Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When Nobody's Looking...

I've never really been into much gory stuff, but every October, I love to watch classic horror movies. In fact, you may remember that last year, I wrote about two of my favorites - 1931's Frankenstein, and its 1935 sequel, Bride of Frankenstein. Today, I'd like to share about another classic, 1933's The Invisible Man.

On the surface, there are actually some strong similarities between this film and the old Frankenstein movie. For instance, both seem to be cautionary tales about the dangers of man putting too much trust in science rather than God. Like Dr. Frankenstein, The Invisible man comes to realize too late that - despite his best intentions in the beginning - "I meddled in things that man must leave alone." This realization, though, only comes after tragedy strikes. In the midst of things, the scientists are too wrapped up in their perverse desires to see what's wrong with what they're doing. In fact, you can even hear an eerie similarity in the maniacal laughs of both characters, though they're played by two different actors!

The idea of invisibility, though raises an interesting question: What would you do if you were sure no one would ever see you doing it? How would that change the way you live?
  • Would you listen in on others' private conversations?
  • Would you sneak into places where you don't belong?
  • Would you play pranks on people just to amuse yourself?
  • Would you steal something you've always wanted but were never able to afford?
At first, Dr. Griffin (who becomes The Invisible Man) only intended his formula as a sort of novelty - he wanted to do something no one else had ever done before - so it was just a game, in a sense. But the longer he stayed invisible, the more he began to see how he could use this to his advantage:
"Suddenly, I realized the power I held: the power to rule, to make the world grovel... Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies - power to make the multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger!"
There is quite a bit of humor in this movie, especially early on, when The Invisible Man first reveals his secret, but part of what makes this such an effective horror film is that it quickly moves to highlight the depravity of the human mind when left to its own devises. It's not long before The Invisible man is talking about stealing, raping, and murdering random people just because he thinks he can get away with it! In the movie, they try to sugar-coat it by saying that the drugs that turn the man invisible are causing him to slowly go insane, but I think it hints at something much more primal.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called "The Science of Evil" (from National Geographic), and in this program, they explained how studies suggest that evil is not just some external force that influences certain people to do despicable things, but rather, ALL humans have an innate ability to act in evil ways when placed in the right (or wrong?) circumstances. What they're saying should really come as no surprise to the Bible-believing Christian who recognizes that we are ALL sinners (Romans 3:23) and that temptations come to us because of our own sinful desires (James 1:14-15). What the Bible teaches is that we all have an inborn desire to do evil, which we must learn to overcome (1 Corinthians 10:13).

One factor that helps to determine how we will act is our understanding of what is socially acceptable. "If everybody else is doing it," we reason, "why can't I do it, too?" That's why it's so important, especially in this day and age, to be careful of the kinds of people you surround yourself with. If you choose friends who see nothing wrong with drug abuse and sleeping around, then it won't be long before you see those behaviors as normal; whereas, if you surround yourself with people who always insist on a higher moral code, you will tend to live up to their standards - at least publicly.

What really unleashes the evil in The Invisible Man is his realization that there is no one to keep him accountable. He can take what he wants, blackmail people, and even murder a policeman in public if he wants, because nobody can call him on it! We need to surround ourselves with people we trust, who know us well, who can ask those hard questions:
  • How has your walk with the Lord been lately?
  • What struggles have you been facing this week?
  • How have you been doing with those temptations you have a history with?
Who can hold him accountable?!
Surrounding yourself with godly peers can go a long way to keeping you on the straight and narrow. But it's those times when you think nobody's looking, though, when people tend to get into the most trouble. Publicly, you have a reputation to uphold, but when you think you're alone, that's when your true character often shines through. That's why we sometimes hear celebrities and politicians saying things that seem out of character when they mistakenly think a microphone is turned off. It's why even long-time Christians sometimes get caught up in some awful scandals. The supposed anonymity of the Internet often leads people to saying and doing things online that they would never be a part of in "real life".

That's why the Bible makes a strong point about the importance of integrity. Having integrity means you're the same person with your friends as you are with your family, and you're the same person in public as you are in private. To portray yourself one way around some people and another way around others would be a lie, just as it would be a lie to act one way around people in general and another way when you're by yourself. And as more and more people are finding out, you can't keep the truth a secret forever!

"Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever follows perverse ways will be found out."
- Proverbs 10:9

The Bible calls us to leave behind hypocrisy and honor the Lord at all times, whether we think anybody's watching or not... because the reality is that God is watching, whether you notice him or not, and one day, we will all have to answer to him! (Hebrews 4:13)

The integrity God desires is not that we should act just as badly in public as we want to when we're alone, but rather, that we should allow him to transform the heart and mind so that we're just as good when we think we're alone as we would be in public! But this kind of transformation only comes when we submit our lives wholly to God. We need his help if we ever want to overcome the power of sin and evil in our lives! (Romans 12:1-2)

May we pray with the psalmist, then:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
- Psalm 139:23-24

Draw near to the Lord, and may only your fears, doubts and any sinful tendencies do the disappearing!

Happy Halloween!

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