As the movie concluded my wife and I looked at each other incredulous. The movie was “Gone Girl.” I know old news, but hey – we’re old and we watched it off the DVR off of a premium movie channel. Our incredulity sprang from two things really. For one we were stunned by how incredibly corrupt all of the main characters in the film were. There was no redemption in this film – it made a mockery of the very concept of redemption. That’s just ugly. But the second thing that left our jaws hanging was the power that the movie gave to public perception. In the end public perception was all that mattered in the film. The corruption was real, deep and apparently complete, but as long as the public perception was not corrupt it was as if the corruption did not exist, or at least did not matter.
I wish I could lay out the case for the points I just made, but the movie had such a convoluted plot that retelling would consume nearly the time viewing the film does – and it is a long movie. Normally I’d say “watch the film,” but I don’t want anyone blaming me for the sense of filth and discomfort you will feel after doing so.
I think the thing my wife and I struggled with the most was the characters knowing and acknowledged willingness to live in a lie. Both of us have confronted situations in our lives where we had to come to grips with an uncomfortable truth, and where facing it cost us dearly – in friends, money, etc. We honestly could not understand why anyone would choose to do what these characters did.
But then we are both also people that hold Christ most dear. As I have thought about the film, I could not help but reflect on the words of Christ in Luke 12:
Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.
In the end, there are no secrets. Public perception does not matter. God’s perception is all that matters. God’s perception is complete and sees everything. God’s perception defines reality, not Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or mainstream media. God’s perception is such that public perception and reality fully and completely merge.
I think that is the thing I find most disturbing about the current election cycle. There is a titanic struggle over the public perception of the candidates. But reasonable people are forced to ask how well that public perception comports with reality. Whether you blame the media, the candidates, or the public that consumes media like an addict consumes their addiction, this is another place where our country has deeply departed from its underlying Christian principles.
From a practical standpoint, not everyone can meet the candidates, review their records and make a personal and thorough assessment. Therefore, media is necessary. But at some point media has warped from a reflection of reality to a shaper of it. (There are exceptions, of course.) God is the only shaper of reality. Our attempts to shape it are the ultimate expression of our separation from Him.
However this election proceeds and comes out, we that hold God dear need to work as hard as possible to close the gap between public perception and reality. The alternative is just too ugly to contemplate.