Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Orphan Black’s Missed Opportunity for Faith-Based Redemption

orphan_black_title_imageContributors to this blog have generally been pretty excited about the BBC America show Orphan Black, which returns for its second season this month. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, Orphan Black follows the lives of several human clones, all born under mysterious circumstances and secretly monitored their whole lives for the sake of science—until they become aware and start fighting back. I loved the first season just as other writers here did, but I think the religious extremist and antagonist, Helena, needs some deeper exploration. Spoilers below.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Where are all the Orthodox Christians?

massSo Christianity is everywhere in pop culture. Yes, it’s not always explained well or shown in a positive light, but we can’t deny that there is a ton of representation for Christians. Usually, it’s the Catholics who get the most screentime. This is not necessarily because anyone particularly likes the Catholic Church, but because Catholic clergy have a pretty recognizable uniform; if you need to show someone is a part of a church, it’s pretty easy to throw a priest collar on someone and then very little needs to be said about the denomination or the characters’ general beliefs.

Protestants, especially in countries like America that are heavily Protestant, also get a lot of air time. For example, in True Blood, the various Protestant denominations in Louisiana not only give the show some religious representation, but also add to the setting of a town in the Deep South where a variety of beliefs exist. Though the show doesn’t always state the exact denomination, different characters and churches are coded as Baptists, Methodists, or non-denominational Christians, adding to the believability of the narrative.

So yeah, there are a lot of Christians on TV. But there is one Christian denomination I’ve always felt got the shaft in pretty much everything, and that’s the Orthodox Church.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Universal Salvation, The Devil, and Fanfiction

So there is a topic within Christianity that is pretty taboo. No, not gay marriage, not Mary’s virginity, or anything about communion. This idea is so taboo that it’s almost never discussed: the idea that Lucifer, the devil, can be redeemed.

The very idea seems absurd and blasphemous to many Christians. In fact, I dare you to bring up the idea to any Christian. Some may simply dismiss the idea, and others may even be offended that you would dare suggest such a thing.

The redemption of the devil is actually a pretty old idea and one that was popularized by Isaac the Syrian, a seventh century mystic and bishop who is considered a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Church. Isaac the Syrian believed in a concept called universal salvation. Universal salvation is the belief that God is so loving and merciful that even if there is a hell, it’s empty, because God would never allow anyone to be damned. This idea has been critiqued because it seems to diminish free will. Some theologians that believe in universal salvation have added to this concept, saying that it is possible for us to reject God and condemn ourselves to hell, but that God would never reject us and would in fact forgive us of everything. Isaac the Syrian was so radical in his belief of universal salvation that he actually believed that there is no such thing as a just God. God, he argued, cannot be just because he is so in love with us. This idea, however, is incredibly controversial.

Another theologian named Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins, which discussed similar themes. He actually never completely says he agrees with universal salvation, but argues that Christians should hope that all people, no matter what, go to heaven. This so enraged people that in an interview on MSNBC the interviewer basically attacked Rob Bell and accused him of “amending the Bible to make it palatable”. MSNBC isn’t even a Christian station, so it was surprising that they were outraged. What should have been an objective interview turned into an attack on Rob Bell’s morality. I will never understand how people get so upset with the idea that others might not go to hell. And Rob Bell’s ideas of universal salvation didn’t even include the devil.

Isaac the Syrian, however, believed that Lucifer and the other fallen angels would be redeemed as well. Because they were created by God, they were originally good, and at the end of days all things will be reconciled back to God. Isaac the Syrian actually actively prayed for the redemption of the devil.

Despite this idea being, in my opinion, a really interesting idea, it’s not one that has been used that often in pop culture. The closest that anyone has gotten is probably Neil Gaiman in The Sandman comics. There is one notable episode were Lucifer decides to quit and simply leaves hell, but he isn’t really redeemed so much as retired.

There is one place in pop-culture where this idea is played out, however, and that’s in Supernatural fanfiction.

Continue reading