Just the other day I finally watched the 2002 Academy Award nominated City of God. I knew the film was about street kids in Brazil, had good cinematography, and is supposedly a "must see film" but little else. I pondered the title, recognizing it as a reference to one of Augustine's treatises on the Christian faith.
Through watching the film, I discovered that the title was the name of the favela in which the story takes place, a neighborhood completely overridden with poverty, violence, and general lawlessness, a neighborhood described in the film as "living in hell."
Anytime I watch something like this, I am reconfronted by the existence of evil. In an academic sense, there is never any doubt in my mind that evil exists yet fortunately in my daily life, there are few occasions when I am acutely aware of it. Times when awareness is unavoidable, have confirmed my deep weariness with the relativistic thought that permeates public discourse in the West.
Watching City of God also reminded me of the great evil lurking beneath the seeming good of self-preservation. Those who seek for themselves by any means necessary are bound to lose their souls in the process despite the suggestion that if they're fit enough to survive, all is well.
During day two of my viewing, (it was too much for one sitting), I was reminded of something Jesus said:
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. [ref]Theft-death-destruction is one of the clearest perpetual cycles of evil. The undercurrent of destruction in this film was really unsettling for me. Beyond "simple" murder, there was destruction of property, beating, maiming, rape and humiliation. The repetitively wanton killing reminded me of this:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. [ref]The thief Jesus is speaking of is the ultimate enemy of mankind--Satan, the master purveyor of evil. The grand narrative of creation and the Revelation of John both reference the great enmity between Satan and God's creation. Every life taken from the earth is one less reflection of God's image. It is ironic then that the "City of God" in this film is one where the image of God is ruthlessly and continually stamped out.
One can only wonder what the officials of Rio de Janeiro were thinking when they relocated their city slums and dubbed them "City of God." Perhaps they were hoping the name might procure blessings from the Psalms:
Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,May it be so.
in the city of our God, his holy mountain
It is beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth...
God is in her citadels;As we have heard,
he has shown himself to be her fortress...
so have we seen
in the city of the LORD Almighty,
in the city of our God:
God makes her secure forever.