Cramer: This ‘Messiah’ will raise a lot of faith questions

24 February 2020

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

I took in the new Netflix series, Messiah, before I went on vacation and it gave me a lot to think about. The series tells the story of a man from the Middle East that people are calling the Messiah in the Islamic and Christian Tradition. He does what appears to miracles and he is very charismatic. He attracts a following, and captures the imagination and fear of many.

The director and writer always keep you guessing, and you do not know if this guy is for real or not. You never know for sure and I imagine that is the point. It helps you to realize the complexity and the points of view of believers and disbelievers alike. It is very good television and it deals with the religious elements really well. The characters are very well written, and they draw you in.  It is great and refreshing to see these issues portrayed in a mostly positive way. I would recommend you watch it and ask the question: What you would do in similar circumstances?

How would I react if I was a character in Messiah? Being a Catholic priest, the first thing I did in my mind is to compare this guy to Jesus. In fact, I read through a couple of the Gospels on my vacation. So, I asked myself: How would I be able to determine if this guy was a true prophet or the Messiah? How did I do that with Jesus?

What author and theologian C.S. Lewis said about Jesus kept coming back to my mind: Jesus is either who he says he is, a liar or a lunatic. Keeping these three possibilities in mind helped me to clarify my evaluation. It was not just how he makes me feel or some subconscious intuition about him. I took time to reason through all that he did and realized that the evidence is overwhelming that he, Jesus, is who he says he is.

Unfortunately, there is just not enough evidence to determine this about the Netflix Messiah. The jury is still out. That he performs miracles convinces some and causes others to think he is faking it. His words are challenging and that is enough for some. It is interesting to watch and see why some believe and others do not. They see the same things but they react and choose differently.

With Jesus we have the benefit of not being around when he walked the earth. We see him in a more objective way without all the complications of first impressions and subconscious biases that we have every time we meet another human being. Yet bias still affect our impression of him. It is not easy to decide.

Go and enjoy the Messiah! I hope it helps you to look at your faith or lack thereof in a different way. I hope it helps you to think through why you believe or not in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

-Father Cramer is the vocations director of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, a huge movie buff, and a co-host of Left Footers, Grandin Media’s online talk show