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Thursday, August 31, 2006


Commentary: "Nuns with Guns" - A 'Textual' Interpretation

"Nuns with Guns" - A 'Textual' Interpretation
Nuns with Guns
It has come to my attention that the "Nuns with Guns" photograph pictured here may be viewed as offensive by some practitioners of the Catholic religion. I couldn't disagree more, and in this Commentary I intend to explain why.

Let me first say that I view this picture as portraying a positive role for Catholics and their role in God's redemptive process. The caption at to foot of the picture sets the tone of the message being communicated: The 'virgins' conceived by Muslims are juxtaposed with the chastity of Catholic nuns. This functions to link the (distorted) theology of Islam with the (true) theology of Christianity and the Catholic church. In this sense, the caption and the picture work together as a 'lens' to correct the demonically-induced distortion perpetrated on Muslim believers.

Turning to the visual elements of this picture, an immediate incongruity in detected between the concepts of 'nuns' and 'guns'. Guns are weapons of physical warfare, typically used by males of the warrior-type. Nuns, in contrast, are by definition female, and engaged in peace-making, charity, and caring for the poor and afflicted. So what is the purpose of putting guns in the hands of nuns? The guns function not as a symbol of physical power and earthly warfare, but instead represent visually (by use of a familiar object) the spiritual power that nuns assert in their roles in the war against the corruption of sin and evil.

Thus the nuns pictured, as the brides of Christ Jesus, bringer of ultimate redemption, are portrayed as having a crucial and powerful position in the spiritual warfare of God's redemptive process.

In conclusion, let me note that I do recognize how a superficial glance at this picture might be suggestive of many negative comparisons: Humble and chaste Catholic nuns being depicted with vile instruments of violence, labeled as 'virgins' (a word that comes attached with particularly strong intensional meanings). Hopefully I have been able to convince you, dear reader, that digging beneath the surface and engaging in an extensionally-based process of meaning-making can be productive in getting at deeper levels of meaning.

The terms intensional and extensional come from Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics. For more information, see here and here.

(Photo courtesy Michael Savage - origins unknown.)

(Originally Posted: 8/17/2006 @ 1:30PM)


very clear and educated answer
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