Friday, May 22, 2015

Obviously busy

Busy, busy, busy.  Mostly struggling through life, juggling the older three having jobs, home school, and our oldest prepping for college, remembering to be there for our youngest, helping my Mom, and continuing to get zero from the Church in terms of either material aid or vocational direction.  With that, I must admit, we've been casting our eyes askance at other potential ecclesiastical alternatives.  Still, theologically and, to be honest, culturally I'm Catholic.  Always have been, even in my Protestant days.  So it's like finding out your wife is having an affair.  Do you just leave her, or work through the betrayal and the pain and heartache in the hope that something will turn a corner?

Nonetheless, as we struggle with bills, a bleak future, and a clear message from those in the diocese that 'you don't serve our kind', things are tough time-wise.  And with juggling so many things, the blog has obviously taken a back seat.

Still, I've had a couple emails and some questions, such as why am I still visiting CAEI when I said I would be done with it at Easter, and a profound question asking our take on some current issues in the news.  I'm working on the second, and will elaborate on the first.  But for now, a reader sent this link along and all I have to say is 'yep.'

This explains why so many Catholics have gotten so mean and unbelievably fundamentalist in their zeal to defend the Pope and the Church.  Proud of their conservative leanings and their belief that authentic conservatism and the Church are one and the same, they are stuck admitting that both this Pope, and the Church in recent years, is tacking seriously to the left.  Its approach to economics, political policy, social issues, theological and critical scholarship, scientific theories of human origins, are all more in line with a more liberal viewpoint than anything Catholics would have recognized even 50 years ago, much less 100 years ago.

Therefore, their desire to be both loyal to the Vatican, which for many is the same as being loyal to the Church, and yet insisting they are ever and always just good old conservatives like grandma used to make, produces quite the strain. One of the favorite go-to answers to why Pope Francis sounds so liberal if he really isn't one is that he is just misquoted.  Or his words manipulated.  Or stupid evil Catholics and Francis haters aren't smart enough to get his wise words.  In any event, he's just not to blame. Ever.

Well, John-Henry Westen at LifeSite News disagrees.  He believes, somewhat foolishly, that if you are in the business of communicating important things - like the Gospel - and you continually see your words being twisted by powers that ostensibly represent the powers of Hell, then a new strategy or approach might be in order.  And yet, it isn't.  Pope Francis continues, as does the Vatican, to lean on 'we didn't mean it that way' as the favored approach to insisting that the somewhat liberal sounding words weren't really liberal at all.

In keeping with the mood of the post-JPII Catholic apologetics world, expect Mr. Westen to be skinned.  At least verbally.  For I've found that for some Catholics, ever since the rack and thumbscrews went out of style, the world of apologetics and the blogosphere are  the best they can do.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rest in Peace Nigel Terry

It came to my attention this week that British actor Nigel Terry has died.  For many of my generation, Nigel Terry is and will ever be King Arthur.  With his sad, beat dog eyes, he exemplified the sorrowful, melancholy king of legend.  Not torn over love or betrayal, he was torn over the burden of being a man for all eras and simply wanting to be a man.  And Terry nailed the look perfectly.  Of course he had other film credits to his name, not the least of which was his impressive spot in The Lion in Winter.  More recently he captured the ill fated, love sick Mr. Boldwood in an excellent production of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd (no Marcus, not Far From the Maddening Crowd!).  Mostly an actor of the theater, Terry made his mark during the period I call the great Fantasy Renaissance that was ushered in by Lucas's Star Wars, and remained until sometime in the mid-1980s.  There will be other films about the boy and the sword in the stone, but for me and many my age, there will only be Terry's saddened leader wielding Excalibur.  RIP,

"I was not born to lead a man's life, but to be the stuff of future memory." 


A prayer for a happy Mother's Day

Here they are, a sizable part of why I wake up in the morning.  May God bless them half as much as they bless me,


Speaking of prayers, my wife received a call from McGraw Hill, possibly getting an interview for the job she had.  At the same pay!  Yes, it would be contract rather than permanent, but right now, that would be like water to a dying man in the desert.  We at least would be back to surviving even with our heads slightly above water.  Something we've not known for these going on seven years.  So prayers for that would be appreciated.  That we be faithful to God no matter what His will for us, but that His will possibly be this job.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Take studies with a grain of salt

Especially when they are about subjective topics like art and music.  So this article breaks through with the  news that a recent study shows the Beatles and the Rolling Stone eclipsed by Hip-Hop.  That's the headline.  What could it mean?  Hip Hop is more popular?  More critically acclaimed?  More influential?  More people like Hip-Hop?

Well, nothing really.  It was based on "a computer analysis of 17,000 songs."  What does that even mean?  Did it include only rock songs?  All rock songs?  All recorded music?  Probably not the last one, as I doubt there have only been 17,000 songs recorded.

But what does it mean?  Not a damn thing, that's what.  It is, in keeping with the modern 'science and computer models know all' mentality, the latest in attempts to get headlines by saying nothing at all.  And as if to reinforce the uselessness is a statement by the study's author touting the supremacy of a scientific approach to music analysis:
"For the first time we can measure musical properties in recordings on a large scale," he said. "We can actually go beyond what music experts tell us, or what we know ourselves about them, by looking directly into the songs, measuring their make-up, and understanding how they have changed."
This assumes that the computer woke up one day and suddenly decided to study 17,000 songs, as opposed to being programmed by rather subjective and biased programmers setting the parameters of the study.  Once again, the idea that where lab coats are, all biased and personal preference have been eliminated.

Again, it says nothing.  Nothing, except perhaps that the individuals who programmed the study may need to look at influence versus inspiration in the arts a little more closely.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The facts never stand in the way of liberalism

So it looks like the death of Freddie Gray may have been a horrible accident, perhaps - if the recent accounts are accurate - brought about by gross negligence on the part of the police.  Again, that last part is still outstanding.  Despite the musings of Michael Moore and Morgan Freeman (proving that actors should act, and not comment), as well as the assurances of Catholic bloggers, it wasn't a bunch of white, racist cops.  In fact, as the media has begrudgingly reported, three of the cops involved in his death were, again in fact, African American.  And lest we challenge the esteemed Sally Field (see the actors and commenting rule above) who wishes women could take over the world because that would bring peace, one was also a woman.  

Anyway, we'll have to wait for justice.  And pray for it.  If the police officers were to blame, they should be held accountable.  If not, they should be exonerated.  And if it turns out they are not guilty, great wailing and humbling on the part of many should happen.  Of course it won't.  Even now protests are going strong, No doubt many will continue with chants of police brutality, racist cops, and of course, terrorists in America.  Expect it to get worse, since the Race Card (TM) has been removed by unfortunate facts and some justification for all the outrage will have to be provided.  

Remember kids, the GOP is hurt because of stupid conservatives who say stupid things.  Liberals, of course, are never wrong like that or say stupid things. For example, as the estimable jroberts548, late of CAEI, once explained, don't cry me a river over the increase of cops killed in the line of duty.  More garbage collectors proportionally die on the job!  But then, since only about 600 or so Americans were killed by cops last year, compared to 300 million Americans.  I'd say proportionally Americans have less to complain about.  Heck, more Blacks will murder Blacks this year than all the racist cops could hope to.  And in a sane country wishing to solve problems and help our fellow man, that would change the discussion right there.  But in our nation of punditry over principles, don't hold your breath.  

Stupidity is the oxygen that keeps liberalism alive.  Lies and falsehoods are the meat and drink.  

Disclaimer: This is not, repeat NOT, to say I'm not alarmed by some of what I see in our law enforcement, the growing trend to go nuclear on the part of police officers, and the militarization of a society increasingly warm to the idea of ending liberties and rights in the name of sex and drugs.  I am.  But I try, really hard, to keep things in perspective. The ones screaming brutal racist cops! the loudest are for the most part the ones most behind the rest of what alarms me. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

America wasn't made for people who don't agree on anything

So said my 16 year old.  It is an affront to the remnants of the English language to apply the word 'United' to anything to do with America.  And as if in answer to his observation, this wonderful article came to my email.  Possibly one of the best assessments of the cultural rot that has destroyed the society we must soon bequeath to our posterity.  The divisions and the collapse of reason, much less revelation, is a cancer that could be beyond curing.  The best part comes at the end.  From that wonderful insight:

"We now know that the Enlightenment Project has utterly failed because we cannot possibly agree on what human flourishing looks like, what hinders it, and how we can solve our problems. We become more and more fragmented because the only thing that we really do agree on is that we all need to pursue our best life now, as long is it fits with what “society” deems is acceptable. The problem is that “society” and it values/truth is not rooted in anything objective other than what can be shouted loudest, advertised, manipulated, and forced upon the rest of the people through persuasion and even force. Reason is no longer appealed to. Just persuasion and ridicule if one does not get with the program." (emphasis mine) 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

If you remember that modern Liberalism has no principles

You'll sleep better at night.  So a mom who goes spare on her kid at the Boston riots is quite the hero.  Never mind that for years liberals have insisted that rounding up millions of Jews and slaughtering them in gas chambers and spanking a child were one and the same.  Even the most restrained approach to spanking.  Let alone just slapping a kid.  Nope. That's so yesterday's principles.

In other news, giving peace a chance might be old news.  Salon posts an opinion piece kicking around the idea that burning cars and other acts of violence might be justified.  If you're the right person doing it for the right reason and for the right cause.  All we are saying is give peace a chance?  Depends, doesn't it.

That's just two.  It's all the rage of course.  And I poke at liberalism, because its victory over the hearts and minds of the Dying West has made it the dominant approach to resolving the problems of our times.  And it's not just rascally liberals who drink from this well either.  But it is a gift of the wily liberals, who long ago learned that you can declare any truth to be the eternal truth of yesterday and be awesome for doing it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

ISIS as postmodern Nazis

It looks like, once again, ISIS has destroyed a priceless set piece from the past that can never be duplicated.  A growing trend.   As my boys watched this, they made an interesting observation.  They said ISIS is the Nazi party of the postmodern era.  Here's what they meant.

They said if the Nazis were ISIS, when they captured Paris the first thing the Nazis would have done would have been destroy the Eiffel Tower and burn down the Louvre.  But they didn't.  For all their legendary evil, they were evil within a world in which there were still universal assumptions.  When Hitler visited Napoleon's tomb, he didn't whip it out and piss all over it.  He showed it respect.  Even admiration.

The Nazis understood the worth of art and culture and the past.  Sure, they looted a crap ton of it.  But they also kept a crap ton.  Building on it and celebrating that which was valuable that now belonged to them.  That's because there was a time when you didn't have to like something to see its worth.  You didn't have to like cubism to understand the worth of a Picasso.  You didn't have to love classical music to appreciate Beethoven or Mozart.  You didn't have to like Bogart to accept him as one awesomely cool actor.  There were simply things in the world that assumed.  You assumed a common mindset, even if all other things were up for grabs.  Things bigger than us that we couldn't deny.

The Patron Saint of postmodern thinking
Fast forward to the postmodern world of the Internet.  The world my boys are growing up with.   Nothing is real and truth can get hung about it.  Much of the Internet is filled with people flipping the bird to anything and everything.  Who says this is good and that isn't?  Maybe The Godfather sucks, but Phantom Menace rocks.  Harry Potter?   As good as holy writ.   Shakespeare?   Loser.

And it goes on.  The US?  Evil.  Stupid. Parties?  For losers.  Maybe  the Enlightenment sucked.  Plato?  Aristotle?  Socrates?  Morons.  I owe nothing to anyone except my carefully hand crafted demographic of like thinking awesome hipsters.

And if disregard for accepted ideas and contributors is the name, then inconsistency is the game.  On Mark's CAEI, Mark is a crusader against abortion, debauchery, blasphemous humor and the movement to crush religious freedom for better sex lives.  And yet Mark loves, admires and respects Jon Stewart, who according to CNN and other media outlets, in one of our culture's most admired defenders of abortion, debauchery, blasphemous humor and the movement to crush religious freedom for better sex lives. After all, as postmoderns we owe nothing to anything but our own awesomeness.  Loving what all should love.  Hating what all should hate.  Binding and loosing accordingly.  And always - always - being awesomely right.

In the day, lines were drawn.  Those who advocated evil were simply those who advocated evil.  It didn't matter that Hitler loved animals.  Great.  But his evils and being wrong far outweighed the good. And even if the US wasn't perfect, the focus was on Hitler as the evil despite his love for animals.  Because Americans, and many others, believed that what America brought to the table was better than what the Nazis brought.  And loyalty to those ideals meat that we stood together as Americans against a greater evil.  Consistency.  Shared values.

Even though the Nazis did what ISIS and many postmodern don't, and that's accept certain common ideals and assumptions. Which is also a problem I have with Pope Francis, who seems to be loved by those same bloggers who have no problem saying that more people get killed by lightening than terrorist attacks.  What they mean, of course, is that as long as the terrorists kill some other dumb American, it's a sacrifice I can handle.  I owe nothing to America, Americans, or anything unless I personally say it's awesome.  It's me and my hand crafted demographic.

So when Pope Francis dismisses this or that tradition just because it's not Dogma, what do we care?  People are offended?  Screw them.  People don't like it?  Who cares?  It's not important right?  I mean, even postmoderns agree the Nazis were evil or that ISIS is bad.  The irony, however, is that increasingly ISIS is merely adding one thing to the lairs of evil witnessed decades ago.  A new lair that our postmodern world not only engages in, but increasingly celebrates as long as it doesn't impact me.

I have to say, it was a true observation.

Consigned to the Catholic Blogosphere

The Catholic blogosphere, like any part of that segment of modern reality, should not be the only place where people go to grow in their faith.  Mostly fueled by amateur apologists, it is a hotbed for all the things that make the Internet generation flawed at best.  So why have I spent so much of my time there?

Well, you have to understand Catholicism.  Even Catholics - yes, even those apologists defending the Church - admit that fellowship and outreach are not the strong suits of Catholic living.  Koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship.  Some Protestant churches used to suffer from what we coined Koinonitis.  That is, we have all the people we want, we want no more.

Catholics seem to have this in spades.  Because many parishes are, in fact, monstrous churches with thousands of families, you imagine it won't be that way.  Most Protestant churches that suffered from this were usually smaller congregations.  So you imagine that in Catholic parishes with thousands, there would be no problem finding groups to fit in.  And you'd be wrong.

After ten years, we have yet to fit in.  Hired by a Catholic lay ministry, involved in RCIA and other educational endeavors, kids in youth groups, public speaking, you'd think we'd have found that magic group to rub shoulders with.  And again, you'd be wrong.

Not that nobody has been open to us.  We've met very friendly people.  Helpful people.  People who would stop and chat for a few.  Even invited to a couple houses.  But it's been like being friends at work.  You know how if you're working with someone you can get to be friends over time?  But then if you transfer to another position or task, and aren't around that person, it sort of fades.  And if you see them six months later, you have to start from scratch.

That's been this.  Priests have so many people to shepherd, they don't have time for constant discipleship and instruction.  And attempts to fit into other groups have often resulted in us sitting by ourselves listening to those who know each other chitchat.  No matter how many times over ten years we've tried to fit in, at the end of the day, we still feel like outsiders.

Some of it is our parish.  A parish with no small set of issues. Mostly liberal, it's fought the recent influx of some fairly conservative Protestant converts.  But beyond that, it's been the way in most cases we've encountered. Those who have made us feel the most welcome are grey haired well past the point of retirement.  In many cases, because they still see value in a Protestant clergy convert.  Younger Catholics, however, don't seem to.  And those in our age group, as well as that of our kids, have felt no compunction in letting us know we'd best get used to sitting by ourselves at the annual picnic.

Even joining the Knights of Columbus didn't help.  And I typically found myself trying to get into the conversations, but ending up standing along the wall, listening to those who know each other carry the conservation.

Hence, in order to find some fellowship, some avenue of interaction, I've been consigned to the dreaded Blogosphere.  A place not for the weak hearted.  At best you can get some who are willing to engage in questions or disagreements on a mature level before being called a hater of the Church or Jesus.  At worst, it comes right out of the gate with accusations of being stupid, evil, not caring about dead kids, Jesus, God, or whatever.  And then it goes down from there.  That not including the obvious blindness to sin, evil, wrong, and other things that a new convert shouldn't be able to recognize as easily as they make it able to be recognized.

Now I would gladly have gone anywhere else for my formation.  But Catholics are, even now, notoriously sketchy with adult education.  Some parishes have done better.  Others still struggle.  But even then, formation is only so effective without the added lair of fellowship.  And that is where a major lack has created a major void.  Leaving Catholics who would seek to grow to turn to the modern equivalent of an English boarding school, where cold and heartless brutality and stunning self righteousness substitutes for actual Christian guidance.  That can only cause problems, unless the new believer is wanting some group that he or she can join in which we thank God for not making us like those loser Catholics over there.

Just thought I'd throw that out.  For all that Protestants might lack, they seem to have what the Church could use.  They understand the importance of instruction and fellowship, not as two different issues worth tackling, but as a single whole needed to help new believers grow from milk to meat in their faith diets.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Christianity is easier than ever

For me at least.  Given the deplorable track record of the Secular and the Left, it's not hard to cling to the faith as practiced by our ancestors.  And as the Secular Left becomes more open about its desire to set up a totalitarian state that lifts up liberalism as the Truth that demands conformity, that all nations must mandate, and that seeks to punish and oppress all who will not conform, it's easy to see the folly in following it.  It's also easy to see how Christianity is in the cross hairs.  And as the hatred of the Left is matched only by the hatred of radical Muslims groups and other hate regimes, remembering the promises of Jesus about persecution becomes more and more easy to believe.  Those who say we are not anywhere near the persecution of our brothers across the globe are right.  But only a fool would rest on that fact for comfort.  Rather, repent and flee from the force of darkness that seeks to suck down the US, the dying West, and the rest of the world as it seeks to eliminate any who would stand in its way.

In a similar way, Charles Moore at the Telegraph agrees.  Given the force that so compromised the historic faith is now revealing itself, seeing the truths it once mocked might just be easier than ever.

Sexual immorality leads to AIDS

Really?  You'd never know it.  The media, focusing on racist cops and the terrors of spanking and obesity, never seems to link our sex and drugs culture with AIDS.  In fact, based on Nat Geo and CNN, peer reviewed scientists agree that the explosion of AIDS in the 70s after a couple decades of sex and drugs, was purely coincidental.

Most major religions are reluctant to draw the link.  Certainly the Catholic Church has made no utterances.  Rather, according to Pope Francis, it's time to get over obsessions about these lesser things like homosexuality, sex, bedroom issues.  During world AIDS Day a few years ago, Pope Benedict made sure we understood there was to be no dwelling on the sex and causes part of AIDS.  Because of course if AIDS and sex are unrelated, there's not much to worry about, correct?  Of course that doesn't include other STDs, broken homes, unwed mothers, the lie of condoms as salvation, crumbling civilization, and on and on.

Of course, there is the odd exception.  For instance, because I've gotten to know some Orthodox Christians, including an Orthodox Deacon, over the months since I got my job, I've been seeing some of the sites in the Orthodox world.  I saw this, which is really about weeping icons.  But here is the sentence that leaped out at me:
Certainly sexual immorality (with the resultant AIDS epidemic) has become increasinglyacceptable in recent decades 
You see that?  Actually suggesting our descent into the debauchery of our sex, homosex, group sex, and drugs generation and tens of millions of corpses floating in the wake of AIDS is somehow related.  Wow.  Talk about spade calling.  Perhaps I was correct when I said you can't be legitimately pro-life and be blasé about our sex and drugs culture.  Perhaps, while acknowledging that past Christians could have been too harsh in dealing with sexual issues, that it is no less harsh to ignore the suffering, death, and destruction of this cultural rot.  It was nice to see.  Usually as a Catholic, if I mention the need to get serious and say more than 'it's wrong', I'm accused of puritanism and not being hip and awesome.  And that doesn't even count trying to suggest that sexual promiscuity, homosex, or drug culture and AIDS are somehow linked.  Well done Orthodox website.  I wonder how common that is throughout the Orthodox world.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Food for thought on this Saturday

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CHURCH ESTABLISHED BY JESUS CHRIST? 

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “...I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). If Christ said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church; is it possible that His Church doesn't exist anymore? Did it vanish or is it still around? Since the Roman-Catholic church was established in the year 1054 and protestant churches after the 1517 reformation - where is the Church that was established by Christ 2000 years ago? 

THE ORIGINAL CHURCH: 

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic church, in the year 1517. If you belong to the church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry. If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560. If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582. If you are Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the church of England, founded by Samuel Senbury in the American colonies in the 17th century. If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1606. If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michelis Jones as founder because he originated your religion in New York in 1628. If you are a Methodist, your religion was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1774. If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, New York, in 1829. If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865. If you are Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mary Baker Eddy as its founder. If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as "church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal Gospel," "Holiness church," or "Jehovah's Witnesses," your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past hundred years. If you are Roman Catholic, your church shared the same rich apostolic and doctrinal heritage as the Orthodox Church for the first thousand years of its history, since during the first millennium they were one and the same Church. Lamentably, in 1054, the Pope of Rome broke away from the other four Apostolic Patriarchates (which include Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), by tampering with the Original Creed of the Church, and considering himself to be infallible. Thus your church is 1,000 years old. 

Again, food for thought. Courtesy of a Serbian Orthodox website where a friend and coworker goes. 

Five Easter Specials worth watching

I haven't done one of these posts for some time, owing to business and just scraping by.  But thought I'd throw out my own humble opinions. Now Easter is not like Halloween or Christmas.  It's a little better than Thanksgiving in terms of specials.  Thanksgiving is a barren wasteland, unless you're into modern takes in which sadistic genocidal barbarians sweep into a veritable paradise peopled by godlike beings, any one of which could easily die for the sins of humanity.  If that's not your cup of tea, you have to go back and dig, or settle for football.

But Easter, while not as filled with options as the first two mentioned, still holds its own.  The 1950s were especially plentiful for Hollywood spectacles trying to unpack biblical themes.  Some were hits, others misses.  All were designed to sway people away from that new invention that was luring them into their living rooms and away from the movie theaters. 

Other specials have come and gone.  And you always get the media's yearly nod to heresy as a gift to the Christian faith that the media despises.  But these five are the ones we try, if possible, to see every year.  No matter what, we watch The Ten Commandments.  And my love for that movie has been documented elsewhere.  Jesus of Nazareth, a mini-series from the dawn of mini-series mania, is too long to watch in one setting.  But we try to see the last parts of it dealing with the Passion Week. There are others I could have listed, but these five we will see at least every couple years, if not every year. 

The Ten Commandments (1956) 
Well done ABC for continuing the tradition of showing this magnificent extravaganza, just like it did when I was growing up.  As a kid, I didn't pay attention to most of the build up.  But once the plagues begin, I was glued to the set.  Of course there have always been detractors, but as I take account of just who those detractors are, I come to love and admire the film all the more.  It's entirely kid safe.  And for my money, a film that bludgeons me with the message 'human slavery is bad' is a damn sight better than one that joins the modern bedrock of future genocides with the message 'we need to eliminate the surplus population to save the planet!' Read here for a more detailed take. 

Jesus of Nazareth
Released the same year as the groundbreaking series Roots, Jesus of Nazareth has weathered the time a little better.  Roots was heavy handed, and the preachiness was at times a little over the top, even if the evils of slavery needed to be shown.  Still, it was in the early days, meaning that Hollywood was still finding its way with this new form of production.  But despite the earliness of the series, Jesus of Nazareth still looks fresh more often than not.

Probably no other series has the proportional star power.  Just about ever person is an A-list character actor or even A-list actor, period.  James Earl Jones, Micheal York, Peter Ustinov, James Mason, Lawrence Olivier, why the list is endless.  Zeffirelli's cinematography is breathtaking, the music stirring, and the series takes pains to make sure that some classical paintings and artwork that Christians would have known make their way into the composition of various scenes.  You can almost hear Pilate say, "Ecce homo!"  

Yes, it is a 'low fantasy' version of the Gospels.  Most miracles are downplayed, and many of the overt supernatural stories are eliminated altogether.  Robert Powell's portrayal is of a small, mystical savior, very human, and very frail physically, though in control spiritually.  It also gives Judas an out as the well meaning but ultimately exploited victim of the resident bad guy (played by the always solid and reliable Ian Holm).  Nonetheless, compared to the media's installments nowadays, this is closer to Sunday School than you can imagine.  

And some of the all star cast - again probably the most star laden of any series ever - shine in their respective rolls. A few seem miscast it is true.  But Michael York as the Baptist, James Farentino as the stumbling bumbling soon to be leader of the new church, and Rod Steiger's unmatched portrayal of Pilate are the high points of a series just filled with high points. 

Ben Hur
Equaled only by Titanic for the number of Oscars won, Ben Hur is all that the Ten Commandments are, but more refined.  The story is darker, crisper.  The acting more modernized (for that time).  The plot lines and dialogue are more acceptable to the modern palette.  It is sweeping grandeur in every sense of the word.  Not as financially successful as The Ten Commandments, nonetheless it was still the biggest movie of the year, and it earned its Oscars in ways that many feel Titanic never really did. 

The story looks like a Jewish story about a Jewish man betrayed by his Roman friend.  But in the end, the finale is squarely on the shoulders of Jesus.  Like The Ten Commandments, the actual biblical story is almost off to the side of the fictionalized plot of lovers and friends.  But where Commandments ends at Sinai, Ben Hur ends at the foot of the Cross.  

And along the way, we are treated to a movie that almost takes its breathtaking splendor for granted.  If Commandments seems to stand up and say 'look how awesome this is', Ben Hur just assumes it's there.  That is, of course, until the legendary Chariot Race. One of the greatest action sequences ever filmed, or likely ever will be.  If you see nothing else, you must see the Chariot Race.  Seeing Heston's massive shoulders holding the reigns (he was able to do much of the actual heavy lifting himself during the filming), it's easy to see why he was the go to choice for this era of epics.  An era that would soon pass, but leave a legacy that few films in recent years have come close to matching. 

King of Kings (Silent Version)
Many years ago, while I was a pastor, this showed late one night before Easter Sunday.  I couldn't sleep, since Easter was always a long, busy day.  We had the sunrise service, and I had to be there around 4:30 AM to get things ready.  And as usual, I couldn't get to sleep.  So I sat up and watched a movie I found out later was the original King of Kings, by a younger Cecil B. DeMille.  Just like his silent Ten Commandments, this was an homage to traditional bible stories without the critical scholarship or post-modern minimalism.  

I don't know why, but there was something about that.  It was just old Bible revival portrayals of the events.  When Jesus dies, there's an earthquake.  There's supernatural.  There's big miracles.  This is dispensing with speculation and just  showing what the Bible says happened.  The Bible says there was an earthquake.  It happened.  

Something about that was strangely refreshing.  Oddly enough, that was one of those things that kindled in me a yearning for a more historic approach to the Faith than I found even in Evangelical Christianity, one that eventually brought me into communion with the Catholic Church. I say oddly, because of course the Catholic Church accepts a modern take on most of the Bible in ways that would shame all but the most liberal theologians in most Protestant seminaries.  

Nonetheless, if you get the chance, watch this.  Sit back and see a movie made between the first round of destruction that industrialization and post-Christian thinking brought by way of the Second World War, the Nuclear Age, and the crumbling of Western Civilization. 

It’s the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown
If there was ever need for evidence that Charles Schultz had lost his edge, it is this.  We watch this because there just isn't any Easter specials for kids that don't have weird monster rabbits with metal tails.  Following the course of the seasonal year, this is the fourth and last Peanuts special we watch until the Fall. And how different, and inferior, it is.

Plagued by the focus on the unfortunate character of Peppermint Patty, and an equal focus on Snoopy and his sidekick Woodstock, the special just durps about, bouncing from set up to joke and set up to joke.  Charlie Brown was almost incidental. A series of sight gags with a few strange, tripped out interludes.  Some lame to be sure.  Beethoven plays a big part in the music score, and that helps. 

But in the end, it's a special about - nothing.  There is no Jesus, Cross, or Resurrection.  Not even close.  It's as if Schultz was trying to undo all he had done with his first two specials.  For A Charlie Brown Christmas is the Citizen Kane of Christmas specials, and It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is a wonderfully atmospheric and nostalgic romp through all the stops of an old time child's Halloween dreams.  

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is still OK.  At least Linus gives a nod to the pilgrims,and recites a prayer, and the theme is finally about being thankful for what we have.  And sharing time with family and friends.  But the Easter Beagle looked like an obligation.  A dashed off afterthought.  One that starts with nothing, leads to nothing, and ends with nothing.  And barely Charlie Brown. 

Honorable Mention

The Wizard of Oz
When I was a kid, there were a few yearly events around which we adjusted our annual calendars: Birthday, Christmas, going to Cedar Point, and The Wizard of Oz.  They showed it every year around Easter.  Don't know why.  But to this day, even if I see a showing of it in August or mid-January, I get feelings of spring and Easter bunnies.   Probably the most iconic movie ever made.  It's worth mentioning just because of its awesomeness.  Someday I might unpack why I love it on so many levels.  But for now, it's worth noting that in my memories of Easter and The Wizard of Oz will forever be linked, even if we don't always watch it at this time.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Church of now and me

My penance is pretty much coming to a close.  I've chosen to endure that Lenten obligation through the actual Easter Week.  When most are finally getting their chocolate, coffee, Sports Illustrated Swim Suit editions, or whatever they gave up, I'm still plugging through.

Granted, the last week's worth of posts haven't been what they are sometimes capable of.  That happens around major holidays.  But this post illustrates the chasm between CAEI, the direction of the Church, and me.

It is a post answering a person who is clearly more sympathetic to the LGBT worldview than I am.  Not that I believe gays should be hated or murdered. But I don't think it natural, normal, or right.  Nor do I think that as long as there is no physical penetration, anything gays do is therefore completely morally neutral or without side effects. One of my understandings of sin has always been that the commands against sin isn't some weird, fickle thing on God's part.  Sin actually is something that tears apart the created order one way or another.  To paraphrase Merlin, when a man sins, he murders some part of the world.  Hence God's commands against the sins.

Now Mark answers the individual with respect and even high fives, despite the individual's confession that he/she and the Church part company regarding this supposedly mortal sin.  No problem.  As the possibility of universalism has been entertained there and across the Catholic blogosphere, things like mortal sin and sexuality seem to diminish in importance.  Like secular liberalism, things that directly impact me - war, death penalty, poverty, torture - those are the things we go crazy about.  Things that I can potentially enjoy or get something from - sex - become less important, if not just fine altogether.  When the hereafter is a sure thing, it becomes an unimportant thing.  And this life suddenly becomes the sole focus of what I, and by extension the Church, should care about.

If it was just CAEI, it wouldn't be a big deal.  But it isn't.  As I've said, I think the tension with CAEI, it's claim to be the blog of a 'conservative Catholic', and the clear and obvious fact that it respectfully disagrees with all but a couple of the sins of liberalism, while dismissing almost anything to do with traditional and conservative values, is due to the Church's obvious lurching to the Left of center regarding a growing number of issues and teachings.

From homosexuality, to war and capital punishment, to evolution, to climate change, to immigration, to education, to the role of women, to economics, to scholarship (biblical and otherwise), to general behavioral issues and individual ethics, the Church and the latest product of liberal and secular thought are increasingly sounding one and the same.

Yes, Jesus still really lived and really died and raised from the dead.  Mary is still Immaculately conceived.  Only men can still be priests.  And gays can't get married.  And God made evolution happen.  But apart from that, the differences between the Church's approach to a host of topics and the general assumptions of a liberal, European socialist thinker, are increasingly few and far between.

So a conservative blogger who has stated his undying loyalty to the Church is in a pickle.  When the Church is increasingly modifying how it interprets itself in light of increasingly progressive, liberal, and even secular perspectives, what is the loyal Catholic blogger to do?  You can just admit what the Church is doing and change your moniker.  Or you can insist you are ever and always conservative, and when properly understood, there is no difference between being so and being loyal to the Church.  No matter how obviously skewered the outcome is.

And so you get numbers of Mark's readers, the majority being to the left of center, coming in to put various spins on this.  Some defending homosexuality.  Some attacking the Indiana law.  A few giving thumbs up to the post (it was well written and many parts were good at unpacking what the Church teaches about disordered appetites).  But there is a general respect and willingness to agree to disagree.  And even against more confrontational support for the LGBT viewpoint, Mark is restrained and leaves his rebuttals succinct and without vitriol.

Imagine it being a post dealing with conservatives, conservative views and readers defending conservative interpretations of the Faith or its teachings.  You don't have to.  There are legions of posts doing that.  Read and notice the difference.

Again, what is a person to do who wishes to be 100% loyal to the Church without admitting that the Church is changing how it approaches its practice of the Faith?  But I've come to find out it's what Catholics have always had to do.  Because contrary to the image that many have, the Church does in fact change.  And it always has.  In fact, if you want a tradition that doesn't change, you'd have to look east.  The Orthodox Church, even admitted to by Evangelical scholars from my ministry days, is about the only tradition close to what the Faith was centuries ago.  With a few modern conveniences aside, its teachings and its practice and the approach some 1500 years ago are still pretty close to the same.  But the Roman Church?  Go into a time machine and go back a thousand years, and you would be a lost as you could hope to be.  That is, if you survived long enough to point out the differences.  And that, to me at least, explains the tension and the contradictions that you find, not only on CAEI, but a growing number of Catholic outlets as well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It is not our house

But I wish it was!  Helm's Peep.  You have to admit, that's class.  And seasonal, too!




Monday, April 6, 2015

Regarding liberals against the Bill of Rights

A reminder.  We're seeing now that the cave of Indiana in the face of withering assaults is not enough.  It never will be.  This is about a new religion converting an old religion.  A new world order, riding in to convert at the edge of a pen.  And the pen, as we know, is mighier than the sword.  And so it is weilded.  

Despite the unmasking of the movement and its clear and honest demands that all be brought to conform to this new morality, many still think some level of compromise is possible.  Simply because terms like bigotry vs. tolerance are tossed about, with assurances that we will never be forced to compromise our beliefs, many still believe them.  Ahem:

' "Saruman," I said, "I have heard speeches of this kind before, but only in the mouths of emissaries sent from Mordor to deceive the ignorant. I cannot think that you brought me so far only to weary my ears."
'He looked at me sidelong, and paused a while considering. "Well, I see that this wise course does not commend itself to you," he said. "Not yet? Not if some better way can be contrived? "
`He came and laid his long hand on my arm. "And why not, Gandalf? " he whispered. "Why not? The Ruling Ring? If we could command that, then the Power would pass to us. That is in truth why I brought you here. For I have many eyes in my service, and I believe that you know where this precious thing now lies. Is it not so? Or why do the Nine ask for the Shire, and what is your business there? " As he said this a lust which he could not conceal shone suddenly in his eyes.
' "Saruman," I said, standing away from him, "only one hand at a time can wield the One, and you know that well, so do not trouble to say we! But I would not give it, nay, I would not give even news of it to you, now that I learn your mind. You were head of the Council, but you have unmasked yourself at last. Well, the choices are, it seems, to submit to Sauron, or to yourself. I will take neither. Have you others to offer? "  

Just a reminder.  When we are told 'look, we all just want everyone to get along and embrace diversity', it is embarrassing for us to believe it when at the same time they've made it clear this nation isn't big enough for the two of us.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Christ is Risen!





To save wretched sinners like me.  As we try to avoid exploiting Christ's victory over death as a license for complacency in the face of Mordor, it's good to remember the real sinner that Christ died and rose from the dead for is - me.  And what a promise it is.  Not an excuse to let darkness reign on earth, but a call to action, knowing that whatever befalls me in my attempts to follow Christ, my sins have been fought for already.  Thank you Lord!  And a Happy Easter to all!


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Jonah Goldberg swings and hits

Before I retire for a big day and week coming up, allow me to post one from Goldberg on the lunacy, the idiocy we are seeing from those who are beyond sure they are the moral and intellectual gods of all ages.  The takeaway quote:

So is it any wonder that today’s liberals have “Selma envy”? Is it a surprise they see Jim Crow laws everywhere? If your only frame of reference for moral heroism is the struggle for civil rights half a century ago, it’s no shock that you will do everything you can to bend the world today into your sepia-toned viewfinder of the past. Teach enough kids that they have to reenact Selma to be heroic, they’ll start seeing Selma in the weirdest places. Worse, the real issue won’t be the alleged injustice, the real issue will be their heroism — like kids who dig latrines in the third world so they can explain what heroes they are to the admissions counselor at Vassar. The problem is that to compare any other group’s experience to the black experience in America must of necessity be a poetic or metaphorical enterprise. The facts don’t line up for women and gays. The transgendered weren’t carted over here in the galleys of ships. (You could look it up.) This isn’t to say blacks are the only people to have suffered from historic injustices (or to say that constant dwelling on those injustices is necessarily constructive). It is to say that the constant unending desire to leach moral standing from their experience to give your own claims underserved grandeur is pathetic and shameful. And the know-nothing, often fundamentally anti-American, desire to constantly cast this country as an oppressive, evil-intentioned society, is an indication of how the Left’s intellectual gas tank is empty, and is now running simply on the fumes of megalothymic passion.
Yep.  Read the whole thing.  It's what happens when people who are actually good, moral people with brains and education are forced to stand against people - many no doubt good of heart - who have bought into some of the most mentally and morally vacant arguments of the last century.  But remember, Easter.  Not as an excuse to dodge our responsibilities.  But always as the basis for our hope when we do fulfill our responsibilities.  Happy Easter! 

‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given, us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black.' 
 The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien 

Admit that Conservatives are the sane ones in the Religious Freedom debate

As the Left scrambles over itself to shred the First Amendment and take a giant leap away from freedom, Conservatives and non-Liberals are emerging as the sane and rational adults in this.  While the hallowed halls of late night comedy and other respectable venues like rock music seem to join the sporting world in its contempt for liberty over sex, articles like this and this make clear the obvious BS and lies and foolishness and stupidity that are behind any opposition to freedom of conscience over celebration of sexual lifestyles.

American anti-religious bigotry on Holy Saturday




Thinking that America would always and forever be a free country seems to have made some people complacent about the growing movement to eliminate liberty and freedoms by replacing them with hedonism and narcissism.  The exclusive focus on the evils of America's past has also helped, since not a few who are appalled at the sudden attempt to end the First Amendment avoid action by citing their disgust and contempt for this racist, imperialist and genocidal nation we live in.  And of course there are those far more focused on the stupidity and evil of those opposed to the Leftist Juggernaut than they are the actual threats of the Leftist Juggernaut.

Thus, those who would stand up for the right thing in a common sense way and do what they can to preserve a free society for our posterity are a shrinking herd.  For those of us who do not welcome the coming darkness, and realize what the ramifications of this end to liberties and a free society actually are, just remember:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  
Matthew 5: 10-12.  
Happy Easter.