Redemption ‘elevates our nature’

By Eric Magazu

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I once attended a presentation in the Campus Center, and, from what I recollect, it was being given by a business that produced quality products.

The talk was given long enough ago that I can’t remember the name of the company. The speaker began on a general note talking about concepts that are attractive to human beings. He asked us to name the motifs that appeal to people in the movies. The general consensus in the audience was that love was the most popular movie topic.

The presenter replied to us saying that the concept that draws most people to a movie is not love, but redemption.

I haven’t been able to find a survey that confirms this assertion, but I wanted to investigate the concept further.

What is redemption? I think we all have a general idea, but do we know really?

Redemption gets a lot of play in Christianity. In all denominations of the Christian faith, Jesus is referred to as “our redeemer.”

When I used the dictionary to begin my investigation into the meaning of the word redemption, I found that the religious aspect of its meaning influences some of the definitions. For example, the seventh definition on states that “to redeem” is “to save from a state of sinfulness and its consequences.”

It seems to me “to save from sin” is not the word’s original basis, but instead the dictionary is using a word already defined elsewhere – the Bible.

There is also the everyday use of the word, which generally involves the returning of empty soda cans to the supermarket to claim our five-cent deposit. This casual use of the word might actually be closer to its actual definition than the seemingly far-reaching, aforementioned definition.

The Online Etymology Dictionary sheds additional insight into the varied definitions of “redemption.” The word comes into English from Latin. Yet, other online searches will confirm that a similar word in both Hebrew and Greek also have the same literal definition, which is its simplest definition to be found: “to take back.”

I want to use this literal definition in the three cases already mentioned: the process of redeeming soda cans, a common motif in the movies and in popular culture and as an act of salvation in the bible.

The redemption of soda cans seems straight-forward, with the only exception being as to what exactly is being redeemed. Either it can be considered that the supermarket, on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, is taking back the aluminum and plastic or, alternatively, that the consumer is taking back his or her nickel.

The other cases are more philosophical. What makes a movie about redemption? It can be about something as simple as the recovery of a person or an object that was thought lost. It can be about a person who seemed to be headed in a downward direction who then later turns his or her life around. It can be about a mistake that is set right when a second chance is given.

In most, but perhaps not all, of the cases, these situations require a second person to somehow work either in the open or in secret to allow the first person to be redeemed. I make this claim because if a person helps herself or himself out of a tough position without the help of another person, I’m not sure they were redeemed in a strict sense.

These situations appeal to us because they present a story where the world seems broken, but eventually it is set right again. It suggests that perhaps there is something within us that is not at ease when there is something not ideal, and is comforted when it is set right again. The idea of redemption might be the only force that has the power to compete with the more animalistic elements of our nature. Hence, when the movies emphasize redemption, they have the power to elevate our nature.

Redemption is a theme found throughout the Bible. In the earlier portions, redemption is used to indicate freedom from slavery, with God intervening in the normal course of history to assist in the process. The famous example is the rescue of Moses and the Israelites from the Egyptians. In the gospel, “to redeem” is used in a personal sense as explained by’s seventh definition.

The gospel seeks to convince us that this redemption is necessary for all, not only those whom society has deemed to be outcasts or criminals, but also those who appear to be popular or righteous. This suggests that it is not only certain individuals who have gone astray, but humanity in general. The case is made that there is something not right with human nature itself, along with its numerous flaws.

In an attempt to persuade us, the gospel goes on to claim that, despite these shortcomings in our nature, God sees some intrinsic value in each and every person that makes it worth his while to use every measure at his disposal in an attempt “to take us back.”

Eric Magazu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]