One of the gracious gifts the Holy Spirit gives God’s people in Scripture is the I AM sayings of Jesus in the gospel of John. They are clear declarations of Jesus’ deity and his life giving purpose. The I Am statements are supposedly the theme of the 2013 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Youth Triennium. And certainly they must be a part of the event. But tonight I bought and watched the movie they watched tonight. The movie titled I Am is not about the I AMs of Jesus but about the unity of humanity and it is at its basic core New Age.There are some good points in I Am, the movie directed by Tom Shadyac. He is asking two questions of various famous people, including one Christian, Bishop Tutu. The two questions are: “What’s wrong with our world?” & “What can we do about it?” Jodi Craiglow, who is ministering at the event, has done a magnificent job of searching out the people Shadyac questions. You can find her review and that information at I AM: A teaser for the 2013 PYT Movie Night. They are mostly intellectuals with a combination of mystical and scientific viewpoints.
The movie’s center or world view is the idea that we are all connected through our consciousness in such a manner that our material world, while real, is founded on an energy that flows from our emotions. One speaker even speaks of our “higher self,” which is the eastern idea that all is one, and that “one” is our higher self which is monism not Christianity. One statement is “When mass minds become highly focused something about the physical environment changes.” But one gets a clue that not all scientist agree when the same person mentions that this sounds almost like New Age ideas and then says “A lot of scientists will hear what I am saying and dismiss it instantly.”
Besides pushing the idea of monism here are several other reasons that this was not a good movie for Christian young people. (1) There is a persistent claim that humanity’s nature is truly good and that our DNA is wired for compassion. Various tests are cited as proof that in evolution, rather than nature being red in tooth and claw, groups of animals mainly function through compassion and consensus.What the movie speakers forget is that red in tooth and claw means that diverse life forms prey on other life forms. Until the redemptive return of Christ it will always be so. While doing all that we can to bring healing to the environment, Christians look with hope for the coming of the Lord. Paul in Romans 8, reminds the Christian that all of creation longs for the final bodily redemption of the children of God.
(2)Like most western new age mysticism, the ideas center on the material which creates energy which creates reality. The heart creates emotions for good or evil that physically affect others and the universe. Humanity creates their own universe. Humanity is the center of the movie; the only thing beyond the material is consciousness.(3)There is absolutely nothing about our sinful nature and Jesus the God/man who died for our sins. In the midst of a movie that rightly explores the needs of the poor and the dispossessed the core mechanism for helping has to do with right thinking and good works. Grace does not enter by means of a personal redemptive God who transforms his people urging them into the hurting world. This movie named I Am is a painful reminder of what is too often missing during events in the PCUSA.
Where is Jesus who proclaims, "I Am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me." (John 14: 6) Where is the Lord who stated, “I Am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:36) Where is Jesus who proclaimed “I Am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)Undoubtedly the young people at the Youth Triennium were meant to find their own identity and the movie was supposed to help. But without Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives-both center and foundation-we will not know ourselves at all. Our reality, our universe was created by a personal Creator who although he is far above us stooped to us in Jesus Christ. In him alone we find our identity.
Picture by Melissa Tregilgas