Daily Archives: February 18, 2008

Catholic Analogy in _Transformers_

There’s an interesting discussion on Mark Shea’s blog concerning a Mythlore article on C. S. Lewis’s Letters to Malcolm, a retroactive interpretation of The Chronicles of Narnia, and how Lewis’s anti-Catholicism damaged his relationship with J. R. R. Tolkein. I have posted extensively in that discussion concerning the article itself, but the discussion inspired me to a kind of tangential topic.

Lewis’s objective in his fantasy stories was to deal with the question of the possibility of life on other worlds. Apologetically, Christianity has “failed” to properly address every major scientific revolution since the re-discovery of Aristotle in the 13th Century (OK, Thomas Aquinas did that one right). Even though St. Augustine, aware of the conflicts between Sacred Scripture and classical learning, long ago set up the parameters for dealing with the relationship, each time there’s been a scientific movement that seems to contradict Genesis, the skeptics cry “We’ve disproven the Bible” and the fundamentalists denounce science.
So, Lewis speculates that, if God *did* create sentient life on other worlds or other universes, and if God created us out of love, to have a relationship with Him, then it stands to reason that He created those other beings to have a different kind of relationship with Him than we do, and that their salvation may be a completely different process.

Thus, in Narnia, he presents Aslan as the Second Person of the Trinity manifesting Himself differently to a different world. The Mythlore article concerns the flaws of Aslan, from a Catholic perspective. One of the flaws the article highlights is how Narnia does not, for example, have a Eucharist.

This really struck me, at some level, even as a kid. But, having picked up Lewis’s approach, even before reading his nonfiction, I began to apply Lewis’s theory to other fantasies I enjoyed as a kid.

In 1986, Hasbro turned its hugely popular toy franchise Transformers into a cartoon movie. The creators of the film, by their own admission in the 20th Anniversary DVD, just figured, like the critics, that it was a “toy movie.” The movie is largely a rip-off of Star Wars and a few other science fiction franchises. It adds to the Autobot/Decepticon conflict a new enemy, so dangerous that, at the end of the movie, the two factions must fight together against it: the Chaos-Bringer, Unicron, a giant Transformer that turns into a planet and devours other planets and their populations (being a cross between the Death Star and Marvel’s Galactus).

While Hasbro and the producers proved short-sighted in several respects, and, while the movie was initially a flop due to negative reaction over the deaths of beloved characters, it introduced several elements that, over the next 20 years, including several cartoon and comic book series would grow into an interesting mythology.

While the movie had a comic book adaptation, it took place clearly in the continuity of the Sunbow cartoon series. The US Marvel comic did not address the movie elements until 1989, when writer Simon Furman expanded the seeds planted in the movie.

Sadly, in the desire to make the live action movie accessible to casual audiences, the writers reinvented the mythology of the series.

But the mythology created by the movie writers and Furman, while it has certain polytheistic and transcendentalist elements that are easily dismissed, has, at its core, elements that are clearly anagogical to Catholicism.

The Transformers’ God is Primus, the First One. He created Cybertron and stored His Presence in the center of the planet (in the 2005 series Transformers Cybertron, Cybertron itself transforms into Primus, referenced in the attached webcomic).

Primus also stored His Essence in the Creation Matrix (aka Autobot Matrix of Leadership), which was originally introduced in the early Marvel issues as being the source of Transformer life. If Narnia doesn’t have a cognate to the Eucharist, Transformers does; it’s the Matrix. In the cartoon series, the Autobot leaders are so wise because they can tap into the Matrix and confer with the “Sparks” (souls) of previous Matrix-bearers and other Autobot “saints” that have gone on to Transformer afterlife, the “Allspark” (In order to avoid copyright issues with a certain other film series, the writers of the 2007 movie changed the name of the Matrix to the Allspark).

The Matrix is passed down through a line of Autobot leaders known as the Primes (Popes?). Marvel #65 lists them as Prima, Prime Nova, Sentinal Prime, Optimus Prime. Certain continuities also have Vector Prime (introduced in the 2000s as the “original” Prime in all continuities) and Rodimus Prime (introduced in the 1986 movie). A few others have held the Matrix in certain continuities: Alpha Trion, Ultra Magnus, and the Decepticons Galvatron and Thunderwing. But the unworthy cannot access the power of the Matrix (in Marvel, the Matrix does become corrupted by an alien lifeform that is mutated by its power, and that lifeform merges with the Decepticon Thunderwing, but Optimus Prime easily purifies the Matrix when he’s reunited with it).

The Matrix also has the power to defeat Unicron. (In the 1987 two-parter “Return of Optimus Prime,” the Matrix also exorcizes a galatic “hate plague”).

“Unicron? Who’s Unicron?” asked Hot Rod.

Well, Unicron is, in short, the Devil. Unicron was a powerful demon who rebelled against Primus and sought to overthrow creation by consuming it. He possessed a young asteroid and manipulated it to transform into a body resembling his spiritual form. He then set out to consume planets and lifeforms across the universe, in the hope of becoming Primus himself. Lewis would approve: Cybertronians have a different devil, and, therefore, a different path to salvation.

In reaction, Primus designed the Transformers to mimic Unicron’s transformation abilities. Over time, Unicron was able to occasionally develop connections with individuals on Cybertron, who came to worship him.

Different series have dealt with the situation differently, but it always comes down the apocalyptic battle where the Matrix destroys Unicron.

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Why does anyone even listen to James Carroll?

It is patently obvious that James Carroll’s whole agenda is anti-Christian. Even many Jews have condemned his efforts to label the Church “anti-semitic,” because it’s so blatantly obvious he uses the charge merely to justify his support for artificial contraception.

This piece is full of blatant factual errors. The Vatican did not “authorize” the Traditional Latin Mass “last week”; it did so at the Council of Trent. _Ecclesia Dei_ and _Summorum Pontificum_ merely emphasized the right of the faithful to the liturgy. And the only thing that happened last week was a change to one prayer in the 1962 Missal. The prayer in question occurs in the Good Friday service and, hence, has nothing to do with the “Mass,” since there’s no Mass on Good Friday.

The prayer in question calls for the conversion of the Jews to Christ. Since Christ is the only savior, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to pray for. I certainly hope that, if the Jews sincerely believe that Jesus was *not* the Messiah, that they are just as actively praying that Christians will “see the light” and reject the false Messiah.

Certainly, James Carroll admits that he does *not* believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior. This, of course, completely discredits any claim he makes to being Catholic or Christian.

At issue is the concept of the Covenant, which is a different matter altogether. First, the Jewish covenant calls for sacrifices to forgive sins. The covenant may be in force, but I fail to see how Jews today are keeping their covenant. I don’t see any Temple or any burnt offerings of fatlings going on.

Secondly, there is no promise of resurrection in the Jewish covenant, with the obvious example being the teaching of the Sadduccees.

To say that the Jewish covenant is still in force for Jews does nothing but reiterate the clear teaching of the New Testament–Jews keep their covenant as Christians; Gentiles don’t have to, Brother Bob Fishman being an example.

Slick Willie not so Slick When Challenged on Abortion

Let’s hear it for pro-lifers in Steubenville!

“Criminalize women and their doctors.” First, abortionists aren’t doctors; they’re butchers. Secondly, “criminalizing women” is a classic straw man. How many women were thrown in jail for abortions when abortion *was* illegal?

Yay! My first hate-filled post by a "moderate"!

Of course, “moderate”=”liberal.”

The reply was irrelevant to the thread it was posted to, so I’m copying it here:

“Anonymous said…
The whole concept of Lewis Crusade is ridiculous and demeaning to all moderate, sensible and compassionate catholics – surely you header should mention what you believe in not what you want to fight against…jesus was a pacifist afterall!”

1. I *allow* anonymous posting, but I don’t like it. Anonymous posting is a sign of cowardice. You indicate that you’re not really interested in discussion but merely lobbing attacks.

2. What is a “moderate, sensible and compassionate” Catholic?? Normally, that means, at least, a Catholic who supports artificial contraception. And they demean themselves by doing so. Don’t shoot the messenger.

What is “moderate, sensible and compassionate” about the Left’s agenda to eradicate the poor and the disabled using contraception, abortion and euthanasia?

What was “moderate, sensible and compassionate” about what starving Terri Schiavo to death?
What was “moderate, sensible and compassionate” about forcing pregnant women with rubella to get abortions so their babies could be used for research?
What is “moderate, sensible and compassionate” about telling people with genetic disorders to use IVF and sacrifice their “defective” children to embryonic stem cell research??

3. Why is it your business what my header says? In point of fact, it *does* say what I believe in: “the Lord Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church, the right to life, the institution of the family, the rights of the disabled, and all the little children.”

4. You say the “whole concept of the Lewis Crusade.” Do you even know what the “whole concept” is, why we call it the “Lewis” Crusade? Typical of a liberal “non-judgemental,” so-called “moderate” Catholic, you’re the one being judgemental and hateful without knowing the whole story–read the early posts.

5. Jesus was not a “pacifist”, at least not in the way you mean. Liberals always bring up
“pacifism” as the straw man against pro-lifers. The Church very clearly teaches that individuals and societies have the right to self-defense, so complete pacifism is *not* in accordance with Catholic teaching.

Secondly, it is quite obvious that, by “fighting,” I mean intellectually and spiritually. To that end, are these the words and deeds of a “pacifist”?

“34 Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send
peace, but the sword. 35 For I came to set a man at variance against his father,
and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother
in law. ” (Mt 10:34-35).

“And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them
all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the
changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew.” (Jn 2:15).

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven
suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. ” (Mt 11:12).

“Then said he unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and
likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword.
37 For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in me: And
with the wicked was he reckoned. For the things concerning me have an end. 38
But they said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said to them, It is
enough. ” (Luke 22:36-38).

Of course, the passage normally cited to claim Jesus as a “pacifist” is the following:

“52 Then Jesus saith to him: Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?” (Mt 26:52-54).

Yes, Jesus says “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” but He said it just as He was about to “die by the sword.” He said it to Peter, who would also “die by the sword.” It is not so much “don’t use the sword,” as “don’t use the sword unless you’re willing to pay the price.” And certainly, the rendering in John:

“Jesus therefore said to Peter: Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The chalice
which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (Jn 18:11).

Confirms the idea that, in saying, “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” Jesus is referring to Himself. This is He of whom Simeon prophesied:

“Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in
Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; 35 And thy own soul a sword
shall pierce” (Luke 2:34-35).

One of the best way to tell a liberal priest is when you come to these Gospels in the Lectionary, and the priest starts his homily, “This sure doesn’t sound like Jesus, does it?”

Lastly, here are Jesus’ words to so-called “moderates”:

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert
cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I
will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. ” (Rev 3:15-16).

Saints are not “moderate”. They are certainly not “sensible.” They do what the world considers irrational and foolish. Heroic virtue is extremist. Thomas Aquinas chased the prostitute out of his room with a hot poker. John of the Cross was censured by the Carmelites for being “too extreme” in his asceticism. Same with Padre Pio and the Capuchins. St. Jerome condemned one of his disciples for leaving the Desert to go be a parish priest, saying that was the pinnacle of inexcusible worldliness. Teresa of Calcutta served the poorest of the poor. Francis of Assisi stripped naked in the Cathedral. Joan of Arc led the armies of France into battle. Soon-to-be Blessed Louis Martin would not allow any secular literature into his household.

These are not “sensible,” “moderate” actions.
All of the martyrs rejected the “sensible,” “moderate” choice of compromise with the world and chose to die rather than betray their values.