[Ancient Faith Radio; June 8, 2007]

This movie theater here, the Muvico 24, is just south of Baltimore, and it’s such a hoot. I don’t know too much about this company, the chain of Muvico theaters, but they build their theaters to have these grandiose themes, and this one is Egyptian temple, that’s the theme we have going on here. As you approach this 24-auditorium theater, there are these huge columns with big capitols on top. Everything looks like it’s destroyed, like it’s in ruins. It all has cracks painted into it, Egyptian figures going around these columns. I’m guessing there’s about 20 columns with black bases and then the ‘sandstone’ rising up above that. Huge multi-colored panels and snake heads and all kinds of crazy things.

I know that that is how movie theaters were frequently built in the 20’s, when movie going was first becoming a really popular thing to do, that they created these movie palaces that were very gilded and elaborate. I admire the Muvico people for putting a little imagination into it, but it’s still strange because it relates to nothing, it has no organic meaning. It’s certainly not done for the ages. The construction’s kind of shoddy.

Terry Mattingly, the writer, is a member of our church and he stands behind me in choir, so I know Terry pretty well. He told me that where he was living in Palm Beach, there was another Muvico theater, and that one had the theme the Palace of Versailles. So who knows? There is no limit.

The main thing I was thinking about this, though, is that it is so elaborately crafted and designed to look like ruins, but a lot of this stuff is just made out of foam, it appears. Some kind of yellow foam that’s been mashed into different shapes, and then spray-painted different colors. After maybe four or five years here (this is a pretty new theater), the foam has started to disintegrate; it’s crumbling around the fake cracks, real cracks are appearing, and the birds are digging into the foam and digging out chunks of it and creating places to make nests for themselves. So there’s some true destruction going on amidst this decorative fake destruction.

As you approach the entrance to the theater, there’s a statue of a human figure with the head of a dog; it is the god Anubis. There is now a metal fence around him because I guess people were climbing up on him and they had to put up a fence to keep people off of Anubis. I could imagine some of my Christian friends getting very spooked by this and thinking, ‘I don’t’ want to walk into a place that has an actual foreign god outside of it.’

I’m thinking about a friend of mine in seminary who went to see the King tut exhibit way back in the 70’s, and she said she sort of had that feeling at first, as she looked at all of these Egyptian gods and goddesses. Looking at the statues that sacrifices had been made to and she wondered, ‘Is there still spiritual power associated with this? Are these statues of evil spirits, and is it dangerous to be among them?’ And then she remembered that the main thing these spirits were supposed to do, these gods and goddesses, was to protect Tutankhamen so that nobody would be able to get into his tomb. Not only had they not been able to do that, but now everything was on display, everything had been dug up, and put into museums and brightly lit, and noted and exposed completely to the public. So whatever spirits or gods or goddesses these were, they didn’t have very much power. So she felt comforted by that thought.

And as I look at Anubis here, I’m seeing how sparrows are alighting on his ears and there’s little streaks of white all over it, so I don’t think he’s a god that we have to be afraid of.

A few years ago, I was speaking to my spiritual father, Father George Calciu, who didn’t know a lot about American religion and Evangelicalism, and I told him that there was a church in Canada that believed they were having an extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and one of the things that it resulted in was called holy laughter. People would get down on the floor and laugh and laugh and be unable to stop laughing, and they were also barking like dogs, another one of the things that the Holy Spirit was supposedly doing in this church.

And when I said that, about people believing that they were barking in the Spirit, right away Father George said, “It is the spirit of Anubis.” Anubis, the dog-headed god of the Egyptians. So I thought that was pretty quick. He was a smart guy, my Father George. He died last November, but even in English, which was far from his best language, he was a pretty quick thinker.

This is the busiest movie theater in the nation. There are twenty-four auditoriums, and they do more traffic than any other movie theater; more people buy tickets here every week than any other movie theater in America, so it’s a very busy place. And as we walk in past the giant columns, these huge columns, you can see all the little holes in them and the birds flying in and out. Isn’t that like Ozymandias? The mighty Ozymandias. ‘Look on my works, ye mighty and despair.’ Of course, if you build out of foam, you can’t expect it to last very long.

I was coming out of the movie theater, outside to my car. And as I went by the statue of Anubis, there was this gang of teenagers, they must be here on a field trip or something, and they saw somebody from the concessions, still in her uniform, was taking a break, so they asked her to take a picture of them in front of Anubis, with the cell phone. So concession girl got up and the teens all gathered and put their arms around each others’ shoulders and grinned, and the girls tipped their heads toward each other, like they do, and above them is this towering, dark figure with no visible eyes, just all black, looking quite grim, with a massive fist curled at his side and his staff at the other, striding forward—inside his little tiny cage so the teenagers won’t climb on him. And all the teenagers giggled and smiled as their picture was taken.

I don’t know. I don’t know what to make of that, but it was worth noticing.

About Frederica Mathewes-Green

Frederica Mathewes-Green is a wide-ranging author who has published 10 books and 800 essays, in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, and the Wall Street Journal. She has been a regular commentator for National Public Radio (NPR), a columnist for the Religion News Service,, and Christianity Today, and a podcaster for Ancient Faith Radio. (She was also a consultant for Veggie Tales.) She has published 10 books, and has appeared as a speaker over 600 times, at places like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Cornell, Calvin, Baylor, and Westmont, and received a Doctor of Letters (honorary) from King University. She has been interviewed over 700 times, on venues like PrimeTime Live, the 700 Club, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Mathewes-Green, in Johnson City, TN. Their three children are grown and married, and they have fourteen grandchildren.

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