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November 05, 2003

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Mike

I read the RS review last night, saw the film this morning. I liked it - I need to see it a few more times, but I thought it wrapped some things up pretty well.

J. James Bono

For those of you out there who, like me, are either too poor, too busy, or too lazy to see the new film let me relay some interesting commentary on the previous installments. Over at Corporate Mofo there is a story about religion in the film Reloaded, there is one here too. The most interesting, and complex, article appears here at Metaphilm.com, which addresses the mathmatics and mythology in the film. Thanks to el Kabong over at Unfiction Forums for the tips.

Taylor Burton-Edwards

A few comments on the Christian direction of Matrix Revolutions. Within the history of Christian theology, there have been several competing mythologies, perhaps the most popular of which has been the "atonement" mythology in which the Christ's mission is to die to atone for the sins of the world. But that mythology, I would argue, is both late (no texts used in worship by Christians incorporate this view until the latter part of the 4th century-- and ultimately invalid (all texts prior to that either operate out of an alternative myth or explicitly refute the atoning myth). And as I read the mythology in Revolutions, it does the same.

Revolutions is the right name for this movie, even for the series, from an early Christian perspective. The Jesus of the earliest churches is not a sacrificial lamb (which is a misnomer anyway-- the passover lamb is not sacrified, but eaten!, and the creature sacrificed in the Day of Atonement is a ram, and that one doesn't forgive sins, but merely covers up the systemic spiritual goop the people have brought upon the sacred objects-- atonement means, quite literally, cover-up!), but a revolutionary leader. He is announcing a revolution led by God which will change the order created by the powers that be, and, in his ministry, is already changing it. Early Christians understood themselves consistently in this revolutionary mode-- not a violent revolution, to be sure, but certainly a revolution. The execution of Jesus on a crucifix, meant by the powers (Agent Smith, in this film) to end the disturbance brought about by the ministry of Jesus, in fact becomes the channel of releasing people from the power of death-- a fulfillment in this sense of the passover lamb whose blood rescued from the physical bondage and death in Egypt. Gustave Aulen has called this earliest vision of the meaning of the death of Jesus "Christ Victor"-- Messiah victorious over the powers, setting free from the powers of the world those who choose to be set free.

It is no accident, then, and, I would argue, no blasphemy, that Trinity must die. Trinitarian theology, which was systematized beginning in the 4th century and which had embraced from nearly its systematic beginnings the "atoning myth" vision of Jesus (as opposed to the earlier Christus Victor myth), could guide Neo Anderson (The New Son of Man, if you take the Greek literally)to the Source, but she could not get him all the way there. So also atoning mythology can still be a guide, but does not ultimately provide a vision that is sufficiently saving.

Smith is defeated, not appeased. And he is defeated precisely because Neo consistently chooses to deny the disordered powers (Smith) the claim to supremacy they make. Ultimately he offers himself to be engulfed by the powers because he comes to believe, against all evidence to the contrary (millions of Smiths watching on)that even when they engulf him, they cannot overcome him. The Truth will out. Just as the Truth was pointed to by the prophets (The Oracle)-- the Truth of a God who was not into atonement but into mercy for sinners and justice for the poor and oppressed-- though engulfed by the system (whether Pharisee or Sadducee or Herodian or Roman), and yet spoke still, and just as the words of Jesus have been engulfed and domesticated into a tame atonement-centered vision, their power still lives on and will not be stopped. The kingdom of God will out, and its prophet/king Jesus cannot be stopped, even in his death.

The postmodern world needs the early Christian vision of Jesus, the revolutionary. Any other vision only sustains the status quo, the dreamworld that looks "normal" on the surface, but a surface that conceals an absolute subjugation. Neo Anderson, The Revolutionary One, the New Son of Man, whether the Wachowskis have recognized it or not, is in my mind the best portrayal of the Jesus of the gospels and the early church Hollywood has yet produced. I hope the church, which claims to speak in the name of the Son of Man, will choose to wake up and become disconnected from the power system which keeps it caught in the illusion that a cover up of sins is the full salvation needed for all to dwell free.

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