The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield, Free for CAPC Members
Butterfield isn’t proposing hospitality without personal boundaries, but hospitality that is open to having those boundaries widened for the sake of the gospel.
[su_note note_color=”#d5d5d5″ text_color=”#91201f”]On this 25th anniversary of the classic Christmas film, the Stations of Home Alone are theological meditations on iconic scenes from the story of a boy forgotten by his family and left to survive on his own. They are presented here as a way of reflecting more deeply on the spiritual reality of our shared humanity in the film and holiday season—whether we are left to ourselves or surrounded by those we love.[/su_note]
The McCallister family lives in a veritable cornucopia of plenty. Their house in a pricey Chicago suburban neighborhood is huge, with floors and rooms enough to swallow people whole, their larder is overflowing, the bank account allows for the entire clan to jet off to Paris for the holidays — the ultimate airline black out dates — to an apartment with views of the Eiffel Tower. The sense of abundance extends to the family itself, whose members are so numerous that even the mother loses track of one of them, the baby of the family: Kevin McCallister, who is inadvertently left home alone while the family heads to Paris.Nightime has fallen at the McCallister house, but it is not a silent one.
Kevin has spent every one of his eight years free of want, yet this is not enough for him. His family, from the nasty encounters he has with brother Buzz, to his father, who only notices Kevin in order to ignore him, are the boy’s oppressors. The excessive material comforts surrounding Kevin only serve to frustrate him, since, when it comes to fully indulging in the glories of being rich — in playing with his brother’s toys, in eating all the cheese pizza he could stuff in his face — other people are in the way. Kevin can’t do what he wants, and he is really mad about it.
So when he discovers that he is home alone, that his own family has departed and left him behind, he doesn’t spiral into despair. Why would he? His oppressors have left! And they have left him with all their stuff, plus some cash. So Kevin pretends to be a family unto himself. He is the father, making his first attempts at independent hygiene, experiencing the masculine rite of passage of applying aftershave. He is the mother, going grocery shopping and quizzing the cashier at check out about the quality of the product and its nutritious content. He is the kid again, trashing the house and ordering all the cheese pizza he wants. Finally, he is humanity itself: man alone, at the edge of civilization, beating back the wilderness. The wilderness shows up in the persons of two greedy, thieving criminals — filthy animals, really — who have been casing the McCallister house, planning to thoroughly rob it of all its contents. The two thieves, Harry and Marv, want to take all the material goods the McCallister family possesses, all the acquired plenty, and run off with it, leaving Kevin without any stuff, which would mean he is really, truly, home alone.
Kevin responds to the threat, doing what any self-respecting American would do: he fights them off. Violently. Fire, ice, broken glass, tar and mayhem: Kevin is master of it all. And he can draw a charming battle plan with his crayons to boot. Kevin McCallister may just look like your average, sour-faced 8-year-old kid, but in reality he is the ultimate product of 250 years of American can-do spirit. If you try to take what is ours, you’re gonna pay for it.
And this is the secret to Kevin’s success. It’s not that he learned that he really loves his family, that he needs them even, though that is a fine lesson to learn. He realized that at the heart of every civilized creature, surrounded by the spoils of the good life — a soft bed, pizza galore, entertainment systems, and on and on — is something wild, something ready to go to war over who will take possession of these spoils. It’s an impulse that overwhelms Kevin’s other impulses: that moment in the church where he goes seeking divine intervention, that moment in the park where he could have sought intervention from the state, but instead runs from the policeman.
All those scenes of holiday pleasure, the ice skating in the park, the children singing sweetly in the choir in that old stone church are replaced by scenes of Kevin, preparing for engagement. The action moves from a soundtrack of refined choral music to the screech of electric guitars: Mozart meets Mad Max. Nightime has fallen at the McCallister house, but it is not a silent one. Our hero is at war, the beast within him emerges, and the beast wins. For a time anyway, until Kevin’s family noisily returns and all is as it was, only better, with the veneer of civilization falling over everything like a gloriously thick curtain. The battlefield has cleared, all that remains is a single gold tooth, the one Harry lost in one of the many violent skirmishes. Kevin’s father picks it up and examines it, puzzled about where this gleaming nugget came from. Does he pocket it? I can’t remember, but it would make sense for him to take it, and keep it, just before heading to his warm, expansive kitchen, where his young son waits, exhausted and exhilarated from being home alone.
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