It was circa 1980, and we’d taken our children to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. Our young son looked up from his French fries, pointed out the window and said, “Mommy, look! There’s God!” Startled, I turned to see who or what he was pointing at – and I didn’t see God, but I DID see an elderly man who bore an uncanny resemblance to George Burns.
Our son had seen Burns in the title role in the 1977 movie “Oh God”; and until that moment in the booth at McDonald’s, we hadn’t realized that a theology lesson was needed, that a three-year-old couldn’t understand that the movie was humor and comedy and satire, not history. God, we explained to him, was not an elderly man who drove John Denver around in a taxi, but He actually exists outside of time and space; He was beyond description.
I was reminded of that story, and of the “God-As-A-Regular-Old-Guy” meme, when I first learned of the just-released film “An Interview With God”. This time it’s not an assistant manager at Food World supermarket outlet who meets up with God in an unlikely form. Instead, it’s successful young journalist Paul Asher (played by Australian Brenton Thwaites, CinemaCon’s 2017 Breakthrough Player of the Year), who has a one-on-one encounter with the Almighty. In the film, Asher is just home from Iraq and is facing a crisis in his marriage as well as a personal crisis. He somehow gets an invitation to do an interview with someone who claims to be God; and uncertain just who might be reaching out to him, Asher accepts and they arrange a meeting.
So there they are, the two men (or, rather, one man and one God), seated across from one another at a small table. God, portrayed by Emmy Award-winning actor David Strathairn, is matter-of-fact yet affable, his grey sportcoat a good match for his grey hair. He’s willing to answer the journalist’s questions; but somehow, things always get turned around and it’s God who raises some important questions of his own – questions that cause Paul Asher to reflect on his own life, on his marriage, on his faith. God raises the question he expects from Paul, “Why is there evil in the world?” – and then he leads Paul toward greater understanding of God’s divine plan. It’s sort of what happens in our own prayer: We speak, God answers, but it’s His lessons to us that are the most important.
“An Interview With God” challenges the viewer to imagine this scenario: God is sitting across the table from you. What would you ask Him first? What would be some of your other questions? The movie’s strength is in its power to lead viewers to examine their own lives, to think about what questions they might have for God, and to reach beyond to understand God’s answers.
If you want to accept the challenge of this thought-provoking movie, you’ll have to hurry! “An Interview With God” is playing in theaters for just three nights: August 20, 21 and 22.