Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life Imitating Art, or is it Vice Versa?

Primal Fear was a 1996 courtroom drama staring Richard Gere and Edward Norton. The former is one of my least favorite actors. (His repertoire consists of two expressions. One: a deer in the headlights. Two: a deer in the headlights with a quizzical smirk.) The latter, Norton, is one of my favorites. In this film Norton kills a priest and is defended by Martin Vail, a defense attorney played with his characteristic range by Gere. Norton’s character is named Aaron. Aaron, of poor white-trash origin, is mild, weak, obsequious, stuttering, helpless, learning disabled, harmless, abused, and out of place in gritty Chicago

There is no doubt Aaron is guilty of killing the perverted (of course) priest. His defense is schizophrenia. It turns out that 99% of the time Aaron is Milquetoast Aaron. But 1% of the time he is Roy, a self-assured crafty and violent predator.

With a timely and dramatic Aaron-to-Roy personality switch in court he convinces everyone of his mental illness. He is found innocent by reason of insanity. Victory for Aaron, and victory for his lawyer, Martin Vail.

Short lived as it was. After the verdict, back in the holding cell, Aaron makes a slip when talking to the credulous Vail who then realizes, too late, the schizo was all a sham. Aghast but helpless, Vail looks at his client and says: "So there never was a Roy." To which Aaron responds, after slipping at will out of his Aaron skin and into his Roy persona and donning a smirk of his own: "There never was an Aaron, Counselor."

Ouch. You gotta hate it when that happens.

This is a lead in to a question addressed to liberal Christians. You know the type: My God would not have commanded Joshua to ethnically cleanse the Canaanites. Never happened. My God is all about love your neighbor, including all ‘ites. The beatitudes. All that nice stuff. I don’t believe those Old Testament horror stories.

So my question is: when deciding what vast portions of scripture to jettison, why are you so certain that there never was a Roy? How do you know it’s not Aaron who is make believe?

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