Ethos Education

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: What happens after someone dies?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding Christian beliefs about eternal life.
  • Understanding the hope of resurrection for Christians (including how this is reflected in funeral rites).
  • Awareness of God’s role as judge.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the basis for a variety of hoped-for outcomes.
  • Evaluate the validity of belief in reincarnation as a source of hope for someone facing disappointment in their life.
  • Analyse Bible passages to identify a Christian response to the concept of reincarnation.
  • Analyse a Bible passage to determine the significance of belief in Jesus’ resurrection as a source of hope for Christians.
  • Synthesise learning by writing an alternative version of a scene from You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.


Ask the students to brainstorm a list of things that they hope for. If they need some prompting to get them started you could suggest some or all of the following:

  • Hope that the teacher forgets to set any homework.
  • Hope that your football team wins the league this season.
  • Hope that you will have a good time at the next party you go to.
  • Hope that you wake up the next morning.

Write the students’ suggestions on the board as they are made. Once they have generated a reasonable sized list, pick out one or two suggestions and ask the students how confident they would feel about this hope being realised. Which hopes have the strongest basis and which the flimsiest? Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about what difference someone’s views on the afterlife make on the hope that they have in difficult or disappointing circumstances in life.


Introduce the clip from You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Warner Bros, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy a copy of the film online.

Explain that the scene they are about to watch features a married couple Roy (Josh Brolin) and Sally (Naomi Watts), as well as Sally’s mother Helena (Gemma Jones). Explain that Roy is a struggling writer who is waiting to hear whether a publishing company wants to publish his latest novel. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the reason for hope that Helena offers Roy.

  • Start time:       0.50.58 (in chapter 7 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.54.55
  • Clip length:     3 minutes and 57 seconds

The clip starts with the telephone ringing. Roy answers and Malcolm (Alex McQueen) responds with ‘Roy, Malcolm Dodds’. The clip ends with Roy saying, ‘I’ve got to get out of here’ and storming out after throwing Helena’s glass against the wall. Please note that there is mild swearing in this clip.

Ask the students why they think Roy didn’t seem to appreciate Helena’s words of comfort concerning publishing success in future lives. Do any of them disagree with Roy? Should he have found hope in the thought that he might get to be a successful writer in a future life?

Explain that while the idea of reincarnation features in some world religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, Christianity does not believe that reincarnation takes place. Read through Hebrews 9:27-28 with the students and ask them what parts of the passage could be interpreted as contradicting the notion of reincarnation. Draw out that the passage says everyone is destined to die once, and then to face judgement.

Ask the students how this compares to Helena’s words to Roy as a source of hope. Draw out that, while saying nothing about any future publishing success, the passage does go on to talk about Christ’s sacrifice bringing salvation to those who are waiting for him. While the prospect of judgement is not necessarily a comforting one, Christians believe that Jesus’ death on the cross has taken away their sins and made it possible for them to face God’s judgement with confidence.

Ask the students to think again about Roy’s reaction to Helena’s talk of future lives. Why did he find the idea of reincarnation so unsatisfactory as a source of hope? Draw out that the fundamental problem was that Roy didn’t believe what Helena was saying to be true. Explain that Christians also recognise that their source of hope is empty if it isn’t true.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:19 to the students. Paul writes that if the only difference Christian faith makes is in this life, then Christians are to be pitied. By implication, he suggests that Christian faith is a waste of time if it isn’t true and if it doesn’t lead to an afterlife.

Ask the students to read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 and to make a note of Paul’s line of argument (they could do this individually or in pairs). Here is a model answer for you to refer to when taking feedback from the students.

  • If Christians believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, it makes sense that others will have some form of life after death as well.
  • If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then nobody’s sins have been forgiven.
  • If nobody’s sins have been forgiven, then there is no hope beyond this life.
  • If there is no hope beyond this life, Christian faith is a pitiable waste of time.

Paul goes on in the rest of the chapter to reassure his readers that Christ was raised from the dead, and that therefore they can have confidence that their future hope is well founded.


Ask the students to rewrite the scene from You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger so that one character offers a Christian alternative to Helena’s views of reincarnation. The rewritten scene should have the characters discussing the relative merits of the two views (and any others that the student chooses to include) on what happens after death as a source of hope in life.


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