Sunday, May 24, 2009
"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live." Deut. 30:19
What is the difference between man and machine? That's the question that Terminator Salvation asks as it continues the story of John Conner (Christian Bale) in his fight to save humankind from technology that has turned against its maker.
At first glance, it's a silly question. What's the difference between me and my lawn mower? or between my friends and my laptop? Of course you can tell the difference. Or can you? Terminator Salvation shows us people who act like robots and robots who act like humans.
On one hand, you have the army general in this movie who wants to effeciently win the war against Skynet (the "motherboard," for lack of a better term, of the machine world) regardless of the human life that will be lost in the battle. He's the guy who clearly thinks like a machine. On the other hand, you have Marcus Wright, the hybrid terminator (a mix of human tissue, data processors, and a metallic skeleton, played by Sam Worthington) who has not yet been programmed to do harm, that tries to protect the very people who seek to unplug and destroy him. He's the robot who clearly thinks and acts like a human.
It's more than metal that distinguishes you from your computer. It's the ability to make moral decisions wisely.
In this film, Skynet manufactures Marcus Wright from remnents of his former human self, including his beating heart. He was designed to infiltrate the human resistance, but what the machines did not realize was that they left his conscience in place - a conscience God gave each of us to act human in the best possible way, if we choose to follow it.
Our consciences show us the way. They allow us to know good from evil, and encourage us to choose the better route, even if that is less efficient, more troublesome, or even sacrificial.
In the Scriptures, God lays out this choice to the people of Israel before they entered the land of Canaan. God told them: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." (Deut. 30:19-20)
As our technology rises in our own world (eerily similar to the rise of technology in John Conner's fictional world on screen), we can start to act like the machines that make our lives easier today. We can make our choices based on efficiency, ease, and self-preservation (like our Blackberry or our toaster oven), or we can make them based on the Gospel.
Acting with compassion, forgiveness, patience, understanding, and selflessness may not be the most efficient route. It might be troubling and arduous to act this way. It might even mean we must sacrifice our time, money, energy, or life for the good of another. But making these choices is what makes us the best version of humanity that we can possibly be.