Avengers: End of Time

So I just spent approximately six hours of my life watching Infinity War and Endgame, and here are the most meaningful moments I noticed–mostly hinted in Infinity War, and fully displayed in its sequel.

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. The overarching theme of the films revolves around Thanos’ goal: controlling overpopulation. This applies to our society today, considering many politicians and scientists who claim the world will end unless our numbers are drastically cut. They tout the necessity and value of sterilization, contraception, euthanasia, and abortion. However, Thanos brings it all together to the logical conclusion, and from this epic, we see truly the flaws of this overpopulation control: it is unjustifiable and unheroic. Let me explain with examples from the films: [First], the longer abortion is promoted, the more we reach Thanos’ coveted ratio: 50% decimation. In America alone, the ratio is already currently 1/6 (missing 50 million out of 300 million)! If this trend continues, we’ll be at 1/2 soon. So, do we really want to fulfill Thanos’ dream in our reality? Especially when we’re so invested in the Avengers countering his actions? Don’t we want to imitate the Avengers and end this legalized decimation? [Second], many who support abortion and population culling may claim that this mischaracterizes their goal since living people were just abruptly wiped out in the film, whereas abortion in reality is more tolerable since those lives never even got to start living, thus if they never got to live, it doesn’t cause any suffering to anyone: they don’t miss us, we don’t miss them, because we never got to meet. But, here’s where Thanos comes in: after realizing the inability of the surviving Avengers to accept his necessary evil of 50% decimation, Thanos revises his scheme. He will destroy 100% of life in the universe, and then recreate new life that is oblivious to the fact that there was life before it. In short, Thanos thinks that ignorance will make the universe’s recreated inhabitants gratefully accept his benevolent decimation, sort of saying: “If I never knew what I lost, I’d be happy, so that’s all that matters.” Yet this fails to satisfy the Avengers’ morality, and more importantly, this fails to satisfy audience’s morality. We know in our rational core that this remains evil, and ignorance is not a tolerable solution.
  2. And just in case we still couldn’t tell the Avengers are pro-life (although some of the actors contradict themselves here): when Warmachine hatches the idea of time-traveling to abort or murder baby-Thanos, the rest of the team not only dismiss the idea, but revolt against it. They rightly protest the idea of assassinating a young, innocent Thanos, because such a Thanos simply remains innocent of his future undecided crimes! This reminds me of when certain people pilloried a political commentator for defending another baby before his possible-future-undecided crimes, when actually he was just arguing the same thing the Avengers would in Endgame. Have a listen to Ben Shapiro’s point here, and why the logic of aborting criminals (while they are innocent infants) is unethical and absurd.
  3. One of the most moving moments of Endgame must be Natasha’s martyr-like self-sacrifice, and Clint’s competing with her for the mission. This scene drew some sort of moisture from my eyes, because I saw that this is how we are called to live and die, especially as Christians. If only we all fought to die for one another like these two did. Truly an inspirational moment here, and one that applies not only to times of great struggle, but also to moments that only seem mediocre. Get your tissues (or sleeve) ready for this scene.5cc2039a24000035002308f3
  4. Another great moment was when Hulk/Banner realized that there was no mistake with his Jekyll-Hyde condition; there was a meaning, a purpose. He volunteers to use the Infinity Stone gauntlet to snap the decimated 50% back into life, knowing that doing so would cripple him as it did Thanos when he had snapped that same 50% into death. Banner says, upon realizing that he alone must do this: “The radiation [from the stones] is mostly gamma. It’s like I was made for this,” meaning that his radioactive condition happened so he could rise to this challenge. Banner [the super scientist] understands here that everything truly does happen for a reason.
  5. Speaking of everything happening for a reason: notice how traditional the Avengers are. Each one of them either gives up marriage to be celibate and serve others with their lives, or they marry, start a family and have children the natural organic way. Stark and Potts, Clint and Nicole, Rogers and Carter. Their relationships are healthy, wholesome, and heartening. In a culture so confused about marriage, family, and children, this reminder in the film is subtle and important, but very needed.
    avengers-endgame-hawkeye-kate-bishop-1162937-1280x0

    [Some quality daddy-daughter time.]

  6. After overcoming the final battle with Thanos, Clint mentions that he wishes Natasha somehow knew they had succeeded, that her sacrifice was not in vain. Wanda responds that Natasha does know, even though she had been long dead. This hints at the reality of an afterlife, a life that is beyond the physical universe, and in our current hyper-materialistic culture, any reminder of this reality is welcome.
  7. Which leads into what will happen to us at the end of time, the end of this material universe. Endgame‘s ending depicts the joy of reuniting with long-lost loved ones, with the global (and even universal) reunion of all. The cathartic joy in the film is palpable, and I don’t recall any popular film that presents this universe-wide reunion so well. In our true Christian faith, the film’s ending hints at the coming communion of saints, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting, where we who have chosen God will have the life, the family, and the love that He has originally made us to know. For more about this epic reunion, please see here where I daydream how the New Heaven and New Earth might be like. It’s really the only thing worth daydreaming about, and unlike Endgame, it’s only the beginning of a far better life than any human could dream up, because it’s God’s dream for us.
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Order and the Border

060617-A-3715G-017In the last few weeks, there’s been a ton of yelling and shouting about the immigration system and situation in America. But sadly, because our national discussions are manipulated by an unreliable media, all this attention will be replaced in a few weeks with another topic–whatever topic makes the media more money. Think about it! What topic was dominating our time and minds just a few months ago?* And today nobody in media remembers or cares.

So before immigration is replaced with another money-making topic, let’s order things out and think through the deeper issues that all the hateful yelling and ad hominems are smothering:

  1. pexels-photo-311884Asylum seekers do not want to come to America. Some might, but they all want their own nation of origin to have been worth staying in. Refugees wish they never had to leave their homeland. Nobody desires to abandon and forsake the country of their culture! When my parents (and hundreds of thousands of other refugees of the Vietnam War) escaped to America, they longed for freedom and dignity to determine their lives. If Vietnam was a free country, with human rights respected, nobody would have risked death crossing jungles and oceans to find freedom elsewhere. So the deeper crisis is how to help nations of origin improve their economies, governance, and societies so that their own citizens are glad to stay and build up their nation. Just imagine how bad the reality must be for refugees to flee the only home they’ve known! If we don’t think creatively and effectively here, then we’re not solving any core problems–we’re just putting bandages on a busted Titanic. America cannot physically and realistically take in every Earthling–even if she wanted to–and especially when so much of the rest of the world is gorgeous but tragically doomed because of corruption and poverty. But corruption and poverty are solvable through hard work! Let’s stop overthinking how to bandage the sinking ship, and focus on how to prevent ships from hitting icebergs, and then people will stop desperately resorting to lifeboats because their own ship is in great shape! Long-term solutions typically have long-term results.
  2. 34984422_10155910751409032_4960135220503248896_nAmerica is not safe for anyone. There is a secret system of legalized prejudice and murder in this country responsible for at least 50 million victims since 1973. Anyone serious about welcoming immigrants and refugees must be even more serious about abortion, or else risk being a hypocrite. How can we say we care for those in danger when we allow children to be murdered in hospitals and clinics? How can we fight for children being separated from their mothers when we already allow children to be slaughtered from the womb of their mothers? If we want America to be a land of welcome to every human life, then we must actually welcome every human life. That’s only consistent and to be expected. We can start by diverting federal funding for abortion (millions of bucks) to helping refugees and Americans in need (babies and struggling parents included). If we do not generously love our own children, then how can we… (finish the logical conclusion).
  3. America is not at her best right now. For our nation to be even better, she needs to know Christ and His Church. The only reason why we have a culture and civilization that seeks to care for the suffering and the struggling is because Jesus Christ taught us to (and slowly His teaching became general civil law). So do not think we will solve this situation, nor any situation, without God. We need prayer to replace all the shouting and attacking. If only the most vociferous and outspoken among us and in government and media were just as insistent with their prayer life… if only…
  4. Lastly, I leave you with balanced thoughts from this insightful and real article, and from Fr. Mike Schmitz:

 

*Hint: it was about school violence.

Chris Pratt is Wrong (a little)

jurassic_3So it’s no surprise the famed Chris Pratt is a believer, and a brave believer! He went before a public audience and shared (in between jokes and sarcasm) that:

  1. We have a soul, and it must be cared for.
  2. God exists, and He is love.
  3. We must pray. MUST.
  4. We are imperfect, and God’s grace is sufficient for us. Anyone who says we are perfect the way we are is deceived, or lying.

Please watch his award speech if you haven’t already. It really is something! But while you listen, see if you can pick out his small error that can have huge negative consequences on our Christian faith.

Now believe me, I hate being a nit-picker, but as soon as I heard Pratt’s error, I couldn’t ignore it. I tried ignoring the whole past week, but I would remember it and shudder… until now I must say something. I believe that’s how the Holy Spirit usually works on me; He nags my conscience and makes it obvious I must respond.

So here goes: at the 3:33 mark, Pratt says “there is a powerful force that designed you [as imperfect].” THAT IS NOT TRUE. Everything else Pratt says about God (and about feeding meds to dogs, and pooping, and helping others, and being a turd) is true, but NOT THIS.

God did not and does not make us imperfect. He absolutely did not design us that way. Instead, sin made us imperfect. From Original Sin* to each personal sin we commit: a little bit of us dies with every sin we choose. When we commit venial sins, a bit of us dies, and when it’s a mortal sin, a huge chunk of us dies.

Our sins deform us, like drugs and alcohol in the womb of a mother. Our sins corrupt us, like lies and evil in our minds. Our sins fool us, like pride and selfishness, into thinking we are the most important person in our lives. Sin makes us imperfect, and God’s grace, given to us through the precious blood of Christ, pulls us out of sin so that we can choose to live forever in HIS perfection, in a perfection that goes beyond perfection, forever better than perfect.

If you’re curious why God would even allow us to freely sin, please see my post on the Lego Movie.

So I hope that clears things up, because I haven’t seen anyone call Pratt out on this little error (with big ripples). May God continue blessing Pratt and his beloveds, and all his fans, and may Pratt continue glorifying God more and ever more!

Image: 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards - Show

*Original Sin was a doozy: it took out the entire human race until Jesus nuked it with His Passion and Resurrection. While Original Sin can now be washed away in Baptism and free us for Heaven, its vestiges still linger in biological disease, concupiscence, psychological disorders, etc.

Our Lady of La Vang

I am the most brutal critic of cheesy Christian art.

We are beautiful. The angels and saints are beautiful. Our Lady is beautiful. Our Lord is beautiful. All because God is beauty itself.

So when I see a piece of art that fails to capture at least 1% of that true and infinite beauty, I get into a fury. My soul aches at the injustice. I have seen countless statues worth smashing, paintings worth torching, icons worth dissolving in acid, and songs never worth listening to again. You could say I’m almost an iconoclastic heretic…

Except I cherish the truly beautiful images of our Faith. And Beauty should do just that: draw us away from heresy.

With that said, let me feature a work worthy of Our Lady of La Vang (aka: Our Lady of Vietnam), one that captures the seriousness and royalty of Mary as Christ’s (and our) Queen Mother, one that shows the sweet Child Jesus as exactly that: sweet. This one masterpiece finally cancels out the tons of horrid images of Our Lady of La Vang that I have suffered through (of which I will spare you from).

OLLaVang

Drawing by Tracy L. Christianson, prints available from PortraitsOfSaints.com

The little statue in the photo is a decent sculpture of Our Lady of La Vang, and I am so grateful to the artists who have given their talents to doing some justice for the beauty of our Lord and Lady. Please support Tracy in her ongoing work by ordering your own prints, by praying for her, and all these artists who have shared their work here on HolySmack.

Oh Mary, conceived without sin, please pray for all your artists, for they have recourse to thee. Amen.

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

TNTTLogo

 

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!).

 

Bill Nye’s Lie

An educator from my childhood, from our childhoods, has released a video of him explaining a few things. Here is the short video:

And now here are the reasons why Bill Nye’s argument has fallen short of scientific (and logical) reasoning, which is a shame because I admired him greatly! I love biology and anatomy/physiology and chemistry. I love science!

——1) From the overall comments in the video, we can assume Nye is addressing abortion, claiming that it should be a moral right because the procedure does not terminate human life. Nye repeatedly claims that the fertilized egg is not human. But then what is it?

What if we took all the fertilized eggs (viable embryos) of pandas, and then terminated them (aborted/killed them)? What would happen to the panda species? Surely then, those fertilized eggs in female pandas are pandas.

And surely a fertilized egg in a female human is also human. And surely the embryo is alive, for otherwise why would it have to be killed in order to be aborted?

——2) Nye claims that fertilized eggs pass through the reproductive tract regularly, failing to implant and thus resulting in miscarriages. But these are caused by natural processes. When an egg fails to implant, or implants incorrectly (e.g., ectopic pregnancies), there is nothing medical science can really do (at this time) to recover/rescue the embryo, nor are we obliged to. These are not defined as abortions because an abortion is a deliberate act to kill the embryo/fetus/unborn child.

There are many forms of abortion, but they all involve the unnatural and forced intrusion of materials into a mother’s body, which her body resists to protect her. Some abortions involve injections of chemicals that attack the child in the womb. Some use artificial hormones to alter a healthy woman’s body to becoming infertile and hostile to fertilization and/or implantation, which also damages her body and brain (these artificial hormones are classified as class one carcinogens by the World Health Organization). Other abortions forcibly dilate the cervix in order to allow probes, forceps and other instruments into the womb to tear the fetus/unborn child to pieces before extracting her body parts. Still, partial-birth abortions have the child delivered and decapitated before she is fully born.

——3) The question at issue then is whether miscarriages and abortions are the same. They are not. One is caused by natural bodily functions, and one is a deliberate killing of embryos/fetuses/unborn children.

Yet, I’ve met mothers who have experienced miscarriages, and the pain they suffer from losing their child is difficult to understand–it is a very deep pain. They know profoundly that they lost a child.

I’ve also met mothers who have aborted, and the pain they suffer from losing their child is difficult to understand–it is a very deep pain. They know profoundly that they lost a child… even if they wanted to abort… even if it was years ago.

——4) As for Nye’s claim that abstinence fails, I’d like to see evidence that human beings don’t have free will and cannot control their urges, whatever they be. To say we cannot have self control is derogatory and insulting, and also prejudiced and untrue. We are constantly called to be under self control, otherwise rape would be rampant, abuse would be the norm, and maybe even murder would be a hobby. Even right now, chances are we are abstaining from sexual activity! So instead of downplaying abstinence encouragement, we should be motivating each other to have self control, because self control in this area would automatically help us have self control in other areas of life (studying, working, defense, exercise, saving money, thinking, etc.).

——5) And I’m glad Bill Nye’s mother was a woman. Mine is too. All moms are, and all are irreplaceable. And I’m grateful she didn’t treat me like a blob of tissue, but allowed me and loved me enough to let me live and love her in return. I’m glad Nye’s mom did the same for him, too. And I’m glad yours did, too.


Please see these videos for another scientist’s perspective, a scientist doctor who has spent years aborting children. He shares his experience and scientific knowledge, as well as detailed explanations of various abortion procedures.