I’ve mentioned the Christian media bubble I grew up in, this little landscape of carefully controlled worldview. It’s conspiracy theory garbage, and unfortunately, a lot of people in the real world live in it. But while I’ve made hay out of the replacement media, the ‘Christian Versions’ of things we were given to replace the higher-quality, less-Christian versions of same, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the strangeness that was the times we tried to claim something from outside the bubble.
Now, my dad was not a purist for the bubble. Broadly speaking, he does not believe it’s that which goes into a man but that which comes out of him that corrupts him, ignoring exactly what the context of that sentence was saying in the Bible. It’s still an interesting perspective, which means that my dad read Harry Chapin lyrics from the pulpit confident in the knowledge that nobody in the congregation would know he was quoting a popular songer.
There were others, however, who liked things outside the bubble, who would argue for the Christian-ness of things that they brought in. Age worked in their favour in a lot of ways; both older people and older media were usually more wholesome. John Wayne movies, for example. I saw True Grit and it was okay, even though it had a swear. There were some… edge cases though.
See, one of the ideas we really clung to in these environments was the christian as an oppressed minority. We were sure that there weren’t that many Christians in the world (so missionary work was always important), and that we had almost no power. Hollywood was a vast, christian-eating machine and we warned people to stay away, or if they must go, go knowing they would be hated. Therefore, any ‘big’ media we could attribute as Christian was the result of some clever, insidious trickery on the part of a covert operative Christian, sneaking up the villainous Hollywood’s tower and waving a tiny Christian flag, reminding us all to stay strong.
I’m not kidding.
The first one to stick in my head was Enemy of the State, a conspiracy movie from the late 90s which focused on Will Smith as a hapless victim in a government conspiracy carrying information that was dangerous for someone. I saw it in theatres and heard, a few nights later, a member of the congregation argue that it was a good movie, as it was clearly trying to demonstrate the government of the End Times. It was, they said, a movie that was made for post-Rapture Christians (people who convert after the rest of us leave town), to be prepared for and understand the world they were going to live in. The main thing I remembered in the movie was the lingerie store scene.
The second movie was The Matrix, which we went and saw as a Youth Group because of course we did. See in this movie, there were Bible words, and there was Trinity and that meant that we were clearly seeing a covert missive from our Christian brothers (and sisters I suppose) in Hollywood who had made this movie. We read into the metaphors of this movie convinced that the Nebuchadnezzer was a reference to timescales, that there was some prophetic divination that we could untether in our little youth study classes. Just imagine a youth minister saying, ‘Much like Neo, in the Matrix, Jesus-‘ and you have the image of what happened.
Now I want to make it clear, if you’re a Christian, if you espouse this faith, that’s fine. And I think if you do, you might be a bit insulted to think that the Matrix movies were made for you by a secretive conspiracy and not, as they probably were, created as a sci-fi anime mishmash by a trans woman and her brother, with references to thousands of different sources in cinema and literature. Find your Christian reading, sure, but claiming it was made to be a Christian movie is…
Let me just settle on ‘weird.’
The third one, though, the third one was a movie I loved. That was The Transformers movie. How did we know the secret of that one? What gave away the secretive Christian nature of this piece of toy advertising? Was it the death-rebirth cycle of Primes? Was it the Matrix of leadership and the martyrdom and resurrection of Ultra Magnus? Perhaps it was the way the Junkions fought and did not become tired. Nope, nope, nope. The reference to Judas that was Starscream?
No, the thing that tipped off the church member arguing for this was that in the opening of the movie, Hot Rod runs over a barricade guarded by Kup.
His Kup Runneth Over.
I saw an adult make that argument with a straight face.