Thursday, May 5, 2016

Science & Church: The Genesis Code (2010)

As always, we're here to talk about the church in The Genesis Code, not the movie itself, but I have to address a couple of other things first.

First, the supporting cast of this Christian film is pretty amazing. Playing the grandparents of college hockey star Blake Truman are two Oscar winners, Ernest Borgnine (for Marty) and Louise Fletcher (for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Blake's mother is played Susan Blakely (who ran around in her underwear in The Towering Inferno). Blake's mother's doctor is played by Lance Henriksen (the android from Aliens). The judge deciding (spoiler alert) whether to take Blake's mother off life support is played by Fred Thompson (he ran for President).  And the film was directed by C. Thomas Howell (yes, Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders).

The other thing I want to talk about before getting to the church in the film is the academic career of Blake's love interest, Kerry Wells. (Kelsey Sanders plays Kerry. She hasn't gotten an Oscar yet, but she did play Ann-Margret's lookalike on Mad Men.) Kerry has a double major in college (and yet still has a 3.9 average!). She is majoring in paleontology, but realizes it might be difficult to make a career or big bucks in dinosaur studies, so she has a second major in journalism as a back-up, because we know the fortunes to be found in the newspaper biz these days.

But we're here to talk about the church in the film. Kerry's dad is the pastor, but we never hear the name of the church. Kerry tells Blake to come to "the church at the corner of Lafayette and Third" because why would you identify a church by a name? If a denomination was mentioned it might wreak havoc on audience identification. What if they made the church Presbyterian, but it was screened in a Lutheran Church? Madness.

It probably is a mainline church of some kind, because the Reverend Jerry Wells wears a clerical robe for the services. But don't think that because he wears a robe he's some kind of wimp. As Kerry says, "He likes manly things like football and weight lifting and shooting." It's true. When Blake goes to ask Wells questions about faith, Rev. Wells is in a room at the church lifting ("Wow! 400 pounds!"). So Wells takes Blake to the firing range for some handgun practice. No better place to discuss theology.

Now don't get the wrong idea about Pastor Wells. He may be a man's man but he's also an intellectual. When Kerry's college advisor (played by Catherine Hicks, Kirk's love interest in Star Trek IV) comes to see him about Kerry's excessive religiosity, he dazzles her with his intellectual prowess. She refers to "that church with the pictures on the ceiling," and he says, "You mean the Sistine Chapel?" As they say in click bait headlines, he "Totally Destroys" her arguments for moral relativism and against absolute truth.

But the craziest thing about the church is Pastor Wells' liturgical choices. As the title of the film is The Genesis Code, it probably won't surprise you that he's preaching on Genesis. That's sort of the major theme of the film, showing the creation story of Genesis doesn't contradict the teaching of science. Here's the crazy part though: the film starts with a hockey game, and we hear that there's only one more game before the Christmas break. Christmas carols are being sung everywhere, such as at a campus karaoke competition. Christmas directions are everywhere, including in the church.

So, right before Christmas, what is the church singing? Not "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" or "Joy to the World" but "This Is My Father's World" ('cause, you know, it fits the theme of the film). That's a little weird. What is really weird is that Pastor Wells, in mid-December is beginning a series on Genesis. He reads from Genesis 1, and talks about it in general terms, saying they'll be examining it in depth in the weeks to come. All the fans of shepherds, wise men, and mangers are going to be EXTREMELY disappointed. But it's not a bad sermon.

And the pastor is good about reaching out to the students on campus and  doing hospital visitation. So Generic Church of College Town USA gets Three Steeples.

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