Friday, April 18, 2014

The Catholic Church and Me

So this Easter will mark the seventh anniversary of our entrance into the Catholic Church.  It was at the Easter Vigil, 2006.  That's the night before Easter for those who don't know.  It was pretty special.  I was working for a lay apostolate that focuses, at least ostensibly, on helping Protestant ministers enter the Catholic Church.  I just started a couple months before.  We had just come off a string of months consisting of one disaster after another.  We lost a hunk of our savings (a portent of things to come), mostly due to my wife's dismissal from a Christian school because of our decision to become Catholic.

A series of mishaps followed, including a bad car accident which, unfortunately, my wife caused.  Our only working car lost, her job lost, me just struggling to replace my own ministry vocation had caused us to be at the finical breaking point.  Or so it seemed.

Then, suddenly, I was offered a job with that apostolate, and my wife got a full time job with an educational publisher, McGraw-Hill.  The money was pretty good. Combined it was more than we ever made before - evangelical ministers not known for their hefty paychecks.  We sat there that Easter vigil night, I was feeling so good.  Already I was in a position to keep my ministry wheels turning, we were financially well off enough to pay our bills and actually replenish lost savings.  The services were beautiful.  Doors were opening.  The future seemed on the right path.  We were taking some gruff from family, friends and former colleagues, especially about becoming Catholic while the sex abuse scandal was still fresh in the news..  Our kids were a bit confused about the sudden upheaval in our lives. But for us, it was clearly God's will and I couldn't be happier.

Nevertheless, there was one tiny issue.  The fellow who started the apostolate I worked for, the one who is seen by many as the face of protestant minister converts, was strangely apathetic about me becoming Catholic.  He wasn't there that night, though one of the employees, the liaison to the actual ministers who contact the ministry, did attend.  The founder of the ministry was absent. And more than that, he made no real effort to celebrate.  In fact, the following week, I had to remind him I was now Catholic. He said congratulations, but that was all.  Not even a card.  You'd think a ministry centered around what I had just done, with one of its own going through the very purpose of its existence, would have been, you know, happy. Maybe even celebratory.  But nothing.  A couple employees said well done, but that was all. I should have known.  A mere bump in an overall fabulous road that would soon come to define that road.

Two years later I was let go.  Officially - "officially" - it was because of finances, but as likely as not, it's because I couldn't or wouldn't move to a different part of the state where the offices were located.  But it was more.  I was an evangelical.  He, the president and founder, brought a disdain for my tradition with him into the Church.  That was clear.  We never hit it off.  He was what I discovered was more common than not: a former minister who made much out of the fact that when it comes to partying, few Christian traditions match Catholicism.  Dirty jokes and bathroom humor, cussing, smoking, drinking and partying - that's the stuff that Catholicism is made of.  And though I enjoy a beer or glass of wine with the best of them, that sort of thing has never been my cup of tea.  Once when we were having lunch with his wife, and as they were throwing about the old poop-humor, she grimaced.  She then noted I wasn't partaking in the Eddie Murphy screes. Her husband said it was because of my Baptist ways.  I said no, it's how I was raised before I was a Christian.  I fear that things like that assured me of no real future.

It may have been because of that I was often short shifted.  He obligatorily let me appear on his radio show, and once on his TV show dedicated to telling about journeys into the Catholic Church.  But he never rehearsed.  Usually guests prep with him ahead of time to know what to expect.  I was given no such benefit.  Each time, I was just thrown in and expected to do my best with no idea what to expect from him.  In charge of publishing, it was my job to tell him he had no clue about how to publish books, and my brief time with McGraw-Hill taught me a few things.  That went nowhere, and when our first book - In the Fullness of Christ - was published, he gave me no credit, no congrats, no thanks, no nothing.  I knew then my days were numbered.

Once I was let go in the spring of 2008, things went downhill.  After years of trying to get my name out in the Church through various avenues, I was getting nowhere.  Despite doing some well received projects for local parishes, and receiving much appreciation for lessons and teaching I did for their RCIAs and parishes, I was getting nowhere.

Then my Dad's health failed.  My sister's family unraveled.  My wife's sister got a divorce.  Then my Dad died, my Mom moved in with us in our starter home we've never been able to leave, and in December of 2011, as if the rest wasn't bad enough, my Wife lost her job in a tribute to modern Darwinian Capitalism.  She and hundreds of her coworkers.  Merry Christmas.

Since then we've lost all retirement, almost all savings.  Our little starter home is crumbling from lack of funds to keep it in repair.  I've now been all but told flat out that there is no place for me in Catholic ministry.  Not as a priest, deacon, teacher, nothing.  The fact that I was a vocational ministers is received in one of two ways.  One, it's irrelevant. Or two, the fact that I was a former ministers is itself the problem, and nothing I ever do will erase that.

Wow.  Quite a difference in seven years.  My current job is nothing special, I'm underpaid.  My schedule is a wrecking ball in our family's life.  My wife is working part time in a woefully underpaying and under employing job.  Our oldest is soon to graduate, this being the last years of his time with us. Our two youngest have almost no memory of stable, secure times.

So what's it all mean?  What happened?  I have no clue.  How it went from 'God's will as He opens doors and leads us along our glorious pilgrimage' to 'hell no there's nothing for you, starve if you must (but make sure you give to the Bishop's annual appeal' is something I can't answer.  All I know is that it's made a life of happiness and joy in the Catholic Church a tough one.

So why stay?  Well, there's the rub.  Because I believe it's true.  Because I believe the historic Church, that Church that existed pre-Protestant, is the True Church, and the fullest expression of the Faith in  Jesus Christ.  At this point, if there is no historic faith, there's no faith in Christ.  So to paraphrase Peter, where else would I go?

That's not to say I'm all tingly about what's happened.  I'm not.  I just remember that the Church may be the Body of Christ, but it's also full of people.  And it's that last part that's given the Church some of its more dubious reputations over the years.  Sure, many Catholics I've met are fine people, and probably have little to no clue what's happened, why it's happened, or the extent of what we've gone through.  But in the Catholic Church, at the end of the day, they don't matter.  Which has been the issue for more than a few centuries.

So as we crawl and stumble toward Easter, seven years from that fateful night, all I can say is that we're hanging on by a gossamer thread.  But we're hanging.  How things will unfold, or what will happen, I can only guess.  Perhaps hope.  Maybe pray.  But right now, we are bending all we have to push past the rubble strewn ruins of our life, and keep our focus on the core of our faith, one that once so dominated every corner of our lives, now at times a far off glimmer in a long, dark passage.  Perhaps it will shine brightly soon.  We can only pray.  But that's the way it is this Holy Week, 2014.  Till next time, perhaps on a new or fixed computer, Happy Easter.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Dad

Dad as I'll always try to remember him, c. 1981
Today would have been my Dad's 84th birthday.  Unfortunately, his life was cut short by Alzheimer's and a negligent nursing home.  We'll see about the nursing home.  Prayerfully they can find something to stop that dread disease from claiming others as it has so many.  Nonetheless, I do miss him.  I missed him during those years of decline when, in so many ways, he ceased being the man I knew. 

True, once he had his heart attack in 1988, he was never the same.  They say that changes a person.  He changed then.  In some ways, for the better.  He loosened up, became more affectionate, a little more silly.  But also more temperamental.  More stubborn.  It was tougher to reason with him (not that he was ever known for just giving in).  

By the late 90s, however, something was clearly wrong.  We would visit from Louisville.  While there, we would tell old stories.  You know, the same ones over and over that families tell.  Nothing new there.  Each visit would see us retelling the same stories.  But suddenly, Dad began retelling the ones we had already told during that same visit.  Soon, he was repeating stories from the same day.

Then he began to make mistakes, or forget things that were important.  Sadly, we still didn't put it together.  My Grandma on my Mom's side had similar problems, and we just attributed it to old age, and a stroke that she had.  By the early 00s, Dad's diabetes began playing havoc, and he had several low sugar attacks. Anyone who's ever seen that knows what I'm talking about.  

From that point, it went down from there.  Unfortunately, my sister, whose husband (who recently passed away from cancer) was financially well off, was hit with sudden economic ruin.  Her husband's business partner did what too many business partners have done throughout the ages.  And, in fairness, he made some pretty bad (read: stupid) financial decisions.  By 2009,  they were forced to sell everything.  My parents, who had always lived near my sister, had to move several different times.  Anyone familiar with Alzheimer's knows that sort of constant upheaval is bad. 

My Mom, Dad and Sister and her husband moved down to where we are.  But things just fell apart.  My Mom couldn't watch him anymore.  We had to put him in a nursing home.  At first things went well.  For the first couple weeks.  But he was too far gone to stay in the part of the nursing home for self sufficient patients.  They moved him back to the high level care ward.  And then, within a couple weeks, he was gone.  Neglect mostly.  Not that he wouldn't have died.  But when we saw him just before he did, in soiled clothes, weight loss, dehydration, we knew he was being neglected.  We immediately began preparation to move him, but too late.  I saw him on Wednesday and realized he had to be moved.  By Sunday morning, April 3, 2011, after being rushed to the hospital on Friday morning, he was gone.  

I sometimes feel like we let him down.  For all he did for us, we just weren't there for him.  Still, there isn't much without hindsight to do differently.  I hate it now.  I miss him, and hate that his end came the way it did.  Naturally, the nursing home is part of a major corporation and we can't do a thing.  So all we can do at this point is remember.  Try to remember happier times.  Times before his passing.  Times before that wicked disease had stripped away everything that defined who my Dad was.  I know the Church teaches that suffering is just one of those things.  That's easier said than done.  The non-human initiated suffering of people has long since been the one fly in the theological ointment.  For all the thousands of years of contemplating, all we can ultimately says is some philosophical or academic version of 'let go and let God.'  Ultimate faith I guess. 

As for the rest of my blogging?  That is still in the works.  Our computer is still down, and our current financial conditions are such that getting it fixed or replaced is right behind that new yacht we've been looking for.  But I wasn't going to let Dad's birthday go by.  I've missed several milestones, and quite frankly, blogging itself is starting to lose a certain luster, one because of the nature of the blogosphere (including, alas, the Catholic blogosphere), and two, because of the change in my life's fortune, and the pretty solid sound of that door of ministry opportunity shutting in our diocese.  So where I'll be?  Can't say.  But I can say I miss you Dad.  Through  it all, I'd give anything to have you here to have just a final hug, a final goodbye, to hear you say once more to 'take care of those boys.'  I hope I do.  I hope, in the end, I'll do half as good a job of that as you did taking care of me.  Rest in peace, and may God's angels hasten you to be in His presence forever. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our Catholic Conversion and where things stand

I've noticed a couple responses to my post below, and some have reached out to contact - dare I say console - me over the same post.  Still working on the borrowed computer, as funds just aren't there to get the main one fixed.  And that's cramping my time for blogging.

Blogging.  I started my blog several years ago  (2010 I think).  That was after about a year of suggestions.  They started in 2009, about three years after we entered the Church.  At that time, we were sort of bouncing about, trying to make ends meet, sure that something was going to come up in the not-too-distant that would get my minister back into high gear, albeit for a Catholic purpose.

I had worked with RCIA groups, and had done lecture series on the Bible and Church History.  I was advised to write a book.  Several who saw my series pushed my name to other parishes or other Catholic organizations to help me get my foot in the door.  Several who took part in my series advised me to get my thoughts together for writing and teaching and that grand ministry whose door was soon to open.

So with that, after kicking it around, I decided to start a blog.  One, just to get used to putting my thoughts into words.  It had been years since I was in school, and since I'm not a professional writer, the knack for writing my ideas down had gotten rusty.  Two, to engage others.  Hopefully people would come by and I could bounce off ideas and hear mine corrected. Three, I could sort of chisel out a focus - what was it that I was passionate about?

That was back in 2010.  Now, I've all but been told that there is no place for me in our diocese.  Having spent too long waiting, just trying to get by waiting for the grand door opening, and having encountered more than a few misfortunes during this time, we are no longer financially able to relocate to anywhere else.  Meaning that for all intents and purposes, there is no ministry opening for me.

With that realization, it's difficult to keep the ministry flames alive.  I have a library, but to what end?  I've seriously thought of just giving it away (most of it).  I'm not sure what it matters if I keep up with things or even comment on them.  If I'm destined to be a paper pusher in a vast corporation, what is it that I think this regarding the current Pope or that regarding the change in times?

The blog itself has changed over time.  When I first started, I got a hat tip from some other bloggers, and early on there were several who commented.  The comments, in blog-fashion, sometimes got nasty.  Eventually I put a stop to those.   At that time, the comments section went haywire and no comments were able to be made.  I didn't mind.  I liked the relative quite.  Yet I didn't like just throwing things out without comments.  It seemed cowardly, as I think it is, to throw out a stinging commentary without a change for rebuttal.  So I brought the comments back.  But by then, many had left or ceased to comment. The comments never caught up to where they were.  Even now, except for a small handful who occasionally comment, the comment sections remain largely empty.

And if blogging with no comments is cowardly, commenting with no comments can also be tiring.  What's the point?  Is anyone even reading?  And since my ministry days are, at this point with this diocese and this bishop, done, why bother?  So I'm just not sure.  Right now, I've time to think of it.  My wife has a job interview this week.  How her working will fit with home school we don't know.  But we know we need funds and need them now.  With funds, we can do things like fix computers, and then, who knows?  For now, I've time to think about the blog, my library, and a great many things.  I'll return when I can.  Thanks for the prayers, and if anyone knows Bishop who's seriously a fan of Protestant minister converts, just let me know.  If not, a filthy rich Catholic wanting to depart with some of his or her excess will do.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What happened

We were putting down our Christmas decorations this weekend.  In Catholic life, Christmas comes to an end rather late.  We tried to make the most of it, though endless problems, a death in the family, sickness and a polar vortex that challenged our ramshackle house took away many of the traditions we've enjoyed in years past.  That's tough, since this was our 18 year old's Senior year and we wanted it to be a special year.  Hopefully we had enough family time to offset the issues.

Which leads me to where I am.  As we were putting things away, I noticed a special ornament.  It was a commemorative ornament my wife and I received years ago.  I was just starting out in ministry.  Though I was a second year seminary student, I already had made a mark with my colleagues.  I was older than many, and my testimony (recent convert) got me speaking engagements beyond what my lack of experience would suggest.  By 1994, I was serving at one of flagship churches in Kentucky.  I had already spoken at large gatherings, youth rallies and other special occasions.

I was doing well in school. Professors and students recommended that I should continue on and get a PhD.  Perhaps be a professor myself.  Within years, I had visited governor's mansions, dined with the president of one of the country's leading seminaries, had lunch with a Secretary of State.  I had met religious leaders.  I had become a senior pastor.  I had gone back to school to pursue the doctoral degree that so many people recommended.

And that year, at the start of it all, my wife and I sat in the balcony, with the senior pastor, local business leaders, media personnel, professors and other leaders of the denomination.  We were watching the annual Christmas performance, a local event broadcast and promoted throughout the season.  And during intermission, the pastor presented select guests with a commemorative ornament.   My wife and I received one.  There was applause from the audience.  All seemed to be a horizon bright with a wonderful future.

Now, as I type this, I prepare to go to my job.  A mid-day schedule.  For four days a week, and one day in the weekend, I'm removed from my family.  I don't make enough to pay bills, and my wife can't find work.  Without what she gets from the government, we'd be bankrupt.  We've lost all savings, most retirement, and virtually everything we've had.

I've been told that there is nothing for me in our diocese.  That's it.  There isn't anything.  The reasons are varied, and I can't quite tell why.  I see others coming into the Church and doing well, though most to be honest had other vocations than just Protestant Clergy.  Most were professors.  Or they had some other vocation in life they could lean on.

Despite the stories told by certain lay apostolates, there really aren't many full time vocational clergy who become Catholic.  And I can't help but guess I'm why.  It's one thing to say sell everything you have for that pearl of great value.  It's another to do it.

The family has certainly suffered, especially the boys.  Those outside who know of our plight have increasingly begun to tell us to come home to the Protestant world.  Get a job. Serve the Church.  Be loved.  Be accepted.  Family and former colleagues who know what we've been through have been ratcheting up the invites.  But here's the problem.  I don't believe it.  Protestantism that is.  I believe in the historic faith as live out in the Catholic tradition.  As Peter said, where do I go?  When I believe something is true, what are my options?

I'm not sure if the Church would care, though I know some individual Catholics would.  Nonetheless, I can't leave what I believe to be true, even though I feel I would be cared for better if I did so.  I must trudge along. Still, I can't help wonder at times, just like now, what happened.  A life that seemed so full of promise, so full of encouragement, now this.  A diamond in the rough a former colleague called me.  Someone who had something to give.  That seems so long ago.  Now, I must get ready.  I'm a paper pusher underpaid and unable to support my family.  I've been told there is no future in the Church, at least not in these parts.  As it stands now, I must go on wondering.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas from a Protestant minister convert to Catholicism

And to all a farewell.  At least for a time.  Still using a borrowed computer.  It seems as though mine does need a new hard drive.  As with most things nowadays, it had the life expectancy of a fruit fly.  There were no real power crashes or catastrophic events that caused the hard drive to quit.  Just the general 'soon to fall apart' quality of modern production.  As a result, I've been cut off from regular posting, and my readership shows.  Just as I was breaking records, getting folks to come back regularly, once again technology has hamstrung my blog.  Just as it did back in the day when I first started.

At this point, life is beckoning.  I'll get the computer back up when I can.  I'll hopefully be able to restart the blog on a regular basis.  But for now, just living will do.  We're looking for some miracle that will allow my wife to get a job while also being able to continue homeschool.  We've been told that my dreams of continuing my ministry are pretty much done.  If there was a time when the Church thrust open its arms to accommodate Protestant clergy, that time has past.  Some, from some denominations may still do well.  But the general, at least in these parts, has passed.

So it's time to roll up the sleeves and get going with life.  My library will be packed up and room made for living.  It's somewhat sad, and my wife is not altogether sold on giving up.  Several of our non-Catholic family and friends are making with the 'told you so' line.  After all, it couldn't have been God's will for us to be Catholic, and this just proves it.  Right not, we just want to avoid economic collapse, for at that point, I fear the witness to those who know our story will be all but unsalvageable.  At least if we get our life going and are at least able to stay afloat, we can point to something.  But as it is, following years of having almost every picnic rained on, and having the doors of ministry opportunity firmly but lovingly closed, proclaiming to those around us that it was God's glorious will for us to lose everything and be shut out of ministering in the Church is a hard sell.  A life well lived might go down better and prove that there really was more to it all than people had seen, and that the Catholic Faith and ill fortune do not need to be synonymous.

So that's the big focus over the next months.  Once we have the time and ability to get the computer up, I'll hopefully be back on a regular basis.  And once again, have to rebuild my readership. Until then, when I can.  In the meantime, here are a few links to Christmas posts of old, when visions of ministry still danced in my head, and Christmas was that time for future hope.  Have a very merry Christmas, those who are still visiting.

A 2012 reflection on the Joy of Christmas
Some musings on A Charlie Brown Christmas, the best Christmas special ever.
My own thoughts on the War on Christmas, from the blog's first Christmas season, 2010
Last year's Christmas, before the boys homeschooled and hope for ministry futures was in the air
And a quippy little post aimed at the growing impatience that our corporate structure has for that pesky religious holiday it annually exploits.


The family at the Nutcracker, 2013. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I'm back

For a time.  It's a borrowed computer.  Not my broken one.  But I couldn't let this go.  It's that day of Infamy, quickly being forgotten.  Don't know if the news has mentioned it.  Still busy talking about Kennedy perhaps.  But it's worth remembering.  As America slips into the shadows, a time which Americans used to remember fondly.  Now, more often than not, it's the time of remembering racism, sexism, internment camps, and of course the atom bombs.  For me, I remember it differently.  I've learned that if I must focus on the worst of things, then I must focus on the worst of all things.  And that leaves the Catholic Church and its 2000 year history in a lurch.  Instead, I concede that bad can happen even in the best.  But instead of dwelling on it, I will try to remember the best.  That's not just regarding the Catholic Church by the way. But on this day, it is remembering the best of what this country was able to do in the wake of an unprovoked, and let's face it, dastardly attack. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The computer of death

Our computer, which has struggled ever since getting hit with a virus a month or so ago, is on its last leg.  At least the hard drive, or the good folks at HP say.  I'm not entirely convinced, but being a novice tech fellow, I have no choice.  Like a person with no knowledge of cars at a garage.  An error 303 came up, and the HP folks said that was it, dead hard drive.  The computer wouldn't reboot and simply sat idling.  So we ordered a new hard drive.  Then at around 3:00 AM last night, bang!  It came on.  It keeps freezing, but so far reboots have worked.  Still, the HP folks (the ones who sold me the hard drive) insist there's nothing else we can do.  They said there is no other repair options, and continuing to use it could lead to worse results.  Don't know.  But right now, as if blogging wasn't scarce enough, I have one more thing to keep me from using this thing too much.  Sad part is, I don't know we'll be able to get all the programs over to a new hard drive.  Pray to whatever saint is the patron saint of technology.  Tune in to see what happens.  Any suggestions, and I'm all ears.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

MSNBC hearts misogynists

That's right.  One at least.  Once again, at the forefront of the growing trend of Leftist bilge, MSNBC's host Martin Bashir unleashes a contempt laden, thinly veiled sexist screed at Sarah Palin that would make most misogynists cringe.  The point of the emergent post-Christian secular Left (never to be confused with classical liberalism) is that hate and evil are good, as long as you are the true Super-Race.  Sexism, racism, anti-Semitism - these are good, when directed at the real subhuman scum.  Homophobia is still off limits, of course, since the LGBT normality movement is the most convenient weapon with which to bludgeon those unwanted features of the Bill of Rights.  I mean, I'm no fan of FOX News, and not much more a fan of CNN (or any other news outlet).  But compared to the unbelievable hatred and bile spewed by a staff of self absorbed spoiled brats with a contempt for fellow humans that would shame a Nuremberg rally, these other outlets shine by comparison. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

America through outsider eyes

I had to post this.  It's a list of things that folks from other countries are amazed, or puzzled, about when it comes to living in the good old USA.  One of the greatest blessings I had as a Protestant minister was dealing with the International Missions field.  Because of that, I came into contact with a wide range of people and got to know folks from Africa, Asia, S. America, Europe, the former USSR.  I met many in grad school as well.  Enough to learn that others don't always see the US as we do.

My favorite story was from a friend who was Nigerian.  We were chatting about his first experiences in the US.  At the time (early 90s), he had just come to America a short time before, and was still getting used to things.  As we talked, he told me about the one thing America had that blew him away.  Trains.  He said our trains were freaking huge!  In Nigeria they have left over medieval train equipment.  But in the US, he said the first time he saw a train go by he almost jumped backwards.  Even though my Dad was a train engineer, I never really thought about how unique our rail system was.

And the list goes on.  Not all of it was complementary.  Some of it involved being shocked at how critical Americans are of our own heritage and our own culture.  But one thing for sure, they managed to point things out and comment on topics that I never thought about. 

The end is near

That's right. My schedule should be slowing down in the next week or so.  Thanks for folks coming by and thanks for the emails and updates.  I've seen several good ones, including musing on the bizarre state of affairs around Obamacare and some interesting tidbits from across the Atlantic from some readers there.  I'll get to things when I can. 

For now, it comforts me to see that John C. Wright is on the same wavelength I'm on when it comes to our bowing before the greatest boon to Islamic Evangelicalism in history.  If I may, in the utmost humility, disagree with Mr. Wright however.  The reason that Islam is protected and Christians aren't is because of the revolutionary nature of liberalism.

If there's one thing the age of Enlightenment revolutions taught us, it's that in order to have a revolution you must completely war against everything you are revolting against. Liberalism, like the alien that pops out of John Hurt's chest, is a parasite on the very civilization it seeks to destroy.  And its main method is to constantly focus on the evils of the Christian West, while downplaying the bad of any other civilizations.  A great 'grass is greener' approach you might say.

That's why the Twin Towers had barely fallen when the overwhelming response by Westerners was 'That was the most horrible thing I've ever seen!  What could we have done to make them hate us so much?' (Emphasis mine).  It's our fault.  It's always our fault. The history of America is one of genocide, slavery, racism, bigotry, sexism.  The history of Europe is the same.  And of course the legacy of Christianity is no better.

These things must be attacked to convince people to throw them out with the baby and bathwater and replace them with the promises of the Secular Left.  And so Islam, by virtue of not being part of the heritage that needs destroyed, gets a pass.  Oh sure, there is some condemnation where things get really nasty.  But it always - and I mean always - comes back to the evils of the Dying West.  Which is why it's dying.

So Mr. Wright gets it right in noticing the trend - almost.  He just seems to avoid or miss the overall reason.  The West must go.  And the only way this happens is if we convince ourselves that it alone is the cause of the world's sufferings, and therefore it alone must be destroyed.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A good news story if there ever was one

Is found in this story about a five year old boy who wanted to be Batman.  Read and enjoy.  If people were like this more of the time, imagine what the world would be.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Conservatives love capitalism

So I'm sure they'll be heartened to know that Target is among those stores leading the way to ditch this laughable notion of families and get together celebrating God's blessings on refugees seeking religious freedom in the New World.  And the really great part is that these stores are doing it for the all important bottom line.

One of the great tensions of our age is that conservatives, including religious conservatives, are among the last true defenders of Capitalism and the Free Market (not necessarily the same thing).  And yet there are few areas more dedicated to promoting godless hedonism, debauchery and the right to slaughter endless hordes of hapless unborn in the name of sexual debauchery than modern corporate America. 

Of course not all business owners or corporations worship money, promote animal debauchery and could care less about God.  But a sizeable portion of corporate moguls today are quite proud of their godless support of leftist hedonism and narcissism.  After all, that's where brainless consumers come from. 

So Target is simply one of many joining the wave.  I said some time ago that Thanksgiving would go the way of everything else linked to the dying Christian West.  And it won't be replaced with anything good.  It will be the lowest animal cultural denominator.  But at least it will be an animal culture with the latest smartphone.  And for that, American religious conservatives who so zealously support the Market can be proud.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To the veterans

Those living, those dead, those gone before, those who gave that last full measure of devotion - and especially my favorite veteran (I love you Dad): Thank you.


And when he gets to heaven
To Saint Peter he will tell,
One more marine reporting sir,
I've served my time in Hell.
                      From the grave of a marine killed during the Pacific campaign of WWII

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Islam's greatest boost

I've often said that the 9/11 Terrorist attacks that happened on September 11 in the year 2001 were the best thing to ever happen to Islam.  Two ill-conceived and executed wars, in which most casualties were the result of Islamic insurgents, have allowed Islam to emerge as a religious faith on the move, in which we respect, learn about, discover and even promote it against our growing loathing and disgust for all things Christian.  Before 9/11 it was still an obscure religion seen as a threat to modernity and progress by religious and secular alike.  Since 9/11?  You could do worse in our pop culture than be Muslim.  Despite an historically unprecedented level of restraint on the part of the US, we're told that Muslims by the millions have been slaughtered by endless mobs of bloodthirsty Americans.  Or at least you'd think.  Meanwhile, we continue to unpack Islam, learn about Islam, focus on Islam, assume the best and give the benefit of the doubt to Islam. 

And now, a brand new Marvel Comics Hero is about to be introduced who is, guess what, Muslim.  No problem with that of course.  If it were a small, isolated story.  But when put against the overall narrative of the last 12 years, you can see that Islam has truly won, and the terrorists achieved what Japan had only hoped for on that sunny December 7th all those years ago.  As for the progressives who seem to embrace this approach and support such things, there can only be one of two reasons.   Either they are that scared of a real threat, as opposed to the supposed threat by those little old ladies in the country church.  Or it's true that progressivism is truly the enemy of the Church, and sees it and only it as the sole enemy that needs defeated. 

Five best sequels

I know, this isn't a movie blog.  But it's my blog and I can write what I want.  My post on Halloween movies for the kids remains a favorite, so why not cheaply exploit what works?  Plus my schedule is such that I've had little time to keep up with things, the news, events or whatever.  I don't like commenting just to comment, and certainly not if I've had no time to think things through or investigate.  So, since my older two just watched one of the better movie sequels a week ago, I thought I'd kick this weighty and important topic around.  Haven't had a chance to gather our somewhat haphazard Halloween pics yet.  Will post on that strange whirlwind of whirlwinds when I can.  But now, that question we've all been asking about to be answered - what do I think are the best sequels of all time?  Especially since rehashed ideas and endless sequalizing or presequels are what Hollywood seems capable of today

First, a note.  Sequels do not typically have a lot of respect.  Usually they're seen as cheap exploitation of what worked the first time.  Usually they are inferior to the original products.  In most cases they don't capture whatever magic made the first one work.  Even the list here, reflecting on those typically considered the best sequels, typically don't outshine the originals.  In most cases, the sequels are worse, sometimes far worse, than the originals.  And that can include being promoted as 'prequels'.  Among the worst ever made was Phantom Menace, a movie so bad that it almost tainted the entire franchise.  It's also worth noting I'm not considering pre-planned sequels, or manufactured franchises (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter).  Those aren't sequels.  You knew they would happen.  These are movies that followed ground breaking or outrageously successful movies
that stood on their own, and then forced the movie makers to think 'how can we follow that?'  These are the ones they followed in ways worthy of their predecessors.

The Godfather Part II

The most celebrated and awarded sequel of all.  Garnering more Academy Awards than its predecessor, The Godfather.  True, The Godfather is considered by many to be the best overall movie ever made.  It put Brando in the fraternity of legendary performances.  It's flawless in every way.  Everything works.  It's the perfect movie.  If Citizen Kane is considered the greatest movie because of its impact and the story behind its making, Godfather is simply the best.  So how does one follow that? 

Not easily.  The production was fraught with problems.  Neither Brando nor  Richard Castelleno would reprise their roles for less than a zillion dollars, so the studios said no, we'll do without. Michael Gazzo stepped in with a character meant to fill Clemenza's shoes, but the storyline still reminds the viewer 'that was supposed to be Pete.'  The scene that should have had Brando is also clearly lacking Brando, even if it's minor.  The storyline of the post-Godfather plot is essentially the Godfather all over, with the conflicts, the family turmoil, and the obligatory climactic assassination sequence.  The development of Michael's relationship and fallout with Fredo is the highpoint.

But it's the 'prequel' version of the story, and De Niro's portrayal of the up and coming Don, that gave it the heft.  Roger Ebert once said the sequence in which young Vito stalks Don Fanucci through the streets of a crowded festival is one of the best ever filmed.  I'm inclined to agree.  Many things went against making this sequel, but through it all, and due to some wonderful filmmaking, especially in the 'prequel' sequences, solidified this film's standing as the best sequel ever made.

Bride of Frankenstein

Perhaps the only sequel considered to be better than its predecessor.  And that's saying something.  Whether better or not, it's tough to say.  But certainly great in its own way, and able to do what sequels should do: point back to the best of the first, while going in new directions and expanding on what the first movie offered.

Like the original, it is based on a stage play of the book, not the book.  But it borrows from various elements in the original novel to weave a story that begins to look deeper into the ethical, philosophical and perhaps even theological ramifications of the first.  I saw a scientifically funded special on PBS that tried to say, among other things, that Frankenstein was never about scientists going too far.  It was, in fact, about silly religious people standing in the way of progress. 

I've read the book and watched the movies.  It's about what happens when man plays God.  And this movie looks to the question with more gusto and yet more subtlety than the first.   Karloff is given lines, and he continues to show a monster that deserves at least some sympathy.  In fact, Karloff is now not the monster at all.  The true monster is Doctor Pretorius.  Thesiger brought a new level of evil to this film.  In many ways the movie is crueler, meaner in its portrayal of violence and death.  In many ways, it's everything the first movie was, but magnified. 

In the end, it does what the great sequels do.  It manages to link to the original, without merely copying the original and making a formula.  It doesn't mimic, and just retell the story.  It takes what was there the first time and builds on it, going to new levels and following paths established by the original.  

The Empire Strikes Back

In polls among young people today, it's said that they consider this the worst of the Star WarsAttack of the Clones comes out well, as does the other prequels.  Some give the original kudos by virtue of being the original.  But something has happened in our modern tech saturated world that has led an entire generation to think that Phantom Menace was awesome, while The Empire Strikes Back stunk up the franchise. 

Nonetheless, obsession with CGI notwithstanding, most movie critics and many fans over the age of 30 remember this as the best of the crop.  Nothing would match the impact of the original.  Star Wars was a cultural phenomenon as much as a movie that changed movies forever (for better or worse).  Star Wars was to movies what The Beatles were to pop music.  When Lucas unleashed his fantasy space movie on an unsuspecting public in 1977, things would never be the same.  Star Wars was everywhere.  And that phenomenon lasted up until the release of Empire in 1980. 

Empire was not as financially successful as Star Wars.  And many were put off by the forced sequel ending.  Still, when the dust settled, it came to be recognized as the best of the bunch.  The final installment, Return of the Jedi, was what it was.  A rushed together merging of about three more movies that had to be crammed together due to the actors' increasing reluctance to come back to that galaxy far, far away.  And it looks it. 

But Empire took Star Wars and went in a new direction.  The acting was still what it was.  The writing was crisper, and the characters unpacked.  If any detractors said anything in 77, it was that the original's story was superficial and the characters underdeveloped.  Empire sought to remedy that.  Relying heavily on Lawrence Kasden for the screenplay and Irvin Kirshner for directing duties, Lucas stepped back from the trenches and it showed.  Better dialogue, a deeper plot, superior writing.  The effects still astounded, especially the legendary Walkers segment.  But by then, the effects that Star Wars had pioneered were standard issue.  And Kirshner knew it.  The magic of that summer in 1977 would never be recaptured.  But Empire, for at least one movie, tried to say that films about spaceships and galactic empires can be more than matinee fare.  They can be quality movies in their own right.  Of all the space movies made in the modern era, The Empire Strikes Back comes closest to showing that is true.

Aliens

A perfect example of how to make a sequel.  The original movie Alien sent people screaming from the theater.  Blood and gore and a new level of terror took the techno-leap that Star Wars provided and spun it in a different direction.  The movie was what it was: a space whodunit.  According to stories, Harry Dean Stanton, playing one of the Nostromo's ill-fated crew, was reluctant to audition, saying he didn't do sci-fi.  He was told it was a bit like Ten Little Indians in space.  And it was.  The effects were a matter of course.  There was no special scene that says 'look at the neat effects!'  By 79, they're already taken for granted.  But the story, the concept, the art, the sets, the suspense, all worked to make it not just one of the biggest movies of the year, but arguably one of the best movies of all time.

A lazy director or producer, when conceiving a sequel, would try again.  Suspense.  Drama.  A similar story.  Hapless crew runs into alien part II.  But Cameron, who arguably was at the top of his game in the mid-80s, goes a different direction.  Realizing what many directors miss, he knew there was no sense trying to scare audiences again, or wow them with fantastical images of derelict spacecraft and strange alien life forms.  Instead, he goes a different direction.  Action-horror all the way. 

Sigourney Weaver, not keen on reprising her break-out role as Ripley, agreed to come back if the screenplay afforded her a chance to be a strong female and also flex her maternal muscles.  The movie relies on assumptions of the original movie, and in a way not easily explained, makes knowledge of the original optional.  You can actually enjoy it on its own terms.  I know this since I actually saw this movie in theaters before I saw the original on VHS, and enjoyed it all the same.

No longer stealth, suspense, a sense of horror.  This simply takes the kick-butt monster from the first movie, and multiplies.  Then instead of a group of hapless space truckers, you throw in a crack unit of well armed space marines.  Chaos ensues.  Cameron taps some of his favorite stock actors to fill out a well rounded ensemble cast.  From 84's The Terminator come Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton as the scene stealing Hudson ("Game over man, game over!") to help give an extra dimension to what could have been cardboard soldiers backing up Weaver.  Aliens does everything right, and in an unusual way, both credits the original upon which it is based, while being a fine stand alone film.  Not easy.  And seldom accomplished.

Jaws II

The first movie to break 100 million dollars, Jaws should have bombed on ten different levels.  The successful novel was not exactly Pulitzer Prize material.  The mechanical shark didn't work.  Difficulties with Teamster unions and location shooting plagued the production.  A young Steven Spielberg actually wore a suit to the final shoot for fear the crew would throw him in the water out of frustration if he didn't look dressed for some important meeting.  Robert Shaw famously called the script "a piece of shit", and only agreed to play the part of Quint the shark killer after his wife insisted.  Richard Dreyfuss went about incognito after the film was done for fear someone might recognize him as being in that dreadful shark movie.

And then?  Movie magic.  Right timing.  The Summer of 1975.  Beach season.  Swim season.  Sharks.  Need we say more.   The mechanical problems helped, and forced Spielberg to rely on Hitchcockian suspense and imagination through most of the movie.  It also forced him to come up with a 'shark's POV' approach that only added to swimmers' apprehensions.  The acting was superb, with the three principal actors giving wonderful performances, and Shaw's now legendary monologue, which he co-wrote to give Quint a reason for his obsession, still standing as one of the best in movie history.  Though it didn't get the Academy Award for Best Picture (losing out to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), it blew audiences away, caused drops in seaside resort business, and taught Hollywood the power of a seasonally oriented release, soon to be known as the Summer Blockbuster.

So how do you top that?  Well, you don't.  For obvious reasons, not all of the top three actors can return.  In fact, Dreyfus had moved on and only Roy Scheider agreed to reprise his role as Sheriff Brody.  Some suspension of belief was needed.  After all, given the events of a couple years earlier, why on earth would the town not listen to the man who said 'there's a shark again!'  You'd think the entire town would snap into action.  In some ways, Jaws II shows what not to do in a sequel.
 
And yet, it works.  It basically does what might have inspired Cameron with Aliens.  Instead of trying for suspense.  Instead of acting like the audience didn't know what a shark was.  It just said 'OK, we'll throw a lot of teenagers out in the shark infested water and see if audiences can take the thrills and excitement.'  And they did.  A brilliant tagline meant to invoke the original's appeal (Just when you though it was safe to go into the water...), helped explain what this movie was doing. It sought to capitalize on a great thing.  It wasn't the best, and yet at the end of the day, it was enjoyable in its own way.  If a sequel can do anything, it has to pay homage to the original while making itself enjoyable.  Jaws II does this better than most.


There are others that are acceptable, and some - such as the Comic Book sequels - sometimes hold their own, even if the movies themselves and their content make a truly captivating film nigh on impossible.  I'm thinking Spiderman II, which is a pretty good movie as movies go, much less as comic book movies go.   But these are the top five IMHO.  And up until recent years in the internet age, there were only one or possibly two that I could see serious students of film disagreeing with.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Obamacare and the Common Era

So how does a nation get convinced that either Obama didn't lie, as the NYT's now destined to be infamous editorial suggests, or come to the point where it just doesn't care if he lied?  The answer would be known as PC.  Political Correctness that is.  You see, Political Correctness is basically enforced dishonesty.  It's either saying you can't do or say something even if you believe it, or it's saying that you must  say something is true even if it isn't (or vice versa). 

Case in point, the Common Era.  Otherwise seen as C.E. or B.C.E.  That is replacement for B.C. and A.D. for reckoning the years.   It wasn't necessarily the result of PC censorship.  Though some point to European usage as far back as the 18th century, it had its origins as we use it most prominently among Jewish scholars who refused to use a designation pointing to any lordship of Jesus.  By the 20th century, it was still a minority usage.  Even my secular textbooks published as recently as the mid-80s used the BC/AD designation.

But somewhere, between the mid-80s and now, during the dark years of the anti-Christian West movement of Multi-culturalism and the rise of the PC, the designations became embraced, and eventually mandated.  Now it's everywhere.  Just about any scholarly work published now, including some by Christian authors and publications, uses CE/BCE.  In school, my boys were told in their World History class to use that, rather than BC/AD, citing possible offenses at those more exclusive and antiquated terms (and using the ever popular "because of the troubled history, it can cause stress to some people today").

The problem?  According to any academic publication, government publication, or anything else, it is now 2013 C.E.  What does that mean?  It means 2013 of the Common Era.  What makes it common? Well, I don't know.  Through some happy coincidence, it is a common year that just happens to mirror the same roll of years that point back to He Whose Name Cannot Be Mentioned.  So not too long ago, it would be 2013 A.D.  That's Anno Domini.  That means the 2013th year of Our Lord. 

I know, I know.  Jesus wasn't born in the year one.  But we all know what the reference point is.  At least those of us over the age of 25.  Younger folks might be shocked to find out.  But we adults know to what the year number 2013 is supposed to point.  Yet we just can't say it.  It's deceptive.  It's dishonest.  It's enforced thought control.  It's saying 'we don't care if it points back to the date Jesus was once believed to have been born, you can't say it.  You must say that in instead.' 

Growing up, we were told that's what the totalitarian states of the 20th century did.  That's what the Communists did.  They demanded that you call a square round, whether it was true or not.  Not only because a non-round  square or the birth of Jesus might be inconvenient.  But like the military or football, you start with the basics.  You start with the fundamentals.  If through sheer threat of possible intimidation, much less outright persecution, you can convince even believers that they must adopt the less than honest and forthright designation '2013 of some vague common reckoning even though we know what it points to', then you can get them to accept other less than honest or up front "truths". 

Get a generation to accept that we have to call squares round whether it's true or not, and you'll get a generation willing to accept anything, whether it's true or not.  It's not lying.  It's not even false.  It is a Common Era because that's what everyone calls it now.  But it still points to that event that cannot be named, and does so almost proudly.  If they picked a different starting point, like the year 371 AN (After Newton), then at least that would be honest.  We would have surrendered and accepted some other designation.  But that's not what happened.  It kept the historical reference point - the birth of Jesus Christ - but simply demanded we call the year something else.

No big loss.  No big defeat.  Heck, Catholics and Protestants now use CE/BCE.  But like many wars before, it is the first skirmish, the  first nudge away from being honest and standing on up front honesty that has led us to this point.  A point where our president can lie to overturn American society, ruin the lives of millions, be shown to have lied, and yet in the end of the day, it's no more than a parlor discussion, if it's even that. 

It's more than lying.  Lying is a sin they say.  But it's also honesty.  To not lie but accept and promote untruths is a willingness to accept deceit and falsehood as the MO of society.  It's better than lying in the way Gulags are better than Extermination camps. Once that happens, expect a lot more of what we've seen here.  A country where truth will be the last thing demanded, expected, or much less offered.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I'll be back

Just really, really, really busy.  Mandatory overtime continues so that the company can avoid hiring new people with benefits.  Several emails and articles worth looking at and posting about in the future.  But for now, pax.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Enders Game and the end of liberalism

As I watch a CNN roundtable on Climate Change, featuring Mayor Bloomberg, I'm reminded that liberalism is more or less dead.  What we call 'liberal' is anything but.  This is a movement of tyranny and oppression, and like most of the revolutions of the grand enlightenment promise, it hands out meat and circuses in return for slaughter and the destruction of freedom and liberty.  As Mr. Bloomberg sings the praises of Communist China, and calls on America to get with the act and accept the gospel of MMGW (which includes beating Christian West into the dirt and raising a Leftist, Socialist ruling class), I can't help but see what's happening, and the tools, threats, scare tactics and promises wrapped around a thousand issues to advance the cause.  Climate Change is simply one of course.  PC (popular censorship) is another.  Bullying.  Smoking.  Big Guns.  Obesity.  You name it.  The arsenal from which the SL can draw in order to strip away all freedoms and liberties is unending. 

And it does so by gleefully and happily discarding all of those laughable notions of tolerance, diversity, open mindedness and respect for other opinions that 'liberalism' once celebrated.  A case in point is the upcoming film Enders Game.  I know nothing of the book, them move, or anyone other than Harrison Ford.   I've heard that Orson Scott Card, the book's author, has come under fire for his non-Leftist views.  I've also heard that he actually considers himself a liberal.  Sort of like the liberal I once considered myself until I sniffed around and began to notice a familiar stench to this liberal revolution, one that has been smelled before.

Here is an interview that was sent to me.  It's a lot about the book, movie and other things a fan might be interested in.  But it deals with his politics as well.   The takeaway quote is here:

I’m a little baffled by it because I’m a liberal and they’re not. They’re repressive, punishing, intolerant of the slightest variation, absolutely the opposite of what it means to be a liberal. But that’s the way it goes. 

Yes, that's the way it goes.  Those pigs who promise the world can't help but ending up looking just like the humans they once revolted against.