Monday, July 26, 2010


"Who do you say that I am?" Mark 8:29

Who is Salt? The movie posters for Salt have been teasing this question all summer - promoting a film whose super-spy main character (played by Angelina Jolie), unlike James Bond or Jason Bourne, gets her cinematic debut this year.

That question is toyed with throughout the course of the film, making us wonder about the final answer up until (and even past) the closing credits. Here's what we do know: Evelyn Salt is a C.I.A. agent living and working in Washington, DC, whose past has included a childhood in Russia and several years in harrowing captivity in North Korea. As the movie opens, she is accused of being a Russian double agent seeking to infiltrate the highest levels of world power.

As Evelyn runs from this accusation, we are left to wonder if she is really guilty of the charge or just scared for her life and her husband. While she pulls off some exciting chase sequences, no one (including all the characters on screen and those us in the audience) is really quite sure.

In a way, this quesion of identity goes beyond the characters and plot... the very film itself has to wrestle with it. It is reported around Hollywood that this movie was originally written for a male lead instead of the fiesty Angelina Jolie. The actress has to dance with the question of who and what makes up a female Bond? What kind of woman would do what is normally reserved for the roughest guys in the movie industry?

On screen, Salt must ask herself: Who am I? Am I a wife to a loving husband? Am I a covert government operative? Am I a Russian sleeper agent waiting to strike at just the right moment? Am I who you think I am?

In our own lives, who are we? Who do people say that we are? If someone were to define or label you, what words would they use?

Are we defined by our work or our relationships, by our religious affiliation or our country of origin or nationality, by our age or gender, by our political preferences or stances on certain issues, by our skin color or appearance, by our economic status or by where we live? Of all these things, which of them might be written on our tombstone?

It might be a fun exercise to ask our friends who they say that we are - to see which things come out of their mouth first or what things are common to all the people asked. And then it might be even more interesting to compare that feedback to who we thought we were in our own minds.

In the New Testament, Jesus asked his disciples who the crowds thought he was - and they told him that others claimed he was a teacher or a prophet or a reincarnation of John the Baptist. Then he looked them in their eyes and asked, "Who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:29) For those closest to him, according to Simon Peter, the answer was simple: Jesus was the Messiah, the holiest person that God ever created, more than just any old teacher or prophet.

Evelyn Salt was seen by some as a traitor and by her husband as a precious, wonderful wife. She was seen by her colleagues as a friend and by others as a mysterious but damaged soul. The government knew her as someone who survived torture at the hands of the North Koreans and the Russians thought she was defined by her childhood in their country. Because of all these mulitple perspectives, chaos erupted when those identities came into conflict.

What about us? Is our identity consistant or do we present ourselves one way at work, another way at home, and yet another way online? Or do we live a life of integrity - keeping our multiple aspects together, presenting the world with an honest image of who God created us to be?

These are questions that we constantly wrestle with as we go through life - but let us learn a lesson from Evelyn Salt and keep the multiple personalities to a minimum, lest we undergo the struggles she went through when those identities smashed together.

And as we are made in the image and identity of God, we can be assured that living a Christ-like life will give us an identity we won't ever have to be ashamed of or run from.

1 comment:

Derrick said...

All I have to say is, "Amen."