The world of tomorrow often looks, in our minds, like a time that is far more exciting, pleasurable, and fulfilling. We look at our present struggles, our contemporary dilemmas, and we hope that tomorrow will be better. Many people in the world, Christians included, live in the future and the hope for a different life down the road. One certainly cannot deny the state of instant-gratification that most young people live with today, but there is still in their minds, as well as most others, this hope that the future will be great! After all most of us live with an awareness that things are not as they should be in our lives. We may be a wealthy nation but individuals still have their own brand of problems, struggles, stresses, and disappointments. Such a man is Philip J. Fry, a resident of New York, who was recently dumped by his girlfriend, working a dead end job as a pizza delivery boy, and watching life pass him by. So instead of living in this boring, lifeless, and friendless present Fry goes to the future.
What I have described is the background story of Matt Groening’s famous television show from the early 21st century. No, not that one…the other one: Futurama. The show had its own cult following but was never anywhere near as popular as Groening’s most familiar creation The Simpsons; it was canceled in August of 2003. The show has not lost its old fans, however, who remained faithful through the years, and it has even gained new fans with the release of the complete series to DVD and the countless re-runs airing on Comedy Central’s Adult Swim. With its popularity renewed Groening worked out a deal with Fox to make three new Futurama movies, the first of which was released last November, and which this author had a chance to see over Christmas.
Bender’s Big Score, as it is called, returns fans to the old cast of characters and picks up the story back at Planet Express Delivery where owner and manager Professor Farnsworth has to tell his faithful employees they’ve all be fired. In fact they were all fired about two years ago when those asinine morons at the “BOX Corporation” canceled their delivery license. The story to this straight-to-DVD movie is that Professor Farnsworth is scammed out of his ownership of planet express by some aliens who then proceed to run it like evil tyrants. Their species loves to find information, and in their search for every detail of information they can find in Planet Express they find a tattoo of Bender the Robot plastered on Fry’s butt, which has hidden in its ink a special time code that opens a time portal to the past. Through this portal they steal everything imaginable until they have stolen enough and, in order not to split the time continuum in half, they decide to destroy the time code by killing Fry. Fry’s only hope then is to use the code himself and return to the past.
The interesting thing about the movie is that it gives loyal fans a glimpse of what life would have been like for Fry had he stayed in the year 2000 and not ever gone to the future. Fry’s life in the past, which was actually his present, is not as good as his life in the future. He is alone and befriended only by a narwhal, whom he cares for at the aquarium. He lives in a shabby apartment above the pizza parlor he use to work in, and he misses Leela, the only woman he has ever loved.
Bender’s Big Score is a fun movie, especially if you, like me, were a fan of the original show. It is full of the same Futurama humor, Groening satire, and lovable characters. It features a somewhat more involved story, with some storylines dragging a bit (which is probably owing to the fact that each movie is to be broken down into 30 minute cartoons to be aired on Comedy Central as new episodes of the show). But overall there is still that same Futurama suggestion: life in the future is better than life in the present.
Fry loves the future, and he reminds us of that throughout various episodes. In the movie itself, Fry can’t stay away from the future; more than a time, it is a location where he “belongs”. This message might be acceptable to Christians if we were to think of it in terms of heaven and life with Christ, but there’s no way that fits into the worldview of Futurama, a show even more critical of religion than The Simpsons. While we can concede that at various points and on various subjects the future is better than the present Christians must reject the desire to live in the future. God has called us to a certain place and a certain time to do a certain work for His glory. Living in the future prevents us from working in the present. We’ve all heard it contained in that old expression “he’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.” If a bit short-sighted, the expression does remind us that we are living today on earth as God’s ambassadors to bring about the expansion of His kingdom, to care for the people around us, to love and minister to our neighbors and our families. God has great blessings for us in the present, even in spite of our troubled economic situation, financial bankruptcy, physical suffering, and personal failings. Living in the future, like Philip J. Fry, means missing out on the present, missing out on our God-given ministry, and failing at our Christian duty. Besides, if we all skipped over the present you’d never have a chance to check out Christ & Pop-Culture!