...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

April 19, 2007

Recommended Reading

An excellent and thoughtful essay on the nature of hell, by C. R. Hardy at NRO.

An excerpt:

And then, neither of us looking at the other, she said the following slowly and deliberately, as if she had been formulating the thought all afternoon: I also believe that hell exists. But I just realized that I dont live as if I believed that hell exists. And Auschwitz, thats just what man can do. But what can God do?
Go read it.

Posted by annika, Apr. 19, 2007 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



December 22, 2006

Christmas Message From Al-Z

This is satirical, so it's okay to watch.

h/t Shelly, Cranky, Linda, Bluto, Allah, and Scott

Posted by annika, Dec. 22, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



June 01, 2006

Happy Shavu'ot!

For my Jewish friends, a Shavu'ot poem:


Autumn Season

Truth
is the
Sword of Gevurah
that the Just Warrior wields with Mighty Power!

I say unto Thee:

Defend Thy Honor fiercely
with Noble Courage that Towers above the Tide.

I say unto Thee:

Feed the Hungry of Body and Spirit,
Give them Hope for Health and Livelihood.

I say unto Thee:

Protect the folk from those who would seek to steal away
their precious rights!

I say unto Thee:

Be Thou Swift to shine the Light of Truth upon
those who deceive, delude and dishonor,
hiding behind the dark veil of privilege.

Shine the Light now,
so that Ye may walk with Honor to Thy Destiny.

Rememberest Thou:
whatsoever is the will of man...
the Lord God demands Truth and Justice
from those who would seek to serve
Heaven...

Understand why it Rains, Know why the Wind Howls:
Be Wise when you are offered the Hand of Redemption!
Justice must prevail!

You are the Servant
that must Right the great Injustice that has been wrought.


(by Rabbi Alyjah Navy)

I'm not Jewish, but I will enjoy the traditional Chalav observance tonight by eating a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with my favorite chocolate syrup and a big glass of water. mmmmm. Not exactly kosher, but that's the advantage of being Catholic.

h/t Linda at Something and Half of Something.

Posted by annika, Jun. 1, 2006 | link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



April 22, 2006

Prayer Request

Please remember Gcotharn's mom in your prayers. Though I've never met Greg, he's been a great friend and supporter of this blog, and it's a sad thing that has happened in his family. I hope his mom will have a full recovery.

Posted by annika, Apr. 22, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



March 30, 2006

Prayer "Failure" Study Misses The Point

A recently concluded study on the power of prayer supposedly found no evidence that prayer had any effect on the recovery of 1800 heart patients.

In fact, the study found some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for did worse than others who were only told they might be prayed for -- though those who did the study said they could not explain why.

The patients in the study at six U.S. hospitals included 604 who were actually prayed for after being told they might or might not be; another 597 patients who were not prayed for after being told they might or might not be; and a group of 601 who were prayed for and told they would be the subject of such prayer.

. . .

Among the first group -- who were prayed for but only told they might be -- 52 percent had post-surgical complications compared to 51 percent in the second group, the ones who were not prayed for though told they might be. In the third group, who knew they were being prayed for, 59 percent had complications.

. . .

"Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on whether complications occurred (and) patients who were certain that intercessors would pray for them had a higher rate of complications than patients who were uncertain but did receive intercessory prayer," the study said.

I would caution against concluding from this study that prayer is ineffective. Such a conclusion misses a fundamental aspect of our relationship with God.

That is, simply put, God can say "no."

Just because someone does not get what they prayed for, does not mean that the prayer was not answered. It's an obvious point, but one that escapes a surprising number of people ― even many religious people.

Posted by annika, Mar. 30, 2006 | link | Comments (27) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



January 26, 2006

Benedict's First Encyclical

An excellent short post on Pope Benedict's Deus Caritas Est is over at Hugo's. I wholeheartedly agree with the Pope, and Hugo's, thoughts on the separation of charity and proselytization. Although I recognize that for much of my church's history, that separation was blurred at best. I do think it's most effective, especially on a personal level, to proclaim the Gospel more by example and less by argument.

Posted by annika, Jan. 26, 2006 | link | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah, everybody!

Posted by annika, Dec. 25, 2005 | link | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



December 08, 2005

Sunday Morning On Thursday

Here's a quote worth thinking about:

Man nurtures the suspicion that God, at the end of the day, takes something away from his life, that God is a competitor who limits our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we will have set him aside . . . There emerges in us the suspicion that the person who doesn't sin at all is basically a boring person, that something is lacking in his life, the dramatic dimension of being autonomous, that the freedom to say 'no' belongs to real human beings.

Overcome the temptation of a mediocre life, made of compromises with evil.



Posted by annika, Dec. 8, 2005 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



August 31, 2005

Faith In The Face Of Tragedy And Job

Disclaimer: This is a post i don't expect everyone to agree with.

Perhaps due to the ongoing disaster in the Gulf states, and some personal tragedies that have hit an alarming number of my blog friends recently, i've been seeing an unusual number of posts that deal with faith and tragedy.

It's the age old question. Why do bad things happen to good people? What does a person of faith do when tragedy strikes? How does one deal? What happens to a person's faith in an all-powerful and all-loving God when that God takes a loved one for no apparent reason?

One book of the Bible supposedly deals with this very question. It's the book of Job. Perhaps i'm not alone when i say that Job never really made me feel better for reading it. It's a strange book, and it's not a comfort at all, really. i read Job all the way through a few years ago. Let's just say i needed to read it at the time and leave it at that.

Basically, the gist of the story is this, as i recall. Job is a good and righteous man who's been blessed with a nice family and lots of money. One day, God makes a bet with the devil about whether or not Job will reject God if He lets the devil completely fuck with Job's life. So the devil kills all of Job's family, takes all his stuff, and gives Job boils on his skin.

Job gets pissed, but doesn't blame God at first. The devil continues to fuck him up, so Job asks a friend to talk to God for him. That ends up nowhere, and Job finally gets on the line with the Big Guy himself. Now God is pissed, and He says to Job (i'm paraphrasing) "Dude, why don't you create the entire universe in six days. Then you can come back here and pop off to me. Until then, shut your pie hole. I do what I want and you don't get to know the reason."

Now there are plenty of other parts in the Bible where one can go for real comfort in times of despair, but Job is not one of them. God doesn't come off looking very nice in Job, but that's not the point of the story. It's kind of the tough talk part of the Old Testament. We may not like the message, but we need to hear it at least once.

God's smackdown to Job, is one of the most awe inspiring and majestic passages of the Bible. It is hard reading when you're in trouble, though. You never thought God could be this sarcastic either:

From out of a storm,
the LORD said to Job:
Why do you talk so much
when you know so little?
Now get ready to face me!
Can you answer
the questions I ask?
How did I lay the foundation
for the earth?
Were you there?
Doubtless you know who decided
its length and width.
What supports the foundation?
Who placed the cornerstone,
while morning stars sang,
and angels rejoiced?
God goes on like this at some length. As they say, it ain't bragging if it's true.
Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?

Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?

Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

Yah, so God is the Big Boss and we're just piss-ants. But He loves us anyway. Whether we know it, like it, believe it or want it, He still loves us because He created us.

My favorite holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church is the Feast of Christ the King. It's the last Holy Day of the liturgical year, and i think it's placed there for emphasis. It's a reminder to me that God is ruler over all. The universe is not a democracy, it is a monarchy and we are subjects of the King, not his equals.

Therefore i think it would be the height of arrogance for me to presume to know the mind of God. That's the lesson of the tower of Babel, and of the Book of Job. WTF, we humans can't even understand how light can act like both a particle and a wave. We don't know why neurons communicate across synapses. And every day, giant squid and great whales a hundred feet long fight death battles at the bottom of the sea that no man has ever witnessed. So for me to decide whether God is acting justly or unjustly, based on my own infinitely narrow vantage point on the universe, well it's the height of arrogance as i said.

i could choose to be pissed off at my own powerlessness, or i could find freedom in it. i never understand why so many people waste so much energy trying to reason God into or out of existence. Or trying to reason the nature of God. My knowledge that God exists was never based on reason. That knowledge is itself a gift from God and it remains in me as a result of my faith, not reason.

So i go on believing whether or not God's plan appears fair to me. i don't get to know the plan. Is that a cop-out? i don't think so. i think it's the essence of faith. If my faith were dependent on things like reason or observation or argument, it would be a very weak faith indeed. Yes, even my own mind, smart as i am, was created by Him.

Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind?
There are no easy answers. When i see tragedies like what's going on in the Southeast right now, it saddens me and i want to ask why, God, why. But i also know that i can never really answer that question. He may choose to reveal the answer to me in His time. But then again He may not, and how can i ever know. Bad things might happen to good people for no fucking reason simply because i'm not supposed to be in the loop. i tend to mistrust people when they presume to know God's plan, even if what they're saying comes from a compassionate heart.

So what does that mean? What about God's love that we hear so much about. Where does that fit into a universe that may or may not be cruel in a completely arbitrary way. Job asked:

from my deep despair,
I complain to you, my God.
Don't just condemn me!
Point out my sin.
Why do you take such delight
in destroying those you created
and in smiling on sinners?
Do you look at things
the way we humans do?
Is your life as short as ours?
Is that why you are so quick
to find fault with me?
You know I am innocent,
but who can defend me
against you?
It's not that i'm some kind of Deist who believes that God acts arbitrarily. i believe He has a plan, i just don't believe i can know it. Similarly, i have experienced miracles in my own life and i know from whom they came. God has taken very good care of me, and i don't know why.

It's the knowledge of my own inferior wisdom that has enabled me to never have a crisis of faith, even in times of despair. My spiritual weakness is one of devoutness, not doubt. i have crises of apathy, not belief. i'm going through one now, as a matter of fact. But God's love for this world is obvious to me every time i hear the Gospel. And that's what overcomes the pain i see at times too often to ignore.

Posted by annika, Aug. 31, 2005 | link | Comments (18) | TrackBack (3)
Rubric: Faith



August 29, 2005

Katrina Help, My Charity Choice

i'm donating to Catholic Charities.

While local agencies along the Gulf Coast anticipate that they will be provide some type of emergency assistance in their communities, Catholic Charities' niche in disaster relief is to provide long-term recovery work. In fact, Catholic Charities agencies in Florida are still providing services to help people recover from last year's devastating hurricanes.

Based on past disasters, possible long-term services that Catholic Charities may provide include temporary and permanent housing, direct assistance beyond food and water to get people back into their homes, job placement counseling, and medical and prescription drug assistance.

i trust Catholic Charities more than the Red Cross or United Way, whom i believe skim off the top worse than a mob run casino.

Posted by annika, Aug. 29, 2005 | link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)
Rubric: Faith



July 05, 2005

Not So Trivial Question

Here's a quote from Steve Jobs' speech at this year's Stanford commencement ceremony.

[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
There's something missing. What is it?

Posted by annika, Jul. 5, 2005 | link | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Faith



April 24, 2005

Et Tu Ignoramus

Apparently, journalism schools are now teaching their students that when they don't know something, just make shit up.

Listening to KCRA Channel 3's morning newscast in Sacramento, i was appalled to hear the news bimbo say that the Pope was given his "ring and woman's shawl" at this morning's installment ceremony.

It's called a stole, you idiot! Not common knowledge certainly, but a few seconds of research would have helped you avoid sounding like a complete ass.

"Woman's shawl?" Why not just say "shawl" if you didn't know what it was? If you're gonna make shit up, why not just say they gave him a ceremonial cigar too? Or that they passed around the ceremonial beer at mass?

i tell ya. It's near impossible to watch the news anymore.


Update: Okay, maybe i mis-heard it. She might have said "woolen" shawl. But still. How about a little enunciation?

Update 2: A little more than a few seconds of research revealed that i was wrong too. The stole is more properly called a Pallium, and Benedict spoke about its significance in this morning's homily.

The first symbol is the Pallium, woven in pure wool, which will be placed on my shoulders. This ancient sign, which the Bishops of Rome have worn since the fourth century, may be considered an image of the yoke of Christ, which the Bishop of this City, the Servant of the Servants of God, takes upon his shoulders. Gods yoke is Gods will, which we accept. And this will does not weigh down on us, oppressing us and taking away our freedom. To know what God wants, to know where the path of life is found this was Israel's joy, this was her great privilege. It is also our joy: Gods will does not alienate us, it purifies us even if this can be painful and so it leads us to ourselves. In this way, we serve not only him, but the salvation of the whole world, of all history.

The symbolism of the Pallium is even more concrete: the lambs wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life. For the Fathers of the Church, the parable of the lost sheep, which the shepherd seeks in the desert, was an image of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The human race every one of us is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way. The Son of God will not let this happen; he cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross. He takes it upon his shoulders and carries our humanity; he carries us all he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. What the Pallium indicates first and foremost is that we are all carried by Christ. But at the same time it invites us to carry one another. Hence the Pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherds mission, of which the Second Reading and the Gospel speak.

. . .

One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. 'Feed my sheep,' says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of Gods truth, of Gods word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear friends at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.

i was pleased to read the following passage from Benedict's homily, which was pertinent to a post i wrote Friday regarding inter-faith relations:
I greet with great joy and gratitude all of you gathered here. . . . With great affection I also greet all those who have been reborn in the sacrament of Baptism but are not yet in full communion with us; and you, my brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God's irrevocable promises. Finally, like a wave gathering force, my thoughts go out to all men and women of today, to believers and nonbelievers alike.

Posted by annika, Apr. 24, 2005 | link | Comments (3)
Rubric: Faith & The Huh? Files



April 22, 2005

So Much For The Anti-Ecumenical Criticism

In one of his first official acts as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury. What surprised me is that such an invitation has never before happened, according to the Times of London.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will meet Pope Benedict XVI for the first time on Monday.

Anglican insiders said it was "highly significant" that the Pope should choose to meet the honorary head of the Anglican communion in the very first hours of his official pontificate.

The papal audience in the Vatican follows his attendance at tomorrow’s inaugural mass at St Peter’s, when Dr Williams will become the first serving Archbishop of Canterbury to attend a papal inauguration since the Reformation. On Sunday evening Dr Williams will preach at the Anglican church of All Saints in Rome.

After a chilly period for Anglicanism under the last Pope because of the ordination of women priests, Benedict XVI appears eager to usher in a new era of closeness between the two communions.
[emphasis added]

That's a good thing.

More myths busted: The anti-semitic slur against the new pope is bogus:

Rabbi Di Segni quoted a letter from the pope, who said he had "trust in the help of the Almighty", in which he pledged to continue and intensify contacts with Jews begun by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

'I trust in the help of the Almighty to continue and strengthen the dialogue and collaboration with the sons and daughters of the Jewish people,' the pope said in the message, dated yesterday.

Jewish leaders in Israel and beyond have saluted the election of Benedict, saying he was a friend of the Jewish people and calling on him to continue the fight against anti-Semitism.

Muslims are supportive, too.
The new pope's conservative outlook, which has caused controversy in the Western world, appears not to overly concern religious leaders in the Middle East.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, a direct descendant of Islam's prophet, Mohammed, voiced his trust in the new pope's 'wisdom and courage to go forward and continue his predecessor's mission with strength and faith to bring about world peace and reinforce respect between religions.'

And you won't hear Chris Matthew or those of his ilk mention the following tidbit either:
The Italian daily La Repubblica, meanwhile, reported that the documents Benedict had been working on before being elected pope included one allowing divorced couples who remarry to receive Communion.
Which goes to show you, the unfair criticism of Benedict XVI, by leftists who had never heard of him before this week, is driven by the same thing that drives most leftist thought on any subject: an irrational fear and hatred of Christianity.

Posted by annika, Apr. 22, 2005 | link | Comments (5)
Rubric: Faith



April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam

cardwars.jpg

i'm ecstatic about the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger, which is strange since i'm quite liberal on many Catholic issues. It's not just because we share a Bavarian ancestry. i really believe that the Church needs an orthodox leader after the touchy-feely pontificate of John Paul II.

The list of changes i would favor in my Church is long. But my faith remains strong. i'm not going to leave the Church because women can't be ordained, for example. It is good that the Pope is more conservative than i am. That's something the reformers seem to forget. When religion doesn't set moral standards, it ceases to be a religion, and becomes a social club.

Also, the media critics don't want to admit that most of the Catholic world is very happy at the selection of a conservative cardinal. It's just here in the godless west that you hear the whining. i am hopeful and happy about Pope Benedict XVI because he has already signalled that he will not lead the Church into error by chasing after fallen Catholics. It is up to the faithful to remain in faith, not the other way around.

Lastly, i'm sick and tired of hearing the talking heads question whether Cardinal Ratzinger will be too divisive, when (they arrogantly surmise) the Church needs a uniter. i'm reminded of the following words of scripture:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. [Matthew 10:34-36]
Two thousand years of Catholic tradition and teaching should never be thrown out lightly, and certainly not on the basis of any CNN poll or Andrew Sullivan column.

Viva il Papa nuova.

Update: Zomby has a great post on this very thing.

Posted by annika, Apr. 19, 2005 | link | Comments (11)
Rubric: Faith



March 25, 2005

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
Miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
Miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
Dona nobis pacem.

[traditional, Agnus Dei]


Agnus Dei


From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” -–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He's calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.

[Matthew 27:45-56]


Ich bin’s, ich sollte büßen,
An Händen und an Füßen
Gebunden in der Höll'!
Die Geißeln und die Banden
Und was du ausgestanden,
Das hat verdienet meine Seel'.

[Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), St. Matthew Passion (libretto)]


Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.

Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.

[Jacopone da Todi, Stabat Mater]

Posted by annika, Mar. 25, 2005 | link
Rubric: Faith



December 29, 2004

Hannes Bergstroem's Story

The story of how Hannes Bergstroem was found really got to me.

hannes.jpg
A 2-year-old boy who was found dazed and alone on a roadside in the wasteland of a tsunami-devastated Thai resort was reunited Tuesday with his uncle, who spotted the child's picture on the Internet.

The boy, identified by his uncle as Hannes Bergstroem, was found Sunday night on a road in Phang Nga province near the beach resort of Khao Lak, about 60 miles from the island of Phuket. He was taken to Phuket International Hospital where the staff posted pictures of the blond-haired boy with red spots all over his face from mosquito bites on its Web site on Monday. They also published his photo in a local newspaper.

. . .

A man, who identified himself only as Jim, told the Associated Press on Tuesday in a telephone interview that he found his nephew after he saw his picture on the Web.

'When I saw Hannes on the Internet, I booked an air ticket to come here in less than five hours,' said Jim, who rushed to the Phuket hospital on Tuesday from Chonburi province in Thailand, hours away from Phuket, where he was staying. 'This is a miracle, the biggest thing that could happen.'

Hospital staff said the boy had been babbling but workers did not know what language he was speaking They thought he might be Swedish because he was enthusiastic when a man spoke Swedish to him.

Little Hannes was reunited with his father today. That's them in the heartbreaking picture above.
On Wednesday, a Swedish toddler, Hannes Bergstroem, was reunited with his injured father at a Thai hospital, days after being found wandering alone in the wreckage. The 2-year-old's uncle had spotted the child's photo posted on the Web by another hospital and claimed him Tuesday, setting up the reunion with Hannes' father, Marko Karkkainen.

But Hannes' mother, Suzanne Bergstroem, was still among some 5,000 people missing in Thailand.

Posted by annika, Dec. 29, 2004 | link | Comments (4)
Rubric: Faith



December 07, 2004

Happy Hanukkah!

A very Happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish visitors. Here is the text of President Bush's 2004 Hanukkah Proclamation:

I send greetings to all those celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights.

On the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, Jews around the world commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. During this time of darkness, the Temple had been seized, and Judaism had been outlawed. Judah Maccabee and his followers fought for three years for their freedom and successfully recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple. Jewish tradition teaches that the Maccabees found only one small bottle of oil to be used for temple rituals, but that oil lasted eight days and nights. The miracle of this enduring light, remembered through the lighting of the Menorah, continues to symbolize the triumph of faith over tyranny.

The bravery of the Maccabees has provided inspiration through the ages. We must remain steadfast and courageous as we seek to spread peace and freedom throughout the world. This holiday season, we give thanks to God, and we remember the brave men and women of our Armed Forces and their families. We also pray that all who live under oppression will see their day of freedom and that the light of faith will always shine through the darkness.

Laura joins me in wishing you a blessed and Happy Hanukkah.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Hat tip to commenter Shelly.

Posted by annika, Dec. 7, 2004 | link
Rubric: Faith



November 16, 2004

Gone Postal

Can you spot the irony in this holiday stamp webpage from the United States Postal Service's site?

i'll tell you. The word Christmas appears nowhere on either of the two pages from which you can order holiday stamps. Even though four of the eight selections on the first page are clearly and specifically Christmas stamps.

i can understand the view that the US government should not appear to endorse any particular religion by actually uttering the word "Christmas." i don't agree with that line of thinking, but i see how the argument can be made.

The problem with the USPS site is that their omission of the word Christmas, to describe stamps with Santa Claus, reindeer and even an image of the baby Jesus, cannot be based on any desire to adhere to the First Amendment.

Note that there are also stamps clearly identified with the names of two other religious celebrations: Hanukkah and Eid. (From what i understand, Kwanzaa and the Lunar New Year are cultural, not religious celebrations.)

As far as i'm concerned, the only way this PC bullshit can be interpreted is that the USPS thinks some people might be offended by looking at the word Christmas while shopping for stamps.* Either that, or the Postal Service marketing department has been taken over by anti-Christian wackos. (Not anti-religious wackos, mind you, just anti-Christian.)

i don't think anyone, even the most rabid anti-religious zealot, could possibly be offended by merely looking at the word Christmas. Those kind of people just do not exist. Oh i'm certain that there are some people who claim offense in order to advance a political agenda. But anyone who would be truly offended by the word Christmas simply could not function in society.

i think it's great that the USPS is commemorating Hanukkah and Eid-ul-Fitr with stamps. But how is calling a Christmas stamp a Christmas stamp somehow improper?

Maybe they should change their acronym to the USPCS.
_______________

* By the way, the function of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause is not, and has never been, to prevent people from being offended.

Posted by annika, Nov. 16, 2004 | link | Comments (24)
Rubric: Faith & The Huh? Files



September 11, 2004

9/11/04

It wasn't just a tragedy.
We were attacked.

We are not victims.
We will be victorious.

We will never forget.
We will always remember.

Deal with it.

Posted by annika, Sep. 11, 2004 | link | Comments (0)
Rubric: Faith



August 04, 2004

The DNC's New Attempt To Reach Out To Christians

The Democratic Party is the party of anti-Christian hatred, their false "inclusiveness" rhetoric at the convention notwithstanding.

On July 23, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe announced the appointment of Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson as the Senior Advisor for Religious Outreach; she is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
According to Terry McAuliffe, this woman is supposed to reflect "the DNC’s commitment to reaching all people of faith." He said (presumably with a straight face):
Brenda has dedicated her life to showing us all how religion and politics intersect with integrity . . . We are proud to have her join the DNC, in order to spread John Kerry's positive vision to people of all faiths."

Unfortunately, that's complete bullshit.

Catholic League president, Dr. William Donohue said:

Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson was one of thirty-two clergy members to file an amicus curiae brief in behalf of Michael Newdow’s attempt to excise the words ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance. The brief shows infinitely more concern for the sensibilities of atheists like Newdow than it does for the 90 percent of Americans who believe in God. And this is the person the Democrats want to dispatch to meet with the heads of religious organizations? Are they out of their minds? Would they hire a gay basher to reach out to homosexuals? [link omitted]
Now, if you are skeptical, here's the amicus brief. Her name's right there, on the cover page "As Amici Curiae Supporting Respondent Michael A. Newdow."

Thanks Dems. There should now be no doubt about where you stand.

Link via Bill.

Posted by annika, Aug. 4, 2004 | link | Comments (4)
Rubric: Faith & annikapunditry



July 09, 2004

Say a prayer.

My mom is ill, i am leaving for L.A. to go see her right now. Any kind thoughts sent up above on her behalf would be very much appreciated. Thanks.


Update: My mom is doing okay. She had a heart attack, which they tell me was minor. She underwent angioplasty with the balloon and they are going to keep her under observation for a few days. Thankfully, she didn't need surgery, which was my great fear. i already went through that twice with my dad.

It was scary for me because i drove six hours to get down to L.A. from Sacramento and i was pretty much in the dark until i got here. But i was so relieved to find her well and in good spirits when i arrived. Thank you to everyone who kept her in your thoughts and prayers. i know it helped.

Posted by annika, Jul. 9, 2004 | link | Comments (21)
Rubric: Faith



June 18, 2004

Locusts

i thought about how Paul Johnson worked on the AH-64 helicopter. i thought about how i'd like to see a hundred Apaches descend on those filthy terrorist animals, and a hundred chain guns spitting flame and vengeance.

i thought about how much the Apache resembles a locust. And then i thought of this passage:

The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.

May a plague of locusts descend upon them.

Oh no. She's quoting Revelations. Does that mean she thinks the war on terror is a religious battle? Does she think this is like the Crusades? How ugly! How un-PC! How unenlightened! Doesn't she know Islam is a peaceful religion. Doesn't she know it's just a few bad apples, whom we should arrest and put on trial? Shame on her!

Posted by annika, Jun. 18, 2004 | link | Comments (5)
Rubric: Faith



April 09, 2004

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. There are some among my visitors who are religious, even religious intellectuals. i found a dense article by Romanus Cessario, O.P., which reviews Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in light of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica.

i must admit, i have not read Summa Theologica and i had difficulty following a lot of the discussion. However, there is a passage in the review that addresses one problem i had with The Passion, which i described in my own review when i wrote:

The scourging scene goes on for an unnecessarily long time. Historically, people died from scourging. It didn’t take a lot of strokes to kill someone, and Jesus was whipped savagely in the movie. Though i’m not an expert on this, i really do think any person would have died from that amount of flogging. There was so much blood on the floor after the scourging scene, it is impossible to believe that Jesus wouldn't have at least passed out, let alone believe that he could carry a heavy cross afterwards. We know that Jesus did not die until he was on the cross for three hours, so i think Gibson overdid the scourging scene.
Fr. Cessario's review addresses my problem thusly:
If one allows that the scenes of punishment exceed the modesty of the Scriptures themselves, or if we follow those who opine that after such beatings and harsh treatment, no man would be able to shoulder the cross or even walk, there is still the explanation that the artist chose this excess for a theological reason.

A long theological tradition supports this sort of iconographical modification: The Church asks us to ponder the price that the Savior of the world paid. Without this meditation, one cannot embrace the full dimensions of Catholic piety; instead, we would find ourselves moving rapidly toward those various forms of de-sacramentalized Christianity that focus exclusively on interior psychological states.

i think that's roughly what i meant when i said:
Thematically, it’s clear Gibson wanted to shock the audience with the amount of torture in the scourging. His torture represents the sins of mankind. It looks horrible because Gibson wants to impress us with the magnitude of God’s gift to us. That was the director's choice. If Gibson had toned it down to a less shocking level, maybe we wouldn’t get the message.

. . .

Nowadays, people seem to think that Jesus came simply to tell us to be nice to each other. It’s a pleasant message, and it fits into our overly secular world without ruffling too many feathers. But, it’s not why Jesus came here. Remember, we didn’t need Jesus to tell us to 'love our neighbor.' That commandment was already in Leviticus. But in our secular world, people have forgotten the real reason Jesus came to earth, which was to suffer, to die, and to rise again.

Fr. Cessario also points out that Gibson's intent was to show the divine aspect of Jesus, which previous directors chose to downplay in favor of His human aspect, perhaps because our secular world accepts His humanness more readily, and perhaps because it is impossible to represent divinity accurately on film.
Mel Gibson directs Jim Caviezel in a way that, in my view, approaches accomplishing the impossible. There are the Christs of Pasolini, of Zeffirelli, and of Rossellini, but the Christ of Gibson captures what these others were content to accomplish by representing a high expression of human values.

Although I am not an art critic, it seems to me that the very excesses, even the distortions, which some commentators have questioned, in fact aim to show us that this man is more than human. That we have to look elsewhere for the source of his human endurance.

i might disagree somewhat with the last sentence of that quote, because, as i said:
The whole point of Jesus’ torture and death was for Him to submit to it as a man. Using His power as God to withstand any torture would have been accepting the Devil’s temptation.
But Fr. Cessario's article also got me thinking: maybe Jesus' endurance seemed impossible in the film because it was supposed to be the extreme limit of human endurance. Perhaps Gibson intended to show that Jesus, while rejecting the temptation to supernatural intervention available to Him, endured the limit of human suffering because He knew the purpose of His mission, where another might have succumbed out of weakness or incomplete knowledge. Just a thought.

Posted by annika, Apr. 9, 2004 | link | Comments (8)
Rubric: Faith



February 28, 2004

Is It As It Was?

i went with Betty and her sister to see The Passion of the Christ Friday night, but it was sold out. In fact, all the evening shows were sold out the whole weekend. So, the three of us ended up seeing the 10:00 matinee in Glendale on Saturday. Now that i’ve had some time to reflect, here’s what i think.

thorns.jpg

After an advance screening of The Passion, the Pope is said to have remarked: “It is as it was.” A few days ago, i wrote about my preliminary expectations. If you plan to see the movie but haven’t, i may ruin some of the experience, so you may want to stop reading now. Even though everybody knows how it ends, i think it’s best to view any movie without foreknowledge of how the filmmakers plan to tell the story.

It’s definitely an important movie. Is it a masterpiece, as some have called it? i really don’t think so. If you’re a Christian, it's not a movie that you can walk away from without being affected in some way. But it's missing something. It was well made. i’m glad i saw it. i’ll probably see it again, even though it is very difficult to watch. i didn’t hate it, but at this point, i’m not sure i can say i liked it. Maybe i wasn’t supposed to.

While the movie has its flaws, The Passion is realistic enough to make me almost believe i was there, at the crucifixion, something i have been hearing about and reading about all my life. That’s a powerful thing. There are moments of great emotional intensity. Betty cried throughout the movie, and she was shaking afterwards. As i walked out of the theater, i felt as if things were different, somehow. None of us wanted to talk for a while, but those feelings have worn off by now.

What i Liked

There are a few scenes that i liked very much. One scene in particular was a flashback scene with Jesus after he has built a table. Also, the stoning of Mary Magdelene was very nicely done. There’s no dialogue in that scene and it’s completely in slow motion. i couldn’t tell what was going on until the final shot when Mary’s face came onscreen, then it all made sense. Very powerful.

Gibson’s treatment of Simon the Cyrenian was unusual too. i always pictured him as volunteering to help carry the cross, but i think his initial reluctance makes more sense.

The actors who played Simon Peter and Mary, Jesus’ mother, both gave very fine performances. The lack of makeup on the women in the film also added to the realism.

Satan was played by a woman, but made up to look androgynous. She was scary. The scene with Judas under a bridge made me jump in my seat. i also thought using kids to taunt Judas just before he hangs himself made it more diabolical.

Technically, the movie is very well made. The music, visual effects, and photography are all great. The director of photography, Caleb Deschanel, also did The Right Stuff, The Natural and The Patriot.

Is It As It Was? - Historical Accuracy

Mel Gibson obviously wanted to show us the most historically accurate Jesus film to date. Unfortunately, and as i feared, his commitment to accuracy was not as consistent as i would have liked.

pillar.jpg

My biggest problem is one that has been talked about a lot in the professional reviews. There is too much blood, too early, in my opinion. i thought about this for a long time. Perhaps if the amount of torture had been realistic, i wouldn’t have been as bothered by it. But, at least during the scourging, i think Gibson overdid it. i don’t think it was realistic.

The scourging scene goes on for an unnecessarily long time. Historically, people died from scourging. It didn’t take a lot of strokes to kill someone, and Jesus was whipped savagely in the movie. Though i’m not an expert on this, i really do think any person would have died from that amount of flogging. There was so much blood on the floor after the scourging scene, it is impossible to believe that Jesus wouldn't have at least passed out, let alone believe that he could carry a heavy cross afterwards. We know that Jesus did not die until he was on the cross for three hours, so i think Gibson overdid the scourging scene.

People died on the cross because it was so hard to breathe while hanging up there. if i’m not mistaken, i believe the Nazis did some awful experiments to confirm this. i remember reading about it a long time ago in a book about the shroud. To breathe while on the cross, a person had to pull themself up by the arms to take each breath. Eventually they got too tired from the pain and torture of each breath and they suffocated.

That’s why the soldiers broke the legs of the thieves. When people took too long to die, they would break their legs to hurry the process, because then the victims wouldn’t be able to use their legs to help push themselves up for each breath. Gibson showed the leg breaking, but chose not to show the crucified men struggling to breathe up to that point.

It’s possible Gibson felt that Jesus had to be practically dead when he was on the cross, since he died without needing his legs broken. But i still feel that, given the severity of that scourging, Jesus would never have made it to Golgotha. We know that He did, and not only that, He was able to survive three hours on the cross.

The alternative to breaking the legs was to lance the victim through the heart, which they did to Jesus. That was one of the scenes when i became emotional during the movie, when the water starts coming out from the side. i always knew that story, but i’d never seen it done on film that way. It was hearbreaking.

Betty had a theory that since Jesus was God, he therefore could take more punishment, but i disagree. The whole point of Jesus’ torture and death was for Him to submit to it as a man. Using His power as God to withstand any torture would have been accepting the Devil’s temptation.

If one accepts that Jesus could have survived that horrible scourging, the amount of blood and the wounds do seem realistic, and i wouldn’t have a problem with Gibson’s choice to show that accurately. i just don’t think the scourging could have been that severe.

Thematically, it’s clear Gibson wanted to shock the audience with the amount of torture in the scourging. His torture represents the sins of mankind. It looks horrible because Gibson wants to impress us with the magnitude of God’s gift to us. That was the director's choice. If Gibson had toned it down to a less shocking level, maybe we wouldn’t get the message.

With that goal in mind, i still wish we could have seen Jesus’ face a little more clearly. It’s so dark with blood, it’s really grotesque and hard to look at by the end of the movie. Maybe i’m just squeamish and maybe that’s what Gibson wanted.

i had a problem with the cross too. Like i said, Jesus should have been carrying the patibulum, not the whole cross. i don’t understand why Gibson would choose to have each thief carry a patibulum and then have Jesus carry the unwieldy cross. That doesn’t make sense to me. Why would the Romans have treated Jesus differently from the two other condemned men?

Still, it didn’t bother me as much as Franco Zefferelli’s cross in Jesus of Nazareth, which was more like a scaffolding than anything else.

Another thing, Gibson put the nails in the palms. In that book on the shroud, i read that the flesh of the hand was not strong enough to hold the weight of a human for longer than a few minutes. In the movie, there’s some rope around the wrists, but i don’t buy that either. The Shroud of Turin shows the nail wounds in the wrists. Even if the Shroud is not authentic, you have to admit that the maker of the Shroud knew a lot about how people were crucified.

Does the brutality of the movie take away from its message? Some critics say it does. But i think many critics are confused about the message. And what is the message of The Passion of the Christ? Read the opening lines to J.S. Bach’s choral masterpiece, the St. Matthew’s Passion.

Come you daughters, help me lament.
See Him!
Whom?
The bridegroom. See him.
How?
See Him like a lamb.
O guiltless Lamb of God
Slaughtered on the stem of the cross.
See Him!
What?
Behold His patience
Always He was patient,
Although He was despised.
See Him!
Where?
Behold our guilt.
All sin hast Thou borne
Else we must needs despair.
See Him, out of love and graciousness,
Himself carrying the wood for the Cross.
Have mercy upon us o Jesus.
If you ask me, that’s the message of Gibson’s Passion, too. It invites us to look, to see Him, not to turn away, but to see clearly what He did for us.

Nowadays, people seem to think that Jesus came simply to tell us to be nice to each other. It’s a pleasant message, and it fits into our overly secular world without ruffling too many feathers. But, it’s not why Jesus came here. Remember, we didn’t need Jesus to tell us to "love our neighbor." That commandment was already in Leviticus. But in our secular world, people have forgotten the real reason Jesus came to earth, which was to suffer, to die, and to rise again.

People complain that there’s not enough teaching in the movie. That might be a bit unfair. To make a movie that emphasized Jesus’ teachings would be to make a different movie. But i will say that it would have been a more pleasant viewing experience if Gibson had balanced the horror with more uplifting scenes.

caiphas.jpg

Is The Passion Anti-Semitic?

Some people, including some professional film critics, have said that The Passion is “clearly" anti-semitic. If that is true, then the Gospels are even more anti-semitic. Gibson’s Passion is less anti-semitic than the Gospels, and remember, the Gospels were all written by practicing Jews.

i don’t think the movie is anti-semitic, though. The bad guy is Caiaphas, for sure. But even other members of the religious hierarchy are shown openly disagreeing with Caiaphas. i don’t remember that being in the New Testament. Anyone who sees this movie, and then extrapolates Caiaphas into a representative of all jews, including today’s . . . perhaps that person should look inside their own heart first.

Would i recommend this movie? Yes and no. i'm not one of those who says "everyone should see this movie." It's not for everyone. i don't see any reason for a non-Christian to see it, other than curiosity. But then a non-Christian might not have the theological background to know why we believe what is onscreen represents a good thing.

Anyone who is dead set against this film or Mel Gibson, probably shouldn't see it. It won't change their mind. But i would recommend it for practicing Christians. At least one viewing, as long as you keep in mind this caveat: it's just a movie, it's one man's interpretation, it's not a substitute for the Gospel.

Posted by annika, Feb. 28, 2004 | link | Comments (9)
Rubric: Faith & Let's Go To Hollywood



February 26, 2004

The Passion: Preliminary Thoughts

i plan to see the movie. To prepare, i have avoided reading in depth reviews or listening to any of the talk shows that have devoted hours to uninformed opinions about the movie by people who have not yet seen it. Like anything having to do with religion, everybody has an agenda. It's real tough to find an objective opinion, so i try to stay away from all opinions until i can make up my own mind.

As an amateur historian, one thing i am interested in is whether Mel Gibson will depict the historical crucifiction accurately. i've heard so much about how bloody and violent the movie is. i'll reserve judgment on that until i see it. i think some anti-religious critics might be tempted to over-play the violent imagery in order to scare away viewers.

Most of the pre-release controversy is about the allegation that the movie and/or its director are anti-semitic. Two prominent jews whom i respect, and who have seen the movie, Michael Medved and Dennis Prager, insist that it is not anti-semitic. But again, they may have their own agendas. So i'll reserve judgment on that issue too.

i'll say two other things in advance of my seeing it. First, i don't have a high opinion of Mel Gibson as a director, based on his past work. He is not known for being particularly good at historical accuracy. i did not like Braveheart, which was riddled with innacuracy. Same with Patriot, although i did like that movie better after a second viewing. If there's an excessive amount of blood, it makes me wonder if the moviemaker knew that death from crucifixion usually came about by asphyxiation.

Secondly, i happened to see only one still photo from the movie. It showed a cross that is a bit different from the actual device i believe the historical Jesus carried on the way to Calvary. From what i remember (and sorry i don't have any cite for this, i'm going off memory.) Jesus only carried the crosspiece, called a patibulum. The vertical part of the cross was permanently set up on the hill. In the movie, as in most art, we see Jesus carrying a T shaped cross, but i don't think that's what the historical Jesus carried. i'd also be interested in seeing whether they put the nails in the wrists rather than the palms.

i'm not too concerned when i hear that the movie doesn't focus much on Jesus' teachings. There are plenty of very good movies that cover that already. The Greatest Story Ever Told and Jesus of Nazareth are two that i've seen many times. Lest we forget, for us Christians, Jesus was more than just a nice guy who said a lot of nice stuff. The whole point of his life was that he died, why he died and what his death and resurrection gave to us all.

i'm planning to see the movie this weekend with Betty and her sister, after which i'll let you know how it fared against my expectations.

Posted by annika, Feb. 26, 2004 | link
Rubric: Faith & Let's Go To Hollywood



February 25, 2004

A Religious Question

Anybody know the answer to this question posed by a curious Kinayda?

Why do [Christians] accept only parts of the Bible? When I say Bible, I'm referring to the Five Books of Moses. The 10 commandments are a big deal. Everyone agrees with that, but it's pretty clear from the text that pork is a no no. Why isn't that one followed?
i had a vague theory of my own, but really, i'm curious myself on that one.

Posted by annika, Feb. 25, 2004 | link | Comments (17)
Rubric: Faith