Nicole Kidman & Conservative Readings of the Bible

I’m currently reading a biography on Nicole Kidman by a journalist who has never actually met Nicole Kidman. The best part of the book is the beginning where he explains some of the reasons we love celebrities: “…the most important thing in that vexed transaction is the way the actress and the spectator must remain strangers. That’s how the magic works…For their cannot be this pitch of irrational desire without that rigorous apartness.”

His point is that we desire what we do not have because we can recreate it in our own image. We love the idea of God because we can make God into our own image, making God into whatever we want or need God to be. So long as God remains “out there” as “that which fulfills all my desires,” we love God. This is I think what is so compelling about the conservative Evangelical view of God, the perfect, transcendent, one. We like our Bible to be perfect, mystical, magical, and incomprehensible because then it always remains desirous, just out of reach, full of surprises that tickle our fancy.

But once the Bible becomes human, all too human, and once God is revealed as “irascible” as Brueggemann recounts it, we lose that aloofness, that mystical apartness that we were so attracted to. And this is what the conservative Evangelical’s paradigm will not allow. So while incarnation is given lip service, it is the “transcendent One” who will always trump. While the Bible says that Jesus “grew in wisdom and knowledge,” which means he didn’t know everything and when Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi Lama Sabacthani, My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me,” we must figure out a way to read those so Jesus doesn’t seem so . . . common, so human. We say we want a Jesus we can relate to but in those few instances where I feel I relate most to Jesus, in my ignorance and in my doubt, the conservative Evangelical paradigm becomes extremely uncomfortable.

When the Bible comes down off the silver screen and walks among us. When it says things we are embarrassed by, when it shows its age and sometimes inappropriate behavior, we get very uncomfortable with it. Thanks but no thanks. I prefer you on the screen where I can imagine you are something else, where you remain aloof and untouchable behind a veil of preconceived doctrines and guidlines, yes, but perfect and protected.

Thomson says it this way about Nicole Kidman in particular: “Anyway, the subject of this book is Nicole Kidman. And I should own up straightaway that, yes, I like Nicole Kidman very much. When I tell people that, sometimes they leer and ask, “Do you love her?” And my answer is clear: Yes, of course, I love her – so long as I do not have to meet her.”

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10 responses to “Nicole Kidman & Conservative Readings of the Bible

  1. Some good stuff here, Jared.

    We need to be cautious though, I think (and perhaps my conservatism is coming out). Jesus/God came down and experienced real humanness among us (the cry from the cross reads like Psalm 22… despair, anger, demand from God… with a hope, even if the end is not seen).

    But what makes that incarnation so fantastic is that the incarnation is of this transcendant God choosing to condescend (Barth, anyone?) to us. We can’t have the marvel of the relational incarnation if we do not recognize the immensity of the implication of the transcendant God behind it.

    It’s both and… both a transcendant God… and a close, intimate, relational God. It blows our mind to try and put both of them in the same brain at the same time… So, sometimes we talk about the relational God, sometimes we talk about the transcendant… it’s both/and…

    • Agreed. I do overemphasize the immanent God to make a point but appreciate the push back. However, for me, it’s not really about the “balance” it’s that the transcendent “creeps” into the immanent, so that when many talk about the “relational” or immanent God, it is this neutered and sanitized version. Since we do not like the truly both/and of paradox, we often let one side of the binary creep into the other so that we are more comfortable with it. THIS dynamic is what I am most uncomfortable with since it is so subtly self-deceptive: pretend to advocate the both/and while the “and” is actually the “both” with a thin veneer.

      What do you think?

      • Yeah… it’s uncomfortable to consider, as you said, a Jesus who, as a child, still had things to learn. Kinda goes against some of the classical teachings of him already having some of that divine knowledge. It was that human side of Jesus that I appreciated to an extent in Mel Gibson’s “Passion”.. to see the young man Jesus enjoying the accomplishment of “inventing” the table… Just another carpenter.

        But I wonder of there is a pendulum swing among some to go too far the other way into over-emphasizing Jesus’ humanity, into making him too human and, therefore, able to make mistakes and not be the perfect high priest we see in the book of Hebrews… or the flawless lamb of Revelation.

        For me, it’s a tension… it’s noticing the humanness of Jesus (he needed rest, he showed frustration at his disciples’ inability to “get it”, he prayed fervently to not have to die, he wept at the death of a friend, etc) while recognizing the divine (the amazing wisdom that transcended the here and now, the ability to love no matter what, that self-sacrifice that no mere human can possibly comprehend, etc).

        It comes down to that ancient struggle of how can Jesus be both fully human and fully divine… they didn’t exactly answer that back in Chalcedon and they were much closer historically than we are… I don’t expect us to be able to answer that here and now. He was fully human… with all the messiness that entails… and he was fully God… with the fear and veneration that entails… It’s not a comfortable place to be to be unable to resolve the two… and I think that is where almost everyone finds themselves… We want Jesus to step off the silver screen of “God” into our lives… but we don’t want him to be the Nicole Kidman who still needs to shave her armpits and legs regularly, wears deoderant, and occasionally has bad breath because of the garlic pizza she ate last night…

      • Ha! Yes, thank you for taking that metaphor to a much more . . . graphic (?) level. But I agree, it’s a tension. And will always remain a tension. I think the trick is to be okay with it as a tension, with no solution.

      • I think the trick is to be okay with it as a tension, with no solution.” < yeah, I think being more ok with tensions is where we need to be a bit more open (though we seem to be ok with the tension of election and human responsibility, so at least there's a precedent! :D)

  2. Hi Jarad, as one falling on the conservative evangelical side of things, I’d say that while I grant that you may be right that we prefer the transcendent, I don’t think I’d agree that our paradigm doesn’t allow it. I don’t think it’s true that the incarnation is given mere lip service, at least, not in my experience, even if it’s not always emphasised or fleshed out (pardon the pun).

    btw, have you read Russell Moore’s foreword to Patrick Henry Reardon’s book ‘The Jesus we missed’? (http://aborrowedflame.com/2013/01/review-the-jesus-we-missed/)

    • I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the push back, most always welcomed and always needed. Of course, we are always talking from our own limited experience within a subculture, so your perspective is helpful.

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