As intimated several posts ago now, my wife and I are rewatching The X-Files. Neither of us has much free time, so this proceeds slowly over many weekends, and we’re now nearing the end of season three. This exercise brings me back to an article I wrote on Sleepy Hollow, the Fox series that ran from 2013-2017. That article, published in The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, I later adapted into a chapter in Holy Horror. At the advice of my editor I dropped that particular chapter and wrote a different one. In the lost chapter, if I recall, I made the case that Sleepy Hollow was biblically based in a way that other monster-of-the-week series, like the X-Files, were not. While I still have to hold to this, I must admit the X-Files are far more biblical than I recollected.
Somewhere about halfway through season one I started to jot notes when the Bible was mentioned or quoted. Soon it became obvious that religion was a major theme in The X-Files pretty much from the beginning. I’ve mentioned here before that some scholars of religion have begun to address the paranormal seriously. One of the reasons for this seems to be that the two fields are related. Some of the x-files derive from folk traditions, and these traditions often hold religious elements. When those themes derive from American folklore the Bible creeps in. There are quotes, visual displays, and even biblical themes. How had I not noticed this the first time around?
I didn’t watch The X-Files during the actual airing of the series. As a kid I was endlessly teased for having an interest in the strange and unexplained, and it bothered me that it had become mainstream after I’d already paid the price. When the series became available on DVD, though, I had second thoughts. My wife and I watched it all the way through some years ago, and, having finished rewatching another series several months back, we began slowly to make our way through again. When I wrote my article on Sleepy Hollow I had vague recollections of X-Files episodes with some biblical content, but I’d forgotten how extensive it was. Religion is that way. It tends to permeate society, and even though we’re proudly secular, the base of it all is religion. This should be obvious to anyone who takes the time to tally just how often it appears in the most secular of spaces. Instead, there’s little interest in it. Like the paranormal, lack of concern about religion is something we just can’t adequately explain.