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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Dune’s messiah and the Bible’s true Saviour

This Good Friday, there’s more than one messiah story to be reflecting on.

For those who haven’t read Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune is a generational epic of politics, prophecy, and power on an interplanetary scale. The new Dune – Part Two film is thundering its way to critical and commercial success.

The story charts the ascendancy of Paul Atreides, Dune’s long-awaited messiah. Or perhaps that should be ‘self-proclaimed messiah’, depending on who you ask, or how you distinguish between a true saviour and someone with a messiah complex.

On Good Friday, the juxtaposition of the messiahs of Dune and the biblical story helps us tell the difference. Yes, both claim the authority of their religious traditions. Both must resist the principalities governing their worlds. Both are responsible for the fates of those who look to them for deliverance.

But where Paul launches a holy war against the principalities governing his world, Jesus reveals their real form, before disarming them on the cross. Paul’s power rests on his ability to perform for his followers’ devotion; Jesus’ power rests on the authority of God, and he uses it to liberate and ennoble those he calls disciples. Paul is driven by vengeance for his father; Jesus offers his father’s forgiveness.

Not many of us will be called ‘messiah’ by bands of fanatical followers. But saviour figures come in all shapes and sizes: we might spot them on political podiums, in church pulpits, or even in the mirror.

If that sounds abstract, consider the contexts where you exercise power and influence. You might be a parent, a teacher, a manager, or a church leader. It’s right to want the best for those who look up to you. But have you ever felt as if it’s up to you – and you alone – to protect your child, to finish the project, lead the team to victory, or convince the world you are worthy of its adoration?

For those of us know our sense of responsibility can warp our sense of self, Dune is a cautionary tale indeed. It shows us how saviours can come to be, and come to ruin.

By contrast, the Bible shows us that only the crucified Jesus is worthy of being called Saviour. Trusting in his salvation alone, we serve those around us selflessly.

So, this Good Friday, we remember the good news that there’s already a Messiah. And the even better news that it’s not you.

 

Tim Yearsley 

Head of Innovation, LICC 

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