Greydanus on Ebert

Steve puts up a fine little piece on Roger Ebert’s curious Catholic sensibilities and complex relationship to the Faith. I had been going to write something, but I think I’ll let Steve do the heavy lifting. I couldn’t help but like the guy and I hope that his “lock, stock, and barrel” Catholicism (curiously hampered by his professed inability to believe in God) has now been healed.

People who are quick to judge such folk need to reflect on the fact that the heart has reasons the Reason knows nothing of. I’ve known any number of people who simply have no idea how to reconcile the different parts of themselves and are past trying. Racists who will give a black man the shirt off their backs because it’s their Christian duty and still call him “boy”. Catholics who are upstanding members of their parish and who speak bitterly of their hatred of God, but who still do their sacramental duties and perform works of mercy. People who do all they know how to do to love God and who hate their neighbor with an abiding passion. Atheists who weep with longing for God at Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Oskar Schindler, life-saving dirtbag. Simon Peter, Heroic Coward. People are complicated and never cease to amaze me with their contradictions.

May God rest Roger Ebert’s soul through Christ our Lord and give him clarity on that little detail about St. Thomas’ five ways and the fact of His Being. He seems to have lived better than his worst words about God and that is the very essence of eupocrisy, so that’s a hopeful sign. It’s a much better note to go out on than the Pharisee, who lives worse than his best words about God. Better to be the son who says “no” and does his Father’s will, than the one who says “Yes” and does not. Ebert seems to have tried to practice his Faith, though he had mental difficulties holding it. Very mysterious, as people so often are.

Well, I guess I wound up writing about him anyway. :)

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  • Mary Kochan

    I’m sure these are some of the wisest words I will read online today — or any day. Let us who need mercy so badly extend it freely to others. Thanks, Mark.

  • The Next to Last Samurai

    Perhaps Ebert feared to come fully out of the Christian closet, given the professional milieu he moved in. Or perhaps he was merely (?) an enlightened pagan. Either way, I think he was closer to God than people who upbraid the Pope for spending a couple of minutes washing a sick lady’s feet. (I was baptized at 9 and am now 53, so I’ve been kicking around Christendom for a while, and that whole foot fight struck ME as bizarre; how do you think it affected the average spiritually and historically ignorant American who knows nothing about Christians except that we are convinced that “gay marriage” is an oxymoron?)

  • Tamara Horsburgh

    Lovely words Mark !

  • acilius

    He always struck me as someone genuinely interested in other people and in the world around him. Those are unusual qualities for someone whose job is to offer his opinions to every passerby.

  • SDG

    The second paragraph above (“I’ve known any number of people who simply have no idea how to reconcile the different parts of themselves and are past trying…”) is pure gold. Thank you, Mark.

  • sjay

    Good writing by both of you about Ebert.

  • Ellen

    I’ve always loved Ebert’s movie reviews since it was obvious he loved movies. His commentary on the Citizen Kane DVD is a model of how to do a movie commentary. After 2000, he got more than a bit nutty and allowed his hatred of conservatives to show in some truly nasty comments and tweets. I think his movie reviews suffered too.

    I’ll remember him for the wonderful writer and critic he was and forget his meanness. I don’t think that was the real Ebert.

  • JD

    Mark, I’m more than a little scandalized that you choose to honor someone who was not merely mean, but vicious, to those he disagreed with. His comments about Sarah Palin permanently turned me off to him. He was a mean, little man and does not deserve the accolades he is receiving.

    • Tom K.

      You may want to reconsider your words, just in case Jesus wasn’t joking when He said the measure that you measure will be measured unto you and that the sin against the Holy Spirit is not being mean to Sarah Palin.

      • JD

        Tom, that doesn’t mean that we have to lionize someone who was so clearly an example of meanness and hate. Better to say nothing.

        • Mark Shea

          The world is full of people who will fail to hate others to your satisfaction, JD. Learn to cope.

        • Tom K.

          “Better to say nothing.”

          I commend to you your own advice.

    • Mark Shea

      Tough. Refusal to forgive on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part.

  • thed

    I don’t know how many of you have read his recent blog entry (about a month ago) “How I Am a Roman Catholic” – where he says “I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God.” He has only good things to say about the Church, the clergy, the nuns, schools ..

    And then there is the kicker. In the same essay he has this

    “I support freedom of choice. My choice is to not support abortion, except in cases of a clear-cut choice between the lives of the mother and child. A child conceived through incest or rape is innocent and deserves the right to be born.”

    One hundred percent pro-life.