Archive for August, 2008

05
Aug
08

Movie Review: X-Files – I Want to Believe

Well, from reading the reviews, this is a movie that you will either find fascinating because you’re an X-Files fan or find tedious because you’re not. I am a fan of the series, though I was never a regular watcher, so I found the movie to be very interesting and recommend it to anyone who enjoys watching Mulder and Scully do their thing.

My main interest in blogging about this was not to talk about the quality of the cinematography, acting, script, or plot twists, per se, but rather to look at the serious issues that the movie brings out.  This X-Files dealt with a lot of Christian issues – which surprised me quite a bit, and brought up some important issues that all of us must face.

Repentance

The core issue of this movie is around Father Joe, a psychic who has visions about a series of violent crimes the FBI is investigating.  This is made more difficult because he is a convicted pedophile.  Scully – the Christian (Catholic) in this movie – is utterly repulsed by Father Joe and considers him utterly without any credibility.  Why would God use somebody like this to speak through?

Now, Father Joe – an old man – is obviously broken over his past sins.  At one point Scully confronts Father Joe with this exchange:

SCULLY: What is it that you were praying for in there, sir?
FATHER JOE: For the salvation of my immortal soul.
SCULLY: And you think God hears your prayers?
FATHER JOE: You think he hears yours?
SCULLY: I didn’t bugger thirty-seven altar boys.

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in the Christian life is learning the meaning of forgiveness.  Scully thinks that Father Joe has no right to pray for forgiveness – that God would never listen to a person who has done such heinous sins.  This is a very human reaction, but luckily for us, God is not human.  When we are ready to say that somebody’s crimes have gone beyond the reach of grace, I think we must genuinely fear for our own salvation.   Father Joe’s sins are real and he makes no excuses for them.  He is broken over his sin and seems genuinely broken by them.

This is the point where God can use a man.  God’s grace was able to work forgiveness in murderers like Moses and Paul.  In liars like Abraham and Isaac.  In adulterers like David and Judah.  In cowards like Elijah and Peter.  But these were men who knew who they were.  They had no illusions of being able to stand before God on their own merit, because they knew they had none.

I think Father Joe’s query here – “You think he hears yours?” – is profoundly insightful.  Scully is far outside the Gospel to which the claims membership.  Her refusal to offer forgiveness falls directly in opposition to our Lord’s instruction that we will be forgiven as we have shown forgiveness.  It falls in opposition to the pray that a Catholic would have prayed at every Mass:  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Are Father Joe’s sins that Scully refuses to forgive really so much worse than the enormous pile of sins Scully herself has accumulated against a perfectly righteous God?

I Want to Believe

The poster that Mulder had in his office through the X-Files with a UFO and the slogan “I Want to Believe” makes an appearance in this film, and Mulder repeats it himself in dialog with Father Joe.  Everybody else in the movie thinks he is a kook, or perhaps an accomplice in the crimes, and yet over and over he offers good reason to believe that he is authentic.

This reminds me a lot of a situation that a friend of mine is going through with his son-in-law, who has heard the Gospel clearly, but like to many atheists is not willing to consider it as possibly true.  He has already decided that he does not want to believe.   This is really an unworkable position.  It is just as much of a faith statement as a statement of faith in the one true God.  I believe there is nothing and I will not believe otherwise.

Mulder wants to believe.  He wants to follow where the evidence leads without presuppositional denial of any possibility.  Translated back into Christianity, this is another kind of heart God can use.  A heart that is willing to humble itself and admit that it does not have all of the answers.  A heart that is willing to say “in my mind, this does not make sense, but in my heart I think there must be something to it.”   God has not required us to make a blind leap in the dark:  there are many and good reasons to believe Christianity is a real and true.  But first it requires an openess to even consider that as possible.

Doctor, Heal Thyself

Scully is working primarily as a doctor in this movie, working at a Catholic hospital. She spends a lot of the movie wearing a gold crucifix prominently.  A major subplot is her efforts to care for a boy who has an uncurable brain disease.   The hospital staff, led by Father Ybarra, has decided that the boy should be transferred to hospice care, but Scully is detemined to fight on and do risky medical treatments.

At one point the parents of the child come up and announce that they don’t want to do any more of this painful procedure – that they would rather take their child to hospice and leave him “in God’s hands.”  Scully is incredulous and infuriated at this and demands to know if Father Ybarra has directed them to this point.  Scully had earlier challenged Ybarra saying that she would appeal her case to a higher authority and he responds by saying he has already discussed it “with the ultimate Authority, and I suggest you do the same.”

Again, we have our supposed Christian who is being put opposite faith statements made by people around her.  She does not want to trust in God for healing and it is not something she would consider praying about.  Aside from the cross around her neck, we really have no reason to see Scully as anything more than an atheist, which makes for another very odd dynamic in the movie.   The irreligious Mulder is making faith statements, and Catholic Scully is fighting faith at every turn.

Conclusion

There are so many issues this movie takes up — forgiveness, organ donor black markets, same sex marriage, visions from God, medical experimentation, and a bunch of just genuinely creepy stuff.  This was definitely a thriller, and not a movie for the kids to see.  It is a movie that will give you a whole lot to think about, though, and I thought it was well done.  I recommend it, with the caveat that I think you will really want to see it with somebody so you can talk through all of these issues.  If you like X-Files at all, you won’t be disappointed.