Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Adrift in the Universe

Recently, Patty and I felt like a relaxing evening with a good movie. But instead of opting for mindless summer faire in the theaters, we rented one that we had missed, "Cast Away." The film stars Tom Hanks and was, artistically speaking, very well done. And some Christians consider it a family-friendly film since there's no profanity or sexual content. Well, there's a lot more to being "family friendly" than that. The worldview of the movie is of much greater concern. In this film, Tom Hanks plays a trouble-shooter for Federal Express, named Chuck Noland. On Christmas Eve, just as he had planned to ask his girlfriend to marry him, he is called off to fly to Micronesia to fix a problem. But halfway across the Pacific, the plane runs into a storm and crashes into the ocean. Noland, the only survivor, washes up on an unpopulated island. For the better part of an hour and a half we watch him honing his survival skills. The acting is brilliant. Relief from his isolation comes, not in the form of someone like Robinson Crusoe's friend, Friday, but from a volleyball named Wilson -- which Noland talks to. Then, after nearly four years, Noland finally builds a raft and escapes. Adrift at sea, he's picked up by a passing freighter and is returned to a hero's welcome in Memphis. But there he realizes he can't just pick up where he left off. At the end of the movie, we see Noland -- literally and figuratively -- at a crossroads. Bewildered and lost, he stands in the middle of the road, able to go in any one of four different directions. What does he do? He looks into the camera with an exquisite expression on his face and shrugs his shoulders. So, what is the film telling us? That life has no intrinsic meaning. The only meaning it has is that which we find through acts of heroic individualism. In that, "Cast Away" reflects the worldview of existentialists like Albert Camus, who wrote that, although the universe is meaningless and God is dead, it is nevertheless our duty to refuse to accommodate ourselves to that meaninglessness. Indeed, we overcome it with our heroic efforts. This is just exactly what Tom Hanks does on the island. Once rescued, he's not redeemed. His struggle and sacrifice ultimately amounts to nothing because, as the final scene tells us, his choices really don't matter when all is said and done, and he knows it -- hence, the look on his face. Life has no purpose and no meaning. But what disturbs me is how little Christians seem to understand movies like this. Every Christian I asked about this movie told me how much they liked the film. Not one of them was able to identify the worldview being promoted -- not even close. Part of our mission here at Breakpoint is to offer guidance on how various worldviews are portrayed by popular culture. We have a list of recommended films you may want to consult before your next trip to the video store. Call us today and we'll send you a copy. One thing we can discover from films like "Cast Away" is the utter emptiness of life without God. Life gets its meaning, not from self-fulfillment or success or even heroic existential engagement, but from a personal relationship with our Creator. And any life dedicated to that pursuit will have more than "family values" -- it will have eternal significance.


Chuck Colson


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