According to Webster, Dogma, is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization, thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted. While in the context of religion the term is largely descriptive, outside of religion its current usage tends to carry a pejorative connotation, referring to concepts as being “established” only according to a particular point of view, and thus one of doubtful foundation. Kevin Smith’s 1998 comedy is a theological deliberation in an ironically interesting and slightly crude way. Smith states that he named the movie “Dogma” Because it’s a double-edged sword. “Dogma can be a good thing, and for the wrong people it’s a bad thing; and that’s what the movie points out very clearly: that in the wrong hands dogma is bad”
The movie includes many issues revolving around Catholic Theology such as free will and an absent God. Also, the protagonist is a Catholic who goes to church, angels appearing and a Catholic cardinal causes the problem. Even the controversy around the film suggested it was primarily a Catholics representation. The Catholic League of America stridently objected to the film’s sacred content and called it anti-Catholic. Kevin Smith admits he had a particularly Catholic message for audiences: Dogma is a story of the depravity of institutional religion and the benefits of a personal spirituality.
Two fallen angels, Bartleby and Loki, try to exploit a loophole in the Bible so they can get back into Heaven and God plan’s to stop them. In the days of the Old Testament, the two angels were ejected from Heaven by God to spend the rest of human history on Earth. Loki, formerly the Angel of Death, carries out the 10th Plague, slaughtering the first-born in Egypt. Afterwards, he invites Bartleby out for an “after work” cocktail. During their drunken stopper, they have a heated discussion on whether or not murder in the name of God is justified. Their debate ends with Bartleby convening his pal to quite his job as the Angel of Death, thus going against God. Still inebriated, Loki’s resignation displayed a fit of rage and utter disrespect to the God. This ultimately results in Bartleby and Loki being kicked out of Heaven and exiled to Wisconsin. Once the world ends they would have to sit outside of Heaven’s gates for eternity. The angels now want to get home to Heaven.
God is infallible, the entirety of existence functions entirely on this principle. If this principle does not hold true, reality would collapse on itself. They’re plan is to walk through a church’s archway on its Centennial celebration which will wipe away all their sins. Inadvertently they will be causing existence to disappear since it was God’s decree that they be cast out of heaven. If God is proven fallible, all existence will be destroyed. A group of misfits must now work together to save the world; all they have to do is stop the two fallen angels from entering a Catholic Church in New Jersey.
The film takes place in present time, Azrael a demon with a hidden agenda, anonymously sends the two fallen angels a newspaper article about a church in New Jersey where a Cardinal is attempting to create a time of renewal for the Catholic faith by allowing anyone who enters the church on a certain day to have their sins forgiven. His campaign, called “Catholicism Wow!), includes a revised version of the crucifix to make the image of a “happier, more accessible” savior, “Buddy Christ”. If the two angels are allowed to enter the church, the two angels will have defied God’s decree and proven God to be fallible. The Metatron, the Voice of God, appears to Bethany, a back slid Catholic that works in an abortion clinic. Bethany’s first seen is in a Catholic church. After Monsignor’s announcement about the pro-life/pro-choice softball game, he mentions a man on life support in New Jersey (later in the film is revealed as God). He urges Catholics everywhere to take a stand against euthanasia. He then has the congregation “rise for the recession of faith.”
Metatron gives her the job of stopping Bartleby and Loki. Bethany is reluctant until Azrael sends three undead kids to attack her. Her team consist of the thirteenth black apostle, an incarnate muse turned stripper, and “the prophets”. In Joshua, God used Rahab the whore to helped Israel and Luke speaks of made Mary Magdalene. This shows it isn’t the first time God has called on “socially unaccepted” people to fulfill his missions.
Bethany is told that she is the distant great grand niece of Jesus. The movie states that Mary did not remain a virgin for her entire life. However, Smith does maintain that Jesus was a virgin birth. It was only after Jesus that Mary lost her virginity and had more children. Bethany must be related to one of these siblings because there is no mention of Jesus having children of his own.
St. Mark and St John talk about Jesus’ brothers and sisters. There is nothing in the early tradition to suggest that Jesus did not have brothers and sisters. The doctrine of Mary’s virginity, if read literally, implies that Jesus could not have siblings. However, it is unclear what meaning was attributed to Mary’s virginity.
Azrael tells the two angels that Heaven and Hell are trying to kill them and that the Last Scion, Bethany, has been contacted to execute them. Azrael then tells Loki and Bartleby to lay low. The two had just executed several executives of the Mooby Corporation for the use of a golden calf as their mascot.
Mooby Corporation is a chain of fast food restaurants, and a depicted as a dominant symbol of American popular culture in the film. When Loki and Bartleby arrive at the Mooby corporate headquarters to massacre the board, a figurine of Mooby is on the boardroom table. The camera frames the golden Mooby in a window and through the window is a church. Mooby represents, the Golden Calf from the Ten Commandments.
The next seen is in a bar where the group runs into Azrael. Azrael reveals his plan and explains his reasoning. He tells the group about the war at the beginning of time where the renegade angels and the faithful angels battled each other on the ethereal plane. However, several Angels refused to fight, including Azrael, waiting to see who would win before they jumped in. Once God cast the renegade angels into Hell, those who wouldn’t fight were ejected along with them. Azrael then heard the news of the plenary indulgence and made a plan to get out of Hell by destroying all of existence, using Bartleby and Loki to do it.
A fight breaks out, and Azrael and his three adolescents are destroyed. Bethany’s group borrows a car and go to the church. There they find Loki drunk and dozens of dead humans in the street. Bartleby has exterminated the crowd gathered at the church for the ceremony. Loki, unable to stop him, had his wings ripped off and is now human. Loki refuses to help Bartleby further, and Bartleby kills him.
Bethany then has a premonition that God’s mysterious disappearance is due to an accident engineered by Azrael. The comatose man mentioned by her Priest in the beginning of the film is God trapped in human form. Just as she gets to the hospital and releases God, Bartleby flings open the doors of the church; a blinding light emanating from the church itself throws him back. Bethany dies as a result of seeing God.
From the light of the church emerges God, in the form of a woman. She walks out of the church, through its doors, kisses Bartleby then blows his head off. The Bible uses metaphors such as “God the Father” and “God the King” to describe God’s power and other characteristics such as, The gender that is associated with these social roles of a father or a king were attributed to God. Scholars believe this is a way for human beings to put God in personal terms. Earlier in the film the muse states, “The Bible is gender-biased.”
Before the movie ends, God brings Bethany back to life along with a surprise.
Bethany had blamed God for her inability to have children that resulted in her husband abandoning her. She realizes that she must have faith in God’s plan and ultimately saves the world by making a leap of faith for God and sacrificing herself in the process. Bethany is rewarded for her faith with a child.
The film ends with God appeared and tidily restoring everything, effectively erasing all the damage and bloodshed brought on by her creation. After Bartleby’s revenge-filled destruction the banner no longer reads Catholicism WOW! but Catholicism OW!. When God cleans up, the banner disappears. God, Metatron, The 13th Apostle, and The Muse all return to heaven via the church doors, providing a sense that Church contains an unexplored mystery.
Bible stories are stories that have been handed down through time. The twists and turns of this film reflects that. Many people have described faith as a private and personal journey. According to the Muse, “It doesn’t matter what you believe in, just that you believe in something.”
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