Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “redemption”

Christ Figures

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of the Incarnation Figure as an archetype in storytelling. There are obvious connections between this and the Christ Figure that w are so familiar with given that the Christ that the figures tend to emulate began being Christ through incarnation, the embodiment of something greater in than our world in our world. But the difference that I pointed out is that Christ Figures tend to have death and resurrection or sacrificial element to them and Incarnation Figures don’t always express that.
As intriguing and powerful as Christ Figures can be, I find them troublesome at times. I have seen too many Christians try to grade a story’s value on the presence or lack of Christ Figure. If it has one, it’s a good story, if not it fails. And this is whether the story is told well or the characters are believable or if there is any suspense to make us care what happens.
The other problem I frequently see is when a Christ figure is imposed in attempts to co-opt a story and make it a Christian tale. Take “The Matrix” for example. Certainly there is the element of sacrifice on Neo’s part as he stays behind to let the others escape. And there is something of death and resurrection. But did he really die? OR did he simply, finally understand the Matrix well enough to know that he didn’t have to die there? To me this story is more about faith and finding out what can happen when you truly believe more than it is about a Christ figure and the redemption that follows.
People often describe Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings as a Christ figure. Again there is a certain validity to that in terms of his death and resurrection. But as much as he is a Christ Figure, he is also an Odin Figure, at least up until the resurrection point. It’s almost as if Gandalf starts as Odin and finishes as Christ. And that’s not much a of a stretch given that Odin is a bit of Christ Figure himself, sacrificing himself unto himself.
But my favorite example of the failings of the overstressed Christ Figure is Hell Boy. In the second Hell Boy movie, the story follows the typical Christ Figure arch, as he sacrifices himself to save another, descends into the pits to eradicate the forces of evil and save all the Earth. Powerful stuff. But how many Christians stumble on this because he is a demon – and not just any demon, Satan’s son who’s true destiny is to bring ultimate destruction on the Earth? Is such a character an acceptable Christ Figure?
I think this is one of those examples that parallels the story of the Bronze Snake from scripture. God commanded Moses to make a bonze statue of a snake. This statue heals anyone that looks at it. The odd part is that most times that snakes appear in scripture, they are symbols of evil, demons or Satan himself. Jesus later tells us that the snake was an image of him. The image of evil expresses the ultimate good. Perhaps Hell Boy falls in this same category.


Incarnation Again

I recently discovered a new (for me) archetype in literature: the incarnation figure. This may be something that has been around for ages, I have even seen it before without recognizing it, but recently I became aware of it.
Many people would simply call this a Christ figure since the Christ story begins with incarnation. God became human and entered our world as one of us, bringing the Kingdom of Heaven with him and changing how we understand the world, bringing power to change the world. However, your typical Christ figure dies as a sacrifice to save another or as an innocent dying in a punishment undeserved. Christ figures have their own beauty power and problems that I’ll discuss another time.
But incarnation, I love it. It’s something of wonder that I’d like to see more of. Now that I’m aware of It., I find it’s part of some of my favorite stories. I once read an article about “The Shawshank Redemption” which claimed that Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins’ character) was a Christ figure. It just didn’t fit for me. Now I can see him as an incarnation figure (and thus partially a Christ figure), which makes more sense. He was truly an innocent man in with the convicts, sharing his different way with them. So much of “The Matrix” is incarnational with Neo, Trinity and Morpheus entering a different world to try to change things. Even “Monsters, Inc.” was a tale of incarnation with Boo drastically and permanently changing the world of the monsters by being part of it.
What unveiled this archetype for me? Soulstic, the second novel in the Devouring teen horror series, written by Simon Holt. The truth is the incarnation side of things appeared in the first book, Sorry Night, I just didn’t know what I was experiencing yet. Reggie, the main character in has the ability to descend into the minds of those possessed by the Vours, evil demons that feed on the fear of humans. They trap the soul of the possessed in a landscape built of their worst fears. Reggie enters this fearscape and helps the soul find the means to overcome their fears, escape the possession and ultimately kill the Vour. A great image of what Jesus did by becoming human and showing us how to break free from sin.
Now that I’ve discovered the incarnation figure, I have my eyes open for it and seem to find it everywhere, like the movie “Where the Wild Things Are.” And I’m glad.

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