Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Redeeming Redemption

I'm a sucker for a good redemption story. I don't think I'm alone - many of pop culture's hits are redemptions stories. I love them, probably because I know how desperately I need to be redeemed myself. And I don't think I'm alone in that.

The best redemption story of all time is told in the Bible (he says, stating an opinion few people would find shocking considering frequent topics on this blog.) But there are other good ones too. The most famous is probably the Star Wars hexad, which told of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Stories and songs of people who fail and subsequently redeem themselves (or, less frequently, are redeemed by someone else - perhaps American individualism has something to do with that) are a huge part of our cultural heritage.

The influence of the Bible in our cultural mythos of redemption is undeniable, but of late I think it is beginning to be replaced by a humanistic counterfeit. Why do I think this? I think this based on two primary forms of evidence. First, while all the "redeemed" in modern entertainment are flawed, they are not called sinners. As a people we have lost any sense of sin in our lives. We are proud to say that Jesus Himself loved the poor and outcasts - but we ignore that He was quite clear that He was here for sinners. And all of us are sinners. Minimizing sin, and our partaking thereof, alters the redemption equation. No longer do we need God to save us from sin, but rather we can do okay on our own. After all, we're not that bad. Or so we think. When we think we're not so bad, and ignore sin, we risk much. If sin earns death it is at our peril that we forget the seriousness of our transgressions.

The second line of evidence is hinted at above. In pop culture we see people redeem themselves. Part of this surely stems from American individualism. But much of this is the result of our ignorance of sin. Redemption from sin requires someone else to redeem us: we can't do it on our own. Thinking we can, getting sucked into a modern philosophy that says we can earn our own way back to God is just as dangerous as thinking sin is no big deal in the first place. We need God to save us, we can't earn it ourselves.

The true greatness of the Biblical redemption story isn't in the quality of the literature, or the vividness of the narratives. The true greatness is that the redemption story in the Bible is true and anyone can be a redeemed character. All it takes is receiving the free gift offered by God out of His love.

I hope we regain, as a culture, a proper sense of what true redemption is. We need to remember how serious sin is, how everybody is a sinner, and how the only way to be saved is through a redeemer outside ourselves. It's the greatest story ever told for a reason. Let's redeem the idea of redemption and tell stories of sin and a savior. When we do that, Hollywood can't compete.

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