Dealing with the sacriligious without going on a crusade
Some of my friends, knowing that I am a Norse Pagan, have asked when I'm going to see the movie, "Thor". Now I realize their assumptions are based on good premises; they think that a pagan would love seeing one of their gods represented on the big silver screen. But just as with the comic book Thor my personal religious beliefs simply don't allow me to get excited about this fictional god with the girly-smooth body-builder physique and bleach blonde locks (Thor, by tradition, is known for his red hair, beard and isn't into body waxing). Although I don't begrudge anyone who reads a Thor comic there is a part of me that is bothered that one of the gods I pray to every day has been consigned in the eyes of modern culture to superhero status. So as much as I like Sir Anthony Hopkins, even his portrayal as Odin doesn't get a wooo-hooo out of me.
Most of my friends are Christian or Jewish, and while I love them all, I sometimes wish they would all think before assuming.
Muse on it like this: take a gander at the above comic book cover. On the surface, harmless enough, right? The Mighty Thor taking on The Hulk. Makes for entertaining read for a kid I suppose. But the sheer irreverence of it insures that I could never be tempted into becoming a collector.
For my Christian pals who imagine my feelings are overblown, take look at this next comic book cover.
Jesus as a zombie killer. Hm, don't recall him pulling off that trick in the Bible.
For my Jewish pals, how about this one?
Should it really matter what ethnic or religious persuasion the superheroes are when they face off evil? Is it like the villains are actually going to stop and ask?? I don't think so.
Just in case the atheists I know think their beliefs are safe from comic book trivialization, there is the scalpel -wielding, genius known as "Atheist" but of course is anything but that.
Yes, it appears no belief system is safe from exploitation in the comic world these days.
For certain people who pray to Jesus or Yahweh or even Allah, and who view religious faiths other than their own as utter falsehoods, perhaps even blasphemies, they will never understand why the commercialization of a "false god" would upset anyone. Now on an intellectual level I understand this. Yet it does nothing to buffer the irony of their own reactions when others demote their gods to mundane and/or commercial levels. The "fer-instance" here are die-hard Christians who remind everyone daily how the US was built on Judeo-Christian principles and sense of morality. These folks tend to forget that it was to have the freedom of religion that brought the Puritans here. However they more often than not overlook the fact it was their religious beliefs that were forced, quite literally, upon the people who lived on this continent long before the arrival at Plymouth Rock. From the time of the conquering Catholic Spaniards to the missionaries (of several Christian denominations) the religion of the natives was maligned and vilified. These leaders of the faith re-instituted the same war against "false" religion as the Christian crusaders of medieval times who believed it was their divine responsibility to wipe paganism from the face of Europe.
But just like the native American religions survived despite the missionaries, so did European paganism survive the crusaders. Yes, it had to go underground for a long time but it survived. And today we pagans can openly practice our faiths in most of the free world. Of course, prejudices, stereotypes and out-lie fabrications against our religions still exist. The worst examples of our present-day detractors still call a pentagram a symbol of evil and either deliberately or out of willful ignorance confuse witchcraft with Satanism. These individuals do not wish to practice the tolerance their cherished Puritan forefathers claimed to want when they sailed over on the Mayflower. And with the continued social influence these people exert it is no wonder that even the non-hardcore Christians are bred to view other gods as only silly caricatures fit only to be turned into comic book characters. This may not sound so bad when compared to hardcore elements among some belief systems who would rather blow up your house than abide a difference in faith. Still, if you are Christian, Jewish or Atheist and feel some measure of annoyance at the covers above, you may someday understand how Norse and Germanic pagans feel about Marvel Comics taking liberties with one of our Gods.
Not that annoyance should ever drive us to extremist actions. I believe faith is stronger than commercialism, exploitation and fictional liberties. I am also sure that Thor, in addition to being the God of inner strength and spiritual guidance, is a God of neighborly love and wishes His children to act charitable toward their fellow man. To seethe at and resent those who defame Him is stooping to a level He doesn't condone. I believe the writers of these comic books most likely don't intend any sacrilege but act in ignorance. We can teach our children our value systems and at the same time teach them to be better than the often profane offerings found in popular culture. For true, arrogant sacrilege is never respectful; but the arrogance that comes in assuming retribution on behalf of faith is even worse.