Sarah: Do you believe in the devil, father?Last Friday, “Born to Run” closed out the second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a Fox sci-fi series that follows (until this episode, at least) the pre-Judgment Day adventures of savior-to-be John Connor, his mother Sarah and those who both aid and fight against him. The series brings more than its fair share of God-talk into these open spaces—and the finale was no exception. And among other things, I was struck by a couple of images that help us understand our human experience with evil.
Father Bonillo (confused): The devil?
Sarah: Do you believe in the actual devil?
Father Bonillo: Something opposes God. Something tempts man into sin.
Sarah: I don’t know about God or heaven, but I do believe that someone or something wants this world to burn—the devil, demons. I believe.
(Warning: minor spoilers ahead.) At the beginning of the finale, we find Sarah in jail, and John and Cameron hiding out. In order to communicate with her son, Sarah asks to see a priest with whom she and her son took refuge at the beginning of the season. Sarah knows a war is coming—and she knows firsthand that there are forces at work that “wants this world to burn.” For her, it is not something with which to intellectually debate but something that is very real.
Interestingly, her conversation with the priest doesn’t limit those forces to human efforts but expands it beyond. Is Sarah simply referring Skynet and using a language the priest can understand, or has what she’s experienced really convinced her, like the priest, that there are other forces at work behind it all? I, for one, lean towards the latter.
Either way, however, I couldn’t help but appreciate how their conversation provides some good insights into the biblical concept of the evil that exists in this world of ours. From the beginning of the Story (and through Job to Jesus to Paul to the end), there is something that works outside of us that wants to tempt, deceive, destroy and kill. There is something that “opposes God” and “wants this world to burn.” And, from a biblical standpoint, it is not some passive philosophy or disassociated idea but boiling, purposeful and determined in its bent, a lion ready to tear its victim limb from limb.
But it does not only exist outside of us. It also exists within.
Later in the episode, John and Cameron (a terminator that future-John sends back to protect himself in our present) have a conversation about how terminators are designed:
Cameron: You need to understand how it works.Cameron’s programming was changed by future-John, but she acknowledges that the original programming still exists within her. Interestingly, she describes it not as latent but as purposeful, with an agenda. I can’t help but think of this as another great image of sin in the same way as the malware mentioned in a previous episode, something in us that works to make us do what we don’t want to—something that works malevolently towards death and destruction.
Cameron: The chip. The software is designed to terminate humans. The hardware is designed to terminate humans. That’s our sole function.
John: Not you.
Cameron: No. Not anymore. But what was there is still there. And will always be there.
John: So deep down you wanna kill me.
Cameron: Yes, I do.
As a follower of Jesus, I find that in some ways Cameron’s situation describes our own. When we come into this world, our “programming” is bent towards selfishness and death. We still have the echoes of the goodness of our original creation, but ultimately we are powerless to overcome the bent within us. When we decide to trust that God is who says and can and will do what he says, our “programming” no longer has a sole function of seeking death but instead seeks life. Yet, like Cameron struggles with her initial programming, we still struggle with sin and the desire to do what is in our desire rather than love God and do what is in the best interest of others.
But there is a very significant difference. If the Bible is right, God doesn’t simply program over our old programming with new programming. He actually makes us new. Deep down, we no longer have those same instincts. Yes, they exist in “our members;” we struggle with sin because we are still in the middle of the story, and death and sin still flail about to wreak whatever havoc and destruction it can in the throes of its own death. But the end of the Story—that death and evil are done for, that life and love reign and that we walk freely again in the wide-open spaces of God’s grace, glory and love—is within us now. It is at the core of who we are. Deep down, we live in his Spirit. Deep down, we are bent towards life, not death.
T:TSCC is up for cancellation, which leaves me a bit sad. This series has consistently given us a good story—one that explores what it means to be human and why we make the choices we do. And that brings God-talk (like the above) into open spaces. (And, for what it’s worth, there’s a lot more God-talk in that finale I hope to get to soon.) So, here’s hoping this was only a season finale and not the last we see of the Connors in this Terminator universe. Because I find it a universe that has a lot to say about our own.
(Images: Fox) ttsccctgy