I saw Evan Almighty again tonight and and enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first time. I tend to dislike movies where, if they were remotely realistic, everything would end badly, and you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. So here we have a newly elected U.S. Congressman going to seed, followed around by wild animals, and shouting about a flood and how God told him to build an ark. There's simply no way this is going to end well, or maintain any believability if it does. Nor does the film itself provide a convincing resolution to the mess--I'm pretty sure that even if everything could happen as it did in the movie, the authorities would be more likely to believe Evan sabotaged the dam than that God actually warned him of the danger. And I'm certain that any flood that could carry a boat right up to the Capitol Building would destroy most of Washington D.C. in the process.
But whatever. This time I knew what to expect and so wasn't as distracted by the absurdities and just enjoyed it as a humorous parable about a man far too concerned with outward appearances with whom God has some fun, and uses to do some good. And as a parable, it works pretty well (for instance, see Carmen's excellent observations here). What I especially like about it, however, is its exploration of how God answers prayer. On one side, of course, the movie is full of instances of direct, miraculous, acts of God, but on the other hand, it suggests that God's usual practice is much more subtle and personal:
Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?Ultimately, and as I've said before, God is less interested in fixing our circumstances than he is in fixing us--making us into the kind of people who live for and love one another, regardless of our circumstances. Yet it is still we who must choose how to live in each circumstance. Though God wants to transform us, to cleanse us of our self-focus and make us into the people we are meant to be, he can only do so through our choices.Whatever its failings, Evan Almighty explores that tension very well, and has a lot of fun doing it.