Dream Crushers: Citizen Kane and the Preacher of Ecclesiastes
If you are anything like me you enjoy a well-done, thought provoking, and depressing movie. In fact, when I stop and think about it most of my favorite movies end up with the main character dying in the end. Citizen Kane is one such movie except that it begins at the end with the death of Charles Foster Kane. The remainder of the movie is a quest to find the meaning to his final words, “Rosebud,” as various people whom he left behind give account of his life from their varying perspectives.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes is not unlike Charles Foster Kane. In this world they share successes, pleasures, accomplishments, and wealth beyond measure. They seek to answer the question, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Yet, in the end both find it all vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes and Citizen Kane speak to our human condition in this fallen world. It is a message that critiques the false gods of our modern culture and the false dreams of every human heart.
In his sermon on the Preacher’s failed pleasures in this life Pastor Tim said, “Ecclesiastes is depressing because we are in desperate need of having our dreams crushed.” Charles Foster Kane and the Preacher of Ecclesiastes are dream crushers. They both begin life with such promise and hope for having every dream in this life fulfilled. Yet, in the end neither find any fulfillment in the things of this world. Death looms and even a life of success and many worldly accomplishments are seen as a striving after wind. What was the purpose of it all?
In his commentary on Ecclesiastes Craig Bartholomew says:
Consumerism…is the dominant ideology of our age, and central to consumerism is the quest for pleasure through possessions and experience. The heroes of Western culture have multiple houses, accumulate phenomenal wealth, and are able to buy all the pleasures of life they desire…Thus pleasure attained through alcohol, sex, multiple residences, music, and art have become the Good of our day. Yet the quest for fulfillment and meaning remains as elusive as ever. Depression has become so common that some are calling our age the “age of melancholy”…To this context Qoholet’s (the Preacher) test of pleasure and his decisive NO to its effectiveness speaks powerfully. Central to the problem of hedonism is its idolatry--pleasure is a creational good but hedonism seeks in pleasure what can be found only in the Creator…Qohelet is attempting to recover meaning and even paradise by playing God.
Seeking pleasure in creation rather than the Creator is nothing new. Humans have been attempting to play god since our first parents. Yet, to our age the Preacher’s and Charles Foster Kane’s message is especially helpful. The American Dream continues to promise fulfillment and satisfaction just around the corner and so millions continue to walk down this path with their dreams still intact. Yet, Charles Foster Kane reminds us that even with the American Dream accomplished fulfillment and meaning remain elusive. Mansions, sex, career accomplishments, power, and influence are not enough to fill the hole in his heart. So, on his death bed he utters one word, “Rosebud.” A throw back to his childhood. Perhaps the last time in his life he was truly happy. A time before he believed in the promise of the American Dream. A dream that in the end goes up in smoke.
To us the Preacher and Charles Foster Kane say, “Don’t wait until your death bed to realize you were chasing a false dream. Don’t waste your life striving after the wind.” We are in desperate need of having our dreams crushed. The sooner they are crushed the sooner we will seek satisfaction, fulfillment, and meaning in the only One who can give it. Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to give us hope beyond this fallen world. In him we are reconciled to God. We no longer have to play god but are freed to come to the one true God. In him we will find life, joy, meaning, and dreams more satisfying than anything this world has to offer. Jesus Christ has recovered meaning and paradise for us. Stop playing god. Let the Preacher crush your dreams.
– Joshua Moffit
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” - Matthew 6:19–21