On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we are innocent just like everyone else as we look for Christian themes in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. What can we learn from Brooks, Red, and the Institution of Sin? Can it help us to understand Hope in the same way as Andy Dufresne? All that and more in 3…2…1!

Brooks, Red, and Institution of Sin

Shawshank Prison is an institution, and all of its inhabitants have been institutionalized. We see this within the prison itself in the behavior of the prisoners themselves; they believe that once they leave, they will be worthless. We see this specifically in the character Brooks Hatlen in that, upon his release, he cannot bring himself to live a life of freedom. He found nothing but a dead end, and it led him to commit suicide. Red found himself in the same predicament: same half-way house, same job, and same path to despair. The only difference between the two is that Red chooses to act on the promise made to him by Andy.

This is an image from the film SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION that features the character Brooks Hatlen as he has been released.

Sin is the same kind of institution, and we have all been institutionalized in our transgressions. If/whenever we have been set free from our sin, life isn’t much easier. Truth be told, life actually gets harder. Some people can’t handle it and cower back to a life of sin or crumble under the pressure and give up on life. Others, however, have their hope anchored in something a little further down the road: the fact that Jesus has gone on to prepare a better place for those who hope in Him. Just a quick glance at the key verse for this point before we get on to that other point:

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:23-24).

Because Jesus has freed us, and because we have followed Him out of sin and death, we have to follow Him a little further to let Him fulfill his promise.

Andy Dufresne and Hoping for a Better Land

Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding does not understand hope. This is why he has abandoned it and, like Brooks Hatlen, become institutionalized. Both, once freed from the walls of Shawshank Prison, looked for opportunity to return – much like the Hebrews in the wilderness wanderings longed to go back to bondage in Egypt. Too, they wouldn’t seize the inheritance that was promised to them; a land flowing with milk and honey, i.e. the Promised Land.

Andy Dufresne understands hope. He understands that hope in it’s true form, i.e. the way that the New Testament writers and readers understood it, is confidence; doubtless; assured. Our english word “sure” is from Middle English taken from the Old French “sur,” which came from the Latin “securus,” which means “free from care.” And don’t we see that on Andy’s face when he comes back from two weeks in “the hole?”

This is a picture from the film SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION that features Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne resting on his boat on the beach.

However, because of the RELATIONSHIP they had, Andy was able to disciple Red; he was able to give that reason for the hope in him with gentleness, respect, and most importantly, example. And he has the confidence (hope) that Red will follow him. Follow in hope:

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God a has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)

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Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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