I’m a big Morgan Freeman fan. The Shawshank Redemption is among my all-time favorite movies, period, and it is my all-time favorite ‘movie-for-which-I-would-stop-flipping- channels-to-watch’ movie. Something about the timbre of his voice, its resonance perhaps, feels comfortable, compassionate, and understanding. That may be why the creators of Evan Almighty decided to cast him as God. Granted, Evan Almighty does not come close to living up to the Driving Miss Daisy or Shawshank moments that defined Freeman’s career. However, during a week in which we here at Belmont Day faced our fair share of uncertainty, it was to Evan Almighty that I found myself turning for some of Freeman’s comfort.
A brief note about the film: it is a comedy featuring Steve Carell (of The Office) as Evan, a newly elected congressman who finds himself torn between work and family, and under pressure from his new political colleagues to pass a bill he doesn’t believe in. To complicate matters, God (Morgan Freeman) visits him, demanding that he build an ark with his family. Shenanigans ensue, and as you might suspect, it all turns out for the best in the end. I’m not much of a movie reviewer (there’s a reason I have this job and not that one!), but Evan Almighty is a thoughtful and entertaining tale, worth the two-hour investment.
The movie’s merits aside, there is a moment towards the end of the film when Evan is essentially challenging God’s methodology: Why me? Why this? Why now? And, regardless of one’s faith or how one might view the world, Freeman’s character responds with something that I have come back to time and again this week:
“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”
As someone who marvels at the deep and rich conversations about faith traditions and practices had by sixth graders during the world religion unit led by Dean Spencer, rest assured that I offer this anecdote agnostically. For me, its significance comes from the essence of the questions posed by Freeman’s character. Whether conveyed from a religious, spiritual, agnostic, or atheist perspective, these profoundly human questions call on us to be engaged and take action, often in ways that challenge us.
While the moments we are experiencing this weekan undecided election, positive COVID tests, quarantine, and remote learningare unsettling and destabilizing, they are the very moments that test the fabric of something greater within our community and ourselves. As we always do, we rise stronger and healthier for it.
These are the moments for our community to be patient, courageous, and more loving, and I have been so proud to see our community seize them for the opportunities they are. And if you have the time or the inclination to reread this, you can replace my voice with Morgan Freeman’s if it helps.
Have a great weekend, everyone.