Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pod-People Movies & Christian Conversion

I've wondered a bit about Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and other "Pod people/body takeover" movies as something of an anti-Christian allegory (although not necessarily consciously intended as such) prompted by fear of conversion.

Right? I mean, don't non-Christians have sort of the same reaction when their friends convert? Like, "They look like the same person, and behave a lot like the same person, but there's something different that isn't right . . ."

And such a reaction would not seem to be entirely unjustified. Indeed, isn't the view consistent with St. Paul's death/life theme in any number of his epistles? Gal 2.20, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me"; Ro 6.6, "Our old self was crucified"; Gal 5.24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." And etc. The old man is dead, and a new man lives in his place. (There's a philosophically interesting question of identity across conversion here as well.)

Now, of course, these stories portray conversion as something negative. Indeed, the dramatic movement in the stories is to have the unconverted characters struggle to to resist or reverse the conversion process. But that shouldn't be a surprise. Wouldn't the Pod People in these movies respond similarly as Peter in 1 Peter 3.16: "In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you."

The resistance of the unconverted in these stories is in essence the appeal of Satan to Adam and Eve in the Garden -- conversion means the death of the real you; it deprives you of true life.

So what's the upshot? One thing I think about when watching these types of movies is this: If becoming a Pod Person truly did make humans more fulfilled -- more peaceful, loving, joyful & etc, how would the Pod People be able to communicate that possibility to the unconverted people? That is, if the Pod People weren't attempting to convert humans against their will, how would they make the appeal that humans might actually want to become Pod People?

So negative connotation aside, here I am on this side of the conversion process. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. If non-Christians then view me as a sort of Christian Pod Person, how do I communicate or display that it is in fact better on this side of the conversion process than on that side?

The irony is of course that I was a Pod Person, under control of the Prince of this World. But in conversion (i.e., in the baptism that kills and makes alive again Ro 6.3-9) Christ brought me to life as a true human. I guess this is just another way of asking the question, how do I describe or display to non-believers the blessings that Christ gives me?

We need to recall that it is the "fear of death" that subjects humans to slavery to the devil (Heb 2.15). I do not think that the author necessarily means physical death, since I believe that Adam and Eve sinned because they feared death, and believed Satan's lie that to live they must eat of the Tree.

So people fear the death of baptism (even if there is a promised resurrection on their other side). And perhaps rightfully so in the sense that the old man must die in the baptism that births the new man in Christ. So why would we expect the old man seek his own death?

As long as I'm discussing movies that seem to draw on Christian themes, even if twisting them, I've also always been impressed with how Vampire movies draw on the biblical theme that "the life is in the blood" (Gn 9.4, Lev 17.11, 14, Dt 12.23). The vampire must drink blood in order to live eternally. Presumably the OT prohibition on eating blood aimed to prevent a nascent form of vampirism -- i.e., eating blood as a means to receive life from someone other than God. The irony is, of course, that life is in the blood, and that we receive that life by drinking the blood of Jesus Christ.


Blogger Akktri said...

You could make the same arguments about The Borg on Star Trek. Since no religious affiliation is specifically mentioned, it could represent any group of people that force everyone to surrender their individuality to join the hive mind. Since I don't believe Christianity forces anyone to lose their individuality, I think your comparison only reflects a fear that your own personal denomination or group is being too restrictive on one's individuality. While there are bible verses speaking about how you must conform to the will of God and conform to the image of Christ, but you have to take supreme stretch of the imagination to make the inference that the pod people represent a religious affiliation.
I enjoy pod people movies. It feeds into my paranoid delusions, and I see pod people as any sort of governmental force or agency that forces us to give up things like religious freedom to join the hive mind.
If you suspect your church is being run by pod people, maybe you're in a cult, or you're just being silly.
Also, body snatchers movies came out in the fifties with the red scare. I'd say the scenario, therefore, is a more fitting description of the Red Scare, when we feared that everybody was a Communist out to get us.

April 05, 2011 3:00 PM  

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