Rector's Blog: Dumpuary
I want to tell you about a magical time of year called Dumpuary.
But first let me set the scene. Let’s talk about movies. For a movie to be eligible for an Oscar in 2023, it needs to be released theatrically for at least a week in 2022. Those are the rules. What is not a rule, but has come to be seen as common wisdom, is that if you want your movie to be taken seriously for Oscar consideration, you want to release it near the end of the year. The idea basically is you don’t want people to forget the movie you made by nomination time. You want your special brilliant movie to be fresh in the minds of the Academy voters as they prepare their ballots.
This has come to mean that most of the non-action non-blockbuster movies, the artier fare with the more classically dynamic performances, come out in the Fall – and we call this the Fall Movie Season. Prestige time.
There are other movie seasons. You know Summer Movie Season as the time of the blockbuster, the big budget popcorn movie. The inaugural date was June 20, 1975, when Jaws was released. Prior to that, there was no specifically “right” time to put out an expensive crowd pleaser. But prior to Jaws, no theatrical release had ever grossed $100 million dollars either. So when Jaws happened, the Summer Movie Season was born.
And then there’s Dumpuary.
Dumpuary is a term coined by the now defunct pop-culture website Grantland. This movie season runs through January and February, basically post-holiday, pre-Oscar time. It’s during this time that studios dump the movies they wonder why they made, their least promising works. It’s a strange mix of smaller, cheaper movies that might just make some money during a dry moviegoing season, and larger movies that should’ve been a big deal but turned out poorly, and the studio has to release them anyway. Hence Dumpuary. It is just an awful time to go to the movies.
In case you were wondering if we are currently in Dumpuary, the movies that are being released in theaters this week look like this: The Devil Conspiracy, in which a biotech company made up of secret satanists uses the Shroud of Turin to try to clone Jesus and offer him up to the Devil. No, I am not kidding. Also opening is a reboot of the 90’s hip-hop comedy House Party, and an action movie about a plane called, well, “Plane.” This, my friends is Dumpuary.
But I’m a priest, not a movie critic, so we should talk about Jesus – and not the cloned one from that Devil Conspiracy movie.
The church is now in a season we call Epiphany, but between you and me we treat it sort of like Christian Dumpuary. It’s really just that time between Christmas and Lent. Everyone is still coming down from the holidays. Winter weather stopped being charming last week. The days are getting longer but not quickly enough. In Cincinnati it’s cold but there’s no snow. So it’s just gray. Church attendance is hit or miss. People seem to just be biding their time and recovering from the end of last year. It can be a season of struggle for some, a time of planning and dreaming about the summer for others.
But I think this is an important season for us. I think Dumpuary is necessary – even when the movies are bad.
Throughout this time, the Biblical readings in our worship emphasize moments of epiphany – that is to say, we see glimpses of who Jesus really is, his character, his personality, his divinity, his purpose. It’s fascinating to me that this revelation of Jesus’ glory shows up in the midst of our gloom. And it would be natural to say (and has been said many times) that this glory in the gloom is meant to give us a light and hope to drag us through the drabness. But what if Dumpuary is necessary? What if coming down and recovering and needing some slowness and dark days and experiencing our own tiredness and some sadness and malaise is not something from which we need to be rescued? What if it’s a natural part of the cycle? What if that’s part of our humanity?
Because if Dumpuary is just a part of being a person, then Jesus is there too. Not just as a beacon to get us through, but as the living incarnation of God, sitting here with us as we are and loving us right here in this space. Yes Jesus is our savior, but does that mean saving us is the only thing Jesus ever does? Can’t he also simply be with us? By our side, sharing our life, loving our humanity?
Jesus is in the hope and excitement of Christmas, of course. And the repentance of Lent helps us to recognize the ways we need Jesus. And the magnificent triumph of the Resurrection merits our bombastic joy and wailing hallelujah. But our lives are not a highlight reel or an extended Oscar season. They are mundane too, thank God. And Jesus is at home in our mundane lives. We are often encouraged to see Jesus in the significant moments, as well we should. But I believe the work of the Christian is also seeing Jesus in the day to day – not as a mere means of transforming the quotidian into something exciting. The epiphany of Jesus’ glory in the slow, quiet, drab times is essential because it is here that we can begin to see even Dumpuary as holy.
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