By Michael J. Klassen
In the movie The Invention Of Lying, Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where everyone tells the truth.
In Bellison’s world, no heaven exists. When people die, they pass into an eternity of nothingness. But while trying to comfort his mother in her dying moments, Bellison assuages her fears by making up a story about what will happen next.
He describes a “better place,” a world of perfect love and happiness, where she will be surrounded by her family and friends. Relieved, his mother dies in peace. But in that moment, he discovers that he doesn’t need to tell the truth.
Not so ironically, the “better place” sounds an awful lot like modern Christianity. And in the movie, the faith that Bellison describes is a lie.
The Movie Takes A Swing At Christianity
When the movie was released, Christians were incensed. Interestingly enough, in real life Ricky Gervais proclaims himself an avowed atheist. In 2008 he was named an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and two years later he wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal defending his lack of faith.
While explaining to his dying mother that a better place awaits her after she dies, her doctor and nurses are standing behind him, listening. Astonished that they had never heard about this better place, they begin telling their friends.
Bellison soon becomes a worldwide sensation. People gather outside his home begging to know more. Meanwhile, Bellison agonizes inside, fashioning a new faith that everyone will believe. Slowly he inscribes the tenets on the back of two pizza boxes.
A few hours later, he steps outside and announces, “Everything you need to know is written on these pizza boxes.”
Then, like Moses, he stands before an enthusiastic crowd to explain the ten beliefs on his list. You can watch the video clip by clicking here:
1. There is a man in the sky who controls everything.
2. When you die, you don’t disappear into an eternity of nothingness. Instead, you go to a really great place.
3. In that place, everyone will get a mansion.
4. When you die, all the people you love will be there.
5. When you die, there will be free ice cream for everyone, all day and all night, whatever flavors you can think of.
6. If you do bad things, you won’t get to go to this great place when you die. Bad things include rape, murder, or punching someone. You get three chances.
Numbers 7 and 8 don’t aren’t explained in the movie.
9. The man in the sky who controls everything decides if you go to the good place or the bad place. He also decides who lives and who dies.
10. Even if the man in the sky does bad things to you, he makes up for it with an eternity of good stuff after you die.
Is The Premise A Lie?
Amidst the overwhelming criticism by people of faith—most notably Christians—the movie failed miserably in the box office, grossing only $18.4 million despite a clever manuscript and an all-star cast featuring Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Tina Fey.
So was it a lie? Is it?
In the scene where he announces the “Ten Commandments,”, the crowd insists that Bellison carefully explain Rule Number 6: “If you do bad things, you won’t get to go to this great place when you die.”
For two hours, he clarifies what can prevent people from going to the good place. Finally, he explains that “bad things” boil down to our intentions: hurting people on purpose, stealing on purpose, murdering people on purpose.
Was Bellison’s explanation a lie?
Yes! A thousand times “Yes!”
The Invention Of Lying offers a glimpse of how secular people view the Christian faith. Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. If we do enough good things, we go to heaven—and beware that we don’t exceed the limit of committing three bad things.
The religion that the movie rejects is based on being a good person. We earn our way to heaven.
If that’s true, though, then Jesus came to earth in vain. The Bible rejects that particular religion as well. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8 tells us.
As the movie attests, differentiating good people from bad people isn’t easy. How do you determine what makes a good person good enough to go to heaven or bad enough to go to “the bad place”?
The Bible makes the difference abundantly clear: there isn’t one. In our heart of hearts, we’re all bad people deserving of the bad place. We cannot be good enough to earn a mansion in heaven. That’s why our heavenly father sent his only son Jesus to earth. All we can do is accept his offer of forgiveness for our sin. Then he gives us eternal life so we can go to “the good place.”
Christmas Isn’t About Being Good
This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent on the Christian church calendar. The word “Advent” means “beginning.” While Christmas day is the culmination of Advent, the weeks beforehand, starting with this Sunday, help us reflect on the true meaning of our faith.
Our faith rests solely on the greatest gift of all–a gift we can neither earn nor deserve: Jesus Christ.
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s working hard this Christmas season at trying to avoid being sucked into the consumerism vortex.
2 responses to “Is Christianity A Lie?”
1 Corinthians 2: [Spiritual Wisdom]
6 “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written:
‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who LOVE Him.’
10 “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, NOT THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 BUT THE NATURAL MAN DOES NOT RECEIVE THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, FOR THEY ARE FOOLISHNESS TO HIM; NOR CAN HE KNOW THEM, BECAUSE THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED. 15 But he who IS spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
I think the main issue, (and one that can’t be “solved” simply by words written or spoken), is of genuineness. Those who seek GENUINE LOVE, be it in novels or in “real life,” and be they heroes, lost souls, victims or martyrs, will NOT be satisfied with “the fool’s gold” version. “Love” that is revealed to be illusory, faked, a false “come on,” and unfaithful/untrue, is what we commonly “spit out of our mouth”/iow, reject in horror:
Revelation 3:16 “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
God is about nothing, if He is not about Genuineness and Quality, Sincerity and Truth, Life and Love, Goodness and Hope, Faith and Promise — all the things that a “natural man” caught up in his “natural life” can neither be, nor find, nor sometimes even imagine, on his own. This is our dilemma. Something in us thirsts for Pure Living Water to parch our dryness, yearns for a Solid Rock to lean on that will hold us steady and not abandon us, is crying out for deep, personal and affirming Love to fill our emptiness, and validate our existence and purpose in living.
It’s all wrapped up in “the God Package.” But beware. The natural man is an uncannily “good actor.” Imitation becomes his forte, until even he can’t tell the difference between himself and God. And “preying on others’ weaknesses?” This is the only kind of “praying” he knows how to do! And although he doesn’t really “believe in” anything, except what is useful for the moment, he does come to “believe his own stuff” after awhile,…if it’s been “working for him.”
Uh-huh. But God already knows all about him:
Matthew 7:15 [ True and False Prophets ] “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
Proverbs 11:22 “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”
The source of the words being spoken must be considered. Words being used by the cunning and devious, whether true in and of themselves, can ultimately lead to disastrous results if trusted.
Revelation 3:18 “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
God is the source of the pure and true gold.
“Love” that woos to use and abuse is all too commonplace in our lives these days, and so much so that we actually pay to see romanticized versions of it, which are nothing more than imaginary constructs presented in colorful flashing lights on an inanimate screen before our very eyes, and which created “dream” will be over, finished, as soon as the lights are turned off, and we get up and walk out the door — once again back into our “real lives.” Our addictions to substitutes for “real love” are many, and yet poor in comparison to the elusive “real thing.”
The “natural man” makes his bed in the “natural world” in a nest that is dependent upon lies to hold it together, to keep up appearances, to support his existence and to verify his significance. In reality, he is as empty and unstable as is his falsely constructed nest. This emptiness cannot be filled by human effort. Perhaps this is why the Christ Child was destined to be “laid in a(n empty) manger” for all the world to see. God’s Great Gift, God’s Great Love, God Himself come to provide us with that substance which we absolutely lack and cannot supply on our own.
The Real Gold has come to replace our “fool’s gold” imitations and substitutes.