I recently got to see Paul, the latest film by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It’s a wonderfully self-indulgent romp by two evident sci-fi fans clearly making the most of their excuse to have a total geek out, and the result is a lot of fun for anybody who shares their love of sci-fi. The film is chocked full of film references, to everything from Star Wars to Men in Black – some relatively subtle (such as the choice of background music in one of the bars they visit) and some not-so.
It was particularly interesting watching the film as a Christian, however. If you can’t stomach large amount of swearing, then this is definitely not the film for you. But that’s not really what I want to focus on in this review. What I found particularly intriguing was the apparently mixed messages that the film was sending about the nature of faith.
One of the main characters in the film is a caricature of hyper-conservative “Bible-belt” evangelical Christianity, a girl with a repressive father who initially declares the alien Paul to be some kind of evil demon. They’re evidently poking fun at the idea of “blind faith” – her encounter with Paul leaves her enlightened both physically and mentally, able to see the truth about reality with a new clarity that leads her to disavow her faith and embrace a new life of “cussing and fornicating”. At the end she thanks Paul for how he has “freed” her from her life of being repressed by her father’s religion. Let’s all have a laugh at those stupid Christians for their outdated and unscientific beliefs.
And yet, one of the other messages of the film was the idea of maintaining your faith even when everybody else laughs at you. Another character essentially has her life ruined by her dogged insistence that aliens are real, and endures decades of ridicule for her belief in Paul. She is vindicated in the end – he is real, whatever anybody else may have said, and no matter how many stones she’s had thrown at her – and ends up being rewarded with a better life beyond the stars. Never give up believing, even when your beliefs cause you to be shunned by others and excluded from normal society. Something doesn’t cease to be true just because it’s socially unacceptable.
So why are Christians to be ridiculed whilst those who believe in the existence of aliens are to be encouraged? I still can’t make up my mind whether the film was deliberately sending these mixed messages, or whether they’re just utterly blind to the inherent contradiction in what they’re saying. Are we supposed to be going away wondering whether we were right to laugh at the evangelical Christians after all, or does it just demonstrate the inherent prejudices people hold against Christianity?
What do you think?