‘The Exorcist’ — Taking incarnate evil seriously for 40 years

In the middle of a New York Magazine dialogue on heaven and hell, damnation and salvation, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia offered this theological zinger: "I even believe in the Devil."The Devil is a major player in the Gospels and faithful Catholics know that, he said, before adding: "Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history."The principalities and powers of elite America were shocked, shocked by his confession. But one veteran Hollywood scribe pounded out a … [Read more...]

That Superman debate: Moses or the Messiah?

Without a doubt, it's one of the most famous and magical incantations in American pop culture."Look, up in the sky!""It's a bird!""It's a plane!"The last line in this mass-media chant is, of course: "It's Superman!"However, whenever a major product is released in the Superman canon -- such as "Man of Steel," which grossed $113 million on its first weekend -- many fan boys and scribes will immediately begin arguing about two other potential identities, symbolically speaking, … [Read more...]

Columbine, Newtown and our culture of death

Blame it on the guns.No, blame the judges who banned Godtalk in schools, along with most lessons about right and wrong.No, our lousy national mental health care system caused this hellish bloodbath.No, the problem is the decay of American families, with workaholic parents chained to their desks while their children grow up in suburban cocoons with too much time on their hands.No, it's Hollywood's fault. How can children tell the difference between fantasy and reality when they've been … [Read more...]

Golf as religion, spiritual discipline

If golf is a religion, then the smell of freshly mown Bermuda grass is the incense that drifts through its rituals.For golfers this is the smell of "eternal hope" that they can start over, according to the stressed-out young pro whose story drives the novel "Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days in Utopia," by sports psychologist David Cook."Each time a golfer steps to the first tee surrounded by this tantalizing fragrance he stands at even par," muses Luke Chisholm. "We all own par on the first … [Read more...]

Angels and Damon (and free will)

When searching for big ideas, a Hollywood screenwriter can't dig any deeper than "The Epic of Gilgamesh."This collection of Sumerian legends is at least 4,000 years old and is among the world's earliest known stories. Yet this Urak king wrestles with questions that haunt heroes today. Am I free? Am I doomed? Can I fight my fate?At a key moment, the "woman of the vine" tells the king: "You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him … [Read more...]

Patricia Neal and her angels

After her destructive affairs with married men, after the death of her first child, after an accident left her infant son brain-damaged, after the near-fatal strokes that struck months after her 1964 Oscar win for "Hud," actress Patricia Neal faced yet another personal crisis that left her on the verge of collapse.While her marriage to British writer Roald Dahl, the author of children's classics such as "James and Giant Peach," had long been troubled, Neal was shattered when she learned he was … [Read more...]

‘Lost’ in the eternal lite

When describing the mysterious concept called purgatory, the Catechism of the Catholic Church starts with the basics."All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," the text states. "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification. ... The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts … [Read more...]

God, movies and cancer

Hollywood bean counters have started calling them "God films."The typical faith-based indie has a tiny budget and most of the actors are amateurs or second stringers from television. It doesn't take much money to promote one because churches are eager to hold pre-release screenings that fire up clergy and volunteers to spread the word -- on foot and online.Southern Baptist entrepreneurs in Georgia made the pro-marriage drama "Fireproof" for $500,000 and it grossed $40 million at the box … [Read more...]


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