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Archive for January, 2015

If you are going to accuse me of anything on the basis of this post’s title, let it be lack of originality (a charge I would gladly accept, as I think originality is overrated): I have chosen to construct my title out of those of not one, but two previously existing works — namely, Clint Eastwood’s recent blockbuster film “American Sniper” and popular Christian apologist C.S. Lewis’ 1940 essay “Why I am not a Pacifist.”

First, the movie.  I won’t go into great detail, other than to say that it is based on the true story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) — hailed as the deadliest shooter in American military history — his experiences in the Iraq War, and his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder upon his return home.

Ben ReedAt the beginning of the film, me meet a young Chris Kyle (Cole Konis), who fights a group of bullies in defense of his younger brother.  Chris’ father, Wayne (Ben Reed), tells his young sons that there are three kinds of people in the world.  Most people, he says, are sheep — that is, people who “prefer to think that evil doesn’t exist in the world.”  And then there are the wolves, who prey on the weak and thrive on violence.  Finally, there are the sheepdogs, the strong who defend the vulnerable against the wolves.

Wayne, a Christian father raising a Christian family, intends for his sons to be the latter.  His goal in this instance is to make sure that Chris was acting as a sheepdog rather than as a wolf.

C.s.lewis3

“C.s.lewis3”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:C.s.lewis3.JPG#/media/File:C.s.lewis3.JPG

It is with that in mind that I cite the following passage from Lewis’ essay (which is published along with a number of others in “The Weight of Glory“):

The relevant intuition [used in support of pacifism] seems to be that (…) helping is good and harming bad.  (…) [T]hat intuition can lead to no action unless it is limited in some way or other.  You cannot do simply good to simply Man; you must do this or that good to this or that man.  (…) [W]hen B is up to mischief against A, you must either do nothing (which disobeys intuition) or you must help one against the other.

Between these two citations — the scene from “American Sniper” and the snippet from “Why I am not a Pacifist” — we can gain a pretty decent understanding of how a Christian can choose to go to war, or use force in any instance.

americansniperposterIt is not my intention to get into a discussion of whether the Iraq War meets Just War criteria, nor whether sniping, as a practice, constitutes a form of just warfare.  But a lot of people tend to make this automatic, knee-jerk assumption that to fight in a war or use any kind of force is ipso facto incompatible with being a faithful Christian.

But, as Lewis and the elder Kyle suggest, part of one’s Christian duty is to defend the weak.  And sometimes, this requires force — on individual, communal, and sometimes even national and international levels.  To be sure, such force should always be as minimal as possible, restraint must be preferred to killing, and the death of a “wolf” should be avoided whenever reasonably possible.  But if we want to issue a wholesale condemnation of all warfare, it should give us pause that the weight of reason, history, and even Christian tradition itself is against us.

Needless to say, I am only scratching the surface of Lewis’ essay.  But since my main intention is a treatment of Eastwood’s film, I think I’ll just encourage you to read it yourself and leave it at that.

As for the movie, more to come.

Photo of C.S. Lewis from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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A recent Salon.com article cited statistics indicating that the greatest Western intellectuals — in both science and philosophy — are leaning more and more in favor of disbelief in God.

Frankly, my first response to this was to recall how God often uses the foolish to shame the wise, revealing to little children what He has “hidden from the wise and the learned” (Mt. 11:25).

But for a fuller treatment of the issue, I refer you to Fr. Robert Barron’s latest video.  He nails it, as always 🙂

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This is from one of my favorite contemporary writers/speakers, Dr. Peter Kreeft.  It’s less than five minutes in length, and well worth your time 🙂

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Well, okay, it was 1990…close, though.

Granted, the video is a bit out there — but the music and lyrics are, in this blogger’s humble opinion, powerful and moving.

This is 80s British electronic band Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” and what we see in it is, I think, an expression of humanity’s universal longing for God.  I am especially struck by these lyrics:

Words are very unnecessary,
They can only do harm.

This reminded me of many of the great mystics of the Catholic spiritual tradition (St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, among others) who have spoken of advanced stages of prayer in which the soul is absorbed in the contemplation of God…an experience that is beyond both words and comprehension.  I was also reminded of the fact that throughout the prayer journey, one seeks to cultivate interior silence so as to be present to God, and to better hear His voice.

Whether they know it or not, this kind of intimacy with God is what all people seek deep in their hearts.

But I’ll get off my “soap box” now.  Enjoy the vid. 🙂

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In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

John_Henry_Newman_circa_1863-Bl. John Henry Newman, from “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine”

Image from Wikipedia — Full Citation:

“John Henry Newman circa 1863” by Not stated – The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman: https://archive.org/stream/a612281201warduoft#page/568/mode/2up. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Henry_Newman_circa_1863.jpg#/media/File:John_Henry_Newman_circa_1863.jpg

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For parts one through three, click here

Remember the “name game” we played in Part 2?  Well, I’ll ask you to grant me just a little further indulgence in this.

frozen_anna_gray_hairI said that the name Elsa was a variant of Elizabeth, hence a connection with St. Elizabeth.  Well, Anna, as I also mentioned, is a variant of the name Hannah.  Hannah, in the Old Testament, is the mother of the prophet Samuel.  As a young woman, her situation is almost identical with that of St. Elizabeth.  Both suffer from barrenness.

But, as with Elizabeth, Hannah is graciously granted a child.

Hence Hannah and Elizabeth are in parallel circumstances in the Bible.  So, in fact, are Anna and Elsa in “Frozen.”

Both, you will recall, bear some mark of the scapegoat — Elsa in her strange powers, Anna in the streak of gray in her hair.  Furthermore, a mutual salvation occurs between them at the end; both are saved from “frozen hearts” (though in different ways).

Hans and ElsaContrast that with Prince Hans, whose way of relating to Elsa (and Anna as well, though in diluted form) shows all of the characteristic signs of scapegoating.  Recall Anna’s comment at the end to the effect that he is the only one with a “frozen heart” in Arendelle.

Original Sin

“Michelangelo Sündenfall” by Michelangelo Buonarroti – http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/Fotos/Eva2.jpgTransferred from de.wikipedia to Commons by Roberta F. using CommonsHelper., 9 September 2007 (original upload date), Original uploader was Nitramtrebla at de.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg#/media/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg

“Frozenness” is very much an effect of the Fall of our first parents.  Consequent upon their initial transgression in the Garden, Adam and Eve’s relationship goes from one of honor and love to one of blame (Gen. 3: 12) and use (Gen. 3: 16).  And of course, blame and use are the sole “stuff” of people’s relationships with their scapegoats.  The latter are blamed for the ills of society, and they are at the same time used for the maintenance of order.

But with “a little bit of love,” as the Trolls would say, this can change.  People go from scapegoats to “fixer-uppers,” and we come to see that in fact “everyone is little bit of a fixer-upper” (emphasis mine).

frozen-happy-endingWe haven’t really spoken much about Elsa’s perspective, so I’ll say this: There are basically two different ways of being that result from the “frozenness” of the Fall, both of which have some foundation in fear and self-preservation.  There is, of course, outright selfishness and ego-assertion, as is the case with scapegoaters.  But there is also the self-centered condition of despair, and this can cause people not only to accept, but to cling to the scapegoat position.

And something like this, unfortunately, happens to Elsa.  She is so discouraged by her “different-ness” that she will not allow herself to be loved…or to love, except in the form of isolating herself against those she fears she may hurt.

Divine_Mercy_(Adolf_Hyla_painting)2007-08-16But Jesus Christ and His angels bring the world this striking message: “Be not afraid.”

Jesus Christ comes to reveal God to us, but He also comes to reveal to us the mystery of the human person.  Consider the Holy Wounds in His hands, feet, and side; He enters into our woundedness, and shines the light of divine mercy upon it.

Thus the God-Man makes it possible for us to see two things: 1) We are all wounded, all “marked” in some way…not just a few isolated “scapegoats”; 2) We do not need to be afraid of this.  God is love and mercy itself, and by His grace, we can find hope and healing — and this will often come through touching others in their woundedness, and making ourselves vulnerable to them in ours.

In her own way, Princess Anna got that…and so should we.

Another way of saying “to end something” is to “let it go,” correct?  I think I’ll let this commentary go with “Let It Go”:

Divine Mercy image from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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