Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Give Thanks and Continue

I am in mourning, I am weary and recovering from illness, I am not yet fully fit to participate in the workforce. I have to begin again. Restart. Respawn. Evolve once more the identity that is myself. Apathetic and negative thoughts hit hard and I just want to roll myself up in the warm wet blanket they create. Push. Why? My companion is gone and I had to make the decision to end her. Yes, she was my dog, my pet. After fourteen years you loose that pet/master relationship and there is a synchronisation, a rhythm develops between people in such close connection.

I knew this day was coming last year, but there was still time. The week before her instability was noticeable. Then on Monday morning she only just made it up the back stairs. Leaning up against everything she could support herself. So I rang the Vet. The Vet was wonderful and caring making sure the situation was not a short term illness or an inner ear caused vertigo. Then I was asked if I had come to put my dog down. I was already sitting on the floor along side my companion of fourteen years. Between sobs I blurted out the affirmation. I had come to make sure that she did not suffer. I have not the time, money, nor the house to wait while slowly she lost more and more mobility.

After the anesthetic was given to her I removed her collar, set her loose.

My house is empty now. I have no desire to do anything some days. I push myself out of bed, go out and walk because I have to keep some semblance of regularity. I leave the radio on during the day. I make times to meet friends and family. I write this with tears cause it is too soon. Can this pass me soon? No answer comes. One day after the other. Move through the memories and reminders. Reminders of a long time now no more. No wonder people want a future when those who are absent reappear or a destination where that which animates human and animal is clothed once more in flesh. One more day? How can that which was so much a part of life not make life less because of its absence. Essential requirement was that which was, not anything else new.

Pause.

Give thanks. Look forward in knowing what is now. Not easy. Pfft! Easy is that which has no struggle attached. This is life. That was a dogs life, but it was part of my life too. Has something of me died as well? Is that life? A sequence of deaths until the final cut removes that which animates the body I dwell in? How many more cuts to come?

No end in sight. No way to end this with a tight conclusion, that too is so much like life. Narrative has a clear end. Life seems to continue, one way or another. So continue.


Thanks my companion. I will continue.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The flaw in the new fans : The Doctor is old. Get over it and watch what they do.

As much as I agree that this season has been great, many people I know cannot stand Capaldi. The cute and cuddly Mat Smith and the amazing David Tennant garnered a number of new fans who became enamoured by the two young good looking men who embodied The Doctor. Capaldi has for myself as a fan harkened back to the first Doctor, William Hartnell, though one sees much of John Pertwee as well. Where Tennant and Smith also took from Pertwee it was the hero side similar to Davidson and Baker Doctor's four and five. Capaldi's Doctor is the reluctant hero at first who is slowly becomes the wandering hero. Clara is twelve's observer, handler and link to world of those attached to temporal linear existence. Capaldi's Doctor is an eccentric curmudgeon who is born in confusion and sadness, though the face is familiar. Capaldi's Doctor is difficult and hard to relate to and that fits for a being who is basically immortal. He is removed from the that which restrains those he meets. Those people who will all one day die as he continues to live. Twelve is struggling with focus, constantly drowning in the global view of the situation he enters. It takes him time to get down to the human level whereby he is able to do what is needed to save those he can. So far the journey is far from over and we have yet to see where this is going. Those who have turned off are in one way showing their impatience and in another showing their ignorance. Doctor Who is a show that has a history that many are not willing to involve themselves. A history when what appears as flawed casting, is most obviously homage and good thinking by the writers. The so called flaw in the casting of Peter Capaldi perhaps even points out the flaws of those turning away. Merely preferring a pretty face on the form of a character who is so much older shows the thin vernier of those in the audience who are just watching the eye-candy and not ready for an interaction with the issues of morality, immortality, and travelling in time and space.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Am I in Anime Hell? A renewed hope in narrative storytelling found in Japanese Animation.

I asked myself this question as I finished the fifth episode of Ouran Host Club. Ouran Host Club is an anime show that lampoons the romance tropes that pervades Japanese anime and manga. It has been about a year since I got my Apple TV box and began watching animation again. In that time I have learned a new lexicon of words such as waifu, otaku, reverse harem, moe and mecha. Having also entered the world of tumblr around the same time I now have ship's, otp's and au's. Of course I was familiar with Anime having been confounded by Akira and Neon Genesis Evangellion much earlier. Thanks to SBS for introducing for introducing me to these shows and to Studio Ghibli and the work of the master Hayo Miyazaki, but even the master Miyazaki is leaving anime. Should I really be embracing this art form?

I used the word Otaku earlier and this is a genre in anime of the young female heroine. Miyazaki made it famous with his heroines, Naussica, Sheeta, Kiki and Chihiro. Using a young teenage girl as your heroine makes for a nice twist for westerners who are used to boys getting the hero role. Though what comes next is when you learn about fan service, ecchi and of course hentai. Remember Japanese is not Australian, English, European and definitely not American. They have different way of telling stories, they also have a different sensibility when it comes to nudity and a humour that is ribald and filled with characters who are flawed though loveable in their own way. 
For example, in the show Koutura our heroine has the ability to read peoples minds. Her swain Manabe is like most young males in their teens, horny. The writers revel in having Manabe fantasise about Koutura. Manbe of course gets slapped (and worse) by Koutura because Koutra can read his mind and see his fantasies. It is used as slapstick much in the same way Sidney James and the cast of Carry on, or Benny Hill and the two Ronnies back when English humour had a similar though risky edge. Such shows would be M rated today and unfortunately most anime shows are rated M because of this difference in practice of storytelling. Some shows go further than Koutura as they write their heroines into skimpy outfits that get ripped or torn regularly. This is called Fan Service when the female and male characters are treated like its a Playboy Swimsuit special, for an episode. Or in the case of Bikini Warriors, the whole series. Many a time I have waited for the fan service, and, on some occasions been refreshingly surprised that some have listened to Miyazaki and played down the fan service. Or better, simply denied it any place at all. It is shows like this that I have come to love and most exist in the genre called “Slice of Life”.

Slice of Life is merely that narrative that shows the characters as they live, love and go to school, work or fight aliens cause they live on a spaceship or something like that. They do what Christopher Nolan tried to do with the Batman franchise, but even better, because they keep the fantasy and the wonder, along with the grim and gritty. Shows like Bodacious Space Pirates, The Rolling Girls and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet have kept the mystery, the tension and the fighting but meld them with the joy of life that is clinically absent from the depressing dystopic vision that has infected American comics and animation over the last twenty years. Yes Hugh Jackman! Wolverine is badass. But how long can you be badass moping around pining for Jean all the time. Sorry I still need to slap Hugh over the back of the head for his horrible rendition of Wolverine, who is a Japanese trained warrior, who trains young teenage girls to protect and enable themselves.

Sorry I am ranting here. Where were we? Oh yes slice of life…


So these shows just tell the story of people living their lives, sometimes with amazing things or unexpected situations but they still go on with their lives. There is a hope, not merely in a happy ending but in the life they live with their family and friends around them. These characters grow and change, mostly for the better and it is so refreshing to watch. Most western shows I watch use the conflict to make things worse for their characters. The hero becomes anti-hero and then villain. Where has the hope gone in western storytelling? Because I am surprised it is still in the Japanese, they at lest have a damn good reason to be moping about. A reason that I as a white male Australian do not conceive or understand at all. However I do see a hope that I do not see in my countries storytelling. For that reason I continue to watch Anime because it tells stories of hope and joy in life that I want to read and live. So I suppose I am in Anime Heaven.

Friday, September 4, 2015

An Inquiry Into The Christian Development And Cultural Conception Of The Place Of The Dead

“Where do I go when I die?” is a question that is part of the human condition and you will find answers to it in every culture. Cultures change and shift depending on the influences and conditions they live through and concepts also are moulded and moved to follow these changes. In the development of those Last Things the Church has had a development of ideas and thoughts that range across the faith. The origin of these thoughts begins in Jewish thinking where descriptive terms such as Sheol, Gehenna and Abraham's Bosom evoke a mixed tapestry that Christianity has taken run with. There are differences between the cultural Eschatologies around us and the traditional images that the Christianity has developed. At times Christianity's attempts to communicate its Eschatological thought to other cultures has been difficult. This has been because the Christian imagery is too linked to the European/Western imagery that does not translate well. But what if it is possible to dialogue with other cultures in such a way as to learn from their images and symbols of their place of the dead. What could be gained by such a dialogue could both sides learn that something is missing in their Eschatology? Is it possible that something that is so strongly evoked in the death and resurrection of Jesus as the place of the dead has been misplaced in Christianity? That by focusing so much on the future and our encounter with the divine we have missed our human connections that still dwell in the place of the dead where Jesus stayed.

The parable of The Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is set within a sequence of episodes where Jesus is teaching about the opposing concerns of purity and hospitality. This parable focuses on the dangers of greed and, the responsibility of the wealthy to use their wealth and power to look after the poor. The Pharisees are described as “lovers of Money” and are the main target within this parable, as their overemphasis on piety is contrasted by Jesus consistent focus on the ethical demands of the law. Luke's narrative characterises the Pharisees as more focused on their place and position in society and having little or no concern for the poor and marginalised.1

The parable itself is about an unnamed Rich man and a destitute man named Lazarus. After explaining the rich mans and lavish life and the impoverished life of Lazarus the story explains that in the afterlife their roles are reversed. The rich man is in torment while Lazarus is safe alongside the great father of the Jewish faith, Abraham. The focus we require is not on the message of the text but the use of the culturally specific eschatological themes and structures. Luke's narrative has Jesus using the culturally understood images of the Jewish conceptions of, what is and what happens after death. It is in Gehenna/Sheol that the person is placed in one of two sections. Obviously, Abraham and Lazarus are in the place for the righteous dead while the Rich Man is in the place of the unrighteous. Abraham's Bosom is close to the place of fire and torment. They are only separated by a distance so small that those on either side are able to communicate with the other.2

In discussion and inquiry into those “unsolved riddles of the human condition”3Christian tradition has a varied, and, at oft times a tense and conflicted relationship with the variations of what occurs after death4. From a Place of the dead, to Purgatorial indulgences, to Atemporialism (an instantaneous leap to the resurrection), the development of images and forms of what happens after death has been a constant development over time.5 To investigate the eschatological ideals the De quibusdam quaestionibus actualibus circa eschatologiam, Some Current Questions In Eschatology was instituted by Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger.6 Questions In Eschatology is an impressive work covering a range of issues within Eschatological thought. It asserts the Catholic position on Purgatory, Resurrection, and the life to come. Questions In Eschatology also warns of the docetic spiritualist Eschatologies which are contrary to our Christology and the promise of bodily resurrection. Despite being a part of the Catholic Churches continued investigations into those unsolved riddles, it is not without criticism. Peter C. Phan who finds the use of Balthasar over Rahner, if not lacking, then somewhat suspect. His opinion is that perhaps the council is 'trying to have its cake and eat it too' by attempting to keep a redefined Purgatory within traditional Catholic Eschatology.7 For support Questions in Eschatology calls to the Apostles' Creed, however, the history of Eschatology within the liturgy has been one shaped by the changes in tradition. “He descended in to Hell”, or, as in the latin “Descendant et Infernos” was earlier in the history of the creedal language “Descendant et Inferos” as it is in the Athanasian Creed.8 Inferos (place of the dead) as it is in the earlier creeds is closer to the imagery Luke 16:19-31 than the more recent tradition of Purgatory.There has been a development over time in the history of Christianity one that has brought about different answers to the riddle of what occurs after death.

The tradition of Eschatological thought has developed overtime from that used in the Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, however, is there really that much difference between them? When we read both Lazarus and The Rich Man communicating with each other there is a different conception of the destination of the person. Historically, the development of Eschatology had two competing foci. The restoration of all creation as seen by Origen, or, the popular choice, the destination of sinners and saved as asserted by Cyprian, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas. When it comes to the development of Eschatological thought it has drifted from the centre of Christian thought to the outer fringe. For many in the faith it is more about the exclusions other than restoration and resurrection. This is puzzling because the centre of our hope and faith is the resurrection and the promise that all can and will be restored. Where just as Jesus Christ was raised bodily from the death giving hope not just for humanity, but for all of creation. This was the ideal of the Patristic Fathers one that is at times confused and obfuscated by the many variants that are louder and more divisive than the message of love and hope that it is (Hill 622-628).9

If Theology is “Faith seeking Understanding” the predictions and cosmologies that have become the realm of the last things are not Theology proper. It is closer to the representation of an ideal, we need a disambiguation that is able to create a distinction between what is Theological and Eschatological or not. In Phan's critique of Questions In Eschatology he focuses on Rahner's separation between Eschatology and the Apocalyptic, the difference is where the information is coming from. An Eschatology is based on the Christology and Anthropology of the resurrection of Jesus, where, an Apocalyptic narrative is sourced as an advance report from the future.10 Rahner's disambiguation assists us in our understanding of the difference between the Apocalyptic and an Eschatology informed by both Christology and Anthropology.11 It points to the hope in resurrection and who is in charge of the judgement and restoration to come, which is a hope beyond any narrative or tradition that has been imbued with too much certainty. Though what about that which is between death and resurrection? How do we interpret that space?

Jesus dies and is resurrected into that life promised for all who believe and follow. Luke 16:19-31 gives us an image of the understanding of this destination as the Jewish people conceived, Gehenna, Sheol,12 Abraham's Bosom, the place of the dead. It is this image that is used in the early creedal affirmation “Desdant et Inferos”. Not a Harrowing of Hell in triumphal procession, but a place where the person rests. Person and not a soul because of the overuse of the soul slides eventually to an Hellenic dualism (Rahner 340).13 Bodiliness is central to resurrection and we cannot veer away from it. Even so, there is still that which is no longer animating the body something is missing. Scientists have weighed the human body before and after death and there is 21 grams absent. We look at the corpse and see an absence, that person is no longer present despite their body. The person is somewhere or nowhere and there are answers to this destination are found within every culture.

Where has Jesus gone and returned from? By pointing out the Christian development from Sheol to Purgatory, Atemporalism and beyond it is possible that this can be taken as a development within Christian culture. While Protestants have left Holy Saturday behind there are those who seek to bring notice to the pause between Jesus' Death and Resurrection. Hans urs von Balthasar has detailed his vision of Jesus Dead in the place of the dead14 and the responses to this was quite dramatic in some places. Maybe there is another way to look at Balthasar's vision of Jesus dead in the place of the daed? Could it be another step in the cultural development of Christian thought on what comes after death?

Within Questions in Eschatology more than a Christian understanding of the place of the dead is covered. Eastern and African cultural understandings are mentioned as to their use of the Soul in their conceptions of the place of the dead.15 This reflects the advocation within Gaudium et Spes16 and Nostra Ataete17 for dialogue and inspection of those things within other cultures that have the light of Truth in them. A dialogue that requires consideration of the cultural and contextual issues to create forms of relevant transmission of the Gospel. A culture is only able to accept an Eschatology within the limits of the cultures symbols and lifestyle. People struggle when the image of an afterlife is too high or too low.18 As an example, to talk of mansions to cultures that live in huts or tents is outside of their cultural context. Variety exists, but, to enforce one that is beyond another's reach conceptually or culturally would make it irrelevant. For this reason each culture has it's own tales of the place of the dead. These tales are told not just to entertain but to give answers on what lies beyond the vale of death.

The veneration/remembrance of the dead exists in many cultures often along with a place of the dead. The native peoples of what is now Central America had their own visions of Heaven and Hell and these were akin to a Dantean structure with its many levels. Interestingly to gain the favour of the colonial powers the native Eschatology was altered to match the Dantean levels exactly.19 Such situation is one of history as Questions in Eschatology does assert dialogue between Catholic Church and other faiths on areas of similarity. Dialogue is the core of the many cultural images and mutual understandings of the place of the dead.20 Dialogue not just between faiths but relational dialogue between the living and the dead. As the living grasp to understand the loss of one of their own, be it father, mother, sister, brother, husband wife, lover all ties to that person are suspended. There is a break in relationship, though as we and the Disciples of Jesus came believe in there is a hope that this relationship can be rejoined. Such a hope of redeemed relationship is that, come death our relationship with Jesus is fully realised as we behold Him.21 Ratzinger and Balthasar both place emphasis on this relationship realised and that is an outworking of the Christology of Death22 , but where is the Anthropology for those yet to join them?

A focus on the vertical relationship between the God and Man is required, but there is also the horizontal human relationship. Especially when the Human trajectory of birth, life death and the place of the dead is one that is followed by Jesus in the fullness of His humanity. Though there is All Saints and All Souls these traditions are part of the Mexican Dia de la Muertos which infuses the Indigenous venerations (Aztec, Olmec, Mayan, Toltec, etc) and concepts of death as “one part in the wider cycle of existence...”23. Why the Mexican celebration of the dead? Mexican poet Octavia Paz's writings on the Day of the Dead seem quite familiar to what has been said previously.

“There are two attitudes towards death: one, pointing forward, that conceives of it as creation; the other, pointing backward, that expresses itself as a fascination with nothingness or as a nostalgia for limbo.”24

Rahner's disambiguation between Eschatology and Apocalypse fits in this same definition. Earlier Paz comments on the difference of the Mexican familiarity with Death in contrast to the Western fear of it. “Death were is thy sting!” (1 Cor 15:55) is a rally cry of defiance against the old foe. Where in contrast Paz speaks of familiarity with death, not that there is no fear but an acceptance that Death is as much a part of our human trajectory as Birth and Life is.25 Where in contrast there are Christian bumper stickers of defiance with Fear Not from Isaiah 41:10.

Our story needs an ending, one that will fit with the Grace and Love found within the Gospels. One that inspires and meets the needs of more than just Christian culture. There is more to Eschatology than the destination of sinners and saved, as the restoration of all Creation is promised. Questions in Eschatology is not first or final word on the place of the dead within Christianity, granted, it may be a while till another such document is approved by the Catholic Church. Church tradition when investigated shows a focus on the destination than the person in whom our Faith, Hope and Love is secured. Our all too familiar addiction to the vertical relationship fostered by the desire to be sheep and not goats creates problems when contextualising this Hope to other cultures. To be able to communicate that Hope to more than just the familiar Christian affiliated symbols and images enables people to grasp within their cultural context the true light of the Gospels. What it may also do is communicate back to those stuck and looking ahead too far. The resurrection of Jesus must not bring woe, as our relational bonds are not severed by death. We need to remember there is a life that involves more than just a heavenly ticket to ride, but a human trajectory. One that has been charted from birth to a place of the dead and is destined in restoration and resurrection for all of creation.


Bibliography

Bauckham, Richard. The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1997.

Hull, Brooks.B, and Frederick. Bold. "Hell, Religion, and Cultural Change." Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 150, no. 3 (1994): 447-64.

Hill Fletcher, Jeannine."Eschatology." In Systematic Theology : Roman Catholic Perspectives, edited by Francis Schussler Fiorenza and John P Galvin, 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Fortress Press, 2011.

International Theological Commission, De quibusdam quaestionibus actualibus circa eschatologiam, Some Current Questions in Eschatology, Accessed July 12, 2015. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_1990_problemi-attuali-escatologia_en.html.

Nielsen, Jasper & Reunert, Toke. Sellner. Dante's heritage: questioning the multi-layered model of the Mesoamerican universe. Antiquity, 83 : 320, 399-413, 2009.

Paz, Ocatvia. Labyrinth of Solitude. New York, 1961.

Phan, Peter. C. "Contemporary Context and Issues in Eschatology.", Theological Studies, 1994, 507-36.

Pope Paul Vi, Nostra Aetate, Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions, Accessed July 12, 2015. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html.

Rahner, Karl. "Theological Principles of Hermeneutics Eschatological Statements." In Theological Investigations. Vol. 4. New York, New York: Crossroad, 1982.

Ratzinger,Joseph. Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1988.

Vatican Council II, “Gaudium et Spes” Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Accessed July 12, 2015. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

von Balthasar, H. U. Mysterium Paschale : The Mystery of Easter. 2nd ed. USA: Ignatius Press, 2005.
von Balthasar,H.U. Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. 5, The Last Act, trans. Graham Harrison. San Francisco: Igantius, 1998.

Weiss, Antonio. "Why Mexicans Celebrate the Day of the Dead.", The Guardian, November 3, 2010. Accessed July 24th 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/nov/02/mexican-celebrate-day-of-dead.
1Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1997), 599-601
2Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 58-59
3Pope Paul Vi, Nostra Aetate, Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions, Accessed July 12, 2015. (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html), 1
4Peter.C. Phan, Contemporary Context and Issues in Eschatology.(Theological Studies, 1994, 507-36), 508.
5International Theological Commission, De quibusdam quaestionibus actualibus circa eschatologiam, Some Current Questions in Eschatology, (Accessed July 12, 2015. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_1990_problemi-attuali-escatologia_en.html), 2.2
6Jeannine Hill Fletcher, "Eschatology." In Systematic Theology : Roman Catholic Perspectives, edited by Francis Schussler Fiorenza and John P Galvin, 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Fortress Press, 2011), 633.
7Phan, Contemporary Context and Issues in Eschatology, 519-520.
8Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale : The Mystery of Easter (2nd ed. USA: Ignatius Press, 2005), 180-81.
9Hill, Eschatology, 622-28.
10Phan, Contemporary Context and Issues in Eschatology, 515.
11Karl Rahner, Theological Principles of Hermeneutics Eschatological Statements. In Theological Investigations. Vol. 4. New York, New York: Crossroad, 1982), 345-46.
12Bauckhman, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, 58-59.
13Rahner, Theological Principles of Hermeneutics Eschatological Statements, 340.
14von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale : The Mystery of Easter, 148-49
15Some Current Questions in Eschatology, 4.4.
16Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, (Accessed July 12, 2015. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html), 44.
17Nostra Aetate, 2.
18B.B, Hull and F. Bold. Hell, Religion, and Cultural Change. (Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 150, no. 3 (1994): 447-64.), 453-54
19J. Nielsen & T. Reunert. S. Dante's heritage: questioning the multi-layered model of the Mesoamerican universe. (Antiquity, 83 : 320, 399-413, 2009), 410-411.
20Some Current Questions in Eschatology, 2.4.
21Some Current Questions in Eschatology, 8.1.
22See Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1988), 160; Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. 5, The Last Act, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Igantius, 1998), 57.
23Antonio Weiss, Why Mexicans Celebrate the Day of the Dead.(The Guardian, November 3, 2010. Accessed July 24th 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/nov/02/mexican-celebrate-day-of-dead.)
24Octavia Paz, Labyrinth of Solitude. (New York, 1961.), 61.

25Paz, Labyrinth of Solitude, 56-57.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Irony of Sleepy Hollow : Where is God in the Apocalypse

In all great myths and legends there is the hero in his/her quest against and opposing force that seek to stop the hero's eventual success. But what if the hero's battle is against the dark demonic forces that are sent to bring about the end of the world? You know, those apocalyptic tales where the end of the world is the event that is to be stopped. Well, September 16th 2013 was the commencement of the pilot of Sleepy Hollow. For those who do not know the american mythology of Sleepy Hollow the short story is that riding around the town of Sleepy Hollow is a headless horseman that hero Ichabod Crane seeks to defeat. The original story by Washington Irving “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has been updated as Ichabod Crane has been magically brought to the modern era. His is a quest to stop the end of the world from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse one of which is the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow (Reiter, 2013 : np).


This is not the first or the last television series or movie that will show the apocalypse in one form or another. Joss Whedon's Buffy and Angel fought end of the world demonic forces every season. The angel and demon fest that is “Supernatural” took till the fifth season for brothers Sam and Dean Winchester to confront the apocalypse. Sleepy Hollow begins with the apocalypse and has just enough of the blurry demon in the mirror to tantalise you. Also by bringing Ichabod Crane from the eighteenth century serves as a link to the times when the supernatural was more evident (RDPULFER, 2013 : np). That last line about supernatural being less evident today is questionable as in a post-modern age are not all things up for grabs? Tom Mission who plays Ichabod Crane is a history professor, speaks multiple languages, a spy for George Washington who also believes. Like Fox Mulder in the X-Files Crane is a believer, wide-eyed, on a search for the truth that is out there. This is a character has grown from crackpot to hero in the last few decades (Jensen, 2013 : np). For this reason the concept that the supernatural is less believed in appears to be come from a modernist perspective than a post-modern one. And as the number of apocalypse stories grow in the media it makes one wonder, what this plethora of end of the world scenarios will do to the eschatology that christianity holds? Or, has popular eschatology created such a complicated cluttered mass of conjecture that it cannot respond because it is so conflicted?


Horror and fantasy is rarely critically analysed by Christians, Father Grunow's shock toward's Ichabod's use of a Mohecian totem because it is more effective than the cross, rather is rare. His affirmation of Bram Stoker's Van Helsing's use of the cross is even more of a rarity. Gunrow also attests to the paucity of such examination of the genre which concludes it either being irrelevant or a scandalous gateway to hell. Though his conclusion is that such naivety is problematic. In his mind christians should be writing tales such as Sleepy Hollow because through Christ's revelation the nature of evil and good are both revealed. Without a knowledge of good and evil stories like Sleepy Hollow fail in being compelling. The issue that horrifies Gunrow is that the cross and its power is devalued because the story of Jesus and the great biblical story of salvation and the future eschaton has not been told. Or has been told by others, which is worse (Gunrow, 2013 : np). Though lack of communication when it comes to Jesus is somewhat true, when it comes to eschatology and the end of days it is not the lack of communication but the comical nature of its prediction that causes the greatest horror.




The prediction of 2011 by Harold Camping for the coming end of days was an incredible misfire and one of many. Atheists replied with a billboard quoting Matthew 24:36 “No one knows the day or the hour...”(Wilson, 2011 :np). Camping has since apologised and asked for forgiveness from those who spent a lot of money promoting Campings prediction (Burke, 2012 :np). Campings mea culpa is rare. Often the continual failure of these prophecies results in rearranging the scheduled date and declaring those skeptical of the prophecy oppose the Word of God. The other response involves claiming arcane knowledge removing any need for objective criticism enabling any fantasy to be used. What occurs in any possible prediction like this is that once the interpretation becomes canon then there is no need to involve the believer in a political, social or environmental change. What is most problematic is that the symbols within the text of Revelation are contextual to the time and the people it was written to. Interpretation of events unexamined leads to a tribalistic or nationalistic hermeneutic that causes more damage. This leads to a situation where even trying to help people could create a causality that could prevent God's plan for the end of the world (Kirk, 1987 : 48-50). Such a view can be seen in a tweet by Mark Driscoll where he (hopefully?) mocks the eschatological affirmation that to be ecologically unsound is Godly in bringing about the coming apocalypse (Pyle, 2013 :np). It can also be seen in the recent Government shutdown by the Tea Party representatives of the Republican party (Millhiser, 2013 : np). These ways of using the apocalypse and predicting it are far from salvation and the great biblical narrative Gunrow wants to see in the media. In fact what can be seen if one looks close enough at the narrative of both Sleepy Hollow and Supernatural is that the apocalypse has to be averted. The end of the world is not God's planing it is Evil that seeks this end of days. Perhaps the repetition of prophetic failings and hellfire preaching about people going to hell has created a cultural blockage to the positive view of the apocalypse?


In his introduction to Revelation Martin Luther considered that it held no weight prophetically, that it did not teach Christ or even have Christ in it (Luther, 1522 : 398-399). If we look at Sleepy Hollow and Supernatural, Buffy and some of the movies about the end of the world there is a figure that is noticeably absent, God. Though it would be safe to assume that Jesus does make a showing in St. John's Revelation; the lack of there being God within these shows, so weighted down with religious and apocalyptic symbolism, is interesting. Supernatural gets points for having angles, even Gabriel shows up. Though he is twinned with the Norse God Loki, Gabriel left heaven because he could not handle the war between Michael and Lucifer (Gabriel, 2013 : nd). It appears that once again post-modernism's ability to take a grab bag of similar things and mash them up into something else that is kind of similar, but not, has happened again. As said above 'some' movies about the end of the world do not have God. Kevin Smith's movie Dogma does have God, and angels, demons, a muse, the Metatron (voice of God), and Rufus the thirteenth disciple who is black. Kevin Smith sees the movie as celebrating his catholic faith, unfortunately the Catholic League did not agree with the Director (Wantabee, 1999 : np). That God is played by Alanis Morisette was obviously an issue but, the way Smith and Morisette portray God as being able to save the day, bring about healing and restoration and then spend time climbing a tree is possibly the best portrayal of God since Morgan Freeman. In Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty Freeman's God is cheeky, irreverent, pedagogical and mysterious. Not once does Freeman's portrayal get child like as Morrisette's but in the Almighty movies the apocalypse does not rate a mention and God works like a clockmaker moving people about so that they learn the lesson he has for them. The issue appears to have something to do with our image of God and his place in relation to the apocalypse. That calamity and tension make a story and if God is in charge bringing the apocalypse about then he is either cheating or capricious.


Historically God was good, generous, unsurprising, his plan was to be accepted and humans lived within the meta-narrative of faith revealed in the scriptures. This God could be worshiped and loved there was security and settledness, you knew where you stood with the God of classical Scholasticism. Then cam Okham and Hobes brining Nominalism to the fore. It is not that these two are to blame because the development of the modern understanding that leads to the post-modern use of the symbols of God and the supernatural occurred over many hundreds of years. Point being is that God changed from this Scholastic view, God became distant. You could not know much about this God, you could barely prove God's existence. Universals were rejected and that meant the narrative too had no end for humanity and creation. It also meant there was no universal good or evil and that God could no longer be fully understood, God could be capricious, therefore there was no certainty or security (Gillespie, 2008 : 24-25). What became as a consequence of this was that the divine attribute of God were shared between Man and Nature. Causality of time and its end is given to nature. The natural causes bring about the predestined end of the world, man is at the mercy no longer of a God who is benevolent but a faceless chaotic nature that we cannot stop (Gillespie : 276).


To this nominalist view of God who is no longer benevolent we include the apocalyptic messages of the New Testament. A God who is coming wether we like it or not, who we do not and cannot understand, the end will come and there is nothing we can do or should do to change this final catastrophic end. Yet within tales such as Sleepy Hollow the tension in the storyline is supplied by a fore-ordained future, one that supposedly cannot be stopped. This anxiety is what keeps us watching it also is what keeps people making predictions and wanting to know when and how does it all end.
There is a desire and revulsion of it “it alarms and fascinates us with its sweet anxiety.” (Kierkegaard, 1967a : 55). Kierkegaard went further in his journals in describing this anxiety that free will brings with plethora of possibilities (holy and sinful) is narrowed when predestination is realised about the future that God has preordained (Kierkegaard, 1967b : 38). This contrasting sense of predestination found in God's future is of course not found in Sleepy Hollow and is certainly not mentioned in Freeman's portrayal of God. However, it does exist in Kevin Smith's God as God is the one who saves the day, bringing the coup de grace that ends the evil angels plans to bring about the end of the world. Still, behind this divine salvation in Dogma there is the nominalism that began with end of the universals one of them being that the world would go on forever.


Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, but as N.T. Wright argues, this apocalypse was not the same as that which is portrayed in Sleepy Hollow. Jesus' apocalypse was one of restoration and renewal where God will not destroy the world God will bring about justice and peace in the world (Wright, 1996 : np). How we got to the definition of apocalypse that we have right now comes from a few different sources and involves two thousand years of christian history. Suffice to say we cannot take that journey here. What we can cover is that the understanding of the place of the dead or the place of our fathers was latin word inferos the concept was used in the original creeds for Jesus descent after death. This was changed to infernos of hell (Balthasar, 2005 : 180-181). Our final form of Hell and Heaven is sourced from Dante's Inferno and the Jesuit obsession with it as an archetype of the afterlife (Nielsen & Reunert, 2009 : 410-411). An archetype that we have seen in the media from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress to Sleepy Hollow. An archetype influenced by the nominalist absence of universals and causality of natures eventual chaotic end. One that has to be brought by evil because God cannot be good and allow us to all be killed like that, can he?


There is an inherent irony in shows like Sleepy Hollow and their use of Revelation and apocalyptic literature in that the very end of the world the good guys are trying to avoid is what God wants to bring. The difference is that God brings justice, restoration, redemption and peace, for and in the world. Father Gunrow who called for christians to write tales of the apocalypse forgot one writer who actually did it, C.S. Lewis. In the Last Battle Narnia is at its end, the enemies of Aslan are gathered and the young King Tirian is transported to another land where the Pevensies' and those faithful to Aslan are found. In this land exists all that was good and true, where the adventure continues with Aslan forever (Lewis, 1956 : 120-173). Yes, there is a judgement and the land of Narnia is destroyed but this is not the only book that Lewis wrote about the life after, life after death. The Great Divorce is all about a trip from a limbo-esque murky urban wasteland to clean, solid land where the grass is hard like diamonds(Lewis, 1946 :30) and the woods and waters sing (Lewis : 94). In the tale people from limbo meet those who know who are in, well heaven. Some change and enter this solid land becoming solid people. Others shrink back keeping their grey and ghostly form. In these books God brings about his apocalypse and no one can stop it. All they can do is to decide if they are with God and his redemption and restoration or not.


Allan Moore's Science Heroine Promethea also brings about the apocalypse. Filled with philosophic and Kabbalah inspired understandings of Earth, People, Heaven and Hell it shows the heroes of earth attempting to stop the coming revelation but they are powerless to halt it. But the destruction does not come only, revelation and self-knowledge to all. This is one of the closest allusions to the apocalypse as Wright attests Jesus knowing. Moore's life after the apocalypse is a utopia where because of the love between them, the dead and living can still communicate and see each other. Sure there is no direct links to Jesus and but God and the Jewish Kabbalah are certainly mentioned a lot. Promethea may not be perfect but it sits a long way from the apocalypse of Sleepy Hollow and its ilk.


When faced with shows like Sleepy Hollow it is rare that Christianity engages openly with these shows. People like Gunrow are rare and since the Lewis the number of Christian writers who plough the apocalyptic field are even more rare. When christianity does interact with the apocalypse in the media it either imposes and enforces its doctrinal script or creates wild fantasies that fly far from Jesus apocalypse of restoration, justice, peace and renewal. The historical situation of nominalism and the creation of an end times that focuses on judgement, hell and damnation. These symbols have been taken by the media, cherry picked to give the characters a great dread that has nothing to do with God's end of days and rarely speaks of him at all. In this post-everything world that is already here we need to point out the irony that it is God and not evil that brings about the end of the world. We also need to accept the portrayals of God like Alanis Morrisette and Morgan Freeman and celebrate the fact that God is being portrayed in a positive light. To merely ignore these shows and the people who watch them or worse decry them as merely satanic influences is to neglect our role as keepers of the story. To simply say that the bible speaks for itself does not perpetuate the story it hides it under a bushel. Christianity is no longer the force it was, we may be able to produce media that tells the story of God and his actions in bringing restoration, justice and peace, but if it is not consumable who will watch it but us. To point at the marks of the maker when they are there is good, but we need to learn to point at the opposite. To show God but what he is not and when he is ironically absent as in Sleepy Hollow it should be pointed out.












Bibliography.


Balthasar, H. U. (2005) Mysterium Paschale : The Mystery of Easter (2nd ed.) USA: Ignatius Press


The 1522 “Preface to the Revelation of St. John” in Luther’s translation of the New Testament. Pages 398-399 in Luther’s Works Volume 35: Word and Sacrament I (ed. E. Theodore Bachmann; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1960).


Pyle, N. (2013). Why Mark Driscoll’s theology of SUV’s matters. Retrieved from http://natepyle.com/why-mark-driscolls-theology-of-suvs-matters/ (28th September 2013)

Burke, G. (2012). Harold Camping Admits He Was Wrong About End Of World Prediction

Wilson, J. (2012). End Times: Even Jesus Doesn’t Know When. http://www.junesjournal.com/end-times-no-one-knows-the-day-or-the-hour/ (21st October 2013)


Millhiser, I. (2013). Read This One Document If You Want To Understand Why Republicans Followed Ted Cruz Off A Cliff. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/15/2770431/read-document-want-understand-republicans-followed-ted-cruz-cliff/ (15th October 2013)

Nielsen, J. & Reunert, T. S. (2009). Dante's heritage: questioning the multi-layered model of the Mesoamerican universe. Antiquity, 83 : 320, 399-413.

Kirk, A. (1987). God's word for a complex world : Discovering hoe the bible speaks today. Bassingstoke, Hants, UK : Marshall Pickering.

Kierkegaard, S. (1967a). The Concept of Dread. (2nd Ed). Princeton : Princeton University Press.

Kierkegaard, S. (1967b). Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, Volume 1 : A-E. USA : Indiana University Press

(2013). Gabriel http://supernatural.wikia.com/wiki/Gabriel (21st October 2013)

Wantabee, T. (1999). Chasing Catholicism : Kevin Smith was in search of his Catholic faith when he created 'Dogma.' Now, others are after him. http://articles.latimes.com/1999/nov/10/entertainment/ca-31798 (21st October 2013) .


Wright, N.T. (1996). The Historical Jesus and Christian Theology. (http://ntwrightpage.com/wright_historical_jesus.htm)(21st October 2013).


Friday, January 18, 2013

The flawed apologetics of Aquaman


I read this  http://www.comicsalliance.com/2013/01/18/ask-chris-137-aquaman-super-friends-justice-league/

It's about the defence of the superhero Aquaman by comic writers who were always up against the fact that his power was "that he talks to fish", which is a cool power by the way. Now they would get into a "is too" "is not" childish quarrel with those who thought Aquaman was a joke much like the situation many get into with atheists and others who find the Jesus Story not epic enough.  The writer goes on to explain that to merely get into a defence of Aquaman (or Jesus) by merely reacting to the "is not" response is a ridiculous form of prosletising. Chris Sims says the following


 It makes. No. Sense. And believe me, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. It's the weirdest kind of proselytizing, where there are a bunch of characters -- including the hilariously hipstery reprsentation of The Internet in #1 -- straw-manning around the story contradicting everything that's actually happening, so that the petulant "NO IT'S NOT!" mentioned above is now accompanied by an equally grating "AND YOU'RE STUPID!" And keep in mind, these are themes being directed exclusively at people who are already reading a comic with Aquaman in it. Those aren't the folks you need to convince, and the people who hold Aquaman sucks because he talks to fish, lol, as an unshakeable conviction aren't going to read the comic anyway. Just write him as a character and it'll all work itself out. 


I find this very interesting. Ideas about how Christian's respond to certain criticisms begin to appear in my mind. There is a mirror being reflected back at christian culture from comic culture. I am a true believer in both and Sims' cry of "It makes. No. Sense." has often been my experience on sundays and in other church situations. Sims goes on to say that..


The big recurring mistake through the modern incarnations, I think, is that they try way too hard to pretend that Aquaman isn't inherently silly, and end up trying to stress that rather than crafting adventures and personalities. And he is inherently silly. He's a crime-fighting merman. That might not be quite as dumb as a plutocrat who makes his butler sew up highly inaccurate costumes with a big picture of a bat on the chest so that he can go get into anonymous karate fights, but it's up there. The trick isn't to talk about how serious these things are and draw attention to them, but just to accept them as part of the world these characters live in.  


There is a silliness in the Jesus story. He's the Son of God who came and died like a criminal and came back to life and is not physically on earth anymore. There is a need to justify the "epic story" which hampers the actual telling of the story. Focus on the character of Jesus. Why? Because he is "Way Cool!" And the narrative in the scriptures is an epic story. All that ends up is a hater response with their "Is not!" and whatever else they respond with is fighting on their ground and not simply communicating just how awesome God is. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Gospel According to the Blues Brothers : A Film Review


Summary
Jake and Elwood Blues, brothers and questionable musicians believe they have been chosen, that they have been given a mission from God. In order to save the orphanage they grew up in from closing down they have to raise five thousand dollars. The only honest path is by doing one last concert. Unfortunately their band has parted ways and through often questionable means they gather their once potent rhythm and blues band. However, Jake and Elwood's contempt for authority and moral deficiencies cause them to be noticed by the authorities and other malcontents. Including a mystery woman with an arsenal of automatic weapons.

Great Music, Flawed Direction, Million Dollar Budget
The Blues Brothers is an ode to the great rhythm and blues music of the pervious century. James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway and John Lee Hooker are all in this movie and the movie respects and honours them. At the core this is a musical and it uses songs such as “The Peter Gunn theme”, “Hold on I'm Comming”, “Soothe Me” and “She caught the Katy” in the place of a written score. Apart from sound effects there is little incidental music that is not part of a song with the possible exception of the Hallelujah moment at the Triple Rock. Most scenes have a song or songs chosen to highlight the emotion, the pacing, or the guest stars former hit song. The songs performed on the screen are framed in such a way that they appear like music video clips. “Old Landmark”, “Think”, “Shake a Tail-feather”and “Everybody needs somebody to love” all come out of the story but they are not like the literally sung dialogue of a musical. The songs are used more like playlist that sits within the movie deliberately chosen. Like Moulin Rouge uses songs, but not in the literal way Baz Luhrmann applies them.

There is an episodic structure to this movie and the scenes flow quickly form one to the other. Jake and Elwood were created when Ackroyd and Belushi were regular members on the comedy show Saturday Night Live. This was also Ackroyd's first screen play and the first draft was 324 page script, it was presented to John Landis bound in a telephone directory. (Kenny, 1998 : np.). Ackroyd's tome was cut down by Landis so that the only backstory involves Jake and Elwood's childhood in the orphanage, it being the catalyst which causes all the mayhem that follows. The shortness of scenes could also be due to the acting ability of the band members and special guests. The scenes with the band members are often not as crisp as other actors, though great musicians, they are not the best when delivering lines. Each episode brings the band together, introduces a guest performer, reveals another stumbling block or enemy, as it builds to the great and disastrous and comical finale. Followed by the punishment of Jake and Elwood by the state for the abuses civil and criminal made in completing this mission from God.

The Blues Brothers looks as if it was shot on a shoe string budget with all the money having been spent on stunts and car crashes. There are rough transitions between spoken lines and recorded songs like Aretha Franklin's final “THINK!” which is not part of the recorded song. The reason it is different is because Aretha never sings songs the same way twice (Kenny, 1998 : np.). Janet Maslin's review describes the scene with Aretha as “ill-directed”(Maslin, 1980 : np) due to the poor editing and the questionable direction of having Blue Lou stand on the counter, so you only see his legs (Maslin, 1980 : np). Continuity flaws such as Elwood's increased back lighting in the initial introduction of the two brothers at the start have never been corrected. In the church scene you can clearly see Jake and Elwood arms crossed at the back of the church, when, in the scene before they were dancing. Maslin is in shock that such a sloppy movie that cost thirty million dollars to make (Maslin, 1980 : np). Landis in the making of documentary is unapologetic for all of these flaws, it appears that the cult status has affirmed his flawed cinematic and directorial direction (Kenny, 1998 : np.).

Cult Status : Glorious Incoherence
The scathing reviews did not stop this movie from becoming a cult favourite. Fans gleefully appear at regular screenings dressed up as Jake and Elwood, singing the songs and dancing along. Like the Rocky Horror Show there has been an added dimension as a community develops around the movie encouraged by the public involvement creating a “carnival of fan participation” (Fiske, 1992 : 41). A movie that was initially a flop can become cult because of the “self-consciousness of film cultism” the collaboration between the movie and the audience goes above the limitations and flaws of the film (Mathijs & Sexton, 2011 :224). Umberto Eco's classification of cult pretty much defines The Blues Brothers and the reason why it has so many fans.
“To become cult, a movie should not display a central idea but many. It should not exhibit a coherent philosophy of composition. It must live on in and because of its glorious incoherence.” (Eco, 1985 : 4)
The Blues Brothers has not been re-edited with CGI like the original Star Wars movies and to do so would stain the “glorious incoherence”(Eco, 1985 : 4) in which this movie was made. It would also go against the spirit of Joliet Jake Blues to gussy up this movie with re-edits and CGI corrections. Like the scratchy sound of a vinyl record the Blues Brothers is embellished and accepted because of its flaws. The ethos of the blues as a music for the poor that is honest and raw is communicated boldly. A clean sound and high definition digital cameras with CGI blue screens would only make a movie like this sterile and devoid of the honesty and humour that is shared between the film and its fans. This is probably why “Blues Brothers 2000” was such a flop because it had all of the technology and little of the warmth. But if we accept Umberto Eco's definition “Blues Brothers 2000” could still become a cult classic. In time of course.

The Spirit of the Blues : A glimpse of what is to come
For Jake and Elwood home is the basement of the orphanage with Curtis, the Soul Food Cafe is more their style than the Chez Paul where Mister Fabulous is the maĆ®tre d'. Apart from the police those who Jake and Elwood rub up the wrong way are often snobs and racists. The unfamiliar in this movie are the clean and decent places where 'good society' exist. In contrast the blues is sung joyfully in the face of poverty and struggle. Stephen J. Nichols in “Getting the Blues: What Blues Music Teaches Us about Suffering and Salvation” gives us an insight of the blues as a sneak peak of the future eschaton.
The blues is an eschatology precisely in this sense of an everyday apocalypse. The blues is the struggle for the new world to come of age, the struggle to catch a glimpse of that new world to come.” (Nichols, 2008 : 167)
Whether it the Soul Food Cafe, Ray's Music Exchange or the Triple Rock where Reverend Cleophus James sings of Heaven and Hell music is the balm that soothes the hard life. Even in gaol there is song as Jake, Elwood and the band play to their fellow inmates as the screws watch on and smile as the whole cell block dances. And where there is the blues there is hope and in some of these places are the pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy hanging proudly.

Theology of the Blues Brothers : God is for the weak
There are many obvious references to theology and religion within the Blues Brothers. There is the opening scene of the second coming of Jake Blues emerging from the tomb of Joliet Prison. The main gates open as the dawning sun streams through silhouetting the small black suited figure of Jake. Emerging from the tomb Jake's release evokes Lazarus being resurrected returning from death to the embrace of his family. Jake is free of the bonds that held him, well the bonds that the state of Illinois placed on him. As is clearly shown Jake is still bound to other chains that give God many opportunities to work miraculously.
Deuteronomy 10:18 speaks of the importance of care for orphans, widows and strangers. Christopher Wright in “Old Testament Ethics for the People of God” expands on the use and failure of Israel in following out this command of YHWH. It was the abuse of the weak and poor that the prophets protested about in the time of the kings. The care of the weak was supposed to be carried out by those in leadership (Wright, 2004 : 303). The mission that Jake and Elwood are called to is the outworking of Deuteronomy 10:18. Saint Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage is a place of refuge for not just the children. Sister Mary Stigmata's place is in jeopardy, but, being sent to the missions is light when compared to Otis. “What's one old nigger to the board of education”(Landis, 1980 : np.) laments Otis as the orphanage is his only refuge. The Church as Elwood points out is supposed to pay for the Orphanage but is selling the building to the board of education.

Injustice, oppression, monarchical rule, centralised power, wealth and land ownership these were the hallmarks of those who followed the Baal's (Jeyaraj,147:2008). If God is truly worshiped and obeyed the society will show it. It will be one the defends the poor, the weak, that welcomes the stranger, that fights against injustice and oppression. (Wright, 2004: 59). This difference between the life lived in diversity and harmony and the deadness of 'good society' is shown in contrasts. The comparison between the wooden and static office of Sister Mary Stigmata to the Triple Rock is stark. Life is found where people are living together, vibrant and alive unlike the dead plants, icons, statues and figurines of Jesus, Mary and the saints. The arrogant snobbery of the customers at the Chez Paul and hollow chants of the Nazi's are nothing but clanging gongs and crashing cymbals. They pale against the soul filled 'boom boom boom boom' of John Lee Hooker and the mixed community dancing around Ray's Music Exchange. An IOU is accepted reluctantly by Ray of Ray's Music Exchange where one hundred dollars owed after a nights entertainment is hunted down with guns and a posse by Bob of Bob's Country Bunker.

In the course of the movie the issues of colour and race are highlighted. Tucker McElroy lead singer of the Good Ole' Boys spits out the name Stine in intimidation and quite possible thinking 'kyke'. Nigger is used by Otis lamenting that the powers are little concerned about one old black man. The entire colour at the Chez Paul is affluent and white (despite the fact that the Mr Rizzoli on the phone could be mafia). In contrast even Hassidic Diamond Merchants are fed at the Soul Food Cafe. Of course racism is taken to the extreme with the Illinois Nazi Party. They, like the Good Ole Boys and the Chez Paul customers are taken to task by Jake and Elwood as they become God's instruments of justice that humiliate the proud and the rich. This is the result of the mission from God as those who live life practicing oppression, hate and abuse are ridiculed. The police and state troopers are merely doing their jobs and are involved because God uses the foolish things of this world. The earthen jars in which his Spirit lives are not perfect but in the process of being transformed. And for Jake and Elwood there is much transformation to come.

Jesus and Paul Elements
While there is Jesus as an icon he is static and unmoving where what is dynamic is the spirit of the blues. The fire in the belly and the light that like Paul on the Road to Damascus reveals the mission that God has to save the Orphanage. The Spirit 'falls' on Jake and he does see the light to solve the problems of his childhood home. Enthused by the mission and given purpose Jake and Elwood set off to bring the band back together. But there are old foes lurking in the distance. Mystery Woman (Carrie Fischer) and Burton Mercer the Parole Officer (John Candy) are there to bring trouble. In this movie the deus ex machina regularly conspires so that the plans of one foe ruin the actions of both. For Paul the Jews and pagan groups worked together to have Paul arrested. Jesus also had plots against him, and like Jesus and Paul, Jake and Elwood continue on their way as the plans of others are used by God to further his mission.

For Jake and Elwood their sermon on the mount takes place at the Palace Hotel Ballroom on Lake Wazzapamani. The sermon is mostly sung but the opening address by Elwood sums up the sentiment clearly.
We're so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight, and we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois' law enforcement community who have chosen to join us
in the palace hotel ballroom at this time. We do sincerely hope you'll all enjoy the show, and please remember people, that no matter who you are, and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there're still some things that make us all the same. You, me them, everybody, everybody.”
(Landis, 1980 : np.)
Now this is not the great commandment to love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself, but, it does call to the common need of all human beings for love. In the case of “Everybody needs somebody to love” this love is eros and not agape and does fall short of any divine message of love. Yet for those who are able to see the revelation of love required for all as a gift from God. Then this is a good message.

In the concert at the Palace Hotel Ballroom we see the band and the brothers playing in front of all who have come to hear them. And like Jesus at the temple there are those who have come to capture, arrest and kill them. The Good Ole' Boys and Bob are there along with the troopers who have been trying to get them from the start, but, it is Burton Mercer who sticks out. Mercer is quite the fan of Jake and Elwood and has an appreciation despite being part of the legal system. There is something of Herod in Mercer as played by John Candy. There is a playful tone, but one that is a mask for the power that he wields. Similar to the Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar, Mercer wants to see Jake and Elwood perform before he does anything. Herod did not get anything out of Jesus and Mercer does not catch Jake or Elwood, he ends up in a truck before the brothers make it to Chicago.

As they begin to set off on the last trip the 'Blues Mobile' will ever make Elwood sums up the situation.
It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses.” (Landis, 1980 : np.) 
In Luke 9:51-40 Jesus turns toward Jerusalem knowing what is to come. That the plans of the Pharisees will come to fruition and He will be arrested and crucified to bring the salvation required (Schreiner, 2008 : 270). Knowing full well that a great number of representatives of Illinois law enforcement community are waiting for them Jake and Elwood set off for the Cook County Assessors Office. Even as they begin their journey before they have reached their destination arrest seems inevitable. Comparing the road of sorrow and grief that Jesus walked to his crucifixion to the high speed chase through the streets of Chicago could be considered a bit low brow but the comparisons are there. Like Jesus there is no other result than capture. The final scene and closing credits show Jake, Elwood and the Band in prison singing to their fellow inmates. As the creed states Jesus descends to hell, like Jake and Elwood, Jesus is among the captives the Son of God in solidarity with his fellow human beings (von Balthasar, 2005 : 149). In solidarity Jake, Elwood and the Band play the obvious “Jail House Rock” and in solidarity of the apocalypse that the blues glimpses, everybody dances.

The Blues Brothers is a self-indulgent shout out to the beloved musical genre of men with enough money and influence to make it happen. Janet Maslin's scathing critique is just and true, if all we are looking for is a movie that ticks all the boxes. It became a cult movie because of the shambolic mismatch of humour, nostalgia, love and spirit it contains. The foundation of this movie is more than an art form but an expression of hope and joy in face of struggle, looking forward to a future to come. This future is leaked out in the miracles enabling Jake and Elwood to save those that no one cares for but God. They leave Sister Mary Stigmata's office thieves with bad attitudes and filthy mouths and they are the same at the end. Restoration is a promise glimpsed in the music, transformation is possible, but, one day it will all be redeemed and restored.

Bibliography

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