Finding the voice inside
You just never know how coming into contact with anything or anyone will change your life if youre open.A few months ago I was privileged to attend the TriBeCa Film Festival in Manhattan with a cohort group of fellow Episcopal priests. For several beautiful days in May, we tooled around New York City ducking in and out of movie theaters, searching for theological inspiration, threading the stuff we witnessed up on flat, white screens into a wider conversation about life and friendship and what it means to follow a call from God.Toward the end of our time together, three of our group went to see a film titled Live! (as in live and in person). It had had its New York premiere a few evenings prior, but the director, Bill Guttentag, had been good enough to stick around and gauge the audiences reaction at this late-night screening, as well as to take a few questions from the room. The place was filled with gaggles of slick, tech-savvy, twentysomething urbanites with cash to burn the perfect demographic, all tittering about the buzz surrounding this picture.As the film unspooled, its plot offered a superficially impressive question: What if the genre of reality TV was taken to its furthest logical extent and we could somehow get away with televising Russian Roulette? Would people watch it? Would advertisers pay for airtime on it? What if we upped the ante and guaranteed that someone would die? Could we stretch that out over an hour, even if the first person to try pulling the trigger was the unlucky one? What if we paid off all the participants except the family of the person who didnt make it?In terms of delivering on the what-if of the pictures premise, the film was relatively well-made independent cinema. Here or there was a surreal self-awareness of how strange a notion the whole thing was, as we watched television executives scramble selfishly for their livelihood and reputation. But and here I tread lightly I was shocked to discover that in a thing so potentially incendiary, I could not find one single voice of conscience. Instead, I found myself watching a movie about how cool the basic idea was, not how ethically challenging it would be. When it was over, I had a feeling of having been emotionally ravaged, used and discarded.Other than the three people in my group, the audience loved it. Hooted, hollered, and high-fived the whole time. Ate it up, mob-like. Acclaimed afterward that it was better than Network. I could feel my faith in the goodness of humanity take a hit as I sat in my seat waiting for someone to say out loud the three simple words that stung like a stitch in my chest: This is wrong.As I stood on the sidewalk in the chill night air with my friends after the movie comparing notes, I realized that the very same prophetic voice Id been waiting to hear was in fact mine mine to own or disown, mine to take up or ignore. If Id been waiting for a truth-teller to arrive, hed been sitting in my shoes the whole time.So weighty was the force of this moral realization about myself that after I came home I festered for a few weeks, then sent a fax to Mr. Guttentag asking him whether hed actually meant to craft a message of such devastating, anxiety-producing, bitter hopelessness. I have yet to hear from him and dont hold out much hope. If I do, then fine, and maybe hell listen. In any case, it seems appropriate to educate other people about this film and the effect it can have.The call to start living your life differently or to start living it at all can come in any shape or form at any time. Be open and see.The Rev. Torey Lightcap is Priest-In-Charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs, (www.saint-barnabas.info). Rev. Lightcap and his wife Jacqueline moved to Glenwood with son Gabriel last summer after serving St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church in Conroe, Texas. They are expecting another child in August.
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