It took me twenty-seven years to finally watch the classic coming of age 1986 comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The only thing I missed by waiting so long was a clearer understanding as to why hedonism is so mainstream.
The film follows Ferris Bueller, a high school senior who fakes being sick and skips school to spend the day in downtown Chicago. It was one of the top grossing movies for the year and received enthusiastic acclaim by both critics and audiences. It is now considered to be a cult classic. A young adult once told me the movie is one of his favorites and it inspired him in high school to skip school for the sake of fun and adventure. I hated it.
The movie is fiction so what’s a little lying and playing adults for fools for a laugh? Perhaps I’m stepping on the toes of fans but that movie exemplifies the philosophy that self-indulgence trumps good morals. The plot was about Ferris’s pursuit of a good time, which required ongoing deceit. Brief flashes of the boring school day reinforced the notion that lying and sneaking is heroic in the quest for enjoyment.
The moral of the story is that there are no morals when it comes to having fun. Even sneaking and ruining the car of Ferris’s friend’s Dad was considered worth it in the name of fun. But it’s not just the movie that is the problem; it’s the philosophy behind it that has taken root in our culture. People are living as if fun is the ultimate goal. The philosophy that propelled Farris—satisfying yourself first—is ruining our culture. How many abortions are performed because the inconvenience of a baby would interfere with a fun life? How many marriages have ended because one of the spouses finds something or someone seemingly more fun? How many lies are told for the mistaken belief that they count for nothing if a good time results?
Along those lines, in the more recent movie, The Bucket List, two terminally ill patients escape from a cancer ward to accomplish their worldly adventures before they die. But an end-of-life plan to prepare for facing God by indulging in worldly desires is giving your all for the god of fun in place of the real God. It’s foolish and puts the soul in jeopardy
I recently read two books that are refreshing antidotes to Ferris Bueller and The Bucket List’s false worship of fun. In the book, God’s Bucket List, author and EWTN TV and radio talk-show host Teresa Tomeo, appeals to examine God’s to-do list for us. It is no holier-than-thou advice since she once led the way down a path of worldly dreams. As a one-time TV news reporter in Detroit, her god of fun came in second only to the god of success. Not until everything started to unravel, did Tomeo realize there was nothing left in her worldly treasures to hang onto. Finally, when God was moved to the center, she found peace and a different kind of success. “Scripture tells us only God knows the desires of our hearts,” Tomeo says. “ It was, after all, God who placed them there because they are designed to lead us to His will for our lives.“
God’s Bucket List is not God versus fun; it is God and eternal happiness verses fleeting pleasures and sin. It is the true joy that comes from peace, love and holiness versus living only for today.
The other book that pulls the rug out of shallow adventures is The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. With reflections and pictures of Gospel lands, Pacwa led me from the comfort of my home into the footsteps of Jesus.
I have no qualms with traveling and soaking in what the world has to offer. After all, God created the world. But our good times must be had in union with God and not in spite of him. I love all kinds of travel, but it is the ultimate adventure to visit a past, which provides passage into eternity.
A Bucket list adventure and Ferris Bueller’s idea of fun pales against visiting the land where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; where the walled city of Jerusalem guards the relics of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Seeing the cave where Jesus was born and walking the way of the cross right up to the place of his crucifixion and burial, is to walk in the footsteps of God.
”We enter the Holy Sepulcher Church across a courtyard and through a large door. Immediately upon entering, you’ll see a narrow, steep stairway which leads up to Calvary,” Pacwa wrote. “A floor is built upon pillars to facilitate a visit to the site of Jesus’s crucifixion,” He explained that there are three altars, and under one, pilgrims can kneels before a metal plate with a hole in it. “Through this hole you can touch the actual rock of Calvary.”
Life is lived deeper when it is in union with God. There are many ways to grow closer to God such as prayer, giving alms, charity to others, Mass, and inspirational reading. Ferris Bueller would have thought religion was boring; maybe even worse than school. But Ferris Bueller was plotting his adventures against God and not with Him. He aimed for temporary fun rather than true joy in union with God. If Ferris was a real character, I would pray for his conversion. Instead, I will pray for the conversion of a culture that thinks like him.
Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. She has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country. Her latest books, Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and children’s book, Dear God, I Don’t Get It are both available now.
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