The Truth and the Lie in Fight Club

Fight Club Truth LieI love the movie Fight Club. Gets better every time I see it. In this post I want to take a look at a couple of quotes from Fight Club and confront some of the deception that these quotes propose and which I believe men (and boys) of my generation have believed.

The story of Fight Club is told by the unnamed Narrator whose life is turned upside down when he meets Tyler
Durden (Brad Pitt). Tyler sees the world differently from most and challenges the Narrator to break away from his obsession with the pathetic materialism and despair of the ‘American Dream’ and to instead pursue something real. Together they start Fight Club, an underground street fighting ring where men can be men and recover their identity.

Speaking for men all over the western world Tyler Durden cries out;

‘Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God (expletive)  it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy (expletive) we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.’

Tyler’s meaning is clear. Men all over the world are living lives of quiet desperation to serve an empty purpose. Our modern media has told us to expect great worldly success and we are realising that these promises are false and now  we are very angry.

No doubt one of the reasons that this movie was so successful and spoke to so many men was because it gave voice to their own feelings. Durden’s observations are a startling insight into a much glossed over truth. But instead of turning to God and His truth to deal with this fallacy, many men follow Durden into another lie.

Tyler Durden: (to the Narrator) Shut up! Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?
Narrator: No, no, I… don’t…

Tyler Durden: *slaps the Narrator * Listen to me! You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you, never wanted you, and in all probability, he HATES you. It’s not the worst thing that can happen.
Narrator: It isn’t?
Tyler Durden: We don’t NEED Him!
Narrator: *squirms* We don’t – we don’t – !
Tyler Durden: (expletive) damnation, man! (expletive) redemption! We’re God’s unwanted children, SO BE IT!

Durden’s and men’s rage in general is understandable. The bible uses the analogy of fathers and sons on many occasions to teach us what God is like (eg Heb 12:7-11, Luke 11:11-12) God is our father and it is indeed a human father’s responsibility to model what God is like as best he can to his children. But this is a calling that men today are failing like never before. More and more children are growing up without fathers and those who are present are often only so in body but not in mind or spirit.

So many men feel the pain of being rejected and abandoned by their fathers and ill equipped by their mothers to understand what being a man is. Even men whose fathers were physically present often see them as weak and pathetic. In rage and frustration Tyler Durden declares we don’t need these fathers who abandoned us and if they represent God then we don’t need Him either.

The lie that Durden proposes to us is that in our rejection of materialism we can find out identity in rebellious individualism. We me can overcome their feelings of abandonment and insecurity by embracing the rugged individualism of action heroes, outlaws, guerrillas and other examples of rebel machismo. By rejecting all traditional authority we can declare themselves sufficient to overcome.

The problem is of course that we are not sufficient in ourselves. Even the greatest of us are in the grand scheme of things fragile and weak, every breath drawing us closer to death.

Despite what a generation of fathers may have represented to us however, God has not abandoned us. In fact the very opposite is true. He does not hate us. He loves us dearly despite the fact that each every one of us have rejected and sinned against Him.

Tyler Durden was wrong. We all need redemption and without it we do face damnation whether we like it or not. None of us deserve God’s grace yet He came down from heaven and offered it to us. He took the place of disgrace and rejection on the cross that should have been ours. Our true identity is found in violence but not from beating the hell out of each other. It comes in the form of a sinless man who took the mother of all beatings and died a gruesome death on a cross.

We receive the grace that his death purchased when we stop deluding ourselves into believing that we are sufficient or strong enough or good enough and admit that we are insufficient and weak and not good enough.  This is the paradoxical truth of Christianity. When I am weak then I am strong (2 Cor 12:10)

Next time I want to take a look at the responsibilities that men are called to walk in and how this paradoxical truth is the key to our fulfilment of them.

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3 responses to “The Truth and the Lie in Fight Club

  1. It hits our pride to have to rely on someone else, to be told we can’t earn our keep. The fact is no one can earn their way into God’s good books. The fact is no one can live for Him without His Spirit enabling us. The fact is we are helpless without His might and provisional hand guiding our way.

    To humble oursleves before God hits at the root of humanity’s core problem – a heightened opinion of itself. There will come a day when everyone will be faced with the cold reality that apart from Jesus’ redeeming work in our lives we have no hope and peace for our souls. The tragedy is at that point it will be too late to turn to God and repent of it.

  2. Heavy stuff James.

    Taking a slightly different tack, I read a book a few years ago titled “Why Men Hate Going to Church”, where the basic thesis was that church had become so feminised in the West that a male with average testosterone didn’t feel comfortable attending anymore let alone getting involved. While Christ is the answer to the Tyler Durden’s of this world, I wonder if the church today acts to repel such individuals!!

    • Fantastic point David. Chuck Palahniuk who wrote the book Fight Club says ‘… people need a consensual forum in which to express themselves and to exhaust their pent up anxiety, and also to test themselves and kind of destroy their identity-of-the-moment, so that they can move on to a better, stronger identity …’ The problem is that when men come to church looking for a new worldview and by extension a new identity they are presented with a weak feminised version of manhood. Jesus Christ was the ultimate example of manhood. He was strong, sacrificing, loving and brave. But above all He was focused on living for the glory of the Father. That is what we are called to be as men.

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