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Evan Almighty: Finding Religious Vocation in a Modern World

“Evan Almighty” is not the typical movie expected to depict religious vocation. It is primarily viewed for its humor, CG effects and the success of its predecessor, the 2003 movie “Bruce Almighty” starring Jim Carrey. However, critics and viewers do recognize the religious themes that are fully integrated into the comedy film. In fact, it is Steve Carrel’s character, Evan’s faith in, and relationship, with God which becomes the driving force of the movie.

“Evan Almighty” is a movie about one man’s discovery of his true vocation in life in a modernized world wherein faith in God is attacked by personal doubts and peers’ criticism. Evan’s journey into faith is not something enforced by God, by something that Evan must accept slowly on his own. Evan Baxter is the quintessential career-oriented man, whose big dreams of moving his career description from a successful local television news anchor to a big time Congressman, has just recently come true. The only thing that he knows about vocation is something along the sum of power, money and privilege.

Moreover, when he looks at the mirror, his mantra is “I’m successful, powerful, handsome, happy…” Therefore, a religious vocation is farthest from his mind. Having calls or even physical visits from God is not part of his belief system. When he asks God “Do I know you? ” the reply is “Not as much as I like”. It is not clear what his personal religious beliefs are prior to God’s call, but he does not seem to be an extreme case of an atheist about to undergo total conversion but it is a close second.

His life is focused on improving his career and evidence from the previous film, “Bruce Almighty”, shows his competitive nature, which is further demonstrated in his more recent political pursuit. God’s call on Evan Baxter is not just a call to faith, but a call to become God’s prophet who will warn people against the flood coming on September 22. Previous to God’s visit on Evan Baxter, Evan’s only similarity to his future role as a prophet is his campaign slogan of wanting to change the world.

It is unclear, however, how he will go about it, and if changing the world is his real intention or just that – a slogan for his candidacy. He does have the influence if ever he really wants to change the world, at least starting from his constituency. Nevertheless, his vocation has many obstacles: the modern world, other people’s ridicule, his family’s interpretation of what is actually happening to him, and even his own belief system. When he tells his wife that there is going to be a flood, she says “Maybe God meant a flood of awareness”.

Evan himself is unsure about how to interpret what God has said; he begins to doubt himself when he replies, “If that’s true, then I’m going to be pissed”. Without faith, Evan will not be able to perform his role as a prophet. He cannot make people believe in something that he himself doubts. Initially, God’s plans for Evan are still ambiguous (e. g. when God leaves planks of wood in his backyard), and Evan has to struggle to understand what he is meant to do.

The biggest obstacle in Evan’s vocation is the modern world itself and the fact that his task is not simply about preaching the Gospel, but a warning to people about a flood similar to the Biblical flood. Evan is not just a prophet, but a prophet who has to take on the role of a modern Noah. Just like any prophet, God has to convince, but not force Evan to accept his mission. The religious vocation that Evan has to accept is not priesthood or the position of a missionary; he has to be a modern day prophet in Biblical clothing and be a literal Noah-figure in the eyes of the modern world.

A prophet is someone who interprets what God is saying in order for the rest of the people can understand. He tells people messages or warnings from God. It is a tough job especially for someone like Evan Baxter, who is a United States Congressman, and has therefore a name to protect. For modern people, it is difficult to accept the idea that God has visited anyone and sent that person to warn people of something that has only been heard of in Biblical context. Even the prophet-to-be has had difficulties accepting the reality and the feasibility of his mission.

When he does, he undergoes ridicule from other people and even incredulity and concern for his sanity from his family and friends. The good thing about Evan Baxter is that even it has taken him a long time to believe and finally accept his mission, when he starts believing, he sticks with his mission despite the possibility of ruining his career and alienating his own family. He stays with his prophetic mission, even at times when he starts having little doubts, like when the predicted heavy rains do not come early on September 22, supposedly the day of the flood.

The two most important religious motifs that concern the vocation of Evan Baxter are Prophecy/Prophet and Faith. Evan Baxter’s true vocation is being a prophet of God. He is made to build an ark that will save people and animals when the flood comes. Before he becomes a prophet in the religious sense, he is someone whose job is to speak to people: from reading the news on local television to a political position, which of course needs him to convince and talk to people.

Therefore, it can be said that Evan Baxter does not have the same problem as Moses: “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10). However, Evan does experience the initial self-doubt like Moses: “And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee” (Exodus 4:1).

Although people during Biblical times seem to be more in touch with their spirituality, people do not at once believe that God has appeared to a human being, especially someone who is not known to be a priest or a religious elder. Before Evan can become a true prophet, he must accept his mission in faith. He must believe and not just act. Faith is important in that it makes Evan act freely; faith can be defined as believing without being given proof.

Evan will only see signs of an imminent flood at the same time other people will, but he must believe it will happen, and he must believe that God has a plan for him. In “Evan Almighty”, God has talked about the importance of freewill: “If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

” “Evan Almighty” is a family movie rich in laughs and special effects, but it is also a movie which is able to clarify what religious vocation is. Religious vocation is seen as something that must be accepted in faith despite other people’s perceptions. A person who has found his true vocation will ignore ridicule and the possibility of losing worldly possessions in order to pursue a heavenly mission.

Works Cited:

Evan Almighty. Dir. Tom Shadyac. Perf. Steve Carrel. 2007. The Holy Bible, King James Version.

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