About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Monday, 16 January 2012

God is an X-File

‘All Souls’, 5x17
Last year, I posted a notice that a book on The X-Files and theology had been published: Amy M. Donaldson’s We Want to Believe: Faith and Gospel in ‘The X-Files’. My own copy was a Christmas 2011 present from my wife, so I’ve only been able to read We Want to Believe this past month. But it was worth the wait.

Essentially, Donaldson pushes The X-Files and the Gospel message into conversation, where each is allowed to illuminate the other. She arranges her thoughts around the themes of faith, hope, love and truth, but also tackles why we believe, or seek to believe, in anything at all. The final chapter takes important moments from the career of Jesus – e.g. his birth, his baptism, his prayers in Gethsemane, and so on – and analyses them by showing how these moments have echoes in the lives of many X-Files characters. Ultimately, The X-Files shows the importance of truth and integrity, and even the search for these, in our lives; as Donaldson argues, ‘the truths illuminated by the far-reaching tales of The X-Files are really the truths of what it means to live in this world.’ (p. 223).

The book isn’t perfect, of course. While Donaldson makes her points clearly and cogently, I found that some of these were made a little too often. This was especially a problem in the final chapter, ‘The Way of the Cross’, where I thought an evangelistic or proselytizing element was at work; some of the parallels between, say, Mulder and Jesus were pushed too often. And personally, I would like to have seen Agents Doggett and Reyes mentioned more (the vibe of the show definitely changed when these were introduced, but I don’t think it was necessarily for the worse), though I certainly understand the need to focus on Mulder and Scully. All this noted, I am very pleased that Donaldson’s expert commentary on various episodes successfully moves past annoying ‘look, here’s a religious or Christian allusion’ statements. We Want to Believe is an extremely insightful book and, I would say, a near-perfect model of a text that takes seriously the dialogue between faith and culture.

As might be expected, I suspect that reading We Want to Believe will be more rewarding if the reader is familiar with The X-Files. But I suspect equally that it will be those who are familiar with The X-Files who will read it. Regardless, I have no problems commending We Want to Believe as a fine volume. Now someone needs to write a similar book on Lost!

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