Category: The Median

Projecting Dignity

by Dan Rupple

Each year, as I consider films to see at the Sundance Film Festival, I find myself giving preference to the documentaries. To be cinematically transported to foreign cultures and exposed to the beauty and pain of others’ experiences can be transformative.

One such film was War Dance, chronicling the story of three Ugandan refugee children whose lives are torn apart by war and then brought together as they prepare to take part in a nationwide music and dance competition. In the filmmaker’s juxtaposition between the atrocities and resilience of the human spirit, he brought such dignity and honor to these children who were trying to make sense of life in a world far dissimilar to mine. This produced in me an empathy, admiration, and respect for people and places of which I was previously unaware.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)

One of the most powerful lyrics ever written comes from “O Holy Night” in the phrase, “Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” When Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven and visited this soiled world, He brought unmerited dignity to all of mankind. Sinful human beings were given worth, demonstrated by the simple fact that our righteous Creator chose to come to us. Jesus brought dignity by dining with the vilified tax collector, granting mercy to the accused adulterous woman, and allowing the sinful woman to wet his feet with her tears. Without condoning or overlooking the damage caused by wrong or immoral behavior, Jesus first restores dignity to the brokenhearted—they are welcomed by God. And His goodness leads to their repentance.

Atticus Finch: “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.” (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Movies are a powerful medium, granting the viewer entry into the world of someone else. When a filmmaker appears in the life of the “other” with a lens of dignity, it can make beautiful strides in acknowledging the intrinsic value that God places on every human being.

Conversely, a camera can be a powerful weapon of destruction when used to project a skewed, derogatory, unfair stereotype that brings with it ridicule and scorn, degrading an individual or people group.

The filmmaker has to decide, “Am I going to use my camera to ultimately illuminate or to degrade?”

Behind the camera, increasingly we hear heartbreaking accounts of individuals, usually in a place of power, holding the dignity of others hostage. We see it reflected in personal stories of sexual violations, vile verbal slurs, racial discrimination, and many more displays of human degradation.

The treatment of others as objects to be used for “my needs,” rather than individuals who are fearfully and wonderfully made by their Holy Creator, is fueled in part by the erroneous thinking that by lowering someone else’s value, I will increase my own self-worth.

And the deep harm brought to a life by these assaults on an individual is having a ripple effect on so many others within the media and entertainment industry. I hear tragic stories of media professionals losing their jobs and livelihood literally overnight, due to cancellations caused by the cruel actions of the star of their show or the head of their production company.

Of course these issues are not unique to the film industry. Tragically, they can be found throughout this fallen world in most industries, organizations, and communities. But the level of belittling seems to be on the rise, particularly on social media. This growing onslaught of ugliness is eroding the fabric of our society. There is a meanness to our cultural conversation.

How desperately we need the love of God to fill our hearts, allowing us to see and treat our fellow man in the same manner that God sees and treats each one of us!

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3: 3-5)

Appearing at the office door of a media executive, grabbing a cup of coffee with a film producer, praying with a media professional whose life has gone off the rails—all these lie at the heart of Mastermedia.

Our hope and intent is to project the kindness and love of God in a manner that reflects the invaluable price that God Himself paid in order to restore us—and those we serve—back into relationship with our Creator.

Outtakes . . .

An excerpt from Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life

Author Makoto Fujimura, Director of Fuller’s Brehm Center, is an artist, writer, and speaker recognized worldwide as a cultural shaper.

As newlyweds, Makoto and his wife, Judy, were struggling to make ends meet. One evening Judy came home with a bouquet of flowers and Mako was upset that she had spent money on flowers when there was rent to pay. She simply said, “We need to feed our souls, too.” Mako reflects on this experience:

Bringing home a small bouquet of flowers created a genesis moment for me. Judy’s small act fed my soul. It renewed my conviction as an artist. It gave me new perspective. It challenged me to deliberately focus on endeavors in which I could truly be an artist of the soul. That moment engendered many more genesis moments in the years that followed, contributing to  decisions small and large that have redefined my life and provided inspiration for myself, my family, and my communities. 

Genesis moments like this often include elements of the great story told in the beginning of the biblical book of Genesis: creativity, growth—and failure. Two of these elements are common in discussions about arts and culture. God creates and calls his creatures to fruitfulness. Adam exercised his own creativity in naming what has been created. But the story also runs into failure and finitude. 

Generative thinking often starts out with a failure, like my failure to think and act like an artist. I have discovered that something is awakened through failure, tragedy, and disappointment. It is a place of learning and potential creativity. 

In such moments you can get lost in despair and denial, or you can recognize the failure and run toward the hope of something new . . . . 

Creativity applied in a moment of weakness and vulnerability can turn failure into enduring conversation, opening new vistas of inspiration and carnation. 

To remember what Judy did, to speak of it to others, to value her care—all this is generative . . . leading to the birth of ideas and actions, artifacts and relationships that would not otherwise have been.

On-Screen Inspiration . . . Beauty and the Beast

Agathe: . . . As punishment, the beautiful enchantress transformed the young prince into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there.

If he could learn to love another and earn their love in return by the time the last petal falls, the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?_______________________________________________

Beast: Your father . . . is a thief!

Belle: Liar!

Beast: He stole a rose.

Belle: [to the Beast] A life sentence for a rose?

Beast: [leaps down to her section of the tower, but remains hidden in the shadows] I received eternal damnation for one. I’m merely locking him away. Now, do you still wish to take your father’s place?

_______________________________________________

[The Beast enters the dining room, sits down and sees another plate set up across from him.]

Beast: You’re making her dinner?

Lumière: Well, if this girl is the one who can break the spell, then maybe you can start by using dinner to charm her.

Beast: That’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. Charm the prisoner.

Lumière: But you must try, Master. With every passing day, we become less human.

Sin has put the entire human race under the curse of existing in their basest, most animalistic nature. Only Christ, by His sacrificial love, can defeat the curse and set us free to be fully human, created in God’s image and restored to be the people He created us to be.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” —Romans 6:22 (ESV)