First Reformed

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First Reformed is a 2017 film about a minister of a small congregation in upstate New York who grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.

Directed and written by Paul Schrader.

Reverend Ernst Toller[edit]

  • I have decided to keep a journal. Not in a word program or digital file, but in longhand, writing every word out so that every inflection of penmanship, every word chosen, scratched out, revised, is recorded. To set down all my thoughts and the simple events of my day factually and without hiding anything. When writing about oneself, one should show no mercy. I will keep this diary for one year; 12 months. And at the end of that time, it will be destroyed. Shredded, then burnt. The experiment will be over.
  • Courage is the solution to despair, reason provides no answers. I can't know what the future will bring; we have to choose despite uncertainty. Wisdom is holding two contradictory truths in our mind, simultaneously, Hope and despair. A life without despair is a life without hope. Holding these two ideas in our head is life itself.
  • The man who says nothing always seems more intelligent. Why couldn't I just keep silent?
  • Now Michael, I can promise you that whatever despair you feel about bringing a child into this world cannot equal the despair of taking a child from it.
  • Will God forgive us for what we're doing to his creation?
  • Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world.
  • How easily they talk about prayer, those who have never really prayed.
  • I know what you want, and I can't bear your concern, your constant hovering, your neediness. You are a constant reminder of my own personal inadequacies and failings. You want something that never was and never will be.
  • These thoughts and recollections are not so different from those I confide to God every morning. When it is possible. When He is listening. This journal is a form of speaking, of communication from one to the other. A communication which can be achieved simply and in repose without prostration or abnegation. It is a form of prayer.
  • Maybe I shouldn't care about whether people like me. Did Jesus worry about being liked?
  • Despair is a development of pride so great that it chooses one's certitude rather than admit God is more creative than we are.
  • Discernment intersects with Christian life at every moment. Discernment. Listening and waiting for God's wish what action must be taken.
  • The desire to pray itself is a type of prayer. How often we ask for genuine experience when all we really want is emotion.
  • Every act of preservation is an act of creation. Everything preserved renews creation. It's how we participate in creation.

Reverend Joel Jeffers[edit]

  • Even a pastor needs a pastor.
  • A Mighty Fortress is Our God. That's all organ. Did you know that, uh, Martin Luther wrote that in an outhouse?
  • Global warming, a sea of pornography, hyper violent video games. It's a world without privacy. Each kid isolated, communicating on media. It's a world without hope!
  • We tend to think that anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we are, yet it is a much better indication of how wicked we are. Fretting arises from our determination to have our own way.

Michael Mensana[edit]

  • The bad times they will begin, and from that point everything moves very quickly. You know, this social structure can't bear the stress of multiple crises. Opportunistic diseases, anarchy, martial law, the tipping point. And this isn't in some like distant future. You will live to see this.


  • Jason: If happiness came in pill size, it would have JC stamped on it.


Michael Mensana: You believe in martyrdom, Reverend?
Reverend Ernst Toller: I'm not sure I know what you mean.
Michael Mensana: The Saints of God, the early Christians who wouldn't renounce their faith? The missionaries who were attacked in the fields of the Lord. Do you believe that they died for a purpose?
Reverend Ernst Toller: I do.
Michael Mensana: Well, every week, activists are killed trying to protect the environment.

Reverend Joel Jeffers: The creation waits in eager expectation of liberation from bondage. That's Romans 8:23. You understand?
Reverend Ernst Toller: So, we should pollute so God can restore? We should sin so God can forgive?

Michael Mensana: Are you a drinking man, Reverend?
Reverend Ernst Toller: It doesn't help.

Reverend Ernst Toller: Well, somebody has to do something! It's the Earth that hangs in the balance.
Reverend Joel Jeffers: Well what if this is His plan? What if we just can't see it?
Reverend Ernst Toller: You think God wants to destroy his creation?
Reverend Joel Jeffers: He did once. For 40 days and 40 nights.


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