Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #17

Re: Dogma in Dogma: A Theological Guide

Your article “Dogma in Dogma” bothered me, along with the F rating you gave the movie. Your article seemed extremely critical.

Your explanations about angels are to be read assuming I believe in angels, right? I’m definitely not here to argue religion, but explaining the realities of angels is laughable. I felt like I might as well be reading about the realities of the unicorn or Pegasus.

Metatron lacks a Spanish accent? Wondered why it was even mentioned.

Being of a Spanish Catholic upbringing, the Mary joke is taboo, and one of my favorites.

You say “That God approves of a vague spirituality and doesn’t care if we believe in him or in the Church he founded upon Peter…” Everything after your “or” is a fat ol’ YES!

Your comment “He gave them the true faith, and they made smart-alecky and ignorant movies about it” seemed very passive aggressive.

The movie actually sent me back to church by rekindling someThing.

“Extremely critical”? Really? I thought I was being pretty fair and accommodating coming up with that “The angels are really bad at theology” spin on all the film’s theological fallacies.

Bear in mind that my “Dogma in Dogma” article is essentially a work of theological “fact-checking,” not entirely unlike the analysis of movie science at the Bad Astronomy blog. It’s not meant to be a critically even-handed response to the film as a whole — though my review of the film is meant to be that.

Whether you believe in angels or not, the essay takes its point of departure from Roger Ebert’s thesis that the film “takes Catholic theology absolutely literally.” Angels are part of Catholic theology, and therefore part of the theological critique of the film. Even with unicorns, if you have them at all, they have to have one horn. If you do something else, you’re not dealing with unicorns.

Belief in angels follows from acceptance of the Christian faith. Belief in Jesus is quite different from belief in unicorns or Pegasus. Unlike the associates of Pegasus (Perseus, Bellerophon, Zeus), who lived no one knows when or where, Jesus of Nazareth, upon whom Christian faith is based, can be fixed quite precisely in history. For example, his disciples Peter and John and his kinsman James were personal acquaintances of Paul of Tarsus, who wrote several books of the New Testament.

My critique of Metatron’s lame Spanglish (“Dos tequilas and an extra glass”) was a joke.

I don’t think the movie’s “Mary joke” is a joke. I think Smith is serious. Either way, a “taboo” is a vestigial prohibition from an atrophied belief system. For Smith, the “Mary joke” might be a “taboo”; for countless Catholics, it’s merely an insult to their mother. Not to care about other people’s sensibilities in this regard is the mark of a cad.

If God didn’t care about the Church he founded upon Peter, why would he bother to found it in the first place? (Again, remember, the premise is that the film takes Catholic faith seriously.)

I think the critical freight of my “ignorant and smart-alecky movies” remark is pretty direct and straightforward, not “passive” (and thus not passive-aggressive) at all.

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