Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Action Preachers 4: Pastors on the Poseidon!

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

I loved this movie as a kid. I thought it was pretty great. I watched it yesterday and it's still pretty great. It's just when I saw it as a kid I thought it was actually, you know, good; "camp" and "kitsch" most likely to be used to describe the film these days.  But "entertaining" certainly still applies. The scene where the dining hall is turned upside down when the ship is hit by a tidal wave is still pretty amazing and I can't see CGI improving it. I still can't decide whether the dire circumstances used to disrobe the beautiful women in the cast are amusing or appalling. And I'm pretty sure Nonnie's brother in the band that sings the Oscar winning "There's Got to be a Morning After" is the first screen appearance of Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap.  

But, as per usual here, I'm not writing about the film, but the clergy in the film. In "The Poseidon Adventure" there are two. One of them seems like a pretty decent pastor. The other, judging him by his theology, is one of the worst pastors in screen history (and I'm including the cinematic clergy serial murderers with that).

Before disaster strikes the good ship SS Poseidon, we see two clergymen in conversation. Arthur O'Connell plays Chaplain John, an old priest concerned about the young rebel, Reverend Scott (played by Gene Hackman). Reverend Scott hasn't quite been defrocked for his heretical views, but he is being shipped by his superiors to Africa. Whatever denomination he belongs to, they should probably reconsider their policy of sending heretics to the mission field.

We hear a sermon Reverend Scott delivers to his fellow passengers on the ship. In the sermon, the Reverend assures his listeners that God doesn't really care about them. He is concerned about the big picture, getting humanity to some great place beyond our comprehension. The individual is only important as a link from the past to this glorious future. (I'm sure most dictators and sociopaths are quite comfortable with this viewpoint.)

Prayer is a waste of time according to the good Reverend because God expects us to fight for ourselves. Scott talks about his childhood in the slums when you had to fight to feed yourself and keep warm and couldn't waste time on your knees. He is a man of action, which is why he fits in this category. When disaster strikes the ship, the Reverend Scott takes it upon himself to lead any passengers who will follow him to safety of the ship's hull (you see, due to the tidal wave, down is up and up is down).  He doesn't want to waste time with the weak folks who don't have the will or constitution to attempt an escape.

But Chaplain John does take time for the sick and injured. He stays behind with the weak to comfort and care for them. He dies caring for them, just as Jesus called His people to do. I'd certainly consider going to Chaplain John's church.

Though the Reverend Scott disparages prayer, he does talk to God eventually in the film. He blames God for his troubles, yelling at Him, "I don't expect you to do anything for me, but you don't have to fight against me!" He calls his companions who die on the journey through the ship "sacrifices" that God demands. He seems wholly unaware of God's sacrifice of His Son. But in the end, Scott sacrifices himself, so he's not all bad.

I wouldn't go, though, to any church he pastored.  
-- Dean