Following up on my post on irreverence.

The conversation on irreverence and “flawed” gods is continuing here. Ember and I (and others who have joined in) are having a really good conversation about emotion, duty, hierarchy, authority, Gods, mirth, and more.  I’m finding it really thought provoking and it’s certainly highlighting how difficult it can be to find accurate, agreed up on words that don’t carry any unpleasant connotations! (like “piety” which I know is a deeply charged word for many). Good times, folks. I”m really enjoying this conversation.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on April 25, 2015, in devotional work, Polytheism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It has been really wonderful talking with you, yes. 🙂 And here I was taking the conversation back to my blog to avoid bothering you with it! *laugh* -E-

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  2. Perhaps the best historical example of impietas comes from the destruction of pre-Christian Europe’s religious traditions. “Paganus” was a country person, a silly superstitious bumpkin who believed all sorts of old wives’ tales. Informed and intelligent folk knew there was One God and One Faith with a rich and vast philosophical tradition. (By this time there were no Pagan academies to look to, of course). Yes, Christianity was spread by the sword and many brave ancestors died for their Gods. But many more turned away simply because nobody ever taught them it was fitting to worship those Gods or to treat them as anything but a sign of one’s ignorance. Once disrespect for the Gods took root — once Christianity and later Islam were seen as the keepers of Divinity and of cultural Wisdom rather than the local Gods and their rites — the Cross and Crescent took root and haven’t been yanked up since.

    An interesting contemporary example of our society’s inability to deal with divinity and reverence: Josh Wheedon’s *The Avengers*. In the first *Thor* film Branagh looked back to Shakespearean antecedents and gave us Loki as a brilliant, flawed antihero and Thor as a mighty but foolish prince coming into maturity. Wheedon’s Loki was a strutting madman, more Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler than a God let loose on Midgard. Captain America has to remind us that “there’s only one God and He doesn’t dress like [Thor]. We know that Loki is irredeemably evil when he demands the crowd worship him: we know he has been beaten when Hulk stomps the stuffing out of him then sneeringly exclaims “puny God.”

    Imagine a film with the grandeur of an old saga, a tale of Gods returning to walk among men and the horrible consequences of that meeting. Branagh’s film, for all its flaws, came close to that on a few occasions. When you steal from Shakespeare, a writer steeped in a time when reverence and respect were still seen as virtues, you’re going to capture some of that grandeur one should feel in the presence of Divinity.

    Now think about Wheedon’s *Avengers* — a film where ideas like “Deity” and “worship” can only exist as sick dangerous jokes. That is cultural impietas in action: it presents irreverence as the only sane response to spiritual matters and Gods as something any brilliant scientist can defeat. I’d also argue it makes for much inferior artwork: in the end, stories which inspire awe and knock us to our knees will be remembered long after tales that inspire mocking snickers have been forgotten.

    Faced with the creed of No-Creed which Wheedon and his ilk present, many are turning toward people who offer some alternative to smirking nihilism. Many more are waiting for someone, anyone, to give them Something they can believe in. When that Something comes I predict the cultural landscape will be transformed as radically as it was during the Rise of the Monotheist Empires.

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    • I’m not sure how much of that is lack of respect on Whedon’s part, and how much of it was his consciousness of *Marvel’s* Thor as a comic book character who was overtly stated by be a demigod-like-alien rather than ever having been an actual god in the sense we mean.

      Similarly, I’m not sure how much of Captain America’s view is meant to be Whedon’s view, so much as a Typical (granted, idealized) American view.

      I do see what you mean about “smirking nihilism” though. Put that way, well maybe not nihilism, but certainly existentialism is a factor throughout much of Joss Whedon’s work, I think.

      -E-

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      • I guess what I’m saying is, Joss Whedon has shown himself to have a *very* strong grasp of pop culture figures, and seems to have approached all of the comic book characters in the Avengers movies accordingly. Thor and Loki would not have been categorically different to him just because their stories in Marvel’s universe were originally inspired by Norse Mythology, because he would be concerned only with how they fit in with the overall *Marvel* universe, not their implications on modern religion as a whole.

        Now maybe that’s nihilistic in itself, but I don’t think it’s fair for us to compare *any* treatment of *Marvel’s* Thor with treatment of actual gods, because Marvel’s Thor has never been an example of reverence to begin with.

        -E-

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  3. Ember: I see where you are coming from but I think we are more agreeing than disagreeing. I remember reviewing (and enjoying) a book whose author escapes me called *Our Gods Wear Spandex.* The author did a good job of pointing out the ways in which Jack Kirby worked mysticism into some of his work and in showing how comic book heroes frequently embody many archetypal virtues and flaws. Comics are shaping our view of contemporary theology in Paganism and out of it: while they’re often scorned they’re the language of the young masses and their stories are the framework upon which they are going to shape their world as surely as cowboy stories shaped midcentury America and science fiction the postwar era.

    I’ve even come to believe that some of these images have been fed and engaged with enough that they have taken on some sentience of their own. When asked about this at a P’Con presentation, I said “I think the Joker got Heath Ledger.” I then went on to note that the creation of egregores is a well-established part of Western ceremonial magic; that few egregores have received as much attention as the Joker; that when he showed up he was likely to behave like the Joker; and that we had a number of gruesome crimes which had recently been committed by people wearing Joker makeup or identifying with the Joker. (The Holmes shooting hadn’t happened yet, but there had been a mass slashing in a Belgian daycare by a guy who died his hair green and put on clown makeup). So I don’t discount the influence of comics or movies on theology, nor do I think it is always a bad thing. (Although it certainly does have its weaknesses… )

    What I’m talking about is Wheedon’s metaphysics. There’s no room at all for *any* kind of reverence in the world he gives us in *The Avengers.* If he’s creating this world because he thinks it an accurate reflection of contemporary America that’s an even surer sign of the problem. It’s not that he fails to treat Thor and Loki as Gods: it is that he dismisses out of hand the idea that there could be Gods and that they could deserve honor. And this is true not only in the worlds he creates but in the world he inhabits.

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  4. … Hm, given Joss Whedon’s other metaphysics, though, I’m not sure.

    I think Whedon and Branaugh were each playing to their strengths, and it happens that Branaugh’s strength includes classical Shakespearean training, and Whedon’s includes extensive knowledge of Marvel’s world.

    Which is to say, I don’t think the view you’re observing is specifically Whedon’s view, so much as it’s *Marvel’s* view – or rather, it’s Marvel’s artistic angle, because they’ve deliberately played the anti-idealist shades-of-grey angle in contrast to DC’s idealistic dualism angle since… well since Jack Kirby or so, I suppose?

    I think if we want to take comic books as a snapshot of the US, we have to take all of both Marvel *and* DC to get the full range of the question. DC would put forth that there ARE gods, and they ARE worthy of respect in some cases – but fear in others. Marvel would say in turn that no, none of them are gods, because the fact that they’re flawed *means they’re not truly gods*, which does indeed bring us to the nihilism you observed. But that nihilism isn’t in a vacuum of faith, it’s in *response* to faith.

    The thing is, it’s in response to *blind* faith.

    -E-

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    • I… honestly can’t tell, though, if that means we agree after all or not… The models don’t match in my head, but I may not be modeling what you’re trying to say correctly… -E-

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