The Steampunk Vicar

A Presbyterian Pastor on Neo-Victoriana and American Faith

Month: May, 2015

Benedictio Mandatumque

A Bit more than a Fortnight ago, two dear Friends of mine, Acquaintances exceeding ten Years, joined one Another in the Catholic Sacrament of Marriage. I was honored to be included as part of this holy Rite, serving as a Reader and Liturgist. I was, particularly, able to share the following – the Blessing and Charge to the Couple that I wrote for them both. I share it also with you, a Sample of the Sorts of Work that I do to ensure that your Wedding is a Moment not only of deep Meaning to you and yours, but also a Point of liturgical Beauty.

A Sample Blessing and Charge

Lord God of Heaven, Father of All, bless now your children, N. and N. Grant unto them the courage to be honest, the compassion to be generous, the strength to be just, and the love to endure all things. Secure them in their relationship with one another and in the life they will forge together. May they be partners in life, teammates in adversity, celebrants in triumph, and always refuges of safety and rest to one another.

N., N. Go from this place secure in the knowledge of love: your love for one another, the love of your families and friends, and the love of Jesus Christ for you both. Go from this place, and build the life that will glorify God and delight your hearts. Go, and be excellent to one another. In nomine Patri, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

De Vaporudibus

Of all the ridiculous Difficulties posed by being a Man out of Time, and, particularly, a Neo-Victorian in this former Part of the Twenty-First Century, perhaps the greatest is how, precisely, to describe the “Steampunk” movement in Latin.

Perhaps others would be unmoved by this Travail, but as a classically educated Person, the lack of a useful Translation for many of these Concepts causes me to feel as though I can never be taken seriously by any Portion of the Academy, if I should ever be able to return to my Other World and endeavour to explain, for example, the works of Professor Elemental, or of Lindsey Stirling, etc. I somehow feel that Profs. Chaplin, Sfyroeras, and Ganiban would exhibit their Disappointment were I not to give the Matter my fullest Attention.

Thus, I thought to employ the Science of the Google. My first Outing was not fortuitous – a Search for “Steampunk Latin” yielded a rather remarkable Article on Beyond Victoriana, a Weblogue I intend to revisit in Future, but no answer to my Question. Further Inquiries provided me with this Piece by Richard Coyne, who suggests vapor communitas. I shall fault his Latin and say only mildly that perhaps vaporis communitas would more accurately convey his Meaning.

Even so, I find this an inadequate Reading of the historical and literary Layers that lie behind the word “Steampunk.” I have no Quarrel with vapor – the Oxford Latin concurs with this Gloss. It is to the Interpretation of the Word “Punk” that I take Exception. Coyne rightly points out that the Word “Punk” comes to us from early Modern English, and originally meant, among other things, a male Prostitute (one Resource I encountered used the Word “Catamite,” which I rapidly discarded from my Process, pausing only to note that it did come up). However, by the first part of the Twentieth Century, that Meaning had rather drastically altered.

I would have a difficult Time sourcing this Usage, but I was perhaps first familiar with Mirriam Webster’s third Definition, “a usually petty Gangster, Hoodlum, or Ruffian.” If pressed, I should describe the Mid-Twentieth Century Word Punk as a Descriptor for insufficiently respectful young Persons, along the lines of, perhaps, James Dean.

By the latter Twentieth Century, however, a great many social Movements had coalesced into the “Punk Subculture,” rooted in the Music (and, in many Cases, I use the Term loosely) known as “Punk Music.” This passage from Wikipedia rather elegantly quotes Jon Savage, that “Early punk had an abundance of antecedents and influences, and Jon Savage describes the subculture as a ‘bricolage‘ of almost every previous youth culture in the Western world since World War II, ‘stuck together with safety pins’.” This Amalgam of an Array of youth Cultures was then adapted and absorbed by the Science Fiction Genre which came to be known as Cyberpunk. I would submit that Steampunk was so named in direct response to Cyberpunk, adapting the culturally imaginative Storytelling typified by the Latter to the Aesthetics and historical Influences of the Former.

All of that specifically to say that while Coyne is quite right to reject the Latin that he finds in such Terms as plebs, he need not take such an easy and generic Path out of his difficulties as communitas, a Word which covers a multitude of Sins. Surely, there must be a Way to cover with more Nuance and Depth the Complexities of the Genre.

I humbly submit, therefore, the Coinage you shall find at the Heading of this Weblogue – vaporudis, vaporudis, f. The source Noun from the Latin is rudis, which denotes the wooden Sword provided to Trainees, as well as retiring Gladiators. The cognate Adjective gives meanings such as “untrained,” and “ignorant,” linking back to the original Meanings, as well as a Sense of Roughness and Crudeness. We are also spared the Horror of simple Transliteration, yielding puncus, punci, m., an irretrievably disastrous Possibility.

it is with some Hope and Pride that I submit to Coyne’s vapor communitas, a new Latin phrase: sum ille vaporudis vicarius, et hoc stabo. 

Victorianism without Victoria: on Mexican Steampunk – Guest blog by Hodson & Translated by Miguel Ángel Manzo Martínez

Living, as now I do, in what would have been a Part of the United Mexico in some Timelines, I am struck by the Question of the Impact of Neo-Victoriana on a non-European Aesthetic. What might be the Vision of a Neo-Victorian Pueblo, or Santa Fe…or even Denver?

Beyond Victoriana

Note: This article is also available to read in Spanish on El Investigador’s website / Este artículo está disponible para leer en español. Thanks go out to El Investigador’s Editor-in-Chief Araceli Rodríguez, and magazine writers Hodson and Miguel for their time and effort in getting this piece together for Beyond Victoriana.

There are many reasons why the Victorian era is considered the Golden Age of the British Empire. Not only the economic and social stability came at a time where social inequalities were as big as scientific advances, but the huge explosion of advances in production, communications and transportation allowed the existence of a global colonial government facilitated by the ability to improve the response time of all regional governments.

At a time when the great modern empires grew and spread across five continents populated by man, Victorianism quickly became the spirit of the time. The idea of progress and mastery…

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De matrimonio

Some Years ago, a dear Friend of mine asked if I would be willing to serve as the Officiant at her Wedding. I was very flattered and pleased to be asked, but with great Regret, I had to tell her that I was unable to perform such a Ceremony. Why should it be so, I hear you ask. Because this young Woman had the Gaucherie to have fallen in love with another Woman, the Denomination to which I meant to give Allegiance would not permit it, and I was quite literally unable to serve in such a Capacity. I remember sitting in the Atwater Dining Hall and seeing the look of Pain and Shame sweep across her Face when I informed her that I would be unable to so serve.

I am deeply pleased and proud to be a Member of the American Church of Scotland (better known, perhaps, as the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America), a Denomination that has chosen the Path of Inclusion, of Equality, and, above All, the Path of Love. We may, one and all, disagree on the precise Intentions of our Lord when He walked upon the Earth, but None can deny that Love must have been an Aim of His.

I choose now to live out this Summons of Christ in a possibly unorthodox way – for weddings of any Stripe or Flavor, between two Men, between two Women, between a Woman and a Man, in any Fandom or Geekdom your Hearts may desire, I stand prepared to assist in making your special Day that much more special and/or weird.

I am the Steampunk Vicar, and I hope to help you rivet your lives together.



De Ultoribus

I am sure that a third viewing would further improve the Perspective, but I feel obliged to write, at least briefly, my Commentary of the newest Film in the Cinematic Universe of Marvels, known best as the Avengers: Age of Ultron. Having consulted my Oxford Latin Dictionary, I find it worth noting that the Latin Root of Ultron’s Name is, in fact, the Word I have used above to describe this Posting. Specifically, however, and surprising no one, I choose now to write to you all concerning those aspects of Faith, Religion, and the Exegesis of Scripture which posed themselves during my watching of the Film.

Those who have not yet partaken of the Film should, perhaps, cease reading now, as I am currently alerting you to the upcoming Spoilers.

Tony Stark Fails at Bible

Ultron is, with the possible exception of Capt. S—– R——, the most visibly and explicitly Christian of the many Characters that inhabit the Marvel’s Universe as it has been presented. This is, of course, problematic, as Ultron is a polymaniacal doomsday Program, bent on the Destruction of all human Life. In his initial Introduction, it seems that Ultron absorbs all relevant human Knowledge, and clearly this includes what I choose to term the Bible According to Anthony Stark.

If you will hearken back to the first Avengers Film, you will recall that, prior to driving through and destroying from the inside a Chitauri Skywhale, Stark asks Jarvis if he is familiar with the Tale of Jonah. This level of biblical Understanding is classically Starkian – superficially familiar, but lacking in depth or analysis in a meaningful Way.

Ultron becomes, in the film, the inheritor of Stark’s Vision of the Bible – twisted, incomplete, and, ultimately, destructive. Ultron, to some extent, justifies his entire Mission through a bad reading of the Scriptures, a Practice he inherited from his theoretical Creator.

Ultron, the Failing Prophet

In Ultron’s first embodied Dialogue, he is describing to the Maximoff Twins his perspective on the Beauty of the Church in Sokovia, the Likability of the “Geometry of Belief.” Whether Ultron “believes” or not is something of an open Question, but surely he recognizes the Usefulness of human Belief to his own Purposes.

Later, he reveals to a thoroughly shocked Wanda and Pietro what those purposes truly are – the destruction of all Humankind, or, as he describes it, a Chance for Humans to evolve in the face of Chaos. As the Film progresses, he moves further and further from this Thesis, but when Wanda taxes him with the Question of the Fate of those who will not evolve, Ultron’s Reply is to “ask Noah.”

Again, Ultron has a superficial understanding of the Story from the Scriptures, appealing to them as a shared cultural Narrative, but fits them into a hideously unrecognizable Vision of Scripture – one in which, when Things become “too settled, God throws a Stone, and believe me, He is winding up.”

Again, I find the Question of whether Ultron truly believes himself to be God’s Messenger intriguing, but ultimately futile. Does – can – Ultron truly believe in God? Certainly he is familiar with the Science of Evolution, and many Christians would reject his intertwined Darwinian and Christian Viewpoint. If we take Ultron at his Word, then he is the ultimate Proponent of Intelligent Design…except that the Intelligence guiding at least some of human Development is Tony Stark, an absolutely horrifying Thought.

Whether he believes or not, though, Ultron appropriates the Role of the Deluge unto himself. Ultron is the fire sent by God to force Evolution, and the next evolution leads to a world, as he says, in which the only thing living “is metal.”

What Then, Shall We Sin More, that Robots May Abound?

As with all of the Media that appeals to me most, Avengers: Age of Ultron is ultimately a film about Good and Evil. Ultron seeks human Death – the Avengers desire to protect the World and all the People who live on it. What then, for the Christian, who finds that the Words of the Bible are placed in the Mouth of the Harbinger of Destruction?

There is a Caution for those of us who confess Christ to be found in Mr. Whedon’s cinematic Outing, one to be expected in the Nation that, around us daily, becomes more and more post-Christian. We may find in Films and Books and Stories that, let alone putting the Words of the Word in the Mouths of Villains, our very Stories may be the Stories of the villainous. The darker Moments of Scripture may be turned to justify many Horrors, and that Tale may be perpetuated.

I, for my own part, was powerfully moved by the Film, and by Ultron’s Appropriation of my Tradition. I found Christ in the Sacrifices of Pietro Maximoff and Clint Barton, and in the Ambiguity of the Vision’s Vision, as it were. But I will remember to, as usual, pursue Grace in my Relationships with the World, that Christ might be seen in me as Love, daily.