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|The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in the Matrix|
by Chris Seay & Greg Garrett
Published by Pinon Press, 2003
Recommended by: Rick Shepherd
Something For Everyone
The Matrix arc borrows something from just about every cultural, literary, religious, or philosophical expression one can think of. The Gospel Reloaded does a fairly good job of illustrating this by pointing out sources and symbols found within the films. Though it primarily focuses on The Matrix, it also discusses insights found within The Matrix Reloaded and The Animatrix.
Where do Batman and Superman fit into this? Creation and Fall? Revelation? It is all explored. In the process, the authors truly show that there is literally something for everyone within the story arc. Examining the various sources and symbols enables us to find some form of common ground with just about anyone, no matter what their background or belief, in the stories of the Matrix. Reaching that common ground, we can then identify and discuss many of the major "truths" or themes (or lessons) of the Matrix, to mutual benefit. We are also better prepared then to discuss the differences of opinion or belief with those of other backgrounds, as we discuss the movies with them.
How do the major characters shown on the original poster (Morpheous, Neo, Trinity and Cypher) symbolize distinctions of the Christian faith? How does Trinity specifically illustrate a tenet of Gnosticism that could be a discarded Christian truth? What is the meaning of the name Cypher?
Why is Neo always leaping or jumping, or otherwise trying to fly? The authors maintain that it is representative of leaps of faith. Each one is a major point in his development, starting with his refusal the first time, when he climbed back in off the ledge, to his final leap in which he actually does fly.
Therapeutic Themes or, Just What the Doctor Ordered
While it is true that the Matrix borrows something from just about every art form or tradition out there, it is not just a haphazardly thrown together collection. There is pattern and a purpose to it. Quoting from Chapter 8: "The movie draws on myth, legend, and religion to reveal the Wachowski brothers' deepest desires for the Matrix films: to make us think about who we are, where we come from, and what we are supposed to be."
The first part of the book explores these many sources as they are used in the Matrix. The latter part of the book gets into some of the broad themes found within it that we can apply to mankind in general and to ourselves individually. The authors wrap up with a few specific lessons or applications that we Christians need to take to heart in this post-modern world.
One of those themes is the conflict between predestination and free will. For the films, it boils down to choices and the responsibilities inherent in them. This is a major theme that has been popularized and explored before. We see it in the original Terminator movie, where the future John Connor exhorts his mother across time with "There is no fate but what we make!" It is also emphasized in the latest Harry Potter film, The Chamber of Secrets, when towards the end, Dumbledore explains to Harry that it is our choices that determine who we really are.
In The Matrix, it begins with the choice of a red or blue pill. The emptiness of denying responsibility for our choices, and trying to blame circumstances of cause and effect is contrasted in The Matrix Reloaded with the Merovingian blaming too much wine for a need to excuse himself from the table, when really seeking to excuse himself from responsibility for a choice of unfaithfulness.
Another theme is that of involvement. We can choose to stay in our "womb" or "matrix" of an artificial environment or close knit little culture, or we can be "in the world but not of the world" and engage it at various needful points of stress. Along the way, we may be able to wake others up out of their own Matrix and into the real world.
Exiting the Rabbit Hole
To sum it all up, I found this book to be very informative and entertaining, but also thought provoking and encouraging. It was a pleasure to read, and brought out some fresh insights into the films so far, sparking new interest on my part in reviewing them again. Beyond that, it also renewed my own interest in so many aspects of the wide and varied world we live in, with its richness of thought and belief, and the joy of engaging people in discussions on these topics in a friendly and mutually beneficial way. After all, it is indeed in the realm of ideas that the future resides. We have a responsibility to be salt and light in those discussions, instead of cloistering ourselves from them. Remember in scripture, who is supposed to be storming whose gates? (Hint: we are not supposed to be the ones cowering behind the gates on the defensive.) (July, 2003)
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