Wednesday, September 16, 2009

FoG-PoP Revisited: August 2009: Pop on Pop Episode 7: The Moral Of The Stories

Previously in Pop on Pop: Baby went to the museum of play.

I was married in a Church and had my daughter baptized.

Channukah and Passover dinner at my Aunt Janet's house are official family gatherings.

Christmas is probably the highlight of our calendar year, though for reasons more Hallmark than holy.

is my favorite Kevin Smith movie.

I agree with just about everything Bill Maher says about organized religion.

I wear a t-shirt that says "Jews Kick Ass" and features pictures of Captain Kirk, Fonzie, and Jesus Christ (Alexa has a matching onesie).

I am not a religious person in any traditional sense. Maybe not even in a nontraditional sense. But with 12 years of Catholic schooling under my belt and with a family comprising active and lapsed members of two faiths (my mother was Jewish before she became Catholic...go figure), there's no denying that religion plays a big part in my life.

I know that this is going to become a thing with Alexa...eventually. There ought to be some context for all these disparate traditions, or else any positive secular take-aways will be lost on her, and her ability to make her own decisions, judgments, and choices about religion later in life could be compromised. I think I am a good person. In no way am I a perfect person, or even a particularly moral person, but I know right from wrong and my instincts are very much in synch with the greater good and best intentions. I wouldn't be this way without the moral guidance I received in Religion class, or even in Math and English classes taught in my parochial school setting. My wife and I talk about this all the time when considering what to do with Alexa for school. It may be more expensive than public school, but if we can swing it and provide some perspective and open-mindedness with her about what she learns, sending her to a Catholic grade school doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

But then again, maybe it wasn't Saint Gabriel's or Cathedral Prep that gave me my wings. I'm sure all that "love thy neighbor" stuff helped quite a bit, but I've had other teachers through those years who have taught me just as much as any of the prophets...

For instance, Spider-Man's Uncle Ben told me that "with great power comes great responsibility." Without learning that lesson and seeing it serve as Spidey's mantra over my 30+ years, would I really understand humility or charity? Would I know what it meant to use my own "powers" to help other people?

I'm a pretty honest person. Honest to a fault, I've been told. And I have a fairly strict sense of honor when it comes to following the rule of law. I get very uptight and uneasy around people trying to buck the system or work a scam, and I get downright angry when government and corporate shenanigans trickle down to headaches and heartache for the common man. Eight years and counting of Fox News and the always-wrong Right defining what it is to be a real American have driven me to be more angry and politically minded than anything before. So...Truth, Justice, and the American Way seem to play major roles in who I am. Thank you, Superman.

Speaking of eye for an eye never really works out, but it would be nice to know that there was some higher power capable of weeding out the true villains of the world, some force that could simply take a name and face of a murderer and administer punishment. Frank Castle doesn't necessarily float my boat storywise, but I like the way the guy thinks. And imagine if a guy like that could get his hands on the Death Note? We're getting into some dark territory here, but sometimes even make-believe consequences are enough to keep an impressionable kid like me on the straight and narrow.

All men and women are created equal. Do not discriminate. The meek shall inherit the Earth. Unlock your true potential. Live together, die alone. So many lessons have come out of the Xavier Institute that I'm surprised Marvel Comics hasn't written an official teachable curriculum.

The morality that I picked up throughout my childhood isn't limited to comics. Star Wars is a shining example of good versus evil, with as many spiritual truths pertaining to the Force as can be applied to a real-world religion. And Star Trek, with it's message of universal peace, has been a great example for the kind of future everyone should be pushing for.

Probably the best teacher of morality for me growing up was Dungeons and Dragons. You can't even play the game without confronting your moral make-up. Morality in D&D is called "Alignment." You choose from a short list of possible alignments when you roll up your character. You don't just choose whether your Half-Elven Ranger is good at archery or wears studded leather choose whether he is inherently good, evil, or neutral, or some middle-ground variation between those three. And depending on what alignment you choose, you are rewarded or penalized for playing your character true to that alignment. Beware the 12-year-old boy who rolls up a chaotic evil wizard and plays it well. Little Jimmy may very well have a collection of animal bones buried in the backyard.

So, even though I doubt Sunday Mass will ever become a routine for me and Lesky, I'm not worried about my ability to teach her right from wrong, good from evil, darkness from light. Whether she gets it from the Good Book or just from a good book, she'll earn her experience points.

Matt Bergin reads, writes, and edits comics, and moderates the Comic Blog Elite toplist. You can follow his own blog,, or just follow him (on Twitter) @D18Matt.

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