40th Anniversary of The Godfather Premiere

Forty years ago today The Godfather premiered. It is one of the greatest movies ever, and together with its sequel perhaps the finest opus of American cinema.

I wouldn't at all mind being an olive oil exporter.

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of the film is the way it illuminates how we choose to live. As you watch the film, and consider it in retrospect, everything that happened seems somehow to have been inevitable. Every betrayal, every move for power, every assassination.  Fate as much the puppet-master as the Godfather.

In a sense, The Godfather is a very pagan movie. Not pagan in the earth mother sense, but in the Dying Gaul sense. If there was one thing the Danes or the Greeks or Gauls could teach us, it's to take yourself seriously enough to want to die well, but not seriously enough to be unwilling to die.

When the norns conspire against you, you are still a responsible agent. Moderns take it personally, they get bitchy with God; Christians ought to be, but are not, exceptions. We're all bitchy about it. Today's pagans lack the balls to die well, they want to put off death as long as possible, no matter the cost. And today's Christians prefer to pretend that there is no arena, that there is no lion.

The Godfather resurrects a pagan ethos toward fate and death. I think that's why it's the film that all American males must love. We recognize that these men are men of will and strength, ethos and gravitas. Those who are not die badly. We sense that this is right somehow.

[caption id="attachment_9804" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="From "The summons of death on the medieval and Renaissance English stage" by Phoebe S. Spinrad."][/caption]

Christian men have been running away from manhood for generations. Christian manhood, in a way, lies on the other side of pagan Godfather manhood. It doesn't run away from power and strength. It goes through it. Even pagan men know they ought to look after their own; that's what The Godfather's about. Christian manhood is not afraid of that. It is stronger than that. Christian manhood looks after its own, and beyond. Christian manhood takes care of the entire world. Really. Personally.

If a man only protects those who are his, those who are like him, those who in some immediate way belong to him, only power and ruthlessness matter. He is The Godfather.

A man who protects what is not his, a man who gives up his own inheritance, who shares with outsiders what would have otherwise gone only to his own son, that man is a redeemer, an actual godfather. You know, like at a baptism. But we can't get there if we don't grow a pair. Christian manhood isn't the opposite of pagan manhood. It's pagan manhood grown up, grown selfless. It's unnatural. It's unrealistic. It would make an unbelievable movie. It is the manhood made possible by the Holy Spirit.

Your life is fated. The story told. You can't escape your story. If you look back you will see that you had to end up here, at this crossroads, facing this decision.  What will you choose?

(Make sure you stay away from oranges.)