Jesus in the TARDIS (Or, Why Fandom Is So Complimentary to Catholicism)

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Jesus and tardis

(This is a guest post by Christie of Everything to Someone)

Growing up, I was kind of isolated–as a Catholic, and as a fangirl.  

I went to a Catholic high school but knew very few people who were genuinely Catholic, what we’d call a “loyal Catholic” but of whom my spunky sister says, “Just Catholic Catholics.  You’re either Catholic, or you’re not.  You either follow the Magisterium, or you don’t.”  (And she’s only twenty!)

There were slightly more classmates of the Star Wars-and-Hobbit persuasion than there were Catholic classmates who happily embraced Catholicism.  But they were, how shall I say . . . often socially awkward beyond even my socially awkward ability to communicate!  I wish them only the best, even now.  I think when you have no “higher power” to unshackle you, to put things in perspective and help you prioritize, you too easily fall into worshiping little idols–things good in themselves but poisonous as your only food.  In a word, they were obsessed.  And that fact made me a little too uncomfortable to ever reach out and make friends.

So you can imagine my surprise when, thanks to the beautiful-wonderful-powerful internet, I discovered that there were actually people out there like me: both joyfully Catholic and healthfully otaku.  And as I branched out from lurking in Tolkien forums and wasting time drawing Sailor Moon on deviantART to starting a blog and striking epic friendships, I discovered that this was not only something that existed.  It was actually the norm.

Maybe it’s because I was the only one I knew like that in childhood, I don’t know.  But I had two very distinct, potent feelings about this.  The one was a kind of relieved astonishment.  And the second was a smug, but-of-course pride; the kind of pride a child feels for a parent when she realizes the parent was right all along, and it was the world that was wrong.  Both feelings coexisted prominently for some time, and without even realizing it, I was making connections.  Noting an article here, observing a plot there.  I guess it’s normal for human nature to want to put the puzzle pieces together, to make a complete picture.  And what offers a more complete picture of everything better than the Catholic worldview?  Which, as Catholics, we know is only the real world seen for what it is.

When musing on the nature of Catholic fiction, southern Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote, “the Catholic novel is not necessarily about a Christianized or Catholicized world, but simply [. . .] one in which the truth as Christians know it has been used as a light to see the world by” (Mystery and Manners).  This technique can be applied to all art, indeed, any human endeavor.  Any ancient temple, taken in the light of the Incarnation, is suddenly a cathedral reaching out to heaven.  The songs of pagan bards, eternally sad, all share an instinctive and unspoken sense of the loss of Eden.  The romantic tradition reached its height of metaphysical and poetic beauty with chivalry: the spiritualization, discipline, and ultimate sanctification of mere human love.

Any honest pursuit of truth and the human condition is Catholic, even though it be filtered through the half-blinded eyes of the unbeliever.  It’s the groping-for that counts.

This is how fandom finds a complimentary home in Catholicism.  We Catholics have the distinct privilege and ability to lay claim to any true pursuit of God.  All Christians do, in fact, if they profess the Incarnation.  But Catholics, by the nature of the Faith, are better equipped to see it: mystery and symbol, sin and suffering, sacrifice and redemption . . . we are acquainted with it all from infancy in the Crucifix.  We may not even be aware of it, but we are preconditioned to digest and turn things to nourishment (avoiding the peril of my high school classmates mentioned above).  So we can view a television show in which the characters aren’t clearly black-and-white but reflect the complexity of human nature and the almost tangible pain of the soul separated from God.  We can say, “Ah yes, now he’s got it right,” and shake our heads sadly, wisely, when they get it wrong.

And we can still enjoy the goodness in it, for we can filter the failures.  We can even examine it, debate it, meditate on it.  See its relevance to our own lives.  Take it with us to the confessional.  It can make us better Christians.

There is something about the new series of Doctor Who, besides it’s incredibly conceived science fiction scenarios, that gives it this type of substance.  It’s hard to put a finger on, but it has something to do with the Doctor’s profound love for humanity.  Here he is, a practically ancient (by our standards), intellectually superior, alien being.  And yet, he returns to Earth again and again, taking human beings for his companions.  Though they all pass away or, what is worse, outgrow him, he continues to make himself vulnerable to heartache through their friendship.  Now, he is far from an innocent, all-benevolent being himself, but he recognizes the very severe failings of human nature.

So why us?  For a being who proclaims himself all-but-atheist and a devout adherent to scientific knowledge, the Doctor does not subscribe to his own beliefs.  In the curtest sense, he is a hypocrite–though we are all, if we are going to try and match belief and practice, that.  No, what impresses me about the Doctor is something which he did not choose and which he cannot explain: the inherent and inescapable sense that mankind is important.  Though suns are born and die, and civilizations rise and fall, and eons turn like wheels, we remain.  We are what matters.  We are bigger than the universe.  For we are created in the image and likeness of the One who created the universe from nothing.  The Doctor is a non-human humanist, when he has every reason to disbelieve in the central place of mankind in the cosmos.  He appeals to rationalism but chooses faith.  He believes in the incarnational significance of man, though he disbelieves in the Incarnation.

And that gives me a great deal of hope for our world.

With sound formation in the Faith, we need not fear reading literature about prostitutes and tax collectors; or even watching films about them, provided we know our weaknesses and keep Christ near.  There is almost nothing that a Catholic cannot be a fan of and find some resonance and reflection of Creation, a tool with which to hone his sanctity.

The word Catholic only means “universal,” after all.

Image source

Christie writes at Everything to Someone. With an MA in Arthurian Literature and an insatiable wanderlust, she’s a full-time mom, old-world Papist, and aspiring writer. 

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Comments

  1. says

    I loved this! As a Catholic Doctor Who fan I completely see what you’re talking about. It reminds me of how often I hear “secular” songs on the radio that are not Christian by any means, and yet, they very often can sound like love songs to God. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  2. says

    I got so excited when I saw the title and image (so awesome) of this post! But the reasoning that Christie gives is more of an explanation why Catholics are free to love all literature/art/media that’s Good (with a capital G), not necessarily why Catholics may be hardwired to be in fandoms. Doctor Who is an easy match, and so is the BBC Sherlock series (the art of television at its finest), but not all fandoms are focused on Good things. They may be enjoyable and good, but not Good – does that make sense? I think the connection lies more in *passion*, which can sometimes slip into obsession. It can be a difficult line to toe. In terms of passion, though, I express my love for Christ and my love for Doctor Who in similar ways. Sometimes I worry that I’m more evangelical about great books than I am about Jesus!
    These are just thoughts, no real conclusion. Love the blog, Haley!

    • says

      I really like your thoughts here, Katie! There is something about being Catholic that gives us permission to be passionate. It reminds me of a conversation I once had with a Protestant friend who couldn’t understand how we’d even want saints. He said that in heaven, all he’d care to do was to look at Christ. I countered that the joy of a wedding banquet is in sharing your love with others who love your beloved as well. Which is what heaven is–a great Wedding Banquet.

      I wonder, though, which fandoms do not have something Good with a capital G? I may just be getting rusty, but I think that in most cases, with healthy individuals, what attracts them to a story is something Good. Though the Good may only be in the questions, the search for truth. Or, it could be the depiction of the slow, methodical destruction of one man’s soul (re: The Picture of Dorian Gray), the substance of which is not good but the showing-it-for-what-it-is is.

      Fandoms exist because a sub-created world (though it may be our own or an entirely new one) with people (characters) who, for some reason or another, gain our affection, or at least our investment. So I guess Catholics are only fanboys/fangirls because fandoms appeal to all of humanity? What do you think?

      • LPatter says

        I think sometimes its too easy to love something for the convergence we find in it with our own weaknesses and struggles, and perhaps twist that into an endorsement of something in us that may be (at present) less-than-Good. For example, we can be drawn to a quality that is more accidental than essential, like, using St. Gianna’s love of fashion and contemporary furnishings to excuse an undue emphasis on that in our own lives – However – if we stay with the Saints, and truly get to know them, we are brought beyond that initial place of commonality and into a vision of a more ordered expression of the same love. (We can see St. Gianna as some one with real human desires and loves, but at the core of her person was the love for God and humanity, and all else flowed from that. Living a good, beautiful, holy, loving and ordered life with her family was an expression of that love) In essence, the virtue and sanctity of the Saint helps to reveal what is real, true, and good within our disorder, and how to unravel the disorder to see what that inclination is truly meant to be. I think in literature or film you have to see if the same journey is undertaken, if what is being illustrated, remarked upon, and sought is truly the True, Good, Beautiful. Sometimes the obsessive attachment to certain storylines and characters and contexts is limiting, allowing us to stay in our own comfortable world, rather than transformative, seeking the Good.

        Interesting question – but in general, yes – I love your point.

  3. Deanne says

    “I think when you have no “higher power” to unshackle you, to put things in perspective and help you prioritize, you too easily fall into worshiping little idols–things good in themselves but poisonous as your only food. ” Yes. This.

  4. says

    I love this post!

    “No, what impresses me about the Doctor is something which he did not choose and which he cannot explain: the inherent and inescapable sense that mankind is important.” This section was so good and is so important. What an inspiring thought to consider when anti-Catholicism is getting you down.

    Also, that Jesus knocking at the TARDIS door makes my day.

  5. says

    Lovely, but I have one issue: it was on deviantart amidst all her Sailor Moon drawings that I met Christie, so I hope that isn’t seen as a waste of time!

  6. JesusIsATimeLord says

    My catholic Doctor Who friends and I occasionally joke that Jesus either was or will be an incarnation of the Doctor, or another renegade Time Lord. The Curator in the 50th may support the future incarnation theory.

  7. carmen caracol says

    you. rule.

    “So you can imagine my surprise when, thanks to the beautiful-wonderful-powerful internet, I discovered that there were actually people out there like me: both joyfully Catholic and healthfully otaku.”

    I see Christianity in so many places in so many characters in so many fandoms (my guilty pleasure is manga/anime)… and I always thought I was just crazy. This article touches on something that’s very, very important, even just apart from fandoms, on a bigger scale: it’s about seeing the God in all people and things that touch our hearts and make an impression on us. Thank you for writing this!

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