Review of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Directed by James Cameron
By ALEXIS NEAL
It is the summer of 1995, eleven years after Kyle Reese made his fateful trip through time to save (and woo) Sarah Connor, thereby ensuring her survival and the eventual birth of hero and savior of mankind John Connor. But ten-year-old Connor is no hero yet—he spends his days shoplifting, playing video games, and generally disregarding his increasingly at-a-loss foster parents. Meanwhile, his mother Sarah languishes in a mental hospital, where she has been confined for some time due her ‘acute schizo-affective disorder’ and her violent tendencies. No one believes her ravings about the coming ‘Rise of the Machines’, not even John—though he’s about to learn the hard way just how sane his mother is. As the prophesied Judgment Day looms closer, John Connor must survive yet another attempt on his life by the machines of the future, this time in the form of Mr. T-1000, the fanciest robot assassin to date, who is just chock full of scary new tricks. Fortunately, young Connor is not facing this threat alone—his future self has sent back another (reprogrammed) Original Recipe Terminator to protect the not-yet-intrepid hero. With the help of this newfound ‘friend’, John Connor must break his mother out of the loony bin before the T-1000 gets his hands (spikes?) on either of the Connors. But the Terminator is more than just the world’s best bodyguard; he (it) has access to some very important information about SkyNet that just might change the future of mankind.
Let me guess—you think I’m going to talk about Judgment Day, and the modern secular world’s refusal to believe that the End of All Things is coming and we will all have to give an account before the Holy Judge, and everyone thinks Christians are, well, kinda loony tunes for buying into that whole thing…just like Sarah Connor.
Wrong! I mean, I suppose that might be one way to look at it. But I want to focus on a different angle: the perfect Fatherhood of God.
At one point in the film, as Sarah Connor is watching the Terminator interact with John, she has an epiphany (or, as some might say, an ‘apostrophe’):
Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop. It would never leave him. And it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there, and it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up.
To Sarah Connor, an ideal father is defined by what he does. Love is action. And as Christians, we might agree; after all, ‘greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:13) And [spoiler] that is precisely what the Terminator does—he endures a wince-inducing beating in order to protect John, and, when push comes to shove, he sacrifices himself in order to save mankind from the horrors they would otherwise endure on Judgment Day. In many ways, this is a striking picture of the gospel—of God’s love for His people and His willingness to take on Himself the penalty for their sins in order to reconcile them to Himself and save them from the wrath to come.
But there’s something missing, isn’t there? After all, the Terminator, as honorable as his actions may be, is only doing what he has been programmed to do. We want to believe he loves John Connor, but the truth is, he’s all action and no heart.
As Christians, I think it can be tempting to see God in a similar light. Sure, He does stuff for us. He sent His Son to die for us. When we repent of sin, He forgives. But if I’m honest, sometimes I catch myself thinking that He’s doing it because He has to. He’s God—He’s just wired that way. He forgives because that’s what God does. I divorce His action from His heart.
But the bible doesn’t just talk about God’s actions; it is replete with the language of emotion (or some divine equivalent). God delights in His people (Psalm 147:11) and rejoices over them (Zephaniah 3:17). They are precious to Him (Isaiah 43:3-5). He cherishes them as a father—an active, involved father—cherishes his children (Hosea 11:1-4). He yearns for them (Jeremiah 31:20). He sets his affection on them (Deuteronomy 10:15), and speaks tenderly to them (Hosea 2:14). Christ wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), and was deeply moved by the death of His friend Lazarus and the grief of those who mourned him (John 11:1-43). Time and time again, we are reminded that the Lord is compassionate—He suffers with us (Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8-9; Lamentations 3:21-23). If we look at the analogies He uses to explain His relationship with His people, we see that it is precisely that: a relationship. Like a father to a son, like a husband to a wife.
This is not the language of God the Automaton. He is not merely ‘programmed’ this way. True, love is His nature, but it is not love divorced from emotion; it is not action without heart. We don’t have to choose between active love and felt love. In God, we have a perfect Father, who not only acts like He loves us, but who holds us in His heart. This divine love doesn’t just look like love, it is love. It is more than appearance; it is reality. We are not merely protected by an impersonal force; we are loved by a personal God—and He loves us more (and better) than any earthly father ever could.