Friday, May 9, 2003

This, I can't rouse myself to care about...although many do, including my middle son who is just as jazzed about Matrix: Reloaded as he has been about the Lord of the Rings movies, and that's saying a lot.'s a look at what people are saying about the theology of The Matrix

Author and dedicated Christian Kristenea LaVelle hoped her scriptural exegesis of the film, "The Reality Within the Matrix," would inspire Christians to apply the movie's gospel message to their own lives. Reaction to her book, however, has been mixed. A Canadian pastor contacted her to ask if he could use "The Matrix" as a keynote for evangelical outreach to teenagers. But she also encountered negative feedback at a book signing - in a Christian bookstore.

The film's bullet-laden violence and strong language, along with Eastern religious influences, she acknowledges, are unsettling to some Christians. But she has high hopes for the sequels. "If you can see a way through those things and really pick out the good stuff ... any Christian could apply those things to life and grow from it."

Mrs. LaVelle says that "The Matrix" expresses the basic idea of Christian salvation. "The whole idea of being 'awakened' or 'un-plugged' is a reference to salvation." She recognizes, however, that her view is not universally accepted.

David Frankfurter, for one, disagrees. "I'd resist the notion of [Neo] as having anything to do with Jesus," says the professor of history and religious studies at the University of New Hampshire. "He's the classic hero figure from early Jewish literature."

Mr. Frankfurter and other religious experts say "The Matrix" does not represent orthodox Christianity nearly as much as Gnostic Christianity.

Gnosticism never developed a well-defined theology, but it depicts Jesus as a hero figure who saves mankind through "gnosis," or esoteric knowledge. In the Gnostic philosophy, the physical world is not part of God's creation, but a manifestation of a lower god - a nightmarish reality that imprisons mankind, say religious experts. Gnostics believed they could achieve salvation, not by overcoming evil and sin with God's grace, but by learning the "higher knowledge" about reality.

Gnostic threads are present in many religious traditions, including Sufism and Buddhism. As woven by "The Matrix," these threads tie together current concerns with an ancient knot.