Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: The Whitewashing of Christianity

So this is kind of sort of a Christmas post, but before you say that Christmas was several weeks ago, technically Christmas lasts until the Baptism of Christ. That’s today, so that makes this post in January acceptable.

Not too long before Christmas this past year, Fox News once again stirred up some controversy about race in a debate of whether or not Santa was white. This eventually led to a comment that Jesus was also white.

Pictured: What Jesus most likely actually looked like.

Pictured: What Jesus most likely actually looked like.

As someone who studies theology for a living, both comments are utterly laughable to me. But it’s also pretty par for the course when it comes to Christianity. Many figures from Christianity, especially early Christianity, were not white, but as Europe became more Christian, the myth of a white Christ started to predominate. Now, there is nothing wrong with white people having pictures of Jesus, Saint Nicholas, or any other saints/religious figures that look like them. In the same way that people should be able to see themselves in pop culture, people should be able to see themselves in religion. This is why, if you look hard enough, you can find religious iconography of Jesus portrayed as almost every nationality. As religious scholar Reza Aslan says, though, there is a difference between a personal Christ and the real-life historical figure, Jesus. Jesus was a poor Aramaic-speaking Middle-Eastern Jew, not the blonde haired, blue-eyed white guy you see in most Jesus movies.

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Some Geeky Resolutions for the New Year

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: we can’t expect the world to change if we don’t change ourselves. This blog strives to promote equality for all people, but let’s face it: we all live in a patriarchal, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and genuinely bigoted world, and it’s difficult for even the most well-intentioned individual to break out of this culture of hate. Now it’s 2014 and it’s time to attempt to better ourselves and hopefully contribute to geek culture in only positive ways. I’ve got a few suggestions for fans, creators, and the geek community at large.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: The Real Meaning of Christmas

True-Meaning-Of-ChristmasIt’s that time of year again—that time when people put up trees in their houses, visit relatives we don’t plan on seeing for at least another year, and gather ’round the television for the plethora of Christmas specials invading our regularly scheduled programming. Most of these specials have a common theme: the true meaning of Christmas. But the thing is, we can’t seem to agree on what that meaning really is.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Geek Nativity Scenes

I consider myself pretty religiously progressive, not just within my faith, but also in my attitude toward the way secular culture treats my faith. I know that, while Christmas is a Christian holiday, many other religions have celebrations around this time of year. Furthermore, Christmas has been adapted to be more secular, so that non-religious folks can share the love and give gifts without all the religious bits. I get it. I’m okay with it. I understand, but there are certain things I find inappropriate.

I love geeky Christmas things. Daleks in Santa hats, superhero Christmas ornaments and stockings—I love it all, but I do feel offended by the geek nativity scenes.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Jewish Representation

Jewish SuperheroesHappy Chanukah (Hanukkah), everyone! Chanukah is the spelling preferred by Jewish traditionalists, but Hanukkah is also fine, because Hebrew is a bit difficult to transliterate into English. The tradition of celebrating Chanukah comes from an event about 2,100 years ago, when, after reclaiming the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews only found enough holy oil to light the sacred lamp for one day. The oil miraculously lasted eight days, until more oil could be pressed and ritually purified. The festival is about the triumph of light, purity, and spirituality over darkness, compromise, and materialism. To learn more, here’s a rather good website with information about all things Jewish. This year, the eight-day Jewish festival began November 27 and ends on December 5, and in honor of it we’re taking a look at Jewish representation in pop culture.

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Your Best Bets for Feminist Halloween Entertainment

Happy Halloween, everyone! All month long I’ve been talking about some of my favorite spooky entertainment and today I’m going to put together my ultimate entertainment recommendations for getting the feminist most out of your Halloween.

These are simply my opinions and based solely on things I’ve seen, so if something you love doesn’t make the list, let me know! Maybe I just haven’t seen it and can fall in love with something new.

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Theatre Thursdays: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Happy Halloween, everyone! I wish you all the spookiest of days! In honor of the hands-down awesomest holiday of the year, I figured I’d talk again about a true gem of musical theatre: the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’ve covered this in the past, but I’m gonna analyze it a little more deeply today. RHPS is both a cult classic and a personal favorite of mine, and to celebrate the spirit of the day, let’s look at some of the things it does both right and wrong from a feminist perspective.

rhps-1000x562In other words: come up to my lab, and let’s see what’s on the slab.

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If You Watch One Halloween Movie This Season Watch ParaNorman

Last year when I was frantically working on my Master’s Thesis (yes the caps are necessary) for grad school, I turned on Netflix and put on the movie ParaNorman. I just wanted something on in the background that would be enjoyable, but wouldn’t distract me too much. I had wanted to see this movie for a while and felt that now was the time. Well, I didn’t work on much of my thesis that night, but I did watch one of the greatest children’s movies that I have ever seen in my life.

paranorman2012-poster-wideSpoilers after the jump.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Exorcisms in Pop Culture

As we get closer to Halloween, I feel I am morally obligated to talk about spooky religious things. So this week, we will be discussing exorcisms in pop culture.

Though other Christian denominations also perform exorcisms, for the purposes of this article I will largely be focusing on exorcisms in Catholicism because those seem to be the types of exorcisms most often portrayed in pop culture.

exorcistIronically, I find horror movies about possession and the devil to be one of the most pro-Catholic type of movies, even if they are a bit misguided. In the real world, many people are uncomfortable when the Pope, or any religious figure, says something about evil, or, specifically, the devil. Yet they seem relatively comfortable with the idea that if there ever is a real need for an exorcism, the Catholic Church can handle it. Many people try to make a belief in demons or the devil out to be superstitious and silly. I personally know some Catholics who find it embarrassing that the church still believes in such things. But whether or not you believe in demons and the devil, I think all people fear a loss of control and the unknown. And so the idea of a religious institution that battles these fears can be pretty appealing, even to those people who don’t believe.

As a religious person, what most aggravates me is how wrong exorcism movies tend to be in their portrayal of the battle between good and evil.

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