Spirits of Vengeance

In Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Joss Whedon gets to tell the story of the unsung hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After that crazy first season, though, the show has had little connection with the movies. The agents have been facing their own threats that still originated in the comics.
The new season has Ghost Rider. In the comics, he’s a demonic skeleton on a flaming motorcycle who serves vengeance to those who deserve it. Like Lucifer on that other TV show that just returned, the Rider punishes the wicked in a way that could be taken as heroic or villainous. Judeo-Christian mythology and moral ambiguity: my kind of content.
Ghost Rider’s vengeance is different from Black Panther or the K-drama Arth wrote about a while back. He doesn’t target those who personally wronged him; maybe he initially took the job to do that, but then he kept going. He goes after sinners who deserve more punishment than they’re likely to get, either because the system is flawed or some authority behind his pyro powers says they deserve more. It’s a lot like Daredevil’s vigilante philosophy.
Sin deserves punishment, of course, but these superheroes force us to ask whether they should take justice into their own hands just because they can. This goes beyond forgiving those who have trespassed against us. Do we have faith that God will punish the wicked, even if the justice system doesn’t seem to be doing enough?
Recently, here in the real world, overzealous people have been attacking and killing policemen in retribution for certain lives being taken possibly in error. Others think talking about it on social media counts as activism. But what are their motivations, really? Morality or craving attention? We want to do it because it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes we should let the perfect and omnipotent expert handle it.
Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and Lucifer all kind of claim to be following a higher authority when they punish sinners. But even Matt Murdock chooses the image of the devil. Maybe he knows that outright claiming to do God’s work wouldn’t fly with God in this case.

It looks like SHIELD is also dealing with magic in preparation for Sherlock vs Hannibal. Isaac and I will probably have more to say about that. Stay tuned.

Let’s Connect!

@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

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Are Christians more Jedi or more Sith?

Like I said, I want to do something potentially less controversial.

Jedi and Sith, the most constant faction rift in the Star Wars canon. With a new season of Star Wars: Rebels having started, I stopped and thought, probably as many Christian nerds have, does my worldview make me more of a Jedi or more of a Sith?

 

Jedi

Image result for jedi
The Jedi. Proof that a good heroes do not always equal a good movie. (The Phantom Menace.)

 

The Jedi code, though not outlined in the movies and shows, is one based around peace and tranquility. Even what is in the movies and shows tells us that the Jedi are peacemakers and diplomats, not warriors. They abolish things like anger, fear, and hatred, as those are of the Dark Side. Instead, they strive for emotional neutrality.

There are points of the Jedi code, then, that do correlate with the codes of Christianity. I could rattle off a dozen or so verses that call us away from the things attributed to the Dark Side. (Like 1 Timothy 1:7, Joshua 1:9, and Psalm 27:1, and these are just related to fear.)

The drawback, obviously, is the emotional neutrality, but I’ll touch on that in a minute.

 

Sith 

Image result for sith
The Sith. Normally, there are fewer, but this image was too cool to not use.

 

The Sith code, unlike the Jedi’s, is built around having and living with negative emotions like anger and hatred. Their creed is also one of using the Force for personal gain to demonstrate that they have power over mere mortals. In fact, their codes of power are essential, because there can only be two Sith at any given time: the master and the apprentice. The rite of passage for a Sith is to kill his master or his master’s master.

But this is where it gets extra complicated. Because of the end results of some emotions, love and attachment is also a bad thing to a Jedi, because one then fears to lose that person or thing. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.

(Unrelated side note: I may have memorized all of the spoken dialogue in The Phantom Menace by watching it too many times as a child. I haven’t tested it, but I think I could recite the whole movie’s dialogue front-to-back.)

There is some validity of the idea of love leading to hate. Perfect love cannot exist without hate, because if you love something, then one would logically hate that which harms one’s beloved.

 

Conclusion

In summary, on the one side we have emotionally-dead monks, and on the other side we have power-hungry rage machines who can love people.

So…which are we then?

Technically, we’re neither. The Jedi are not allowed to love, and love is a core factor in our Christian faith. And while the Sith are allowed to emote, they are also free to murder everyone in sight if they so choose, breaking not only the Ten Commandments, but also the laws put in place by local government.

Because of this, I conclude that Christians, if we were all Force-users, would either need to be emotionally active Jedi or really, really nice Sith. Personally, I am the latter.

 

Let’s Connect:

@Isaac_Trenti

@CorrelationBlog

 

Photo Credits: starwars.wikia.com

Superman isn’t the only comic book god among men

Many people idolize actors, athletes, and musicians, or at least come closer to idol worship than God would probably like. But what if celebrities actually claimed to be gods? Not even big-G God, or the Messiah. I’m talking about Dionysus, Minerva, Persephone, Woden (Thor’s dad), the Norns of Destiny (also from Norse myths), and even Lucifer.
It’s called THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. It’s a comic book series. And it’s on my list of “stories based on popular mythology that are possibly blasphemous but Noah likes them.”
The premise is that a pantheon of deities from various mythologies come down to Earth once a century and achieve superstar status. And yes, it’s clear to many mortals as well as the reader that these are actual deities with god-like power in teenage host bodies. It’s unclear what they actually do to earn their fame (like the Kardashians), but they say they’re sharing “inspiration” with the mere mortals to keep them civilized.
Crowds gather to worship them in a format we would compare to a rock concert. The fans promptly pass out from overwhelming emotion – usually positive but sometimes depression or fear. Sometimes they have orgies.
You see, rather than embodying the virtues or heroic ideals of most myths, this pantheon embodies the vices of the time and place where they take root, like sex. As Woden says, “I’m a god, not a saint.” Woden is a pervert, by the way. Baal the storm god and Inanna the star god are gay. Dionysus might be gay, too, but his main focus is hardcore partying. The Norn of Destiny is transgender. Lucifer’s “host body” is a girl, so she goes by Luci. And there’s enough sexual content, violence, foul language, and talk of gods other than Yahweh to make a discerning Christian pause.
But as I said, none of these deities are claiming to be big-G God or the Messiah, so there’s no real blasphemy or sacrilege, and it’s clearly not set in our “real world” anyway. All the idolatry is one big thought-provoking metaphor for how people tend to worship celebrities. From a geek perspective, the art is enjoyable and the story is exciting. Just imagine these guys are superheroes and supervillains. The idolatry metaphors still work.
Verdict: PG-13, but as a nerd, I like it. As a Christian, it’s weird, but I don’t find it compromising.

Let’s Connect!
@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

Christians and RPG’s, Part III

Welcome back to “Should Christians Play RPG’s?”

I sat down and watched Dark Dungeons, the movie that spawned this topic. I spent the entire movie with one thought going through my mind: I can write better dialogue than this. (If not that, then: Oh how I’ve missed you, clunky, shoe-horned exposition through dialogue.)

Nevertheless, I got to the line in the first few minutes of “After they’ve tried RPG’s once, not one has ever stopped,” I paused the movie and went, “What am I then? A mailbox?”

Misconception #4

Image result for role playing game
Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

I touched on this in Misconception #3, but blew over it. So, I’m coming back to it now.

Misconception #4: The use of magic in RPG’s will lead people into occultism—using magic in the real world.

What.

No, seriously. What.

I wanted to touch on this when I brought up Pokémon, and I could say this about any fandom that gets scorned by Christians….

Whatever happened to acceptable breaks from reality?

I’ll explain. During my training as a writer and storyteller, I came across the concept of acceptable breaks from reality. In fact, it is these acceptable breaks that make up most of our fiction and entertainment. Some breaks are small enough to be plausible or unnoticed (the hero’s gun never runs out of ammo, or the car never runs out of gas) while others are large, often to the point of impossibility (vampire dinosaurs exist, they are at war with the aliens of Craxwaggle, and all Christians play D&D).

Generally, the smaller the breaks are, the more acceptable they are. Larger ones can only be accepted if they are justified within that story’s universe. Usually, if there is a large acceptable break from reality, that is a solid indicator that this is a work of fiction.

I see it this way: most RPG’s, from Dungeons & Dragons to Undertale, are so full of large acceptable breaks from reality that they are undeniably works of fiction. If one can identify acceptable breaks from reality, then one can see that it is not real.

Well, I think that covers the moral and ethical misconceptions surrounding RPG’s. So, in conclusion, should Christians play RPG’s?

Okay, I admit. I’ve been answering the wrong question all this time. I’ve been asking why conservative Christians don’t like RPG’s and should they dislike them as they do?

Personally, I say no. I have nothing against distaste towards a single entry in the genre, but distaste towards an entire genre because of a single entry is unfair. They’re still so underground that you can comfortably go your entire life without playing one, though it generally doesn’t harm your social standing if you do. I also believe that these games are not of Satan. At worst, they are of men. Interpret as you will.

But should Christians play them? I don’t see why they shouldn’t. Not playing them may not make them into a prude, but playing them probably won’t turn them into an occultist.

 

And that is all I have to say on this topic. If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments. Even if you don’t, go ahead and comment; I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll write something less potentially controversial next week.

Let’s Connect:

@Isaac_Trenti

@CorrelationBlog

A Punch to the Soul

“The Feels” is a phenomenon that nerds & geeks experience while enjoying fandoms. It happens when the story generates an emotional response, often unexpectedly, although many of us come to expect frequent feels from certain stories & storytellers. This may be a character dying, or a character doing something heroic, or two characters demonstrating beautiful friendship or even romance – the list goes on and on. Some of us get goosebumps or big, silly grins on our faces. Sometimes we laugh uncontrollably, and sometimes we cry.
This sensation feels like a punch to the soul. It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. As a result, nerds don’t really talk about the feels. It’s an inside joke with fellow nerds, and non-nerds just think we’re crazy.
The biggest thing we don’t really talk about is the fact that we enjoy getting punched in the soul. We like the feels, even when they’re sad feels. It’s weird, I know. Maybe it’s because we nerds tend to see the real world through logical lenses and in order to feel this emotion we need to get it from fictional stories. Plus, the happy ending is even happier after we’ve been punched in the soul. Is it healthy? No, not really. But, as a nerd, I feel obligated to defend the feels.
You know that woman in that video who is sobbing because she can’t hug all the cats? Those are real-world feels, and they’re not going to stop. She is going to continue to be unable to hug all the cats.
Some may say we should be caring about all the real-world problems, like poverty and war. But those things will continue to happen, and even if we care deeply about them and get “the feels” about them, that won’t make any noticeable difference, so we’ll just keep feeling sad. When we get the feels about fiction, we can turn them off (eventually, in theory) and return to the real world.

As a Christian, I sometimes get an indescribable feeling from God, similar to the feels. Some people call it a spiritual high. Sometimes it hits when I’m worshiping in church, and sometimes it’s the little things that remind me he loves me. I enjoy that feeling just as much as the goosebumps I get from fiction, and I can’t describe why.

What are your favorite feels? I get them from delightfully clever quotes, like this:
[On the Doctor being a ladies’ man.] “Cleopatra? He mentioned her once!” “Yeah, but he called her Cleo!”

Let’s Connect!
@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

Christians and RPG’s, Part II

Hello, and welcome back to “Should Christians Play RPG’s?” or “Is Isaac Going to Hell Because He Went LARP-ing Once?”

What? It’s becoming a legitimate concern.

…I probably shouldn’t bring up the chain-maille shirt in my dresser, the cloak in my closet, or the bag of dice on my desk, then.

Wait. Whoops. Changing the subject!

Image result for Skyrim
Photo Credit: Steam

Misconception #2

Having defined what an RPG is, I’m going to be focusing mainly on tabletop RPG’s, or “tabletops” for this argument.

Misconception #2: Tabletop RPG’s are cool and addicting.

Not really.

Even in this day and age of video games becoming more prevalent and video game RPG’s tagging along for the ride, people who go out and specifically play RPG’s aren’t seen as the cool kids. One person could call a tabletop gamer a nerd while having clocked several hours into Skyrim.

And, sure, while sales of tabletop RPG’s have been going quite well, the groups still operate underground, playing in basements and in dorm rooms. They hardly play in public places, unless they are pre-designated places for doing tabletop RPG’s, like comic book or tabletop RPG shops.

Are they addicting? That depends. I didn’t get into LARP or tabletop games after trying each of them once. Maybe I went in with too much skepticism, or maybe it wasn’t for me. From my observations, tabletop RPG’s are for improv actors and fiction writers more than anyone else, and LARP is for the physically fit people in the above categories.

I can, however, see why some people could get addicted to them.

Image result for Dungeons and Dragons
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Misconception #3

There is still a certain allure to RPG’s, tabletop or otherwise. Why is that exactly?

Misconception #3: RPG’s are Satan’s way of pulling people into occultism; they’re alluring because the prince of deception is involved.

This is perfectly fair. If Satan were responsible for all temptation (I attribute it to inward sin nature), then RPG’s would be easy to use. As would anything. A bag of chips could lead one to gluttony, being in the same classroom as that one cute girl/guy could lead one to lust, and having a blog could lead one to pride. That said, you could make this argument for any role-playing game—heck, any game.

The reason why they’re alluring is not because it leads them to occultism; it’s because the players get the chance to do things that they normally cannot in the real world. To me, at least, Dungeons & Dragons has the same allure as, say, Call of Duty.

Now, of course, this does have it’s problems. Without going into too much detail regarding catharsis theory and total abandonment of reality for a fantasy/digital world…actually, I think I just summarized the only problems. This is where and why the games become addicting.

To counter this, there is such a thing as playing games in moderation. Tabletop groups often meet only once a week. I have personal boundaries set that I only play games at night, if I’m not doing anything else.

Some of you may be thinking, “What about the kids? Kids are playing these games.” Well, as I mentioned in my Pokémon Go post, I believe that nothing is truly kid friendly, and I can defend that statement. Ironically, tabletop RPG’s are probably the safest form of RPG, as they allow for customization. Don’t like the official D&D guides? Write your own.

And that’s the other thing. The quality or content of the RPG depends heavily upon the people with whom you play. The only times I played RPG’s with others were with friends. The strangers at the table/in the woods were my biggest concern.

Of course, these are not the only problems people have with RPG’s. Come back next week for Misconception #4. And if there is anything you’d like to add, feel free and drop a comment below.

Let’s Connect:

@Isaac_Trenti

@CorrelationBlog

Christians And RPG’s, Part I

“You should go LARP-ing with us,” they said.

I was a freshman at college at the time. I had just started playing Pokémon, was stuck in an upper-level literature course, and was keeping my eyes open “social” events, groups, and clubs with which I could partake.

I did go LARP-ing once. At least with that group. It was easily the strangest experience of my life. I was told that I did well, and I felt like I did well, but something didn’t feel right about being there.

Why was that again? Oh, yeah. I’m a Christian.

So, why is it that I can second-guess going to a LARP event but not bat an eye when I finish a playthrough of Borderlands?

That’s right. I’m talking about RPG’s this month.

The topic of Christians and RPG’s came to my attention when I crossed paths with the Christian/anti-RPG propaganda film, Dark Dungeons, based on the Chick Tracks comic of the same name. And having grown up in a family that wouldn’t let me play video games or RPG’s I can see some of the misconceptions that people have about the RPG communities.

There’s quite a bit to talk about, so I’ll do it in three parts, each unpacking a misconception that Christians seem to have towards RPG’s.

 

Image result for Dungeons and Dragons
Photo Credit: http://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/what-is-dd

Misconception #1

First, what is an RPG? Well, RPG is shorthand for Role-Playing Game (making it a noun, and not a verb). As the name suggests, the player gets to take on the role of a fictional character. While most games have a linear progression, RPG’s tend to be a little more open with how the player plays.

I want to define this term because of…

Misconception #1: All RPG’s are Dungeons & Dragons

RPG’s are broken into so many genres and subgenres that it gets hard to track. The main two camps are VRPG’s (Video Role Playing Games) and “real” RPG’s. VRPG’s are quite popular both among gamers and among non-gamers, and some of the best-selling and best-reviewed video games are RPG’s. Most of them are harmless. The worst cases are related to World of Warcraft, where people have quit jobs to play the game. However, I believe few people play WoW anymore, and the same has happened for non-RPG ‘s, like League of Legends.

The next categories are the “real” ones. These are typically broken up into two camps: table-tops and Live-Action Role-Play. LARP is often seen as the final form of role playing games, but I see it as kids running around in the woods pretending to be elves.

Table-tops are where D&D finally lands. And likewise, these are typically the ones that catch the most flack when anyone argues against RPG’s. LARP does too, but they operate so underground that few people see them.

What makes the “real” ones an easy target is because they’re “real.” You have players sitting around casting “spells,” rolling dice, consulting worn-out texts, and wearing hoodies. And that’s just for the table-tops. LARP takes it up a notch by trading the dice for foam swords and the hoodies for elaborate costumes.

Many of you, I assume, look at the descriptions of these actions and think, “That’s terrible! Why are kids doing this?”

Well…my first time LARP-ing wasn’t my first time LARP-ing, technically. I used to run around my lawn with a foam lightsaber pretending to be a Jedi with my sister and my friends. And let’s not forget one of the old playground games of “Cops and Robbers.” The only difference I see between what I did as a child and LARP-ing was the rules and means that went into it.

And I don’t know of too many kids doing this exactly. I didn’t discover LARP until I was eighteen, after only playing VRPG’s for a year or two. The kids that do play these games either take the VRPG route or do the simplified playing in the woods. I’ll talk more about kids and these games in a later post.

Well, that should be enough for one week. Next week, I’ll be talking about Misconceptions #2 and #3.

 

Let’s Connect:

@Isaac_Trenti

@CorrelationBlog