My wife and I recently got a chance to see Disney’s remake of Charles Dickens‘ Christmas Carol. We opted not to take the kids since we were warned that this version was a lot more true to Dicken’s original intent, which was largely to expose the brutal cruelty industrialization coupled with mindless material obsession. Such a warning was certainly much deserved as the storytellers don’t hesitate to portray the harsh realities of life and the ugliness of man’s greed through Jim Carey’s character, Scrooge, with frightening (literally at points) clarity.
Most of us have grown up hearing the timeless tale of mean old Mr. Scrooge and his eventual repentance and transformation and I’m sure this reality is what prompted the writers to add a little more to the story in this latest remake.
The one scene that stuck out to my wife as deliberate and a bit out of place (in flow of thought as well as the context of the story in general)was where the ghost of Christmas present stops his whirlwind tour of London and focus on a random bakery with people queued up, all the way out of the door, seeking to bake or buy bread.
The people, who were visibly poor and hungry, were being turned away by the baker. Upon seeing this Scrooge makes a remark to the tune of “look at the hypocrisy and oppression perpetuated in the name of religion” as if he is attempting to justify his greediness by appealing to the apparent cold-heartedness being displayed.
To this, the spirit of Christmas present yanks Scrooge around and thunders that while many men who claim to be stewards of righteousness have done much harm in the name of misguided religion, their faults are their own and ought not to be charged to Christmas’s account.
An interesting scene to say the least as I don’t recall Dickens ever dealing with the issue of business being closed on Sundays (or holidays) and how incoherent and legalistic such a requirement ends up being.
While the rest of the story offers the expected (and much needed) critique of materialism, I hope those of us in the church pay particular attention to this scene. I hope we don’t rush out with pitchforks and torches before asking ourselves, particularly those of us who live in “the Bible belt”, “How are those who are not Christians perceiving my actions?”
Far too often, I fear we are loosing ground in culture not because the world is opposed to the hope we are supposed to represent, but because we fail to practice what we preach because we get far more caught up in our preaching than we do our practicing.