At its best, TV and film is “art” that reflects life; helps us locate ourselves and make sense of things. This was done consummately in a recent highly controversial episode of the X-Files. It examined Islamism and what’s going on in our world.
The plot is that a young Islamist detonates his suicide vest in a restaurant but survives in a vegetative state. In an attempt to question him, FBI agent Fox Mulder (actor David Duchovny) takes a pill to alter his mental state so he can question him (don’t ask, this is the X-Files). Under the influence of magic mushrooms, Mulder encounters ‘deep and unconditional love’; in a dream-state the young terrorist speaks Arabic to Mulder. This proves to be the name of a hotel his terrorist cell is about to attack. The attack is foiled.
Agent Fox Mulder’s colleague Agent Dana Scully (actor Gillian Anderson) sees only the terrorist gang through which she encounters ‘unqualified hate that appears to have no end’. So the moral dilemma is set up – ‘unconditional love versus ‘unqualified hate’ – the two extremes of our sin-stained human nature.
But what are we to do about it? Which will win out in the end? The screen-play has Agents Mulder and Scully discuss the dilemma for us, as follows:
Scully: How we can reconcile these two is the question of our times.
Mulder: It makes him think about the ‘angry God of the Bible – The Flood and the Tower of Babel; the clearance of the land of ancient Israel; punishing humankind for their pride.’
Scully: I see the angry God of the Bible as the same angry God of the Qur’an – ordering death to the infidels.
Mulder: What is this God saying – “Worship me in my great anger”? The power of angry words which get inside the heads of angry people (like a nasty placebo pill) and drive them to commit murder in the name of their angry God. I want to believe that “mother-love” trumps all other love; that they have a baby for a greater purpose than merely as a tool to create martyrdom fodder. Where does hatred end?
Scully: ‘Maybe where it all began, at the Tower of Babel and a common language. Maybe that’s God’s will.
Mulder: How can we really know? He’s absent from the stage.
Scully: Maybe it’s beyond words. Maybe we should do like the prophets did; open our hearts and truly listen.
My forty years of analysing the issue of Islam and Christian witness, has taught me that the answer to such moral dilemmas lies in the sovereign purposes of God in human history – a theology of history. For example, which is harder to believe – that God has been in control of the holocaust and ISIS, or that he hasn’t?
Christians driven by surface “doctrines” are prone to end in unhelpful places when attempting answers to such questions. But I have learned to be more reliant on deeper “theology”; this means exploring the raw and difficult issues in the light of the whole Bible.
‘God’s purpose in Christ is to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.’ (cf. Eph. 1:1-10)