Lesson from ’A Clockwork Orange’

“A Clockwork Orange” was one of the more controversial films ever made, and even today it still stirs up a lot of emotion.

Stanley Kubrick brought the novel by Anthony Burgess to the big screen, but didn’t include the final chapter of the book as part of the story because American publishers wanted it to end in despair–rather than have a redemptive side–which the original British version of the book had.

So Kubrick based the film on the American version rather than the British version. In 1986 that changed and the book is now published in its entirety.

The name “Clockwork Orange” refers to a mechanical man. So the tale tells the story of Alex, the head of a notorious gang which randomly brutalized their victims with rape, violence and murder. He is eventually caught, and that’s where the real story begins.

After a couple of years in prison Alex pretends he’s interested in religion, and begins to work with the prison chaplain. During that time he hears about what is called “the Ludovico technique,” which was a behavior modification treatment which upon completion the prisoner would be released. The chaplain warns Alex against going through the program, saying people must have the free will to make choices.

Nonetheless, Alex decides to participate in the program which in the end, involved being administered a drug which induced nausea while he was forced to watch violent films.

Eventually he was released back into society and was unable to do violence, among other things, and if he were to attempt it, he would become extremely nauseous and unable to do it. Thus he became “A Clockwork Orange”–a mechanical man.

When the 1986 edition of the book came out, Burgess wrote an introduction which said if a person could only perform good or evil they were a clockwork orange. What he meant by that was that outwardly you could look organic and alive, but were in reality a “clockwork toy,” which either God or the devil could wind up, or he added, also “the almighty state.”

The point of all this is that we as believers, through the hardening of our hearts and misguided focus, can become the equivalent of a Clockwork Orange, who display an outward piety but inwardly are more mechanical than organic.

By organic I mean fellowshipping with Jesus Christ as the living God, not as a distant unreality that has no interest in us personally or corporately as the church.

Jesus Christ is life, and there is no life outside of Him. When things and causes are the motivation of our lives, we can become very mechanical without realizing it. The alternative is walking in the simplicity of knowing Jesus without all the added baggage.

That doesn’t mean things won’t emerge out of that, but if we miss the first, the second won’t matter.

Seeing all the needs in the world will, at times, overwhelm and/or distort us, as we focus on all the damage around us and not on Christ. How can we meet needs with Christ if we aren’t living by His life? How can we meet them with Him if we’re not in constant fellowship with Him? How can we rightly meet a need if we just meet it without any discernment of the Lord in the situation? How can we meet needs without being overwhelmed by the shear volume of need?

In the end, we are called to be with Christ. There’s really not anything more than that that we need to be concerned with. Jesus lived by the life of His Father, and we are to participate in that through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

He is organic and living, not a mechanical set of obligations we can meet and then be done with.

Christianity shouldn’t be mechanical because Jesus isn’t mechanical. Christianity in reality is meant to be a visible representation of who Christ is on earth by means of the abiding Spirit of God within believers. That means the life of Christ is meant to come forth from within to without; that’s a living person, not a mechanical thing.

In the end, what is true Christianity? Christianity should be nothing other than Christ, because there is nothing more than Him which can be added to us.

“A Clockwork Orange” teaches us that man isn’t made to be a mechanical being, but was made to be free, and for believers in Christ that freedom comes from knowing and fellowshipping with Jesus Christ. What more should we ask for?

 

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