Grace and Law at the Movies

If you get the chance to see Short Term 12 this weekend – it’s opening in limited release – you should. From my review at Christianity Today Movies:

. . . the normal rules of moviemaking often dictate that either the law is good or working outside the law is good. (Often the latter wins out: see many of the vigilante films and television shows out there.) To point out a problem in the law, then, can amount to suggesting the whole system is corrupt and ought to be abolished. And sure, sometimes the law is in conflict with what is good, and people must disobey man’s law in order to obey a higher one.

But it’s especially unusual to see both a critique and an affirmation of a broken but necessary system in a film like this. The law and the system has its limits, but mercy is sometimes enacted, not only through the larger machinations or heroic acts enacted by saviors in batsuits, but in the small, quotidian sacrifices of individuals with their own crippling problems. In the case of the foster care system, the goal—though it can be met imperfectly—is to protect the weak, to give them a safer place to reach maturity. It exists explicitly because the world is populated by sinners who prey on the weakest. To be sure, the system is sustained by sinners, too. But grace breaks through, because God uses imperfect systems populated by imperfect people to do good work in the world.


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