Pope to Mafia: Convert, Hell Awaits You if You Continue on This Road

The first godfather movie was something of a watershed in American culture. 

It wasn’t the first gangster movie. That genre went back to before James Cagney. But The Godfather was different. 

The bad guys were the heroes in The Godfather. That movie and those in the genre which followed it, presented us with an attractive view of an upside-down morality of killing-is-good, selling drugs/women/corruption is just business, and bribery, extortion, arson and theft are “honorable” practices if they are done according to a fictional underworld “code” of conduct. 

Organized crime, which is a chilling concept to begin with, was presented as a good, and the culture that housed it was depicted as a papa-loves-bambinos world of endearing tribal loyalties and oddball but real family values. In fact, almost the only family values movies have consistently shown us in these past 50 years have been in stories about the home lives of the professional serial killers of organized crime. 

The Godfather turned morality on its head by making the baddest of bad guys into good guys. It presented a world where evil was good and good was non-existent.  

Mafia movies have been a staple of American entertainment ever since. The most talented actors, best directors and finest writers have put their incredible abilities to work in the service of creating movies and television that is based on a sympathetic view of the sad, sick world of professional killers, drug pushers and purveyors of prostitution and porn. 

The acting and drama of these shows is so excellent that they are almost hypnotic to watch. There is a compelling draw to these presentations of evil that can entrap people, especially when it is packaged by some of the greatest artistic talents money can buy. Meanwhile, the spiral keeps twisting its way downward, as we find our enjoyment in on-screen depictions of sick and sicker murderers. 

But evil itself, when it steps off the screen and into our lives, is not so lovely or compelling. Murder isn’t entertainment. Buying, selling and otherwise dehumanizing people for money losses its gloss when you look into the eyes of its victims. There is nothing attractive about watching actual corruption, extortion and killing in progress. 

Serial killers are destroyers, not creators. Organized serial killers who kill for money are destruction on a societal scale. 

Pope Francis speaks against the Mafia with the prophetic voice of the Vicar of Christ. Yesterday, at a mass for the families of people who have been murdered by the mafia, he stood at the pulpit and spoke directly to those who are in the mafia. 

He warned mafia members that they can not take their “blood-stained power” and “blood-stained money” with them when they die. He implored them to turn away from the evil they do and convert. Then, he warned them that “hell awaits you if you continue on this road.” 

If Pope Francis told me that I had to change my ways or go to hell, I would change my ways.

It remains to be seen if any of the people who are involved with the mafia allow themselves to hear what the pope has told them and change their ways. The pope set before them life and death. I wonder if any of them will have the courage to chose life. 

At least one government official has voiced concern for the pope’s safety. He fears mafia violence against Pope Francis. But if our Holy Father worries about this, it doesn’t show. I think that’s because he’s already chosen life. He knows that no matter what happens to him, his destination is heaven.

Pope Francis is doing what a shepherd of souls does. He is calling the lost sheep home. 

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God is Not Dead Opens this Weekend

God is not dead opens this weekend.

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What is Bill Maher’s Problem?

 

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 What is Bill Maher’s problem?

Kevin Sorbo, the star of God is Not Dead, responded in the video below to yet another of Bill Maher’s ugly anti-God rants.

In this particular rant, Mr Maher raises the “God is evil” argument, basing it on the movie Noah. I’m going to write a post discussing the “God is evil” argument. But for now, let’s just look at Mr Sorbo and Mr Maher.

Mr Sorbo’s view of Mr Maher’s behavior is worth thinking about. What is behind all this ranting and raving? Is Mr Maher doing it because it attracts an audience and makes money? Or, does he believe it? Even if he believes it, why all the crazy carrying on?

I have never watched Mr Maher’s show. I have seen a quite a few scenes from it on You Tube. Based on that, I would say that he’s also nasty in his treatment of women. In fact, Bill Maher seems to be thoroughly ugly in the way he expresses himself on a number of topics.

But it seems that God is his special hate. In addition to rants like the one on this video, he also made an entire movie attacking God and people of faith. Again, I never saw — and don’t plan to see — the movie. But I have seen a few scenes from it. The pleasure he takes in attacking people of faith is rather striking.

So, what is Bill Maher’s problem? It would seem that, like the professor in the movie, it isn’t so much that he doesn’t believe in God, as that he hates God. He really goes off in this video. It’s as if he’s talking to God directly instead of his audience. Why all this rage about someone he doesn’t believe exists?

I’m sure Mr Maher makes a lot of money attacking God. But I think he probably means most of it. I think he’s as God-obsessed as he appears. I am guessing, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t also as vicious and unpleasant in person as he appears in these clips.

One connected point Mr Sorbo made is something all of us should consider: He doesn’t subscribe to HBO.

We subscribe to a rather expensive cable television package at our house. I honestly don’t know the particulars of this cable package, since my husband set it up and pays the bill for it. If there’s a way for us to dump HBO, we certainly need to do it. If not, we might ought to consider getting rid of the premium channels altogether.

Watching this clip made me wonder if we’re not unintentionally tithing a good bit of our money to support direct attacks on our faith.

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Let There be Light: The Religious Significance of the Big Bang Echo

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My eleven-year-old son put it better than anyone I have ever heard.

Homeschoolers socialize with other homeschoolers. We took our kids to movies together, enrolled them in activities that ranged from classes at the local science museum to participation in swim teams, homeschool soccer leagues and even a homeschool chess club.

We also had picnics, went to movies and other recreational activities.

It was after a homeschool picnic that my son gave me the best description of God’s viewpoint of us that I’ve ever heard.

We were full of food and feeling mellow and we got into a discussion of the first chapter of Genesis. We were all, including the kids, just kicking it around, expressing our own views. One of the homeschooling mothers took an absolutely literal, and, to me at least, narrow and inaccurate, view of the first chapters of Genesis. She believed that God had created the earth (and presumably the whole universe) in six twenty-four hour solar days.

I kept raising the buts inherent in her argument … but 24 hour days are based on how long it takes the earth to turn on its axis, and there was no earth and no sun “in the beginning,”

… but God created time, so in the beginning there was no time …

… but …

She would have none of it. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea that there was once nothing, absolutely nothing, and God created all creation out of this nothingness.

To her, and a lot of other people on both sides of the existence-of-god arguments, the idea of a beginning in which light, time, atoms, the rules of physics — everything, everywhere — simply did not exist was too incomprehensible to bother considering.

My eleven-year-old piped up, “but God created time,” he said. “God is not part of time. When God looks at creation, He doesn’t see a line, going off into the future. He sees a dot.”

My son’s comment didn’t make a ding in our friend’s thinking. It floated past her without engaging one brain cell.

But I was stunned by the simple understanding of an eleven-year-old.

He had said it all.

When scientists taught that the universe always was, they were dodging the obvious. The metaphysical implications in an existence which began from nothing are enormous.

If everything — everything — had a beginning, and that beginning was a sudden something when nothing exploded into all that is, then the question of “What, or Who, did this?” comes shortly after.

I’ve read comments about the discovery of the Big Bang Echo to the effect that the Big Bang Echo debunks the Biblical story of creation once and for all. I assume that by the Biblical story of creation they were referring, not to the Scriptures themselves, but to interpretations of those Scriptures like that of my fellow homeschooler.

The idea that God created the universe in seven 24-hour solar days has so many holes in it, from simple logic, that it won’t stand. If you read the thing literally, really literally, you’ll see that it doesn’t say any such thing. It says “day” and day, used this way, is poetic. It can mean almost any space of time.

The first chapter of Genesis is a poem. Anyone can see that. It’s what it is.

But it also describes, in poetic rather than scientific terms, a reality. God did create the heavens and the earth. He “spoke” existence into existence.

The discovery of the Big Bang echo doesn’t prove that. It doesn’t even address it.

What it does do is let us see it.

As my eleven-year-old son once said, God created time. He is outside time the same way that Henry Ford was outside and not part of the Model T, that I am outside and not part of this blog post. Mr Ford and I both leave our signatures all over our creations. There is an image of us in what we do. But we are not governed by the realities of what we have created. It is governed by us.

God created time just as He created everything else. He is outside of it. I think that when God looks at creation, he sees all of it, all at once, all the time.

When it comes to time, we, who are in it and of it, are like a grasshopper, standing in the middle of an interstate highway. From our vantage point, the highway of time goes on in both directions forever. It has no beginning and no end. But to God, Who is outside of time, the beginning, and the end, are both constantly in view.

That is what it means to be transcendent.

We, who are made in the image and likeness of God, possess the capacity to slowly and painstakingly unravel this mystery of how God did it. From inside our temporal prison, we can, by use of all our wits and by building on one another’s thinking, figure it out.

I believe that’s because we are made for more than this life. Where else did this drive to touch the face of God with our minds come from? What practical purpose does it serve for us to seek and find the echo of the Big Bang from which we came? We are made for more than what we appear to be. Our craving for transcendence is a hunger that we feed but cannot satisfy with the devices of our minds.

What we are hungering for is not the what of existence, but the Who that is behind it.

This Being Who spoke existence into existence, this Word that was there from the beginning, loves us. He left us clues to how He did it scattered throughout creation like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs.

The Big Bang echo is one such crumb. It allows us, for the first time, to see creation as it was created. That is its significance. And its gift.

Science is not the enemy of faith. Ham-handed fools who try to use science to “prove” their personal prejudices can make it seem to be the enemy of faith. Occasional misapprehensions of the partial discoveries we make as we follow the bread crumbs can yield to this hubris and, again, make science seem like the enemy of faith.

But in truth, science is just us, figuring out the creation we’ve been handed.

Science misapplied can be our undoing, both spiritually, and, as we meddle deeper into the building blocks of our existence, physically. We can blow ourselves up or mutate our genes and end ourselves with science. The threat is right in front of us every day we live.

That’s because science is our creation, and as our creation, it is flawed in the ways that we are flawed. It a tool that our tool-making kind has devised to help us understand How He did it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Future Priests Embrace Celibacy

“The priesthood is too serious a call, not to have guys who are 100% committed to what they are doing.”

Amen.

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God is Not Dead, the Movie

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Son of God is still in the theaters. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to go.

It seems that there is more than one Christian movie coming out this Lent. God is Not Dead opens this weekend. We need to support movies like this with our time and our dollars.

I’m going. I hope you will, too.

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21% of Americans Say Religion is ‘Not That Important’ in Their Lives

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According to a poll by NBC/WSJ, 21% of Americans say that religion is “not that important in their lives.”

This isn’t a big surprise. It’s consistent with other polls. The details are pretty much the same as those in previous polls, as well. An NBC news article says that “Less religious Americans are more likely to be men, have an income over $75,000, to live in the northeast” and be under 35.

The only comment I have to make about this is that it’s something to consider as we contemplate how to approach re-converting this culture. Do we start with these “not that importants,” or do we begin elsewhere?

I don’t claim to have a decisive answer. But my personal opinion, based mainly on years of political campaigning, is that we should begin with our own people. I think the first great need for active conversion is to be found in the pews of our own churches.

There are over 1 billion Catholics on this planet, and almost all of us are laity. We are the Church. The need to educate, inspire and lead this laity to an active evangelistic fervor is so obvious that I’m not going to waste the words to substantiate it in this brief post.

I think the place to begin the great work of conversion that is in front of us is our own laity. The question I have is, does the laity have to do the work of converting itself?

We need leadership.

How to Present the Christian Message When the Message is the Medium

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The media is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and now polygamy and polyamory. It is also pushing farming women’s bodies for eggs and using women as pregnancy surrogates.

That is the real-world situation. We need to be aware of it. We need to do what we can to make other Christians aware of it, so that they see it for what it is. But what, beyond that, should we do?

We must learn how to communicate our message in today’s world. We can, you know. We’ve just got to stop bemoaning the situation and start thinking about what we can do.

This video gives a brief discussion of how Christianity has historically communicated its message. That’s a good place to start as we move forward to how we will communicate it in today’s world.

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The Media is Selling Anti-Christian Morality

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Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.”

Our use of the phrase “the media” as shorthand for all journalistic endeavors reflects the truth of that.

This media/”message” is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of marriage.

This video contains a reflection about this situation.

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The Problem with Catechesis Is that It’s Been Found Difficult and Not Tried

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Gilbert Chesterton famously said, “The problem with Christianity is not that it’s been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and not tried.”

If you change the word Christianity for Catechesis, you have a description of the problem with the “unfaithful laity” in many parts of this country, if not the world.

As exhibit A, let me point you toward the mess at Eastside High School in Seattle. This school, which is nominally Catholic, appears to cater to rich little kids and provide them with a full blast of self-actualizing claptrap with a layer of do-gooderism and little c catholicism on top to make them feel good.

When their openly-gay vice principal “married” his partner, the school, in what was probably a stunning display of unexpected fidelity to Church teaching, decided to enforce its school contract and employee guidelines and dismiss him. The student body, which had clearly been catechized more by the vice principal and his supporters than anyone imparting Catholic teaching, reacted by staging a walk out.

Instead of expelling the students for walking out of class, the school pretty much caved on a later problem with another teacher.

Now, for all their what’s-happening-now weak-as-water Catholicism, the school is being sued by said vice principal.

Exhibit B would be the Seattle priest who wrote a column for a national magazine, taking a public stand against the teachings of the Church whose collar he wears.

Exhibit C would be the many Catholic politicians I know whose knowledge of what the Church teaches on issues such as the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage is limited to slogans, and most of them come from the media which is openly hostile to their Church. You can place the parish priests who’ve told them it’s ok to vote against pro life legislation and for gay marriage, even while their bishops are begging them to do the opposite, alongside the politicians on the exhibit table.

What’s wrong with catechesis?

1. It stops at the little-kid-in-Sunday-school level.

2. Despite the fact that most priests are faithful to the Church, nobody with authority in the Church says a word to disagree with those who aren’t. Don’t any of these guys answer to superiors in this hierarchical Church of ours? How, exactly, can the bishops expect the laity to respond to their leadership when their own priests are either ignoring the bishop or flat-out telling their parishioners that their personal ideas trump Church teaching in matters of mortal sin?

3. Nobody seems interested or able to answer the onslaught of attacks from the world at large that the laity is facing. We need leadership, and we’re not getting it. At the very least we need an acknowledgement of what the laity must endure in this post Christian America.

4. Too much catechesis in more liberal parishes preaches a little g social gospel that is almost totally silent on Church teaching about justice. On the other hand, too much catechesis in conservative parishes focuses on sanctity of life and marriage to the exclusion of social issues. Worse, they do this in a political, rather than a moral manner.

The American Church has grown soft. It is no longer the Church Militant. It seems more like the church self-indulgent.

I keep wanting to shake people and paraphrase the line from the movie Aliens, “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but we’ve been getting our rear ends kicked.”

There is no reason to panic or sink into depression because of the recent losses in the courts and at the polls on social issues. We can turn that around. All it takes is the will and determination to do it on the part of the laity. 

That is the key, you know: The laity.

We’ve got the task of changing the world. The clergy has the task of catechizing/inspiring/leading us so that we are equipped to do that. Unfortunately, before the laity can convert the world, the laity itself needs to be converted. Too many Catholics treat Jesus as their cop-out instead of their Lord.

I know that’s a tall order for our priests. I also know that it most decidedly is not what a good many of our men in collars thought they were signing up for when they took their vows. Most of the priests we have today entered a priesthood rolling in automatic respect and trust for their calling which spilled over onto them personally. They saw themselves giving homilies, administering parishes, providing comfort, healing hurts, taking on an occasional pilgrimage and basically doing predictable and rewarding work throughout the long slide to safe and predictable retirement.

What has changed is that they now have to do all those things, with a call to battle heaped on top of it. They must somehow find a way to deal with demoralized and angry parishioners while they play catch up in preparing their people to be strong in their faith in the face of hostility, and learn how to convert a self-dissembling culture.

They’re not up to it. I know that.

But this is the our time. These are our challenges. And the job in front of us is the one the Holy Spirit has chosen for us.

We’ve got to support our priests who are trying to be faithful while learning how to do a whole new job and add it on top the job they already have. As for Catechesis, the parish and diocese which needs it the most are probably also the ones which will mount aggressive resistance to it. When priests try to teach what the Church teaches, parishioners who are also faithful to the Church need to stand by them absolutely, especially in the face of hostility from parishioners who have grown accustomed to the Church teaching what the world teaches.

Catechesis as we’ve been doing it is failing our children, our families, our Church and Our Lord. The evidence is all around us.

That’s the first fact we have to face. The second, which is that we must change our way of doing Catechesis, follows on its heels. Everything after that is detail.

 

 


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