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The Day the Earth Stood Still: Jesus, Klaatu and Osama Bin Laden

Jesus, Klaatu and Osama Bin Laden
“Once upon a time, a supernatural being, who so loved the world, took on our DNA and became one of us. He walked among us, taught us, cared for us, walked on water, brought one of us back from the dead, and ascended into the heavens. You know the story well. And his name was Klaatu. Klaatu? Well, yes. He is the central figure in the box office hit this Christmas in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Its a remake of the 1951 classic, which was one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. Klaatu is an alien who has come to earth in an attempt to save the planet—ostensibly from itself (on the brink of war in the 1951 original, and rolling toward environmental catastrophe in 2008). A representative of an alien race that went through drastic evolution to survive its own climate change, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) comes to Earth to assess whether humanity can prevent the environmental damage they have inflicted on their own planet. Klaatu himself already has a negative opinion of humans, and in the end the aliens decide to intervene pre-emptively—without any warning—and wipe out human civilization so that all the other species on our planet can survive.  If you have seen the film or just the trailers, then you know that swarms of microscopic beings—insects, robots, or both—are sent forth to bring about the apocalypse, shredding everything from giant sports stadiums to moving vehicles.[1]

Peter T. Chattaway observes, “One of the fascinating things about the original film is that Klaatu was such an obvious Christ-figure—he went by the name Carpenter when he mingled among regular people, he died and came back to life, and he professed a belief in the “Almighty Spirit.”

In the remake, the religious parallels are more subdued: Klaatu raises someone else from the dead, after killing him, but never dies himself; he never goes by the name Carpenter; and he talks of how “the universe” transforms people when they die. In the original film, Klaatu represented a certain ideal, a vision of what we humans could become, and our survival depended on becoming more like him. In the remake, on the other hand, our survival depends on bringing the alien down to our level and making him more like us. That may or may not have theological significance, but it does say something about how our culture has changed over the last five decades.”[2]

Kenneth Chan writes, “The verdict? The human race is destructive. The sentence? The human race will be terminated. “If the earth dies, humans die. If humans die, the earth lives,” Klaatu says in one scene. Although some will see a green agenda in the remake, the message goes deeper than that. It’s not just about our destructiveness toward the Earth, but toward one another. Is the human race without hope? This is what Klaatu believes after receiving his colleagues’ report.  I won’t spoil it by giving more of the plot away.[3]

The movie does help us understand why a Holy God could and one day will cleanse this world of evil.[4] Klaatu is not a type of Jesus Christ. He is fallible and fallen. But he is representative of those who believe it is their destiny to use violence to bring about God’s judgement. Can you think of anyone who believes they have a divine mandate to purify this world of evil and destroy all infidels? The man President George Bush refers to as “the evil one”. The one the newspapers call the “CEO of Terror Incorporated.” The mastermind behind the worst terrorist attacks in recent history – monstrous crimes of premeditated mass murder – Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, New York and  Washington in 2001, Madrid 2004, London 2005, Algiers 2007,  probably Mumbai 2008.

If Bin Laden represents the most wanted man in the world what would Jesus say to him tonight? If we could listen in on a one to one between Jesus and Osama bin Laden this Christmas, what would Jesus say?

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