God in the Movies: “Signs”

signs blog image

Today, we go back to the early 2000s with director M. Night Shyamalan to explore the heart of one of my favorite extraterrestrial thrillers: “Signs.” In this classic flick, a former priest and farmer named Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), and two young children brave an imminent alien assault on earth. From their home in rural America they make their stand, plagued by questions of faith and purpose in the face of fear. Now, I’ve got to be honest – I don’t usually love alien movies, but this one has a certain mystery to it that stirs the soul and peaks your curiosity, leaving you waiting with bated breath to see what happens next, as do most of Shyamalan’s movies. It is this elusive sense of mystery and it’s affect on humanity that I plan to attempt to tackle in today’s metaphysical adventure.

The movie begins with flashbacks of a car accident, blurry memory-edited clips of Graham’s past, and we see the beginnings of a trauma that we won’t fully understand until later in the film. In this way, the audience immediately is captured by a desire to know – WHAT HAPPENED? – but is catapulted back into the present day where we get the picture of a small, isolated family missing one of it’s most important figures: a mother. What’s more, the family clearly lives by farming but Graham keeps getting called “father” by the locals, and the mystery deepens. That on it’s own is worth talking about, as we all have a deep awareness – if not understanding– of the mystery that is the human soul. We work together, talk together, and often even live together like Graham and his family without ever feeling like we ever really know another person, not to mention how little we know ourselves! This theme develops throughout the story as we realize that Graham has some deep hurt in his heart about losing his wife and that he doesn’t talk to anyone about this. He just goes on living, day-to-day, as though nothing has changed when in reality everything has changed: he has changed, and that is affecting the lives of his loved ones no matter what he says or doesn’t say.

With people there always remains a sense of mystery, partly because we cannot truly know ourselves from within ourselves; it takes a view from the outside.  But who can see beyond the surface to tell us what lies beneath? It is this part of us that reaches out for intimacy, for someone closer than we can dream who can see inside of us and tell us what is there, and this is what drives our deep need to find romance and family and belonging in all sorts of places, even though none of these ever quite do it for us the way our soul hopes. The truth is that there is only one who can truly KNOW us. God says in the Bible that “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”(Jeremiah 17:9) I can resonate with that, can’t you? I know I feel the same way most of the time, though I don’t know how helpful that is! But then, with the next sentence the writer gives us hope. “I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind, to give to every many according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds,” God says. He is speaking to more than just Jeremiah here, but He actually tells Jeremiah earlier in this same book, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart…”(Jeremiah 1:5).  This God knows us, deep down, our desires, our hopes, our fears, and lest we wonder whether He would want us, He tells us that he sent His son into the world not to condemn the world but to save it – to save us.

This idea of salvation and our need for it takes us even deeper into the story of Signs, as the world comes under an attack from alien invaders that stalk in the shadows. The whole world wants salvation, and no one knows from whence it might come. Shyamalan takes us out of the mystery of the human soul to scan the reaches of the cosmos, and the deepest fears of humanity are realized as a race far superior to their own comes upon them by surprise. Sheer terror takes hold of the populace of the city, and, once Graham stops denying the truth of the situation, his family as well. They make tin-foil hats to protect their brains and scramble to grab whatever they can to bar the doors and windows and protect themselves from a coming onslaught. The trouble is, they don’t have what everyone most needs in times of crisis: hope. At one point in the movie, one of very few deep conversations happens where Merrill and Graham speak candidly about what might become of the family and the world with aliens on the loose, and Graham tells his brother, “There are two kinds of people in the world…those who believe that we are deeply, utterly alone, and that when times are tough, no one is going to be there to help… and those who believe that there is always someone looking out for them, no matter what, and that gives them hope.” Merrill wholeheartedly jumps into the latter camp with a hilarious story, but Graham’s silence is far more sobering, as we understand what it seems he believes on the subject.

Since his wife’s death, Graham has blamed God, a fact which comes out in the story. He had faith in this all-powerful creator who claims to love him, and he believes he was betrayed. So, he chooses to think, quite understandably, that there is no such god above and that everything is chance. The problem is that what started his ‘unbelief’ shows just how false a notion it is. He blames God for what happened to his wife, because the truth he tries to deny is that he genuinely believes God does exist, but that God failed him. You don’t blame the Easter Bunny when life falls apart, because he isn’t real. You blame God. It has been said that the fact that everyone needs God to exist is precisely the proof that He does. Everything else a person needs to survive is there, available in a general sense to the human race, but the one thing that we need most in our spirits is to believe in this God that so many of us want to deny and blame. We blame people, and indeed God is the person that we all know, whether we wish to or not, though most of us do not know Him as He truly is, but as we have been taught to think of Him by others. We owe it to Him to let Him show us His true nature Himself, and that nature has been revealed through the man Jesus Christ: God with us.

In the same way that we all wrestle with the unseen God and whether we believe in it, we also all feel a desire to believe in other unseen forces at work in the world, though we may not realize it. Everything in movies that smacks of the supernatural or that deals with aliens is feeding our deep-seated belief that we are not alone, and whatever we might say, I believe we all know this to be true. Yet, contrary to what may be popular opinion, the word of God speaks on this as well. The bible says “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 6:12) speaking to people to help them understand that there are very real forces of evil in this world with spirits just like our own but who are beyond our line of sight. They are even spoken of as rulers because they do have authority on the earth, authority that men give to them unknowingly by foolishly believing these enemies to not exist. We would do well to both acknowledge that any ”aliens” among us do not come from space, but from the spirit realm, and find a way to protect ourselves from them. We are assured in the bible that there is only one protection, to come under the rule of the Creator God, whose Son Jesus speaks to demons and rebukes them with a word of command, and they obey Him.

Since Shyamalan and the writers of “Signs” do not appear to share my opinion that any “aliens” among us must be demons, the movie ends on a far more typical note. When the invaders come and the family faces their fears, Graham realizes that he deeply needs the faith that he once had in God to get through this trial, but it just isn’t there. Thankfully, there is someone up there looking out for his family, whoever that may be, and that someone saw fit to plan the moments of his wife’s death as well as Merrill’s entire life and baseball career and his daughter’s obsession with water all to result in the salvation of their family. The enemy is defeated, and, for whatever reason, the aliens leave the planet. In the end, Merrill’s type of people win the day, those who believe there is someone up there watching out for us all. Yet, I want to challenge this notion, even as I support it.

In movies of a certain kind, we often find that things always “work out” in the end. Why is that? Why on earth should anyone believe that everything is going to be okay when we look at the world around us, especially if we believe in evolution and it’s popular worldview conclusion that everything happens by chance? Yet, many of us deeply believe that things can somehow “work out” for anyone – except when we are depressed or just lost something dear to us, naturally! I submit that the notion that everything will work out on its own is utter nonsense. Like anything else in the world, if something needs to happen, something has to cause it to happen. If things are going to work out alright, I would say that we should expect someone should have to make it so. So, I align myself with the Creator God who has the power to raise the dead as He did with His son Jesus, and the power to change my fate, so that I can hold onto that deep-seated belief that things will turn out alright. I suggest you do the same.

4 thoughts on “God in the Movies: “Signs”

  1. I have two questions:

    1) When talking about God you stated, “though most of us do not know Him as He truly is”. I was wondering who do you know of that knows who God truly is?

    2) Why do you believe the aliens are demons?

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    1. Thanks for the questions Lander! I’m glad you read it and were interested enough to talk to me about it.

      1. I said that about “most of us,” for a few reasons. One is that I believe none of us, myself included, can grasp the mind-boggling reality of who God is, because He tells us in the bible, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My thoughts above your thoughts and My ways above your ways.” Yet, at the same time, God tells us that He can be known, though perhaps not fully in our finite existence. The bible says of Jesus that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…”(Colossians 1:15), and elsewhere in John 1:14 it is said of Jesus that, “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…” (John 1:14). Jesus left heaven to show us who God really is, and so we can know Him by knowing Jesus. That is why Jesus says, “No one can come to the Father except through me.” In fact, the idea that people can know God is precisely the point of existence, according to Jesus, as He says, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the one True God, and your Son whom you have sent.” (John 17:3). I have discovered this for myself when I was in need of rescue and Jesus met me in my need. I believe the Bible is God’s actual revelation to mankind, His thoughts in writing through inspired writers in their own hand, and so I take all of these things at face value, and in so doing, I have met Jesus in my spirit. My soul knows Him, and I speak with Him daily and walk with Him as my friend and my Lord, the one who owns my life because He paid for it with His life. Yet, please understand that God is saying that He stooped low, down to us, to love us because we could not rise to Him, so I am in no way writing from a sense of pride that I believe I know God. I just know that, even if you just use statistics, the majority of the world does not know God in this way through Jesus Christ, and even among those who do, they do not understand Him fully as He is.

      2. In regards to aliens and demons, there is much to say, but the simple idea is that since God never speaks about aliens in the bible and He very clearly makes all of His design for all of creation centered around humans and earth, including the fact that He was willing to die for humans to have them be in reconciled relationships with Him, it shows that God’s design is for a single race to be the focus of His purposes. I do not believe He has left room in the plans for other races on other planets. Animals themselves and all other created things are described as under man’s dominion on earth throughout the bible, and the cosmos are described as God’s handiwork and used to show the vastness of His nature beyond our own. Yet, at the same time we can see all around us things that cannot be explained, and God does describe an unseen, advanced race that we do not understand called angels who were intended to be God’s servants for our sake, but some of whom chose to rebel and are now called demons. These demons wreak havoc on the earth by praying on humans through cunning and deceit refined over the course of ages, as they do not die, but are spirit beings who can inhabit flesh or at least the appearance thereof. So, I would propose that the phenomena that seem extraterrestrial are exactly that, but I believe they are spiritual in nature, beings of the spirit realm beyond the physical, not physical beings from other planets. I would say the same for ghosts and other clearly spiritual phenomena.

      From your questions, I want to ask: Do you feel like you know God? No need to answer that here on comments if you don’t wish to. If you want to talk further, please do not hesitate to email me. I don’t mind. Thanks again!

      Jonathan Macnab
      fictionreborn1@gmail.com

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      1. So from your reply you are stating that when you said, “though most of us do not know Him as He truly is” what you really meant was that no one truly knows him because he is above all of us. You mis spoke on that one.

        As for your second answer I would understand that you believe in angels and demons, if this is so you must know that they would be aliens. Extraterrestrial simply means not of the planet of origin. Angels and Demons existed before Earth so they would by definition be extraterrestrial. Humans were made from the Earth so they would be terrestrial. So your confusing me a bit on this response or do you believe angels came from Earth?

        You asked: “Do you feel like you know God?”
        Answer: I know only what he states in the bible about himself. So I know things but I don’t know details.

        Interesting post. I will return to read more of what you have.

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      2. Thanks for the support! I hope you continue to find good things on this site. In regards to your reply to my reply, however, yes, I did mean that God is above us all, but if you read the full answer I ALSO meant quite literally that most people do not know the one true God through Jesus Christ. I believe this, but it’s not just my opinion. The Bible gives us Jesus statement that, “The way is narrow that leads to life and there are few who find it,” and since God is life and Jesus calls Himself the way the truth and the life, as John teaches us, this is also an acknowledgement that most people don’t have that life through Jesus.

        And I very well may have misspoken somewhere – I’m certain I will often unfortunately! – but as far as I can see I meant what I said about extraterrestrials in my answer to your question, claiming that the activity of demons IS extraterrestrial in the basic sense. It was stated positively. As for aliens, yes, I did use the word alien in the specific sense that I assume most audience members understand it when reading a post about a movie like “Signs,” rather than in the general sense like you have used it to apply to demonic beings. Your use makes perfect sense.

        Please keep reading if you see some good in it – I do have two other movies posts out you can go look at, but it may be a bit before the next one comes. Life takes a lot of time, unfortunately =}.

        As for knowing God, I really meant it in the way that a parent knows their child or a person knows their spouse, but I take your answer at face value and understand what you mean I think.

        Until another time,

        Jonathan

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