Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"The Man who Shot Liberty Valance" - review and thoughts

Over the weekend we watched "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance".

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance PosterI heard it was a good classic movie and kicked it up after we got the kids to bed on Saturday.  I can say that we enjoyed the movie and I would recommend it.  It is a good story (and story telling) more than an action western.

The acting is good (Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne) and some of the action and scene shots bear the fact that they were done in the 60's.  Wider views (which I like) and some camera angles that aren't natural to the story (which I don't like).

There are great layers into the story - romance, political statehood, and the power of legends.

The brief story - (beyond this spoilers may abound and wikipedia tells it further and better)

Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) is a US Senator returning to a smalltown for the funeral of Tom Doniphon (John Wayne).  The local press corner him for an interview and he tells a story (flashback 20-ish years). 

Ransom is a lawyer heading out west.  As he was approaching Shinbone for the first time he gets mugged & beat by Liberty Valance.  Liberty is the lead thug supported by the big ranchers.  The only person tougher is a horse trader, Tom Doniphon.  Ransom is nursed back to health and after some time is one of two delegates for a convention regarding statehood of the territories.  Liberty beats the other delegate and forces Ransom into a shootout.  Ransom can't shoot.  He can but it's similar to playing football with a 4 y/o; no competition.  Liberty toys with him and somehow Ransom shoots him dead.  At the statehood convention Ransom is nominated to be a delegate to US Senate.  He ducks in back and is packing to leave when Tom corners him.  Tom tells a story of his own....he was in the side alley and Tom shot Liberty Valence, not Ransom.  Tom tells Ransom to man up and go be a force for good.

Back to the present day and the press scraps the notes from the interview.  The newspaper chief tosses the notes into the stove and says "When the legend becomes fact; print the legend."

Ransom and his wife are on the train heading back to Washington.  The conductor passes along some strings that they pulled to expedite the Senator's travel.  Ransom expresses his thanks and the conductor replies "nothing's too good for the man who shot Liberty Valence".

The Gospel of the story -
I've been thinking a few days about this story.  Ransom's career and his life is built on a lie.  Even the newspaper would rather hold to the legend rather than tell folks the truth.

There is a basic law at work in the story.  Ransom has no arena (or court) in which he can win against Liberty.  Ransom tries desperately to hold to the law of the books but that has no authority over Liberty.  He refuses guns frequently and starts to try to train with one knowing that the showdown will someday happen.  Ransom isn't good enough though.  Tom had to fulfill the law.

Ransom rides on the coattails of the victory.  He rides into Washington as the legendary man who shot Liberty Valance.

There is something required of us that we can't measure up to.  I know there is good and I don't measure up; my words, thoughts and actions don't measure up.  There is an enemy waiting to kill us and let us die under the law.  But there is also a real hero who is ready to save us.  He doesn't destroy the law he fulfills it and we can rejoice in the victory.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Concert Review - AP & Caleb

Saturday (10/6/12) Becky & I trekked about 1.5 hrs to enjoy Andrew Peterson and the band Caleb playing in Wadsworth Ohio.  I had my expectations fairly high for this event and was only slightly disappointed.  My disappointment - it had to end.  Also we are old and couldn't hang around to pull AP aside to extort an afterglow out of him.

It was a great concert for a few reasons, Andrew Peterson & Caleb were playing.  Andrew is a seasoned performer and played great music with engaging set-up stories and humor.  Caleb consists of Caleb Chapman on guitar and belting out raw emotion and Will Chapman on drums driving the songs home. 

It was my first time seeing Caleb performing live and I was blown away.  They are excellent musicians and are still cutting their teeth as performers.  They had a 3 song set and certainly won some fans out of it.  The songs were good, really good.  Not necessarily happy or easy songs, but evoked emotion and connected on a deep level.  It feels like that brief description of "good" and "evoking emotion" is like calling E.T. a good movie about an alien.  There is just so much more to these guys.  Awesome stuff.  My rock&roll days are mostly behind me, but I look forward to hearing much more from them.

Andrew played a mostly somber set which falls in line with "Light for the Lost Boy".  (I reviewed the album here.)  The album is about the ache of growing up.  It is painted from a parent's view at a child; a grown-ups view longing for the lost childhood; and a mature view of how that experience can (and should) change us to being thankful. 

It is somber, but it is also hopeful.  The contrast of something being lost against what is found. 

My takeaway line (paraphrase) - "As parents we work to preserve Eden for our children, but the snake is going to get into the garden."

All of this echoes of a few parts from GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy:
Catholic* doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.  Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism.  We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea.  So long as there was a wall round the cliff's edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries.  But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.Catholic = universal
 We setup rules (and to an extent Law itself) to protect and preserve.

This is the prime paradox of our religion; something that we have never in any full sense known, is not only better than ourselves, but even more natural to us than ourselves.
I don't think it's a stretch to say it's something that children are closer to than us; but we can take joy in that it will be regained.

It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening,
"Do it again" to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Christian Story.

From Tim Keller's website (Aug 8, 2012):
At some point you need tell the Christian story in a way that addresses the things that people most want for their own lives, the things that they are trying to find outside of Christianity, and show how Christianity can give it to them. Alasdair MacIntyre said this about narratival apologetics: ‘That narrative prevails over its rivals which is able to include its rivals within it, not only to retell their stories as episodes within its story, but to tell the story of the telling of their stories as such episodes.’ Read that sentence again.
There is a way of telling the gospel that makes people say, ‘I don’t believe it’s true, but I wish it were.’ You have to get to the beauty of it, and then go back to the reasons for it. Only then, when you show that it takes more faith to doubt it than to believe it; when the things you see out there in the world are better explained by the Christian account of things than the secular account of things; and when they experience a community in which they actually do see Christianity embodied, in healthy Christian lives and solid Christian community, that many will believe.

I enjoyed this and thought it worth preserving somewhere that I can get to quickly.  Carry on.