Community and The Specials

By | March 27, 2011

I watched the movie The Specials again the other night. I really enjoy the film. Here on my blog, I won’t officially recommend watching it due to a fair amount of graphic language. But I feel like there is a lot of truth and some good lessons to take from it.

The Specials are a group of b-rate super heroes—several spots down the list behind more respected teams. The joke is that a person must go to “special” school in order to join The Specials. But they say, “We may not be the prettiest, or the smartest, or the most powerful. But we don’t exist for the beautiful people of the world. We’re there for the oddball, the rebel, the outcast, the geek.”

The story begins with a girl who has just been accepted into the group—her heroes. However she quickly learns that they are not as super as she once thought. From the beginning of the first meeting, the whole group is arguing amongst themselves, in part about their respectableness. In what appears to be a turn of good fortune, a toy company is preparing to release action figures of the members of the group. However, the company feels they need some embellishments in order to sell, and does this without consulting The Specials. The group is subsequently insulted, and the leader disbands the troupe due to this and other interpersonal conflict.

By midway through the movie, The Specials are in disarray and scattered about. The new girl resigns, observing that the majority of the members are obsessed with sex and their own egos. The most popular member of the group is recruited into one of the more respectable groups, The Crusaders. The viewer gets the impression that he expects to find the members of The Crusaders to be more respectable as well. However he quickly learns that they’re much the same. Nevertheless, he takes the gig because it’s better for him. He then immediately turns around and publicly ridicules The Specials, a group he was a major part of for years.

Despite all of these things, especially the break-up, everyone in the groups shows back up at the headquarters the following morning. The manage to convince the leader to stay and not follow through with the disbanding. They conclude that, while there may be a sense that other people don’t need them, The Specials need The Specials.

This reminded me a lot of what Christian community—the church—looks like. There has been a lot of talk about community over the past decade or two. This is good; community is good. However, community can be easily idealized. I believe it was Bonhoeffer who talked about how everyone goes into community with their own illusions about what community will be like. True community never matches up with these expectations.

Sometimes God will choose highly intelligent, respectable people like Paul. However, he often choose those not so highly esteemed. “I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families” (1 Corinthians 1:26, The Message). Church can, and perhaps we should expect it to look much like The Specials. Most of them had strong personalities with weakness to match. They weren’t all well adjusted, and there was a lot of conflict to show for it. This brought them to the edge of completely breaking apart.

My experience of church community is similar. There are many broken people, with various strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. Most of us all have differing ideas about how church and community ought to be done. So don’t be too surprised if a community shatters and breaks apart. People will leave the community and turn around and insult it. Persevere, because those who are supposed to be a part of it, those who need it and are really committed will return. We are special people, and we need each other, just like The Specials. The main difference between the church and The Specials is that the unifying element in Christianity is the person Jesus, rather than the status as outcasts.

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