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“Signs” Theology Is Absurd, Immoral

The real horror is the “answer” the movie gives to the problem of evil. The misconceived theological premise is that God directs every death. Not even the green guys would believe in a God as cruel as the one in “Signs.”

As a pastor (a group woefully under-represented in movies), I was delighted that the man of the cloth is played by Mel Gibson rather than Charles Durning.
   
I also felt a professional responsibility to support any movie in which the minister doesn’t murder the church secretary or run away to Vegas with her and the church funds.
   
Unfortunately the minister’s theology ends up being closer to Jerry Falwell’s than Kierkegaard’s.
    
Warning: Spoilers below!
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The story begins with the appearance of strange designs carved into the cornfield on Mel’s <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Pennsylvania farm. These mysterious crop signs and strange lights in the sky start appearing around the world. Mel has an asthmatic son, a hydrophobic daughter and a well-meaning brother.
   
Mel’s wife died in a grisly accident six months ago. The driver who killed her claims it was more than a coincidence: “It had to be.” Some force (God?) forced him off the road.
   
This tragic event leads Mel to think about unthinkable tragedies—apparently for the first time. Every minister I know struggles with the problem of evil. We’ve suffered as people we care about have lost wives, husbands and children. Surely if some of his church members experienced a similar tragedy, Mel would assure them that God didn’t kill their loved one. Inexplicably Mel decides this tragic accident was God’s idea and trades his clerical collar for full-time tractoring.
   
In a scene which could have been captioned “Poignant conversation!” Mel explains to his brother that there are only two types of people in the world. In the face of the incredible, one type sees only luck, the others see a miracle. 
 
He presents this problem of “coincidence versus sign” as the ultimate question. He thus equates religious belief with belief in a God who controls every detail. What about people who believe that God is always present but doesn’t steer cars into innocent people?
   
The Martians are more like creatures from the black lagoon than E.T. These extraterrestrials are mean. As these highly advanced, yucky creatures attack and the end of the world approaches, Mel retreats into the cellar with a brilliant plan: “Plywood will stop these monsters!”
   
Then he remembers his wife’s last words. With her dying breath, she gave him the key to saving the family. The brother is to “swing away”—meaning “kill the green guy with a Louisville Slugger.”  (The aliens were amazingly fast earlier in the movie, but now they’re willing to stand still and be pummeled with a baseball bat). The planet is saved.
   
The movie ends with Mel Gibson back in his priest outfit. He believes that God killed his wife to send a message. This belief, unbelievably, leads him back to the ministry. His conclusion is not only absurd, but immoral. What kind of priest serves a God who murders young mothers?
   
The real horror is the “answer” the movie gives to the problem of evil. The misconceived theological premise is that God directs every death. Not even the green guys would believe in a God as cruel as the one in “Signs.
 
Brett Younger is pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.