Enjoyed a great movie the other day – Speed Racer. (Beware: Spoilers follow. If you haven’t seen the show, go now and watch it before reading the rest of this blog :-). I am not sure what it is but it really appealed to me. I found myself of the verge of tears at times. At others I cheered. Still others saw me reflecting on my own life and limitations. A great movie! Of course the story was not a-typical. A small-town, family-owned racing business tries to compete in the world of corporate racing – together with its inherent corruption and manipulation.
What really clicked with me however was the whole messianic nature of the struggle. In a world oppressed by the aforementioned corporate bigshots that allow no one but themselves to succeed, people are looking for a saviour – someone who can destroy the structural evil of society and bring freedom and peace to the world.
Of course you know how the end goes. The underdog wins; the corporate criminals are jailed; and the world is a better place. The Messiah has come through (again) and done his saving thing. Or has he?
I struggled with identfying the Messianic figure in the show as I compared him to the real Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The obvious choice for Messiah is Speed. He is definitely the underdog. He is a man who lives by a strict moral code. He is passionate about his role in the world. He is even a really nice guy. In the end Speed wins the big race (surprise surprise) and thus brings salvation to the world. A happy ending. Or is it?
A less obvious choice for Messiah in the show is Speed’s brother, Rex. Rex has all the makings of a champion racer. He is fast. He is one with his car. He sets all kinds of records. He also has all the makings of a social advocate. Righting wrongs. Seeking justice. Striving for freedom in the world. Until it all comes apart. He is disgraced. He is ridiculed. His name is dragged through the mud until he dies in a firey crash on a lonely stretch of road in China. We later find out that in fact he has given up his life as a champion racer; his relationship with his family; really his whole life – all for the purpose of saving the world from the evils of corporate racing.
So how does all of this relate to the Messiah? Jesus left his position in heaven as basically the ruler of the whole universe (all Lapsarian, space-time continuum issues, and discussions of how past, present, and future tenses relate to God left behind for the moment) and became one of his own created beings. He lived a life of poverty and hardship on Earth. Spent his time fighting against injustice, structural evil, and abuse. Developed relationships with the world’s rejects and troublemakers and then was crucified on a cross and died.
At the end of “Speed Racer” we are left with a question in our minds. While rejoicing with Speed and his family (and the world) over his victory, we are reminded of the sacrifice that Rex continues to make in order for the world to be a better place. He remains incognito to them knowing that perhaps his job is not done. Perhaps evil will arise again (quite possibly from within his own family) and he will need to be there to stop it.
It’s all about sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed himself so that in the end evil would be defeated. Rex sacrificed himself so that in the end evil would be defeated. Perhaps we need to find out ways to be more sacrificial – to lose – in our lives rather than looking for victory.