The End Of The World:  Or Not
 
 
            “Sugar” is about a 20-year-old baseball player from The Dominican Republic who’s trying very hard to make the major leagues in the United States .  When he develops the knuckle curve, he becomes dominant in his own country, and his family celebrates with him as the Royals sign him, and off he goes to play A ball in Iowa, and to live with a nice corn-fed, corny American family while he acclimates to a new culture, a new language, a new country, and a new way of life.  He might as well be on a different planet.  His phone conversations back home grow more awkward, because he soon realizes that all they want to hear about is his success.  But what about when he gets hurt?  What about when he gets shelled (he’s first a starting pitcher, then relegated to the bullpen)?  What about when the next hot rookie comes along and bumps him from the “can’t miss” list?  What about when he becomes disaffected with the whole thing, and just wants to have a new adventure:  forget baseball, move to New York City , get a job as a woodworker, maybe meet a nice girl?  “Sugar” is about growing up in one world and, being delivered from it, longing for another.
            In “Knowing,” a little girl in the 1950’s seem obsessed with writing down numbers.  Rows and rows of them.  She puts her prize “drawing” in the time capsule, and fifty years later, in the present day, the time capsule is opened, and the 4th-grade boy who winds up with it has some unique talents of his own.  He hears “the whisperers” too.  His Dad, played by Nicolas Cage, is an MIT astrophysics professor (go figure) fond of challenging his class to debate the old determinism/randomness dichotomy.  He thinks that the latter is more scientific, but then he becomes a believer.  Not because he was raised as “the son of a preacher man,” or even because he discovers the pattern of the seemingly random numbers, but because the spaceship really has come for them.  Oh, wait, they want his son, not him.  Dang.  Here’s a different version of “left behind.”  It’s the children who hear the whisperers who get saved from the Armageddon-like catastrophe.  Well, at least there’s some good disaster-film footage:  besides the plane crash, and the train wreck, New York City swallowed whole by a raging fireball.  True, you really have to suspend disbelief with this one.  But think of it as a sci-fi fairy tale, and just go with the uneven flow, and you might even ignore all the frumpy critics and just enjoy it.
            In “Monsters & Aliens,” we also have the spaceship coming for the earthlings, but it’s to colonize, not to save.  The evil alien has figured out how to make clones, and as he prepares his invasion army, it’s obvious that conventional earthling weapons are of no use.  Enter the “monsters,” the victims of random accidents of science who’ve been imprisoned by the military for years, including their latest acquisition, the poor bride (the voice of Reese Witherspoon) who got hit by a meteor on her wedding day, and suddenly started glowing green, and became enormous.   Her challenge was to accept her new circumstances, and the disinterest of her self-obsessed groom, who’s only worried about his broadcasting career.  But she finds strength in her difficulties, and makes newer, more loyal friends, even though they are off-putting to others.  Yes, the “feel good about yourself” message is clear, but mostly, we’re just having fun telling this story, playing with the animation, and making some side jokes to the adults about previous space movies.  Just because the world gets saved doesn’t mean it’s grateful.  Hmm, maybe there’s more theology here than intended.
            All three movies feature a paradigm shift, all three involve personal struggle, and in all three, the heroes emerge considerably changed, and end up in a quite different world than the one they thought they knew.
 
Questions for Discussion:
1)      What are the chances of a cataclysmic cosmic event ending life on earth as we know it?  Would that be the way God would choose to usher in the heavenly realm?
2)      When have you had to adjust to a radically different environment?  What helped you through the transition?  What didn’t help?
3)      When have you had to call on resources of strength and resolve that you didn’t know you had?  Did the adverse experience raise your self-esteem?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas