Sunday, January 3, 2010

King Arthur, Freedom and Getting on Our Knees

Near the beginning of King Arthur, as King Arthur is praying, Lancelot tells him that he doesn’t like anything that puts a man on his knees. That sentence seems to sum up the movie’s attitude towards Christianity. It is also a good reflection of today’s attitudes towards religion.

We don’t like bowing down or being subservient to anyone. Servanthood is seen as a fault, rather than something we should aspire to. We like to be masters of our own destiny, controlled by nobody, answerable to no-one. To obey is seen as a removal of our freedom to choose. And our freedom to choose is something we cling to tightly.

Freedom is a theme that runs strongly throughout King Arthur. The knights hope to obtain their freedom. And yet they maintain that they always were free men. At the end, they fight because they are free. Their freedom gives them the freedom to choose.

And religion (or at least Roman Christianity) is seen to be taking away that freedom. One of the scenes in the movie shows that the Roman bishop has walled up pagans. The message is clear. Roman Christianity will cage you and then kill you.

The only Christian who seems to have any compassion is King Arthur himself. And yet King Arthur’s Christianity is different to that of the Romans. He has a strong admiration for Pelagius and is horrified to learn that Pelagius has been ex-communicated. (Pelagius denied original sin and claimed that all men were free to obey God’s commands.) Although King Arthur has a form of faith that seems compassionate and worthy, he is also portrayed as someone who believes in a dream that does not exist.

The movie may have been set in the past, but the views contained within it belong to today. And so the question now should be does the movie have a point? Does religion, in fact, control people and take away their freedom?

If we search through the bible, we will find many things that seem to suggest that Christianity gives people freedom, rather than taking it away. The Old Testament speaks often of how God rescued the Israelites from captivity. And there are many scriptures in the New Testament that talk about the freedom we have in Christ. Here are just a couple of them.

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. (1 Corinthians 10:23).

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13).

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:16-17).

One of the most important gifts God has given us is free will. One of the most important things Christ accomplished on the cross was setting us free from sin.

But because it is freedom, we are free to use that freedom in whatever way we choose. We may use it to reject God and obey our own selfish desires. However, if we do that, we are not really free at all. For we have become slaves to sin instead. We do not like anything to be master of us, and yet when we continue to sin, sin becomes our master. Romans 6:14 says ‘For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.’

If, however, we use our freedom to get down on our knees before God and seek to serve him and do his will, then we keep our freedom. For we obey God out of love and choice, not control and coercion.

Today was the Epiphany. And the gospel reading for today was Matthew 2:1 12. In that passage, the Magi fall down and pay homage to Jesus. It’s an appealing story, because the idea of three important people paying homage to a baby in a stable seems to contradict the world’s concept of importance. And it is true that God does that. God’s idea of importance is not the same as the world’s. But it should also be remembered that the Magi did not choose some random baby in a stable to pay homage to. They paid homage to Jesus because they recognised that he was more important than they were.

But they did so through choice. They were not forced into worshipping Jesus. They freely choose to do so.

One of the parts I do like in King Arthur is where the knights fight at the end, not because they are forced to, but because, now that they are free, they choose to do so. In the same way, Christians are called to serve God, to get down on our knees, to seek to do his will, not because we have no freedom, but because we do have freedom. And that freedom enables us to freely choose God’s way and to offer him the love and obedience that he deserves.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Bookmark and Share

Blog Patrol