“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."--Matthew 5:13

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Christian Perspective of "Life of Pi"

It is not uncommon for a Hollywood produced movie to question spirituality, the existence of God, and supremacy of religion, but rarely are these doubts projected in such a powerful way as they are in Ang Lee's Life of Pi. The Oscar winning film is based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. The movie centers around a 17-year old Indian boy named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, the son of a zookeeper, who survives a shipwreck aboard a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker.

Prior to the shipwreck, Pi, who was raised Hindu by his mother, had experimented with both Christianity and Islam. Pi discovers Christianity and Islam and incorporates the philosophies of these faiths into his Hindu lifestyle, culture, and spiritual pursuit. For example, in his prayers, Pi thanks Krishna for the salvation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Pi's father, who has thoroughly rejected any religion, thinks that Pi is ridiculous and actually says something that seems to make the most sense of anything in the movie. Pi's father tells him, "Believing in everything at the same time is the same as believing in nothing at all." However, throughout the film, Pi's father is cast in a negative light. Pi's father decides to move his family, and his animals, by ship from India to Canada to start a new life. But a savage storm ensues and the ship sinks, killing all its passengers, save for a few animals and Pi.

After the shipwreck, Pi shares a lifeboat with a zebra, who suffered a broken leg, a female orangutan, who lost all her children in the wreck, and a cackling hyena. Before long, the hyena gets scared and hungry and begins to attack the defenseless zebra. The hyena kills the zebra and then begins to attack and kill the orangutan. While the hyena is in the process of killing the orangutan, Richard Parker jumps out from underneath a tarp and kills the hyena, while also trying to kill Pi as well. Pi then builds an inflatable life raft and attaches it by rope to the side of the lifeboat in order to distance himself from the tiger. But he knows that tigers are very good swimmers, so he catches fish in order to keep Richard Parker fed and to prevent the tiger from eating him.

Amazingly, Pi and Richard Parker are able to both stay alive as their lifeboat washes up to shore in Mexico. While recovering in a hospital bed, Pi must tell his story to two of the ship's insurance adjusters who have come to question him about the incident in which no one survived but himself. Pi tells them his fantastic tale of how he survived 227 days in the Pacific Ocean with a hungry Bengal tiger. The insurance adjusters don't believe Pi. They ask him to give them "the truth". Pi then gives them a similar story, but changes the animal characters to humans, casting the tiger as himself. The insurance company chooses the more fantastic story with the animals, to which Pi responds, "And so it goes with God".

This movie is the embodiment of post-modern philosophy and thought. The prevailing sentiment of post-modernity is that there is no ultimate truth. Everyone must choose their own truth and must not infringe their truth on others. All religions lead to the same truth. Pi seems to emphasize that we are to choose the story that we like the best and believe that one, although it will ultimately lead you on the same path as the other stories and religions. Everyone's spiritual path leads to the same outcome. Everyone worships the same God.

This same type of thought is expressed by Pilate in John 18:38. Christ had just said, "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate then condescendingly retorts, "What is truth?" Pilate responds in a very post-modern relativistic manner. Pilate proves that he is not a believer because Christ had just said that those who hear His voice will recognize the truth. Such is the case today. Only the elect of Christ will be able distinguish truth from falsity. The reality is that there is only one truth. Christ says in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There is no other way to experience truth and salvation except through Jesus Christ. All other religions offer false hope.

Life of Pi, while visually stunning and entertaining, is an allegory of a young man trying to find spiritual truth in this world. Truth is very real and literal. It is not an allegory or a metaphor, but is presented in very clear and precise statements in the Word of God.

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