My response to Fr. James Martin

A couple weeks ago, on the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest from New York, tweeted a controversial statement on Twitter. He said that the time is right for women to become priests and invoked the name of St. Mary Magdalene, using her as an example of a woman who was sort of like an apostle. In fact, we Catholics often call her the “apostle to the apostles”. This got him under the ire not only of his fellow clergymen, but also many laypeople who disagreed with him. This is not the first time he’s caused this kid of fervor, but I’m not here to discuss those other times. Let’s just focus on this one.

I disagree with this notion. Now, in a way the Christian religion was indeed started by a woman. When Mary said yes to God and yes to becoming a mother to Jesus, she became, in essence, the first Christian. Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus resurrected after he died on Good Friday. Jesus appointed 12 apostles, all men. If he had wanted to use women, he naturally would’ve appointed either his own mother or Mary Magdalene, as they were both worthy candidates considering their status as models for His followers. But they never were appointed. And it’s not like Jesus didn’t treat women differently from the way Jewish people of his time did. He would address them as he would anyone else, as illustrated when he did not admonish Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, when she sat at his feet when He visited their house. It was considered against Jewish culture for a woman to do such a thing, and yet Jesus did not admonish her.

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My thoughts on God Friended Me

godfriended

CBS has a great show on Sundays after 60 minutes called God Friended Me. The show is created by Greg Berlanti, best know for producing all of the DC Comics TV shows on WB. Since it just got renewed for another season, I’ll give my thoughts on it so far.

First of all, let’s look at the premise. Our protagonist is Miles Fine, a podcaster out of NYC with a show called “The Millennial Prophet”. Despite the title, Miles is actually an atheist. His father, Rev. Andrew Finer, is an Episcopalian priest, and they’ve had an estranged relationship ever since his mother died when he was very young. One day, he receives a friend request from an anonymous source claiming to be God. He thinks it’s a prank at first, but decides to check it out and meets a journalist named Cara, who’s begging for a big break. He decides to help her out, and this starts the show’s mystery. Every week, the anonymous account sends Miles a new person, and he and Cara help that person with whatever crisis he/she is facing. Another character he meets later on is Rakesh Singh, a hacker who tries to discover the account and helps them get past firewalls and such.

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My Favorite Saints: St. Francis of Assisi

francis“Go Francis, and repair my house, which you see is falling into ruin.”–Those were the words St. Francis heard one day while praying in St. Damian’s chapel in Assisi. Words that would inspire him to become the founder of what we know today as the Franciscan Order of friars.

St. Francis was born in Assisi Italy in the late 12th Century (the exact year is unknown, but it is believed to be either 1181 or 1182.) He died there forty-four years later. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. Although he would later denounce it, he lived a rather lavish lifestyle off his father’s status.

When he turned twenty, he fought the Perugians and was taken prisoner. This was when he received a dream that inspired him to take a different path, returning home in 1205. He gave away all his money to a leper and said he was taking “Lady Poverty” as his wife. He gave his clothes to a merchant and fasted among the beggars. His father heard of his actions and thought that he had become a madman. He had him dragged home and beaten, bound and locked in a dark closet. His mother freed him and he sought sanctuary with a priest.  His father searched and found him. He told his father he had denounced his wealthy origin and was now in service to his Heavenly Father. He stripped his garments and gave them to his father, walking away naked. This was to show that he didn’t want to own anything, not even the clothes on his back!

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Pearl: An Interview with a Monster

pearl.jpgIt’s that time again! Time for me to promote another upcoming book by my friend, science fiction and fantasy writer Clay Gilbert. I’ve promoted his books in his Annah series on here before, but now I’m promoting his new series featuring a rather unusual girl named Pearl. How unusual is she? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out! But in the meantime, let’s get to know her a little in this interview I did.

  1. I know you like stories about monsters. Do you have a favorite monster? Why? *chuckles* Matt-he’s my adopted dad–asked me that one time. Gotta be either Frankenstein or the Wolf Man, if you mean classic monsters, but I like Godzilla a lot too. And King Kong. And I know Frankenstein ain’t really the monster’s name, but the name of the doctor. But yeah, Frankenstein’s monster wants to get along with people, but people treat him mean and it makes him mean too. Maybe if I never had father figures like Matt or Dr. Steve back in the lab where I grew up, I woulda been sad and angry and mean to folks like Frankenstein’s monster. I got lucky, I guess.
  2. What’s your favorite food? Hmm, I like food. (looks around) Ya got any? (laughs) Scrambled eggs and bacon’s prob’ly my favorite breakfast food. Hot dogs or pizza prob’ly are my two favorite other foods. Matt–Dad–would say those ain’t very good for me, but I can’t help that. (laugh again) I like pepperonis and green peppers and onions on my pizza. But not anchovies. (in Gollum voice) we HATES anchovies, preciousss.
  3. You were named after a verse from the Bible; the “pearl of great price”. What’s your favorite part of the Bible? Anything with Jesus in it. Specially I liked how he talked about people needing to be like children to enter God’s kingdom.  I think people overlook kids a lot of the time, and don’t give ’em enough credit or treat ’em like real people, and I think it mighta been that way in Jesus’s time, too. I know I ain’t like most other ten-year-old kids, but I still know what it’s like not to be listened to by some folks cause of my age, even though I’m smart. Oops, Dad says that’s braggin’ and folks don’t like people who brag too much. Sorry. But yeah, Jesus loved everybody–loves everybody–and he don’t care what color skin someone’s got, whether it’s dark like mine or light yours, or whether somebody got silver eyes or pointy teeth and nails, or not, so long as they good to people and kind to people.
  4. Do you have any favorite musicians? Any you don’t like? I love Johnny Cash. He prob’ly my favorite of all. Love that song “Wabash Cannonball”. and “Man in Black”. I like Tracy Chapman–she makes of think of me. I like LL Cool J and Tupac, even though it sounds like he had a rough time. Maybe even BECAUSE he sounds like he had a rough life . He got hold of a lot of money, but ‘fore he did, sounds like he went through stuff about as bad as the stuff I seen before Dr. Steve or Dad came along. Different stuff, but just as bad. Ain’t no music I don’t like, not really. There’s some good to all of it.
  5. Have you read Firestarter by Stephen King? Your story seems similar in a way. Yeah I read that. I felt sorry for Charlie, the little girl in the book. She coulda been like any normal little girl, well mostly. Guess I’s kind of jealous of her, too. She could go to a normal school, if folks woulda left her and her Dad alone. My dad couldn’t get me in no normal school, no way. He’s homeschooled me though. I mean, I know I talk like a hick, but I’ve read stuff some kids don’t read till college.

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Film Freak: God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

godsnotdead3.pngGod’s Not Dead is the final movie in the PureFlix trilogy of movies. In addition to this trilogy, they released a movie based on Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ”, and a remake of the “Left Behind” movie starring Nicholas Cage. What I found interesting is that “The Case For Christ” was actually able to tell a story while presenting information from the book, presenting it as an arc. It gave me more hope that this company does know how to tell a story without relying on the persecution complex these movies have.

This movie has a different writer and director from the previous movies. I think the change in director and writer resulted in a better movie. The persecution complex is still there, but less pronounced. There’s only one plot! (But now, this makes the subplots of the other two movies even more irrelevant.)

Our focus is on Pastor Dave, who in my opinion was the only good thing about these movies. He is a flawed character and tries to live his life as an example. He’s the only character who doesn’t quote chapter and verse. The closest thing he says to a theological message is his motto “God is good all the time.” He lives his life the best he can. THIS is the character to build a movie around, not some stupid persecution complex that couldn’t happen in the real world. No more leaving out facts to fit an agenda here, like in the previous movies. We also see Josh Wheton, the protagonist of the first movie, but only for a few scenes.

Here, the plot is more focused on reconciliation. Dave is trying to stop his church from being moved off the evil atheist college. But once he hires his brother as a lawyer, the persecution complex stops! The movie then moves into its new plot: Dave and his brother Adam healing the rift caused by their dysfunctional family. Dave is an atheist, but the movie does not make him the bad guy! He actually does help his brother.

Another thing I can applaud is that there is no easy solution. Adam works out his problems, but he does not easily convert back to Christianity. The movie actually understands that faith is not that easy. It realizes that sometimes we can’t find the answers, and sometimes we think God doesn’t care. There are no easy solutions in this movie.

It’s far from a perfect movie. As I said, it still harps on its persecution complex for about the first 30 minutes of its run time. But once that’s out of the way, there’s no more preachiness. I have nothing against Christian movies. But I feel we shouldn’t act like we’re being persecuted in a country that has freedom of religion in its Bill of Rights. We shouldn’t be given a covert message to vote for a certain candidate and leave out key information that doesn’t fit an agenda. That’s not how you evangelize. You evangelize by sending God’s actual message, not one muddled with politics.

I’m not done with Pureflix yet. They’ve made a movie out of Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned. When I see that movie, I’ll talk about it here.

 

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!

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

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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.

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