Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie to be released in February 2016: “Risen”

Here’s a movie coming in February that you should seriously consider watching: 

Risen tells the story of the Resurrection through the eyes of a Roman tribune, Clavius (Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love, Hercules). Clavius and his aide, Lucius (Tom Felton, Harry Potter), are first ordered to oversee the execution of Jesus (Cliff Curtis, Fear the Walking Dead), then to insure that the Nazarene’s tomb is sealed and guarded. When the tomb is opened and the body disappears, Pilate (Peter Firth, The Hunt for Red October, MI-5) orders Clavius to hunt down the body.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mary had a choice

St. Mary's Catholic Church, 36th and Q Sts., Omaha, NE.
(Photo credit: Susan Austin.)
The photo at left was taken by a pro-choice friend of mine. It's one of those friendships where you're glad there's plenty of respect and charity between the two of you, because your views of life are largely incompatible. (But then again, as Chesterton once observed, "Men and women, as such, are incompatible.")

I hate church marquees that try to rack up points on the culture-war scoreboard. I honestly think that, if Jack Dorsey et al. had really looked at such signs and thought about it, they would have strangled Twitter in the cradle, because activist church marquees are way too much like analog tweets: too many people trying to reduce complex issues into Parthian shots of less than 140 characters.

Let's skip over the anachronism of a first-century Jewish girl being "pro-choice", and cut right to the theological chase: The Blessed Virgin Mother did have a choice ... she could have said "No" to St. Gabriel. Of course, in her case, saying "No" would have obviated any need for abortifacients, as God would not have coerced her into the Incarnation against her will.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Syrian refugees and the courage to be Christian

Syrian refugees coming ashore at Lesbos.
(Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis/Getty.)
Last week, longtime reader Michael asked me to do a fuller piece on the Syrian refugee crisis. A couple of mass shootings have happened in the meantime, one involving Islamic radicals. Nevertheless, the refugee issue hasn’t been settled; and the Muslim identity of the San Bernadino shooters has thrown more anger and panic into the mix.

The other day, Br. Anthony J. J. Mathison, OP, wrote an excellent essay on the matter, which sums up my thoughts with greater charity and knowledge than I possess. However, it’s too long to quote at length here; and I’m not sure whether Br. Anthony intended it for further publication. So let me confine myself to some general concerns that Br. Anthony and I hold in common. I'm not going to spend the time he did refuting ten common objections, since most of them assume a radical position that brings everyone in without screening or background checks ... a position few if any propose in any seriousness.

The principle of humanity inscribed in the conscience of every person and all peoples includes the obligation to protect civil populations from the effects of war. ...
A particular category of war victim is formed by refugees, forced by combat to flee the places where they habitually live and to seek refuge in foreign countries. The Church is close to them not only with her pastoral presence and material support, but also with her commitment to defend their human dignity: “Concern for refugees must lead us to reaffirm and highlight universally recognized human rights, and to ask that the effective recognition of these rights be guaranteed to refugees”.—Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 505, cit. St. John Paul II, 1990 Message for Lent, 3

“I was a stranger, and you welcomed me ....” This is among six acts that Jesus names in the “Judgment of the Nations” passage (Matthew 25:31-46) as things done by the “sheep”, the righteous, who will “inherit the kingdom prepared ... from the foundation of the world.” In this passage, Jesus draws an unmistakeable “equals” sign between himself and the wretched, even the despised, of the earth, and tells us we may no longer overlook them, that we may no longer neglect them, that we may no longer judge them as lesser beings. Earlier, in the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), he told us to treat others as we’d like to be treated; now, we must treat these “least of ... my brothers” as if they were Christ himself!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

“Prayer-shaming” won’t destroy the American pro-gun culture

Cover of 12/3/15 New York Daily News.
As if we needed another political buzzword, we’ve got one now, provided by Atlantic writer Emma Green (and retailed by American Conservative pundit Rod Dreher): prayer-shaming.

A couple of years ago, I came across a meme which suggested that religious people pray instead of doing things to make the world better. Of course, that ignores the vast bulk of history, in which most people who worked for positive social, economic, environmental, and political changes were also people who prayed, went to church, or had some other form of religious expression. (Ever heard of Dorothy Day? Lech Walesa? Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? Martin Luther King, Jr.’s doctorate wasn’t in astrophysics! The list is endless.) In many cases, the activists’ religious convictions pushed them into the fight; in many cases, they considered their devotional lives sources of emotional strength.

The idea that a life of prayer precludes a life of social action is ridiculous on the face of it ... unless you’re a Republican politician. Then you’re fair game for the charge that “the only thing you’re willing to do about this mess is pray!

There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer [writes Green]: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa. That people who care about gun control can’t be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence. At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that’s clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs.