough to adjust his approach, but he’s very clear with the Duke, explaining “what you’re asking will only deal with the surface of the problem”. The Pharisees heard nearly the same message from Jesus.  In allowing the Duke to dictate the regimen for a time, Logue provides room for “Bertie” to realize that this won’t cure him, that they will eventually need to address the heart. And when they do, it’s the Duke’s fear of his father (who preferred his children fear him) that surfaces as a culprit. When Logue says “You needn’t be governed by fear”, one can almost hear Jesus telling the disciples, as they neared hysteria on the Sea of Galliee, “do not be afraid”, or later, “do not let you hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”. Like Jesus, Logue has an uncommon perspective on the landscape and the Duke’s place in it, which is why he’s able to see through the pomp and circumstance, the “rubbish that goes with being King”, and focus on his friend’s heart, for he knows that this is where salvation resides.

The old hymn tells us “What a Friend we have in Jesus”, but how often do we think of him this way?  In the climactic scene of the movie, with the morale of the British Empire sitting squarely on his shoulders, the now-King is faced with making a speech that he still feels monumentally unprepared to deliver. In the quiet moments just before he’s to go live to a radio audience of millions, Logue gives him one final instruction, telling him, in a still small voice, “forget everything else, and just say it to me.  Say it to me…as a friend”. And in the final analysis, is Jesus really asking us to do anything else?

The Reality Intern

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Written by Michael Duenes

February 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm

The Reality Intern: The Optional Commandment

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Mt. Sinai, approx. 1500 B.C.

Moses (reading from a stone tablet): Okay, let me make sure I’ve got this right; no other Gods before you, no idols, no taking your name in vain…

God: Good…

Moses: …no murder, no adultery, no stealing, don’t bear false witness…

God: You’re on fire.

Moses looks up, alarmed.

God: That was a joke.  Keep going…

Moses: Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, or his donkey, or anything else he’s got.  And finally, keep the Sabbath holy.

God: Tell you what, you can leave that last one in there, but it’ll be more of a suggestion.

Moses: Okay.  Got it. And thanks again for the manna.

Though we don’t know exactly went down that day in southern Egypt, we can probably be reasonably sure that it didn’t look like this.  But would you really know this from observing the behavior of the Christian community?  The western church acts like this commandment was written on a Post-It note.  And the funny thing is, God went to quite a bit of trouble to explain it.  Murder?  One line.  Same for adultery and stealing.  Covetousness gets a bit more, but only because it involves a list.  But the Sabbath?  It’s practically a paragraph, as if God was saying, “Look, I’m going to explain this so you don’t get confused”.  But that seems to be exactly what’s happened.  The question is why.

Perhaps it’s because don’t really see the value.  Theft, murder, lying, and even adultery, though we may rationalize them, don’t ever get discounted as being acceptable in their own right.  And while we may marginalize wanting somebody else’s stuff, or taking the Lord’s name in vain, we don’t find them to be admirable traits.  But resting?  What, am I ninety?

Or maybe we’re just not clear on the concept?  First of all, what does it even mean?  Am I supposed to take a nap?  All day?  Does yard work count?  Can I watch football?  The whole thing can seem rather foggy.

Then there’s the Christian conspiracy theory: it’s the most strategic one to sabotage.  The Christian worldview includes the vision of this life as a world at war.  And if you were opposing God, what commandment would you do your best to dilute?  Murder?  Too much guilt.  Same goes for adultery and stealing, though the devil appears to be making some progress on that.  But the Sabbath?  It’s the only commandment you can get people to break and still leave them feeling good about themselves.  “Didn’t rest today?  Don’t sweat it; look at how much you got done!”  The Sabbath has been whittled away until we don’t even think about it any more.  And when is the devil more effective than when he subtly convinces us that not only is the wrong thing not so bad, but it might actually be right?

The question remains, why is the Sabbath even important?  And while deeper and superior theological ideas on the subject undoubtedly exist, the one I keep coming back to is this; the Sabbath allows us to trust God with our life.  To rest is to say, in essence, I’ve worked my six days, today I’m going to let you take care of me.  It’s about trust.  And what is our relationship with God about if not that?  Do we trust God to take care of us?  Do we believe, really believe, that if we take a day to not further our personal kingdom, that we’ll be okay?

So what’s the answer?  Well, what does Jesus have to say?  The Pharisees roasted him on the subject, getting their holy boxers in a twist when the disciples had a little bite to eat on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ response is, as always, instructive: “…the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”.  In essence, Jesus is letting his dogmatic critics know that the Sabbath doesn’t trump all, that while the Sabbath is for man’s benefit, it shouldn’t be followed at any cost.  The interesting, and perhaps overlooked thing here is that Jesus never downplays the value or integrity of the Sabbath, just the way the Pharisees have viewed it.  The cost we may need to consider is the one we incur by ignoring it altogether.

The Reality Intern

Written by Michael Duenes

January 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm

The reality intern: life in the bizarro world

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I can’t prove it, but I’m beginning to think there’s something to this “bizarro world.”  At the very least, there is an ever-increasing inverse relationship between the things we think about, and their overall importance to life in general.  My evidence is strictly anecdotal, but it’s sitting there nonetheless.

Let’s assume we can utilize internet search engine results to infer where folks’ minds are residing.  The top Yahoo searches from last year were as follows: Britney Spears, WWE, Barack Obama, Miley Cyrus, Runescape, Jessica Alba, Naruto, Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, and rounding out the top 10, American Idol.  The most surprising thing about this list is that the future leader of the free world managed to edge out Paris Hilton.  One can only assume that if Jessica Biel ever started playing video games while singing karaoke, she’s run away with the top spot.

Granting that this may not be the best way to draw out conclusions, let’s look at the topics our favorite talk shows are tackling, as it’s in their best interest to have their finger on the pulse of the nation, right?  In just the last few days, we saw Oprah cover, among other things, Reality TV’s biggest stars, an interview with Patrick Swayze’s widow, celebrities’ first jobs, and something called a “shoe, handbag, and accessory intervention”.  A review of the topics and content of The View, Ellen, and Live with Regis and Kelly revealed similar depth.  And it’s not lost on anyone paying attention that a show like Charlie Rose, which delves into subjects that one could safely say carry a bit more gravity, garners a fraction of the audience that the above intellectual graveyards collect daily.

This isn’t to say that there’s no seriousness out there; Dr. Phil is trying to help us figure out why we’re all a mess, and Dr. Oz is out there making us all healthier (although, what’s up with the scrubs?  Does he think he’s going to be suddenly called away to perform emergency surgery or something?  This is like Tom Brady wearing his football helmet during an episode of Letterman.).  But the majority of the subject matter we devote our leisure attention to can only charitably be called semi-significant.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an authority on what everybody ought to be thinking about, but a few things seem to be no-brainers.

Global warming, or climate change, or whatever we’re calling it now (it’s only a matter of time before it’s “environmental discombobulation”, or something equally vague) seems important, but even the dean of the movement, Al Gore, won’t debate any of his critics, so how interested are we really, in getting to bottom of this one?

Considering the fact we’ll all be dead a whole heck of a lot longer than we’ll be alive, one would figure that people would be thinking about whether there’s anything on the other side of the ultimate curtain.  But I don’t remember seeing “What the heck happens when I croak?” on the top of any Google lists.  And somebody’s bound to come up Monday at work and say “Hey, you see that guy blow his groin on America’s Top Dancing Models last night?” But when was the last time anyone said, “So, before I get run over by a crash-landing jumbo jet, what’s your take on reincarnation?”.  It just doesn’t happen.

The answer to the question of why we approach life in this inverted, yes-indeedy, bizarro way, is probably longer than we have room for here, but I suspect it’s related to my childhood approach to test-taking; we fill in the easy questions first, and leave the tough ones for later, especially if we don’t like the answers.

Your Reality Intern, Chet Nutley

Written by Michael Duenes

November 6, 2009 at 4:22 am