In addition to the entertainment value, part of the enormous popularity of fantasy literature such as the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Narnia books of C. S. Lewis is because they provide us with a refuge from the suffocating anti-Western self-loathing of our age. In real life, we are taught that there is no such thing as "evil," just different perspectives, which are equally valid as our own. Defending your country against invasion is "racism and xenophobia." Terrorists murder people because they have suffered injustice in the past or "Islamophobia" in the present.
In this age of Multiculturalism and cultural relativism, the only places we can identify evil and fight it are in fictional worlds, be that the Middle Earth of Tolkien or the Hogwarts of JK Rowling. Maybe that's why it's such a relief to visit them, if only for a few hours. In the real West, our Universities would advice us to negotiate with Sauron and identify his legitimate grievances. Our media would say that the real reason why the Orcs kill people is because they suffer from institutionalized racism and Orcophobia. We would all get sensitivity training, invite Orcs to settle in our major cities by the millions and teach our children about the richness of Orc culture.
Monday, July 31, 2006
The memes that are coming out of this latest conflict have been developing and transforming people's perception of reality for several years now. The old-fashioned ideas of good and evil that used to be the foundation of "law and order" don't seem to exist anymore for them. Now the "law" part only applies to one side and not the other. It is no longer "order" that is the objective, but the perception of order--our hands are always tied for morality's--for "the sake of the children!"--but the enemy is free to do as it pleases to the children without the concomitant anger and rage.
There used to be outrage at the manipulation of truth and some degree of repugnance at a moral relativism that equated good and evil. In those good old days, debate could have closure because there was agreement on what was true and what was false. Our underlying shared values were deemed worth fighting for.
But not today.
Today, we are constantly told that our values of life are not any different than the enemy's cult of death. That the children who die are all our fault. Not the fault of a sick ideology that values them only as fighters in a jihad and which worships death.
My son spoke to his friend yesterday, and this is how he described it: "The village looked empty, and then we heard noises coming from one of the houses, so we opened fire. But when we went inside, we found two women and a child huddled in the corner of the room. We were so relieved we hadn't hurt them. We took up base in one of the empty houses. And then all of a sudden, we came under intense fire. Three rockets were fired at the house we were in. Only one managed to destroy a wall, which fell on one of us, covering him in white dust, but otherwise not hurting him.
"I spent the whole time feeding bullets to my friend who was shooting nonstop. We managed to kill 26 terrorists. Not one of us was hurt. Our commanding officer kept walking around, touching everybody on the shoulder, smiling and encouraging us: 'We're are better than they are. Don't worry.' It calmed us all down. And really, we were much better than them. They are a lousy army. They only win when they hide behind baby carriages."
Mel Gibson got caught last week driving drunk. When arrested he made a number of antisemitic slurs. Now many who defended his movie The Passion of the Christ against criticisms of antisemitism feel betrayed. He has since apologized and described the things he said as despicable, but now a debate goes on about whether a drunk really does mean what he says or not. This story interests me because it raises some serious questions about how important the character of the artist is in relation to their art. Especially in the Christian publishing and music world, revelations of serious character flaws or moral breaches can sink a career in no time. How many of the Christians who touted The Passion of the Christ as a work of art are going to look at it differently now?
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Darilyn Sephton, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
"The Defilers gripped me with all elements of a good read: believable characters, skilful writing, and strong plot. I read it within 24 hours. The difficult topics of child abuse and demonic possession are handled with excellent skill and sensitivity, all told through the main character's eyes, Linda Donner, a RCMP constable. I became Linda, experiencing the strange community she found herself in, yet found the characters believable in spite of their eccentricities. Author, Deborah Gyapong, successfully depicts the potential relationship between abuse and spiritual activities, yet leaves the reader feeling uplifted and positive. Far from being depressed, I was left with a feeling of satisfaction and hope. Gyapong wrote realistically, yet with great care. The Defilers is a fascinating read. I highly recommend it."
Marianne Foscarini, Markham, Ontario
How could he leave her alone when he knew she was, at the very least, suicidal -- and when her failure to care for the children (and feeding is pretty elemental) revealed a clear case of endangering the welfare of a child? What was he thinking when he urged Andrea to home school all four of their children (the fifth came later) in the converted school bus they were living in?
Hearing the world pass judgment on the Israel-Hezbollah war as it unfolds is to live in an Orwellian moral universe. With a few significant exceptions (the leadership of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and a very few others), the world -- governments, the media, U.N. bureaucrats -- has completely lost its moral bearings.
But for some of the Christians who had made it out in this convoy, it was not just privations they wanted to talk about, but their ordeal at the hands of Hezbollah — a contrast to the Shiites, who make up a vast majority of the population in southern Lebanon and broadly support the militia.
“Hezbollah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets,” said Fayad Hanna Amar, a young Christian man, referring to his village. “They are shooting from between our houses.”
“Please,’’ he added, “write that in your newspaper.”
The evacuation — more than 100 cars that followed an International Committee for the Red Cross rescue convoy to Tyre — included Lebanese from several Christian villages. In past wars, Christian militias were close to Israelis, and animosity between Christians and Shiites lingers.
Throngs of refugees are now common in this southern coastal town, the gateway to the war that is booming just miles away. The United Nations has estimated that 700,000 Lebanese, mostly from the southern third of the country, have been displaced by the war.
But thousands of people have been left behind, residents and the Red Cross say.
What has prevented many from fleeing is a critical shortage of fuel. Roland Huguenin-Benjamin, a spokesman for the Red Cross who accompanied the convoy to Tyre, said Red Cross officials had offered to lead out any people who wanted to drive behind, but many did not have enough gasoline for the trip.
Those who did get out were visibly upset. Some carried sick children. A number broke down it tears when they emerged from their cars here.
“People are dying under bombs and crushed under houses,” Nahab Aman said, sobbing and hugging her young son. “We’re not dogs! Why aren’t they taking the people out?”
Many Christians from Ramesh and Ain Ebel considered Hezbollah’s fighting methods as much of an outrage as the Israeli strikes. Mr. Amar said Hezbollah fighters in groups of two and three had come into Ain Ebel, less than a mile from Bint Jbail, where most of the fighting has occurred. They were using it as a base to shoot rockets, he said, and the Israelis fired back.
Thanks to Dhimmiwatch for the link.
The roots of Western civilization are primarily Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman. If you want to create a new entity, Eurabia, encompassing Europe, Turkey and the Arab world, you need first to establish that this cultural entity isn’t “new” at all, but has always existed. The way to do this is to establish that Islam is a natural and integral part of Western civilization. You need to imprint in the minds of the people that yes, Muslims and Christians can indeed live peacefully together, as we did in the glorious days of Andalusia. Not only can we live with Muslims, we actually owe Muslims gratitude for helping us create the scientific achievements of the modern West. Thus we have the twin foundational myths of Eurabia. This is why French President Jacques Chirac can claim that “Islam has contributed just as much to Western civilization as Christianity,” thus echoing Tariq Ramadan. Muslims believe that all people are born as Muslims. Jews and Christians share the same message as Muslims. If they disagree on something, this is because Jews or Christians have “misinterpreted” or “perverted” the true, Islamic message. All good things are essentially Islamic, as Mr Ramadan points out. It is thus an illusion to claim that there is such as thing as a separate, “Judeo-Christian” civilization. All Western achievements are Islamic, as they are the result of a civilization Muslims gave to us. Muslims should thus feel no gratitude for enjoying the benefits of the West, they are merely enjoying the legitimate benefits of their own civilization. In fact, Westerners should feel gratitude towards Muslims.
It is a time-tested Islamic tradition: If you cannot show significant historical achievements of your own, you can always steal somebody else’s.
The EU elites see themselves as Julius Caesar or Octavian, but end up being Brutus, stabbing their own peoples in the back. They want to recreate the Roman Empire on both sides of the Mediterranean, bound together by some vague references to a “shared Greek heritage.” Instead, they are creating a civilizational breakdown across much of Western Europe as the barbarians are overrunning the continent. The EU wants to recreate the Roman Empire and ends up creating the second fall of Rome.
It has been said that those who do not have a history also do not have a future. If so, maybe the reverse is true as well. Westerners have lost sense of much of our own cultural heritage. We have forgotten who we once were. Perhaps if we start reclaiming our past, we will discover that we have also gained a future, as an added bonus.
Realize that there is an enemy out there that doesn’t want anything from us, not land, not money, not concessions…they simply want us dead. It is an enemy that will kill 300,000 and feel only bloodlust for even more, an enemy that does not mind dying to achieve this goal. When your enemy does not care whether he lives or dies, you cannot pussyfoot around him, you cannot make concessions, you cannot appease, you cannot fight a “nice” war.
I confess, I could not bear to even click on the video or audio tape she links to.
I don't need any more convincing about the nature of the evil we face. I fear we are going to look back at these days with nostalgia, because they are still relatively peaceful in this part of the world.
Mark Steyn tells Hugh Hewitt:
The problem with that there is, there is no stability. We're in a race against time, against very seriously and fast-lengthening demographic, economic, geopolitical and technological odds. And you know, any one of those are serious. Demographic...the Islamification of Europe means you're not going to be getting any useful support ten or twenty years down the line from France and the Netherlands, and these countries. The technological thing is where we're in a world where an immensely powerful, dangerous technology is going freelance. And in a sense, Hezbollah is the wave of the future, non-state actors that in fact have more military might than most state actors do. And so I feel this kind of bland kind of foreign policy establishment, basically 21st Century Congress of Vienna routine, is absurd.
HH: And it strikes me as not just sort of very dangerous, because it continues to obscure those critical elements you just mentioned, including, I think, the near certainty that in a very short period of time, a WMD is going to be used somewhere in this world. And the theater most likely is probably against Israel, because of the freelancing of terror, and the freelancing and the portability of WMD. Mark Steyn, are you surprised by what we've found about Hezbollah's capacities?
MS: Yes, and I think what's interesting is that Israel was surprised, too, that in fact, a nation that has no illusions, compared to most of North America and Europe and the rest of the civilized world, has no illusions about the enemy that it faces. Even they didn't have up to date information on what had been managed in a very small corner of the world, to be smuggled through to them. And I think this is really the reality that you're talking now about...and nobody's saying that 1.3 billion Muslims all want to fly planes into buildings, or nuke Chicago, or anything. But what we are saying is that there is a pan-Islamist identity that is impervious to normal immigration assimilation techniques, and spreads beyond the borders, is very good at taking over failing states, whether we're talking about Afghanistan, Somalia, or Southern Lebanon, and that this is a situation where the old complacency, the sort of Joe Wilson go to, fly in, sip mint tea with the guys in your address book, that whole approach is not going to...is only going to make things worse five or ten years down the road.
Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin, Jihadwatch and Dr. Sanity are all following the story of the Seattle Muslim who opened fire at a Jewish community centre, injuring several women and killing one.
Each night, with her daughters tucked into their beds in their three-bedroom suburban Burnaby, B.C., home, Airdrie Miller takes off for her second life. While her two girls are sound asleep, the 37-year-old math teacher “lets it rip.”
As in rip the night away — in cyberspace, as Anna Mandelbrot, her on-screen character, or “avatar,” in the virtual-reality world called Second Life.
Technically, Second Life is a gigantic multiplayer on-line role-playing game, but Second Lifers become quite indignant when you suggest what they are doing is merely playing a game. And indeed, SL is really nothing like a game, insofar as nobody wins, nobody loses and there is no endgame. Players don't join Second Life to slay dragons, speed around racetracks or shoot down enemy soldiers; there are no warlords, warriors or witches to battle. Instead, players do the things they might enjoy doing in real life, except they do them in cyberspace.
In all, more than 350,000 Second Lifers sit at their computer screens around the world, living out parallel fantasy lives through their avatars. For Miller, that involves Anna going dancing most nights in clubs, attending rock concerts, and making the meetings of a depression support group — while Airdrie stays at home and looks after her children.
Hugh Hewitt has several graphs that gives me great pleasure to see, especially this bit of analysis. Thank God for the blogosphere.
You know what I like about this graph? After that little dead cat bounce during the election of 2000, the strongest slide, the steepest part of the downslope, is from 9/11 forward. That's especially when the Los Angeles Times collectively decided to not face the war seriously, or report the war responsibly, and the public responded appropriately. Angelinos simply do not trust the Times on its war coverage.
Barash says he advocates interbreeding humans with animals not because it would be a good idea in itself, but because it would offend believers. “In these dark days of know-nothing anti-evolutionism,” he writes, “with religious fundamentalists occupying the White House, controlling Congress and attempting to distort the teaching of science in our schools, a powerful dose of biological reality would be healthy indeed.”
Barash says that creating animal/human hybrids would effectively quash the belief that “the human species, unlike all others, possesses a spark of the divine and that we therefore stand outside nature.”
“Should geneticists and developmental biologists succeed once again in joining human and nonhuman animals in a viable organism,” Barash writes, “it would be difficult and perhaps impossible for the special pleaders to maintain the fallacy that Homo sapiens is uniquely disconnected from the rest of life.”
One of the ideological offshoots of Darwinsim is radical environmentalism, advocates of which hold that human beings are a kind of virus threatening the earth’s ecosystems. According to the pure materialist philosophy, the environmental threat is directly the fault of “a bogus ‘faith based’ worldview,” the “Judeo-Christian proclamation of radical discontinuity between people and the rest of ‘creation.’”
Friday, July 28, 2006
All in all, then, Updike has produced a more convincing and subtle, and, in my view, accurate portrait of a young Islamist terrorist than he has generally received credit for—even for all his book’s literary faults. He rightly sees Islamism in the West as culturally hybrid, rather than as a pure product of Islam: a reaction, albeit one consonant with certain Islamic traditions, to a very severe and, indeed, overwhelming cultural challenge from without rather than as something arising purely or spontaneously from within Islam itself. He understands the deeply human, but also deeply destructive, desire for a simple solution to all existential and practical problems at once. He is sufficiently imaginative to understand that our imperfect societies have more than enough within them to appall sensitive outsiders and marginals (as surely all conservatives should appreciate). He also realizes that violent repulsion can be the consequence of illicit attraction. And all this without for a moment suggesting that Islamic terrorism is other than a terrible scourge.
Please read the whole essay over at City Journal, because it is chock full of Dalrymple's usual insight.
And here's Mark Steyn's take.
What else, indeed? It's doubtful anyone could write "the" novel about Islam today -- it is a faiWth, after all, that can seduce everyone from Ontario welfare deadbeats like Steven Chand to the Prince of Wales. Yet it seems to me Updike has gone awry from the very first word. If Muslims were simply über-devout loners, this whole clash-of-civilizations rigmarole would be a lot easier. But the London Tube bombers were perfectly assimilated: they ate fish 'n' chips, loved cricket, sported hideous Brit leisure wear. Updike's absurdly alienated misfit is a lot less shocking than the video that aired recently on British television of July 7 jihadist Shehzad Tanweer: he's spouting all the usual suicide-bomber claptrap, but in a Yorkshire accent. Imagine threatening "Death to the Great Satan!" in Cockney or Brooklynese. Or Canadian: "Death to the Great Satan, eh?" That's far creepier and novelistic than Updike's opening: it's someone who appears perfectly normal until he gets in the subway car and self-detonates. As for the revulsion at navel studs, compare Ahmad with Assem Hammoud, recently arrested in a real-life plot to blow up another New York tunnel -- the Holland. Mr. Hammoud said he had been ordered by Osama bin Laden to "live the life of a playboy . . . live a life of fun and indulgence." That way he would avoid detection. Pretty cunning, huh? Just to show how seriously he took his assignment, there was a picture of Assem with three hot babes (all burka-less) on a "mission" in Canada. "I was proud," declared Mr. Hammoud, "to carry out my orders" -- even though they required him to booze it up and bed beautiful infidels all week long. But it's okay, because he was nailing chicks for Allah. So he gamely put on a brave show of partying like it's 1999 even though, as a devout Muslim, he'd obviously much rather party like it's 799.
The relationship of truth to a sermon, or to a logical argument, is pretty simple to comprehend. The relationship of truth to art is more complex. Fiction has been called "a lie that tells the truth," a paradox that goes to the heart of the difficulty -- and explains why, historically, evangelicals have been suspicious of art and its makers. Many evangelical artists have internalized their community's critique of art, which has led them to seek ways of doing art that evade the 'evils' their fellow believers have articulated. This desire not to be tainted by the criticism has, I think, contributed to the mediocrity problem. Some have been quick to dismiss what they didn't understand, just to remain in solidarity with other evangelical critics.
In It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, Edward Knippers writes: "In the Christian community there are many people who love to talk about art theory, but far fewer who love to look at what artists make." To be artists, we must be open to and involved in art. To be artists, we must approach the question of creativity as acolytes, not critics.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Your question is incomprehensible. I assume you are trying to ask me: "Why would God create tapeworms?"
My answer is: God also created mosquitoes, which I hate. But purple martins love mosquitoes and would probably all starve without them. It's kind of a “big picture” thing. Of course that doesn't explain why He created Michael Moore. For that, I have no explanation. My guess is that disease, pestilence, and Michael Moore are all perversions of the good that God created, a result of sin entering the world through Adam and Eve.
No, the power is in images. The Old Man's bleeding hands. His unquestioning acceptance that he was born for this purpose. His stumbling under the weight of his ship's mast as he tries to carry it uphill after, ahem, three exhausting days at sea. The way he collapses across his bed, his arms outstretched to the sides, his wounded palms facing up. His young apprentice, a disciple who loved the Old Man enough to share his shame if only he might sit at his feet and become like the master. Only once does Hemingway use an obvious metaphor, comparing the pain in the man's hands to nails being driven through flesh into wood. The rest is much more subtle than my concise list makes it seem. It's inherent to the narrative like scent is to a rose. It's there for any who care to notice. For those who have noses to smell, if you will.
Indeed, one could miss the Christian symbolism entirely. Some who listened that night heard only a story about an old fisherman, down on his luck, who sailed out alone and both won and lost a battle with a fish of mythological size and the sea. They laughed at his quirks, winced at his pain, and marveled at his endurance. They admired the love and respect the boy showed him. And they probably assumed that when the Old Man collapsed under the weight of his mast, George's voice broke out of sympathy for the character, not his Lord.
Using moonbattery to fight moonbattery, Rev. George Hargreaves of Operation Christian Vote has filed a complaint against Britain's Gay Police Association for placing a propagandistic advertisement blaming Christianity for violence against homosexuals.
Take a look at the comments section while you're there
This picture is featured on page 155 of Jed Babbin's 2004 book, Inside the Assylum. This a photo taken around January, 2004, at a facility on the Lebanese-Israeli border, not too far from near a town called Metullah.
The United Nations flag is flying a couple of feet away from the Hezbollah flag. Now I do not believe Israel intentionally targeted U.N. earlier today. But if the U.N. has personnel sharing facilities with Hezbollah, how can Israel possibly be blamed? Precision weapons can do a lot, but they can't only blow up the Hezbollah side of the building.
I'm also told this isn't the only place where the two flags fly side by side. How can anyone expect the U.N. to broker or keep the peace? How can anyone believe the U.N. has not already taken sides once you see a picture like this? Kofi Annan can give us his righteous anger about the errant attack this morning all he wants, but maybe if his people weren't so closely associated with terrorists, they wouldn't get hurt.
With Hezbollah's use of human shields; with their hiding in the midst of populated areas;with their sophisticated use of propaganda ("children are DYING!"); and with their reportedly preventing any civilians--including children-- from escaping areas where they are likely to be hurt; we see the beginning of a new conundrum that the forces of civilization must resolve as they fight the onslaught of these barbarians, whose nihilism and fanatacism knows no bounds.
In a comment on this thread at The Belmont Club, Wretchard notes:
The brilliance of the new barbarism is that you cannot fight it without destroying your own value system into the bargain.
OTTAWA - The words of a Canadian United Nations observer written just days before he was killed in an Israeli bombing of a UN post in Lebanon are evidence Hezbollah was using the post as a ''shield'' to fire rockets into Israel, says a former UN commander in Bosnia.
Those words, written in an e-mail dated just nine days ago, offer a possible explanation as to why the post which according to UN officials was clearly marked and known to Israeli forces was hit by Israel Tuesday night, said retired major general Lewis MacKenzie Wednesday.
The strike hit the UN observation post in the southern Lebanese village of El Khiam, killing Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedner, a Canadian serving at the post as an unarmed UN military observer, and three other UN observers.
Just last week, Hess-von Kruedner wrote an e-mail about his experiences after nine months in the area, words MacKenzie said are an obvious allusion to Hezbollah tactics.
''What I can tell you is this,'' he wrote in an e-mail to CTV dated July 18. ''We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing.
''The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity.''
Those words, particularly the last sentence, are not-so-veiled language indicating Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets near the post, said MacKenzie.
''What that means is, in plain English, 'We've got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces),'' he said.
Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in 1867, shortly before the commencement of modern Jewish resettlement, and described it as “a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds—a silent, mournful expanse… A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action.” According to the careful population figures of the Ottoman Empire, in 1882 (at the very beginning of the modern, organized Jewish immigration back to the ancestral home), the total population of land between the Jordan and the Sea was less than 250,000 – in an area that today supports ten million people, Israelis and Palestinians.
The resettlement of the sparsely populated Holy Land by the descendants of its ancient inhabitants, however, did not take place solely in the modern era. Throughout Jewish history, waves of returnees came back to the sacred soil of their ancestors. In the 8th and 9th centuries, A.D., Jewish immigrants re-established major communities in Jerusalem and Tiberias; by the 11th Century, they had built new communities in Jaffa, Ashkelon, Caesarea and Rafah. In the 16th Century, more Jewish immigrants developed the famous center of mysticism in Safed and beginning in the 1700’s religious scholars and pilgrims intensely repopulated Jerusalem.
The Jewish connection to Israel, in other words, remained impassioned and unbroken for some three thousand years, while the British connection with North American began only in 1607 (with Jamestown) and 1620 (with the Pilgrims at Plymouth). No European settlers to the New World claimed an ancient connection to the land they discovered, developed, and gradually populated. Moreover, the Native Americans who preceded them came to the Western Hemisphere across the land bridge from Asia at the very latest some 13,000 years before the White Men arrived, while the Arabs appeared in Israel for the first time in the 7th Century.
If opponents of the modern Jewish State argue that Israelis have no meaningful claim on the land they occupy then on what basis do today’s Americans have a stake in the vast continent once inhabited by millions of members of hundreds of Indian tribes?
The National Museum of Ireland issued a statement saying, "In discovery terms, this Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls is being hailed by the museum's experts as the greatest find ever from a European bog."
"It is not so much the fragments themselves, but what they represent, that is of such staggering importance," said the museum's director, Pat Wallace. "In my wildest hopes, I could only have dreamed of a discovery as fragile and rare as this. It testifies to the incredible richness of the Early Christian civilization of this island and to the greatness of ancient Ireland."
Wallace called it a "miracle find," telling the Associated Press, "it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."
But it's the fact the book was discovered opened to Psalm 83 that is attracting attention across the globe.
The ancient psalm deals with a plea to God not to let the enemies of Israel eradicate God's chosen nation.
Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. (Psalm 83:1-4)
It then lists a number of Israel's ancient enemies bent on its destruction.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
WHO SAYS the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times can't keep a secret? Oh sure, once in a while they casually divulge some government spy program designed to thwart terrorism, but when it comes to issues that really matter, mum's the word.
Does anybody remember "The Crying Game"? Vincent Canby wrote in his New York Times review: "The film's producers have pleaded with reviewers not to reveal important plot twists…. More from me you will not get." True to his word, Canby took that secret to his grave. Only he and the millions of people who saw the movie knew that the female lead was actually a guy.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Still, as a Catholic I eventually can't help but relate, in my own limited way, the suffering at Auschwitz to the Passion and death of Christ at Golgotha, the divine self-sacrifice through which all other suffering in the universe is transformed and given new meaning. Even the historical suffering of the Jews as unjustly targeted scapegoats for this cataclysmic crime cannot lie outside this transformative power. It cannot--although how God's steadfast love remained active and manifest even during the monstrosities of the Holocaust is a question that should humble any Christian who attempts to answer it.
Finally, the world is accepting that the Middle East problem was never about so-called occupied land — but only about the existence of Israel itself. Hezbollah and Hamas, and those in their midst who tolerate them (or vote for them), didn't so much want Israel out of Lebanon and Gaza as pushed into the Mediterranean altogether. And since there will be no second Holocaust, the Israelis may well soon transform a perennial terrorist war that they can't easily win into a conventional aerial one against a terrorist-sponsoring Syria that they can.
For its part, the United States has spent thousands of lives and billions in treasure trying to birth democracy in Iraq . We wished to end our old cynical support for Middle East dictators that earned us such scorn and instead give liberated Iraqis a choice other than either theocracy or autocracy.
In multilateral fashion, America has also welcomed the help of the European Union, the United Nations, China and Russia in convincing the Iranians of the folly of producing nuclear weapons. But like Hezbollah and Hamas , Iran does not wish to parley -— just as the beheaders and kidnappers in Iraq don't, either.
The two most liberal societies in Europe — Denmark and the Netherlands — welcomed almost anyone to their shores from the Middle East . Their multicultural hospitality was supposed to have led to a utopian "diverse" nation of various races, nationalities and religions.
Instead, such liberality has earned both small nations pariah status in the Muslim world for the supposed indiscretions of a few freewheeling filmmakers and cartoonists.
As for the “occupation” and “nationalist aspirations,” these are smokescreens used to obscure this existential threat to Israel , the camouflage made necessary after three military attempts to destroy Israel ended in defeat and humiliation. And both excuses for violence against Israel depend on historical lies. When Rashid Khalid, a professor at Columbia and a notorious apologist for terrorism, writes in the Times that the “underlying problems” are “the denial of rights to Palestinians and the occupation of Arab lands,” he indulges a monstrous distortion of history.
How did Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem , documented in history as the traditional Jewish homeland and capital, become the “occupied West Bank ” and “Arab lands”? Through violent conquest, of course. The true “occupation” is the Muslim continuing occupation of lands that were Jewish and Christian for centuries. That occupation ended in Palestine when the Ottoman Empire went to war on the side of Germany and, having lost, paid the price that aggressors always pay when they lose. The victors carved up the caliphate and created the states of the modern Middle East, including Israel. The failure of the Arabs to recognize a legitimate state created by the same historical process that created their own nations, and their continuing failure to recognize Israel in deeds rather than in words, are the root cause of the ongoing crisis.
Once again, Israel is compelled to be the Dirty Harry of the Middle East , the one nation with the nerve and skills to do the nasty work everybody else knows must be done but do not have stomach to do themselves.
So, after almost three years and an exhaustive investigation by a fairly serious and renowned prosecutor involving the jailing of a distinguished reporter, it has been concluded that there was never any breach of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act to begin with. One official at the White House has allegedly been caught in a secondary or even tertiary conflict of evidence. And the hapless Wilsons have been obliged to file their own civil suit, as if the "discovery" it might afford will surpass what Fitzgerald, armed with a quiver of subpoenas and waivers, has been able to accomplish. Meanwhile, the evidence continues to mount (see my Slate columns on the Zahawie case: here, here, and here) that the original British intelligence on the Niger connection was genuine, and that Wilson missed it. And I have some more material on that, which I shall be sharing with you soon.
Interesting also how much the MSM was doggedly pursuing this nonstory about the so-called outing of Valerie Plame, but is virtually ignoring a much more serious breach of national security by the New York Times.
What we need to remember to balance all of this, I think, is that God’s commands are His enablings. We need to trust, as Augustine prayed, that God will grant what He commands. When we see commandments and moral teachings in Scripture, we don’t need to ask, “Gee, am I really cut out for all that?” If He commands it, by His grace He will strengthen us to do it if we seek to obey. It may not be pretty, but it will be possible. We need to embrace strenuous spiritual struggle as part of life. I do not believe that God will call someone to celibacy if they are absolutely incapable of it. But I think we all far underestimate what we are capable of with the grace of God working in us. It’s kind of like exercising, when you’re running or doing situps or whatever and you’re feeling like you’re at your limit, and you think, “I absolutely cannot do any more!” But if you have a friend encouraging you and pushing you onward, you find that you can often do a lot more than you thought you could. Our limits are rarely where we think they are.
Thanks to the Sheepcat who has a number of links to interesting posts about the ex-gay movement.
I believe heterosexuals do not get a free pass in this arena. We have as much dying to self to do and as impossible commands to meet on loving chastely whether single or married. But God does enable us in our weakness.
Monday, July 24, 2006
The real is not entertaining to people. If it was, they would sit in their living rooms at night and stare at each other instead of turning on the television.
It's sad actually that people would rather watch TV than be with their spouses, their children, their friends, their church communities.
It's a great story that would lead us to turn off the TV and start appreciating all of the above because that story helps us find ourselves in God's Story.
Unfortunately, I find when I open the newspapers I see a focus on civilian casualties i Lebanon, and suicide bombings and "civil war" in Iraq. That's why I am so thankful that bloggers like Gatewaypundit offer a different perspective.
Gateway Pundit writes:
When historians look back, the bombing of Shia Golden Dome Mosque may be the turning point in the formation of the democratic Iraq.
Read the whole thing and follow the links, especially if you are discouraged by the Mainstream Media reporting on the Middle East. He links to a report from National Review online that shows some positive statistics from Iraq despite the headlines about suicide bombings.
By the way, I tuned into CNN's Larry King Live last night. Did I hear it right that he said a Hezbollah spokesman was not available to be part of their discussion? Did he actually invite someone? I seldom watch CNN anymore and I could scarcely believe my ears.
Could you imagine during World War II, journalists inviting Goering or Goebbels to be part of a discussion about whether the response of the Allies to Nazi aggression was proportionate and measured?
As a journalist, it distresses me whenever I see this kind of moral relativism masking as objectivity.
David Warren has it right in this column on the way journalists are covering the battle in Lebanon and how it plays right into Hezbollah's hands.
Yet even when this is conceded, we are inundated daily with media reports that focus almost exclusively on the number of civilian casualties, and on the tribulations of everyone else around the war zone.
It will not do for journalists to justify behaviour by the standards of the pack. It will not do for them to assume that only soldiers must answer difficult moral questions. In this case, they must ask or be asked: Who benefits from such reporting?
For the answer, obviously, is Hezbollah. The very reason they take such trouble to ensure a high body-count among non-combatants -- by for instance preventing civilians from fleeing the territory they control -- is to use their corpses as weapons against Israel. The western and Arab media oblige by building this body count into a drumbeat against Israel's attempts to take the battle to the enemy.
Let me sharpen this point further. The value of civilian corpses to Hezbollah, and allied terrorist forces, depends on the media's willingness to make an issue of them -- thereby inferentially blaming Israel for disasters that Hezbollah's methods have contrived. Quite plainly: the more obsessively the media focus on this body count, the higher it is going to be.
Claudia Mair Burney, the Ragamuffin Diva, sends my fellow Master's Artist Dee Stewart a blast of exhortation and describes well what it feels like to be a writer, especially a Christian writer.
I never write feeling good, or even confident. I battle shame and bad housework daily. I write from all that weakness. I WRITE. And then I send it out. Or I blog it out. I never know at the time that I'm writing what is going to happen. Sometimes the work fails, but I didn't fail because I wrote.
So say a prayer for help, and then ACT like God answered it. Sit down, and write and don't think about how good or bad you are--don't think about anything but the story before you. Get all up in it. We can tell if you've lived in your story world, so live there while you are writing.
They have figured out a fundamental flaw in the supposedly adult west's thinking process. And it is this: The political correctness of western society has deified the state of victimhood to such an extent, that, if the Islamists can discover a way to make the foolish among us believe that they are the poor, helpless victims and not the aggressive, murdering thugs they are; then they will achieve true omnipotence. All will be forgiven, and any atrocity they commit will be acceptable and thus excused. The extremely and suicidally foolish will themselves accept responsibility for the Islamists' atrocities (root causes and all, you know)and their "mea culpas" will echo like the wails of the muezzin call to prayer.
Wait for it. Hezbollah and Hamas will make a last ditch effort to snatch victory from military defeat by exploiting the victimhood scenario. If the forces of civilization do not stand firm; if the west refuses to take off those PC sunglasses so the light can illuminate these type of shenanigans--then the victim scam can still work for Hezbollah and Hamas and their handlers.
OTTAWA (CP) - Being a member of a terrorist organization won't necessarily land someone on Canada's no-fly list, The Canadian Press has learned.
Proposed criteria would limit inclusion on the roster to those who pose "an immediate threat to aviation security," say internal briefing notes prepared by Transport Canada.
Draft regulations, disclosed by a source familiar with details of the plan, confirm the no-fly list will be tightly focused and reviewed every 30 days to keep it up to date.
"You cannot be put on the list on the sole basis that you're a member of a 'terrorist group'," said the source. "In addition, you have to be a demonstrable threat to aviation safety."
The no-fly initiative, known as Passenger Protect, will also feature an independent appeal process - but it won't provide financial compensation to those improperly placed on the list, said the source, who asked not be named.
I guess we wouldn't want to interfere with the rights of those members of terrorist groups, now would we?
Thanks to Dhimmiwatch for the link.
It would be enough simply to plumb the story of the extraordinary rescue of these poor men, buried up to their necks for almost a day in broken concrete, twisted metal, dust and crushed glass -- the shattered, smoldering remains of what once were two proud skyscrapers, and now had become a shocking testimony to the reality that a worldwide terrorist enterprise successfully had attacked America. Add some awesome special effects -- ever wondered what it must sound, look and even feel like having a 110-story building come crashing down on you? -- and you'd have a box-office hit.
What keeps them alive are the very footers of civilized society that our cynical, enlightened popular culture is seemingly so desperate to discard: fraternal love, devotion to family, allegiance to country and faith in God. Each element is powerfully developed, not just in the officers' dialogue, but also in the cutaways to the battered co-workers and the two anguished families anxiously praying for a miracle, in the quiet resolve of the former Marine who dons his uniform and enters Ground Zero, ultimately to make the discovery, and most poignantly in Jimeno's visions as he teeters on the brink of death. A Catholic, Jimeno sees not an ambiguous Hollywood representation of a higher power, but the sacred heart of Jesus.
Thanks to Kathy Shaidle at Relapsed Catholic for the link.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
TAP: How did Augustine College come about?
John Patrick: It started with my reading Bernard de Clairvaux’s work on knowledge -- that some people seek knowledge for its own sake and that is curiosity, some for the sake of being known and that is vanity, some so they can sell it and that is exploitive, and some so they can edify others and that is love.
TAP: Why does the temperature drop when you talk about Jesus at university?
JP: First of all, the cross is foolishness to the rational Greek mind (which is the university mind). G.K. Chesterton declared that taking history seriously can make you very cross – his view was that the eastern Mediterranean world of 2000 years ago was not a backwater but a place where all cultures met. Into that environment came a fisherman and a man with a seizure and convinced them that a dead Jewish carpenter was God. If you see how foolish it is, then you see how amazing it is. Secondly, most of us are unable to talk about our faith because we don’t have the vocabulary that makes it meaningful to those around us. We try to fit the gospel into the university model, rather than vice versa, and so we end up with a propositional gospel and tick off the items of the creed. Jesus told us it didn’t work that way. And it doesn’t. What Einstein did was to know the answer first, then do the experiment to prove it. Therefore, let us start with an understanding that our conversion story is non-explanatory and applies to us and no one else. C.S. Lewis could only describe his conversion in terms of what he now believed -- the proof was the rest of his life trying to work out and explain what God had done to him.
TAP: What’s a schizophrenic Christian?
JP: Schizophrenic Christians are those who believe the story is true, but it doesn’t control their lives or give them much joy, and is reserved for Sundays only. I was an invisible Christian, well trained at keeping faith apart from work. For 17 years, I sat in church so my children would go.
TAP: So how does one inhabit the story?
JP: I was in Zaire where my wife was working with refugees from Rwanda. She arranged for me to teach refugees who wanted to understand why they, who called themselves Christian, kill each other. I taught for three to six hours a day. They cried; I cried. And I ended up giving back to God the talent of teaching and expounding the Scriptures which I had denied for so long. It was the happiest day of my life. The Jewish insight is that you lay the story in their memory so that later it will serve as a moral reference guide when they face moral dilemmas. Children inhabit the wrong story because they watch too much TV – that’s where they’re getting their stories from and the ethics in those stories are libertarian -- have what you want and get it by whatever means – that’s not going to produce a good society. Above all, Jesus wants you and me to be a lover. That’s how you inhabit this Christian story – accept the invitation to love and be loved.
“True mysticism is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary,” is the insight of the French theologian Olivier Clément. After all, are we not always remarking upon the oddness of our encounters with other persons— “How wise that baby’s eyes look!” “Doesn’t she look strangely like her father?” “It is bizarre, as though we have always known each other...” “ I never knew he had it in him!” Moreover, just when we feel that we have understood someone, or ‘nailed down’ their personality in our mind, we discover some new strength, weakness, endearing quality or frustrating quirk that we never expected. We might have anticipated what the God-seer has discovered, that God’s essence exceeds the bounds of human understanding, yet this Mysterious One calls us to share in communion with him. What we may not have accounted for is the depth of mystery implanted within those who bear his image, with whom we naturally expect to have concourse.
This means that though we share together in the human mode of existence, there is a definite sense in which every human being I know is remarkably and pleasingly “other” to me. Indeed, because I am ultimately God’s creature, and not my own, there is also a sense in which I remain, so to speak, bracingly “other” even to myself. As one who is in the process of becoming, I can hardly understand all that I am to be. As a complex being in which God has brought together spirit, soul and body, I am continually startled to find, within myself, things that bind me to other creatures.
We are not speaking here only about the estrangement between human beings, or the barrier to self-understanding, that comes as a result of the Fall. Certainly prejudice and blindness regarding other human beings, and even within our own psyche, mark our fallen existence. The answer to such human walls comes when we acknowledge those sort of humanitarian truths uttered by, among others, the Latin poet Terence: “I consider nothing human alien to me.” Rather, we are considering here that delightful “otherness,” that intriguing depth in the mate which is an essential ingredient of true human communion –as anyone who has been in love, or had their first baby, or joined a church, or found their “kindred spirit” discovers. There are whole worlds, then, made even more complex by our fallen condition, to discover within any one whom we love, and within ourselves, too.
Suppose every last Jew in Israel were dead or fled, what would rise in place of the Zionist Entity? It would be something like the Hamas-Hezbollah terror squats in Gaza and Lebanon writ large. Hamas won a landslide in the Palestinian elections, and Hezbollah similarly won formal control of key Lebanese Cabinet ministries. But they're not Mussolini: They have no interest in making the trains run on time. And to be honest, who can blame them? If you're a big-time terrorist mastermind, it's frankly a bit of a bore to find yourself Deputy Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Pensions, particularly when you're no good at it and no matter how lavishly the European Union throws money at you there never seems to be any in the kitty when it comes to making payroll. So, like a business that's over-diversified, both Hamas and Hezbollah retreated to their core activity: Jew-killing.
In Causeries du Lundi, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve recalls a Parisian dramatist watching the revolutionary mob rampaging through the street below and beaming: "See my pageant passing!" That's how opportunist Arabs and indulgent Europeans looked on the intifada and the terrorists and the schoolgirl suicide bombers: as a kind of uber-authentic piece of performance art with which to torment the Jews and the Americans. They never paused to ask themselves: Hey, what if it doesn't stop there?
For decades, Denise Epstein held on to the notebooks of her mother, Irene Nemirovsky. Born in 1903, into a wealthy, influential Russian Jewish family that settled in France, by the late 1930s Nemirovsky had authored nine popular novels in French. Her career ended abruptly with the German occupation when it became illegal to publish the work of Jews. While Nemirovosky, her banker husband and her two daughters had converted to Catholicism in 1939, they were still considered Jews under German race laws.
On July 13, 1942, Nemirovsky was arrested by the French gendarmes and deported to Auschwitz death camp where she died a month later of typhus. When the gendarmes came to arrest her husband, one of them took pity on Epstein and her sister, telling her to pack up what she could and escape. She grabbed her mother's notebooks and carried them around with her in a suitcase from one hiding place to another.
Assuming that the notebooks contained her mother's journals, Epstein found it too painful to read them, not doing so until the '70s when she discovered they actually consisted of two novellas. Deciding to donate them in the 1990s to a French war museum, Epstein began transcribing them.
Since paper was hard to come by during the war, Nemirovsky had written the novellas in such minute handwriting (a single page could contain three chapters) that Epstein needed to use a magnifying glass. The novellas, under the title Suite Francaise, were published in France in 2004, to great acclaim and awards, and have been translated in 30 languages. The English version, agilely and gracefully translated by Sandra Smith, has hit the bestseller lists.
In her notes, Nemirovsky, a deliberate, analytical writer, wrote she was modelling her epic novel (which she envisioned as five interconnected novellas) after War and Peace and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. She sought to capture French life under the German occupation, writing, "the historical, revolutionary facts etc. must be only lightly touched upon, while daily life, the emotional life and especially the comedy it provides, must be described in detail ... Since (this country) is rejecting me, let me consider it coldly, let us watch as it loses its honour and life."
Friday, July 21, 2006
For their part, the terrorist killers hope to kidnap, ransom, and send off missiles, and then, when caught and hit, play the usual victim card of racism, colonialism, Zionism, and about every other -ism that they think will win a bailout from some guilt-ridden, terrorist-frightened, Jew-hating, or otherwise oil-hungry Western nation.
The only difference from the usual scripted Middle East war is that this time, privately at least, most of the West, and perhaps some in the Arab world as well, want Israel to wipe out Hezbollah, and perhaps hit Syria or Iran .
So after 9/11, the London bombings, the Madrid murders, the French riots, the Beslan atrocities, the killings in India, the Danish cartoon debacle, Theo Van Gogh, and the daily arrests of Islamic terrorists trying to blow up, behead, or shoot innocent people around the globe, the world is sick of the jihadist ilk. And for all the efforts of the BBC, Reuters, Western academics, and the horde of appeasers and apologists that usually bail these terrorist killers out when their rhetoric finally outruns their muscle, this time they can’t.
Instead, a disgusted world secretly wants these terrorists to get what they deserve.
Suddenly, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia see that there's a real threat, not a pseudo-threat to the region, that they are going to be living per force under an Iranian-dominated region. That in fact, the last 50 years will just have been a brief interlude of Arab independence between living as subjects of the Ottoman Empire, and now being subject to a kind of de facto apocalyptic Iranian Empire.
HH: Do you think that's clicking in, Mark Steyn?
MS: I think that's absolutely what is prompted the extraordinary Arab League statement, and the circumspection of the European leaders. They both understand that if Tehran, in a year's time, Tehran could have missiles that can hit any European capitol. And they don't want to do anything about it, but if Israel wants to set back that program, they're not going to complain.
It was not a conspiracy movie.
It did not bash Bush.
It was not sappy.
It was not about stupid, church-going nuts.
It did not mock marriage.
It did not blame America.
It did not support radical Islam.
It did not mock Marines.
It did not mock Jesus.
It did not mock cops.
It did not mock family, faith or freedom.
This is a movie that you will see in a few weeks and you will be glad you did. After the viewing, there was no applause, little talking. At the end, the crowd audibly exhaled, as one.
People moved out as if leaving a wake. Tony Blankley and his significant other were the last, the very last to leave. They were moved.
Laura Ingram moved out quick; she was among the first out. Dr. Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention expected to walk out early and didn't.
We spoke to Blankley. He was surprised at Stone's movie, "Good, True, Patriotic, Religious."
Kate O'Beirne from Nation Review was a bit more skeptical about Oliver Stone, "His other movies don't sell, nobody goes to them. So he made this to appeal -- to sell. He wants to make money."
And so he will. You must see how Stone can make a movie with Jesus, yes Him, without a smirk. Mel Gibson can do Passion, sure. But Oliver Stone?
Better check the temperature in Hell. The impossible has happened. Oliver is redeemed.
Michelle Malkin writes:
Is Hell freezing over? Could the movie be as good as these advance reviewers say it is? I haven't been invited to any screenings, so I'll be reserving skeptical judgement with the rest of you. The movie opens August 9.
Michelle has a good round up of reviews at her site.
Mark also has some posts over at his personal website about the onging debate whether Christian writers can go to far or not far enough in how they depict sin in their work.
I've just finished one of Mauriac's early novels, The Desert of Love, and I found it refreshing that a Christian author could engage intelligently with the experiences he re-creates on the page. Sadly, the critics finally wore Mauriac down, and in the late 1920s he published a couple of mea culpa essays, committing to "write fiction that would not be contaminated by the sin it described." Of the novels that followed, only one -- Viper's Tangle -- is classed among Mauriac's masterpieces. Lodge suggests that this is "partly, perhaps, because the moral focus of the book, the 'sin' with which it is primarily concerned, is avarice rather than lust." In other words, he'd hit upon a sin he could dramatize without giving offense to the pious.
I don't know enough yet about Mauriac's history to say for certain, but I wonder if his self-censoring determination proved to be a detriment to his influence. It seems that Christian artists are forced to choose between making honest art for the world or making selective art for the church.
Mark also reposted today an old essay on edgy Christian fiction that bears rereading.
Folks have been talking about "edgy" fiction again, and it's got me thinking about a way to address the issue in specifics. It seems to me that there is a lot of equivocation in these conversations. On the one hand, you have Christian writers asking, "Why should any aspect of this created, fallen world be taboo or off limits to the light of truth?" On the other, you have Christian writers asking, "Why do you want to push the envelope?" In each case, there's an implication of moral failing on the part of the opponent. If you're for "edgy," it must be because you're a juvenile who gets his kicks from shocking your elders. If you're against "edgy," it must be because you have a defective theological view that encourages cultural retreat and moralism instead of true Christian engagement and transformation of culture. There may be some truth -- in some cases -- to both critiques, but they don't really address the specific contours of the issue. What can a Christian author write about? What can't he write about? Why and why not? Those are the issues.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
This is what this feels like: A never-ending war. The Battle that will never end, mainly because the Israelis are willing to Kill to stay alive, and because the arabs are willing to die to kill them. I don't think Peace is possible, mainly because you need a common ground for peace, and a level of acceptable losses. The Israelis will always reach a point where their losses become unacceptable, and they will push for Peace. Not for our side. Our acceptable losses are limitless, as long as we win. When your acceptable loss is your own death, what is there to compromise on?
The Israelis want to destroy Hezbollah, but they can't, because it's a culture and a nation. You want to destroy Hezbollah? You have to kill every single person who supports Hezbollah and its Ideology. You have to eleiminate almost all of the Shia in Lebanon. You have to engage in ethnic cleansing, and you can't do that! Now, since YOU CAN'T DO THAT, you will lose. It is inevitable. In order for the gun to kill the idea, it has to kill everyone who holds the idea. Since you can't do that, the idea will always win. The cause will always survive. The Israelis maybe willing to kill for Israel, but the arabs are willing to die for the cause. There is no winning for the israelis. Only degrees of losing!
Imposition of moral values is a two-way street. The only question is whether good values or bad values will prevail. The only question is whether we walk in the light or darkness. The only question is whether we speak the truth or accept a lie.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
HE is the nation's most lauded novelist, our only Nobel prize-winning writer, twice a winner of the Miles Franklin award and three times the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medallist. Yet without his name on the cover, Patrick White's work is apparently of little value to Australia's publishing industry.
Inquirer submitted, under a pseudonym, chapter three of White's The Eye of the Storm to 12 publishers and agents. This novel clinched his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973, with the judges describing it as one of his most accomplished works.
Not one reader recognised its literary genius, and 10 wrote polite and vaguely encouraging rejection letters. The highest praise was "clever". A low point was a referral to a "how to" book on writing fiction.
It underscores--if it needed highlighting yet again--the particular way that modern American evangelicals have somehow rid themselves of any sort of lasting mythology. And not even mythology, but really any link to the historical church. The liturgies, the hymns, the Holy days that passed unchanged through generations fell out of favor in recent decades, replaced with, really, nothing tangible.
Dissection of the current church feels more like poking fun at old yearbook photos, (ie, Wasn't it funny when we all thought Carmen's "The Champion" was the coolest thing out there? Wasn't it neat when we all said that prayer with Jabez in it?) than some confrontation with anything of much lasting power. Like much of the culture around it, church tried to be relevant by simultaneously being disposable. "Don't like it this week? Don't worry, you'll find something that resonates."
In either scenario, believers are left with the same difficult question: What's real? What's True?
Is it better to have 2000-years worth of jerry-rigged tradition that sometimes seems to be held together with little more than a string of beads or a vacuum in which apparently waits the gleaming Son of God, but which often seems more like the void of space--boundless, silent, cold, and intimidating?
As good post-modernists I know we're not supposed to read author intent into anything, but within literary critique post-modernism had it's fifteen minutes of fame. We're an interactive world and more than ever writers are saying something to us, whether they want to or not. And more than ever we're able to talk back.
Some years ago I used to moonlight and perform psychiatric evaluations for the prosecutors and public defenders in the county where I lived. Personality disorders have always been an interest of mine, and you can find many examples in the jails and prisons.
One particular case stands out in my mind. I was asked by the public defender to evaluate a young man who was accused of murdering his girlfriend. The man was adamant that he was innocent and his lawyer wanted to believe him, but something didn't seem quite right to him, so he decided to ask me for my psychiatric opinion of his client and evaluate the possibility that there might be a psychiatric defense.
Steve was, to all intents and purposes, a model citizen in many ways. He held a responsible job; had no prior legal problems. He had been going with his girlfriend for about 3 months when her body was found in a wooded area--not too far from the apartment complex where he lived. Naturally, he was the prime suspect in her murder (she was strangled). There was also some physical evidence present that linked him to her death, but he insisted that she had left his apartment earlier that morning to go to work after spending the night with him and he had not seen her after that.
When I met with him, I experienced what we used to call in my medical school a "positive Gorney's sign"--meaning that the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. It is a "gut feeling" that something very strange is going on--something that may not be readily obvious to a casual observer, or on first inspection.
In my career, I have learned to respect such feelings. It almost always means that I need to look more closely at a patient and pay more attention to what they are saying or doing that might be stimulating my instinctive emotional response.
Occasionally, I find no corroborating evidence in their behavior for such feelings, and in those cases I simply file the emotional data away and make a conscious decision not to act on it for the time being. Sometimes I find negative evidence that contradicts my primal emotional response. Both situations are cues to me that I must try to figure out what it was that triggered my emotion, and the first step is to look within myself for an explanation. Does the patient remind me of someone I have ambivalent feelings about? Am I upset at something going on in my life? Am I having a bad day? Because it is important to realize that gut feelings can be communicating false data about others, but correct data about one's self.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
A year ago, the NHOP was a dream that looked nearly impossible. Fran and Rob Parker knew what property they believed God wanted them to have, but they had no money. By this time last year, money started coming in from across the country and they managed somehow to swing a deal for the $900,000 property.
Many people might look at lots of time spent in prayer as a waste of time but I'm not one of them. In fact, I would not be surprised if the election result last January had something to do with the coordinated prayer being sent up ahead of time. Not that the NHOP is partisan. Not at all, they bless rather than curse, they pray for God's will, for righteous dealing by politicians. Under the previous Liberal governments, however, we had the sponsorship scandal, the forcing of same-sex marriage through Parliament and anti-Christian rhetoric coming from our leaders. Now we have a new crop of Liberals vying for the leadership and the NHOP team are praying for God's will to be done in that race.
Real prayer is in line with God's will. The impulse to pray begins with Him. It's not some kind of magic way of getting what we want, but a way of aligning ourselves with what God wants and playing the role He created us to play in partnering with Him in bringing it to pass.
Most of all prayer changes us, makes our hearts more tender and us more sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes what He tells us seems crazy and impossible---like buying an old convent in Ottawa when you have no money but full of vision for an Ottawa changed from the inside out and established in righteousness and godliness. But if God is genuinely behind the impulse, then the impossible happens.
Faytene Kryskow was one of the organizers of this event and coordinated the prayer and worship on the stage, somehow managing to stay fresh and full of unstoppable energy despite sweltering heat and humidity. Faytene has uploaded pictures from the event here. Find out more about Faytene and her ministry here and here.
One of the things that I found especially interesting about the event was the use of banners and dancers both from First Nations and from a well-trained dance-worship team that were doing far more than mere entertainment. There was something sacramental taking place, of visible signs of something transpiring in the invisible realm. The dancers easily moved from Gospel-jazz inspired moves to Irish dancing. They were wonderful.
Another thing that was cool was hearing prayers for Canada in many different languages, from Cree and Inuktitut to Spanish and Hebrew. An Israeli flag was planted up on the steps. Hearing a blessing for Canada sung in Hebrew was spine-tingling.
Faytene has written a book called Stand on Guard: A prophetic call & research into the righteous foundations of Canada.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Having said that, I did find the film mildly offensive. And I mean for more than the usual sins against artistry that we have come to expect in movies written, produced, directed and starred in by Christians outside of Hollywood. And though I did see some talent in the directing here, the movie is uneven in acting, it's production value is low, and the script is pedestrian. But, honestly, more offensive was the on-the-nose, born-again languagey, prosperity Gospel stuff in the movie. I brought a young Catholic intern with me to the screening and he described the experience of watching the film as "awkward and embarrassing." It's a very particular strain of Christianity being spotlighted in this film, and, unfortunately, the filmmakers either aren't aware that they will be watched by most viewers as an anthropological phenomenon, or else they don't care.
The people behind Facing the Giants had every right to make a movie for the few hundred thousand folks in their sub-culture. Understanding that they made a movie they and their friends at church want to see, the critique of the film should be limited to how well they executed the kind of movie they made -- not whether they should have made that movie. Dissing Facing the Giants for Christianese is like attacking a porn film for having nudity in it. Or attacking the Food Channel for having too many cooking shows. That's what they do. Now, the question should be how well the Food Channel does cooking shows. My sense is that many of the secular reviewers who get a look at Facing the Giants will fall into this trap. Of course, if the filmmakers behind the film put their film into the mainstream, they have it coming.
I don't think that it's going to erupt into the full-scale regional war that people talk about, because there aren't any state actors, at this point anyway, willing to go in, or really even able to.
Read the whole thing. Lots of interesting analysis.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
In his appearance on the television station Canal Plus, Zidane apologized to his fans and to the children who watched him receive a red card and get expelled from the game, but said he does not regret his actions.
"I know it happened 10 minutes before the end of my career during the final of the World Cup and that it shouldn't have happened," he said. "But I cannot regret what I did because that would mean that [Materazzi] was right to say what he said.
"There was a serious provocation," added Zidane, who said he had never had any tension with Materazzi before. "My act is not forgivable. But they must also punish the true guilty party, and the guilty party is the one who provokes."
Zidane said the incident started when Materazzi pulled on his shirt. He said he told Materazzi they could exchange shirts later. Things escalated and led to the insult that inspired the head butt that shocked the world.
"They were very hard words, words which touched me very deeply," the 34-year-old midfielder said. "They were very serious and very personal. It concerned my mother and my sister. At first, I tried not to listen, but he kept repeating them two or three times, and then things happened very swiftly. I am a man before anything else.
The new definition of manhood.
Sounds to me like the same sort of justification wife beaters use. "She burnt the toast! It's her fault I broke her jaw."
Sounds to me like the same justification for the riots, embassy burnings and murders after the Mohammed cartoons and the fact that much of the Western world seemed to think printing the cartoons was more of a crime than the barbaric response.
Very troubling that 61 per cent of French people agree with Zidane.
The new dark age is upon us folks.
This is the barbaric mentality that would shut down freedom of speech because it hurts feelings and use violence and threats to do so. And while I don't think the Italian player was right to insult the player, a head butt could have stopped his heart. It's a disproportionate response.
No, I still believe a real man responds in a measured way to insults. A real man stands up for what's right, defends the weak, and doesn't react like a puppet on a string when people try to get his goat.
She also posts a link to an essay "Why Evangelicals Can't Write."
Peter Leithart writes:
My own feeling is that writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eyes for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable. In some cases, these writers may be unconsciously infected with the Manichaean spirit of the times and suffer the much discussed disjunction between sensibility and belief, but I think that more often the reason for this attention to the perverse is the difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of their audience. Redemption is meaningless unless there is case for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.
Some responses to her posts here led to a vintage tirade this morning about how people are missing the point.
Your obsession with making the world immaculately safe for your children is (ironically) ruining civil society by raising up a generation of risk averse, hyperallergic, conformist dimwits who've never been allowed to simply daydream or scrape their (heavily padded) kneecaps. We are living in a "Fun Toy Banned Because of Three Stupid Dead Kids" world. Aren't you satisfied yet?
For the millionth time: Make your own damn movies and music if you don't like Hollywood's. Stop boycotting and criticizing movies and books you'll never read anyway.
If you think of the cinema as nothing more than the source of 90 minutes or two hours of respite in the warm glow of (someone else's) fantasy; if it is nothing more to you than "a good story" (hopefully one with a cute dog and a happy ending and no swearing)...
You DO NOT deserve the movies. You are beneath them. Amuse yourselves with bingo or bake sales or some other intellectually undemanding pastime. If you can't understand the concept of the physical integrity of another person's creative work, an artifact that embodies a part of themselves in some metaphysical sense, that may even be touched with Spirit, whether you like it or understand it or not... oh, forget it. I'm guessing you bought the Thomas Kincaide that matched your couch, right?
Yes, yes, I know: raising children is the most important job in the whole wide world. When you present yourselves to God at the End of Days, you are getting straight into heaven, while I, the childless arrogant artiste, is going straight to hell, shouting out, "'Ode to a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of little old ladies" as I tumble into the sulfur.
On that we are all agreed.
Now: back slowly away from the moviola or I will kill you with my pudgy little hands.
Now, given the humorlessness of some of the people who prefer what is safe over what is good, (though granted there are books like Gilead by Marilynne Robinson that are both safe and good) I fear that some might think Kathy is actually making death threats.
She's joking folks!
But to the point she's making---there is a big difference if I as an artist decide to cut some scenes from a movie or a book for wider distribution and family viewing vs. having some third party do it without permission.
And the other point is this: what is perceived as safe may be far more pernicious than the odd profane word or graphic sex scene in a more theologically sound work of art.
"Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it's bad art, it's bad religion, no matter how pious the subject."
—Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water
I think the Left Behind series is bad art and consequently bad religion, though perhaps many people find they're prompted to say the Sinner's Prayer after reading one of these books about the End Times. And maybe some of those people are genuinely repenting. God can even make a donkey speak if He has to in order to reach someone, but that doesn't make the donkey anything other than a donkey.
God chose a book with some pretty mediocre writing aimed at junior high school level readers to turn my life around, so I can't deny that He sometimes uses the strangest means as a Shepherd's crook to hook someone.
I think there is great art that is also good but unsafe in the sense that it is disquieting, haunting, challenging, upsetting and illusion-busting.
Flannery O'Connor falls into that category. This is from an interesting essay about her I found online this morning.
She was writing for an audience to whom the incarnation had little meaning, and yet her fiction repeatedly showed common people encountering the terror, mystery and beauty of the Word made flesh. She might have predicted that many of her readers would be mildly puzzled, if not completely confounded.
That fiction contained truth was the conviction she lived with every day. The fact that this truth was sometimes odd or uncomfortable or violent, that it led often to the grotesque, O’ Connor faced unflinchingly. Quoting Robert Fitzgerald, she wrote, "It is the business of the artist to uncover the strangeness of truth" (p. 343). What could be stranger than a God who decides to suffer with us? What could be more uncomfortable or more violent than the cross? What could be more comically grotesque than an individual trying to escape his own identity as God’s child and in his rush out the temple door smacking straight into the incarnation?
I believe there is also bad art that is unsafe and great art that has great merit in terms of skill, vision of the artist, but is inherently evil and decadent. Ideas do have consequences and artists' visions have consequences.
Unfortunately, too often a lack of discernment will push what is good, great and unsafe into the great but evil category. So often that happens to the best writers who are not received as the prophets they are in their own times. That's why I believe we must exercise caution before we decide to cut or alter works of art. Shoot, how often would people like to get rid of the various inconvenient bits in the Bible?
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Cutting to the chase... from a Christian standpoint, the movie fails on two levels. The lesser problem - but certainly the more amusing one - was the laboring the film did to set up as a Christ-figure a fellow whose choices establish him as a basically angst-ridden small town guy who is obsessed with a girl, knocks her up and then becomes a deadbeat dad. I'm thinking that these things - lusting, loving and leaving are really "the American Way" for contemporary global audiences. I'm glad the script here didn't have the courage to call it that though. Here, after "Truth" (what is that anyway?) and "Justice" (like skipping out on your kid and on the court date that would keep a super-criminal behind bars?) , the third part of Superman's vocation is murmured out as "all that other stuff." Rich. Perfect. Anyway, the problem is the biggie for this culture: separating the personal misdeeds from the public heroism as though they are unrelated. Remember the Clinton-Monica mantra that it is possible to be a great good leader and a private cad all at the same time?
Secondly, and more devastating to the picture as a work of art, the triumphant climax of the good in the film never emotionally overcame the shockingly brutal evil in it. It's what I call The Horse Whisperer Problem. That movie opened with a horrific and shocking accident. And then, the ultimate victory in the film was only gentle and subtle. Maybe that is more like real life. Certainly it is. But stories are supposed to be better than real life. In the same way, Superman Returns never felt as good at the end as the middle felt horrible. The stabbing with a piece of sharp Kryptonite was just too much. It wasn't the stuff of a comic book movie. It was the stuff of Reservoir Dogs.
Interesting. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm following the debate about it since some are saying that Superman is a Christ figure, while others are saying he's an Antichrist figure.