I can think of only two religiously-bent pieces of popular, modern media that made me feel something akin to spirituality. The first is the “God” episode of Louie, and the second is Kevin Smith’s Dogma.
Both Louis C.K. and Kevin Smith have a way of warping reality and twisting it to fit their own brains. In the case of Louie, it involved a harsh, surreal flashback. In the case of Kevin, it involved a bunch of guest stars and a road trip. But these guys clearly have something in common when it comes to the way they experienced religion as a child, and it’s some toxic but uber-creative combination of scar tissue and sacredness. I’ll refrain from talking more about Louie, since I haven’t seen the episode for awhile, but allow me to wax somewhat poetic about Kevin and his brain.
Our hockey-jersey-wearing, silent friend Kevin Smith very obviously went to Catholic School as a kid. He learned about the apostles, the angles, the seven deadly sins, the morals, Jesus, all of it, and instead of memorizing the parables like any other boring child, he chose to recast them and rewrite them to fit his modern-day aesthetic. Loki and Bartleby, the two angels who have fallen from grace, are none other than Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, simultaneously best friend superstars and under-the-radar, gum-chewing wreakers of earthly havoc. Chris Rock is Rufus, the scantily-clad 13th Apostle. Jason Lee is Azrael, basically Satan. Salma Hayek is Serendipity. George Carlin is a priest, for dog’s sake. This is how the world should be, and how it will be, so long as we stay inside of Smith’s mind. I think I’d like it there.
Kevin Smith has this much-beloved way of reducing interactions between humans to their very basic, matter-of-fact parts. He doesn’t write frilly dialogue, but it’s not laconic, either (except in the case of his own Silent Bob). He’s like Quentin Tarantino, but without the propensity or necessity for showing off with errant pop culture references. Kevin Smith speaks how we speak, and thinks how we think, and that’s why he’s so great.
It is completely screwed up that there were, supposedly, angels sent to destroy the world and that one person, chosen seemingly at random, was the sole soul who could stop it, should that soul be feeling kindly on that particular day. Smith pokes fun at all the assumptions made in religion, and the coincidences, and the unexplained dalliances, and yet he holds it in a certain reverence, too. After all, if he didn’t care about it so much, or if it hadn’t affected him deeply, he never would have made a movie about it. Dogma is for the doubters and the assured alike. With a takeaway quote like, “You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier,” it’s hard not to have a good long think. Even as you watch the reactions of your new fictional friends as they battle a shit demon.