Waking Up: Reflections on The Matrix

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14].

Even if you have not seen The Matrix, hopefully you will still understand the point of this post: We are adjusting to a world of change.

 I have difficulty enjoying new movies these days, so often I dust off precious gems from the past. Occasionally I notice new details and gain new insights when watching old movies. One such movie is the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix.

Keanu Reeves stars as Neo, a computer hacker who senses that something isn’t right in the world and seeks the Matrix. He meets Morpheus, who shows it to him. The Matrix, as it turns out, is a program that has been feeding images directly into Neo’s consciousness, creating a computer-generated world designed by machines.

“Welcome to the real world,” Morpheus says when he rescues Neo from his imprisonment in the Matrix.  His eyes hurt and muscles are atrophied, because he has never used them. He has spent his entire existence in a pod, hooked up in a system of cords and hoses, being harvested for energy. His world of streets, workplaces and relationships was never real. He was not a computer programmer who attended discos, but a slave to oppressive machines in a post apocalyptic world. When Neo learns this, the truth is more than he can bear and he vomits on the floor.

It’s not easy adjusting to a new reality, which is what many of us are doing during this pandemic.

Like Neo in The Matrix, churches are experiencing a disorientation and reorientation. The world we once lived in is different from the world we live in now. Close church families are scattered. Reliable ministries are struggling to find servants. New conflicts arise, while old ones re-emerge. Like Neo, we have a host of unanswered questions and a sense of being lost. As Morpheus puts it, we “feel a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole.”

Christians notice that the film sees Neo as a Christ figure. A man refers to Neo as his own “savior, his personal Jesus Christ.” After meeting Morpheus, Neo is told that he’s “the One” they have been waiting for to liberate humans. Near the end of the movie Neo comes back to life after being killed by agents, the guardians of the Matrix. He discovers his powers and realizes his mission to liberate others and defeat the Matrix. In a rapidly changing world, we have a Savior.

The opening scene in the film sums up what the movie is all is about, and is perhaps the most important message to churches. Neo is asleep in front of his computer, and on the screen it says: “Wake up, Neo.” Neo’s new reality required a rigorous process of adjustment. He shred his old certainties and asked tough questions about his new reality. He used abilities he had never used. He discovered gifts he didn’t know he had. Churches who wake up to their new reality must follow a similar process. 

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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