In the summer of 1991 I was but a lad of 5 going on 6 when my mom took me to see Backdraft. I will never forget the images I saw at the now demolished DuPage Theater. Romanticized images of heroism took hold of me and seized my imagination for the weeks, months, and years to come. Although I am sure I did not understand the movie as a kid I was moved by the music and what little I could really gather from the story line. Looking back, one thing that strikes me about my love and experience with that movie is that (*SPOILER ALERT*) even though Scott Glenn is revealed to be the arsonist, I never saw and still do not see him as the bad guy.
Swayzak, now theres the real enemy. He’s the guy closing firehouses for money and getting firemen killed. Him and his deceased brethren are the ones to dislike, the ones to abhor, not Adcox. Axe as he is called, he is someone who is using the only thing he knows, fire. The irony of killing those who kill firemen with fire is not lost on me, and there is something to be said for burning things. For taking them down. Exposing something for what it is and melting it to its core. That is how I perceive Axe. He is a man burning things down, but not without purpose, he has a goal. Put another way, he has a love he is trying to defend and fire is his only recourse. He is much different than the character of Ronald who just wants to burn it all. Who wants to ignite fires with no remorse or purpose. Ronald wants to burn the world, but not Axe. Axe has purpose.
Perhaps unknowingly, the juxtaposition of the two characters has shaped my perspective on life. Allow me to explain. Tonight I found myself, as I tend to do from time to time, watching videos or perusing websites of people and organizations I do not like or have some objection to. Tonight though my travels took me back to the place that sparked the darkest days of my life, the place that I would never wish to go back to, the place that still puts my stomach in knots. My old fieldwork church. Now I could spend time rehashing all of the old hurts. All of the old struggles and challenges. All of the old feelings. But I fear that would serve little than to be therapeutic to my soul at the expense of others who actually do have a love and affection for that place.
Regardless of how others view it, experience it, and participate in it, my old fieldwork church hurt me. It played a part in breaking me, just as the fieldwork church of my best friend had a role in breaking him. And so when confronted with this reality I want to, in a more philosophical or theological way, burn it down. I want to defend myself, my best friend, and others from this enemy that seeks to look out for its own interests the only way I know how. But it isnt just my old fieldwork church I want to burn down, its the sem, the synod, the theology and policy. It is all of those things which took a turn at beating me and others into a broken mess. And it is when I see myself going to this extreme that I realize my burning would have no purpose or remorse. In Backdraft terms I would be Ronald, not Axe, and I have to take a step back.
This doesnt mean I am not going to light theological or philosophical fires but the ones I do light have to serve a purpose. Its finding the balance. I cannot sit idly by on the sidelines, silent. I need to find the voice I once had before I was broken. But I know I cannot just deconstruct things for the sake of deconstructing them, there has to be a purpose.
Sometimes the only recourse you are left with is lighting that match. I know I am going light it. That fire will burn. But will I burn it all or only a part? I dont know. I just dont know.