Wonder Woman’s Weakness

wwposterrdcd_579260f4b9aba4-81209460By now, there have been so many thoughtful and decent reviews of Wonder Woman that I don’t have to repeat them but just cite them for you. Whatever I have to say, they already have said it better. Here are the points that shine in this film:

SPOILER ALERT

——1. The film models a healthier and truer feminism, one that Susan B. Anthony and her fellow suffragettes would be somewhat approving of, considering how wayward feminism has become (seeing all men as the enemy, but also seeing men as the standard, is not helpful, much less realistic). Here, let me quote from this Verily Magazine article:

Yet the film’s most compelling moments are when Diana and Steve’s characters are complementing each other. When struck with the painful sight of war, she is unafraid to show her emotions. And when confronted with a baby for the first time in London, she becomes excited. It is in such moments that Diana’s strength has an authentically feminine quality, emphasized more clearly by her contrast with Steve. When she is passionate, Steve is practical. When she is emotional, Steve is rational. But all these qualities are necessary to the success of their mission.

——2. The mythology of Zeus and Ares awfully reminded me of the Fall of Lucifer, to the point I think that this is not original to genuine Greek mythology, but is a Hollywood revision (using Christianity) to help make Diana’s origin story more compelling, and why not? After all, the Christian belief of the creation and fall of the angels from Heaven is super powerful and meaningful, and true. (And BTW: real “gods” don’t die.) Supporting this hunch is the movie reviewing Dcn. Greydanus:

Diana believes that mankind is basically good, reflecting the good deity in whose image we were created, though we have been led down the wrong path by a malign spiritual influence. The catch is that the good deity in question is Zeus, whom we are told brought Diana to life from clay. Also, the malign spiritual influence is Zeus’ son Ares, the Greek god of war, albeit a version of Ares more like Lucifer than anything in Greek mythology.houston-sharp-12-asc-ww-zva-final-newares

——3. And now for the negative, the weakness of Wonder Woman that I am so sad happened. In fact, while I was watching the scene, I had hoped so much that Steve would be the dignified gentleman I had reckoned him to be, but instead of escorting Diana to her bedroom, and then leaving her to her privacy, he spends the night with her in a way only her husband should be privileged to spend. To me, this was very sad considering how much virtue Diana had been inspiring in the men around her. The film would have been so much the better for this scene to have been otherwise, instead of following the lame and usual Hollywood formula of fornication/adultery. Imagine with me:

Steve walks Diana to her quarters for the night, and they share a gaze as he backs toward the door. She doesn’t want him to leave, nor does he want to leave either, but he knows that leaving would be the best way to respect and honor her. She knows this too, and knows that despite how attracted they are to each other, for him to have the will power, the self-control, and the love to treat her better, would be an incredible sign of how much he values her. This would have made their love grow even more.

Love grows when it is protected by chastity. For Steve to have honored Diana’s chastity (and his, too) would have showed true love for her in a way that fornicating with her could never. This was such a weakness that could have been so much stronger for the film. This was a missed opportunity for the film to become something even more special. And we need special in this broken-and-fake-love culture of ours.

wonder-woman-pic-1496431079Even worse: we see only later that Steve finally says that he loves Diana when he is about to sabotage the poison plane. So let’s get this straight: they share a night in bed, and only much later does Steve express his love to Diana? First they have sex, and then comes love? How backward is that? Shouldn’t love come first? This reminded me of how backward things are in another typical and lame Hollywood fornication story: the Age of Adaline:

Unfortunately however, the emphasis on marriage’s demands for fidelity is conflicted with Adaline and Ellis sleeping together. What is really jarring though is when Ellis tells Adaline that he is falling in love with her… but only after they had been sleeping together for a few weeks. Now doesn’t this seem strange? That they had been sharing their nights together before there was love in the relationship? Did Ellis not love Adaline all that time prior? It sure seems that way in the film’s dialogue. So then what… love comes after sex? Doesn’t that seem backward? Shouldn’t love come first? Before anything? Before everything? Sex is meaningless without love, and for Ellis to bring up love this late in the timeline is lame to me. First, you meet her, get to know her, then love her, commit to her, vow to her before witnesses that you’ll be hers, be married to her, and only then give your body and soul to her, all the while choosing to love again and again. That’s the order. Going backward, or hopping around is just weird when the rest of the film encourages faithfulness and seriousness in marriage. This was one messed up moment in an otherwise decent film.

There was more mutual love and respect when they rested chastely on the boat, sailing to England, but alas… Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine, and Gal Gadot missed this chance to shine up Wonder Woman even more. To see more about this epic failure, please see this Verily article, from a young woman’s perspective and hard learned lesson.

——4. That all being said, I did enjoy this film and wouldn’t recommend you pass it up if you have the time to see it. Since the Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan, DC Comics has been in the dumps with their films, but Wonder Woman shows that a come-back is possible!

——Bonus: Did you know Gal Gadot is a happy and proud mother who filmed the movie while she was 5 months with child? Read more here!

The Little Mermaid’s Original Sin

58ff56e78a6f63d1284b2ca94542a9b4Like the classic Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s The Little Mermaid is stuffed with Christian allegory. Whether the studio, animators, screenwriters, songwriters, voice-actors, and director actually meant to make the movie as an allegory, I highly doubt it, but it is what it is–and after I noticed it, I can never now un-notice it. Here’s what I saw:

SPOILER ALERT

  1. Distrust of the Father: In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve became doubtful of God’s care and love. They believed they had to go behind his back. This is also what Ariel does in the film: she thinks she is already an adult, that she can decide good and evil for herself, that she knows better that her dad: King Triton.
  2. So Ariel is tempted in her own garden: the secret grotto of amazing fruits (treasures) that she’s collected from forbidden areas. Even so, Ariel grasps for more and for the forbidden, even though she has everything a princess enjoys! A loving father, all the royal fare of the sea kingdom. This was exactly Adam and Eve’s condition in Eden, too, “But who cares, no big deal, I want more….”part_of_your_world
  3. Then the serpent appears, and Ariel believes Ursula ( as represented by her twin sea-serpents: eels). This is interesting because we Christians know Satan is not really a serpent, but the snake of Genesis merely represents the tempter. Also, we discover a few things from Ursula:
    • She used to live in the Father’s palace, used to serve the King, until she was banished because of her treachery. Sounds awful lot like when Lucifer rebelled in Heaven and was cast down like a lightning bolt.
    • The Devil will always deceive, and has always been watching us for weaknesses, to tempt us where it hurts or appeals most. And so Ursula stalks Ariel, watching her every move since her birth. The witch knows all Ariel’s secret desires and uses them against her.
    • Ursula, knowing her notorious reputation, fakes her conversion story, saying she is now a saint trying to “help” others! And so the serpent did when it lied to Eve, deceiving Eve into thinking the forbidden fruit was ready to eat now, and not to trust in God’s wisdom that He would give everything good in due time, in divine timing.
    • The moment Ursula said that Ariel was “the key to Triton’s (the Father’s) undoing” reminded me that the Devil can never hurt God: Satan and all demons are only creations of God who chose to be ugly and evil. Knowing this immense weakness before God, Satan instead seeks to hurt God’s children: us. Thus, Satan is none other than the Original Child Abuser.
    • And whatever gifts Satan tempts us with will always come with major strings such as illness, stupidity, addiction, perversion, hatred, lonesomeness, death. Satan tempts us with false choices; he deceives us into thinking we can actually get some good out of following him, but actually he rigs all the choices with time bombs, he laces all options with poison. He doesn’t want to really help us; he’s only trying to help himself to our destruction. We see this clearly with Ursula’s deal: she only wants to capture Ariel and conquer the Kingdom.
  4. Because God is love, Satan wants nothing to do with it, and he wants us to be deprived of it. But since he cannot destroy love, he tempts us to abuse it, to refuse it, and to settle for less: Satan tempts us to lust; lust is love distorted. With Ariel, the witch convinces the mermaid that love’s only about superficial appearances: “You’ll have your looks, your pretty face, and don’t forget the power of body language! The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber!”
    • tumblr_nm5a3klegz1u3ptkco1_400When Ariel falls for the lie about love (when we fall for the lie about God), she agrees to the sin. And of course, the sin always costs something. So Ursula’s theft of Ariel’s voice is the consequence of her original sin, and this loss makes Ariel less of herself, as sin always deprives us of our entire beauty. Ariel’s greatest gift was to sing, and now sin silences her song.
    • Even more, our Original Sin wounded relations between man and woman: we began to use each other, not know each other for our greatest gifts and deepest dreams. And in the film, we see that Eric cannot recognize Ariel, the couple cannot communicate. Love becomes confusing, and incredibly difficult to experience, to choose.
  5. But God wants us to know that He is love. To do this, God wills to sacrifice, wills to pay the penalty to free us, to REDEEM His children. And so God becomes weak, He descends to the dead (Ursula’s seaweed garden): Satan’s prison. Triton sacrifices himself for Ariel’s freedom (and freedom is the key ingredient to true love).
    • But we, man and woman, must still work and sacrifice to make God’s dream come true! In the film, Eric defeats Ursula utterly. Eric is like a type of New Adam, here to undo what the First Adam failed to do: defeat the serpent who deceives the First Eve.* In the Bible, Jesus Christ is the New Adam who does this for us.
    • The ship is a traditional symbol of the Church, and this ship, no matter how busted, still spears Satan, as Christ will always steer and guide the ship through her crew of popes and bishops *(just as Eric guides and steers the busted ship to bust the witch). Notice also that Ursula doesn’t even see the ship coming at her; this mimics well how Christ blindsided Satan, defeating evil and death by dying–something so counter-intuitive.
  6. In the end, the Father always had His childrens’ best interest in store. All we had to do was trust Him and wait patiently. In the film, we discover King Triton always had the power to transform Ariel into a full human being, not some deprived version of a woman that Ursula delivered. In Christianity, we believe that God, our Father, always wanted to transform us, to glorify us, to divinize us! The serpent told Eve that God didn’t want us to be like God, but actually that was God’s dream all along, and that we were already in the image and likeness of God! All that was left was for us to become more and more like our Father, more the humans God meant us to be. Whereas sin makes us less human, deprives us of our greatest dreams: to be like God.EverySaint
  7. That about wraps it up. Here are some bonus symbols that didn’t fit into the list above, but are neat anyways:
    • Sebastian-the-crab’s full name includes “Ignatius”, which is a pretty big name for Christianity. We have famed saints with that name, such as Ignatius of Antioch, and Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits).
    • The sea is traditionally seen as the fallen world of sin. It is unsafe, has unpredictable storms, and was even demonized by the Jews who considered it a place of evil.
    • And Eric resembles the lonesome man in Genesis 2:20-23), searching for someone to love, a helper. He falls into a deep sleep and wakes to find woman (Ariel), sitting at his side.

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Disclaimer: recall all metaphors have weaknesses, as all analogies/allegories do. In this case, King Triton is not a perfect symbol of God (Triton has a few flaws whereas God is flawless). Also, Eric is not quite a fitting symbol of Jesus.

Wowed By The Shroud

This picture taken on February 20, 2012Over the past few years, dozens of documentaries on the Shroud of Turin have appeared, from History Channel, CNN, National Geographic, and even the BBC. It seems every cable channel thinks it needs to make its own documentary on this mysterious cloth which seems likely (and more so with each new research initiative) to be the genuine burial cloth of Jesus Christ at His entombment and resurrection.

After going through a few of these documentaries, I can confidently recommend these few for your consideration. Here, you can find interviews and analyses from everyone: from technical photography experts, NASA engineers, Catholic priests, Protestant scholars, Jewish skeptics, world-renown chemists, forensic scientists (they even had custom designed 3M technical tape), and more. Then, when you’ve seen and heard the mounting evidence, decide for yourself what the Shroud is.

I, for one, believe it to be authentic. And that means major repercussions when proven true. But keep this famed quote from St. Thomas Aquinas in mind:

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

  1. This is a History Channel documentary on the Shroud’s unique embedded 3D aspect. It’s very well done and even purchased a copy, but beware of the heretical and nonsense gnostic material inserted awkwardly (and unnecessarily) in the middle of the documentary:
  2. Here’s a BBC documentary that investigates the historical timeline of the Shroud. Also well done and worth the watch:
  3. This is a super documentary from the Discovery Channel that details why the notorious 1988 Carbon-14 dating of the Shroud is misleading because of a poor sample. Very scientifically convincing and essential:
  4. A CNN documentary that is mostly well done at recapping the Passion of Jesus that led up to the Shroud, but it fails when it tries to show that the Shroud can be a photographic fake (because technical photo-experts have said it is not a fake, again and again):
  5. And a TEDx talk on the technical photo-expert’s story and claims, after his 35+ years of researching and directly studying the Shroud (short version):
  6. And a longer and more thorough version of his inside-story:
  7. And a documentary detailing the pollen samples and other foreign elements found on the Shroud, explaining its geographic and historical origins:

So! Take your pick (or pick them all) and enjoy the ride with these top scientists. Also, check out this HD digital scan (or this app)of the Shroud for you to peruse.

All Things New

Just watched The Passion of the Christ again.

Just teared up again at only one scene.

Just watched said scene twice.

Just teared up again.

Each time.

This:


Of all the truth in Sacred Scripture, only this line from Revelation 21:5 gets me every time. I’ve written and thought on it so much (like here, about strawberries in Heaven), and yet these words of the Lord at the end of time still do something.

It’s because I have sinned. The people I love dearly have sinned. We all have sinned and  our sin has made us hideous. The world is ugly because of us. And we cannot do a thing about it. The sun isn’t as sunny because of our sin. The breeze isn’t as fresh because of our sin. The peony isn’t as fragrant because of our sin. The strawberry isn’t as sweet, the birdsong isn’t as breathtaking, and we are not as glorious as God made us to be (not even close) — all because of my sin.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s words on sin have affected me deeply this past Triduum:

SheenSin

Because I now know the horror of my past sins. I don’t know them in their full terror yet: that I will know only when Jesus makes it known when He judges me before everyone. But I do know now how ugly my sin made me. And I need Jesus to make all things new: I need Him to make me new.

*Note: Though Jesus does not speak “See, Mother, I make all things new” in the Gospels (He speaks so in Revelation 21:5), Mel Gibson’s decision to have Him say this during His Passion is very worthy. He tells Mary, His Mother, not to worry, because He will make all this suffering and sorrow into a beautiful new creation. Jesus is only beginning to re-create and renew.

allthingsnew

Scripture Study Tools

prologus_ioanni_vulgata_clementinaSt. Jerome: if you don’t know anything about him, here’s all you need to be properly introduced:

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

That’s right. If you don’t know the Bible, you don’t know God. That doesn’t mean you have to know everything in Scripture, but it does mean you should be reading the Word, thinking on it, praying with it, and starting your journey. This is standard for all Catholic Christians, especially if we work with teaching others the faith. Over the years of being a TNTT youth leader and trainer, I’ve come to realize this as more and more true (I see it especially when reviewing countless post-camp assignments). So, to help, may I recommend these resources (in addition to the TNTT workbooks) for you and your beloved seedlings, searchers, companions, knights, and fellow leaders.

The original Christian Bible is a small library of 73 select books, books specifically selected by people inspired by God. The Old Testament was assembled by the ancient Jews, the New Testament by the Church Fathers, and the Christian Canon of Scripture was determined by the Church Fathers also. Every Christian owes it to these people who chose these books, which is why we read only these 73 today, and not the other rejected books. You can find more on the Bible’s history and deeper meanings here:

Handouts to prepare for: Seedlings (AN), Seekers (TN), Companions (NS), and Knights (HS)

  1. The 2nd Edition Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). I love this Bible… the leather bound and hardcover versions are bomb.
  2. Study Bible of the 2nd Ed. RSV-CE, aka: the Ignatius Study Bible. For now, only the New Testament is available in one volume. The Old Testament is being put together right now, and so is only available in individual issues (I have the Genesis issue, which is amazing… I used it to create HTDT based on the whole Torah/Pentateuch). Dr. Scott Hahn is one of the faithful minds behind this study Bible.256x256bb
  3. Free app to read the whole Bible with interactive and in-depth commentary from the Church Fathers. Don’t miss out on this neat tool, called Catena.
  4. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: this series on the New Testament is indispensable for anyone who wants to know the way the Church reads the Word of God. I highly recommend starting with the Gospels (my seminary’s Scripture classes use this series).mark_small
  5. Pocket Guide to the Bible: great introduction to what the Bible is, its history, how to use and read it, and how it’s organized.
  6. Where We Got the Bible: something I read to learn how the Bible came into existence, and how the Catholic Church assembled it and maintained it throughout the ages. Pretty fascinating, considering the Bible is the Church’s book.
  7. If you really wanna get into more Scripture treasures, then read anything by Dr. Scott Hahn and listen to his talks on YouTube. He’s a great speaker to start with. A Father Who Keeps His Promises is a great treat for us who want to know the main theme of the Bible.
  8. Great Adventure Bible Timeline of Salvation History: we all prefer a slick timeline chart instead of a chunk of words, so this is a great visual aid to exploring how the Jews, Jesus and His Church all fit together.
  9. An online Bible in Greek, Latin and English, if you’re down with exploring the Scriptures in the ancient Biblical languages (I haven’t found one for the Hebrew, yet).
  10. And for serious step into deeper Scripture study, try Bibliaclerus. I’ve only used it a handful of times, but it is very thorough and powerful. Almost forgot about it until a friend reminded me!
  11. Don’t forget a Bible Dictionary, too. Yep… handy for looking up key words and names when they come up.
  12. The BibleSmack Game (yep, I finally found a good name for it!). Here are BibleSmack‘s rules and files you need to play this game with others:

BibleSmackNewTestament Cards

BibleSmackOldTestament Cards

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Music for an Intense Lent

Are you a Christian? Are you a Catholic? Stop settling for weak Lents. Make your Lent intense with these choral and chant tracks (or with these movies). Listen with the volume nice and high, and you’ll see what I mean:

This first track is a choral piece I discovered a few years ago, and its ability to creep is unequaled. For the majority of the piece, the choir is only singing one word: crucifixus… crucifixus… crucifixus… (The Crucified… Crucified… Crucified…) and the effect is stunning.

This next track is also a choral piece on the Crucifixion, by Antonio Lotti from the 17th Century. This piece is from his larger work on the Nicene Creed, but it stands alone incredibly well as a meditation on Christ’s crucifixion.

Here is Parce Domine, a chant of longing for God’s mercy, recalling the complete and profound repentance of Nineveh at the [reluctant] preaching of Jonah from the Old Testament. Lyrics, both Latin and English here, and an updated version here that is worth your ears, and don’t miss this polyphonic version!

The Dies Irae is not specifically a Lenten chant, but for funerals and for All Souls’ Day. Yet, it seems mighty appropriate, reminding us that death and judgment is our destiny, but our death can be transformed to eternal life if we surrender our life to Christ. Don’t miss this neat little documentary on this timeless piece, which has appeared in many famed movies to date! The epic lyrics here.

This last piece is the Gregorian chant of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (The Standing Mother of Sorrows), the scene when Mary suffered and stood before Jesus nailed on the cross. The Latin/English lyrics can be found here, and a video with the proper notation is here, but presented is my favorite chanted rendition:

So there you have them, three of my favorite tracks for contemplating what Lent is meant to be. I hope these help, and maybe become your faves, too.

Really Hate the Church

Do you disagree with the Catholic Church?

If you do, let me share how you can disagree successfully and completely! A hundred percent! And even if you don’t disagree, you should keep the following point in mind:

Once upon a time, there was a basketball player and a hockey player. The basketball player hated hockey with malicious viciousness. We’ll call him Piston (cawz dis be Deetroit!) and we’ll call the hockey player RedWing (because I’m out of ideas.)

RedWing: Dude, Piston — what’s hockey ever done to you? Why do you hate hockey so much?

Piston: I just do! I hate hockey! The game sucks!

RedWing: (Instead of high-sticking Piston in the face on the spot, he asks) Well… what about “hockey” sucks?

Piston: Well! For one thing, it’s too cold! Why do they need to make to whole arena like a freezer? I went to a game once and I got the sniffles! That’s just wrong.

RedWing: Oooookay… anything else about the game of hockey?

Piston: Yeah! The net around the rink! What’s up with that? It blocks the view, and the plexiglass has a stupid glare. So, even if I wanted to watch the game, I can’t! Dumb as crap! Dumb…

RedWing: Right… right… and the skates are dumb, too?

Piston: That’s the worst part of hockey! It’s already cold and slippery on the rink, who needs skates to make it even slippier?! You should all use snowshoes instead. Safety first man… safety first.

END OF CONVERSATION

(Note: I am NOT saying basketball players are dumb and that hockey players are smart. If that’s what you think the point was, please go back to school.)

So what does that have to do with disagreeing with the Catholic Church? Well… consider this quote:

“There are not 100 persons who hate the Church, but there are millions who hate what they think is the Church.” -Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

That’s a big claim! So is Bishop Sheen thinking about you when he said that? Are you a basketball player who hates the legendary sport of hockey for all the wrong reasons? Are you a Catholic who disagrees with what you THINK the Church says, instead of what she actually proposes?

Here is the challenge to you: If you think the Church has to change her teaching on Holy Matrimony, sanctity of all human life, love and relationships, worship, liturgy, Sacred Scripture, human sexuality, stem-cell research, Heaven, Hell, Confession, cloning, etc., IF YOU THINK THE CHURCH IS WRONG on any of the above and more, then do your research before you speak out like you know 100% what’s on her mind and what’s in her heart (which is ultimately what her Lord (Jesus Christ) thinks too).Mr_Silly

Because someone who acts like they know what they’re talking about (but actually doesn’t) is called… ignorant and prejudiced. So please, take my advice, because I don’t want you to be ignorant and prejudiced. I want you to know the full case, the full teaching of the Church, so that if you do disagree, then you can disagree 100% and not just disagree with some misconception or misinformation (that would be unproductive, wouldn’t it?).

So if you’re against the Church, make sure you’re actually against her and not just your fantasy of her… because then you’d just be against YOURSELF! And that’s kinda silly.

P.S… keep in mind this meme:

gotohell

The only way to leave the Church forever is to go to Hell, because anywhere else is still the Church! Life on Earth is the Church Militant, Purgatory is the Church Suffering, and Heaven is the Church Triumphant (hope to see you there!).