The movie ‘The life of Pi’ raises the bar immediately. Main character Pi tells a story to a writer to convince him of the existence of God. In accordance to todays’ views, it’s up to us to decide if Pi succeeded. When Pi tells this incredible story about a miraculous rescue after a major disaster, it seems so hard to believe that insurance agents order him to tell a story that is believable. And Pi does. But he asks the writer: which of these stories do you believe?
And the writer chooses to believe the first incredulous story. Absurd; but it is the best choice. With that, the existence of God seems proven. I’m reminded of ‘credo quia absurdum’ (often attributed to Tertullian, 160-230 AD): I believe because it’s absurd. Director Ang Lee made this impressive film. It’s connected to the religious time we live in. The main character from India is deeply religious. He meets God firstly through Krishna, then by Jesus and finally in islam. Inevitably you are reminded of the bestseller ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006). The book’s introduction brings us to religious India, and in this land Gilbert comes to repentance. Gilbert too finds ‘evidence’ of Gods existence, and ‘confesses’ the faith that every religion serves the same God and ultimately is the same. A lot of chuckles around me when it became clear Pi wouldn’t let his father cure him of his multi-religiousness.
Unfortunately, ‘The life of Pi’ ended terribly. Not in the way the film ended but in the recent horrific event that took place in this same India. I was shocked to hear that it was this movie ‘Amanat’ and her friend had seen before they took the bus and were terribly assaulted. ‘Amanat’ died after brutal rape and assault. Upset, because of all the details coming out; it felt unfair for me just to see this movie and then come home cheerfully. At the most some thoughts about the religiousness in the film. This horrific event and that film, they kept me thinking: are they two different things, a film with a ‘God’ theme, and a world where people act so violently, more beastly than any animal (according to ‘Amanat’s friend)? And if these things are not connected, then we must choose! Choose between putting up a useless screen of ‘God’, or, God must have something to do with such terrible events. There is no in-between. Could it be possible to just go on in making the next movie and starting the next noncommittal discussion about a deeper meaning of life? We can’t do that to ‘Amanat’ or ourselves!
What causes ‘Amanats’ death? Jason Burke, correspondent of the Guardian in South Asia, sees a clash between two worlds. The cosmopolitan cities in India with her rich citizens, are miles and miles away from the poverty in surrounding districts, villages and cultures. When they collide, as they did in the bus, it all explodes. Aspects like cultural differences are mentioned to explain these events. A woman going out with someone (other than her husband) is asking for trouble because for some Indians that would be acting too freely. Another argument is that men, because there are less women than men, can’t handle sexuality. And the lax government is a reacurring complaint. Women don’t press charges when assaulted or raped out of consideration for their (family’s) safety. The solution seems to be found in the area of handling and improving these issues. But is that all? Does it get better?
In the biblebook of Judges there is a passage that reminds us of the horrors ‘Amanat’ and her friend underwent. Chapter 19 tells of a woman being abused a night long (19:25-28). She dies early in the morning. What is the cause of her death? Of course the offenders are guilty. In the next chapter we learn they are punished. Still, Judges is more keen on the cause of this horrific act. Decay started earlier in society. Before this terrible act there is a story about selfmade religion under Gods people. Chapter 17 and 18 give precise details about it. Although any reader feels this religion is not to Gods liking, we feel this is not too hard to digest for Him. It’s at chapter 19 when our stomach turns. This prophetic book in the bible shows us there is only one source for this deterioration: In those days there was no king in Israel; ‘every man did that which was right in his own eyes’ (17:6 and 18:1, cf 21:25). Gods people aren’t serving Him the way He wants to be served.
The deterioration starts at the breach of the second commandment (Exodus 20:4); self-willed religion. The second commandment right next to the first is no coincidence, seeing Gods anger about the bull calf (Exodus 32) and the whole of history with his people (i.e. 1 Kings 18). Luther has said, like Augustine, that idolatry is the main incentive of every offence. When God is no longer at the centre, we ourselves become gods and we are our own starting point. And that’s where it goes wrong. In your own life, in society, in all relationships. Women aren’t safe, the economy enslaves us, social cohesion is falling apartad people turn against each other. All commandments are trespassed owing to the first two.
Christ is crucified
The Bible sees the cause of all abuse in our distorted relation with God. We want to be God: either by pushing Him aside (1st commandment) or by setting Him up for our own schemes (2nd commandment). The arguments for the causes of the horrible events around ‘Amanat’ still stand firm. But God is calling the whole world to order, after the events in India. His order. He alone! Loving Him and our neighbour is the core of the law and prophets (Matthew 22:37). But most of all, ‘the life of Pi’ and ‘Amanat’ bring us to Calvary. Our world, so distorted we can make a movie about any god whatsoever, while two seconds later something happens that denies any existence of Him. He didn’t leave us hanging there! At Calvary, Jesus was undressed (Matthew 27:28). Naked and thrashed, He hung there while he suffered under mocking eyes. Even His followers didn’t endure (Matthew 26:56). In Jesus, His son, God was raped, abused and spit out by the world. Someone so hideous (Isaiah 53:3). Don’t wonder about Gods existence: God wants us to know Who He is. The famous sentence in which Tertullian tells us that the gospel is believable because it’s impossible is not about the existence of God, but about the way He manifested Himself: in Jesus Christ. Tertullian tells us about the unheard of, absurd story of God becoming mortal in Jesus and then rise from the grave. He is the best and believable story! Only then there is hope for our world. Only in Him.
Prayer and hope
Our prayer is with the family and friends of ‘Amanat’. Lord, heal their wounds and memories. Let them find in You a Rock, a Fortress (Psalm 18:3). A prayer for the government in India to mirror some of King Jesus in the care for their citizens (Matthew 28:18, Revelations 1:5) so that this country can move further. We pray for the Christians in India that they can show the wholesome instructions our Lord gives to men, women and the whole society (i.e. Ephesians 5:21-6:9 ). But most of all our prayer is for everyone to accept the ‘incredible’ gospel of the Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:17-31) and forever hope in Him. Only He can set this bent record straight.