30 June 2008

Dead Or Alive - Who Cares?

I'll probably wait for the DVD, but this is a good review (here the adjective "good" modifies the noun "review;" as to whether the movie itself is any good, read the review).
If slush-brained stylishness is what you crave, Wanted’s got it by the glop. By the time the credits roll, you’ll be jonesing for one of those anxiety pills yourself. Everything on screen seems to be punctuated with exclamation marks. What noise! What flash! What curves! Whatever! Continual bursts of static are necessary, of course, to ensure that your brain remains appropriately gooey throughout. Otherwise you might begin to ask questions — tough questions, like: Why is Morgan Freeman taking orders from a loom? But the film’s pyrotechnical pounding ensures you will not question, only obey. Like a ferocious drill sergeant, it exists to distract you, to pummel you, to weaken your will. Eventually, everyone gives.

The man behind the mayhem is director Timur Bekmambetov. Bekmambetov specializes in adrenal frenzy. Previously he directed Russia’s two biggest films — the ludicrous but thoroughly entertaining Night Watch and Day Watch. He’s a speed freak with a manic streak; by now, his fetishes are clear: sports cars, bullets, trains, and slow-motion — preferably all of them at once. He’s fond of guns too; several of his characters seem to spend more time shooting than speaking (understandable, perhaps; as this is his first English production). Bekmambetov doesn’t care much for the constraints of reality, though. Neither space nor time concern him much; he’s equally apathetic about all four dimensions...

...In the Old West, signs used to read, Wanted: Dead or Alive; the point being that either state is fine. It might do to post those signs in the hallways of theaters showing this film: It clearly doesn’t care about life or death much itself. But then, that’s what sensory-sacking summer blockbusters do — they don’t care, they don’t want to care, and they teach you not to care, either.

Here's the whole thing.
Wanted trailer.

26 June 2008

Angels In The Wilderness

Gilbert Meilaender on the limits of parenting:
There’s an undercurrent to parenthood that makes us uneasy. “Even in the best of circumstances,” we will eventually have to leave our children behind. We will die. However desperately we would like to secure their future, would like all to be well for them, that future will be taken out of our hands—because, for us, it will be no more.

It is, then, no small act when we hand these children over in baptism. In doing so we acknowledge that we cannot guarantee their future. No more than a mother who hands over her child for adoption can we know what the future will hold for them, do anything more to shape it, help them to face it, or deflect the speeding trucks that may be coming.

Perhaps the first thing a genuinely pro-life sensibility needs to recapture is this sense of our own limits. The gift of the child, precisely because it is a gift, is ours to care for but not finally to secure. There had better be angels in the wilderness, who can say to us as to Hagar: “Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad.”
Here's the whole thing, originally in Touchstone, but reprinted in the July 2008 Anglicans for Life News Brief.

23 June 2008

Transfixed By A Sun Ray

A poignant, life-affirming piece from Allen Shawn:

For my sister, Mary, who has lived in a Maryland institution for the mentally retarded since she was 8, there’s no hiding the fact that food is central. When she is eating, food appears to be the focus of her attention. She doesn’t like to be distracted from it by conversations, let alone by dramatic events. In anticipating the birthday lunches my parents planned for her on her yearly two-hour visits to their summer rental in Bronxville, N.Y., to which she was accompanied by an attendant, she would always reel off the menu she was expecting. This meal never varied throughout her teens and remained unchanged as she passed through her 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s: chicken salad, tomatoes, rolls with butter, iced tea, ice cream and cake. Each summer, she would mention the food within moments of arriving. Mary has a way of speaking that can almost be like singing or intoning, with each syllable given enormous weight. This menu always sounded particularly emphatic. During the chicken-salad course, she would mention a few times that ice cream and cake were coming.

Mary is 59. So am I. We are twins. These days, children with the degree of autism, mental retardation and elements of schizophrenia from which she suffers are more likely to live in a group home than to be institutionalized. Indeed, even the notion of “suffering” that I just suggested has come to look a bit suspect, since it implies that it is “best” for a person not to have certain “deficits.” And I am no longer certain that she suffers more than others, only that her distress can be more immediately obvious when it hits her, and harder to comprehend, because limited verbal communication is at the heart of what ails her.

Here's the whole thing.

The Suffering Church

In Iraq:
In Iraq the “surge” is working, but at the same time the Iraqi Christian community is dying. Hardly anyone seems to know, and those who know don’t seem to care. In former times, the violent persecution of Christians in a country effectively under the rule of a Western, Christian power would have been unthinkable. But not, it seems, in the enlightened 21st century.

The names may be complicated. The facts are not. The Chaldo-Assyrians constitute what remains of the original, non-Arab, population of the area. Iraq’s principal Christian communities today belong to the Chaldean (Catholic) Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East. All use Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. Despite successive persecutions and constant pressures, Christianity has continued in Iraq since, according to tradition, it was brought there by St. Thomas the Apostle.

But Christianity now faces extinction. The 1987 census recorded 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Numbers began to drop as conditions deteriorated after the first Gulf War. There were, though, around 800,000 at the time of the U.S-led invasion of 2003. Of these, about half have now left the country altogether, while more than 100,000 are internally displaced persons.

There is no mystery as to why. With other (still smaller) religious minorities, such as Yazidis and Mandaeans, Iraq’s Christians are suffering sustained persecution. While constituting less than 4 percent of the population of Iraq, Christians constitute 40 percent of the refugees leaving the country. Most of these have found refuge in Syria and Jordan, where they are living in utterly degrading conditions. The current rate of Christian exodus is estimated at about 2,000 a day.

Members of all religions have been affected by the violence since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But Christians are in a worse position since they suffer directly because of their Christian faith. Targeted by Islamist extremists, they are confronted by demands to convert, death threats, looting of their homes and businesses, systematic intimidation, abductions for ransom, bombings, and frequently murder. Because Christians are known to be weak they and their property are also prey to gangsterism. Churches and church leaders are particular targets for Islamists. The 65-year-old Chaldean archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was abducted and murdered in March. Numerous priests and deacons have been tortured and shot or beheaded. At least 40 churches have been burnt.

The Iraqi Christian community has disappeared altogether from many areas of the country. Baghdad is rapidly emptying of its once flourishing Christian community, whose members have fled north to the traditional Christian homeland in the towns and villages of the plains of Nineveh. But here too they are hugely vulnerable. The regionally dominant Kurds, with whom relations have historically been bad and occasionally bloody, have little interest in offering protection. The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad is distant, unsympathetic, and has its own interests and problems. Even the relative success of the U.S. surge strategy has brought difficulties for the Christians, because the struggle with al-Qaeda is now focused on the regional centre Mosul, where Christians had hoped to find security. The Christian population itself is unused to bearing arms. It has no militia to defend it. It has no regional protectors. It is subject to pressures of illegal land confiscation and annexation, aimed at pushing it out of its last refuge...
Here's the whole thing.

18 June 2008

It's "Coke" Whence Come I

Important research; click here to enlarge and then click on states to get county by county statistics. Via the Corner.

17 June 2008

Age Serves Youth.

Amy Welborn on the fallacy at the heart of so much youth ministry:

Those of us who work with teens, teach teens or have teens living in our houses think a lot about…teens.

We can’t stop pondering youth ministry and ministry to youth and what to do with the kids and how to keep the kids engaged and excited and connected.

We’re extremely susceptible to Evangelical Envy.

For so long - longer than we might think- we’ve assumed that the most important thing we can give teens is nothing more or less than even more teens.

We want them to be hanging around other teens who share their values. Hoping secretly, perhaps, that the teens involved will have a bit more faith than our teens and so will push our teens to go further and take it all more seriously.

We want them to be immersed in a peer group in which faith is cool and not something to laugh at or scoff at or argue with, incessantly and cynically.

It’s older than CYO, it’s older than Don Bosco. Well, maybe older than Don Bosco.

It just makes sense.

Doesn’t it?

“What I’m looking for,” we might say, “is a good, lively Mass full of teens, for my teen. “

I was sitting at Mass yesterday, thinking about this, when I started wondering, “Do I? Really?”

Instead, I suddenly decided, I want my teen to go to a Mass filled with old people.

I want her to be surrounded by that wisdom and suffering endured and hope maintained...

Here's the whole thing.

16 June 2008

"The Perfect Fifth"

I've been chuckling about this since last week, though it pains me to admit that the French can be funny (on purpose, I mean; they're always good for a laugh in another less charitable sense). Some of the language is inappropriate for a family blog.

It's from a French television show, Kamelott, in which each episode clocks in at less than five minutes. Via the First Things blog.


Mt. St. Michel, by Chad Weckler, via Matthew Lickona.

10 June 2008

Well, Dang.

Last week my wife and I flew to Alaska for the first time. Georgetown University political theorist Patrick Deneen thinks we've also flown to the Alaska for the last time - afraid he might be right.
I've just finished listening to an NPR program, "On Point," the subject of which was the prospect of "the end of cheap airfare," or - to be more blunt - the end of air travel for most of us. Its host was incredulous that they could even be considering the possibility that Americans may have to start thinking about distances in making choices about where they live. He couldn't repeat enough that oil prices were forcing a reconsideration about everything we assume about life as we know it in America. The realization is dawning that we've based a civilization on a fleeting and temporary substance. It is yet to occur to many that what an oil civilization allowed us was the luxury of thoughtlessness. A national seminar is underway, but at the moment many of us are just starting to study, though the lesson started some time ago. And there is no curve.

Noxious Vermin: Their Care, Nurture & Cursing

Returned from vacation to find a mild flea infestation in the house (counterintuitively enough, this is because the dog - who is slathered in pesticide - was also away from home during this time). Here's how we're dealing with the problem:


(mice and rats, locusts, worms, etc.)

The priest vests in surplice and purple stole, and coming to the field or place infested with these creatures, says:

Antiphon: Arise, Lord, help us; and deliver us for your kindness' sake.

Ps 43.1: O God, our ears have heard, our fathers have declared to us.

All: Glory be to the Father.

P: As it was in the beginning.

All Ant.: Arise, Lord, help us; and deliver us for your kindness' sake.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: Lord, heed my prayer.

All: And let my cry be heard by you.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

We entreat you, Lord, be pleased to hear our prayers; and even though we rightly deserve, on account of our sins, this plague of mice (or locusts, worms, etc.), yet mercifully deliver us for your kindness' sake. Let this plague be expelled by your power, and our land and fields be left fertile, so that all it produces redound to your glory and serve our necessities; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.
Let us pray.

Almighty everlasting God, the donor of all good things, and the most merciful pardoner of our sins; before whom all creatures bow down in adoration, those in heaven, on earth, and below the earth; preserve us sinners by your might, that whatever we undertake with trust in your protection may meet with success by your grace. And now as we utter a curse on these noxious pests, may they be cursed by you; as we seek to destroy them, may they be destroyed by you; as we seek to exterminate them, may they be exterminated by you; so that delivered from this plague by your goodness, we may freely offer thanks to your majesty; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

I cast out you noxious vermin, by God + the Father almighty, by Jesus + Christ, His only-begotten Son, and by the Holy + Spirit. May you speedily be banished from our land and fields, lingering here no longer, but passing on to places where you can do no harm. In the name of the almighty God and the entire heavenly court, as well as in the name of the holy Church of God, we pronounce a curse on you, that wherever you go you may be cursed, decreasing from day to day until you are obliterated. Let no remnant of you remain anywhere, except what might be necessary for the welfare and use of mankind. Be pleased to grant our request, you who are coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.

All: Amen.

The places infested are sprinkled with holy water.

From the Rituale Romanum, 1964, via the Shrine of the Holy Whapping.

Call Your Mothers.

Audio lectures via Ancient Faith Radio:

The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius - Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury, Mother Churches?

The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius was hosted by St. Vladimir's Seminary for their conference entitled, "Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury. Mother Churches?" This Fellowship, founded in 1928, exists to work and pray for greater understanding and cooperation between Christians, particularly Anglican and Orthodox. Ancient Faith Radio is pleased to present the lectures given at St. Vladimir's Seminary on June 4-8, 2008. Speakers were:

Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia

Bishop Hilarion (Alfayev) of Vienna and Austria, Russian Orthodox Church

Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy

The Very Reverend Patrick Henry Reardon, Senior Editor, Touchstone Magazine

The Very Reverend John H. Erickson, Professor, St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary

The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, Editor in Chief, First Things Magazine

Igumen Jonah Paffhausen, Abbott of Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco

The Reverend Warren Tanghe, SSC, Chaplain to All Saints' Sister of the Poor Convent

The Reverend Canon J. Robert Wright, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, General Theological Seminary

Thursday June 5, 2008

Play Metropolitan Philip-Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council

Play Bishop Keith Ackerman-Authority:Magisterial, Confessional or Conciliar?

Play Rev. J. Robert Wright (paper read by Fr. Paul Clayton)-Primacy in the Anglican Tradition

Play Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon-Holy Scripture and the Evangelization of America

Friday June 6, 2008

Play Fr. John H. Erickson-Primacy and Primacies in the Orthodox Church

Play Fr. Richard John Neuhaus-Reconciliation Between East and West

Play Bishop Hilarion (Alfayev)-Primacy and Catholicity in the Orthodox Tradition

Play Fr. Warren Tanghe-Primacy, Authority and Communion

Play Panel Discussion - Where Are We So Far?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Play Fellowship announcement by Fr. Stephen Platt and a greeting and remarks from Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury (delivered by Canon Jonathan Goodall from the office of the Archbishop

Play Metropolitan Kallistos-Primacy and the Pope

Play Igumen Jonah Paffhausen-Primacy and Eccesiology