Category Archives: Gnosticism

_The Last Jedi_: _Star Wars_ is finally honest

When I first introduced my kids to Star Wars, I followed up with an explanation of Dualism, Gnosticism, the “Ray of Truth” concept, and authentic versus dangerous forms of spirituality and spiritual gifts.

C. S. Lewis argues against Dualism that  we cannot define “Good” and “Evil” without an external standard to define them.  If “Good” and “Evil” were truly opposite “forces,” they would not balance; they would cancel each other out.  Even if there were two equally powerful “gods,” one good/one evil, to know which was which there would still have to be a “God” to tell us which was which (e.g., the JW idea that Jesus & Satan are brothers).

“Only Sith deal in absolutes,” Obi-Wan tells Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, and that is the fundamental paradox at work in a Dualistic narrative.  The interesting irony is that the more honest Star Wars is about its flawed philosophical underpinnings, the more the fans complain–first the prequels undermined the narrative that the Jedi and the Republic are “good,” a narrative already flawed from Obi-Wan’s lies to Luke.  I think they’re viscerally reacting against the implicit and now explicit rejection of objective standards.

“Good guys, bad guys: made up words.  It’s all a machine,” says “DJ,” the early Han Solo-esque hacker who takes his money and runs.

Dualists and moral relativists always want to have their proverbial cake and eat it, too.  They want “good” and “evil” to be relative terms when it suits them and then appeal to morality or to vague concepts like “hope” and “energy” and “good thoughts” when it’s convenient.

So we’re supposed to support the Jedi because they’re the “guardians of peace and order,” yet the Sith also insist they want peace and order.  From a Thomistic standpoint, and from what we see of the Republic in the films, the Sith make the stronger claim to promoting “peace and order.”  And the “good guys” seem to ambiguate between whether they want “peace and order” or “freedom,” since the two concepts cannot coexist.  Hobbes tells us what “freedom” means: the war of all against all for all.  It’s the “Outer Rim,” ruled by warring gangsters.  The only way anyone can functionally have absolute freedom is to enslave others to some extent.

In the Force religion, as in Modernism and all other permutations of Gnosticism, we hear about “Hope,” and “Freedom” and “Peace,” but we hear no explanation for what these words mean or imply or why they are good things.

We love Star Wars because it seems to be about “good” versus “evil.”  However, in The Last Jedi, we’re told to “let the past die,” to destroy all the books, to look within for wisdom.  This was really the most honest movie in the Star Wars franchise in terms of expressing what we’ve been hearing all along.

“Pro-life, homeschooling committed Christians who abstain till marriage then stay married to the same person are freaks”

I tolerate a lot, maybe too much, when it comes to TV and movies, but I appreciate seeing the consequences of actions, even if the writers depict those consequences unwittingly.

20 years or so ago, when Ellen Degeneres and her eponymous sitcom came out of the proverbial closet, ABC said that LGBT were about 10% of the population and deserved to be represented on TV.  Now, most studies have said that even if those who have “experimented” to some degree or other are included, LGBT are at most 6% of the population, and really more like 3%.  Interestingly with all the propaganda in recent years, that number has risen a whole half a percent!  Amazing how the number of people who are “born” a certain way increases.

But, fine, 4%.  Yes, there are people who identify that way and yes they should be depicted *honestly*.

But a year or two after the Ellen controversy, when the Catholic League lead a coalition of pro-life, pro-family, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish organizations protesting Nothing Sacred, ABC said, “We can’t have what amounts to 10% of the population dictating to us.”  Yet *that* coalition represented the views of 50% of the population.

Close to 70% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal under at least some circumstances, yet to most TV shows, pro-lifers are a minority and freaks.

I read an article once about the unrealistic depiction of sexual relationships on TV that pointed out for example how many characters known on TV shows as “losers” who can’t find a girlfriend actually have more sexual relationships, particularly in a short time, than even relatively promiscuous people in real life.

How often, outside of sitcoms and a couple reality shows that may be exceptions that prove the rule, do you see couples who are happily married and stay married?

How often do you see people on any fictional TV show who are committed Christians and serious about their faith and love their faith?  Even The Middle and recently cancelled Last Man Standing depict religion as something important but still a kind of chore or ideology (though Mike’s monologues on Last Man Standing sometimes make up for it quoting the Bible and even the saints).  Characters who are in any way serious about religion are, again, freaks and weirdos (which, yes, many people who are serious about religion in real life are also, and should be, but not the way we’re depicted).

How often do you see families on TV with more than 3 kids that aren’t “blended”? (and yes, child labor laws come into play).

I could go on with examples, but if it’s a question of “equal representation,” all the demographics I listed are a higher percentage of the population than LGBT yet they hardly ever show up and are treated as weirdos and bigots when they do.

Meanwhile, in the inverted Natural Law, where Neuhaus’s Law is in full effect, sex is meaningless recreation.  People on TV don’t even wait for a commitment, much less marriage, sex is a “test”–and saying “I love you” is a big “event” that comes after a couple have already engaged in sex not as an act of consummation of love but as a fulfillment of desire.  And, yes it has been this way on television for decades, and in “real life” without the Biblical moral framework, but what strikes me is how, in recent years it hasn’t even been a semblance of concern for decency or depicting any kind of negative view of sexual promiscuity, but an overt sense of saying, “This is perfectly normal, and it’s Judeo-Christian morality that’s aberrant and bizarre.”gs5x4j0

“Is it the End or the Beginning?” David Lynch and George Lucas, Pt 3 (of 3?)

I have had more thoughts about the mystery of Twin Peaks the show itself, but I wanted to explore another thought I’ve been having all season, regarding the nature of “art” versus “entertainment,” and the tension of the “artist”/”entertainer.”

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It is one thing to consider oneself an “artist” and produce work to express oneself and whatnot, without concern for profit.  Even so, if you’re going to “express yourself,” you still need to use symbols that people understand.   On the other end of the scale is the “entertainer,” who uses talent strictly to amuse audiences and make money.  There is little reason to look on each other with mutual disdain.  But most creative types, whether artists, writers, musicians, or filmmakers, operate somewhere in between, and when one operates in a mass market context, there is a certain contract at work between creator and audience.  A few weeks ago, I found a blog that a younger viewer wrote several years ago, discussing how Lynch was known for completely rejecting the principle that he owed anything to audiences, and while some say that makes him a “great” director, this lady argued (and I’d agree) that that ultimately makes him a bad director.

In the 1980s, give or take, there were four great young cartoonists who often get compared to one another in terms of their impact and the extent to which they followed Charles Schulz as role models: Jim Davis, Berkeley Breathed, Gary Larson and Bill Watterson.  Davis is often used by critics, fans and other cartoonists alike as the embodiment of a “sell-out”: he embraced commercialism and licensing early on.  While Charles Schulz took years before he began licensing Peanuts and allowing the animated spin-offs, which he carefully supervised, Davis recognized Garfield as a cash cow (cash cat) and cashed in, maintaining a similar legal control to that which Schulz enjoyed but generally allowing a great deal of flexibility..  On the other extreme was Watterson: who introduced the world to Calvin and Hobbes in 1985, consistently refused merchandising or animation, and suddenly retired after 10 years, saying he’d said all he needed to say and becoming something of a reputed recluse (though those who know him say he just kept such anonymity in his career that no one knows who he is when he’s out and about), occasionally popping up for guest stints at other comics or writing a public message here and there.

 

Somewhere in between is Breathed, who has “retired” several times–Bloom County became Outland originally so he could do Sunday’s only and supposedly have more creativity; Outland became Opus as he reverted back to form but still wanted to keep an episodic format.  And a few years ago, he made another comeback, reviving Bloom County as a webcomic posted at his leisure, sometimes in color, sometimes B&W, sometimes a mix, and exploring whatever topics he wants unencumbered by the constraints of syndicates and newspapers.  Breathed, like Davis, embraced, and continues to embrace, merchandising but kept more creative control and, other than one or two outings, has never embraced animation.  He’s also explored screenwriting and children’s literature.

I see a certain parallel at work in the directorial careers of George Lucas and David Lynch.  Both are known as young directors who showed promise straight out of film school in the 70s.  Both are known for exploring New Age/Neo-Gnostic/Pseudo-Eastern mysticism/philosophy in their works.  Indeed, David Lynch was almost the director of Return of the Jedi.  However, many critics and fans might balk at the comparison, since Lucas is to Lynch as Davis is to Watterson.  My own critique of my own analogy would be that Watterson at least made a creation that people could understand beyond a select subgroup of a subgroup that probably all share the same MBTI type.

Lucas made his name, and his fortune, very early on as a master of licensing.  In  his initial agreement with 20th Century Fox, in fact, he got himself licensing rights that the studio didn’t think were worth anything–few movies before Star Wars were adapted into toys, or had hit soundtracks or had spin-off novels and comic books.  Much like the older office product and computer companies that passed on Apple and Microsoft, Fox passed on the merchandizing rights to one of the first true blockbusters, making Lucas a billionaire.

However, the success of Star Wars came from collaboration: Gary Kurtz, Lawrence Kasdan, and studio executives took Lucas’s initial ideas and shaped them into the franchise as we know it.  A few years back, the earliest known script was adapted into a comic book series called The Star Wars, and showed Lucas’s original treatment to be far closer to a blend of the original trilogy and what became The Phantom Menace.

Many years ago, I read an observation somewhere online that “Ewoks were the first sign of genius turned to insanity.”  Except maybe Lucas always was insane–it was the collaboration and “studio interference” that made him look like a genius.  The more power he achieved, the more autonomy he achieved as a producer and director, and the more audiences rejected his “vision.”

On the other side is Lynch, who was never that commercially successful but directed a few slightly more mainstream pictures like Dune and The Elephant Man (if one can call either of those mainstream), while producing “arthouse” films (few of which I’ve seen or been able to make it all the way through without significant muting and FFing).

Lucas used his financial empire to free himself from “studio interference.”  Lynch used his “artistic reputation” and “devoted fanbase” to somehow con studio after studio into funding his projects until a series of commercial failures made him more or less go into retirement, and when CBS/Showtime came knocking about reviving Twin Peaks after fans demanded a follow up to “I’ll see you again in 25 years,” he notoriously fought for more money and more time to “tell his story,” then didn’t tell much story at all.

So “Lynchians” tell us that Twin Peaks would have been a much better show if the network hadn’t interfered with “Lynch’s vision.”  Supposedly, Lynch and Frost never intended for Laura Palmer’s killer to be revealed, though they always intended for it to be her father, though it’s also unclear if they ever had any intention or understanding of how long the show would last.  Many people blame the sharp ratings decline in the latter part of Season 2 on the fact that Lynch had little to do with it, but some of the writers and directors involved with the show at that point say they were still following his orders on a lot of things.  However, as some have pointed out, the show’s creators made a huge error in not building enough interest in the ensemble. Laura Palmer was supposed to be a MacGuffin, but she ended up being the only character most people cared about.  If they had to use the “unsolved murder” conceit to keep people tuning in, they weren’t doing a very good job.

Ironically, though it was months from our perspective, on the show’s timeline, with every episode corresponding to approximately a day, the murder of Laura Palmer was solved in little lesson than a month.  Given how long murders and disappearances often go unsolved in real life, particularly headline grabbing cases like JonBenet Ramsey, a month was relatively fast, and the notion of the unsolved crime–which other shows handled with slightly more success later–was an interesting spin.

Merely doing something “different” does not make something “art.” Indeed, T. S. Eliot, to whom I just yesterday compared Lynch and have done in the past, argues that art requires doing something different in the bounds of what’s come before.  A lot of what seems “weird” or “different” in Eliot is that he’s writing of modern urban life the way the Romantics wrote of country life or of the past.  He twists traditional metaphors and uses fragments of literary quotations and allusions he expects his readers to be familiar with.  To the extent that he works, Lynch does some of that, but more often than not he seems to turn conventional techniques so far upside down as to be unrecognizable.

But as I’ve argued many times, much of what makes Twin Peaks is hyper-realism.  The oft-maligned storyline of Ben Horne thinking he’s a Confederate general is a slightly exaggerated depiction of what happens in real life: when white American men feel defeated by society, they relive the Civil War.

Nevertheless, the other part of it is that Lynch creates a world that operates according to the principles of his belief system, and that’s where people say “It’s weird.”  David Bowie’s Philip Jeffries getting reincarnated as a coffee percolator seems strange, but is that any stranger than a dead person getting reincarnated as a carpenter ant, or as the fish that Pete Martell found in his teapot? Is Philip Jeffries the fish in the teapot?  Shirley Maclaine got criticized by people who speak fondly of their jumbled pop understanding of Hinduism and Buddhism for saying that Holocaust victims were being punished for sins they committed in past lives, but that’s what karma is, according to Hinduism.  Similarly, Lynch is drawing from a lot of disparate non-Western ideas that are collectively Gnosticism, and when viewers balk, I think they’re balking at the inherent flaws of the Gnostic world view when presented without the usual corporate filters.

What most people find appealing in Star Wars and Twin Peaks is the extent to which, by authentically expressing the Gnostic worldview, they express the rays of Truth in Gnostic/New Age/Neo-Platonic/Buddhist thinking.  Where they start to get uncomfortable is precisely where those worldviews diverge from Christianity.

This is another parallel of art and liturgy.  It’s said that traditional liturgies can be reverent when said by sinners because they were written by Saints, but the Ordinary Form is only referent when offered by Saints because it was written by committee.  In the arts, committees can take bad ideas and make them into better art, or they can take good ideas and make them into bad art.  Artistic freedom only creates true success if the artist is, if not necessarily a Saint or even a Christian, he or she at leawst tries to operate with Truth.

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“Is it the End or the Beginning?” A Tale of Three Artists: Eliot, Lynch and Koontz, Pt 2 of 3

…With a mandatory touch of C. S. Lewis.
[SPOILERS for both Twin Peaks and some recent Koontz novels; usual warning]

My previous post addressed the series finale of Twin Peaks as such (given the age of the creators, the time it took to make this season, and the 18 hours spent supposedly telling this story that could have been told in half the time, it likely is the series finale).

I addressed Lewis’s argument that we should not read too much into a work of fiction that isn’t there, and suggested that Lynch’s point is to criticize his own fans, and TV/movie viewers in general, for doing the same.  He essentially says, “This is all just a fantasy.  Stop making more of it than it is.  These aren’t real people.”

Now, some thoughts on the whole “David Lynch is an artist” “argument” and the notion of “fans’ expectations.”  To this, I bring in Lewis’s criticism of the view that a poet could just say “I’m a poet,” and that makes his view of poetry superior to the view of “non-poets.”

It annoys me when I take my kids to a museum to learn about art and the curator says, “Well, art can be whatever you want.”  No, it can’t.  It has to have rules.  It has to express something.  If a person writes the word “appeal” and means “apple,” that expresses something different.  If a person draws a picture, it has to be something the viewer can understand before it can convey any message.  Most modernism and postmodernism is just the Emperor’s New Clothes: everyone saying “It’s genius! He’s a genius!  It’s amazing!” and dismissing anyone who disagrees as an uncultured buffoon because the “art” is not about expressing something so much as providing an avenue to elitism: a tendency Lewis saw in Eliot and condemned among the intelligentsia in “Lilies that Fester.”

When an entertainer/artist has a long and relatively successful career, he inevitably changes.  Either he gets “more commercial” or “more artistic.”  Either he gains confidence in putting more of his worldview into his work or perhaps he changes/matures in it.  Thus, I often speak of the three camps of Eliot fans: those who prefer the “Prufrock/Waste-Land Era,” those who prefer the “Four Quartets Era,” and those who see them as a continuum.  When I taught literature, I would point out how two writers can use very similar situations with slight differences to demonstrate their worldviews.   Flannery O’Connor and Edgar Allen Poe, for example, can use a similar circumstance to show hope and despair, respectively.

MIKE’s line on Twin Peaks: the Return: “Is it past or is it future?” recalls the famous line from Four Quartets: “In my end is my beginning.”  To the secular reader, Four Quartets is a meditation on time and destiny, while the Christian reader sees Four Quartets as Lord of the Rings: a sophisticated Christian epic deeper than a mere allegory.

Others have pointed out the parallels between Twin Peaks and Four Quartets, and someone even captured this screenshot:
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To date, I’ve read Brother Odd and Odd Thomas, and have started Forever Odd.  My wife has read many Koontz novels and told me about them, as well as interviews, discussion groups, Amazon reviews, etc., and speaks of how many “longtime Koontz fans” are disappointed by more overtly books like the Odd Thomas series and Innocence, even though the titles should be huge spoilers.
From a Catholic perspective, Saint Odd and Innocence have the happiest endings a story possibly could, like every C. S. Lewis novel.  From the perspective of someone expecting a classic horror story or a classic romance story, however, they’re disappointing.

“David Lynch fans” look at Twin Peaks: the Return and say “It’s genius,” like the Emperor’s subjects in Andersen’s fairy tale, or the snobs at Lewis’s proverbial cherry party, because they don’t want to be counted among the philistines who “don’t get it.”  Some, however, admit they don’t get it, that it should be different from a “typical Lynch movie,” or even that it is different in the wrong way from one.

However, I’d say Lynch is conveying a message.  He’s conveying the message he wants to convey, and that’s why some people dismissively say “It’s existentialism,” because it is.  To the existentialist, life is ultimately despair, and you piece it together by enjoying cherry pies and chocolate bunnies.  It is “about the bunny,” Lynch would answer Lucy.   To the Platonist and Hindus, we’re all spirits in another realm controlling bodies that are essentially avatars, reliving our lives till we get them right.  This is one possible interpretation of the tulpas in Twin Peaks.  Another is that the finale shows the “Balance in the Force.” Whether they’re all dream-selves of the same dreamer, or reincarnations/avatars of the same being in the Red Room, or something else, the lesson that evil is inevitable and needs to be balanced, not stopped, is in keeping with the Dualistic worldview of Gnosticism/Platonism/Hinduism-Buddhism/New Age/etc.

There is something Catholic in the notion that we can’t “destroy” evil.  We can’t have a magic fist that bashes the Devil into smithereens.  We can’t go back and undo the evil of the past without destroying the future because the past dictates the future.   Once Barry Allen saves his mother, the cosmos can never be completely the same, even if he goes back to let her die again, and Barry has to live in the personal hell of knowing how many times he’s changed everyone’s lives.  This seems to be the almost-tacked on lesson of Twin Peaks, not because Cooper needs to learn it but the viewer does.

Koontz gives us a similar blend of horror, mystery, humor and romance with the lesson that all this misery points to Heaven.  As Chesterton would say, Lynch gives us the gargoyles–with fragments of the Temple.  Koontz gives us the gothic cathedral.  Both draw from Eliot, and both get in their long time fans the same polarized reactions as Eliot did.

Twin Peaks: Is it the End or the Beginning? Pt 1 of 3

[SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched Episode 18 of Twin Peaks: The Return, and intend to do so, stop at 17; if you have watched 18, or don’t care about spoilers, proceed]

T. S. Eliot and C. S. Lewis had Part 18two great published arguments: Eliot’s response to Lewis’s Preface of Paradose Lost (and Lewis’s reply), and their similar exchange over Hamlet.
In the former case, Eliot took the stance that only poets are qualified to analyze poetry.  Lewis attacked this self-justifying elitism.  In the latter case, Lewis expressed disagreement with criticism that treats a work of fiction as something real: the title of the essay is “Hamlet: the Prince or the Poem.”  Shakespeare critics debate Hamlet’s psychology, what he’s studying school and other details extraneous to the text as if he were a real person.

Now that Twin Peaks is (presumably) over, many are saying it’s probably the most sophisticated troll/prank in history.  25+ years and 18 hours of sitting through catatonic insurance salesmen, musical sequences, bizarre CGI sequences and people driving in the dark mixed in about 8 hours of actual story to be left scratching our heads.

Some are saying David Lynch is a genius.  Some are saying those people and Lynch are idiots.  Some are saying Lynch is an evil genius.  The latter group are probably right.

Somewhere in the original run of Twin Peaks, Cooper says something like “Do you ever feel like you’re in a dream?”  In Fire Walk With Me, Philip Jeffries says, “We’re all living in a dream,” a quote Cooper reiterates in Episode 17 of The Return.  The question has been posed other places in season 3/The Return.  When some of us speculated that the finale would turn out to be a dream, or something of the sort, some people said “David Lynch is too much of a genius to do something so cliche.”

Well, he did.

And now people are still insisting he’s a genius.  “It’s existentialism,” some say.  “Well, existentialism leads to suicide,” I say.  [More on that later].

So what happened?

The Return features the return not only of the original cast but some of Lynch’s favorite actors.  One of Lynch’s favorite movies is Sunset Boulevard, to which he makes frequent allusions/easter eggs, such as the name of Agent Gordon Cole, or the presence of the street sign in Mulholland Drive, a movie named after a street in LA known for being the home of wannabe stars as Sunset is known as known as the home of established stars.

Lynch originally created Mulholland Drive as a television pilot, and said it was supposed to be a Twin Peaks spinoff, telling the story of Audrey Horne after the explosion.  In a reverse of Twin Peaks, which was shot as a movie with a hasty ending in case the series wasn’t picked up, and the ending was cut out and recut as a dream on the show, Mulholland Drive was shot as a pilot and then re-edited as a standalone movie with a hasty ending.

Either way, Lynch said to think of it as how Twin Peaks was supposed to end, so especially when Audrey “wakes up” in Episode 16 (never to be heard from again), it was predictable that The Return would end in a similar fashion to Mulholland Drive: the hero is a different person, in a different reality, with memories of the idyllic world we just spent most of the story becoming familiar with.  There are mobster brothers, weird assassins, etc.  Mulholland Drive, like Sunset Boulevard, is a commentary on the film industry and its audience.  Twin Peaks may be seen as a commentary on television and its audiences.

The Black Lodge spirits are beings who live off of other people’s fear and suffering, are they just TV viewers?  They manifest as people who could have any face or any name.  They live in trailers and middle class homes.  They sit in leather armchairs.  They live in apartments above convenience stores.  They live in a dark motel.

In that sense,  Lynch seems to agree with Lewis.  In the final scene, Cooper (or the man who thinks he’s Dale Cooper) and Carrie, another Laura, like many a fan over the years, arrive at the infamous white house and knock on the door.  A woman answers.

Her name is Chalfont, and she bought the house from someone named Tremond, and knows nothing of Laura, Sarah or Leland Palmer.  The significance of this is that the lady who answers the door is the real owner of the house.  Thus, the two central characters become the obsessive fans, trying to bring to life the fictional reality they’ve come to love, and Lewis would likely point out that today’s obsessive fans are no different from the people in Shakespeare’s day who would jump on stage and draw their swords or the generations of literary scholars who’ve argued whether Hamlet was really mentally ill or just faking it.

Seen as a dream, we have several clues, like Mulholland: if the ending is the “real world,” the dream world is constructed by “Richard’s” memories of different people and places.  It struck me that the dopplegangers are called “tulpas.”  In Eastern mythology/mysticism, a “tulpa” is basically a parallel self that we encounter in dreams.  So the multiple Coopers, Lauras, Dianes, etc., are tulpas in shared dreams.  “Who is the dreamer?” Monica Bellucci asks Gordon Cole in a dream: Dale the almost naively optimistic, pop Buddhism practicing, coffee and doughnuts loving, Sherlock Holmes lawman; Mr. C., the callous, murderous, sociopathic criminal; and Dougie, the dimwitted, bored, unfaithful husband and father.  We see elements of all three in the “Richard” we encounter in the show’s final half hour.  Are they just the lives he lives in his dreams at night, a kind of Walter Mitty?

Perhaps he’s a real FBI agent tracking down a missing person from decades ago.    More

Or else, The Return is Flashpoint: Cooper, like Barry Allen, changed the entire universe to save one girl’s life.  As soon as he altered the past at the end of Episode 17, I thought, “Wouldn’t BOB just kill Ronette Pulaski, then?  How is BOB going to be stopped? Why not go back a year earlier and save Teresa Banks?”  One action can, as Prufrock muses, “disturb the universe.”

*Or,* as I reflected several years ago, the whole point is Nirvana: Cooper has to “bring balance to the Force,” which does not necessarily mean a Western/Judeo-Christian understanding of the triumph of goodness.  The beings in the Red Room are the souls, which inhabit different bodies in different times, living different lives.

All of these interpretations lead to the same “lesson”: evil can never be completely destroyed, except in our fantasies.  “Dale” spends 25 years in the Black Lodge–if he ever actually leaves.  “Richard” is a middle-aged FBI agent who’s so jaded he shoots some guys for getting rough with a waitress and then puts their guns in a deep fryer, casually pointing out that they might just explode.  Both suffer the consequence of trying to take on evil directly.  There is an inverse Catholic truth to this which I will explore in my next piece, but it says something to the jaded Lynch, disappointed in the poor reception his films or the original series received from audiences.

The outline for Twin Peaks season 3, had it aired in 1991-1992, would have seen Cooper leaving the FBI and settling down in Twin Peaks.  That ending did not happen because

I want to talk about Star Wars Theories

Not about spoilers for Episode VII: The Force Awakens, mind you: the theories themselves, their existence.

It now seems a long time ago (for some of us, it was) that Disney bought LucasFilm  and announced not only a new “trilogy,” but a set of tied in one-off films in the manner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so there will be at least one Star Wars movie a year for the foreseeable future.

Even before that, though, Star Wars was, of course, a very popular topic online, generally of course why the “original trilogy” was good, why Empire Strikes Back was great, why the prequel trilogy was bad, or else how the original trilogy has some weaknesses and the prequels have strength.

A common theme that shows up is that the “Dark Side” of the Force are actually the good guys.  The prequels show the Republic and its Jedi secret police to be corrupt and incompetent.  The Empire just wants to bring order and governance.  The destruction of Alderaan was, in the galactic perspective, a legitimate military target.
The Rebellion wants to restore the chaos.

More importantly, Yoda, the “oldest and wisest of the Jedi” allows a Sith Lord to not only escape his notice but to work closely with him for *years* without getting a hint.  Yoda and Obi-wan are a couple of  liars who deceive Luke about his father *and* his sister (spoiler alert!).   Almost everything Obi-wan says in the “first” movie is revealed to be a lie by the end of Return of the Jedi and definitely by the end of Revenge of the Sith:
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Are these moral ambiguities merely plot holes?

Or is there a deeper problem with the series’ Gnosticism?

C. S. Lewis, after St. Augustine and many others, argues that the inherent flaw of a Dualistic worldview is that we’re told that “good” and “evil” are equal, opposing forces, and there’s no reason to say, “this side is good” and “this side is bad,” other than subjective perspective.

The same Obi-Wan Kenobi who described Vader as “Twisted and evil” earlier told Vader, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” (itself one of the statements used in evidence against the Jedi as the “good guys”).

On the other hand, when Darth Tyrannus is talking to Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones, he is telling the truth: the Republic is under the control of a Sith Lord; the Republic is riddled with corruption.

Many Star Wars fans argue that the terms “good” and “evil” should not be applied, that it’s “light” and “dark,” because the Force is not even dualistic: there is one Force, not a “Good Force” and a “Bad Force”; just one Force with two sides.  The Force can be accessed using different emotions, like the Lanterns in the DC universe.  The “light” side uses emotions generally considered “positive,” and the “dark” side is fueled by anger, revenge, hate, etc.

Watching The Force Awakens, while I enjoyed it and believe it has many strengths, I tended to agree with the L’Osservatore Romano review that evil is not clear in the film.  It’s kind of gloomy and pessimistic–which makes sense in a movie that’s supposed to be the inversion of “A New Hope,” but there’s also an even greater sense of that lack of clear lines of what is good and what is evil, because the characters lack a clear motivation or guideline.

The “Force” does not give moral laws; it just gives powers.  In real life, this is the problem of a dualistic worldview.  As soon as you say, “That is evil,” unless you mean it as, “I find that unpleasant,” you’re really saying there has to be one God who tells us what is evil.

What the Pew Poll on Catholics can tell us about Muslims.

This week, yet another Survey came out showing that most who identify as “Catholic” are not,morally.  Whatever happened to Catholics needing to “believe all the Church believes and teaches”?  Where would we be if the priest who gave Dietrich Von Hildebrand instruction hadn’t required him to accept everything?

Yet we’re told that, because the vast majority of “Catholics” use contraception without batting an eye, that means it’s O.K.  for Catholics to contracept.  The majority of Cstholics think the Eucharist is a “symbol,” which in the old days would have meant anathema, yet somehow that tells society that “the Church” (including much of the hierarchy) thinks differently than the Magisterium, but those of us who *do* believe (and go to Confession when we fall short rather than literally parading our sins) are “extremists.”

So, when the media, politicians and even well meaning Catholics insist “Islam is a religion of peace, the majority of Muslims are peaceful,” I don’t buy it.

I went to a nominally Catholic high school where, for “religion,” we once had to sit through a lesson on Islam from one student.  Back then, everyone said, “‘Islam’ means ‘submission.'”  That’s what my classmate said in a pro-Islam talk.  It’s what my professor and textbook in the Islamic history class I took for my multicultural requirement said.   Only after 9/11 did it suddenly start meaning “peace.”

Jesus Christ preached to fight spiritually, not physically.  As Tim Rice puts it, “To conquer death, you only have to die.”  He was crucified–in part, because the crowds rejected Him for *not* conquering.  Yes, Moses and the Judges took the Holy Land by force, and that is a Mystery in understanding God (most straightforward answer is that, before Christ, all mortal sin was literally mortal).  Regardless, we regard Vlad the 

Impaler, who protected all of Europe for a generation, as a monster.  Do 

Muslims do the same to their impalers?  No, they honor them as caliphs because they follow in the footsteps of Mohammed.

That is the difference.  Even when we honor those who’ve fought in just wars as Saints, it’s usually for what happened after more than before.

Yet why, in Islam or Christianity, does society point to the majorit’s beliefs and actions to represent the religion?  As Fr. Dubay put it, you don’t judge a belief system by those who do it badly.  You judge it by its heroes who best e employ its teachings.

Religion is more than just something to do on Sunday

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” –G.K. Chesterton


Football season is beginning. It always strikes me that people who are afraid to talk of “politics and religion” for fear of offending friends or relatives will get into absolute feuds over football. Meanwhile, they treat politics and religion the way they treat sports: a form of recreation; merely something to do on the weekends.
The other thing that football has in common with politics and religion is that people generally seem to choose their religious and political affiliations the way they pick their football teams: as a form of patriotism, or because of their families (either to show loyalty or spite their families), or because of their friends. Thus, just as they support the Steelers, or the Redskins, or the Browns, or the Panthers because of where they happen to live, people tend to simply accept (or reject) their family’s religion or political party without necessarily thinking of *why* they support it.
Thus, people will speak of “religion,” as a concept, in ways that can be quite baffling. On the one hand, you have people who insist that they’re Catholic, even though they reject the Church’s teachings from transubstantiation to the evil of contraception to the very Incarnation itself, because “it’s too hard to leave the Church,” like She is some kind of blood cult or something. They’re attached (rightly) to the nostalgia evoked by the liturgy (particularly the infamous Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter liturgies), and they attribute the devotion of other Catholics to a kind of extreme nostalgia (hence the “People who want the Traditional Latin Mass are just old people who don’t like change” argument).
On the other hand, you have people who say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” meaning that they’re not affiliated with a particular denomination or worship service. “Religion” has come to be defined according to the Masonic view as something subservient to “society” or “culture” (which is the main reason the 18th Century popes condemned the Masonic Lodges). The “church” or synagogue, temple or mosque is treated as something like a Lodge: a place to meet every week, have some fun, engage in organized charities, and host major life events like weddings and funerals. The Sacraments become similar “life events”–Baptism (or “Christening”) becomes a ceremony to recognize a birth, and so the same young parents who were offended at the notion in pre-Cana counseling that they should live as Catholics become offended at the notion they must promise to actually raise their children Catholic. They participate in First Communion and Confirmation (aka “graduation from CCD”) for the same reasons. It’s really very sad.
Thus, both the nominal Catholic and the “spiritual” non-Catholic are baffled by the notion that any religion should claim to be superior or to actually teach the Truth about Divine and Human Nature. Theology is seen as arbitrary and superstitious. Ironically, though, the claim that all religions are equal and that people should have “freedom of worship” means that “religion” should not be extended into “public life.” It’s just something to do for an hour a week, and not to actually effect one’s life beyond some base common denominator of being a “decent person” or a “good citizen.” Any religion that claims to do *more* that that is immediately suspect for violating the commonly accepted definition of “religion” that the Masons have taught us for nearly 300 years.
So the Left has fought for legalization of so-called “same sex marriage,” insisting they only want “equal rights,” and that no one should feel threatened by it. Christians warned that it would lead to persecution of those who didn’t want to participate. Others insisted and continue to insist that it was about “marriage equality” and that opponents were “homophobic.” Yet, now that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized it nationwide by throwing out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the California Proposition 8, a court has ruled that Christian photographers cannot refuse to photograph gay weddings, a Christian bakery has closed due to “LGBT” threats and protests, a millionaire “gay” couple has sued a church in the UK for not performing their “wedding,” and Ugandan homosexuals have sued a Christian evangelist for “crimes against humanity.” Yet, like Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), “conservative” Catholic literary critic Joseph Bottum argues that we have to allow gay marriage to happen to see if it might do some good.
The LGBTQ lobby is powerful, as the UK case illustrates, precisely because it’s rich, but also because of “well meaning” Christians who think it’s about “fairness,” and others who don’t think that “religion” shouldn’t intrude on the “public sphere.” It’s the same reasoning behind the HHS contraception mandate: the alleged “right” to violate Natural Law supersedes the right of employers to chose not to engage in material cooperation. Indeed, the notion of “material cooperation” goes over most people’s heads or is used in the opposite of its intent.

The Bottom Line On Salvation

I saw a video on Facebook of Larry King grilling semi-televangelist/semi-New Age Guru Joel Osteen about the question of salvation. A lady caller, apparently a Christian, asks Osteen to be clear on whether he believes Jesus is the only Savior and it’s necessary to believe in Jesus to be saved, essentially pressing him to answer whether he’s really a Christian. King hounds Osteen on the question, from the other angle, of the infamous, “So are you saying Jews are going to HELL???” Osteen, thrown off his guard, stammers out a pathetic answer about yes, that’s what he believes, but he also believes God judges each soul individually??? The video is presented as “Osteen Denies Jesus is the only Savior,” but he doesn’t really deny it. He just fails to articulate any competent theology. Further, for a guy who built his name on his “discovery” that there’s no such place as Hell, Osteen even refers to Hell. For a guy whose whole message is a twisted form of universalism, that “It’s OK to live as you like, because if you don’t go to Heaven, you just cease to exist! Yay!”–you’d think he’d have a ready answer for those questions.

All it showed me about Osteen is that he’s a shyster and an idiot and has no theological competence, but it raises some questions about that underlying notion.

It actually ties into something else I was reflecting on. I watched _Star Trek V_ the other night, and was reading up on it in the “Memory Alpha” and “Memory Beta” wikia pages. Now, Star Trek has never been friendly to Christianity, except in a more allegorical way, but I have always appreciated stories like _The Final Frontier_ that at least show the characters open to God’s existence. In the late 1990’s, Pocket Books published a series of novels–Q-Space,Q-Zone, and Q-Strike, which tried to explain some of the mysteries of “Q” in Star Trek the Next Generation as well as, as “Trek” fiction often does, provide explanations for other Trek phenomena. The back story is that, millions of years ago, “Q” was part of a band of higher-plane beings who terrorized the galaxy for millennia until the Q Continuum finally punished them and put various restrictions on Q’s companions (Q himself was exonerated for helping the Continuum fight his former friends, and his punishment was to undo the damage he did by training growing civilizations, including humanity). One of those companions was the entity from _Star Trek V_, and at one point one of the characters says, “He’s the guy who invented monotheism.” I’m glad I never read the books.

It’s an intriguing notion, for pretty much anyone with a non-Abrahamic worldview (and even some who claim a Judeo-Christian worldview), that monotheism was a deception by a power hungry “higher power” who wanted to shut everyone else out.

Monotheism, as Larry King attests and Joel Osteen shies from, is a challenge. When Pharoah Akhenaten tried to introduce monotheism to Egypt, he was solidly opposed, and the reforms he enforced were disposed of soon after his death. The Jews were a thorn in the Romans’ backsides because they were monotheists. The Romans didn’t care what you believed as long as a) you acknowledged the divinity of the emperor and b) you tolerated everyone else. Judaism held that there was one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose Name is the great Tetragrammaton, and that one should have no other gods besides Him. And while Jews did not seek to convert Gentiles to their faith, they still looked down on the Gentiles. Christians took it a step further and said that a guy the Romans crucified was the son of God–the very title of the Emperor!–and that He should be worshipped, *and* the Christians called for the Gentiles to adopt their faith and turn away from other gods, including the emperor. This was a major problem for the Romans, just as it is for today’s “multiculturalists.”

Judaism doesn’t officially even address the question of “salvation”, as the Sadduccees would gladly point out. For Sadduccees, the notion of Heaven and Hell was as troublesome as the notion of Purgatory is for Protestant Christians, for the same reason: they didn’t see where it was in the Bible. Of course, Jesus showed Sadduccees how the Resurrection is implied in the Torah, and Catholics are constantly trying to show Protestants where Purgatory is implied in the Bible. But the point is that the Hebrew Scriptures do not even directly teach about resurrection, so if Osteen stood by his teachings, and King stood by his own religion, they ought to be able to shake hands in agreement, that Larry King, if he remains Jewish, will not go to Heaven, and he will not go to Hell: according to Osteen, and the literal reading of the Old Testament, he will simply cease to exist.

The Abrahamic tradition is radical in claiming there’s only one God, but the Old Testament primarily deals with the worldly consequences of failing to properly worship that one True God. Christianity is radical in introducing the notion that there is One Savior, that no one can come to the Father except through Him, and that, yes, people will go to Hell simply for not believing in Jesus.

This is because the underlying thought of people like Larry King and Joel Osteen is that, whatever they may say, their minds are deeply secular, and they still see religion as ultimately a more sophisticated form of “Santa Claus” and the “Tooth Fairy.” People call me a nut for saying it, but this is the teaching of Freemasonry, as I say time and again. It’s one of the main points in the original Papal documents condemning Lodges from the 1700’s: the notion that all religions are equal and exist primarily to make people good citizens. This notion has so deeply infested our society that even sincere people of faith think it.

I’ve also written many times of how Our Lady of La Salette predicted these New Age “Near Death Experiences”. She said, back in 1846, that in the late 20th Century, people would claim to be back from the dead, bringing stories of the afterlife that contradict the Faith, and not to believe them because they would be possessed. So, today, people “come back” with stories of seeing “beings of light,” or “Illuminati” or “Enlightened Ones” or whatever (clear-cut Freemasonry), or people who say they saw family members, or people who say “If you’re a Christian, you see Jesus. If you’re a Muslim, you see Mohammed.” Now, there *are* true Near Death Experiences: Saint Augustine had one. Lots of people have authentic visions of nearly dying and encountering Christ and nearly going to Hell or possibly tasting Heaven, but these modern stories exist to muddle the truth.

Another common falsehood is this image of people dying and being judged by St. Peter, a popular misinterpretation of Matthew 16:19. If anything, the words of the ancient Roman liturgy say that the dead are guided to judgement by St. Michael, the Standard-Bearer, but they are still judged by Jesus, and Jesus alone. God does not sit off in an office somewhere. His eye is in the sparrow. He counts the hairs on your head. He’s going to be there when you die and not a mysterious distant person in a metaphorical office. And He’s going to be there in the person of Jesus Christ.

The plain fact is: Jesus is real.

That is the answer Joel Osteen should have given. There is One God, and One Savior, Jesus Christ, and He is a real being, a Person, whom you will encounter directly when you die, and how you react to Him when you meet Him will determine your eternal destiny. St. Faustina said Jesus told her that, in the split seconds before people die, He calls out to them three times. The Catholic Church allows a priest to administer extreme unction or even baptism for a certain period of time (I’ve heard 30 minutes) after death since we do not know when the soul leaves the body. St. Teresa of Avila says that each person, when he or she dies, will see Jesus and react instantly in either fear or love, and that is what Judgment will be.

So, that’s all there is to it, Joel and Larry. When you die, you face Jesus. It’s entirely possible that at this moment, there are some Muslims, atheists, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans making their last breaths, and they’re seeing Jesus face to Face and saying, like C. S. Lewis’s Emeth and Orual, “Really? It was You, all along? I was so wrong. I’m sorry, Jesus. I love You.” And it’s absolutely certain there are lots of Christians at this instant facing the Man they claimed to love and worship, and like Victor Hugo’s Javert, reacting at disgust that the Person they thought they were serving was not at all like what they expected, and choosing to go to Hell rather than spend Eternity with a God who disgusts them.

That’s the answer to Larry King’s question. It’s all about a Person, the Person of Jesus, and, yes, it does matter in this life, because even though there are lots of Christians in Hell and, while there may be plenty of people in Heaven who only became Christians in the seconds before death, the better we get to know Jesus *now*, the better we will react to Him when we meet Him

_Percy Jackson_ Shows What’s Right With _Harry Potter_

The other night, I had the dubious pleasure of watching _Percy Jackson and the Olympians the Lightning Thief_, and what I got out of it is that it showed why the _Harry Potter_ series is both artistically and morally laudable.

1.  While both J.K. Rowling and C. S. Lewis have been criticized for the “derivative” nature of their work, and the matter can be debated in both their cases whether they’re hacks or geniuses, it is clear from the movie, at least, that _Jackson_ author Rick Riordan falls under the category of hack, since on the surface this is _Harry Potter_ with the names changed and “god” substituted for “wizard.”  The term “half-blood” is even used.  The movie doesn’t mention Triton, but apparently the overall theme of the series is that the Percy and his “half blood” friends (including a much less friendly counterpart of Hermione and a much more competent but more lascivious equivalent of Ron) must save the Olympians from the return of the Titan Triton.  
2.  To his credit, Riordan has done his homework.  Even the film was *mostly* accurate with its adaptations of Greek mythology, which is unusual even for films directly concerning Greek mythology.  My only gripe there is that if we’re supposed to believe the Greek myths were real, Medusa died, killed by the original Perseus, and there’s no explanation given why or how she was resurrected. I’ve never understood when fantasy stories refer to “a Medusa” (or “a Pegasus” for that matter), and I’ve also never understood why stories that try to use Greek mythology don’t just use one of the other Gorgons.  Also, Medusa was supposed to be ugly to look at, even without the snakes, and while I personally think Uma Thurman fits that category, I don’t think a lot of people agree.
3.  Maybe the books do, but the film doesn’t explain why the “Olympians” are so Ancient Greece-centric (for example, the “half bloods” are wired to read ancient Greek; see below), but most of them have emigrated to the US.
4.  Apparently, Barack Obama is a demi-god, at least according to the film.  When “Grover” the Satyr is explaining to Percy about the existence of demi-gods, and showing him around Hogwarts-I mean, the summer camp for half-bloods–he says that there are literally hundreds of demi-gods (children of gods and humans) alive today, some who live completely normal lives and others who achieve great fame, “I’m talking White House famous” (film came out in 2010; I’m sure they wouldn’t have made that suggestion of the president in 2007).  So, is this supposed to indicate that Barack Obama, Sr., was actually a Greek god?  Or perhaps to suggest that BHO isn’t actually a natural-born citizen, after all?
5. All good stories, particularly children’s stories, and particularly fantasies, include some level of wish-fulfillment.  It is not hard to see how the nerdy, bullied, abused, motherless children in C. S. Lewis’s books are all shadows of himself, particularly Digory Kirk (who both reflects Lewis as a child and an adult) and Eustace Clarence Scrubb (who, like his author, hated his own name).  

The abused, orphaned Harry Potter also provides children a character to sympathize with: what I love about the first few Potter stories is that they remind me of myself–obviously, I was raised by loving parents and Harry was raised by an abusive aunt and uncle who locked him in the closet under the stairs–but having been a misfit in general in my childhood, as I awakened to my faith, I found a sense of belonging in the Church and in academia.  When Harry found himself embraced by his teachers who saw his great potential yet unable to fit in with any but a few of his peers, that was my own experience.  

Rowling gets it just right.  While one of the popular arguments of the anti-Harry Potter crowd is that supposedly he is not adequately punished for the things he does “wrong” (violating relative, worldly rules for the greater good, which is something the Pharisees criticized Our Lord for doing, and which is also a basic tenet of Catholic moral teaching).  However, it is also very clear that while they’re trying to shape and encourage him, Harry’s teachers want him to learn obedience and humility because they know how Tom Riddle’s great power and potential had gone to his head.

Not in _Percy Jackson_.  In the first few minutes of the film, we see a discussion between Zeus (the guy from _Lord of the Rings_ who’s always popping up in “One does not simply . . . ” memes on Facebook) and Neptune, in which Zeus is accusing Neptune’s son of stealing his lightning bolt, because supposedly only a god’s son is capable of doing so.  Then we’re introduced to Percy, whom we first see underwater, saying he can only think underwater–gee, no mystery who Neptune’s secret son is, now, is there?
Percy’s horrible at English Literature, and comes home and laments to his longsuffering mother that the “special school” she sends him to isn’t working, and his ADHD and dyslexia are much too severe.  Then we are introduced to his very stereotyped oafish, abusive stepfather.  

Shortly thereafter, Percy’s English teacher turns out to be a Fury who has been sent to get the lightning bolt back from him, but she’s chased off by his mentorly and wheelchair-bound Classics teacher (played by Pierce Brosnan) who later turns out to be a Centaur.  His  best friend, who hobbles around on crutches turns out to be a Satyr.  I’m not going to summarize the whole film, but just establishing the characters here for this purpose.  The message here is:
a) people with physical disabilities are OK because they may just be hiding secret superpowers
b) English teachers probably are horrible monsters 
c) Percy is told his ADHD is just his godlike instincts for adventure, and his dyslexia is because he’s “hardwired” to read ancient Greek, not modern English.  So, people with ADHD and dyslexia, feel good about yourselves!  You’re probably like Percy, and too good for these lame-o schools.
d) Percy’s mom only stuck around with his step dad to “protect him” because his step dad stank, and the smell of his unbathed stepfather shielded the Olympians and their related monsters from recognizing his divine blood (yes, seriously, that is how it’s explained in the film).  After mom orders stepdad out of the house at the end, he finds Medusa’s head in the fridge and gets turned to stone.

Oh, that reminds me. . . . 
6.  THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S MOVIE.  PARENTS, DO NOT LET CHILDREN UNDER 13 VIEW THIS FILM.
I believe in striking the balance between being lenient and strict in all aspects of parenting.  We try to let our kids have an informed exposure to pop culture.  They know when we say not to watch something, we mean business, and they usually agree with us when we tentatively allow them to watch something we’re not comfortable with.  We tried to hold off Harry Potter till our eldest was at least 13, but my father in law kind of circumvented us on that one, but she’s well formed enough that it worked out.
But this is falling under the category of the Michael Bay _Transformers_ films: NO WAY IN THE NETHERWORLD.  

This is very violent.  There’s something about the CGI minotaur that really freaked me out, even more than the monsters in a Potter or Narnia film.  It didn’t even look like a minotaur except for the horns, and the fact that they called it that. The Minotaurs in the Narnia movies looked far more like what I’d imagine a “real” one to look like.  Granted, today’s kids are really immune to CGI special effects (“It’s OK, Mom, it’s just CGI,” they often tell their mom when she’s worried some special effect is too scary for them).  However, I dunno.  I found the creatures and violence in this film disturbing and inappropriate for anyone under 13. I don’t even think it’s the fact that the movie’s violent so much as that it’s so casual about violence.  

My dad talks of his experience trying to teach _Hamlet_ to kids in the 90s who found Hamlet’s dilemma problematic, not for the traditional reasons scholars have argued it, but for the simple fact that they saw nothing wrong with killing. “Why’s he hesitating at all?  The dude killed his father.  He should just off him and get it over with.”

That’s the approach of this film.  Got a stepfather you hate?  Stick a Gorgon’s head in the fridge & kill him.

7.  “All lives end in tragedy and despair,” says the boatman on the River Styx in _Lightning Thief_.  Interestingly, the Netherworld in this film is depicted as the Christian Hell more than the Greek Hades, and it is referred to as Hell while its ruler is referred to as Hades.  Much as in _Buffy: the Vampire Slayer_, where Hell is depicted as the ultimate reality, and “the jury’s still out” on God or Heaven, _Lightning Thief_ suggests that all souls end up in Hell, except for the select few who make it to Olympus (and presumably they have to be demi-gods to start with).  I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a bad thing.

8.  _Harry Potter takes place in a world where good and evil are clearly defined, in spite of those who insist that it’s morally ambiguous. This film is definitely morally ambiguous.  Socrates was accused of impiety for complaining about the moral ambiguity of Greek mythology, and this film is true to that element.  Neptune is the “good guy” among the gods, but only because we’re supposed to be cheering for Percy.  Zeus and Hades are both the “bad guys,” since their minions are both coming after him.
Grover commits adultery with Persephone, which is OK because Hades doesn’t really love her.
We are assured that all the gods are selfish (though that is by the character who turns out to be the actual “lightning thief,” but his position is never debunked).  

9.  Thus, _Lightning Thief_ completely precludes the possibility that Christianity is true.  I don’t mind fiction that suggests that pagan gods were real but that they were angels and fallen angels, or that they were aliens, or just super-powered humans, or even some other preternatural beings still lower than the true God.  Christian figures from St. Augustine to John Milton to C. S. Lewis have entertained the possibility that the pagan gods might have been or been based upon “real” beings.  I also have no problem with reenacting the Greek myths.
It is possible to take most fantasy or science fiction “worlds” and see the True God behind them.  This is what Flannery O’Connor says is the key to “Christian” writing, and I’d say it’s also the key to Christian reading and criticism: viewing the world with a Christian lens.  O’Connor says that fiction doesn’t have to discuss theology to be Christian, but merely see the world as one in which Christian moral, cosmological and spiritual principles are true, and work in practice.  This would be contrasted to a literature which is completely atheistic or pagan.  For example, while I saw _House, MD_ through to the end, I was dismayed at the middle of the second season when House hits rock bottom after breaking up with Cuddy, and he really starts to go crazy. When I saw House jump the shark–I mean, jump out of the hotel room–I said that there was no way he could return from that low a pit of despair without a proverbial “higher power” in his life.  No real person could descend so deep without committing suicide or going deeper into drug use unless he had God in his life.  

However, this movie holds that Greek mythology was completely *true*.  Zeus *is* the current ruler of the universe, though the Titans Again, all people go to Hades, and Hades is the Roman Tartarus or the Christian Hell, where the “real” Hades in Greek mythology was more like the Christian limbo or the Hebrew Sheol.  

Again, this shows what Harry Potter does right: the _Harry Potter_ books are filled with at least cultural Christianity.  There are churches, there are Christian cemeteries, Christian holidays, and citations of Bible verses.  It’s not clear that the characters are Christian in anything more than a cultural sense, but it’s *perfectly* clear that “Christianity” exists, and the overall providence and moral fabric of the stories holds true to Christian principles.  

While Rowling is not as overt as C.S. Lewis at showing the Christian God at work in her fantasies (and apparently, according to some people, even Lewis isn’t that overt, between those who insist Aslan is merely allegorical or those who insist that Aslan is a representative of “any great religious figure,” as opposed to being very clearly the Divine Word incarnate in a different way on a different world), it is still *possible* that had God chosen to give some people magical powers, and to create some kind of magical parallel world within our own where magical people could exist with fantasy creatures and practice magic freely, all that happens in _Harry Potter_ could happen in a world where Christianity is true.  Nothing explicitly violates Christian theology other than what violates known science, anyway.

That is not the case for _Percy Jackson_.  If Greek mythology was completely true, if all souls go to Hell, if Zeus is the ruler of the cosmos (and got there by force), and if beings who are part god and part human walk the earth in the hundreds or thousands, then Christianity is false.  

So that is the message that Rick Riordan and the producers of this film want to send to your children: Christianity is false, and you’re doomed to Hell, so “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

If only more Bishops were Pro-Life, or “How Islam Gave Us Nancy Pelosi”

We all know that there was a concerted effort by many bishops, priests and theologians in the 1960s to tell everyone the Pope would soon permit birth control (even though Bl. John XXIII condemns it in _Mater et Magistra_). What is lesser known is that some bishops actually *squelched* efforts by *Democratic* Catholic politicians to fight contraception. I once read how Chicago’s legendary mayor Daley organized a movement against legalization of contraceptives–till the archbishop of Chicago told him to stop because supposedly the Church was going to permit contraception. Then there’s how “Fr.” Drinan told the Kennedys to adopt a pro-choice position (I always forget if this infamous meeting took place during JFK or RFK’s campaign, but it’s well-documented).

Fr. Bing Arellano can be a bit of a “nut,” but when I went to a conference he gave in Atlanta a few years ago, before the stuff about the USCCB and the Canadian Bishops’ funding of pro-abortion organizations became a public issue, he claimed evidence that back in the 1980s, the US Bishops were giving millions to pro-abortion groups (turned out they were doing so more recently than that).

It was of course another Archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Bernardin, who gave us the “seamless” garment notion that blurs the prioritzation of “respect life” issues, even to the point of putting racism and health care on par with abortion or the death penalty. Regardless of whether people agree that the “death penalty” is a “pro-life” issue (and Bl. John Paul II, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, and even Fr. Frank Pavone all say it is), I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s a difference between directly killing someone and something like “racism” or health care–unless, of course, you’re the kind of person to believe the “Mitt Romney killed my wife” ad.

Ever since I finally read (or perhaps reread, as I think I read it in high school) Etienne Gilson’s classic _Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages_, I’ve wanted to write a piece called “How Islam Gave Us Nancy Pelosi.” When Greek wisdom was re-introduced to the west after centuries of “Dark Ages”–which were really a time of great Christian enlightenment, where the Greek “wisdom” was just considered irrelevant to the spiritual journey–it came via Muslim translations and commentaries, of Greek to Arabic and back to Latin, or even of Greek to Latin to Arabic and back to Latin . So there was some translation error, and since these translations were done as commentaries by Avicenna and Averroes (Latinizations of their names), their commentaries colored the texts.

Aristotle was, at the time, end and all and be-all of what we now call “science,” and Aristotle’s “science” contradicted Scripture–for example, Aristotle said the universe is eternal (a question about which scientists still debate). How did you reconcile Aristotle with “Creationism”?

Averroes attempted to answer this question first, in turn borrowing from Avicenna and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides before him. “Eastern” and “Western” thought is separated primarily by the question of paradox versus the law of identity. Aristotle, building on Socrates and Plato, established the principle of identity and the principle of non-contradiction: a thing is what it is. Something cannot be BOTH A AND B. It cannot be BOTH A AND -A. Two objects cannot co-exist in the same space. This principle (which I once tried to illustrate using symbolic logic on an Aristotle exam, prompting the professor to write “Uncle!” in the margin) underlies all Western thought, but is alien to many non-Western cultures.

Islam is an eastern religion, and relies on many things that Westerners would consider paradoxes. For example, the Bible is to be honored as the Word of God, but recognized as also corrupt. Jews and Christians are “People of the Book,” but there’s the ambiguity about whether we are “Infidels” or not. Meanwhile, Plato had taught his famous notion of the “noble lie,” that “mythology” is a “noble lie” taught to the people because they cannot understand philosophy. Plato said that myths and philosophy teach the same concepts, but mythology allegorizes them to be palatable to the public’s level of intelligence.

To a certain extent, Catholic philosophy even adopts that notion–as even Augustine and some of the other early Fathers recognized a level of allegory and symbolism in Genesis.

However, Averroes took it to a new level and said, basically with Plato, that the Bible and Aristotelian science didn’t *have* to be reconciled. A person could believe *both*. He took Plato’s argument that the Bible is just a symbolic expression of the truth’s of philosophy, and that religion is subservient to philosophy, just a menas of expressing philosophy to the people, but he departed from Plato in that Plato’s philosopher kings are supposed to acknowledge that *to themselves*. Averroes held that people had to believe *both* the “noble lie” of the Bible *and* the philosophy of Aristotle, but in the fashion of Eastern logic, he argued that these truths could be confined to different spheres of life.

So it was Averroes who gave us the concept of the “secular world,” that we can hold one set of beliefs in our religious lives but an entirely different set in our “secular” lives. This idea set in in the Universities in France. The work of Scotus, Aquinas and Bonaventure was a reaction against this trend in philosophy.

However, as Gilson explains, Aquinas and his fellow Scholastics in some ways failed. Averroeism remained entrenched in Catholic universities for centuries. So while we may rightly condemn Masonry, Modernism, etc., for the problems in the Church, they also date back 800 years.

When America arose, it gave Averroeism within the Church a new impetus: it became known as “Kennedy Doctrine,” though in turn it can be found in the writings of John and Charles Carroll, as well: religion is a private business, to be kept private and at church, and civic virtue is another matter. The “heresy of Americanism,” condemned by Leo XIII, kind of covers a lot of things, but one of the things it covers is the relegation of religion to a private sector in return for a secular virtue in public.

I don’t know if Gilson ever explained in another work how this entrenchment operated from the 11th to the 18th century, but it’s clear how it manifested itself in America. Then came the infiltration of the Church, and the Masonic and Communist infiltrators used the existing foundation of Averroeist philosophy to teach priests and bishops to hold the same view.

And it was these priests and bishops who went around in the 1960s and told Catholics both that it was OK to use contraception and that not only should they not fight efforts to legalize contraception, they should *support* those efforts.

Catholicism versus Masonry–a Timeline

G. K. Chesterton said that the greatest heresy has always been Gnosticism, and that the Church’s battle has always been with Gnosticism in various forms. Gnosticism itself grew out of the Babylonian mystery cults, and the Gnostics would adapt their views to every culture and religion they encountered. There were Jewish Gnostics before Christianity even existed–the Kabbalists, and the Gnosticism latched on to Christianity very quickly–such that the New Testament is full of references to Gnosticism (though the term is not used directly in the New Testament).

The Gnostics believed in a dualistic world. They believed that Good and Evil were equal forces in the cosmos, that matter was evil and spirit was good, and the objective was to free one’s spirit from the chains of matter. They believed that most people were little more than animals and lived in ignorance, but a select few were capable of becoming enlightened and attaining the secret knowledge of the cosmos (Gnosis, from which “Gnosticism” comes). They believed that this secret knowledge included the ability to transcend matter in this lifetime and eachieve what we might today call magical powers. Gnostics read their beliefs into the Bible. “Christian” Gnostics argued that the God of the Old Testament, the creator of matter, was evil, and that actually Lucifer was the good God, and Jesus was the messenger of Lucifer. In another variant, they looked to the differences between the use of “Elohim” and “Yahweh” in the Old Testament and suggested this as evidence of two different Gods, one good and one evil.

Gnosticism has taken many forms throughout history. In the Middle Ages, workers of various kinds would join together into guilds, to divide up territories, share resources, share knowledge, etc. Somehow, in the 1600s or thereabouts, the builders’ guilds began expanding from merely sharing professional knowledge to actually aggrandizing their profession. They began celebrating the achievements of the ancient societies and seeking ways to recreate them. In the 1700s, in conjunction with the neo-Classical era in the arts, the Builders’ Guilds–the Masonic guilds–began celebrating the architectural achievements of Egypt, Greece and Rome and seeking to recreate them.

Somewhere along the line, they even began celebrating the Tower of Babel! If the pyramids were models to be admired, and the Bible condemns the Egyptians, then maybe there’s something wrong with the Bible. If the Tower of Babel was something to be admired, then maybe the God who condemned the Tower of Babel was actually bad!

So, somewhere along the line, the Masonic guilds began adopting the ancient Gnostic beliefs. They started to argue that the standard interpretations of the Bible were wrong, and that there was a actually a secret knowledge behind the Bible. The Egyptians had the authentic religion, of which Christianity was a counterfeit (after years of reading about them, I recently heard some of these views firsthand from a Mason).

Now, in 1700s Europe, it was becoming common to have people who were overtly atheists, or at least Deists (certainly, there had always been such people in practice, but it was now becoming acceptable to espouse such beliefs). There were various Protestant sects, as well as Catholics. So the Guilds, which used to be explicitly Catholic, began to embrace toleration of different religious beliefs.

OK, so all of this stuff kind of coalesced like most historical movements do, and there were several strains. No single movement developed, but a lot of similar movements developed that came to be known as Lodges or Masonic Lodges. Most of these movements had similar ideas. Some embraced Gnostic ideals. Some embraced a secular idea of people working together for the common good without reference to religion. All of them had a general view that the old modes of European society, particularly the Catholic Church, had to be thrown off. Even the term “Enlightenment” itself came out of these movements: they held that the era of Christendom had been the “Dark Ages,” and they were now seeking Enlightenment from reviving the ancient pagan cultures.

In the 1700s, Popes began writing encyclicals condemning the Lodges. There were several reasons they were condemned. First, the Lodges involved secret oaths, and Catholics who were members of Lodges were bound by oath not to confess sins they committed in conjunction with their Lodges. The Church was suspicious of how the Lodges wanted to keep the Church out of their business.

Secondly, the Lodges promoted civic charity that was not explicitly Christian, and the Popes said that Charity was only possible with a religious context. They argued that charity without Christ had no merit. Charity without Christ could only be done by coercion or by incentive of earthly reward.

Thirdly, the Lodges promoted cooperation between people of different faiths, or no faith at all. Tying in with point 2, the Popes condemned the Lodges for teaching that religious differences were irrelevant, all religions were equal, and religion was just a means to achieving civic virtue.

The Lodges gradually began to influence political movements, and they began to promote revolution against the old orders, both the monarchies and the Church.

In 1776, a group of Masons in America revolted against their king. Later, they would pass a Bill of Rights that enshrined in its first Amendment the notion, condemned by the Popes, that all religions were equal and government should be separate from religion.

In France, a bloody, violent revolution sprung up, inspired by the one in America. Churches would be destroyed. Priests and religious would be martyred. Relics and Sacramentals and works of great religious art would be burned. The Goddess Liberty would be held up as the new deity, in replacement of the Christian God. Catholic schools would be outlawed, and public funded schools that taught a secular education would be established.

In America, similarly public-funded schools would be established. While they would not be completely secular like the French schools, they would teach Protestantism, specifically. And while the Constitution guaranteed Freedom of Religion, the general presumption of the Founding Fathers was that that meant Protestantism. Jews and Catholics would be tolerated as long as they didn’t “rock the boat,” and Catholic Founder Charles Carroll, though himself not officially a member of the Masons, would espouse the very notion that the Popes were condemning. Carroll argued that religion, other than as a source of civic virtue, should be kept in the Church, and that Catholics could easily co-exist among Protestants in America if we kept our religion private. This would be echoed by John F. Kennedy nearly 200 years later, when he proclaimed on the campaign trail that he would not be beholden to the Pope. Then, in contemporary times, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would state that America was a country of freedom of worship, not freedom of religion, and religion should be kept to the home and the church and not expressed in the public sphere.

In 1830, the Blessed Virgin would appear to a Vincentian nun, St. Catherine Laboure, at the Church of Our Lady of Victories, in Rue de Bac, Paris, France. These apparitions would be famous for giving the world the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, later known as the Miraculous Medal. However, it would be less known that Our Lady at those apparitions condemned the revolutions that had been going on since the American Revolution, saying that the errors of America would spread around the world and nearly destroy the Church, that the cry of revolution and democracy would spread immorality among the people.

In 1846, the Virgin would appear again in France, to two shepherd children in a village called La Salette. Now, there would be issues with the alleged visionaries’ testimonies changing over time. Also, even if an alleged apparition is given approval, the Church almost never approves of messages that claim to predict the future. The prophecies of Fatima are a rare, if not unique, exception. However, the alleged prophecies of La Salette are pretty interesting. They include:

1. That starting in the 1860s, the demons would be allowed a special century to wreak havoc and try to destroy the Church.
2. That *after* that century (hence, starting in the 1960s), the fruits of their century of work would be scene, and there would be great evil in the world.
3. That as part of this, Satan would inspire people to invent many new technologies. La Salette predicted the telephone, television, airplane and other technologies that would make people think they had now become gods.
4. That starting in the 1960s, people would come about who claimed to be “resurrected dead,” and they would have accounts of dying and experiencing the afterlife, but their accounts would contradict Church teaching. She said these people would, in fact, be dead bodies inhabited by demons: an eerie prediction of the New Age “Near Death Experience” phenomenon.

In the meantime, the Masonic Lodges would spin off various political “parties,” all touting variations of the same themes of forcing secular charity, abolishing the ties of Church and state, etc. Some of these groups would call themselves Republicans, some Democrats, some Socialists, some Communists, but they’d all teach basically the same things.

When Charles Darwin published his book _Origin of the Species_, it gave Freemason Karl Marx a scientific back-up to the theory of history he had already developed based upon the Hegelian dialectic.

In America, Freemason Joseph Smith would claim a new revelation and start a new religion called the Latter Day Saints, or Mormonism, which would derive many of its beliefs from ancient ideas condemned by Christianity as heresy, including Gnosticism and Arianism.

As the Popes continued to issue documents condemning Freemasonry, membership in Lodges, and the rising communist/socialist ideal, Pope Pius IX would issue, in 1864, the “Syllabus of Errors,” a list of errors he had already previously condemned, most revolving around the Masons and the Communists.

Pius IX’s successor, Leo XIII, who would personally interview one of the La Salette visionaries, made similar condemnations of “modernism,” another name for the general set of Masonic ideals.

In the 1890s, Pope Leo XIII would condemn a set of notions which he collectively called “Americanism.” Since “Americanism” was a collection of notions, and he addressed it in several documents (most notably 1895’s _Longinqua Oceani_ and 1899’s _Testem Benevolentiae_), there would be some confusion about what Leo XIII meant by “Americanism.” Some people argued that Leo was misinterpreting what American Catholics thought. Others argued that he was condemning the idea of European countries adopting American ideals. However, he was actually doing all of the above. The set of notions Leo considered “Americanism” included:

1. Pluralism and the concept of “Assimilation”
2. Individualism
3. “Wall of Separation between Church and State.” Leo applauded the notion that people should have liberty to choose their own faith, but he condemned the notion that the state should be completely separate from the Church. He said that the Catholic Church should still receive preferential treatment from the State, and the State had to obey the Church’s teachings on matters of morality.
4. Minimizing Catholic doctrine, disparaging of religious life, and downplaying of spiritual direction. He condemned, back then, what we today call “Cafeteria Catholicism.”
5. Spreading of American ideals in Europe.

While Leo condemned some of these tendencies in American Catholicism, he also praised certain aspects of American achievement and praised what the Church was accomplishing at that point in America.

Leo would also have his own vision of a “wager” between God and the Devil, that the Devil asked for 100 years of free reign to try and destroy the Church. Leo wrote the prayer to St. Michael and ordered that it be said at all Masses.

Also in the 1890s, the Holy Office (formerly Inquisition; now Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) would arrest a priest for membership in the Masons. That priest would claim that there were already numerous Masons infiltrating the Church hierarchy, and that eventually the Masons would arrange for there to be another Council, after which the Church would be unrecognizable.

In 1929, at its Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church would become the first Christian church to endorse contraception by married couples (noting that, contrary to popular misconception today, the first condoms were invented in 3000 BC, and ancient cultures used various forms of contraceptive devices, herbs, etc., that were collectively known as “witchcraft”).

In 1943, Anglican apologist C. S. Lewis would deliver a series of lectures collectively called _The Abolition of Man_, where he would talk about certain trends in culture and education that he found troubling, concluding with the notion that a vast movement was at work to undermine the traditional notion of the human person. He noted that birth control was at the heart of this movement and would totally undermine the notion of what it meant to be a human being. While he noted that, at the time, the Communists and Nazis seemed most intent to “abolish man,” as he put it, Lewis observed that the greatest threat would lie in the democratic Western nations.

Before his death in the late 1950s, Pope Pius XII would be known to mutter that the Vatican “stank of sulfur” and that he felt the presence of demons in the Vatican.

His successor, John XXIII, would call for a Council to finish the work begun at Vatican I from 1869-1870. He acknowledged that the Church, which had evolved organically for much of its history, had become kind of stagnant in battering the hatches against assaults from the Protestants, Masons and Communists in the recent centuries.

John XXIII called for a Council that would be unique in that its primary purpose would be pastoral, not doctrinal. It would mainly look at how to best address the issues of the modern world.

Once the Council began, however, many of the bishops began steering it in directions the Pope did not intend. Reportedly, on his death bed in 1963, John XXIII cried out, “Stop the Council!”

At some point during the Council itself, when language about birth control was being formulated that suggested governments had the right to practice population control, Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect of the Holy Office, protested that the language contradicted church teaching. Ottaviani would later issue a scathing condemnation of some of the Council’s apparent teachings known as his “Intervention.”

Meanwhile, Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, whom Pius XII had already labelled a “twentieth century doctor of the Church,” who had been an outspoken critic of the radical Right during World War II, became an outspoken critic of Vatican II (interestingly, a young Fr. Josef Ratzinger would become acquainted with von Hildebrand, who attended Ratzinger’s parish when visiting Germany). In 1973, the Vatican newspaper _L’Osservatore Romano_ would praise von Hildebrand’s _Trojan Horse in the City of God_ as the definitive interpretation of Vatican II and required reading for anyone concerned with the state of the Church. In _Satan at Work_, von Hildebrand would document evidence that the Communist Party USA and the KGB had sent communist agents to infiltrate Catholic seminaries throughout the US and Europe, and now as much as 10% of Catholic priests were Communists, with a greater number being Communist sympathizers.

During its last two years, Vatican II would be very much a battle between Pope Paul VI and the bishops. A vocal contingent of bishops would demand more sweeping “reforms” than what the Pope would allow, and the Pope would call for more orthodox language in some cases that the bishops refused to implement (for example, Paul VI wanted to declare Mary “Mother of The Church,” but the influential bishops at the Council wanted to de-emphasize Our Lady to appease the Protestants, so Paul went around their back and used the title in one of his personal documents).

Even before the Council, new forms of Church architecture would be implemented that were based upon modernist architectural ideals. While the Council called for certain liturgical reforms, immediately after the Council, radical liturgical innovations were implemented before the Church would even issue a new Missal. Everything from the adoption of folk and rock music to removal of altar rails and the creation of freestanding altars to communion on the hand and even the use of grape juice and cookies began to be implemented around the world. Many of these “reforms” were implemented without any explicit documentation from the Vatican, and then grandfathered in when the new Missal would be issued.

Meanwhile, Paul VI would encourage use of the traditional liturgy by those who wanted to retain it. Paul VI would emphasize that Vatican II was purely pastoral, reformulating Catholic teaching without issuing any new dogmas, that anything that came out of Vatican II that was not previously defined was not dogmatically binding. He said that the purpose of the Council was to address Modernism in a new form, to directly appeal to people of all faiths with the beauty of the Catholic Church.

Since “the Pill” was originally invented by Catholics trying to find a way to help women regulate their cycles for effective use of the “Rhythm Method,” many priests told Catholics it was OK to use “the Pill.” As Vatican II was going on, rumors began to spread that the Pope would endorse contraception, and many theologians, priests and bishops staked their reputation on that promise to laity.

The Pope would convene a panel to discuss the issue of birth control pills, and whether they were an acceptable form of NFP or whether they operated the same way condoms did. While some members of the panel emphatically supported the Church’s traditional teachings, the majority would apparently decide not only that the Pill was OK, but recommend that the Pope permit all artificial contraception. Instead, Paul VI issued _Humanae Vitae_, a reaffirmation of the Church’s teachings, condemning barrier methods and pills, but giving a new level of approval to the Natural Family Planning methods the Church had been considering since the early 1800s.

The issuance of HV would see a rebellion among bishops, priests, theologians and laity against the Pope. Meanwhile, in the general world, the Pill would be seen as inspiring a “sexual revolution.” In 1968, the kinds of periodic youth rebellions that had become commonplace in France for nearly 200 years would be seen around the world.

The new popular culture of “sex, drugs and rock & roll” would promote rebellion and promote the notion that it was perfectly common and acceptable for “teenagers” to rebel against authority.

A “New Age” movement would once again repackage the old views of the Gnostics, promoting “enlightenment,” “spirituality” rather than “religion,” the “power of positive thing,” the ability to manipulate things with ones mind if one became “enlightened,” etc. Noting that an upcoming shift in a 2,000 year astrological cycle would mean that the earth was moving out of the “Age of Pisces” (the fish, the symbol of Christianity), to the “Age of Aquarius,” the “Age of Aquarius” would be promoted as the literal “New Age,” the post-Christian era.

In the 1970s, Paul VI would say that the “Smoke of Satan” had reached the highest levels of the Church. Future Pope Karol Wojtyla would say the Church was involved in the greatest fight in her history. In the late 1960s, Joseph Ratzinger would predict that the Church was facing an era of great persecution, that the Church was going to lose most of her property and status, and that in the 21st Century, the Church would be made up of small groups of devout believers living as a persecuted minority. He would repeat these predictions 30 years later as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Later, as Pope, he would state that the Church was facing the greatest battle in her history.

Vatican II would basically say the same things that all the “anti-Modernist” popes had said, though with a tone of positivity towards individual choice and as an appeal to the people to embrace the Church, rather than a top-down instruction to bishops to condemn erroneous notions. Yet many would see the Council as endorsing the very views those earlier popes condemned, practicing would Ratzinger would later call a “hermeneutic of discontinuity.”

Some who embraced such a hermeneutic would rebel against the Council, seeing the alleged 19th Century masonic priest’s prediction as being fulfilled, and seeing the Gates of Hell as having prevailed against the hierarchy in Rome. Others would, conversely, praise the Church’s alleged embrace of “progress.”

John Paul II and Benedict XVI would later echo their predecessors by condemning the relativism that had become dominant in society, insisting that states had to listen to the Church on matters of morality and justice, and demanding that Catholics in democratic societies use their political rights to vote in the Church’s teachings, particularly on issues like contraception and abortion.

As various forms of Masonic governments failed time and again in other countries, new persecution would develop in America. Fulfilling C. S. Lewis’s prediction, the embrace of sexual license caused by contraception would be used to undermine Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church. Starting with forcing adoption agencies to let homosexual couples adopt, moving on to a recognition of same sex “marriage” that was unprecedented in history (carrying with it the implication that such “marriage” must be accepted by churches and anyone engaged in the “marriage industry”) and culminating in a law forcing Catholic institutions to pay for abortion and contraception, a new persecution of Catholicism would begin in the “land of the free.”

Yet many Catholics in America would embrace the entire Masonic assault on the Church, even while claiming to be devout Catholics. Ignoring all the Papal condemnations of liberty that is license rather than the freedom to choose the goo, the Papal condemnations of socialism and secular “charity,” the papal condemnations of religious pluralism that denies the primacy of the Catholic Church, the papal condemnations of “Americanism,” the condemnations of modernism by various saints and Marian apparitions, and the obvious incompatibility of liberal values with all the teachings of the Church for 2,000 years, somehow people would still insist that they were fulfilling Catholic teaching by supporting the “progressive” movements in society.

The problem with “FactCheck.org” and similar projects

It’s a FACT that God exists. It’s a FACT that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for our sins. It’s a FACT that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church and the Sacraments. These are not uncertain “beliefs”, opinions, fairy tales or wishful thinking. These are historical facts that I know to be true just as much as I know that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon or Alexander the Great was educated by Aristotle or Cyrus the Great ended the Babylonian Exile.

The fact that some people choose to ignore the historical evidence for these events–and the Bible alone provides more historical evidence for many events than we have for other things secular historians take for granted, even ignoring the vast field of Biblical archaeology and the corroborations of the Bible in secular histories and extra-canonical religious works from the Biblical era–does not make them any less factual than they are.

Any organization, book, website or school which claims to teach fact without teaching these facts is promoting ignorance. They would balk at the idea of not teaching evolution as scientific fact, yet why do they not teach the Bible as historical fact?

The Problem with “Movements”

Since 2004, there has been a discussion of so called “non-negotiables” in Catholic public life, often tied with the term “intrinsic evils.” I have problems with the usage of both terms as they have their ambiguous elements.

However, they have been introduced into Catholic political discourse to emphasize that the Church is unequivocal on some issues.

Almost all teachings of the Church regarding public life have some level of nuance to them. Usually, the Church teaches a totally different way of looking at politics or economics (notably subsidiarity and distributism) that, despite more than a century and a quarter since _Rerum Novarum_, still don’t quite fit into established secular political movements. Part of this is due to the fact that people have listened to the social encyclicals only reflexively by rejection (“Mater si, Magistra No”) or by intentionally misinterpreting (“If you’d only read the social encyclicals, you’d vote Democrat”).

With almost every issue, there’s some nuance. The Church almost always advises more on which principles to consider in regard to an issue rather than prescribing a particular course of action.

War: Just War Doctrine
Death Penalty: Equivalent strict standards of application
Economics: distributism; right to property, but the right to property is not absolute, etc.
Environment: Care for God’s resources; be good stewards; don’t blindly destroy nature; yet don’t put nature above humanity
Immigration: Have generous immigration laws; respect human dignity; keep families together; secure borders; don’t allow illegal immigration.
Even with the War in Iraq, there is some level of nuance in the Church’s teachings. Indeed, the War in Iraq was going on in 2004 when then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote his now infamous letter to Cardinal McCarrick saying specifically that war does not carry the same weight as abortion, since the Church teaches that some wars are just, and we can’t always be 100% sure of the justice or injustice of a cause. Yet Popes Benedict and John Paul have made comments against the Iraq War. Yet again, before the war, John Paul appealed not to the US but to Saddam Hussein to do what was right, since he was the one being uncooperative with the UN. And yet again, when B16 came here in April 2007, he praised our troops for fighting for the cause of freedom.

There’s always *something*. There’s always a level of room for adaptation of the general principles to one’s own perspective and situation, and the Popes acknowledge this.

However, there are issues for which there is no nuance. Abortion is wrong, period. The Church has always taught that and makes no exceptions.

Two equal and opposite problems arise from this.

The first problem involves voting. Since parties are coalitions, voting involves some kind of compromise. In theory, people “tally” votes, where, in reality, they vote on their pet issues. I’ve often heard it said, “The Democrats are in line with Catholic teaching on more issues than the Republicans,” though I’ve never been able to figure out which ones. Another justification Catholics will use for voting Democrat is trying to apply to abortion the level of nuance that other issues have, making up arguments about ensoulment and so forth, or else just saying that the Church is “hypocritical.”

And that, right there, gets to the problem of “movements.” I will grant that politics is one thing, and sometimes holding one’s nose and voting for the least evil of the candidates is what one must do.

However, most “movements” become so focused on their issue that they lose sight of the Church. It’s one thing when this happens in terms of political alliances. It’s quite another when the movement turns to criticizing the Church.

So, for example, with the “Peace Movement.” Peace is a good thing. However, I have a hard time maintaining dialogue with peace activists, with whom I largely agree, because they are so adamant about pacifism as such. I may not approve of the war, but I approve of the existence of the military, and I believe in the possibility of a Just war that is defensive or one that liberates one country from another’s attack.

However, that mere distinction is too much for many peace activists. Indeed, they’ll say that “Just War” theory itself is wrong and “goes against the teachings of Jesus.” To show how it goes against the teachings of Jesus, they’ll quote Dorothy Day, or Eileen Egan, or the Berrigans, Sr. Joan Chittister, or one of several dubious bishops. Challenge them with actual writings of Popes and Saints, and they’ll shut you out.

I have no problem with conscientious objection. Indeed, I support it. I have no problem with criticizing a war if one sincerely believes it is wrong. I have no objection to a person living a pacifist life, save for the question of protecting a loved one from assault. However, I *do* have a problem when someone’s zeal for peace takes the form of criticizing the Church and saying that Just War Doctrine itself is wrong.

Similarly, the Holy Father recently gave a speech about environmental concerns, which has spurred the usual debates on that topic. Again, the Church teaches that the environment must be honored and safeguarded, but the needs of humanity must come first. Radical Environmentalists conveniently ignore the latter qualification and use the Church to promote their agenda. Their opponents will ignore the first part and focus on the latter.

Again, it’s one thing to make an unhappy allegiance for voting purposes; it is quite another to call the Church’s teaching on a subject “wrong,” whether that subject is “peace” or divorce or economics or contraception.

So as much as I sympathize with their causes, I can’t get behind the “Peace” Movement or the “Environmental” Movement because they involve too much criticism of the Church and too many sketchy interpretations of Church teaching. The pro-life movement may compromise itself sometimes in its political allegiances, but the movement itself does not go around saying the Church is wrong on matters of dogma.

It’s Official: Baptists do not believe in Jesus Christ!

Pastor Jonathan Hatcher of Conner Heights Baptist Church in Pigeon Forge, TN, has made national headlines and sparked outrage from his Catholic neighbors by distributing an anti-Catholic tract called “The Death Cookie”, which depicts Satan planning the Eucharist to deceive people.

I don’t really know if it should be called “anti-Catholicism” (in a bigotry sense) for criticizing what we actually believe, and if they sincerely believe the Eucharist is of the Devil, they should say so.

However, if they say that, then they call Jesus Christ a liar: “Truth Himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true,” said St. Thomas Aquinas of the Eucharist, as translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Note that, in the cartoon, the Devil says, “all we need is a God for the people, one they can see and touch and pray to.”

Huh, isn’t that called JESUS?? Isn’t that the point of the Incarnation???

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life– for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us– what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:1-4, NAB).

Let’s not also forget that the purpose of the Dogma of Theotokos is to emphasize the Incarnation. I have come to the conclusoin, after many arguments over the years, that Evangelicals preach a new heresy. They believe taht Jesus “was” truly God and truly Man” on earth, but that He lost His body after the resurrection, that He is pure spirit in Heaven, no longer incarnate, and therefore, Mary is no longer His Mother.

Of course, they emphasize calling her “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” for that reason.

So something similar is at work here. Not unlike the Pharisees, these people are scandalized at a God that can be seen.

St. Teresa of Avila says to beware of those who discourage the use of images in prayer, since the whole point of the Incarnation is to give us an image of God, and those who refuse images refuse to acknowledge the Incarnation.

Trivia Questions!

What do these people all have in common have in common with Glenn Beck?

Bill O’Reilly
Sean Hannity
Rudolph Giuliani
Arnold Schwarzeneggar
Nancy Pelosi
Kathleen Sebelius
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Joe Biden
Cokie Roberts
Alec Baldwin
Susan Sarandon
Tom Daschle

What has Glenn Beck done that these folks have not?

There are rumors circulating on the net that Michelle Obama’s mother may be practicing witchcraft in the White House, and that Barack, citing his alleged Christian beliefs and anticipating controversy, has told her to stop.

Mary points out that Yahoo, often has headlines that are fairly controversial, particularly with a conservative slant, and then disappear.  I saw the article as a yahoo headline.  A couple blogs picked it up.  When I did a google search, there were several hits, and all the sites had been taken down.  Several of the hits were satirical, so that may have been the origin.

In any case, it is only fair to point out that, while it’s not inconceivable that Marian Robinson may be practicing some form of voodoo or santeria or whatever, we know her son-in-law is definitely a practicing New Ager.

Let’s not forget that Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer in the White House.  George H. W. Bush’s “nickname” in Skull & Bones (the secret society at Yale that has produced  a disproportionate number of presidents, Supreme Court Justices and other highly influential Americans) was “Magog.”

Let’s remember: most of the “Founding Fathers” were members of the Freemasons.  The Freemasons adopt the Gnostic belief that there were two Gods in the old Testament, embodied in what “modern Scripture Scholars” call the “Elohist source” and the “Yahwehist Source.”

The “modern Scripture scholar” side of it has that there are two parallel narratives in the Old Testament, explaining things like the two “Creation Accounts” and other redundant stories in the Pentateuch, or Chronicles versus Samuel/Kings, etc.  The story goes that one “tradition” likes to refer to God using the Tetragrammaton YHWH, while the other uses the generic Hebrew name for  God, Elohim.  It would be the equivalent of one Greek writer telling a story about “Zeus” while another Greek writer told a parallel but different story about “Theos.”  In any case, some modern Scripture scholars go so far as to say the accoutns, which sometimes differ in God’s “personality,” are talking about two different gods altogether.

The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, similarly believe in a kind of Dualistic reading of the Bible.  In both those religions, Jesus and Satan were brothers.  The Witnesses teach that St. Michael = Jesus. Interestingly, Joseph Smith had Masonic ties. 

I’ve read testimonies from those who’ve been involved in varying degrees with Masonry and the Shriners.  Many think the Shriners are the more “harmless” aspect of the Masons because they do those nice parades and children’s charities and hospitals and stuff, but the Shriners are, in fact, some of the most deeply involved Masons.  Shriners, like all Masons, worship Lucifer.

They exalt the Pyramids, the Tower of Babel, and other ancient “achievements.”  The whole reason they are called Freemasons is that they believe in what man can build without God’s assistance.  This, again is why the Church condemnd freemasonry to begin with: it advocates human achievement without God, human alliance without concern for religious differences, charity without Christ.

Meanwhile, the word Gnosticism, of course, comes from the Greek Gnosis, “knowledge.”  The Gnostics believed there was secret knowledge that a select few could have and the rest of the public remained ignorant.  Of course, a lot of people think that.  Averroneans think that.  Platonists think that.  Atheists like Myers, Dawkins and Hitchens think that. 

What makes Gnosticism different is that the knowledge in question is basically what we now call, collectively, “magic” (although many of the terms we now use as synonymous had different meanings originally).  Gnosticism arose of out Babylonian mystery cults, and, as the ideology moved through the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, it would co-opt the literature and religion of each local culture. 

So the Gnostics also saw the Old Testament as a story of two Gods, and they saw the true “good” God as Lucifer, who was trying to provide humanity with the knowledge that the evil Yahweh was denying.

Our founding fathers were, mostly Masons.  Jefferson expressed the hope that America’s separation of Church and State–which he said should be a “Wall”–would one day lead to everyone being Unitarian.

Many of our national images are masonic.  Most of the monuments in DC are Masonic in design.  The dollar bill has the masonic symbol of the eye at the top of a pyramid on it.

Many Conservatives make a big deal about “in God we Trust” on our money.  I don’t.   The God the money is referring to is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Blessed Trinity.  The God it is referring to is the God of Masonry. 

Now, let’s get to the whole New Age Thing: Oprah, Deepak Chopra and all the other gurus love him.

I’ve cited those quotes many times here.  Obama sees Jesus as “one of many” great religious leaders. He says his idea of heaven is tucking his daughters in.  He says his idea of prayer is silently thinking about how to solve a problem.

His religious view is centered on him. It’s amorphous.  He is a Christian, by his own admission, only in a kind of a cultural African American way, but he has “problems” with many Christian teachings. 

Long story short, it doesn’t really matter whether the Freemasons are one united group taking over the world or just a bunch of people who share simiarlly flawed beliefs, or a bunch of groups of people who are not united but share similarly flawed beliefs.  It also doesn’t matter if all presidents have been specifically members of the Masons, though they all come from similar backgrounds.  It is more realistic to acknowledge that there are multiple behind-the-scenes power structures manipulating American politics.

But, from the political side, representative democracy is a sham, and, from the religious side, we have a system which encourages ambitious people to pursue power ambitiously, and that leads directly down, to borrow  a phrase, “The path to the Dark Side.”  Satan is the prince of this world.  Yes, Jesus won the battle on the Cross.  Yes, God is in control.  But Jesus still makes it clear who the Enemy is, and that the Enemy has the reigns as far as this world goes, that the Kingdom of God, in this life, only exists in the heart of the individual believer.

I don’t believe a good person has any hope of political advancement in our society, and I believe a few near-exceptions to the rule prove it.  You may manage to get a cable TV talk show, or a seat in the House, or a state-level positoin.  Some good people may even get into advisory or cabinet level jobs.  But a good Senator is hard to find (Santorum anyone?  Brownback?) and a good president or Supreme Court Justice is harder (Scalia?)

You don’t obtain that kind of power from nothing unless you’re either 100% saintly (and that would preclude pursuit of worldly power) or else you’re working for the one who grants worldly power. 

We don’t need rumors about Marian Robinson and Santeria to tell us that.

Commonweal Respects Jimmy Carter more than Pope Benedict XVI

That’s the real story in this piece about how former mediocre president Jimmy Carter has severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention (apparently for the second time) over complaints about the SBC’s “treatement” of women and gays, and the liberal commentors on Commonweal’s blog agree with each other that the Catholic Church is also guilty of such sins against “equality.”

The question is: who sets the standard? 

As I’ve noted before, C. S. Lewis said the challenge of the modern Christian was dealing with subjectivism.  The traditional approach of Christian missionaries was to appeal to the sense of guilt people already had, and the sense of the supernatural they already had, and to show that a) Jesus was the reality, and b) Jesus offers forgiveness.

Lewis said we need a new approach to evangelization to deal with those who don’t believe in the supernatural and don’t believe they need to be saved from their sins.

Now, postmodernism offers a whole other problem: an inverted natural law.  The situatoin is more like Chesterton’s dictum that tolerance is the virtue of the man with no convictions.  The New Natural Law inverts secondary principles of the old Natural Law to the judgement of the greater ones: so Equality, and Tolerance, and “Dignity” (but a fales dignity) are the standards by which even religions are to be judged.

But where do those standards come from?

Liberals like Carter and the Commonweal staff and readership take these principles for granted: but how do they justify those principles?

Abomination

Last year, I blogged about how the new parish hall at St. Peter Catholic Church in Columbia, SC, was being named in honor of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who was both raised in the parish and a former pastor.

Here is a hallway in the halL:Hall at Bernardin Center
There’s no cry room in the parish, but we parents take our fussy kids out to the hall during Mass. Down the hall of the hall is a rather nice wall of different crosses and crucifixes, which makes a nice spot to take the kids. You can try to at least get them to adore the crosses and get some prayer time yourself.
Side view of wall of crucifixes
At least until one particular cross, in the center of the display, catches your eye.
Contextualized Buddhist Cross
Yes, that’s right. There, on the wall of a Catholic parish building, is a Buddhist Yin Yang symbol in the shape of a cross!
Another view of the Buddhist Cross
Just in case you weren’t certain:
Buddhist Cross

“I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods besides me.”
“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.” (Psalm 115).

Are there Two Catholic Churches?

My latest encounter with the “post Vatican II”  Catholics over at Vox Nova, in conjunctoin with watching a film on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, has me wondering of , in the end, Averroes was right.

Averroes, whose Arabic name was Abū ‘l-Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Rushd, was one ot the great est Muslim philosophers in history. He is known in the West because of his commentaries on Aristotle. 

Now, what’s interesting is that Aristotle’s science contradicts the Bible: far more than modern science  does.  Aristotle, for example, said the Universe was eternal.   The ancient Christians just threw Aristotle by the wayside, and one wonders, given the history of the West since the 12th Century, if that wasn’t the better way to go.

Anyway, Averroes developed a solution to the faith/science debate that has been adopted by many over the years.  And while Averroes is regarded as an Aristotelian, his explanation of how to reconcile science and religion is straight out of Plato–and Aldous Huxley.

Plato, in the Republic, teaches an idea called the “noble lie.”  He says that government creates religion as a way to keep the people mollified, and that while the “philosopheer kings” should know the truth of how the universe works, the Noble Lie of religion is a way to keep the masses in check.

So, Averroes says there is a truth of Philosophy and a truth of Religion, and that Religion is just a way of teaching Philosophy to the people.  The scholars can know the truth, because they have the knowledge to handle it, but it’s OK for the people to believe the religious version of truth.

It is also the basic idea taught by Gnosticism.  It’s what “Gnosticism” means: that there is hidden knowledge reserved to the Elite.

There is a persistent attittude among the liberals who graduate from modern Catholic universities which mirrors this.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been told in my life that I need to get a theology degree to overcome my overly simplistic view of Catholicism.

I have always taken solace in the saints, especially the mystics and mendicants.  They have a simple, Gospel-based faith, and try to live it.  They try to live radical poverty, and embrace sufferinng, and adore the Eucharist, and practice spiritual growth.

And in return they get rejected by the authoriities of the Church, who tell them they’re not practicing “prudence” and they’re being unrealistic and not acknowledging how the world really works.

And then you read someone saying that the Church”permits certian pious language” among the laity but generally thinks completely differently.

And it’s all very confusing.  One wonders if there are really two “Churches,” and whether that has always been the case.  I mean, it’s obvious that there are and always have been many sinners in the hierarchy, but that’s not what I mean.

I mean that, when traditionalists speak of cabals of Freemasons at the Vatican, manipulating the Holy Father and tthe Curia, that’s not just true now, or a hundred years ago, but since before the “Freemasons” existed in name.

I mean whether the Vatican really is like the  World Controllers in Brave New World, or like Plato’s philosopher-kings, telling all of us a “noble lie.”

I used to think that claim made no sense because there was no profit motive in it.  Now, knowing the lies that  have been perpetrated by the likes of Fr. Maciel, Cardinal Bernardin and Archbishop Weakland, knowing the vast extent of the Scandal, wondering how many “false accusations” in the history of the Church have been genuine, I’m quite troubled.