Theology of “The Purge”

Recently I watched the 2013 film, The Purge. I found myself having many mixed emotions throughout the film, which included awe, disgust, sorrow, and anger. Though I don’t necessarily commend the movie to anyone, while it was interesting among other things, note that I will not be penning a movie review per say.

(Photo Credit: popcultureleftovers)

I want to address two themes that are foundational and are found running through the film. Interestingly enough, these two themes are found in Scripture: 1) total depravity, and 2) atonement (the desire for soul-cleansing, particularly through sacrifices).

Depravity. Chaos. For 12 hours, there are no rules nor law; its pure anarchy. When “unchained” from social law, the nature of the natural man’s heart is revealed, and it is utterly depraved. Characters in this movie, particularly the more wealthy people, wanted to inflict pain and death on others. The “purge” is the process of “thinning the herd,” which in this case are those on the low end of the socioeconomic totem pole. Minorities and the poor were the targets. There was no regard for the sanctity of life. It really was survival of the fittest. Darwin’s “great” idea put into practice; the logical conclusion of his evolutionary theory. The natural human heart is wicked (Jer. 17; Rom. 3; Eph. 2), sinful and lost. The complete depravity of the human soul apart from the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit was clear to see.

Atonement. There was a kind of bloodthirsty-ness. Those who went “purging” did so in hopes of “cleansing their souls.” For some, their sin was pride and vanity; for others it was anger and adultery, but the only solution was to atone for the sins by blood. I couldn’t help but think of the Old Testament sacrifices, and what those sacrifices meant. Then, naturally, I began to think of the ultimate human sacrifice: Christ; the One who was foreshadowed by those Old Testament sacrifices. There was a deep longing for forgiveness and atonement from those that went purging. They repeatedly spoke of such a desire. They wanted to right wrongs. The problem is two wrongs don’t make a right. Killing other human beings, or in this case, cleansing America of “scum” doesn’t actually do anything on any transcendent (spiritual) level. It is completely naturalistic. The feeling of being cleansed would only be temporary, as they would sin over the course of the next year, anticipating on another day of purification.

Both of those major (theological) themes as portrayed in the movie speak to the reality of human sinfulness and an innate desire for redemption. Though this movie may not have intended to bring to life such weighty Christian doctrine, it certainly did. So hear this: yes, the human heart is wicked and sinful. Sin affects our thoughts, actions, relationships.. everything. We are all train wrecks, and to use biblical terminology, wicked. This the movie did portray. However, there is a better way for redemption than “purging,” something that can be seen to be similar to what the Islamic State is doing in the Middle East. The better way is Jesus. Granted the movie’s intent might have been political and not religious, my point remains. Jesus is the answer. Through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ from the dead, Jesus has provided atonement, and its free through His shed blood. No acts of violence will do. There aren’t enough acts of kindness that will do. Only in turning from sin and trusting in Jesus Christ and what He has done can you be cleansed; freed from all mistakes and failures, from your cosmic treason against a holy and righteous God.

That’s good news — the best news in the world.

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