The Steampunk Vicar

A Presbyterian Pastor on Neo-Victoriana and American Faith

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De Morte Magnorum, or On the Death of the Great

The List for the Year of our Lord MMXVI is tiresomely long. So long that I shall not endeavour to link to all the notable Deaths of this annum. CBS News has a depressingly long Show of Slides to fill that void. Some have, of course, hit me harder than Others. I was not a Devotee of Many of the Musicians or Personalities – a Few were integral to my Maturation. Linking to Articles confirming their Deaths is proving too sad for me to attempt. And, in addition to the Passings, there were some other Events.

I was asked, however, just now, whether I have a Need to grieve for All of this. I found within a surprising Answer, perhaps belied by my Unwillingness to read yet further Confirmation of this Year’s many noteworthy Departures. Even so, I say – I need not grieve these Passings – I must, instead, turn them to good Account. So many Voids are left in our Culture, our Politics, our Society, our Music, our Art. Indeed, we must mourn and weep and lament…and then we must busily engage ourselves upon filling those Gaps.

Even as I wrote, the Scripture came to me, a favorite Pericope of mine from the Second Book of the Kings, the Ninth Chapter, the Fourth through the Eighteenth Verses. Listen for God’s Word to you.

Again Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee: for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. But he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.

And the children of the Prophets that were at Jericho, came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou, that the Lord will take thy master from thine head this day? And he said, Yea, I know it: hold ye your peace.

Moreover Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here: for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. But he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went both together.

And fifty men of the sons of the Prophets went and stood on the other side a far off, and they two stood by Jordan.

Then Elijah took his cloak, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and they twain went over on the dry land.

Now when they were passed over, Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let thy Spirit be double upon me.

10 And he said, Thou hast asked an hard thing: yet if thou see me when I am taken from thee, thou shalt have it so: and if not, it shall not be.

11 And as they went walking and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and did separate them twain. So Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof: and he saw him no more: and he took his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

13 He took up also the cloak of Elijah, that fell from him, and returned, and stood by the bank of Jordan.

14 After, he took the cloak of Elijah, that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And so he also, after he had stricken the waters, so that they were divided this way and that way, went over, even Elisha.

15 And when the children of the Prophets, which were at Jericho, saw him on the other side, they said, The Spirit of Elijah doeth rest on Elisha: and they came to meet him, and fell to the ground before him,

16 And said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men: let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master, if so be the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. But he said, Ye shall not send.

17 Yet they were instant upon him, till he was ashamed: wherefore he said, Send. So they sent fifty men, which sought three days, but found him not.

18 Therefore they returned to him, (for he tarried at Jericho) and he said unto them, Did not I say unto you, Go not?

The Word of the Lord.

What, then, should we say, as we read these Words and consider the Dead among the Great and the Good of our World? I have grown weary of the quoted Lyric and the clever Photoshop. What instead shall we say of this Year, its Bounty of Death, and the Singers and Writers and Actors and Leaders who have breathed their last upon this Earth? Shall we go, like the Company of Prophets, and seek them out in the Mountains and the Valleys? Yes, we shall rend our clothes and weep. But what then? 

The Man of God, Inheritor of twice the Spirit of the One who came before, Luke Skywalker to the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Elijah, has here the right of it. He knew, as even the Company of Prophets knew, that his Master would be taken from him. He knew that he had the chance to claim the Inspiration of Elijah. And he knew that, once taken, his Master would be fone from his Side, forever.

Mourn and lament and weep we shall, but Fisher and Wilder will never again grace the Silver Screen. We shall never hear anew of Bowie’s Voice, or Cohen’s Words. We shall never see another Punch from Ali, or watch Glenn float among the Stars. The Wisdom and Leadership, whatever you may think of the Content, of Peres, Scalia, Castro, Boutros-Ghali, and Reno is gone from the Face of the Earth. We may seek on the Hilltops, but we shall not find them – we may search the low Places, but they are gone – they and so many more.

With what then, are we left…except that which they leave behind? Their Films, and Words, and Songs, and Deeds remain among us – and so do we. We are yet here, we yet endure, we who remember and were transformed. Transformed we were – and we bear the Responsibility of that Transformation.

Let Bowie and Michael remind us to judge not, and that our Brothers and Sisters remain more like us than different. Let Fisher and Wilder remind us of Wonder, and of Laughter, and of Strength. Let Peres, Scalia, Castro, Boutros-Ghali and Reno and many more remind us of Humility, and that we have work yet to do in our World to bring about Reconciliation. Let Glenn and Ali remind us of Courage, in the Face of the Adversity of the Children of Earth and the Dangers of the Frontiers. Let us be reminded of Grace and Curiousity and Music and Joy as we think on those we have lost.

For it is up to us, now. This year has drained the Bench of so much Talent and Thought and Experience and Peace, that we cannot help but shoulder the Burden. It lies on our Backs, now, the Duty to improve, and enlighten, and inspire, and lead. We cannot rely on our Forebears to do it for us, for they are now Dust. We yet live – and we yet have a World to serve.

This, then, is my Prayer – that having watched these honored Dead be taken up, we shall inherit a double Portion of their Spirit, and that we, too, shall have the Power to change a Mind, even as our Minds were changed.

Requiescat in pace, Sorores Fratresque. We shall carry on.

PS – I am full aware that I have left so many Names off of this Listing – Rickman and Glass especially weigh upon me. My Point yet stands, but feel not weary if I have missed your most impactful Death – there were, I fear, too many to include them all.

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Apologia, pt. I – The Beginning of Wisdom

I recall with an extraordinarily precious sort of Clarity the first Roots of Shame. I was seated near the Fireplace, at the Table nearest the Kitchen, and was narrating (once again) to my Mother a Sequence from my vivid Store of Imaginings. I was a deeply fanciful Child, with a mental Empire of Space, heavily informed by Star Wars and other fantastic Media. Much of my earliest Youth was spent expounding on the Characters and Events of this great Star Nation.

I do not recall the particular Events that I was relating, but I do remember their Character. They were replete with Cruelty and Viciousness, an unpleasant Episode in my storied State’s Annals. And I can summon, with enormous, crystal Replication, the sense that swarmed over me of Wrongness, when it was pointed out to me how awful was the Tale that I told. From the Crown of my Head to my Fundament, I felt it roll like a hot Wave of Misery. This gruesome History in which I had a moment before been taking such visceral Delight was now turned to Brussels Sprouts (the most disgusting thing that I could imagine eating at the time) in my Mouth. I had been so wrong – I must be a terrible Person.

Years later, in Conversation with my Mother, she revealed to me that I was (her Words), “an enormously difficult Child to discipline,” for, she said “if it was but pointed out to you that you had done Something wrong, you would spiral immediately into Self-Recrimination and Despair.”

Yes, I thought. That matches my Gasoline Mileage.

Still to this day, over Trivialities that no other Woman or Man would identify as worthy of an Iota of my Attention, I will spill uncounted Hours and drop hot Acid on the Foundations of my Self-Worth.

I am, often, undone by Shame.

Along with the Researcher/Storyteller Brené Brown, I share this Definition and Distinction between Guilt and Shame. And while I spend a nontrivial Percentage of my Time struggling with various Guilts, it is the Shame that still Waves over me like Surf on the Shore.

Four Years ago, in a music Shoppe in the Mall of Middletown, New York. I somehow made that poor Woman’s life more difficult, refusing to buy a Membership to the Store. I can still feel the Shame.

A Number of unwise, thoughtless, or intemperate Statements to various Paramours in my Youth. Some were quite cruel, and I feel the Sting of having said them as if they were my own.

The miniscule Lies, the grotesque Failures, the Moments when I let down my own Expectations of myself. Sometimes I feel myself drowning in them.

And let us not forget the incredible, indelible Shame of my over-hasty Marriage and appropriately-hasty Divorce, accompanied by a staggeringly great career Implosion. Neither Situation, romantic or professional, is irretrievable, but they certainly felt so at the time, and clawing my way out of that Pit of unworthiness is the Work of Years…if not of my entire Life.

All of this returns, again and again, to a central Point – a Question to which Life, qua Life, has yet to provide me an Answer.

Am I good enough?

My more loving and attentive Readers will (and have!) point out the Question itself is rather problematic, as phrased. Good enough for what? Or whom? By what Standard will I judge myself? Or be judged? Is not this Question rather Rubbish, as St. Paul would say (though our Translators have left Something to be desired in this Rendering)?

Yes, it is, though it has taken me some Time to acknowledge intellectually its Bankruptcy. And even then…it remains a central Conceit of my own life.  Am I good enough? ‘No,’ says some significant Portion of my Inner Council.

Take this, then, as the hideous Origin of my magnificent Journey of Faith. For Good or Ill, when consulted, I am at best a ‘lean yes,’ on ‘am I good enough,’ and at worst, a definite ‘no.’ I am undone by Shame.

What then?

 

Solvo Problemata

I turned to regard my Interlocutor as I waggled the Cursor across the limis between the Monitors. “Just so,” I said, indicating that, indeed, she would also be able to copy and paste Text across the Boundaries. “This Soft Ware will permit transference of Cursor, Key Board, and Data between the two Apparati.”

Mrs. Goldberg had a nearly indescribable Expression on her Face. “I find,” she said, “that I must rather restrain myself from dancing. Thank you, oh, thank you, Mr. Johnstone. You’ve no idea what a Difference this shall make to me.”

Yes, I rather think that I do, I thought wryly as I replaced my Hat upon my shiny Pate. I rather think that I do.

pcq8yexoi

Perhaps the single most frustrating Aspect of the Pastoral Work is the Crisis of Completion. Infrequently, at best, when one serves in the Parish, is one able to complete or succeed or repair. So much of Church Employment is pure Process, and rightly so. God is best understood as in Process and Perfect, Complete and in Motion all at once. So, too, the Person and Work of Christ, and the life of the Church, which is Christ’s Body in the World.

It is a Truth to which I must accede, but which I also detest, that a Pastor’s Work is Never Done. This speaks both to the Sisyphean Proportions of our Call, and to the daily and unending Rigour of its Execution.

And so, in this Hour of my own Transition, as I stand at a Multiplicity of Crossroads and work, possibly for the Nonce, possibly for the forseeable Future, at the Technology which was an early Interest of mine, I find the sudden, sharp Relief of proscribed Problems, to which there are definite and attainable Solutions. The Art of a Technician has Scope and Depth and Range, and an End – both in the Sense of Time completed, and in the Sense of Purpose.

My mission as a Differential Engine Professional is to help Users to succeed at their Objectives. Every Day, when I walk out the door of the Information Services Department, my Aim is to assure that Nurses, Doctors, Janitors, Purveyors of Food, Administrators, and, most of all, Patients are in a Position in which their Technology is completely invisible. I have failed when the Printer or the Computer or the Endoscope is a Thing Noticed, rather than a Thing Used.

For Mrs. Goldberg, her Technology had become an Obstacle. It was actively obtruding in the Flow of her Work. The Fix was complex – it required Time, and Tenacity to achieve, and the Courage to ask a Favor.

But the Light, the Expression of Joy in Mrs. Goldberg’s Eyes! Here is Triumph, here is the Victory! Not over the Children of Earth, but over their Creations. When I left Mrs. Goldberg’s Side, she was enabled, ennobled by a Sensation that her Life and Work were made easier by the Technology and Tenacity of her obedient Servant.

Treasure, too, has a Part to play in this Trifecta. All Hard Wares have Cost, and my Pay is not Insignificant. But grant me these three – Treasure, Time, and Tenacity, and I will ease your Burdens, restore your Services, make you User rather than Used. And I shall do so taking as little Treasure as I can conveniently arrange.

For I am the Steampunk Vicar. And I solve Problems.

Solvo Problemata

scheutzmachine3

De Belli Astrae, v. 2

Oh, dear Friends of mine – I am beyond thrilled. Excited past all that might be reasonable for a Victorian Gentleman lost out of Time and cast upon the Twenty-first Century in Her Majesty’s rebellious American Colonies. For, you see…the Stars march once more to War.

There are many truly fascinating Moments of Cinema in this Era and Timeline, but, in this humble Narrator’s proud Opinion, Star Wars exceeds them all. It is a crowning Triumph of Storytelling, of Practical Effects, of Moral Theory, and so much more.

I rather enjoy those Films. You might have noticed.

Therefore, in Honor of the Arrival, this Week, of the Seventh Episode of the Series, I share with you all one of my favorite graphical Representations of that Universe.

Enjoy!

http://www.bjornhurri.com/category/steampunk-2/

De Clerico

In the Course of composing at the CREDO Conference in Roslyn, VA, I came across a rather remarkable Revelation.

A Portion of my Youth was misspent in that possibly heathenous pursuit of Dungeons and Dragons, a Role Playing Game of a fantasy Theme. Many happy Hours I whiled away in collaborative Storytelling, taking the part of an Elf or Dwarf or Gnome, a Fighter or a Wizard or a Druid.

My favorite Class to play, however, surprising No One, was the Cleric – that Channeler of the Power of the Gods, their Representative among the mortal Races. For Reasons that would become clear subsequently, I am very attracted to the Concept of the Figure of religious Authority. I identify with such Characters – they carry deep Meaning and Weight for me.

Now that I am, in fact, a Cleric of the American Church of Scotland, I had become disconnected from a Fact which would have served me well in my Ministry.

According to the Game Rules for the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, in order to cast Spells, a Cleric must spend a Minimum of one continuous Hour in study or prayer each Day. Other Powers and Skills remain in Play. but a Cleric’s most powerful Abilities require an Hour’s Communion with their chosen Deity.

In discerning new Practices for my Life, I have chosen to take on this Burden. If I am to do pastoral Work, I must spend at least one Hour that day in Study, Prayer, or Meditation. I can commit to other Duties, those of Home or Family, but my Employ as a Pastor demands a single Hour of my Attention to God – or there is no Spell that I can cast.

A large Burden – but one I am overjoyed to be taking on.

De Sedi Argenteo

chronicles-of-narnia-silver-chair-book-cover[1]The penultimate Moment of the rising Action of Clive Staples Lewis’ The Silver Chair relies on the eponymous Seat. A mysterious Prince explains to the Protagonists that his mental Health requires the nightly Use of an enchanted Throne. Each Evening, the Prince’s Attendants appear, and secure him into the Cathedra. For a single Hour, he raves in stark Insanity, dangerous and violent, as he relates it. The Queen of that Place has magicked that Seat so that it helps this Prince to maintain his Sanity over the remainder of the day. Twenty three Hours of the Day his Faculties are in Order – for a single Hour, he is overtaken by the Spirit.

The Prince invites our Heroes to observe this unclean Hour, to stay hidden and watch as he rants in abject Lunacy. They stay – they watch. The mad Prince claims from the Silver Chair that only at this Hour is he in his right Mind – it is the Chair that binds him, traps him in a Prison of his own Mind the greater Part of the Day. One hour he has of Clarity, and the rest of his Time is shrouded in Darkness.

So, indeed, it proves. The Chair is the Source of the Enchantment that the Queen (read: Witch) has laid upon the Prince, the rightful Heir of the Throne of Narnia.

I write all this to say that, for my own Experience, Depression often feels as though I am that Prince. Much of my Day, I am lucid and clear. I am operative – as I told my Physician when I embarked on the Course of Anti Depressant Medications, I hoped that they would make me functional, and they have. I have recovered my Mind sufficiently to present as Working, to seek new Employment, to spend Time with Friends and Family.

And yet…there comes an Hour, late in the Night, often as I am taking my evening Ablutions. The Light is gone. A Peace steals down the Stairs, a Centering. I find, of a sudden, that a Yawn transforms into a Sob, and I am weeping in the Dark. All that I have failed to do, all those broken Dreams, shattered Promises, they press upon my Chest, and I am undone.

To this Day, to this Hour, I do not know, though, which is which. Am I mad at that accursed Hour? Or is that my moment of Sanity in each Day? Am I bound by ancient Sorcery to grin and salute and be gracious, while all the while some Part of me is screaming? Or is that passing Madness a Symptom, a Weight that presses on me now, but will lift again?

To be fair to all those who love me best, I am doing better. My days are less fraught. I feel less perilous, less like I stand on a Precipice of Madness. These wearying Troughs weaken – my Peaks begin to resemble an ordinary day.

Still I wonder. Which is the mad Prince? And which of us is Sane?

De Armis Ignis

A Moment ago, I posted rather sarcastically on Twitter (I have no idea how to say Twitter in Latin, I wish that I did), but my Heart remains too filled with Rage to let the Bone from without my Teeth. Yet again, Personnel of the Armed Forces of the United States are dead at the Hands of a Shooter. I use that Word advisedly – perhaps this Man was not a Shooter until his Finger pulled the Trigger. Too much is not yet known about the Circumstances, the Story, the Truth.

My Regret for these dead Marines, however, is tempered by my persistent Fury that yet again I am forced to respond to a Shooting in the Land that I call Home. Yet again there are Dead on the ground, and my Congregation and I will grieve and rage and do Nothing. Yet again blood has been spilled, and I can see, as could these Writers, that there is a grim Inevitability to the Reporting and Debates that each of these “shocking” Atrocities brings forth. I am no longer shocked. I am now merely disgusted.

For these were Marines – the ever faithful Best of the Best, some of the most highly trained Soldiers this Nation has ever produced, and they were killed by a Man with a Gun. According to early Reporting, several Guns, in Fact. I am reminded yet again not only of the Shooting at Fort Bragg, but also of the Shooting of Four Police Officers in a Town where I used to go to the Mall to play on the Playground. These are Soldiers and Police Officers – trained to face the Horrors of War on Soil abroad, and Violence in our Communities. We prepare them for this – we pay them for this. But this Afternoon, these People are still dead.

There is much to be said about a Nation fighting a War on the far Side of the World against Peoples whose Crime is obscure, and whose only Recourse is attritional, guerilla Warfare both there and here – I shall, perhaps, write on that Topic another Time. Today, though…today all that I can say is not fitting for a Victorian Gentleman to write on the Aethernet, where anyone might read it.

For, my Friends, I am weary of Guns. I am tired to Death of them. I am exhausted by the persistent, paranoid Fantasy that we are faster, wiser, braver than our Neighbors who wish us Ill. That a “good Person armed with a Gun is the only Protection against a bad Person armed with a Gun.” Are we unprepared, in the Face of the Death of four Marines, to admit the Possibility that, perhaps, some Persons should not have Firearms? That, perhaps, some Persons have forfeited the Right to bear Arms, being unwilling to submit to the Laws of this Land? Are we unable to grant that, perhaps, we could all be made safer by a Decrease in our Capacity to kill one another?

I do not know if universal background Checks would have stopped this man. I don’t know what might have done. I do know, however, that I am sick unto Death of Guns. I can hope only that you, too, are prepared to Dispense with the Fantasy, and to dream of a bright Future when no one needs them any longer. Perhaps, when Christ returns in Glory, we can beat them all into something else.

Until that Day comes, please keep your Guns away from me.

De Jure Matrimionque

This Morning, hearing on the Aetheraudiogram the News of the Supreme Court of the United States’ Decision in the Case of Obergefell v. Hodges, I was struck, perhaps surprising No One, by the core legal Arguments of each opposing Side. Find contained herein my own Analyses, in short, of the Legalities to be found in the Case, followed by a brief Reflexion of my own.

J. Kennedy

They assert the petitioners do not seek to exercise the right to marry but rather a new and nonexistent “right to same-sex marriage.”

This, it seems to me, is the very Heart of the Debate before the Court. Is the Right of two Persons to marry contingent on who the Persons to be married are? Is the Court establishing a new Right to Same-Sex Marriage, or opening the old Right of Marriage to all comers?

J. Kennedy and the Majority of the Court seem to assert (I found this harder to find than one might expect), that, truly, we are not creating a new Right, but expanding the old, and granting it to those Persons who desire, so to speak, to be permitted into the Meadow from which they were previously excluded, based not on what they wanted to do, but on whom they wished to do it with.

C.J. Roberts

There is no serious dispute that, under our precedents, the Constitution protects a right to marry and requires States to apply their marriage laws equally. The real question in these cases is what constitutes “marriage,” or—more precisely—who decides what constitutes “marriage”?

Indeed, this is the Question. I find puzzling the Idea that ‘applying marriage Laws equally’ might be a distinct Category from ‘permitting two Persons to be married, regardless any other Facts about them.’

it is something else to portray everyone who does not share the majority’s “better informed understanding” as bigoted.

I feel that C.J. Roberts mis-interprets J. Kennedy, here, arguing not that these Couples are damaged by their Peers (which he does not), but, in Fact, by the Application of Laws (which he assuredly does). The Decision here has Little to say regarding Discrimination by Individuals, and much to say regarding Discrimination by Laws.

If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.

The TL;DNR (Too Long; Did Not Read) Edition of the Dissents can be summarised as above: This Decision had Naught to do with the Constitution, particularly J. Thomas’ more thorough linguistic Analysis. Perhaps, in Truth, this is the Weakness of our Constitution. If only we had Access to the Language of Angels, we might be able to Name our Government, Laws, and Rights in the Forms and Ideas of Plato! Alas, we are but Mortals, and are forced to communicate with the Imperfections of the Queen’s English.

J. Scalia

…it is unquestionable that the People who ratified that provision did not understand it to prohibit a practice that remained both universal and uncontroversial in the years after ratification.

I was most entirely lost by this Argument, speaking of the Fourteenth Amendment. To what possible Practice does he here refer, so cruelly prohibited? This, I feel, is the heart deep Fear of many Opponents of marriage Equality – that, as Some have argued, Marriage as an Institution is on the Route to Destruction in this Country.

As a Citizen of the United States, I must admit that I face that Idea with some Ambiguity. What would it mean if my Government no longer had any Say whatsoever in Marriage, and that Right and Privilege and holy Bond was reserved to my Church? I know Many for whom this has worked. What prevents us from removing government Tyranny over Marriage?

Also, it is, in my Opinion, worth noting that JJ. Alito and Scalia do not respectfully dissent.

J. Thomas

In the American legal tradition, liberty has long been understood as individual freedom from governmental action, not as a right to a particular governmental entitlement.

I am still much enamored of the Vision of Marriage as a fenced-off Meadow, into which some Couples are admitted, and others are not. Today, the United States has declared that the Meadow is more open than once it was, not granting a Right that did not previously exist, but permitting Access to a current one.

The Steampunk Vicar

Surprising absolutely no one, I am an avid Supporter of the equal Right to marry, within or without the Church. I cannot but rejoice in today’s Decision. I am unmoved by the Arguments opposed, save One.

I feel that in my Lifetime, Opposition to marriage Equality will fade until, like interracial Marriage and Coverture, such Objection lies upon the Ashheap of History. Today’s Decision does, indeed, force all the States to accede to the Will of a growing Majority of the Citizens nationwide, to the manifest legal Opinions of a Majority of Judges around the Nation, and to the Promptings of a Moral Law that argues, at its Core, for Justice and Fairness.

I am sorry, I think, though, that there is a Sense of an End to the Conversation – that the Supreme Court having ruled, no more is there to be said. I hope that I am wrong – that Conversations and Debates and Discussions and Democracy will go on in this Issue. I believe that I am right on Marriage Equality – I might be wrong. If ever I forget those two Facts, I will be on the dark Path to Error, and can only hope that I will in timely manner be corrected.

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…

View original post 1,577 more words

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.