Pop culture belongs to the world and as such it reflects worldly ideas and opinions. It’s easy to identify ideals that contrast or contradict Catholic teaching in almost any movie and the Indy series is no exception. While it’s good to point this out, a positive approach will be best received. So, rather than focus on the negative let’s see what good we can find in the two arguably most memorable Indy films; Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
● Indy is the embodiment of hope in this story, in that sense he is an archetype of the messiah: the Jewish hope. He is the chosen archeologist just as the Jews are the chosen people – he’s different, set apart, he’s the one that’s going to succeed even though he’s failed before.
● The Ark is set apart, sanctified like Gods people; the character Markus Brody explains to Indy, “it’s unlike anything you’ve gone after before.”
● When arguing with the U.S. government men to have the Ark researched Indy insists, “The ark is a source of unspeakable power…”
● Even the people with evil intentions recognize the greatness of the Ark just as the demons recognize Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 8:29, Mark 1:24, Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28, James 2:19). Belloq explains to Indy, “Do you realize what the Ark is? It’s a transmitter. A radio for talking to God!…” Belloq sought not after God but after power and because of his impure ambition, Belloq’s end came as torment.
● The ark ends up hidden away from the world’s view. In a manner of speaking, it is in the world but does not belong to it, much like the disciples (Romans 12:2 John 17:15-16).
● A parallel is apparent between all heroes and the saints. What a worldly action hero does is like what a spiritual hero believes. That is, the actions of heroes are like the faith of saints inasmuch as they often transcend the realm of the ordinary. Even though Indy is triumphant he receives no glory for himself.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
● The grail is the Cup of Christ, a true relic of the last supper, not some psychobabble-ic pseudo-myth.
● The Brothers of the Cruciform Sword like the Templar Knights risk their lives to protect the grail. Like a typical character of grail lore, one of these knights poses the apex question to Indy, “Ask yourself, why do you seek the Cup of Christ? Is it for His glory, or for yours?” Indy replies,” I didn’t come for the Cup of Christ. I came to find my father.” In this film Indiana is not seeking an artifact so much as a person and he is in need of reconciliation to his father. Reconciliation to The Father in heaven is the true destiny of Christian pilgrims; The Son (Jesus) redeems us to bring us to His Father. Just as the only way to The Father in heaven is through Christ (John 14:6), so too the only way for Indy to reach his father is through the Cup of Christ.
● Indiana is like the knights of the grail, risking his life not for the grail but to save his father’s life. In this sense can we consider Indiana to be Christ-like? Indiana was never made out to be a priest (Belloq tried) a prophet or a king (Kali anyone?) but in self giving at risk of losing his life, Indiana is just this side of sacrificial. Is Dr. Jones Sr. a sacrifice? Not willingly, but he might have been a martyr had he died, since he was shot while on a mission to protect the grail, knowing it to be a relic of Christ’s.
● The grail has true healing powers and offers everlasting life by virtue of Christ. Of course, we Catholics do not attribute such power to the Cup of Christ but rather to Christ Himself; to the Eucharist. For Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” ~ John 6:51
● The three challenges are reminiscent of scripture, Tradition and philosophic commentary:
Dr. Jones Sr. is dying when he recites this challenge – shouldn’t penance be on the mind of a dying man? In this challenge the breath of God is a wind that blows through the caverns just before rotating blades gruesomely behead those who fail to kneel. According to Genesis, God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7). It is the penitent man whose prayers are heard (Luke 18:9-14) and the penitent thief to whom Jesus promises heaven (Luke 23:39-43).
2. Word of God – Only in the footsteps of God will he proceed
This may be a reference to Jesus since He is the Word of God (John 1:1) and cannot stumble upon Himself Scripture tells us lean not on your own understanding but on every word of God (Proverbs 3:5), and Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). This segues nicely into the next challenge.
3. Path of God – Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.
– “Lion’s head” – Christ is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah ~ Revelation 5:5
– Leap of faith – neither scripture nor Tradition. This phrase is attributed to philosopher Kierkegaard, who reasoned that since the fall of man is a leap from sinlessness to sinfulness, the return would also be a leap.
The button they put on this movie was disappointing but it does ask us to make up our minds about our own journey. To the question, “what did you get out of this adventure?” Henry Jones Sr. responds, “Enlightenment.” In this case the question is as poignant here at the end of the journey as the one posed to Jones Jr. in the middle “Ask yourself, why do you seek the Cup of Christ?” The former question is the quintessential question we are all to answer for ourselves. As for me, the answer is easier to see in the first movie; it’s something like Belloq’s revelation that the Ark is for speaking to God, only without the prideful ambition. What I get out of the adventure of seeking Christ through His Cup and from each cup at every Catholic Mass, is communion with God.
- Saint Laurence was roasted on a gridiron because he would not surrender the holy relics of the church to the Roman Emperor Valerian. [↩]
- that is Jesus is the stone which the builders rejected Luke 20:16-19, Acts 4:11, and to the builders He is a stumbling block 1Cor 1:23 The devil tempted Jesus to throw Himself upon the rocks Luke 4:9-13, Matthew 4:8-11, Psalm 91:11-12 [↩]