Deborah Gyapong: April 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

Notes on the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing

I wish I could have been there. In fact, I had been planning to go, but my spring schedule began to look too daunting, so I decided to pass this year.

Fortunately, my fellow Master's Artist J. Mark Bertrand offers some detailed observations about the conference here.

Inside the bubble of evangelical publishing, it's easy to ignore the frustration of fiction readers who expect the blending of faith and art to produce "serious" work. At a conference like Calvin, though, a lot of the recent hype rings hollow. Readers don't want to hear that things are changing; they want to see the books. And they don't have the built-in respect for the standard excuses that people in the bubble tend to have.

It may have happened, but I didn't hear any editors at the festival say, "We're just interested in commercial, genre-driven fiction." Most everyone suggested a desire to see both literary fiction and the kind of 'high genre' stuff you see in the general market, where art and genre meld. And everyone -- editors, writers, readers -- wanted to be able to point to more examples of serious fiction with faith elements. But frankly, it doesn't seem to be happening, or rather, everyone is hoping it will without anyone having to do something about it. This seems to be a conversation you can only take so far before everyone sighs and says that the economics prevent any meaningful fruition. All the editors seem to want the right things, but for a variety of reasons only a few are in a position to act.



Bethany House editor Dave Long offers his take hereand here over at Faith in Fiction.

One of the highlights for me would have been meeting Mark and Dave and other people I've become acquainted with online.

Dave set up the Faith in Fiction blog as a way of encouraging Christian writers to aspire to art rather than product in their work.

Meanwhile, Mark offers this rationale for the gap that so often exists between what we aspire to and what we actually produce.

All of this theorizing points to my reasons for not producing the serious writing I daydream about. First, it's hard. I find it much easier to channel the themes, characters, tones and settings of the type of books I like than to build everything from scratch and make it uniquely my own. I can write much more and much quicker this way, and given all that's out there on the shelves, the result is (in my mind) "good enough." Also, it's more convenient to work with what's already out there than to mine my own thoughts and experiences for fresh material. I've acquired the teacher's trick of projecting expertise on every subject, whether I have it or not, and that carries over into writing, where I can do a reasonably good facsimile of genuine angst over any topic, even if I don't care much about it at all outside the page.

If an unserious approach to fiction allows me to be more prolific, it also persuades me (wrongly, I think) that I am more likely to be rewarded for my work. The public, I tell myself, doesn't want serious fiction. They want pure entertainment. They want the familiar formulae, jazzed up with the occasional variation to keep them on their toes. In other words, like the suburban contractor, I justify my convenience by insisting people don't want me to work harder. And the fact is, they don't -- until they've experienced the kind of story such hard work can produce. I could have been perfectly content in my cookie-cutter house, for example, with its brick and limestone facade and its open floor plan, if only I had never seen a truly creative architectural home. Readers are the same. Only once they've awakened to great books do they begin to insist on them.

Now for me, the object of naming these excuses is not to embrace them. I file them under the heading of temptation, and putting them into words will make it easier (I hope) to identify and reject them. I don't want to take seriously my excuses for not writing seriously.


Other Master's Artists this week grapple with the tensions in the writer's and poet's worlds.

For Mike Synder it is deadlines and whether they improve the art. And for Suz, it is how marketing and the business of writing seems to kill the poet in her.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The genesis of the Master's Artist

Mike Duran has posted a great interview with Master's Artist administrator and founder Jules Quincy Stephens.

She gives a good history of the groups' origins. A few things I'd like to add to her excellent rendition. One of the things that brought us together was a desire to encourage writers to write with excellence. So many writing listserves, writing conferences, magazines and artices are geared towards helping a writer get published and market their work. Following the art and following what sells can sometimes be, unfortunately, mutually exclusive.

While all that "getting published and marketed" information is useful, when one starts to think about developing a product and let that replace excellence in the creation of art pleasing to the Lord, it can distract us from our God-given purpose as writers. We felt a need to have a place where we could encourage writing for its own sake, in a community where a Christian worldview is shared. It's very easy to lose sight of why we write when worldly concerns push their way in.

Another dream I have had about the Master's Artist is that it would help bypass some of the expensive, traditional publicity machinery that tends to operate in favor of a handful of brand name authors, often leaving many worthy but unknown authors to labor in obscurity.

I have hopes the Master's Artist might someday develop a seal of approval that could recognize those writers who are focusing on the art of writing and service to God and don't have the time or the inclination for market their work. We could help become a megaphone for this kind of writer, getting the word out for them.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

British doctors accuse China of harvesting and selling human organs

Several Members of Parliament from all parties in Canada believe there is truth to allegations the Chinese are harvesting organs from prisoners.

When Parliament opened in early April, a number of them spoke at a demonstration organized by Falun Gong, a group that claims its members are bearing the brunt of this practice because so many of its adherents have been detained in concentration camp like facilities.

Now, British surgeons have joined the chorus of accusations. H/T Gateway Pundit who picks up the story here with a number of excellent links.

As Chinese President Hu Jintao works at making a good impression on the Americans in his historic trip to the United States, British surgeons today are accusing China of harvesting the organs of thousands of executed prisoners a year to sell for transplants.

The sickening rumors have been out there a while, but now the British Transplantation Society are claiming it is true! Good God!

The BBC is reporting that there is something to the rumors of China selling off prisoners organs for profit:

Interesting stuff in John Allen's Word from Rome

Read the whole thing, because it is very interesting on a number of different subjects.

Here is an excerpt of an interview with the new U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney.


You mentioned religious liberty. Benedict XVI seems more outspoken than John Paul II on this issue, especially with respect to Islam. Some welcome that, others worry that it will heighten tensions. What's your reading?
I think the evolving consensus that the church needs to be clear and strong that religious freedom is a two-way street is unimpeachable. I haven't heard anything from my government to oppose that. We're for religious freedom of all stripes. When you apply that principle, you have to say that for Saudi Arabia to say, 'There can't be any churches,' is an issue. I believe even Secretary Rice is starting to address that, and I think the President's comments that pluralism in Iraq should germinate pluralism elsewhere, is all playing into that same thing. You can't have it two ways.

You would agree that there's a stronger line under Benedict XVI?
Absolutely. I think they've hardened up. I think they've gotten clearer. They're focusing on this reciprocity doctrine. They're also focusing on the possibilities of working together [with Muslims] in non-doctrinal areas, which I think is smart. It's kind of hard for people to hate each other who have worked together building a Habitat for Humanity house. … There are also the life issues, where the Catholic church has been on the same side with Islam before the U.N.

Where do things stand in terms of the Holy See and China?
My last understanding, which is pretty recent, is that everybody is feeling pretty good about the gradual progress. They're not expecting too much from China. They're thankful that the President continues to put the heat on them about religious freedom, and about the list of imprisoned people. China seems to be reacting to that, vis-à-vis both the United States and the Holy See. …

Critics would say that by allowing China to be part of the international economy despite human rights violations because, frankly, they're just too big a market to ignore, the world is sending a signal that they don't have to play by the same rules as everyone else.
I don't know that I would agree. We're seeing very positive reactions to the President's trip over there. He's called for religious freedom, and some of the actions that they've taken [are encouraging] But you're right, they do kind of lean one way and then the other. There are a lot of people here in the Holy See that express increasing confidence, and they continue to look towards 'morphing' the patriotic church and the historic underground church into, ultimately, one entity. They're hopeful the government will allow them to expand the number of seminarians, as that's one way the government keeps control over the church.

Let's talk about the United Nations. Over the years, the Holy See has expressed more confidence than the United States about the U.N. as an organ of international governance.
You don't have to have a lot of confidence to have more confidence than we do.

Where do you see that conversation standing?

I think they're probably still not as enthusiastic about taking on the well-documented defects of the United Nations that Ambassador Bolton and the President are willing to confront, and we'd like to see them be a little more supportive of that. It would be good.

American administrations, Republican and Democratic, have seen the United Nations as a forum for international cooperation rather than the nucleus of a sovereign system of global governance, which has been the dream of several popes.
The Holy See can have the liberty of seeking attributes of sovereignty for an organization that no country can.

Why?
The United Nations, by definition, is only a reflection of its constituent members. [Sovereignty] would mean overturning the whole philosophy. I don't think the United States could ever go for that. What we need to go for is an effective, clean, honest U.N. that can bring all nations together.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, it seemed the Holy See wanted to promote the emergence of a strong Europe as a counter-weight to the predominance of America in global affairs. Some of that enthusiasm seems to have cooled, as they've watched the runaway secularism of Europe. Now it appears they're more likely to see the United States, for all its defects, as the best ally of institutional Christianity. Does that analysis seem right to you?

That's exactly what I meant when I said a couple of things earlier. First of all, [it's reflected in] the Holy Father's keen understanding of and appreciation for the United States -- our faith, our church attendance, our tradition of religious freedom, and so on. That's mirrored by the fact that I haven't seen any specific or general instances of anti-Americanism here. I've found a lot of appreciation for what we do. Sure, they may have a little different opinion of the U.N., or the Cuban embargo, but on the important questions on the direction of the world, on the life issues, on the role of religion in the world, on how people should raise their families, how they procreate, and what kind of world we're going to leave to our kids, we couldn't ask for a better partner than the Holy See, and they couldn't ask for a better partner than us.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Chilling and prophetic glimpse of what's ahead

David Warren forwarded an email a copy of this speech by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto given at Concordia College earlier this month. The more people who read this and grasp what he is saying and do something about it (if it's not too late) the better.

He starts out talking about Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat"

It is touching to read the last sentences in Friedman’s book: “You can flourish in this flat world, but it does take the right imagination and the right motivation. While your lives have been powerfully shaped by 9/11, the world needs you to be forever the generation of 11/9 (he is referring to the date the Berlin Wall was opened) – the generation of strategic optimists, the generation with more dreams than memories, the generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can be better but also acts on that generation every day.”

This is good stuff. It would be better still if it were balanced with a realistic account of a potentially catastrophic form of globalization – a threat stemming from to America’s and the rest of the world’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for oil and the crazy fact that petroleum deposits are almost exclusively in the hands of actual or potential enemies of the United States.

And of those some major ones are busy conspiring against America most of whose citizens seem oblivious of this danger, because they are badly served by their media, which are world champions in ignoring foreign affairs. Just think: Russia is massively arming Venezuela and Iran. Iran, soon to be a nuclear power, is establishing close bonds with Venezuela. Venezuela has acquired a new strong ally – Bolivia, which is home to one of America’s most significant natural gas fields. Bolivia has invited China to manage these natural gas fields.

China has acquired most of the storage facilities along the Panama Canal. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have become petroleum-thirsty China’s premium oil suppliers. Should the United States prematurely pull out of Iraq, that country’s massive oil fields are expected to come under Iran’s control. This prediction of mounting woes for the United States can be extended ad infinitum.

-snip-

So now Friedman tells us about the leveled global playing field on which an Indian receives his order of a new Dell laptop, which is then assembled in Malaysia from parts flown in from China or Taiwan, Germany, Israel, Thailand, Japan and Philippines and elsewhere, and guess what? Two weeks later the computer shows up in Friedman’s home in Bethesda, Maryland.

What he describes there is a wonderfully peaceful scenario, just like the pleasant fact that while American doctors and patients sleep at night, their CAT scans are being examined by competent specialists in Australia or Israel, where it’s daytime. Or the notion that while China and Taiwan are both profiting mightily from the flattening of the world, China won’t invade Taiwan.

He doesn’t tell us what might happen when if there is no longer the kerosene to fly computer parts to Friedman’s nascent laptop in Malaysia? What if Dell can’t afford to fly that laptop from Penang to Washington, D.C.?

The favorite line of American pacifists, “Why don’t we all get along?”, might not work in a world where genuine and irrational haters of the United States, such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez und Iran, conspire against supplying America, shipping their oil to ever-thirsty China instead. Or when Russia, which is already using its natural gas as a means to bully its neighbors, ships its oil and gas to China rather than Western Europe – and when China takes up Bolivia’s offer to manage its natural gas fields, the second largest in the America’s. Or when the ruling clan in Saudi Arabia is ousted and replaced by America-hating radicals.

-snip-

What if madness or greed compel countries with huge populations and talents to turn against an America they no longer consider invulnerable or invincible?

Friedman barely touches on these dangers but that does not make them any less real. If you want to know where I am coming from – please remember this. A century ago, my country led the world in science, knowledge and the quality of its products.

It took a few short years for Germany to fall from these lofty heights to the catastrophes of a lost war, from prosperity to a devastating inflation, from decency to a tyranny, another World War, shame and the loss of one-third of its territory.

If somebody had told my grandparents at the time of their marriage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that this was going to happen to their nation they would have laughed him out of their parlors.

-snip-

If I sound a little cynical about the global benefits of globalization, please consider this: I own two cars, one in America, one in France. The American car is a 6-cylinder 2005 Dodge Stratus, my car in France is a 1996 Audi A6 Quattro, so both are manufactured by a corporation with plants around the world – DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen. The Dodge gives me 22 miles to the gallon of gas if I drive it carefully, the Audi well over 30 miles at speeds up to 100 m.p.h.

Moreover, the Audi has a diesel engine. When I am in Germany, I fill it up with biodiesel made from soy or corn or rapeseed. It could also be made from waste grease thrown out by MacDonald’s restaurants; some amateurs right here in America are doing this.

These days, only three smaller VW models sold in the United States are capable of running on biodiesel. No Audi diesels are available here. Neither can you buy any of the European-made General Motors and Ford cars that could easily be converted to use that kind of fuel which you can produce in your own basement and which, if mass produced from plants, could ease the plight of American farmers.



He has the entire speech posted at his blog. Please read it all.

Things between the PMO and the national press gallery could get worse

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power in Ottawa, relations with the news media have deteriorated. He doesn't hold news conferences in the National Press Theatre; instead he holds them in the foyer of the House of Commons. He won't allow press gallery officers to choose questioners, he wants to have his communications flacks do it.

But....this goes to show it could be a lot worse.

H/T Small Dead Animals.

Where to report those disgusting porn emails

I receive an atrocious amount of SPAM.

Usually my email program sends stuff right to my "delete" folder, but sometimes important emails I need to receive end up there, too, so I have to suppress my gag reflex and root among the Viagra and Cialis ads, the enlargement ads for an organ I do not possess, and the deliberately misspelled porn ads that are so disgusting I can't imagine them appealing to anyone. Frankly, it's scary that anyone would find them tempting.

Then yesterday and today I started getting ads about incest, ads about sex acts with young girls and boys and I had it. I called my service provider and found about about how to deal with abuse. And I called the police. The police told me about Cybertip.ca and how to report these child porn emails. The detective told me that many of these porn sellers operate from other countries so the local police can't do anything about it, but the RCMP works with the folks at Cybertip.ca to convey information to the appropriate police agencies in other countries.

Here's how you do it.

Go to www.cybertip.ca and click on the red "report here" button.

A form will come up. Yeah, it's a bit time consuming but if you can nail these creeps it's worth it. I didn't want to have to open the emails and, thankfully, I didn't have to in order to fill out the form.

The form has a box asking for the email header. To get that, right click on the offensive email. Then click on "properties." On Microsoft Outlook Express, you'll get two tabs: general and details. Click on details and there's the offending emails header.

Copy and paste it into the form where it asks for a header.

I put in my contact information the first few complaints I made, but after that I answered "no" to the "contact me" part because they would already have my email from the header and permission to contact me on the previous complaints. It saves time not to fill out all your contact information.

Go and visit the Cybertip.ca website and spread the word about this service.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A must read essay on Judas and betrayal

An excerpt from Judas: A Saint for Our Times by Gerard Van der Leun at American Digest. H/T Dr. Sanity, who has posted part three of her excellent series on denial.

It was never a question of "if," but only a question of "when" our contemporary society would discover an avatar who would make treason acceptable. It only codifies the realities of their secular belief system. Treason against others or one's country has long been as common as adultery in this country. Like adultery the rate of treason is on the rise because, like adultery and similar forms of personal betrayal, it no longer has any consequences at all.

It is true that the federal crime of treason is not easily established and is rarely if ever charged. But the formal crime of treason is not what I am discussing here. Rather the more common, garden variety of treason as understood by plain people -- the rabid and unremitting hatred, expressed in word or deed, of the country that gives you the freedom express your hatred. It is the treason of the ingrate, the soul-dead, the politically perverted, and the bitter; it is, as Roger Kimball at The New Criterion discusses, the treason of the intellectuals and "the undoing of thought."

It's a fact of our self-centered contemporary existence that betrayal has become one of the common forces that shape our lives. For when our own desires ride us like a drunken demon lodged on our shoulders, betrayal is the first order of the day when others seek to thwart our desires, or even when others become a mere inconvenience to our wants and whims.

We've long permitted greater and greater levels of betrayal in our society. We've codified them as law, policy and custom as far as the wishes of the individual are concerned. It is no longer sophisticated or fashionable to speak of selfishness as betrayal. That word is so harsh when, after all, we are only speaking of "differing needs," aren't we. When the betrayal of others is glossed over with phrases such as "I needed to be me," or "I needed my space," or "I needed more money,"or "We were just on different paths," then the elevation of this disease of the soul from the betrayal of another into the larger realm of treason against all is only a question of degree.

The problem is that shame, a vestigial thing in many shrunken souls, persists, and shame must be driven out of the soul if the secular is to thrive. Both betrayal and treason are still weighted down by a lingering sense of shame within at the same time they are made safe from the onus of blame without. Both are permitted by our cults of personal freedom and "sensible" selfishness, but both are formed of dark matter and not easily expunged from one's soul no matter how reduced it may have become.

There was, perhaps, only one moment in history when humans "knew not what they did." In all other times we know, at the deepest level, exactly what we do when we betray another, or others, or ourselves, or our country. We know it clearly and so we bury the ugly deed deeply. Still it persists, remains and rots in the tomb of our souls. A wiser culture called this "sin" and sought to have it confessed and forgiven as meaningless in the shadow of the greatest sacrifice. Our therapeutic culture calls it "guilt" and seeks to palliate and expunge it so that we may live a guilt-free life regardless of our acts. More and more of us live in the latter culture and seek a life forever free from sin, from guilt, from the consequences of our betrayals. And yet this final freedom eludes us.

What is needed, in this secular age of self-intoxication, is a Saint who will remit our sins of betrayal; who will by his very existence sanctify treason. And who better fits this role than the man who betrayed the greatest love for the smallest change, Judas?

The worshipers of the Church of the Self need Judas today more than they need Christ, and they need Christ more than they can know. They need Him so much that they are compelled to reject Him utterly lest their shabby Church be seen as it is, a hovel made of mud and wattle, of empty objects, shabby dreams and promises broken. A statue of Judas would blend right into the niche above their television; a household god whose only requirement is an offering of silver, from time to time, or a shopping spree at the mall to secure his love and blessing; our "Saint Judas of Perpetual Extortion."

Betrayal is a common catechism in the Church of the Self. Hymns to Me are the hosannas it hurls at an empty heaven. The politics of such a church require as First Things a rejection of all things not of, by, and for the self. A religion or a country of the people, by the people, and for the people is high on the list of things to be abhorred since it requires an allegiance that is other than to the self. The Church of the Self effectively mandates treason, and we see it now manifested daily in the bright robes of "unstiffled dissent" which shroud an increasingly vicious anti-Americanism that has its roots, not in reasoned criticism, but in unreasoned hate. We hear the hate but what we have not been allowed to see is the treason behind it.

That is now "changed, changed utterly."

Now our traitors to God and Country have found a sheaf of rags that "prove" that the greatest treason was really "all good;" that Judas was really the greatest friend Jesus ever had and was, with a kiss, doing him the greatest favor ever done.

Treason, done with the kiss of "my personal freedom," proves that you do not really hate your country, you love it. You are, in the final analysis, your country's best friend. In these "new" old tales about Jesus we read that Judas betrayed the Son of God because Jesus told him to do it. Really? Or did his betrayal come, not from any request that may or may not have been made, but from humanity's persistant lust to sin freely and without even the thin penalty of remorse? Was this final treason done because this sin had been secretly blessed by God, or for the sheer dark thrill of asserting the self at the expense of life in the light?

"I betrayed my friend, because he gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for him."

"I betrayed my country because it gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for it."

Black is white. Hate is Love. Slavery is Freedom. Treason is Loyalty. That last phrase fits right in to the secular catechism, doesn't it? All it needs to become holy writ is an avatar, a solid historical personage with the power to turn darkness into light, lies into truth, and betrayal into something that was, in the final analysis, "all good."

Saint Judas, step right up to the Gates, ring that bell, and don your halo -- you the man.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Dr. Sanity doing another excellent series on denial

People in denial may believe they are engaging in substantive arguments and presenting their case, but when examined, the grounds they present are actually examples of pseudo-reasoning.

Although not precisely a fallacy or rhetorical ploy, physical coercion is another important technique that is used to defuse and/or disrupt rational argument or discussion. For the denier, coercion has the advantage of eliminating any possibiity they might have to confront their denial and what is driving it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Kanata Walk of the Cross 2006





Almost two hundred people showed up to participate in the annual Good Friday Walk of the Cross in the Kanata neighborhood of Ottawa. A cross that Tom Flood constructed 21 years ago has made its annual journey every Good Friday, accompanied by the faithful who take turns carrying it and remembering Jesus Christ's journey to Calvary.

Today the weather was warm and beautiful. The walk started and ended at Christ Risen Lutheran Church.

Mark Bertrand getting jabbed with pencils

I may know objectively that other writers are higher up than me on the foodchain of greatness, but it's as difficult to believe that subjectively as it is for a child to accept mortality. It's true, but somehow not "true for me." Which is a good thing. A writer has to believe in himself much more than his talent warrants to persevere. The obstacles are great, after all, and the encouragement as whispy as an old man's hair. Or something like that.

Laurie takes in my mood at once, and rewards me with an indulgent smile. "Yes," she says, "instead of being inspired by great writers, why don't you just pretend they're poking and taunting you."

But they are poking and taunting me, I want to say. With their run-on sentences and their clever words and their stories about nothing that somehow manage to be about everything. They're jabbing me with their sharpened pencils when she isn't looking. And I must be a masochist because I love it. I've never gotten much out of a book I reckoned I could have written better, but the ones that smite me somehow win my love. The books that are hard on me, the ones that put me in my place.

I don't know how other writers feel about it, but for me reading a great book instills fear. Not the knee-knocking, teeth-chattering kind, but the sort of trepidation you feel watching a diver leap to the water from the heights of a rocky cliff. An adrenaline-saturated fear that drives me forward, that makes me want to jump, too. Those words, those menacing, spiraling run-on sentences are like a reckless dare. Come on. Let's see if you can do this. And even if I know I can't, I have to try, because who can back down from a challenge like that? An invitation to match wits in the longest running game in town.


Read the whole thing. Then the previous posts by Mike, Suz, Dee and the rest of the gang at The Masters Artist.

Barbara Nicolosi has posted the last part of Witchita interview

Barbara Nicolosi has posted the final part the Witchita Interview here.

An excerpt.

But yes, I do think I am different among the legions of Christian movie critics in that I have actually written screenplays. I've made a couple of short films and so had to look through a camera and understand how the camera can see and what is possible. I've had to be constrained by a production budget, and had to rework on the set an idea that the actor just couldn't pull off. The main way I’ve learned about the challenge of Christians trying to reflect their worldview in art is actually through my own work.

To tell you the truth, I am disgusted with the film criticism in the church very often because it is completely done by people who are not practitioners. And it shows in the way they talk about screen stories. Much of it seems worthless to me, these people who know nothing about the art form and tend to criticize movies just on the basis of story. Few of our Christian film critics have gone to film school or made movies. They basically used to report on one beat for their local Christian paper or radio station - or else they were the kid in seminary who really, really, really loved Star Wars. And then one day they got the call to be the media reporter. That is, unfortunately, the people who are telling masses of our Christians what movies to go see.

Particularly egregious are the critical passes that come from Christian critics who are effectively ga-ga over "the Hollywood thing." The p.r. folks have them go to the Four Seasons for a junket, give them a giftbag and have them touch a couple stars, and then the reviews come out with more than a bit of a soft-focus lens. Part of it is that these critics want to be invited to the next junket. I find the celebrity obsession in Christians inane and almost worthless.

Another problem in Christian critics is that they they miss the subtextual heart of a project because they can't see past its use of sin as inciting incident. Projects like In the Bedroom, or In America, get panned because “They had sex,” or “They were murderers who don’t end up in jail.”

And now, we have the recent nauseating post-modern Christian critic who is so hungering to be hip that they end up swallowing all kinds of violating movie camels to promote a few gnats of story or character substance. This is the "It's all good" crowd. The only movie they are offended by is any film that is sympathetic to Christianity. They see themselves as standing outside the church somehow, not one of the clueless bourgeois masses of Christians who are horrified by things like the Incarnate Son of God having sex (DVC) or reducing the Eucharist to less potent in its substance than a well-intentioned candy truffle (Chocolat). God save us from the sophomoric Teflon Christian critic!

Anyway, a good Christian critic takes into consideration matter and form. And has a sense of beauty as wholeness, harmony and radiance. The technique, art form, artistry and imagery needs to be considered as well as the plot points and performance. I want to start a program called Act One: Critics at some point, because I am exhausted with our Christian critics praising what should be scorned and ignoring what should be praised.


For excerpts from and links to the previous three parts, go here.

Good Friday

If you are not going to church today, you may want to go over to The Daily Offices to read the prayers and readings for this Holy Day.

Otherwise, why not find a church service you can attend?

Pope Benedict on Judas as the treacherous man


From Zenit:

In his homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, Benedict XVI assured the faithful that the mystery of Judas consists precisely in his rejection of God's love.

Judas Iscariot personifies "treacherous man," for whom money, power and success are more important than love and he does not hesitate to sell Jesus, the Pope said at the Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday.

The Holy Father's comments came in the wake of the recently divulged "Gospel of Judas," an ancient document that puts the apostle and his betrayal of Christ in a positive light. It describes Judas, in fact, as obeying a divine ordinance in handing over Jesus to the authorities.

In his homily, Benedict XVI, on the contrary, stressed the freedom of the apostle who betrayed Jesus for 30 denarii, as the canonical Gospels explain.

"The dark mystery exists of the rejection, made present with what happened to Judas and, precisely on Holy Thursday, on the day that Jesus gives himself up, should make us reflect," said the Pontiff. "The Lord's love knows no limits, but man can put a limit."

Rejection

Benedict XVI then asked: "What does this do to treacherous man?" And he responded: "The rejection of love, not wanting to be loved, not loving. Pride which thinks it has no need of purification, which closes itself to the saving goodness of God."

"In Judas," he said, "we see the nature of this rejection still more clearly. He judges Jesus according to the categories of power and success: For him, power and success alone are the reality, love does not count.

"And he is avid: Money is more important than communion with Jesus, it is more important than God and his love."


"In this way," the Holy Father explained, "he also becomes a liar, who plays a game of double jeopardy, and breaks with truth, someone who lives in lies, thus losing the sense of the highest truth, of God."

"In this way, he becomes hard and incapable of conversion, of the confident return of the prodigal son, and throws away his destroyed life."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The cartoon wars rev up again

South Park tried to run a cartoon version of Mohammed and Comedy Central censored it.

Michelle Malkin is on it with lots of good links.

Maundy Thursday


Today we commemorate the Last Supper. I have posted today's readings over at The Daily Offices. This morning, as I prayed the morning office, I opened the patio doors so that the sweet chorus of robins, cardinals and other birds would join my prayers of thanksgiving before sunrise. A soft rain pattered on the balcony. The sweet smell of fresh earth wafted into the room.

Yesterday I visited a friend who lives in a nursing home. She is younger than I am and quite distressed about being there. Riding up in the elevator that stopped at every floor, the door would swing open to views of people with terrible physical afflictions. One woman was so thin and twisted she lay across her wheelchair's tray like a gnarled tree bough.

As I went to Mass that evening, I was deeply aware of my own frailty and vulnerability, and of the sorrow that afflicts so many around the world. Hunger, war, disease, death, torture, kidnappings, bombs blowing up people while they are worshipping.

Things could change in an instant for any one of us.

That's why we must focus on what is lasting and true: God's unfailing love in Jesus Christ.

I was struck by these words in the Morning office from John 17 today:

1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.


May you draw closer to Christ this holy season.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why aren't we more like Peter after Pentecost?

This week, as we remember the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we identify with Peter who denied Christ three times. We identify with the disciples who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. We identify with the disciples who ran away. In our little cathedral on Palm Sunday, we sang the Passion according to St. Matthew in plainsong, the congregation singing the parts where the people cried out "Crucify Him!" Singing those words is powerful. Deeply convicting.

All of Lent we are to be remembering our sins, realizing that each one of us is responsible for Christ's painful agony and death on the Cross.

Yet as I was reading about Peter's inability to follow Christ even with his best intentions, I thought about what Peter was like after he received the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, he had no problem following Christ and many signs of healing and miracles followed his rock solid faith in the risen Christ. People were healed even when his shadow passed over them. He went boldly to his death, crucified upside down.

I began to wonder, how come we, who have received the precious Gospel, who have received the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, aren't more like Peter after Pentecost? Why are we stuck in being like Peter and the other disciples the way they are portrayed in Passion week?

Is this a crisis of faith? Do we find comfort in the fact that the disciples were bumblers like we are? When are we going to move on, to really believe in other passages of Scripture that tell us what Christ has done for us, how we are new creations in Christ, that we are seated with Him in the heavenlies, and able to go boldly before the throne of grace? That we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us?

This time of year it is appropriate to examine our consciences, to mourn how much we fall short, and to yearn to amend our lives with God's help. But as we move through Good Friday to Easter, let's also think of what we are called to be in Christ. We're not called to be people who deny Christ three times. Who stay confused. Who run away.

We have to stop thinking it's okay to be like that. God gives us His Holy Spirit so we can be like Jesus. We have to stop making excuses for ourselves.

Congratulations to the finalists!!!!

I received this news release yesterday from The Word Guild. Congratulations to all the finalists!!! Thank God for the Word Guild and its efforts to transform the culture through promoting, encouraging and training up quality writers who are Christian.

Toronto - Seven Canadian writers who are Christian are competing to
get their first book published in the Best New Canadian Christian
Author contest. This award recognizes the most promising book-length
manuscript in either fiction or nonfiction genres. The winning book
will be published by Castle Quay Books Canada in 2007.

The competition is open to any Canadian citizen or permanent resident
who affirms the Apostles' Creed, is not currently under contract with
a publisher, and has never had a book published by a royalty-paying
publisher or on a work-for-hire basis.

Thirty-one entries from across Canada were submitted, up from 28 in
2005 and 19 in 2004. Four non-fiction works and three novels are
vying for first place.

Three writers, Donna Carter, David Donaldson and Nan McKenzie
Kosowan, have been shortlisted for the second time. The Best New
Author contest enables entrants to revise their manuscripts based on
judges' critiques of their first draft, and to re-enter the contest.
Last year's Best New Author, Deborah Gyapong, won on her second attempt.

The shortlisted finalists are:

Donna Carter of Calgary for nonfiction, The Blonde Leading the Blonde
David Donaldson of St. Catharines, Ont. for nonfiction, Before There
Was Hannah: One Family's Journey Through Teenage Pregnancy
Nan McKenzie Kosowan of Uxbridge, Ont. for nonfiction, Listening to
the Sound of His Voice: From Childhood to Grandparenthood
Marcia Lee Laycock of Ponoka, Alta. for a novel, One Smooth Stone
Keith Marward McDonald of Greenwood Village, Colorado for a novel, A
Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance
Emily Wierenga of Edmonton for a novel, Canvas Child
Vi Wilson of Durham, Ont. for nonfiction, Child of Grace - With a
Dirty Face

The winning author will receive an advance of $1,000 and a book
publishing contract.

The winner will be announced on June 14 at The Word Guild Canadian
Writing Awards Gala in Mississauga, Ont., the premiere black-tie
event honouring Canadian writers who are Christian. The Gala will
feature a worship band, celebrity presenters, recording artists,
excerpts from shortlisted work, book signings and reception. The
public is invited to celebrate with the finalists, their families and
friends.

The winner of the 2005 Best New Author Award, Deborah Gyapong of
Ottawa, will mark the launch of her first novel, The Defilers.
[My Toronto launch!]

Awards also will be presented for outstanding career achievement, and for
the best books, articles, poems, scripts and song lyrics published in
2005.

This is the fourth year that The Word Guild has collaborated with
Castle Quay Books Canada, an independent Canadian Christian
publishing imprint of Augsburg Fortress Publishers Canada, and its
founder/publisher, Larry N. Willard, to offer this contest. It is
part of The Word Guild's ongoing mandate to encourage excellence in
Canadian writers who are Christian, by providing learning
opportunities through writing contests, conferences, Internet
discussion groups and critique services.

Previous winners of the Best New Author award are Paul Boge of
Winnipeg in 2003 for a novel, The Chicago Healer, and Angelina Fast-
Vlaar of St. Catharines, Ont. in 2004 for an autobiographical
account, Seven Angels for Seven Days.

Entries for the 2007 Best New Canadian Christian Author contest will
be accepted until November 30, 2006. Details will be posted at
www.thewordguild.com.

The Word Guild Canadian Writing Awards Gala will be held at World
Vision Canada, 1 World Drive, Mississauga, Ont. (near the 401 and
Hurontario Street) on June 14 at 7 p.m.. Tickets are $15 and will be
available shortly for online ordering through www.thewordguild.com.

This contest is co-sponsored by The Word Guild, an association with
the mandate of connecting, developing and promoting Canadian writers
and editors who are Christian. For further information about Castle
Quay Books Canada, see www.castlequaybooks.com.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fr. Tom Rosica slices and dices the Gospel of Judas

Fr. Tom Rosica on the so-called Gospel of Judas:

This past week, a third-century papyrus manuscript containing the long-lost “Gospel of Judas” was presented to the public in Washington, D.C. amid much media frenzy.

This is certainly interesting for those who study Church history and ancient manuscripts. But it changes nothing about how the Catholic faith views the figure of Judas Iscariot.

Let’s get the facts straight: This version of a Gnostic “gospel” appeared about 30 years ago on the Egyptian antiquities market. The text had last been heard of in 180 AD, when St. Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, condemned it as heretical.

Though it still must be authenticated, it is likely a copy of an earlier document produced by a second-century Gnostic sect called the Cainites. This group made a habit of giving a positive value to all the negative figures in Christian scriptures.

The document reportedly argues that Judas Iscariot, known to Christians as the man who betrayed Jesus Christ, was an essential part of God’s design — a hero of sorts! Without his betrayal, Jesus would not have been crucified and God’s plan to save mankind from its sins would not have been fulfilled.

One of the major differences between Gnostic belief and that of Christianity concerns the origins of evil in the universe. Christians believe that a good God created a good world, and that through the abuse of free will, sin and corruption entered the world and produced disorder and suffering.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Zenit interviews Maggie Gallagher about marriage

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Children who are raised by parents who are not married are at a greater risk of depression, suicide, child abuse, domestic violence, academic failure, criminal activity and poverty.

So says Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and contributor to the book "The Meaning of Marriage" (Spence).

Gallagher shared with ZENIT findings from studies on children with parents who never married or divorced, and the importance of traditional marriage for a child's well-being and the common good.

Q: Why should Catholics be concerned about marriage in the public square?

Gallagher: For Catholics, marriage is a sacrament. But the Catholic tradition has always understood marriage as a natural relation as well. People of all faiths can get married and their marriages matter to God, children, each other and the community.

Marriage helps create and care for the next generation, helping to satisfy men and women's deep human longings for connection with each other, and children's longing to know and be known by their own mother and father.

Q: You say marriage is important for children. What's the evidence?

Gallagher: A large body of social science research now affirms the importance of marriage for the common good.

For example: Marriage reduces the risk of poverty for children and communities. The majority of children whose parents don't get or stay married experience at least a year of poverty.

Fatherless households increase crime. Boys whose parents divorced or never married, for example, are two to three times more likely to end up in jail as adults.

Marriage protects children's physical and mental health. Children whose parents get and stay married are healthier and also much less likely to suffer mental illness, including depression and teen suicide.

Parents who don't get or stay married put children's education at risk. Children whose parents divorced or never married have lower grade point averages, are more likely to be held back a grade and to drop out of school. They are also less likely to end up college graduates.

When marriages fail, ties between parents and children typically weaken, too. Adult children whose parents divorced are only half as likely to have warm, close ties to both their mothers and their fathers. For example, in one large national survey, 65% of adult children of divorce reported they were not close to their fathers -- compared to 29% of adults from intact marriages.

Caring about marriage is thus part of our shared Catholic concern for children, the common good and social justice.

Q: Does it matter whether mothers and fathers actually marry? Can't they just live together?

Gallagher: Yes, marriage matters. Just living together is not the same as marriage.

Married couples in the United States who cohabit first are 30% to 50% more likely to divorce. People who just live together do not get the same boost to health, welfare and happiness, on average, as spouses.

Neither do their children. Children whose parents cohabit are at increased risk for domestic violence and child abuse and neglect. Children born to parents who were just living together are also around three times more likely -- in both the United States and Great Britain -- to experience their parents' breakup by age 5.

Q: What about same-sex couples? Should marriage be redefined to include them?

Gallagher: Same-sex marriage teaches the next generation that there is nothing special or unique about husbands and wives who can become mothers and fathers. It separates marriage from its great, historic, cross-cultural task of bringing together male and female to make and raise the next generation together.

A loving and compassionate society comes to the aid of motherless and fatherless children, but no compassionate society intentionally deprives children of their own mom or dad. Same-sex marriage announces that society has repudiated this goal and has placed adult desires for diverse family forms as its core goal.

Q: How do you respond to people who say our marriage laws are discriminatory?

Gallagher: Laws against interracial marriage were about keeping two races apart, so that one race could oppress the other -- and that is wrong.

Marriage is about bringing male and female together, so that children have mothers and fathers, and so that women aren't stuck with the enormous, unfair burdens of parenting alone -- and that is right.

Q: How would same-sex marriage hurt any one's marriage?

Gallagher: This is not just a discussion of benefits. If it were, we could come to some accommodations.

The logic of gay marriage is that there is no difference between same-sex and opposite sex unions, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is either irrational or bigoted.

Same-sex marriage advocates thus seek to use the law to force everyone to dramatically and permanently alter our definition of marriage and family. The law will teach your children and grandchildren that there is nothing special about mothers and fathers raising children together, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a bigot.

It's going to be extremely hard to raise, say, young men to be good family men in a society that teaches the idea that anyone who thinks fathers and mothers should raise children together is a bigot.

And anyone who says otherwise may get subjected to legal punishments of various kinds.

Q: What do you mean by that? And what is the threat to religious liberty posed by same-sex marriage?

Gallagher: It's very real. Right now in the state of Massachusetts, for example, the government is set to strip Catholic Charities of its adoption license unless Catholics agree to place children with same-sex couples.

If you follow the racial analogy being made here -- that opposing gay marriage is akin to racial bigotry -- then ultimately the law is going to pressure Catholic and other religions' institutions and punish those that fail to conform to its new vision of marriage. I'm talking about things like broadcasting licenses and ultimately tax exempt status for Catholic schools and other faith-based organizations.

This may sound incredible. But who would ever have imagined that here in the United States a government would prevent Catholics from helping poor, abandoned, needy babies, unless they agree with the government's position on gay adoptions?

Q: What can we do in the United State to support marriage and protect religious liberty on these issues?

Gallagher: First, the Senate is going to vote on a Marriage Protection Amendment, protecting marriage as the union of husband and wife. Write or e-mail your senators.

Second, ultimately I think we are going to need some kind of "conscience" legislation from Congress on marriage, similar to that which protects facilities, organizations and individuals from being punished by state governments for refusing to participate in abortions.

ZE06041023

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Front Page Magazine interviews Claire Berlinski

FP: Okay Claire. So introduce us briefly to the menace in Europe.

Berlinksi: In brief: Europeans are lazy, unwilling to fight for anything and willing to surrender to anyone; they are fascinated by decadence; they favor the bureaucracy over the corporation; they are unable to assimilate their immigrants; they no longer have children; they no longer produce much of cultural or scientific significance; they have lost their religious vocation and they no longer hold their lives to be meaningful.


and

Europeans have in recent memory suffered two great losses, that of their religious faith and that of its replacements—ideologies involving the idea of human perfectibility absent supernatural guidance. The failure of European experiments in Utopianism—which not only failed to provide the promised paradise but indeed gave rise to the most criminal regimes ever inflicted on the human race—has left Europeans paralyzed by shame and self-doubt. They have retreated into a kind of cocoon of technological and physical comfort; they bathe themselves in vapid clichés about “tolerance.”


Read the whole thing. Very interesting.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Grrrrrrr! Easter coming up and we get the Gospel of Judas

This past week, the front pages of the Ottawa Citizen and the Globe and Mail featured big stories about the Gospel of Judas, a Gnostic gospel.

On Friday, CBC Radio's The Current interviewed Michael Bagient, one of the authors involved in a lawsuit with The Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown over whether he plagiarized their faux history for his hack thriller. Bagient has written The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History.

Thankfully they had Fr. Tom Lynch on afterwards to balance Baigent's garbage.

What annoys me to no end is the fact that we are heading into the holiest season of the Christian year. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Next Sunday is Easter. And our papers are full of anti-Christian features purporting to show that scholarly studies undermine the orthodox Christian faith.

Imagine them doing something similar prior to Ramadan or Eid. And I'm sure next week there will be a big splash about the latest book by members of the ludicrous Jesus Seminar. They always time their books'release to coincide with Christmas or Easter.

Thankfully, Mark D. Roberts has written on the Gospel of Judas. Why don't they feature Pastor Mark in the newspapers? He's a real scholar. And he happens to believe the Gospel accounts are true. Or why don't they talk with the people at the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar? A far more credible group of scholars among them than the Jesus Seminar crew.

Mark D. Roberts writes:

We might wonder why the writer of the Gospel of Judas would have considered Judas to be so special. Other Gnostic documents give priority to Thomas, Mary, John, or James. So why Judas?

A clue is to be found in the line of the document that is getting the most press. In this line Jesus says to Judas: "But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me" (56). Gaps in the manuscript don't allow us to identify precisely those whom Judas exceeds (the other disciples? the generations? angels?). Yet it is clear that Judas is special because he will be the one to "sacrifice the man that clothes me." His action will insure the death of the physical body associated with Jesus. Note: in typical Gnostic fashion, Jesus is not identified with His body. Rather, He dwells within this body, and will be happy when He is set free from it. This Gnostic devaluation of the body is both central to Gnostic theology and is in polar opposition to the world-affirming theology of Judaism, Jesus, and orthodox Christianity.

Second-century Gnostic Christians were accomplished at taking biblical stories, either from the New Testament or from the Old, and turning them on their heads. For example, in Gnostic stories of creation the world and humankind are created by an evil god. But the good serpent comes to reveal knowledge to people so they can escape the evil creation. This is Genesis turned on its head. Similarly, a creative Gnostic writer refashioned the New Testament story of Judas, making him the hero because he was responsible for the death of the (bad) body of Jesus. Along the way, this Gnostic author was also able to denigrate the other disciples of Jesus, those upon which orthodox Christianity based its doctrine and authority. Holding up the reconfigured Judas, therefore, plays perfectly into the Gnostic agenda.

Does the Gospel of Judas Make a Difference for Ordinary Christians?

The Gospel of Judas itself has nothing to offer to ordinary Christians, except that it fills in a tiny blank on the map of Christian history. But it offers no new insights into the historical Jesus, nothing for people of orthodox Christian faith.


Amen!

How metacommunications are shaping perceptions

Intersting post from Shrinkwrapped on what's really happening when politicians say Islam is a religion of peace. Not sure I agree with him, but this whole post is definitely worth reading. Sobering, too.

People recognize that when we try to communicate with each other, our tools of language and image are almost always inadequate to convey our full meaning, and at the same time, convey multiple meanings that we do not consciously intend. The War on Terror, also known as the War on Isalmofascism, is being shaped by these meta-communications in ways that some of the main players seem not to recognize.

Mark Steyn on the NBC NASCAR sting

An excerpt from Hugh Hewitt's interview with Mark Steyn at RadioBlogger.com:

HH: Now what do you make of NBC going down to Martinsville in an attempt to bate the NASCAR fans into being anti-Muslim?

MS: Well, you know, I think that's very revealing. They essentially say we think these people are predjudiced, and we want to set up a sting to prove that redneck, white, American males are predjudiced. Who are the predjudiced people here? It's NBC. It's NBC, who are looking to come up with a set-up to prove their predjudices. And I think this would be fine if it went both ways. I think it would be great, for example, if they could find a couple of Jewish producers, say, Jewish NBC producers who would like to wander around Riyadh, and see how they get treated, as Jews in Riyadh, or Gaza, say. I think that would be fair enough. But a news team should not, in effect, be trying to set up a sting operation to confirm its own predjudices.

HH: Michelle Malkin broke this story, but thus far, I have not seen it on any network. It will probably be on Brit Hume's show this afternoon, my guess is. Do you expect it to get wide coverage, do you think at NBC, to stop their anti-Muslim sting operation?

MS: No, I don't think they will, because I think actually, and I'm sure you can confirm this, too, Hugh, is that if you have ever been privy to the sort of e-mails or pitches that TV producers and junior producers and researchers send out, this is often the way they work. They essentially have a line, and then they look for people who prove the line they've already decided on. And I think this is one of the most absurd things. You know, I do think this gets very close to a kind of at least a passivity in the face of what's really going on. The story since 9/11 is that Americans have not been so-called Islamophobic. Actually, they've got compelling reasons to be Islamophobic in some ways, but in fact, they've gone out of...99.9999% of Americans have been scrupulously fair and decent to Muslims, and this is just not a story that you should be trying to artificially set up in any way.


Lots more vintage Steyn at the location on a range of other topics. Radio Blogger is also an excellent source of interviews.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Western Standard human rights tribunal travesty update

Western Standard Publisher Ezra Levant writes:

Earlier this month, the Western Standard was sued in human rights court for publishing the Danish cartoons. It's been ten years since I've graduated from law school, and I've never seen a more frivolous, vexatious, infantile suit than this.

But that's the point -- this complaint is not about beating us in the law. Freedom of speech is still in our constitution; we'll win in the end. It's a nuisance suit, designed to grind us down, cost us money, and serve as a warning to other, more timid media.

The hand-written scrawl and the spelling errors were what first disgusted me with the suit; but the arguments were what really got me. The complainant, Imam Syed Soharwardy, a former professor at an anti-Semitic university in Saudi Arabia, doesn't just argue that we shouldn't have published the cartoons. He argues that we shouldn't be able to defend our right to publish the cartoons. The bulk of his complaint was that we dared to try to justify it.

He argues that advocating a free press should be a thought crime.


Go take a look at Ezra's whole essay. Includes links to his response, as well as a a scanned version of the original complaint.

Pamela Anderson's boobs and the frivolity of the MSM


Ottawa Citizen columnist John Robson eviscerates the Mainstream News Media (MSM) for its frivolous coverage of celebrities while failing to cover the fact that the Western Standard has been dragged before a human rights tribunal for publishing the Danish cartoons.

When the cartoons were originally not published, everyone assured us we had freedom of the press in Canada and it was simply a matter of taste. On Feb. 15, the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists said, “We support the right to publish even offensive material ...” On Feb. 27, the Globe and Mail editorialized that while arguably their original publication was in bad taste, “It would be tragic, however, if the controversy over the Danish cartoons placed a chill on this most necessary of art forms. Unless political cartoonists feel free to dip their quills in poison ink, a society cannot truly be called free.” In its Feb. 27 issue, Maclean’s said “Maclean’s chose not to publish the Danish cartoons. We do not believe it necessary to give offence in order to champion the rights of others to be offensive. But freedom of expression must be vigorously defended.”

Wouldn’t a good start be to inform readers that a Canadian government is trying to silence your colleagues? You said Canadian media didn’t fear legal sanction over the cartoons, just a backlash from customers. Instead it turns out that Western Standard has not, as far as I know, lost subscribers or advertisements, but is facing legal sanction. Isn’t that a story?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Belinda Stronach not running for Liberal leadership

Went to Belinda Stronach's news conference today where she announced she is not running to be leader of the Liberal Party. The news conference became a little testy.

If there was ever a honeymoon between her and the press gallery, it is definitely OVER.

While she didn't draw the 30 seconds or so of sustained laughter that former Prime Minister Paul Martin received when he announced her crossing the floor to join his cabinet had nothing to do with an upcoming vote that could have brought down his government, some reporters did laugh at her scripted answers and a few had derisive grins on their faces.

Anyway, she's out of the race. I was hoping she'd be in it just to make things interesting. I find her fascinating as does the press gallery, given how packed the news conference was. However, she is fascinating as a celebrity and I don't imagine many take her seriously as leadership material.

Nuncio describes Benedict XVI as a St. Augustine of our time

While Canada's apostolic nuncio describes the late Pope John Paul II as the world's greatest spiritual leader in the last quarter century, the Vatican's ambassador also sees a wonderful continuity in the papacy of Benedict XVI.

"For me, he (Benedict) is a kind of St. Augustine of our time," said Archbishop Luigi Ventura as he reflected on the year since John Paul's death April 2, 2005.

"His gift to me is the gift of teaching, this kind of deep insight into the culture."
Accessible message

Benedict displays not only erudition, but he is "a man of deep wisdom" who has the ability to simplify complex truths, to take "simple words" to describe "great things" and thereby "making them accessible," he said.

"He is watering the roots of the faith."

Edith Humphrey on cure for disease of generic spirituality

The author of a recent book on the Holy Spirit is concerned "the disease of generic spirituality" will rob people of a genuine experience of God.

"If the Christian story is true, authentic spirituality has been given a distinct shape," New Testament scholar Edith Humphrey told a March 30 gathering.

Generic spirituality has no shape and focuses on subjective experience, said Humphrey, author of Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit.
"The world has, in the last generation, looked everywhere but to the Christian tradition for an understanding of the spirit."
- Edith Humphrey

Jesus may be forgotten, and people may not know the mystery of God as three persons in one, "yet they are central to the being of everyone," she said.

Humphrey, who teaches at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said the West has undergone a massive shift in recent years.

She said when she was a student, the academy stressed "objectivity, neutral observation and proving one's point."

"Now the spotlight is upon 'my story', 'my response;' and 'celebrating diversity,' she said.

"The world has, in the last generation, looked everywhere but to the Christian tradition for an understanding of the spirit," Humphrey says in her book's introduction.

"But it is just when God's people come face-to-face with the mystery of the Triune God, and fall on their faces before God's own great humility, astounded at that ecstatic action in which God became human for our sakes - it is at these moments that we find our own meaning and our own healing.


See my blog post on Edith's talk in Ottawa here.

Ottawa Archbishop sends Easter message about antisemitism

Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has urged Catholics to "turn in love" to those suffering from anti-Semitism and acts of racial and religious discrimination in Canada.

Gervais made his comments in his annual Easter message in response to B'nai Brith's League of Human Rights annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Canada during the year 2005.

The audit reports anti-Semitic incidents have risen threefold since 2001, along with an alarming proliferation of Internet hate sites and a growing persecution of Jews on Canadian university campuses, often by university professors.
French murder

Gervais wrote about this threefold rise as well as the recent torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man who was kidnapped and killed in France, an incident "which horrified all of us."

While Gervais noted the government has the responsibility for ensuring justice in society, the Church "has a role to play."

"The Church has the responsibility of reminding those in government of the moral principles which form the basis of all laws," he said.

"In Canada, we already have laws that prohibit any discrimination against any racial, ethnic or religious groups. But the rise in anti-Semitism reminds us that our society has a long way to go before we can claim a truly just society."

"Our faith calls us to be a leaven in our society, infusing it with the kind of love that Jesus taught us," he said. "In this Easter season I would ask you to turn in love not only to your friends and neighbours but to all of our brothers and sisters who suffer from anti-Semitic acts and any racial or religious discrimination."

Gervais pointed out Jews will celebrate "their Passover from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land" while Catholics celebrate their "most sacred feast of the year."

He quoted from the Second Vatican Council's document Nostra Aetate, which decries anti-Semitism.

At a March 22 news conference releasing the anti-Semitism audit, B'nai Brith Canada executive vice president Frank Dimant warned, "Hate mongers can come directly into your child's computer."

Congo Catholic Church leaders work for free elections

OTTAWA, Canada – Each day, as many as 1,000 people die – usually from disease and malnutrition – in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Militias invading from neighboring Rwanda and Uganda vie for Congo's mineral wealth, and homegrown militias in the eastern region have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Two years ago, U.N. soldiers stationed there were involved in a scandal involving the purchase of sex from young girls.

Amid all the turmoil, Congolese church leaders are hoping and working for free and democratic elections June 18, a monumental task in a country with a landmass the size of Western Europe but little infrastructure. Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and Canadian International Development Agency grants and expertise have helped the local church.

Congolese Bishop Fulgence Muteba Mugalu of Kilwa-Kasenga visited Canada March 23-April 5 to report on the project, meeting with church and government leaders. He said because the church was not associated with the government it was in a unique position to help educate and register voters.

Speaking through a translator in an April 3 interview here, Bishop Muteba Mugalu explained how the process of civic education has worked.

He said church leaders started by training 50,000 people, each of whom was mandated to replicate the training to another 100 people. They, in turn, passed along their training to others. Following this system, Congo has been able to register 25,000,000 voters, he said.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Should Gideons be allowed to give Bibles to school kids?

The Centre for Cultural Renewal's Iain Benson has some excellent arguments on why they should at CentreBlog.


The Globe and Mail (April 4, 2006 Petti Fong, “Bibles Offered to Public School Raise Row”) carries an article regarding the 60-year-old practice of a group called the Gideons that, amongst other things, distributes bibles on request to Grade 5 students in public schools. They are now on the defensive on the grounds that their practice is somehow offensive. It is being argued against them that the nature of public schools somehow precludes their practices. What are the principles that should guide principals?

In what follows there are some principles that should provide the stuff for the Gideons to answer unflinchingly the questions put to them and why Trustees in Richmond B.C. (the place of latest contention) and elsewhere should continue the practice of giving the Gideons the ability to exercise their generosity in the distribution of free bibles to public school students. Arguments to the contrary are dangerous to freedom.


-and-

The dispute now is whether the Gideons should even be able to distribute free bibles at all via a very nuanced system. Apparently the Gideons put a notice (or the school trustees allow such a notice) in the school newsletter (sent home to parents) with a form that can be returned to the school with a parent’s signature, back to the Gideons and then a free bible is sent to the requesting student/parents.

This is a model of sensitivity and parental involvement and should continue.

Yet, this system appears to be not sufficiently invisible for some people, such as the parent in the article who operates under a very strange notion of “neutrality.” She thinks that “secular” means “non-religious”…she operates under a rather common but secularistic understanding powered (whether or not she is aware of it) by the anti-religious ideology of “secularism.”

However, there are those who are attempting to misuse the usual “magic words” to ensure that religions have no access to public school students. This is unjust and exactly represents the goal of “secularism” (an ideology started formally in the mid 19th Century by those who followed the man who coined the term “secularism”: George Jacob Holyoake). Secularism has always sought to describe the “secular” as “non-religious.” It isn’t helped by all the religious adherents who merrily prattle on about “religion AND the secular” without realizing how their construction of the relationship is helping the removal of religious belief from public relevance.


Listen Up TV host Lorna Dueck also weighs in in her Globe and Mail column.

When the dangerous work of free Bible give-aways in schools starts making front-page news ahead of the opening of the House of Commons, or any great variety of world issues, it's a pretty clear sign that Canadians have a poor understanding of what the word "secular" means in our country, and how it applies to our schools.


Read Iain's piece, because he makes an important distinction between "the secular" which includes religious and non-religious believers--because we all have faith in something--and secularlism. Lorna makes some of the same points in her column.

Securalism must be fought tooth and nail because it is a form of secular theocracy that would banish all other forms of religious belief from the public square.

It doesn't help that people so easily confuse the secular and secularism. Iain Benson has spent years trying to educate people on the difference.

One example of why moderate Muslims may be reluctant to speak up

Danish blogger Agora has translated this article that has an interview with a moderate Muslim who says Islam and democracy should be combined. His life is now in danger and so are those of his extended family.

“Look at this, see the hate,” he says and in quick succession reads from several postings: “Naser Khader is a pig, I hate Naser Khader, f*****g hypocrite, he should be trampled to death, Naser Khader doesn’t care about us other Moslems.”

He closes the website where much more of the same kind can be read.

“Even on a website as harmless as that I am smeared massively, even by school-children. And that’s my point, that we are dealing with extremist Imams who defer from encouraging violence and terror. But when Abu Laban e.g. says that I am a rat - why does he say that, why doesn’t he say that I am a pig? It’s because rats are exterminated. An Imam in the south of Jutland said that those who hate Naser Khader will go to paradise. The Imams do not directly encourage violence and terror - but when they focus their hate on a single person, it can have serious consequences. The same thing happened to Van Gogh - no Imams in the Netherlands said he should be killed. But the organized hatred was so massive that he was made an outlaw and in the end someone killed him independently.

So it’s the psychopath you fear?

“Yes. If you take a look at some of the people in the entourage of some of the Imams, they’re short-cropped psychopaths, they remind me of Nazis.”

How does your family feel the pressure?

“My niece went to an Arab wedding where several people walked out because she was related to the traitor. My nephew was apprenticed to a Pakistani mechanic - when he found out I was his uncle, he was fired. My mother receives calls from the Middle East where she is told what will be done to me and the family.”

What?

“All kinds of things, I won’t go into details. But I’m not the only target, my extended family is also a target.”

Are you afraid that the threats will be acted upon?
“Yes.”


Thanks to Gateway Pundit for the link
.

He reports that the Danish Muslim's plight is not unique.

On Sunday, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Muslim leaders in Great Britain. This is what they were told:

Although the names of the 21 Muslim leaders had been made public, several of them requested that their names not be published or broadcast, for fear of repercussions. Five who agreed to be interviewed clearly feared they might be viewed as traitors.

It is strange to think that these moderate Muslims live under this threat not just in places like Pakistan or Jordan, but right here in the West. These threats of violence by the radical Islamists must be confronted. There has to be more done to protect and uplift the moderates of Islam. And, Islam has to begin to take a look at itself and its culture of violence.


I agree.

Don't confuse me with the facts

Thomas Sowell writes about the dangers of letting ideology get in the way of facts.

People who have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts are a danger to the whole society. Since the votes of such people count just as much as the votes of people who know what they are talking about, politicians have every incentive to pass laws and create policies that pander to ignorant notions, if those notions are widespread.

Even institutions that are set up to pass on facts -- the media, schools, academia -- too often treat facts as expendable and use their strategic positions to filter out facts which go against their own preconceptions.


Thanks to Dr. Sanity for the link. She adds:


Witness the riots in France, where students there are basically demanding that the country's failed socialist not be abandoned, but be extended. Do they care that the policies they are protesting are designed to increase employment and improve working conditions? No. They don't care about the facts. If they feel something is true, they have been taught to believe therefore that it is true. Feelings trump facts.


Gateway Pundit has an updated photo essay of the French riots here.

What does all this tell me? It tells me that the real war is for the minds and hearts of mankind. That the battle rages between truth and lies. It reminds me of this Scripture from Ephesians 6:

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.


These ideologies are not easy things to shake or penetrate because they are lies from the father of lies that put a stranglehold on our minds.

That's why it is so hard to convince people who are captive to them. No amount of facts can persuade them.

As Christians, we must pay deep attention to facts and never cut them loose from our understanding of Truth. The Truth is factual. Jesus Christ, God the Son, did become flesh at a certain point in history for the salvation of us all. He did suffer death on the Cross. He did rise again. And we have to be careful of letting ideology from the left or the right cloud what the Holy Spirit would reveal to us.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

How to establish writing career series at Faith in Fiction

Dave Long has an excellent ongoing series on establishing your career as a writer over at Faith in Fiction. He also links to my fellow Master's Artist Mark Bertrand who has an interesting post at his personal website about the latest trend in religious thrillers.

Mark D. Roberts on The Da Vinci Code

Mark D. Roberts is blogging up a storm about The Da Vinci Code, doing what is called in the blogosphere as "slicing and dicing" every false claim in the book.

He is a Presbyterian pastor and Biblical scholar with a Harvard PhD.

In today's post he writes about evidence that Gospel accounts are true.

In The Da Vinci Code, Sir Leigh Teabing describes the effort made by the Catholic Church, in collusion with the Roman emperor Constantine, to produce a Bible that promoted their aspirations to power. At one point Teabing explains, "the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power" (p. 233). The Church destroyed the "earlier" Gnostic gospels and "embellished those gospels that made [Christ] godlike" (p. 234). Yet the discovery of new documents (which, according to Teabing, include the Dead Sea and the Nag Hammadi "scrolls") "highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was complied and edited by men who possess a political agenda—to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base" (p. 234).

On the face of it, Teabing's thesis is not unreasonable. It's common for people in power to promote self-serving views of history by producing pseudo-historical documents or editing genuinely historical sources to support their own agenda. So, given the fact that orthodox Christians authorized the books of the Bible, we might well expect the sort of thing Teabing alleges, with gospels doctored to augment the power of the Church. (In fact we see this sort of thing going on among the non-canonical gospels. See my discussion in Are the New Testament Gospels Reliable?)

What we actually find in the New Testament gospels, however, is the opposite of what Teabing claims. In fact, what we read in these gospels seems, if anything, implicitly to undermine the authority of the Church. Thus the biblical gospels, far from supporting Teabing's assertions, in fact demonstrate the opposite, namely, that the New Testament gospels tell the truth even when that truth would have been embarrassing or inconvenient to the very people who gathered and authorized Christian Bible.

Another reason why the mainstream news media drives me nuts

Apparently NBC is planning what Michelle Malkin describes as a sting operation to plant some obviously Muslim-looking men at a NASCAR race and then record whether they are treated badly there.

Of course, if there is one yahoo out of 20,000 fans who makes a nasty remark, then whoo hoo, NBC has evidence of rampant discrimination against Muslims.

It reminds of coverage I saw after I attended a prolife march in Ottawa. Outside a church were a bunch of screaming, chanting pro-abortion types with Barbie dolls crucified on coathangers and nasty slogans on their t-shirts. The prolife march left the church in a quiet procession, hundreds of people. Then, because someone from the pro-abortion crowd was screaming in his face, one person in the prolife crowd shouted back.

Who got on TV?

The one screamer out of the hundreds of silent, dignified, praying people. For balance the reporter chose another screamer from the pro-abortion side. Nothing on the piece showed the contrast between the pro-abortion crowd who were acting like barbarians and the mostly quiet prolife procession.

The other thing that drives me crazy is the story selection. Doesn't NBC have more important things to cover? If they were successful in finding someone to make some kind of remark, then what? America's a bad place because there are a few jerks who are rude to people who look different? Where's the perspective?

More churches have burned in America than mosques since 9-11. Has even one mosque been burned down? I think Americans have been amazingly generous and kindly disposed towards Muslims and continue to be so. American soldiers are shedding blood to help Muslims establish a democratic government in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, April 03, 2006

More chilling stories from Eurabia

Here are two chilling stories from Brussels Journal that show how Europe is disintegrating. The first shows how pernicious the secularism and Marxist-type egalitarianism among elites has become. The second shows how multi-culturalism Eurabia style is bringing violence and threats to those who espouse classical Western views.

Dutch Feminazis Want to Punish Educated Mothers

Sharon Dijksma, a leading parliamentarian of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) wants to penalise educated stay-at-home women. “A highly-educated woman who chooses to stay at home and not to work – that is destruction of capital,” she said in an interview last week. “If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at society’s expense, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished.”


and

The teachers of a German college, the Rütli-Hauptschule in the Berlin borough of Neukölln, have asked the authorities to close down their school. Last Thursday the school called in the police to protect the few native German students remaining in the predominantly immigrant school, where over 80% of the students are not of German origin. The German students and the teachers say that they are being terrorised by armed and violent thugs, who call them “racists” and treat Western girls and women as if they are “whores” and “sluts.” Last week, after several serious incidents, the teachers wrote an open letter asking the Berlin authorities to close down the college and distribute the students among other schools.

Following the appeal of the staff at Rütli College several other schools in Berlin and other German cities complain that they are facing similar problems. Volker Kauder, the leader of the Christian-Democrat group in the German parliament, comments that the situation in the schools indicates “the unwillingness of many young foreigners to integrate in German society.” Edmund Stoiber, the leader of the Bavarian Christian-Democrats, said yesterday that immigrants who do not want to integrate will have to be expelled.

Meanwhile a Swedish secondary school, the Ytterbyskolan to the north of Göteborg, refuses to allow right-wing students to participate in the exams for the compulsory subject of social studies. The Swedish national school curriculum prescribes that students “have to understand democratic values and be able to apply democratic procedures.” Headmistress Ann-Charlotte Brandberg says that students of her college who do not respect coloured people, gays and lesbians and who say that immigrants should be expelled to their home countries, prove that they do not understand democratic values.


Where is Rodney King when we need him?

All joking aside, I also find it alarming that those who object to multiculturalism are being lumped with the racist far right. Doing do is one quick way to make sure that the violent far right rises in influence. I hate to think of that happening because I do not approve of violence from the right or the left.

But to oppose securalism and multiculturalism because it is a form of leftwing fascism does not make one a right wing fascist. There is a third way, and that is revival of the foundations of Western Civilization, a recovery of Judeo-Christian principles, a restoration of faith in ourselves and our traditions that insists that those who come to live among us assimilate to us and our pluralistic, secular understanding of freedom of speech, religion and so on.