This week Modern Relics got a writeup in Insights magazine, a publication run by the Uniting Church Synod of NSW & ACT. Editor Jonathan Foye asked me how this newsletter came about and my thought process behind it.
Welcome to those who have found Modern Relics via that article! If you haven’t already, please subscribe - it’s free.
This week I have a longer main article than usual, plus some memes to make up for it in case the main one isn’t really your thing lol.
Warhammer 40k’s grimdark morality
It was only a matter of time before I wrote about Warhammer 40,000.
To those unfamiliar, it’s a miniature tabletop war game published by Games Workshop. It is very, very nerdy, but like lots of nerdy things right now, it has literally never been more popular (check out that share price).
Basically every faction in the game is steeped in religious imagery, from the Tech-Priests of Mars to the fanatical Chaos cultists to the Hindu-influenced Aeldari god of the dead, Ynnead. The associated stories incorporate metaphysics that’s part sci-fi, part superstition - gods are created by the psychic power of mortals’ fervent beliefs and emotions.
It’s extremely stupid, but very fun. Clearly Modern Relics territory. To justify all the in-game war needed to play the tabletop game, GW has made its setting a nightmare dystopia, in contrast to the more optimistic sci-fi that came out around its release in the 1970s.
For example, the human faction, the Imperium of Man, is like an extreme British Empire which is fascist, theocratic and speaks extremely mangled Latin. But much of the lore is narrated by the Imperium who frame themselves as the heroes - given the current political climate, that’s causing problems.
This isn’t new. According to KYM, the God Emperor Trump meme has been around since at least 2015 and has been repeated offline by far right activist Milo Yiannopoulos.
As former GW freelancer Thomas Parrott told Vice:
“It is really easy to misinterpret the Imperium [of Man] as being presented as a ‘good thing’, as opposed to what it originally was, which was lampooning the very idea of this totalitarian state.”
According to Games Workshop, “certain real-world hate groups” have taken the Imperium of Man’s example as an aspiration rather than a warning, releasing a statement titled, “The Imperium Is Driven by Hate. Warhammer Is Not”, likely in response to players showing up to a Spanish tournament wearing Nazi swastikas.
The Imperium of Man stands as a cautionary tale of what could happen should the very worst of Humanity’s lust for power and extreme, unyielding xenophobia set in. Like so many aspects of Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man is satirical. (emphasis theirs)
Tom Hatfield @WordMercenaryI've been analysing these themes for years and they just... tweeted it out https://t.co/DuE2oMaMOh https://t.co/aQC2t5B8Mq
It opens up an interesting ethical question about using an unreliable narrator, particularly for content aimed at children and young adults - the show Rick and Morty has this same problem. I’ve been listening to Jamie Loftus’ Lolita Podcast, which explores the consequences when readers of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita take its deceptive narrator Humbert Humbert at his word.
Warhammer 40K YouTuber Auspex Tactics has all the details, and acknowledges that some viewers “just don’t want politics of any sort mixed up in their hobby”. But that strikes me as strange when the hobby is an explicitly politically charged text - either as satire of right-wing and religious extremism or as an unintentional endorsement of such.
A Two Popes tweet
Twitter Spaces Quran recitation
In the last month, Twitter opened up its Spaces feature - which is like a big audio-only chat room - to all users. We’re already seeing some interesting uses of it - on my feed there’s a group of gay Christians who host a daily theological discussion.
There’s also been a Quran recitation that attracted thousands of listeners, which is cool, but it also caused this incongruous situation to come up on more than one person’s feed.
It briefly became a meme. This was my favourite one:
Which logo is better?
The Free Methodist Church USA got a new logo, and Twitter users started making… helpful suggestions on how to make it better.
In true church fashion, the papyrus font was popular with one user.
User @hist0rified, who describes himself as “just a leftist who wants to grill”, said it was “Bad. It’s boring,” and “I’m going to log onto Canva right now and make a better one.” This is what he came up with:
Quote tweets of his post actually got way more engagement than the official logo announcement tweet by a fair way so I guess the Free Methodists have to change their logo to his one now that’s it that’s the rules.
Sorry if this is huffing my own farts but I tried to use Mario characters to explain how Christian denominations are related to each other