The Adjustment Bureau

1. The Adjustment Bureau is a movie about fate, destiny, and who is ‘in control’.  It is based on a short story by Philip K Dick, who also wrote the stories behind Blade Runner and Minority Report. David Norris is about to win a seat on the US Senate when he meets a beautiful dancer, Elise Sellas. He immediately falls for her but then discovers that other strangers are attempting to keep them apart.

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There is a lot of talk of fate in the movie. At one point the Thompson, chief of The Adjustment Bureau, tells David he can’t outrun his fate. To which he replies, ‘I just disagree with you about what my fate is.’ One dictionary definition of fate is this – the force or principle believed to predetermine events. There is also a lot of talk about destiny. How do you see this? To what extent do you think the future is already mapped out?

2. At another point David walks through a door and discovers men from The Adjustment Bureau working  ’behind the scenes’, preparing things, fixing things, for the next scene of his life. David is told he has seen something  no one was ever supposed to see, peeked behind a curtain he wasn’t intended to know existed at all. Sometimes it seems the Bible does this – shows us another view, a view behind the curtain of life. At the beginning of the book of Job we are shown a scene of this kind. A scene that Job himself never sees. God and Satan are in court, discussing Job’s life, and setting up a situation where Job will face fierce tests.  The movie The Matrix also sets about exposing a kind of hidden reality. Another realm that we rarely glimpse.  What do you think about this? To what extent is the Christian faith about another world, a spiritual realm, and how should that influence how we operate in this one, do you think?

3. There is much talk in Christian circles about God being ‘in control’ yet one of the greatest gifts we have is freewill. The story of Adam and Eve goes out of its way to state this. People can choose. In the movie when David disagrees with Thompson  about his fate, he says that all he has are the choices that he makes, and so he chooses to love Elise. Perhaps life is a strange mixture of this great gift of freewill, which of course can be abused, and the desire of a compassionate God to be involved and guiding our lives for good.
In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29, the prophet tells us that God has plans for us, good plans, but the Bible also shows that people must choose, prophecies like this only come true if we decide to buy into them. What do you think about this? Do you have specific thoughts on the notion of God being ‘in control’? When pain and trouble hit us, this can be a difficult notion to live with. Do you think that some choices matter to god more than others?

4. The agents of The Adjustment Bureau describe themselves as ‘angels of fate’, adjusting people’s lives throughout the day to keep them on track. Angels play a key part in the Bible, appearing in dreams and visions, advising and informing. Would you say you have ever experienced this, perhaps meeting strangers who, with hindsight, now appear to you as being God-given angels who appeared at the right moment? Angels in the Bible are seen as a sign of God’s presence. Not operating on their own, but as part of God’s purpose. Many people today believe in angels but may not choose to see them as agents of God. What do you think about this?

5. Matt Damon, who plays David, has described this movie as being about fate versus freewill. If David chooses to stay with Elise and love her he will no longer have the drive to be a powerful congressman. Will no longer be hungry for votes and power. Loving Elise will be enough. This is why he must be stopped. David’s heart is pulling him towards Elise, but his ‘fate’ is to be a successful politician. What will he do? Which will he sacrifice? A tough decision. In history many people have faced difficult choices like this, and some have chosen to love others sacrificially. Again the Bible is full of people who followed a calling which led them to make tough decisions. Ruth gave up her home and her country and chose to stay with her mother-in-law, to care for her. This led them both into a hard place, for a while they were poor refugees. Esther, steered by her cousin, became a queen, but her privileged position created a tough opportunity where she had the power to save her people.  If she had the courage to follow it through. Are you facing tough choices at the moment? I am terrible at making decisions, I would rather the choices be out of my hands. But we have this gift of choice, and it can come at a price. Do you have others you can talk to about this? Perhaps even pray with them too?


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