Sunday, October 02, 2005

Matrix Vocations Poster

Came across this a while back and have been meaning to throw it into the conversation. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is distributing Matrix-takeoff posters to promote the priesthood. Based on the story I read, the concept was meant to show that today’s seminarians are both engaged with the world but also committed to orthodoxy, and to draw the analogy of the hero in the Matrix as someone who fights evil and the Catholic priest as someone who fights evil. I think there’s a better analogy available, which I’ll get to in a second.

First, though, I’ll point out that a quick search on this topic reveals some sneering comments on this marketing campaign, especially from non-Catholics who see the hierarchical Church as more analogous to the Matrix than the hero who fights against the Matrix.

To contrast that point of view, I’ll offer this: The first thing that sprang to my mind when I saw this poster was that Materialism was the Matrix. The material (temporal) world is a version of reality that exists within the greater (eternal) reality of the metaphysical – it cannot contain the metaphysical, yet it can easily be a part of the greater metaphysical reality. To the degree that we live in a culture that presumes the bounds of reality end at the material, a priest as an agent of the metaphysical, who is trying to convince us that there is a reality beyond the material, and that not only does it exist but that our interaction with it has important consequences, is analogous to the freedom fighters in the Matrix, who return to the Matrix to try and break others out of their illusions. Of course, from that perspective, not just priests, but all spiritual leaders (and the laity besides) from all denominations and faiths are battling the Matrix.

In general, I think the poster is fun, I am certainly not opposed to mining for, or even inventing when I have to, deeper meaning in pop culture, I have no quibble with viewing the priesthood as a heroic vocation (that’s how I see it, after all), but I’m also left feeling a bit discomforted by the campaign, because the reference to the film brings more analogies with it than the one I described above, and not all of them seem good fits. And if the priesthood is part of a battle to transcend the Matrix that is Materialism here on the earth, the poster almost seems to be an attempt to dress the higher, true reality up with trappings from the illusion - an awkward attempt to clothe a big reality in a jacket cut to fit a little reality.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Hector said...

Ernesto, I have to say that I like the poster. As you said, I think it is dangerous because it can be twisted in many ways which were not intended. However, I think it is important to show that it is OK to have fun, to show a lighter and ceative side. Being a priest does not mean renouncing humor.

By the way, I'm from Indy and in the past couple of years we have had a growth in vocations. It is still less than what we need given retirements, but more than in years past. I'm not saying it is because of the campaign, but the vocations office is connecting well with the youth here.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous kbawlz said...

I like the poster, too, E, but I see what you're saying. I think the Archdiocese knows all too well that any kind of promotion put forth is coming to come under fire, so why not have fun with it? Yeah, there are layers and layers of meaning and all of it is subject to interpretation, but I think it's a step in the right direction. Now let me ask you this: How wrong is it that I find the priest in that poster totally cute?

1:52 PM  
Anonymous kbawlz said...

I don't know if I'm coming or going to today...that should read "going to come under fire"...sorry.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Rick Broussard said...

Ernesto's discomfort with the broader connotations of superimposing Neo in the Matrix onto the priesthood, reminds me of my first reaction, long ago, at seeing a bumber sticker reading "Jesus Happens." I had to think twice to be sure that it wasn't some kind of an ironic slap at Christianity.

Guess I'm still not sure.

4:55 PM  
Blogger GOP Christian said...

Exodus 13:15(KJV) "I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem."

Exodus 34:19 "All that openeth the matrix is mine".

Numbers 18:15 "Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine".

12:32 PM  

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