Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent. Advent, for those not familiar with the Liturgical church year, is a time of waiting for the Christ child to be born. It is a time of darkness before light comes into the world. The world is in gestation, awaiting the birth of a Savior. In the spirit of Advent then, I watched the latest X-Files movie, which came to theaters this last August.
I am a huge X-Files fan. My children and I watched all of the seasons of X-Files from 1993, when it began, all through 2002, when it ended. It was a not-to-be-missed occurrence on par with our dedication to Star-Trek, Next Generation. The X-File were all the strange phenomena and the resultant investigations that the standard FBI would not investigate for fear of public reprisal. Usually, these investigations entailed matters of UFOs, monsters, and faith. Yes, Christian faith was always an under current of Dana Scully’s investigations. Fox Mulder had faith, usually reckless faith, and always with one goal in mind, finding his sister alive after her abduction by aliens when she was a young child. He wants to believe, not in a higher power so much, but in the fact that there was phenomena that could not be explained away by rational science. He has faith, but cannot wholly believe because the elusive evidence is always just out of his grasp. He is only left with questions. Scully used her scientific knowledge as a doctor and surgeon to counter-balance Mulder’s faith. She believes in what she can see and prove by science and she longs for faith. Sometimes this faith she searches for is right there, but it too slips away sometimes. They worked well together during the series’ run, sometimes proving Scully’s suspicions right about the supposed “reality” of a case and sometimes proving Mulder right. The whole idea behind the series was that there was convincing evidence to believe, but there were also times where skepticism played a deserved role and judgment had to be reserved or one simply had to accept something on faith. There were no concrete answers, which some found infuriating, but which Chris Carter, the series creator, played to great affect.
The X-Files, I Want to Believe is a dark, gritty movie that plunges us right in the middle of a new, loving Mulder and Scully, who are now living together, but no longer working together as FBI agents. Mulder is reclusive and obsessed with his newspaper clippings while Scully works as a neurosurgeon in Our Lady of Sorrows hospital nearby. After being called in to consult with the FBI on a murder case, they uncover a nefarious plot that involves transplantation and organ stealing. Sounds boring, but throw in a pedophile priest who has visions about the victims and two new FBI agents who reluctantly consult Mulder and you have a very decent stand-alone story about faith and belief. The whole plot centers, I think, around whether one can believe a sinful man can have visions from God and how much faith the two main characters will have in him and each other in order to do their jobs. We also have the priest director of the hospital that does not have faith in science when it comes to curing the disease of a young boy that Scully is concerned about and wants to perform her own experimental surgery on. It’s the godly vs. the ungodly and who speaks for God question, if anyone can or should. In the penultimate scene, Scully and Mulder discuss what they learned from it:
Fox Mulder: Don’t give up.
[he pauses as he follows Scully to her car]
Fox Mulder: Why would he say such a thing to you?
Dana Scully: I think that was clearly meant for you, Mulder.
Fox Mulder: He didn’t say it to me; he said it to you.
Dana Scully: Umm…
Fox Mulder: If Father Joe were the devil, why would he say the opposite of what the devil might say?
[she doesn’t reply, though clearly attempting to rationalize]
Fox Mulder: Maybe that’s the answer, in a larger answer.
Dana Scully: What do you mean?
Fox Mulder: Don’t give up.
Dana Scully: Please don’t make this any harder than it already is.
Fox Mulder: If you have any doubts,
Fox Mulder: [wrapping his arms around Scully, allowing her to rest her head on his chest] any doubts at all, call off that surgery and then we’ll get out of here… just me and you.
Dana Scully: As far away from the darkness as we can get?
Fox Mulder: [he loosens his embrace enough to look into her eyes] I’m not sure it works that way. I think maybe the darkness finds you and me.
Dana Scully: I know it does.
Fox Mulder: Let it try.
Neither Mulder or Scully have the answers after their ordeal. All they have are what they experienced together and separately; a collective experience if you will. They also seem to be gravitating toward asking better questions as they each mature in their love and their own respective “faiths.”
Ultimately, we are born alone and die alone, but we find our communities here and now. We have love and give love and we communicate to beat back darkness and bring about light. It’s what humans try to do best. Because we don’t have to look too far to find that darkness in a world like ours. We have plenty of evidence for that. But how far do we have to look to find instances of light? Not only that, what are we willing to do to find that light? Can we believe in the Christmas story? Is Jesus the light? My favorite book in the bible says he is:
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by,
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness,
the darkness couldn’t put it out (John 1:3-5, The Message).
But can we believe what the bible says? Probably no more certainly than what anyone else who has faith says wisely or sagely or anciently. The bible is merely a long conversation with God by people of faith of different cultures and throughout different eras. Faith in one’s experiences and faith in what others have said are really all we have to go on, ultimately, because no one can prove anything to anyone else’s satisfaction. It’s not enough to believe certainly, that is. So, I was heartened by this seemingly dark and disturbing movie this Advent Sunday because it pointed toward Light rather than leaving us in Darkness yet again. I have the vestiges of faith in a Higher Being and I do believe in Love and Light. The movie pointed toward redemptive love and that’s what I believe in. The movie ended with still more questions and did not attempt to answer them for us. And for me that’s the wisest route when it comes to dealing with religion and faith and questions about belief. The “moral?” Take what faith you can where you can find it. Believe your experiences and your heart. Communicate love to each other. And always look toward what Light there is that vanquishes Darkness.
Christmas Blessings on all of you.