Unexpected Lessons (In Ender’s Game)

This weekend I broke through my conflicted feelings and headed to the theater to see Ender’s Game.

My feelings were conflicted because everything about Ender’s Game (mind you, I had not read the book) appealed to what I love:  a dystopian future, science fiction, the weight and significance of war on young people… and as an idealist, I appreciate a good story with a lot of moral implications.   But it turns out, the author of Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, is an idealist as well–only his ideals are in direct conflict with my ideals.

I had, some time ago, resolved not to put my money  toward the movie–this is an ideal I adopted from a book of essays compiled from the writings of America’s Founding Fathers. Essentially, the founding fathers agreed that we have a moral responsibility to make sure we are spending our money in a way that will support the growth of a society that reflects our values.  So… if I want to live in a tolerant society, and I feel a person is intolerant, I shouldn’t toss my money at him.

But then a friend posted an article that resolved me of a guilt I might feel about watching Ender’s Game.  Apparently, the deal Orson Scott Card struck means he has already earned all the money he can from the movie version of his book.  Not a penny of the few bucks I would spend at the theater would find its way into his pocket.

If I liked the movie, though, and decided to read the book, I would need to check it out from the library or borrow it from someone else.  He still stood to make money from book sells.

So I went to the movie, having only the most basic knowledge of the story line… and knowing far more about Orson Scott Card’s values and opinions.

I was spellbound by the movie.

It certainly, in my opinion measured up to the hype.  But more than that, it opened a million new possibilities for dialogue in my life.  No wonder fans of the book are so diehard.  This is more than a science fiction story.  It’s more than a dystopian story.  Its far more than just a good young adult story.  This is a debate in philosophy, ethics, and morals.

Every scene of the movie raised poignant questions about the nature of war and humanity.  Every scene begged the viewer to wrestle with good and evil, right and wrong.  The decisions are never easy ones.  Just when you think you’ve got a black-and-white handle on the situation, a whole new universe of grey erupts and questions all your convictions all over again.

Without giving anything away about the story (for those people who, like me, have yet to read the novel), Ender’s final thought of the movie was if he could “be as good at making peace as [he was] at making war.”

As the credits rolled, I sat staring at the screen, thinking about just that.

I am a social justice-oriented person.  Politically, a progressive.  Theologically, a liberal.  I am dedicated to peace and building the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth.  But I have not always been these things.

A few years ago I would have described myself as a conservative, I voted for George Bush twice, I campaigned for him in my spare time.  I supported the Iraq war.  I was for the Patriot Act before I was against it.  Back then, I would have considered myself a moderate in theological matters–but to be honest, back then, I would have probably agreed with much of what Orson Scott Card was saying.

It has been the bast dozen or so years of my life, and the enormous changes that have occurred, that revealed God to me in whole new ways.  I relate very much to Jacob wrestling with God through the night, because I have spent a lot of dark nights wrestling with God.

And like Jacob, I walk with a bit of a limp, now… but I am a new person.  I walk with a limp, but I walk closer to God.  In the darkest night of my life, I saw God, and now I see this world and my purpose in it in a whole new perspective.

As such, I have been very outspoken to tell people not to write one another off–Conservatives, don’t dismiss the liberals in your life just because your ideals are different.  Liberals, don’t view the conservatives as beyond redemption because you don’t like their ideals… If we put aside our own agendas and really, really listen to each other, we’ll find we are more alike than we realize.

As the movie rolled to its conclusion, I was very much aware that for as different as Orson Scott Card and I might be today, there is still a lot we clearly have in common.  We might disagree passionately about how to get there, but it is clear that in the end, we are both hoping for the same conclusion:  Peace.

In our uber-polarized society, we have so much to disagree on, but if we look close enough, we’ll find we have common goals as well.  I don’t necessarily know the best way forward, but shutting down all dialogue (which I was prepared to do a few days ago) is not it.

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