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Friday, April 29, 2011

Óscar Romero at Westminster Abbey

I learned something I didn't know thanks to the royal wedding .... there's a statue of Óscar Romero, along with those of nine other 20th century martyrs, above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey ....

In 1998 ten vacant statue niches at the West Gate were filled with 10 representative 20th Century martyrs: Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia (d.1918), Manche Masemola (d.1928), Maximilian Kolbe (d.1941), Lucian Tapiede (d.1941), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d.1945), Esther John (d.1960), Martin Luther King (d.1968), Wang Zhiming (d.1973), Janani Luwum (d.1977), and Óscar Romero (d.1980).

- Romero is 6th from the left

Westminster Abbey is an interesting place. Here below is a clip from a BBC documentary on Westminster Abbey, in which the narrator, playwright Alan Bennett, mentions some of the "members of the awkward squad" who are buried there.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The other monarchy

I liked this post by Bryan Cones at US Catholic - Why I won't be watching the JPII beatification blowout. Here's part of it ....

After reading John Allen's third thousand-word Q&A post on the beatification of Pope John Paul II, I can't decide what I'm more sick of: the "royal wedding" or the beatification of JPII. Neither really has anything to do with my life, since I'm not British or a monarchist, and the way the Catholic church does it, I'm never going to be canonized either .......

Pope John Paul II was a fine man, heroic even in some ways, as I noted in my May column, but I think we need another 50 years or so before we make him a saint--regardless of how many miracles he pulls off in the meantime. As another writer noted at NCR, doing it now could be interpreted as a way of propping up the papal monarchy, analogous to the royal wedding ........

Royal Wedding - two views

UPDATE: Flowchart: Should You Pay Attention to the Royal Wedding? :)

Nope, I'm not interested in the upcoming royal wedding but it's hard to go anywhere online without seeing stuff about it, and today when I saw an article I really disliked, I decided to post some of it along with a bit of another different article I'd seen at Feminist Philosophers.

First, here's some of the one I disliked, at America magazine's blog, The ghosts at the royal wedding by Austen Ivereigh, which manages to combine romanticism, bigotry, and a jab at the Church of England .....

[...] At the heart of tomorrow's ceremony is a winning combination of elements which film-makers strive after: on the one hand, what is totally "other" -- a dreamy, fairy-tale setting: the marriage of a prince, the making of a princess -- with what, on the other, is universal and human: boy meets girl; they fall in love; they marry.

And as some bishops have already been pointing out, what happens tomorrow is a great tribute to the institution of marriage -- the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of creating and rearing children. There are many "alternatives" to that model around us -- same-sex unions, single parents, divorced couples -- and advocates of equality would want us to be believe they are all equally valid. But they aren't. History, research and experience all point to a stable, loving marriage between a man and a woman as the best possible environment for a child -- measured by almost any outcome .....

The ghost at tomorrow's banquet, indeed, is that, for all each has sought to blend itself with the age, both the Church of England and the monarchy are deeply rooted in an historical moment when the British nation was born -- a Protestant island besieged. And they continue to be defined by that moment, and to need each other to be so defined. The moment is frozen in the laws. The Act of Settlement of 1701 ... a Roman Catholic is specifically excluded from succession ... Now watch the Church of England squirm ....

And now, to gain a little perspective, here's a bit of the other post, Kate's Kismet by Gail Dines at Counterpunch .....

For the last few months my British accent has been the bane of my life. Let me explain. Everywhere I go in this country I am accosted by locals asking me for details on the royal wedding. As if a lefty Jew from the north of England would have any inside knowledge of the workings of the English upper-class long known for their anti-Semitism and love of all things Conservative .....

Kate is certainly going to be turned into a princess on her wedding day, and given the track record of how the royal family treats its women, she should be anything but thrilled at the prospect. Should she decide not to play the game of loyal royal wife, then she need only look to Diana or Sarah Ferguson to see her future .....

The British and American press have run stories about the way William’s friends make fun of Kate for coming from a family that has actually had to work for a living. Evidently especially humorous is that fact her mother was once a flight attendant. William’s family is the richest welfare family in the world yet you won’t hear David Cameron attacking them for being lazy freeloaders .....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Consolation of the Happy Ending

Last week we were asked to suffer with Jesus in his crucifixion - this week of Creighton University's Spiritual Exercises style retreat asks us to share Jesus' joy in his resurrection ...

This week we contemplate, using the Scriptures and our imagination, the experience for Jesus of being raised from the dead and his sharing of that experience with those he loved. What inexpressible joy Jesus must have had at experiencing eternal life, as a human being! Having just experienced the depths of our suffering and death, he now knows what it will be for us to experience the life of the Resurrection. And how he must have delighted in sharing that joy with those who suffered with him at the foot of the cross! .... Finally, I contemplate our risen Lord sharing his joy with me.

The first time I made the retreat, I just didn't understand this week. I had a hard time imagining Jesus being, well, joyful, just as I had had trouble imagining him suffering the week before. I thought God was impassable. It's taken me a while to let Jesus be emotional. It's still a struggle.

I read something the other day, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Significance of Fairy-Story by Andrew Schuman, that touched on joy -

[W]hat Tolkien calls “the Consolation of the Happy Ending.” This consolation ... is a sudden and joyous ‘turn’ that occurs just as all hope is lost, a good catastrophe— eucatastrophe, as Tolkien called it— a “sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.” ..... For Tolkien, eucatas"trophic joy possessed great metaphysical as well as personal significance ... The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation" ...

So, if I understand this correctly, maybe that kind of joy is like what's found in this Jane Kenyon poem ...


There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

I must contemplate some more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Detachment bad :)

This week's movie rental was Tron: Legacy, a 2010 science fiction film starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, and Garrett Hedlund. The film is a sequel to the 1982 sci fi movie Tron. Basic set-up/plot from Wikipedia ...

In 1989, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), an innovative software engineer and the CEO of ENCOM International, disappears. Twenty years later, his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), who became ENCOM's controlling shareholder after his father's disappearance, takes little interest in the company besides an annual practical joke on the board of directors. Sam is visited by his father's friend and ENCOM executive Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), who urges Sam to investigate a mysterious page originating from Flynn's old arcade. While exploring the shuttered arcade, Sam discovers a concealed computer laboratory and unintentionally transports himself to the Grid, a virtual world inside the computer.

Sam finds his father within the Grid and wants them both to fight their way out of what's become a coded evil empire ruled by CLU, a digital copy of Kevin Flynn, but Sam's father, who's created himself a Buddhist-like dwelling complete with go board, surprises Sam by being emotionally detached ...

Kevin: The only way to win is not to play.

Sam: That's a hell of a way to live.

Kevin: But it is a way.

Sam: We can go home. Don't you want that?

Kevin: Sometimes life has a way of moving you past things like wants and hopes.

Sam: That's great Dad. Keep telling yourself that.

(later, when Sam's convinced his father to care enough to fight)

Kevin: You're messing with my zen thing, man.

I hate detachment :)

I have to admit that while the movie had some nice special effects, I was pretty disappointed in the storyline. The parts I liked best were the little dog that belonged to Sam - Boston Terrier, Marv :) .....

And Bruce Boxleitner (of Babylon 5 fame) who sadly only had a small role in the film .....

Roger Ebert liked the movie better than I did and gave it three out of our stars.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Some photos

Here's the flower-thing I posted earlier, now blooming. Click to enlarge to see a neat little bug on one of the tiny flowers - he's about as big as a sesame seed ...

My sister gave me these chrysanthemums for Easter. Our grandmother grew lots of "spider" mums ....

Squirrel waiting for me to leave some peanuts ...

A couple of things

One is a post at Pray Tell, Swiss Catholic Bishop speaks out for women’s ordination.

And another is a sermon by Ben Witherington, Mary, Mary Extraordinary—- an Easter Sermon.

- Christ and Mary Magdalene by Albert Edelfelt

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

Below are two movie versions of the resurrection: one shows the disciples interacting with the risen Jesus, but the other shows a Jesus alone, resurrected within the tomb - I like them both :)

Gene Robinson on Earth Day

I was interested to see that the Episcopal Church this year made a connection between Earth Day and Good Friday (I wish the Catholic Church had done so). Here's just the beginning from an article for the day by Bishop Gene Robinson ....


A faith-based wake-up call on Earth Day

Earth Day 2011 is also Good Friday. In the midst of budget cut proposals, compromises on services to the poor and needy, and a rush to preserve the wealth of America’s top-earning 1 percent, it is not surprising that the environment is all but forgotten.

Ignoring environmental issues will cost us, too, however.

Current efforts to rein in spending and reduce the federal deficit are all done in the name of future generations who, the thinking goes, should not have to shoulder the burden of massive federal debt perpetrated by previous generations. This sounds reasonable. But at the same time we are neglecting climate change and other environmental problems that will affect not just our children and grandchildren but every living thing on earth. What good will a manageable debt be if we can’t breathe the air, drink the water, or withstand the sun’s harmful rays? ............


Alison Milbank on religious counter-intuitiveity

I am still disturbed/confused by Holy Week but in a way I find that reassuring. Here's a bit from an article at ABC Religion & Ethics by Alison Milbank (the wife of you know who) which sort of explains what I mean ....


The Easter journey into paradox

[...] The resurrection is certainly not an easy "happy ever after" for the disciples. In Mark's gospel, the fact of the empty tomb is a disturbing difficulty and the women who discover it run away terrified. The earliest manuscripts end there, with the reader forced to decide whether to believe or not.

John's account begins with the beautiful story of Mary Magdalene mistaking Jesus for the gardener, but then has Jesus entering a locked room. On his second appearance in this securely guarded space, Jesus offers Thomas, the good empiricist, who had refused to believe he had risen unless he could place his finger in the nail marks, the chance to do just that.

John makes the resurrection as difficult to grasp as he possibly can. His Christ both eats fish and can disappear and reappear at will. All this was as bizarrely problematic for devout Jews of the first century as it is for us today.

It was a current belief in Jesus's time that the prophetic dead might become angels like Enoch and Melchizedek, who were assumed in the body to the heavenly court but then became angelic spirits. This theory lies behind some argumentation in the letter to the Hebrews.

So when Jesus suddenly appeared in the locked upper room, this might have helped his disciples to make sense of the event. But then this theory is destroyed when he invites Thomas to touch his wounds, and thereby shows he is no angel but in some sense still corporeal.

Our minds, like Thomas's and those of the disciples, cannot conceive of a body that is wholly spiritual and yet also in a transformed way material. The concepts by which we organise experience are blown apart.

How relatively easy it would be to accept the Islamic account and that of the Gnostic believers, who say that Jesus did not really die at all, or else plump for a merely internal spiritual vision, which we might have of any dead beloved person.

That way, we could keep our cosmos neat and tidy: with the resurrection a purely spiritual experience, religion could be a private, spiritual space and not this messy, conflicted institution that keeps getting enmired in politics.

Unfortunately for this option, the early Christians did experience something that was quite inexplicable and paradoxical, and in no gospel do they funk laying out the impossibility of what they claim. The empty tomb is presented as a problem as much as a solution. But it goes along with the whole gospel narrative, which is one of paradox from beginning to end.

A God complete in himself who yet creates, a human baby crying and defecating who is totally divine, a Christ who is both utterly gentle and terribly fierce, a God who suffers and dies and yet lives for ever ......


Friday, April 22, 2011

Retreat week 29

I'm not doing so well with week 29, contemplating Jesus dying. I resist believing his death by torture was purposeful, all part of a greater plan that would only be finalized if he was murdered, but then I'm just left with his meaningless suffering :( Anyway, here's part of the retreat material by Larry Gillick SJ for this week ...


For the Journey

[...] We have watched the violence of scourging, crowning with thorns, stumbling under the weight of the cross, and the mockery of his tormenters. Now we stand with Mary where it is not violent but safe. At the foot of the cross we can say anything we want or anything we usually say about ourselves, but those words and images pale in meaning and importance when we stand at his feet and receive what he is saying over us. We are safe here; we stand in the shadow of the cross. This shadow cancels our personal shadows, our guilt and shame. There can be some shame in our spirits flowing from our realization that it has taken all this to impress on us how loved we really have been all during our wanderings and strayings.

As he is dying, the crowds give up their jeering and move away to continue their celebrating of the Passover within the city of Jerusalem. We stay in the quiet celebration of the “new and everlasting covenant.” Doubts and fears have chased most of his friends away, but he has remained faithful, and we pray to receive encouragement to our staying faithful to him. Away from the shadow of the cross, our shadows lengthen and our past infidelities incline us to not believe and not receive all that he has said about us while on his journey to the cross of cancellation. We gratefully return to our watching place, his watching place. We listen to his final benediction and pledge of faith in his Father’s care.

Ignatius asks those making the Exercises to quietly receive at this second Eucharistic celebration all that is offered. We look up at this cruciform altar and ponder the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Here is the Servant of the Lord. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). We pray with our hands open to accept this mystery of our being loved this much and for always. At the foot of the cross our arguments falter and our questions about worthiness are rendered absurd. We watch, we listen, we are safe, and we find ourselves created anew, again ....


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday / Earth Day

The two may seem hard to reconcile, but I'm going to try ...

The Christ of Tancrémont, found buried in a field

The hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, sung at St.Paul's Cathedral ....

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flow'r
Sun and Moon and stars of light
Sun and Moon and stars of light

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child.
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise.

For each perfect gift of Thine
To our race so freely given.
Graces human and divine
Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise.

Still hating atonement theory

It's Holy Thursday and I'm facing another conflicted countdown to the resurrection. This week of the retreat, Week 29: Jesus Dies for Us, isn't helping.

BTW, there are a couple of interesting podcasts by Mark Goodacre at his NT Pod that touch on Holy Week: NT Pod 53: Are the Passion Narratives "Prophecy Historicized"? ... and .... NT Pod 54: The horror of crucifixion

Sunday, April 17, 2011

David Bentley Hart on Ayn Rand

I've noticed that Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has a review at First Things of the just-out movie Atlas Shrugged, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ayn Rand. Here's just the beginning of it ...


The Trouble with Ayn Rand
David Bentley Hart

It is one of the most indelibly memorable scenes, and certainly the best twist ending, to have come out of the cinema of the 1960s: Charlton Heston riding his horse along the beach, Linda Hamilton mounted behind him with her arms wrapped around his waist, both quite fetching in their late Pleistocene dishabille, until they come upon some gigantic object, visible to the viewer at first only from behind, and just fragmentarily familiar from the ruinous silhouette of its torch and spiked coronal. Heston dismounts, an expression of dawning understanding on his face. The surf breaks about his feet. “Oh, my God!” he exclaims and falls to his knees. “They finally, really did it!” Beating the sand with his fist, he cries out, “You maniacs! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!” The white foam swirls about him again. Only then does the camera draw back, now from the opposite angle, to reveal the shattered remains of the Statue of Liberty. The screen goes dark, but the sound of waves can still be heard.

I don’t really want to talk about The Planet of the Apes just now. I mention the scene only because, quite unintentionally, I found myself reenacting it only a few days ago, uttering the same lines almost verbatim, sinking to the earth under the same burden of world-darkening despair. Oh, there was no bleak, blinding prospect of the gray and silver sea stretching out toward an impossibly distant horizon, there were no waves breaking with a desolate sigh on the barren strand, there was no horse, no fallen copper colossus, and certainly no beautiful, scantily clad woman nearby. There was, however, the same frantic look of terrible recognition in my eyes, the same pitch of hopeless horror in my voice, the same sense of doom. I had just discovered that some malevolent wretch had done it at last: had made a film of Atlas Shrugged .....


:) And you can also check out Roger Ebert's review.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

The novel is not about the fight between good and evil but rather the differences between madness and reason.

My latest book from the library is really interesting - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - which has won both the Hugo award and the World Fantasy award for best novel for 2005, and which is soon to be made into a movie as well. As Wikipedia states, it is ...

An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centering on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundary between reason and madness.

I'm listening to the audio version which is very long, 32 hours (the average novels is about 7-15 hours long), and I hope I can finish it before I have to give it back to the library. I've only just begun it but I really like it so far.

Here's just the beginning of the 2004 review of the book in The New York Times ....


'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell': Hogwarts for Grown-Ups

here is a great deal of magic in books nowadays,'' Mr. Norrell says. He's right. The publishing world has been under a weird enchantment since She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (but her initials are J. K. R.) came out with the first Harry Potter novel. Susanna Clarke, it has been reported, began writing ''Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,'' her massive novel of magic and magicians, before the recent re-emergence of literary fantasy as a popular commodity. Nonetheless, she has reaped the benefits of the marketplace with a big advance from Bloomsbury, Rowling's own British publisher. An imaginative (and aggressive) marketing campaign aims to deliver her book, as if by magic, to the top of the best-seller list. Clarke's novel, I'm pleased to say, just about deserves the fuss.

The plot -- do you have an hour or two? -- can be summarized thus: a Yorkshire magician named Gilbert Norrell arrives in London in 1806. He intends singlehandedly to rehabilitate the reputation of English magic, a subject long deemed more suitable for academic scrutiny than for practical application. Though lacking in charisma, Mr. Norrell makes his reputation by publicly bringing the dead young fiancee of a cabinet minister back to life. Soon the young Jonathan Strange -- talented, handsome and impetuous -- arranges to study at Mr. Norrell's side, only to set himself up in trade as competition. Jonathan Strange affects the course of the Napoleonic wars, and has the luck to meet and perhaps inspire Lord Byron, Shelley and Mary Shelley, but he loses his wife to the faerie realm. Meanwhile, a figure from mythic history, John Uskglass (Oberon with attitude), moving beneath and beside the early 19th century, is attempting to set upon the throne of England a king to rival the current occupant, the befuddled George III ......


Keep me safe, my God

Thanks to Dina at Jerusalem Hills daily photo and her post Singing on the path of Life for this lovely song (verses 1 and 11 of Psalm 16) by the Taize community :) ......

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Crepuscular photos

I was out in the yard at dusk and took a couple of photos. Because of my eye disease (the cones not working right) I can see better at dawn and dusk when the sun isn't up.

Here's the rosebud I took a photo of a day or two ago, now blooming ...

Here's a photo of the tiny flowers of a kind of cherry tree - the little buds in two rows along the stamen (?) are about the size of pin heads .....

Friday, April 15, 2011

Steven Shakespeare videos on Kierkegaard and Derrida

I've mentioned before Anglican priest Steven Shakespeare who teaches philosophy at Liverpool Hope University - he wrote a couple of books I've liked - Radical Orthodoxy: A Critical Introduction and The Inclusive God: Reclaiming Theology for an Inclusive Church, - as well as some great articles and a sermon - Speak to us of prayers and Why Humans Need Animals and Sermon from 2009 Annual Service at Durham Cathedral.

Today I noticed that there are a couple of videos out by him from Nottingham University on theology and two of the guys about whom he's written most - Kierkegaard and Derrida ........

Photos from the yard today

- rosebud ....

- new grape leaves ...

- grrrrr :( ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Almost Kermit

I saw a video today at the Feminist Philosophers blog of a "guilty" cat - a cat who had made a mess and apparently feels guilty about it when confronted by her owner. I'd say the cat recognizes that she's done something the owner won't like, but I'm not sure she feels guilty, just busted (or maybe afraid). Having said this, after spending 18 years in Kermit's company, I do think most animals have the same emotions we do. But anyway, I wanted to post the video because the two cats in it look almost exactly like Kermit. I miss her!

When will we ever learn?

- Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960. The N Reactor is in the foreground, with the twin KE and KW Reactors in the immediate background. The historic B Reactor, the world's first plutonium production reactor, is visible in the distance.

Today my sister and I were talking about the Japanese nuclear plant problem and she mentioned a friend of hers who had cancer, a friend who wondered if it had been caused by living near the Hanford Site. I'd never heard of the place and was amazed to learn of it. Here's just Wikipedia's intro to their extensive page on it ...

"[...] Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

- Spent nuclear fuel stored underwater and uncapped in Hanford's K-East Basin

During the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Nuclear technology developed rapidly during this period, and Hanford scientists produced many notable technological achievements. Many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate, and government documents have since confirmed that Hanford's operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River, which threatened the health of residents and ecosystems.

- Hanford scientists feeding radioactive food to sheep

The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the manufacturing process left behind 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m³) of high-level radioactive waste that remains at the site. This represents two-thirds of the nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup ......"

- The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, where radioactivity was released from 1944 to 1971

Holy mackerel! :(

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Andrew Brown and myself on the burqa ban

Today saw a post be Andrew Brown - Behind the burqa ban's reasoning. I think burqa-wearing is not a religious issue but a culturally driven discrimination against women issue. While political right-wingers may be using the burqa issue to push their own political agendas, there is no intrinsic link between the desire to ban burqas and conservatism. And I find the pope's "freedom of choice" argument against banning the burqa to be a disingenuous ploy to keep women in their place while working to keep religion exempt from anti-discrimination legislation (this from the guy who had Michelle Obama wear a veil in his presence, not to mention the Vatican's dress code).

I think some people find the idea of a woman in a burqa almost romantic - almost every story on the burqa seems to have a photo of a close-up of beautiful eyes. In example, here's the one from Brown's post ...

We seldom see other kinds of burqas or the whole body covered by it. Here's a photo of a burqa-clad beggar in Afghanistan, from Wikipedia ....

Here's just a bit of Andrew Brown's post ....

[I]t does seem clear that there are some French people who, without any particular hostility to Islam or to Muslims, believe that the burqa is incompatible with republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity. It may assert brotherhood, but only as a superior way of being to sisterhood. It shouts in favour of inequality; and though it can be defended as a demand for liberty, it is only the liberty to demand submission.


In the recent discussion of Fr. Roy Bourgeois and women's ordination, one thing I saw mentioned often in comments was the concept of "complementarianism" - the belief, usually religious, that men and women have different but complementary roles. You can find this in the catechism, and of course in JP2's Mulieris Dignitatem. Another term for this idea is difference feminism, the belief that men and women are ontologically different versions of the human being ....

The metaphysical foundation of this theory was developed by Dietrich von Hildebrand and Edith Stein, and later by Personalists like Emmanuel Mounier and Jacques Maritain. More recently, the theory was espoused by Pope John Paul II as a foundation for a new feminism. (see JP2's letter to women)

I find complementarianism and all its euphemisms to be wrongheaded, a ploy to justify inequality. I prefer equality feminism and Christian Egalitarianism (among those listed as Christian Egalitarians are NT Wright and Ben Witherington).

This reminded me of a lecture by Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook, about gender difference. Here's a quote from the lecture ...

"[W]hat we know in behavioral and social science is that on every available, every measurable trait, attitude, behavior, women and men are far more similar than they are different. That is what every social and behavioral scientist knows. There may be some small mean differences, but the real story in gender is that the variations among men, and the variations among women, are much greater than any small difference that you might find in mean scores between women and men .... There's something in our culture, something in where we are, who we are, that wants desperately to believe that there is some fundamental, irreducible difference between women and men. Now my argument to you tonight is not only that men and women are more similar than we are different on every available measurable trait, attitude, and behavior, but in fact we are also more similar than we are different politically - that is, there is no war between the sexes, no battle between the sexes, that in fact men and women can and should be allies .. the very things that women have identified that they need to live the lives they say they want to live are the things that we men also need to live the lives that we say we want to live."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shutter Island: the movie

A while ago I posted about the novel Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. I hadn't seen the movie then but I finally have.

The film Shutter Island (rated R) is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, and Michelle Williams. It sticks very closely to the storyline of the novel from which it's adapted, and it can be described in the same words from Publishers Weekly - [It] carries an ending so shocking yet so faithful to what has come before, that it will go down as one of the most aesthetically right resolutions ever written. But as anyone who has read him knows, Lehane, despite his mastery of the mechanics of suspense, is about much more than twists; here, he's in pursuit of the nature of self-knowledge and self-deception, and the ways in which both can be warped by violence and evil.

Critics varied widely on what they thought of the movie - Ebert gave it three and a half stars out of four, A.O. Scott of The New York Times thought it was terrible, and John Anderson at the Wall Street Journal thought it was great.

Here's part of Ebert's review ....

Shutter Island
BY ROGER EBERT / February 17, 2010

[...] Shutter Island, we're told, is a remote and craggy island off Boston, where a Civil War-era fort has been adapted as a prison for the criminally insane. We approach it by boat through lowering skies, and the feeling is something like the approach to King Kong's island: Looming in gloom from the sea, it fills the visitor with dread. To this island travel U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo).

It's 1954, and they are assigned to investigate the disappearance of a child murderer (Emily Mortimer). There seems to be no way to leave the island alive. The disappearance of one prisoner might not require the presence of two marshals unfamiliar with the situation, but we never ask that question. Not after the ominous walls of the prison arise. Not after the visitors are shown into the office of the prison medical director, Dr. Cawley, played by Ben Kingsley with that forbidding charm he has mastered.

It's clear that Teddy has no idea what he's getting himself into. Teddy -- such an innocuous name in such a gothic setting. Scorsese, working from a novel by Dennis Lehane, seems to be telling a simple enough story here; the woman is missing, and Teddy and Chuck will look for her. But the cold, gray walls clamp in on them, and the offices of Cawley and his colleagues, furnished for the Civil War commanding officers, seem borrowed from a tale by Edgar Allan Poe .....

he film's primary effect is on the senses. Everything is brought together into a disturbing foreshadow of dreadful secrets. How did this woman escape from a locked cell in a locked ward in the old fort, its walls thick enough to withstand cannon fire? Why do Cawley and his sinister colleague Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow, ready to play chess with Death) seem to be concealing something? Why is even such a pleasant person as the deputy warden not quite convincingly friendly? (He's played by John Carroll Lynch, Marge's husband in "Fargo," so you can sense how nice he should be.) Why do the methods in the prison trigger flashbacks to Teddy's memories of helping to liberate a Nazi death camp? ......

There are thrilling visuals in "Shutter Island." Another film Scorsese showed his cast was Hitchcock's "Vertigo," and we sense echoes of its hero's fear of heights. There's the possibility that the escaped woman might be lurking in a cave on a cliff, or hiding in a lighthouse. Both involve hazardous terrain to negotiate, above vertiginous falls to waves pounding on the rocks below. A possible hurricane is approaching. Light leaks out of the sky. The wind sounds mournful. It is, as they say, a dark and stormy night. And that's what the movie is about: atmosphere, ominous portents, the erosion of Teddy's confidence and even his identity. It's all done with flawless directorial command. Scorsese has fear to evoke, and he does it with many notes ......

Ebert mentions that a number of critics felt that the story was incomprehensible and that the ending was from out of the blue, and he responds that some people may like the movie better after having seen it a couple of times. I think part of why I liked the movie was that I had already read the book and not only knew what was going on and what was coming, but had a much more intimate knowledge of the main character. I'm not the greatest fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and I wasn't sure he could do right by Teddy, but he actually did an excellent job. Ben Kingsly was very good too. Though it took me a while to become engaged by the film, by the end of it I was very involved .... like the book, I found it disturbing, tragic, and haunting.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Retreat week 28

This week of Creighton University's online Spiritual Exercises retreat, week 28, has a lot going on: it begins with Jesus and the disciples leaving the Last Supper and going to the Garden where Jesus prays and is arrested, the trials, and the walk to the crucifixion. I thought I'd just post a bit every couple of days instead of doing it all at once ... first, the Garden.

We're asked to put ourselves in the scene with the disciples and Jesus. This year I'm going to allow myself to imagine what things would have been like if the atonement theory of Jesus' death was shelved for an incarnation theory instead (Ken Overberg SJ). In such a case, Jesus probably wouldn't feel that God wanted him to die, though of course he may still have believed death was his only ethical option.

The movie Jesus has an interesting scene of Jesus in the garden. Like The Passion of the Christ, it has the devil appear to tempt Jesus to ask God to intervene and save him from death. The devil takes Jesus on a time-travel trip to the future to show him that despite his crucifixion, people keep on making the same bad choices, some of them even in his name (like fighting the crusades and burning people at the stake). The devil tells him that his death will have been in vain. I liked Jesus' replay ..... "Not in vain ... those who want to will find in me the strength to love until the end." The video clip below begins with Jesus and the disciples in the garden at night, and with Judas telling the temple guards where to find Jesus .....

Speaking of ...

Rutgers philosophy professor Jeff McMahan, you can listen to a past Philosophy Bites podcast of him speaking about vegetarianism .... here There was an interesting part right at the end of the podcast ....

Q: It's clear that you think that ... everybody in the West should be a vegetarian - well, why aren't they?

McMahan: Eating animals seems to most people to be in their interest because they like it. Unlike other victimized populations, animals can't protest and they can't explain to us why what we're doing is wrong. And most people don't confront the arguments for vegetarianism. And even those people who do hear the arguments, I think find their own practices reinforced by the behavior of all those around them. So if you look around yourself you see these people you know, these models of good people, and they're eating meat. How could it be wrong when everybody is doing it? Well, I think that's the way that Southerners thought in the American South in the first half of the nineteenth century about slavery. It was in their interests to have slaves, they constructed a lot of feeble rationalizations, that everybody else was doing ti, all the nice people they knew kept slaves. And they managed to, by reinforcing each others behavior, perpetuate the practice until, from the outside, they were forced to stop it.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Jeff McMahan and Just War

There's a thoughtful post at Denny's blog about Just War ... WAR -- An Evil Incarnate?

I've never liked the idea of Just War. It seems disingenuous. There's no gospel foundation for the theory - it's a medieval work-around construct all about justifying evil means with a good end. I'm not saying that there are no circumstances where this might not be worth the cost - stopping the Nazis in WWII is an example of when it would be so - but what seems wrong to me is the Christian attempt to whitewash war for a good purpose as if that kind of war didn't accumulate atrocities on both sides, didn't destroy bodies and souls on both sides. If Christians decide to go to war, they should at least be honest enough to admit there's nothing Christ-ian about that.

Or at least that's what I think, but maybe I don't really understand all the weird complexities of Just War theory. Speaking of which, here's a video talk from 2009 by philosopher Jeff McMahan on "Proportionality and Self-Defense in War" - I found it pretty interesting, especially the questions/answers at the end ...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Fr. Bourgeois will not recant

America magazine's blog has a post about Fr. Bourgeois and the letter he's written in response to the demand he recant his beliefs about women's ordination. I thought I'd post the letter here ......


Rev. Edward Dougherty, M.M., Superior General
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
P.O. Box 303 Maryknoll, NY 10545

April 8, 2011

Dear Father Dougherty and General Council,

Maryknoll has been my community, my family, for 44 years, so it is with great sadness that I received your letter of March 18, 2011 stating I must recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women, or I will be dismissed from Maryknoll.

When I was a young man in the military, I felt God was calling me to be a priest. I later entered Maryknoll and was ordained. I am grateful for finding the happiness, meaning and hope I was seeking in life.

For the past 20 years I have been speaking out and organizing against the injustice of the School of the Americas and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Over these years I discovered an injustice much closer to home – an injustice in my Church.

Devout women in our Church believe God is calling them to be priests, but they are rejected because the Church teaches that only baptized men can become priests. As a Catholic priest for 38 years, I believe our Church’s teaching that excludes women from the priesthood defies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny for the following reasons:

(1) As Catholics, we believe that we were created in the image and likeness of God and that men and women are equal before God. Excluding women from the priesthood implies that men are superior to women.

(2) Catholic priests say that the call to be a priest is a gift and comes fromGod. How can we, as men, say: "Our call from God is authentic, but your call, as women, is not"? Who are we to reject God’s call of women to the priesthood? I believe our Creator who is the Source of life and called forth the sun and stars is certainly capable of calling women to be priests.

(3) We are told that women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only men as apostles. As we know, Jesus did not ordain anyone. Jesus also chose a woman, Mary Magdalene, to be the first witness to His resurrection, which is at the core of our faith. Mary Magdalene became known as "the apostle to the apostles."

(4) A 1976 report by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Vatican’s top Scripture scholars, concluded that there is no valid case to be made against the ordination of women from the Scriptures. In the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian and other Christian churches, God’s call of women to the priesthood is affirmed and women are ordained. Why not in the Catholic church?

(5) The Holy Scriptures remind us in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither male nor female. In Christ Jesus you are one." Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World states: "Every type of discrimination … based on sex. .. is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent."

After much reflection and many conversations with fellow priests and women, I believe sexism is at the root of excluding women from the priesthood. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women, in the end, it is not the way of God. Sexism is about power. In the culture of clericalism many Catholic priests see the ordination of women as a threat to their power.

Our Church is in a crisis today because of the sexual abuse scandal and the closing of hundreds of churches because of a shortage of priests. When I entered Maryknoll we had over 300 seminarians. Today we have ten. For years we have been praying for more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. God is sending us women priests. Half the population are women. If we are to have a vibrant and healthy Church, we need the wisdom, experience and voices of women in the priesthood.

As Catholics, we believe in the primacy and sacredness of conscience. Our conscience is sacred because it gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter, a humble Austrian farmer, husband and father of four young children, to refuse to join Hitler’s army, which led to his execution. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say she could no longer sit in the back of the bus. Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood. And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.

In his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council’s document, Gaudium et Spes, Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said: "Over the pope … there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority."

What you are requiring of me is not possible without betraying my conscience. In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood. This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant.

Like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement and the right of women to vote, the ordination of women is inevitable because it is rooted in justice. Wherever there is an injustice, silence is the voice of consent. I respectfully ask that my fellow priests, bishops, Church leaders in the Vatican and Catholics in the pews speak out and affirm God’s call of women to the priesthood.

Your Brother in Christ,

Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
P.O. Box 3330
Columbus, GA 31903


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Basilica of the Agony

One of the blogs I visit is Jerusalem Hills daily photo which has a recent post about The Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, a Catholic church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. . Here's a little of Dina's post ....

A tireless and devoted Italian architect

Antonio Barluzzi (1884-1960) was an Italian architect, a fervent Christian, and a tireless traveler. He certainly left his mark in the Holy Land. Between 1912 and 1955 he built or restored 24 churches, hospitals, and schools in Israel and Jordan.

The Christian Information Center in Jerusalem is currently showing an exhibition about his life and works. The posters, like the one above that you can enlarge and read, are in English and Italian. Look at the Arab stonemasons at work on the stones to build the Basilica of the Agony on the Mount of Olives ...

Check out her blog post to see her great photos of the Basilica :)

Fuzzy plants

Fuzziness is too small for me to see in real life but I can see it in photos :)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

If only

It's sometimes asked what the church should do in regards to the sex abuse problem Today I saw a comment to a post at America magazine's blog that I thought answered this question very well. Here's the comment ....


7. Michael,

You ask what to do with the hierarchy. There are several steps that are needed.

First, there should be some sign from Rome that dereliction of duty that causes harm to innocent young people is not to be tolerated. Some meaningful gestures that show that those who govern the church are going to do more than repeat meaningless assurances, and spend the rest of their time casting blame on everyone except those responsible.

The pope could begin by removing Cardinal Law from his prestigious posts and sending him to work in the field - perhaps with those who are victims of a variety of abuse - women and children especially. The pope then should ask for resignations - also as a symbol. There are still a number of bishops heading dioceses who were as guilty as Law - McCormack for one (now in the news). Rigali obviously comes to mind. O'Brady of Ireland. These men could also be put to work where they will not enjoy cushy lives at the expense of the people in the pews.

Secondly, and more important for the long-run, the pope should call for a commission that would include ordinary priests, ordinary laity - especially parents - victims, as well as members of the hierarchy. Appointing Archbishop Martin and Bishop Robinson to head this commission would make a powerful statement that Rome is serious about this and not just playacting for the cameras.

This commission would be tasked with developing policies that clearly define what bishops must do when confronted with an abusive priest - it should also clearly define what will happen to the bishop if he fails to protect the innocent under his care. He will be asked to resign, and he will be given another assignment. Also, the commission could begin work on finding a way to have the bishops be accountable to THE church, rather than simply to the Vatican, just as they were in the early church. There should be some way for the people of God to be able to initiate investigations and even to 'recall' a bishop, just as we can 'recall' a politician in extreme circumstances. There should be a formal process that ensures that bishops and other hierarchy will invite the insights of THE church on a scheduled basis and report back to them (just as executives must do with their stockholders), and hopefully will listen to them. Bishops are afflicted with the same dangers that the pope and those in Rome face, and that face many in political leadership and in executive suites in industry as well - they become so isolated from the 'real' world, protected, all communications vetted and censored before reaching the top, so used to luxury paid for by others, and surrounded by those who fear challenging them, that they become arrogant and far more concerned about protecting their own privilege than protecting those who depend on their honesty, integrity and morality to do the 'right' thing. Executives can be fired - some have gone to prison. Politicians have to face reelection or even recalls. Heads of schools can be fired, and also have to face legal authorities if they hid child sexual abuse among their staff.

Those are the bare outlines. But until there are clear policies in place that indicate that the buck stops with the bishops (and if the bishops fail, with Rome), that the bishops must meet both the legal and moral obligations of reporting possible criminals to the legal authorities, and immediately removing the possible abuser from any ministry involving children until the legal investigation is complete, and, if necessary, a trial has been held to determine guilt or innocence.

I know of few organizations that tolerate the degree of malfeasance in its executives that the leadership in Rome has tolerated. This includes the current pope and his predecessor. (the Santo Subito nonsense should be stopped in its tracks as well). However, even if it is far too late, the pope could still demonstrate that he is willing to do all that is necessary to ensure that future priest-abusers must face the legal authorities and they will not be protected by their bishops.

Report comment
Posted By Anne Chapman | Wednesday, April 06, 2011 11:22:18 AM


Unfortunately, I doubt any of this will come to pass :(

Ignatius and the Borjas

If I had tv, I'd be watching The Borgias (see trailer for it above :) As Wikipedia states, it's ... a 2011 historical-fiction television miniseries created by Neil Jordan ... based on the Borgia family (Borja in Valencian), an Italian dynasty of Spanish origin, and stars Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI [Rodrigo Lanzol Borja] ...

The Borja family seem so interesting - the most well known is probably Lucrezia, the daughter of Pope Alexander VI. I once read an old (1947) but good novel that touched on the Borjas - Prince of Foxes - and I've been intrigued by them ever since

- Lucrezia

Even Ignatius of Loyola knew the Borjas. Not long ago I read na article by John Padberg SJ ..... "Ignatius, the Popes, and Realistic Reverence", Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits , 25 (May 1993) ... which mentioned Pope Alexander VI, and John O'Malley SJ, in his book, The First Jesuits, mentions Saint Francis Borgia ... 4th Duke of Gandia, 3rd General Father of the Jesuit Order, Grandee of Spain ... the paternal great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI ... including the apparent rumor that that Borja had briefly lived in concubinage with Joan of Austria, Princess of Portugal the only (and secret) woman Jesuit. O'Malley writes of Borja and Ignatius ....

While Ignatius was general he occasionally treated his closest collaborators, such as Polanco and Nadal, with surprising harshness, but never, despite aggravations, Francisco de Borja, the former Duke of Gandia, who shortly after the death of his wife in 1546 entered the order to Ignatius' great delight. In 1550, moreover, he greeted with enthusiasm Borja's never-executed project to enhance the church that eventually became the Gesù with the body of his great-grandfather, Pope Alexander VI. In Spain the Jesuits were accused of parading Borja around "like a trophy." (They were of course embarrassed when murder and other violent crimes were with seeming justification imputed to members of his family.) - p. 72

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Another photo of the maybe-Freesia ...

Monday, April 04, 2011

Retreat week 27

This week of Creighton University's online spiritual exercises retreat (week 27) is about the last supper. We're asked to imaginatively contemplate the scene with ourselves as part of it, there with Jesus and the disciples when he washes our feet, passes us the bread and wine, tells us that one of us will betray him and that he will perish.

I find this contemplation hard because I feel guilty (one of us betrays him) and angry (he's going away from us) and depressed (he's going away through torture and death)

I pretty much like the version of this scene in the movie Jesus. It takes place in two parts, actually: the first part happens two days before Passover, when all are sharing a meal (women as well as men) ..... Judas tries to convince Jesus to lead the zealots in a coup against the Romans, to which Jesus responds by telling everyone that he's going to be killed. Peter, as usual, tries to talk him out of it, but this version also has Jesus' mother rejecting the idea of his death as well. He gives the explanation that it must happen because it's God's will (hate that idea) but later, when Jesus is alone with his very upset mother, she asks why he "has to" die and he elaborates.

Start watching the video at 1:17 into it until 4:40 ......

The second part, the actual Passover meal/last supper, is pretty short and has Jesus handing around the broken bread and the wine to the disciples (no women present, sadly), and telling them that one of them will betray him, and then bidding Judas to go do what he has to do ... interesting that he sends Judas off after he's asked him to eat the bread and drink the wine.

Begin watching the video 18 seconds into it until 4:33 ....

Saturday, April 02, 2011


I noticed some ladybugs on the aphid-infested rosebush. Took 23 photos and two turned out sort of ok :)

A little pile of them -

At the bottom of the leaf you can also see a tiny spider -

All the Camelots I've known

I saw in the news that there's a new tv series - Camelot - about the King Arthur legend. Most (all?) the actors are from the UK, I think, and I only recognized one - Joseph Fiennes as Merlin.

I've been intrigued by Camelot since reading The Once and Future King and I've seen a number of movies about the Arthur legend (you can see a complete list of all the films/tv series about him here). Most were a bit disappointing :) but still I thought I'd mention them ....

The oldest one I've seen was the 1967 Camelot, which I picked up from the library and posted about in 2008 here.. It starred Richard Harris as King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere, Franco Nero as Lancelot, and David Hemmings as Mordred, and was directed by Joashua Logan. Sadly, Merlin was not really in the film except as a remembered flash-back. Here's Harris as Arthur ...

There was the 1981 Excalibur, starred Nigel Terry as Arthur, Nicholas Clay as Lancelot, Helen Mirren as Morgana, Liam Neeson as Gawain, Nicol Williamson as Merlin and a relatively unknown Patrick Stewart as Leondegrance. (and Gabriel Byrne as Uther Pendragon). I know I saw this but don't really remember much of it. There are two versions - one PG, the other R.

Then there was the 1995 First Knight which I caught on tv. It starred Sean Connery as King Arthur, Richard Gere as Lancelot, and Julia Ormond as Guinevere. Didn't like it much.

Also on tv, the 1998 miniseries Merlin It starred Sam Neill as Merlin, Miranda Richardson as Queen Mab and also the Lady of the Lake, Isabella Rossellini as Merlin's girlfriend/nemesis Nimue, Martin Short played a gnome :), Rutger Hauer played Vortigern, and Helena Bonham Carter was Morgan le Fay. I actually kind of liked this one, except that Sam Neill seems so un-Merlini-ish. I especially liked the ending.

The last movie I've seen on the subject was the 2004 King Arthur. This one was actually pretty interesting, at least in its choice of actors and storyline. I posted about it in 2008. Here's a bit from that post, King Arthur, student of Pelagius :) ......

- Clive Owen as King Arthur

Last night's rental movie was the 2004 film King Arthur. It had an unusual cast ... Clive Owen as Arthur, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, Stellan Skarsgård as Cerdic the Saxon, Mads Mikkelsen as Tristan, and Ivano Marescotti as St. Germanus of Auxerre, among others.

[The movie's] producers said it was based on new archaeological findings and was more historically accurate.

I don't know about that, but the storyline did differ in many ways, and it has some interesting twists .... Merlin, for instance, is not Arthur's wizard tutor, but the leader of the Pictish tribes who were being pushed to the north and west, called "Woads" in the film (because they used woad to dye their skin, I'd guess), and Guinevere, Merlin's daughter, is pretty good with a bow and arrow, I suppose a take on Boudica. Galahad isn't Lancelot's son - in fact, all the knights of the round table are in this movie said to be Sarmatians who are serving 15 years indentured servitude to Rome in Britain.

- Tristan and his hawk

One kind of interesting part is that they show Arthur, a Roman soldier of British/Roman ancestory, as a student of Pelagius and his doctrine of free will ( St. Germanus, appearing in the movie, was one of his real life detractors). Here's a little of what Wikipedia has to say about him ...

Pelagius (ca. 354 – ca. 420/440) was an ascetic monk and reformer who denied the doctrine of original sin, later developed by Augustine of Hippo, inherited from Adam and was declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church. His interpretation of a doctrine of free will became known as Pelagianism. He was well educated, fluent in both Greek and Latin, and learned in theology. He spent time as an ascetic, focusing on practical asceticism, which his teachings clearly reflect. He was not, however, a cleric. He was certainly well known in Rome, both for the harsh asceticism of his public life as well as the power and persuasiveness of his speech. His reputation in Rome earned him praise early in his career even from such pillars of the Church as Augustine, who referred to him as a "saintly man." However, he was later accused of lying about his own teachings in order to avoid public condemnation. Most of his later life was spent defending himself against other theologians and the Catholic Church ..... After being banished from Rome, Pelagius headed east. He probably died in Palestine around 420, as reported by some. Others mention him living as many as twenty years later. The cause of his death is unknown, but it has been suggested that he was killed by his enemies in the Catholic Church.

Though the movie had its downsides - a hinky dialogue, a misrepresentation of Pelagianism, a bizarre mix of weapons and armour, showing all the Christians as rather venal and the Saxons as unredeemably evil with Cedric such a sociopath, he made my skin crawl - still it was entertaining ... the Picts were sort of freedom fighters that we came to embrace, there was a pretty nice scene with a fight on a frozen lake, the Battle of Mons Badonicus was not too bad, and the scenery, shot in Ireland, was beautiful.

- Cynric and his dad Cerdic with their Saxon horde.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Stephen Law

One of the blogs I visit is that of philosophy professor at the Jesuit Heythrop College, Stephen Law. I began visiting the blog after listening to a podcast of his at Philosophy Bites on the problem of evil in which he brought up the extinction of the dinosaurs :) In a recent posts he has one in a series of videos of him debating Oxford chemistry professor Peter Atkins on whether science can answer every question ......

Some flowers

I don't know what these guys are - they're just growing wild under one of the pine trees ...

Here's another one of my sister's plants - tiny violets (Viola) sharing a pot with other flowers ...