[Spoiler Alert: This article discusses major plot points from the film The Village].
In M. Night Shyamalan’s film, The Village, a group of people—all of whom have experienced a personal tragedy—decide to start a village in the middle of the woods to isolate themselves from the pain, sin, and wickedness in the outside world. In order to do so, they construct a village, dress likes it’s the 1880s, and create a fear that monsters surround the village, so that no one will dare to leave. Though this sounds like tyranny, the idea was based on a desire to protect their children from pain and tragedy.
After one member of the community is stabbed, the town quickly realizes that they do not have the medical supplies necessary to deal with the wound. A decision must be made to risk sending one of their members out of the village to get supplies (the boy will die if they don’t). They end up sending a blind girl, in hopes that she will not discover that there is a twenty-first-century world outside of their town.
In this crucial scene, the founding members of the village debate the purpose of the village and wrestle with the consequences of pulling out of the real world.
Sometimes, Christians take an approach to culture not dissimilar to the one explored in The Village. In a worthy desire to protect themselves and their children from bad ideas, pain, evil, and tragedy, Christians sometimes pull out of the culture completely. The world, they say, is getting worse and worse and there is nothing we can do to stop it. The best thing we can do is to shut it out and protect ourselves from becoming corrupted. They may become locked into the idea that wearing a certain style of clothing, talking in a certain way, or avoiding non-Christians will keep them pure from worldly influences and sin. Richard Niebuhr calls this view “Christ against culture.”1
The members of the village desire to protect innocence. In an important line, William Hurt’s character warns the members that if they do not allow someone to go get medicine and save the injured boy, they can no longer call themselves innocent. As the village members discuss this, it becomes obvious that they cannot protect themselves from evil and pain. As one elder remarks, “We must not run from heartache. My brother was slain in the towns, the rest of my family died here. Heartache is a part of life, we know that now.”
Though the members of the village have tried to protect themselves from all sin, one member still manages to stab another. In this broken world, we simply cannot escape evil. No matter how high we build our walls to keep evil out, eventually evil will get in because the problem is not “out there;” the problem is inside the human heart. In response to culture, we might withdraw, build high walls, and pretend like we can keep ourselves immune. Ultimately, however, we cannot live our entire lives inside a box, even one as big as the village.
This article corresponds to:
- Understanding the Culture, chapter 2.5: “What Should Christians Do about Culture?”
- Understanding the Culture curriculum, unit 2, p. 34.
Possible Discussion Starters:
- Why do you think that people choose to pull out of culture completely?
- What are the dangers of pulling out of culture?
- Is it actually possible to completely avoid culture?
- How can we prepare ourselves to face the culture?
- A Practical Guide to Culture — John Stonestreet and Brent Kunkle
- Pilgrim Theology — Michael Bauman
- “6 Rules of Cultural Engagement” — Joe Thorn
- “‘Christ and Culture’— An Overview of a Christian Classic”— Trevin Wax
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- H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1951) as quoted in Jeff Myers, Understanding the Culture: A Survey of Social Engagement (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2017), 50.