Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gonzo Filmmaking, Gonzo Church

Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Romero.  I wanted to watch Salvador, and we did, with the director commentary on.  It was fascinating.

Oliver Stone made this movie on a shoestring of a budget, which meant he had to be creative in ways that he isn't forced to be creative now. He had to be accepting of some shots, because he didn't have the money or time to shoot scenes over and over again. He talked about some scenes which were unanticipated or which he had visualized as happening differently, yet he had to accept what happened. And those scenes are often ones that he has come to realize are better than what he had planned.

Over and over again, he talked about how he was pushed to the edge, pushed over the edge, and there he found all sorts of resources that he didn't know he had. He talked about the quality that everyone involved with the movie adopted, a quality of making it up as they went along. This quality led them to be more creative, to go in directions they wouldn't have otherwise gone--which led them to a movie that was better than what they would have created, had they had more money, time, and other resources.

He brought up Hunter S. Thompson and that whole school of gonzo journalists, writers who plunged themselves right into the stories that they were covering and creating a different kind of journalism. His filmmaking experience with Salvador was similar.

He talks about the quality of moviemakers in their youth, about not knowing that you can't do certain things, and so you attempt all sorts of things. And they often work brilliantly.

This morning, I've been thinking about this approach as it might apply to all sorts of other areas.  What would happen if churches decided to do everything differently?

Many of us are going to have to do so, if we haven't already.  Many churches face declining numbers of parishioners, aging buildings, aging parishioners, a culture that has moved on.  Many churches are paralyzed in the face of this downward spiral.

But what would happen if we attempted things anyway?  What would a Gonzo approach to church look like?

Would we sell our buildings and meet where the unchurched hang out?  Would we re-purpose our buildings so that they became vital places to our communities?

Would we do church differently?  If we find ourselves unable to afford pastors, musicians, educators, how would our approach change?

Would we think about Sunday School differently?  What social justice situations would call to us, if we didn't already have commitments?

Gonzo church--I'll ponder this as I head out to my not-quite-Gonzo church.

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