Moulin Rouge and the Kingdom
James Smith on Moulin Rouge, full of suggestive names (Sacre-Coeur, the central character “Christian”, a different kind of Pilgrim).
The proximity to Sacre-Coeur almost invites us to look for parallels and comparisons between the bohemian artists and the mendicant friars, the decadent painters and the celibate priests, both of whom reject a life of moneymaking for the sake of very different visions of the kingdom, of the good life. But if both the bohemian and the friar desire a kingdom that rejects the pursuit of comfort and wealth, could it be that there are some covert similarities between their visions of the kingdom? Does the Moulin Rouge already point up the hill toward the Basilica? What at the end of the day is Christian after? Emotion
“Never knew I could feel like this, like I’ve never seen the sky before.” Sings Christian. The world is “seen” differently because of love. By the end of the film we learn that all of this has constituted a kind of education: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.”
The kingdom might look more like the passionate world of the Moulin Rouge than the staid, buttoned-down, talking head world of the 700 club. The end of learning is love: the path of discipleship is romantic.
I think a philosophical anthropology centred around affectivity, love, or desire, might also be an occasion to somewhat re-evaluate our criticisms of “mushy” worship choruses that seem to confuse God with our boyfriend. While we might be rightly critical of the self-centred grammar of such choruses (which, when parsed, often turn out to be more about “me” than God, and “I” more than us), I don’t think we should so quickly write off their “romantic” or even “erotic” elements (the Song of Songs comes to mind in this context). This too is testimony to why and how so many are deeply moved in worship by such singing. While this can slide into an emotionalism and a certain kind of domestication of God’s transcendence, there remains a kernel of “fittingness” about such worship. While opening such doors is dangerous, I’m not sure that the primary goal of worship or discipleship is safety.