Why Does Knuckles Keep Getting Fooled By Dr. Robotnik?
So Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came out and is doing ridiculously well, which makes me crazy happy for the character that shaped my childhood: Tails. Yeah, I was always a Tails fan and still am. So when I learned Tails would be featuring in the film, I was ecstatic. And then we learned that Idris Elba was going to be bringing together another huge Sonic mainstay - Knuckles the Echidna. This movie was destined to be one of my favorites of the year - no matter how dodgy the writing would be.
One of the best parts of this series of movies is how true to the source material they seem to be staying. Video game movies are notorious for making random and unprecedented changes needlessly to the franchise to differentiate themselves - like IDK Master Chief charging into battle without his helmet on or something. But no one would do that right?
Given that, this movie was going to for sure follow Knuckles being the initial antagonist of the film. He was just going to be manipulated by Dr. Robotnik, as he always is - whether it’s the show, the games, or even Sonic 3. Knuckles is always kind of a doofus that gets tricked. And, while I’d love to claim my own intellect superior, odds are I’m pretty used to getting tricked myself and maybe you are too. In this video, we’re gonna take a look at how Knuckles always gets duped and what we can do as Christians to stop it from happening to us. Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to Checkpoint Church - where nerds, geeks, and gamers come together to talk about faith, games, and I thought Idris Elba said he WASN’T going to make Knuckles sexy. The man can’t help it. I’m your Nerd Pastor Nate. If you like these weekly deepdives, be sure to sub and hit that bell to find out when our next one drops.
2 Timothy 3:10-17 (NRSV)
Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
So if you’re going to break my heart and make me explain the story of Sonic the Hedgehog, then fine I guess I’ll do that. But it hurts me. You should know who Sonic is.
For this video, what ultimately matters is the story of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for the Sega Genesis. We’ve had two games up until this point where we get to know the sarcastic and way-past-cool blue hedgehog Sonic. He has quickly platformed his way into our hearts at this point and we’ve taken down the evil Dr. Robotnik on our own and with the help of our little buddy Tails.
Then Sonic 3 comes in and changes everything. Suddenly, there’s a new kid on the block - a bright red and tough as nails Echidna. Wait - what’s an echidna?
Okay - so it’s just a hedgehog but *spicy*
In Sonic 2, we got a friend in Tails. But in Sonic 3 we got our first real rival. We didn’t know for sure whether or not Knuckles was a ‘bad guy,’ but he was definitely not on our side.
After some time, we learn that Knuckles and his fellow echidnas (echidna?) (echidnites?) are all tasked with the duty to protect the Master Emerald. Robotnik manages to convince Knuckles that Sonic is after the emerald and thus must be stopped at all costs.
Eventually, Knuckles learns that it is in fact Robotnik who is after the Master Emerald and ends up teaming up with Sonic by the end of the story in order to fight the treacherous lies of the Eggman Robotnik.
This is mostly the same story in the comics and anime whenever Knuckles gets introduced - and it sure looks like this is the same story being presented in the new Sonic the Hedgehog 2 movie.
So what’s up with that? Why is Knuckles the one that keeps getting bamboozled by the deceitful Dr. Robotnik?
The truth of Knuckles that really gets hammered down by the Sonic Adventure and Archie comics series are that Knuckles is kind of like a warrior priest - the protection that Knuckles offers to the Master Emerald is reverent and downright religious in nature
Whenever it comes to protecting the emerald, Knuckles has a tendency to get on a one-track mind. He is only interested in doing the exact that he feels he has to do: protect the emerald. He gets so hyperfocused on the one thing that he stops paying attention to other aspects of the situation. He is no longer concerned with how that decision might not add up or the consequences - he only wants one thing: to protect the emerald.
Sonic Boom and later series makes Knuckles out to be a cheap pun as a knucklehead, but the truth is that he doesn’t think with his fists instead of his brain - he thinks with his culture.
His decision-making process isn’t one that should feel too unfamiliar from the Christian walk. One of our comments on our Can Christians Watch Anime video makes this point abundantly clear - the commenter says that the Bible specifically cannot watch anime and that it isn’t a subjective matter. But of course - the Bible doesn’t say that. Anime didn’t exist when Jesus was teaching. It’s a subjective interpretation of a Biblical passage. We all interpret through the culture that we’ve been brought up in - but that doesn’t make our decisions correct. Sometimes we end up siding with Dr. Robotnik.
So let’s take that energy and take a look at our scripture for today.
Our passage for today comes from what is very likely the final epistle, or letter, from Paul. It was written while he was imprisoned in Rome and is likely only a short matter of time before he will be tried by the court and beheaded. So Paul’s in a bit of a dark place.
Much of this letter reads like a last will and testament. It’s very much a loving, caring letter of advice and encouragement to Paul’s pupil Timothy.
The passage we selected in particular is encouragement for Timothy to be very discerning of the uprising of false prophets and teachers in the early church. This isn’t necessarily meant to be read by every person of every time period, this piece is pretty specifically meant for Timothy as he wrestles with the early church.
In order to really double down on the idea of how best to steer clear of false prophets, Paul advises that, in order to keep from being deceived, Timothy ought to stand strong in what he’s learned, and to utilize the holy scriptures that have been around since his childhood. Read them with the faith in Jesus and you should make it scot-free.
Then we get one of the most frustrating verses in all of scripture: for all scripture is inspired by God - and then most people stop there with the God-breathed part, but it doesn’t stop there. Paul continues that all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. SO THAT everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Okay. That’s a lot. First, we have to acknowledge that this is incredibly important to Paul - remember this is his deathbed letter and he is pretty sure it might be his last. So this is the culmination of a life of ministry.
Let’s not treat this as a trite phrase at the end of the Apostle Paul’s last will and testament. Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it? I think we can all agree Paul deserves a bit more interpretation than a truism
Paul presents Timothy with a very compelling train of thoughts - there’s a lot to say here. Some things to understand - the Bible didn’t exist as we know it today. So when Paul refers to scripture, he’s referring to a wealth of knowledge in the Jewish culture and the writing of the early church, some of which makes up our canonized Bible today, some of which does not.
Not to mention - how do we know who is a prophet and a teacher? Paul is Timothy’s teacher, so it’s pretty easy for him to know who to trust… but what about others being welcomed into the early church life? Who should they turn to?
What about the Gentiles who weren’t raised on sacred writings from childhood?
And when should we use what scriptures for what purpose? Can they only be used for reproof, correction, training - or is there more to them than that?
As with much of the United Methodist tradition, I am extremely thankful for the practice of interpreting the Bible that we’ve been instructed with through the teachings of the Methodist founder John Wesley.
In fact, you can likely go up to any UMC pastor and ask them about what I’m about to teach you and they will know exactly what you’re talking about.
When it comes to applying theological understanding to our daily life, we try to view theological concerns through the lens of this thing called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Who would have thought that i would be talking about the quadrilateral during a video on Sonic? What a wild life I lead, huh?
The quadrilateral is called that because it has four aspects - sometimes you’ll see it drawn as a square with four equal parts, but seminarians prefer to make it look more like a stool, with one on top being supported by three legs. I might describe it more like a kaleidoscope, but that’s pretty inside baseball - ask me about it if you want to some other time.
The four components of the quadrilateral are Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason, with scripture being the top of the stool and most predominant
Whenever we do any theological wrestling, we would look at it through these four different but connected considerations.
For example - Should Checkpoint Church exist?
A scripture I might point to is the Great Commission - go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Jesus commanded us, in scripture, to make disciples of all nations.
My tradition as a United Methodist encourages the act of church planting and allows for me to have assets and support from a connected network of churches in the form of a conference here in North Carolina.
My experience as a nerd is that nerds haven’t been allowed as their true selves into the church, thus we need a new church in order to do that. So, nerds are not currently being included in that great commission and that is a failure of the church.
And so, I can reason that when Jesus says to go to all nations then Twitch should count as a nation worth evangelizing. If not Twitch, then at least I can reason that nerds are loved by Jesus and worthy of being made into disciples.
Bing bang boom - Yes, a church for nerds, geeks, and gamers should exist. Now, obviously this process is shortened and made a bit shallow in order to fit into a short video like this one, but the point here being that Paul is presenting a very similar practice behind the process of living a Christlike life.
Scripture is God-breathed and vital - in the UMC, we call it infallible - the Word of God is incapable of being wrong. But it isn’t inerrant - it can be interpreted and applied in wrong ways by false teachers and prophets.
Because of this - it is my obligation as a pastor and our obligation as interpreters of the Word to read and interpret to the very best of our ability.
Paul tells Timothy to use what Paul has taught him - that’s experience; Timothy has essentially apprenticed for Paul
He then tells Timothy to use the sacred writing of his youth - that’s tradition. Use what you’ve been taught to consider these things. It may not be right - but it’s one of the four things we bring to the table.
And finally, Paul makes an appeal to Timothy know taught you all of this stuff, you ain’t learn it from no broke, Timothy can use reason to determine that Paul is teaching as one of the greatest apostles.
None of these things are enough on their own and none of these things should be considered without that God-breathed scripture. It’s a dance, a balance, a work that we are called to do.
To only consume what we hear and regurgitate it, that’s not enough. We have to consider reason, evaluate the tradition, and take our experience into account. Then we back all of that up with the infallible scripture that we’ve been given. It can’t just be one. Because when it is, we become easy to manipulate - just like Knuckles.
For kicks and giggles - let’s use the Echidnan Quadrilateral: If the scripture is to protect the emerald, then Knuckles also to consider that, according to reason, THIS guy (Robotnik) doesn’t look trustworthy, according to tradition, echidnas have been more than capable of protecting the emerald without any outside help for a long time, so Robotnik wouldn’t be needed, and, according to experience, well, I guess we’ll have to ask Knuckles for that one since we don’t actually know anything about that.
Was that heresy? Did I do it again? Dangit.
Silly jokes aside - what can we learn from this that will help us out today? What can we learn from Wesley, Paul, and Knuckles the Echidna? Now THAT'S a unique sentence.
If nothing else, I hope that this might have been the first time some of you have heard of the Wesleyan quadrilateral. As boring as it sounds, it’s a seriously helpful measure of interpretation. Some of them are more difficult to parse out than others, but having a framework to work within makes things a whole lot easier.
And, at the end of the day, let’s just be thankful that we aren’t living in a world where Robotniks are trying to trick us or where we’re rotting in a Roman prison cell waiting for our beheading. The least we can do is think before we speak and allow for the words of the Bible and the actions of our lives to have a little thought put behind them.
And if you like this kind of thinking, this is the kind of stuff that I’m doing 24/7 here at Checkpoint Church. I use the quadrilateral write these goofy sermons each week - how else could you possibly find anything worth saying in Knuckles the Echidna or Demon Slayer? God is in this things and we can dive deep into them and discover what God is doing through these nerdy shows and video games together.
So, whether you’re an echidna, a hedgehog, or my favorite two-tailed boi, know that you’re always welcome at Checkpoint Church. Just make sure you bring an extra chili dog for my favorite blue blur to chow down on when you come and join.
Question: What is your favorite entry into the Sonic universe? Sonic Adventure 2 Battle will forever be my favorite of all time.
God loves you.
We love you.