First Reformed: Hope and Despair

Cinematic Doctrine Christian Movie Podcast Reviews Ethan Hawke First Reformed CinDoc

First Reformed Podcast Transcript

First Reformed – Hope and Despair

                Hi, my name’s Melvin, and my patrons pick great movies!

Welcome to Cinematic Doctrine, a Christian podcast service that encourages and equips Christians to engage and reform the culture of cinema. In this episode, we’ll be talking about Paul Schrader’s First Reformed.

                This movie was chosen by the lovely patrons who support Cinematic Doctrine with a small monthly donation. For as little as $3, you too can have the opportunity to vote for a movie I review at the end of each month by heading over to Cinematic Doctrine’s Patreon. A link will be available in the shownotes.

                Paul Schrader is a bit of a fascinating character in the art scene. He grew up in a staunchly reformed household, only seeing his first movie when he was 17, earned his Bachelor of Arts at Calvin College, went on to receive a Master of Arts from UCLA, wrote the book Transcendental Style in Film at the age of 24, a book that is still widely discussed in film academic circles, has worked multiple times alongside Martin Scorsese, and has a fairly prolific directorial career as well. All of that to say, this is a man who has been living off typewriters and film reels for a very long time.

                I think most Christian cinephiles, let-alone Christians in general, would find it confusing to learn that the same man who wrote The Last Temptation of Christ or the same man who directed Dog Eat Dog is also a self-proclaimed Calvinist. And yet, I must say, I’m not looking to make any case in this episode whether Paul Schrader’s career speaks for or against this. At the very least, Paul Schrader has shown a questionable level of discernment when it comes to his directorial choices if he’s also trying to come from a biblical perspective. That is not to say a Christian cannot write, nor direct a challenging film with difficult content. However, one must question the heart behind requesting an actor to bare themselves.

                 But I digress, as I mentioned, I’m not looking to use this episode on First Reformed to debate the validity of one’s faith against their career. For the sake of this episode, I’m far more interested in something else, but before we get into that, let’s get you up to speed on what First Reformed is all about:

                Reverend Ernst Toller, played by Ethan Hawke, leads a small congregation at the historic First Reformed Church of New York, the oldest continually in operation church in Albany county. When he’s not leading tours for traveling families, he’s surveying the cemetery for fallen gravestones. As a form of therapy, a prayer, he’s taken upon writing in a journal, with the intention of writing for a full year, concluding with a destructive act of ripping apart the journal, then burning it. Until then, the pages shall remain.

                Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried, approaches him after service one morning. She’s worried, looking to speak with someone. Despite Reverend Toller’s light encouragement to seek counseling from Abundant Harvest, a mega-church down the road that’s far more equipped with Christian counseling, he agrees to speak with her and her husband, Michael, played by Philip Ettinger.

                What’s worrying her is her husband Michael’s mental state. He’s an environmental activist who was recently released from jail. Michael is frightened of the future, the way the Earth is changing, the way humanity ignores its responsibility to care for the Earth. But what worries Mary the most, apart from Michael’s anxiety-ridden disposition, is Michael’s stance on their pregnancy. As Michael feels the overwhelming fear of the future, he questions the moral validity of bringing a new child into the world and would like for Mary to have an abortion.

                As Reverend Toller engages the couple during this difficult time, the First Reformed Church is preparing for a 250th reconsecration, a ceremony representing the long-lasting historical value that First Reformed Church has had in its county. With the intimate responsibility of soul-care, and the practical responsibility of church-care, Ernst Toller finds himself struggling between two growing difficulties as revelation upon revelation stack on one another. As the weight of responsibility continues to rise, Reverend Toller finds himself battling a mixture of the familiar and the unknown, and in doing so, engages his faith deeper than ever.

                First Reformed is Rated R for some disturbing violent images.

                The disturbing violent images has to do with a few segments of gore in the film. These sequences are extremely brief although the narrative surrounding the imagery is what makes them poignant and frightening. These moments are also depicted with a fair amount of realism, including a sequence that may include real-life violence, although it’s portrayed through a very grainy, very poor-quality image.

                That said, the certificate does not accommodate for what may be most bothersome to most audience members, and that’s the dour tone of the film. It’s a challenging movie that invites the audience into Reverend Toller’s wrestle with the Lord, the church, and the world. It doesn’t pull punches in that regard, and as such can be a difficult experience for sensitive viewers.

                Now, before we take a look at First Reformed, I wanted to share real quick that if you’ve come to enjoy Cinematic Doctrine, consider leaving a review for the podcast on your respective podcast app at the end of this episode. Unlike YouTube or Reddit, there isn’t really a way to let us know how we’re doing with a thumbs up or thumbs down, so the best way to leave your thoughts on the podcast is to write a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen.

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                I remember seeing First Reformed in theaters. It was a really wonderful, intimate experience. If it weren’t for two old women sitting in the back of the theater, my wife and I would have been the only people seated. But that’s alright, because it made for it all-the-more memorable. There’s a scene toward the end of the film that’s really strange, so hearing one of the women lean over to her friend and whisper, “Okay, it’s lost me.” was quite hilarious.

                I can’t help but mention that. I feel like that’s such a great way to put this entire film into perspective. It’s a really wonderful film with great performances from everyone on board. Ethan Hawke carries the film and you can feel the weight of the story bearing down on his character. Amanda Seyfried plays the character of Mary so well with her soft, hopeful, and innocent portrayal. There’s almost a small-ness to Mary and yet her strength is immeasurable, and Seyfried handles that balance well. Cedric Kyles, or as most know him as Cedric the Entertainer, brings a necessary levity and charisma to the film in the character of Reverend Jeffers despite himself. Which, by the way, the films comedy is so dry it’s amazing.

                Paul Schrader continues to show he knows how to handle multiple themes at once and as long as they’re refined and worthwhile, people will tolerate its complexity. I think that’s really impressive, and to have one scene flow well into another after having layered in 2-3 different plot points or progressing 2-3 different sub-plots is impressive. That’s the sort of thing I suspect most writers want to be good at, that level of poetic efficiency. To be able to advance multiple lines in a story while also taking your time to focus on one or two things is great.

                This helps when you’re trying to balance multiple lines of drama. If you want to help build your character, create a sympathetic, yet oppressive atmosphere, and connect-the-dots as your inviting your audience further and further into your world, it’s important to try and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Having lines of dialogue that advance a conversation but are a nod to something external, either a scene earlier in the film, an allusion to something later, or an intentional nugget of information that only the audience might pick up on, all of that is so important to building not only effective but emotionally engaging drama.

                But, despite First Reformed’s heavy drama focus, it’s definitely a strange film. It’s overt dour tone, Ethan Hawkes angst-ridden performance, the lack of music, the Academy Aspect ratio of 1.37:1 (1.37 by 1), it’s the kind of movie where there’s a lot of artistry at play despite its simple presentation. I would almost say First Reformed is minimalist cinema, but it’s not exactly that obscure.

                One of the biggest take-aways most viewers will appreciate is Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of Reverend Ernst. Paul Schrader has a real fascination for the struggling man, the concept of emotional repression, and the overwhelming sufferings of living in a sinful world. He never quite reaches cynicism, as he seems more interested in the contemplative emotional toil of confronting something far more than humanity juxtaposed against the listless attempts by humanity to make any worthwhile change. It’s almost like Schrader enjoys writing characters that so desperately want things to get better, not only in their personal lives, but across the globe, only to be confronted with how small humanity truly is. Or, even worse, that humanity is the cause of the world’s problems.

                And, although one may disagree with the expression of Paul Schrader’s worldview, and by expression I mean the contrasting nature between the art he creates and how he creates it, versus the little known information we have of his Calvinistic roots and continued faith struggle (as evidenced by First Reformed), at the very least, Schrader shows an innate maturity that comes with cultural, and dare I say, philosophical awareness.

                By philosophical awareness, I mean to say that it’s simply not enough to know how certain aspects of the world work. Knowing the intricate nature of desire, love, kindness, relationships… that doesn’t give reason for why those things exist, and this can be especially daunting when one starts to question the reason for things like lying, slander, hatred, and evil. Philosophy comes up short, and most often leads toward the ever-endless question of, “Why?”

                It’s that question, “Why?” That I think Schrader likes to mock in his films, and definitely questions in First Reformed, as the question “Why?” and its subsequent answer give little comfort to the very real nature of “Now.” “Why” doesn’t solve the problem of “Now.”

                And I think that’s where you can see Schrader’s cultural awareness, as the film’s complicating incident, the entire premise, is built around modern day culture. It goes without saying that art produced in a real space in real time will represent something in that real space and real time, but it also represents something about that real space and real time.

                I, of course, only say that because Paul Schrader has shared the work on First Reformed was inspired by his continued struggle with the church and its lack of care toward environmentalism. Or, at the very least, the evangelical movements lack of care for environmentalism.

                And while I despise the term evangelical purely on the basis that I feel like it’s just a new term pundits can say without offending the mass majority, as well as comfortably wrap up every denomination of Protestantism alongside Catholicism and Mormonism (or basically anything else that claims to be sourced or related to Christ and isn’t Islam), I can completely understand Schrader’s sentiment.

                As someone who reads a lot of current news and keeps up with things going on around the world, and likes to think he keeps up well with what the Protestant church is pursuing, I often feel as though there is a severe lack in external awareness beyond the local church doors as to the very real problems that are going on around the world. I suppose that’s not an uncommon experience. Paul Schrader’s work on First Reformed, and the subsequent well-received response to this film from the church, likely comes from a similar sentiment.

                And, I don’t mean to say that from a stance of, “Don’t you know what’s happening in China? People are getting sick with Coronavirus! That’s a huge deal! You need to care about that!”

                No, I’m not some sort of keyboard activist who gets mad at people for doing nothing while I, myself, do nothing but jump on the backs of journalists who are actually doing something. Not to mention, I’m well aware that Coronavirus, despite the reality that it is fatal, isn’t nearly as dangerous as the common flu which takes thousands of lives each year.

                Friendly reminder to get your flu-shot, my dudes.

                No, I think what Paul Schrader, myself, and many other Christians struggle with is the reality that certain Christians almost willingly remain ignorant to things that are bad, including things they may unwittingly be contributing too.

                For instance, plastic. Let’s talk about plastic.

                Plastic is literally some of the worst stuff for the environment. Especially single-use plastic. And it starts as long ago as the 1950’s, where plastic become commercialized for the common household. Single-use was an immediate grab for most people solely because it was as simple as use and dispose. Don’t want to wash dishes? Use a plastic plate or bowl. Oh, and we have plastic utensils, too. Need something bottled? We’ll transport it in plastic. Don’t worry, it won’t break as easy, so no shattering glass! Plus, we don’t have to clean it out and reuse it. Buying a lot of stuff? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a plastic bag to carry everything. No need to bring your own bag.

                And that’s without going into toothbrushes, pill bottles, electronics, toys, knick-knacks and doodads.

                And plastics are attractive. It makes sense. If you’re a family, using single-use anything saves so much time when dinner comes along. Dishes don’t need to be washed and things don’t have to be put away. Just use plastic-ware for dinner and throw it away afterward. Not to mention, plastic products are far cheaper to their alternative. No need to cash out so much just to survive. Or, maybe not survive, but keep things nice and steady, just like life should be.

                And there’s this new thing called recycling. Not only can plastics be recycled, but paper and cardboard, too. Even though we’ve increased in the use of single-use products, we don’t have to worry, right? We can toss it in the recycling bin, tie the bag, and take it out for the recycling truck to carry away, far beyond where our minds need worry about them.

                And this embrace of plastics, or, to call back to my episode on The Mandalorian (which you guys should totally check out if you haven’t listened) this embrace of expediency seems to disregard the negative impacts of such rampant single-use products.

                First, I want to talk about the expediency thing again, then explain what I feel that means about things like single-use products.

                Culturally, we want things to get better, but often times, it’s not about getting better, it’s about embracing a gross efficiency. This idea that, what matters isn’t getting better, what matters is getting things done faster. Because, when things are done, it feels good, even if things weren’t done well.

                At its most extreme, one could compare this to an addiction. What matters isn’t the process or even the damage that comes with addiction. What matters is the high. Getting that buzz, that hit, that high I so much better, and if you can get it faster and faster every time, then that’s great!

                At its least extreme, it’s an embrace of workaholism. It’s an overt dependence on works to get things done. Anyone whose a workaholic may not agree that it’s the least extreme, and I’ll agree that it’s a terrible thing to be a workaholic, but the idea stands that the high received from completing a job well done isn’t quite as destructive as a heroine high.

                But I digress. The point being, what matters isn’t getting better, what matters is getting that high, and I’ll just be frank in saying that when I have friends over, using single-use plates? That’s a high. I don’t have to do dishes! It may be late, I just want to go to bed. I don’t want to be up another 20-30 minutes with pruny hands washing plates and cups! And if I decide to crash after the party, I definitely don’t want to do them in the morning!

                Or what about the convenience of carrying a water bottle instead of a travel mug? Besides, that water is much more refreshing, and I can toss the bottle afterward rather than lug around an empty travel mug. Convenience is key, here!

                And my goodness, Lord knows the time into making a fresh pot of coffee is simply too much. I have to clean the filter, wash the pot, then refill the basin. And if I have fresh beans, I have to grind them myself. That’s just too much a hassle. I’ll use a K-Cup instead. And I’ll use a toss-away cup, too. If I don’t want to waste time cleaning a drip-coffee machine, I sure as heck don’t want to clean a mug. I’m far too busy to worry about pointless work like that.

                Ok, I’m done, but why the cynicism? Why the sarcasm? There is nothing inherently wrong about convenience, efficiency, having something made solely to be discarded. I mean, tissues exist. I don’t want to re-use a tissue.

                [of course, handkerchiefs exist, and they’re machine washable…]

                The point is, if it stops there, then yeah, nothing’s that bad about using single-use products. But it doesn’t stop there. The trash and recycle bin aren’t where these disposable things stop.

                Trash needs to be picked up by a truck, and will either be carried to an incinerator, or it’s carried to a landfill. When the trash of a landfill is compacted, the oxygen escapes and food within will decompose incorrectly. This produces an immense amount of Methane, which is over 10 times more potent than CO2, so if you’re someone who holds strong to carbon emissions equal no Bueno, then you’ll hate that. Apart from that, the cocktail of toxins that fester upon landfills seep into the soil, can travel beyond their encampment, and wreak havoc on neighboring environments.

                Incineration itself barely needs deliberation on its negative impacts, but the mere act of converting a wealth of trash, disposables, and toxic material and converting it into a state that floats easily through the air: ash. Of course, incinerators have a means for collecting ash. And while the ash is a fraction of the size and weight of whatever it originally was, it still needs to be discarded by a landfill. However, this can be difficult as the ash can contain twice the permitted levels of cadmium, which is classified as a toxic heavy metal along the likes of Mercury, and landfills are unable to accommodate for it.

In large quantities these Toxic Heavy Metals, or THM’s, can cause serious deficiencies on neighboring environments including outright deterioration. As most are aware, mercury itself is incredibly dangerous to the human body, and Cadmium, too, can be the source of health issues, impairments, and even death.

                But, it’s okay, because we love to recycle. As mentioned before, it feels so good to toss that water bottle in the recycle. We’re doing our part!

                But, maybe we aren’t.

                You see, recycling is a complex process. If you look inside the recycling bin, it’s filled with cardboard, paper, multiple kinds of plastic, ketchup bottles, alcohol bottles, cans, it’s a mess, but as far as we know, it’s all recyclable.

                So, it’s picked up by your friendly neighborhood recycle truck, but after its long trek, it’s rejected by a recycling plant due to the contamination of its load. The lingering food, that greasy pizza box, it actually turns out a lot of that stuff should have been tossed in the trash. So, the entire truck is rejected and sent to a landfill or incinerator.

                The way things used to be, a township or city could have their recycling shipped out to China. However, since early 2018, China has raised its prices for recycling. And, in some cases, will outright no accept certain materials. A part of this was political as President Trump raised tariffs and this was how China retaliated, but another factor is the pollution during the process was devastating.

                So now, recycling costs far too much, and townships and cities are having their plastics distributed locally, and whatever is spillover (because there’s a whole lotta recycling out there) is sent to underdeveloped countries that often times outright toss trash into the sea.

                But let’s posit that the recycle truck is accepted. Its load is right and good, and the plant accepts it. Now it needs to be organized. Why? Because different products need to be recycled differently. In fact, certain plastics are an amalgamation of plastics and outright can’t be recycled. K-Cups are an example. Because of this, they must be discarded.

                And, even after things have been recycled? They can only be used one more time. Once recycled, they must be discarded. Is it good to re-use something? Sure, but recycling has always been a prolonging measure, not a permanent one.

                Just to put plastics into perspective, and this is an often-cited prospect from the Ellen MacArthur foundation, is that there will be more plastic than there is sea-life by 2050 if the use and production of plastic is continued.

                This is all devastating information. It’s almost existential. The little things we think we’re doing, like recycling or cutting time-based corners so we don’t have to do remedial tasks, are contributing en masse to a massive trash-based epidemic.

                It’s no wonder that, in First Reformed, Reverend Toller is engaged in such a heart-wrenching situation. He’s being confronted with the revelation of a tragic reality that, not only is the Earth suffering, it’s at the hand of man. And the question posed by Michael, whether it’s worth it to bring a child into this world, is a very real and important question to wrestle with.

                I mean, we may not agree with environmentalism. And, as part of my audience is Christian, and therefore one can suspect is conservative, and therefore doesn’t agree with climate change, it’s a no brainer to put two and two together and go, “Melvin, you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

                But let’s replace the conservative belief that climate change, and environmentalism in general, is a waste of time, and replace it with… rampant sexism. The fact that we live in a culture that mourned the death of Hugh Hefner, a man who built an empire on the bare backs and chests of women, exploited a male dominated cultures pursuit of lust and power, continued his venture for the sole purpose of capitalistic greed, and even at one point had the gall to print depictions of minors.

                And that’s ignoring the continued sexualization of women in advertising as some scantily clad woman eats a hamburger during your Super Bowl ad break. Or how female warriors in fiction, whether sci-fi or fantasy, wear bikini armor because that makes sense to wear on a battlefield. Or how female advertisements aren’t about informing a customer on how a product may be helpful and is more focused on selling a woman on “Buy this and you’ll be prettier. Buy this, and you’ll matter.”

                Imagine you’re about to have a child, it’s a baby girl. She’s going to grow up with dreams and aspirations. You’re going to love the scribbled family drawing she does and hang it on the fridge. You’re going to pray for her every morning and evening. You’re going to see her off to school and can’t wait for her to come home and tell you all about it. You’re going to take her to the park, the zoo, Disney World.

                And since she was born, since before she was born, you’ve known the RAINN statistic, that 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted. That those dreams and aspirations often require a college degree, and that female college students are 3 times as likely to be assaulted than those who aren’t. You made that little girl knowing full well that she is at risk of experiencing one of the most devastating, traumatic, and evil things a person can go through.

                Michael has come face to face with existentialism. The idea that no matter what, nothing can be done. And I bet you’ve experienced this, too. This idea that, no matter what field of interest you’re in, no matter what occupation you fill, if you start thinking too much about it, you’ll find it meaningless, meaningless, meaningless.

                So, you abdicate yourself from being educated beyond what’s necessary. You take yourself out of the equation. And you’ll abdicate whether you think yourself into existentialism, or you comfortably toss single-use plastics in the recycle bin. If I rescind myself from the consequences, I feel I am not responsible. If I overthink my responsibility, I must rescind myself, or else I’ll be overwhelmed with dread and devastation.

                This is sickness unto death. That it is better to be dead, nay, better to not have been born at all, than to suffer life itself.

                This is the core of First Reformed. Mere philosophy gives no medicine. What matters is the now, and the now we already know because we’ve lived then. Right now things are horrible just as we had experienced then. Right now things are broken just as our history attests. Right now, any hope or dream I have for the future is beaten and battered by the horrible misery that is a fallen world.

                And yet, God promises something so different, so unfathomably indescribable, that we often embrace our despair more than our hope.

                Every time I watched First Reformed, there’s a line Reverend Toller shares that, I feel, expresses the primary question that Paul Schrader wants to understand. Reverend Toller says that life is carrying two contradictory truths in our minds. Hope and Despair.

                It’s a fascinating declaration because as a Christian the faith I have in God is often in contrast with the despair I feel on a daily basis. And on this side of eternity, I think there’s immense truth to this balance, this reality that the old flesh of mine is constantly encouraging me to believe in a hopeless existence without a savior, while the Spirit within me is encouraging me to believe in the all-sufficient power of Christ, that my broken, shattered history is not more powerful than the perfect, self-sacrificial love of Christ through his death and resurrection.

                And its in this that I must say, this great mystery, that we live during a time where we have immeasurable hope amidst ceaseless despair, I have no answer for it. I don’t even know if I have a proper way to end this episode. I’m suffering during the same life you are. In some cases, I remain willfully ignorant for my own sake. In other cases, I have burdened myself with the knowledge of evil and in doing so, wish that I knew none of it. It feels like a trap that I have built for myself and cannot escape. To remain ignorant is to live the life of a child. To pursue knowledge is a pitiless end.

                But truly, the wisdom of the Father is life giving. The love of Christ is a renewal of joy. The guarantee of the Spirit is a faith that cannot be shaken.

                And during such taxing emotional wrestling with the Lord, looking to the Psalms is a huge encouragement. John Calvin has often been quoted saying the book of Psalms is “And anatomy of all parts of the soul.” And if part of that soul is filled with immense despair, then I can find it in the Psalms.

                And what’s so lovely about the presence of Psalms in Scripture is that, like the rest of scripture, it’s God breathed. It’s all from Him. So, he knows our struggle, he knows this pain in our hearts, he knows everything about everyone to the deepest part of our souls, and often times we just hear that, but Psalms shows that.

                So, I’m going to pick out and read 3 Psalms. It may be a bit long, but I’m going to read them anyway. The only commentary I’ll give is that they will start from despair and move toward hope.

                First, Psalm 88:

O Lord, God of my salvation,
    I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
    incline your ear to my cry!

3 For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
    like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
    for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
    in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
    and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
    you have made me a horror[b] to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9     my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
    Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
    or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
    or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
    Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
    I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.[c]
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
    they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
    my companions have become darkness.[d]

Now, Psalm 6:

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?

4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?

6 I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
    they fail because of all my foes.

8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
    they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

                And finally, Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[b] help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

                Perhaps, as Reverend Toller shares, life truly is holding on to two contradictory things: Hope and Despair. But eternal life is different.

John 17:3, Jesus Speaking, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

In Jesus, we are offered eternal life. And on that side of eternity, there will be no tears. Revelation 21:3-5, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!

Everything will be made new. This Earth, these hearts, these lives. Everything.

God is faithful. God is active. God the Father has sent his son Jesus to pay for our sins, Jesus willingly sacrificed himself to unite us with the Father. Jesus has returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit remains in his people. And soon, Jesus will return. All hope in Him will be rewarded, all despair will be eliminated. Tears will be no more, shame will be a thing of the past, and our faith will be turned to sight.

Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of Cinematic Doctrine, if you’ve seen First Reformed, what did you think of it? Were you as emotionally engaged as I was, or did this movie lose you 2/3rds of the way? If you’re listening on Cinematic Doctrine’s website, let me know in the comments below, or shoot me an email to

                If you enjoyed this episode, consider leaving a review for the podcast on your respective podcast app at the end of this episode. Unlike YouTube or Reddit, there isn’t really a way to let us know how we’re doing with a thumbs up or thumbs down, so the best way to leave your thoughts on the podcast is to write a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen.

                And, as mentioned before, Cinematic Doctrine has a Patreon! For as little as $3 a month, you’re opted into a once-a-month movie poll where you decide a movie we review on the podcast! There are other unique benefits that come with supporting the podcast, so be sure check that out at

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Until next time, stay cool!

Support Cinematic Doctrine Christian Movie Podcast on Patreon

Consider supporting Cinematic Doctrine on Patreon! As a bonus, you’ll gain access to a once-a-month movie poll where you decide a movie we discuss on the podcast, as well as early unedited episodes of the podcast!!

Melvin Benson Cinematic Doctrine Christian Movie Podcast Host

Melvin Benson is the Founder, Editor-In-Chief, and Lead Host of Cinematic Doctrine. He’s written fiction and nonfiction for over a decade with short stories featured on the Creepypasta Wiki and Wattpad. His novelette Ethereal Temptation, a teen drama with a tinge of magical-realism, can be read for free here. His hope is to see King Jesus glorified as far as the east is from the west!

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