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Blog

Worshiping Nature, Exorcisms, and a Retort… of sorts.

Ian David Philpot

Clare Gajkowski-Zajicek responds to Travis Griffith's post "Avatar: What's the Big Deal?"

May I begin by saying that I have never seen Avatar nor heard about the Vatican’s remarks on the film before reading Travis Griffith’s blog post. Though I agree with Travis’ overall theme of love and embracing those of other faiths, races, religions, etc., let’s not hate on the Vatican, just to hate on the Vatican, shall we? What if they have… dare I say… their reasons?

Since people are so eager to talk about their spirituality these days, let’s talk about the spiritual realm on this Earth. There are believed to be two parts to this realm, the supernatural and preternatural. The supernatural is manifested by visible acts and the preternatural is manifested by unseen acts and forces. Miracles can fall under both categories. Evil, however, also falls under both.

“Not to believe in evil is not to be armed against it. To disbelieve is to be disarmed. If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession.” –Malachi Martin

When was the last time you heard about an exorcism? Do you think they don’t occur? Do you believe that people are just mentally ill and it’s just another crazy old Catholic ritual? (That argument never really made sense; the possessed has to go through a thorough examination and agree to the exorcism. It cannot be forced upon them.)

Dr. Malachi Martin is one of the hundreds of priests who have witnessed an exorcism- but he also wrote one of the most profound books on the issue: Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans. He followed and studied other priests who had performed exorcisms, finding them years later as broken and hollow shells of human beings from the stress of the ritual. Most of the occurrences had themes or similarities - the subjects who became possessed were obsessed with the Earth and its elements, “the mystery of nature,” they were cynical of religion, or they attempted to “transcend” this Earthy realm. In one way or another they opened themselves up to the supernatural and the preternatural. In their particular cases, evil snuck in.

During my years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I finished my major early and studied Comparative Literature with a Franciscan priest. It was around this time I read Malachi Martin’s book, after randomly picking it up at a used bookstore. I mentioned this book to the Franciscan, and he became extremely somber. He told me to be careful, and that he himself had performed three exorcisms in his lifetime. (It took him months to actually explain these events, and when I heard them I understood why. This is also a man who has probably never told a lie in his life.)

“Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other and us to the Earth.” – James Cameron

An excerpt from Malachi Martin’s book, the case of a young priest being possessed in 1964:

His yielding [control] at Mass had immediate and far-reaching effects. In baptizing infants, he changed the Latin words, which were unintelligible to the parents and bystanders. When he was supposed to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” he said, “I baptize you in the name of the Sky, the Earth, and Water.” In Confession, he stopped saying “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; instead, he said, “I confirm you in your natural wishes, in the name of Sky, Earth, and Water.”

My first point is: I don’t think the Vatican was only worried about the worship of nature and neo-paganism in Avatar- they’re worried about what those practices can lead to.

“As long as beliefs are based on love, who’s to say who gets to claim the correct one?” –Travis Griffith

My second point is: let’s be careful what we worship. I agree we need to embrace everyone, of every faith, with love. But it’s a fine line when worshiping the Earth- we need to see the danger in this. Jesus came to this world to build the Kingdom of God. Since that was impossible here, why worship such a place?

***

Clare Gajkowski-Zajicek is a graphic designer and videographer who graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a degree in Communication. She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband and pet snapping turtle, Roger. She spends most of her time watching movies and eating starchy foods. (Mostly potatoes.)  Clare's poem "Church Fathers" can be found in Relief Issue 3.2.