Love One Another or Die

*NB: Blog contains minor spoilers*

Plagued by production and covid-related delays, the latest instalment of the James Bond franchise, No Time to Die, finally hit screens late last month. The near three hour romp picks up where Spectre left off, with our protagonist cruising around idyllic Italian scenery. Sadly for Bond, but conveniently for us movie-goers, the tranquillity does not last long, and he once again finds himself on a mission to save the world.

Bond’s nemesis Lyustifer Safin is the archetypal movie villain: a sinister and mysterious bioterrorist with a name that, for all intents and purposes, may as well be ‘Lucifer Satan’. And, continuing a ham-fisted trope seen in ancient Greek fables, his facial scarring is supposed to be an external reflection of an internal moral reality. Safin’s motivation is none other than revenge. During his childhood, Safin survived a poisoning that killed his family but left him with severe chemical burns, causing him to vow revenge on those responsible. This incident produces Safin’s internal and external scars.

This hurt-begetting-hurt is not unique to No Time to Die’s antagonist. Whereas previous incarnations of Bond have portrayed him as a playboy with very loose attachments, Daniel Craig’s 007 has been a more tortured individual. Throughout Craig’s run, we have seen Bond seemingly betrayed and let down by those whom he cares for. The net result is that, after an attempt on his own life, Bond suspects his romantic interest, Madeline Swann, has also betrayed him. Despite protestations of her innocence, Bond breaks up with Swann. Hurt begets hurt.

In Safin and Bond, we see a microcosm of the human race. Past hurts and injuries done to us, intentionally or not, we return or pass on to others who in turn pass on their hurts and injuries. What we are left with is an endless black hole of retribution which, the longer it continues, pulls more people into its void. 

In the movies, this chain reaction of evil ultimately feels resolved, usually with the villain dead or imprisoned, and the heroes driving off into the sunset. Craig’s Bond is somewhat truer to real life, with events from decades past eventually returning to haunt him. Neat resolutions are often a fantasy.

Safin and Bond (and, if we’re honest, our own experiences) show us the damage caused by this cycle of reciprocity and yet we seem unable to stop it. In this regard, I wonder whether No Time to Die can serve as something of a parable. For what if, instead of passing on their pain, Safin or Bond chose to absorb it; instead of feeding the vortex of hurt, they chose to starve it? What is needed is someone to break the spiral. Martin Luther King Jr. put it like this:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction… the chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

A Gift of Love, p. 49

The cross of Christ is not just the means by which our relationship with God is restored. If we hear its message clearly enough, it is the method by which the propagation of hurt can be stopped. The divine invasion of grace demonstrates a different way of doing things. It would have been understandable for Jesus to have responded to his torture with violence. But what breaks the cycle of reciprocity is someone choosing not to engage in it. And on the cross, in a great act of love, Jesus absorbed hurt; in the call to carry our crosses, he asks us to do the same.

Jesus and James Bond show us a very simple idea: ‘we must love one another or die’ (W. H. Auden, 1st September 1939). And, far from there being no time to die, sometimes doing the former demands of us the latter.

Chris Rousell studied Biomedical Science at Durham University before going on to do the Kings Internship and Ministry Training Program, and an MA at Cranmer Hall. In his spare time, Chris enjoys reading, watching sport, and extolling the joys of the North to his southern family members.

Photo by Matthew Wiebe on Unsplash