Dogma (Kevin Smith, 1999)
Updated: Jul 29, 2022
In Dogma, God saw fit to banish 2 angels, Bartleby and Loki, to earth for the entire span of human existence. Said angels felt guilty after the massacres of the first born in Egypt and decided to put down the sword. But that idea calls into question the omnipotence of God, which is blasphemous. So, they're sent to Earth as punishment to live amongst the humans.
At the beginning of the movie, a demon named Azrael desires to unmake all of existence. He finds a loophole within the Catholic dogma that allows Bartleby and Loki sins to be forgiven and a way for them to return home to glory. Much like laying down the sword, this would question the omnipotence of the Lord God and cause the universe to unmake itself.
My favorite scene in the film is where Bartleby and Loki go to the corporation headquarters for Mooby the Golden Calf. It's a play on the biblical story of the Israelites when they were wandering the desert after they were run out of Israel, and they built a giant cow out of gold that they worshipped instead of the Lord. In the movie, Mooby has a multi-media empire that creates a false sense of corporate sponsored morality that is anchored in profits and nothing else. Bartleby, while reading the riot act to the room, says, “You have raised an idol that takes away worship from the Lord.”
Which was a message I internalized after seeing Dogma. It's very malleable, the Christian faith. There's basics that each flavor hits.
1. Jesus loves you.
2. God is love.
3. God sent his only son to die for your sins.
The specifics seem to differ depending on the socio-economic level of the local population. Because the function of the church is a moral center of the community, and it shapes itself to the local community’s needs. The churches I grew up in at the lower end of the socio-economic scale were more concerned with individuals' actions. Many sermons focused on temperance, on fidelity, on family. The basic functions that keep society moving, because the basics were where people destroyed themselves.
When the poor destroy themselves, typically there was no example of how to guard against self-destruction. The hellfire and brimstone's purpose is to teach them about the pitfalls that keep them from living a good life. The life that the Lord wants them to have.
That was the Faith I came from. There were times when I was so angry that life is unfair. Of course, life is unfair. Why would it be fair? That's ridiculous. When I was angry at God, I would remember Job:38:4-7, “"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
It’s a general catchall I use for whenever life doesn't make too much sense. Throughout the pandemic, the Lord blessed me with an epiphany. Holding onto anger and anxiety builds an altar and takes away worship from the Lord. But it's easier to hold onto all that old anger and pain and hurt. Especially when it seems there's never any justice for what happened to you, so you think the only person that will ever acknowledge that they hurt me is me. You're laying that at an altar and you're worshipping your sense of injustice and that takes away worship from the Lord.
In Dogma, that summation of the first commandment of the Lord our God, when he said, you shall have no other gods before me, that brilliant real-world modern-day example that the line Bartleby speaks meant the whole world. Because in our modern-day life, it's so easy to get wrapped up in things in outrage. That's not healthy. Don't dwell on bad stuff. You should address bad stuff, process it and deal with it. But dwelling on it means you're lost in it. You're stuck in the tall grass, and you can't find your way-out. Eventually it'll destroy you. If not physically, then emotionally, and one of the many reasons why that's the first commandment from the Lord our God is because is God is the ultimate good stuff. God is Love.