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 THE LEGEND OF BAGGAR VANCE 

Themes: Beauty, Affliction, Redemption, The Kingdom of God

BEAUTY

Before the War:  
Savannah is the Garden of Eden. Junah is Adam. Adele is Eve. This is the symbol of a beautiful world.

Junah is such a successful golfer that "He won just about everything". It appeared effortless and was certainly expected that he would always win. Junah believed his destiny was to lead the young men of Savannah into battle and be rewarded the crown and the glory. 

AFFLICTION

The Fall:  
War symbolizes "the fall of man" (Genesis 3).  Darkness covers the land, and Junah is trapped in the dark woods. He is separated from God, his destiny, and also himself. A deep depression envelops him.

Depression represents the spread of the fall to the entire world.  Everyone is affected by it. Junah returns to Savannah carrying his suitcase, symbolic of all the spiritual and emotional "baggage" he now carries.

We then have the scene of the death of Adele's father - there is a sunset, then ashes. The beauty is gone, and Eden is lost. Adele wakes up and says, "Oh Jesus, I've died and gone to hell". 

Fallen World:  
Krewe Island represents man's attempt to create his own Eden. In order to manufacture this perfect world, immortals are required. So, Adele brings the gods of the golfing world, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagin, to Krewe Island. Everything from their speech, their actions, even the color of their clothing represents the dark and light. Just like the angels of light and dark forces, they are a reflection of good and bad.

Since Eden was created for man, man must have a representative. In this case, it would have to be someone from Savannah.  That representative is Junah.

The Recruitment of Junah:  
Hardy, the young boy, has found Junah drinking. Junah tells Hardy that drinking kills the brain cells, and  "the hardest to kill are the memory cells". Man has a memory of Eden; he knows he was created to live in something greater than the fallen world. He needs a larger story in which to live.

Savannah's leaders come to Junah and quote part of Isaiah 11:6. The entire verse is significant:

"And the wolf will dwell with the lamb
And the leopard will lie down with the goat,
The calf and the lion and the yearling together; 
and a little boy will lead them."

This is the restoration of the Kingdom of God.

Twice Junah tells Adele, "I've lost my swing". His golf swing is a metaphor for self; in other words, he knows he has lost himself. This is the true condition of fallen man - disconnected from God, from his destiny, and from himself.

REDEMPTION

Hope Enters:  
The first time we see Baggar Vance, he appears out of the darkness (John 1:5) carrying a suitcase. When Junah questions Baggar's purpose, Baggar replies "I am just taking in God's glory".  He states, "Got to help him (Junah) find his swing - somewhere in harmony of all that was, is, and will be". He's got to help Junah find himself, but more importantly, to find the harmony of God's eternal kingdom.

Baggar Vance knows that "a storm is coming". As Junah prepares to flee the situation, Baggar takes Junah's shoes, puts them on, and says, "You won't be needing these shoes".  For the rest of the movie, Baggar walks in Junah's shoes. 

All the common people gather around Junah, symbolizing that they see him as being their representative.

There is a scene at night with Baggar Vance and Hardy that truly is one of the most beautiful in the film. Baggar, who we now know is the Christ figure, is explaining the kingdom of God to a child.  With the innocence of a child, Hardy's heart is so open to this message (Matthew 18:3). "God is happiest when all His children are at play"

Tournament of Life:  
The time has come for the Krewe Island Golf Tournament. It contains all the elements of a Medieval jousting match. The three knights (golfers) each have a "king" in the guise of a newspaper reporter that promotes and supports them. The greatest of these reporters is Grantland Rice, who is there to promote Junah. He has traveled all the way from New York because once, long ago, he saw Junah play and he could not wait to see him again. 

This is a metaphor of God the Father, coming all the way from Heaven, wanting to see the restoration of this lost son (Luke 15:11-32).

Junah and Walter Hagin have a meeting - a temptation scene. Life has no meaning (Eden is gone), and people want entertainment. Hagin suggests, "Why not come with me and sell yourself?" But Junah has lost himself, his true self.  He has nothing, no "product" to promote.

The Movie's Three Pivotal Conversations:

Baggar Vance is with Junah in the locker room during the tournament. He talks of overcoming adversity. "The Junah you was ain't ever going to be again." This signifies that the Adam of Eden is gone forever. Junah says that all there is to life "is you're born, you live, you die alone" (the story of the fallen world in a sentence). To which Baggar replies, "That's the saddest, dumbest story I've ever heard of." Because Baggar knows the true story; he knows there is hope.

Junah is talking with Hardy in the locker room. The boy is embarrassed by his father's menial job. Junah chastises him about his pride and shows him the goodness of his father's humility. Little Hardy's discourse on the game of golf is a beautiful statement of life. "It's fun, it's hard. You can even call a penalty on yourself (a symbol of confession and repentance). There's no other game like it."

Baggar Vance takes Junah and shows him "the field of play". This is another significant moment in the film. At just the right time, Baggar opens the eyes of Junah to see another dimension, the Kingdom of God right in our midst. Everything else fades away. Baggar points Junah's attention to the flag on the green and says, "You've been looking at that flag like a dragon you've got to slay". That is life lived in the flesh, a life of relying on self, a life without God.

Salvation of Junah: 
This is the most important scene in the movie. Junah must renter the woods. Again, the words of Baggar Vance are the key. He tells Junah, "The burden you've been carrying, it's time to lay it down (burden and baggage = sin). Junah asks, "How?" He has finally come to the realization that he cannot continue on his own. Junah asks the key question we must all ask at some point in our lives. And what is Baggar's answer? "Start walking back to where you have always been - just a moment ago, where we all started from (the eternal heart of God). Come out of the shadows. Play the game you were meant to play (that is the destiny God gave you before the foundation of the world). I've been with you all along" (Matt 11:28). Suddenly! Light comes into the woods (John 1:4), and Junah walks out into the light.

At the point where Junah calls a penalty on himself (symbolizing repentance), Baggar Vance can leave. He no longer has a suitcase because he has left what he brought with Junah.

He has also touched Hardy's life in such a dramatic way that at the end of the movie Hardy says about the "game" (which is life), "Can't be won, only played. So I go on looking for my place in the field" (the kingdom of God).

The final scene depicts a beautiful symbol of the resurrection and Christ waiting for us when Hardy dies and Baggar Vance is there waving him on.

HEART LESSONS
The Golf Clubs

Grace:  
The golf club that Baggar had is a symbol of grace. You must receive it, you cannot just take it. Taking it nullifies grace. Baggar Vance had clubs that no one knew of, for example, the driving iron. The clubs symbolize all that God has for us to make the shot we need to make. He will give us the right one at the right time. When Junah takes it on his own, he can do nothing (John 15:5). 

"We all live off His generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, this endless knowing and understanding all this came through Jesus, the Messiah" (The Message by Eugene Peterson). 

The Dance:
"The dance" serves as a lovely metaphor for life in the Kingdom of God (See C. S. Lewis's Perelandra). Notice how Junah and Adele dance at the beginning of the movie. (This is before the fall, while it is still Eden). At the end of the movie, they dance once more (after the garden is restored). During the movie, however, when asked to take a picture together during a dance - the music stops - and they cannot dance. When Junah and Adele, believing their romance has ended, ask each other, "What was it you liked about us?" They both respond, "I liked the way we danced." 

The Virtues: Junah loses all four cardinal virtues:

    Prudence (wisdom)

    Justice (integrity)

    Temperance (self-control)

    Fortitude (courage)

But God surrounds him with the three Christian virtues:

    Faith (Hardy has faith in him)

    Hope (The hope Baggar gives him)

    Love (The love of Adele)

These three virtues work together to help bring about Junah's restoration.

Scriptures:

Matthew 11:28
Luke 15:11-32
Matthew 18:3
I Corinthians 13
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