Last time I mentioned Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I said that it contained wise insights about faith and metaphysics if they’re kept in context. That was weeks ago, before I had seen the episode about Jesus. I think the topic bears revisiting.
In the Gaiman-verse, there’s more than one Jesus. There’s only one Son of God, but he has at least a dozen individual bodies. Each manifestation is a different ethnicity. Mr. Wednesday’s explanation is, “There’s a lot of need for Jesus, so there’s a lot of Jesus.”
See, most of the others gods on the show manifest as a nationality that matches the majority of their followers. Jesus came to save all of humanity, so the show suggests that he looks like all of humanity simultaneously. That’s theologically incorrect, but I still like what the show does with the Jesi.
Traditional-looking Jesus talks to Shadow, the protagonist, and in that conversation he is portrayed differently than any other god. He’s not lording over the mere mortals, but he doesn’t act like a weird foreigner either. He casually sits on the surface of a swimming pool, and he calmly and sagely helps Shadow through a personal struggle. I enjoyed that scene.
At one point, Mr. Wednesday points out that Jesus replaced the pagan gods that used to dominate Saturnalia and the Spring Equinox Festival (which actually exist in this universe), and Jesus acts like he didn’t realize that. And he acts guilty about it. And he doesn’t seem to recognize what guilt is, as if he’d never felt that feeling before.
An incarnation of Jesus would be capable of guilt, like any human. And if it ever happened, it would be a new experience for him. And in a universe where there are multiple gods that spend most of their time competing with each other for dominance, that’s what the Jesus situation would look like. So it makes sense in the fictional context.
The same episode also features this conversation: “So he messed with me just to mess with me?”
“What do you think gods do?”
That’s the other thing about a world like the Gaiman-verse. Making multiple quasi-deities means omnipotence must be divided among them, and that means some of them are going to do questionable things just because they have the power. I appreciate how this show pointed that out.
I forgot to watch Doctor Who until tonight (Monday), so I’m changing things up. Rather than spending time in reflection, I’m writing this “live” while I watch the episode. So here are my disjointed but spoiler-free thoughts on “The Eaters of Light.”
I’ve said it before: this season is really good at episode openers.
Bill has graduated to “thinking she knows more than the Doctor about something.” This is significant but appropriate progress for her character.
Random druid-barbarian princess. Talking crows. Last week’s episode seemed very British; this one’s very Scottish. I like it.
Bill is such a nerd; she’s a fangirl, I just realized. Love of learning new things. Clever as a whip. Gay. All she needs is a Tumblr.
Another parallel to last week: deserters from the Roman legion. The difference is these so-called cowards turn back into noble heroes when there’s a girl to protect.
Bill finally got her big “separated from the Doctor” plot. The Doctor went MIA a couple episodes ago, but at least Bill was at home on Earth. This is an important step for her.
2nd-century Romans are just as quick to accept LGBTQWXYZ+’s as 21st-century guys. Good from a secular perspective; not-so-good from a Christian perspective. I’ve said that before too.
Believing in the Doctor wholeheartedly means Bill can give a heck of a speech based on him and his philosophies, kind of like Martha Jones at the end of Season 3.
Also, Bill is more accepting of the fact that where the Doctor goes, there is trouble, and where there is trouble, people die. That’s more character development.
The Doctor slowly getting better at interacting with humans has meant less applying his own inner darkness to the fights around him, either as a weapon or a tool. The 12th Doctor is especially good at that; remember That Speech in the Zygon episode? This episode gives him another chance to be inspiring yet terrifying as only the Doctor can.
I still love Missy’s therapy. The Doctor says her problem is, despite her understanding of the universe, she can’t hear the music. That was the fault of the Drums, until recently. Now I really believe there’s hope for her. Of course, the thing with feathers was never guaranteed a long life.
9 out of 10 exploding bags of popcorn.
Didn’t have time to reflect on a Christian moral this time. Anyone else notice one? Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog
“What are your thoughts on whether first person shooter games are good or bad biblically, in regards to shooting people and seeing blood (this happened over CSGO)?” – elliot5445
Thank you for your question! I think my co-blogger is better qualified to discuss video games (and you’re welcome to weigh in, Isaac), but I’ll give it a…shot.
As I’ve mentioned once before, video games – especially first-person shooters – aren’t really my thing, not because I have problem with them as a Christian, just because I’m bad at them. As a result, this post required research, both into what CSGO is (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive), and what conclusions we can draw from the Bible about seeing blood and shooting people.
Guns are, of course, not mentioned in the Bible, but killing is. God told people to kill people quite a lot, especially when His people were trying to get into the land God had promised them. He actually said “Don’t leave anyone alive, or else they’ll lead you astray with their pagan ways.”
Many first-person shooters are about war. War is the sort of killing that God is usually okay with; senseless murder is the problem. The key is context. In the fictional universe inside your video game cartridge, God doesn’t exist and therefore doesn’t have an opinion on whether a line of code should go to fake war and kill fake people. It’s up to you to determine if the killing is senseless.
The next issue is blood, gore, and the realism of the violence. Even from a non-Christian standpoint, the worry is that real people will act out the realistic violence they are making fake but realistic people do to fake but realistic people.
We’re not supposed to set vile things before our eyes (Psalm 101:3). Do you define a fake soldier shooting a fake enemy soldier as “vile”? If you or the people you trust say yes, then sure, stay away. But do you consider a woman putting a tent spike through an enemy’s head as “vile?” How about a guy’s long hair becoming a makeshift gallows? How about someone being whipped repeatedly, wearing a crown made of thorns, and getting nails through his hands and ankles? The Bible includes realistic and vivid imagery of death. Something to think about.
Those are my thoughts, disjointed though they may be. Again, Isaac, feel free to comment if you like.
Ask us more questions and they will be answered. Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog
(Part 3 of the mini-series on gods and their myths)
Superman is infamous for being too powerful to be relatable. But there’s a comic book character who is actually worse, and not even one of those obscure, comedic parodies. It’s Dr. Manhattan, the atomic powerhouse of “Watchmen.”
In an alternate universe where masked vigilantes are an integral part of American history, Dr. Manhattan is the only superhero with actual superpowers. The Manhattan project accidentally turned a human into a quasi-deity with total control of matter. He teleports and incinerates things and people, sees the future, and creates things out of almost nothing. I’d say he’s even more powerful than Superman.
The graphic novel and movie don’t even try to make Dr. Manhattan relatable in a human way. They focus on his nigh-godhood and how hard it is for him to protect humanity when he feels so separate from them. In that respect, he’s a better character. The thing that messes him up is everyone else’s reactions to his existence.
The actual line is “There is a god. And he is American.” The entire country loves Dr. Manhattan simply because he was an American citizen before his nuclear ascension. Many experts believe that the Cold War is a non-issue because Dr. Manhattan can stop a nuclear war before it starts. No one seems to realize that he could also be a one-man nuclear war, end the entire world in a few seconds, and probably restart the human race with his power. He nearly does that at one point.
In DC, some people, evil and otherwise, don’t trust Superman. In Watchmen, only one person in the entire world figures out that Dr. Manhattan might be a threat, and he’s *Incoming Spoiler* literally “the smartest man in the world” and the villain. His master plan is to make everyone afraid of the atomic god, not even to hurt him.
Then again, “Watchmen” is described as “post-modern.” Maybe the point was exaggerating hero worship to the point of widespread stupidity to suggest people shouldn’t put so much trust in heroes like Superman either. “Watchmen” was trying to warn us about stories like “Injustice” before they happen.
I’ve said it before: altruism isn’t all that realistic, and superpowers are more likely to super-corrupt. God-like superheroes don’t have the love and benevolence of the real God. So be extra careful who you admire as a super role model.
Do you know of any other gods among men we could talk about? Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog
Spoiler-Free Synopsis of Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 8, “The Lie of the Land”:
The monks have gone all 1984 on planet Earth, and the Doctor is helping them. It’s up to Bill to save the world, with help from Nardole and, possibly, the mysterious vault’s occupant.
This episode was fun. It seemed like the sort of thing Moffat would end a season with, but there are a few more to go. Makes you wonder how big his real finale is going to be. The performances were excellent, too. Peter Capaldi is probably the best lead the show has ever had, and it’ll be sad to see him go. His Doctor continues to be brilliant; he had a great speech about the flaws of humanity.
On the other hand, parts of the plot didn’t make a ton of sense. The biggest thing is the monks themselves. They use Fake News to keep people from complaining, but the only thing they have to complain about is Fake News. We’re told the monks have removed free will, but we don’t see any examples of that. We don’t see the monks using the resources of this planet they went to so much trouble to conquer or doing anything “evil” except spreading propaganda.
The big solution in the end didn’t really make sense, either. Bill was capable of producing a memory strong enough to block out all of the monks’ false history, something the Doctor couldn’t even do. And the transmitter didn’t burn out her brain, even though it knocked the Doctor unconscious. Earlier she was willing to shoot the Doctor, proving she wasn’t in blind awe of him anymore, and now she was willing to sacrifice herself out of platonic love for him. That would have been a fitting end to her arc, but instead she survives without a scratch or any explanation.
The Doctor doesn’t seem concerned that Bill keeps doing such extreme things out of well-intentioned loyalty to him. Despite all the logical problems, I’m excited to see where this dynamic goes. I’m also excited to learn more about the vault’s occupant being in therapy to become a better person. I love that concept so much.
If there’s a moral here, it’s something about lies coming wrapped in pretty packages. A bit on the nose considering recent events in America, but oh well.
6/10 radio headphone thingies of Truth.
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog
Spoiler-Free Synopsis of Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 7, “The Pyramid at the End of the World”:
The mysterious monks from the previous episode have reached Earth, but they’re in no rush to conquer it. They think the world is about to end – the Doomsday Clock is three minutes to midnight – and the human race is going to hand over their planet in exchange for keeping it safe. The Doctor needs to save it himself before some well-meaning humans give in. But he’s still blind.
Yeah, I’ve decided it’s not much of a spoiler anymore. The Doctor’s been blind for 2½ episodes, but they continue to find new and interesting ways to show how it’s problematic for him. Nardole is his seeing-eye cyborg, so he continues to be useful. And Bill continues to be impressed as she learns new things about the Doctor.
This is only part two of a three-part story, but the plot is going pretty well so far. I’ll admit, I was a little disenchanted with the Matrix last week. That big reveal probably could have come part of the way into this episode, except simulations are an integral part of the mysterious monk plot. They don’t just simulate the Earth’s past to figure out how to conquer it; they also know the future.
Also: no references to the mystery vault! That’s refreshing.
For the monks’ plan to work, “power must consent. Consent must be pure. Fear is not consent. Strategy is not consent. Love is consent.” This seems familiar.
God gave people free will because loving him without any other option wouldn’t be real love. He doesn’t want us to choose him out of fear of what he might do to us or because we think he’ll give us what we want. He wants us to obey his commands out of love. Love is consent. And unlike the monks, he is open about what our life will be like if we love him. He offers us salvation, but not at the expense of the will to choose. He wants to take dominion of our lives, but not in a direct, tyrannical way. He will love us back. The monks see us as corpses, but God sees us as his wayward children.
It’s unfortunate that UNIT didn’t show up, but then again, all the important soldiers died.
8.5/10 world-ending broken reading glasses/hangovers.
What do you think of this story so far? Let’s Connect!
Does classic literature count as a fandom? I like to think it does; I certainly nerd out about it. More specifically, I nerd out about literary web series.
The thing about the classics is they’re character-driven rather than plot-driven. We’re expected to make deep, empathic connections with realistic characters as they go about their realistic lives and, usually, fall in love in the end.
“Regular updates on the lives of random strangers” (aka vlogging) is very much character-driven. Hank Green and friends were the first to figure out that this format was perfect for re-telling classic stories, especially for modern audiences who don’t read much.
I noticed a trend among most of these web series: LGBTQ+ characters. Many of the classics are about strong female heroines, and the ones that aren’t can be gender-bent. Girl power! And it’s a small step from that to LGBTQWXYZ+ power. Haven’t I been over this before?
Trying hard not to rant. On to the thing that inspired me to write about this.
The professionals inspired many, many not-professional-but-still-brilliant literary web series around the world. I recently discovered and binge-watched The Attic, a Little Women adaptation. It’s set at a Christian college, the characters are unashamedly Christian, and Jo even shares a couple insights about faith. It makes the characters seem even more genuine, which is always a plus in these things. Also, no LGBTQWXYZ+ to be seen.
Jane Eyre talks about religion in one episode of “the Autobiography of Jane Eyre,” but most of these web series don’t talk about it. In “From Mansfield with Love,” Ed Bertram is a teacher instead of a minister. In series like “the Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros” and “Pantheon University,” metaphysics are kind of ignored for good reason. “Or So the Story Goes” has a ghost-demon who kills kids so their ghosts can play with him forever and “Frankenstein, MD” treats Victoria Frankenstein’s work as a medical breakthrough but not particularly bothersome for the religious community.
There’s at least one master list going around. For Christians, I would recommend starting with The Attic, for the reasons I mentioned. For nerds and geeks, I highly recommend the Cate Morland Chronicles. The heroine of Northanger Abbey is effortlessly converted to a super-nerd fangirl, and the series is just as much about fandom culture as the Austen love story.
Do you have a favorite classic you don’t see on this list? Tell us about it. Let’s Connect!