"Theaters are the new Church of the Masses - where people sit huddled in the dark listening to people in the light tell them what it is to be human." -1930's theater critic
Thursday, May 18, 2006
A Psalm of Praise
Okay, so starting today, big-budget blasphemy will be echoing off movie screens all over the world. This is a tragedy. In addition to Othercotting DVC by going to see Over the Hedge this weekend, lets all commit ourselves to raising our voices in praise and reparation. So that when God looks down on the earth, He sees more love than sneering and blasphemy.
I invite all Christians to join me in prayer that the harm of The Da Vinci Code will be mitigated through the mercy of God, and also that our sacrifice of praise will console the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I will exalt you, my God, the King. I will praise your name forever and ever.
Every day I will praise you. I will extol your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised! His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation will commend your works to another, and will declare your mighty acts.
Of the glorious majesty of your honor, of your wondrous works, I will meditate.
Men will speak of the might of your awesome acts. I will declare your greatness.
They will utter the memory of your great goodness, and will sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great loving kindness.
The Lord is good to all. His tender mercies are over all his works.
All your works will give thanks to you, O Lord. Your saints will extol you.
They will speak of the glory of your kingdom, and talk about your power;
to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, the glory of the majesty of his kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Your dominion endures throughout all generations. Yahweh is faithful in all his words, and loving in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all those who are bowed down.
The eyes of all wait for you. You give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and gracious in all his works.
The Lord is near to all those who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear him. He also will hear their cry, and will save them.
Yahweh preserves all those who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord. Let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Hollywood Reporter Chimes In...
Anyway, here are snips from Hollywood Reporter...
Strictly as a movie and ignoring the current swirl of controversy no amount of studio money could ever buy, the Ron Howard-directed film features one of Tom Hanks' more remote, even wooden performances in a role that admittedly demands all the wrong sorts of things from a thriller protagonist; an only slightly more animated performance from his French co-star, Audrey Tautou; and polished Hollywood production values where camera cranes sweep viewers up to God-like points of view and famous locations and deliciously sinister interiors heighten tension where the movie threatens to turn into a historical treatise. The movie really only catches fire after an hour, when Ian McKellen hobbles on the scene as the story's Sphinx-like Sir Leigh Teabing. Here is the one actor having fun with his role and playing a character rather than a piece to a puzzle....
...But the movie is so drenched in dialogue musing over arcane mythological and historical lore and scenes grow so static that even camera movement can't disguise the dramatic inertia...
...The plot is driven not by its characters but by solutions to puzzles, the breaking of codes, interpreting covert references in works of art and a dazzling display of historical knowledge, all of which works terrifically in the novel but puts the brakes to all screen action. Hanks' character is far too reactive and contemplative for a movie action hero, and the cliched nature of those drifting in and out of his orbit hits home with jolting simplicity...
Screen adapter Akiva Goldsman has definitely punched up Brown's third act. He has actually improved on the novel -- at least for those who buy in to the historical controversy that Jesus left behind a royal French bloodline -- by giving the story a broader, more fulfilling payoff than the novel. If one doesn't buy into that controversy, then the story becomes just that much more forced and corrupt. (The final revelation produced a few titters in the first press audience to see the film.)
Howard and Goldsman can't do much, though, with mostly colorless characters designed around idiosyncrasies and weird scholarly talents -- sort of academic X-Men -- rather than flesh-and-blood personalities. No chemistry exists between the hero and heroine, and motivation remains a troubling sore point. Why does the innocent professor flee? Why is Sophie so eager to help? Why is anyone doing what he does when so many characters and subplots turn into red herrings?
One questionable "cinematic" addition to the film are flashbacks to ancient biblical and medieval historical tableaus in the Holy Land and Europe that illustrate Prof. Langdon's continuous lectures on religious history. These look as if some prankster spliced scenes from last year's "Kingdom of Heaven" into the film as a bad joke.
..."Da Vinci" never rises to the level of a guilty pleasure. Too much guilt. Not enough pleasure.
Evil and the banal.
Banality is the mark of Satan's handiwork. He is incapable of contact with the beautiful. It is repugnant to him as are all of the hallmarks of the Divine.
It is necessary for the rejection of Christ in this generation, that they swarm to this movie knowing it is blasphemy AND banal. The crowds didn't scream for Barabbas because he was more charming and good than Christ!
As I have said from the beginning here, this movie is a mass, cultural rejection of Christ and the Church. It would not surprise me if during screenings, members of the audience started stripping off their clothes and having orgies!
P.S. "...but for WALES?"
On heaping coals on one's own head...
--Ian McKellan at DVC press conference today
"People who think things are true might be more dangerous than people who ponder the possibilities that maybe they are and maybe they aren't."
--Tom Hanks, ibid.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Please don't think I'm gloating. I'm just saying...
(Belgian journalist, Chris Craps, after screening The Da Vinci Code at Cannes, 2006)
Daily Variety: "Verbose...Inadequate...Lurid"
Here are snips...
Sitting through all the verbose explanations and speculations about symbols, codes, secret cults, religious history and covert messages in art, it is impossible to believe that, had the novel never existed, such a script would ever have been considered by a Hollywood studio. It's esoteric, heady stuff, made compelling only by the fact that what it's proposing undermines the fundamental tenants of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, and, by extension, Western Civilization for the past 2,000 years.
The irony in the film's inadequacy is that the novel was widely found to be so cinematic. Although pretty dismal as prose, the tome fairly rips along courtesy of a strong story hook, very short chapters that seem like movie scenes, constant movement by the principal characters in a series of conveyances, periodic eruptions of violent action and a compressed 24-hour time frame.
The appearance of its easy adaptability may have been deceptive, however, as what went down easily on the page becomes laborious onscreen...
What one is left with is high-minded lurid material sucked dry by a desperately solemn approach....
Part of the quick deflation is due to a palpable lack of chemistry between Hanks and Tautou, an odd thing in itself given their genial accessibility in many previous roles. Howard, normally a generous director of actors, makes them both look stiff, pasty and inexpressive here in material that provides them little opportunity to express basic human nature... It's a film so overloaded with plot that there's no room for anything else, from emotion to stylistic grace notes.
What a Shock. The Movie Sucks.
Updated: 6:56 p.m. ET May 16, 2006
CANNES, France - “The Da Vinci Code” drew lukewarm praise, shrugs of indifference, some jeering laughter and a few derisive jabs Tuesday from arguably the world’s toughest movie crowd: critics at the Cannes Film Festival.
The year’s most anticipated movie, “The Da Vinci Code” was a generally faithful adaptation of Dan Brown’s monster best seller, spinning a murder thriller that stems from a cover-up of secrets about Christianity’s roots. While readers worldwide devoured the novel, reaction from Cannes critics ranged from mild endorsement of its potboiler suspense to groans of ridicule over its heavy melodrama...
More of Ron Howard Not Acting Defensive
ROME, MAY 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The press office of the Opus Dei Prelature sent this statement to ZENIT on Friday in response to comments by the director of the soon-to-be-released film "The Da Vinci Code."
* * *
On Thursday the Italian press published interviews with Ron Howard, director of "The Da Vinci Code" film. In statements attributed to him, Howard said that "to deny the right to see the film is a fascist act," and also "to tell someone not to go see the film is an act of militancy and militancy generates hatred and violence." The Opus Dei is mentioned several times in these interviews. The phrases seem to refer to recent statements by Church authorities.
I would ask Ron Howard to keep calm and express himself with respect.
It is not wise to lose sight of the reality of the situation: This film is offensive to Christians. Howard represents the aggressor, and Catholics are victims of an offense. The one offended cannot have his last right taken away, which is to express his point of view. It is not the statements of ecclesiastics or the respectful request of Opus Dei -- to include a notice at the beginning of the film that it is a work of fiction -- which generates violence. It is rather the odious, false and unjust portrayals that fuel hatred.
In his statements, Howard also repeats that it is simply a film, an invented story, and that it must not be taken too seriously. But it is not possible to deny the importance of the movies and literature. Fiction influences our way of seeing the world, especially among young people. It is not right not to take it seriously. Artistic creativity certainly needs a climate of freedom, but freedom cannot be separated from responsibility.
Imagine a film that says that Sony was behind the attacks on the Twin Towers, which it promoted because it wanted to destabilize the United States. Or a novel that reveals that Sony paid the gunman who shot the Pope in St. Peter's Square in 1981, because it was opposed to the Holy Father's moral leadership. They are only invented stories. I imagine that Sony, a respectable and serious company, would not be happy to see itself portrayed in this way on the screens, and that it would not be satisfied with an answer such as "Don't worry, it's only fiction, it mustn't be taken too seriously, freedom of expression is sacred."
In any case, those who have taken part in the film's project have no reason to be concerned. Christians will not react with hatred and violence, but with respect and charity, without insults or threats. They can continue to calculate tranquilly the money they will make on the film, because the freedom of financial profit seems to be in fact the only sacred freedom, the only one exempt from all responsibility. They will probably make a lot of money, but they are paying a high price by deteriorating their prestige and reputation.
I hope the controversy of these months will not be sterile but serve to reflect on the relative character of financial profit when high values are involved; on the importance of fiction; on responsibility, which always supports and protects freedom.
The plan of Opus Dei's Communication Office in regard to this case may be found on the Web page www.opusdei.org, which explains in detail its position over these months.
[From] Manuel Sánchez Hurtado, in charge of relations with the international press, at the Opus Dei's press office in Rome
"We have met the enemy. And he is US!"
I am 48 years old, a cradle Catholic, Secular Franciscan and Parish Secretary. I watched your interview on EWTN today and was so grateful to see and hear someone of your intelligence defending our Faith. God bless you!
I have a problem. I believe with my whole heart and soul what you said. I loved your manner and sense of humor, but mostly I loved your knowledge and the way you were able to get your point across. Your common sense is most impressive. My problem is that someone told me that my pastor said in his homily that he was going to see the movie and that everyone should just say to themselves that it is a fiction and that it is fine to go.
So after watching the show you were on this morning I called my pastor to ask if it were true. I told him about the show and some of the statistics I had heard on the news last night about Catholics in France and Canada who believed the book and movie were factual. I think that they said 35% of Catholics in France believed it.
Anyway he said that people were making too much over this movie. I told him that an official from the Vatican had suggested boycotting the movie and he said that everyone who was prohibiting the movie was stupid. I told him that I was going to research it some more and he said, “Let me know what you come up with”.
I fear that anyone who was listening to his homily now thinks that it is okay to go to the film. I enjoy Tom Hanks and Ron Howard but I would never go against a recommendation from a Church official. My biggest problem is that even my heart and common sense tell me not to go to the movie. I did not read the book because I remember when it was hot there was a similar controversy. I know that I have a strong Catholic Faith and I felt akin to your own attitude about the Church.
Will you pray for me and my pastor? God bless him; he can be a very hard nut to crack. Can I go to work tomorrow and tell him it would be wrong to go to the movie?
Your sister in Christ, NB, in PA
Let's all pray for N.B. and her pastor.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
More Fun With the Mailbag
Somebody sent me a funny parody of DVC today in which there is a murder in the Louvre, and carved on the wall are the words, "The Roman Catholic Church is a murderer." And then, all these symbologists come in and try to break the code in that message. LOL!
I've been getting a ton of emails because of the EWTN show. Most of it has been wonderful and full of supportive sentiments from faith-filled folks everywhere who are at their wits end with this culture. Thanks to all of you who wrote (and made it to this blog).
Opening myself to the charge of printing flattery to myself on my own blog - God knows, somebody has to do it! .....JUST KIDDING! - I have to reprint the first part of my favorite message so far....
After seeing you with Raymond Arroyo discussing Dan Brown, I wanted you to know how much you impressed me with your wit and sharp mind.
If I were not age 70 and married, I would fly across the country to court you (assuming you'd be still available). You were marvelous!
This is so much nicer than most of the messages I received after the Christianity Today piece appeared. The mail from that was filled with messages like, "Dear Ms. Assh*le, you are dumb and don't care about evangelism (1 Tm 2:4). You make me so mad because you are so dumb. (Rom 12:7) Who do you think you are because you are dumb. (Lev 27:All of it!) In Christ, Somebody Who is Not As Dumb As You.
Okay, back to WV....
Friday, May 12, 2006
See Barb. Hear Barb.
I will also be on NPR's Day to Day today sometime.
Even the Gamers Are Enraged!
All errors in argument and style have been preserved here as they are the point...
I read your article on video games. While it must obviously make sense in your mind, I'm wondering, what kind of a future do you envision yourself in? I know that from youth, most kids are trained to believe that they'll grow up in the world to become succesfful, tax paying citizens with high paying jobs. However, many people also grow up and realize that the American dream isn't so great.
Your article assumes that playing video games is a waste of time. However, that is only from your perspective. You have now joined the thousands, if not millions, of other people who think the exact same thing. However, you also cannot prove that anything you do is also not a waste of time. Working is obviously not a waste of time, since you need money for food, and food to eat. However, the American leisure time was originally meant for Americans to use to cheer themselves up, not just for getting to know ones "Self". With some obvious exclusions of activities that would otherwise harm onself and others, leisure time was named leisure time necause it is defined as "freedom provided by the cessation of activities; especially : time free from work or duties"
Now, getting to my point, your article is undermining the American ability to choose what they may do during thier leisure time. Not only is this unamerican, it is also irrational.
Of course, since I too am a gamer, you'll probably dismiss this article as spam, or the raving nonesense of a fellow addict. However, I urge you to atleast look at the other side before you bash it, and to bash it sparingly. Otherwise you are no better than a soldier trained to kill, just as you mentioned in your article, sicne you would simply be a writer trained to distort facts.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Tom Hanks Wants Us To Know Movies Don't Matter
Oh wait. No, he said that about The Da Vinci Code. I'm sorry. My bad.
Check. It. Out.
P.S. Tons of interest in the othercott coming from media all over the world. In the last week I have done interviews for The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Times, NPR, ABC World News Tonight, as well as newspapers in Chile, Spain, Australia and the Philippines.
Tomorrow, I will do an interview with AP radio, my usual spot with Relevant radio, and EWTN.
Monday, there will be interviws with CBS Evening News and NBC News.
P.P.S. To the dear Christian brothers and sisters who keep writing me to say that they are horrified that I am opposing "dialogue" (You know, after this has all past, it will be fine with me if I never have to hear that word again!) and evangelization...
For the record: I have never opposed dialoguing about Jesus with non-believers. I think we should be dialoguing all the time. I think we should talk to anyone who comes to us wanting to know the truth about our faith.
What I am opposing is Christians financially supporting blasphemy.
However, I also think it is absurd to send our people into a dialogue for which they are completely unprepared. I suppose my attitude in this is greatly informed by the fact that I am a military historian's daughter. Do I think Christians should try and move out of their theological and historical ignorance? Absolutely. Do I think that most Christians will be sufficiently free from their theological and historical ignorance in time to watch DVC without harm, even after a whirl through a Sony Pictures sponsored promotional web site for the film? What do you think?
Other-cott May 19.
And sacrifice. ("Some demons are only cast out by prayer AND sacrifice."
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
"The work attacks and undermines in a treacherous manner religious knowledge...The author (American Dan Brown) wants to damage faith in the church and in Christ, as perfect God and perfect man...Quite apart from the fact that the book attacks Christ, it also attacks the church, directly accusing it of lying and deceiving the faithful."
Click here for the full article.
Well, good for our Othodox brothers and sisters. IF ONLY the Catholic Church cold get it's act together enough to take a similar stand.
Reprise: Screwtape on Da Vinci Code
Screwtape on The DaVinci Code
by Eric Metaxas
My dear Wormwood,
I trust this finds you as miserable and coarse as ever. I am pleased to take a respite from our usual tutorial and venture into something a bit broader, but vastly instructive for our larger purposes. To wit: I shall today croak a paean of praise to a particular work of middlebrow non-fiction. The genre has been particularly good to us, Wormwood! Do you remember The Passover Plot? Or that excellent hoax by Erich von Daniken, In Search of Ancient Astronauts? You may s now, but in its day even that harebrained rant proved helpful to our cause. As did most of the books on The Bermuda Triangle and “UFO’s”. And don’t get me started on Out on a Limb! Oh, but Wormwood. Those books were mere types and shadows of the one that has in these last days transported me to ecstasies of embarrassing intensity. It is a type of “romantic thriller” (penned by someone under the unwitting tutelage of an old crony of mine from the Sixth Circle); it is titled The DaVinci Code.
I surmised it should be well worth the trouble of familiarising you with it, inasmuch as it contains such a precariously towering heap of our very best non-thinking that it is quite dizzying! It has the genuine potential to mislead, confuse, and vex millions! Indeed the mystical sleight-of-hand involved in shoehorning so many cubic yards of gasbag clichees, shopworn half-truths and straightfaced howlers into a single volume simply beggars belief; and if I didn’t know that the author had had unwitting “help” from my former colleague, the venerable Gallstone, I simply shouldn’t believe it could have been done at all!
Now, Wormwood, before you object to my calling this book “non-fiction”-- since it is technically classified as “fiction”-- let me say that it is essentially non-fiction, at least as far as our purposes are concerned. That’s because it’s principle delight for our side is that in the tacky plastic shell of some below-average “fiction” the book parades as “fact” a veritable phalanx of practical propaganda and disinformation that would make our dear Herr Goebbels (Circle Eight, third spiderhole on the right) jade green with envy! Souls by the boatload are blithely believing almost all of the deliciously corrosive non-facts that are congealed everywhere in it, like flies in bad aspic, and it is that precisely which most recommends this glorious effort as worthy of our dedicated and especial study.
But where to begin in describing to you its myriad delights? First, a brief synopsis of the plot: a museum curator is murdered by a fanatical albino Christian bigot (nice opening, no?); the curator’s granddaughter and an American “symbologist” (don’t ask me, I haven’t the time) try to find the real killer and are launched on a wildly implausible and fantastically cryptical search for the proverbial Holy Grail, all the while chased by angry gendarmes and the aforementioned unhinged albino. In the process they (and the lucky reader) discover that: the Church is murderous and evil; the Bible is a hoax; Jesus is not divine, but merely a married mortal and an earnest proto-feminist (!); there is no such thing as Truth; and oh, yes... is the truest kind of prayer. Can you stand it? A virtuoso performance, no? It’s as if the author’s somehow squeezed all of hell into a walnut shell. And oh, yes, one more historical “fact”: Leonardo DaVinci’s homosexuality was “flamboyant”! Do tell.
But that’s just the irresistible plot, Wormwood. It’s the author’s technique in so many other areas that is particularly worth our attention. For example, there is the manner in which the book seduces its reader with naked flattery, holding out the carrot -- or should I say apple -- of “inside knowledge.” Make note of this, Wormwood; it worked wonders for us in Eden and works for us still. The author trots out the ageless fiddle-faddle about a parallel “reality” beside the “official” one everyone’s been sold. You know, the moth-eaten, bedraggled idea that all of history is a grand “conspiracy” conducted by some hidden elites! But wait, the lucky reader is to be let in on it all, and for the mere price of purchasing this book! He’ll learn the “real” story behind the “official” story that all the other saps have been buying for lo! these many centuries. Heady stuff, eh, Wormwood? Transparent as it might seem to us, this temptation has always been been too great for the humans to bear. They ache to be part of that “inside” group that knows what’s “really” going on, and they fall for it every time. It’s not so different from their craving for gossip or “dirt”; only better, since there isn’t the pesky nuisance of guilt to deal with. They cannot help themselves; they simply swallow it without a thought. That’s the key, Wormwood, for if actual thinking can be prevented, the humans are under our control.
There’s something about a crackpot conspiracy that makes my brown scales twinkle, Wormwood. There’s nothing like a grand conspiracy to twist truth round and round -- until the shape of the thing one ends up with is unrecognizable from that with which one began. I remember when I was young, in an immature display of rakish pique I bewitched an inept sausagemaker such that the next time he applied himself to the sausagemaker’s art he became almost instantly entangled in the entrails with which he was working. That image reoccurs to me now as I recall this great book, Wormwood. You see, this book is that hopelessly intestine-entangled sausagemaker writ large, I tell you! The reader will become snarled in the vile, greasy entrails of its thousand half-truths and will die before he extricates himself! What could be better?
But don’t let’s digress. I was speaking of the employment of flattery. Understand, Wormwood, that the successful devil -- and this devilishly clever author -- well knows his audience, and then tells that audience precisely what it wants to hear. As long as what one puts out is vaguely plausible, they’ll buy it by the yard, and at retail prices! Trust me, Wormwood, these gullible dullards are even likely to thank you for the privelege of being your customer!
I particularly admire the writer’s way of tapping into the widespread disaffection and resentment so many modern women feel toward men. This emotional woundedness is a veritable Mother Lode (pun intended) of destructive possibilities, and it is as profitably mined here as ever it has been. The author winds up his female readers by informing them that they’ve been getting the short end of the stick ever since Eve was kicked out of the garden for her assertive sassiness! History has cheated them! The Church has oppressed them and they deserve better! And he supports this wall of custard with a thousand most excellent pseudo-facts!
Really, Wormwood, the author’s pretense of taking the feminine side of things is extraordinary. For he has cleverly substituted the au courant idea of femininity for the thing itself. According to this version of things we must only know one thing about women, and that is, first and foremost, that they are hideously oppressed. Once alerted to this central fact of their identity throughout all of history, and especially of “Church” history, they’ll believe they needn’t bother about much else.
Revealed to the readers is the “fact” that in the interests of keeping power in the hands of men the Church murdered five million women in the middle ages! Don’t laugh, Wormwood. This author delivers this screaming absurdity with a deadpan that would make Buster Keaton envious. Never mind that it isn’t close to being even one percent true by any conceivable historical standard. The point is that it sounds true, at least to the ever-expanding herd of sheep who are grazing madly upon this ripping, dreamy, peachy excuse for a book! It sounds true and therefore it must be true! Every woman who has been wounded by a man will be vulnerable to this excellent strategem. Whenever and wherever possible, Wormwood, fan this outrage vigorously.
The ersatz “her-story” of the Church’s vicious oppression of women is seasoned with great steaming lumps of balderdash about Nature and “Mother Earth.” It’s a briliant connection. Men and women alike invariably eat it up with a spoon because it gives them a heady sense of being somehow “spiritual” without the annoying necessity of adopting all of those patriarchal “rules”! Never mind, Wormwood, that in this Nature goddess silliness they are worshipping deities that don’t exist! The only thing that matters is that they are not worshiping the deity that does! How we accomplish that doesn’t matter a fig! And if we can give them a sense of their own superiority, a recognition of their sober respect for Mother Earth and against all senseless violence, and against all war and for peace and harmony and tolerance and recycling, well, all the better!
I ought to mention, too, that what passes in this book for perhaps the main “argument” in favor of those pagan goddess religions is that they predate Christianity. Behold the genius of this, Wormwood! It suggests that because pagan goddess worship is older than Christianity it is somehow more pure, closer to the source of “true” spirituality. But where is the logic in this, Wormwood? A horse predates a motorcar, but who would prefer it? Monarchy predates democracy! A joey predates an elderly ‘roo! What of it?? Brilliant!
Before I go on, let me say that I have seen some execrable parodies of this book, my very least favorite being Bring in Da Vinci, Bring in Da Funk, a filthy piece of cant not to be read under any circumstances -- and I mean it, Wormwood. Don’t give me any humbug about how it will help you see how the Enemy thinks and therefore aid you in defeating him. The fact is, my callow dunderhead, that some things have the ability to corrupt the cynical likes even of you. You might well take these corruptions at face value and start having qualms about working against our enemy above, so ixnay on at-thay ook-bay, et it gay? I’m ot-nay oking-jay!
Now then, another extremely admirable facet of this book is the author’s intimate knowledge of his audience’s skyscraping ignorance, which he exploits to devastating effect. One must ever endeavor to capitalize upon ignorance, Wormwood. This is one of the chiefest weapons in our arsenal, and let me observe -- and not without some glee -- that the ignorance of contemporary Western Society in matters of history and theology both, is of an absolutely unprecedented greatness. Never before have so many known so little about so much of great importance.
Ask your average fellow in the street the slightest detail of a daft sitcom of forty years ago and he will move heaven and earth to to supply you with the answer, and then will likely prate on with other similarly inane details -- as if knowing who lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane was his very passport to the Elysian Fields. Ha! But ask him to tell you about the Nicean Council, or ask him what are the Synoptic Gospels and you will suddenly find yourself in the presence of a weatherbeaten cigar store Injun! But then go ahead and ask him who played drums for The Monkees, or the name of that blasted itinerant peddlar on Green Acres and you will think yourself in the presence of a very Voltaire! Our television executives Down Under have been awfully successful!
As I say, this book exploits the ignorance of its readership with an exemplary elan. One particularly daring example claims that the Crusades were principally concerned with gathering and destroying information! This is bold and laughable twaddle, but it fits so nicely into ye olde conspiracy theory -- that the powerful religious hypocrites want to keep the “truth” out of the hands of their powerless subjects. And what do readers of this book know of the Crusades?
Then there’s that double whopper with cheese, about how the Emperor Constantine “invented” Christianity in the fourth century! Never mind that people had been believing it for all those years before it was “invented”. And in the same masterstroke the author undermines the authority of the Bible by declaring that what it contains arrived on a strictly “political” vote. All of those wonderful “Gospels” that didn’t fit with the “patriarchal” version of things were cruelly -- always “cruelly” -- suppressed and rejected; the oppressive messages it now contains were slipped in to fit Constantine’s political agenda! Who among this book’s readers will know that for three centuries most of those same Gospels were already considered a part of the scriptural canon? Who among his doughheaded readers even knows the meaning of the word “canonical”! My nostrils flare in admiration.
And at the creamy center of the story is the swaggeringly wild idea that Mary Magdalene (whom, incidentally, a cousin of mine once possessed briefly, only to be rudely evicted) would have married Our Chief Enemy! Oh, fatuosity! But again, it shrewdly plays into what the reader so wants to believe: that Jesus was not divine, and that all the demands that go along with his divinity may be conveniently ignored. And, perhaps most cunningly, it does not dismiss Jesus entirely, but patronizingly reduces him into a toothless sage, a veritable “nice guy.” Naturaly the author has added that requisite whiff of subversive sexuality. And oh, yes, hold onto your horns, Wormwood: Mary Magdalene is the Holy Grail! You see, her womb... oh, never mind! It’s just too rich!
As singularly brilliant as our colleague is in what concerns us most, the writing is -- alas and alack! -- scandalously slipshod and often pure giggle-fodder. I mean, the detail of a hulking albino ascetic! Named Silas! Silas! I’m wheezing with laughter this minute! Honestly, it’s too much! I’m almost surprised the author simply make him a drooling simpleton named Benji! “Must kill!” The unintentionally comic monkeyshines of this character almost spoiled my appreciation of the work. But again, it’s decidedly not the fictional elements, however ghastly, that matter here, Wormwood! Most readers won’t notice the thick prose or wafer-thin characters anyway. For many of them, paperback “romances” are like mother’s milk! What does matter is passing along cunning and doubt-sowing falsehoods as smoothly as possible. The rest is merely the narrative butter, as it were, that helps the nasty gobbets slide down the gullet all the more easily. But really, Wormwood -- an albino ascetic! Why didn’t he toss in a vicious freckled humpback? Or some cheerful peasants with goiters? I must stop.
Well, Wormwood, there we are. If you can slither past the Early Reader prose and the overcaffeinated, goggle-eyed plot I think you’ll find that you’ve a veritable textbook on your hands, one that will reward you again and again as you stagger forward and downward in mastering the grand and ignorable art of leading souls, one by one, toward a fathomlessly bleak eternity. Cheers.
Your affectionate Uncle,
Eric Metaxas is the author of the much acclaimed Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask), of which Ann. B. Davis (Alice of the Brady Bunch) has said "I'm absolutely smitten with this book!" and which Eric himself calls "Perhaps the best Easter present imaginable! For anyone!! Have you tried amazon.com? My goodness, what are you waiting for?
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Did I mention I was born in NJ?
You're New Jersey!
You don't just live in the suburbs, you define the culture of all
Surburbia. You drive everywhere you go, love to eat at diners, and pretend to have a
garden. While everyone knows that your house was built on a toxic waste dump, you do
your best to hide this information and keep referring to those mythical gardens.
Driving on a road without paying for it was a revolutionary experience you once had
that you still think about all the time. You owe the Mafia so many favors that you're
thinking of renaming yourself Sicily.
Take the State Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
I am working on a script project that is set in West Virginia. It's a comedy. I have done a lot of research, but am still looking for funny or weird or interesting things about West Virginians. Short anecdotes about any quirky regional traits would be most welcome. You know, I need the stuff that doesn't get put in history books. I love this kind of detail in a movie, and I think it serves a huge role in providing the audience Aristotle's "logos" - or smart factor - which makes an entertainment project satisfying for the audience.
By way of example of what kind of details I am looking for, have I mentioned that I am from RI?
Rhode Island, or, as we defensive smallest staters with an inferiority complex like to call our home, "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." Betcha didn;t know that we have the longest official state name. Huh? Huh? Big state louts.
On the "Welcome to RI Signs" that fall along the only highway in the state, all of us RI'ers mentally add in small print, "And keep your little jokes to yourself."
About the highway...A friend once remarked to me that everyone who gives directions in RI always starts with, "So, you get on 95..." and that we should adopt a law that just lets us all stop saying it and assume it.
Oh, and laws, when I was in high school and dedicatedly serving in the RI Model Legislature, I learned that teency tiny RI generally has about 3,000 bills introduced in every three month session of our ridiculous little legislature. Passing laws is a kind of smallest state "We Can Do Important Things" therapy for our people. (Nearly half the laws that are introduced every session are basically to repeal/amend other laws that were passed in prior years.)
How to be an object of complete irrelevance in a RI setting: Be clueless about what makes RI clam chowder (ah, CHOW-duh) RI clam chowder. And if you said "quahogs!" well, shua, this is true, but, my Go-ahd, you ah still a wicket clueless loosah.
I know this because I learned it at the South County Country Fair. And the Kent County Fair. And the Washington County Fair. And the Newport County Country Club Fair..... all of which happened within an forty-five minute drive of my house.
You know you are with RI'ers when you make a reference to "who's in power on the Hill," and they all think you are referring to Sicilian bakery canolli wars.
Power-politics in Rhode Island? Try and imagine a place in which any gathering of more than ten RI'ers becomes a place for politicans to gather in the midst of them. So, our Governor came to my first communion. I met our U.S. Senators probably twenty times in small settings. (And you have no idea the achievement of actually remembering an encounter with Claiborne Pell and John Chafee.) My Bishop came to my junior ring day in high school.
Rhode Island... where the only religious denominations are Catholic, really Catholic, ex-Catholic, and angry ex-Catholic.
Evidence of systemic racism in Rhode Island? That's whenever an Italian applies for a job in Newport.
And then there is Cranston... How can you describe it? A community that is barely five-miles square that has it's own language - which is bizarre even to the rest of RI'ers with their strange dialect.
Anyway, you get the point. I need some regional West Virginia stuff.
P.S. I LOVE being from RI. It's the best place in the world to be.
Poor Ron Howard...
First of all, the guy was so nervous he was talking in endless sentences, very fast and stuttery, telling long boring stories, all while hanging half off his chair. It was very clear that he was trying desperately hard to be light and gay, but his body-language had terrible stress written all over it.
I've seen Ron Howard promoting his movies before, obviously, and I've never seen him this out of sorts. It reminded me of an interview I saw with Tom Hanks last week. Although, Tom is a better actor than Ron, he still couldn't quite hide a studied, tense air of, "If I act like the whole thing is just a silly movie, maybe people won't think I know I made something blasphemous."
Leno pressed Howard a few times about the controversy in the project, and it was clear that there was a script in play in Howard's responses. (paraphrasing the words here for the sense they communicated.) "No, no, there was no real controversy....Everybody is just so excited to see it! The book has lots of fans. LOTS of fans!So, no, there was no real controversy! It's just fun and fluff! Everybody loves this book! LOTS OF FANS! And no REAL controversy! Only have had two wackos ever protest it. Everybody knows this is just good fun! Everything is happy happy. NOPE, NO REAL CONTROVERSY THAT I've SEEN! Just a fun, happy, fun movie!"
At one point when Leno was really pressing the point that some people would find the movie offensive, Ron kind of blew out through his mouth and nose, "Well, what am I a creative woos?" But the audience barely laughed. It was like Chicken Little asking, "What am I a scrawny little bird or something?"
It was strangely painful watching an otherwise nice guy with a guilty conscience basically hoping if he pretends it all isn't bothering him that he will convince all of us and himself too. It was icky and shameful and way too intimate for late-night.
As I was shaking my head watching him crossing and uncrossing his legs, and leaning half-over Leno's desk, I was thnking, "Either a) he believes that he really hasn't done anything to dishonor Christ and attack Christianity, and he is just having a really stressful bad day that is affecting him physically; or b) he knows he has blasphemed Christ, and attacked Christianity, but did it more for the money and not out of hate and so is trying desperately to distance himself from the message of his own work; or else c) He has an axe to grind against Christianity.
I am thinking that b) is the most likely here.
My sense is that Howard is not obtuse enough for a). He knows that the movie is denying Christ's divinity, and appreciates that making that case is a long, long dark way from Main Street, Mayberry.
I also didn't detect evidence of c). We have seen people who really have an axe to grind against the Church so often, and when they get a forum they manifest glee, not nervousness. An example is the Iraqi guy from Lost (can't recall the name now, sorry), who spent his recent fifteen minutes of fame over his role in ABC's Ten Commandments basically accusing Moses of having been a blood-thirsty terrorist. This guy's hatred of Christianity kept gushing out of his mouth in every interview. I kept waiting for him to curl his mustache and laugh evilly. He really had an agenda. This wasn't my sense with Ron Howard last night.
Nope, my sense was that Howard was projecting nothing so much as a guilty conscience. Which is, actually a good thing. It could be a moment of grace for him.
Howard wanted a huge money making blockbuster movie more than anything to move him closer to the Spielberg-type A-list Director gold standard. Howard has had critical success, but not huge box-office success. This also explains why Christians like Tom Hanks are acting in the film and are among those marketing the film. It's just money.
And, of course, people who do things they wouldn't normally do, just because there is a lot of money involved tend to be filled with a sense of loathesomeness and shame. Both of these things cause inordinate stress, which makes people act out, laugh too hard, speak too loudly, act defensive, and crave many, many voices to tell them, "You're okay. You didn't do anything wrong."
And so the folks who are making and selling this movie are needing the movie to open HUGELY so that the hordes of folks who stream through the theaters will be one big affirming chorus for them, of "See, we didn't do anything wrong!!! Could all these people be wrong?!! See?!!"
But then, there will eventually be a quiet Monday morning. Gotta dread that coming.
Let's pray for them.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
From Barb's Mail Bag
Just the devil here. But my eyes don't flash unnaturally.
[Note from Barb: Okay. Taking you at your word here....]
Not wanting to debate either. A copy of your article relating to the Da Vinci Code movie appeared in my email.
I have noticed that the Catholic community, with a few notable exceptions, seems to have circled the wagons and refuses to do a soul searching or acknowledge the somewhat sordid past of the Church.
[NOTE FROM BARB: In truth, I have never met a devout, committed Catholic who does not acknowledge any and all of the real past sins of the Church. We see the surviving of these sins as proof that the Church is real. What merely human institution could survive some of the dreadful humans that have been members of the Church? In every sin of ecclesiastical history I hear the echo of Christ's promise, "MY Church....And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."]
I admit that I read "banned" books.
[NOTE FROM BARB: Huh? Who bans books...except the radical left academic establishment? If your church is banning books you should leave it. And become a Catholic for God's sake!]
I am not afraid of challenging myself and my beliefs, and keeping an open mind.
[NOTE FROM CHESTERTON: Those with open minds tend to leave their brains poured out all over the side-walk....NOTE FROM BARB: When exactly should a mind close on a subject? Ever? How many times does your wife need to tell you she loves you before you close your mind on the subject and believe her?...And honestly, judging from your writing style and arguments here, you should be - if not afraid - a little more careful about the conclusions of your unaided intellect.]
During Jesus' ministry, he did exactly that as well. He upset the status quo. He tried to change the prevailing attitudes, especially the dangers of a politicized Church hierarchy.
[NOTE FROM HEAD-SCRATCHING HISTORIAN: Um, there was no "Church" around for Jesus to try and change. He IS the Church always. He certainly took on the Jewish establishment, but He did it as an observant Jew... NOTE FROM FRANK SHEED: So you are just like Jesus? Well, would you mind making a rabbit, just for confidence sake?]
I would have been one of the people burned at the stake in past history because of your Church and its intolerance.
[NOTE FROM BARB: Wow. So you must be really out there as a Truth Crusading celebrity today? Funny, I haven't heard of you... Did dumb old God make you miss your moment of history? Hate when that happens. You just have to spend your life sulking, I guess.]
Dan Brown wrote a great NOVEL.
[NOTE FROM ANYBODY WHO LIKES GOOD LITERATURE: (Sigh.) Do not pass the fifth grade. Do not collect a high school diploma. Go directly to literature jail.]
During my readings of many books (mainstream and alternative)...
[NOTE FROM BARB: What exactly is an alternative book? Is that a scroll?...Do you mean secular and religious? Populist and scholarly? Historical and fanciful?]
I have found traces of "shenanigans" when it comes to the "TRUTH" as portrayed in the Bible, caused by editorial changes early in the Church's History.
[NOTE FROM ST. JEROME: Then you're smarter than me. But wait, I know me. I'm a friend of mine. You are no me!]
Many of the books I have read are from reputable religious writers, theologians, and professors of Biblical history.
[NOTE FROM JOE DRAGNET: The names here are being left out to protect the reputable.]
No one alive today was there when the writers of the Gospels penned the original version.
[NOTE FROM BARB: Ah, see, the crux. This is not true. For me, God was alive when the writers of the Gospels penned them. It's because He is the same today as yesterday and will be forever that the Gospels will out live both you, writer, and me....Please take two doses of mystery and call a real Biblical scholar in the morning.]
There are obvious errors, not only in historical facts, as well as theological differences and documented tampering, that have made what most people today consider the New Testament a "Novel" as well.
[NOTE FROM BARB: Well, we disagree. But you have to grant that this particular "novel" has had an astounding track record. It has managed to be at the center of billions of peoples' lives for 2,000 years. This "novel" has led millions of people to forsake all else and give their lives completely over to its example of life. That's something that Homer and Shakespeare - as miraculous as they are - cannot claim. So, maybe, just out of respect here, you can call the Gospels "Mr." Novel?]
I believe that searching for truth, and being willing to challenge one's beliefs, is beneficial to all of us.
[NOTE FROM BARB: I believe that arriving at truth is much more beneficial to us all. Although, I will grant that YOUR challenging of your beliefs will be very beneficial for you.... Let it go, brother. You are taking on the Lord of History. He wins. Always.]
All kidding with my mailbag aside, there is an insidious error peeking out from between the lines of the above message that needs the light of day. It's time to talk turkey, fellow Christians.
It has been suggested to me many times in the last year, that the reason some non-Catholic Christians have been so willing to sell DVC for Sony Pictures, and why some pastor types have been cheerily encouraging Christians to see the film with tolerance and a good sense of humor, and why the few angry-dissident Catholics who are shrugging at the film are so pleased to do so, comes down to inner, unrepentant anti-Catholic bigotry. This latent anger against the Catholic Church also explains the weird kind of glee in some non-Catholic Christians who have been "looking forward to the opportunity" that this clearly blasphemous movie represents.
This writer above certainly betrays this kind of sentiment.
One does have to wonder why The Last Temptation of Christ received such a universal anathema from believers, but DVC is something that some of our fellow Christians want us we all to see and brood over.
We need to be very clear here: The Da Vinci Code is much, much worse than The Last Temptation of Christ in the errors that it contains. Last Temptation was wrangling with what being a God-Man really looked like. Da Vinci Code asserts that there was no God in Christianity's God-Man.
Having read the script, one of the things that I found particularly disgusting was the way in which screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (interpreting Dan Brown) continuously sets the Roman Catholic Church up against "true" Christianity. We are led to believe that Jesus wanted Christianity to be something else completely - a goddess cult - but that the "Roman" Catholic Church (why do so many non-Catholics always have to use that "Roman" word like it is some kind of disease?) co-opted the regular-Joe guy, Jesus, and corrupted his merely "happy thoughts" by making him God and creating a subversive political institution around him.
It is worth some serious discussion as to why the Catholic Church - among all Christendom - merits such hatred and persecution from the secular powers that be. Hmmmm... What do you all think?
But anyway, those Christians with anti-Catholic bigotry in their veins who are getting dark jollies out of watching the Catholic Church get trashed in DVC need to take a step back and stop scratching their painful, always inflamed rash - "Hurts so good!" - to feel the real pain of biting off noses to spite faces. As a Catholic friend remarked to me recently, completely dismayed by the warm embrace that DVC has found in some Christians, "They seem to hate the Catholic Church more than they hate blasphemy against Christ." Hard to hear? Definitely.
If the Catholic Church is the red circle in the center of Dan Brown's/Sony Pictures sights, know that the rest of Christendom makes up the rest of the target. In making "the Vatican" the bad guy, DVC goes further and says that this particular villain made up the Bible and the Person of Christ. Do you see how that is a hit on the whole kit and kaboodle of us? It's not subtle, but as a friend of mine likes to say, "Sin makes people crazy." In this case, the sin is anti-Catholic bigotry.
It's just one more sign that this book and now movie are straight from hell that they are causing such division in the Christian community. "By their fruits you shall know them."
P.S. I do not want this post to turn into an internecine battle of Catholic vs. non-Catholic Christians. I do want my non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters to hear the real pain and sorrow that many of us are feeling over what seems by many to underlie support of this film. But please, try and keep the comments fee of anger and prosletyzing.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
If you missed me at Notre Dame...
It's always funny to read articles and see what people heard, as opposed to what I actually said. For example, I'm certain I didn't say that thing about "sorrow" in the beautiful giving the receiver a sense of it's (the sorrow's) hugeness. I said that beauty gives us an experience of happy-sadness, and that the beautiful itself communicates a sense of majesty and hugeness that is humbling for us.
While I did recommend Curious George for little kids, I don't think I said it was an example of "unusual depth"! I'm pretty sure I said it had some cool moments that were surprising in a kids' movie.
But the article does get the basic point I was making about what beauty in movies willlook like. Here's a snip...
Beauty in the film industry is "not cute or easy or nice," she said. It is complex. In addition to having good characters, conflict and visuals, a beautiful film will give viewers the sense that it is complete and that they have learned something.
A beautiful film "gives you something that becomes part of your framework, and you carry it away with you," she said. It is "dark, hard and wonderful" at the same time.
God cares about Hollywood, she said, because it can deliver a paradoxical but beautiful message: that grace and hope can be experienced in the midst of suffering.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
You're A Theory of Justice!
by John Rawls
In the beginning, you lived in a town. The town had many problems!
Rather than moving, you decided to come up with the idea for the best town ever. Going
all the way back to the original position, you created the idea for the best town ever!
Lo and behold, the best town ever looked almost identical to the town you lived in. You
decided to stay in the town. Now you resent people mistaking your refined thought
experiments for "the wall of stupidity" in high school debate
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
"Zeal for Your Name"... Embarrasses Me?
I've been thinking about it ever since.
Of course, God doesn't need us. He didn't need to make us. He didn't need to die for us. He doesn't need us to be with Him forever in heaven. He doesn't need us to protect Him. Jesus is safe from Dan Brown and Sony Pictures.
But don't we get something from defending Jesus? It's not that He needs to glorify His Name, but somehow, we do.
So, in this case, we have a movie that defames the holy name of Jesus. It says He was a sham. He wasn't God. His name is not Emmanuel. It isn't Prince of Peace. It isn't Lord of Lords or King of Kings. The Jesus of Da Vinci Code's name is something between Mr. Mary Magdalen and Mr. Pawn of Satan.
(After all, Sony Picture's Jesus is a pathetic tool in whose name - what was it? - oh yeah, 5,000,000 women have been killed by jealous Christian men....just to name one of the countless crimes the Bible was manufactured to authorize.)
So, for all of us who have sung thousands of times - "Glory to the name of Jesus!" "Worthy is the Name!" "Lord, I lift Your name on high!" - what do we do here?
I'm just wondering.
And how does buying a ticket to a movie that blasphemes the name of Jesus fit in with lifting His Name on high?
I'm thinking we have to add to our Othercott plans for the weekend of May 19th. Yes, we all go to another movie that weekend - Over the Hedge. But then, I think we all spend the remaining thirty-six hours of DVC's opening weekend in prayer . How cool would it be if parishes resurrected the Forty Hour devotion to counter the evil effects that the blasphemy in DVC will do in so many souls.
What do you think? Over the Hedge and then adoration. Ha!
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Still Trying to Chill Cause "It's Just Fiction"
Where in the world is Barb Now?
In the meantime, I will see some of you in Minneapolis this weekend.
Then Modesto next week.
Then, off to Orlando (Alice, are you there? Want to eat?) and Rome (Theology on Tap!) and Spain (Coming at you, Cris!) at the end of the month.
I'm loving this screenplay. So much fun to just write something happy and absurd and clever, without worrying too much about what it will mean in the grand scheme of things.
So, God bless all. I will try to get some thoughts down here before too long.