Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

November 17, 2010

Only 3 days until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) premiers this Friday, November 19th.   Here’s how mixed up and neglected our spiritual lives get – I’ve been more excited about the movie than I am about the approach of the Feast of the Nativity.  Would I go stand in line for hours to attend Divine Liturgy?   I’d like to think so but I don’t know if I’d be so happy about it.

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Porn for Bibles

March 4, 2010

Here’s another fine example of the best the angry atheists have to offer.

The Atheist Agenda student group at one of San Antonio’s local institutes of “higher learning”, the University of Texas at San Antonio, is sponsoring a “Porn for Porn” campaign this week.   Their point?  The Bible (or any religious text) is of less value than hard-core porn because it portrays violence, torture and leads to war.  Oh, I get it.  The Bible is bad because the social mores of a small nation of people living 2,000 to 4,000 years ago were so much more misogynistic and violent then the multi-billion dollar modern porn industry which exploits women and children in the most vile and debasing manner, exposing them to infectious disease, rape, violence and humiliation.  That’s progress that is.   I think I’ll stick with the “primitive” revelation of a loving God, who even cares to the point of death for young people like those at UTSA who’d just as soon spit in his face then accept Him.

(One thing that I think is rather insightful is the Express News’ use of the word “stunt” in the title of the news article.”

Orthodox Christian IPhone Apps?

March 2, 2010

Can anyone tell me why there are no IPhone apps for Orthodox Christians?  I just recently got an IPhone, and despite my misgivings about becoming so dependent on more technology, I am hooked.  Why is it I can kill hours playing  sim games or on-line poker (if I wanted), check the weather on Earth (or Mars for that matter), and buy anything that’s legal in 50 states, but I can’t download the Orthodox saints of the day, light a virtual candle at the Holy Sepulchre, or sing along at Liturgy with a downloaded service book?  Isn’t there anyone out there putting together an app for Orthodox Christians?

The Dead Sea Scrolls of L. Ron Hubbard

January 8, 2010

 

From beyond the grave comes the voice of L. Ron Hubbard, (bad) sci-fi writer, tax evader, and shrewd founder of a very profitable business venture, er, pseudo-religious cult.   Scientology spokesmen made the announcement during a New Year’s celebration in Los Angeles and likened  the finding of more than 1000 hours of previously unknown lectures and numerous writings to the collected written wisdom of the Buddha.  Ah, ringing in the New Year with the sound of cash registers, but be prepared to spend $7500 for your own copy of this drivel.  What’s that old expression?  Fools and their money….

The Holy Innocents

December 28, 2009

December 29th marks the date on the Orthodox calendar (New) for the remembrance of the infant boys murdered by King Herod in Bethlehem.  The accounts say there were 14,000, though I doubt there were 14,000 people in the whole town.  Whatever the true number – 140 or 14,000 – the calculated murder of children made such a deep impression on the Gospel writer of Matthew, as well as the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, that it is remembered as a horrific event even two thousand years later.  

If you are  too shocked by this incident and blame it on the Romans’ less advanced culture and obviously flawed morals, remember the one million babies who die in this country each year from abortion.   These aren’t babies murdered at the hands of a political despot, but at the request of their own mothers and accommodated by a greed-driven abortion industry and the rabid ideals of pro-abortion supporters.  Who will write stories about the millions of murdered innocents of the 21st century?

Another Crazy Award for the Gosselins

December 15, 2009

Wow!  I so wish I could write like Joan Walsh at Salon.  (Flip  through the link to Entry #10 “Nuts Plus Eight”)

If you just can’t get enough vicarious melodrama on Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight exploited children, Joan Walsh will make you feel appropriately guilty for feeding the reality TV sickness in this country.  And if watching the Gosselins implode wasn’t fun enough already, reading Ms. Walsh’s gut-shot poetry is pure literary bliss.

If you’d like to follow along and see who else makes Salon’s 2009 Crazy list or vote on the rankings, click here.    Ain’t America great!

An Atheist’s Christmas

December 14, 2009

Man, are these some angry, aggressive, bitter, unhappy people.   I can never understand why people who vehemently deny God, care so much about the religious beliefs of others, or feel so besieged by the observance of Christmas.  (I tend to think it’s that little voice in their heads whispering “What if it’s true, what if it’s true?” }

I too get sick of the endless piped-in Christmas music at the grocery store, the frenzy of money-fueled Christmas commercialism, the marathon of pointless “holiday” specials on TV,  but that’s only because I WANT a more religiously focused, low stress, meaningful Christmas – not a Christ-less Christmas.  Atheists just quit yer bitchin’ and develop a thicker skin. 

Pagans and Orthodox Christians

October 30, 2009

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It’s the day before Halloween so the news outlets are knocking themselves out running “your next door neighbor, the pagan” stories chronicling the rising numbers of pagans, particularly Wiccans, in America, and neo-paganism’s acceptance as a cool new religious choice.  I just finished reading an ABC News article  that does its best to prove both of those points.  Did you know that Wicca is a much more accepting, religiously tolerant, environmentally conscious, and gender and sexually affirming religion than your traditional, oppressive, misogynistic brand of Christianity? Aside from the  coming out stories of middle-age housewives, confused teenagers, and gay men who cast salt circles in their backyards wearing black bathrobes or nothing at all, the one fact that struck me so powerfully about this article was the demographic number – .3%.  That is the general estimate of practicing pagans (Wiccans, but also worshippers of the Norse gods for example and other flavors of neo-paganism) in the United States.  Let me shake you up by pointing out the Pew Forum’s most recent survey of American religious groups estimates the total number of Orthodox Christians at

.6%

Yes, that’s less than 1% of 305.5 million Americans.  What is the matter with us, my fellow Orthodox Christians?  I am actually very pissed off and discouraged that we, the keepers of the ancient Christian faith, the witnesses of  the fullness of the Gospel, the inheritors of the first Christian communities established by the Apostles,  have only a .3% numerical significance in this country over the pagans!

Each of us individually needs to recommit ourselves to evangelism and the spreading of our faith.  If our relationship with God and his Holy Church means so much to us, our zeal has got to translate into hard numbers.   At this rate we aren’t going to see 1% before the end of the next decade.  Where do you think the pagans are going to place?   

Halloween and Orthodox Christians

October 26, 2009

halloween-pumpkin 

Pews or no pews, kneeling on Sunday, headcoverings.  You think these cause consternation and discord among our “Little T” debates?  Try raising the issue of Halloween among 10 Orthodox Christians and you’ll get 10 different opinions, each centered around the question of  ‘what commonly observed, secular American activities are appropriate for an Orthodox Christian to take part in?   

 In this past Sunday’s church bulletin, I went back and forth about what exactly to put in concerning Halloween.  Knowing the range of opinions, I did not want to print anything that was too dogmatic or based upon my own beliefs, but was a more general treatment of the Christian holiday associated with the season and which was in line with our priest’s judgment, which is pretty neutral about Halloween.  On the other hand, very strong injunctions against the practice of Halloween have been preached in recent years, and not so recently.  You’d be surprised to know that St. John of Maximovitch, who I myself revere, dealt with Halloween in his own way back in his earliest days in San Francisco.   This is not an issue the Church has considered on a level in the way abortion or same sex marriage attack key doctrinal positions.  This is a pastoral issue and as such is subject to the various interpretations of clergy.

So in order to balance these competing pastoral opinions, I found the following explanation from the Oxford Dictionary of Christian Belief, concerning the history of All Hallow’s Eve and its connections with the modern celebration of Halloween.  Make of it what you will, but it presents a more moderate counter-balance to the usual explanation of Halloween as a strictly  Celtic, pagan influenced observance, and the gateway holiday that leads a Christian straight into Satanism and damnation.    (A few minor grammar edits are mine to adapt it for length and for use in an Orthodox publication.)

The Feast of All Saints is a holy day of the Church honoring all saints, known and unknown. This is much like the American holidays of Veterans Day and Presidents Day, where many people are honored on one day.   Christians have been honoring their saints and martyrs since at least the second century AD. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, probably written near the middle of the second century, attests to this reality:

Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more pure than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, so that when being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.

Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied from location to location, and many times local churches honored local saints. Gradually, however, feast days became more universal. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in Saint Ephrem the Syrian (†AD 373).  Saint John Chrysostom (†AD 407) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the Eastern Churches the feast is celebrated to this day. In the West, this date was probably originally used, and then the feast was moved to May 13th. The current observance, November 1st, originates from the time of Pope Gregory III (†AD 741), and was likely first observed on that date  in Germany. This fact makes the connection of the All Saints Feast with the pagan festival Samhain less likely, since Samhain was an Irish pagan feast, rather than German.

The vigil of the Feast (the eve) has grown up in the English-speaking countries as a festival in itself, All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.  While many consider Halloween pagan, as far as the [Western] Church is concerned the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints.  Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast’s vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us.  However, for some Halloween is used for evil purposes, in which many Christians dabble unknowingly.

Various customs have developed related to Halloween. In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for “soul cakes,” and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day “trick-or-treat.”  The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own. Some Christians visit cemeteries on Halloween, not to practice evil, but to commemorate departed relatives and friends, with picnics and the last flowers of the year. The day after All Saints day is called All Soul’s Day, a day to remember and offer prayers up on behalf of all of the faithful departed.

As so often happens in our “internet as fact” culture, blog readers often visit  a variety of blogs to know what to think and believe.  They can pick and chose from millions of bloggers who use their electronic soapboxes to display a clever use of words and out-of-context sources, and to broadcast their “authoritative” opinions to the world.    I say this to dissuade anyone from using my post to argue “for” or “against” Halloween.  Opinions I have – but not the ability to make these spiritual decisions for you and your family.  That said, my own family practice has been to celebrate Halloween as a fun, silly night of dress-up, child-friendly scariness and block party revelry.  I have had many talks with the kids about the various origins of Halloween customs and some of the evils that have been improperly attached to Halloween (i.e. Satanism or animal sacrifice) and what is appropriate behavior for an Orthodox Christian.  My kids being kids, always list Halloween as one of their favorite “holidays”, right up there with Christmas and Pascha.  It makes for good segway talks into the difference between having fun and celebrating the life of our Lord and Savior, and what is truly important as a Christian.   In other words, fun in moderation and with a clear understanding of boundaries.

Is this what I think everyone should do?   Heavens no!  My opinion about Halloween may be based on my own poor discernment and failure to give all areas of my life over to the Gospel.  On the other hand, as another priest friend remarked once, “Why should the devil have all the fun?”

Mission Aborted for the Rocket Man

September 16, 2009

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I had a really hard time deciding which pseudo-celeb news story deserved remorseless skewering – Jessica Simpson’s Fifi dog served up as a coyote snack or Kate Gosselin’s hairstyle contribution to world peace and the cure for cancer.   Instead I had to go with Elton John’s skewering by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church over his intention to adopt a child with his “partner”, David Furnish.

The message conveyed by Fr. Georgy Gulyaev of the Donetsk Diocese couldn’t be any more clear – homosexuality is a sin and the homosexual family is a distortion of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and biblical nature of the family. 

“The Church is strictly against same-sex marriages and the damage they cause. It’s written in Holy Scriptures that homosexual marriage and relations is a sin.

“It is a sin, it is against nature, and it represents the dead end of human development.

“People pretend to have good intentions, create semi-marriages and so-called families, and moreover they dare to adopt children. Unlike people who are blessed by God to create natural families, these are people who succumb to their passions.

“This is definitely a sin, there is no other word for it, and the church will never agree that people who have created same-sex “marriage” could also dare to adopt children.

“This applies to all, including Elton John. He is a sinner.”

The photos accompanying the news story are sure to be great sympathy generators for Elton John, and I don’t doubt he has a genuine desire to parent this child.   The parental urge is hard-wired into our human psyche by the same God who created the natural inclination for male-female relations and the nurturing of children within the male-female home.  This poor baby deserves that loving, caring, traditional family, i.e. a married man and woman.  

Sadly, there ain’t nothing anyone can say to Elton John that’s going to change his mind, and he’s sure to be backed by the righteous indignation of the Rainbow Mafia, which will not stop until traditional family values have been insinuated, legislated and bullied out of society. 

God bless the strength of the Orthodox Church to stand up for the faith and historic teachings of the Church.