The 1999 movie Office Space is one of American film’s greatest cult classics, poignantly depicting mundane office life through the eyes of fed-up workers at a typical 90s software company.
Many who haven’t seen the movie may know it from its popular quotes like “I believe you have my stapler” or…
But the movie’s most iconic scene comes when the main character and two coworkers finally have enough of the never-functioning office printer.
The trio takes the printer out into a deserted meadow, tosses it to the ground, and begins to mercilessly pummel the machine with kicks, punches, and strikes from their trusty Louisville Slugger. Each takes his turn, and little is left of the inkjet by the end.
Though I haven’t watched the movie itself in several years, this scene sprung to my mind recently when watching a talk given by the ever-brilliant Bishop Robert Barron (because of course it did). Bishop Barron was talking about what he calls the “YouTube Heresies” — those topics frequently misconstrued in the comment section of the bishop’s popular videos.
One of those “heresies” involves atheists and agnostics often pointing the finger at the so-called vengeful God of the Old Testament through a story in the first book of Samuel, Chapter 15.
Saul, the king of Israel, had been ordered by God, through the prophet Samuel, to wage war on and entirely exterminate the nation of Amalek, which had ambushed and harmed the Israelites (God’s chosen people) in the book of Exodus on their way out of Egypt. Saul led his army in a successful battle, killing nearly everything save for Amalek’s best livestock, as well as their king, Agag.
Though Saul was satisfied with his victory, as well as the spoils he had taken from the Amalekites, Samuel was irate upon finding out what Saul had done. Reminding Saul of the order to eradicate the entire nation of Amalek, Samuel had all of the livestock killed, then (yes, this is in the Bible) had Agag brought before him where he “hacked Agag to pieces.” (1 Sam. 15:33)
The Word of the Lord…
So, a prophet of God brutally kills a man, and there’s supposed to be a parallel to office workers in a movie smashing a printer to bits?
As is always the case, there’s more to this Old Testament story than meets the eye.
The nation of Amalek, as the Church has understood it since the very early centuries, stands for sin. Samuel’s insistence to Saul that all of Amalek be wiped out is illustrative of God’s desire for us to be wholly pure, to aim and strive for complete and perfect union with him — which, as it were, is precisely what heaven will be.
What good is it, Bishop Barron says, for a husband to say to his wife, “Honey, I promise to be faithful to you 95 percent of the time!” or a person to say, “I promise to not kill my neighbor on 364 days of the year!” It’s an absurdity when we put it in those terms, but it should make similar sense when applying it to the more subtle areas of sin in our lives.
The printer, like Amalek, needed to be utterly destroyed, lest it be repaired and be able to rise again, causing renewed printer-jam anguish in the lives of lowly office workers.
And so it is with sin. It requires a radical decision on our part – one that asks us to leave nothing behind and to allow God to root out the entire problem, not just 95 percent of it. We should take a leaf out of books of Samuel and the Office Space trio, then, and begin to look at our sin with repulsion, striving to smash it to pieces daily through things like prayer, fasting, attending Confession and receiving the Eucharist.
God gives us the baseball bat. All that’s left for us is to use it.