A 17 year-old girl discovers that years ago her father had been a terrible criminal. The girl is horribly confused because her father has been nothing but loving, nurturing and a great role model for her. So now she has the psychological dilemma of having two drastically different fathers: the one she personally experiences and the one she has only only heard of or read about.
This cognitive dissonance dilemma can be found in many movies and novels: a child [or adult] must decide what to do with the secret life of her father [or a loved one]. This literary trope usually ends in two main solutions: (A) the child rejects her father [example 1] or (B) the child accepts her father [examples 2-6]. Below I list some of the classic responses with a name and a brief explanation. The parallels to Christianity should be clear by now, so I also offer examples of Christians [“Who“] who may take this position as they learn about Yahweh – the iron-age, tribal god of the Hebrew scriptures. Finally, with help from commentors, I will offer examples of movies illustrating the type of response (warning! spoilers). Thanx to commentors.
0. Rejects the Father: She rejects the father with great pain and strong emotion (sad, angry…)
- Who: Atheists, Those moving to another faith
- Golden Compass (2007): Lyra discover that the enemy, Mrs. Coulter, is her mother.
1. Ignore the Evidence: She just ignores the evidence (or never really listened/read).
- Who: Many cultural Christians
- The Godfather (1972): Kay asks Michael (her husband) if he killed Carlo, Michael denies it, Kay is satisfied with the answer despite all the evidence to the contrary.
2. Justifies the Father: She feels the evidence is true but feels her father must have justifiable reasons for his actions.
- Who: Most conservative Christians
- Hot Fuzz (2007): Sgt. Butterman finds out his father is a serial killer, he tries to justify him.
- Let The Right One In (2008): Oskar realizes Eli is a vampire but accepts that she needs to kill in order to live.
3. Feels the Father has Changed: She feels the evidence is true but trusts that her father has repented. (See how Yahweh repented after the flood.)
- Who: Some “Dispensational Christians“
- Old School (2003): Marissa knows her husband is a drunk but pretends he has changed (for the majority of the film).
- Halloween (2007) by Rob Zombie: Ismael knows Michael is a psychopath but he wants to believe he’s changed and he’ll take their friendship in consideration and not murder him.
4. Joins the Father: She understands the evidence, she doesn’t care, she turns off her moral judgements and just embraces her father.
- Who: few violent Fundamental Christians, Inquisitionists
- Kick Ass (2010): Hit Girl finds out his dad was never a cop, she doesn’t care and keeps her original vision of him.
- Green Hornet (2011): Britt finds out his dad wasn’t always the ethical man he thought him to be, he understands but strives to become what he symbolized and keeps his original vision of him.
5. Claims Misidentity: She may decide that the stories are about a completely different man and that all the witnesses are making an identity mistake: there is an evil man, but it is not her father
- Who: Marcionism (a Christian sect)
- Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Luke (son) finds his father is the enemy, denies at all costs. Note: in Return of the Jedi (1983) the father, after all his evil, does one last good deed (saves his son) and confesses his sins just before dying (see #3).
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): Elizabeth denies her husband has changed and claims he must’ve been abducted and replaced.
6. Refutes the Evidence: The daughter discredits the accounts of the witnesses or realizes their blinding biases and goes with her own personal experiences with her father.
- Who: Many liberal Christians
- Oldboy (2003): Dae-su finds out the woman he’s been sleeping with is actually his long-lost daughter, he goes to a hypnotist to make him forget that fact so he can keep being with her.
- The Forgotten (2004): Telly ignores people telling her she never had a child and keeps her instinct until she finds out she did.
7. Uses the Father: She recognizes that her father is a horrible person, but she still needs someone to pay her impending college tuition, and so stay on his good side.
- Who: Heaven-Seeking Christians: A Christian who thinks God maybe horribly cruel to nonbelievers, but I wants herself and her loved ones to go to heaven.
- Breaking Bad (2008-13): Father(Walt) turns drug-dealer, wife (Skyler) first rejects, then helps her husband laundry his illegal money for the sake of the family.
Hopefully I have shown how the original scenario is a good analogy to the profound dilemma Christians experience when or if they carefully read about their God of the Old Testament — Yahweh. It is a dilemma because the Christians haven’t experienced a cruel god, instead, they have experienced ‘God’ as loving, forgiving and supportive. None of my Christian friends or acquaintances have experienced their God to be anything like the horrible Jewish Iron-Age-tribal-god Yahweh who would drown all their loved ones (Gen 8), or have a pregnant woman’s abdomen slashed open just because she didn’t believe in him (Hosea 13:16). So after reading all the Old Testament atrocities Christians, just like the girl in our real life story above, must reconcile these two different fathers: a good one and an apparently bad one. The 8 options above are some of the common solutions.
Question for readers:
- Can you think of other solutions with Christian parallels?
- If you are/were a Christian, which technique did/do you use?
- Any movie buffs out there who can you supply more movie titles that examplify any of the solutions I list above?