Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Man for All Seasons

Edward and I watched this movie last night for our Thoughts on Faith Sunday school class. We are reading Through A Screen Darkly and watching some of the movies that Jeffrey Overstreet refers to in his book. The chapter we were reading this past week had to do with Heroes. I think the chapter is titled "Coming to the Rescue." The writer also refers a lot to Lord of the Rings. But we chose to watch A Man for All Seasons.

A Man for All Seasons seemed a favorite for a number of people in our class. My husband being one of them. He actually went out and bought a new DVD so you know he loves it. Edward lost most of his DVD collection during Katrina and has been slowly building it up again. He was happy to have a reason to buy this movie. Since Disney he has us all on a strict budget to build up the bank account. Not that we wiped it out but we did indulge a bit. But just to say he had a valid reason to buy this movie and he went for it. haha I am more a "book" person. Give me the fluttering of pages. I want to hold the weight of it and smell that paper smell.

Surprisingly I had never seen the movie though I knew of Thomas More. I guess you can't really avoid that with a seminary degree. I always loved the Catholic social justice theologians. I have always had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Catholicism. I was baptized Catholic at birth but after my parents divorce it seemed there was no place for us in the church. My mother was not allowed to take the Eucharist and through her alienation I missed doing first communion so I too was not welcome at the table. We stopped going to Catholic church and my mom checked some Protestant denominations including the Church of Latter day Saints where I was taught that there was only ONE way to pray and that I could one day wake to find 666 tattooed to my forehead. What a scary God that was.

When I was in high school and searching for colleges my mother encouraged me to look into Regis College, a Catholic women college about 8 miles from where we lived. My mom had been taking courses there and made some wonderful friends in the nuns, one especially, Sister Gretchen, who I later took Communication courses from as well. I chose Regis College for a number of reasons... 1. my mother was so enthusiastic and I always wanted to please my mom, 2. It was a women's college and I was wanting a setting free from the sexual drama of high school. What I mean is the distractions caused by the opposite sex and the uncertainty of my own value as a person when in competition with men in the classroom. and 3. I wanted to find my way back to the church.

Sadly, I did not find my way back to the Catholic church while in college. I found the services lacking in passion and the rote liturgy uninspiring. I did, however, love Regis College. I loved what it taught me and the power it gave me as a women. And once I learned to tell the nuns from the lay people I was golden.

So back to Thomas More and A Man for All Seasons. The movie portrays the man as pure in his motivations and above reproach. He dies a martyr leaving behind his family alone with no means of support. I found myself very depressed at the end of the movie and wiping tears from my eyes the longer I sat there. In the movie, More seems a wonderfully upstanding man. A man with convictions that he lives out in his life and puts him in some precarious positions. He loves his family and his faith is played out in the daily life of his household. He also has strong opinions on the reformation of the church (Luther was at play during this time.) and the authority of the church as well. I admired his wit and his skill of argument which did him well as a lawyer.

More's quiet life in the country away from court was also to be admired. He understood the compromise which marred souls when living close to court and the city. More encourage a simple teachers life to a man who was seeking a position under him. When the man asked him what was the value in being a teacher... he said something to the effect that he, his students, family and God would know what a good man he was and that was quite a public. Edward told me this is one of his favorite parts of the movie and that he thought of it often when he was thinking about teaching. And he did teach for a time in Texas. It was a school for struggling girls and I believe it was run by nuns.

At the beginning of the movie, Thomas More and his family are living comfortably in a manor house with a household of servants, gentle company and surrounded by books, food and lively conversation. Slowly though out the movie Thomas' circumstances diminish. At the end his clothes are ragged and he is unkempt. Even his cell in the tower changes from a stark room with plain wooden furniture and floors to a hole in the wall with mud floors. His family shares that they are sitting in the dark because they have no money for candles and their furniture has been sold. The room we once see them entertaining is... full of laughter and political debate is empty except for a wooden table. By the end of the movie he is unequivocally alone. He stands at the executioner block without family and his words are few. "I die a good servant of the King. But God's first."

Did he die a good death? I suppose better than most. Did he have to die? It seems he thought so because he could not find anyway around his moral dilemma though he tried. He used silence. He used semantics. And when his daughter came to argue for him to relent and come home to them he could not find a way to honor his faith in light of what was requested of him. A religious answer for a political problem has never been well received. I have to say I admire him but I did not agree with his decision to hold ground.

I saw a third concern between politics and religion, his family. I told Edward if in our lifetime he found himself in circumstances similar and sacrificed everything for his moral beliefs I would not understand. Because he is not the only one that would be effected. Thomas More left behind a family who depended on him and who loved him. I know the Bible says that those who can not hate their mothers and fathers and put Christ before them can not be a follower. But More lived an exemplary life. He was a good and honest man. God knew all about More and his goodness. His goodness would not have been diminished in God for surviving in whatever way he could. I know More believed he would have been lesser of a man of faith and maybe that belief would have killed him in itself. But I do not believe God would have condemned him as he would have condemned himself.

Now as a seminary student I must place myself in context. I am a daughter long abandoned by my father. I want my daughter to have a father. I know she will be a more secure girl and woman for it. She may have other problems but not the ones I carried. So to see a father choose other than his family pushes my big red button. But really I do not think I would feel any differently if I had a father's influence my whole life.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Overstreet said...


You have encouraged me with your posts about how your group is examining movies and discussing them.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Jeffrey Overstreet