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August 17 2006

The Unitarian Slayer. Fascinating Unitarian course on Buffy that ran from September 2005 to February of this year. It may be over but there's food for thought from the questions that arose from each week's session (via ChurchOfJoss).

This is very cool - I really enjoyed Jana Riess's book and this site goes off in some new directions.
The title of the class is intriguing, but it makes me laugh: Garrison Keillor might ask, on seeing the headline, does this mean that there exists someone who is actually so crude as to slay Unitarians, or Unitarianism as a faith system or philosophy? Unitarians would *never* hurt you. Why do you even contemplate hurting them? "Unitarian Slayer." That's terrible!

[ edited by shinygroovyj on 2006-08-17 23:53 ]
Bwahaha, shinygroovy.

This is just...neat. I would love to participate in a discussion such as this one.
"While the stories are based on fantasy, Buffy always stays true to emotional and moral realism, and the series draws from many religions and philosophies."

Exactly. My wife and I are rather conservative Catholics, and we see SO much in Buffy that coincides with and questions our beliefs, it's amazing. It's beautiful and exciting and exhilirating.

We have utterly no reservations about recommending (actually, forcing on) Catholic friends to watch, and gain by watching, Buffy.
Chris, I'm a liberal Episcopalian (some would say that's an oxymoran)and I also agree with that comment. Which says a lot about the show.

I'm visualizing world peace through Buffy.
Wow. Y'all are talking about me in the chatty rooms!

I wrote this course and did the web site. This was to have been the second run of the course, but it never got off the ground due to insufficient publicity. (Plus the fact that it's hard to get Unitarians to agree to anything.)

However, the first run of the course a year earlier was quite successful. Some of us still meet to watch and discuss Buffy!

By the way, shinygroovyj, Garrison Keillor is a Unitarian. He knows very well how to make fun of us!
My wife and I are rather conservative Catholics, and we see SO much in Buffy that coincides with and questions our beliefs, it's amazing. It's beautiful and exciting and exhilirating.

Well said Chris. I feel the same way! I was raised Catholic, and while I don't attend services anymore I still respect and try to live by the basic values it promotes. I was shocked when I learned Whedon was an avid atheist because so many of the things the series promotes lines up with much of what the Catholic faith espouses. It just goes to prove that the Buffy premise of facing the consequences of your actions is something that relates with everyone, religious or not.
I think it goes beyond simply facing the consequences of your actions. The moral structure of the Buffyverse (and the Firefly-verse) goes well beyond that. The question of good and evil is not simply a matter of consequences, nor is it an issue of whether you get caught. I'm in awe of the way Joss handles moral complexity without ever sinking into relativism. It is particularly evident in the many characters who struggle for redemption, or who turn away from facing their own darker sides.

It's also rather amazing the way he does all this without either relying on any established religious framework, or trashing any particular religious belief. Buffy can tell Holden Webster that there's no word on whether God exists; vampires can mock God at every opportunity; but when Riley puts on a suit and goes to church, that's treated with a quiet dignity (in amongst the slayage, the slug-fest between Buffy and Faith, and Giles waxing hysterical about tiny babies being held captive in the church).

It's fascinating that the PTB, as well as the "lower beings" such as D'Hoffryn, are depicted to some extent as one would view the debauchery, jealousy, and bickering of the Greek pantheon, while humans — who are left on their own, pretty much — struggle to establish a moral structure that does not depend on the divine or the mystical.

In Unitarian terminology, Joss comes across as a "religious humanist," someone who has a strong connection to the spiritual nature of life, without embedding that connection in any religious structure. That's very different from suggesting that there's no "belief structure" because there clearly is a deep moral structure that underlies characters from Buffy to Angel to Mal to Shepherd Book.
I'm involved in BtVS seasonal discussions on several boards and would love to participate in a group that delves into the religious/moral/spiritual side of Buffy.
I'm teaching a "Religion in America" course this fall, and I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate some of this. Great link!
MissKittysMom, I fully agree with you and was just trying to say that, on a basic fundamental level, one of the things that first made me love the show was its morality and how characters often have to suffer the consequences of their actions, which is all too rare in modern media. :)
Gosh darnit! My girlfriend's brother just moved to California from North Carolina. Too bad she didn't leave him there just a little longer.

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