Brideshead Revisted: Intervening Love

After picking up Brideshead Revisited this weekend at the local Redbox, I thought I was in for a more typical period flick.  My wife is a big fan of Emma Thompson ever since her appearance in that Jane Austen classic, Sense & Sensibility.  This particular version is a 2008 version of the book by Evelyn Waugh (a Briton who converted to Catholicism in the 1930’s after being an agnostic).  A simple viewing of the movie could make you wonder if the movie is actually antagonistic towards faith in Christianity.  The protagonist is an agnostic and the Catholic family he gets involved with is certainly messed up.  There aren’t simple answers, nor characters with simple motivations.  And it’s perhaps for that reason that I find myself continuing to think about some of its themes.

Evelyn Waugh (by the way, he’s a male named Evelyn…poor chap) wrote about the book, that it “deals with what is theologically termed ‘the operation of Grace’, that is to say, the unmerited and unilateral act of love by which God continually calls souls to Himself.”  This theme is not blatant by any means, but with much complexity and subtlety.
At one point, the main character is blaming belief in God as the reason why his friend was so grievously injured in life by his family.  His friend’s mother was particularly overbearing. Belief in God, meant believing in moral restraint, and in the case of violating those moral restraints…guilt.  If we abandon those beliefs, we would be free from guilt and free to indulge our desires.  Why wouldn’t God just sit back and not intervene in order to let people have fun, if he existed?  Isn’t love granting freedom for people to do what they want?
All this would be true if humans always desired things that were good for themselves.  But clearly, this is not the case.  We are masters at choosing what makes us miserable.
In this reality, what is more loving: being overbearing or disinterested?  Do we find pleasure in complete freedom to follow whatever we want or within boundaries?  What if people want something that is destructive for themselves?  Loving our brother means we intervene in their life in order to sometimes save them from themselves.  Love wants the best for the other even when the other does not want it.  This is the biblical concept that we are our brother’s keeper.  In this view of love, God lovingly restrains and even brings difficulties in our lives to intervene for our best even when we don’t want it.  He won’t let us be.  He pursues us and calls us back to Himself.  And, in this view of love, the protagonist falls short in the movie, and he realizes it.  He hasn’t loved his friend well or others for that matter.  He has a right sense of guilt that be can’t be explained if there is no God.
Love is willing to intervene.  I’m challenged to see my life hardships and disappointments as from a God who is willing to intervene.  And, I’m challenged to be willing to intervene in the lives of those whom I am called to love.  And, I’m challenged to let others love me by heeding their intervention.
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