Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Blue Pill or the Red Pill?

Written by: on April 25, 2021

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”[1] Is it too late to take the red pill? As I was reading through Stephen Hicks’s book Explaining Postmodernism, I instantly began reflecting on the movie, Matrix. Hicks dives headfirst into Postmodernism with all its influential philosophers. He explains that the postmodern stance is in direct opposition to modernism. By seeing that postmodernism leads to “nihilism” – the destruction of traditional values and beliefs, one gains a better understanding of the process. Tracing postmodernism back to the philosophers that influenced its conception, helps bring understanding of how its many complexities fit together. Hicks confesses that even if one understands the many influences and the consequences that ensue postmodernism, it can’t be refuted.[2]

A person may watch the Matrix trilogy for its special effects and actions scenes, or, for the numerous philosophical influences hidden within its script. The French postmodern philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, argues that the modern consumer culture and its many simulations are far more real than reality itself. We live in a consumer culture that is filled with things that are created to represent a form of reality that isn’t true. Plato believed that the world we live in was an illusion. Humans needed to free themselves from the illusion in order to find reality.  Rene Descartes questions whether one can truly be certain the world that is experienced is the real world. He concludes that human senses cannot be trusted and that everything we know may be under the control of evil. Since dreams are so vivid, they therefore must be real.[3] In the Matrix, Neo realizes through the guidance of Morpheus, that his human existence is just a façade. It is not reality. What was really happening was humans were being raised in fields and farmed as a source of energy for the machine world. A human’s entire life existed encased in ooze where their brains were stimulated with the illusion of living their lives with an independent free will. “What is the Matrix itself? Control. A computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this.”[4] A copper top battery. Neo rejects the idea and Morpheus – like Hicks – explains that it is a hard reality to grasp, but it is the truth.

Hicks’s intent is to help us gain a better understanding of the world we lead in. He isn’t without his critics. As a leader, I find it necessary to understand the many influences that have molded my thinking. Some of them are negative, some are positive, and some have been evolving for centuries. And yet others are in reaction to centuries of thought. Some I have chosen, and some have been thrust upon me by culture. Like Hicks, identifying the influences along with their ramifications doesn’t change the fact that they exist. Much like we see in Tom Holland’s book Dominion, whether one believes or not in Christianity, its influence cannot be contested. Like Kant, there are many times I feel the need to choose faith over reason. Though we live in a messy world, I choose to believe that God is not surprised; that He has a plan for good and not for evil. I choose to place my trust in a God that is bigger than my understanding. Who is more powerful than my problems and who loves His creation with an everlasting love? It is by choosing faith that I can lead, love and embrace those that are consumed by a postmodern world. I am appreciative of each and every one of my fellow doctoral candidates and to Dr. Jason Clark for their influence. They have breathed fresh air and insight into me as a leader.


             [1] https://www.sparknotes.com/film/matrix/quotes/page/2/

            [2] Stephen R.C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, Expanded Edition, (Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011), 201.

            [3] https://www/sparknotes.com/film/matrix/section1/page/1/

            [4] https://www.quotes.net/mquote/603024

About the Author

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, husband, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

11 responses to “The Blue Pill or the Red Pill?”

  1. Shawn Cramer says:

    Great movie reference. Hard to believe that was over 20 years ago when it came out. I agree that the history was helpful. For a while now, this book has been on my list. Have you read it?


  2. Greg Reich says:

    No I haven’t read Luc Ferry’s work. I have a love /hate relationship with philosophy. I see its value but the circle arguments and the questions for questions sake can be at times non-productive. Philosophy may be a fun explorative exercise and a way to voice ones understanding but it seldom really leads to answers. It is a good way to come up with more questions.

  3. Jer Swigart says:

    Great reflections here, Greg. I wonder how those who have influenced us have shaped our ability to discern what is real and what is not. Have we taken the time, like Morpheus encourages Neo to take, to really explore, critique, and discern? Perhaps reality is found in those three verbs.

    • Greg Reich says:

      I would agree. In a world where it seems the majority of people are just going through the motions discernment and critical questions are vital.
      As I grow older it becomes more uncomfortable for me to see people refusing to ask the hard questions and just buy into the latest trends or default into a comfortable tradition.

  4. Dylan Branson says:

    I think Hicks is putting into practice what we’ve been taught to do: Trace the family tree. Knowing where something comes from can also help to project where it may end up. A lot of the lessons we learn from history are often repeated in the here and now, just repackaged in a different skin. Knowing the basic language that is used and HOW it’s used is key.

  5. Darcy Hansen says:

    I’ve been pondering your words here and comments on my post about how we take that which we believe to be good and toss the pieces that aren’t super helpful, so as to piece together what we deem to be best, even true. This is often done to support our preconceived ideas, maintain our comfort levels, or establish/maintain a position of power or influence. What was striking to me is that many of the thinkers Hicks noted had very little “skin in the game.” They sit around and ponder the workings of the human mind, come up with their ideas about how they believe things work, and distribute info through their preferred channels of communication, which is often academia. So I suppose my question is why do we allow people who have little to no skin in the game to dictate how individuals and societies function? It is clear philosophical influence is profound, but at what cost? And there I go using “no skin in the game” Taleb to argue my point… There aren’t really clear answers to solve this issue. As a generation influenced by thousands of years of human thought, how do we, as a whole, move forward in a more holistic way? Is it even possible? The Sunday school answer is “Yes. We have Jesus.” But after reading Dominion, my confidence in that answer wavers.

    • Greg Reich says:

      Despite your trouble with Taleb you are philosophers have little to know skin in the game. They aren’t doers they are abstract thinkers. Each philosophy should be closely scrutinized. It amazes me how much stuff is out in the world in all sectors that has been written to expand knowledge but not to change one’s life. Philosophy has its place, the problem is everyone who reads it thinks they are experts when very little of philosophy is intended to prove anything. It is intended to create and explore possibilities. An idea in the hands of a zealot create change.
      As far as the book Dominion, it is important to remember Holland is an historian and cares nothing about the faith or belief behind Christianity. He actually a skeptic and left his faith behind which I think taints his book. He just explores influence from a very selective portion of history. Most of which has little connection in my view to the major influences of why Christianity has such a broad influence. It is impossible to remove the emotional and spiritual connection to christianity when discussing influence. Holland tries to look at Christian influence without doing justice to the deep seated convictions behind it.

      • Darcy Hansen says:

        Agreed on all counts. I think my problem with Holland wasn’t so much that he’s a skeptic historian, but that he failed to present an even handed account of history- like you said, he missed the whole other side of why Christianity has endured. I remember taking an Ethics class in college and we would sit around a discuss what was ethical and what wasn’t and who gets to determine what is right and wrong. At the end of the day it was exhausting. I asked the professor what the point of the discussion was if we weren’t going to do anything about our conclusions. She answered that wasn’t her concern- just the thinking through it was her concern. But if we don’t think to do and make a difference, then what good is that? And if those thoughts we think are taken by others and used in horrific ways, then what? It feels like the making of a spiderweb to me, maybe there’s a purpose, but it often isn’t usually beneficial but for a few people or people groups.

  6. John McLarty says:

    It feels like right now people are either completely oblivious or so hyper-engaged that they’re actually being controlled by their suspicions or media hype. The middle is to recognize that there are factors at work (both seen and unseen, and both past and present) that play into everything that is happening around us. When we merely react to something and fail to understand it in its broader context, we then just give fuel for the next person to react and the cycle just continues. The biggest problem is finding the people who are willing and able to have the more difficult conversations while remaining open to learning new things. So few people seem interested in learning anymore- they just want to tell everyone else what they know. What will you take from this semester that might help you help others reflect and engage more thoughtfully?

    • Greg Reich says:

      This semester has confirmed what I have felt for a long time. Life is messy, messy is ok and people don’t like messy. I also learned the if a leader is going to be effective they need to learn to live in tension. Not stress but tension, tension in knowing that many people are being influenced by less than desirable ideas, tension in knowing that being self-differentiated and undefended is risky and tension that having skin in the game isn’t popular.

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