The Gospel According To John Carter

By Jonathan Fasbaugh

Disney recently released a new movie called John Carter, based on the character of the same name created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and featured in a series of his novels. Burroughs is more widely known as the creator of the classic character, Tarzan. When I watched John Carter, something stirred in me and I kept seeing parallels between the story and character in the new John Carter movie and the life and gospel of Jesus.

I don't believe that Burroughs ever intended for John Carter to be an allegory of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the parallels in movie plot and character don't line up exactly. Nevertheless, Jesus came to my mind several times as I watched the movie.

A Brief Review of John Carter The Movie

I won't spend time recapping the entire plot in this article, and I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the movie (although there are some spoiler alerts below). I personally recommend the movie to adults and adolescents. It's too scary for kids and contains imagery that would be disturbing to them. The princess is also scantily clad in some scenes, but it is presented in culturally relevant context and not glorified in a lewd sense.

The movie is mostly lighthearted and is very entertaining. The visual effects were fantastic whether you see the movie in 2D or 3D, and the acting was very good. All of it worked together for an immersive movie experience, which is what allowed me to see past the movie and into the heart of the characters and the story.

John Carter And The Gospel of Jesus

You could argue that the gospel of Jesus really begins in the Garden, in the book of Genesis, when sin enters the world. So it is in John Carter.

When John Carter lands on Mars, he quickly discovers that it is a world in peril. The planet's dominant races are at war, and one race, the "red men" of Zodanga, has aligned itself with an evil force, a group of seemingly supreme, alien beings, who have given the Zodanga leader an ultimate weapon in exchange for his obedience. I found this to be very similar to our fallen world and how Adam and Eve gave in to temptation from Satan when presented with the knowledge of good and evil and the prospect of being like God. We thought that it would give us power, but in the end, it made us a slave to sin unless we receive Salvation.

In John Carter, the inhabitants of Barsoom (the native name for Mars) are also in need of salvation, although in more of a physical sense. They see John Carter as "the only one who can save us," according to the princess of Mars, named Dejah. She and the green Martian race called the Tharks, believe that John Carter will be their savior.

John Carter possesses seemingly supernatural abilities while on Mars because he comes from another planet that has different gravitational properties. Jesus possessed supernatural abilities because he wasn't really from our planet either. Jesus was fully God and fully man all at one time. He possessed the power of God, but remained humble to a human form.

Over the course of the film, John Carter brings unity and peace to Mars by exposing the evil force. This was God's reason for bringing Jesus to the world. The third chapter of the book of John contains a familiar and relevant scripture:
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:14-17
Imperfections In The Allegory

Because Burroughs did not intend for the character of John Carter to represent Jesus, the character's behavior doesn't always line up with who Jesus was and how he acted. John Carter is fallible and does not portray the complete and selfless love of Christ. He is a reluctant hero whereas Jesus was a willing Savior.

In the beginning of the movie, John Carter is obsessed with finding gold, attempting to find purpose in worldly riches. Jesus, on the other hand, found his purpose in his relationship with his Father in Heaven.

[Spoiler Alert] In the end of the movie, John Carter destroys the enemy after "dying" and raising again. We know from the Bible that Jesus has defeated sin and death and the ultimately, Satan will be destroyed. John Carter is just a man. He is not all-powerful, and the film is bookended by his attempts to save his vulnerable human body from the evil alien beings who want to prevent his return to Mars.

We Are John Carter

Where there are interesting parallels between the story of John Carter and the life of Jesus, there are even more for us as Christians. John Carter is transported to Barsoom and seemingly given supernatural abilities by a power that is greater than himself. This experience provides him with a new purpose, and rescues him from an empty life of pain. This is basically what happens when we enter a relationship with Jesus.

His death on the cross paid the price for our sins (Romans 3:22-24) and made us co-heirs in Christ (Romans 8:14-17). This means that, in Christ, we have power to live triumphant lives that go beyond our circumstances. We have a hope that goes beyond this world when we put our faith in Jesus, and some day we will live with him in Heaven.

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Published on 3-20-12