chris-pratt-and-jennifer-lawrence-in-passengers-2016-movieThis week I finally caught the movie Passengers.  I know, I know, the critics panned it, audiences largely hated it, but I loved it!  I think the interpretive problem for most viewers was a matter of viewpoint.  If one views Passengers from the standpoint of sci-fi or romance, I agree that it falls short, but that’s not the genius of the film, which is its social commentary.  The underlying theme of the film is that the one thing humankind cannot survive without, beyond the obvious necessities of food, water, or medicine, is our deep-seated, vital need for relationship, for companionship, for interaction with others, and of course, to love and be loved.

In the film (without giving away too much–I hope you’ll be encouraged to see it), a starship is on a 120-years journey to a distant planet, carrying some 5,000 colonists and crew that have been placed in a form of suspended animation, such that when they arrive at the new planet they will be the same age as they were when they left. Thirty years into the journey, one pod fails, leaving one of the colonists stranded, awake and now doomed to live out his life utterly alone. He will now certainly die some time before the ship arrives at its destination and the other passengers are awakened.

He spends the first year of his new life trying to figure a way out. He tries to repair his pod, he tries to contact Earth, he tries to wake the crew that they might assist him. All attempts to correct his situation fail, and in the end, he has to spend all his time and effort simply trying to preserve his sanity. The ship is a cruise ship containing any sort of diversion the man might possibly want. The one thing it lacks, though, is human interaction and relationship. In the end, the man ends up deciding to awaken one of the other colonists, knowing full well that he is dooming her to share his fate, but unable to stop himself from doing so. Our need for relationship simply runs too deep for us to suppress it.

Now, as a theologian (don’t let the word scare you…”study of God”…we’re all, in fact, theologians, even the atheists), this movie got me to thinking about what might possibly be the origin of such a deep-seated need. If the movie is right, and the one thing we need to survive beyond sustenance is relationship, then is that a human trait or a God trait? And moreover, could it be part of the God-image in which we’re created, the “imago dei” itself? If John can say confidently, as he does over and over again, that God is love, then is our need for relationship actually something we inherited from the Creator? After all, the Creator doesn’t exist alone, existing instead in unity of trinity, and God created humans to be in relationship with God, and to be in relationship with one another.

Such a train of thought carries with it tremendous possibilities in terms of what it means to be a Christian, because it leads naturally to the conclusion that every motivator, on God’s part and on ours, can be viewed through the lens of relationship. Why did God send the Christ?  Because God so loved the world. Might such love, then, be indicative of a desire for relationship, and might the free gift of grace be an invitation from God into just such a relationship? If so, then this is the God for me, and not that other god, the one who keeps track of all my good and bad deeds, in order to decide where to send me when I die (that god sounds more like Santa Claus, after all). In fact, a relationship with this loving God sounds like the one thing…I cannot live without.

At least, that’s how I see it, but you can decide for yourself. Passengers is still in theaters, and the church is open every Sunday.