My second reading response for my English composition class was a response to Linh Kieu Ngo’s ‘Cannibalism: It Still Exists’. Ngo wrote an essay about the three types of cannibalism and having just learned about the history of the Catholic church in art history class I was fascinated by the idea that cannibalism may not be such a foreign concept after all.
In Remembrance of Me: Exploring Metaphorical Cannibalism in Our Belief Systems
From brain eating zombies in Night of the Living Dead to apocalyptic hunting and gathering of humans in The Road, popular culture depicts cannibalism as an act of the depraved and forsaken. Even as an act of survival, very few of us can imagine resorting to such behavior, let alone appreciate how it could be a part of a social ritual or a dietary choice. I could argue that there are ritual practices in our religious belief systems that evoke the spirit of cannibalism.
The Catholic belief in celebrating mass was inspired by the New Testament story of the last supper. The Fourth Lateran Council used the word ‘transubstantiation’ to describe the transformation of bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood. This is not merely symbolic. The idea that the presence is ‘real’ has caused numerous debates and re-wording of the doctrine since the first consecrate host was served. I am not calling members of the Catholic faith cannibals; I am suggesting the concept really is not all that foreign in North America.
Our personal belief systems do not tend to sit on fences. We live in the information age and can find any number of ideas to back our side of the argument. But we need more than ‘facts’. We want a tribe and a story to wrap around our beliefs. Whether it is a church congregation celebrating mass or a pop culture call to action that removes the word merlot from our lips such as in the movie Sideways; we want to belong to the group that supports our belief regardless of how we arrived at that particular view.
Our values shape our worldview and let us pick a side to be on. Beliefs, however are not carved in stone, they change as we gain knowledge and wisdom. I have never had communion, but I do appreciate the ritual. My belief system will not let me believe we can turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but I have however seen water turn into beer.