September 13, 2014

"The Giver" ... amnesia vs anamnesis

“The Giver” presents a society without diversity, conflict, fear, envy or any memory of the past. No one has more or less than anyone else and the environment and the weather and everything else is carefully controlled by the “elders.” Memories and “longings” are controlled by medication (no list of side effects provided). Only one elder, known as “the giver’ (Jeff Bridges) is the keeper of the memory and is assigned to provide wisdom to the community. He knows what everyone is missing, but he’s only telling the “receiver,” a person chosen to be his successor.

The important consideration of bioethics is buried beneath the predictable heroism of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), the young male lead who becomes the “receiver” and eventually challenges the infanticidal, dystyopian society of colorless conformity in which he lives. 

Some may see Jonas as the Christ figure who threatened the status quo, stood up to the elders, and saw a better way of being. 

For bioethical situations that are relevant to our own society today, the film poses startling visual examples. Euthanasia is known as, “release.” Babies deemed defective and the elderly are released. Humans are engineered and pregnancy is surrogate via test tube only. Emotions are suppressed and removed by daily injections (again no side effects listed). There is no love. With love comes faith and hope. There is only overwhelming sameness.

Liturgical Christians—those who follow the church calendar of seasons, who celebrate the holy mysteries of Holy Communion—are people who value memory and story. “Do this in remembrance of Me” (anamnesis) is not just a quote from scripture but it is carved in many altars and holy tables where the Sacrament is celebrated. When we receive Communion we are saying 'yes' to being receivers of the story. We are charged with keeping alive the stories of compassion, justice, love, hope, forgiveness and peace.

The film is based upon Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newberry Medal winning, young adult novel. The book was both controversial and acclaimed. It was required reading in many middle schools and banned in others. Prior to Banned Books Week, 2012 The American Library Association’s Office of IntellectualFreedom blog, highlighted “The Giver.” 

Which “Chief Elders” in our own society wanted this book banned and why?  

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