Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jesus Allegory Matt Damon: Elysium and the Death of God

           I've seen Elysium twice now. I was expecting a highly political commentary on the state of the world today and the direction the world is headed if it stays down this path. I wasn't disappointed. However, what truly surprised me were the amount of parallels drawn between the society of Elysium and the society of Jesus of Nazareth; and even more so, the parallels between each society's protagonist. Mind you, my screening of Elysium was presented to a mind thoroughly enthralled with Mark C. Taylor's After God, but the point of this post is point out that Matt Damon's character, Max, is a form of Christ, bridging the gap between the Kingdom of God and Earth, bringing Elysium to poor and endangered, and in the process positing a radical theology for Christianity.
           It's important to begin by defining what exactly Elysium is. Simply put, it is paradise. In the movie this paradise is built up that unless one is born into favorable conditions, he can never hope to attain it. This immediately calls to mind the Christian idea that before Jesus, one must have been Jewish to find a path to God. To be outside of this path was to be a gentile. But what Elysium brilliantly points out is that what creates the obstruction to ascertaining this singular path is that which the path is designed to arrive at: God. God set up the grounds for who gets into Elysium. God chose a certain people to be inherently advantaged at reaching this path. In doing this, God becomes a blockade to Himself. But this is not to say that God is not aware of this. This is not to re-posit the age old question of "Does God get what God wants?" in a new package. It is evidenced by the book of Joshua in the Jewish Scriptures that God most certainly did not want anyone other than his chosen people existing in the same conditions as his chosen people. This, naturally, is where Jodie Foster comes into play.
          Her character, Delacourt, is this idea of God in blockade form. Delacourt only reacts in ways that 100% effectively eliminate any opposition to her own paradise and the people she desires to protect. Because of this, she must be eliminated in order for there to be any newcomers to Elysium beyond those who were selected from birth. My idea here is that for salvation to be achieved for anyone outside of those guaranteed it by their fortuitous births, God must have no power or be unable to interfere. God must either incapacitate Himself or be rendered inert. This, for me, brings to mind Slavoj Zizek's On Belief, where Zizek states:
"This divine self-abandonment, this impenetrability of God to Himself, thus signals God's imperfection. And it is only within this horizon that the properly Christian Love can emerge, a Love beyond Mercy. Love is always love for the Other insofar as he is lacking - we love the Other BECAUSE of his limitation, helplessness, ordinariness even." (146-147)
The difference I will gladly admit between Delacourt and God (and a difference that I hope is not seen to subvert my entire idea) is that in Christianity, God undergoes a change and wants the people who do not belong. Thus is the necessity of the death of God. For God to allow the space for the redemption of souls outside the realm of his own chosen people, the space that Jesus must occupy, He must first remove Himself from said space. In Elysium this is experienced through the death of Delacourt, which creates the space for Max to bring Elysium to earth.
          Max plays a Jesus-like figure in his vision of world that he can only see as unjust. Reza Aslan depicts his idea of the historical Jesus in his recent book Zealot, wherein Jesus is seen as more of a political insurrectionist, seeking to overturn the established order through a radical reversal in which the poor become the rich. Unlike Jesus' historical death, however, Max's death ushers in this radical reversal simultaneously. The historical Jesus of Reza Aslan remains a martyr for the ideological hope to overcome injustice, but Max is seen to succeed. However, the theological Christ is where Max ushers in true reversal of the established order. We see Max begin on Earth and ascend into Elysium not to wait for the arrival of others, but to send Elysium back to where he came from, and not return with it. Thus Max is the reversal of the theological Christ and the confirmation of the historical Jesus. He ends the separation of Elysium and earth upon his death, and instead synthesizes them. Hearkening back to Zizek, this is true praxis of "Love beyond Mercy." God's love is brought to earth by both His death and the death of Christ creating the space for it to exist. Through the death of God and Christ, there becomes and established locus of love in which life can flourish beyond redemption, overcoming the blockade.

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