Rev. Steve Sanchez

Rev. Steve Sanchez
Swedenborgian Minister

Thursday, April 9, 2015

List of Biblical and Spiritual Themes in Movies - Part One. Makes Movies Fun and Meaningful


Theme: The Immensity of Christ’s Battles against the forces of Hell. The most common of all Biblical themes in pop culture is that of a great battle between forces of evil and the good heroes of humanity to save the world. Hundreds of novels, comic books and movies demonstrate this over and over, from all the marvel and DC stories to Disney movies like Epic, The Harry Potter stories and the Lord of the Rings. This theme is known in the Bible, but the true immensity of the battles Christ executed from his own might is very little known. Indeed, the full extent of them could never be known, but if one takes the time to look there are many descriptions of it in the Bible. Isaiah and the prophets describe it often as do th other prophets, but the book of revelation is all about it. Even Christians and pastors seem to rarely see the extent of it. Perhaps because it has been somewhat misrepresented by fire and brimstone type preaching that has so put-off many people. I believe these stories of great and dire battles at root come from an internal need to honor the way Jesus saved the world from overwhelming forces of evil. No-matter how many times this theme is repeated it never ceases to capture the fascination of people. The limited knowledge of Christs battles in the Bible goes hand in hand with the limited idea people have of the darkness that was on the earth before Christ incarnated. In movies the dark, deceptive and insidious nature of evil is depicted and defeated in countless science fiction, horror, and adventure movies. The great battles in movies are often associated with the end of the world, which of course has to do with the well-known Biblical theme of the apacolypse. This is seen in movies like the Terminator, Independence Day, Superman, The Avengers, I-robot, Lord of he Rings, Men in Black, 1984, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and so on.
Swedenborg gives a powerful description of how intense Christ’s battles were:

Theme: Determinism in society at the time of Christ. In the latest superman movie, “Man of Steel”, this theme is a very large part of the back story of Kripton. It is told that the people of Kripton had adapted in such a way that they tightly controlled child birth. Every child was born under  government control with a predetermined purpose, - some workers, some leaders, some trades people and so on. This is an allegory of the determinism we spoke of that was a result of the decline in religion and the externalization of life before the time of Christ. Zod, the military ruler of Kripton, angrily expresses throughout his scenes that his sole purpose for existence from birth was to preserve Kripton, and he is a warrior who will destroy everything in his way that would keep him from that purpose. Also, in the beginning of the movie when Zod and his officers are sentenced for their crimes by the counsel, their sentence is forever - no possibility of release or attempt to rehabilitate. This is so because the counsel knows Zod’s purpose, and that he cannot be reformed. This is significant because with the Romans and other Mediterranean nations at the time the jadedness toward cruelty was a natural extension of determinism. The belief that they have a predetermined purpose led to a great devaluing of life. This theme is also in ‘The Terminator’, and the ‘Matrix’.
Theme: David in Goliath. This theme is iconic and referred to in common language in sports and other arenas ways in society. In the movie ‘Thor: The Dark World’ there is a scene where the two armies are battling and then a giant rock-man three times the size of Thor walks in and they face-off one on one. The enemy army laughs at Thor’s demand that the giant surrender. Thor whirls his hammer and smashes the giant into a pile of rubble.
Theme: Atmospheres in the spiritual World. This is a theme in many movies such as Mission to Mars, Star trek, not to mention the reality of it on the planets in our solar system. In ‘Man of Steel’ it is told and shown that the people from Kripton cannot breath in the same atmosphere as the people on earth. The whole purpose for the Kripton war is to change the atmosphere of earth into that of Kripton. This is an allegory of a circumstance that is fundamental in heaven and the spiritual world. Swedenborg tells how every society in heaven has its own breathing pattern that is determined by the quality of love there. The difference between atmospheres in heaven and hell in this regard is total - spirits from hell cannot even begin to enter heaven for they begin to choke in a torturous way to the point of total suffication.
Theme: Hereditary Evil. In the matrix there are several scenes of agents pressing their hand into the body of people and causing a black darkness to enter them, inside and out, consuming the person in black. This is symbolic of hereditary evil accumulating and increasing to the point it consumes the person’s life. In the Matrix the agents continue to multiply and would soon consume the whole world of humans and the machines, which is an allegory of the darkness that was increasing on earth at the end of the Jewish church. This is very significant because at the end the agent does thrusts his hand into Neo; Neo receives it all and turns into an agent - and then uses it to access all evil. He battles the evil from the inside and wipes it out. As I described in the section on equilibrium this parallels that the Lord was born on earth and took on a natural body; which meant He now had access to evil, and evil had access to him to him. He gradually defeated the forces of evil, purified himself of all hereditary evil, and and put heaven and hell into divine order. This is an essential part of the glorification process which I will discuss in a moment.
Theme: Faith to be expressed in Freedom. The theological theme of Freedom is upheld in many movies. In the matrix, in the confrontation between the Architect and Neo reveals their essential beliefs: Neo upholds freedom of choice as the truth of being human, while the Architect in all his brilliance basically believes in determinism, which is materialistic and external and leads to spiritual death.
This is also a major theme in many of the Marvel movies, but none more so than in Captain America 2. The backdrop of this movie honors the men and woman of the ‘greatest generation’, especially those who defeated Hitler in WW2. The evil organization called Hydra (an off-shoot of the Nazis) corrupts sheild from within with the philosophy and technology to determine who should die before they are able to commit crimes. This is a representation of the evil of determinism and how it is the inevitable result from completely external and merely natural thinking. Captain America, coming from the greatest generation, senses from the beginning that the ideology of Hydra is destructive, because it is against freedom and the principles of the constitution and democracy, which grow from a belief in God.
At the end of the Matrix the agent believes he has won and asks Neo, ‘why do you keep on fighting’, and Neo says, “Because I choose to”. This upholds that the choice to love and fight for freedom is a Christ-like human quality. Also at the end when ‘the one who protects that which matters most’ asks the Oracle if she always knew they would be saved, she says, “No, I didn’t, but I believed, I believed.” This upholds choice and faith as essential goods. Also, it is a principle of freedom that  no one is given knowledge of the future (not even the Oracle), but salvation must be worked out by choice from moment to moment. When the human soul seeks meaning it cannot but uphold these truths for the essence of being human is freedom.
The deep value of freedom is often combined with American tradition and values, demonstrating the role of America as a light to the world. ‘Independence day’, and ‘Signs’ are good examples of this, as are many of the marvel movies. In his career Kevin Costner has depicted American heartland values incredibly well. He personifies American common sense, goodness, and strength, especially in ‘Field of Dreams’, and ‘Man of steel’.
Theme: Christ is the bridge (the Logos) between the father and humanity. In ‘Man of Steel’ Superman has very good Christ allegories. There is a scene in which Superman’s father tells him who he is, and through their discussion their mind and wills become more and more united. He tells him that on Kripton they lost freedom of choice because they had adopted predetermined birth, but he (Superman) is from the ‘house of El’ where they dreamed of freedom, where people have choice and the chance to reach their full potential. He tells Superman that he could not tell him that the Kodex was in the cells of his body until the moment they were in because he was not ready for it. He then tells him that he can be the bridge between Krypton and Earth, and that he can save humanity. Jesus is the original redeemer of freedom by subjugating evil and restoring equilibrium; and He is also the bridge – the bridge between God and humanity on earth, for which He is also called the Logos. The logos is the embodied love and wisdom that makes all love and wisdom accessible to humanity. Later in the movie Superman’s father, Cal El, tells Zod that his Son is twice the man that he is, which is similar to the Bible’s when the voice of God says, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased”. After receiving the conviction to save earth (his father tells him, “You can save Lois, You can save all of them”) Superman punches a hole in the Kripton ship, and then floats slowly out holding his arms in the position of the cross – a powerful image of the savior. The miraculous feats superman performs appeal to something very deep in the human soul – the desire to be seen and valued, for the trauma we suffer to be justly redeemed; to be given hope that there is a true Father watching over who is capable of all things.Also in the movie ‘Interstellar’ the main characters are on a mission to save the world, and in the process calls himself and his daughter the bridge that will save the world. By way of an enormous and miraculous struggle he travels through a worm hole and accesses a point in time and space to inform his genius daughter of the information necessary to save the planet. There is also a profound story of love and loss between then and the primary theme of this is that love is the means that finds the way and carries the information and wisdom to find redemption. This movie deals with advanced knowledge of space, black holes and theoretical wormholes. It is acknowledged that no one knows what lies through a black hole or a wormhole, but in the story telling of the movie an answer and meaning is given to this problem by spiritual means, that is, in the movie it is said and shown that love provides the means and answer on the other side of a black hole. This can be seen as an allegory for entering heaven, and as an allegory of redemption through love. This movie shows once again that when the human psyche seeks meaning it returns to what is most intrinsically meaningful and appealing in our soul – biblical themes. The movie also demonstrates one the maxims of Swedenborg concerning the Lord; that is that love is a container of wisdom. This means that the intense desire and affection of love  elevates the state and therefore the perception of a person which inherently includes wisdom.     
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