DISCALIMER: This is an opinion article that discusses how faith comes easily to some religious geeks, it is not the intention of the author to imply that ALL geeks are religious, spiritual, christian, etc or should be. It is also not my intent to say that all religious people are geeks. It is a personal essay based on my own experiences and the way that I (and some others that I know) connect with the idea of God through our personal geeky interests. I genuinely NEVER want to offend anyone and you have my sincere apologies if anything I ever write is offensive to you. By all means, contact me if it ever is, and we’ll have a dialogue about it. It’s likely that I won’t change my personal opinions (I might…) but I will certainly change any offensive wording. That’s the beauty of public writing, it can start conversations. My thanks to anyone who reads any of my writing, be they offended or not.
By the title, it probably sounds like I’m about to dive into an essay about Harry Knowles or something. But I am, in fact, going to talk about the big man himself. Should I capitalize “big man” when I’m talking about the creator of the universe? Anyway, for some people, faith in God is a long battle. It’s something to be worked through and considered, to be reasoned over and researched. I think this is just a good a way to deal with the big eternal questions as any, and to each his own. Every personality and demographic has to deal with things like this at some point, and it’s likely that most people will spend a lot of time thinking about the ideas of God, death, right and wrong. Even when they don’t want to.
For others, faith comes easily and ‘m lucky to be one of those people. I was raised in a spiritual family, went to a very loving and open Unitarian church as a kid. God was part of our vocabulary. Then in Jr. High, I made friends with a bunch of amazing girls who happened to attend a local church. So I started going there, and as much as I criticize that experience sometimes (Hey…I’m a film critic, nothing is spared.), it was a really lovely and amazing way to grow up. We never got into any trouble, at least no real trouble. We were surrounded by very well-meaning people who cared about us deeply and prayed for us often. We had activities to go to outside of school. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.” I wouldn’t take it back for the world.
I’ve just always believed in God. This is where that “easy” part comes in again. My mother instilled in me such faith that God is there, that to me, He just is. I feel lucky to have been fortunate enough to be able to skip the “Does God exist?” question that so many have to face.
Anyway, even before I made a decision about Jesus’ identity, I was very sensitive to the idea of God and I think it was for a very specific reason. Aside from people who grew up in or around religion, I think there’s another set of people for whom the spiritual bell tolls rather easily. Geeks. There are a lot of things about God that I think come easily to geeks, thanks to our training in storytelling.
Think about it, we grew up watching epic struggles, which made us comfortable with the idea of some of the bigger spiritual concepts. Good vs. evil in the Star Wars trilogy, peace vs. unrest in all things Star Trek, Dr. Jones vs. the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hey, even the Indiana Jones movies are set in a universe in which the Hebrew God is real and active. They go looking for the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail for crying out loud. You don’t get any better religious geek prep than that.
Stick me in a church basement somewhere and start reading to me from Numbers, and I’ll be squirming all over the place. Sit down for a cup of coffee with me to talk about biblical references to the Ark of the Covenant as seen in “Raiders…” and I’m all over it. Excited to discuss it even, bristling with possibility. Movies allow geeks to have a language with which to talk about God where we can separate from our natural cynicism for a minute and feel more comfortable discussing the topic.
Then there’s this idea that science must ultimately be “vs.” God. Most times, geeks don’t have to worry about the science vs. religion angle. We believe in both, so that argument just isn’t important to most of us. In fact, it makes scientific discussions more fun. We don’t feel the pressure to prove anything or fit anything into a box that suits our theological needs. We have nothing to deny because we see and enjoy the fullness of many scientific possibilities when it comes to the creation of the world. I’ve heard many a scientific religious geek say something like, “I can’t wait to ask God about evolution/the big bang theory/Adam and Eve…” .
Plop me down in front of the discovery channel and I’m having a ball! Geeks who love God (not all geeks)and acknowledge the deep mysteries of science can relax and land safely in the middle of centuries long arguments based on things we won’t really know the answers to until we die. We have the freedom to experience the wonders of the Earth and everything in it, because we know we’re puny. That’s the very definition of faith, believing in some things that just can’t be explained. To me, scientific discoveries are a show of God’s depth and creativity.
You remember that episode of “Friends” where Phoebe says she doesn’t believe in evolution and it just drives Ross insane? That’s the way I feel when I try to tell people that I believe in God and lend credibility to science. They throw out a bunch of arguments about how it’s all contradictory, and I just kind of have to smirk while they’re going all red in the face and shrug my shoulders. I don’t know how I can be at peace with both for the moment, I just am. I guess I just don’t feel the pressure to have to explain my belief system in total to anyone. Maybe that’s another part of religion that comes easy to geeks, we’re used to being in the minority. We’re cool if you don’t get it, we don’t either…
Then there’s one of the MOST obnoxious parts about being a religious geek. We’re analogy, quote and reference crazy in the geekosphere. Well, you know what that means? That means that any time we’re watching a movie, one of us will come out with the obligatory, “You know which character reminded me of God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit”? Usually, it’s “Gandalf” in one of the LOTR movies or the force from “Star Wars”. Sometimes it’s far weirder, like Sammy Davis Jr. in “Sweet Charity” or, Doc Brown in, “Back To The Future”.
This usually causes a problem in some more conservative places, because people automatically want to rain on your parade. They usually attempt this by telling you something they think is awful about the actor who played a character that reminds you of something spiritual. They try to point out a sin in real life, and I always just kind of have to quietly nod, because I know that they’re missing the point. Sure, the actor has likely done something wrong at some point in real life. Who HASN’T? But for geeks, it’s about seeing the world through imaginative eyes, we see God in everything. It’s no use trying to talk us out of it, we can’t help it. We’re total saps for Jesus.
We all have our individual reasons, and most times they don’t make sense to other people. Religious geeks think of God as an old friend, or someone who we hope is like the movie characters we love so much. We tend to have vivid imaginations, so it helps us connect with the idea of our creator if we can picture him as someone we love from a film. Not to say that’s how we define him, that’s just the way our mind works. It’s all analogies up there. It’s kind of like that time Homer got sick on “The Simpsons” and saw the ghost of Col. Clink from Hogan’s Heroes telling him what to do. Yeah, it’s definitely like that.
I find myself saying that a lot, “I bet God’s like that.” I fully admit to having a childlike hope and fascination in those moments, and I know that many times that’s less than mature. For example, the viral internet classic, “Jesus is a friend of mine” is definitely hilarious and strange, but that’s also honestly kind of how I feel about God. He is a friend. I think he’s the kind of God who would sit down at a computer with me and watch that and laugh. Hysterically.
It doesn’t stop at movies either. It’s everything. Songs from the 80’s, certain cartoons, everything in my life seems to be a gentle reminder of the awesomeness of God. If our individual psyches are like collages from each of our lives, then you can understand how a Geek may have a wide range of hoping and thinking when it comes to God. I tend to liken it to the idea of “Alice In Wonderland”, we all have a place down the rabbit hole, a veritable holodeck of our life’s experiences. Well, because of that, a geek has a lot of room to believe in the existence of God and all that implies. This I think, is very contrary to the stereotype that geeks who are interested in science or film are diehard atheists or agnostics.
We’re populists, us geeks, we believe in heroes. I once heard someone say that your perception of God can begin based on how you see your own father. I’m lucky that way too. My Dad is a very noble person, he’s quiet but not lacking in wise things to say. He’s kind of like Mr. Miyagi. (See, there’s another analogy.) Maybe that’s part of why it’s always been easy for me to believe in a vast spiritual reality past our own. The idea of a loving God is not at all a far cry from my own Dad.
But I will say this, go easy on the religious geeks in your life, even when you disagree with them. I know we can be annoying, very Steve Urkel and Mary Catherine Gallagher. We know we’re obnoxious and obsessive, we really do. We know it’s hard for some people to swallow that we can watch R-rated movies without feeling disturbed or read comic books with lots of violence, or spend time doing things that seem wasteful to you, like playing video games. But it doesn’t mean we’re evil or not hanging out with God on a regular basis…it just means we see the world in a different way. Everyone has something that’s important to them. Some feel close to God through music or painting, others of us have those meaningful moments of realization about God via movie moments or scriptwriting sessions. We’re not any less spiritual, we’re just different.
We (that is to say, Geeks who believe in God) don’t need to completely pull out of the culture we live in, because we feel safe right where we are. Because we know that God “gets” us, he understands the place that we were born into and he meets us right there. I have to believe that in a world full of so many amazing things, media included, that God himself is just a big old Geek. Think of it like this, if the Bible were a narrative film, it too would have massive amounts of violence, R-rated content, prostitutes, shady characters, love stories, and a wide range of good and bad things that happen during the story. He seems well acquainted with many cinematic qualities and He’s quite the story teller himself. He knows great timing, dramatic effect, striking beauty, redemption of unredeemable characters, suspense and how to build a narrative that all makes sense in the end. To us, he’s just the great director in the sky. (Or a parallel dimension…hey, we’re geeks…anything’s possible.)