Mad Max and the Church

mad max
Imagine these two serving you communion…

I think the church can learn something from Mad Max: Fury Road.

No I don’t mean the awesome chase scenes (although that could be kind of fun). No, I don’t mean the funny costumes (we in the church already have our own).  No, I don’t mean the explosive battles (that wouldn’t turn out so well for our building). What I mean is that Mad Max asks a question that the Church needs to wrestle with. In an environment where everything seems to have gone crazy Mad Max: Fury Road asks this question: should we have any hope at all?

Let’s back up though. For those who don’t know, Mad Max is film series based around the character of Max. It is set in a post apocalyptic world where fuel has run out and water is always in short supply. Max, a former cop before the world went insane, wanders around the Australian outback doing all manner of awesome (and often gratuitously violent) things in order to survive.  The film franchise watches Max turn from cop trying to protect people, to wasteland fighter just trying to survive. Throughout the series Max’s quest for survival often leads him to eventually helping some group of people, but it always reluctantly.

hope
The look people give me when I say I wanted to be an inner-city pastor

In the newest movie there is this sometimes subtle, and toward the end not so subtle, theme: should we have any hope at all? Max doesn’t typically have hope for the world or the people in it. He gave that up after watching what the world has become. Now he just tries to survive in the post-apocalyptic desert. Who needs hope. Just try and live to another day.

Sound familiar yet?

In the wake of a pew research poll that showed the percentage of Christians in this country is declining media outlets and even some people in the church, seemed to be describing some Mad Max like world. “The church is on its way to destruction!” went the cry.[1]

In the movie, Max says at one point that “You know hope is a mistake. If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.” The rest of the movie is really about whether Max is right or wrong (I wont tell you the answer).

The truth of the matter is that we too in the church have to decide whether Max is right or not. Will hope drive us insane? Perhaps the biggest problem I see at the moment is that the many people in the Church (and this includes many ordained leaders, many congregations, and many individual lay members) seem to think hope isn’t worth it. Church has become a matter of survival and not hope. We try to come up with programs, gimmicks, and ideas that will help us survive.

And Max is right if we think that we can only have hope if we survive. That belief will drive us insane. If we truly believe that hope can only exist for the Church if our individual congregation, denomination, program, or ministry survives then not only will we die, but we will all lose our sanity in the mean time (if we haven’t already). We will go from panicked program to panicked program lost in the desert that is a hopeless church.

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It’s called being missional…right?

Or perhaps Max is right in a different way. Hope may have already driven us all insane. Paul writes in Romans 8:24-25:

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Perhaps that hope has already made us all crazy. As Holy Trinity Sunday approaches I’m reminded of the absolutely insane logic that we profess: that God is three in one and one in Three. And yet… that same belief gives me hope because it means that relationship is the very foundation of who God is. And that means God wont just abandon us.

Perhaps we are all insane already. We believe that a first century man was crucified as common criminal, then came back to life, and that makes my relationship with God right again. Insane.

Are we, here at Martin Luther, insane for believing that thriving ministry can be done in the inner city? Perhaps, but at least we have hope.

Whether Max is right or not we, as a church, have to wrestle with this question: is hope really a mistake? I think it isn’t

Hope may have driven us all insane already, but that is because Max may be right in most of his statement. We can’t fix it, but God can, does and will; and that gives me hope. Every church in North America could close, but I still believe in God of resurrection so I can still hope for new life.

All the faithful may be completely insane… but at least we have hope.

 

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Fortunately some people are a bit more rational. Erik Parker writes well on why we shouldn’t actually panic for example. 

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