sábado, 30 de junho de 2012

Saints and sinners

***Post escrito em meu Facebook Notes em 25 de abril de 2010

I am not a great movie fan, as some may already know. The problem is simply that I am too lazy to go to the cinema by myself: it seems easier to find a book to read seated on the couch. However, after seeing only few American and European movies we become able to understand that there is a basic difference between these two schools of cinema – at least on average. American movies tend to clearly divide the characters in two categories: it can be angels against demons, heroes against monsters, policemen against thieves, good against the evil, the Allies against the Axis. On the other hand, European movies are more ambivalent and characters often have qualities and defects. In some way, they are more realistic.

This seems to be a criticism to the American way of making movies. Indeed it is somehow. But I do recognize that opposite forces are parts of our lives as well. Our dominant cultural and religious influence seems also to emphasize this point. In our Western culture (which I am part of since I am a Brazilian, despite my Korean heritage), there are gods and devils, heavens and hells. Christianity seems sometimes to emphasize this dualistic view. But a thorough investigation may show us that dualistic views are more Greek rather than Christian. It does not mean it is entirely wrong, but looking to the world only through these dualistic lenses may not be a good choice. It is easy to fall into the temptation to see ourselves only at the good side – and then it becomes easy to end up criticizing those who are supposedly beyond the dividing line.

Recently I was surprised to read a book written by an American (and a Californian, where most movies are made!) in which people were portrayed as belonging to both sides, the good and the evil – much more like European movies or Dostoyevskyan characters. When describing the site in which the story takes place, John Steinbeck asserts the following on Cannery Row (1936): 

“Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches’, by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men’, and he would have meant the same thing”.

As a Christian, I have received some kind of Puritan and moralistic influence since I was a child. The “world” seemed to be a strange and dangerous place. Only few years ago I realized how far I was from the truly Christian idea that we are all sinners. We can even grasp it intellectually, but to apprehend it fully is a step ahead. As most our movies do, it is more comfortable to put us on the “right” side and judge everyone else. But days go by, and it becomes clear how much darkness live in our hearts. That’s why Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnykov from Crime and Punishment will never be outdated. That’s why Steinbeck still talks to us. One of the most important discoveries in my spiritual life was the very fact that I am not less sinner than prostitutes or thieves. Only recognizing it we can depend entirely on God's Grace. We are whores and saints, gamblers and holy men. Luther always said that Christians are saints and sinners. 

May God make us recognize that being a Christian does not mean we are not sinners. We Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, human beings… there is no difference between us in terms of good and evil: we are all sinners. And then maybe we start to worry more about loving rather than judging our neighbor.