Posts Tagged ‘Catholics’

Two Movies Worth Seeing

December 10, 2013

Philomena and The Book Thief are examples that show that intelligent, meaningful,  moving,  serious dramatic movies are still being made.

I recommend both of them.

Judy Dench turns in another Oscar worthy performance in Philomena.  Some consider the film anti-Catholic and anti-Republican Party.  I get the anti-Catholic charge, but not the anti-Republican one.  The film does depict the cruel practices of  some nuns many years ago in Catholic convents in Ireland where unwed mothers gave birth to babies that were sold to adoptive parents, but It doesn’t assert that all Catholics are bad, and it does assert that the convents were reformed.  And I just don’t get the anti-Republican charge stemming from a reference to the Reagan administration.  It’s a great film.

The other one, The Book Thief, is a World War II film about what a young German girl who loves books goes through as she risks her freedom by defying the censorship of book-burning Nazis.  It is also about her relationship with a young Jewish man who is being hidden in a cellar to prevent his capture by Nazi’s who would kill him. It is a very well performed and produced piece of cinema. 

So if you’re looking for movies that rely on interesting stories well told instead of special effects and a lot loud explosions,  I think  you will have found them in these two.  


The Rise of the Evangelical Megachurch

April 1, 2013

Photo: Three generations of McMichaels

It’s always good to be with family on special holidays, and I was fortunate to be with my son Rick, grandson Ben, and daughter-in-law Marian this Easter.  She’s not in the pic because she was down in Atlanta’s Mt. Paran Church’s music department getting her french horn ready for the choir and orchestra’s Easter performance.  She plays French horn in the orchestra and Rick and Ben sing in the choir.  I counted 30 in the orchestra Sunday, and the choir had at least 125 singers.  Were they good? Very! Am I biased?  Of course. But, really,  they had a triumphant sound Sunday.

60 is a big crowd at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus where I attend most Sundays.  And the largest UU congregation in Georgia, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, has about 800 members.  The Mt. Paran sanctuary must hold two to three thousand people and it was totally packed for two services Sunday.  I had to park on the top deck of the church’s four-deck parking garage.  The church, I am told, has about 10,000 members.  That’s big, but not as big as Worldchangers International in College Park, Georgia which has a sanctuary that seats more than 8,000 and has 30,000 members, and a controversial pastor named Creflow Dollar, who, according to Wikipedia, owned a $1,000,000 mansion and, among other things, two Rolls Royces, and a private jet.  It appears that evangelical churches, especially the Pentecostal and  Charismatic ones, are attracting more and more  people, as some of the old mainstream traditional churches, that still keep things simple and don’t do  light shows and have 30 piece orchestras and 125 member choirs, are losing them.

According to article in The Knoxville News Sentinal, a sociological study shows “more than half of all American churchgoers now attend the largest 10 percent of churches.” The article also states the number of megachurches has doubled since 2000 and “there are now more than 1,200 of these churches throughout the United States. One in three are in the Southeast.”

And this phenomenon is not just in the United States. For instance, Brazil has the largest concentration of Catholics in the world, but in recent years the church has lost 20 percent of its membership.  It seems that most of that 20 percent have moved to evangelical churches.  The National Catholic Report puts it this way, “Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world at 149 million, loses half a million Catholics every year. Protestants have grown from nine percent of Brazil’s population in 1991 to 15.1 percent (some say as much as 22 percent), while the proportion of Catholics has dropped from 84 percent to 67 percent. In Mexico, 88 percent of a population of 102 million is now Catholic, a decline of 10 percent compared to the mid-20th century.” I heard about an evangelical church being built in Mexico will seat 21,000 people.

Why has this trend happened?  Stay tuned.


Did President Bush Go to War in Iraq Because God Told Him to?

August 24, 2008

  How can President Bush justify preemptive war? How can he answer those who say Iraq does not meet the definition of a “just war?” He doesn’t worry about such things. He doesn’t have to because he is doing what God has told him to do.

  He may not read the newspapers, but he does read religious tracts every morning, and they are basically of the Calvinist tradition, according to Timothy Renick, Director of Religious Studies at Georgia State University. (Normally, that’s his job, but this year he is serving as provost for the school.) Dr. Renick, speaking to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, said that it doesn’t matter that the president has been wrong about his reasons for going to war, because he knows that what he is doing was preordained by God. In other words, though hundreds of thousands, more than 4 thousand of them Americans, are killed or wounded, and 500 billion dollars has been spent, it’s really not important because he is doing God’s work.

Timothy Renick, Ph.D, Georgia State University Director of Religious Studies

Timothy Renick, Ph.D, Georgia State University Director of Religious Studies

  Dr. Renick says there is another very great religious figure, St. Thomas Aquinas, whose words refute the Bush rationale. St. Thomas, considered by many as the greatest Catholic theologian,  predated Calvin by a few hundred years. He thought that God gave man the power to reason and, therefore, he should.  He believed Godly decisions come from reason (and evidence), not from God. That goes against the Calvinist tradition, the tradition that President Bush and many Americans follow.

  Former President Jimmy Carter made the statement at the very beginning of the Iraq war that it was not a “just war.” He was basing that on international law which says that just wars are those that are waged to protect a country after it has been attacked. Preemptive war is not a just war. Iraq is a preemptive war.  St. Thomas addressed the subject of just war. He said, ” A just war is to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished for refusing to make amends for wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

  Now, President Bush could claim that even though he was given the wrong information about weapons of mass destruction, and about Saddam Hussein being involved in 9-11, he still did the right thing because he was acting in God’s behalf. Dr. Renick said St. Thomas did not believe we can be excused for our actions because of sincere mistakes. Ignorance does not excuse doing the wrong thing.

  During the discussion session after Dr. Renick’s speech, I asked Dr. Renick if what he was saying boiled down to President Bush getting us into the Iraq mess because he is a Calvinist instead of a Catholic? His answer didn’t surprise me. I have been accused by college professors before of over-simplifying things. In an effort to make it easy for the public to understand an issue, broadcast news people aim for simplification. However, he went on to say that the Calvinist tradition does tend to exercise a great influence over many Americans, including the president. 

  He went on to explain how St. Thomas also addressed the consensus question. President Bush doesn’t give a fig for it. 75 percent of the American public is opposed to the war in Iraq. That doesn’t matter. The president is doing God’s work and that’s all that matters. Ah, but this great Catholic philospher and theologian says consensus does matter. If people agree on a thing then that is evidence that their reasoning is unified and, and since they are using reason, which God gave them to use, they are being Godly.

  I guess the big question for a lot of us is, how does president Bush know what God wants? I know, I know, if mess happens, then it was preordained  by God and therefore the president was following God’s wishes. After all, didn’t Calvin teach that everything is preordained?  How can you argue with such illogical logic?