Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Genesis, Optimus Prime, and Victorian America

I'm getting a post ready for tomorrow. Or, rather, that's what I was doing until "in the image of God" caught my attention:
" 'God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.'218.... "
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 355)

Information Age Entertainment

A recent Transformers movies used that line from Genesis to show the uneasiness of someone, dealing with a truck-size alien:
[after seeing Optimus Prime transform]
USAF Tech Sergeant Epps: "You gotta wonder: if God made us in His image, who made him? "
("Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009) via imdb.com)
Besides uneasiness, that "who made him?" line suggested a rather narrow world view. That may be reading too much into that bit of dialog. I don't think philosophical insight is a top priority for folks when they're creating Transformers movies.

Victorian Age Reflections

Samuel Clemens, the 19th century American riverboat pilot who used "Mark Twain" as a pen name, was in a more "reflective mood" when he wrote about being made in the image of God:
"... The Deity that did frighten him [Samuel Clemens] 'is the caricature of him which finds in the Bible . . . I have met his superior a hundred times - in fact I amount to that myself' 33 In a similarly reflective mood, he wrote to his sister,
"I love you, & am sorry for every time I have ever hurt you; but God Almighty knows I should keep on hurting you just the same, if I were around; for I am built so, being made merely in the image of God, but not otherwise resembling him enough to be mistaken for him by anybody but a very near-sighted person.34"
(Page 258, "Mark Twain: A Life," Ron Powers (2005) via Google Books)
Despite writing "a very near-sighted person," I suspect that Twain realized that "image of God" wasn't meant to be taken literally. At least not in terms of physical appearance.

As for cracks he made about the American religious quirks of his day? Given what I've read about the era, I'm impressed that Mark Twain was as conventionally devout as he was.

Poetry, Metaphor, and a Nation of Literalists

The idea of humanity being made in the image of God is is probably familiar to most Americans. I think it helps that it shows up fairly close to the start of Genesis: and that authors seem to like using it.

I suspect that Western culture's tendency to take metaphor and imagery literally accounts for some of what I've heard and read.1 Putting a simple, literal, one-dimensional idea in the middle of a situation that's filled with evocative imagery can be funny.

Astrobiology and the 'Vatican Science Academy'

I don't know if there are other worlds in this creation that support life. If there are, and there are people there, I'd be very surprised if they look like Hollywood's Transformers.

But I'm a practicing Catholic, so I can't say that we're living on the only patch of inhabitable real estate in the universe. That rule has been on the books for more than seven centuries.2

As a Catholic, I figure that part of my job is to learn about God. Studying God's creation seems like one reasonable way to do that. (March 14, 2012)

But that's just me. As I've said before, I've got the authority of "some guy with a blog." Let's see what's being published about the possibility of life on other worlds, back in Rome:
"Astrobiology is the study of life's relationship to the rest of the cosmos: its major themes include the origin of life and its precursor materials, the evolution of life on Earth, its future prospects on and off the Earth, and the occurrence of life elsewhere....

"...The study of Astrobiology is a quite appropriate subject for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which has a multi-disciplinary membership...."
(Introduction, "Study Week on Astrobiology," Pontifical Academy of Sciences (November 6-10, 2009))
Looks like studying the increasing catalog of planets circling other stars is okay.

Related posts:

1 Western civilization's literalist streak produces some odd notions: but I also think my native culture has its good points:
2 Proposition 27 (1277), issued by the bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, made it clear that practicing Catholics must not claim that God could make only one world. I've been over this before. (April 19, 2010)

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.