Indiana Jones and the Domestication of Belief

April has had a bad week this week, so I took today off and we went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Despite the bad reviews, I wanted to see it anyway. I thought it was a fun film. I wasn’t expecting Schindler’s List. It wasn’t as good as Last Crusade (my personal favourite), but it had to be better than Temple of Doom. Indy’s older now, so he’s not moving quite as quickly, and they don’t have him running around shirtless. Anyway, I am not doing a review. I just wanted to point out something about myself I thought interesting as I watched.

**SPOILER ALERT**If you want to see it and don’t want to know anything about it, just stop reading.

The premise of the story is based on the theory that space people came down and taught the ancient South Americans how to build the ziggurats. And the film ends with that premise – UFO and all. Once I realised that was the way the story was headed (this about half-way through), I thought, ‘Are they telling me that I am supposed to suspend my disbelief to believe that this archaeologist is going to find out that space people built the ziggurats?’ Space people whose skeletons were made of crystal? And were magnetic?

Then, just as I was thinking that and Indiana was running around with a space person head, another thought popped into my head. What about those who have no Christian faith, how could they have watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade? Being a Christian, I can ask, why wouldn’t there be an ark and why wouldn’t it melt your face off if you were so bold to try and capture it for world domination? (OK, I don’t know about melting faces.) Even while I was at the height of my anti-Catholic days in 1989, it didn’t take much for me to suspend my disbelief to accept a 900 year old crusader with the original cup of Christ. Somehow, both of these films and their premises allow me to accept the story within my sphere of belief.

It reminds me of a small group discussion in my American Christianity class at Duke. We were discussing Mormons and how crazy their beliefs are. Then someone said, well how about the Christian belief in the resurrection? How crazy does that sound to others? It appears that we have domesticated our beliefs so much that they no longer sound subversive, but in some way usual. I believe a man rose from the dead (who was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and a virgin), but dare anyone that puts me in the same class as those who, say, believe the earth is flat. Or ziggurats were built by people from space. (Of course, who thinks their own beliefs are stupid? You wouldn’t hear someone say, ‘I believe the earth is flat, even though I know I’m idiot for believing it!’)

I try to preach that the gospel centred on the death and resurrection is subversive, that these events can change and save the world.  That they overturn the world.  But Indiana Jones can show me that I don’t really grasp it. I have domesticated my beliefs to somehow think that arks and cups of Christ are possible and deep down everyone can see how that could happen. Yet, throw some space people in there and I think that everyone will see this as fantasy.

After this quick theological discussion carried on in my head, I enjoyed the film much more.

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4 thoughts on “Indiana Jones and the Domestication of Belief

  1. It was an entertaining movie, and not as good as Crusade or Raiders… but hey, Harrison Ford still has it, dosen’t he? It was funny, didn’t take itself to seriously… I didn’t have the theological strain of thought run through my head that you did…but the whole alien bit did creep me out a bit… oh well…. Indy got married to the right women, finally… sigh 🙂

  2. Yeah, the aliens were a little creepy. I am glad they weren’t but at the end. You’re exactly right about who Indy married! Glad to see he finally got it there.

    Now, will there be a new franchise with Shia LaBeouf taking over?

  3. I like the fact that Indy acted his age. Nothing worse than someone acting about 30 years younger than they are. To me, the movie was entertaining and funny. The chase scene along the cliff was very exciting. The alien? Well, I might could have lived without that part; however, it did not ruin the movie for me.

    I’m a first time visitor to your blog, and I really do like it. If you don’t mind, this South Carolina boy will come back and visit from time to time. Peace!

  4. Welcome, David, and thanks for stopping by! Always nice to have fellow South Carolinians.

    I also think they made the right decision about the age thing. It worked well. I still say I didn’t mind the aliens so much, but glad there only there at the end.

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