Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rule Number 1: Your Faith Lies

Doctor Who, Matt Smith, Doctor Liesby Ben Howard

I only started watching Doctor Who about a month ago. Depending on your position on the nerdcore scale this is either totally meaningless or an egregious error in judgment that possibly puts into question whether you can ever trust me again.

Now, I'm not thoroughly indoctrinated (see what I did there) into the mythology of the show since I've only watched the most recent three seasons and a handful of earlier episodes. However, even in that small amount some of the larger themes have definitely caught my eye. The Doctor's refusal to use violence is almost prophetic in the way it speaks into our cultures obsession with force and bloodshed. I also love the way the Doctor is both playful and profoundly sad thus showcasing the fact that silliness is not disconnected from seriousness.

There are tons of examples of wonderful truths being spoken and explored by this show, but the most fascinating aspect of the show that I've encountered so far is also a very simple one.

In fact, it's rule number one: the Doctor lies.

At this point in my life it's almost impossible to watch or read anything without immediately making theological comparisons. I mean, I've probably got a thousand words rattling around somewhere about how Alex Trebek is like an all-knowing God or how Wipeout is an apt depiction of the Christian walk. However, watching Doctor Who is something much more profound than that, it's more like watching the first Superman movie; it's almost begging you to compare the hero to Christ.

Amy, Rory, Doctor WhoBefore you ask, no, I am not about to say that Jesus lies. At least, not quite. It’s more interesting than that.

Rule number one comes up on the show so consistently because the Doctor’s companions have to be constantly reminded. Even though they know the truth, even though they’ve been told over and over again that the Doctor lies, they still believe him. They have faith in him.

The Doctor always saves them, always comes back for them, always makes sure that the good guys win and the bad guys lose and the, and since they believe him to be so trustworthy, they are blinded to the fact that he isn’t always truthful. Their faith, their honest, earnest and defensible faith deceives them about reality.

The Doctor tells his companions and friends that he lies, yet they believe him with unquestioning faith anyways.

I think that’s what God and Doctor Who have in common. Followers so full of faith that it can drown out the sounds of reality, so full of faith that it drown out the lessons they’ve been told over and over again about who they’re really following and how wild and unrestrained by rules he really is.

This is far from a call to stop believing, that’s impossible. Everyone has beliefs, and of course they think they’re beliefs are true, otherwise they’d get new ones. No, this is a statement about the certainty of our faith. While our faith is valid and good, that certainty is an illusion. Our faith lies.

Rule #1, number one, rule, the doctor lies, Doctor Who, TardisSometimes the things we whole-heartedly believe turn out to be wrong and that’s an incredibly difficult thing to admit. When our faith leads us astray, when our faith lies to us about the reality that actually exist, we look everywhere else for answers. We blame our parents, the church we grew up in, we blame God for not being the God we originally believed in. It’s hard to bear the tension that comes with a faith that can only ever be incomplete and fallible.

Our perception of God, Jesus, and he Holy Spirit is always, in some ways, a lie. It is always wrong. Whether it’s off only a little or a lot, the certainty that comes with faith is always an illusion.

So perhaps the real comparison isn't between Doctor Who and God, or Doctor Who and Jesus, but between Doctor Who and our constructs of God and Jesus. The reality of God and Jesus evade us, they’re complexity is something far beyond us. Remember, it says in Isaiah, “Your thoughts are not my thoughts and your ways are not my ways.”

These constructs are our creations. They come from our families, our traditions, our experiences,our fears, and our desires. They are valuable and beautiful and necessary.

But remember rule number one, they lie.


Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast (see!) and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.

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1 comment:

  1. Uh, this is awesome, Ben. Keep writing