Looking for prophetic insights in a Wes Anderson film can be a little like looking for physics insights in a Will Ferrell movie.
That’s not really what Wes and Will are on about.
But Wes is on about nostalgia – in a stylish, ironic, and occasionally hilarious sense. And the nostalgia of his latest film (now on Redbox, yay!) is front and center from start to finish. In fact, The Grand Budapest Hotel is basically a nostalgic film about nostalgia.
The narrative centers on the hotel’s legendary concierge Gustave H. who is prone to flourishing language and poetic speeches, peppered with reality-check f-bombs (that made me laugh every time). During his tenure the Grand Budapest is already an exercise in nostalgia, though Gustave is fighting to preserve the old paradigm. He is holding onto something that has already slipped away.
And the arrival of war is the grand reality check that ends all illusions.
After being mercifully released by a commander in the new militant regime, Gustave says, “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.”
Later on, Gustave will be shot dead by the same regime.
I realize it’s quite a gear-switch but the current Israeli invasion of Hamas-controlled Gaza is a reality check that ought to end any illusory nostalgia. But illusory nostalgia is precisely what drives so much of the conservative evangelical fervor and militant advocacy for Israel. As the civilian Palestinian death toll rises, we should all be seeing a barbaric slaugherhouse. Instead, many Christians are seeing something quite different: the fight to defend their eschatalogical Grand Budapest Hotel.
It should be said that this is likely not the kind of solidarity that Jewish people are even looking for from American Christians, as it amounts to a kind of appropriating and othering. But the bigger issue is in the theology and eschatology that so easily advocates for violence – really, for mass-murder. There are many ministry empires in the U.S. (John Hagee, IHOP, Liberty U, etc.) that have been built on this political tie to military actions in Israel against Palestinian people, all in the name of Jesus’s imminent return to rule the millennial kingdom from Jerusalem. And this evangelical emphasis has exacerbated, and not alleviated, the animosity, alienation, apartheid, and violence there.
Don’t misunderstand. I realize that Hamas is violent, brutal, manipulative. I am not justifying the violence on either side, nor am I advocating a particular policy approach (though, frankly, Israel’s policies are forcing an eruption of the Real with every home, school, and hospital they blow up). But I am opposing the thinking of many conservative Christians that goes directly against the grain of the gospel of peace and opts instead for the perpetuation of this barbaric slaughterhouse. I am opposing the deadly nostalgia, on the level of idolatry, that ignores the realities staring us right in the face.
Truly, Gaza proves that the most dangerous pseudo-Christian cult in the world today is this evangelical eschatalogical Israel-worship [Tweet This].
And if we don’t let go of the nostalgia and let this reality check sink in, it will continue to be as fatal as it was for Gustave.