Image © 1999 Warner Bros., The Matrix
The Red Pill vs The Blue Pill: The Matrix Revisited and the Choice between Truth and Fiction
By Nicholas Downing
Founder of Flagship Fiction and Author of the Talon Trilogy
Anyone remember watching The Matrix for the first time? Not The Matrix Reloaded and certainly not The Matrix Revolutions, both of which I personally could have done without. I’m talking about the original science fiction classic that captivated movie-goers around the world in 1999 with stunning special effects, incredible fight scenes, and a fascinating plot that raised a valid question: Given the choice between living with a safe and comforting lie or accepting a harsh and difficult reality, which option would we really be better off choosing?
In the movie, computer hacker Neo knows deep down that something about the world in which he lives is a lie. He senses in his gut that there is a hidden truth to the reality he has been preconditioned to accept. Along comes Morpheus, a mysterious individual who claims to have knowledge of the truth, if indeed Neo is interested in knowing what is really going on.
At first glance, the choice appears simple. The Blue Pill gives Neo the option of remaining in the “ignorance of illusion” and oblivious to the truth behind the Matrix. On the other hand, the Red Pill offers Neo the chance to discover for himself the terrible secret that has been hidden from him all his life.
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
– Morpheus (The Matrix, 1999)
The first time I saw The Matrix, I immediately realized that Neo’s decision to choose the Red Pill reflected my own difficult decision to follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal Savior.
After choosing the Red Pill, Neo discovers the horrifying reality that he, along with the rest of humanity, is a slave. The Matrix is merely an illusion created to keep humans like Neo docile and content within their fabricated existence. In truth, Neo’s sole purpose in life is to function as a bioelectric power source for the sentient machines that now enslave the entire human race.
What does this have to do with Christianity? In short, EVERYTHING. As human beings, the reality of our existence is that we are all slaves to sin. We all live in a fallen and extremely artificial world. A world that appears at times much more beautiful and welcoming than it really is.
Like Neo, each and every one of us has a difficult decision to make. If we choose the Blue Pill, we choose to ignore the truth of our condition. We choose to believe the lie that we are not slaves and that we are not in bondage to the desires of the flesh. Whether our fabricated reality is the welcoming glow of a digital display screen, the addictive allure of an inappropriate relationship, or merely a stubborn refusal to accept that we are in need of a real Chosen One (sorry Neo, you may know Kung Fu but I don’t think you can walk on water and you certainly don’t qualify as a perfect living sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world!) to set us free from bondage.
But as one of Neo’s less-than-faithful companions points out later in the movie, choosing the Red Pill is not an easy or glamorous option. As liberating as the truth is, life in Jesus Christ is anything but easy. In fact, walking with Christ has the rather sobering effect of opening our eyes to just how ugly and depressing this fallen world really is because unlike those still plugged into the Matrix, we can see past the illusion. By knowing the truth, we see firsthand how destructive the lies of this world are. And we know that Agent Smith (aka Lucifer or at the very least one of his top henchmen) is not our friend. He can and he will harm us if we allow him to control us through the power of illusion.
Again I ask you, which is the better choice? The Red Pill, or the Blue? Truth, or Fiction?
Image © 1999 Warner Bros., The Matrix
The truth is, I can’t answer that for you. No one can. Only you can decide for yourself which pill you should take. But know this: unlike Neo, we have to choose each day which pill we want to take. Knowing the truth is not enough to set us free. If we’re being honest with ourselves, even those of us who have chosen Truth over Fiction sometimes revert to our old, comfortable ways by succumbing to the temptation of feeding on fiction. When that happens, Agent Smith wins and we lose.
So I ask you one final time. Which is the better choice? Red… or Blue?