On the surface, I have to admit: this is a hard question. Both are examples of work based on a canonical source. In neither case is there evidence for the truth of the original source material. People are able to take it in any direction they like, taking trivial details out of context and basing entire explanations off of them, posing deepities, projecting their fears, hopes, hates or loves onto source material that may actually directly oppose what it is twisted to say. In some cases this is an improvement over canon.
The communities are much the same, as well. In defending their belief that Mary/Jesus, Luna/Hermione or Starscream/Megatron are the best pairings, they will snipe at each other bitterly. The groups grow in numbers and volume or fade away not based on the strength of arguments but depth of feeling and desire for community.
Sometimes particularly clever or charismatic individuals come up with such popular ideas that, despite contradicting canon, they are widely adopted and accepted, becoming fanon. Such as Jesus and Mohammed did with the canon of Judaism. And just as fanfiction writers may gain large followings and imitate the authors of canon, so too do others imitate the fanon authors, as Joseph Smith did when he created his own fanon.
I understand some may be outraged by this comparison. I may get nasty emails from people asking me what I have against fanfiction and fanon and damning me to an eternity without the All Spark, with some of them threatening to send me to such an eternity… actually no.
Because the main difference between fanfiction and theology is that most writers of the former know the difference between fantasy and reality, even if they sometimes prefer the former. And knowing that difference, they are less likely to excuse or encourage harming people over disagreements regarding fanfiction, fanon, or the canon that preceded.
And I consider that to be a point in favor of fanfiction, thank you. So, since I’m on the side of fanfiction in this contest, here is my contribution:
All I have to write on are these winding cloths. I love my Father, but he sometimes has an inconvenient sense of humor.
“Lord, the one you love is sick.” Mary and Martha. Such sweethearts, and smarter than any of the men who might end up with their dowry, but against that serpent’s tongue… That trickster must have been working on them for months. While I was working with the goats or healing people, unseen.
I tried to keep them from him, but he was so much smoother than I could ever be. How could the humility my Father gave to me match the pride, the overweening arrogance of someone like him? Someone who could speak to multitudes, who could do his dark magics plainly to heal, no matter what the other consequences would be, and be rewarded with praise and adulation and followers?
I can’t match that. Well, I could. Without even snapping my fingers. But it would defeat the purpose. I can’t be the hero. I can’t have fame any more than I can have riches or the joys of marriage. I can’t even protect those I love. My Father put me here for one purpose, and one alone. To feel every kind of pain suffered by mankind. To know that was the price to save them. And to go through it willingly, without any reservation in my mind. The Romans would say heart. So would the Elders. But I know better. It is part of the suffering. I know everything about creation’s past. I know when people misinterpret the bible. And I can’t correct them. I can’t even be smug about knowing more. I was just handed the knowledge without the ability to use it… it’s depressing.
And now? After I died; a long lingering painful death by illness, after I had gone through all the trials I had known my Father required, that snake brought me back to continue on going through all the pain and suffering this world can dish out. He thought I wouldn’t be able to take it a second time. But I will. I have to. Even though I’m stranded here and the easy way out is looking tempting… no. The goal is too important.
Well. I was a good brother. I was a good son. But do they know that? Do they think I abandoned them when I left to quietly and secretly end the plague caused by the Other and his mucking about with pigs? I am going to starve here. With the scent of swine in my nostrils, and I don’t even know if Mary and Martha love me more than him.
And he realized that part of the pain that his Father had needed him to feel was this: not knowing if your name would be remembered at all, or if it was, whether it would just be a footnote in someone else’s story.