Saturday, December 21, 2013

Proclaim (steve carell, tina fey, vulnerability, and getting saved)

I'm blogging for Advent, following along with the themes that we're focusing on at Crossroads. I talk more about why I'm doing this in an earlier post. This week's theme is "proclaim."

Last night Leigh and I watched Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Great movie. Highly recommend.

Fey and Carell play a self-declared boring couple from New Jersey, whose attempt to make the doldrums of weekly date nights more exciting ends them up in the midst of a violent blackmail plot. Spoiler alert: the day is saved, and so is Fey and Carell's marriage.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is the scene in which the desperate couple shows up, once again, at the door of a shirtless-and-unrealistically-muscular Mark Wahlberg, to beg him for help. In the scene, we see for the first time the relationship between the couple being rekindled. As Carell talks, Fey looks over at him with new eyes and rests her head on his shoulder.

But what's great about the scene is that Carell isn't coming through to save the day in a sudden reassertion of masculine power that sweeps Fey off her feet. Instead, he's entering into a moment of vulnerability, admitting that he and his wife desperately need help, and admitting to his insecurity with the obviously hotter Wahlberg's perpetual lack of shirt.

I love that it's this scene, and not the climatic SWAT team intervention, in which we see Fey and Carell start to reconnect. It's vulnerability, not coercive strength, that begins to renew their relationship.

There's a lot of talk in Christianity--especially in a lot of USAmerican Christianity--about getting saved. The word comes with an expectation, which I think many of the biblical texts share, that salvation is an outside intervention of superior strength. The word that we know as "gospel" or "good news" is from the Greek word for an announcement of a military victory.

But this Jesus who we are waiting for in the season of Advent--the Jesus that John the Baptist has been pointing us to since the beginning of this week as he's been proclaiming the good news to the people--brings us an odd kind of gospel. It's a gospel that, to me, seems to have to do more with vulnerability than with coercive strength. It's a gospel of uncomfortable spaces and admissions of weakness.

And that is its strength. The good news that we proclaim this Advent is not a SWAT team. It is not temporal power, to be defeated by the next guy with a bigger gun. It is a rekindled relationship. It is a renewed identity of love. It is the overcoming of the jaded feeling that there is nowhere else to grow. And all of that is made possible by the experience of our own vulnerability, and--here's the thing--the vulnerability of God.

In other words...take it away, Dr. Brene Brown!

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