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Bond gets religion

Trust the good folks at GetReligion to catch this article, which asks “Was James Bond religious?” Apparently, there was some criticism of author Ian Flemmings work by a reverend in England at one point, to which Flemming (who considered himself “at least some kind of a subspecies of Christian”) expressed concern “if it is thought that I am seriously doing harm to the world with my James Bond thrillers.” As to the worldview of the super agent, the article has this bit:

The apparent lack of moral framework in the novels caused some reviewers to label them "anti-Christian" but Kingsley Amis put it well when he rebutted those accusations.

“I should have thought that a fairly orthodox moral system, vague perhaps but none the less recognizable through accumulation, pervades all Bond’s adventures. Some things are regarded as good: loyalty, fortitude, a sense of responsibility, a readiness to regard one’s safety, even one’s life, as less important than the major interests of one’s organization and one’s country. Other things are regarded as bad: tyranny, readiness to inflict pain on the weak or helpless, the unscrupulous pursuit of money or power. These distinctions aren’t excitingly novel, but they are important, and as humanist and/or Christian as the average reader would want. They constitute quite enough in the way of an ethical frame of reference, assuming anybody needs or looks for or ought to have one in adventure fiction at all.” (From The James Bond Dossier 1965)

I find this all very interesting as a fan of the last Bond film and one who is looking forward to the next one. And the idea that we all have an inherent sense of right and wrong or good and evil—whether we acknowledge God or not—resonates with me as a follower of Jesus. I think Paul reflects this in Romans 1:20 when he suggests that we are all without excuse because God has written himself and his ways into nature itself (which, I venture, would seem to include us).

At the end of his Getreligion post, Daniel Pulliam ponders:
Which movie best portrays the real world: one that merely pretends that human drama plays out in a world without higher powers or one that recognizes that religion plays a real role in people’s lives. Perhaps this is something movie reviewers should highlight more often?
Great question—and one that I think film critics who express faith of varying degrees actually explore quite often. For example, Christianity Today has hosted a plethora of conversations and some good articles about the subject. Favorite critics of mine, like Peter Chattaway and Jeffrey Overstreet, comment frequently on this issue. Or there’s also the forum at Arts & Faith.

My own nonprofessional and humble take? It isn’t an either/or; some stories that don’t say God’s name once can better reflect the world the way it really is than some that focus on him—and visa-versa. All truth is God’s truth—and as I’ve said before:
Good stories, among other things, explore what it means to be human and live in this world. They get at who we are and why we do the things we do. They take us down the roads those choices lead. They tell us something about ourselves, the world we live in, the people we walk with and those with whom we cross paths.

And the best stories are true—not that they actually happened but in that they reflect human nature and the way the world works in reality. These kinds of stories often invite us to reflect on our lives. They invite us to consider our strengths, gifts and flaws. They provoke us to examine what we believe and why. They help us think through the issues facing us in our own lives and, if we are intentional, they can even change the way we approach life, people and the world.

And if a story is true it ultimately reveals something about God. A good story doesn’t need to be told by someone who walks with God in order to reflect him and his truth. As Paul puts it, God has made himself known to all people: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. . ." (Romans 1:20 Message). Paul puts this concept into action "in the open spaces" of Mars Hill (Acts 17), when he talks with a group of philosophers and thinkers and uses bits and pieces of religions, literature and stories they are familiar with that reflect truth and, ultimately, God. God is all around us, he tells them: "He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" (Acts 17: 28 Message) If that's true, it would make sense that our stories—especially our good ones—would reflect him.
A genuine thanks to the Mr. Pulliam for bringing this kind of God-talk into open spaces.

(Image: From Casino Royale, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor/Columbia)


For some time now, I have wanted to go through the Bond films and make note of all the various references to religion in there. Some are frivolous -- the fighting agents dressed as monks in, I think, Moonraker, or the fact that Q dresses up as a priest to meet Bond in a confessional booth in For Your Eyes Only -- but some are presented a little more seriously or ambiguously, whether it's the priest crossing himself after Bond visits his wife's grave in For Your Eyes Only, or the historic church that is protected from demolition by a new oil pipeline in The World Is Not Enough, or the way a villain says he believes in money rather than God in Casino Royale.

If I were really ambitious, I would go through the Bond novels as well -- I have only read maybe half-a-dozen -- and try to make note of the religious references in there, too. For now, though, I can point you to an excerpt from the novel Casino Royale -- the book that introduced Bond in the first place -- that I posted at my blog a few years ago. The excerpt comes from a chapter entitled 'The Nature of Evil', and in it, Bond and Mathis discuss God, the Devil, the conscience, and so on.
Carmen Andres said…
peter, very interesting - i'll have to go back and check out the novel again.

i must admit, i am really intrigued by this reboot of the film series. it is indeed closer to the novels, which (in my limited experience) feel much more complex than the previous series of films. heh, perhaps i'll join you on reading through the novels.