Today I started a two-year-long journey through the Bible, from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation. (Hello, my fellow Genesis fans!)
It has a lot to do with a current sermon series by my pastor, Jon Morales, on delight for God’s Word as expressed in Psalm 119.
But it also has a lot to do with David Lynch.
Pastor Jon’s series is the impetus for my understanding that this is a good and beneficial thing to do. Lynch’s film and television work is the reason I have never been more excited to dig into God’s Word.
I guess I should explain this.
Thirty-two years ago, my friend David Livingstone – who is loved greatly by God – invited me to go see a film called Blue Velvet in downtown Kalamazoo, during the period when we were both students at Western Michigan University.
It was the weirdest damn movie I had ever seen. It was disturbing, dark, bizarre and extremely confusing. The evil depicted in the film was so evil, you could hardly believe someone had chosen to present it as such. The imagery was freaky. The music seemed completely out of place.
The whole thing made you shake your head, again and again, and say, “What the hell did I just watch?”
I loved it.
And so began a creative love affair between me and director David Lynch, which has expanded to other film work like Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Wild at Heart and Mulholland Drive . . . and of course, his television masterpiece Twin Peaks, the greatest show in the history of TV.
Lynch breaks all the rules of conventional filmmaking. Whether it’s a closeup of the static on a television screen or a room where people talk backwards or a three-minute scene of a guy sweeping a floor, Lynch knows what he wants to do and why he wants to do it that way, and he has faith in the viewer to stick with it and get the reward that will come. Lynch inspires manic theorizing among his viewers – most of it overwrought, in my view – because once you’re hooked, you always want to be the first to decode what’s happening and why.
Some of what people think are clues are just random filler, but no matter. It’s all part of the fun, and the more you watch it, the more you get out of it – and it challenges you every single time.
Now let’s talk about the Bible. The Bible is the greatest story ever told. It is, at its essence, the story of how God created man, saw him fall, and set in motion an extravagant sequence of events designed to redeem man and restore the beauty of His creation.
God does not do this in a simple few steps. Far from it, He brings forth a redeemer from many generations of a nation He chose for the job, only to see mankind execute its own Lord as part of the plan.
Along the way, you get treated to lengthy genealogies, seemingly random diversions, implausible events and stunning instructions from God to man. You’re left with all kinds of questions:
Why would He make the rules that way?
Why would he pick that guy for that assignment?
You can’t really take seriously this flood business, or the guy in the whale, can you?
Why am I reading 35 generations of X begat Y?
None of it seems to make sense on first glance. It’s not the way we humans would have done it. It’s far more complex. It’s bizarre at times. Who can take it seriously? Who can work through it?
I’m the guy who absolutely loved this:
I loved it not because I’m entirely convinced I know the reason for it, but because I know Lynch had an objective in mind when he shot it and included it in the episode, and if I stick with it, I might figure it out, or at least develop a theory about it.
A lot of people thought the most bonkers thing ever aired on TV was Episode 8 of Twin Peaks Season 3, the lynchpin of which was this sequence purporting to show how man’s own action had unleashed the demonic spirit Bob at the hands of the Mother of All Evil:
Yes, it was nuts to sit and watch this episode, and it inspired more than the usual helping of “What the hell was that?” from Lynch viewers.
And you know what? The Bible’s methodical dissection of how man unleashed sin, and of how God intends to deliver us from sin, is just as challenging to get your brain around, and not all that different from the Fireman’s dispatching of the Laura orb:
I have read the Bible before. Why do I need to read it again?
Do you know how many times I’ve watched all three seasons of Twin Peaks? Do you know how many times I’ve seen the Back to the Future trilogy? And I will watch them both many more times because I love them, and they stir something in me.
And the Bible is better than either one of them – as literature, as poetry, as history, as revelation, as guidance, as the answer to every question we need to ask as humans. It’s brilliantly conceived and stunningly told.
It’s also bizarre, confusing, dark and shocking. It opens your eyes to a doctrine that’s hard to accept, but it’s ultimately about how that doctrine causes love to triumph over darkness, and gives people a way out of the trap they’ve found themselves in.
This new round of Bible reading will be my best yet, because I’ve learned from the work of David Lynch how to embrace and love the kind of storytelling that makes you shake your head and want to scream, but ultimately rewards you like nothing else could.
As far as I know, Lynch is not a Christian. His primary spiritual interest is transcendental meditation, which of course has its roots in Hinduism. But while this may not have been his intention in creating it, Lynch’s wonderful creative work is giving me a new framework for appreciating God’s Word. So I will pray that during one of his meditation sessions, God gets David’s attention.
Oh, I mentioned two Davids in this piece. Which one did I mean?
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Powers and Principalities (2009): Twenty years ago, Clay Bender saw the face of spiritual evil with the naked eye while attending a party. Now, Clay’s terrifying spiritual gift returns, showing him that a supernatural threat is looming – one that could threaten everyone in Royal Oak. As the community grapples with bizarre electrical disturbances and a horrible train derailment, only Clay can recognize the true nature of the strange events, and he and his two closest friends have little time to battle the city’s demons – even as all three are forced to face their own. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)
Pharmakeia (2010): Kyla Spears is being warned – in terrifying dreams – of grisly and violent tragedies looming for young people in Royal Oak. But her spiritually gifted friend Clay Bender is reluctant to help, and her feelings for one charming young man threaten her newfound spiritual integrity and her ability to face the truth about what’s really behind the threat. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)