Film Freak: God’s Not Dead 2

notdead2A few years back, I reviewed the Pure Flix movie God’s Not Dead. I was not too happy with it, and at the time I was unaware that there was going to be a sequel, much less two. I believe that all three of these movies are terrible tools for evangelization. Now that Pure Flix has actually made a “franchise” out of this trilogy, I have decided I should go back and review the other two movies.

Although this movie is billed as  a sequel, it really has very little to do with the first movie. This time our main protagonist is not Josh Wheaton, but a high school teacher named Grace Westley. Josh is only mentioned in passing. Like the previous movie, this one has several different arcs, although much fewer and more tightly connected. The ones that don’t carry over now seem even more unnecessary than they were in the previous movie. If they weren’t going to carry over, why even have them in the first place?

Our story begins when Grace is talking with her class about Martin Luther King Jr. (coincidentally, it’s also the namesake of the school) When Brooke, a student she’s been consoling since the death of her brother, asks her about King’s own beliefs as a Christian, Grace affirms this. While this is going on, we see several students taking out their cell phones and texting to others, implying disbelief that a teacher would dare to bring up Jesus.

Brooke’s parents are outraged and even decide to get the ACLU to help them. This is one of my biggest problems with the movie. Despite what the right-wing propaganda people who made this movie want you to think, the ACLU is not some evil organization manned by atheists to persecute Christians. While they have brought cases against Christians (such as the infamous cases where bakers are sued because they refuse to bake cakes for same-sex marriages), the ACLU has actually helped Christians in many cases to defend their beliefs.  The whole name is AMERICAN Civil Liberties Union. I used to believe they were the enemy myself, but ever since I left the “right-wing” Christian mentality, I have reexamined my beliefs and learned that they are in fact an organization that helps ALL Americans, not just those who attack Christians. If you want proof of cases where they have assisted Christians, here’s a link! Yet every time we see their lawyer, he just can’t stop making evil glares and smiles. It’s a wonder we don’t see the lawyer rip a puppy’s head off the way they want us to know THIS IS THE BAD GUY!

Continue reading “Film Freak: God’s Not Dead 2”

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One Faith, Many Paths: Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC

schneider

This month as part of my interview series, I have chosen Patheos contributor Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, who lives in Rockview, Maryland. His blog at Patheos is called “Through Catholic Lenses” and he just joined my Autistic Christians group on Facebook.

1. What was your childhood like? Are you a lifelong Catholic or a convert?

My family was very loving. Today, other than myself in religious life, my other siblings have chosen to live on the same street as mom and dad, next door or few houses down. I was a bit quirky and nerdy in that after school, I would prefer to come home and read a book about dinosaurs than go play sports a lot of the time. I was sometimes teased and usually excluded from the “cool” friend-groups at school, but I didn’t really care much as I have always worked more on internal than external motivation. I am a cradle Catholic, although I did have a lot of doubts and questions around middle and high school.

2. Were you diagnosed as a child or adult? What was your reaction?

I was diagnosed in my 30’s, as a Catholic priest. During the drive home, I was somewhat devastated. I wondered if my whole life was a farce or if I would have been better off staying in computer engineering, which was my major before entering religious life. However, as I read up on autism, all of a sudden so many things I never understood became clear. Imagine being in your 30’s and thinking everyone consciously analyzed social situations only to read that non-autistic people do this subconsciously.  I count it now as a blessing because being diagnosed allowed me to resolve a lot of things and set myself up for ministries I’d excel at rather than trying to repeatedly in ministries not so suited to someone on the spectrum.

3. What made you decide to become a priest?

To me it was not so much deciding but feeling called. I had thought vaguely about it as a possibility from when I came back from doubting the faith in high school, but didn’t think too much of it. Aptitude tests, interests, and a job to support a family all focused around computer engineering, so I felt fine there. Then listening to John Paul II in February 2001, something clicked  when he said “Be not afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.” From that moment, something clicked in my mind and I knew God was calling me.

4. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

I exist, therefore a power able to make me exist must exist; nothing can make something exist from nothing but God; I am not nothing, therefore, God exists. I have experienced the love of God personally. Beyond that, many works explain it. I find that The Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft and Taceli has a good rundown of many arguments, although The Christian Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas Etienne Gilson has a few key arguments far more in-depth.

5. What is your favorite biblical passage and why?

When Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus at the empty tomb. To me this is the model of how we often encounter Jesus when we don’t expect him.

6. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus and why?

Mary, for obvious reasons. However, I also like a rather minor character, Ananius. You may not even remember who he is, but he’s the one who goes and helps Paul once he gets to Damascus after his conversion experience. He baptizes him, makes the scales fall from his eyes, and instructs him in Christianity. I always imagine the courage he must have had to go to Saul, who must have been such a persecutor of Christians. Also, he is an otherwise unknown Christian responsible for bringing up possibly the most famous Christian of all time.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC”

“Healing Autism” Book Pulled From Amazon!

We have a victory, everyone!

Years ago, I posted an article about the dangers of the awful MMS “cure” that has been peddled by the Genesis II “church”. The cult has been peddling a book called “Healing Autism” for years on Amazon, and we autistics have been clamoring for them to remove the book from their online catalog. Now today, it finally has happened!

Healing Autism is not based on scientific research. It is not advocating anything that would help an autistic child. Instead, it tells parents to administer MMS, a chemical that is similar to bleach, as an enema. It does NOT cure autism. Read this article for more information.

Not only has this book been removed, but so has Jenny McCarthy’s book on “healing” autism as well. McCarthy is not a scientist. She is an anti-vaccine nutjob who founded Generation Rescue, an organization similar to Autism Speaks. Both organizations claim that vaccines cause autism, despite a multitude of research to the contrary. Why has this book been removed as well? Not only because advocates have protested, but also because these phony claims have caused measles outbreaks to resurface. Before this, we thought measles and mumps were a thing of the past. But phony research is endangering children. Some kids have shown their parents that they are actually smarter than their own parents, though.

This is a victory for autism advocacy everywhere. We have saved lives with our actions. Now all we have to do is get the church the justice they so richly deserve.

Notre Dame Cathedral Aftermath

notre dameWhen I first heard about the Notre Dame Cathedral, I was saddened. You see, I have never been to France. But, I am a native of Louisiana, which has a rich French heritage. Not only that, I have French and Italian ancestry in my blood, so I’ve always had a sort of connection to the country. And of course I’m Catholic. And one of my favorite books is Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. (And I love Les Miserables–the musical anyway. The book is…a chore. A rewarding chore, but still)

Of course, the morning radio around here had a pretty dour attitude about it. The radio station is pretty right-wing, so of course they didn’t believe the official report. They spent more time talking about mounting another attack on Muslims and bombing their mosques than talking about the casualties and damage. I didn’t want to hear that, so I dug around on less politically-motivated news sources so I could get some kind of tally on that. I’m not a vengeful person. When 9/11 happened, my first thought was not “let’s go kill Bin Laden and make them pay!” My first thought was “Oh no! How many people died and how are we gonna find people who actually managed to survive?” I did not even ONCE consider any kind of assault. All that does is make things escalate even more! I prayed for the families of the victims, but I did not let violence enter my mind. And I tried my best to do the same with Notre Dame.

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Jason’s Jukebox: Beastie Boys

There was a time when rap was for black people only. Rappers like Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark were the jokes they deserved to be. But there was one group of white rappers NO ONE laughed at–the Beastie Boys. I thought for my first rap-based discography ranking, I’d look at the first rap group whose album I ever bought. (Note: I’m not counting The Mix-Up because it’s an instrumental album.

licensed 1) Licensed to Ill ***** (1986) This is so different from the rest of the Beastie Boys’s catalog, it’s crazy. It’s still excellent, but don’t expect a repeat on any other album. The album has a very punk rock feel to it, with samples of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The final song, “Time to Get Ill”, gives a sample of what will close the next album, but on a much grander scale. It’s a classic of the 80’s.

Best Tracks: “Rhyming and Stealing”, “Posse In Effect”, “Fight For Your Right To Party”, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” “Slow and Low”, “Time to Get Ill”

boutique 2) Paul’s Boutique *****(1989) A Facebook friend of mine said this album is what would happen if the Beatles’s second album was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, not Please Please Me.  It’s a 180 that no one expected from the boys. Everyone thought they’d do another Licensed, but they came up with a masterpiece of experimentation that they would never be able to duplicate again.

Best tracks: “Shake Your Rump”, “High Plains Drifter”, “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun”, “Shadarack”, “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”

check3) Check Your Head ***1/2(1992) The Beasties returned to playing instruments for this one, and it had very few samples. But even with that approach, which emulated the debut, it was still pretty innovative at the time.

Best Tracks: “Jimmy James”, “Pass the Mic”, “So Whatcha Want”, “Namaste”

ill4) Ill Communication *****(1994) Another album that’s light on the samples but heavy on the instrumentation. This is the second album that hit #1. The album has a much funkier, jazzier feel than the previous ones, and features much more experimentation than Check Your Head. 

Best tracks: “Sure Shot”, “B-Boys Making with the Freak-Freak”, ‘Sabotage”, “Sabrosa”, “Do It”, “Bodhisattva Vow”

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Debunking Lies: The “Trolley Scenario”

Trolley_problem

(Image: A representation of the “train” or “trolley” scenario. A trolley is shown on a track, and there are two sets of victims. If you don’t pull the lever, 4 people die. If you do pull the lever, the trolley switches to the other tracks, and kills the other person who is tied to the tracks instead.)

In the first Toby Maguire Spider-man movie, there is a scene in which the Green Goblin has train cars suspended from a cable, and sadistically asks Spider-man to make a choice. Will he save his girlfriend, or “suffer the children”. The train scenario is based on the same idea. You are standing next to a lever. One track has four people tied down to it. The other has only one person tied to the tracks. If you don’t pull the lever, 4 people die. But if you do pull the lever, only one person dies. The scenario asks this question: would you pull the lever?

I’ve seen atheists use this scenario as a way of saying “gotcha!” to Christians, to show that they can’t always do the right thing. Using the scenario in this way fails to acknowledge a Christian principle known as the “double-effect” principle. I once heard it said that every good is someone else’s evil. We are only guilty of intended sin. If I don’t pull the lever and save those four people, I am not responsible for killing that one person. That’s because I didn’t intend his or her death.

I understand the purpose of these scenarios. They’re a good way to test one’s sense of ethics. But please, don’t use them as a means to mock Christians. From what I read on Wikipedia’s article, that was not the intended purpose.

Jason’s Jukebox: Lenny Kravitz

(Blogger’s note: I have written full reviews of all these albums on Rock Amino.)

When Lenny Kravitz released his album Raise Vibration last year, he said “Thirty years ago, I released Let Love Rule. My message is still the same. But has he really stayed that consistent? Let’s take a look at his discography and rank it from worst to best.

loverule

Let Love Rule (1989) *****

This is an excellent debuts, one of the best I ever heard. It shows us exactly what to expect, with a great mix of rock and funk. This is the only album which had contributions from his former wife Lisa Bonet.

Best tracks: “Let Love Rule”, “Freedom Train”, “Fear”, “Mr. Cab Driver.

mamasaid

Mama Said (1991) ***

This album was recorded with help from Slash and Sean Lennon. By this time, Lisa Bonet had given birth to their daughter Zoe. The album has a more light-rock feel, but it’s not bad. It feels like he’s trying to branch out.

Best Tracks: “Fields of Joy”, “Always on the Run”, “The Difference is Why”, “Stop Dragging Around”, “Flowers For Zoe”

areyou

Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993) *****

This is a consistent rocker, and one of his best-sellers. It’s a real classic from the 90’s and I love it.

Best Tracks: “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, “Believe”, “Heaven Help”, “Black Girl”, “Sister”

circus

Circus (1995) ****

This album was plagued by personal issues, but it doesn’t show. Kravitz and Bonet had divorced, and his mother was sick. Despite this, it’s pretty good.

Best Tracks: “Rock n Roll is Dead”, “Can’t Get you Off Mind”, “God Is Love”, “The Resurrection”

5kravitz

(1998) ***1/2

Lenny Kravitz’s final 90’s album wasn’t well-received by critics, but I actually think it’s pretty good Some great singles, including his iconic cover of  The Guess Who’s “American Woman”.

Best Tracks: “Super Soul Fighter”, “I Belong To You”, “Black Velveteen”, “Fly Away”, “American Woman”

lenny

Lenny (2001) ***

After a slight hiatus, Lenny Kravitz kind of took a dip in quality. This album is all right, but I’ve heard better.

Best Tracks: “Battlefield of Love”, “Yesterday is Gone”, “A Million Miles Away”, “Bank Robber Man”

baptism

Baptism (2004) **

At this time, Lenny Kravitz had wanted to write a straight 70’s funk-inspired album, but bouts of depression took this album in a different direction. In my opinion, this is his worst album.

Best Tracks: “Calling All Angels”, “Where Are We Running”, “Baptized”

Continue reading “Jason’s Jukebox: Lenny Kravitz”