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Headscratchers: Dogma
  • Loki and Bartleby discuss how they can't just shoot Bethany, because she hasn't actually commited a sin (same with the female board member, except for failing to say "God bless you). Except, even ignoring original sin, she works at a damn abortion clinic. Shall we take this as Kevin Smith's tacit approval of abortion?
    • Is this before or after they enter the church? If before, why should it matter since their sins will be forgiven when they do. If after, why can't they just go back in?
    • Even in Catholic terms, there's no explicit statement that abortion is a sin. The problems we're having nowadays is people trying to figure out when life begins without any theological definition.
      • I'm assuming you've never so much as cracked open a Catechism then... It's pretty explicit about how deeply sinful abortion is. Hard to miss. Same with that tricky "when life begins" question. The Catechism explicitly states that life begins at conception.
      • It's all interpretations with any religious text. Clearly Smith and the God of this film disagree with you.
      • Except the linchpin of the whole film is that every obscure bit of Catholic dogma must be honoured by God. The film makers can't exploit Catholic dogma for dramatic value in one breath and then ignore it in the next.
      • God has to honor the laws set forth by Earthly authorities (and would presumbably, from the whole omniscience thing, know all the laws passed) , but Bartleby and Loki are "old school" and were angels back when abortion wasn't even a thing. They were probably only looking for "classic" sins and apparently don't have any omniscience (or at least it's much more limited than God's). The fact that one had to remind the other of the whole "binds God" part of religious dogma *and* point out the new option from the plenary indulgence shows that they were out of the loop, so to speak.
      • Yes they can.
    • Probably. I actually found it a bit weird that they'd use the "God bless you" thing instead of resorting to the original sin...
      • Rule of Funny, that's why.
      • A funny borderline-wall banger, IMHO. "Original Sin" would probably be more clever.
      • Original sin would allow them to kill with impunity. Perhaps that's the one sin they're not allowed to punish.
      • Actually, it would only allow them to kill people who aren't baptised. Original Sin is taken away at baptism.
      • It's actually Fridge Brilliance that they don't kill for Original Sin. According to Catholic dogma, Christ died to satisfy the punishment required by God for man's Original Sin. God doesn't hold Original Sin against human beings as a result. Bartleby and/or Loki calling someone out on Original Sin would be like a traffic cop pulling you over for unpaid parking tickets when your Dad has already paid them out three years ago.
      • I thought Christ died to satisfy the punishment required for all sins. Or is that just in Protestantism? In any case, I thought the point was that Loki was carrying out vengeance on Earth, Old-Testament style, while God was going to forgive them (if they were repentant) in the afterlife. After all, it's not Loki's job to forgive.
      • She works there, sure, but the worst thing she's probably actually done is move paperwork around. It's not like she actually participates in the procedure. Plus, she goes to church regularly, and presumably confesses, which in the film's verse is apparently good enough, even if you don't really believe in it.
    • Even without original sin, it's hard to imagine that Bethany's never committed any sin in her life. Has she never called in sick when she really felt fine, or lied about her homework, or coveted something that wasn't hers, or argued with her parents, or anything? Jesus went on to say that even sins of thought count as sin, so has she never even fantasized about doing something wrong? I know she's the Last Scion and all, but she doesn't seem superhumanly saintly.
      • It may be more that Loki, in particular, can't shoot her because she hasn't committed a sin on the grand scale that he's used to. Remember, his job was to rain sulfur and wipe out whole cities for global cultural sinfulness. He viewed the Mooby people as fostering a sinful culture on that level, and hence pretty much all of them as sinful enough by that criterion. But Bethany, at least in Loki's interpretation of God's will, wasn't responsible for that level of iniquity. Apparently.
      • "Noah was a drunk, look what he achieved. And nobody's asking you to build an ark." Kevin Smith seems to be saying the vessel doesn't have to be pure, and he damn well outright says that it doesn't matter what faith you hold, just that you have faith. He also implies very heavily that the Bible itself was not a literal source - the entire character of Rufus is a walking assertion of that.
      • Also, remember that the killing spree is Loki's idea first, is targeting the Mooby board right from the start, and was meant to be his "atonement" for his sins. Bartleby actually doesn't go with the idea at first; he even calls Loki out on his ability to correctly "call" a human's sins because standards for serious sin have slipped since Loki was in the job of avenging angel: "I remember when eating meat on a Friday was a hellworthy trespass". It's only at the end of the movie that Bartelby's explicitly said to have completely flipped out and starts talking about killing everybody. However, the entire Mooby board are guilty of real serious sins - everything from incest down to grand fraud. On balance it looks like Loki is either (a) fucking with the office girl's head when he threatens to kill her for not saying "God bless you", when he knows he simply can't, or (b) he's forgotten — and is stopped by Bartleby — that the sin she committed isn't a capital offense against God.
      • There's also an aspect of Fridge Brilliance to it. Loki's Berserk Button is the failure to say "God bless you" to him. Loki's a fallen angel who "feels the absence of the divine presence, and it pains him". Saying "God bless you" should have brought a blessing from God — and thus an affirmation of the divine presence, and thus a relief to Loki's pain, if only for a moment, via the girl, since she lives a good life and presumably God therefore hasn't turned hisher face from the girl. But the girl doesn't say so ... and that's what pisses off Loki so much, because it's the only real chance he had at feeling some love from God.
      • Which would work if not for the fact that they were fallen angels, which, if I'm right, means they weren't limited to the same things regular angels were. I could be wrong, is there any point where the two angels drink?
      • At the end, they take Loki's drunkenness as proof that he's cut off his wings, so I assume they still "count" as angels.
      • Even Evil Has Standards. Loki's still following a rough code of behaviour from God, even if it is Old Testament-vintage.
    • Bethany does go to church (and presumably does confess), which, assuming she really regrets the sin, absolves her. Catholic dogma holds that God can forgive any sin which you can express regret over (hence suicide being bad, you killed (yourself), and could not regret it because you were dead). And, one of the things I took from way too long as Roman Catholic was that merely being willing to confess a sin would protect you if you were, say, hit by a car on your way to confession.
      • Actually, I believe that Catholic teaching is that anyone who commits or supports abortion is automatically Excommunicated. This means they are barred from participating in any of the Sacraments, including Confession. In order for the ban to be lifted, you have to petition the local Bishop.
      • That really really isn't a part of Catholic teaching. A priest might get excommunicated if hey thought his congregation that abortion was a-okay but being in support of it or even getting an abortion is not excommunication worthy, as murder isn't either. Very few things can get you excommunicated unless you are a a part of the clergy.
      • Tell that to Margaret Mc Bride, the nun who got excommunicated for allowing an abortion to save a woman's life. Actually, The Other Wiki lists quite a few people who were excommunicated because of involvement with an abortion, and most of them were not clergy.
      • Also, that's not how confession works. Regretting your sins is not enough. You have to repent your sins. And part of repentance is trying not to sin again in the future. That's the inherent assumption behind confessing and being absolved of your sins. You've been forgiven this time, but it's your responsibility to avoid sinning in the future. In the long run it doesn't matter how many confessions you give or how much you regret your sins if you keep on committing the same sins over and over again.
    • According to the Catechism, "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense," and "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs (automatic) excommunication." Bethany does not procure the abortions; the patients do. She does not perform or participate in the procedures; the doctor does. She doesn't advise or counsel people on whether to have one; she processes paperwork. Even though I'm not a Catholic, it appears plain that she is not breaking the letter of the law. Which is probably what Kevin Smith intended; she's doing something that, according to the letter is OK, but is definitely seen as distasteful by many.
    • IIRC, they also discuss how they can't just shoot Bethany because, sinful or not, she's the Last Scion, and doing so would majorly piss off God to the point of it being treated as a declaration of war. Presumably this goes beyond a matter of what sins she's committed, even if we include working in an abortion clinic as one of them. Although it's possible — and this is possible Fridge Brilliance / Epileptic Trees talk — that being the Last Scion might also somehow fudge Loki and Bartleby's ability to determine her sin, since she's in many ways a link back to God who is, of course, without sin.
    • Just as an FYI, from a historical perspective, several Popes have decreed that a child is not alive until a woman feels it quicken in the womb - roughly from about four months. I do not know whether this was ever repealed or not; if not, then damn, a lot of research did go into this movie.

  • Why the heck does everybody call Bethany a child? She is an adult woman, darn it, not a little girl.
    • If it was mostly the angels and demons calling her that, then she's certainly a child by their Really 700 Years Old standards. If the human characters (apart from Rufus, who fits the same bill) ever called her that, though, I'm stumped.
    • Also, we are all God's children.
    • Metatron at one point calls the whole group (Jay and Bob and Rufus included) children. So probably any human is simply a child to them by virtue of being much much younger. Even Rufus though several thousand years old was still a human turned spirit after death, and was only around since the time of Jesus, while Metatron and the other angels were presumably around since the beginning of creation.
  • When Serendipity says, "Elvis was an artist! But that didn't stop him from joining up in times of war." No he didn't! He joined in the early sixties, before Vietnam, and as I recall, he didn't go there.
    • She seems to be sort of vamping. Azrael has basically had all eternity to come up with self-justifications. Serendipity is trying to shoot them down on the fly.
      • Nope, Fridge Brilliance again. Technically the United States was at war in the late sixties — with North Korea. The Korean War ended in a ceasefire, not a declaration of peace. That's why South Korea and North Korea both remain heavily militarized along their border. Elvis therefore did join up in times of war. It's a stretch, but then most of religion seems to be like that.
      • Elvis served from 1958-1960, not the early 60s. The Vietnam war was already going on at that time, and there were US military personnel there even if the US wasn't officially at war until the mid-60s. The Elvis claim is a bit of a stretch on that basis too, though.
      • Or maybe she was talking about the Cold War. Presley served as part of the NATO forces in Germany.
    • She never said he fought in war. Just that he joined up when a war was going on, which is 100% accurate.
    • She's a muse; it could just be poetic license. She's essentially making the point that, although an artist, Elvis was still willing to walk up to the plate, take a stand and join his country's military to serve a cause (the fight against communism), so Azrael's excuse for not doing so is completely hollow. Or, alternatively, she could simply have a poor grasp of history and might know that Elvis joined the military, knew it was roughly around the time of the Vietnam War but didn't know the specifics; no one ever said that muses were incapable of making mistakes or had flawless knowledge.
  • Why is having central air a sin? Is air conditioning a slight against God or something?
    • It's a sin for Azrael, since he's supposed to be in Hell. I think the rest of us are okay.
      • No, no. All that Azrael says is that there's no sin more satisfying, no depravity more pleasurable than central air (or words to that effect). He is a demon, though, so he's supposed to enjoy committing sins. Azrael is just pointing out that air conditioning — to a demon out of hell — is a hell of a lot more pleasurable than any sin the demon commits.
      • Still, I'd say a demon refugee loose on Earth, who just had his minions kill a family so he could use their home as a base of operations, enjoying the central air he stole from them is a sin. He was making a joke about how, despite all the big rules he's breaking, it's the little ones he enjoys most. It's the same thing as if a criminal broke into a house, killed the people living there, went into the kitchen and ate their ice cream and said afterward "ah, the most delicious crime is chocolate ice cream!" The "he's not saying it's a sin, he's just saying it's more fun than sin" explanation could work too, but I take it as him being darkly ironic about his actions.
      • It always seemed to this troper, who posted the original Headscratchers, that he chose to kill the woman only after learning that she had central air, so it struck me as a sort of, "You have air conditioning, now I have an excuse to kill you" sort of thing. Particularly the way he says, "You know what that means" made it seem that way. Thinking about it, however, it would seem unnecessary for a demon who wants to end all existence to need an excuse to kill someone, so it does make sense if the AC was just an added bonus.
      • No, the implication was that he was specifically looking for a house with AC to use as his base. Presumably had the woman not had central air, he would have just left and gone looking for another house.
      • Yeah, seriously, you guys are making this way more complicated than it should be. He's a demon. He doesn't need "you have sinned" justification to kill people. He wants a house that has AC because he lives in Hell where it's really, really hot; his "no exquisite sin greater" speech is him saying "Goddammit, I fucking love AC;" the demonic equivalent of "This is so good it should be illegal," you might say. Simple as that.
      • This ^
      • I always interpreted it as a question of self-indulgence: how many of us, after all, live in places where we actually need air conditioning to survive, and central air (which is more wasteful because it cools a whole building instead of one room) at that? Therefore, central air is sinful like any other extravagance, such as eating a lot of rich food or dressing ostentatiously, and Jesus was pretty down on that.
  • The movie is frequently complemented for being a deconstruction / take that towards organized religion. But it is entirely built around the assumption that Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, is the Right Religion, that Jesus was the son of God, and that angels, demons, Heaven, and Hell are all totally real. Seems sort of like trying to get everyone to vote to agree that democracy is a bad idea.
    • It's less about deconstructing factual dogma as it is about undermining the way religion often plays out in practice. Some of the messages Smith seemed to be going for included: just because someone is in a position of authority doesn't mean you have to listen to them. It's more important to be a good person than to follow all the rules. Grace and redemption are available to everyone - don't look down on others. Understanding is more valuable than wrath. Your worldview can change overnight. Humans are fallible, for better or worse. In short, a lot of things Christ actually taught, but that individuals and institutions often fall down when it comes to following through.
      Rufus: Man's biggest problem was taking a good idea and building a belief structure on it.
      Bethany: Are you saying it's bad to have beliefs?
      Rufus: I'm just saying it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is a lot harder. People die for it. People kill for it. ... The thing that annoys [Christ] most is all the shit that gets carried out in his name. Wars; bigotry; televangelists.
    • So, in short, a Reconstruction of Faith, and a Deconstruction of Organized Religion.
      • Except that the entire threat of the movie (that the universe might get unmade), is based on the idea that the Catholic Church is capable of representing God's immutable Word on Earth. If the Catholic Church absolves someone, then they HAVE to be let into Heaven. By that token, if the Catholic Church condemns someone, then they HAVE to be sent to Hell, ergo, the rest of non-Catholic humanity is screwed.
      • The movie never states that any other religion is incapable of representing God's immutable word. It could be that if a rabbi had said he would grant pardons to anyone who stepped into his temple, Loki and Bartleby could've gone there. It just so happens it was a Catholic bishop who decided to decree that. If anything, it's the reverse: "whatever you hold true on Earth, I'll hold true in Heaven" is how Bartleby and Loki understand dogmatic law to operate.
      • Also, the very heavy implication is that Man continually fucks up the things that God gives him, and that it's mankind's choices that cause the problems, not that Catholicism is inherently bad. Serendipity rolls her eyes and says "Leave it to the Catholics to destroy the universe." Bartleby rants that "these humans have besmirched everything He's bestowed upon them. They were given paradise; they threw it away. They were given this planet; they destroyed it."
      • Actually, the movie very clearly says Catholicism, or Christianity in general, is the right one. It is the Catholic Indulgence that could unravel the universe, Jesus is stated as being the son of God, the apostles were right (even if one was ignored), etc.
      • Well, it never says that Catholicism is * the* right one, just * a* right one. Remember, Jesus was also a prophet in Islam.
      • Exactly. A *prophet*. NOT the son of God, NOT God, both of which Rufus confirms are the case. The Qur'an has whole passages devoted to being butthurt that Christians keep saying Jesus is the son of God and is divine.
      • Exactly the problem. If any other interpretations of the universe were ALSO correct, and could make the kind of Universe-altering proclamations that the Catholics could, then everyone, ABSOLUTELY everyone, would be going to the other religions' equivalents of Hell / crappy reincarnation, seeing as how pretty much every religion condemns anyone who isn't in the right club. Since Catholic God exists, and he/she/it has given the Catholic Church the right and power to represent his/her/its authority on Earth, then all the people in the other religions must be going to fiery Catholic Hell.
      • Not necessarily; after all, every religion also says that their own followers are saved from whatever dark fate might befall them otherwise. It's entirely possible that a religion's ability to save its own followers trumps its ability to condemn others. Which means that atheists and agnostics are still screwed, but there you go.
      • Serendipity explicitly states that "it doesn't matter what you believe". Loki and Bartleby's plan isn't a threat because Catholicism is the "right" religion, but because God's interaction with that particular religion created a cosmic loophole. The entire film clearly gives the impression that it's better to be a good person than to follow any one specific faith.
      • Actually, she says that the important thing is to "have faith", but that it doesn't matter what you have faith in. I guess you're supposed to flip a coin.
      • And the whole "deconstructing religion while reconstructing faith" thing makes the entire movie a bit of a Rule-Abiding Rebel in my book, but...yeah, not one of my favorite films.
    • The story suggests Catholicism is the 'right' religion because that's the engine Smith uses to drive the narrative, but this doesn't mean that Smith is saying that Catholicism is perfect and flawless and wonderful. Remember, it's both because Catholicism is the 'right' religion and because Catholicism has so many byzantine laws and loopholes that everyone forgets about that all the trouble starts in the first place. It's clear that Smith places a lot of value in the teachings and beliefs of Catholicism, but it's also clear that he believes that the institution of the Catholic Church has lots of problems and flaws as well. The two are not mutually exclusive; you can genuinely believe in something while still admitting that it's not perfect. Hence, the movie deconstructs the institutions of organised religion while also suggesting that the beliefs these institutions are based on — love, forgiveness, redemption — are nevertheless valuable.

  • I realize Rule of Funny and all that, but didn't the black humor from Rufus seem kind of stupid to anybody else? Why is he promoting stereotypes that didn't come about until two thousand years after he died?
    • Presumably, he's been in heaven and watched all the various edits of the bible, and prefers to complain about the ones he feels were made for those reasons. If he's been watching the whole time, I imagine his temporal perspective is somewhat warped.
    • Also, he explicitly says that the number one thing the dead do is watch the living. Maybe Rufus just likes P. Diddy.
  • It bugs me that in a movie all about alternate interpretations of angels, the Bible, Christ, and God, everyone gets hung up over the fact that indulgences don't work the way the movie says they do! Um, no shit! They're not *supposed* to! Alternate interpretation can be used for indulgences too, guys. And incidentally, indulgences in Dogma seem to be based off Matthew 6:19-21, which is even referenced in the movie, when Loki and Bartleby are discussing it in the airport. (Yes, he said it to Peter, but the idea in both verses is the same: If you believe it, God will hold you to it.)

  • Why does everyone have a problem with killing Bartleby at the end? The angels have only been banished from Heaven, and killing him between his killing spree and receiving absolution from the arch would certainly send him to Hell. And speaking of Hell, we establish that Lucifer has as much to lose as anyone, but he never seems to notice. This troper was never too satisfied with the handwave Azrael had regarding no one noticing what was going on. His incantation (even after death) kept anyone from noticing that he, the Scion, two prophets a muse, the Angel of Death and his partner, an apostle, the Golgothan, and the freaking voice of god all came very close to one another in short order?
    • The reason Azrael gives (which admittedly might be unreliable) is that "Satan's pissed off because you two assholes might actually be able to do what he's failed to do so many times." I'm say, though, that Satan probably does know what Bartleby and Loki are up to, knows its likely effect, and does not care. Satan's defining sin was pride. It might well be Satan wants them to succeed just to spite God. It's not like his existence can get any worse, and if he gets to take out God and/or all existence in the attempt, it's the kind of vain decision you'd expect the Devil himself to make. Remember, we don't see any demons trying to stop Azrael — quite the opposite, the Golgothan by default helps Azrael's scheme, and the three skeeball players seem to be under Azrael's direct authority. Satan probably doesn't see the need to get involved since his direct involvement would've turned Bartleby and Loki off — Bartleby's Angelic BSOD doesn't happen until the last third of the film. In short, the whole scheme was planned by Satan, but luckily it doesn't come off.
      • No, Azrael's reasoning about Lucifer is a lie. He tells Bartleby and Loki the quote above, but what he means by "what he failed to do" is get back into Heaven. He's giving them a false reason that the Below side would be looking for them. Also, Lucifer's pride would not make him not care that he was about to get erased from existence, but more likely his attitude would be something like "But I'm supposed to rule everything, I can't do that if there is nothing"
      • Actually, Satan does have a reason for wanting Bartleby and Loki to stay out of heaven. It would end existence, himself included. Before the protagonists pin Azrael to the Man Behind the Man in the whole plot, they speculate the Lucifer could be behind it. Metatron shoots this down, explaining that he'd have just as much to lose by it as everyone else.
      • While true that there's the concept of wiping out all life and existence is true, the same can also be said on a fundamental level. To an fallen angel which represents pride, hearing that two angels managed to defeat God in a purely in-coincidental manner whereas Lucifer tried and failed to do so is likely to piss him off.
      • Remember Azrael's words: "Everybody's looking for you, BOTH sides, above and below."

  • At one point, Bethany mentions that if Bartleby and Loki take their own life while human, they will have committed suicide, and be sent to hell. So, Bartleby explains that he plans to have the cops kill him and Loki for slaughtering everyone at the church. Doesn't that count as suicide by cop? So wouldn't they have gone to hell anyway?
    • Ah, but does the church condemn suicide by means of provoking somebody else to kill you to be a true suicide?
      • They can't, or a hell of a lot of martyrs are in serious trouble. Though they didn't always do it intentionally.
    • "Suicide by Cop", (a term I've found very odd, by the way) depends on the person's state of mind at the time of the incident and whether or not the force was likely required. Honestly, I can see it as a concept of it being a homicide or murder since it's not the "self" that is taking their own lives. Man-Made Laws and Religious laws usually follow two different concepts and interpretations.

  • The names of the angels and the deamon aren't right. Traditionaly, Loki is a Norse trickster god and Azrael is the Angel of Death. It would have been better if their names were switched. Bartleby's name doesn't annoy me so much except it's not a traditional -el angel name, (like Michael and Gabriel) though he might have changed his name over the many years he's been stuck on Earth.
    • The movie has two potheads as prophets, portrays Bethany as the descendant of Mary (while holding to Catholic theology, which denies this outright), a thirteenth apostle, a yesterday's news pop singer as God, and THAT's what just bugs you?
      • Everything else that really bugs me was mentioned already. Obviously, YMMV.
      • Considering that Loki the trickster god was (some say unfairly) banished from Asgard, the realm of the gods, and eventually gathered all of Asgards enemies to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, doesn't the name fit quite well? And since Azrael in the movie used to be a heavenly creature, why not have him a traditional angelic name?
      • Somewhat fittingly for a film that touches on multiple versions of the same religious story, there are two entirely different reasons for Loki being banished given in Norse mythology, one in early stories and one in later. The early stories make the punishment look quite excessive to modern eyes ("some say unfairly"), while the later stories makes the Asar reaction more reasonable.
      • Loki may not be a good name for an angel, but judging by his personality it really fits. He fucks with the Clergy in regards to faith, simply because he thinks it's funny. When he goes on his first killing spree since his banishment, he creates goes into the dramatic with each line he spouts which prompts Bartleby to scold him like he is disciplining a child. Maybe he was named after the trickster god.

  • One of the things Rufus wants to do is to edit the bible to reveal the truth about Jesus Christ's ethnicity. The problem I see in this is that it will only bring more strife to the religious world, give a boost to black supremacists, and nothing positive. If Rufus really believed his reasoning that people, especially religious people, should be colour-blind, why would changing Jesus's ethnicity to black, even if he was all those centuries ago, matter now?
    • Edit the Bible? Does the Bible say anything about his skin color? (Not according to The Other Wiki.) I thought it was about editing the Bible to include Rufus, but educating the public about Jesus's blackness. Incidentally, I'm not sure he's right that the other 12 apostles are confirmed to be white either.
    • Because it was the truth (well, at least in the movie)?
      • So? At this point brining it up would just be irrelevant and harmful.
      • Presumably Rufus considers the truth worth it in the long run.
    • As I recall, Rufus brings up black Jesus as his prime example, not necessarily the only change he wants to make. Saying it would serve no benefit is a little cynical, as Christianity was used to justify slavery and other horribles for centuries (which is probably what enraged Rufus so much in the first place). A change that radical would force people to re-evaluate everything they think about Jesus and bring it back to what Rufus thinks it should be.
      • Just like Jesus being Jewish prevented anti-semitic pogroms?
      • Again, Black Jesus isn't the only change he wants to make, just the example he chooses to use.
      • The fact that he wants to make other changes as well does not negate the fact that the Revelation of Black Jesus would be a completely pointless change that would likely foment more division and hatred. How would Black Jesus force people to re-evaluate everything they know about Jesus? We're long past the days of slavery and racial segregation in Christian-dominated countries and there aren't any mainstream preachers out there who still use the Bible to justify slavery and racism. So how would the revelation that Jesus was black change people's ideas on anything? How would Jesus' teachings change if we suddenly learned he was black all along? And how is it supposed to solve all the other issues with religion that have nothing to do with black/white racial tensions? Frankly it sounds distinctly racist to say "If only everyone believed in Black Jesus instead of White Jesus we would have no racism, slavery, or religious intolerance". And you're still ignoring the point about black supremacists. Those groups would use the Revelation of Black Jesus to create more division, not less. Set aside for a moment all the other changes Rufus wants to make and ask yourself specifically what the effects of the Revelation of Black Jesus would be.
      • It may not be legally institutional, but you're lying to yourself if you think society is post-racial.
      • I'm not sure how much clearer I can make it. Black Jesus is not the only change, it's just the first step. Before you can change someone's deeply held beliefs, you have to convince them that they are flawed in some way. Starting with the revelation that every single depiction of Jesus for two millenia was wrong forces people to re-evaluate everything they know about him. "Gee, if they can't even get his skin color right, how can we be sure they got his words right?" This doesn't just apply to racists. No, the Black Jesus is not a light switch that will turn off evil forever, but it puts people in the mindframe to start. Besides, your whole complaint arises because you apply your real world understanding of real world politics to a movie. A movie where God not only provably exists, but is taking a direct hand in human affairs. At the end, Metatron outright says that Bethany will have a daughter that "has a world of work ahead of her." She's the next prophet, second coming, Lady Jesus, whatever. I mean, you could argue that she'd fail. But at that point your claim becomes "I understand human nature better than God" and well...
      • I'm not sure how much clearer I can make it. Broadcasting the message that Jesus was actually black would be a completely pointless change. The other changes Rufus allegedly wanted to make are irrelevant because they have no relation to his Black Jesus rewrite. ALL that it would do is give Black Supremacists an excuse to agitate, which is supposedly the opposite of what Rufus wants. Also, the idea that current depictions of Jesus are "wrong" would hardly be a "revelation". It's a pretty well-accepted belief among anybody with even a basic religious education. Jesus was born in Israel to Hebrew parents. The odds of him being white are pretty slim. If Rufus wants to prove to people that their beliefs as they know them are flawed, there are a hundred other ways to do it that won't lead to increased racial tension. And no, my argument is not "I understand human nature better than God". My argument is "I understand human nature better than Rufus, the filmmakers, and you".
      • God herself is behind the change. Repeat: God. You're talking about a movie where an omnipotent deity appears on screen and has a speaking role (so to speak) and complaining that they can't accomplish something because in the real world it wouldn't work.
      • Now you're just being ridiculous. If "God herself" was really behind this change (and IIRC this is NEVER stated at any point in the movie, only Rufus says he wants to reform that part of the Bible) then why didn't "she" just DO IT? Why didn't she snap her fingers and make everything the way she wanted it? Why didn't she descend to Earth and declare the Truth to humanity?
      • Because it would've made everyone's heads explode to hear her?
      • Why didn't she just do it? Who knows? Why would she send Jesus when all she needs to do is make the Bible magically appear on everyone's bookshelf? Or send the Metatron? Or have everyone see a talking burning bush? Why did she send Moses down the mountain with the commandments instead of just giving them to the Israelites? Why would she send Loki to smite Sodom and Gomorrah when she could just show up herself and tell them how much they suck? That's just how she rolls. The part where I gathered she's behind the change is when she gives Bethany a daughter. A daughter Metatron explicitly says "has a world of work ahead of her." Mentioned right after Rufus again brings up his changes in the presence of God and Metatron.
      • God works in mysterious ways.
    • This plot point makes no sense in the first place since Jesus is NOT WHITE. He's just portrayed as white in most western media due to cultural bias, while in reality, he was an ethnic middle eastern Jew. Race isnt even brought up in tbe bible, outside of tribal ethnicity, because that was the conflicts of the day when the documents were written.

  • Rufus' actions after Jay shot Bartleby's wings off bug me. After all, Bartleby had just demonstrated how easy it is to kill an angel-turned-human, so why didn't Rufus, say, pick up that knife and stab Bartleby a few times isntead of calling Jay an idiot? It's not like Bartleby could've killed him or anything, Rufus is already dead. Besides, wasn't their original plan to kill Bartleby and Loki before they crossed the arch? Rufus has a prime opportunity to enact that plan, and chooses to yell at Jay instead. That is just slasher-movie level stupidity.
    • Bartleby is still strong, wearing armor, & several meters away. If Jay hadn't used up the clip, Rufus probably would have shot down Bartleby.
    • They didn't know if Bartleby hadn't already walked through the arch.
    • Yeah they did. They had just gotten there and Bartleby was still busy, you know, murdering people. He had just told them that he was still planning to go through the arch.
    • I'd have to go and watch the film again to be sure, but it might be that being dead and an apostle forbids you from killing people since it's presumably a mortal sin. Humans can repent of their sins because they haven't died yet. Possibly a murder when you're human and dead is a sin you will never have a chance to repent, and whatever else you can say, Bartleby after cutting his wings off is full human.

  • Nobody has mentioned that Bartelby and Loki have been on earth since the plagues, which were before the birth of Christ. How the hell do they recognize Rufus as "The Apostle"?
    • Dropped by Judea to take a look? Spoke to some other angels who were passing through? Get some sort of angel newsletter? Notice they aren't that surprised to see Azreal, so I always assumed they still had some kind of contact with old friends on both sides.
    • Bartleby has some hazily defined ability to "read" people. Notice how he immediately rattles off the sins of the Mooby board members in detail, for situations he couldn't have possibly witnessed personally. It doesn't explain why he doesn't recognize Bethany for who she is on the train, but maybe it was because she was drunk or he wasn't really trying.
    • Who says that time works the same for God and angels? Einstein all but postulates that God has to operate outside normal space/time in order to do what he's imputed to do. And let's remember they weren't sent to Hell, but Wisconsin. Wisconsin (assuming it only got boring after it was settled) has only existed as long as the United States has. A separation between crime and punishment of roughly 2,600 years or so leaves plenty of time for Loki and Bartleby to watch and figure out what's going on around 4 BC - 33 AD.
  • So if God is so omnipotent, why can't She lower Her voice to be able to speak to humans without blowing them up, if She wants to? Or did She intend to blow up those first five Adams?
    • For that matter, an all-knowing God had to go through trial and error 5 times before She figured out how to safely communicate with Her own creation?
      • That was a bit of Shown Their Work that they maybe should have left out of a movie that was all about God's infallibility. The "Five Adams" thing is a genuine piece of Kabbalistic lore (though it's much, much more complicated than "God kept killing them every time She tried to talk to them"). With that in mind, remember that the Kabbalah (and Judaism as a whole ) is very, very old, and dates back to a time before gods were expected to be perfect. How could they win so many arguments with Him otherwise?
      • Rule of Funny. Not to mention the all-knowing God is largely a construct of Catholic dogma, and the movie's prime target as dumb is...
      • I'm pretty sure the all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good characterization is common to all the Abrahamic monotheisms, at least among their respective deep thinkers on the subject. And it's pretty clear that the God of Dogma isn't. And it's pretty clear that there couldn't be a conflict if she were.
      • Maybe it's a lot easier to distance yourself from a horde of helpless, mewling mortals scrabbling for your attention when you can use the "Ask the first five Adams why I can't answer you directly" excuse.
    • She's does lower Her voice. His name's Metatron. Think about it.
  • When Metatron and Bethany enter the Mexican restaurant, Metatron orders "Dos tequilas, por favor, and an empty glass". Why does he speak the second part in English? Doesn't it ruin the moment a little? Or is Metatrone a cheap show-off, who barely speaks the language himself?
    • I always figured it was a jab at 'restaurant humor'. He said the first part in the language of the restaurant as it was something the waitress would have undoubtedly understood. Most waitstaff, if not most people in general, at least know that much Spanish. But the ultra-dry sarcasm with which he said it implied that he was making fun of people who actually felt 'savvy' for ordering food or drinks in the language of the restaurant. Especially THAT drink, in a SPANISH restaurant because, as I've mentioned, most people would be able to understand it, so it doesn't actually take anything more than general knowledge to make that order. The second part, on the other hand, would not be general knowledge in America, so it would ruin his sarcasm, AND the waitress probably wouldn't have understood him.
    • tl;dr - Alan Rickman being snarky.
  • Why didn't Loki and Bartleby drive the bus by themselves after the scared away all the passengers and the driver?
    • Because those people would have told the police about the murder, who then would chase the bus?
    • He might not know how to drive a bus. It's different than driving a car, after all.
      • Hell, they might not know how to drive at all since they're only shown taking public transit or walking.
  • What happened to Bartleby after he died? He couldn't go to Heaven, but he repented for his sins, shouldn't that have absolved him from Hell as well?
    • He hadn't gone through the arch yet. Presumably, because he wasn't forgiven yet, and add to the fact that he was nowhere NEAR repentant, probably means he'd be going to Hell. At best, Purgatory, which is worse than Wisconsin. Loki on the other hand, would most likely wind up in purgatory not Hell, since he wasn't flying around and killing people.
      • Bartleby personally, sobbingly, apologized to God before dying. God's response was to give him a kind hug, which probably meant She believed him. As for Loki, he died trying to prevent the end of Creation, which probably counts in his favor. They may both have been allowed into Heaven as human souls.
    • It's not answered, but it doesn't create a plot hole. Once God was there to make decisions, there could no longer be a universe unraveling contradiction. God could choose to forgive them or not, negating the old decision, not contradicting it.
      • This makes the most sense. Loki and Bartleby were going to screw over the universe by forcing God to forgive them. If God chose to do so on Her own it was probably perfectly fine. Or working on the "you suffer somewhere else until your sins are worked off and then you get into Heaven" model as opposed to the "eternal torment" model, she may have let them go to Hell or Purgatory until they'd suffered an equivalent amount to the evil they'd done, at which point since they'd suffered for their transgressions it's also not a contradiction to let them back into Heaven.
      • Maybe She gave them "time served" for being apart from Her love and presence for so long on Earth.
    • Given how grateful Bartleby is it doesn't seem like he's going anywhere bad, and if he can't go to Heaven, there's the possibility God just unmade him. If her slightest breath is enough to clean up a street riddled with bodies, that massive scream simply to blow up a guy's head always seemed a bit excessive to me.
  • You know what I just realized? What the hell ever happened to Azrael? Where did he go? Detroit?
    • My guess is that he went back to Hell, where his former Lord and Master — who was no doubt not-very-happy with the whole scheme he'd tried to pull — was waiting for him.
    • He was likely temporary killed by a instrument of God and it will take some time for him to regenerate.
  • Okay, having rewatched the movie, I'm confused about something. Bartleby and Loki's plan is to become human, go through the arch, and then die, right? But whether they kill themselves or GET themselves killed, it's suicide. Their intent is to cause their own deaths, which makes it a sin. So even if they were to succeed in getting through the arch, their deaths would be sinful and thus they'd go to Hell. In light of THAT, why were the elaborate efforts to stop them necessary at all?
    • See further up the page. There's plenty of martyrs who didn't fight against their own deaths, which could be regarded as "suicide by unbeliever", but apparently this doesn't count as suicide.
      • True, but at least by Christian standards, those martyrs didn't get themselves killed for selfish reasons. Bartleby and Loki's reasons were selfish, and mass-murderous (once they found out the catch) to boot.
    • They were planning to be shot to death immediately after exiting the church. Apparently in the Dogma-verse, the sin is deciding to commit suicide, so they would be cleansed of that as well.
  • If angels don't have an anus, and Bartleby was eating popcorn in his first scene... How does that work?
    • He wasn't eating it with his anus, for a start.
    • I think OP meant that when he ate the popcorn, it has nowhere to go.
    • Maybe angels can completely digest all the material in food, leaving nothing but air and water as waste products.
      • It's shown that angels lack genitalia, but does it actually say they don't have anuses?
      • Bartleby specifically says it in response to Loki's "Let it never be said your Anal-retentive attention to detail never did anything." to which he replied "you can't be anal-retentive if you don't have an anus." However, after watching the film, if you look closely, you can see Bartleby spitting the popcorn into a separate container, much like how Metatron spits out the alcohol. I guess the no drinking ban eventually evolved into no eating.
  • Why are Loki, Bartleby and Azrael constantly refering to God as "he"?
    • The same reason Serendipty and Bethany refer to God as "she". (Rufus and the Metatron generally use "he" as well except when relating to Bethany by using her pronoun.) God is a "he" to them, representing the ultimate authority figure they would want, who is male, but is "she" to Serendipity and Bethany for the opposite reason. As Rufus says, "She's not really a woman. She's not really anything." Yes, God does appear as Alanis Morisette at the end, but there's no clear indication that the angels or Rufus see the deity that way. Jay and Silent Bob clearly do, but they are very impressionable, so male or not, Serendipity's speech and Bethany's resulting faith probably colored their view.
    • Because God was a "He" for a fairly significant chunk of the movie; He was the kind little old man the undead hockey kids beat into a coma at the beginning. It's only at the end that God turns up as Alanis Morrissette, so it's not inaccurate for them to refer to God by a male pronoun when God is currently occupying a male body. It seems pretty clear that for all of Serendipity's theorising, God is beyond little things like gender and can take on any form He/She likes, male or female, so ultimately it doesn't matter whether God is referred to using male or female pronouns.
  • Rufus: "Not the undead, the dead. I died." Does "undead" mean something other than "dead person who walks around and talks" that I'm not aware of?
    • It's commonly used for zombies, vampires and such, that is corpses reanimated through unnatural, necromantic (satanic?) means. Rufus probably considered it offensive.
    • The undead are (usually) physical bodies that have been restored to animation in some fashion. Rufus is a dead person who is physically manifesting his soul... he's more of an extremely solid ghost, if you wanted to compare him to anything. But ultimately what he means is that he's not a dead person who's been restored to (a semblance of) life... he's just plain dead, and the fact that he's walking around and talking is no real reflection on that.
      • Well the former makes some sense if ghosts are not considered undead, but since when is walking around and talking not a semblance of life?
      • When you have already died and gone to Heaven. Rufus has already died and gone to Heaven, his snarky ass is dead. Here, the phrase "semblance of life" is referring to a false imitation of being alive... basically getting the body up and moving around despite it being a corpse. Rufus isn't even a corpse. His body had probably returned to its component molecules sometime around the Crusades. He doesn't have a body, he doesn't have a life, he's a manifested soul, which is a distinct existence that is entirely different from ghosts, zombies, vampires, or any other creature generally associated with "the undead". Rufus is dead, he has been dead for over 2000 years, and he'll still be dead once he returns to Heaven, no actual change has occurred in his state of being other than where his soul is currently manifesting itself.
    • It's all tied into the secrets of the resurrection, which, as Rufus states, he forgot when he got drunk.
    • Rufus is, literally, a saint. (Catholic dogma holds that all dead people who go to Heaven are saints; the ones who get canonized are the ones the church decides they know for sure are in Heaven.) Probably him being in the human world is more like some kind of divine manifestation than a piece of dead meat dragging itself around.
  • Why didn't God's little "boop" noise when she tapped Bethany's nose cause Bethany's head to explode? Does it have something to do with Bethany's lineage? Her resurrection, her god-child, what?
    • I figured that she made the sound in some alternative manner than her true "voice", however that works. The equivalent of clicking vs. using your vocal chords, but the God version.
    • Basically, it's drawing a distinction between making noises with your mouth and actually speaking. When God speaks, She is directly communicating the full meaning and import of Her communication, which is just too much for mortal existences to comprehend and survive. If God were to, say, speak Bethany's name, She wouldn't just make the mouth-noises that for us translate into "Bethany", She would be communicating absolutely everything about Bethany's entire being, who she is, was, all the possibilities of who she could be, everything that led up to her being who she is from the dawn of time. "Boop!" doesn't actually communicate anything other than a bit of silly whimsy.
  • So once Loki and Bartleby become human do they automatically grow genitalia? If they don't, how does their body process waste? How does Serendipity process waste? does she eat at all? Like, once they were Angels, its excusable, presumably they just don't have to eat or drink because they're magic. But once they're human, they're mortal and stuff, right? So they need to eat and sleep?
    • Apparently yes, they do. Serendipity wasn't a human - she was a muse.
    • It's never said Serendipity doesn't have genitalia. She's not an angel, after all, as a muse she might be called on to "inspire" somebody.
      • Yes, it is. She shows Bethany that she "lacks definition" in the area of sex.
    • Strangely, Serendipity DOES have a navel, implying that somehow without having genitals, she would have to have been born of someone who did.
    • I must say, it would have been hilarious if, after feeling the stumps on his back, Bartleby then felt his crotch before bursting into laughter. On a serious note, Bartleby calls it "complete human form", so I'm guessing that as genitalia and digestive system are part of the default human form, they would be included.
  • So who exactly are the Stygian triplets? The word 'Stygian' apparently refers to anything pertaining to the River Styx (which is technically Greek mythology, but considering how much this film mashes up different belief systems that probably isn't important). Are they demons? Are they just dead, like Rufus? It can probably be assumed that, in the grand scheme of things, they're somehow inferior to Azrael. So who the hell (no pun intended) are they?
    • There's a scene in the original script where Rufus explains this. Apparently, they're three teenage boys who, while alive, beat a toddler to death, presumably with their hockey sticks, apparently just for the hell (again, no pun intended) of it, and later died in a car crash while on their way to a detention centre. So they're just the regular dead, like Rufus, except they're from Hell rather than Heaven.

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