If there is one movie worth reflecting on this Summer, it might be the First Purge. This is not necessarily a recommendation, mind you, the First Purge is not for those who cannot see it within the sense of this essay. However, it does show what a world without God looks like, in which virtues are of no interest and hatred, revenge and anarchy are the order of the night. That alone is not a reason to see it. The key element to it is that in the movie, it is all endorsed by the government.
As Catholics, we are called to the virtues of the Gospel, to love even enemies and to pray for them as well, to return a blessing instead of a curse. Christ calls us to a higher law than what is or is not legal. When we cast our true faith aside, then what is left is what you see in the Purge. Reportedly, Pope Pius V warned that Lukewarm Catholics are the reasons for the evils in the world. The Purge shows just what that looks like.
If you are not familiar with the series, the movies are about a manifestation of the United States in the near future. The ruling party called the New Founding Fathers, formed out of the collapse of the Republicans and Democrats, created an annual twelve-hour night of anarchy where all crime is legal. The reason? As a solution to crime, inflation and population. The Purge as it is now called allows people to take out their anger and passions and this cuts down on them doing it the rest of the year. It is reminiscent of The Lottery from Shirley Jackson, but on a metropolitan scale.
There are many parodies of the Purge series each one citing how impractical the whole concept is. Once you add up the property damage and visits to the emergency room to say nothing of funerals the following days, one has to ask, is any of this insured or is everyone on their own in fixing the damage? If you search YouTube, you will find a host of such videos each one demonstrating the many questions the concept of the Purge leaves out.
The Purge in all its forms is about materialism gone wrong. Materialism is the belief that all that matters is, well, matter. There is no spiritual world, just the material. If you want to see the anthem of this philosophy, ask Alexa or Google to play the song Imagine for you.
The concept of the Purge can only exist in a world where the people reject God as does Imagine, and try to build the perfect world by human standards. In fact, if there would be a slogan to the movement it could easily be Stalin’s “In order to build an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.”
This is no clearer than in the last manifestation of the series so far, a prequel which explains how it all began: The First Purge.
Before I go any further: I must warn you may find spoilers, in case you choose to watch the movie yourself.
Behind the Purge are some real ideas that invaded our own world.
The experiment takes place on Staten Island and is the only place where this “first purge” happens. Whether the producers try to or not, there is a clear message of the results from creating a world under a science only ethic.
Marisa Tomei, playing the social scientist in charge of “the experiment” predicts that once the peaceful participants cast aside their religious dogma then they will purge—let their passions go unbridled and mostly commit violence upon each other. I am sure I am not the only one immediately reminded of Senator Diane Feinstein’s complaint to Judge Amy Coney Barrett during her nomination hearing in the Senate. “The dogma lives loudly in you,” referring negatively to her Catholic faith.
The science only ethic grows as “purgers” who most represent the ruling party invade a church to kill all inside. This group of “purgers” are white and the church is an inner city black congregation so there are racial overtones. It highlights the eugenics movements against the poor and people of color and other factions to eliminate religion and its influence in the community.
The movie demonstrates to me the reality of a government that loses its morals, that excoriates religion and that seeks solutions in a science only ethic. That is a government that will weaponize civil authority for its own purposes. It brings me to the famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who reminded everyone that everything that happened in NAZI Germany was legal as is everything that happens in the Purge. Remember, Hitler’s government did have their own purge: Kristallnacht and that opened the door to the holocaust in which 14 million people died including 6 million Jews who were executed for being Jews. Millions of Catholics and other Christians also died in the Holocaust many for speaking out against the NAZI regime and that is just the Jews and Christians. There were many more groups.
A nation that seeks to eliminate religion, to cast out dogma and to build a political platform on reason without faith is one that can manipulate its people to believe anything. In fact, those who are most vocal against the purge in the movie are the Christians. The political force behind the purge seems to be living safely and securely far from the experiment and succumbing to Benjamin Franklin’s warning that those who seek “security over liberty deserve neither.”
Which brings me to the final point of the First Purge. History demonstrates that a government rooted in reason without faith creates a holocaust; faith without reason: an inquisition. In the case of the Purge the new government creates the former, while claiming to prevent the latter.
The First Purge is not about the future of the United States as much as a warning to the present. Make a political system that casts out faith and embraces only reason, build a political system on it and you can convince people that the purge is in their best interest. Actually, this happened before, many times before, that is after all the seeds of a genocide. Just ask the National Socialists and Communists of mid 20th Century Germany. Remember faith is about one thing: that our reason needs an input from that which is beyond our perception. In other words, all that exists in the universe is not necessarily all that one can perceive, we believe there is more.
The many saints who came out of the 20th century genocides, including Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko taught over and over again that the only way to fight evil is by doing good. That however, takes a firm grounding in Christ through faith and reason. Something beyond the New Founding Fathers, the National Socialists, the Communists and more.
If you go to see the Purge, be forewarned it is rated R mostly for violence. The USCCB rates it O for morally offensive.
Hopefully, you will realize the message that when we reject our Catholic dogma, rooted in faith and reason, we embrace anything and everything. The crazy will make sense for we will have lost our souls and our minds.