It’s a Wonderful Life: Frank Capra’s Worldview Masterpiece

Part 5 of:  Hollywood and Higher Education: Teaching Worldview Through the Stories We Live By

Like George Bailey and Ricky Gervais, we all eventually find ourselves wondering: Is there a reward for knowing and trying to do the right thing? (Either in heaven or on earth) Or, is it all a waste of time?

by Gary David Stratton • Senior Editor

“Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer.” – Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais’s God jokes as host of  the last two Golden Globe Awards and his Wall Street Journal essay, “Why I’m An Atheist” provide perfect backdrops for examining one of Hollywood’s most famous attempts to defend Theism–It’s a Wonderful Life.  (Plus, it is one of my All-Time Favorite Christmas Movies.)

Hollywood legend Frank Capra made It’s a Wonderful Life specifically to, in his words, “combat a modern trend toward atheism.” [1] This certainly appears to make Gervais his ideal target audience. Yet, Capra’s approach to combating atheism was in no way as simplistic as one would expect. It’s a Wonderful Life is not only one of the best Christmas movies of all time, it is also a remarkable example of using worldview conflict to construct a compelling story… and live a wonderful life. Students seeking to understand worldview and filmmakers seeking to make culture-influencing movies would be wise to pay careful attention.

Currently #20 on the presitigious American Film Academy's Top 100 All Time Movies

Currently #20 on the prestigious American Film Academy’s Top 100 All Time Movies

Ironically, much like its main character, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), It’s a Wonderful Life entered midlife as an apparent failure.[2] Before its release, Capra believed it to be his greatest film. However, after a disappointing box office, and a complete shut out at the Oscars,[3] Liberty Films didn’t even bother to renew the copyright for “Capra’s masterpiece” when it expired in 1974.

This lapse in judgment proved to be precisely the angelic intervention It’s a Wonderful Life needed. Television networks turned to the now public domain (i.e. “free”) film to fill their desperate need for cheap programming in the slow holiday season. Soon “a whole new generation of movie-lovers fell in love with the previously-obscure release.” [4] Capra had the last laugh when the film grew to become a beloved classic, now regarded by the American Film Institute as one of the 20 best films ever made.

Much of the greatness of It’s a Wonderful Life stems from Capra’s deliberate use of worldview conflict in the film. (Don’t worry, I won’t ruin your Christmas buzz with a bunch of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but this first part is important). When philosophers speak of a “worldview” they actually mean more than one thing: micro-worldviews and macro-worldviews.[5]

At the micro level, a worldview is a description of the stories that shape the principles that support the conventions that an individual uses to make their daily decisions. (See, Casablanca and the Four Levels of Worldview). The problem is, nobody’s worldview is actually “personal.” While we each have unique experiences that form the backbone of the “story of our life,” we interpret these experiences through the stories transmitted to us by our larger cultures.[6] (See, Crash Goes the Worldview). Our personal micro-worldview rests within concentric circles of larger and larger macro-worldviews. In other words, (1) my (micro) worldview rests mostly within, (2) my family’s (slightly less micro) worldview, which rests mostly within (3) my sub-culture’s (even less micro) worldview, and (4) my current society’s (more macro) worldview, and (5) my historic civilization’s (macro) worldview.

While it is a gross oversimplification, you could say that the history of Western civilization has been comprised of the interplay of two key macro-worldviews: what I will call physicalism and idealism.

The ‘Box’ of Physicalism

Legendary Physicalist, Carl Sagan, “The universe is all there is and all there will ever be.”

Physicalism is a macro worldview that roots our understanding of reality in the physical world.[7] Physicalism starts with what you can see, feel, touch, and taste as the only “really real” things in the world.[8] If you can measure something’s length, weigh its mass, or quantify it in some way, then it is a reliable source of knowledge.

The worldview of physicalism can best symbolized by a BOX, because in physicalism the “closed system” of the material universe is pretty much all you can rely on. You can extrapolate from sense perceptions of the visible universe to a “spiritual” world, but every effect in the physical universe owes its existence to a cause within the physical universe. As cosmologist and the original host of Cosmos (PBS) put so eloquently, “The universe is all there is and all that there will ever be.”

This makes physicalism perfect for scientific experimentation. A laboratory technician wouldn’t be able to maintain a proper relationship between experimental variables if they had to account for factors from outside the physical universe messing with their data.  A medical researcher who used ‘angelic intervention’ as a factor in studying the effects of an antibiotic on staph infections would be laughed out of the scientific community. Good experiments require the “closed box” provided by physicalism.

Ricky Gervais’ Wall Street Journal essay is a beautiful example of using the logic of scientific physicalism to defend a broader philosophical proposition-namely atheism. Ricky explained the rationale for his lack of faith by asserting, “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe… (Science) bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence…” By “hard” evidence, Ricky means things you can touch, taste, see, and measure.  If there is no “hard” physicalist evidence for God, then he won’t believe it. It is a common position for modern physicalists (more below.)

The ‘Circle’ of Idealism

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) the transcendental idealist: "All human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to concepts, and ends with ideas.”

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) the transcendental idealist: “All human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to concepts, and ends with ideas.”

Idealism is a worldview that roots our understanding of reality in the world of ideas, values, spirits, and/or gods. Idealism starts with what you cannot see, touch, taste, see or feel as the only “really real” things in the world. You can’t weigh a pound of love, or measure a mile of justice, or put a soul in a beaker, yet idealists view these intuited unseen ideals as what really matters. As Immanuel Kant asserted, “All human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to concepts, and ends with ideas.”

The worldview of idealism is best symbolized by a CIRCLE. Normally this circle surrounds the box of the physical universe, because in idealism the physical universe exists within the broader field of unseen realities.[9] This makes idealism perfect for, say, artists and lovers. Everyone “knows” that beauty and love are what make life worth living, even if you can’t quantify them. To reduce love to mere chemical reactions, or art to the properties of sculptor’s materials is neither romantic, inspiring, nor “real.”

Idealists look beyond the hard realities of the physical world and point to something they view as much more “real.” When the Beatles sing, “All you need is love,” or Jean Valjean declares in Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God,” they are giving voice to an idealist worldview. They are not appealing to hard physical evidence, but to an ideal so ‘intuitively true’ they need no “proof.” When Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” or MLK declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” they were appealing to truth claims beyond the physical world and calling others toward them as ultimate realities.

A 2500-Year War

The struggle between these two worldviews is at least as old as the study of philosophy. Plato (and later Augustine and Kant) advocated for idealism, while Aristotle (and later Aquinas and Hume) sided with physicalism.  Neither side ever scored a decisive victory, yet the philosophical underpinnings of each era of Western history can often be described by the relationship between the two at a given cultural moment.

George Bailey: The young idealist years

For over 2000 years, Muslims, Jews, and Christians used both Idealism and Physicalism to support their faith. For Christians, the Hebraic worldview Jesus inherited from his Jewish heritage was more or less free from the dualism of having to choose between these two sources of knowledge. Truth was found both in the invisible God and in his visible creation. Faith-building and culture-making were therefore two sides of the same coin.

However, as the early church became less and less Jewish and more and more Greek, dualism began to plague the church. Idealism held the upper hand in ancient Greco-Roman society and nearly overwhelmed early Christianity with a radical form of Idealism known as Gnosticism. Augustine and other key thinkers restored sanity through a more moderate form of Idealism that helped salvage Christianity when the Roman empire fell. Physicalism began to gain serious traction in Middle Ages when both Muslims and Christians (such as Aquinas) began to use Aristotle’s physicalist philosophy to defend their faith. While increasingly disconnected by the “either-or” dualism of Greek thought, both idealism and physicalism remained key elements of both a God-centered view of the world as well as a number of attempts to support atheism.

The Rise of Radical Skepticism

Unfortunately, the Enlightenment gave birth to a “pervasive and astringent skepticism” that began to “dissolve” both Physicalism and Idealism (and any hope of reconnecting them.) [10] Physicalists lost confidence first in their sense perceptions, and then in their ability to extrapolate from the physical world into the spiritual. Idealists began to doubt that their own thoughts and intuitions were anything more than their own inventions (or the inventions of their community) so that there was no spiritual world “out there” only my own ideas and perspectives “in here.”

To skeptical Physicalists like Mr. Potter, the Idealistic world is nothing but, “Sentimental hogwash!”

Skepticism quickly demoted Idealism to the ranks of second class truth, enthroning a weakened and highly dualistic form of Physicalism at the center of Western thought. When a modern Westerner says that something is objectively true, we mean that it is true from a Physicalist perspective. It is something that can be verified with the physical senses.

By contrast, when we say that something is subjectively true we mean that it is “merely” an ideal–something that an individual subject (person) holds to be true, but which cannot be physically verified. Ideals are therefore second class citizens in the world of truth. Idealist (subjective) knowledge has been assigned to the back of the bus as “private” knowledge. While physicalist (objective) knowledge is driving the bus of “public” knowledge.

A Comedian’s Circular (Logic) Dilemma

Whether he realizes it or not, this is exactly why Ricky Gervais, like many physicalist moderns, has to so much trouble with Theism–it simply doesn’t make any sense from his starting point of skeptical physicalism. When Gervais exclaims, “People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary,” he is giving voice to an extremely common view of faith.  Those damnable believers are appealing to knowledge derived from outside the realm of physical verifiability. Gervais continues,

“Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer.”

And he’s right, of course, at least from a skeptical physicalist perspective.  Which is precisely the problem. He’s right back to where he started.

He begins with the presupposition that your physical senses are the only thing you can only trust, and ends up right thinking that anyone who believes in something you can’t access with your physical senses is crazy. As Gervais explains, “I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me.” In skeptical physicalist thinking, ideals might be personally helpful to some, but as truth-claims they are, “Sentimental Hogwash!

George Bailey ponders his failure at Gervais’s ideals, “It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life.”

However, even Gervais has to resort to idealism to guide how he actually lives his life. The same skeptical physicalism that can be so helpful in a laboratory, can be an extremely unsatisfying way of life. As James Davidson Hunter explains, “radical skepticism leading to radical nihilism is, of course, rare… for the simple reason that it is unlivable.”  Even Gervais resorts to very Idealist and Intuitive (and therefore unprovable) concepts of ‘right’ and ‘good’ in order to direct his life: “My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life.”

Enter George Bailey

Which is, of course, exactly what George Bailey is striving for in It’s a Wonderful Life. Like Gervais, George Bailey only wants to live a good life here and now. However, like most of us in the postmodern world, the crushing realities of skeptical physicalism are squeezing the life out of our weakened idealism.

Like George Bailey (and Ricky Gervais), we all eventually find ourselves wondering: Is there a reward for knowing and trying to do the right thing? (Either in heaven or on earth) Or, is it all a waste of time? Like Gervaise, we simply cannot reconcile belief in God with the ideals of truth and honesty we strive for. Like George Bailey, we simply cannot reconcile the ideals for which we live with the harsh realities of our day-to-day existence.

Caught in the vise between nihilistic physicalism and sentimental idealism there seems to be nowhere to turn.  Which is, of course, exactly where Capra wants us.

Next: Capra’s Tale of a Depressed Idealist, It’s a Wonderful Life, Part 2

See also

Hollywood and Higher Education: Teaching Worldview Through Academy Award-winning Films

Casablanca and the Four Levels of Worldview: Why Everyone Meets at Rick’s 

Fiddler on the Roof: Worldview Change and the Journey to Life-Interpreting Story

Bungee-Jumping to Eternity: The Existential Angst of Dead Poets Society

Deep Culture: Is Winning an Oscar a Reliable Indicator of a Truly Great Film?

If you Live it, They Will Come: The Blind Side and Better Faith-Based Filmmaking

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Related Posts

Using Zombie Movies to Teach Politics, by Daniel W. Drezner

The Joker Is Satan, and So Are We: René Girard and The Dark Knight, by Charles Bellinger

Echoes of René Girard in the Films of Martin Scorsese: Scapegoats and Redemption on Shutter Island, by Cari Myers

Hitchcock and the Scapegoat: René Girard, Violence and Victimization in The Wrong Man, by David Humbert

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Notes


[1] Stephen Cox, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book (Nashville, Tenn: Cumberland House, 2003), p. 27.

[2] Frank Capra, Frances Goodrich, James Stewart, Donna Reed, et al, It’s a Wonderful Life (Hollywood, Calif: Paramount Home Entertainment, 2006).

[3] Failing to win even a single Oscar despite nominations in the five categories

[4] James Berardinelli, ReelMovies.net.

[5] Or rather, two ways of looking at the same thing.

[6] These society-wide macro worldviews exert a tremendous influence on our daily lives, even when we aren’t aware of them.

[7] How we know things, or “epistemology.”

[8] James W. Sire identifies nine macro worldviews currently influencing Western culture: predominantly physicalist worldviews, such as Naturalism, Nihilism, and Post-modernism; Predominantly idealist worldviews such as, Christian Theism, Islamic Theism and Eastern Pantheistic Monism, and hybrids, such as Existentialism, Deism, and the New Age movement. The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009).

[9] In worldviews such as Monism, the circle actually subsumes the box.

[10] See James Davidson Hunter’s masterful take on “dissolution” in To change the world: the irony, tragedy, and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 205-210.

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79 Responses to “It’s a Wonderful Life: Frank Capra’s Worldview Masterpiece”

  1. Elise harmsen Says:

    As a lot of you, I have never seen this movie from start to finish. It was great! I had no idea where this story was going to go and what an impact it would have on my life. I believe that I, like George, am an idealist. I can't imagine my life any different, however I have, on several occasions throughout my life questioned "why" these things were happening. This movie also caused me to think about how my family and friends would be affected if I was never born. I know that I have ungreatful thoughts on occasion, but I will now stop and think about all of the things that I have to be thankful for and what a wonderful life I have been given.

    • M Tacheny Says:

      That was something that I took away as well. I do value idealism and having goals to work towards, but there is also something very beautiful in gratitude for the things I do have. I would like to have more appreciation for the journey that has brought me here and the lives I have impacted in even some small way. Being too focused on things that haven't gone right may make us miss out on the good in the now.

  2. Melissa Latterner Says:

    What I learned from "It's a Wonderful Life" about idealism and physicalism is the impact that my words and actions have on my children. I can relate to the frustrations George felt at having his children under foot when he was trying to figure out how to get around the loss of $8,000.00. There have been times when I have been extremely agitated and yell out things I shouldn't. I always feel horrible afterwards and begin to reflect on the impact my words had on my children and how much more I've just corrupted them and then apologize. Surprisingly, this was the first time I ever watched this movie and not until I watched this movie did I ever wonder what impact my life has on those around me and what life would be like if I were never born. I certainly don't think an entire town would be changed, but I'm sure some paths of friends and family may have swerved in a different direction had I not been an influence.

    • Elise harmsen Says:

      I also can relate to the frustrations George was feeling, I don't have children but I am very involved in helping raise my niece. After watching this movie, I too realized how I yell out things that I shouldn't to her and what sort of impact it has.

    • Belinda Says:

      You are not alone Melissa! I react (perhaps sometimes overreact) to stress in ways that I'm sure impact others around me and realize later that I could have handled things better. But, I also know that I have done a fair share of good in this world that I'm proud of — some things just aren't immediately obvious. If you stop and think long enough, I bet you can come up with a pretty good list for the "wonderful" side. And like you, there are things I think I would gladly change, but my babies are keepers!

  3. Rose Jenkins Says:

    Being an Idealist George was able to hold on to his architectural dream and build Bailey Park. This accomplishment made people in the town respect him and wanted to help him in his time of need as he did for them in their time of need. I loved this movie and will watch it over and over again.

    • Cassandra Calamese Says:

      I consider myself a George Bailey, I have big dreams but I also realize that my actions have to be realistic in order to make it in this physicalist world. I will hold strong to my idealist views and continue to strive for them .

  4. Rose Jenkins Says:

    I watched the movie twice. I learned that now matter how you dream and wish for things to happen reality always find a way to smack you in the face. I never thought about how those around me lives would be affected if I was not included. After watching the movie and feeling some of George's pain and disappointments along with his accomplishment. I realize that I matter to so many people and I have a wonderful Life and will live each day that I am given to the fullest and by my own nature continue to help wherever I can.

  5. Andres Solano Paz Says:

    It was my first time watching the movie and I found it incredibly refreshing. Although George's life experiences anchor him to a reality far away from his idealistic life, George remains a dreamer. For a moment, George didn't realize that only a dreamer, an idealist, an explorer, could have remained optimistic against the adversities that he faced. His idealist spirit not only saved a business but it transcended the boundaries between him and his clients creating a bond of friendship and mutual appreciation. After watching the movie, I couldn't help but reflect upon my own life. It is refreshing to remind ourselves that friendship, love, humility and compassion are far more valuable than physical things such as money and social status.

    • Nate Rose Says:

      Andres, i was the same way after watching the movie. It really gets you to think about and understand the saying"money doesn't buy happiness". The movie shows you that true happiness is having friends and family and humility for others.

    • Elise harmsen Says:

      It was crazy to watch George go back and see what life would have been like if he were never born, and the actual effect that he had on so many peoples lives. It was refreshing for me to see George go through that type of experience and realize the great life he had.

    • Belinda Says:

      Very nicely said Andres!

    • Jennifer A. Says:

      I think you nailed it! Without his outlook on life he never would have made it, and it does make you pause for reflection. What would have happened had I not been here? Makes you re-evaluate a few things doesn't it?

  6. Tom Henderson Says:

    “My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life.” How noble of Gervais. What defines a “good life”, if there no higher power than man? The biggest draw for a naturalistic world view is the confidence that there is nobody to whom we are accountable, collectively or individually.

    Henry Potter’s words and actions clearly show his belief that the chief aim of man is to accumulate wealth and power. Potter’s values show not only a lack of compassion towards others, but a borderline psychopathic desire to keep the people in Bedford Falls in a lower economic caste. When there is nothing outside of the physical world to consider as a source of justice, then there is no reason to give any time or resources to help other people, unless it is somehow beneficial.

    George clearly believes in God. He prays when he needs help. When Clarence tells George that he’s an angel, George doesn’t state any disbelief in the supernatural. Most of all, George repeatedly voices a confidence that Potter will be subject to justice. Potter hasn’t done anything illegal, but has done many immoral acts. While George rebukes Potter, he never seeks revenge. George displays a belief that, in the end, evil will be dealt with by a higher power.

  7. Belinda Wieberdink Says:

    I forgot to include what I learned about this movie, about Idealism in particular. I guess since I can relate to George Bailey's character, that would make me somewhat of an idealist. Never really saw myself as one before, but there you go … self-discovery! I still have dreams of traveling the world. Not sure if that is the way my life will play out, but it would be interesting to have a chance to see what could be on a little journey with Clarence.

    • Nate Rose Says:

      I thought i related to George to, so i guess that makes me an idealist also. I think everyone could benefit from taking a trip with Clarence. I think i would open a lot of peoples eyes to how important there are to the people around them.

  8. Belinda Wieberdink Says:

    I've seen this movie, from beginning to end, almost every Christmas for the past 15 years or so. I still love it! George Bailey is great, so is Mary. I can relate to George's frustrations of not ever getting around to doing the great adventures he had dreamed. That's not to say that his contributions were not greater, but I get why he felt disappointed. It's not always easy to see the whole picture when you are just living your life. George, in his desperation, is given a unique opportunity to view the impact of his life and the void in the world without it. Can't help but reflect on my own life when I watch this movie.

    • Andres Solano Paz Says:

      I agree with you comment. I also understand why George felt disappointed. It would have been quite an experience to have traveled and explore the world. George may not have been the explorer he wanted to be but in the end he accomplished something great.

    • Melissa Latterner Says:

      I also can relate to George's frustrations of not doing all the things he dreamed of. I often think of all the things I had planned for myself and all the things I would do and see. Kids came along, and none of that was accomplished, but I am thankful everyday for my beautiful babies and wouldn't trade them for any experience or adventure in the world.

  9. Nate Rose Says:

    I have always like the movie, but this might have been the first time i have watched from beginning to end, as i generally see bits and pieces of it during Christmas time. I felt that the movie has a great message for everyone. I think is shows not only how many peoples live you can have an impact on throughout your life that you don't realize, but it also makes you stop and think about the important things in life. I felt that the overall message in the movie was, that while you might not be rich in terms of money, if you have family and friends who love you, you are richer then anyone. Not that i don't already understand how lucky i am to have a wife, son and friends the movie really helped put things in perspective for me.

    • Belinda Says:

      I agree. This movie does help put things into perspective. It would be cool to see who you been positively affected in your lifetime, wouldn't it?

    • Tom Henderson Says:

      I'm the same way, Nate. I think that this was the first time I watched the movie in its entirety. However, I have seen the last 30 minutes numerous times. I think it's perhaps one of the best endings in American cinema.

      Everyone wants to be George Bailey at the end. We want to think that, if things were to be that bad, an entire town's worth of friends and family will gather around and shower us with help and well-wishes. Few people think about the consistency of character and action that it takes to get there. Everyone could tell that George was having a crisis of faith, because he was talking and acting in a way that was inconsistent with how he had been for decades, day and night.

      For some, character like George's comes naturally. For the other 99.99% (me included), it takes an intentional effort. Every word and action needs to be compared to what I claim to believe, and checked for consistency.

      • Nate Rose Says:

        hey Tom, you are 100% correct. Wouldn't it make things a lot easier if you didn't have to work at it. I work at it everyday and still don't have it figured out most days

    • Andres Solano Paz Says:

      I agree with your comment. Sometimes one does not realize how many lives are touched by what sometimes may seem routine in our lives. The impact of our actions go beyond our intentions influencing people in positive or negative ways.

    • Melissa Latterner Says:

      Nate, I agree with you that no matter the amount of money you have, you are only rich if you have friends and family who love you. This is demonstrated by the Potter character, the rich man in town that everybody hated. He didn't have anyone to love him, so he was not truly considered the richest. As someone mentioned at the end, George Bailey is the richest man in town.

    • Elise harmsen Says:

      I agree with you Nate, this film really does put things into perspective. I am so thankful for the blessings that I have and my life would not be the same without these blessings.

  10. Jennifer A. Says:

    I watched the movie for the first time in my life. I didn't cry, but thought it was touching. I saw George as a great individual who thought globally (in the global sense of Bedford Falls). HIs actions throughout the movie as well as Mary's were acted out in the moment and in the best interest of the Savings and Loan, the individual, and the town. So I guess you could compare George to a Idealist, but he kept that in check with a good dose of reality. He wasn't a physicalist, and I use the scene where they handed the house to Martini and gave him bread, salt and wine. While they were physical, tangible objects they symbolized the intangible. Overall good movie experience.

    • R Gibbs Says:

      Yes, George had events that happened in this life that kept giving him a dose of reality but he would fight it. He did not want his dreams to die. George did the right thing when he was faced with tough decision. Everyone has a breaking point that wonders if they made different choices where would they be. George wondered that at one of the lowest point of his life. This movie embraces a great transformation of Georges’ character.

  11. Andre Dillard Says:

    I going to say one more thing and that's it.. Do you see how his wife was durnig the good anad the bad? Provers 18:22 Says, Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing'. She always had not only the faith in him but God herself.

  12. Andre Dillard Says:

    Hey did anyone notice the sign (plaque) in George's office?? It said, "you can only take what you can give away". Isn't that what serving God is all about?? God gave us so much from his son (John 3:16) to this planet that we live on and some of us don't appericate that.

    • Linda Werner-Woerle Says:

      I noticed the sign in George's office. That is so true, "you can only take what you can give away". Someday when we are gone from this earth, we cannot take our possessions with us. God has richly blessed us and we should be thankful for everything He has bestowed upon us.

  13. James Gamble Says:

    I have seen this film many times, and I think it is a good idea to be thankful for what you have. There are times when one might want to give up, but this film make you think it could alot worse. God has given us alot in this world, and we should be thankful for the little that we have. Some times God can't really bless us, because we want more and more and more. But when we learn to thankful for ALL that we have, God then can step in and really bless us beyond our expecations. BE THANKFUL.

    • garydstratton Says:

      I agree. Not giving up on doing what is right, even and especially when it doesn't appear to be "working" is what It's a Wonderful Life is all about!

  14. Jessica Miller Says:

    I too loved this movie, but realized this time that I never had seen the entire thing. This time around, really paying attention to the meaning, I liked it that much more! Everything George does in his life is for the betterment of everyone around him. When he finally sees that and sees what the town would be like without him it makes him realize what a "Wonderful Life" he truly has. I know I definitely can learn from that; rather than living for the physical rewards (money, nice car, big house, etc.) we all need to live for the idealistic rewards (love, happiness, peace, etc.) While I may struggle in the physical realm, I am rich in so many other ways! I needed this movie–it came at the right time for me!

    • garydstratton Says:

      I think Capra would love to hear you say, "I may struggle in the physical realm, I am rich in so many other ways."

    • Jennifer A. Says:

      Jessia, I agree with you about timing and the message of this movie. The idea of being rich with love, empathy and giving is something I try to impart to my consumer driven children. I also need the reminder as well from time to time. I like the character of George in this movie, he didn't over analyze whether or not to do "good" he just did it. I wish I could embody that spirit 100% of the time.

    • Belinda Says:

      Yep, it's easy to get swept up in the physical realm of everyday life and take the little, yet meaningful, things that we do for granted. I've always liked this movie, and especially George Bailey — what a great character.

    • Andres Solano Paz Says:

      The movie is inspirational and refreshing. The message is positive and valuable which is completely different from the mainstream movies that get so much publicity now days. The movie came at the right time for me too.

    • Melissa Latterner Says:

      Jessica, I agree with you that we should live for the idealistic rewards and teach this to our children. Having the sense of love and security that a family gives you is what truly makes a person rich. Physical items are disposable, replaceable and not always there for you throughout your life.

    • Chong Vang Says:

      Jessica,

      I appreciate your response. As an Easterner, We live our life as a community and our life decision are almost always base on what is better for the community and less on what is good for me. This movie reminds me that the sacrifices we make are almost always small, but the differences it makes to other is huge. For many reason, including myself, we have move far from this mind set.

      Good post.
      -Chong

  15. Amy Kusske Says:

    I am in full support of the need for a physicalism worldview and an Idealism worldview. We need both and I am not sure why philospers had to argue or debate. Did they not think we needed both?
    We all tend to reach for God when we are in need and He is faithfu. But when do we call Him for a morning chat and coffee only? That is the true relationship to substain, for if we succeed with God, our relationships with everyone else would blossom and I believe conflict would not be a daily vitamin we wake up to in the mornings.

    • Debbie Aaberg Says:

      HI Amy,
      I love this comment…"but when do we call Him for a morning chat and coffee only?" I believe we can and He's waiting for us to turn our attention to Him! Thanks for sharing!

    • Tricia Eiswald Says:

      I totally agree, Amy! If more of us viewed our relationship with God as a true relationship, we would no doubt put more time and energy into sustaining it. George Bailey had an internal moral compass that was based on a foundation of God. He instinctively knew what to do when he was in trouble or in need – he prayed. As you pointed out, that's typically our first instinct – to go to God when we are in need. But, is He ever on the top of our mind when all is going great?

  16. Amy Kusske Says:

    Between Micro and Macro level worldview just about everything gets covered when we think about the physical world and the idealist world. The decisions we make everyday by our worldview our families and cultures are important and more micro. When we discuss physicalism, macro is the worldview based on our five senses.
    George Baily has a view from his family and community about what the town needs and who to keep it away from. He has to push his birth right views aside to help out Bedford Falls.
    As he prayed and the town prayed God answered in a way that totally changed Georges perception of living.
    Potter had a physicalistic view and tried to impose it on the town for controll dependence. George and his family along with Mary's idealistic view brought them to pray and reley on God for help in the physical world but for needs in the physical sense.

    • Troy Ewert Says:

      Hi Amy,

      I really enjoyed the fact of watching George never make things about himself, until the stuff hi the fan. It was never about how he could better himelf, it was always about helping the "little guy" get a small piece of pie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

      • Andre Dillard Says:

        Did anyoune els notice that when his brother came in from D.C. He call his brother the riches man in town! I think he wanted his props…attention. He gave so much , not only of his money but himself also. Do anyone else think of that as Character of Christ???

    • James Gamble Says:

      O K Amy
      I didn't like that old Potter. He had too much self confidence, and in the end he was a very ;
      longly old man. A lesson to us try to help every body, because we don't want to end up like old Potter.

    • Jennifer A. Says:

      Amy, had you considered Potter to be an Atheist in this film. Not that Atheist's are eveil like Potter, but he appeared to be worshipping wealth and money with no regard for the quality of human life. Or I suppose he could be angry at God for his poor health and being bound to a wheelchair.

  17. Andre DIllard Says:

    Okay…okay…this film made me cry! I really like this film!! This is the first time I sawthis film and it made me look at myself. Yes I know it sounds corny, but I really can't stop crying! This movie should remind us a Wonderful is our life!! The most powerful part of this movie when he seen how his life would be without him. That was too personal and powerful for me! As the old saying goes "been there done that". This is a powerful movie!
    I love the part when George was having his pity party and stormed out of the house I like that when the kids imeedetily statred praying….

    • Cosbyk Says:

      Andre,
      I too, like the end of the movie, when George gets to see what the community would have been like without him. It's definitely encouragement to keep pressing forward, even after we have given up, someone is praying for us, giving us enough spirtual strength to pray for ourselves and be retored to our purpose and families and communities.

    • James Gamble Says:

      Andre
      Yes I was in a crying mode too. I couldn't help feeling sorry for George, but he brought it all on himself with idea of not wanting to be born. We should never say that.

    • Debbie Aaberg Says:

      Andre, thank you for being so real and open and allowing this movie to touch you so deeply. I'm so glad that you have now seen this great film and will be able to share it for years to come!

  18. Debbie Aaberg Says:

    I love this film and it has always given me hope! Believing that we are living our life for a higher goal…God's pleasure and approval provides us with the true meaning of life. It is true from a physicalism point of view our world is made up of very real things like bills and responsibility but we rarely take the time to look into the unseen. The part we can't see. From an Idealism viewpoint this film does a wonderful job in allowing us to take that opportunity to view life from a different perspective. The things we can't see or touch or feel. The difference we have made in individuals lifes.

    • Bob Roethke Says:

      Debbie.

      How true, how true. Everyone needs hope. I loved the way in the beginning of the movie everyone was praying for George and those prayers were heard and God responded. When Clarence was deployed in response to those prayers, that gave me hope in God's orderly way of doing things. Got to believe God and His crew are listening today.
      When we are living the wonderful life it is easy to find hope. When times get tough we put it to good use. I can see where it would be best to have hope in reserve before we need to use it instead of having to go find it when times are tough.
      My Pastor gave a sermon on Worldview today, talked about the seen and unseen. Got to believe that God is listening and still responds to the needs of His people.
      Good post Debbie…..

      Bob R.

      Debbie, thanks for making a difference.

    • Amy Kusske Says:

      I agree Debbie, This film does do a great job reminding us of the Idealism viewpoint
      of life and how most people cannot take the time to realize the spiritual side of life.
      Thanks for sharing

    • Cosbyk Says:

      Debbie,
      I too love this film. I watched it with "new eyes" this time around.I agree, we often have an impact on the lives of others, whether they ever tell us or not.

      • James Gamble Says:

        Kim
        You may never know the impression you may have made on people in this walk through life.

    • Troy Ewert Says:

      Hey Debbie,

      You are so right on. I never really enjoyed this film until now. I think that is because of the faith I have in Jesus Christ, and am so thankful for what he has provided for me. I am very blessed that God reveals Himself to me in little ways.

    • Andre DIllard Says:

      I agree…this was a deep, and powerful movie!! I jsut goes to show you what really matters in life…in a Christain life! He was and still was tinking of people, but when push come to shove he still gave, and gave , and gave. In real life it's like that you think of the prize before the glory!! This is why we fall short.

    • Ronelle S-Andrews Says:

      Debbie,
      Well said! we are mostly caught up with all that we see, feel and touch around us. Not thinking once of the unseen world. Idealism emphanized the importance of what it means it tap into the unseen. In the presence of God life is good against all odds. We must learn to grasp on the reality that He exist over what others think. Sometimes we only need a touch of faith, thats when He shows up with all the answers.

    • Becky Johnson Says:

      This is absolutely true, sometimes I get tired of helping people or trying to do good. This movie is a good reminder that we truly do not know how we impact others. I pray that God will use me however He can.

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