C&C: Poor, Ignorant Jesus

Friday, March 18, AD 2016

Jesus was a first century Jew living in Palestine who was poor and uneducated; so were his followers. Money and education came later, when the movement got big enough to attract both. Really, he was more of a community organizer, trying to get his people to resist the Romans, and that is why they executed him. That’s the historical Jesus.

According to the most recent “it’s almost Easter, let’s draft Jesus to our cause” version that I’ve run into this year, anyways. As a couple of wags have pointed out, some folks are awful eager to draft a first century Jewish carpenter to their cause, for a bunch of (at best) agnostics in support of a secular cause.

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8 Responses to C&C: Poor, Ignorant Jesus

  • quibble with your refutation of “poor”
    .
    Presumably Jesus was a carpenter, or at least learned enough of carpentry to earn his living by it for that part of his life where he had to earn a living. That was skilled labor, along the lines of plumber or electrician, or auto mechanic or hvac technician today. So, not a lot of prestige, or respectability (because of ancient attiitudes towards labor) but hardly a hand to mouth existence.
    .
    Also, if Jesus was a Community Organizer, it was against the Temple heirarchy. And even there, he taught folks to do what they tell you, and ignore their bad example. So again, cruddy job of organizing.
    .
    By the way,what does C&C stand for?

  • I quite agree with you– He was also a very good public speaker, and made a very good living of it for at least a couple of years. 😉 I was trying to be more than fair, since it didn’t need even that argument to support it.
    There are, after all, folks who do consider a working plumber to be poor.

    C&C stands for “Conspiracies and Catholicism”

  • Poverty is relative.
    Your plumbers comment.
    Very true.
    Some of the richest and happiest people are living below plumber pay grade.

    “Almost Easter, let’s draft Jesus to our cause.”
    I used to think that all creative fictional biblical forms of art were better than never bringing the gospel story up. Then came along “Corpus Christi,” playwright Terrance McNally.
    After reading the dialog provided by TFP, I joined the ranks of sidewalk protester. Art critic? No. Just a simple Catholic that had witnessed enough Piss Jesus 1987, and other blasphemy used to express an “artist angst.”
    Enough!

    Thank goodness the motion picture industry hasn’t hit the public with depictions that are as vulgar and vile as the above mentioned tripe.
    The Bad news is, I’m certain it’s on its way.

  • “So, for the time and place, He not only wasn’t ignorant— He was rather impressive among teachers.”

    Indeed. Some of this is subtle in the Gospels. For example, Christ speaks to Pilate directly with no translator. They were probably speaking in Greek, the lingua Franca of the Roman East, although it is possible that they were conversing in Latin.

  • He likely didn’t have much, but most people back then didn’t. Our poor today have far more than the rich then.

    But we clearly know that Jesus was not destitute for he had a earthly father and what father worth his salt would let his wife and son be in such poverty? Certainly not Joseph. I can picture him working very hard to provide his family with what would have been the necessities of life. Perhaps even an occasional small gift for his bride or a handmade, wooden toy for his son.

    And he most certainly would have seen to it that his son had an education.

    Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph.

  • The funny part is, I was going to refute the “ignorant” thing by pointing out that as a male Jew, He would be expected to be able to read the Torah and that if you can read you can write…and I totally got distracted looking for a good source for that dirt-normal observation.

  • Aaaand I didn’t finish my sentence in my first comment, that C&C is a series where I debunk/respond to strange things related to the Church that are floating around, like the “babies found in the walls of a nunnery” stories.
    Lots of finding a good place to jump off on something Church-teaching related that I think is interesting, like the Catholic idea of what makes a person.

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Frankenstein’s Monster, Then and Now

Wednesday, October 29, AD 2014

An opening note: Yes, I know that in the book, the Doctor was Frankenstein, and the Monster was to be “a new Adam.” In popular culture, Frankenstein’s Monster became shortened to Frankenstein, and sometimes to Frank. I’m going with “Frankenstein” or just “the monster” from here on out.

The basic story is well worn from use– brilliant scientist tries to create a perfect creature and things go badly. It’s been used in every variation from the original human corpses to clones to robots to vampires. (one of the Blade movies) I could make an argument that the Island of Doctor Moreau is a Frankenstein variation, as is the legend of the Golem and thus the Wizard’s Apprentice.  A fairly new movie has the monster fighting demons in modern times, or something. Frankenstein even harassed multiple comedy teams in old movies!

The story-line of “make a better person and/or create a new life artificially and horrible things happen” is so well established that it would be easier to try to list all the examples of times it goes right in movies or others stories, and the iconic caricature of The Monster is recognizable even when he’s bright pink and apparently steam powered.

And yet, somehow, there’s something in the way people are that drives us to the same goal as Doctor Frankenstein; we want to make life, because when we make it we’ll do a better job. We manufacture humans in a lab, test, select and implant some portion rather routinely; at the other end of the spectrum, the Anglicans and Catholics in the United Kingdom actually joined together to protest plans to manufacture cloned humans in animal eggs. (Animal Human Hybrids.) In a modern echo of the original story, we use the genetic material in a human egg, put it in another egg, and then fertilize the resulting cell. This makes the “three parent children” you may have heard about.

Focusing on the human-animal combinations, I’ll just quote the Daily Mail:

This legalised the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilised by a human sperm; ‘cybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos.

If you’re not familiar with the process, cloning is done by taking an egg, removing the nucleus and inserting a cell, then tricking it into growing. When it does start to grow, it’s the same as an embryo formed in the traditional manner. Almost all of the resulting organism’s DNA comes from the nucleus, but things like mitochondrial DNA come from the egg’s shell. This means that a human cloned in a cow’s egg and not killed for research, if they managed to reach adulthood, would most likely look and act like a naturally formed human. They would probably have health issues, since there are mitochondrial genetic diseases, but being ill health is hardly restricted to clones. God makes the soul.

This is a really long work-up to saying, as best we can tell, a human clone formed in a cow’s egg would be just as human as a child from IVF, or rape, or adultery, or any of a wide range of offenses to human dignity.

Obviously, a cow with a few human genes inserted (‘spliced’) is clearly not human. Drawing a line– “if more than 27.9835% of identified genes are human, you shouldn’t do it” is rather difficult. I would use a rule of thumb that if the goal of creating the organism is to kill it for human parts or to evade rules against killing humans for parts, you’re doing it wrong. Contrast with, say, gene splicing a pig so that a protein that makes a human body reject a pig heart is replaced by a protein that’s recognized as human by a human body.

Another way of looking at it is along the lines of therapy vs enhancement. To go to my pig example, altering the pig with the goal of fixing an existing problem is one thing; altering the pig to get as close to a human as you can get while avoiding non-moral problems (Why animal eggs? Human eggs are expensive and dangerous to get.)

The old question of “what makes a man” is quite popular, so I’ll end with a very long quote that a writer was kind enough to share, taken from The City of God, Chap. 16, Book 8.

Whether Certain Monstrous Races of Men are Derived from the Stock of Adam or Noah’s Sons.

It is also asked whether we are to believe that certain monstrous races of men, spoken of in secular history, have sprung from Noah’s sons, or rather, I should say, from that one man from whom they themselves were descended. For it is reported that some have one eye in the middle of the forehead; some, feet turned backwards from the heel; some, a double sex, the right breast like a man, the left like a woman, and that they alternately beget and bring forth: others are said to have no mouth, and to breathe only through the nostrils; others are but a cubit high, and are therefore called by the Greeks Pigmies: they say that in some places the woman conceive in their fifth year, and do not live beyond their eighth. So, too, they tell of a race who have two feet but only one leg, and are of marvelous swiftness, though they do not bend the knee: they are called Skiopodes, because in the hot weather they lie down on their backs and shade themselves with their feet. Others are said to have no head, and their eyes in their shoulders; and other human or quasi-human races are depicted in mosaic in the harbor esplanade of Carthage, on the faith of histories of rarities. What shall I say of the Cynocephali, whose dog-like head and barking proclaim them beasts rather than men? But we are not bound to believe all we hear of these monstrosities. But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast. We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful.

For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.

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15 Responses to Frankenstein’s Monster, Then and Now

  • Foxfier.

    Scary stuff!

    I’m wondering if one Halloween night the doorbell rings and I’m looking into the face of Pan. What should I do?
    Ask it to play it’s flute for some candy?
    Or would it rather like some cabbage and carrots?

    The world is getting to complicated.

  • When society discards tradition and the sacred it can be unsettling and a little scary. Mary Shelly lived in the wake of the French revolution and I believe this inspired her to write the story – Frankenstein. Today, we are still suffering from the impact of enlightenment and the revolution that essentially rejects God. The popularity of horror films today is noteworthy.

  • I’m wondering if one Halloween night the doorbell rings and I’m looking into the face of Pan. What should I do?
    Give him candy, just like anyone else! Basic politeness doesn’t hurt. *grin*
    ****
    When society discards tradition and the sacred it can be unsettling and a little scary.
    More importantly, you find out what horrors those “silly” traditions were holding back, and discover that it’s just been a shift in what folks exercise their religious impulses on.
    Scary, I can handle. Destroying peoples’ lives, though?
    .
    That said, yeah, I can’t stand horror and it sure seems like it’s getting ever worse. My husband isn’t so squeamish, and he’s stopped watching most of it because it’s so hopeless and pointless. For a guy who’s a fan of Warhammer and all that grimdark is saying something.
    That Grimdark is even a thing– it’s a meme referring to the habit of making things “more adult” by making them deadly, sad and violent, which is frequently parodied by taking it so far that the horror just becomes ludicrous– is kinda depressing. Laughing at things is a traditional defense, but I really would prefer if people could have better empathy instead of laughing hysterically at realistic, bloody slaughter. It’s sad to read really old stories and realize that the soldiers who are doing gallows humor type stuff I recognize in normal people were being used to illustrate how broken they were from the horror they’d seen.

  • Have you ever seen the 1910 version of Frankenstein made by Edison? Or the 1920 film “The Golem, How He Came Into The World?” Imo, The Golem was the inspiration for the novel Frankenstein. The story of Rabbi Loew’s cabbalistic creature was well known in the occult tinged circles that Mary Shelly traveled in. Interestingly enough, when Universal made their classic version of Frankenstein, they studied The Golem for hints on how to make their film. If you compare the two films, you will see a lot of similarities.

  • I don’t think I’ve seen the movie, but I’m familiar with the legend of the Golem because an English teacher used it for a root of The Magician’s Apprentice, plus Terry Pratchett’s awesome treatment. (Feet Of Clay for starters.)

  • “Laughing at things is a traditional defense…”

    I agree with the full comment Foxfier.
    I wonder if this learned behavior is a desensitizing of a persons character or core. When children fantasize of killing bad guy’s on computer games, are some enticed into acting that behavior out for real? Has that ever been proven?

  • Foxfier. I am so please that you put forward the cloning and abuse of the human being, body and soul. Most people do not have any idea of what these mad scientists are doing with us, and to us. When these anomalies become rampant in the human species, without our given and informed consent,”We, the people” will become enslaved by them… and all at the citizens’ taxes. Time for rakes and shovels. Wonderful insight and proper presentation… but I am no teacher or critic, or even a lawyer.
    .
    Percy Shelley was unhappily married to Harriet Westbrook, who, pregnant and holding the hand of her two year old son, jumped off a bridge and drowned herself and her children when Mary Shelley took up with Percy.
    .
    Frankenstein was the image of Mary Shelley’s soul, the living dead without grace. It is said that The Monster went about searching for his soul. How did Frankenstein know to know that he was supposed to have a soul, and whose soul would Frankenstein have? Frankenstein could only have the soul of his creator. So, keep a brick handy.
    .
    Happy Halloween.

  • Philip– the instinctive reaction to violence period has been recorded, and of course those who have violent urges who play games are more likely to play bloody games.
    That said, those who wish to fight evil are also more likely to play video games that involve killing bad guys.

  • The Scottish Catholic philosopher, John Haldane, is rather good on this
    “in antiquity, people were animistic in their inclinations. They thought that the difference between a living thing and a non-living thing consisted in the fact that the living thing has something that the non-living thing lacks, a principle of life. Now, a principle of life is an activating organisation.
    Matter is taken up in a way that is not reducible to that matter. Aristotle in his famous work the De Anima (On the Soul) identifies a vegetative soul, that is, a principle of life which a plant has, and which gives it powers of nutrition, growth and generation. But there is, he says, another kind of living thing, which is possessed of a different set of powers, powers of perception, appetite and locomotion. Still other kinds of living things have powers of memory, will and intellect. Now these different beings constitute a hierarchy because the third kind has all the properties of the second, and the second of the first, but not vice versa. A plant, for instance, is capable of nutrition, growth and generation, but in addition, a rabbit, say, is capable of locomotion, appetite and perception, while a human being is capable of nutrition, growth and generation and locomotion, appetite and perception and memory, will and intellect.
    If we are to understand what it is to be a person, there is much to be said for returning to this older, Aristotelian, picture, according to which things are organised at progressively higher levels of activity. Things are the kinds of things they are in virtue of the kinds of powers they have, and activities at one level are not reducible to activities at a lower level. Just as locomotion cannot be reduced to nutrition, or perception to generation, so intellection, volition or memory cannot be reduced to perception, appetite, or locomotion. These are genuinely emergent higher-level powers and capacities.”

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour: “If we are to understand what it is to be a person, there is much to be said for returning to this older, Aristotelian, picture, according to which things are organised at progressively higher levels of activity. Things are the kinds of things they are in virtue of the kinds of powers they have, and activities at one level are not reducible to activities at a lower level.
    .
    Thomas Aquinas was in agreement with Aristotle. The human soul is immortal, created in the image of the Creator, by the Creator, in free will and intellect.
    .
    Frankenstein had no soul, no personhood, nor identity other than the soul, personhood and identity given him by his inventor, Mary Shelley.

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  • Leviticus 19:19 provides grounds for questioning the direct genetic manipulation of organisms, even if no human materials are a part of that manipulation.

  • Foxfier.

    Thank you..
    Your answer makes sense.
    Happy Halloween.
    btw…the traditional eve for Mexicans is beautiful. They go to the grave site of their loved one with dishes they prepared beforehand. Meals the deceased liked prior to death.
    Then they have a celebration of sorts.
    They do this tonight.
    All hollowed’s evening.
    I was privy to one in Wisconsin years ago. Included music and dancing.
    One of the best Halloween’s in my life.
    Peace.

  • Howard-
    not really. It could be read as “don’t cross a Jersey with an Angus” or even “don’t try to breed your cows with animals they cannot breed with,” but 1) it’s one of the go-to examples of ceremonial law, and 2) in context, it’s about mixing unlike things– if you want to try to argue from that verse, you’ll have to go after the producers of mixed hay (or any other agriculture that involves planting two different plants in the same field at the same time) and blended fabrics first, as they’re much more common; otherwise it’s like publicly opposing human experimentation but not abortion or murder.

  • On further research, it seems that the prevailing theory is that the Israeli’s nasty pagan neighbors did a lot of sympathetic magic of that sort– put a strong horse in with the cows and all the calves will be strong because it rubs off type stuff, definitely not applied technique. Superstition.

Demons

Wednesday, October 22, AD 2014

It’s a staple of horror movies– there is some invisible thing that will get you, destroy your life, take over your loved ones and drag you to hell.  A demon haunts this house!

First, we should probably back up a little– demon and devil are frequently used interchangeably with devil more frequently used for specifically religious or silly uses, and demon for “scary and kind of hopeless to resist.” Religiously, the devil is the chief of the demons, (Diabolus enim et alii daemones, kept popping up while I was trying to find any decent information on this topic) and it’s usually capitalized to indicate the Devil. Originally, demon was more like “supernatural being”– think kami, for those who are into anime and manga, or various location-gods and demigods for those who know their classic mythology. If you’d like to see how you get from δαίμων to “demon,” Dictionary.com is your friend, especially in special uses for various spellings. I’m going to save any further “other powers” geekery for a later article– on to demons!

So, when we talk about a demon, what are we talking about? Besides being the Devil’s henchmen, demons are fallen angels; this means that they are definitely not metaphors, symbols, impulses, or any other way of saying “there are not really demons.” They also are not a synonym for mental illness– any good exorcist is going to check for mental illness as a first step; it doesn’t do anyone any good to avoid treatment in hopes that a ritual will help someone, rather than trying to accurately identify the problem. (I have no idea how frequently mentally ill people are also afflicted by demons–especially when there are so many ways to qualify demonic involvement.) Here’s a longish quote from the Catechism to explain how that works:

II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”

392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.” The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.

393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”

So, demons are definitionally evil, having chosen to throw in against God, and they cannot change now. That throws out a pretty good chunk of the more dramatic “can the fallen angel un-fall” type movies– now for the horror.  I am going to draw heavily from this interview with Fr. Gary Thomas.

 What can demons do?

Infestation:

Think like Paranormal Activity or any other “house has a demon” story. No, you don’t try to fix it by putting a video camera in your bedroom and taunting it, nor do you call “Ghost Hunters,” you see about getting your house blessed; talk to your local parish. Get some holy water. See about getting your hands on a book of prayers, linked below. My mind keeps giving me the image of demonic fleas, but it’s not really funny–here is a quote of signs, from  The Rite:

The various kinds of phenomena that can occur in this situation are vast and include unexplained sounds or noises like mysterious footsteps, loud bangs, laughter, screams; the temperature of a room dropping or the feelings of a cold wind with no discernible source; objects disappearing suddenly and materializing in other parts of the house; strange presences felt’ the presence of offensive odors’ interruption of the electric current or the malfunction of electronic devices; pictures that mysteriously bang or fall off the wall; doors and windows that open and close on their own; dishes or other objects levitating and flying about the room.

This cursed activity can be caused by something horrible having happened on the site– crimes, suicides, satanic rituals (yes, including wicca-of-the-month, and probably turn-of-last-century seances, too– it’s a bad idea to invite in unGodly powers, go figure)– or because an infested object is there, or because the demon is there with a human.

Oppression or Obsession:

Two sides of a coin, the former pushed down and the latter wound up; your thoughts are warped in a bad direction; this is when an individual is being attacked by a demon. You can imagine why an exorcist would need to know a lot about psychology– it would be hard to tell mental or emotional attacks by an being with no physical form from a mental disorder. You might think of this as the demon version of a monkey on your back, or maybe being stalked.  Instead of a house being “haunted,” it’s you. I don’t want to belittle this– having a demon attack you is obviously bad, even if it’s not as cinematically iconic as the final type of demonic assault, possession.

Possession:

When a demon can move the victim’s body against their will. (Willingly accepting a demonic possession is integration.) Their soul isn’t controlled by the demon, but everything else…. This is when the exorcist goes to work, although this is incredibly rare and unlikely to involve green pea soup. Some exorcists have reported physical changes that are not scientifically possible. (A note on the limit of science– you’ve got to be there and set up to get really good data, and somehow I don’t think demons would be willing to cooperate.)

So, should we all go hide?  Nah.  Don’t invite demons in, either actively or by sin, and try to soak your life in spiritually suited everything because that’s a general good idea, but don’t forget that our Boss is massively more powerful.  They’re scary but they will not win.

For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.

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7 Responses to Demons

  • Good stuff (so to speak.) Where is there more on Oppression or Obsession?

  • Foxfier: You write so well, I feel jealous.
    .
    When I feel the devil present, I say what Jesus said when the Christ was tempted by Satan on the mount.”You will love the Lord, your God with your whole mind, your whole soul and your whole strength.” “Begone Satan” works, too, but most of all the Morning Offering: “All for Thee my sweet Jesus.” and “Here I am Lord, I come to do Your will.”
    .
    The devil will not help you get to heaven, so when you offer up your demonic possession to Jesus, the devil flees.
    .
    I have not watched “The Exorcist.” I cannot handle it. I do know that one cannot be an exorcist without the permission of his bishop. Very often, demons will appear as “victims” because, of course, demons are liars.
    .
    I am looking forward to you future posts.

  • Nice article, thanks

  • Good post.

  • WK- I wrote this several months ago, so it’s not on top of my mind anymore, but I think it was largely EWTN, interviews with the famous (infamous?) Father Amorth, and I thought I had some others but I can’t seem to FIND them…. Vaguely remember the book for The Rite being highly praised.
    ****
    Thanks, Mary D. 😀 I think it’s because I have an editor over at Catholic Stand, and honestly publishing several months of work at one a week is kinda cheating. 😉
    ***
    Glad you like it, TomD.
    Honestly, after writing it I really got spooked, because I’ve always been interested in “ghost” shows and books. Finding out that the “newly discovered signs”– which always had me kind of rolling my eyes, because I know how folks are good at fooling themselves– are not actually unknown of, and were rather signs of a fallen angel? Um….
    EDIT:
    oops, forgot to close the response…..

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Vampires

Wednesday, October 15, AD 2014

Through mere glimpses of him, however, demonic accuracy is achieved: Dracula is an Antichrist. He cannot attack unless willingly engaged. He baptizes his victims in his blood even as he drinks theirs in a sacrifice that gives eternal “life” in animated death. He unites captive souls to his existence, thriving on the unhallowed. He twists scripture to his purpose, lusts for worship … and fears Christ. Crisis Magazine, Oct 2013

Over at Father Z’s blog, he made a (joking) post about how sad he was that he didn’t get a vampire hunting kit for Christmas. One comment pointed out that we can’t sell blessed objects. (Technically false; blessed objects can be sold for their intrinsic value, without added price for the blessing, but accurate enough in terms of buying a Vampire hunting kit which would be pretty worthless without blessing.) This got me thinking about the various legends related to vampires, and Catholicism, especially how often they are portrayed wrongly.

The most famous example of bad (horrifying, really) Catholic theology that involves vampires and popular culture is probably the Dracula story. At one point, Van Helsing makes a putty out of consecrated Hosts, and uses it to vampire-proof a room. It’s supposed to be alright, because he has a dispensation. (No, they don’t work that way.)

Needless to say, this isn’t respectful of the Body of Christ, and if the vampire is reacting to the Body of Christ then it isn’t effective, either.

With respect to the presence of Christ, most theologians hold that, although the host externally remains intact for several days, the real presence ceases as soon as the host is fully soaked with water as from that moment the species is no longer exclusively that of bread.

That aside, Dracula is rather well researched in regards to the folklore of vampires. For example, the crucifix has power in and of itself, since it has a representation of Christ on it, while crosses depend more on the person holding the cross invoking God directly. In various times and places, the formally-blessed cross (or other objects, such as holy medals) was thought to be enough to invoke God. Those objects are called sacramentals, things that recall the sacraments. (Dracula’s mistaken abuse of the Host is indicative of someone who didn’t recognize Transubstantiation, but viewed it as a sort of super-strong symbol.) The most obvious sacramental, which is also used in popular pieties and commonly available for the asking, is holy water– many parishes even have dispensers. It should be kept in mind that the people who really believed in vampires weren’t trying to use holy water or any other sacramental for some kind of a magical effect, but to invoke God’s protection from forces of evil.

Some of the things vampires fear are symbolic, instead of sacramental. Running water calls to mind baptism and the washing away of sins, silver is “white” metal and thus pure, garlic and various plants were believed to be medicines against corruption. Even salt, because of its powers of preservation, was thought in some places to ward off evil, including vampires.

Vampires lack of reflection probably grew out of the folklore of the soulless not having a shadow, and the way that mirrors were once backed with silver. Some more folklore savvy stories had digital cameras work to record vampires, but not silver-based movie cameras, and at least one used silver nitrate in the blood to kill a vampire.

Speaking of souls, this is probably the biggest problem with vampire stories: all too often, authors write “vampires” that by all evidence possess rational souls. To shamelessly steal–er, borrow– from Jimmy Akin’s highly enjoyable Theology of the Living Dead, there are four basic options for any flavor of living dead:

  1. Animal soul – this is the most traditional, but has more in common with modern zombies as far as behavior goes; modern vampires are generally more intelligent than the average human.
  2. Non-human rational soulBuffy the Vampire Slayer’s vampires– they are evil, but the “demons” animating vampires aren’t Satanic, and a lot of the “demons” are just multidimensional travelers. The theology of that television show makes my head hurt….
  3. Human souls – the ‘vampire’ subculture would be an example of this, or if a story had vampirism as a sort of disease.
  4. No soul – the body is remote-controlled, either by technology (nanobot vampires) or perhaps demonic possession. (As I understand it, demons are spirits, rather than souls, and couldn’t inhabit a body the way a human soul would. I’d highly advise a lot of mythology research before anybody tried to write this!)

Most vampire stories these days are either humans with a disease or non-human souls animating a body; some of them aren’t even “allergic” to blessed objects. Obviously, if they have rational souls, we have to treat them as people rather than monsters, but then it doesn’t make any sense why holy objects would harm them.

On a practical level, I’d say that anything that smokes on contact with a holy object is to be avoided.

For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.

Continue reading...

12 Responses to Vampires

  • “On a practical level, I’d say that anything that smokes on contact with a holy object is to be avoided.”

    Brilliant Foxfier! That goes in my little black book of quotations that I steal borrow!

  • I’ve always considered the traditional vampire legend to be a metaphor for the carnal (corrupt) as opposed to the spiritual (perfect) and as such was used initially as an anecdotal teaching tool. When instruction in metaphysics and theology were more familiar, a good instrument to initiate the young or help inform the less-erudite would be “what to not be and how to avoid it” as illustrative models.
    .
    In that vein (pun intended) it is easy to see how the vampire pathos has been made more approachable as the carnal has become elevated to equality with the spiritual in popular culture. Religious teaching is virtually non-existent in the main, so how can the denouement of carnal deterrent by application of the sacred make any sense?

  • If one wants a fun read on vampires, the Rev. Montague Summers is the man. This somewhat controversial priest actually believed in the existence of vampires and other revenants. However, his books on the subject are chock full of stories of the living dead from ancient times to now. So, if you want to read books with a lot of folklore about these critters, you can’t go wrong with Monty.

  • I think zombies are the “larger” post-modern bogey-man. The proliferation of zombie-themed movies and TV series is proof.

    When the zombie apocalypse (trope for societal collapse?) falls, I’ll be head-shooting Z’s and gut-shooting liberalss.

    Need to increase my supplies of ammunition.

  • I was kinda proud of it, Donald. 😀
    ….

    WK- there’s so many possible metaphors, and it mines so many things we fear, that it’s hard to pick “the” thing that it’s about.
    There’s a writer named Mary C that points out modern vampires fill the role of the “fairy lover” in classic stories, and the modern zombie is more like the classic vampires.

  • At the risk of coming off as completely self-serving and stealing Foxfier’s thunder, here is a link to a short story that I wrote and published on Amazon about Dracula and friends. It’s available on Kindle for the low low price of 99 cents, and is more of a spoof of modern vampire literature. I have what might be considered a unique interpretation of why Vampires fear crucifixes, and of their entire back-story for that matter.

    http://www.amazon.com/Dracula-Friends-Paul-Zummo-ebook/dp/B00G4ST8G4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1413480766&sr=8-3&keywords=paul+zummo

  • Vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghouls are devoid of self-sacrifice.This is why remembrances of self-sacrifice disturb them. Once they were human beings. Now, they are trapped in a dimension of the living dead, which they chose for themselves, thinking it better than to be a Christian. They must be ex-patriots from hell operating on the forbearance of God, which is to warn sinners to behave. They may be the rich man allowed to return to earth to warn his brothers of the hell awaiting them.
    .
    Remember too, it was not the state, nor the mad scientist who gave Frankenstein life. It was the lightening of God.
    .
    Let me be the first to wish you all a HAPPY HALLOWEEN, a HOLY ALL SAINTS’ DAY and a memorable ALL SOULS DAY, Nov. 2nd.

  • Paul Zummo, thanks for the momentary distraction. Very amusing. How much of my 99 cents do you keep?

  • T Shaw: got to get silver bullets. The economy is bad. Tell the vampires to go to hell and keep the silver for yourself.

  • Mary Dear,

    Not sure the melting temperature of silver. It’s likely much higher than lead. That makes loading my own more difficult.

    I’m piling up Scotch whisky. Might as well go out on a spree.

  • 962*, T. Shaw.
    Paul Z- that is AWESOME! I’m all about supporting self-pub.

  • The Lone Ranger also used silver bullets.
    .

    According to wikipedia, “The masked man decided to use bullets forged from the precious metal as a symbol of justice, law and order, and to remind himself and others that life, like silver, has value and is not to be wasted or thrown away.”

Foxfier on Internet Debate

Thursday, March 24, AD 2011

The American Catholic is blessed with many fine commenters, regular visitors to our blog who enliven and illuminate our comboxes.  One of the finest of our commenters is Foxfier who is unmatched in internet debate.  Go here to read her classic debate with “Sal”.  On her first rate blog Head Noises, she has written her rules for arguing on the internet.  I wish they could be engraven on every blog that allows comments.  Here beginneth the Foxfier Lesson:

1) You do not have the right to a reply.
The only person involved in an argument on line which you can control is yourself. Argument from ignorance is still invalid– just because they didn’t responds to your spittle flecked rant from nowhere well researched and calmly argued response to their post, even if it has been five minutes a long time since you posted. Not everyone will check back at a post. Not everyone will read or heed even if they are subscribed to comments.

Some people will make rules about who they will or will not spend their time on– I have a three strike rule; three indications that continuing would be a waste of time, and I will stop trying to have a conversation. I’ll still debunk false or misleading claims, but that is because Google will find the conversation and it makes sense to counter false or misleading information everywhere you can, if it might mislead others.

  2) Wiki isn’t a source.
 Wiki is edited by non-experts, with their biases intact. It’s like walking into a room and asking a question, then listening to the loudest folks as the truth. Wiki is, however, a great way to get some information to start from– give you an idea what to search for. This leads to my next point….

  3) Make your own argument.
 By this I do not mean that you have to be a unique flower with only your own special view and none of those icky shared opinions, especially if said arguments are shared by lame parents authority figures. The strength of an argument is inherent, not based on who is making it. I mean that if you are supporting a position, make the arguments. Don’t link to an information page and berate the other person for not going, sifting through the dross and trying to find an argument for you.
 Linking to a detailed, cited argument for your view is alright– in many cases, it’s a superior way of arguing, since it keeps the comboxes nicely clear, and allows for a lot more detail. For example, here  (Sadly, link is broken because the blog moved, and the comments are no more; here’s the article, though.) a poster named Aaron links to a white paper that consists of a short statement and argument, with the option of greater detail if you download the information. Which also leads to:

  4) Be familiar with basic definitions. 
If the topic is biology, know what “organism” means in that context; if there are multiple meanings for a word and you wish to focus on a specific one, define the term as you are using it. If you wish to discuss torture in the context of treaties, link to a treaty and offer the relevant definition. If you’re using an unusual definition, don’t be surprised if the opposite side calls you on argument by bizarre definition rejects it.

 This is not to be confused with a common form of #3– “go look it up!” If you find yourself about to type that, stop, find the definition, post the link. If it’s as obvious as you think, it will make them look foolish; if not, problem solved!

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13 Responses to Foxfier on Internet Debate

  • And here I thought I was in trouble…..

    (It makes more sense with the strike throughs, for those going “what is that lump of jibberish?”)

    Thank you greatly for the link!

  • Thank you Foxfier for your thoughts in an area which greatly needs all the dispassionate analysis it can receive!

  • There’s one thing I might add that perhaps encompasses several of Foxfier’s points: respond honestly. A lot of combox exchanges soon become unreadable because one (if not more) of the parties involved appears to have no intention of arguing honestly. Substantive posts are met with obsfucation, red herrings, question-begging, inappropriate appeals to authority, strawmen, ad hominem arguments in general, or just plain dodged. If someone has posted substantive arguments, respond in kind. If the arguments aren’t substantive, you may respond pointing out the fallacies of thought, but in my experience the majority of time the response you’ll get will simply be more of the same, in which case it’s obvious the person isn’t interested in honest debate and it’s time to leave.

    It seems to me these days that the left is especially prone to dishonest argumentation, apparently because leftists seem to value more highly how they feel about an issue rather than what they think about it. Much ink has been spilled and many electrons have been used to analyze why the left, in the form of the Democratic Party, did so poorly in the most recent elections. One factor which I think played an underrecognized role in the Democrats’ shellacking was the honesty (or the lack thereof) of their candidates. Voters had legitimate concerns about the economy, unemployment, the new healthcare regulations, and the budget deficit among other issues. When they asked the Democratic candidates about these issues, however, for the most part they didn’t get honest answers but instead got either obsfucation or personal attacks (“it’s Bush’s fault”, “the Koch brothers/Fox News/talk radio are feeding you lies”, “you have to read the bill to find out what’s in it”, “that’s racist/sexist/homophobic”, or just the general if unspoken impression that voters are stupid and need to listen to their betters). The voters took note and voted accordingly.

  • May I also add that just because it’s a blog comments section it doesn’t mean you should dispense with the rules of grammar and proper capitalization. it really annoys me when i c people right like it’s an im chat. what up with dat? 😉

  • zomg paul srsly?

    sent from my StupidPhone

  • So that’s what Foxfier looks like 🙂

    Excellent rules and I thank her for coming up with them. Here’s another pet Internet debate peeve (and I certainly have been on both sides of this): one debater writes a long rant, with about 20 separate points or questions asked of another commenter. The other party in the debate comes back and addresses points 1-5. The person who wrote the rant then comes back and says “Ha! I see you totally ignored my excellent point 14!”

    One thing I’ve always wondered about are those odd ducks who leave comments in threads that scrolled off the front page weeks or months ago. The only reason I’m aware of them at AC is because of your nifty “Recent Comments” feature. It seems that both the occasional militant atheists and frothing anti-Semites somehow childishly feel they’ve “won” a debate if they get in the last word in on a thread on a Catholic blog. It reminds me of an adolescent spitting on church in the middle of the night and then running away, congratulating himself on his wit and bravery.

  • Donna V-
    My husband drew that when we started dating; the character got randomly cursed with being a were-fox. When I found it again after we moved, I couldn’t resist!

    I know some of the comments on old posts are from searches– either automated ones or someone just looking for information. (automated is usually trolls, information can go both ways)

  • Donna,

    One thing we’ve done is close comments after a month. Comments on posts that are older than 30 days are very rarely any good.

  • I read all 403 comments to that post, and all I can say is, wow. Impressive.

    I’ve taken the advice to heart, too – I had someone leave a comment at my blog earlier today, and rather than let it go unchallenged – he claimed that the National Catholic Reporter has a large number of readers – I responded with:

    Define “large numbers”. Cite your source.

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  • LarryD, if it makes it any better, it was at least half as tiring to write as it was to read!
    (The tactic of sticking strictly to the initial point must work– it’s gotten me wildly insulted, accused of being a woman-hater and called all sorts of mutually contradictory political groups. ;^p )

  • “he claimed that the National Catholic Reporter has a large number of readers”

    People who use it as bird cage liner or to wrap fish shouldn’t count! Nor the unread copies that the local Father “Spirit of Vatican II” keeps having the parish buy.