Deconstructing Woody

Woody Allen cuts his banana into seven slices each morning. Six slices, or eight, and something bad might happen. “I know it would be total coincidence if I didn’t slice it into seven pieces, and my family were killed in a fire,” he says. “I understand that there could be no correlation, but, you know, the guilt would be too much for me to bear, so it’s easier for me to cut the stupid banana.” …

At 72, he says he still lies awake at night, terrified of the void. He cannot reconcile his strident atheism with his superstition about the banana, but he knows why he makes movies: not because he has any grand statement to offer, but simply to take his mind off the existential horror of being alive. — Take the Bananas and Run, Jenny Yabroff, Newsweek, Aug 8, 2008

Woody-AllenI admire Woody Allen’s honesty. I feel saddened by the pain he lives with, the fear-driven insomnia, the need to fill his life with distractions from the “existential horror of being alive.”

But I admire his honesty about the dark void that must exist if there is no God, no meaning to our lives, nothing but emptiness in death.

It’s a stark, terrible reality.

But emptiness, irrational fear and existential horror have always seemed to me to be the only honest and unavoidable alternative to Faith — that there is a God who loves us and created us for a good purpose.

Most don’t seem to live with those fears so close to the surface. Woody Allen’s movies have always been about a God-forsaken world where life is random and meaningless, and yet his characters find a certain joy anyway, as I think most people do. Joy in sex, joy in relationships, joy in the serendipity of those pleasurable but random moments that inexplicably happen to all of us.

There is a certain joy that can be attained by not dwelling on the awful truth of the plot line of our lives: that we will inevitably suffer pain of some sort, whether from illness or the loss of a loved one or random violence or broken relationships, and we will ultimately die.

The life of faith is not in any way inoculated against suffering and pain. But we are strengthened and filled with courage (encouraged) by the Savior who says he will walk through those terrors with us, supporting us and holding us up.

It is no mere trick of the mind, Faith. It is the living experience of an alternative reality, the reality that the world is not empty as it seems, is not random as it appears. Yes, there is evil, but there is also Good, and that Good has rescued us from the horrors of the void.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. — John 3:16-19, The Message

For whatever reasons, Woody Allen has rejected the possibility of God and the possibility of rescue by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Allen is a bright man, and admittedly, the story of the God who created us out of love and sent his son to die for our sins can be hard to swallow.

And yet, it is a story that millions of people, many of them as bright as Woody Allen, have put their faith in. (Think of CS Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, JRR Tolkien, Francis Schaeffer, and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, to name just a few.)

Faith is not a mind game, but the acknowledgment that there is an alternative to the existential horrors of the void of meaninglessness. That alternative is Jesus Christ.

Photo credit: Colin Swan

Thanks to Get Religion for the link to the Newsweek interview.

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  1. Charlie,

    I have been a fan of Woody Allen’s films and comedy for years because there’s a real thoughtfulness about existential questions and an intelligence he brings to pondering these issues that gives his work a certain profundity. And yet,his films seem to me curiously empty at heart, because though he asks the right questions and seems to want to locate the certain moral reality that would make everything make sense, he seems to want to do so without God, which I think impossible.

    Woody, as wonderful and deep as a great film, a fantastic meal, beautiful music or romantic love may be, and certainly these may move us all deeply, they cannot substitute for the reality of God. I think this is what you’ve felt it necessary to do, substitute the world’s pleasure for God, and you find it’s not working. Stop running, won’t you? Christianity isn’t just a religious system people made up to deal with these same questions. Sure, the way some people use Christianity may be. But essentially Christianity is God revealing Himself to us in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and telling us, behold, this is what God is like. He died to remove the sins that keep us all awake at night. Those who embrace His death find themselves dead to the things that have held them in bondage, and find in His resurrection power to live a new life, with eyes to see and live a life richer than the greatest of this world’s treasures. May it be true for all believers, and for you too, Woody.

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