The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves as Thomas
"neo" Anderson, is an example of postmodernism, describing the chaos and blend
of philosophies and religions. The movie definitely takes time to digest, as it may be
watched from many levels.
At the most basic level, The Matrix is seen as a terrific special affects
sci-fi movie with kick-boxing, gun fights, and technology. The good guys fight the bad
guys. The music is pounding 1999 hard rock. In one scene, the star of the movie goes with
friends to a punk rock bar where everyone is clad in freakish clothing.
At this level, we can ask ourselves and
others these questions:
- How welcoming are our churches to the fringe
populations? How welcome would a punk rocker feel if he/she stepped through our Nave?
- Who are the good guys, the role models
- What is the Matrix?
Just a little below the surface, The
Matrix begs the question on reality and meaning in life. From our third person
perspective, we see all life as humanity knows it is a big lie. Almost everyone on earth
has been captured as a slave to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Everyone lives and works and
carries on with life, not even knowing what they experience every day is more of a dream
world, similar to living on a planet-sized Star Trek "holodeck." While everyone
thinks they are living in the real world, reality is flipped and everyone is really being
held captive in suspended animation submerged in slimy womb-like coffins. In a plot more
sinister than the classic sci-fi movie Soylent Green, both the AI and humans
(unknowingly) feed off harvested human babies. There is only one city left on
earth, hidden deep within the core, which knows the truth of the Matrix and lives free
from slavery. A small band of these survivors are tasked with finding a "chosen
one" who will eventually free everyone from this slavery, and show them the truth of
the Matrix. They find this person as one whom all his life has been struggling with the
big questions in life and has attempted to understand the meaning of the Matrix. They
offer him the pill of truth or a pill to go back into his non-reality of
dream life in
1999. He takes the pill of truth and the adventure rides on through the plot of the movie.
At this level, we can ask ourselves these
- Why does this movie resonate all over the
world, from people many economic levels and walks of life, after a world-wide release of
only a few weeks?
- What are the truths to the phrase
"mankind is a slave to technology?"
- How does this movie echo the sense of
hopelessness and loss of meaning and direction of many?
- How does this movie speak to postmodern
relativity in values, morals, and truth?
Symbols and myths
Still on a deeper level in the movie,
symbolism and myth are evident. Here are some:
The "chosen one" (Neo) must be
"born" and released from the womb-like coffin down a birth-canal shoot, be
cleansed in a pool of water, and be pulled into a strange room with blinding lights much
before he may be told of his name, identity and mission. (Incidentally, "neo"
means new.) Neo is then trained and prepared to fight the AI. He fights accepting his
identity, even though there are others who believe in him. He goes to a prophet-type
person named Oracle who tells him indirectly that his own will and desire to be in control
keep him from being the chosen one. Then, through a series of events, he gives up control
and accepts his fate. He fights the AI. He applies eastern philosophies that the reality
created by the AI is an illusion and can't hurt him once he convinces his mind of it. He
is killed with multiple chest wounds in a nasty gunfight against three AI agents. A
minute later, he comes back to life. He is stronger and more powerful than he was before
he died. He stops bullets in their path. He kills one of the AI agents, and sends two
others fleeing in fear. He is the new messiah for the last city of people on earth.
Many Christian symbols are wrapped around
this character. There's even a Judas in this story. One from the close band of warriors
(Cypher) sells out to the AI. If they give him riches and prestige in the illusionary
world, Cypher will tell them the location of the warrior group and secret codes to find
the last city on earth. Any references to Christianity stops though, with the borrowing of
The last city on earth, of course, is named
Zion. So, here the movie writers connect symbolism between a mighty Hebrew-mythic messiah
saving Zion with a mighty battle.
Morphius is the ring-leader of the warriors
and is the one who most believes in Neo and his destiny. In Greek mythology, Morphius is
also the name of the god of dreams. It is in the dream state where Neo fights all the
battles with the AI.
Mid-way through the plot, a small child
dressed in Buddhist robes teaches Neo classic eastern philosophy that all life is an
illusion, and the only realities are your movements around these illusionary objects. As
life is an illusion, there is no threat from anything or anyone. Neo adopts this
philosophy as the key to overcoming the evil AI as he develops his messianic character.
The Matrix borrows from Christian,
Hebrew, and Greek symbolism and eastern philosophy. This movie is a classic example of
postmodernism. Borrow from any sources. Create your own religion. Create your own reality.
As we minister to a postmodern world, we
need to focus on its weak spots. We need to remember that we are faced with a whole
population looking for meaning in life, have depended on technology, and are groping for
myths and symbols to help ground them and help them through life. You and I know Whom to
follow as the way to the Truth. Perhaps The Matrix can be used to keep us ever
mindful just how great these times are - there is much work to be done and the fields are
ripe for the harvest.
[Movie website] [Time magazine
[Mr. Showbiz review]
Maria and her husband Joel live and work in
Alexandria, Virginia., and attend an Episcopalian church. Maria's avocation is young adult
ministry and postmodern evangelism. She has degrees in Pastoral theology and Religious education, but
presently works for USAID.
to respond to this article.
[^ Back to
[Back to Current Issue]
The Matrix and the Gospel
It is a worthy question, "what is
reality?" And a movie which attempts to answer it cannot probe the subject well
without the protagonist waking up from a dream and facing "real" reality. And so
Keanu reeves finds himself in pink goo up to his armpits, squirming into a new world,
ready to launch the Wachowski Brothers recently released science fiction thriller, The
Reeves character, Neo, a
truth-seeking hacker, finds that the world as he knew it in 1999 is really a sophisticated
simulation run machines. They could possibly be the same cyborgs that control Arnold
Schwarzeneggars future world in The Terminator. He staggers through coping with his
new reality until he finds himself adept at living and thriving in "reality."
The real fun of the movie and the reason for all the special effects is that not only can
Neo and his friends live in the "real" world, they can enter into this
simulation called the matrix armed with a new set of rules. Gravity defying leaps, slow
motion kung fun, and dodging bullets are minor infractions of the laws of reality as we
know it for those who know the truth.
The plot strangely and expertly
mirrors the redemption story of Jesus Christ coming to earth. With a little bit of
stretching Neo represents Jesus Christ. With more stretching, many parts of the film have
Bible counterparts. Here are a few examples:
But not every
element of the movie makes sense biblically. Kung Fu, Trinitys love relationship
with Neo, and a ton of death stand out, but the essentials of the story are there.
Dont easily discount this movie.
|Jesus is the chosen one
||Neo is the chosen one
|Jesus represents the new covenant
||Neo is "New" (gr.)
|Peter recognizes Jesus as the Messiah
||Neo is called "My personal Jesus Christ"
and "My savior"
|Sin is an illusion of real life
||The matrix is an illusion of real life
|The straight and narrow path
||The harder of the blue or red pill
|The truth will set you free
||The truth sets men free
|Jesus coming is prophesied
||The oracle sees his coming
|Garden of Gethsemane experience
||Will Neo choose to go back even at the risk of his
|Brings the Holy spirit
||Brings Trinity along
|Raised to life by The Holy Spirit
||Brought to life by the love of Trinity
|Enters the world of sin to redeem men
||Enters the world to set men free from the Matrix
|Resurrection body after death
||Cant be stopped after coming back to life
||Ascension at the very end
|Betrayed by Judas
||Betrayed by Cypher
|Judas betrays for money
||Cypher: "I want to be rich"
|Satanic forces at work in the heavens
||Agents at work outside of our normal perception
|Satan hates and desires to kill men
||Smith hates humans
|Preceded by John the Baptist
||Forerunner is Morpheus
|School of prophets
||Apartment of potentials
|Only the Father knows the future
||"I dont know how this is going to end,
but I know how it is going to begin"
|Jesus betrayed with a kiss
||Neo betrayed with a phone trace
Garrett is the youth pastor for the Desert Springs Church, Palm Desert, CA, and he
contributes articles to NEXT-WAVE regularly. He and his wife Sandy live in Palm Desert.
to respond to this article.
[^ Back to top] [Back to Current Issue]
By Rogier Bos
In recent months I have seen two
have questioned ultimate reality. That movies would do so, should come as no
very premise of the postmodern worldview, which is rapidly gaining foothold in our
culture, is that it is impossible to know ultimate reality.
Postmodern thinkers such as Derrida and
Lyotard have advanced the notion that we 'construct' the world around us mentally, and
that the reality we construct, may or may not coincide with what is really out there.
This way of thinking has become very popular in the last couple of decades, being
popularized through universities and colleges through out the west.
It is no wonder then, that Hollywood should
start wondering about ''what is really out there?' and that this question should become the
subject of movies.
In recent months, two movies have dealt with
this theme head on. The first is 'Truman Show', the story of a man named
impressively by Jim Carrey) who goes through life unaware that he is the subject of a very
popular round-the-clock show, and that all the people around him are acting their part.
The world as he knows it is a television set, and he has no idea.
But as the movie progresses he slowly starts to realize that something is really
wrong. The climax of the movie comes when his sailboat hits the painted sky on the
wall of the studio. There he hears the voice of the Director, reminiscent of the voice of
God, and there he finds a door through which he can escape, and explore the real world.
The ultimate reality of The Truman Show is
somewhat comforting. For Truman's escape of the world as he knows it is a good thing.
Not so for Neo, played by Keanu Reeves. Like
the Truman show, this movie asks the question 'what is real' and 'what is constructed?',
but the answers the movie gives us are morbid and terrifying. Without discussing the whole
plot, suffice it to say that in this movie Reeves wakes up to the reality that he is not
really a successful computer programmer in the fast lane. Instead, all humans are embryo's
lying in huge bags of gel, with electrodes attached to every part of our body that are
connected to a huge Artificial Intelligence computer, which feeds those
connected the images of the
world they think they live in, and which uses their body-energy as its source of energy.
And then the movie does a strange thing.
Reeves' character wakes up, escapes from the gel, and starts a process of discovery, as he
learns to move in and out of constructed reality and real reality. Now that he sees that
constructed reality is just a construct, he finds he can manipulate it as he desires.
In fact, Neo discovers that he has a
'messiah-like calling' and the movie becomes strangely reminiscent of the gospel. He dies,
is resurrected by a kiss from Trinity, fights the bad guys with total control, defeats
them utterly (for now), and then issues an invitation to the audience to start questioning
their existence, and escape the Matrix. He will be there to help us.
It is obvious that the Wachowski brothers,
who wrote and directed The Matrix, are very familiar with the gospel, and it may seem like
this movie tells the gospel in a postmodern world.
But here is where those parallels break down.
While indeed Christians encourage Western people to question reality as we know it,
pointing to an ultimate (spiritual) reality that lies beyond it, in The Matrix that
reality is not one under God's control, but one open to every possible outcome. Here we
lack the comfort of a God who has everything under control; here we find a savior who
needs to live in hiding, and for whom it is unlikely that he will escape the battles
unscathed. The demons of Artificial Intelligence are still pursuing the disciples, and
they are still out to destroy Zion, the hidden city. The movie leaves us not with a sense
of hope in the coming Kingdom, but with a sense of despair. Should we choose to accept
Neo's invitation, we are promised no salvation, only flight.
That doesn't quite correspond to my
worldview...[^ Back to top]