Man, His Monsters, and His God: Is Godzilla indicative of how we view God?
Necessary disclaimer, this article contains spoilers for the new film Godzilla
When a lumbering lizard of mythic proportions stumbles out from the rubble of what was once a thriving metropolis and is serenaded by the applause and cheers of the surviving residents of that once proud city…..
You’re probably in a Godzilla movie.
It’s a strange thing to mingle together the monstrous and the heroic, and yet that is not only the scenario put forth by director Gareth Edwards’ ode to the Japanese kaiju, but is also a theme found in the original films themselves. The character of Godzilla was created as a cinematic manifestation of Japan’s post-WWII, post-Hiroshima and Nagasaki mindset and he has steadily evolved in conjunction with the evolution of Japan’s (and, by extension, the world’s) fears, passions, and desires. Having begun his cinematic journey as a monster to be feared, sixty years later he has become a somewhat heroic figure containing a blend of awe-inspiring power and fear-inducing unpredictability.
Godzilla is in fact a blank canvas on which is projected man’s view of both the monstrous and the heroic. He is both good and evil, and uncontrollable force and an unparalleled savior.
And while the scaly sexagenarian delivers humanity from death, he does so as an unintended consequence of his primary directive. His task is to defeat the MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects), nothing more nothing less. Saving the city, the humans, the world, is not his job, it’s just a result of his job. It is important to note that more than a few hapless humans are dispatched to their eternal fate as a consequence of Godzilla’s actions, but the world is saved by the time the credits roll and after all, isn’t that what counts? The mighty lizard exists to face and defeat those threats in whose face we stand powerless and, after a long, grueling battle, he proves successful.
(Word of advice to the big man, lead with the fire next time.)
But what does Godzilla’s characterization tell us about man’s view of God? If there was ever a cinematic stand-in for the All-Mighty, it would be the King of the Monsters because what is man’s view of God if not the summation of his fears, passions, and desires?
In the movie Godzilla is not portrayed as the “good monster”, per say, just as the least bad. He’s not looking after anyone’s good, certainly not man’s, he’s just doing what his nature decrees that he do. Hunt, kill, and go back to bed. His “good deeds” come with a hefty side of collateral damage. He is a necessary evil to save man from the dangers of nature and man’s own mistakes and missteps.
Is this not similar to how God is seen by many today (even by some “God-is-only-concerned-with-His-glory” vein Christians)? Like the legendary reptile of the deep, God is seen largely as an enigma, an unknowable, unsearchable, and ultimately inscrutable presence. The good that God does is either subjective favoritism towards certain people and people groups masquerading as benevolence or, at best, truly noble acts that carry in their wake horrible atrocities against which they must be weighed.
When you read the Old Testament, God may easily seem comparable to Godzilla. He chooses a people for His own purposes and plans and while He does promise them good, He also allows them to be enslaved, kills off an entire generation of them in the desert, and then uses them as a multi-generational hit squad against the indigenous people of Canaan. Is this really a morally “good” agenda or are the Israelites playing the role of the hapless humans in Godzilla, serving as the beneficiary of the breadcrumbs of goodness that crumble off of God’s overall plan for global domination? Is that the reality of salvation, that it is a breadcrumb falling off of God’s quest for His own glory?
If you were to stop the narrative at the end of Malachi and before Matthew then man’s Godzilla-sized portrait of God might seem fairly accurate. But that’s not the end; it’s barely even the beginning. Because the ultimate difference between God and Godzilla is that the mythical beast is willing only to fight, kill, and destroy in order to accomplish his goal but God is willing to BE fought, BE killed, and BE destroyed to accomplish His.
There is a hill called Calvary upon which this was proved.
The salvation of man is not a byproduct of God’s ultimate goal as it is in Godzilla. It IS the primary purpose. God did not emerge dramatically from the sea so he could bring his enemy to ground in a tremendous show of force and power. He emerged from the womb of outcast woman and her sucker-of-a-husband in a backwoods town in Judah so he could suffer as no man ever had and offer them what no man could ever expect.
No, God is not like Godzilla.
Not even a little bit.