cjbanning: (St. Thomas)
Putting aside for the moment the question of whether (and, if so, to what degree) it is condemned by scripture, what exactly is the problem with works-righteousness?

Some accounts I’ve read seem to imply that works-righteousness is implicitly Pelagian—that is, that it allows for righteousness (which can always also be translated as either “justice” or “justness”) to be earned either partially or totally independent of grace. (“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. . . .”) Now, to be clear, let me be the first one to stand up against the heresy of Pelagius and to acknowledge that it is only by virtue of the freely-given and unearned grace of God that we are capable of achieving salvation, of being put right with God and with God’s Church. But if we more closely examine the elements underlying the faith/works distinction the question of Pelagianism quickly reveals itself to be a nonissue.

I simply do not see any reason why we should be required to understand works-righteousness as either implicitly or explicitly Pelagian (or at least no more so than already inherent in a theological system under which grace is resistable, e.g. Wesleyanism)—unless we are working with some strange definitions of “works” and “faith” such that works are established a priori to be capable of being performed by a human agent independent of God’s grace, and faith as being something over which the person of faith has no control over or participation in. But I cannot for the life of me understand what would lead us to accept such strange and idiosyncratic definitions in the first place, and see several strong reasons, grounded in experience and scripture, as to why we should reject them.

In his letter to the churches of Galatia, St. Paul asks:
Does God give you the Spirit so freely and works miracles among you because practice the Law, or because you believe what was preached to you?
Here the choice seems to be between two actions capable of being performed by a human agent (that is, essentially between two types of “works”), not between an action and an unearned state of being. In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, St. Paul actually refers to “the work of faith” (unsusprisingly, the NIV opts to translate this as “your work produced by faith”) of the Thessalonians.

Indeed, even under a strictly Calvinist account of sola gratia—in which atonement is limited, election unconditional, and grace irresistible—there doesn’t seem to be any inherent link necessitating sola fide or faith-righteousness. Instead, the two doctrines seem to function completely independently from each other, such that irresistible grace provided to God’s elect would manifest itself (without any cooperating effort on the part of the elected humans) as justifying works rather than (or in addition to) justifying faith.

Of course, I don’t actually agree with the Calvinist that anti-Pelagianism requires grace to be irresistible. But even if we are to stipulate that point, there is still nothing inherently Pelagian about works-righteousness, nor anything inherently anti-Pelagianism about justification by faith.
cjbanning: (Default)
The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Gal. 3:2-5, NRSV)
I want, of course, to respond to Saint Paul’s query with a simple negative, rejecting both horns of the apparent dilemma. It is neither because of my practice of the Mosaic Law (which, of course, I don’t make any claims to keep), nor by my believing any set of truth-claims which may have been preached to the church in Galatia, that God supplies me with the Spirit. Instead, it is a freely-given gift which I have done nothing to earn besides simply being one of God’s children created in the divine image. It is only incumbent upon me to not reject God’s love, as do the fallen angels in the Enochian-Miltonic Satan myth.

I note however, that what both the NRSV and NIV translates as “believing what you heard” the KJV translates as “the hearing of faith,” and this seems to actually be the more literal translation. That which was preached to the churches of Galatia and consequently needs to be received (Greek akoe, hearing) is pistis, faithfulness.

Wikipedia tells me that
many recent studies of the Greek word pistis have concluded that its primary and most common meaning was faithfulness, meaning firm commitment in an interpersonal relationship. As such, the word could be almost synomymous with "obedience" when the people in the relationship held different status levels (e.g. a slave being faithful to [their] master). Far from being equivalent to 'lack of human effort', the word seems to imply and require human effort. The interpretation of Paul's writings that we need to "faithfully" obey God's commands is quite different to one which sees him saying that we need to have "faith" that [God] will do everything for us.
Saint Paul continues:
Just as Abraham "believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you." For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. (Gal. 3:6-9, NRSV)
Since Saint Paul quotes the Hebrew scriptures, it makes sense for us to consider the context of the account of Abraham’s “belief” which is being put forth as a model for us so that we may become blessed with Abraham.
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”

But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” [God] brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then [God] said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:1-6, NRSV)
It is clear from this passage what exactly Abram did that earned him blessedness, and it wasn't hold a specific set of beliefs in God. Instead, Abram simply trusted in God to keep those promises made by God--and God reckoned that trust to be a right and just work.
Similarly, God demonstrates the justice of the Gentiles (that is, God "justifies" them) through their faithfulness and their relationship with God (but not their beliefs about God) rather than their keeping of the Mosaic Code. Galatians 3:11 asserts that the justice of no persons is demonstrated before God by the Mosaic Code; Saint Paul quotes Habakkuk which says,
Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. (2:2-4, NRSV)
The word translated by "faith" in the NRSV is the Hebrew emunah which, like the Greek pistis, means "faithfulness" or "fidelity." NRSV notes also an ambiguity in the way Saint Paul quotes Habakkuh; the Greek translation used by Paul can be translated into English either as "the one who is righteous will live by faith" or as "the one who is righteous through faith will live." While it makes sense that Saint Paul, a learned Jew, would be faithful to the sense found in the original Hebrew source, the added plurality of meaning made possible by the ambiguity is nonetheless interesting.
cjbanning: (Default)
  • One of the Amazon reviewers refers to Tolstoy as being "essentially a liberal postmillennialist, believing in a humanistic method of success to the divine intent for man." Well, I'm a liberal postmillenialist (but not a full preterist, since full preterism is incompatible with the creeds) myself, so that's a point in Tolstoy's favor. I'm not exactly sure what the rest of that sentence, the part after "believing," actually means, though.
  • From Chapter 2:
    The command against fornication they [i.e., the teachers of the Church] do really recognize, and consequently they do not admit that in any case fornication can cease to be wrong. The Church preachers never point out cases in which the command against fornication can be broken, and always teach that we must avoid seductions which lead to temptation to fornication. But not so with the command of non-resistance. All church preachers recognize cases in which that command can be broken, and teach the people accordingly. [. . .] But in connection with the commandment of non-resistance they openly teach that we must not understand it too literally, but that there are conditions and circumstances in which we must do the direct opposite, that is, go to law, fight, punish.
    So since I (and other modern-day Christians who are in some sense or other social liberals) don't think fornication is always wrong, I can get away with not being a pacifist? (Admittedly, I'm not sure how we're defining "fornication" here. But there's a parallel equivocation in Tolstoy over "murder.")
  • From the same chapter:
    And to reply that that is evil which I think evil, in spite of the fact that my opponent thinks it good, is not a solution of the difficulty. There can only be two solutions: either to find a real unquestionable criterion of what is evil or not to resist evil by force.

    The first course has been tried ever since the beginning of historical times, and, as we all know, it has not hitherto led to any successful results.
    This seems to beg the question. That people disagree over what is to be termed evil is not particularly interesting, and indeed indicative of a healthy dialectic. It's true that I believe social conservatism to be evil, and the social conservative thinks the same of social liberalism. But we have a mechanism by which differing opinions on the nature of evil are able to engage with each other such that inferior arguments are placed to rest: it's the dialectic of history.

    Indeed, it's precisely my liberal postmillenialism which leads me to argue that our understanding of evil is improving over history in a way which will result in the final construction of the Kin(g)dom of God. (And note that when I put it that way, Tolstoy thinks that too.) Tolstoy's rejection of the Trinity robs him of the Spirit who, according to the Episcopal catechism, is revealed in the New Covenant "as the Lord who leads us into all truth and enables us to grow in the likeness of Christ." The deuterocanonical book known as the Wisdom of Solomon reminds us that God's "Wisdom guided Her disciples safely though all the tribulations" (11:9); "She rewarded the labors of a holy people and guided them on a wondrous quest" (11:17). (More on this in my essay History and Christ.)

    The notion that we cannot act unless we are 100% certain (and actual philosophical certainty, not just psychological conviction) of the moral rightness of our actions is a reductio ad absurdum in and of itself. Yes, we will err; that's a necessary result of our fallen human nature. But that doesn't free us from the obligation to fight for what we think is right.

cjbanning: (Bowed Head)
I'm constantly amazed at how much so many things I learned in my high school theology classes not only have stuck with me, but actually have become a core component of who I am. One of the most enduring and central of the concepts I learned in high school was of the "two feet of justice": the works of mercy on the one hand (or, well, foot) and social action on the other.

My high school theology textbook Justice and Peace (Harcourt, 2000) begins by telling the story of Who will save the babies? from the Inter-Religious Task Force for Social Analysis. (If you're not familiar with the story, go read it. I'll be here when you come back.) This parable is one I heard not only in my high school theology class but also in sermons at both Ascension and Circle of Hope, because it's very good at making clear what's required in social justice work.

Anyway, the two feet of justice:

The works of mercy are feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and providing other examples of direct aid to those who are in need of it. It treats the symptoms of injustice, with those with power choosing in their freedom to give to those in need. They leave the overarching structures in place, and indeed in many ways act to support those structures, in that they relieve the pressure placed upon the system (a "vent") or can create a dependence upon the largesse of the powerful (making them even more powerful).

Any system which relies on the works of mercy to provide for the needs of human freedom and dignity is fundamentally flawed.

Our system is fundamentally flawed, and thus the works of mercy are crucially necessary, as well as being commanded by Jesus in scripture. 

Social action works to complement the works of mercy by attacking the underlying disease which is injustice through engagement with the social, political, economic, and cultural systems. The U.S. [Roman] Catholic Bishops write, "Our Lord’s example and words [. . .] require action on a broader scale in defence of life, in pursuit of peace, in support of the common good, and in opposition to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Such action involves the institutions and structures of society, economy, and politics.” This vision of justice, then, is at odds with isolationist or exilic understandings of the mission of the Church (such as that undertaken by several historic peace churches, including the Anabaptists). It is absolutely in conflict with the following vision of Tolstoy, from our book club book The Kingdom of God is Within You (link is to the full text of the public domain translation used in book club),  describing Helchitsky (whoever that may be):
Helchitsky's fundamental idea is that Christianity, by allying itself with temporal power in the days of Constantine, and by continuing to develop in such conditions, has become completely distorted, and has ceased to be Christian altogether. Helchitsky gave the title The Net of Faith to his book, taking as his motto the verse of the Gospel about the calling of the disciples to be fishers of men [sic]; and, developing this metaphor, he says:
"Christ, by means of his disciples, would have caught all the world in his net of faith, but the greater fishes broke the net and escaped out of it, and all the rest have slipped through the holes made by the greater fishes, so that the net has remained quite empty. The greater fishes who broke the net are the rulers, emperors, popes, kings, who have not renounced power, and instead of true Christianity have put on what is simply a mask of it."
Helchitsky teaches precisely what has been and is taught in these days by the non-resistant Mennonites and Quakers, and in former tunes by the Bogomilites, Paulicians, and many others. He teaches that Christianity, expecting from its adherents gentleness, meekness, peaceableness, forgiveness of injuries, turning the other cheek when one is struck, and love for enemies, is inconsistent with the use of force, which is an indispensable condition of authority.

The Christian, according to Helchitsky's reasoning, not only cannot be a ruler or a soldier; he [sic] cannot take any part in government nor in trade, or even be a landowner; he [sic] can only be an artisan or a husbandman [sic].
The underlying assumption in this account that is liberal democracy (and, indeed, every other potential form of political governance) is fundamentally incapable of allowing for the flourishing of human freedom and dignity, because it utilizes violence (e.g., in its police force).

I think the flaw here is that Tolstoy and Helchitsky are actually using a far too narrow definition of "violence," where violence is understood only as physical force or the threat thereof, which discounts the ways in which poverty, hunger, sexism, racism, and homophobia all act as a species of social and cultural violence. (And, indeed, the where the threat of physical violence ends and social and cultural violence begins is far from clear, as anyone who has been bullied in high school can tell you.) Furthermore, they are forms of violence which are far more destructive to human freedom and dignity that can be any knife or gun, bullet or bomb.

The parent teaching their child about the life of Jesus Christ is perpetuating a sort of propagandizing violence, but one which would presumably remain appropriate within Tolstoy's dream anarchy. The social perpetuation of values in this soi-disant "anarchy" then, would still necessarily constitute a form of violence, because these sorts of institutions represent the ways that humans necessarily interact with each other: through language, through ritual, through culture.

My high school theology textbook draws a distinction between "graced social structures" and "sinful social structures." Graced structures, it tells me, "encourage and strengthen life, dignity, and the development of the community" (p. 73). (Sinful structures discourage those things.) This seems to me a much more useful way of approaching the project of social justice than violent vs. non-violent or governmental versus non-governmental. "Taxation," my theology textbook says, "can be structured in ways that either promote community and care or facilitate selfishness and greed."

Rather than refusing to engage with the socio-politcal economy of the secular world, social action seeks to destabilize sinful social structures through full engagement. 
cjbanning: (Default)
In The NeverEnding Story III: Return to Fantasia, Bastian is given a stepsister, Nicole, played by Melody Kay. Bastian is thus positioned within two major heterosexual pairings—one with the Empress (here played by Julie Cox), one with his stepsister—but only one of these pairings is properly reproductive, and that one, not accidently, is sexlessly so. (Although not nearly so much so as with Tami Stronach's Empress in the first film. Julie Cox's portrayal is only a hair's breadth from downright coquettish; she practically flutters her eyes when Bastian enters the Crystal Cave and remarks, "The Auryn has sent me a hero.")

The other is incestuous. The desire for completion which in psychoanalytic schema like Edelman's lies at the root of heterosexual desire manifests itself not as the desire for a mate, but for a sibling. "All his life," Bastian reads about himself in The Neverending Story, "Bastian wanted a sister or a brother, to share his dreams and confide in his secrets. Now, at last, he would have one."

It is Bastian's stepsister, Nicole, still coping with the reality of her parents' divorce (and now her mother's remarriage), who assumes the rôle of synthomosexual. Thus, in this third film the figures of the Child and the synthomosexual are set up against each other. Nicole refuses at first to embrace the futurist vision of her mother's remarriage: "They are not my family and this is not their house." Nor does she find anything commendable about her new brother's taste for the fantastic: "Spare me this New Age nonsense," she says. Even when she is forced to accept, on the evidence of her senses, the existence of magic, she does not automatically subscribe to the futurist vision of her brother and the Childlike Empress. Instead, she uses the omnipotent Auryn, which she stole from her brother thinking it was only an attractive piece of jewelry, to go on a shopping spree.

This prompts the following exchange in Fantasia, explicitly setting up the two girls as foils:
EMPRESS: You know something? In all the time I've been Empress, it never occurred to me to go shopping with the Auryn.

OLD MAN: Well, that's because you serve a higher purpose, my Empress.

EMPRESS: (vaguely disappointed) Oh.
For the Childlike Empress, the Auryn's powers must be always used in service of the "higher purpose" of reproductive futurism, but the synthomosexual Nicole subverts this purpose by using the Auryn for her own satisfaction in the present. As Nicole usurps the position of the Childlike Empress in terms of effective power by taking the Auryn, she also does so in terms of the girls' relationship with Bastian, transferring his cathective relationship with the Empress and Fantasia to their "real world," unprocreative brother-sister relationship. (Of course, since Bastian and Nicole are not biological siblings, the impossibility of procreation is itself fantasmic, forbidden only--but crucially--on the level of the symbolic.) "I want you to be my brother," she begs Bastian at the climax of the film in a rainy alley, inspiring him to face the Nasties and save the day. If they were not written as stepsiblings, this is the moment in the film where they would have kissed (and I always not-so-secretly want them to do so).

If Bastian's cathexis towards his stepsister takes on, as I am arguing and as arguably all cathexis must, sexual overtones (strictly speaking, cathexis is the more primitive understanding, the one in terms of which sexual desire must be explained; however, as cathective behavior manifests itself sexually, all cathexis becomes sexualized), it becomes what Edelman calls "the place where sexuality and the force of the death drive overlap":
In this they bespeak what regimes of normativity, of sexual meaningfulness, disavow: the antisocial bent of sexuality as such, acknowledged, and then as pathology, only in those who are bent themselves. (143)
The pathology that Edelman is thinking of here is of course homosexuality, but incest—as antisocial (and in this case) heterosexual sexuality—works at least as well. (Of course, to a less-abstract queer theoretic perspective than Edelman's, this appropriation of the queer on the part of heterosexuality would be noteworthy. On the other hand, simply in terms of psychoanalytic transgression, it seems to be the case that incest is even more queer than homosexuality itself.)

The purity of Fantasia itself, almost as if in response, is warped and mangled in the third film. The fantastic creatures make references to the human world utilizing knowledge they shouldn't have, casually mentioning commercial airplanes, Las Vegas, and Arnold Schwarzenegger; listen to rock music (the pun involving the rockbiter is downright painful); and even watch television. The metaphysics of The Neverending Story are twisted beyond comprehension to serve the purposes of the plot. Even the Empress herself is compromised: the regal innocence of 11-year old Tami Stronach's Empress is replaced by the Empress portrayed by 21-year-old (yes, you read that right--and you can imagine that I felt a lot less guilty about thinking the Childlike Empress was hot once I found this out) Julie Cox, less the solemn ruler and more a willful Valley Girl with a British accent. The fetishistic purity of both the Empress and her imaginary empire is thus revealed to be ultimately, and necessarily, unstable.

This breakdown is exacerbated by events within the (meta)text itself, as a third nihilistic force, this time known as "the Nasty" and controlled by a gang of juvenile delinquents (led by Jack Black and known as "the Nasties") in the (diegetic) human world, and who have gained possession of The Neverending Story, engulfs Fantasia, causing all of its inhabitants to "act crazy," overwhelmed by aggression. What little solemnity this Fantasia had is now lost, and the Empress and her courtiers set upon each other, taunting each other like toddlers.

The Nasty even interferes with the very mechanism of The Neverending Story itself, spilling out beyond the parameters that nihilistic forces were, paradoxically, kept within in the previous two films. The film opens with an old man hunched in front of a book, reading it out loud as words magically appear on its pages, informing both him and the viewer of the metaphysical nature of the Nasty:
The mountains of destiny mark the highest point in all of Fantasia. It is here in a hidden crystal cave that the Old Man of Wandering Mountain records The Neverending Story. [. . .] There will be a day when the recording stylus will start to act strangely, making it increasingly difficult to record the Neverending Story. This is a sign that the Nasty is on the way, an evil force that first takes hold in young humans when they turn away from books and reading.
But already the stylus' strange behavior has become evident, so that this moment, like that of the film, not only represents a rupture, but exists as one.

At the end of film, of course, the necessary futurist logic ultimately takes its inevitable course: the Nasty is fought back, the Nasties are transformed by the Auryn's magic into preppy nerds (the consent issues of which are never addressed), and everyone lives happily ever after. In a sense, however, the damage has been done, as this film admits what the previous two had only implied: this "happily ever after" is purchased only with the complete defeat of the imaginary over the real, whereas within this now-hybrid world, Bastian's cathexis has been successfully transferred from the imaginary Empress to his very real sister. The need for imagination qua imagination has been eliminated; magic is now valued only for its ability to affect the human world, that which was but is no longer the "real" world. Nicole is never forced to meaningfully abandon her synthomosexuality.
cjbanning: (Default)

In my last post, I used Lee Edelman's notion of "reproductive futurism" as an example of a type of hegemonic social structure, and Edelman's queer antifuturism as an example of the sort of theories of radical negativity which seek to oppose such hegemony. One of my favorite examples of how reproductive futurism works in a fictional text is also one of my favorite movies: the 1983 film The NeverEnding Story, directed by Wolfgang Petersen and based on the first half or so of the novel by Michael Ende. (For a, ahem, creative summary of the events of the movie, check out this recap by a hobo-ified Nostalgia Critic).

In the film, Bastian Balthazar Bux (Barret Oliver) is a young boy with an active imagination who has just lost his mother. He has gotten in trouble at school as a result of his overactive imagination, and his father (Gerald McRaney), also reeling from grief at the loss of his wife, reprimands him, acting as the figure of what Edelman calls the synthomosexual: one who "den[ies] the appeal of fantasy" (35). "Stop daydreaming," Mr. Bux implores his son. "Start facing your problems."

Bastian's father becomes if not the villain of the story then the "heavy," as the Sherman brothers call Mr. Banks in the Mary Poppins movie—and it is precisely this sort of figure which Edelman wishes to reclaim: "why not," he asks, "acknowledge our kinship at last with the Scrooge who, unregenerate, refuses the social imperative to grasp futurity in the form of the Child[. . .]?" (49). Bastian's father, focused on the reality of death, is thus able to provide a corrective to the futurism which attempts to mask it.

Bastian steals a book called The Neverending Story from Coriander's Book Shop and cuts school in order to read it. In it, he finds a tale of a land called Fantasia which is ravaged by the destructive Nothing. (Roger Ebert asks, "Were children's movies this nihilistic in the old days?") Here, the force which resists the impulse to reproductive futurism—the psychoanalytic death drive which "names what the queer, in the order of the social, is called forth to figure: the negativity opposed to every form of social viability"—is evoked. Indeed, this force is not merely evocative of the death drive but is actually a result of it, as it is revealed later that the Nothing gains its destructive power from events in the "real" world, where people like Bastian's father have ceased to dream. This force (and the two other like it which will appear in the next two films), powered by realism, is exactly what Edelman is extolling.

The land is ruled by a Childlike Empress (Tami Stronach) who, in true Grail King fashion, is taken by mortal sickness as her kingdom is slowly extinguished by the Nothing. Edelman notes the rôle of the "image of the Child" in our collective myth: "this fantasmic Child" represents the future for whose sake we forsake the present (9). The Childlike Empress of Fantasia fills this rôle by ruling over, and on some level having identity with, a land which is acknowledged to be imaginary, one populated completely by desires and wishes, and thus exists within a reproductive future which is forever separated (other than through the vehicle of the magical book) from the "real" present. The Empress, like the other Child-figures Edelman discusses such as the orphan Annie or the "waif" from Les Miserables, focuses our concern onto an adorable prepubescent. Indeed, even once all Fantasia (with the exception of a single grain of sand) is consumed by the Nothing, hope is not lost as long as the Childlike Empress survives.

Or, perhaps, it would be more accurate to put it the other way: since Fantasia exists parasitically off of the imagination of humans, the Childlike Empress survives as long as hope is not lost. The NeverEnding Story makes explicit Edelman's insight that "[t]he pleasurable fantasy of survival [. . .] requires therefore, more than anything else, the survival of a fantasy" (45). For Edelman, the immortal, eternally-young Empress would be "always already dead, mortified into a fetish animated only by the collective fantasy (48).

Aongside a cast of sympathetic, often comedic fantastic creatures—a racing snail, a rock-biter, a luck dragon—Fantasia is populated as well by synthomosexuals. There is Morla, the ancient one, whose response to Fantasia's dying is utter apathy: "We don't even care whether we care." And there is Gmork, the panther-like creature of darkness who actively seeks to allow the Nothing to destroy Fantasia, "because people who have no hope are easy to control. And whoever has control . . . has the power." Gmork represents, on the level of the imaginary, the perfect counterpoint to the Childlike Empress: if she is what we almost instinctively seek to preserve without fear, then he, no less a fetish or perhaps the direct opposite of one, is what we fear no less unthinkingly.

The boy-hero Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) sets off on a set of ultimately arbitrary storybook quests in order to defeat the Nothing, but it is ultimately revealed that only Bastian, from his position outside the story, can save Fantasia. He can do this, he finds out to his amazement, only by giving a new name to the Childlike Empress. He does so, shouting out the name of his mother, "Moonchild," and finds himself in darkness with the Empress, who solemnly informs him that all that is left of her kingdom is a single grain of sand. Bastian takes this grain of sand and, by injecting it with the vitality of imagination, is able to create a "new" Fantasia:
BASTIAN: Then everything has been in vain.

EMPRESS: No, it hasn't. Fantasia can rise anew from your dreams and wishes, Bastian.


EMPRESS: Open your hand. (The empress puts the grain of sand in his palm, then smiles.) What are you going to wish for?

BASTIAN: I don't know.

EMPRESS: Then there will be no Fantasia anymore.

BASTIAN: How many wishes do I get?

EMPRESS: As many as you want. And the more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become.

BASTIAN: Really?

EMPRESS: Try it.
Bastian makes his wish, and soon he is flying on the back of Falcor the luck dragon over the newly restored Fantasia, "even more beautiful than before."

The first NeverEnding Story film, then, while ostensibly a fairy tale for children, is at its heart a heteronormative parable of sexual intercourse and procreation. "Imagination," as a "creative" force which the film so powerfully advocates, serves as little more than thinly-disguised reproductive futurism.
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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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