Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014


- Mary Magdalen and angels from St. John Cathedral

- For yesterday's Mary M day ... NT Pod 13: Mary Magdalene: the First Woman Apostle

- Philip Endean SJ on ... The Two Vocations of Gerard Manley Hopkins

- Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative

- Photos from the funeral of California native, Max Steinberg ... Israel Buries US 'Lone Soldier' Killed in Gaza

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Last night I had a dream ...

- *

with the president in it :) Perhaps that's because I've been thinking about his recent signing of the executive order to prevent discrimination against LGBT people by federal contractors. Some religious groups asked for an exemption from the order but Obama did not allow one ... good! Not just me who thinks so ... 100 Religious Leaders to Obama: No Religious Exemption in ENDA Executive Order.

But today I was reading an article about the executive order at Christianity Today, and I was a little less happy after reading this ...

[...] Many religious organizations, such as World Vision, World Relief, and Catholic Charities partner with the federal government, but often receive grants, not contracts, so are not affected by the order, said Stanley Carlson-Thies, director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. Religious organizations with federal grants are currently protected: A 2007 religious exemption memo from the federal attorney general's office says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act "is reasonably construed" to exempt World Vision (and other religious organizations that administer federal funds through social services programs) from religious nondiscrimination requirements on other federal grantees ....

Douglas Laycock, a professor of law and religious studies at the University of Virginia.

"And very important, [the] executive order creates no right for anyone to sue anyone else. So gay rights groups cannot organize litigation against religious contactors," he said. "Only the contracting agencies can enforce this order, and they may quietly enforce it with attention to religious liberty—which is what this administration has mostly done so far." ...

So this appears not to be quite the win for justice I had hoped for.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tobit, Sarah, and the UK assisted dying bill

I've been reading about the uk assisted dying bill which is in the House of Lords. It appears that all faith groups are opposed to it (there's a post about it at Thinking Faith) and some who are for it include Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Hawking.

I think there are at least two reasons why the religious arguments against the bill have not been convincing ...

One reason is that the worries religious people bring up .... that the bill will lead to the forced killing of the disabled, or that the bill will allow relatives to coerce ill family members into choosing death ... do not address the actual bill, which only allows terminally ill patients who will die within six months to decide for themselves if they want assisted suicide.

The other reason is less brought up but I think it underlies a lot of the religious arguments against the bill .... the (repugnant to me) belief that people do not have the right to decide for themselves when they will die because that's only God's prerogative ... During Friday's ten-hour debate, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said the Bill was not about relieving pain or suffering. "The bill is about asserting a philosophy ... the ancient Stoic philosophy that ending one’s life in circumstances of distress is an assertion of human freedom." - The Tablet

I don't know exactly where I stand on the bill, but it makes me think about the Book of Tobit ...

This book tells the story of a righteous Israelite of the Tribe of Naphtali named Tobit .... he slept in the open and was blinded by bird droppings that fell in his eyes. That put a strain on his marriage, and ultimately, he prayed for death. Meanwhile, in faraway Media, a young woman named Sarah had prayed for death in despair. She had lost seven husbands to the demon of lust, Asmodeus, 'the worst of demons', who abducted and killed every man she married, on their wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. God sent the angel Raphael, disguised as a human, to heal Tobit and to free Sarah from the demon.

Both Tobit and Sarah were both suicidal and prayed for death. God wasn't angry that they did so, and he sent an angel to fix what was wrong in their lives. But what are people who don't get angelic fixes supposed to do?

Some further reading from the blog of the Philosophy Faculty, University of Oxford ...
Economic arguments and assisted dying

- The Wedding Night of Tobias and Sarah by Jan Steen

Friday, July 18, 2014

Imaginative contemplation

In a couple of weeks it will be St. Ignatius day so I'm going to have some posts every once in a while until then on Ignatian spirituality. For today, something about imaginative contemplation. Imaginative contemplation is the kind of prayer used to foster a relationship with Jesus through putting oneself with him in the gospel stories - a kind of virtual reality experience which can be very vivid and has the power to engage the emotions. I saw a page on this today at the British Jesuit site, pray-as-you-go, which has a number of podcast contemplations of some NT passages. Here's the beginning of info on the page ...

Imaginative Contemplation

Saint Ignatius believed that God could speak to us just as clearly in our imagination as through our thoughts and our memories. In his Spiritual Exercises he writes of contemplation as a very active way of engaging your feelings, emotions, and senses to place yourself in the scene described.

Contemplation isn't about trying to place yourself in a historic setting, like dreaming you were back in the Middle Ages, it's about trying to encounter Jesus in a personal and unique way. Through the contemplation, the Holy Spirit makes present the mystery of Christ found in the particular passage, and helps you to explore things in a way you might not find possible through our normal podcasts. While these reflections are much longer than our normal podcasts, you shouldn't feel constrained by the time of the track. Go at your own pace; God is in no rush ...

Creighton University has a page too on imaginative contemplation - Praying with Our Imaginations

And here's a video of James Martin SJ on imaginative contemplation ...

Bill Clinton: the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

I was watching a video interview with Bill Clinton today from India where he's doing some charity work with children. At one point in the interview he was asked about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict ...

* * * * *

NDTV: And it was a crisis you made a successful intervention in to de-escalate the crisis. There is another crisis in the world today that some would say needs the intervention of somebody like you. What's happening between Israel and the Palestinian people today, and I have to ask you and I know the world, not just India, is interested in what you have to say on this. 200 people dead on the Palestinian side in Gaza, almost 80% of them are children and women; one Israeli dead by comparison. Yet the statement we've seen from the White House, many people believe, continues to be partial to the Israeli perspective. Where do you come in on this? How can this crisis be resolved? Do you believe Israel has been fair?

Bill Clinton: Well, first of all Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets in Israel. They fired a thousand of them. And they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them. Now, I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu could and should make a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians. I believe if he did it, and he did it with either President Abbas or with his coalition, if in return for Hamas' renunciation of terror and recognition of Israel's right to exist, I believe 60% of the people of Israel would support it.

NDTV: So what's holding him up?

Bill Clinton: Well, his coalition wouldn't support it, so he'd have to go to a national unity government to pass it. But I think that you'd find that more than 60% Israelis support trying to defend themselves if they get 1000 rockets shot at them. They have a defence system against such missile attacks, the so-called Iron Dome and they haven't died in great numbers yet, although they certainly could have. It's a miracle to me that they fired 1000 rockets in there and more people weren't killed. So they know when Hamas attacks them that Hamas has set up a situation, which politically can't lose, because they can say well, if I attack them back, they always hide behind civilians, and I'll kill civilians; and if I don't, we'll look like fools letting somebody shoot a 1000 rockets at us and not responding. What this proves is that there ought to be serious peace talks, serious ones, and I think the whole existence of this national unity government between the Fatah government on the West Bank and Hamas is the direct result of the lack of progress.

NDTV: Do you blame Prime Minister Netanyahu at least partially for not moving fast enough on the possibility of peace?

Bill Clinton: I think they are partly responsible, but I also think, you know for example, when Hillary was Secretary of State, she helped secure an agreement, the only time Israel ever agreed to freeze settlements as a part of talks, they never had before. So they agreed to a nine-month freeze, and during the whole time the Palestinians didn't want to talk to them. And three weeks before the freeze expires, they say give us another nine months and we'll talk to you. That was a big mistake. So there are mistakes on both sides. But the main thing is they share this little piece of land and this big stretch of history. They know each other so well. They know how many children they have; they know how many grandchildren they have. They know what those grandchildren are doing. It's ridiculous. You talk to them in private you can swear they're all in a big family reunion and they're either going to share their future on positive terms, or share their future on negative terms, and that's the larger truth here and they have to figure out what it is. Over the long run it's not good for Israel to keep isolating itself from moral opinion because of the absence of a viable peace process. But in the short and medium term, Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on Israel by forcing it to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas. But it's a crass strategy that takes all of our eyes off the real objective, which is a peace that gets Israel security and recognition, and a peace that gets the Palestinians their state ...

* * * * *

Thursday, July 17, 2014


- Hiroyuki Sanada

This week's DVD rental was Helix ...

an American science fiction thriller television series that premiered on Syfy on January 10, 2014. The series follows a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who travel to a research facility in the Arctic to investigate a potential outbreak of disease. While there, they find themselves stuck in a life-or-death situation that could decide the future of mankind.

I've only seen a couple of episodes so far but it seems like a cross between The Thing and World War Z, but sadly, not as good, and there's a pretty steep ick factor. I choose it because one of the actor is is Hiroyuki Sanada (remember Dogen from Lost?). Unfortunately, it looks like he may end up being one of the bad guys. Here's a trailer ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sri Lanka: the pope, the Jesuits, the inquisition and the civil war

- Francis Xavier requesting John III of Portugal for a Catholic expedition in Portuguese India

Sri Lanka Buddhists Demand Apology From Pope Francis Over Christian Colonial Rule. The pope's planning to travel to Sri Lanka and some there aren't happy about it - so what's up? It has to do with Catholicism in Sri Lanka, both past and present.

First, the past, with a visit to the Goa inquisition ...

The Goa Inquisition was the office of the Portuguese Inquisition acting in Portuguese India, and in the rest of the Portuguese Empire in Asia. It was established in 1560, briefly suppressed from 1774–1778, and finally abolished in 1812 ... St. Francis Xavier, in a 1545 letter to John III of Portugal, requested an Inquisition to be installed in Goa .... The inquisitor's first act was to forbid any open practice of the Hindu faith on pain of death. Sephardic Jews living in Goa, many of whom had fled the Iberian Peninsula to escape the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition to begin with, were also persecuted. The narrative of Da Fonseca describes the violence and brutality of the inquisition. The records speak of the necessity for hundreds of prison cells to accommodate the accused. From 1560 to 1774, a total of 16,172 persons were tried and condemned or acquitted by the tribunals of the Inquisition. While it also included individuals of different nationalities, the overwhelming majority—nearly three fourths were natives, almost equally represented by Christians and non-Christians. Many of these were hauled up merely for crossing the border and cultivating lands there. Seventy-one autos de fé were recorded ....

Yep, we're talking about that Francis Xavier = the friend of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first Jesuits, celebrated for his missionary zeal in the Far East and whose bodily relics reside in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India. An interview I saw today comments on this - 'Xavier was aware of the brutality of the Inquisition' ...

Francis Xavier and Simão Rodrigues, two founder-members of the Society of Jesus were together in Lisbon before Francis Xavier left for India. Both were asked to assist spiritually the prisoners of the Inquisition and were present at the very first auto-da-fé celebrated in Portugal in September 1540, at which 23 were absolved and two were condemned to be burnt, including a French cleric. Hence, Francis Xavier could not have been unaware of the brutality of the Inquisition.

Modernly, the Jesuits have been involved in helping the Tamil people (Hindus, Muslims, Catholics) during and since the civil war in Sri Lanka. Here's an article from the Australian Jesuits: Why Tamils flee Sri Lanka. Related: a Wikipedia article on Jesuit Eugene John Hebert, who dies in Sri Lanka during the civil war. There seems to be something of a rift in the Sri Lanka Catholic Church, but the possible perception that the Catholic Church has and does support the Tamils (and Tamil Tigers) as opposed to the majority Buddhist government may also help explain why the pope's visit to Sri Lanka might be considered controversial by some.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pope Francis and women bishops in the C of E

Yay :) Finally, women bishops in the C of E - Jubilation as Church of England's synod votes to allow female bishops
. This from Damian Thompson on Pope Francis and the C of E's vote for women bishops ...

[...] How will Pope Francis react? Some Anglicans suspect that he’s secretly pleased: they see him as a fellow liberal who would be open to ordaining women if only John Paul II hadn’t declared it to be a theological impossibility. They’re wrong. Francis talks about expanding the ‘ministry’ of women, but when he’s pressed on the subject he makes jokes about bossy priests’ housekeepers and Adam’s rib. There’s definitely a streak of old-fashioned Latin American misogyny in the Holy Father.

The Catholic Church in the UK is in a tizzy over this - God knows where the women bishops vote leaves Anglican-Catholic relations and The Church of England’s vote for women bishops has created an insurmountable obstacle to unity

That reminded me of how years ago Cardinal Kasper, now said to be Pope Francis' favorite theologian, tried to doom women bishops in the C of E - link. NT Wright responded to Kasper's talk - Women Bishops: A Response to Cardinal Kasper

I don't understand the Catholic version of ecumenism - it seems to mean everyone else becoming Catholic rather than respecting differences. Or perhaps the Catholic hierarchy is feeling lonesome as the last church that still discriminates against women.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hee hee :)

I'm watching reruns of Stargate Atlantis and tonight's episode, The Game, had the characters discussing the famous trolley thought experiment, but in a way that makes obvious how silly the set-up of that ethical problem really is :) ...

Balthasar and women

I'm reading a November 2013 article in The Tablet by Karen Kilby on Pope Francis' belief that we need a "theology of women" ... Second sex?. Being a Balthasar scholar, she mentions him too in the article. Here's just a bit of it ...

[...] Hans Urs von Balthasar, said to be the favourite theologian of John Paul II and also supported by Benedict XVI.

In Balthasar's thought, masculinity is associated with activity, femininity with receptivity. Receptivity is a good thing we are all called as Christians to be fundamentally Marian, receptive towards God, and so there is a certain sense in which women have the advantage in the Christian life. But Christ did not just happen to be male insofar as he was to represent God (the active party) to the world (the receptive party), he had to be a man. And so a priest, to represent Christ to the (essentially female) Church, also has to be male.

Balthasar's presentation of the sexes has drawn criticism from a range of voices. What Francis' view on it would be is hard at this stage to know does he think we need something genuinely different from the kind of vision of women that John Paul II and Balthasar were developing, or just that these lines of thought need to be better expressed and disseminated?

There are in any case, it seems to me, reasons to hesitate about the idea of the Church needing a new "theology of women". The very notion of such a theology is in danger of suggesting that the female sex is a problem to be solved, something "different" that needs accounting for. There is a danger that the quip I once heard from a young physics student "Funny chaps, women" will be the subtext of any such theology ....

Further reading (I haven't read these yet myself but the titles look interesting) ... Sex, Death, and Meloframa: A Feminist Critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar and A Man and Three Women. Hans, Adrienne, Mary and Luce, both by Tina Beattie

Friday, July 11, 2014


- These Are America’s First Churches — and They’re Still Worshipping. I didn't realize before reading this that the United Church of Christ has some of the oldest churches, like the First Church in Windsor pictured above. There's a Wikipedia page with a larger list of the oldest churches plus photos.

- 100 Faith Leaders To Obama: Religious Liberty Shouldn’t Be Used To Discriminate Against LGBT People

- The confidentiality of confession vs the reporting of sex abuse has been in the news. Today I saw a blog post at The Tablet - Why I agitated for confessions in the Australian Anglican Church to no longer be bound by confidentiality - about how the Anglican church in Australia has decided that the fundamental theological principle at stake is that the safety of members of the Church and the public should be of paramount concern in relation to the confidentiality of confessions. I think the Catholic church should also give priority to mandatory reporting of abuse over confidentiality of confession.

- Memo to the Supreme Court: Morning-After Pills Don't Cause Abortion, Studies Say ... whenn it comes to Plan B, there is now fairly definitive research that shows the only way it works is by preventing ovulation, and therefore, fertilization .... ella, like Plan B, doesn't prevent pregnancy if a woman has already ovulated.

- Also at The Tablet: Stopping the rot by Jason Berry. What's scary to me is that everyone believes Cardinal Pell is the guy to rely on to fix the banking problems. See what I think of him ... Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Pell and the Ellis sex abuse case and Pell, sex abuse, church money

- Israel, unlike Hamas, isn’t trying to kill civilians. It’s taking pains to spare them.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

10 years a blogger

Noticing that in a few months I will have been blogging with Blogger for 10 years, though my first home wasn't here at Perspective. I first began blogging when a writing friend and Quaker, David, asked me to join his group blog, friendly skripture study :)

Monday, July 07, 2014

Francis meets sex abuse victims

The Pope met with sex abuse victims, but though he said that Bishops will be accountable for sex abuse, when one of the victims he met with asked him to remove Cardinal Brady and other bishops who had covered up abuse in the past, his response was not affirmative ...

Irish abuse victim tells Pope she wants Cardinal Brady removed

Clerical child abuse survivor Marie Kane (43) has asked Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Seán Brady as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland due to his handling of a clerical child abuse inquiry in 1975 ....

“It’s a big thing with me that there are still members of the hierarchy there who were involved in the cover-up. I feel personally they (Church) cannot contemplate any change happening, there will be no success” as long as such people remained in place, she told The Irish Times today.

During a meeting in the Vatican, she told Pope Francis that “cover-up is still happening and you have the power to make these changes.” There were others besides Cardinal Brady, she said, but “I didn’t want to go into a litany.”

Pope Francis responded that “it was difficult to make these changes,” ...

Why can Francis remove a bishop who bought a big house but cannot remove one who has covered up sex abuse?

More on this ... Irish abuse survivor asks Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Seán Brady as archbishop

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Be not afraid

I read two articles today about very different subjects but both seemed to be about religious groups trying to inspire fear in their members ...

First, Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson writes at The Daily Beast about unwarranted conservatives fears of attacks on religious liberty ... Even After Hobby Lobby, the Religious Right is Still Terrified ...

[...] What can progressive people, and progressive religious people in particular, do to demonstrate that American culture is not trying to take away their freedom to pray, worship and believe as they wish? How can we speak to their fears in a way that gets them to understand that there is nothing to be fearful of? Vigilance, yes, is prudent and necessary in any free society, but fear bordering on paranoia—fear that is objectively unwarranted—is corrosive.

Religious freedom is something I would fight and die for. But I do not feel threatened by our precious separation of church and state in this beloved United States. That separation should not only protect religious people and communities from interference by the state, but should also protect the secular culture from unwarranted influence and control by the church, synagogue or mosque. Robert Frost got it right: fences make for good neighbors. And while church and state are good neighbors in America, it’s the fence between the two that make for real religious liberty.

Within only a day or two after the Hobby Lobby ruling, prominent evangelicals called upon President Obamato declare broad religious exemptions to his upcoming executive order banning discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people by federal contractors. Just stop and think about the image of religious people pleading for the “right” to discriminate against certain fellow citizens. What would Jesus do, indeed?!

I am keenly aware that such a view might be perceived by some as having a good dose of paranoia of my own. But I think that while oppression and discrimination against LGBT citizens can be demonstrated with ease and myriad examples, oppression of religious people by the government and society is much more difficult to document. Anti-gay sentiment is waning in American society, and with that forward progress, conservative churches will see a loss of credibility and a diminished effectiveness of their fear-mongering. That is as it should be. Neither the church nor the state is served by it.

The other article that made me think about the use of fear was this ... Vatican Officially Endorses Exorcism ...

[...] This move by the Holy See comes amid growing reports on the Catholic Church’s renewed interest in exorcism. Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis makes frequent references to the devil. Last year, many saw his laying on of hands on a man allegedly possessed by demons as an act of purgation.

The church believes that demonic cases are on the rise because more people are exploring the dark arts (black magic and a host of other “satanic rituals”) with the help of information readily available on the Internet. Across Italy and Spain, dioceses are schooling more priests in administering exorcism rites. Training more priests in this field is also part of the church’s effort to sideline self-proclaimed exorcists.

“Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism,” Father Francesco Bamonte, the president of the Italy-based IAE, told the Telegraph.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


The chinese trumpet vine has a flower ...

One of the little stray cats in the yard takes a nap ...

Friday, July 04, 2014

Fireworks and Aliens

This 4th of July I'm reminded of the video clip above - it's a scene from Aliens in which the marines' only ship off the planet of monstrous alien creatures has just blown up, and the little girl tells them they have to get inside because the aliens come out at dark. The fire, the smoke, and the dread ... it all reminds me of the coming of darkness that signals the setting off of 3+ hours of fireworks in my neighborhood. Last night many people here set of fireworks ahead of the 4th and the noise was incredible ... the cherry bombs and rockets sounded like nuclear detonations. The stray cats in my yard were terrified, running all around in a frenzy to get away from the explosions, but having no luck because the noise was coming from every side. I can think of lots of practical reasons not to allow private fireworks ... injuries, fires, bad air quality, damage to wildlife ... I hate fireworks :(

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Movies for the 4th of July

There's a post at NCR - Should a Catholic pick a favorite war film?. If you're a pacifist like me, you may still have watched many war movies, if only to remind yourself of how horrible war is. I found particularly creepy the Knights of Columbus used a war movie to advance their political agenda - see my post For Greater Glory. But anyway, here below are some of the movies I've seen about war (in sort of alphabetical order). A few are old - I blame my college boyfriend who had an interest in war movies and even made me watch some that were silent! ;) I think they're all "good" films, but I found them all so disturbing that I doubt I'll ever want to see any of them again ....

- Alexander Nevsky ...
Alexander Nevsky (Александр Невский) is a 1938 historical drama film directed by Sergei Eisenstein ...... The film depicts the 13th century conflict between the Teutonic Knights and the Russian people of Novgorod. It follows the knights as they invade Pskov and massacre its population. Alexander Nevsky then rallies the people of Novgorod and at a battle on the surface of the frozen Lake Chudskoe, the outnumbered Novgorodians defeat the Germanic invaders. Alexander Nevsky was made during the Stalinist era, when the Soviet Union was at odds with Nazi Germany. Stalin directly requested that Eisenstein make a film that would warn the Soviet people of German aggression.

- Black Hawk Down (I posted about this too - Somalia at the movies ) ...
Black Hawk Down is a 2001 British-American war film directed by Ridley Scott. It is an adaptation of the 1997 book of the same name by Mark Bowden based on his series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer, which chronicled the events of the Battle of Mogadishu, a raid integral to the United States' effort to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The film features a large ensemble cast, including Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner and Sam Shepard.

- Breaker Morant ...
Breaker Morant is a 1980 Australian feature film, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring British actor Edward Woodward as Harry "Breaker" Morant. The all-Australian supporting cast features Bryan Brown as Lieutenant Handcock, Lewis FitzGerald as Witton, and Jack Thompson as Major Thomas ...... Breaker Morant concerns the murder trial of three Australian soldiers, officers of the elite Bushveldt Carbineers in South Africa. Harry "Breaker" Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton are accused of the murder of one Boer prisoner, the subsequent murders of six more, and Morant and Handcock are accused of the sniper-style death of a German missionary, the Rev. Hesse. Their defense counsel, Major Thomas, has had only one day to prepare their defense.

- A Bridge Too Far ...
A Bridge Too Far is a 1977 film based on the 1974 book of the same name. The film tells the story of Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhem in the occupied Netherlands during World War II. It was directed by Richard Attenborough and featured an ensemble cast of many film stars. The name for the film comes from a comment made by British Lt Gen Frederick Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery before the operation, "I think we may be going a bridge too far." ..... [starring] Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Elliott Gould, Edward Fox, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Kemp, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Liv Ullmann, Maximilian Schell, Hardy Krüger and Ryan O'Neal.

- Casualties of War ...
Casualties of War is a 1989 war drama about the Vietnam War, starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn. It was directed by Brian De Palma, with a screenplay by David Rabe based on actual events that took place in 1966. The theme of Casualties of War is how normal moral behavior is discarded during war times and shows it in the extreme when soldiers become savages who can dehumanize innocent by-standers, and also about personal responsibility for maintaining that morality in extreme conditions.

- Das Boot ...
Das Boot (IPA pronunciation: /das boːt/, German for The Boat) is a 1981 feature film directed by Wolfgang Petersen ..... The movie is the story of a single mission of one World War II U-boat, U-96, and its crew. It depicts both the excitement of battle and the tedium of the fruitless hunt, and shows the men serving aboard U-boats as ordinary individuals with a desire to do their best for their comrades and their country. The story is based on an amalgamation of the exploits of the real U-96, a Type VIIC-class U-boat commanded by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, one of Germany's top U-boat "tonnage aces" during the war.

- Enemy at the Gates (I posted about this too - How to remain a pacifist ) ...
Enemy at the Gates is a 2001 war film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, starring Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris set during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II .... The film's title is taken from William Craig's 1973 nonfiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which describes the events surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad from 1942–1943. It is based on a duel mentioned in the book that developed between the legendary Soviet sniper Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev and his German counterpart, Major Erwin König, as they stalk each other during the battle.

- Helen of Troy (I posted about this too - Stellan Skarsgård is Theseus :)) ...
Helen of Troy is a 2003 television miniseries based upon Homer's story of the Trojan War, as recounted in the epic poem, Iliad. This TV miniseries also shares the name with a 1956 movie starring Stanley Baker. It stars Sienna Guillory as Helen, Matthew Marsden as Paris, Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon, James Callis as Menelaus, John Rhys-Davies as Priam, Maryam d'Abo as Hecuba, and Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus. The series was entirely shot on location in the islands of Malta.

- The Last of the Mohicans ...
The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 historical epic film set in 1757 during the French and Indian War and produced by Morgan Creek Pictures. It was directed by Michael Mann and based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same name and George B. Seitz's 1936 film adaptation, owing more to the latter than the novel. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, and Jodhi May, with Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington in supporting roles.

- The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc ...
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is a 1999 historical drama film directed by Luc Besson ..... the story of St. Joan of Arc, the famous French war heroine of the 15th century and religious martyr, played by Ukrainian-born Milla Jovovich. The story begins with young Joan witnessing the atrocities of the English against her family, following her through her visions, to her leadership in battle, through doubt (with Dustin Hoffman playing a character who we are never sure is God, Satan or Joan's own conscience and who is visible to only Joan), and finally to her trial and execution ...


- On the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, religious institutions want freedom to discriminate ... [A]s religious people, we have to ask ourselves: Do we really want our legacy in this moment to be that we asked for special permission to discriminate against members of our community and citizens of our country? I posted about this a few days ago here.

- France's burqa ban upheld by human rights court. I'm sure some see this as another "attack on religious liberty" but I think banning the burqa is a good thing. I wrote about this earlier ... Andrew Brown and myself on the burqa ban and Why I'd ban the burqa

- How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

- Yesterday my sister, who lived in Japan for years, was telling me about the Moomins ...

Moomins (Swedish: Mumintroll, Finnish: Muumi) are the central characters in a series of books, and a comic strip by Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson, originally published in Swedish by Schildts in Finland. They are a family of white, roundish fairy tale characters with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses.

And about the Moomin cafe in Japan ... Japan's 'anti-loneliness' cafe goes viral. Check out the photos :)