Friday, May 6, 2011

Thoughts on JVG

For about two weeks straight my friend and I engaged in conversation about Sucker Punch. Every single scene got dissected. We each had our theories on the movie and I tried to think through every aspect through the lens I constructed. At one point I asked my friend, 'am I going too far in my interpretations?' He responded by saying, 'I do think that you want it to box too neatly and consume everything with rational or symbolic relevance. The fact is it's a studio film and therefore given to the biases of the studio, the producer, the director, the whims of actresses who refuse this or that. Budget preventing this song to be chosen and forcing another etc.' I drew a very neat picture of the movie and I felt that I could integrate most every detail into that picture. The problem is that some of the coherence I saw wasn't real and was more easily explained as being caused by other factors (e.g., are the demon-like figures in the first fight scene the hospital orderlies? - probably not - it could more easily be chalked up to Snyder's personal background). The fact that this movie is part of my culture enabled me to have a clear picture of where I read too much into a particular detail.

A while back I finished reading JVG and I have to say that I absolutely loved it. It's an awesome book that provokes a lot of thought. Wright's portrait of Jesus is compelling, it has a lot of explanatory power. I have some reservations about it, though. It explains everything very neatly, and that concerns me. Wright describes his approach as one that tries to keep all of the puzzle pieces on the board. That strikes me as a necessity. However, given our cultural distance from the world of Jesus, coherence can be a bit of a problematic method and it seems like that's Wright's go to argument. When looking at individual episodes, it's hard to know at which points coherence is real and where it's only apparent. Yes a particular interpretation may cohere with the overall picture of Jesus that we're painting (which is continuous with both Judaism and early Christianity), but that doesn't make it the right interpretation. There needs to be room for a Jesus who is outside of every box at times.

Is this a fatal flaw? By no means! Does it temper my enthusiasm for JVG? Perhaps a little, but at the end of the day, coherence is really all we can go on. If we don't have a coherent Jesus who's understandable as a product of Judaism and vitally connected to early Christianity, then we probably don't have the real Jesus. However, we just need to be aware that if we follow Wright there are probably spots where we're forcing things into a grid when they don't really fit. This is where community interpretation is so critical. Perhaps by listening to the critics Wright at the same time we can hopefully at least see a few places where we should go in a different direction than the one he has chosen.


  1. "Consistent to a fault"- that's how I describe JVG.

  2. Not sure if you've read The Resurrection of the Son of God or not, but he does something very similar there, too. But, he abandons his consistency momentarily when he gets to Revelation 20 and the "first resurrection." After spending the entire book arguing that "resurrection" always meant a bodily resurrection to Jews and Christians, he decides that this is the one exception to that rule. Personally, I think he's letting his eschatology set the agenda, but it's so odd given how consistent to a fault he normally is. Anyway, there you go.

  3. I haven't read RSG yet. I think I should get to it late this year or early next year. I want to finish it before the big book on Paul comes out.

    The point you make is interesting, I'll have to keep my eye out for it when I come across it. That is surprising, because I too would agree that Wright is consistent to a fault.