The YouTube channel that does the “Everything wrong with… [movie title]” would have plenty of material in Cars 2, but after about 50 viewings (I have a son who loves it) I now ignore its flaws and enjoy the spectacle of watching it. I’ve come to appreciate the graphics, voice work, music etc., but I still think it has a very bad plot. The story of Cars 2 falls apart in the first minute, and continues to do all kinds of stupid most of the way through. Despite having holograms, computers and microwave weapons the plot hinges on the transfer of a digital picture which is kept in something which for some reason is constantly referred to as “a device” rather than a camera, that must be passed to another agent by hand. Err, by tire. Anyone else would email the picture, but that would leave Cars 2 with no plot at all. There are other problems but you get the point; someone thought having a spy movie set in the world of Cars was an idea so good that viewers would look past the plot holes.
But if I continue down this road of mostly talking about everything that’s wrong with Matthew then I fear I’ll sound like a broken record. So after a couple of paragraphs on it I promise I’ll take another tack.
This time God again comes to Joseph in a dream to warm him to take Mary and Jesus out of Bethlehem so that Herod doesn’t kill them. He tells them to go to Egypt because… wait for it… when Jesus returns from Egypt that will fulfill yet another prophecy. Yes, that’s the reason to go to Egypt. God could have sent them anywhere else in the region, or being God he could have transported them anywhere else in the world, but instead he sends them to Egypt because of the prophecy. It’s kinder to label it win-win than self-serving, but since it’s all dealt with in a mere five sentences, two of which are the angel giving instructions and one which is the prophecy being explained, then the brevity makes God come across as a little bit of a manipulator.
Herod gets mad that his dumb ass plan to trick the Magi didn’t work and has all the boys two and under in Bethlehem killed, which fortuitously also fulfills another prophecy. Are you getting a bit of the ‘this happens solely because of the prophecy’ vibe? Mary and Joseph don’t even rate a quandary or a quote anymore; they do this because the angel tells them to, they go there because the angel tells them to. They are just characters for the omniscient narrator to bully around.
Lest you think my analysis is too harsh remember that these are events which millions of people believe really happened. These people will tell you that Magi really did follow a star with a wonky GPS, Herod really did risk his throne on a lame plan to deceive the Magi, and those infants really were massacred so that a prophecy could be fulfilled. It’s the activeness of the last one that I’ll finish with to fulfill my own promise of talking about something else.
Prophecy is a funny thing in that it is compelled to be fulfilled. And when the prophecy comes from God, then that urgency is beyond doubt. The three prophecies in Matthew 2 are inextricably linked; the birth of Jesus leads to the escape to Egypt which leads to the massacre of the innocents. Once God uttered those prophecies, those babies in Bethlehem were going to die. This puts a query over Mary, Joseph and even Herod as to whether they have ceased to be beings with free-will. Matthew shows a Mary and Joseph who are compliant with God’s will or easily commanded by his agents when in doubt, so we will never know what the story would be if Joseph was unconvinced by the angel’s words and decided to go through with his divorce. And while Herod will burn for eternity for the murders of – based on population densities of the time – approximately 20 children, was there ever going to be any other outcome? If Herod had wavered when about to kill the children the same way Joseph had wavered about marriage with Mary, would God have sent an angel to convince him to stay the course for the purpose of a prophecy fulfilled? Or did Herod never have any other option but the one that he took? Won’t someone prophesize for the children?
One has to wonder why a bloodless prophecy wasn’t given to begin with. Rather than massacring innocents God could have made a prophecy that had a despondent Herod fruitless in his pursuit of the Messiah:
Matthew 2: 18
A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Herod weeping for his crown
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more to be found.
While these questions may be fobbed off as the nitpicking ramblings of yet another atheist who wants to debate the worst of God, when the question of free-will is moved from the relatively minor and mostly voiceless characters of Mary, Joseph and Herod to Jesus the Messiah who was prophesied, then the debate for Christians is a little more serious. Jesus’s whole life is roped in by a fate decided before he took on human form, so is he anymore an agent of free-will than his parents or would-be killer? Prophecy. Not so funny when you’re being put to the sword or nailed to a cross, especially as it was never going to end up any other way.