Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song OR Who is your husband?

Spoilers for “The Husbands of River Song” obviously!

River Song has been a favorite character of mine since she first appeared in the 4th season episodes “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”. From the beginning, she was a mystery. She appeared to know the Doctor intimately despite his never meeting her before. She gained his trust in those few first hours together by whispering his actual name in his ear. If you watch this show for more than a minute, you know that his name is something that is never given out, even to those he trusts very much.

She then explains that they never meet in the right order. It’s back to front. His first adventure with her is her last with him. She’s had many more adventures with his future self. She has to be careful not to reveal too much in any of their adventures together. Through the course of the series, it is revealed that River Song was born Melody Pond, a child of his companions and also of the TARDIS after a fashion. Her connection to the vortex is exploited in a plot to kill the Doctor. However, they end up falling in love instead and eventually marry.

Her story appeared to be over with “The Name of the Doctor”. Here, the Doctor and River say their goodbyes.  Before that, we see her in “The Angels Take Manhattan” where she witnesses the death of her parents. “Husbands” appears to take off from there as I get a sense that she’s mourning her parents in a way. Her parents loved each other very much. In “Husbands”, she appears to have lost faith in true love.

The Doctor himself is also mourning the loss of another companion. He also said goodbye to River in “The Name of the Doctor”. So when a knock on the TARDIS door lands him in front of his wife again, he is at first excited. However, his joy is short lived when he realizes that she doesn’t recognize him. She knows of his first twelve faces but does not recognize his thirteenth. If you didn’t know already, it had been established for quite some time that time lords only get 12 regenerations. And the Doctor had “wasted” one on his disembodied hand at the end of season four. It’s obvious she had been told this by the Doctor a long time ago.

The Doctor is even further surprised to know that she is married to a cyborg king, a diamond, and a handsome guy named Ramon. She has also had two wives. Eek!

Throughout the episode, we almost get the feeling that River was just playing with the Doctor’s feelings and was just using him for occasional access to the TARDIS.

However, we see later on that this is not at all the case. Towards the end of the episode, the cyborg king wants the Doctor’s head. He demands that River tell him where he is. She doesn’t know. The cyborg asks, “Don’t you love him?” River responds with, “When you love The Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves! You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back!”

How heartbreaking! We see now that River isn’t being cold to the Doctor. She genuinely believes that he is simply out of her reach. He’s larger than life. He’s thousands of years old to her two hundred. He comes from a long dead civilization. He saves millions of people at a time. And she has settled for watching from afar.

But then she realizes that the man she has been carrying on with for the whole episode is actually the Doctor and her face falls.

I have been pondering this Christmas about it’s true meaning. I’ve wrote about it before. One of the names given to Jesus is Immanuel which means “God with us”. It’s such a powerful statement. We tend to think of God as being “beyond”. He’s not “here” but “over there”. We think of him as being far off in some other dimension of existence, only peaking in once in a great while. God is too great and too glorious to bother with us, right? Surely, he has better things to do than think about me?

But what does the birth of Jesus tell us about this attitude? His name means, “God with us”. He joined himself to human existence. At the moment he was born and took his first human breath, the angelic host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace, good will toward men.” The moment that God was most glorified was NOT when he was sitting on his golden throne and donning his crown of jewels. This didn’t ring out when he was traveling the golden streets of Heaven on his pure white horse with his large sword at his side. God’s most glorious moment up to that point was when he stretched his arms and legs in the physical world, when he felt the touch of cold air on his skin. His most glorious moment was when he became flesh and was born among animals and filth to two impoverished parents. There was no fanfare. There were no news reports. Only a few were invited to witness this event.

The lie from the beginning was that God was not near, that he wasn’t really interested in us, that he was holding back. This goes all the way back to Eve. The serpent told her that if she ate the forbidden fruit that she would be like God. The implication being that she wasn’t already like God which was inherently false. Adam and Eve were made in God’s image! We are made of the same stuff!

It’s also implied that there was an inequality in the relationship. How many times have we heard a pastor or church leader tell us not to be unequally yoked? Meaning that we should find friends and/or a spouse with similar personalities and beliefs. And yet God has no problem being “yoked” with us! “My yoke is easy and burden is light.” What should that tell us? And yet we question every bit of it.

Just like River questions the love the Doctor has for her, she also doesn’t see herself as equal to him. But it is obvious that they are. She may not have been born on Gallifrey, but she is a time lady. She can regenerate. She can pilot the TARDIS. She is just as clever as he is. However, she feels like a mere mortal compared to her husband.

And what is her response to those feelings of inadequacy? She takes on other lovers. She takes them on without much regard to their feelings. As seen in the episode, she has no problem wiping Ramon’s memories when she’s mad at him. She’s also plotting to murder another husband. It kind of reminds me of the woman at the well. She meets Jesus who tells her she has had five husbands and the one she’s with now is not her husband. She runs into town to tell everybody about the man who told her everything she ever did. Which oddly enough, is similar to what River says in, “The Impossible Astronaut”. She tells her father, “When I first met the Doctor, a long, long time ago, he knew all about me. Think about that. An impressionable young girl, and suddenly this man just drops out of the sky, and he’s clever, and mad, and wonderful, and knows every last thing about her. Imagine what that does to a girl.”

So the real question is, “Who is your husband?” What are our true beliefs about God and how do they affect our lives? For me, the relationship between River Song and the Doctor has always been a mirror of the relationship between Christ and the church (as well as the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS). Jesus is a timelord in a sense. He can travel space and time at will. He can cheat death. He is very old. River, being conceived in the TARDIS, has a very different nature. She was no longer simply human, she was human+ (in the words of Madame Vastra). This change put her on equal footing with the Doctor.

From her beginning, her nature is questioned. Is she Melody Williams or Melody Pond? Is she just a geography teacher or is she a superhero?  Is she natural or supernatural? It appears that she struggles with this identity crisis until the very end of her life.

From the beginning, mankind’s nature has been questioned. Are we natural or supernatural? Are we like the animals? Or are we more? We question our own nature constantly. The Bible says that we are a new creation. New, in the sense of replacing your beat up Ford Taurus for the Starship Enterprise. We are truly human+.

Matrix Revolutions

Watched Matrix Revolutions the other day. I think I figured it out. Neo lets Agent Smith take him over. Smith thinks he’s won. But it’s only through taking on Smith’s form that Neo is able to spread his essence to all the Smith duplicates and shatter them, leaving behind the people (and programs) they once were. Reminded me of I Cor. 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

Because, in the same way, Christ took on the sin of the world and died. Right then, the power of sin and death was broken and the veil was torn, allowing the Holy Spirit to spread throughout the Earth.

Is Cinderella Feminist?

TW: Abuse, Slavery  (I don’t use these often enough.  I apologize.)

I came across a very interesting post last night.  You can read it here.  To summarize, the author argues that Cinderella is not a good example for young girls to follow.  Everything in the movie happens to her.  Almost none of the action is motivated by Cinderella herself.  For the most part, I agree.  But I would also say that this is kind of the point of the story.  Cinderella can’t do anything for herself.  This story is hundreds of years old.  The movie is set in a different century.  It is set in a time where women did not have a voice.  The system she was in was so oppressive and so harmful towards women that there was no recourse for Cinderella.  It literally takes a higher power to break her free.

Deep down, Cinderella is a deeply abused girl. Most movies and books present her as a generally happy, cheerful girl. But, imagine the trauma she must have gone through! Her parents die when she is young. She is ripped from her comfortable surroundings to live by the fireplace. Her entire life is taken from her. Her station, her belongings, her autonomy, etc are taken. That would traumatize anybody. Not to mention the beatings she must have received. Cinderella is really a lesson on why abused girls stay in bad relationships.

Cinderella could have left anytime she wanted, sure. Just walk out the door and leave. But who would take care of the animals, even Lucifer? Who would take care of her father’s estate? How would she make a life for herself in a time when women had to rely on their husbands? Would she just end up a servant in someone else’s home? Again, it literally takes an act of God to set her free. Here’s a wonderful post giving some possible reasons that Cinderella stayed.

Now you could argue that the message is still misogynistic. It does kind of give the impression that a woman just needs to find the right man to be happy. But, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know that I see a deeper level to the story. Because I don’t see the Prince as just a man. I see him as Jesus Christ and the Fairy Godmother as the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes, and I would argue most of the time, it takes the power and love of God to change your identity from that of a slave/victim to that of someone who is dearly loved and cherished. The Bible says in Psalm 113 that God lifts the poor up from the ash heap and seats them with kings.

Maybe Cinderella was dreaming her life away according to the post linked in the beginning. But her identity was built on being a slave. A slave has no autonomy, no agency, no power to act on their situation. That is, until a higher power comes along to break the illusion. Maybe it’s not some ecstatic vision of God. But maybe it’s a friend, a teacher, a coworker that says, “Hey, I see something great in you.” and acts for you and with you in your situation.

I’ve argued on my blog before that the power of the Fairy Godmother wasn’t transformation from one thing to another. It was the power to reveal who you truly are. The Fairy Godmother didn’t see a slave. She saw a beloved daughter of the King, beloved bride of the Prince, a beloved princess of the people. When we get a hold of that revelation of what we truly are, we are unstoppable. In Colossians 2 and elsewhere, the Bible says that we have the fullness of God within us. What power we have! If fully realized, we could change the geography of the planet spiritually and physically. We could make women safe and loved and give them power beyond imagining whereas they would spend most nights just dreaming.

So, is Cinderella feminist?  I can’t give a complete answer because I’m not completely familiar with feminist thought.  But what I will say is that Jesus Christ is looking to set women free from bondage.  He wants women the world over to realize the power they have in Him.  If feminism is about giving women power, then look nowhere else but Jesus Christ.  He is the source of all power.  I also believe that Jesus Christ respects all forms of femininity.  Jesus Christ didn’t make women to just be baby factories.  Proverbs 31 describes a faithful woman who not only takes care of her home but does business and works in the community.  She is wise and respected.  Even the city leaders have respect for her.

Some women work at a career.  Some women stay at home to raise their children.  Some women do both.  Some women cut their hair short.  Some women wear their hair long.  Some women wear traditionally masculine clothes.  Some women wear dresses and buy expensive makeup.  Some women do both.  Some who are biologically female identify as men.  Some who are biologically male identify as women.  Some identify as both or neither.  I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is looking for cookie cutter women.  He is looking to build up his body with many different parts.  One person may be the middle finger, another the small intestine.  Both look very different.  Both function very differently.  To expect the middle finger and the small intestine to look and act the same is ridiculous.  It is equally ridiculous to expect two women to act and look the same.

I think Cinderella is a representation of all women.  We have all felt powerless and without the ability to do anything about our situation.  Sometimes, we are able to break free ourselves.  Other times, I would argue most times, it takes the restorative power of Jesus Christ to break free of our bondage.

The Prodigal Son

Oh how typical…  A Christian writing about the prodigal son.  Well, hopefully, this is a new perspective on the old parable.

I wrote a couple months ago about attaining Heaven without relationship in a post about the Twilight Zone.  In a particular episode, an old man won’t be separated from his dog even in the afterlife because the dog saved his life once.  He even appears to give up a chance at entering Heaven only to find that he was being tricked into entering Hell and that Heaven was up the road a ways.  It was the old man’s relationship with his dog that saved him from Hell.  John 17:3 echoes this, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  True Heaven comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Kingdom of God was never meant to be a stationary thing.  It was meant to move in and through us.  It is not “up there” or “over there”.  It is right here.  Think of it this way, if Heaven is where we go when we die then who/what is our savior?  In that case, death becomes our salvation.  Yuck!  No, Heaven is revealed as we walk with Jesus.

I said before that in modern Christianity, we sell out Jesus to get Heaven.  We sell him as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.  I referenced Satan’s temptation of Christ.  Satan was trying to get Jesus to attain Heaven outside the will of His Father.  But Jesus doesn’t do anything apart from the Father so Satan was denied.

So what does this have to do with the famous prodigal son?

Well, first, we need to back up and look at all the players in the story.  There is a father and two sons.  The father owns a large estate with many servants who are well-fed and cared for.  While the focus of the story appears to be the younger brother who squanders the family fortune, I believe both sons are in a precarious position.  They both exploit their relationship with their father.  Pretty bold statement, right?  Don’t we always think a little higher of the older brother for sticking around?  I used to.  Let’s examine a little closer.

The younger son is the one we’re familiar with.  He takes his part of the family fortune and runs away.  His actions basically say to his father, “I wish you were dead.”  This is much like a lot of modern Christianity as I spelled out above.  “Let Jesus die so we can have our inheritance.”  The younger son wants the benefits of being a son without actually being one. But the older son is not better. He receives his double portion but what does he do? He goes to live with the slaves. He squanders his fortune in a different way. He does it by pretending he doesn’t have one. There are two extremes in Christianity: license and legalism. The brothers play out these extremes to a tee. License gets its inheritance and goes wild. Legalism thinks he has to work for every cent that’s been freely given to him. License doesn’t see the father. Legalism doesn’t see the inheritance. Both lack relationship and communication. It’s all about getting Heaven without relationship.

So why is the younger brother more celebrated then? Because he began to see that it was his relationship with his father that really mattered. As soon as he made this headchange, the father was running to greet him. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Heaven without relationship will only get you so far.  If we only strive for the inheritance, we are missing out.  We will become strung out, stressed, empty.  It is only through a continuous relationship with the father that we are tapped into an endless supply.

I gave a word in church about a month or so ago.  It was about the reasons we come to Christ.  In earthly relationships, we are often attracted to what the other party can do for us.  It’s a sad part of human nature.  It doesn’t happen all the time but a lot of the time.  It is no different when we come to Christ.  We are often first attracted to what He can do for us.  A lot of us stop ourselves from going to God because we recognize this in ourselves.  A lot of us get in trouble and don’t think we can go to God because the only reason we’re doing so is that we’re in trouble.  I believe this is erroneous.  Any reason to go to God is a good reason.  The key phrase I said in church that day was, “Just come and Jesus will sort it all out later.”  The prodigal son in the story just wanted a place to sleep and eat.  What a selfish thing!  But it is all the father in the story needed to go running to the son.

I’ve talked a lot about Heaven without relationship.  That doesn’t mean if you go looking for Heaven then you won’t find Jesus.  You will always find Jesus this way.  You can’t help but find Jesus this way.  You may not want this person named Jesus but you want out of trouble, you want peace, you want stability.  Search for those things and you will inevitably end up finding Jesus.  Your search for a miracle will ultimately end up at the feet of Jesus.

I haven’t said much about the older brother.  I believe there is a similar celebration waiting for him.  When the younger brother came back, he wanted to be put with the slaves, where his brother was.  They really were brothers, I guess.  The father wanted sons, not slaves.  The older claims he was never given the chance to celebrate but it was only through his ignorance.  The father says, “You are always with me and everything I have is yours.”  Don’t be this person! If you have put yourself with the slaves, come out of there!  Our place is with the Father.  Our celebration is ongoing.  We can celebrate whenever because everything He has is ours.

Thankfully, our walk with God is not a choice between license and legalism.  Both leave us stressed, strung out, and empty.  We must transcend this dichotomy.  Christ died for our freedom.  We are free from sin (license).  We are also free from performing for a supposedly disinterested Father (legalism).  We are free to pursue Him even as He pursues us.  Before Christ, we were powerless to turn to Him.  We fell to license or legalism.  Now, we are free to be one with Him.