It only takes a few minutes of looking around at my office décor to discover my passion for nerdom. I wrote this while reflecting on what would have been my brother’s 46th birthday. He was responsible for showing me the beauty of the science fiction masterpieces of the 1970s and 80s, specifically, Star Wars and The Transformers.
For as long as I can remember, I have been captivated by the 1986 movie called simply “The Transformers: The Movie.” As you would expect any young boy to be, I was fascinated by these autonomous robots that were able to transform from unsuspecting vehicles into powerful, humanesque beings. The plot is easy to follow, these robots, known aptly as Autobots and Decepticons, are engaged in a civil war, first on their home planet of Cybertron, and then in between Cybertron and Earth. The cartoon series did not last long, and the movie seemed to not have very much popularity, but the lasting impact of this show on me and at least a dozen other science fiction nerds is evident. Seriously, the franchise has been revisited a number of times and Michael Bay has made some pretty big live action movies, so maybe it really is popular. In my opinion, the 1986 film still reigns supreme, and ultimately shows the value of good and evil uniting against a common and indifferent foe.
In any case, the good versus evil storyline easily can parallel the Christian life. That’s not why I find this franchise, or frankly most others like it, entertaining. I really just love the idea of transformers. The idea that the robot could be something else and be undetected as that object or vehicle was appealing. There were moments in my life where I wished I could be somewhere, something, or someone else. I would guess that everyone experiences that, especially in childhood. But rather than focus on something that is a fantasy, focus on what could make that a reality. When we become so introspective that we become focused on being someone else, we are trying to abandon the persons God made us to be. He made us in His image and likeness, and that is where we should be striving. In fact, Saint Paul even tells us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Written on our hearts is the desire to love God, so we need to be focused on that relationship, the cross, and God’s will in our lives. Saint Paul uses the word “transformed,” and that draws me in. Just like Optimus Prime leads with concern for the welfare of humans and transformers alike, oftentimes sacrificing himself for others, we should be concerned for God’s creation, the dignity of human persons, and our relationship with Him. We can’t turn into trucks, but we can spend every day of our lives working hard to transform our hearts to be more like the heart of Jesus. I admit, I’m grateful for two former students who bought me a refrigerator magnet at a Franciscan Summer Youth Conference that has that scripture passage on it, along with a Christocentric Autobot logo. That was one of the first times I spent time reflecting on that passage, and I find myself drawn to it even more every day, especially on days when I see anything to do with the transformers.
One element of the movie that I always thought was moving is the desire of the Autobot leaders to reunite with the Decepticons. Their battle cry is “’Til all are one!” Honestly, I never thought much about it as a child, but they recognized that they were all of the same alien race, but some were misled by a deceiving leader and followed him. Ultimately, the pursuit of power and wealth fueled the Cybertronian civil war under the direction of Megatron. On a daily basis, we are tempted by the devil to do exactly what I was tempted to do as a child, abandon who God made us to be. Sometimes, those temptations make us feel like we are in control or are better off excluding God in some of the choices we make. Sin separates us from God, and God’s desire is to be with us is greater than any sin we commit. We just need to be willing to come back to Him in the Sacrament of Penance to be reunited. In essence, God desires us to be one with Him for eternity. The fact that the Autobots are so committed to reaching the day when the ones who have betrayed them are able to be alongside them again is inspiring, not only for our personal relationships with God, but also for whole of the Church. With so many divisions within the Catholic Church, and then so many divisions and schisms amidst all of Christianity, we should fervently pray from the unity of all Christians. We all love Jesus, so we should work harder to love each other as He commands. Take the time to welcome someone with a different opinion, with a different mindset, with a different faith. Listen to them, witness to them, love them, and pray for them. Earnestly, we should pray “’Til all are one.”