The Second Coming
What would happen if the Son of God returned today? That is the premise of The Second Coming, a British TV movie from 2003.
It’s the story of Stephen Baxter, an underachieving middle-aged video store employee who disappears for 40 days and 40 nights. When he returns, he claims to be the Son of God. In order to announce his arrival, Baxter alerts people via the internet. After all, if you read a wild claim on the internet, you know it’s true!
Unlike the lunatics who promote crazy ideas such as Planet X, Roswell, and Intelligent Design creationism, Baxter really is the Son of God. He lights up Manchester Football Stadium in the middle of the night with a column of daylight to get everybody’s attention. Then he tells them:
I know what you’re like. I’ve been you. Knowing there is great evil and doing nothing about it. Keeping my head down, giving a quid to charity, signing a petition, joking about it down the pub, but doing nothing. Even now I want to do nothing, I want to go home, shut the door and pretend that nothing is happening. But I can’t, because I was born the son of God.
The son of God came to you before and gave you a testament, but you did nothing. This time, there’ll be a third testament. A guide to living your lives today, and it will be written by you. In five days, I will be given the third testament, then we’ll start again, every country, every religion. And, don’t argue. All you Christians out there, don’t say “We were right.” Because I’ve seen what you’ve done. You stupid, stupid people. You’ve finally did it, I’ve seen it. Heaven is empty, while hell is bursting to the seams.
Naturally, this causes a bit of commotion. How people (and society) react is part of the story. Among them is Baxter’s skeptical quasi-girlfriend. There’s also the sub-plot of the devil and his plans to wreck the whole thing. Another part of the story is how Baxter himself reacts. He’s getting this insight from God in bits and pieces, so even he doesn’t understand it very well.
You might think that a movie with this premise might end up being some sort of Mel Gibson-esque heavy-handed morality play, or possibly some sort of feel-good “inspirational” tale. That’s certainly how Hollywood would have done it. Thankfully, the British are better than that.
As I was watching the film, I was impressed with the excellent writing and acting, but I harbored a quiet dread that the ending would almost certainly piss me off. As the ending started to unfold, I got apprehensive. Why was the one character behaving that way? It seemed wrong. The events continued to play out, and finally they were explained. Only one thought went through my mind: BRILLIANT!
Reading viewer comments on the Internet Movie Database was interesting. There is definitely a split among them as to whether the ending is any good. I suspect that may have something to do with the viewer’s religious and philosophical views. Certain flavors of Christianity would probably be unhappy with how religion is portrayed or that the ending is incompatible with their version of life, the universe, and everything. Some of us like the ending, because that is the way things ought to be. If only!
In the end, it really is a feel-good inspirational tale, but not in the way that most people would define that. It’s a very humanistic tale. Ultimately, it celebrates us as human beings, our potential, and what we can accomplish without crutches.
[Hat tip to loyal reader Ericsan for recommending this film!]