The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

After the Revolution

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Glenn Beck’s proposed 9/12 Project and the slew of TEA parties that have been taking place around the country this year is an encouraging sign. They show that some Americans are actually waking up to the things going around them. The decentralized nature of the internet is allowing many things to happen on a local level that would have been nearly impossible even ten years ago. People are beginning to realize that Beck’s famous line, “You are not alone,” is indeed true. A common enemy can go a long way toward organizing and motivating people to act and speak out. This is a good thing. But if we fail to look beyond the present crisis and think about what happens after the “revolt,” we will be no better off. The names and the faces of the tyrants will have changed, but we will still to be under a tyranny.

It is for this reason that I have decided to re-run a movie review that I wrote a few years back. V for Vendetta was a rather controversial movie when it hit theaters in 2006. Most reviewers saw it as an attack on the Bush administration, which it probably was to some extent. But the take-home lesson from V for Vendetta is applicable to every political persuasion—right, left, and anywhere in between. Revolutions can only go so far; they remove and destroy, they cannot build up and create. If the TEA parties, the 9/12 Project, and every other grassroots movement out there do not take the time to look beyond the current crisis, these events will have been for naught. Talking about returning to the Constitution is one thing, having a complete plan for doing it is another.

A Review of V for Vendetta

Originally published in Biblical Worldview Magazine, May 2006.

Propaganda is a fact of life. In fact, by definition propaganda is simply “publicity intended to spread ideas or information that will persuade or convince people.”[1] There’s good propaganda and there’s bad propaganda. There’s liberal propaganda and there’s conservative propaganda. There’s even propaganda about the evils of propaganda. This last category is where V for Vendetta fits.

In what amounts to a twenty-first century French Revolution, V for Vendetta spends the better part of two hours showing the systematic removal of a dictatorial oppressor—embodied in a radical right-wing regime of power and corruption. When the last enemy has been slaughtered and the establishment is delivered a final crushing pyrotechnic demonstration of force, the movie appropriately ends with the Rolling Stones “Street Fighting Man.” As Mick Jagger laments — “what can a poor boy do, except sing for a rock and roll band, ‘cause in sleepy London Town there’s no place for a street fighting man” — the viewer is left to ponder what he has just witnessed. V claims to be about the power of ideas. “But what good are ideas,” it seems to ask, “without a little dynamite to back them up?” And since Jagger’s London has no place for a “street fighting man,” his role as a “rock and roll singer” will have to suffice. And it’s probably just as well; every revolution needs a theme song—and a voice to sing it.

V, the main character of the film, has already chosen a theme song for his revolution. It’s Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” Tchaikovsky was a Russian-born composer who wrote the “Overture” to commemorate Russia’s defeat of Napoleon’s army in 1812, which marked the beginning of the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This is an interesting song choice since Napoleon was the logical result of the French Revolution. Choosing a song that celebrates his defeat is a bit of a non sequitur; but this is par for the course with this film. Revolutions are simply solutions for the moment. V takes great pains to point out the faults of the current system, but except for dismantling it, never offers anything in its place.[2] The final explosion leaves many questions unanswered, and in actuality, unasked. We are expected to believe that since V is willing to give his life for his revolution, it must be noble and benevolent. History is littered with misguided martyrs; one more does not justify the cause.

The worldview of V for Vendetta is that ideas are powerful and have the ability to outlive those who hold them. Tired of living under the thumb of the dictatorial, ministerial, and judicial triumvirate of the current political administration, V decides to take matters into his own hands. His revolution is aimed at waking up the sleeping proletariat of the not-too futuristic U.K. His first public outing is a successful bombing of the Old Bailey in London. The Old Bailey is where major criminal cases are tried in England, similar to our Supreme Court. By exploding the courthouse, V is proclaiming his own judgment on the judges. Dressed all in black (with a cape, of course) and sporting a Guy Fawkes mask, V takes out the landmark with precision and hijacks the TV station the next day to take credit for it and reveal his long-term plan. This is where V the entertaining movie, meets the reality of life head-on. V’s philosophy for the future only involves removing, not replacing.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel used the metaphor of the owl of Minerva, referring to philosophy, which “takes flight only at dusk. [He meant] that philosophy always and necessarily comes too late to influence what has already taken place as a condition of being known.”[3] But Hegel is putting the “cart before the horse.” The “owl of Minerva” has the benefit of hindsight. Philosophical musings always seem harmless until they become social policy. The very dictatorial government that V wants to demolish is the result of a philosophy. The humanistic philosophies of men, no matter how good they look on paper, never take man’s sinfulness into account. Hegel’s “owl” was able to perch on a branch, analyze the day’s activities, find their faults in terms of a preconceived idea of how things “should be,” and find them wanting. The theoretical paper version of the philosophy never resembles the reality because of the depraved heart of man. Hegel saw this as philosophy always lagging behind, but in actuality, philosophy was what led the charge.



The ultimate irony of V is made manifest in its first three minutes when the phrase, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November,” is repeatedly stated. V wears a Guy Fawkes mask, presumably as the ultimate terrorist, worthy of emulation and remembrance. Who was Guy Fawkes? He was a minor player in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an attempt by disgruntled Catholics to lash out at the Protestant-leaning Parliament. The conspirators had filled a room below Parliament with kegs of gunpowder, but the night before the “big bang” was scheduled to take place—the fifth of November—Fawkes was caught and tortured. He eventually gave up the other 12 and they were all summarily executed—the revolution was put on hold. It takes over 400 years and a “resurrected” Guy Fawkes to finish the job.

However, no one bothers thinking beyond the final explosion, not even V himself. He has a “vendetta” against those whom have wronged him. In spite of all his eloquence and culture (frying eggs with real butter while listening to Stan Getz and quoting Twelfth Night), V is nothing more than a vigilante. He wraps his own personal vendetta against his enemies in a social cause to “finish the work of the Gunpowder Conspirators. “Remember, remember, the fifth of November.” His female protégé, Evey, sees right to the heart of the issue when V tells her that what was done to him was “monstrous.” Evey replies, “And now you have become a monster.” Exactly, stupid is as stupid does.

In order to demonize “fundamentalists” of every stripe, Hollywood must elevate a band of old-regime Catholic dissidents to the level of heroes. This is what Herbert Schlossberg refers to as an “idol of history.”[4] People, events and beliefs are ripped out of their proper historical time, place and significance and inserted into the modern mind as an “idol.” Forget the fact that the Gunpowder Conspirators were “establishment” Roman Catholics upset at the “protestors” — the Protestants. Forget also that the chaos that ensued after the French Revolution was what ushered in the Reign of Terror. When Napoleon came on the scene, France was ready for any one to take charge and lead them out of their revolutionary mess. Ditto post-WWI Germany. This is why most revolutions fail—there’s nothing to take the place of the decimated system. Revolution leads to chaos, chaos leads to anarchy, anarchy leads to tyranny and tyranny leads back to revolution. And the last state becomes worse than the first (Matt. 12:45).

This was the beauty of the representational system of government that was instituted by our predominantly Protestant founding fathers. Since they understood the sinfulness of man, their structure of checks and balances has given us the most stable form of government in history. The American form of government works because it is not a theoretical system. It follows the hierarchy of Jethro’s counsel to Moses in Exodus 18. Representation was God’s idea in the first place. The inescapable truth is that we are represented individually in His covenant—either by the first Adam or by the Last Adam—either against Him or for Him.

The stated ideal of the revolutionary is always “freedom,” but true freedom is paradoxically only possible by becoming a slave first. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23). History is replete with examples of rejecting this divine revelation and each one inevitably leads to some sort of a “reign of terror.” In like form, V must resort to terrorism in order to become a “messiah.” Once the dust settles however, London will find itself just as enslaved to sin as it was before. Liberals, terrorists, and revolutionaries all want a Christian society without Christianity. But try as they might, they cannot escape the fact that men must be governed, as Robert Winthrop stated, “either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”

V for Vendetta is rated “R” for strong violence and some language.[5]

Endnotes:

[1] Oxford American Dictionary (New York: Avon Books, 1980).
[2]
“J. Allen Smith of the University of Washington, one of the crusaders against the old morality, used to worry about where it would all lead. ‘The real trouble with us reformers,’ he said, ‘is that we made reform a crusade against standards. Well, we smashed them all and now neither we nor anybody else have anything left.’ He no longer had any justification for saying that an action was morally wrong.” Quoted in Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 46.
[3]
Tom Rockmore, “G.W.F. Hegel,” The Columbia History of Western Philosophy (New York: MJF Books, 1999), 541.
[4]
“The idolatries of history exalt an age (past, present or future), or a process, or an institution, or a class, or a trend and make it normative. They place the entire meaning of life within the historical process or some part of it, allowing nothing extrinsic to it. Historical events in their relationships exhaust the whole meaning of history.” (Idols for Destruction, p.13)
[5]
From the official site, http://vforvendetta.warnerbros.com/ I would also add that there is some nudity when dead bodies are thrown in a mass grave and covered with lime.

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