The Trotsky: Boredom or Apathy?

You may not have even heard of the movie The Trotsky. It is about a teenager in Montreal who believes he is the reincarnation of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. After trying to start a union at his father’s factory, he is sent to public school instead of boarding school as punishment. Not too surprisingly, he sees the crack-down style of the principal and vice-principal and decides that they need a union of students who can contribute to their own education. Humour and conflict ensues as those in power resist the idea as being ridiculous.

The defining question of the movie is this: boredom or apathy? Leon first sees this question written by another student passing notes in class and it comes out throughout the movie. The difference is explained this way:

Apathy is the state of not caring, boredom is merely a slumber from which they can be aroused.

Maybe unionizing students so that they can object to unfair detentions makes it easy to overlook the value of this question. It’s something that is very much facing the Western world, and I’ll narrow in specifically on the Western church. Are we bored, just needing something to wake us up to look more like the radical life-giving Jesus again? Or are we apathetic and we should just scrap the whole thing?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the Millennial exodus from the Church (in the West). I think that a lot of it could come down to how those Millennials answer that question about the church. Many who genuinely do care about Jesus have decided that the Church is apathetic, is causing them more harm than good, and so have given up and left. Others, like me, have concluded that the Church is merely bored and has stubbornly stuck around trying to wake people up.

In the movie’s first attempt at a strike, it seems that the students actually are apathetic. The Principal even declared this truth as the students essentially treat the walk-out as another recess. In my high school years, there were a couple of very similar walk-outs where nobody actually cared but took the excuse to get out of class.

We can see similar trends in the Church sometimes. If somebody brings up a concern and it gets swept under the rug, it leads people to believe that the Church is apathetic and so they may as well give up. When the Church doesn’t look at all like Jesus and doesn’t even seem to care about looking like Jesus, it leads people to conclude apathy. Maybe those people leaving still maintain some kind of individualized faith and maybe not, but in either case the Church universal suffers because of it.

It turned out that the students were only bored. They fully admitted that there was a problem but didn’t really think it was worth the risks to do anything about it. It took a prophetic voice of sorts – Leon and the other main characters who joined him – to wake them up. But wake up they did, and it led to a powerful conclusion of solidarity speaking against their “oppression.”

Fortunately, I have seen enough to come to believe that large portions of the Church are also only bored. Many of us have settled for a comfortable Christianity. That Christianity creates a nice little bubble that we don’t want to leave, and we often kick and scream when people try to pull us away from our comfortable little rut. It may not be the best way of life possible and we often even acknowledge that, but it is good enough that it just doesn’t seem worth the effort to make it better.

The church’s prophetic voices seem to be becoming more and more frequent, from the grassroots level all the way up to Archbishops and Popes. In other words, in my opinion, the Church is waking from its slumber of boredom. It may take some time and it will definitely take a lot of risk. There are always those who do not want us to wake up and they will fight by every mean’s possible to keep us from doing so. But it is time for us to wake up, stop settling for comfortable Christian religion, and join the Jesus revolution.

Wake up sleeper
Rise from the dead
and Christ will shine on you
(Ephesians 5:14 NIV)

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.