In 1954, one of the great, and first “large insect” sci-fi horror film was released.
What a title, eh?
“Them!” are ants that have giganticized due to radiation exposure from nearby atomic bomb testing and yes, they now terrorize, they kill, they spawn and threaten to take over the world! Starting with the sewers of Los Angeles (always of course an incubator for potential problems).
Thankfully, scientists and g-men are onto “Them!” and manage to destroy the nests of these monsters. At least those nests we know about.
The last lines of the film, not unlike those at the end of many in the sci-fi monster genre (whether they pertain to giant ants or no), keep the door open.
Smart! Not only does this mean there might be more sequels, or at least more giant bugs-from-nuclear-bombs movies to terrorize, profit movie companies, and give voice to anti-nuclear protest.
It also reminds us that no matter how much we may think we’ve destroyed our adversary, any adversary, life will never be adversary-free.
There will always be a “Them!” Someone who is not “Us!”
That’s why I love the title of this film. The ultimate in terse and pithy.
And it’s a film that comes to mind as I ponder this year's Holy Week.
For one thing, of course, there’s the incredible divisiveness in our nation and world. “Them-ming” is rampant in thought, word and deed. Our Other is becoming more and more monstrously bug-like. Clearly spawned in sewage, deserving of destruction.
Personally, I find the rancor and what’s causing it to be on the one hand stimulating - I’ve learned more and found my chops for speaking up more and gotten way more invested in the world around me than, I admit, I’ve been in a long time. It also has proved to be a great opportunity to explore to ever deeper levels how faith and prayer and scripture speak to times such as this.
And of course, how the comedy of the Bible laughs at and with it all, and, imho, profound.
Today, as we enter into Holy Week, it leads me to talk about … “Them!” Giant scary bugs!
It’s probably nothing but a scribal boo-boo - but in Matthew’s version of the ‘palm procession’ the word “them” is used in some very interesting - very interesting - ways.
For one thing, at Matt. 12:2-3, we have Jesus telling his disciples to go into town to find a donkey AND a colt, and to bring BOTH back to him.
I’m guessing most readers (and preachers?) of this passage, haven’t paid a lot of attention to this quirky detail, since our assumption is that Jesus needed but one humble pack animal for his parading purposes. (And Matthew was probably inadvertently working with a faulty translation of Zechariah 9:9 that states the Messiah is to enter the city on but "a donkey, the foal of a colt.")
Nevertheless, Matthew apparently goes with the scriptural inerrancy flow has Jesus needing two! And, one can only assume - and, at least according to Matthew’s narration, probably should - what happens next, at v. 7:
“They brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them and he sat on them.”
He sat on… them?
Does this mean Jesus paraded into town looking something like this?
Or maybe this?
Or maybe he’s got super-hero powers like The Incredibles' Elasti-Girl and can stretch his legs to imagination-bending lengths! So he wraps his legs firmly around the outer flanks of both donkeys to the extra-amazement of the crowd and passers-by.
Indeed, any of these scenarios would go far to explain why Jesus palm-fanning followers are extra enthusiastic about the “Hosanna’s!” and announcements that the one passing by is indeed the King of the Universe. Who else but the Son of God would have such nature-bending capabilities?!
It also explains, on the other hand, why, as Matthew notes, “The whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”
Now I don’t bring a giant-bug movie into this discussion to suggest people were finding the One parading into the city resembling a large, menacing insect. (Although in the eyes of the Pharisees and Temple officials, the case could certainly be made.)
What I find interesting - and inspiring - is that the suggestion is made that no matter how you slice it, Jesus rode in on “them”.
Two animals. A mother and a colt. A big one and a little one. Alike, yet very different.
In the eyes of the other at least, a “them.” (Arguments could be made here that the mother and colt may not have found in one another that much difference - certainly not enough to consider the other a reprehensible bloodthirsty pest - but only if it’s on the grounds that the generation gap hadn’t been invented yet….)
My point is Jesus’ entry into town and onto the last leg of his earthly journey, the most important leg of all, was done with more legs than one might deem necessary - an absurd number of legs! - yet it’s what Jesus’ ministry was all about, right?
Bringing “us’s” and “them’s” together. Gentile and Jew. Samaritan and Israelite. Rich and poor. Big shot and nobody. Male and female. God and humankind. All sorts of seeming opposites with whom, at least in Jesus’ time, it was considered impossible, or at least completely inappropriate, even sinful, to inter-connect. Jesus’ message about God’s incoming realm was always one of radical inclusion, because that’s what Divine love always and amazingly graciously seeks to do. Even as we still can't seem to stop distancing ourselves from those who are different, inferior, downright wrong.
The truth is, of course, whatever we see as the objection-worthy flaw in some “other” is actually a reflection of some similar flaw in ourselves. The best place to start talking about “them” is in front of a mirror. That’s when healing really begins.
We are all “Them!” And realizing this makes everyone “Us!”
And, really, isn’t that what the foot of the cross - Holy Week’s destination - is all about?
There are lots of great films to watch right now to get us in the mood for all the significant, transformational opportunities this week seeks to provide.
The Comic Lens highly recommends, especially this year, putting “Them!” at the top of your queue.