By Rev. Lori Ethridge
Minister to Senior Adults
This time of the year I am always excited to see the movies which have received Oscar nominations. Since our senior adult retreat last fall, during which we viewed multiple films looking for biblical imagery and metaphor, I have approached the cinema with an intentional theological lens. Last weekend my husband and I saw Arrival. It is a sci-fi film about a visitation of twelve alien spacecraft that simultaneously land on earth, but in different geographic locations around the world. Actress Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, an expert linguist who is summoned by the military to find a way to communicate with the alien life forms. Once Dr. Banks is all suited up in her helmet and protective hazardous materials gear, she looks a bit like an alien herself; however, the actual aliens are squid-looking creatures, and appear to communicate in symbols that look like Rorschasch inkblots. Obviously, these symbols are open to interpretation, and the stake holders realize that images can be misleading. Some advisors interpret an inkblot symbol to mean “weapon” while other nations interpret the same symbol to mean “tool”. The posture of several of the world powers quickly becomes adversarial, and the
dialogue deteriorates between the human beings, who certainly resemble one another more than they look like the squid-like creatures.
On multiple levels, the film, Arrival, is about communication; communication between humans and aliens, communication among the members of the American team (involving scientists, linguists, the CIA, and military personnel) and communication between the heads of state from each spot on the globe where the spacecraft have landed. In this film, true communication, and, as a result, true understanding proves difficult. I wonder if we do not sometimes find ourselves in a similar position with God and with others. God is altogether “Other” and different from us, yet God is not alien to us. In fact, we are made in God’s image; one would think this would be an asset when it comes to communication. We have many ways of facilitating our
communication with God, through prayer and worship, through scripture, through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, through the Lord’s Supper, through song, through witnessing the intelligent design in creation, through serving others in love, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. If only our authentic communication with one another could be as varied and as easy!