Weird Theology
A Movie Review - w/ Spoilers

  Tresa and I went out to dinner and a movie recently.  We have been pretty busy over the past month or so and have not made an effort to have some special time for each other.  And so I thought, let's get out of the house and do something different for once. Dinner at Arby's . . woo hoo! . . we mostly don't need a fancy restaurant to enjoy each other's company.

The movie was that new Nicholas Cage thing, "Knowing."   It's rated PG-13 and so the bad words ought not to be too bad, right?  Yahoo! Movies described it as a professor who is presented with time capsule information that predicts the future.  Sounds like the same kind of fun as "National Treasure."

Not only was it hyper-violent (whoever rated it PG-13 has been watching too many Terminator style movies), but the plot development dogged along on crutches.  I thought that maybe with the kids in there, listening into the future, it would be reminiscent of Bruce Willis' movie from the late 90's; "Mercury Rising."   At least that movie had some redeeming value.  No such luck with this one.  And then there were all those strangers who kept looking in the house.  Who were they?

Before I get into that let me tell you about a sermon I gave some years ago.  It has had some staying power not only in my life but also with the rest of the family.  The sermon was entitled "Weird Theology."   It compared Hollywood and popular media theology against the theology that we find in the Bible.  What I had noticed was that there was a lot of very odd beliefs being presented in almost every movie I watched.
  • Your mother (who had died) is watching you from the moon beams every time there is a full moon.

  • Just believe in yourself and you can make it happen.

  • All Christians are invariably bad (stupid, inept, dishonest, etc. . . you pick) but what you believe is invariably good.

  • It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe.

  • Everyone will make it into heaven (except maybe the bad guys in this movie).
And the list goes on and on in its many sad but trite variations.  In an industry that takes pride in getting the look and feel of a submarine exactly right down to the last detail it is amazing to me how little Hollywood pays attention to what is really real in Christianity.  There's an agenda for sure, Hollywood would never want to portray our faith in a fair light because they, themselves, do not want to believe.

So anyway, weird theology has come up as a topic of discussion around our dinner table each time we run into a new variant or a new plot twist that takes the same old path.  With practice we have become more adept at spotting these, even when it is a short utterance by one of the characters.  As you look for it, you find it.

Back to this latest entry into a long but predictable list of weird theologies.  The plot is typically twisted, a small girl creates a list of numbers and places the list in a grade school time capsule back in 1959.  She heard whisperings in her ear that informed her what to write.  She was strange for other reasons, too.

Fifty years later the professor comes into possession of this list that, when decoded, predicts major disasters for the fifty year period.  There are three disasters left on the list.  The professor goes on a mission to prevent these disasters if possible.  He even has to talk with his father, who is a pastor, which he has not done for years.

Hey, this is Hollywood.  If we are presented with a man on a mercy mission to save lives, I'm all for it however improbable the circumstances.  But then we find that the professor's son hears voices in his head, too.  And not only that but there are these Arian looking dudes (bleached blond, thin, black trench coats) that begin stalking the son.  They are somehow connected with the voices and some small black stones.

As we wend our way toward a conclusion the audience is presented with two big questions; who are the Arian dudes and what is the final disaster?  (Oh, and what does EE mean? It is part of the disaster prediction.)  It's not until the Arians turn into aliens that the weird theology rears its ugly head.

Aliens?  Sure, they hover in the vicinity to snatch up small children (and rabbits) to save from the destruction of the planet.  Yes, the whole planet gets destroyed, after all, nothing is too large for Hollywood.  But the movie saves the professor's son, another small girl, some rabbits.  An image of the new Adam and Eve, how cliché.

The movie should have ended right there but when your weird theology gets rolling it is hard to get it stopped again.  We find that the children, the rabbits, and other shiploads of something are delivered to a new and unsullied planet.  I started laughing, almost uncontrollably, when the Arians became aliens.  The new planet got me laughing again, I fear that I was a considerable disruption to other movie viewers.  My apologies.

If a movie is a metaphor, here's what I saw happening.
  • The planet is destroyed.  Maybe we are in the end-times right now and destruction of the planet is God's necessity but it seems to speak against what is prophesied in Revelation (as well as Matthew 24).

  • Early on, the professor struggles with determinacy versus random actions.  If our universe was formed by random occurrences then prediction of future events ought to be impossible.  If the universe is determinant then future actions are predictable.  The professor is ultimately swayed toward a determinant future (because of the list of numbers) but not once did he think of, or acknowledge, that God perfectly prophesies future events.  His worldview allows no God in the picture.

  • The professor's wife had died some time ago, we don't know when.  I had expected to hear, "your mother is here with us now" at some point in the movie (the typical Hollywood line).  I was surprised when the professor said to his son, "If you want to believe (ostensibly in heaven) then that is okay."  But don't fret, we get a variant at the end of the movie when he tells his son, "we'll be together again!"  and gives him a locket with a family photo in it.

  • The professor's father as a pastor gives us the implication that even God is powerless against natural events that may serve to destroy all life on the planet.  The pastor refuses to run and hide to save himself, "If my days are up then they are up."  This is a typical portrayal of an inept or powerless clergy.  After all, Christians are of no use in the real world.

  • When the aliens take an interest in abducting two small children in order to save them the plot actually takes an unusual twist.  I had the impression that this was a triumph of the human spirit kind of story.  What have aliens to do with anything?  It develops that the aliens are God substitutes!  If God is too weak, or too indifferent, to save the planet then the aliens will step up and do the next best thing.  They will transport the children (along with the rabbits) to a new planet to start all over again!  Hooray!  We're saved after all!
Weird theology takes all shapes and sizes when you view any popular media today.  In this movie God is set up on a shelf since He is extraneous to life itself.  Even God's representatives will not endeavor to save themselves.  Triumph of the human spirit may play an important role but inevitably it is the aliens who save the human race.  They step in where God has failed.

The children wear white as they pelt across the new planet.  But will a fresh start and new clothing save them?  What about sin?  What about our fallen condition?  Do we sanction a new Adam and a new Eve and trust that next time things will be better?  Have we learned nothing at all over the past six thousand years?