The Sunset Limited

The Sunset LimitedOne of the best movies I have seen in the last couple of years was “The Sunset Limited” with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s a play by Cormac McCarthy and they recorded it unaltered.

It tells the story of two men, “Black” (an ex-convict believing in God) and “White” (an atheist professor) sitting in an apartment in New York.
Black just saved the professor from committing suicide by jumping in front of a train. They discuss life, religion, philosophy, depression, education, death.

Unfortunately there is no integral version online, but this trailer gives an impression…

At first Black doesn’t want the professor to leave, afraid he will go back to the train station. But after some intense moments he opens the door…

While I would like to be able to say I do relate to “Black” and his positive approach to life, most times I am more partial to the professor. Many of the objections “White” has towards the existence and behavior of God are shared by me. Like the notions on suffering, pain and the meaning or use of life. Often it is a cesspool we never asked for in the first place. And I can’t get past the idea of God like a small child, who has a cruel delight in watching his toy cars crashing…

The idea proposed by Christianity, that the only purpose in life is to serve God very narrow. Like a pacifier to keep people quiet and ‘satisfied’. Quite recently I even heard a preacher say that the enlightenment was only about glorifying material wealth and spiritual emptiness… By saying this he mainly underlined his own intellectual poverty, but it says much about the church movement he represents. To his idea the only place for answers was the bible…

The idea is nice, but the bible can hardly be seen as a book. Yes, it is bound and distributed in one codex, but it’s a collection of very different books. Like a library; laws, history, fiction, letters, poetry, songs, philosophy and teachings. Written in various times and places, by a multitude of writers in different manners and styles. And yes, there is a lot of good in there, and a lot of our culture was based on it. But it’s too simplistic to say it has the definitive answer to all questions. And if God wanted us to be so narrow-minded; why did he give us intellect in the first place?

Ours not to question why…

I was raised in an environment where faith was considered something self-evident. One of the certainties in life. Not to be questioned. At school and church they preached in style of the Dutch Reformed church, based the doctrine and theology in the Heidelberg Catechism. Which is often seen as a philosophical cornerstone of faith. I have read the thing multiple times, and can’t get past the notion that – although conveniently simple – a lot of the ideas nd explanations proposed in it are outdated,  or simply plain wrong. They may have made sense in the time when they were written, but the world has advanced in the centuries that followed. We have had intellectual, industrial and cultural revolutions. And while a lot of modern conservative christians say they would like to get back to these times, they wouldn’t know how fast they could get back to the present… The romantic fallacies they have of the past are nothing more than that.

Yes, life was may have been comfortably simplistic in an all-christian world, full of ‘christian people’ and ‘christian certainties’.

Click here for a PDF-version of the script.

Click here for a PDF-version of the script.

I have lived in a village like that, and can’t recommend it to anyone. It’s dull and unexciting, smothering all creativity and innovation on forehand.

Something I can’t live with, it’s too narrow-minded for me. Feel free to tuck yourself away in such a small, narrow world, but don’t force me to do the same

I’d like recommend both the book and the film. Or try to catch a live performance of the play in a theatre near you…

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