Hollywood’s explicitly Christian movie

We saw Les Miserables, which has to be the most explicitly Christian film that I have seen come out of contemporary Hollywood.  There are more meaningful unembarrassed references–in dialogue, songs, and plot elements–to God, Jesus, salvation, grace, prayer, and Heaven than in most of the overtly Christian productions that I have seen lately.

The ex-convict Jean Valjean has received the forgiveness of Jesus, thanks to a priest who shows him an inexplicable grace.  In response to that forgiveness, Valjean lives a life of sacrificial service to others.  His good works are a direct fruit of the Gospel.

Inspector Javert speaks of God also, but, as he says of himself, “I am of the Law.”  He is all about personal righteousness, justice, and salvation by works.  He does not believe that sinners can or should be forgiven.

This all gets caught up in the wretched state of French society and with a revolutionary movement, led by idealistic students.  (This is not to be confused with the French Revolution of 1789.  France had several successful and unsuccessful revolutions in the 19th century.)  But pay special attention to the words of that final song.

The movie is intense and very moving.  It’s a musical, not just in the sense of  big musical numbers (though there are those) but in the sense of an opera, with virtually all of the dialog being sung.  The film is realistically shot–the battle at the barricade is tremendous–but that doesn’t necessarily go with the stylized singing.  I think it works better on the stage.  So see the movie, see the play, and, above all, read Victor Hugo’s novel, one of the greatest in literary history.

My prediction has already come true

On January 1, one week ago, I predicted in our annual exercise that someone would propose amending the Constitution to allow Barack Obama to serve a third term.   It has already happened:

Democratic New York Rep. Jose Serrano reintroduced a bill in Congress Friday to repeal the 22nd Amendment, which places term limits on the U.S. presidency.

The bill, which has been referred to committee, would allow Barack President Obama to become the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to seek a third term in office.

H.J. Res. 15 proposes “an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.”

via New York congressman introduces bill to abolish presidential term limits | The Daily Caller.

Penn State and collective guilt

The governor of Pennsylvania is suing the NCAA for its harsh punishment of Penn State, hitting the entire university because of Coach Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of children:

Pennsylvania’s governor, in a challenge to the NCAA’s powers, claimed in a lawsuit Wednesday that college sports’ governing body overstepped its authority and ”piled on” when it penalized Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

Gov. Tom Corbett asked that a federal judge throw out the sanctions, which include an unprecedented $60 million fine and a four-year ban on bowl games, arguing that the measures have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky’s crimes.

”A handful of top NCAA officials simply inserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police under their own bylaws and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system,” Corbett said at a news conference.

The case, filed under federal antitrust law, could define just how far the NCAA’s authority extends. Up to now, the federal courts have allowed the organization broad powers to protect the integrity of college athletics.

In a statement, the NCAA said the lawsuit has no merit and called it an ”affront” to Sandusky’s victims.

Penn State said it had no role in the lawsuit. In fact, it agreed not to sue as part of the deal with the NCAA accepting the sanctions, which were imposed in July after an investigation found that football coach Joe Paterno and other top officials hushed up sexual-abuse allegations against Sandusky, a former member of Paterno’s staff, for more than a decade for fear of bad publicity.

The penalties include a cut in the number of football scholarships the university can award and a rewriting of the record books to erase 14 years of victories under Paterno, who was fired when the scandal broke in 2011 and died of lung cancer a short time later.

via Pa. governor sues NCAA over Penn State sanctions – Yahoo! Sports.

Here is an example of ascribing collective guilt.  Sandusky is certainly guilty, as are other coaches and administrators who overlooked and covered up his crimes.  But how far does that guilt extend?  Does it make sense to punish the entire university?  Does it make sense to void 14 years worth of victories, erasing them as if they never happened, even though none of the players who won those victories had any involvement in the scandal?  Or is the crime of Sandusky tied to the culture of the school, to its very football tradition, to the attitudes of the students, alumni, administration, faculty, and staff so that the whole institution has a collective guilt?

HT:  Trey

What tolerance entails

Mollie Hemingway has a piece in the Wall Street Journal about the difficulty of giving away a $20 million piece of property due to a New England town’s hatred of evangelicals:

Unable to maintain its 217-acre campus and 43 buildings, the board of Northfield Mount Hermon [a prep school founded by evangelist Dwight L. Moody but since turned secular] tried to sell the campus for $20 million in 2005. With no takers and prohibitive annual upkeep costs, the school sold the property to the Green family of Oklahoma City, owners of the Hobby Lobby craft stores, for $100,000.

The Greens planned to give the property to the C.S. Lewis Foundation to launch a college with a Great Books curriculum. But the foundation’s fundraising fell short by the end of 2011 and the Greens began soliciting new proposals. The family does insist that whoever ultimately takes over the school promote Christianity in “the tradition of Moody.” That has people in Northfield worried about how well the new neighbors will fit in culturally.

More than 100 interested Christian groups toured the campus this year. When word got out that the contenders included Liberty University, founded by the fundamentalist Rev. Jerry Falwell, some school alumni launched a petition drive arguing that Liberty was a “homophobic and intellectually narrow institution” that would be “fundamentally incompatible” with the prep school’s principles. Some residents of Northfield, home to 128 alumni and 60 employees of the school, held meetings to fight the transfer of the property to Liberty.

After Liberty was ruled out by the Green family, residents continued to worry. In April, at a meeting of the Northfield Campus Collaborative—established by the Northfield Board of Selectmen to improve communication between interested parties—resident Bruce Kahn “brought up the ‘elephant in the room’ which was the concern that an extremist Christian campus might polarize and upset the peace and tranquility of the town,” according to meeting minutes. Resident Ted Thornton said it is a paradox that “we consider ourselves tolerant but we won’t tolerate intolerance.” . . .

By June, Mr. Pattengale narrowed down the finalists to Grand Canyon University and the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. Residents expressed concern about both Southern Baptist doctrines and the impact of the 5,000 students that Grand Canyon proposed to bring to Northfield.

In September, the Green family named Grand Canyon as the recipient of the campus. But five weeks later Grand Canyon walked away from the gift, citing millions in unanticipated infrastructure, environmental and other costs. Mr. Pattengale has said there is another candidate with the means to operate the campus, but “it’s hard to get excited” because the mystery school is as big and conservative as Liberty University.

At another public meeting earlier this year—one that included questions about the contenders’ views on creation and same-sex marriage—a Northfield resident argued that “the religious tradition of the area welcomes people of many faiths, belief or nonbelief. There is potential conflict with those who follow more restrictive teachings.”

Tolerance has to do precisely with how you treat people you disagree with and people you don’t like.  If someone has no problem with a particular group, that person is not practicing tolerance, since tolerance is not necessary.  It isn’t that liberals are tolerant and conservatives are not.  Someone from either side can practice the virtue of tolerance or the vice of intolerance.  The good people of Northfield may have valid reasons for not wanting a college in their community, but they shouldn’t at the same time pat themselves on their own backs about how tolerant they are.  Evidently, they are not tolerant of creationists or those who don’t believe in same sex marriage.  They certainly do not welcome “people of many faiths, belief, or nonbelief,”  when they seek to keep out adherents of a particular religion.  (Well, “many” is not “all,” but not many religions other than liberal Protestants are fine with gay marriage, if that is one shibboleth being used.  Are Roman Catholics allowed in Northfield?  How about Muslims?  If so, on what grounds are evangelical Christians excluded?)  To use the ever-expanding phrase about not discriminating according to “race, color, or creed” and add to that “sexual orientation, gender, national origin, religion, age, marital status, or disability,” these folks are without a doubt discriminating on the basis of “creed.”

 

HT:  Trey

New global religion statistics

A new study, entitled The Global Religious Landscape,  from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, has found, among other interesting facts, that Christianity has become fairly evenly distributed around the world.  The Asia and Pacific regions contain most of the other world religions, as well as most of the religiously unaffiliated.

Christians are the world’s largest religious group and are nearly evenly dispersed globally, according to a new Pew study on the size, geographic distribution and median ages of the world’s major religious groups.

Of the world’s 6.9 billion people, 2.2 billion or 32 percent are Christians, Pew reported Dec. 18. While only 12 percent of Christians live in North America, the vast majority of Christians, 99 percent, live outside the Middle East-North Africa region where Christianity began.

Apart from North America, Christians are geographically dispersed, with 26 percent in Europe, 24 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 24 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 13 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, the study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found, based on 2010 data.

Researchers did not study the degree to which people actively practice their faiths, but relied on the subjects’ self-identification of their religious affiliation. . . .

The majority of the world’s other religions lives in the Asia-Pacific region, including nearly all Buddhists and Hindus, and most Muslims and the religiously unaffiliated, researchers found. While 58.8 percent of the world’s population lives in the Asia-Pacific region, it is home to 99 percent of Hindus and Buddhists, 62 percent of Muslims and 76 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

Pew reported that the world’s population includes 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, nearly 500 million Buddhists, 400 million adherents of various folk and traditional religions, 58 million adherents the study confined to the category of “other,” comprised of many religions including Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Wicca.

A plurality of the world’s 14 million Jewish people, 44 percent, live in North America, while 41 percent live in the Middle East and North Africa, nearly all of them in Israel, the study found.

In the U.S., 78 percent, or 243,060,000 of the country’s 310,390,000 people are Christian, the study found. The U.S. also has 50,980,000 religiously unaffiliated, 5,690,000 Jewish people, 3,570,000 Buddhists, 2,770,000 Muslims, 1,790,000 Hindus, 630,000 adherents to folk religions and 1,900,000 affiliated with other religions. . . .

Globally, about half of all Christians are Catholic. An estimated 37 percent of Christians are Protestant, including Anglican, independent and nondenominational churches. The Orthodox Communion, including the Greek and Russian Orthodox, make up 12 percent of Christians.

Researchers categorized Christian Scientists, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as “viewing themselves as Christian,” and computed them as comprising about 1 percent of the global Christian population.

Most of the world’s population, 5.8 billion or 84 percent, affiliates with a particular religion, leaving 1.6 billion, or 16 percent, with no religious affiliation, the study found. But many with no religious affiliation hold religious or spiritual beliefs, such as a belief in God or a universal spirit, while not identifying with a particular religion.

via Baptist Press – Christians most populous, Pew research affirms – News with a Christian Perspective.

“A person must not be identified by their sexual orientation”

A New York archbishop shut down a “gay mass” that was held regularly in a SoHo church.  His explanation why there must not be a distinct worship service for homosexuals–the one mass is for everyone–makes a further interesting point about human identity:

First among the principles of pastoral care is the innate dignity of every person and the respect in which they must be held. Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation. The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life.

Comments David Mills:

That “must not be identified by their sexual orientation,” for example, also means “must not identify themselves by their sexual orientation,” which is to say, must not assume they can or must act upon their desires.

You are not first a homosexual, the archdiocese is saying to the people who attended that Mass. You are first and primarily a human being, and therefore someone called to chastity, and the proper expressions of your sexuality are defined and limited and do not include homosexual practice. Being homosexual is only the personal context in which you are called to be chaste, as being heterosexual is the context for most people. But it is not an identity that brings with it a way of life.

via First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

How does this help to frame the issue of homosexuality and pastoral care to gay people (that is, to human beings with same sex attraction)?  On the other hand, what is distinctly Catholic about this formulation?


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