Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century


East of Eden

If I were to only able to read one book for the rest of my life that book would be John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  It is a true American epic, portraying the life of the Trask family through three generations from the Civil war to 1917.  The main conflict lies between the brothers of the novel. Adam and Charles Trask and Cal and Aaron Trask.  The brothers are metaphorical representations of the biblical allegory of Cain and Abel.

Steinbeck bookends the novel with the two fiercest wars that America had been involved in at the time, The Civil War and WWI. This is a great reflection upon the story itself. The Civil War pitted families against families and brother against brothers. Globally WWI did the same by engulfing all of Europe against each other.

While the main conflict of the novel is that between the brothers themselves, there is a secondary one also.  When the reader is introduced to Cal Trask, the youngest brother, Steinbeck focuses the prose on Cal’s internal workings. In doing so the reader is given a look at not only how another human faces the prospect of evil in others, but also how he faces it within himself.  This depiction and self-realization of an evil lurking within us leaves the reader with a viewpoint that has rarely been seen before.

Credit Wikipedia for image.


Edvard Munch’s Madonna

In Edvard Munch’s painting of Madonna the viewer is given a new perspective on Jesus’ mother Mary.  Where as more classical representations of Mary choose to show her in a chaste manner, this version gives Mary sensuality and is sexualized. Gone is the mother with child, instead the viewer is given a Mary whose breast are exposed, and appears to be in the act of lovemaking.  She is presented as if she is being viewed from the perspective of the man making love to her.

Munch painted her with such skill and full of internal conflict. The eyes are closed expressing modesty, yet the twist of her body is there to reflect the light of her shimmering skin.  Another notable thing about the painting is the halo above Mary. In most classical interpretations of Mary the halo is golden showcasing her as the mother of the king of men, yet here it is red, colors that reflect pain, and passion.   This allows the viewer to not only see Mary as Jesus’ mom but also as a woman. The sensuality of the painting helps it relate to the viewers and takes away some of her divinity and adds some humanity.

Credit Wikipedia for image.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer is the second largest Art Deco statue in the world. It not only serves as a beacon to Christians of South America, but it also as a national identity to the citizens of Brazil, much in the same as the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of identity for Americans. It is composed of a combination of sandstone and reinforced concrete. It is the second largest in the world only recently surpassed by another statue of Christ in Poland. The suggestion for such a large depiction of Christ was first suggested by a Catholic priest in 1850 by the name Pedro Maria Boss.  Construction didn’t start on it until 1922 and it took 9 years tell it was finished in 1933.

The statue poses Christ with his arms out allowing for the statue to posses multiple interpretations for viewers. The extension of his arms with his hands facing outward, allow viewers to either reflect upon the tenant that Christ accepts all with his love, or it serves to remind viewers of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

The statue has enjoyed many depictions in modern day pop culture but none more recent than its uses in the trailer for the movie 2012. The trailer shows the statue crumbling around itself as the world ends.  The juxtaposition of the end of the world and the destruction of the statue can serve as multiple metaphors.  I like to think that is relating the destruction of this man made idol by nature as a reflection that humans are powerless against the forces of nature.

Credit Wikipedia for image and date specific references.

The Pick of Destiny

In The Pick of Destiny with Jack Black and Kyle Gass, two guitarists travel to Hollywood to form the world’s greatest band, Tenacious D.  They discover the most well kept secret of rock: all rock legends used the same guitar pick, The Pick of Destiny.  This pick was said to be created from Satan’s tooth by a dark wizard and to have supernatural powers.  The person using the pick was said to have unnatural ability with musical instruments.

Jack and Kyle decide to steal the pick from a rock history museum.  They manage to get the pick due to guards being high on weed.  They decide that they will use the earnings from a gig at a local bar’s talent contest to pay rent.  They end up fighting over the pick and break it in half.  They decide they are good enough to play anyway.  The bar owner happens to be Satan in human form.  He is in human form because he is incomplete without his tooth.  He confronts them and transforms into the more demonic version of himself and can use his powers.  They challenge him to a guitar off which Satan must accept because of the demon code.  If Tenacious D wins, Satan must return to hell and pay their rent.  If Satan wins, he gets to take Kyle with him.  They lose, but Satan shoots a bolt of energy at Kyle which Jack deflects with his guitar and hits Satan, blowing off Satan’s horn.

Even with Satan’s power, he is controlled because of his vulnerability.  When he is not complete, he is diminished.  This is a light hearted look at Satan, but it also touches on the idea that Satan can’t control everything, and can be defeated.  It’s all in the strings.

Video Credit: Youtube

Theodicy in Me

In what will be the first of four blog post tonight I ask myself what is blogging about theodicy?  First I look to theodicy. The definition of theodicy is a theological or philosophical study which attempts to justify God’s intrinsic nature of omni-benevolence omniscience and omnipotence , despite the existence of evil which, in the view of some, would otherwise stand to refute one or more of these qualities or God’s existence altogether, according to Wikipedia.  So before I start blogging about others belief in God within this world I must first describe how I believe in God in these trying times.

I’ve never thought of myself as a spiritual person. I’ve always been a major holiday Catholic, enjoying the fringe benefits of Easter and midnight mass services, but true spirituality in these environments escaped me. It wasn’t until the first time that I tried mushrooms that I finally understood the idea of an omniscient omnipresent force within this world. It was under the influence of these small fungi that I was finally able to look within myself and see that I was just a part of something larger. I wasn’t just part of the human race even though that at the time I felt that all humans were basically good, but something more. Something told me that all of this (motions hands around) was part of something beautiful given to us as humans.  If I could relate it to anything I would link it to those 16th century philosophers that based their belief in God on the fact that Earth and its creatures seem to project an element of design to them.  Yet I didn’t feel designed. I felt organic, and as if I was already in heaven.  That’s when I understood that God surrounds us.

Rock bands have always sparked controversy through their lyrical content and very often, it is due to some sort of religious reference or attack. Alternative grunge band Soundgarden was one such band. In 1991, Soundgarden released “Jesus Christ Pose” as their first single off of their album Badmotorfinger which upset people immediately after its release. Right when it came out, MTV banned the music video which brought lots of attention to the song. Many people started calling the song anti-Christian and it got to a point where Soundgarden received death threats while on tour.

Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, has stated that “Jesus Christ Pose” has nothing really to do with religion and that is about people who exploiting the symbol of Jesus and the cross. Through the song, it is about someone who feels like Cornell is persecuting and “crucifying” him while he is in his Jesus Christ Pose. It seems to be pretty clear that Cornell’s song is about people trying to take on a Jesus like situation to become a sort of deity. Cornell is saying is his song that celebrities and public figures use the image of the crucified Christ to seem oppressed and to give themselves a “martyr” aspect to them that would make them in a way cool or more attractive. In Cornell’s own words, “that song was based entirely on seeing rock stars like Perry Farrell or some top model doing these photo shoots where they were the Christ figure with this stupid-ass crown of thorns and their arms out. It became fashionable to be the sort of persecuted-deity guy”.

All in all, “Jesus Christ Pose” really does not seem to have any sacrilegious lyrics or content (the music video on the other hand is a little bit more debatable), but I cannot help but think what kind of reaction Soundgarden expected while releasing the song. The name of the song seems potentially offensive by itself. Many rock artists tend to do this. They release something that seems offensive on the surface but a closer look always shows the opposite. I suppose it is a rather good way to bring about media attention though.

Black Sabbath

Something that makes me upset is when people say stay away from Rock music, it’s from the devil. In particular, Ozzy and Black Sabbath. Where did the name Black Sabbath come from?

The name Black Sabbath came from a combination of things obviously. But the kicker was the song “Black Sabbath” that Butler wrote after seeing “black silhouette figure at the foot of his bed.” The figure than turns and runs away from the “chosen one.” Even with a “Black Sabbath,” God still triumphs.

In this music video of the song Black Sabbath, you can clearly see the crosses that the guitarist and singer are wearing.

Metal. Country. Rock. Jazz. Blues. You. God treats us all as one. What difference does it make that you’re using electric guitars or a choir? In fact, Black Sabbath might save lives that would never be touched by a choir. There’s a reason for everything.

Black Sabbath is extremely straightforward in the following interview of Butler and song lyrics:

“I used to read a lot about all that. But any lyrics that I or Ozzy wrote were actually warnings against Satanism, telling people that if you are going to dabble in that, just be careful… I had a very strict Catholic upbringing, so I read a lot about Satan. But we never, ever promoted Satanism or black magic, we only used it as a reference, and it wasn’t our only topic. We wrote a lot of science fiction lyrics, anti-Vietnam war songs, the occult was only dealt with in three or four songs. But people completely misinterpreted them, the way they always do… Sabbath even did a blatantly pro-God, Christian hymn type of song, ‘After Forever’, and people still took it the wrong way. They thought we were taking the piss out of it!”

I don’t know much about God or the inner workings of Black Sabbath and what not. All that I am asking is that you think before you judge.

Video Credit: Youtube

The Valley of Vision

The Valley of Vision is a book of old Puritan prayers and devotions from various people. Some of the prayers date back to the early Puritan Movement in the sixteenth century, while there are others that are more recent from Charles Spurgeon from the late 1800s. One large part of the Puritan Movement was the emphasis on family worship as well as private devotion. Thus, practicing prayer and meditation was crucial to Puritan spirituality. The Valley of Vision is pure evidence of old Puritan doctrines. The prayers are very intimate and honest, reflecting the importance of private, personal devotion. Many of the writers focus on their own depravity and are very aware of personal sins and their need of a savior. Also, many of the prayers contain lots of theology, such as the trinity and election.

However, through the prayer book, one can also see how Puritans dealt with the problem of evil. It mentions everyone’s depravity and that everyone is in need of repentance and redemption from sins and evil. To the Puritans, the best counter against evil was to get “closer” to God which would make one more “Christ-like” which was done by prayer and devotion. The preface of the book states that “the soul learns to pray by praying; for prayer is communion with a transcendent and immanent God who on the ground of his nature and attributes calls forth all the powers of the redeemed soul in acts of total adoration and dedication”. The Puritans believed that prayer was a communion with God, a way to spend time with God and get to know Him more. Just like friends and family can help change and form a person’s mindset, the Puritans believed that more time spent with God would make one more heavenly minded. While the book might not show insight on theological ideas of why evil exists, it certainly shows how Puritans really believed that prayer was one of the best ways to counter evil.

Hide and Seek

Robert DeNiro plays psychologist, Dr. David Callaway, that lives in New York with his daughter. After the apparent suicide of his wife, they move to upstate to start a new life. As their new lives progress, the daughter, Emily, develops an invisible friend named Charlie. After things start turning up dead around their new home, David begins to become more wary of the way Emily is friends with this “Charlie.” After becoming a little too paranoid one night, David ends up realizing that during his times that he thought he was working in his office he was actually falling into a state where his alter ego, Charlie, comes out and kills others that are around them. His split personality was the one that killed his wife and made it look like a suicide, he also killed the cat, Elizabeth (his friend that he had began to date), and a sheriff. He also tries to go after the family friend, Katherine, who called on by Emily for help. After chasing Charlie down in to the cave where he first met Emily, Katherine is able to shoot and kill David.

The suspenseful thrill of the movie shows how there is always a darker side to the human psyche. Whether one is aware of it or not, the other side of the human mind that keeps these kinds of behaviors hidden can easily be turned off by a simple switch in the brain. The film also reveals that although one strives to be good, the bad can sometimes outweigh the good in certain situations. Evil is always lurking in the dark side of the human. No matter how advanced we may become, the line that was drawn that separated the good and domestic from the savage and brutal can easily be crossed. Therefore, this kind of evil is one that is not too far from reality.

Mr. Deeds

Played by Adam Sandler, Longfellow Deeds is simple man that has was tracked down in order to take over a multi billion dollar company that belonged to his deceased dead great-uncle. He goes to live in New York City for awhile until all “the paperwork” is done with. So along with taking over a company, the extravagent change from small town boy to big city livin’ is also part of the plot. He must also work with the company’s 2 top executives in order to take care of the business, Chuck Cedar played by Peter Gallgher and Cecil Anderson played by Erick Avari who are obsessed with greed. Another antagonist, Mac McGrath, come into the picture as he tries to exploit the story with the help of his assistant Babe Bennitt who poses as a school nurse that is being mugged. This attention grabbing situation finds Deeds and Babe together and sets them up to fall in love. Betrayal after betrayal in the city, Deeds finally relinquishes his title and goes home. He later comes back, the company is saved, gets the girl, and gets Chuck Cedar fired.

The use of some of the Dealy Sins show that there is evil in everyone. Some of more important aspects of the film relate to the temptation of greed and pride. Deeds does not fall victim to any sins after he gains so much money. Throughout the entire plot, he stayed true to himself and the simple living that he was accustomed to. Chuck Cedar let greed get the best of him as he was continuously urging Deeds to give up his title in order to gain control of the company. Cecil Anderson ended up following in Deeds’ loving nature and became a good guy. Babe Bennitt proves to be the femme fatale and uses lying and coercion to get stories in the news. But she realizes the wrong in her ways after she accidentally falls in love with Deeds. Deeds is shown as the ultimate protagonist as he not only sticks to his values but also forgives the many that were first against him.