Ever get bored at church? Wondering when the songs will get over and you’ll get to sit down? Discretely glancing at your watch during an extra-long sermon? How many points did he say his sermon was going to be? Why do people sometimes get bored with church?
A Sony exec recently mentioned a possible remake of the 1987 classic The Princess Bride, and for a moment, all the world was united. “Inconceivable!” writes World magazine. Original stars, fans, and Hollywood execs alike made it clear that such a move would be disastrous.
Why not? Is the movie that perfect? I’m a fan, but, at the very least, the overdramatic synthesizer background music could be re-envisioned. I’m sure movie critics can point out myriad flaws.
Even when something is nearly perfect, remakes can still work. John Wayne starred in—and won an Academy Award for Best Actor for—the 1969 True Grit, thought by John Wayne fans to be about as perfect a movie as you can get. And yet the 2010 remake of True Grit starring Jeff Bridges was hailed by Rotten Tomatoes as the #1 movie remake ever attempted.
What makes some remakes work, while other remakes are unthinkable?
I think it has a lot to do with money. Is there a good reason for a remake? As in, something more than just more money?
For many people, The Princess Bride rises above being merely a fun movie, or a delightful comedy. The quirky cast nailed so many comedic lines that the movie became instantly quotable, thus embedding itself in our conversations and shaping our own inside humor. (“My name is Inigo Montoya…” “I’m not a witch; I’m your wife!” “Oh, you mean this gate key.”) Not a perfect movie, but very possibly unrepeatable. It’ll sound silly to use this word for such a movie—and I admit I’m using the word very loosely—but, there’s almost a sacredness to the movie.
When sacredness is exploited simply for money, it’s deeply insulting. It’s difficult to hear about the potential remake and see it as anything other than a cash grab. Jesus felt a similar outrage at what the temple execs had turned the Jewish temple into:
In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:14-17).
On the one hand, there’s bringing something back to life. Think Miracle Max bringing a mostly dead Wesley back to life. This seems to describe the 2010 True Grit which brought its story to life for a generation who knew not John Wayne. On the other hand, there’s taking something that’s alive and harvesting any organs from it which might bring cash. It’s sacrificing the sacred for surplus, people for profit. It’s the 6-fingered man’s experiments on Wesley—killing a man to perfect a machine.
Speaking of sacred, a temple to the living God—the One who created the heavens and the earth—was unique in the ancient world. That is, until it became just another source of revenue. Visitors would tragically conclude, Just another temple. Just another “god.”
And the exhilarating prospect of meeting the living God would sadly crumple into tourism, complete with the background noise of, “That’ll be such-and-such number of dollars.”
Wild-eyed Jesus whirling a whip—that’s something to see. Many impressed people “believed in his name” (John 2:23). And yet, here’s the surprise: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people” (John 2:24). Jesus knew that, given the chance, we will do to Jesus what a Hollywood opportunist would do with The Princess Bride. This is why, even though Jesus is King, He got nervous when a massive crowd began planning the coronation: “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15).
If you understand why Jesus withdrew from the cheering crowds, and why the world protested the possible Princess Bride remake, then you can understand why you sometimes get bored in church. It’s possible to take something sacred like church—far more sacred than an 80s cult classic—and ask, “How could I remake this so I can get the most profit?” How can the music best serve my tastes? How can the sermon best connect with my personality? How can each church service best reinforce my specialness?
Even as you seek greater excitement, you’ll find that way of doing church incredibly boring. Why? It’s because you’ve taken something sacred and exploited it. You’ve taken something living and cannibalized it. Something that should feel alive will feel “mostly dead.”
Jesus knew that, given the chance, we will do to Jesus what a Hollywood opportunist would do with The Princess Bride.
What’s the cure for boredom in church? Switch out your roles. Toss aside your self-appointed role as your church’s movie critic, listing your church’s flaws and prescribing what could have been done so much better. Lose the role of movie critic, and take on the role of grateful participant.