Kicking off an occasional series exploring Biblical themes in movies. Today I am journaling about Ron Howard’s movie Rush and some thoughts as its related to the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes has lots to say about the futility of pleasures which will be analyzed in the character of British Formula 1 driver James Hunt.
“If I get into a car on a circuit, I drive as fast as I can; that’s it!”
British Formula 1 Driver James Hunt
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
I want to do something different today. I’ve been meaning to do this but never had the time. I am a firm believer that some of the best ways to articulate faith come through Hollywood and culture. Many evangelicals over the years have attacked Hollywood and held it responsible for moral decay. I firmly disagree. I firmly believe that there are many movies that convey scriptural themes and illustrate Biblical points. Some times I’ll go and see movies like Man of Steel, Life of Pi, Lucy, Into the Woods, When the Game Stands Tall, etc… and see themes play out from scripture. In a darkened theater (and I never plan this by the way…it just happens!) I’ll get engaged and my mind will start to churn and I’ll think, “wow that’s what 1 John says!” or “Ecclesiastes or Proverbs states that to!” So I would like to start a casual and laid back discussion on the movie Rush and explore a scene.
For those of you who do not know here is the trailer to the movie Rush.
Rush is a movie about a rivalry hat peaked in the 1976 formula one racing season. It is the story of James Hunt who drove for McLaren and Niki Lauda who drove for Ferrari. While many movies always play with history and fact, this is based on a well known sports rivalry in the racing world. There are many theological themes in the movie Rush that I would like to explore. Here is the first one….since the movie is about a rivalry between two formula 1 drivers one thing that comes to mind is of the concept in Proverbs of “iron sharpening iron.” It comes from Proverbs 27:17 and in the movie you can see how the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda sharpens and drives each other. In one case after Lauda experiences a near fatal crash in Germany in 1976 it comes out in the film how Lauda credits Hunt for driving him to get better and get him back in the car. But that isn’t the main point I want to hit on today. I want to share some thoughts from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
The Futility of Pleasure…
Before I get started into chapter two of Ecclesiastes please watch this clip from Rush. Listen to James Hunt philosophy on living, and life.
The Book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon. King Solomon asked God for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-12) and he became the wisest man in the world. (1 Kings 4:29-34) The book of Ecclesiates addresses the human condition and for me personally it is my favorite book in the Old Testament. In the movie like in life James Hunt is known for splurging and living extravagantly. What does that mean? In his case it means indulging in sex, drugs and hard core drinking. He was known for partying. You can read more about that in these British newspapers here and here. In Ecclesiastes chapter two we learn much about the futility of pleasure. Let’s start by examining Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. Here is the text:
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
So Solomon in trying to live life decided to give it all a try. Indulge to your heart’s content in your effort to find happiness. Solomon tried through differing means including alcohol (Ecclesiastes 1:3), building and investing in work, (Ecclesiastes 1:4) and in owning land and growing (Ecclesiastes 1:6). Plus Solomon invested in material possessions of wealth (Ecclesiastes 1:8) as well as harems and indulged into whatever he wanted sexually. (Ecclesiastes 1:9) You could say James Hunt took a similar approach to life yet Solomon came to a different conclusion. In the trailer above James Hunt is quoted as saying, “the closer you are to death the more alive you feel…” Life is about taking risks for pleasure, if I am reading that correctly. And yet Solomon would come to a very different conclusion. Let me pose this question…what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist? Before I give my take let me briefly touch on one other issue.
In the movie clip above you hear Niki Lauda talk about how James Hunt is the only person he envied. I have wondered to what extent does Niki Lauda envy James Hunt? Does he envy his sex life? Does he envy his racing skills? Does he envy his care free approach to life? In this context I am unsure what Niki Lauda envies specifically. Envy is one of the many, many sins that evangelical Christians do not talk about. And yet in our first world existence of the United States envy is a major sin. How many people live their life in envy of others? They get jealous at others people success. They get jealous of other people’s houses or cars. They get jealous about a co-workers promotion. They even can get jealous about their kids not meeting their expectations or of other people having kids when they cannot. Envy is also a huge sin in the church. I remember in the past when the Willow creek model was the rage and some people went so far as to measure the church dimensions and carpet width, and even wanted to know Willow Creeks’ exact carpet color. The emergent side of the house actually lives in jealousy of Neo-Calvinists and their Reformed Industrial Complex. How so? Well…you have Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz Weber who wanted to hold a conference with Tony Jones and ignore Julie McMahon and her plight. I must ask…if a woman who has been domestically abused doesn’t count as one of the least of these…then what does? Some time in the future I would like to explore the issue of envy. Because I firmly believe envy is a serious sin in the western world. Given our affluence I don’t think they are struggling with envy as much in the third world. If I am wrong then please point that out to me. And on anything I write here if I am wrong please correct me. I have no problems admitting mistakes. 🙂
In closing I would like to go back to Ecclesiastes. We know what James Hunt would say about the purpose of life. What does Ecclesiastes 12:13 close with saying? “Here is my final conclusion. Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person.” Life is about loving the Lord and obeying his commands. But know that you are going to fail in many cases and that the Christian faith is about grace. Grace, grace, grace…for the times you will fail and the mistakes you will make. That is my conclusion to my life as well….to fear God and love him.