Top critical review
beating a dead Trojan Horse....
on February 24, 2004
i read this in a couple of hours (skimming certain parts, admittedly) at the Seattle Public Library, then put it back on the cart. there are about 3 billion websites on the Net (give or take) that try to dissect this or that aspect of The Matrix and explain the deep underlying concepts that the Wachowskis dabble in. in 99% of cases this is simply an exercise on the part of the individual in trying to justify his/her viewpoint by aligning it with one of the very ambiguous and wide-open mythological/theological constructs behind the films. the fact is that the films are actually so saturated with conflicting ideologies that they're not supposed to make sense. instead, they have a little bit of everything so that each and every person can relate, regardless of faith (or lack thereof), and take home the over-arching message that only confidence and personal responsibility will set you free.
so after finishing the book 15 minutes ago (more or less), i'm disappointed to say that "The Gospel Reloaded" is the printed equivalent of such a website.
the book seems to be intended for Christians young and old who want to get into all the Cool Stuff that the sinners are into, but can't reconcile it with their families and church-going friends. it's that old line about the atheists having all the fun... Mom says to Dad at the dinner table, "Billy is grounded because i caught him watching The Matrix. they were saying all these dirty words and there was a scene in a nightclub where people were wearing gas masks and groping each other like it was Sodom and Gomorrah!" little Billy replies, "but Mom, i read that the battle on the highway was actually a reference to Matthew 13! ...and that Neo and Trinity represent Adam and Eve for the postmodern era! ...and that The One is a metaphor for Jesus' love!"
even if little Billy (or the book's authors) can find such parallels, The Matrix films are still very dark, very violent, and very un-Christian. sure, the last human city is called Zion, as the authors point out. sure, you could come away with the impression that Neo is Jesus. but to make those sorts of things the central focus of a book is to disregard a hundred other things that take place in the films. what about the premarital physical relationship between the protagonists? the blatantly sexual non-hetero dancing that some of the good guys take part in? the fact that in the first film, Morpheus mentions that The Matrix takes control of your mind "when you go to church," just as it does "when you go to work" and "when you pay your taxes?" you can't ignore those things and pretend the movie played out differently... it didn't. the authors seem to ignore a mountain of contradictions, simply tossing them out for the sake of brevity and (superficial) clarity.
there are also numerous grammatical errors in the book which detract from its presentation... the book is probably better-written and more thought out than some homegrown Matrix-decoding books... however, the frequent typos and improper usage of common English words detract from any professionalism or theological credibility (contradiction in terms?) that the book might have to offer.
bottom line: i consider "The Gospel Reloaded" to be a parallel to Christian rock: take something subversive and re-brand it so it's OK for Christians to enjoy. of course, such rebranding can't be done without diluting the strength of the original. with their book, Seay and Garrett take the intellectual sharpness behind The Matrix and turn it into a blunt #2 pencil for people to write notes with during Sunday school.
besides, if Christian leaders have to go this far to ingratiate themselves with people who watch and enjoy secular films like The Matrix, then what's the point? Satan's already herding the sheep - and the flock has decided that watching The Matrix is more fun than Vacation Bible School.