Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category


December 31, 2015


My father was raised as a Catholic. He left the Catholic Church as a young man. I remember when I was growing up, my younger brother once attended a party at a neighbor’s house. My family learned afterwards that he had spoken to a priest at the party. My father become extremely upset when he heard about this. The rest of us couldn’t understand why.

Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe investigation of child sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church. When Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) arrives as the new editor of the Globe, people are afraid he’s going to cut jobs. Instead, he suggests to the paper’s Spotlight investigative team, led by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), that they investigate a case of a local priest who has been accused of molesting a child. In the course of their investigation, they learn that there may be as many as 87 pedophile priests in the city. They eventually learn that Cardinal Law, the head of the archdiocese, has been aware of this for over a decade.

I’ve never been able to share the admiration that some leftists have for Pope Francis. He is part of the system that produces the sort of behavior depicted in this film. It tells us something that the Church’s reaction to the scandal in Boston was to promote Law. At the very least, Law should have removed these pedophiles from the priesthood. Instead, he moved them from one parish to another, knowing that they would likely carry out the same abuses. Even in terms of self-interest, such behavior makes no sense. These pedophile priests cause people to leave the church. They undermine its moral authority. They cause the church to become embroiled in costly lawsuits. The fact that the church leaders can’t see this shows that they are out of touch with reality, let alone common decency.

Gilad Atzmon, Peter Jenkins, and the “Just War”

November 3, 2012

Gilad Atzmon

Dissident Voice, which posts articles by Israel Shamir and Andre Fomine, continues to lower its bar by posting an article by Gilad Atzmon. Entitled Ex-British Envoy Told the Truth (for a change), the article begins:

    Peter Jenkins, Britain’s former representative on the International Atomic Energy Agency, has told the debating union at Warwick University that a “just war” is not a Jewish notion. Jenkins was obviously telling the truth but the Zionist Jewish Chronicle is not happy.

    The retired Foreign Office diplomat, speaking in a debate on nuclear proliferation in Iran, said: “Israelis don’t practise an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, they practise ten eyes for an eye and ten teeth for a tooth.” He also added that “the idea that a just war requires the use of force to be proportionate seems to be a Christian notion and not a Jewish notion.”

So, does Jenkins believe that the Crusades, in which many Jews and Muslims were killed, were a “proportionate use of force” in response to the peaceful Muslim occupation of the Holy Land? Or how about the invasion and conquest of Mexico, done in the name of spreading Christianity? Was it a “proportionate use of force” in response to the mere existence of the Mexican people?

Jenkins’s argument is obviously nonsense – so, of course, Atzmon fully approves of it. Responding to criticism of Jenkins, he writes:

    Yet, I am slightly perplexed, why is telling the truth about Jewish culture anti-Semitic? Is not the Old Testament far more violent than any Quentin Tarantino film?

I can think of many things that are far more violent than a Quentin Tarantino film. Here are just a few: the Mahabharata, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Mabinogion, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. (I’m not kidding about the last. You should read them in the original German, or in a faithful translation.) The authors of the Old Testament certainly weren’t the only people who like to write about violence.

A little later, Atzmon comments:

    I would obviously argue that it is our intellectual duty to call a spade a spade and to criticise Jewish politics and Jewish culture for what they are.

What exactly does Atzmon mean by “Jewish politics”? Noam Chomsky? Norman Finkelstein? Alan Dershowitz? Joseph Lieberman? Binyamin Netanyahu? Amy Goodman? Your guess is as good as mine. Atzmon doesn’t seem aware that the term “Jewish politics” embraces quite a large spectrum of personalities, ranging from Karl Marx to Ayn Rand.

In response to one critic of Jenkins, Atzmon writes:

    Mr Sacerdoti is obviously a Hasbara spin master. He mentions that “this particular view, that Jews do not adhere to the concept of ‘just war’ implies that Jews are by nature bloodthirsty and unjust. I believe any such generalisation about the nature of Jews is racist.” But here is a slight problem, Mr Jenkins didn’t speak about Jews, the people, the ethnicity or the race, he was clearly referring to “Israel”, i.e., The Jewish State and to Jewish culture.

You see, Jenkins wasn’t referring to the Jews; he was actually referring to Jews. (“The Jewish State and Jewish culture” pretty much includes all Jews, does it not?)

Atzmon ends:

    The truth better be said. Mr Jenkins told the truth and actually used a moderate and careful language. I wish the BBC and The Guardian were as courageous as Mr Jenkins. I also do not think Zionist organisations should be the ones who moderate the critical discourse of the Jewish State and Jewish culture.

And, clearly, Atzmon shouldn’t be moderating that discourse either.

Random Thoughts on the Current Troubles

September 15, 2012

The growing inter-connectedness of the world does not always redound to our advantage. Case in point: a cheesy movie made in a strip mall in Monrovia, California, causes riots and the deaths of four people on the other side of the world. We are living in the Global Village, and just as Marshall McLuhan warned, it is filled with “panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence.” Fear increasingly becomes people’s normal state of existence, because they are increasingly bombarded with ideas and facts that they don’t understand or only partially understand.

Reading the comments on threads on other sites, I am struck by how many people have no desire to try to understand what is happening. We have an amazing informational tool in the form of the Internet, yet some people would prefer to use it for spewing hate and parading their ignorance. Sad.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, alias “Sam Bacile” is the auteur responsible for that blood and sand epic, Desert Warrior Innocence of Muslims. Nakoula is a Coptic Christian from Egypt, yet he told the Wall Street Journal that he is an Israeli and that the film was funded by Jewish donors. The kindest thing one cam assume here is that Nakoula wanted to prevent any blame for the film being placed on Egypt’s Coptic community, yet there is something sinister about the fact that Nakoula invented a story about non-existent Jewish donors. One has to question what game Nakoula is really trying to play.

The cast and crew of the film say they were duped, and I believe them. The 14-minuste clip on Youtube is heavily (and badly) dubbed. These people will be haunted by this for the rest of their lives. They were used by Nakoula, Steve Klein, Terry Jones and other right-wing Christians to advance their twisted political agenda.

The Adventures of Tintin

March 9, 2012

In The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg has given us a visually hectic and sometimes confusing film that fails to capture the flavor and charm of Hergé’s comic books. Spielberg crams so much visual busyness into each scene that the story and the characters are sometimes overwhelmed. Although the film is less than two hours long, you weary of it well before the end

Hergé prided himself on his attention to detail, expressed through his clear line style of drawing, yet there is a lack of attention to detail in this film that is annoying at times. When, for example, Tintin and Captain Haddock need to get into a sultan’s palace, they suddenly appear inside without any explanation as to how they got in. Later, when they are chasing bad guys, Captain Haddock pulls out a bazooka, which he inexplicably got off a palace guard. Why would a guard be carrying a bazooka? What’s more, the film appears to take place during the 1930’s, before bazookas were even invented. Another anachronism occurs when Thomson and Thompson are referred to as being members of Interpol, although that agency was referred to as the International Criminal Police (ICP) at the time. And when Bianca Castafiore is introduced to the sultan, she says, “This is my first visit to the Third World.” This line makes no sense on any level, especially since the term “Third World” wasn’t used until the 1950’s.

The film’s ending promises a sequel, but I honestly don’t think that Spielberg should bother. It’s much more fun to read the original Tintin books.

The Way

December 5, 2011

The Way is a film starring Martin Sheen, written and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Thomas Avery (Sheen) learns that his son, Daniel (Estevez), has died in France. He goes to retrieve his son’s remains. There, he learns that Daniel died in a freak storm while trying to cross the Pyrenees as part of the Camino de Santiago, a centuries-old pilgrimage route through northern Spain. It ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which purportedly contains the remains of St. James. While examining his son’s backpack, Thomas is suddenly seized with the idea of walking the route himself while carrying his son’s ashes. He embarks on the journey. Right away he meets a group of eccentric characters: a Dutch gourmand, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), an angry Canadian who smokes a lot named Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), and an annoying Irish writer named Jack (James Nesbitt). The film alternates between scenes of the characters engaging in not quite convincing dialogue and scenes of them walking through the Basque and Spanish countryside with obtrusive pop music blaring away on the soundtrack. (I thought the purpose of going on a pilgrimage was to get away from this sort of thing. I guess not.)

Just as you expect, the characters evolve over time. Thomas becomes less of a dick, Joost becomes less of a hedonist, Sarah becomes less angry and Jack becomes less annoying. Yes, this film will uncomfortably remind you of The Wizard of Oz (which is intentional, by the way), except that in this case the man behind the curtain is never revealed. When the group arrive at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Thomas kneels in front of a silver casket that may or may not contain the remains of St. James. He and the others then look on in awe as a large, porous metal container full of incense is swung back and forth. The significance of this is never explained. Indeed, the significance of the Camino de Santiago is never really explained, except that it is good exercise for people who can afford expensive backpacks, as well as a plane ticket to France.

This film does touch upon issues such as Basque nationalism and prejudice against the Roma. And it does contain breathtaking shots of the Basque and Spanish countryside. All in all, though, I found this movie less interesting than one of those travel documentaries on PBS.

How the Fire Fell

October 15, 2011

In 1902, a man named Edmund Creffield showed up in Corvallis, Oregon. He began to preach a militantly fundamentalist form of Christianity. He quickly attracted a small, but intensely devoted group of followers, most of them women. He named his sect the “Bride of Christ Church”. Rumors started to circulate that Creffield was having sex with his female followers. Creffield eventually announced that Esther Mitchell, who came from one of Corvallis’s most respected families, would become the “Second Mother of Christ”. To make a long story short, Esther’s brother, George, shot Creffield in the back of the head while the latter was walking down a street in Seattle. Although there was no doubt as to whether he did the killing, a jury found George Mitchell not guilty. (This was clearly a case of an “honor killing”.) Later, as George was boarding a train, Esther shot him in the back of the head, exactly as he had shot Creffield.

This story is true. You can read about it here. You can find a more colorful telling here.

Edmund Creffield, while he was serving a prison sentence for adultery.

The Portland-based filmmaker, Edward P. Davee, has written and directed a film based on these events, How the Fire Fell. The film is in black & white, and much of it was shot in Corvallis. There is not much dialogue, although there are numerous scenes of Creffield (Joe Haege) preaching. The film is atmospheric, with lingering shots of forests, fields, and people lost in thought. Some of the imagery is clearly meant to be symbolic. In one scene, for example, while Creffield is preaching to his flock, there is a cutaway shot to flies caught in a spider’s web. Haege is quite good as Creffield. Davee was clearly limited by a very low budget in what he could do, but nevertheless there are some powerful scenes.

I found this film fascinating to watch, though I wish I could have learned more about the characters. Why were they so attracted to Creffield? At the screening I attended, there was a question-and-answer session with Davee and with the film’s director of photography, Scott Ballard. Davee said he wanted to “keep a sense of mystery alive” about the Creffield story. He also said he preferred to tell stories using images rather than dialogue. He expressed no strong feelings either for or against religion. (He said that some of the actors in the film are devout Christians.) Davee did say he found it disturbing that people could blindly follow a leader.

As I watched How the Fire Fell, I was reminded of the undertone of eroticism in many of the practices of evangelical Christian groups. (I remember H.L. Mencken commenting about this in one of his articles.) It may be that Creffield simply crossed a line that other evangelicals (apparently) do not cross.

How the Fire Fell has had a very limited release, mainly being shown at film festivals and at scattered venues in the Pacific Northwest. Let us hope that this film gets the wider audience it deserves.

You can find a trailer for the film here.