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October 30th, 2006

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10:31 am - CSI and spirituality, part 2
Long ago, on November 22, 2004, I made a post exploring the place (or lack of it) of spirituality in CSI and Stargate SG-1. (Here, for comparison: Must We Explain the Supernatural?)

This is sort of a follow-up post, because the most recent new episode of CSI tackled religion (if not any actual supernatural events) in a way that provoked some actual discussions about faith and science from a couple of our characters.

In my earlier post, I stated that Sara and Nick seemed to the CSIs who were the most open to "extreme possibilities" (the presence of a spirit, spontaneous combustion, urban legends). Grissom, on the other hand, is the voice of hard science when one of his team starts to assume otherwise. A case-in-point for both of these facts is a brief scene in which Sara brings up the supernatural plot of The Turn of the Screw. "It's a mystery," she maintains. "Did the governess kill the boy, or did the ghost do it?"

"It's only a mystery if you believe in ghosts," is Grissom's reponse.

Prior to this episode, these hints are pretty much all we knew about the characters' reponses to faith and the supernatural. Grissom was raised Catholic, but no longer practices ("Altar Boys"), although he says he believes in God; Nick has some knowledge of Scripture ("Crow's Feet"), and my guess would be that our Texan boy was raised Baptist or something similar.

"Double-Cross" (this show needs to get an award for Most Punny Titles) features a woman murdered by being tied to a cross and hung from the ceiling of a local Catholic church. [And before I get into the character stuff, let me just note two things: Grissom and Doc Robbins discuss the details of crucifiction and they get them right; and the character of the priest was handled very well, I thought.]

Sara and Grissom have a discussion about faith and science, early on, as they're going over the woman's body for trace evidence. Grissom opens up much more than he usually does, and admits that although he doesn't believe in Catholicism anymore, he does still believe in God, and thinks that faith is an important part of being human. I can't find any transcripts of the episode, which is frustrating, because I wanted an exact quote here. Grissom phrases this in a way that makes me think he actually still makes use of some of the trappings of Catholicism--such as the rosary--to connect with faith.

[ETA the quote I was looking for, found by tammy:
Grissom: I'm not really a Catholic any more, you know. I suppose I practice a kind of secular Catholocism that involves ritualizing certain aspects of everyday life, and then viewing them with a spiritual intensity they might not otherwise possess. But, I don't want to put too fine a point on it. (Sara smirks, Grissom takes out rosary beads)
Sara: And rosary beads are apart of that.
Grissom: This belonged to my mother.]

Sara, very plausibly, thinks that humans may have completely made God up, to handle things we can't control or understand. Science is all she needs to believe in. At this point, Grissom observes something on the body and *runs* out of the room, leaving Sara to stew in whether she offended him or not until he returns with his mother's old rosary to confirm that the pattern of beads matches the marks on the woman's neck.

So, whether Sara is open to extreme possibilities or not, she doesn't seem to have much patience for religion. Science is her religion; and given how the character has been set up over the last 6 years, that feels very realistic to me. We've just never heard her say it till now. (Also, it makes me wonder if she's picked up some of this stance from Grissom: from what she's heard him say, whatever his actual beliefs are.)

Grissom's comments, on the other hand, unsettled me a little. They seemed a little out of sych with the sola scientia (if I may be permitted the ill-phrased Latin) student of the world that he has been presented as. Is this really a deeper look into Grissom's beliefs, or a writerly ret-con for purposes of this episode?

Three episodes have always defined Grissom for me: "Bully For You," in which Grissom admits to having been a "ghost" in high school; "Altar Boys," in which we discover his Catholic background and the fact that he still believes in God and still carries that sense of guilt around with him; and "Slaves of Las Vegas."

In "Slaves," Lady Heather serves Grissom high tea in her dominion, and explains to him why she chose that: Grissom sees the worst of humanity in his job, and as a result, he loves civility, ceremony, and ritual. This is one of the few moments in the series where someone has as deep an insight into Grissom as he usually has into others, and it's always fascinated me.

It's because of this last one that I find myself willing to accept Grissom's connection to his Catholic roots as an actual part of the character rather than a ret-con. This need and preference for ceremony, for ritual, completely reconciles me to the idea of Grissom sitting in his office telling off prayers on his mother's rosary. Not because he really believes, but because he finds solace in at least making the attempt, participating in some way in what approaches his definition of worship.

I must continue to ponder this.

I realize this isn't quite an essay--just a collection of thoughts. Feel free to ask more questions or add to the thoughts!
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(7 lit candles | Light a candle)


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:October 30th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Ah, lovely, thank you! (Did you find this online, or did you transcribe it for me? If it's the latter, I totally owe you a favor. *g*)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:October 30th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
It really was quite an episode, wasn't it?

It was that. It's almost as if the writers, this year, are determined to completely restore my faith in this show's quality. :-D (We'll see if that lasts over the weeks without Grissom. I'm not looking forward to January.)

CSI is rather chock full of theological and spiritual themes.

Yeah, when I actually started looking, I was amazed at how often such things are mentioned in passing or touched on by characters, though "Double-Cross" has to be the most blatant of any episode of series.
[User Picture]
Date:October 30th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC)
I had one small problem with the episode, but it wasn’t characterization. It was the thought of somebody being strangled with a rosary. Rosary chains are designed strictly for the purpose of holding the beads together, not for lateral stress; they’re just not that kind of sturdy. The writers may have gotten the physical facts of crucifixion straight, but that one point yanked me right out of the story.
[User Picture]
Date:October 30th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC)
Rosary chains are designed strictly for the purpose of holding the beads together, not for lateral stress; they’re just not that kind of sturdy.

They're not? Mmm, I suppose the writers were thinking of them as necklaces, many of which would break under such pressure, but some of which would not. Never having owned a rosary, that detail slipped past lil' old Protestant me. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:October 31st, 2006 01:49 pm (UTC)
I miss CSI...

and you're right about SG-1, it'd be fascinating for them to really get into the ascended stuff or mention the idea of God or faith in a 'non-you must be uneducated' way...

p.s. someone with the last name Tapping bought a ticket from me yesterday and I almost asked if she was related to Amanda... except she looking nothing like her and I felt silly so I didn't.
[User Picture]
Date:October 31st, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC)
she LOOKED, not looking. Wow...
[User Picture]
Date:October 31st, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
Re: CSI: this season rocks so far. At some point I will make sure you see it. (When you move down here, whenever that may be, there is always Netflix. *g*)

I wrote that stuff about SG-1 when I was near the end of 1st season...and they still haven't gone there. *sigh*

Hah! I wonder if they were related. How cool would that be? :-)

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