I went to go see the movie, Wonder Woman and was surprised not by how good it was, but by how intelligent-yet simply, it addressed current issues about life. I doubt this was intentional but one in particular did speak to me. It dealt with the concept of religion and spirituality.
SPOILERS: for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet.
When the World Was Young
Diana, aka Wonder Woman, had always been raised on the idea that she was special because she was made of clay and given life by Zeus, head of the Greek pantheon of gods. She also believed that men were inherently good and that only Ares, the Greek god of war, made humans do evil deeds. So her faith, as well as her mission simple: to stop evil, kill Ares. End of story.
Later she discovers however that most of this was a lie, though her mother did tell her before she left home that they were just stories told to her as a child. She’s not made of clay but is the daughter of Zeus, making her a demi-god. And most crushingly, after she kills who she thinks is Ares, she sees the humans still preparing for war as if nothing happened. When the real Ares appears, he tells her he didn’t make humans fight: they did so on their own volition and are naturally violent.
For several minutes, the hero is thrown into a doubt about her morals, who she is, and her mission in the world. How does she reconcile her childhood values with the reality? Though she is able to do so by the end of the film, it’s as she says in the prologue, she is not the same person, and what she believes is no longer the same either.
I really like this catharsis moment because it addresses the problem many traditional religionists and people of strong, moral conviction have in a nutshell. Religions like Islam and Christianity are under heavy scrutiny by the larger world because of elements that are more hardcore about their religious tenants than their moderate and liberal peers. Islamic extremists are trying to sway younger Muslims to kill other people because in part, it’s their duty as Muslims. While traditional Christians are flocking to the neo conservative banner of people like Donald Trump and European Nativism because of the promise to return their nation to a time when their simpler values ruled or at least were not as threatened from newer ideas and scrutiny.
Morally centric people on both sides of the ethics fence, both liberal and conservative, shelter themselves behind walls of anger, protests, and politics against any who disagree with them. Despite claims that they are nothing like the religious right and extremists whom are against them, when they find their own values threatened to be overthrown, the reaction is extremely volatile. One needs only to look to what is happening in Oregon and Berkley University to see that.
Like Wonder Woman, their worldview is black and white and simple. If there is any problem, it’s with the people challenging them, whom are ‘corrupted’ and it’s easier to simply write them off wholesale, or eliminate them. That is until after we have done so and we find that nothing has changed or that the results we expected do not come to fruition. A new president gets in office and there is still the treat of war. Gay marriage becomes legal and it is still vulnerable to being overturned by whoever controls the Supreme Court. We are left struggling and gawking at the grey now surrounding us, unsure of what to do or what direction to take.
"if there was dialogue and understanding, then their own views on strongly held positions may change or crack, and leave their empowerment threatened."
Pioneers Changed by Change
Those people that do navigate these challenges either come to an amalgamation of the new information available to them and aspects of their core beliefs, or abandon the old ways all together. It is this grey area that people are afraid of. Anybody with strong beliefs, like SJW’s, politicians, and evangelicals, often fall into this trap, despite claiming otherwise because their need to cling to their beliefs will not allow them to see it.
Case in point: Youtuber, Laci Green, known for being a self-declared feminist and strong, liberal views on sex and social justice, has recently been pushing for more dialogue with anti-SJW’s and anti-feminists to create understanding. And by her own admission, as well as many of have taken up her call, it has been resisted by those on either side who vehemently reject such open overtures to the enemy. I believe this is mostly due to the fear that if there was dialogue and understanding, then their own views on strongly held positions may change or crack, and leave their empowerment threatened.
It’s a position that is just as fundamentalist as the most hardcore evangelical Christian at a church rally.
Humans are creatures of comfort. We easily fall into comfortable patterns that help us best deal with the world in the simplest ways possible and do not like it when those walls are breached. Beyond them lies uncertainty, doubt, insecurity, and vulnerability to things we cannot control and understand: elements that leave us paralyzed, unsure of ourselves, and vulnerable to being controlled by others.
Yet life is not so kind as to just leave us alone with our self-enclosed glass fortresses, and when it comes crashing in we are left with having to reconcile what’s left of our beliefs, with what is in front of us. We will not be the same person once that happens, and even if we refuse to reconcile it, we are still not the same because now we will live in fear of that knowledge we are trying to reject.
We may not base our core values on being made from clay, divine sexual relationships, or even science. However all values are subject to life’s tendency to throw a wrench in them from time to time. Sometimes those wrenches are bigger than others and make more of a mess. When those times happen, we are left in the same position that Wonder Woman finds herself in: a crisis of faith with only two options left to us.
Rise to the occasion and try to come out the other side, or fall by the way side.