By Adrien Bridel
Adrien Bridel draws a subtle parallel between the Bible and comics, which, far from being fanciful, allows us to open up a passageway between two cultures that have more in common than meets the eye. “With great power comes great responsibility”, as Spiderman’s uncle liked to remind him. Certain patriarchs of the Bible could have transmitted that same message.
Translation Louise Thunin
In Neuchâtel, Switzerland, at the beginning of July, the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF) takes place: it was a reference, in its genre, in the early years of the twenty-first century. I shall take this festival as a pretext, in order to explore the links that can unite theology and geek culture, geek being a word that applies to aficionados of the imaginary.
It would be easy to see only immaturity there, a refusal to fully enter the world of adults. To my mind, I see, above all, immense intellectual curiosity, an association where the scientific community is more than widely represented. For many years, geek culture remained confidential, but today it enjoys a large audience, via the digital revolution that cinema has undergone over the last two decades.
This recent expansion of its audience—as well as the truly philosophical depth that has always been a part of the questioning of this subculture—has led me to try and sketch out a notion of Geek Theology–somewhat in the style of Mark Alizart in his Pop Théology (2015) and in the wake of the philosophical interest in pop culture, initiated by Gilles Deleuze. There is a possibility there for theology to make itself known to an audience that normally ignores it, thanks to fantasy, which definitely has its place in a conversational exchange with these cultures of the imaginary. It’s a question of cultivating a taste for the fantastic, in order to then welcome the interpretations we make of it. In fact, this is an opportunity to discover theology in all its diversity! Let’s take a few examples to illustrate my idea and to fuel our reflections.
First of all, the supernatural: its presence in the Bible is obvious. But what is less so, first off, is that it rests on a form of contradiction, for Biblical supernatural always springs from purely climatic or natural events (the flood, the ten plagues of Egypt, the separating of the Red Sea…). How can we not think of Tzvetan Todorov, who defines the fantastic as “ the hesitation felt by a being who knows only natural laws, in the face of an apparently supernatural event.”
However, pointing out that the supernatural is present both in the Bible and in science fiction is not enough. It is more pertinent to notice that in both cases, a message or messengers are always associated with the supernatural. In the Bible, angels are the heavenly messengers (aggelos in Greek). In science fiction, in works such as 2001, A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick (1968) or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, by Steven Spielberg (1977) are loaded with entities (even with monoliths), delivering mysterious messages to mankind, to help us evolve.
Second of all: powers. In comics, there is, in fact, often a question of super powers, or, more widely, of magic. The Bible and geek culture both lead us to go beyond the simple observation of power in order to question its legitimacy and the the relationship that exists between the one who wields it and its recipient. As we become aware of this relationship, an ontological differential is created between the one whose source is a yellow sun (Superman) and the one who declares, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9 : 23).
Third: we could also mention animals. The Bibilcal bestiary is of the order of the fabulous ! We can cite the Leviathan, the Behemoth and the gigantic, seven-headed red dragon in the twelth chapter of the Apocalypse. This brute force is fascinating, because it represents original chaos, but also because it is a metaphor for political power and presents a polysemy of different usages. This is a perspective that did not escape the author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, a clever player with the elements of myths, which Claude Lévi-Strauss referred to as le mythème.
To conclude, let us attempt a parallel between the Resurrection and the figure of the zombie. In both cases: an enigma. The body of the resurrected One is not exactly, biologically speaking, that of of Jesus of Nazareth. In John 20, he enters a closed room and presents an unusual corporeality. A zombie has a more paradoxical nature. In classical thought, a body needs a soul in order to be quickened, an anima, that is, an animating prinicple. Without this principle, the body collapses. Yet a zombie retains its faculties of movement, all the while being without a soul. In this sense, it is the paragon of alienation. Even more fundamentally, the figure of the zombie allows us to illustrate, contradictiously, the most extraordinary thing in the Resurrection : the transformation of the human condition, thanks to the Incarnation. A body is not condemned to an alienating afterlife, because it was able to transport divinity (to borrow Emmanuel Falque’s well-chosen expression).
Here then are several avenues leading to a Geek Theology still in progress…
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