Sunday, January 4, 2009

Please Do Not Attempt to Cuddle the Angel

I was having a conversation with a woman at work the other day. We both watch the same television show, Supernatural or as I like to think of it, The Dean Winchester is Awesome Hour. For those unfamiliar with it, the basic (and I mean really, really basic) premise is that there are two brothers driving around the country, saving people from monsters and ghosts and demons. And, just in case, should someone read this who has not seen Season 4, or somehow remained unspoiled, there are slight spoilers for the show! You've been warned!

In this current season, Season 4, they have introduced angels to the show. There've always been demons, and the assumption of many fans has been that there was, of course, the opposite side, but that we didn't see it, because the boys were fighting in the 'trenches'. Now, no one should go to this show expecting theological soundness. It's a tv show, it's meant to entertain, and Kripke (the creator of the show), mixes and mashes and matches theological points of view all the time. It's his perogative, and it's a tv show. I watch for the fun. Anyway.

Her problem was that the angels, as introduced in the show, are 'not nice'. *blinks*'s not as though they're running around pushing people off of buildings or anything, mind you. Are they exactly as I think of angels? No, but again, tv, not reality, so I have no problem with this. But...'not nice'. I've been thinking about it, and this is my theory:

This is her mental image of an angel:

He's cute! Adorable, even. And do you know how hard it is to find a picture of a cherub that's not naked? This little guy, at least, has a cloth in his lap. Fat little naked baby with wings. He's clearly nice, and cuddly. I think this is how she thinks of an angel when she's thinking of them. I'm afraid this is how a lot of people think of angels, when they do at all. Hallmark greeting card, cute, harmless, I could go on and on about their pinchable cheeks, etc. This is not how I think of angels.

This is my mental image of an angel:

This is a painting by Rembrant, by the by, of the Archangel Raphael leaving Tobit's family. Lovely.

Please note the difference. The angel is not a) a fat, naked baby (which is cute, don't get me wrong) or b) harmless. If you don't believe me on that second one, read Tobit. Raphael kicked butt.

Angels are good, yes, they're on God's side, but that doesn't make them cute and cuddly! Good things can be scary too, especially if they're that far beyond ourselves. There's a reason that the first thing out of an angels mouth is some variation of 'don't be afraid'. Why? Because they're frightening!

And I think I've figured out why we give Lucifer so much credit for being so big and bad. Images of Lucifer tend to look like this:

This is by Gustave Dore. Note that Lucifer is not some cute little baby with batwings. He's a man, in armour. Contrast that with the cute baby angel that most people see. Now, I, for one, would much rather have Raphael from the second painting fighting this guy than the baby of cuteness. None of these, of course, are what angels or demons actually look like, but they're our perception of them, our mental imagery. And I think part of why some people focus so much on the devil, on evil, as opposed to focusing on the good, angels and God, is because of the artistic imagery that we use. Angels are cute and fluffy and they perch on our shoulders to tell us right from wrong. Lucifer and the demons are a bunch of warriors, big, burly guys waiting to mug us in a dark alley.

But it's not that way. I believe we each have a guardian angel, yes, but mine does not perch on my shoulder. He would find that an ineffective perch from which to smack me around when the situation requires it. And it has, upon occasion, required it. To my knowledge, my angel has never had to intervene in a flashy way, but there have been instances, looking back, where I know that he has influenced things so I get the message.

In conclusion, I see nothing wrong with Kripke's portrayal of angels, in general. Yes, there are some issues, but still. To illustrate, this is Castiel (played by Misha Collins). He's an angel of the Lord:

He's a good guy, on Dean's side. This does not mean that he will not smite your behind when it's necessary. On the show, he literally went though Hell on God's order to get Dean back, and he can lay the smack down on any demons he comes across. So, you know, respect him. Or else.
Here endeth the collision of my fannish life and religion.


  1. Psalm 91,,He has commanded His angels concerning you to guard you in all of your ways!!!!!

    Girl what a powerful post, got goose bumps, Holy Spirit goose bumps,,yahooooooooooooo...You got it, WOW..I just really loved this...

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. It's funny, it seems everything reminds me of religion these days...

  3. The archangel Michael is pretty fierce and he is a good angel

  4. Monica,

    I completely missed your comment! Sorry. Yes, Michael is fierce, and definately a good guy. As is Gabriel. To be honest, I only used Raphael as my example because I don't think he gets enough mention. People talk about Michael and Gabriel far more often than they do Raphael, and I felt sorry for him. :) He needs love too...

  5. Funny that you would mention Raphael. I was reading the book of Tobit (the Catholic Bible) and Tobias encountered Raphael, but in the Chapter I am reading Tobias does not realize as of yet he is with an angel!

  6. Angela,

    Tobit really brings home the idea from Hebrews 13:2 - And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.

  7. You know when I read Tobit yesterday, that was the first thing that came to my mind was Hebrews..

    Amber, did you receive your cross and Bible on Sunday? We had our little ceremony on Sunday handing out the crosses. The Catechumens received their bibles while back. It was very emotionally, watching them receive it, being a part of it. I almost started to cry, got all teary eyed..

  8. Angela,

    No, we got our Bibles the second week of class and our crosses at the Rite of Welcoming a few weeks back.


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