Small Moves of Faith, Giant Leaps For the Soul


 The video clip above is from the movie CONTACT.  It depicts a scientist, Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, traveling through space and time. Leading up to this journey Ellie had been listening for many years for any space ‘noise’, ‘noise’ which would provide evidence of life (ETs) on another planet.   One day she finally hears a regular series of pulses coming from Vega the brightest star in the constellation Lyra. 

 After deciphering the signal – prime numbers – with the help of a ‘quack’ entrepreneur/scientist Ellie discovers that the aliens have offered our planet a means to visit them – blueprints for a space ship.

 In short, the US government, after debate about science and religion and some personal politics playing out provides the money and the manpower to build the gyroscope-looking launcher and the personnel capsule. I won’t give away anymore of the story.  As you will see, Ellie gets to make the uncertain voyage into space.

 Out in the universe Ellie appears to arrive on a distant planet. More likely, though, she has entered a parallel universe where everything around her, the space-time gelatin, is simulated to be a reminder of her home and her memories.  She is in a parallel home of sorts where there are recognizable connections with earth. In her conversation with the alien she is told that life is itself bearable with the contact and company of others. Though this wasn’t the point of Carl Sagan’s story these pastoral words are truly reminiscent of the words spoken in the garden of Eden:  “It is not good for man to live alone.”

 I have watched this movie several times over the course of ten years. It is not an A-list movie but it has held my interest because of its use of astronomy and astrophysics. Also, some of the visuals are stunning, as you will see in the above clip.  Beyond this I like the movie because it deals with a science vs. religion aspect.  Yet, the movie story line wanders around too much and the antagonists are Hollywood stereotypes. Hollywood’s storyline rubric seems to be to debase religion at all costs to increase secularism & atheism.

The most over the top Hollywood stereotypes are saved for the religious antagonists:  a long-haired fiery revival preacher who denounces any quest for knowledge beyond what is ‘religiously’ known, an uncaring, ineffectual Catholic priest who is dismissive of Ellie’s pain and tells her when she loses her father that, in effect, that “these things are hard to understand but they are God’s will” and a liberal “man-of-the cloth-without-the-cloth” woman baiter who is a mishmash with regard to the metaphysical but totally driven by what he feels physically for Ellie. The amalgam of ‘religious’ space ‘junk’ floating in this movie is all way too bad for a movie which could take us places, to deep and far away places not understood before.  Instead the depiction of religion is more of the Hollywood meme of discounting a belief in God for hard cold cinema science (and box-office cash).

 There are many, as I say, interesting themes and subjects broached.  Not the least of which, is making contact and a connection with another human being, someone beyond yourself – a problem for a broad spectrum of people, including scientists like Ellie.

 But there is more here. As a Christian I know that science and a belief in God are not at odds. They are completely compatible.  But, science could never prove God’s existence.  God is outside of our reality.  In fact, He is reality and we are the finely tuned creatures, if you will, which God has chosen to love. And, He made the first point of contact when He sent His Son Jesus into our world.

Science via empiricism and reason can only take you so far. One needs faith to see beyond what is revealed.  God is there and He is not silent. He is waiting to make contact with you. Small moves or any move towards God will yield a response from God. You must first believe that He exists.

BTW: I enjoy this type of science fiction: known science encountering what it doesn’t know and venturing forward.

I wish a Christian film producer would produce a quality science fiction film using the themes of science and faith, reason and risk, encounter between God and creatures. The screen play could take its lead from C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy : Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.