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Is being “red-pilled” a biblical concept?

red-pilled
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Early in the 1999 film The Matrix, the lead character is offered a choice between two pills. Taking the blue pill will leave him in blissful ignorance. If he takes the red pill, he will learn the hidden, disturbing truth—but he can never go back. He chooses the red pill and quickly learns his entire reality is a simulation and prison. To be “red-pilled” has become slang for “seeing through” things like propaganda, conspiracy theories, and so forth. It’s usually a reference to awareness that defies existing control and authority. Most accurately, it refers to deliberate investigation of a topic, leading to a series of increasing revelations about “the truth.”

The term red-pilled is relatively new, but the concept itself is not. In the 1990s, the television series The X-Files used the tagline “The truth is out there,” implying that reality is not as people assume. The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz includes the famous line “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” This likewise raised the idea of authority figures insisting on controlling lies that need to be seen through. An older expression is that of “pulling the wool over someone’s eyes,” which also implies confusion and deception. People encouraging others to see reality their way have often used expressions such as “wake up,” “snap out of it,” or “open your eyes.”

Not all uses of “take the red pill” or “being red-pilled” are legitimate instances of revealing truth. The basic claim is a frequent defense of conspiracy theories: suggesting that those who accept the common explanation are living in willful or captive ignorance—those who see “the truth” have been freed. Therefore, those who disagree are simply “blue-pilled” or wrong. Sorting these ideas out is complicated by the fact that official explanations are, at times, entirely wrong. Merely claiming to have seen “that man behind the curtain” is neither self-confirming nor self-refuting.

Most uses of “red pill” terminology are in heavily politicized issues. Scripture does not deal directly with such ideas. However, the Bible does touch on the idea of people being blinded to important realities. Jesus famously scolded the Pharisees for willingly ignoring what they already knew (John 5:39–40). He pointed out that a person’s willingness to submit to truth was a key factor in their understanding His message (John 7:17). The Bible also points out how coming to faith in Christ opens a person’s perception in ways that non-believers cannot experience (1 Corinthians 2:14). Those who reject Christ are said to have been “blinded [in their] minds” (2 Corinthians 4:4) by evil forces. Scripture even depicts those unaware of deeper truth as “sleepers” who need to “awake” (Ephesians 5:13–14).

One could argue that “being red-pilled” has some biblical basis. It’s valid in the sense that a person can be fooled by propaganda or blissful ignorance, overcome only by making a deliberate choice to investigate. That which is true is sometimes hated (Luke 6:22–23) or ridiculed (1 Corinthians 1:18) by the world at large. On the other hand, the Bible also warns strongly about chasing “foolish arguments” (2 Timothy 2:23) or succumbing to myths that suit our preferences (2 Timothy 4:3–4). Dismissing consensus primarily as a red pill/blue pill issue is a symptom of the very attitude that being “red-pilled” is supposed to cure.

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Is being “red-pilled” a biblical concept?
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This page last updated: August 18, 2021