Sep 29, 2009 by Craig Blomberg | 4 Comments
“For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
Friday night my wife and I went to see the newly released movie, “Surrogates.” I doubt it will win any awards, but it was fun. It does raise some interesting questions for Christians to think about.
I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who will still be going to see it, so I won’t say much beyond what you could have learned from the previews: Our society has invented the capability for a person to stay home all the time, but plug oneself, for however long one wants to, into a machine that enables one to control one or more life-size mannequins, who look just like real people, to do whatever you want them to do, simply by thinking the appropriate thoughts. These mannequins, which contain a myriad of electrical devices and cords underneath their “skin” and clothing, then virtually live life for a person. If they are hurt, even “killed,” the people are not, so society becomes much safer and people appear to have freedom to become anything they want to be with scarcely any limitations--at least until the plot becomes more complicated.
Enough about the movie. The question that fascinates me is in what ways, even if quite differently, human beings in the 21st century already rely on surrogates. Powerful people have relied on underlings to do their bidding, particularly all the undesirable tasks of life for millennia. Sometimes such underlings have been formal slaves. Today they are more likely to be immigrants, legal or illegal, disproportionately from certain ethnic groups, whom we pay, though often not much, to do the jobs we’d rather not do.
But, as in the movie, surrogacy also involves machines. The current state of internet technology allows bloggers and their respondents to choose, if they wish, not to disclose their full identities or even anything about their real identities at all. The same is true of people who contact you by e-mail. By these and related methods stalkers anonymously and deceptively seek out victims on-line and law-enforcement personnel seek out the stalkers by the same duplicitous methods, though somehow we feel the one is right and the other is wrong. I wonder if we should.
Much of the vitriol and discourtesy that plagues the blogworld comes from the complete lack of accountability that some people have created by disguising or at least not disclosing their true identities. And if one artificial identity after awhile displeases, one can start all over again with a new one. How long does it take before that becomes one’s approach to the real world? Church hopping is at an all-time record high, for a whole host of reasons, but one of the worst involves those who don’t want to be held accountable for resolving their problems or problems they have with others in a given church and so they just leave and start over. And no one asks them any hard questions. Or they stop going to church altogether. Or they claim to give up the faith altogether.
How often have we heard testimonies about people who tried one religious or world-view option after another before coming to Christianity? Because we hear their testimonies in Christian contexts, it sounds like at last they’ve settled on something that will be different and lasting. And sometimes it is. But the more personas they have tried in the past, the easier it is for them to try Christianity for a time and then give it up, and we may never know about it, unless, for example, we go to websites that boast about such pilgrimages.
We treat our friends, even our lovers, the same way. It’s been empirically demonstrated that the more sexual relationships we have before marriage, the harder it is to form and preserving a lasting intimate relationship in marriage. The more we see our identity as something optional and changeable, the more we will practice what has been called serial polygamy—not multiple spouses at once, just one after the other.
The Christian should be dramatically different. Whatever else Paul means in the context of Colossians 3:3, he means that when we truly trust in Jesus, we have new identities that are so protected by him and secure in him that it is as if they are hidden away until their full revelation at the time of his return. Serving Jesus as Lord is an absolute commitment that by definition cannot be opted out of. If we do, we show that we never truly understood it in the first place, and thus were never truly in. But the negative consequences, especially in eternity, make such a choice the worst one a person can ever make.
Away, then, with surrogacy (in these senses)!