November 22, 2017

Let’s Discuss: Mulder and Scully get theological

The Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Mulder and Scully get theological

I’m fighting a bad cold as I write this, and find that my mind is not in a state conducive to writing. As I lay on the sofa tonight, blowing my nose and drinking my tea, The X-Files Reopened gave me something to ponder.

At the end of episode 5, “Babylon,” in which they foil an Islamist terrorist plot, Mulder and Scully take a walk and find themselves discussing “the angry God of the Bible” (and the Koran) and the times in which we live.

I’ll throw it out there today as something to chew on and discuss.

Click on the picture to go to the linked video.

XFbabylon

Related article: “The X-Files draws backlash with Islamic terrorism plot”

Comments

  1. “Maybe we should do like the prophets and… open our hearts and truly listen.”

    Reminds me of this:

    “You read the Bible in your special ways
    You’re fond of quoting certain things it says –
    Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
    But when do we hear about forgiveness and love?
    Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
    But if God stays silent, what else can you do
    Except listen to the silence? if you ever did you’d surely see
    That God won’t be reduced to an ideology
    Such as the gospel of bondage…”
    – Bruce Cockburn

    This also came to mind:

    “A god whom we can easily bear, a god from whom we do not have to hide, a god whom we do not hate in moments, a god whose destruction we never desire, is not God at all, and has no reality.” – Paul Tillich, from “The Shaking of the Foundations”, ch. 6: “The Escape From God”.

    That second quote could be used to justify belief in a god we cannot rationally bear, such as a god of hate. I believe the power of that quote is quite the opposite: the palatable god is one who agrees with and sympathizes with our fears and intolerance. The god we cannot bear is one who challenges us to move beyond ourselves and the limits of our narcissism and comfort zone to compassion, mercy, humility, and love. The Pharisees and religious leaders of the time of Jesus could not bear the notion of such a god and put him to the cross.

  2. For me, it’s the shape of Jesus’ life, that of a suffering servant who goes to the cross in self-giving love, that defines the character of God, and that embodies the character of God; I can’t discuss the “God of the Bible” without reference to God as revealed and disclosed in the living and dying of Jesus Christ, as remembered by the Church in the New Testament. I know of no god apart from Jesus, either in the Bible or outside of it.

    • And that seems to be exactly what God intended with the Incarnation, well, at least one of things He intended, if we take the writer of Hebrews at his word when he says, “…in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature….”

      But why let just the author of Hebrews sway us? Jesus himself says the same thing, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” In my mind, this kind of trumps all other characterizations of God. If what we see in Jesus is not consistent with any other depictions of God, then those depictions are in error.

      Obviously, this creates some problems with how we see God, in many instances, depicted in the Old Testament. I’m not entirely sure how to square this other than to say that when the two are inconsistent, I’m going with Jesus.

      • I think it’s also significant that God relied on fallible human beings, and their fallible testimony, as the witness to his presence and action in Jesus Christ. He did not override their fallibility and freedom to produce a perfectly coherent and harmonious account of Jesus’ life, teaching and redemptive work. That he did not do so actually says much about his nature: that he values maximal human freedom (and perhaps maximal non-human freedom as well), that in Jesus he is non-coercive and non-controlling, that his love and power do not require him to exercise dominance in order to remain Lord. Those who cling to ideas about scriptural infallibility or inerrancy make themselves unable to hear what God is saying (albeit without words) by eschewing such controls over the witness to him in the New Testament, and by the Church.

        None of this is to say that God is “innocent”, even though he did not command those bloody acts described in the Hebrew scriptures; God keeps his silence while the most awful things happen in the world he created, and has done so since life first started on this earth, and in this creation. Except for one thing: he has uttered Jesus Christ, and him crucified and risen.

  3. Senecagriggs yahoo says:

    The big news, Scully [ Gillian Anderson ] so obviously had rhinoplasty. Personally, I thought she looked great the way she was.

  4. Never got into the X-Files but this clip piques my interest.

    Brad Jersak wrote an insightful post about this same episode here:

    http://christianity-without-the-religion.blogspot.ca/2016/02/the-x-files-misery-of-world-and-nature.html?m=1

    • Wow! Poignant.

    • How beautiful. Now this should have been the soundtrack behind Scully and Mulder as they talked!

      Do you think it’s possible that Sinead O’Connor is Simone Weil reincarnated? I’d like to think so, even if it requires a little religious syncretism.

  5. Never got into the whole X-Files thing (or One Step Beyond or Twilight Zone or…). From what has been written here, I do appreciate the thoughtful screenwriting, and that the episode doesn’t end up in despair. Reality must be seen for what it is, and yet there is another dimension to it, not distant, but as if behind a scrim curtain…

    The other thing I thought immediately is that I want that house…

    Dana

  6. “Too big”, you might say. Books have been written. Countless debates over millennium have dealt with the question of God’s wrath. The greatest theologians and thinkers through the ages have grappled with it. For that reason Robert F.’s and Scott’s simple answer seems like a cop out to some. “Jesus!? That’s it? That’s your answer?” But when it is all said and done, the crucified Christ leaves nothing else to debate. Every tongue is silenced in the face of that. The cross opens up the mystery of God. The dividing wall is brought down. The curtain is torn. It is the portal to Him with whom we have to do, whether We cherish or fear the thought. Every twist and turn of who She/It/They/He is, and we are, is entered from there. The way, the truth and the life. The mystery of suffering brings us somehow to the light. It breaks us down and opens us up.
    “Bloody nose and burning eyes, raised in laughter to the sky…”
    “A billion facets of brilliant love, a billion facets of freedom turning in the light.” Lines from Fascist Architecture – Bruce Cockburn

  7. Good questions, and ones not likely to be heard in church of whatever persuasion. Yesterday as a social obligation I watched John Hagee brainwashing college age people with his dispensational false prophecy based on fear and anger. The people who had invited me are kindly old people who love Jesus and see no problem with the wrath of God wiping out whole peoples, they would likely cheer if Israel nuked Iran and set off WW III.

    How to answer them? Most people here understand that the Hebrew scriptures were written by and for early primitive tribal folks with limited understanding, but that’s not going to fly with the people watching this tape who pretty much share the same mentality. My recourse would be to join with Robert pointing out that Jesus and the New Testament should be our model for understanding God, not ancient writing.

    As Prophet Hagee would say, turn with me in your Bible to the Book of Revelation, it’s the last book of the New Testament. Here we find our model Jesus, Prince of Peace, forgiver of enemies, up to his ass in the blood of his enemies like some crazed mass murderer cranked up on meth. The book allegedly is right out of the mouth of Jesus. I could point out that it has always been a controversial book with widely varying interpretation, and you could point out that it wouldn’t be in the Bible if it wasn’t the accepted word of God according to the church and Cy Scofield, in this case taking the form of a two edged sword.

    I could give my own take on this that the book was given before the siege and fall of Jerusalem for the warning and benefit and strengthening of Christians in the danger zone, but that is such a minority view as to carry the weight of a feather and not likely to convince many. There it is. Good questions and glad someone is making an end run around the church to ask them.

    • Churches should teach on The Great Disappointment. They won’t, tho.

      • As if THE error of that movement and the blood moons and whatever else is that they set a literal date.

        All the rest is of course biblical truth…

        • “It is difficult to get someone to understand something, when their salary depends upon their not understanding it!” – Upton Sinclair

    • Oh yeah. The Blood Moons! Forgot about that one. Did the “Prophet” Hagee have honesty enough to come out and say he was wrong?

      • Charles Fines says:

        An older tape maybe 2007, so no blood moons. An interesting mind programming trick to me, these were college students at an Assembly of God school. He would give a ten minute spiel winding up on a fervent emotional pitch and he would say “Give him praise and glory in the House of God!” which was the signal for all good Christians to applaud, ostensibly God, but in effect the prophet. Like the Soviet Politburo in a four hour speech or Congress at the State of the Union, the cameras are on you, what are you going to do? The act of applauding reinforces the synapses of what you have just heard. Everyone else is applauding, it must be true. And it does all make a kind of sense if you are standing inside the box while looking at it and don’t think about it too hard. I asked these folks how they dealt with “These things will take place soon” and they glossed right on over it along with the prophet. God works in mysterious ways.

      • It’s only a paper blood moon, apparently.

  8. Christiane says:

    always wondered about fundamentalism . . .
    they say they follow Jesus Christ, and that ALL will go to hell who do not accept Him their way . . . and yet

    and yet these same fundamentalists, knowing that Our Lord is the clearest reveal we have of ‘Who and what God is’, these fundamentalists still cling to a God of Wrath, and taking from THAT false image of God, these fundamentalists practice the beating of babies and children, misogyny and abusive patriarchal cult-worship of maleness, Islamophobia, homophobia, and a great contempt for all who are ‘not of their tribe’

    where’s the integrity in them? I can’t understand the ‘Christ Alone/ God of Wrath’ dichotomy at all. Does anyone understand this?

    • Possibly because faithfulness is a four letter word like holy. It doesn’t matter what the new = liberal ideas are, what matters is adhering to the old paths and being faithful. And that tends to be whatever God their forefathers worshiped. They will be martyrs for their God. New ideas are new revelations which are progressive = liberal, and the canon is closed, the Spirit silent.

      I’m not saying I can describe it well, but I know I can mock it, yet alone Poe it. I understand it, even when I don’t.

    • Fundamentalists tend to view God as sort of a good cop/bad cop wrapped up in the same package. Repent and believe (according to their specific traditions, of course), and you get the good cop. Reject Christ (or fail to believe everything on the required list), and you get the bad cop. It’s a take on Paul’s theology that we’re all sinners deserving both death and hell, and that the only way out of that is through faith in Christ — though fundamentalists tend to add a few more tradition-specific prerequisites as to what “true belief” entails. What this leads to is a view of one’s religious tribe as an island of salvation amidst a vast sea of damnation. Combine it with extreme Calvinism and you get isolated societies that are indifferent or even hostile toward the rest of humankind (take those Westboro Baptist folks, for instance). Team it with more Arminian views, and you get a sense of urgency to get as many people on your island as possible before the clock runs out.
      But the thing is that (to a certain extent) this appears to be what the NT writers were teaching and what the first century church believed — though they seemed to be a lot less individualistic about it, leaning more toward the spiritual health of the church as a relational body joined in common beliefs and practices, rather than focusing on personal salvation as the membership card into an exclusive religous club.
      And to be perfectly honest, I would have to say that I believe that I have been saved from deserved wrath and judgement by faith in Christ and the redemptive effect of the cross. Does that make me a fundamentalist?

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    You know, in that clp Mulder starts out with “I saw things…”

    I couldn’t help thinking of Marky-Mark Driscoll and his “pornovisions” — “I SEE THINGS…”

  10. I always find myself split over this wrathful, fire and brimstone God vs. loving, fuzzy-wuzzy God issue. On one hand, my personal moral sensibilities get all out of whack envisioning the God incarnated in Jesus smiting whole cities and tribes of people. On the other hand, I wonder if modern Western culture and philosophy have given me a Disneyfied, milksoap view of both God and reality itself. Do I think that God is not qualified to judge entire groups of people? Do I think He wouldn’t be justified in smiting them if He saw fit? Or do I think He could rightly do so, but He just wouldn’t do that kind of thing — that it’s out of character for Him? Out of character for who? — the God I want to exist or God as revealed through scripture. And was Jesus really all that fuzzy-wuzzy? What about telling a few Gallilean cities that they would get it worse than Sodom and Gomorah on Judgement Day? What about telling the religious leaders that they would be called into account for every drop of righteous blood ever shed on earth? And where is all that weeping and gnashing of teeth supposed going to come from?
    I really don’t know. Just thinking out loud.

    • I believe the disclosure of the true character of God was (and is) centered in the community’s experience of the risen Jesus. And what they experienced, what we sometimes experience, is the living presence of Jesus extending grace and reconciliation to us, forgiveness and new life where we fear there can only be judgment and retribution. That is the center of the Church’s ancient and modern witness to the true character of God as revealed and embodied and present in Jesus Christ; the Church is meant to exist as a reconciled and reconciling, and forgiving and renewing, community empowered by the presence of the living Christ in its midst, and also in the midst of the world.

      • Good answer, Robert. And I do believe this (in my better moments) — but there are so many different flavors of who God is being advertised out there on the airwaves (and so many options as to interpretation regarding the God lurking their between the lines in scripture), it makes it hard sometimes to keep a clear focus. Often, I find my views of and feelings toward God changing according to my own internal mental and emotional weather.

    • I agree, Jesus was intense and also very gentle. We always pick the gentle verses only, I think because they are so comforting. Grace and forgiveness is true but God’s wrath and justice is also true (even in the New Testament).

  11. I’ve heard the background music playing behind Scully and Muldur before; it seems to be popular currently, but all I can say about it is Yuck!

    • Ah, Robert, you have indeed identified an example of what ails contemporary adult alternative music. Such songs as this always must include one or more of the following elements or the algorithm won’t let them make it to the radio playlist:

      1) clapping
      2) stomping
      3) shouting “Hey!”
      4) three-chord ukulele and mandolin riffs
      5) a vocal style that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary at a child’s birthday party

      We’re at summer camp, in other words. And we can’t come home.

      The only thing more depressing is the devolution of commercial jingles to single-notes/chords banging away in a major key on a child’s piano or ukulele. I always wonder what the composer’s sales pitch meeting is like.

      • Horrid stuff! I’ve heard the pattern you describe quite a lot, even on my favorite alternative radio station!

        Now here’s some dangerous pop, made in the old days, and would have provided interesting background to the above X-Files conversation; probably more interesting than the conversation.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHmTqoLjlXo

  12. It should be noted that Mulder thought he had ingested some hallucinogenic drugs before he went on his epic adventure and “saw” things, when, in fact, Agent Einstein had given him a harmless placebo. Nevertheless, an interesting conversation between Mulder and Scully. And hand-holding.

  13. CM, Hope you recover from your cold and feel better soon.

  14. Coffee all day long,
    hot cocoa in the PM–
    Winter in the bones!

    • warming alternatives to all-day coffee:

      hot vegetable broth, tomato soup, hot cider or hot apple-juice with a cinnamon stick, mulled wine (unless you are driving), buttered milk broth from oyster stew, mint tea with honey, lemon juice in hot water with honey

      hot tea is not everyone’s cuppa, but try Lapsang Suchong at least once . . . you will love it or hate it, no one is impartial . . . it has a smoky quality that is very appealing to some

      IF you can find it, anise-flavored tea is lovely (licorice taste)

      I prefer plain old PG tips brewed strong and served with milk and sugar (it’s a black tea), but then I like afternoon tea which is restorative and cuts the appetite a bit prior to dinner time

      all-day coffee gets you coffeed-out and to prevent that from happening, vary your hot drinks and that evening cuppa coffee after supper will still taste great

      • Oh, those all sound so, I don’t know-/comforting? Yes–comforting and relaxing! And I absolutely love Lapsang Suchong though I haven’t had it in quite some time. You’ve given me cause to track some down!