Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ghost Rider

This is just a movie about a dude with a burning skull dressed in black leather and riding a wicked chopper with the wheels on fire, right? Not quite. Underlying the comic-book veneer is a message about second chances, redemption, and grace.

The spiritual elements of this film are overt. Young Johnny Blaze is tricked into a pact with the devil to save his father's life. Deals with the devil always go bad and Blaze is cursed to run errands for Ol' Scratch as his personal bounty hunter. Of course Blaze is aware of the curse long before his first transformation into the Ghost Rider. He risks his life in death-defying stunts and strangely survives as if by a miracle. Is he lucky; did his talent save him; or did he sell his soul to the devil? These are the questions that haunt and condemn Blaze. His pact with devil gains him nothing and costs him dearly. So, the question is raised (Blaze actually verbalizes it at one point), "Does a person get a second chance or does he have to pay for a single mistake for the rest of his life?"

Johnny Blaze gets his second chance by owning his mistake and turning his curse into a weapon against evil. As his mentor, the caretaker, puts it, "You made your pact with devil for the sake of loved ones, not for greed. Maybe that puts God on your side." Here is the film's only significant acknowledgement of the other side of the metaphysical coin. Otherwise the film focuses on our human struggles against the powers that oppress us. As a believer in God I have to affirm that it is the Lord's work in Christ that ultimately undoes and redeems the corrupt powers of this age, nevertheless I appreciate the film's emphasis on the human experience - even if that experience is portrayed through the imaginary tale of the Ghost Rider.

It takes grace to overcome the evil one. His oily voice is always burning in the back of our skulls convicting us of our mistakes and condemning us to an endless cycle of failed attempts at proving ourselves. He wants us to pay for our mistakes over and over until the end of our days. Once we own our mistakes and acknowledge that we have been cursed does our redemption begin. The fact that we struggle doesn't mean we have been abandoned. There's no question about it: God is for us.

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love." - Romans 8:38