Late One Night, Part 2
Back in the diner, having left Jesus speechless with the question of whether he will go to Hell when he dies, Larry reads the little tract aloud to his friends. It’s very basic, boilerplate stuff: Adam and Eve, everyone’s a sinner. And, probably because it’s so basic, Larry reads it rather boredly and sarcastically. Which is fine if Larry is what I think he is, a jaded anti-hero, but doesn’t so much work if Larry is supposed to be like someone from the Christian-free town of Waterloo, NY, who doesn’t know anything about God or Christianity.
Of Larry’s two friends, Mike is the more anti-religious of the two (yet, strangely, the more curious about religion), repeatedly calling Hell “a lie” and adding that even if one accepts the idea of sin, that doesn’t make Hell a real place.
Yeah, Mike kinda rocks.
This, however, sends Larry into a thoughtful soliloquy on Hell. So deep is this speech that it silences everyone else in the diner:
“I betcha there’s a lot of people there right now, screaming like crazy. I betcha there’s a lot of church people there, wondering where they went wrong.”
Sorry for interrupting, Larry…
“Now they’re…burning. Burning and screaming. Burning and screaming. Wanting to get out, but they can’t. Hoping it’ll end, but it won’t. Never will. Yeah, if Hell’s real, it’s loaded with people. And [unintelligible] of them were church members.”
“But, since Christians don’t believe in Hell, why should we?”
Okay, it is very clear that Larry has given Hell a helluva lot more thought (har!) than many Christians.
Which raises a question I have always had: If someone really does believe in Hell, how does he ever get any sleep at night? How can he, knowing that billions of innocents are, at that very moment and at every very moment, being tortured without end?
Larry switched gears (and moods) immediately after this speech, sarcastically opining that Jesus needs to eat quickly, so he can go out and preach and “get some people newborn.”
And AGAIN with the sarcasm! Look, either Larry is totally uninformed about who God and Jesus and Christians are, or he knows full well but is jaded and cynical about the whole thing, but he can’t be both at once. And if Christiano wanted Larry to be the former, he did a really bad job of writing Larry’s character and directing Heller, who portrays Larry as knowledgeable and quite articulate about his problems with religion.
Jesus corrects Larry:
Mike, of all people, expresses genuine puzzlement over the term, but Larry seems quite familiar with the whole thing, calling it “big business for those religious guys.”
Seriously, Jesus, Larry was being sarcastic with the whole “newborn” thing. HE WAS TRYING TO BE FUNNY. (IMHO, he succeeded. I chuckled the first time I heard the line.)
Anyway, the question of being Hellbound kept Jesus quiet, but he has plenty to say about being born again:
“Everybody in the world is born a sinner. And because of that, they’re spiritually dead. A dead man needs life.”
Ohhhh, so this is why Jesus is out so late! He’s got a resurrection shift at the local graveyard!
A dead man needs life—THE HELL???
“Needs to be born again. It’s a spiritual birth.”
Larry has a pertinent question for Jesus:
“What kind of God makes everyone a sinner right from the start?”
That’s a pretty good and valid question, under the circumstances, and Jesus responds:
“Most people don’t know they’re spiritually dead. And because they’re spiritually dead, they don’t think about it, they just don’t know.”
In what universe is that an answer, Jesus? Look, I have no problem with you ignoring Larry and Mike and Vince, but if you’ve now decided to engage with them, you should at least try to answer their genuine questions.
But Jesus isn’t interested in addressing the question of whether or not his God is good—he’s more interested in talking vaguely about sin and how everyone’s a sinner and sin is “fatal.”
Apparently realizing they’re not going to get a straight answer out of him (you’re 0 for 2, Jesus!), the guys switch gears again to mock TV preachers and faith-healing.
Mike, however, still seems genuinely confused and curious, but Jesus still refuses to address his questions head-on, leading to this priceless exchange:
Mike (confused and disappointed): Man, I don’t understand what you’re saying…
Larry: He doesn’t understand what he’s saying.
I don’t care what Christiano or anybody else says: Larry is the hero of this story.
The best Jesus can do for Mike is pull a Kirk Cameron:
“You need to seek God. Read the Bible.”
Jesus cites the book of John. And not to give pointers or anything, but citing the Bible doesn’t do a whole lot of good when the person you’re talking to doesn’t accept the Bible as an authority. But in all these movies, and all these books, I have never once seen a Christian even attempt to show someone why the Bible should be believed.
And indeed, Jesus’s citation to the Bible fails completely.
“There they go with those verses again…”
But no worries, Vince and Mike—I’ve read the Bible!
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
Or how about—
Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
Or, even better:
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open.
Well, that’s always fun, but back to the story…
The movie mentions Catholics!
“So, what religion are you, man? You a Baptist, a Catholic, a Holy Roller?” [Larry asks]
“Those are denominations. They’re meaningless the day you die and stand before God.” [says Jesus]
Also, I almost wrote “Jesus answered,” but I realized that once again, he didn’t.
As an opening to get the subject of the End Times in, Vince mentions that Riley told him at work that Jesus was coming back. So does Riley do any work at work? Or does he just wander around and preach at people all day? Not that their boss cares, I’m sure.
Riley’s a nice Christian guy!
Anyway, Jesus gives the standard bad-times-they-are-coming speech, to which Larry’s awesome response is:
“Oh, like we’re scared, now?”
To which Jesus responds:
“Well, you should be.”
Yet, curiously enough, Jesus takes issue with Larry’s comeback: that that’s what religion is, “a scare tactic, so that people can make a buck.”
Again, Jesus has no way to address Larry’s very legitimate criticisms, the same way that he didn’t address the issues hypocrisy and whether or not most Christians really believe in Hell. So he falls back on Kirk Cameronism again:
“You read the Bible. God’ll show you the truth.”
One wonders if Jesus has read the Quran or the Book of Mormon or the Tao Te Ching or Vedas and if so, how he determined that the Bible was truth and those not truth.
But Larry doesn’t ask. He stomps back to his booth as Jesus gets his food. (Fracking finally, Jackson, Jesus Christ! What, did you have to drive down to a farm and slaughter your own chicken or something?) Vince urges moderation…
“Let people believe what they wanna believe, man—so many wackos out there.”
But Larry has officially Had Enough, and crosses the line from not-so-friendly debate to actually invading Jesus’s personal space. He stalks back over to the counter and grabs at Jesus’s fries and sammich, to which Jesus barely flinches.
(It is here, by the way, that some Christian reviewers start to take issue with the movie. And I can’t help but agree—it’s one thing to engage someone verbally, but once you start touching their food (ewwwwww)…well, that’s crossing a line. And I have seen more than one Christian opine that Jesus is wussing out, rather than turning the other cheek, by not even protesting Larry’s actions.)
Larry, Mike, and Vince giggle like a bunch of obnoxious schoolboys at grabbing-at-fries hijinks, and their laughter maniacally echoes in Jesus’s mind. So, he abandons the sandwich he has waited for the entire movie, and puts on his jacket.
But rather than protest Larry’s actions, Jesus decides to take the more Christian route—and get in the last word.
“How old are you, Larry?”
“Add a hundred years to your life. How old will you be?”
“A hundred and thirty-two.”
“Where will you be?” *long pause* “God loves you.”
A couple of things:
First, I’m pretty sure Larry’ll be dead, unless we perfect suspended animation in our lifetimes or something. And not that I can speak for Larry, but I’ll most likely be dead in a hundred years, too. And…why shouldn’t I be? We all die, and since I don’t believe in your God or your Heaven or your Hell, I’m not sure why I should be worried. I wasn’t conscious of not existing the first time, and I have no reason to believe that things will be different the next time I don’t exist.
Second and entirely other point: Jesus isn’t playing it too smart here. I don’t want to sound like I’m victim-blaming here, I really don’t, but Jesus knows that Larry is getting more upset, not less, the longer their conversation goes on. Is it really worth continuing to argue the “Jesus loves you” point with an unrepentant heathen when he’s been the one escalating things since you walked in the door?
I guess I just don’t think Jesus should be surprised by what happens next.
Larry simply points out that there is no way God loves him. And Jesus just keeps going. Seriously, they get into a “Yeah-huh!” “Nuh-UH!” about it. Jesus, honestly, man, it is time to drop it and get a to-go bag from Jackson.
But no, Jesus just keeps up with the “Jesus does SO love you,” until Larry starts in on his speech. You saw a piece of this in the trailer—it’s the part where Larry grabs Jesus’s collar and yells at him.
Don’t get me wrong—this is NOT COOL. Larry has no right to make this into a physical confrontation.
But I can hardly fault him for his words, which I can only hope make just a bit of an impression on Jesus:
“You think God loves me, huh? You tell me how. How come my old man walked out on me when I was seven years old and I haven’t seen him since? But you tell me that God loves me, huh? How come my mom spent her whole life scrubbing toilets just to pay the rent, but you’re telling me that God loves me? How come I’ve been in and out of jail my whole life, more times than you can count, but you tell me that God loves me? How come I been working in some factory my whole life, but you’re telling me that God loves me? How come I ain’t got no wife, I ain’t got no kids, I ain’t even had a girlfriend, but you’re telling me that God loves me, huh? How come my life has been trash ever since the day I’ve been born [this is where he grabs Jesus’s collar] but you tell me that God loves me? Tell me how!!!”
I know we’re supposed to feel for Jesus in this scene…
…and never say I don’t play fair…
…but I can’t help but feel for Larry instead. Now, I could point out that there is no shame in factory work (my grandfather did it for forty years!) and that 32 is plenty young to find yourself a wife and have some kids. I could point out that “in and out of jail” makes it sound like Larry is a chronic probation violator (which would certainly fit with his antiauthoritarian tendencies) but I’m mainly going to point out that Jesus hasn’t answered a single one of Larry’s substantive questions about God and Hell, and that he has had a shitty day, and (yes, I shall now compare Larry to King Lear) he is more sinned against than sinning.
Oh, and I shall ALSO point out that some Christians have a problem with this scene, too—specifically, with the fact that Jesus just stands there are TAKES IT LIKE A WUSS when Larry grabs his collar and screams in his face.
And as much as I’m lo0king forward to the comments about Larry and Jesus and who’s right and who’s wrong, but let’s get this done:
Jesus leaves the diner, but not before having a mumbled conversation with Jackson.
Mike gazes out the (shuttered) window and points out that Jesus has no car and is apparently walking home. Which…so? As far as we know, Larry, Mike, and Vince didn’t drive there, either.
Vince points out that “he never answered your question.” Which, I love you, Vince, but let’s be clear—Jesus never answered any of Larry’s questions.
And Larry has some sort of second thoughts or remorse or some Christian-y feelings or somesuch, and starts to go after Jesus, but not before trying to settle the bill.
BUT JESUS ALREADY PAID THE BILL
Ohhhh, I get it—because paying for one dinner for three guys is totally like being tortured and crucified!
So, cut to Jesus wandering down the street, as the music of reflection plays. Fade to black as Tract Guy intones, in his why-doesn’t-he-just-leave-me-alone voice, “God loves you, man. Don’t you know that God loves you, man…”
I admit, there are plenty of things to like about this movie. Some of the performances, the moody atmosphere, the acceptance that low-budget Christian films just cannot compete on the special effects front, so the attempt to rely on storytelling and writing.
Of course, it’s rather spoiled by the fact that this gentle, “humble” Christian thinks his just and loving God is right to torture people for eternity. Still, though, it’s an interesting step up in Christian cinema.
Whaddaya guys think? Yes, no, somewhat?