A whole lot going on in this episode! Further explorations on ‘canon’. Protestantism, Atheist Boomers, Aliens 3, Frozen, Jesus Fan Fiction and the great 1054 Rage Quit.
Craving Canon: https://thejaymo.net/2020/04/10/136-craving-canon/
1926 – On Ritual and Storytelling: http://permanentlymoved.libsyn.com/301-1926-ritual-and-storytelling
2006 – Clock Time vs Plot Time: http://permanentlymoved.libsyn.com/301-2006-clock-time-vs-plot-time
Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded in one hour by @thejaymo
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Craving Canon (Redux)
So earlier today I posted a 5000 word post on my blog titled Craving Canon. I explore canon, toxic fandom, solarpunk, narrative, cultural fracking and other problems I perceive with story worlds in 2020. Do check it out.
I spent most of the week writing it. I think it’s an interesting discussion and would like to hear other people’s thoughts. But only via a non social medium please. Ain’t nobody got time for a hell thread on twitter.
One of the things I explored and alluded to in the piece was that people craving canon in stories and appealing to higher authority (the franchise owner) has deep roots in our culture. Specifically in my mind protestantism. However secular it may think itself western society is deeply influenced by its nearly two millennia of Christianity.
Many years ago I used to work with an Atheist boomer who was the sort of insufferable fellow who’d get upset if someone said ‘Bless you’ after he sneezed.
One day he said something about ‘The blind leading the blind’ and I replied. “You know that’s from the gospel of Mathew right?”. He went ballistic. Either I’d caught him at his own stupid game or I’d made him feel like a hypocrite. Either way it’s illustrative.
After the stars (see episode 1926 – on Ritual and Storytelling), Christianity is the other dominant story form we have in the west. And like the stars one we all participate in. Some parts of the Christian story like blind leading the blind are so ingrained in our culture unless you know, you have no idea. Now this is also a fairly recent phenomena even 50 years ago I suspect almost everyone would have known that a “Wolf in sheep’s clothing” is also from Matthew, or “Rise and shine” is Isaiah, or that “The powers that be” comes from Romans 13.
But friends who didn’t grow up religious certainly don’t. All the useful parables, moral and emotional that the biblical stories contain are unknown to them. So when these same themes show up in movies they miss them.
I mean there’s nothing subtle about Ripley’s Christ-like attributes in Aliens 3.
She falls from “the heavens” to help the prisoners; they deny her role as their saviour; then she sacrifices her life to save theirs. She even does it with her arms out for goodness sake.
I finally watched Frozen last year and it’s one of the most Christian movies I’ve ever seen. Like Satan, Elsa craves freedom, is cast out and creates a frozen Hellscape. And her little sister is a Christ-like redeemer who is wounded for Elsa’s sins, then freezes to death to save her sister and then gets resurrected. Nothing subtle about that either.
The thing that really interests me about Christianity and our culture is just how late the quote unquote canon comes into existence. Early Christianity is my favourite. Books are the hot technology.
The cool thing about early Christianty is that church wasn’t so much unified as a collection of communities all over the roman empire. All working from their own set of books. Which of course means the first quarrels about doctrinal unity or rather canon became intense around the 3rd century.
Because Christiany has an eschatology see episode 2006 on Clock Time vs Plot Time. It emerges with a sense of history, and as a formalised religion it relies on the books that record that history. The stories of Jesus and his disciples are central to the project.
The heritage of Judaism was also vital to early Christianity but it was very much an open question which elements should be integrated into the new doctrine and what should be left behind. See Paul’s letters on circumcision and seating arrangements during shared meals for example.
Gordon White is fond of calling the materials in the dead sea scrolls Jesus fan fiction. I mean in The Gospel of Mary, you have Jesus speaking to Mary in a vision explaining a spiritual path back to him. Wild stuff, and yet the process outlined is not unlike Saint T’s Interior Castle.
Two of the Gospels themselves seem to be delivered from the mysterious Q source. Probably taken from the early Church’s oral tradition. But after 300 years of fan fiction and world building however those in authority thought that something had to be done.
If you’re a nerd like me then you’ll know that the Nicein Creed was formalised in AD 325. Essentially excluding all the gnostic fan fiction weirdos. The first catholic canon was fixed at the Council of Rome (382) and everyone was happy. Rough consensus and running code. Things then get a little wobbly with Athanasian Creed in the 5th century ultimately resulting 500 years later with the Orthodox rage quitting having had enough of the toxic fandom.
Fictional worlds that are loved by millions, but controlled by one single authority produce the urge of craving canon. Because it reproduces the effects of the most recent change to our collective cultural story world. They skip the messy first 300 years of early Christianity, ignore the next 1000 and go straight to a protestant position that the highest authority is the Bible alone.
The above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.