Indiana Jones and the Hunt for the Sacred

"Indiana Jones" | Art by ThreshTheSky. Used with permission.
Though Indiana Jones often hunts objects of religious significance and experiences supernatural events, he is skeptical of faith. Instead of believing in a higher power, he sees God as a fabled being. The Ark of the Covenant, which Indiana pursues in Raiders of the Lost Ark, is sacred to him not because of its connection to God, but because of its archaeological significance. As he tells his friend Marcus, “I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus-pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance; you’re talking about the bogeyman.”

Like Indiana, we all have entities we hold sacred—possessions, individuals, memories, places. For me, that includes my faith. For Indiana Jones, it’s academic pursuits, studying history, and knowledge. There’s no room for “fanciful” stories of faith. And judging by the broken relationships he leaves behind—Marion, Marion’s father, and his own father—there’s little room for anything else either.

I don’t want to spend my whole life waiting.

But as he matures, Indiana’s actions demonstrate there’s far more to him than he would like others to believe, than perhaps he would like to believe about himself. He disputes the existence of God, but begs Marion to close her eyes when the Ark is opened, believing in its powers in the moment of most danger. He has an estranged relationship with his father, but goes to the ends of the earth to rescue him, risking his life many times through challenges related to faith. He’s a solitary man, only concerned with his own needs, but liberates a village of children, along with Willie and Short-Round, instead of placing his own safety first. Indiana’s deeds betray him—he’s not the selfish image he projects.

I’m similar to Indiana in some ways, opposite in others. In my youth, I was arrogant too—but the pride was centered on my faith rather than in rejection of it. I constantly judged those around me and felt that others were unworthy. My religion was my sacred place, a belief that was binding and holy; I would rage—at least internally—against any word said against it.

The way I lived my life betrayed me. I didn’t exude hope, peace, or joy. I wasn’t especially loving toward my family or friends, and certainly not towards the needy. And I judged those around me with a magnifying glass while refusing to turn the same inspection inward. What I really found sacred were my own values, my way of thinking, and myself, not the values of Christ, which I refused to follow.

It took a change in my behaviour to really understand what I genuinely viewed as significant. When I came to understand my faith better, and really bought into it, my actions began to shift. I was a little less prideful, more open, and kinder. I started to serve others and put myself second. And in doing these things that were unnatural to me, that were so contrary to how I had lived, I realized that my words were starting to finally align with my actions; I finally understood what really was sacred to me.

During the course of the four Indiana Jones films, and within each film itself, Indiana undergoes this same sort of growth. Though he initially rejects religion because of his faith in science and hostility towards his pious father, he comes to respect it. Even more revered for Indiana are the other values we see him espouse–doing good, fighting evil, and loving family. No matter what gruff words he has for the women in his life, or what nonsense he spouts about not caring what actions the Nazis are taking, Indiana shows time and time again that he holds these values as sacrosanct.

Indiana’s actions demonstrate there’s far more to him than he would like others to believe.

In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana marries his longtime love, Marion Ravenwood. By this point, he’s an old man, having lost so much opportunity for happiness “in waiting.” There’s no hiding behind his words anymore. In front of God and the whole world, Indiana declares he really cares. His character development is one thing the fourth movie got right.

But I don’t want to be like Indiana in this case; I don’t want to spend my whole life waiting, fully embracing my sacred after too many years have gone by. I already wasted enough of my youth doing that. I’ll take an introspective look at my thoughts and actions, even if it means peeling away painful layers and opening up wounds that call out my hypocrisies. And while in doing so I might not discover some awesome relic, I’ll be better able to understand what’s sacred to me, and I think that can be an adventure in itself.

Charles Sadnick

Charles Sadnick

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Converted from the moment he first heard Han Solo reply, “I know,” Charles resisted his nerdy urges until Hayao Miyazaki, Spike Spiegel, and Evangelion Unit-01 forced him to confront the truth of his inner geekery. Baptized into otakudom, Charles masks himself in the not-so-secret identity of TWWK as he blogs endlessly about anime and faith.

He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.

A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.
Charles Sadnick