Pentecost 9 – Summer Series “Faith and Film”
July 22, 2018
Grace, Mankato, MN
With Babe: Pig in the City we encounter another type of film, if “live talking animals” is a genre. Babe: Pig in the City is a sequel. In the first film, Babe the pig has a knack for herding sheep by talking with them. Pig in the City opens with Babe’s win at a sheep-herding contest. Soon after, Babe’s master, the farmer, has an accident that puts the farm in jeopardy. So, Babe goes to a fair with the farmer’s wife to save it only to get stuck in the city. They end up at a hotel that is a haven for animals, much to the chagrin of some locals. After a series of unfortunate events, all the humans are gone and the animals are left to fend for themselves. The chimps know where to find some food and trick Babe into helping them, knowing that the place is guarded by vicious dogs. The dogs break free and start chasing Babe. Here’s what happens…
One of the dogs, a pit bull, is chasing Babe with his chain still attached to his collar. As Babe stops on the top of a small bridge, he pauses and asks, “Why?” whereupon the pit bull knocks Babe into the water. The dog jumps after Babe, but gets hung up on the chain, which begins to choke the dog. As the dog continues to struggle, the chain slowly lets out, but only far enough that the dog’s head is now underwater; he begins to drown. All of the other animals, who have been watching this chase unfold, slowly walk away. Babe jumps in the water and pushes a small boat toward the drowning dog. The dog struggles and is able to get into the boat, but is still wrapped up in the chain. Babe calls for help and a Capuchin monkey climbs down the chain and unhooks it from the dog’s collar.
Like so many of the films we’ve encountered this summer, there are many religious themes we could explore. But today’s theme is “love your enemies.” It embodies perfectly Romans 12.21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Earlier in the chapter Paul the Apostle says, “Hold fast to what is good.” The Apostle Paul writes these words to the church at Rome, one that’s been undergoing difficulties.
The Jewish Christians had founded the church in Roman but had been kicked out by the Roman government because of political unrest, leaving the Gentile Christians to run the church. When the Jewish Christians were allowed to return, there was some sorting out to do because of some internal strife. You can imagine the interaction between the Old Guard and the New Guard. Through the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul reminds them of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, which has produced in them a transformed mind. This renewing mind leads to a different way of living. This different way of living includes not only those inside the community but outside as well.
Like the movie Gandhi, which dealt with peaceful resistance non-violence, these are hard sayings to live with and to live by. It’s so much easier to operate the way much of the world does with bumper sticker philosophies: “I don’t get mad, I get even” or “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” I have to admit, there are times and places where these attitudes take over. For example, Cindy will tell that when I’m behind the wheel of a car, there are times when I’m fast and long on the horn. But Babe the pig and Paul the Apostle take Gandhi even further: we are to overcome evil with good. This sounds like not only an unrealistic ideal in our world today, but also an impossible one.
Except that it’s not. There are people and places overcoming evil with good all around the world. I learned of one such place: Wunseidel Germany. Wunseidel had been plagued with neo-Nazi marches for years. Until 3.5 years ago, the strategy of its residents had been to launch counter-protest marches, which really didn’t accomplish anything. Then in November 2014, someone came up with the idea of getting financial pledges of support for every meter the Nazis walked. They even marked the streets with the distance and encouraged the neo-Nazis along the way, giving them water and thanking them for helping them to raise money. The funds went to an NGO that helped neo-Nazis leave behind their political hate speech and enter a new way of life.
We seem to be all too ready to let go of what is good in the name of countering evil. I can think of some peoples’ willingness to torture our enemies for information as one glaring example. But Paul the Apostle and Babe the Pig remind us that God calls us to a different way of life, one born of God through Jesus. Paul’s list of ways to live in Romans 12 is not meant be exhaustive or prescriptive, but illustrative of our transformed minds. More importantly, it’s an encouragement to “get a grip” on the grace and mercy given to all of us. May God strengthen you in your resolve to overcome evil with the strongest power there is—love. Amen.