A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

God Talk: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

As I was sitting poolside yesterday, I found myself chatting with a friendly lass (twenty years my junior as it turns out) about this, that and the other. Mostly she talked about her ambitions and interest in music and books, topics in which I was eager to engage in. Later, she noticed that I had an open book on my bag and asked me about it.

As it so happened, I was reading a theology book and made a comment about reading a book that she was unlikely to read... a book about God.
Immediately she agreed with me. A book about God was something she wouldn't be reading.  She quickly qualified her remarks by saying that she wasn't an atheist... just that she had her own idea of what God was like.

I don't think she's alone. All faith systems, as diverse as they are from one another, claim that they have the answers that lead adherents to God. No wonder so many are confused. Throw Hollywood into the mix and golly where do we start...
It's unfortunate really that instead of seeking clarity, individuals look to themselves for answers. A man beginning with himself will never really know God. They may have an inkling or two, if the circumstances are right. But for man to know God sufficiently, God must first reveal himself to man.

At the periphery of the recent flick, The Adjustment Bureau is an enigmatic,awe-inspiring figure called "The Chairman" -- a thinly veiled, no-brainer reference to "God". This god, however, is scarcely the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. Instead,  he lurks in the background composing complicated mathematical maps of what should or what shouldn't happen in the lives of individuals while sending his minions of angelic errand boys to do the heavy lifting... ie. make the necessary adjustments.

His is the kind of God that secular types envisage. Someone who keeps his distance... a cosmic puppeteer who pulls strings in the background, instigates conspiracies, and has an annoying habit of policing human desires. He is a god that is largely ignored until something bad happens... and then gets reprimanded by disbelieving objectors for not intervening.

The Chairman, however, isn't the heart of the story... which is a pity as it might've made for far more interesting film. Instead we follow the ups and downs of a pair lovebirds who apparently aren't meant to be. According to his stylishly hatted minions, Chairman/God has set a course that must be followed no matter what, which in our humanistic age sounds egotistically mean-spirited. So, of course, we're meant to feel sympathetic when the Matt Damon character yells out, "What about free will?"

It would make for a fascinating philosophical inquiry except that the execution of this semi-serious chick flick feels uneasy. It isn't always sure what it wants to be. The story is entertaining enough, on a certain level but it shouldn't fool anyone into thinking that it says anything original or interesting about theology, predestination or free will.


  1. Sounds like our friend is getting a little type-cast.

  2. Matt Damon, you mean...?
    Well, our friend has left-leaning politics and is probably attracted to this sort scripts, no doubt.


Let me know what you think!