I might as well confess…

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I spent a couple of years in denial, thinking I could get away from it. I came up to the mountains, and in doing that got away from the regular temptation. My old roommate, you see, had no qualms about such things and eagerly indulged (still does I think).

I’ve not met many but enough to know that I am one of them, and I think it’s time to admit my reality, come to terms with my own nature, and see what happens next.

I have to confess, after about five years, I am again a subscriber to First Things. It was the Rome Diary that got me. My first issue came yesterday. I find the habits of reading are not lost. Begin with the last section, then to the front, filling in the middle over the weeks. It’s like riding a bike.

I’m still not a Catholic. I just act like one.

The importance of a good religion reporter

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Back in the 90s I was a devoted Newsweek subscriber. This was before the internet was trustworthy and when a couple of hours a week diving into the world’s events was a treasured break. Among the best aspects of Newsweek was its religion coverage. Kenneth Woodward understood religion. He wrote articles on the various topics in a balanced, fair and informative way which helped one understand what was going on even if one did not agree.

A few years ago he was, for reasons unknown to me, relegated to sidebars in Newsweek as one of the editors, Jon Meacham, took to writing the religion articles. The problem was that while Meacham had a distinct interest in religion, it seemed to be the interest of waning faith. There has been a earnest attempt to understand his own perceptions put into print, leaving us with a curious tale of a faith journey downwards. This is fine, and interesting, but not very good journalism as I never read Newsweek to understand the faith issues of the managing editors.

Woodward wrote with more insight than most Christian magazines on Christianity, and wrote with comparable insight on other religions. Take his most recent article on the Koran. In a short essay he sums up precisely what the American public doesn’t realize, and puts the issue into perspective, noting that we cannot use our conception of the Bible in understanding Islam’s devotion to their holy book.

As always, Kenneth Woodward is worth a read, and his presence is sorely missed at Newsweek.


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Star Wars made $50 million on its first day breaking a record. Not surprising. Good reviews, good word of mouth, eager expectation to finally settle the transition from one trilogy to the next all make for success.

It got me to thinking. I was wondering why even though this is the darkest of the movies it will also be the most succesful. Part of me mourned that we as a society like darkness better than light, and are more eager to see sadness than joy.

Then I changed my mind. The fact is that Revenge of the Sith illustrates one of the most brilliant aspects of Christian theology. This movie is great because it not only has a mythology, it depends on an eschatology, a doctrine of “last things”.

We already know the end, and that makes watching the middle more exciting. We know Palpatine will be killed by Anakin, and so we watch Palpatine’s seduction of Anakin with sadness, and with a knowing hope. Things do not get better after this movie. Worlds are destroyed, the wookies are enslaved, a moon becomes a destroyer of worlds, is itself destroyed and rebuilt. Fear takes hold. Between this movie and the next, the galaxy is mired in ruthless dictatorship, where evil becomes the good.

But, there’s the end. And we know the end. We shouldn’t be afraid, we shouldn’t give up hope, we shouldn’t abandon our lives. We should not look around and see chaos, then despair. We should not hear rumblings of evil’s power and become slaves to its control. Fear should not rule, because no matter what it looks like, Luke will grow up, Anakin will destroy Vader and the Emperor, and the universe will be balanced again.

That’s the beauty of Revenge of the Sith. We watch with horror knowing the triumphant end.

I think Paul and some others said that’s the same deal with the Christian faith. The problem is we either forget or do not believe that what will happen will actually happen. We are called to live as though the last movie already came out, even as we watched Revenge of the Sith with Return of the Jedi in our minds.

That’s called having a good eschatology, and it can make the difference between a life lived triumphantly and a life lived fearfully.

Thought for the day

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If you owe God a small coin over some matter, He is not going to accept from you a pearl in its place.

—Isaac of Syria

Star Wars

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Saw Revenge of the Sith last night.

Yeah I know… it was a family thing. Plus, I looove being completely ignorant as to all aspects of new movies, blocking out all spoilers, plot secrets, etc. That can only go on so long after a movie has opened. I drove out at seven in the evening, came home at around four in the morning.

My verdict:

It’s a brilliant movie, though not for the reasons that most movies are called brilliant. Lucas has his flaws, which some obsess over and others wallow in cultural disappointment about. He’s not a modern filmmaker. He goes back to an earlier era in which theme and philosophy are the most important aspects. He taps into a really deep spirituality and concepts of spiritual warfare. And in doing this he really makes the movie not worth defending. Either it resonates or not. Personally, I found it resonating and a very fitting movie to bridge the two trilogies.

Oh, and some folks have tried to make Lucas’ movie into some kind of political statement. I’m fairly sensitive to such things and I think that idea is pure rubbish. We can see in this movie what we want to see, sort of how Christians and Buddhists can both draw spiritual meaning from the religious concepts. Though, I did note that the villains were those who accused the religious conservatives of trying to take over the republic, and in their feigned worry over the limited perspective of the good side of the force opened the way to no end of misery. They spoke of so much worry about the defense of democracy they felt it necessary to limit power to a distinct minority. The dark side hides the truth of the situation in a fog, so that right seem wrong and wrong seems right, embracing ‘the answer’ becomes the very cause of the disaster. Maybe there is a political lesson after all… though not the one most would pick out.

That’s not really the point. The point is to draw together the story and thus give a beginning to A New Hope. This is clearly the story that was in Lucas’ head for about thirty years, and finally is revealed for our examination.

I really did think the movie brilliant, and I don’t say that lightly.

Thought for the Day

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The soul that really loves God and Christ, though it may do ten thousand righteousnesses, esteems itself as having wrought nothing, by reason of its insatiable aspiration after God. Though it should exhaust the body with fastings, with watchings, its attitude towards the virtues is as if it had not yet even begun to labour for them.

—Macarius the Great

Not because one should dismiss the efforts made but because the efforts made are but a small part of the wider voyage. God is infinite, and seeking after God must also be infinite.

Feast Day

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Being that I’m not Catholic I don’t tend to keep up with the feast days set aside for honoring all the various “saints”. March 17 and June 9 are worth remembering, honoring two Irish saints, Patrick and Columba.

Today is worth noting as well, for on this day we honor the memory of St. Brendan. He is often called “Brendan the Navigator” because he liked to get in boats and see where the Wind would take him and his companions. He is best known for the little tale called The Voyage of Brendan in which, according to the story, he went West on the great ocean and found curious islands along the way, possibly even finding the east coast of the United States. Given this was a 6th century voyage, it would make him the first European to see these shores.

The story itself is very interesting and worth a read, combining both spiritual insight and fantastic events. Think C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. For those who are making their own voyage through emptiness and fog for a hoped for landing in the place of peace this is an especially encouraging read.

Politics and the Poor

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David Brooks pens a very good article on the Republican Poor.

For good political fun you can take the survey he mentions for yourself.

I’m a pro-government conservative it seems, and I think this is precisely the group Brooks is discussing.

Most accurate, however, is a not-so-new term that I just discovered precisely defines me and my ilk. I’m a “Crunchy Con“. A die-hard one at that. There’s something a little off-putting about being in a box… but when the box fits as well as it does, one simply has to accept the cardboard container as being perfectly matched.

Happy Pentecost

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My Lord God, the Son was born, and the Son died, and the Son has risen from the grave. He has saved me from my sins, his sacrifice has washed me clean. He came and taught, he came and lived among us, so he knows what it means to be human. Thank you Jesus for your life, for the hope which is found in you.

Now, the Spirit has descended upon us all, giving us power, giving us light, filling us with the source of Life itself. May I not forget this reality, may I not be pulled back into the shadows, may I be who I am, not what I once was.

Fill me Lord, continue to fill me all this day, all this night, for the rest of my days. Fill me so I too can pray and respond in the way you desire. All hope is found in you, all light comes from you. May the God of heaven and earth be praised forevermore! The Spirit has come and Jesus will soon return.

Christ is risen! The Spirit is here!

Praise be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Celebrate in whatever way seems fit the glory of the coming of the Holy Spirit to all who believe.

Have a blessed Pentecost!


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To Sandra Drachester, date unknown

I was delighted too when I heard about the Nobel Prize, thinking as you did that my bongo playing was at last recognised. Imagine my chagrin when I realised that there had been some mistake — they cited some marks I made on paper some 15 years ago — and not one word about percussion technique. I know you share in my disappointment.

–Richard Feynman

The Guardian has published selections from Feynman’s letters as gathered by his daughter. He was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century (and among the most important of all centuries). I don’t honestly know much about him… but these little notes urge me to discover more. Especially the last excerpt. This was a man with a great mind, and seemingly a brilliant soul.