“’Titanic’—The ‘60s as Sacraments”

Mattingly, Terry

Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith, March 25, 1998

James Cameron, the director of Titanic, has been holding court in cyberspace with stricken fans. Young people weep through the film. They sigh over the love match, and wonder whether the now-elderly Rose dreams of reunion in heaven with Jack, or whether she just dreams. Cameron: one lesson in Titanic: “all you have is today.” And what you may have today is romantic and erotic love. Mattingly: “For millions, the Titanic is now a triumphant story of how one upper-crust girl found salvation–body and soul–through sweaty sex, modern art, self-esteem lingo, and social rebellion.” Titanic celebrates the values of the 60s and makes them sacramental. Rose’s clinching, summary statement as she reflects back: Her lover “saved me in every way that a person can be saved.” Why do no religious groups howl in protest? Why do religious teens watch this without comment, except devotional? Why should they sigh over a secularist view of salvation—“get what you want when you want it and in whatever way is necessary.” According to Elizabeth Farah, the sins of the heroes in Titanic become virtues because the other folks on board are even worse. This is an immoral movie with an anti-Christian bias and a secularist idea of salvation. Romantic love is our savior. And, as the aged Rose makes clear, it is our ONLY Savior. William Willimon’s comment in a speech at Calvin Seminary in 1998: after screens full of death, what Rose has is a piece of gaudy jewelry, some experience as a horsewoman, and a few photos. That’s her salvation.