I like Doctor Who for many reasons; it’s one of the most creative “ideas” out there (a space and time traveling time lord?), it’s always got a fresh new angle, it replaces its entire cast on a regular basis to keep things interesting, and… as a believer, the parallels between the Doctor and elements of my beliefs come up regularly.
I’ve been debating faith, and what drives us to choose faith, of late, perhaps due to the Easter season, when inevitably our thoughts turn toward Christ (or Canterbury Easter Eggs, whichever we crave more), and it occurred to me, it’s a bit like choosing the Doctor. He’s not really partial to his companions, except he always wants to have one, and he usually takes whomever takes an interest in him in return. Like he said in the newest episode, we spend our entire lives looking for someone who is looking for us back. But, one thing is for certain – the Doctor’s companions are never the same, for having known him. Some of them become bolder, others become more careful, and some of them even never come back… they get stuck somewhere, or die, but they still chose to go on the adventure.
There are no promises with the Doctor that you’ll be okay, or safe, or that where he’ll take you will even be “good.” More often than not, the companions wind up in the middle of a danger zone, caught up in an adventure. The Doctor is always beside them. He may not always be able to SAVE them, but he’s there. And often, after a taste of a first adventure, the companion wants more. They have seen that more exists than the reality around them, more is out there than they thought possible, and they hunger for it, so they either invite themselves along (like Donna) or wait to be asked to come with me.
Jesus and his disciples were the same way; once they knew him, the disciples were never the same. Some changed enormously (Peter ran away, and somehow, whatever he experienced around Christ changed him so much, many believe he was martyred for his faith – he stopped running; Paul persecuted believers, and then died as one of them); others encountered Christ and walked away disturbed, but unwilling to commit (the “rich man”). Some, like Pilate, sneered at the idea that truth even exists in a relative reality (“what is truth?”). Jesus was never what they expected, and not even what they necessarily wanted; he rose up amid a Roman occupation, and started preaching sermons not only about love and forgiveness, but that used terminology Rome preferred to use for itself (Rome called itself “the light,” thus even his pronouncement for others to be “a light unto the world” was a subtle dig at Roman religious authority, and the deities of the Caesars). The Jews wanted a messiah armed with a sword, to lead them in a bloody uprising against Rome, and got a pacifistic preacher who told them to care for their enemies.
Jesus chose those who responded to his call; who took an interest in him. And some of them never came back. Christians in former generations expected less earthly rewards than modern believers, perhaps because they were more rooted in a reality where people die, you experience loss, you go through tremendous pain, and still keep your faith. Christians have died in Roman arenas, in prison cells, in torture rooms, been burned alive, boiled in oil, beheaded, crucified, torn apart, gassed, and persecuted throughout the earth. Jesus said following him would likely mean persecution and death. And many may have held on, out of hope for something better in the next world.
But what if this world is all there is? What if there is no next world?
Would you still go on an adventure with Jesus? If you thought this was all there is, that being “good” here would not earn you rewards in heaven, that you would receive nothing when you breathed your last breath, having lived as Christ taught you to live, with forgiveness in your heart and mercy in your outstretched hands, that there is no heaven or hell, would that be enough to still make you choose Christ? Or do you pursue the ultimate reward, rather than the rewards of living as Christ lived in this life?
Sometimes, I think that’s the hardest question a believer must face, and the greatest challenge of faith: if you thought this was all you get, that your good behavior earns you nothing, that you are not winning bonus points with God by living as close as you can to the teachings of a messiah who lived thousands of years ago, and your only reward is self-betterment and greater compassion, mercy, and love for other human beings, often at great personal cost… would you still choose to follow Christ?
Would you still go with the Doctor?