Jesus the Groundhog?

Today is Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil, the “Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary” saw his shadow. So there will be six more weeks of winter. Unless he did not see his shadow, in which case spring will start in…about six weeks. But who’s counting? It’s the show that’s the thing.

Then there’s the movie, Groundhog Day, which Jonah Goldberg over at National Review Online annoints as one of the best films of the past 40 years. That is debatable, although I’ve always liked the movie. Its themes of falling again and again into sin, followed by eventual repentance and rebirth into a new life, are fairly obvious.

Fair enough; and I’m no one to argue against it. But this snippet that Goldberg quoted from film historian Michael Bronski caught my attention:

The groundhog is clearly the resurrected Christ, the ever-hopeful renewal of life at springtime, at a time of pagan-Christian holidays. And when I say that the groundhog is Jesus, I say that with great respect.

I’m certain that Bronski meant no disrespect to the groundhog; it’s less clear that he has much respect for Jesus when he (correctly) notes that Groundhog Day, the day and not (just) the movie, has its roots in paganism.

It gets worse. A year ago, the film was hailed in a story by the Independent (UK) as

The greatest story ever told?

A 1993 romantic comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell is being hailed by religious leaders as the most spiritual film of all time. Today, as the US town of Punxsutawney celebrates Groundhog Day, Andrew Buncombe reports on an unlikely parable

The article goes on to cite how Christians, Jews, and Buddhists have been using the movie as the basis for sermons and other faith-based lessons. “The most spiritual film of all time”? Hmm. That’s unlikely, but, in fairness, this was written before “The Passion of the Christ” was released. It gets even worse, or, perhaps I should write, it was worse. Two years ago, in an article in the New York Times titled “Groundhog Almighty”, we are told about Groundhog Day, the movie, that:

Since its debut a decade ago, the film has become a curious favorite of religious leaders of many faiths, who all see in “Groundhog Day” a reflection of their own spiritual messages. Curators of the series, polling some 35 critics in the literary, religious and film worlds to suggest films with religious interpretations, found that “Groundhog Day” came up so many times that there was actually a squabble over who would write about it in the retrospective’s catalog.

“Groundhog Day” is one of the very few movies that I would watch again…and again…sorry, got into a Groundhog Day loop for a moment. As for its spiritual content, this strikes me as what I’d call “faith lite.” The themes are there, and they are good themes to reflect on. If they can get some people to dig deeper into the Bible and pursue what God has told us of sin, repentance, and rebirth, so much the better.

If you’ve not seen it, do so. It is well worth the time. If it causes you to reflect on matters of faith, great. Sometimes, however, a movie is simply a movie. We should not expect it to work miracles, even though it seems to include some in its plotline.

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One comment

  1. I just found your blog. I love it–I really love the layout. Nice and simple. Thanks for a great blog

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