Where does 007 kneel?

james bondReligion is not the first topic that comes to mind for James Bond, the MI6 agent portrayed in dozens of movies, numerous print productions, more than a handful of video games and who knows how many parodies. I know the next Bond film Quantum of Solace is scheduled for released in November, but this weekend isn't too early to take a light-hearted look at the possible religious faith of this womanizing, fearless secret agent thanks in large part to The Times' http://timesonline.typepad.com/faith/2008/04/was-james-bond.html ">Faith Central blog. Libby Purves, a Times columnist, novelist and radio broadcaster, asks the question that most people probably think when they consider whether Bond ever knelt at church: "Does James Bond have faith in anything but himself?"

However, Purves brings out some of the cultural influences shaping the Bond character and describes the character's worldview in a manner that brings out some of the morality behind the Bond movies (which is a much better conversation starter than "Who is your favorite Bond girl or actor?"):

Ian Fleming gave Bond a Scottish father Andrew Bond, which for this blogger indicates 007 was a protestant of some description. Fleming himself was brought up in the non-conformist tradition and from time to time worried about the moral effect Bond was having. ....

The apparent lack of moral framework in the novels caused some reviewers to label them "anti-Christian" but Kingsley Amis put it well when he rebutted those accusations.

"I should have thought that a fairly orthodox moral system, vague perhaps but none the less recognizable through accumulation, pervades all Bond's adventures. Some things are regarded as good: loyalty, fortitude, a sense of responsibility, a readiness to regard one's safety, even one’s life, as less important than the major interests of one's organization and one's country. Other things are regarded as bad: tyranny, readiness to inflict pain on the weak or helpless, the unscrupulous pursuit of money or power. These distinctions aren't excitingly novel, but they are important, and as humanist and/or Christian as the average reader would want. They constitute quite enough in the way of an ethical frame of reference, assuming anybody needs or looks for or ought to have one in adventure fiction at all." (From The James Bond Dossier 1965)

I doubt any future movies will give us a sense for Bond's religious faith. Some actions movies, like the 1999 gangster movie The Boondock Saints draw religion right into the central plot and design of the movie with intense religious imagery and spiritualism. Others seem on the surface to be more humanistic such as the Bond films or perhaps Mission Impossible (though I could be forgetting something, and I never saw MI3).

The gangster movie Pulp Fiction is rather famous for the fabricated quotation derived from various Bible passages by the contract killer Jules Winnfield (played by Samuel L. Jackson). The main theme of this past summer's blockbuster The Dark Knight was goodness triumphing over evil, moral choices, the corruption of the public's virtues and (false?) redemption.

Which movie best portrays the real world: one that merely pretends that human drama plays out in a world without higher powers or one that recognizes that religion plays a real role in people's lives. Perhaps this is something movie reviewers should highlight more often?

Photo of Ian Fleming's image of James Bond used under a fair use license.

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