Wednesday, April 03, 2013


When I was in my first year of seminary our Intro to New Testament course focused on questions of Christology.  And so one of the assignments was to look at Christology in a piece of popular culture.  I remember that one of my classmates did that paper on Jesus Chris Superstar and one of the points she raised was whether Herod had a swimming pool and did a soft shoe dance.  I did my paper on Christology within The Lord of the Rings (which was really just an excuse to buy a copy and read the book again that year as well as a bit of low-hanging fruit for me since I know the book so well).

Christ-figures are really quite popular in literature.  I have this vision of some day doing a study group of Christ figures in books and movies.  I would in fact argue than most great quest-epics have at least one Christ-figure in them.

Jut think of them.  Aslan in the Narnia series (arguably the least subtle Christ figure in anything I have read). Harry Potter in, well, Harry Potter.  In the paper I mentioned above I argued that Gandalf, Aragorn and Frodo are all Christ figures in one way or another.  Obi-Wan Kenobi for sure in Star Wars and I believe you could argue that Luke is also a Christ-figure, and (possibly Yoda?).  Jean Valjean in the musical (haven't read the novel) Les Miserables.  Simba in The Lion King (does that mean that Hamlet is also a potential Christ-figure???)These are all fairly easy to pick up.  But recently I came up with a new one....

On Good Friday morning, while I was in the shower, I was thinking through my meditation for the service that morning.  The meditation was titled "The End" and was going to focus on how the followers of Jesus must have felt as they watched him die. [In an  admittedly self-promoting move I will now point out that you can hear that meditation here]  And a scene came into my mind.  From The Princess Bride.  Now that is not exactly a movie one would either think of in relation to Good Friday or in a discussion of Christ-figures.

But as I worked with the scene [the scene I was using was when Inigo and Fezzik find Westley in the Pit of Despair and Inigo says "He's dead" and then we switch to the grandson objecting that grandpa is reading the story wrong because someone has to "get" Humperdinck and Westley is not supposed to die] I realized that it did in fact tie in well to where I was going with the meditation.  And moreso I realized that an argument can be made that Westley is in fact a Christ figure, albeit on a relatively smaller scale than Frodo saving Middle Earth or Harry walking into the Forbidden Forest so Voldemort can kill him.

One of the ways we need to do theology is to make connections with the culture around us.  This is not new.   This is how successful popular (as in "of the people" not as in well-liked or critically acclaimed) theology has always worked.  And so we mine novels and movies and TV shows for images that will help us tell and explore the story of God at work in the world.  And sometimes that mining has surprising, out of the blue, results.

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