Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dark Night of America’s Soul – Bin Laden’s death

I am glad that that bastard Osama Bin Laden is Dead!

It is not very Christian of me to say that.

An eye for an eye.

WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) I don’t know. He turned the other cheek and got killed by the state.

In the dark night of this nation’s soul, there seems to be a slight sliver of light, of hope, in this long chaotic morass of this new century and this new millennium. That sliver of light and hope lay in the death of a self proclaimed messiah of Islam.

Self appointed messiahs rarely succeed in the vision thing.

Divinely anointed messiahs are quite another story.

The man in the Arab and Muslim streets came no closer to moral, political or intellectual freedom under this Al-Qaeda world wide reign of terror. The turmoil in many Arab states these days reflects a desire for self determination and more freedom. The turmoil is also the result of the collapse of the dollar and the price of bread in those countries.

I, as a citizen of the United States, have very little control over world or military events let alone military budgets.

In the dark night of this nation’s spiritual soul, in its seemingly disrupted journey to moral excellence, it is hard to turn the cheek if we have a presence in 150 nations. Etc.

Perhaps out of all this political chaos comes a united global world or a more human world that fits into the vision of the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are they that …”

And still I am glad that that bastard Bin Laden has been served justice on a cold platter.

God forgive me.

I am only human and personally witnessed 911 here in New York City. Witnessed that event and witnessed, am witnessing the long journey of this city’s soul out of the depths of tragedy and back to something resembling normalcy.

It has been pointed out to me that celebrating the death of Bin Laden is wrong. I agree. Celebrating that death would indirectly celebrate his life – which was a poor example of simple local humanity or love of one’s global neighbor.

I also see the spontaneous outburst of joy on Sunday night in Times Square not as a celebration of death but more as a celebration as an event, a turning point, in an ever growing smaller world where everybody is truly your neighbor.

In any case I quote from the Hebrew testament for lack of my own words to match such eloquence.

Ecclesiastes 3:3-4

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

Phoenix Rising - World Trade Center - NYC
( 911 Memorial - foreground - under construction )

[click on above photo to get expanded image]

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What is a Devout Skeptic vs. Cultural Christian ?

I ran in to a comment via e-mail that mentioned something in terms of not being PC for a Cultural Christian or a Devout Sceptic.

Devout Skeptic? What’s that?

Never heard that one before. And believe it or not, Wikipedia does not have a small article of explanation for the phrase. Rather odd.

Needed to do some Internet research.

I did run into the British spelling of skeptic as sceptic.

Apparently there was a Brit radio show for many years by that name which is a possible answer to the question of what is a devout skeptic?

Bel Mooney

She was a regular presenter on BBC Radio 4 from 1982 until 2008, notably as presenter of Devout Sceptics, a programme devoted to public figures' private beliefs, not necessarily agnostic or atheistic, as the name might suggest.
A quote from Theo Hobson, a British “post-Anglican” theologian:

Confessing Evangelical

…this: a certain dishonesty and laziness of mind, and a certain pretentiousness. The Devout Sceptic wants to lay claim to the glamorous depths of religious tradition, without the embarrassment of actually identifying with it. Do not confuse me with a common atheist (he says), like that brash chap Dawkins, who is blatantly ignorant of the controlling passion of Western culture. Consider me to have the integrity and depth of a believer, yet also the searching mind and defiant heart of a Romantic.
And going back to Mel Mooney:

Devout Sceptics

… Ever since, at the age of sixteen, I rejected the idea of God - believing that no God of Love could preside over a world so apparently lacking in that commodity - the longing for him/her/it has been like a guilty secret inside me, with no curtained confessional in which to whisper. When a bereavement left me bleak and bitter, I skulked around lighting candles for comfort yet hurling insults at a God I steadfastly denied….

Devout Sceptics are seekers who won’t trust the maps they have been given, but know there is a destination towards which to stumble. Even if it proves to be the place they began at, and (to invoke T.S. Eliot) they know it for the first time.

It is not atheism, not quite agnostic and a phrase that I think in some ways has an affinity with the term cultural Christianity.

So in conclusion, a Devout Sceptic is, in my opinion, is one in a personal comfort and at a certain distance amid the sea of many religious beliefs and practices.

Birther and Sedevacantist Movements - Similarities

Is the Oval Office truly empty???

Doing my hobby of researching the millions of pages of faith, Christian and otherwise, a thought occurred to me (I do have them on occasion) (and they are not all eccentric).

It struck me that the whole birther movement, in the denial of legitimacy of the 44th POTUS (a god of sorts with a small g) is not unlike the Sedevacantist (empty chair) movement in the RC church.

That aside from the Clinton campaign starting this whole birth certificate thing in 2008, the ferocity of this continued meme/myth/urban legend thing has overtones of religion all over it as much as it has coded racism.

Just looking at the flash mobs at the White House, Times Square and the Phillies/Mets game on Sunday night reminds me that the super patriotism thing is a tribal, almost secular religion thing. Every recognizable country has at the base of its identity this “we are great” “we are the only true ones” “we are first” tone of things.

As such I wish I had the time and money to follow through on this theme. I see a parallel between the Birther movement and the “Sedevacantists” in the RC church who believe that the Chair of Peter has been empty (Sede Vacante) since the death of Hitler’s pope Pius XII – the Great Appeaser.

John XXIII and his Vatican council thing ticked off a lot of traditionalists and their worship of the Latin mass thingy going in favor of the vernacular service. Modernism and democracy are both sins/depravities in the eyes of the RC dogma.

I have to wonder if the birther movement is a pure redneck populist movement. I have to wonder if big bucks behind the scenes from the likes of Mel Gibson and his more catholic than the pope Dad, along with Opus Dei justice Scalia and Sen. Santorum etc., have not been bankrolling this insane belief that the Oval Office is empty?

And all this birther religious like fervor or insanity is not being funded by church tax free money that should be otherwise taxed and put to better use?

When were the Gospels written / 120 -140 A.D./C.E. ?

Following my own timeline thing and in my personal quest of a better truth of the founding and evolution of the Christian faith, I am saying, I am believing that the four Gospels were assembled somewhere between 120 and 140 A.D. of the common western era.

I say this in my own Jesus seminar styled search. I say assembled above which a little is bit different than written. I believe that the sayings of Jesus in a Gospel of Thomas like format got expanded into metaphoric descriptive fashion.

As in Jesus, if he said this, he probably said it to a crowd and or to a select few. The elusive “Q” document of nineteenth century Christian scholarly fame was no doubt a bunch of quotes on the back of a lot of envelopes from possible eyewitnesses to the event of that great moral teacher’s life.

Of course they did not have envelopes back then but I think you get the idea and image from what I just said.

The other thing that makes me think that the three synoptic gospels were written between 120 and 140 A.D/C.E. is the fact that Jesus is still Jewish in them. He is folksy and short in speaking style.

Going back to my own blog

Trajan’s demonization of the Jews

and the Kitos genocidal Roman war against the Jews and Semites of North Africa and the Middle East, I see the dividing line between the Jews and Christians in real form if not in written form about this time.

In fact while reading about that holocaust, that it started in Cyrene, present day Libya, North Africa, I went on to see that the first three Gospels mention a Simon of Cyrene, a tourist and or refugee of sorts in Jerusalem on the first Good Friday.

To refresh your memory here are those Simon of Cyrene quotes from the first still Jewish Christian gospels.

“And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” (Mark 15:2).

“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.” (Luke 23:26).

“As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross.” (Matthew 27:32).
Researching the Internet for this common thread/reference to Simon of Cyrene led me to this interesting article and quotation.
Gospel Mysteries – Gospel of John
Similarly, many of the stories found in the other gospels, but not in John, probably came from sources known only to their authors. Thus, the use of different sources can easily account for many of the differences between John and the other gospels.

But that explanation doesn't work very well for some differences, especially the difference in how Jesus is depicted. The first three gospels portray him as a teacher, healer, and prophet whose main concerns are the problems of society and the need for people to live more virtuously. In these gospels he shows great compassion for poor, oppressed, and outcast people, and he heals many disabled and demon-possessed individuals. When he teaches, he talks in simple language, draws images from everyday life, and uses parables to make his points.

But the gospel of John depicts him quite differently. In this gospel he talks in a different style, and often uses words and ideas not found in the other gospels. Instead of making short penetrating statements about how people should live, he gives long speeches about why he came to earth and why people must accept him as their savior. He rarely uses parables, and he doesn't cure any cases of demonic possession.
Putting the above quote aside for a few moments, I had already decided that this reference to Simon of Cyrene in the three gospels had some real significance and was possibly in fact a little bit of propaganda and or proselytizing of early Christians toward the surviving Jews of the Kitos War 115-117 C.E..

That is, you have an executed Jesus, you have a crucified Jesus, why not build on it as a recruiting tool to many Jews who survived the recent genocide and show empathy in the way of death. No doubt there were thousands of Jews crucified along the Roman roads that connected North Africa to Jerusalem and onto Syria and Turkey (Asia Minor) after the Kitos War.

Now getting back to the recent quote above, the whole article was quite interesting. From that article I get the sense that the original three gospels are written in a Jesus is a common man mode with simple parables and messages. That the original Christians were survivors of the Great Jewish Revolt 66-70 C.E. and living in rural areas all over the Middle East.

That the reference of Simon of Cyrene sharing a cross with Jesus occurs in Mark and is copied into Matthew and Luke. By this I see that Simon of Cyrene was not haphazardly added to already written gospels but was part of original text. As such, I speculate that the first three synoptic gospels are assembled/written in post 117 A.D. after the Kitos War.

That the scattered communities across the middle east and in perhaps Rome as well were living off legend, oral tradition and the Letters of Paul and were coming together, in a still recruiting from the original Jewish cult thing, and turning into a new sect different than the original Judaism.

In fact I think that the historian Suetonius’ quote of fellow historian Tacitus in the persecution specifically of “Chrestiani” is a retroactive cut and paste job of history. That after the Kitos War, the more sophisticated Jewish Christians in Rome were doing a sudden Public Relations blitz and press release thing to say that their history as Christians (sans the Jewish in Jewish Christian thing) went back many decades before the recent unpleasantness in the African and Middle East provinces.

That to say you were persecuted by a hated dictator like Nero was a positive and not a negative in the early propaganda of the church. That and you were retroactively and consciously separating yourselves from the traditional Judaism thing.

In a way, while a rural populist thing is going on outside of Rome, the urbane, sophisticated Roman Christians came up with an Urban Gospel in the form of John. That these changes within the same movement occurred simultaneously or close to it.

In fact, I see the rural country bumpkin preacher of Jesus transformed into this polished Gnostic like god (small g) in the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John I see as the urban guide to the new Christian cult for the largely Gentile only city dwellers from the Mid East, through Greece and into Rome. This, especially after the final Jewish war by Hadrian 132-135 blew all Jews into definitive and seemingly eternal Diaspora.

I find it incredible that I cannot find much on the last two of these three Jewish wars, that they don’t get much mention on the Internet. It is possible that Jewish scholars have not yet put history from books onto the Net. It is also possible that Judaism prefers to forget the whole matter. That the only much quoted writings of the history of the Jews is from Jewish/Roman writer Josephus Flavius and centering on the destruction of Herod’s greatly altered/remodeled Second Temple is enough to address that period in religious/political history.

In any case, my studies and research continue. I hope in the very least that this crazy theory of mine makes some sense and will in time make more sense as bloated, vested Christian theologians die off and the true spirit of Jesus in the early real Christian church evolves back to not a local pagan level but to a truly first and global belief system.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tale of Sainthood and Three Popes

The ancient Romans used to cremate their dead. Then they ran out of fuel and then burial underground in catacombs became popular with most Romans, as was already popular with the Jews/Christians in town.

One of the legacies of this bone ossuary type thing with Christians became this worship of bones and or relics from ancient Rome onward.

I thought it quite disgusting from a western secular civilized sense when I saw a picture of Joe the Pope kissing a vial of John Paul II’s blood in some silver reliquary at the beatification service on May Day, May 1, the great eternal pagan earth thing.

John Paul II lowered the high standards, Sacred Tradition, that got put into place centuries ago to document and certify so-called saints within the pagan sect and or RC sect of Christianity.

Indeed, I was quite disgusted when then tore John XXIII’s eternal rest from him in order to put his body on display in a glass case in St. Peter’s Basilica awaiting his second miracle to make him a saint.

And of course, you have the so-called Hitler pope of Pius XII and his ongoing PR war with Zionist propaganda against him that he did not save enough Jews when he was CEO of the catholic religion business during WWII.

Most accounts will say that John Paul II helped bring down the hegemony of communism. All well and good. But was that a moral thing or a political thing? Tough question.

Anyway, his blood, in other vials, is at home in Krakow and is being used to raise money for a John Paul II memorial church/shrine. Relics have always been a great way to bring in the tourist/pilgrim money. That, and the sale of indulgences etc.

Hell, even I in the secular world would pay a buck to see Walt Disney’s frozen head. But when you do the fantasy magic relic thing on the so-called religion side of the aisle, well, it just seems so primitive to me.

Perhaps it is the fact that John Paul the Great was on the throne for so long. Many political and moral issues got entangled together and John Paul more or less with his crony underlings covered up sexual abuse by their clergy for so long as well. That, to me, comes under the heading of mismanagement and not sainthood. But then again I am only a Cultural Christian and not a catholic Christian.

Pius XII, and I have done much research on him, lasted nineteen years. His hottest critics do not see that as a CEO he wore many hats. And that is his problem as well. There is too much documentation to hold him accountable for the actions or inactions of his bureaucracy. One day he made efforts to save Jews and the next he was totally indifferent to their plight or so it would seem.

That he, as a lifetime diplomat, was more the first Appeaser with Hitler in Europe, setting that precedent, in that he as the Vatican representative made and signed a bad treaty between the Vatican and Germany in 1933 in order to get on with his greater career ambitions back at the Vatican.

Pius XII, by his silence, tried to save the institution founded by Constantine. He did so at the expense of Jews, Catholics in Poland and the Balkans, Orthodox Christians, as well as Protestants dissenting against the Reich. He let a lot of people down for the sake of a lot of institutional dust, marble and glory.

The two career politicians, John Paul II and Pius XII, are only eligible for sainthood after they changed the rules of the game in the 1980s, moving the outfield to fifty feet and everybody gets to have five hundred homeruns per season now, that is, if in retrospect you are found worthy, and your blood or relics can be sold to raise cash etc.

Angelo Roncalli however, John XXIII, broke and bent the rules and directly saved not hundreds of Jews like Pius XII, but thousands. He did so not for ambition it would appear but for the sheer humanity of doing what was right and within his limited powers to grant and act in a time of great moral crisis during World War Two.

John XXIII deserves the title of saint. He earned it. He deserves it and would make it under the old six miracle requirement, 4 and 2 miracles, for sainthood, and not the current saints on steroid rules, 1 and 1, put in effect by General Wojtyla, the prince bishop of Krakow and Rome.

Have a nice day.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

John Paul II – King Maker – Edward Piszek

An old friend, a Catholic in good standing, recently told me that the “Catholic Church is all politics”. The friend, in the middle of some sort of annulment of a previous marriage thing, is going the distance with the RC bureaucrats because of love. Love is a powerful energy in this world. As for the politics thing, I bit my tongue. A friend is a friend.

Being a cousin of the late Bishop of Allentown Pa, I have heard the family stories not published and the stories of the internal Vatican politics it took to carve five counties in upstate Pennsylvania out of the archdiocese of Philadelphia to become the private fiefdom of my cousin who, when his chances to become a Cardinal of Philadelphia got blown in the 1958 election of John XXIII, the consolation prize from his powerful friends in the Vatican was Allentown.

Getting on with the politics in the RC church, they are Beautifying John Paul II, who is on a fast track to sainthood. Of course JPII changed the rules for sainthood, cut out the long bureaucratic wait thing, in favor of streamlining a thoroughly medieval process. And of course, saints and relics and such went out of fashion with the Reformation for us Protestant types. Whatever.

Here is a story of the man, the Polish American Edward Piszek, who was not so much a king maker as he was pope maker in the case of John Paul the Great.

I don’t know if it is not PC to call Edward Piszek a Polack. There was a time when perhaps Polack had a negative connotation in the immigration pecking order of things here in America. The latest ethnic group to arrive always seemed to be at or near the bottom of the pecking order of society. I heard that word used in my youth for the Polish amidst the still strong ethnic enclaves of Philadelphia. More later on that term.

It is perhaps out of a need to succeed as the son of immigrants that John Piszek succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. I remember an article in the Sunday Magazine of the Philadelphia Inquirer in the mid 70s that specifically was tracing out Edward Piszek’s philanthropy role in the great white (papal) hope of Polish Americans at the time in the person of John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia.

Here you have two Polish Americans, both originally from the midwest and both ambitious and successful in their perspective fields of business and religion in Philly.

The magazine article had its liberal, perhaps cynical, but definitely Wasp-ish, bent openly analyzing the ambitions of two Polacks on the make in a still then Wasp society pecking order of things in Philly.

The article seemed to emphasis how Piszek was upset that the wasp name Mrs. Paul, his business partner wife's name, had the success whereas in the beginning he did not think that a Polish name like Mrs. Piszek’s fish fingers or sticks had much marketing potential. So it goes. Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

Anyway, Cardinal Krol was campaigning to be the next pope as the article outlined. He was not buying votes. He was however making frequent trips to East Asia and Africa and making financial donations to the building of schools and hospitals in the five and six figure money category, which was a lot of bread or fish sticks back then. And of course, the philanthropist Piszek had the check book to make Krol a viable candidate for the papacy, even though he was American and not Italian.

From a source, I cannot remember who in Philly told me this story, this Philly urban legend of sorts; it had to do with the papal election in 1978 after the death of Paul VI. I am told the Italians put up a good and or dirty fight to get a fellow Italian, Albino Luciani, elected John Paul I.

The story goes that when the Italians seemed to be getting ahead on votes in the papal election, votes committed to distant runner Cardinal Krol got released by Krol, asking those released voters to consider, closing up fast runner, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla over Luciani. The story goes that Krol, when he released the votes, told, urged his cronies, to “Give it to the Polack”. Or so I remember the story.

John Paul I only reigned as pope for something like thirty three days. The runner up in the first papal election, Wojtyla, had the momentum and or mojo going to push him across the finish line at the next papal election.

The rest is history. Not much about Piszek on Wikipedia. His role in the politics of making Karol Wojtyla pope and now saint is forgotten in history.

Ed Piszek Obits
Piszek, 87, a Fort Washington resident who died of bone cancer March 27, also told his son to "give God the credit. I was under his tutelage. I was his messenger. I was his Johnny Appleseed."

Two cardinals presided and a procession of priests participated in Piszek's Funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, where hundreds came to pay their respects.

Among them were baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who teamed up with Piszek to bring Little League baseball to Poland, Piszek's ancestral home; and former Phillies pitcher Larry Christenson, whom he called "my best buddy."

Pope John Paul II, Piszek's friend for nearly 20 years, said in a note from the Vatican that he was "deeply saddened" by his death. "I am confident that his memory will inspire others to give of themselves freely and charitably," he added.

A self-made man, Piszek turned a mistake into a multimillion-dollar business when he made too many crabcakes during his shift at a Kensington bar in 1946, and decided to freeze some.

He launched Mrs. Paul's Kitchens with partner John Paul. In the 1950s, Piszek bought out his partner and ran the company for about 30 more years before selling it to Campbell Soup Co. in 1982.
I always say you learn a lot more about somebody from his Obituary than you probably already thought you knew. That is not true in this case. In the above Obit articles, I only see Cardinal Krol in one sentence that also mentions Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, a very small understated footnote in history.

Edward Piszek died in 2004 at age 87. He called himself the “Polish Ben Franklin” considering his considerable patronage and philanthropy to the City of Brotherly Love.

If Piszek were still alive, he would be 94, and sitting in the front row as Benedict XVI Beatifies the Polish Pope.

Whether alive or not, I have no doubt that his spirit as pope maker and now saint maker will be in Saint Peter’s square on May 1.

It’s is a hell of lot of story associated with one lonely fish stick or I should say billions of fish sticks.

And so it goes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Franklin Graham and the Pagan Birther Movement

Birthers (Birchers?) are pagans!

In the strict interpretation of the ancient concept, Pagan means rustic and or country dweller in their religious beliefs system.

Birtherism is a fanatic form of secularized religion. Absolute belief and or faith in air is indeed a religious orgasmic event for some in the rural parts of fly-over America.

The original Jews in Rome or Christians in Rome would have first been called pagans by the established official faiths of the Roman Empire back when.
Paganism (from Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller", "rustic") is a blanket term, typically used to refer to polytheistic religious traditions. - - Wikipedia
Once the head honcho of all Roman religions recognized Christianity as the official religion, the coin flipped and anything not Christian became pagan. Believe it or not.

While I do not know much about this rural populist movement that seems to be both racist and anti-Semitic in terms of Obama’s right to citizenship by birth and 2/3 of his name from the Semitic branch of languages, I have to say that with this KKK Redux - birthers seem to be both sans sheets and sans brains in this ridiculous Pagan rural obsessionism.

Now that Franklin Graham is tired of Sarah Palin, he is now endorsing Donald Trump, a man who can’t keep a fortune together as much as he can’t keep his dick in exclusivity with Christian marriage/faithfulness in his promiscuous lifestyles and business practices.

Who appointed Franklin Graham spokesman for the Birthers? God – who or what god???

What next for you Franklin?

A real job???

(so-called) Christian hypocrite!!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Habemus Papem – Moretti - Piccoli

I ran into an article in the Guardian, a Brit news source, about the mixed reviews of the new movie in Italian – Habemus Papem – (We have a pope.)

Alas, cannot find a video with English subtitles. The storyline is about a newly elected pope with panic/anxiety attacks who requires the services of a shrink.

The best of the best shrink available is played by director Nanni Moretti. I think that the storyline has the pope ending up going to the shrink’s ex-wife, Margherita Buy, for therapy and in the end the pope resigns a job he did not really want and could not handle.

That is a very human theme. (If popes cannot be human, then how could Jesus have been human? Myth reflecting reality or reality reflecting myth?)

Habemus Papam

There is some catholic fanatic jihadist trying to sue director Moretti for blasphemy under terms of the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Mussolini and the Vatican.  The usual stuff. 

Pope film sparks Catholic controversy
Traditionalists say that the film, by the acclaimed Italian director Nanni Moretti, is “an instrument of Satan” and is particularly offensive as it has been released in the approach to Easter.

Bruno Volpe, the Catholic lawyer, has launched suit for defamation against Moretti and the producers under the terms of the Lateran Pact, which extends the same protections to the prestige of the pope as to the Italian president. Mr Volpe said Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope), never mentioned the current Pope by name but it was nevertheless clear that it was a parody of Pope Benedict XVI and dishonoured the figure of the Pontiff in general. Salvatore Izzo, a Vatican expert, branded the work disrespectful and boring in an open letter to Avvenire, the Catholic bishops’ newspaper.
No word yet from the Catholic League condemning this film?

I am eagerly awaiting this film’s debut on cable TV with English subtitles. Looks like an interesting flick about a slice of Roman life in and around the Vatican thingy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday - 2011 A.D./C.E.

On this so called sacred day of the christian calendar – Good Friday – when all the workers who took off the day to supposedly pray in their temples but in reality were rushing off to a sale at Macy’s…

To the greatest myth, to the greatest faith, to this cultural christian tradition:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

All religion is politics. All religion is local.

Judaism, Christianity, Islam are not religions so much as political parties. Their founders - Moses, Constantine and Mohammed were all generals.  Politics and war came first in the founding of these ideologies.

If an outer space alien could communicate with me in English, a language I am a master of, and ask the 64 trillion dollar question about what is all this religious strife on planet Earth about, well here goes.

Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same abstract idol and or God? NO!

Definitely not!

A Muslim’s mother’s beef stew is not the same as a Christian’s mother’s beef stew.  

Only momma knew how to cook beef stew. 

For you to compare my mother’s beef stew to your mother’s beef stew is an insult to my mother and to me. 

And there you have modern religion; same as ancient religion.

All religion is local – just like politics.  All belief in God is local as well.

That’s the point with ancient paganism when it went up against the corrupted form of Judaism aka as Christianity.  They were going up against the abstract of One God in One Temple in Jerusalem.  There were no annex temples in the ancient holy land.  God had no vacation homes.

The Jews had one God and he along with his consort Asherah were worshipped in the great temple of Solomon until the Babylonian captivity. 

When the Jews did come back from Babylon, along with their Babylonian concubines, they rebuilt the mud hut, the great temple of Solomon.  They discarded Asherah.  The feminine side of their god disappeared.  God evolved, he then had a male side only.  Christianity is based on Judaism and Islam is framed on these two previous male only gods/politick/religions.  

Of course the Jewish god only talks Hebrew.  The Christian god only talks Aramaic, Greek and Latin.  And the Muslim god only understands Arabic.  One idea.  Three different gods.  E Pluribus Unum?  Hardly.

So when the Roman Nazis come along and could not impose Roman politics onto Jerusalem, they destroyed the Temple.  The genie was out of the bottle.  Because once you remove the geography of the abstract Jewish god, anybody including the Christians or the Muslims can add on their mom’s recipe for beef stew to the traveling ghost of a concept of one God in that god’s diaspora.

Yahweh was destroyed in 70 A.D./C.E..  All the kings horses and all the kings men could not put Yahweh back together again or at least serve the same beef stew ever again.

While the Jews, as the object of their inspirations and prayers, point back to a temple god of two thousand years ago, the Christians point back to general Constantine’s mom’s beef stew recipe, the Nicenian  heresy, and the Muslims look to the Kaaba.
Hinduism, which absorbed all local gods as it evolved as a political entity, let the local deities stand and evolve too along side the poltical “religion” etc..  Ironically, here is a quote from what appears to be a polytheistic culture about the weird unrealistic concept of a one god – a one size fits all deity.  

Why are there so many Gods in Hinduism?

God is one. There is only one Real and True God who does not have any form or a name. It can neither be described, thought of or conceived through human faculties. But since we are so many, each one of us conceives God according to our attitude, view points and state of life -- just as a woman can be looked upon differently by different people: mother, by her children; wife, by her husband; sister, by her sisters; daughter, by her parents; granddaughter, by her grandparents; sister-in-law, by her husband's brother, etc. The woman is one and the same, but she is viewed differently by each one of her relatives. Similarly, we look upon the same God in many ways.

I believe most Hindu’s are vegetarians.  I therefore probably cannot compare their politics/religion with my mom’s one true authentic recipe for beef stew.

In most ancient cultures, the heart was the center of intellect and intuition.  In their hearts, Jews, Christians and Muslims perhaps understand and commune with the same God. But using a scientific metaphor – language, words, geography  – in other words, a form of gravity is introduced into the equation  – which confuses the perfection of the human heart with the questions and imperfections of the human brain with its tags and labels.

If man is both part beast and part angel, the question of - do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? – who is asking the question - why - and in what force of gravity present? 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Agora – Alejandro Amenabar – Hypatia of Alexandria

I caught an interesting flick on cable the other night.  It is called Agora (2009), (the Greek name for the Latin word Forum).  Set around the year 391 A.D., it is about the last days of paganism in the historic city of Alexandria in Egypt.

While it plays tricks with history, it is a beautifully filmed cinematic wonder, but not quite in the league with past big Hollywood blockbusters like Ben Hur and Cleopatra.  But close.

The grittiness of the sand and sun in Egypt is everywhere in this film.  And even if the Agora or Forum with its public buildings, markets and temples are probably made of paper mache, the sense of recreating these buildings is itself a refreshing attempt to reenact ancient history.   One has to wonder how much of this movie set is real and temporarily built and how much is computer aided design illusion.

While the set satisfies me as to accuracy, the history depicted in the film is questionable.

Because real history back then comes down to us in sparse pieces, historians have speculated and added to those sparse fragments to paint a picture that can be interpreted in many ways and at different times in history.

The film is directed by Chilean/Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, whose Oscar winning best foreign language film in 2005, The Sea Inside, was based on real life quadriplegic Ramon Sampedro’s almost thirty year struggle to have an assisted suicide.  That movie starred Javier Bardem in what I believe was his breakout role that got him his next big exposure in the American flick No Country for Old Men (2007).

Director Amenabar is openly gay in Spain.  I do not know if he is an atheist.

Much of the criticism of this movie Agora in the catholic blogosphere is shaped as “anti-Catholic”, presumably anti-Roman Catholic which is the predominate Christian sect in western Europe.  If anything it is framed as anti-Christian.  The pagans are now a minority in Alexandria in 391 and the Emperor in Constantinople outlaws all religions except Christianity.  You know what hits the fan.

There are of course riots.  Pagans against Christians and Christians against Jews in this final push for power of Constantine’s church here on this earth.

There is a certain anti-clericalism in movies made in Europe.  I am reminded of the German movie about the first female pope, Pope Joan (2009), or so the legend goes.

Agora is bent to show the final victory over the victory of the Christian faith over the disillusioned declining pagan faiths of the old Roman and Egyptian empires. 

Rather than do some scholarly history about what is what in 391 Alexandria, a lot of myth is repeated and no doubt a great deal of what the public might perceive in the historic female philosopher/mathematician Hypatia comes from modern sources such as the Atheist American Astronomer Carl Sagan in his TV series Cosmos in 1980. 
Cyril, the Archbishop of Alexandria, despised her because of her close friendship with the Roman governor, and because she was a symbol of learning and science, which were largely identified by the early Church with paganism. In great personal danger she continued to teach and publish, until, in the year 415, on her way to work she was set upon by a fanatical mob of Cyril's parishioners. They dragged her from her chariot, tore off her clothes, and, armed with abalone shells, flayed her flesh from her bones. Her remains were burned, her works obliterated, her name forgotten. Cyril was made a saint.(Sagan, p. 366)
Is this movie anti-catholic?  Not really.  Is it anti-Christian?  No.  Is it perhaps a bit anti-Byzantine Orthodox or anti-Coptic?  But you must remember that many sides in the day had to have their own thugs to protect their own interests in the day.

Even the last segments of a Roman Army cannot control the mobs that control and swarm over Alexandria

Hypatia (played by Rachel Weisz) is out of her league in terms of probable history.  Hypatia was likely over sixty when she was killed by a mob.  Hardly the likely love interest of a young Christian slave boy.  

That the mob happened to be Christian and she was a well known member of the pagan Alexandria aristocracy, so she was well known enough to incite anger, jealousy or political rage. 

Besides the age thing, the movie has Hypatia researching gravity and the sun as the center of the solar system.  Possible but not probable. 

There is of course one scene where the supposedly surviving annex of the previously destroyed Library of Alexandria is sacked by a Christian mob.  This is what I see most mentioned in blogs.  The Catholics don’t like that scene in particular, though in reality a small defunct library had once probably existed in the Serapeum, a temple complex devoted to the Ptolemaic Greek/Egyptian fusion/invented god Serapis – and destroyed after the Byzantine Emperor’s anti-pagan edict.

I may be just another dumbed down American who was taught no real history in twelve years of catholic education before George Washington and his cherry tree or Ben Franklin and his kite.

Never heard of Hypatia before a few days when I saw the flick Agora on cable TV.  I am a Rachel Weisz fan.  Loved her in that Kabbalah inspired movie The Fountain (2006).

The Movies from day one have fractured history in order to get the story into an allotted time along with standard movie story telling technique.

I like revisionist history.  The first time I hear about history stuff is usually in the movies such as the Inquisition lasting in Spain until the nineteeth century – Goya’s Ghosts (2006).  Etc.

It stimulates me to research the moments mentioned and get a better handle on the reality of the fantasy depicted in the movie.

Movies can be powerful things.  Powerful tools of entertainment and also potentially powerful tools of propaganda if you don’t like the way your ancestors are depicted by a director passionate about his craft.  That craft is telling a story.

I see that Agora was virtually shut out of American theatres with maybe a dozen screens going through a season.  Have to wonder if the Catholic League got through again and got their way again in suppressing ideas more so than cinematography in this very interesting piece of visual “cultural” history?

Looking at the bottom line and the lack of interest of the Vatican and or the Catholic League in this film, I would guess that Amenabar was not looking for or could not find an American distributor for this small gem of film in 2009.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hereafter - Review

This movie, Hereafter, touches upon the subject of the possibility of life after death.  It primarily focuses on one near death experience of a hip young sexy female French newscaster caught up in a natural disaster.

Without being a spoiler if you have not seen this movie here is the storyline. 

A drama centered on three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter. Written by Warner Bros. Pictures
I like Matt Damon from the Bourne series.  One of his many acting masks is that of a strong silent loner type who of course happens to be handsome.

The movie is long but not boring to me.  It is laid back, subtle and not totally cohesive until the three main characters cross paths near the end of the movie.

The hip young sexy French newscaster is distracted by her recent near death experience.  She takes a sabbatical from TV to write a biography of some typically corrupt French politician.  She gets sidetracked and instead starts to research and write about the possibility of life after death.

As I said the movie is somewhat slow but not really boring.  All the threads eventually tie together.  You should be ready to spend a lazy afternoon to see this flick by yourself or with a loved one.  Two bowls of popcorn and two liters of Pepsi required perhaps.  It is not a thriller as sometimes advertised but just a cinematic slice of life of people living in Paris, London and San Francisco.

On many subtle levels one sees how hip young male dominated atheist French culture is afraid of death.  That the mention of death or an afterlife leads to some standard rebuttal of religion or such.  An independent opinion of the possibility of an afterlife even sans religion is verboten in polite French society.

The subtitles in English of the French in ten to fifteen percent of the film are small and probably designed for a large movie theatre screen.  Small but readable.  The French are so expressive in their body language to compensate.

The studio storyline puts Matt Damon as a blue collar worker.  While it is true he works in a sugar processing plant on the San Francisco waterfront, he has a past as a rather successful psychic dealing with the specialty of talking with the dead.  He has left that all behind because he considers it a curse rather than a blessing. 

He lives in a bubble world of hard work and evenings either taking adult education courses or listening to tapes of Charles Dickens’ novels.  Not much of a life.

The third character or characters are two British twins, boys, living in council housing, with social services trying to separate them from their drug addicted mum.  

Don’t want to be a spoiler here but I like the movie.  It is intellectual, which is not typical American movie fare.

Clint Eastwood directs.  His hallmark here is the subtle, focused and intellectual analysis of people in life and people looking for answers about an afterlife.

If I was a general TV movie critic I would give it a thumbs up with the improviso that only people interested in the subject of death and a hereafter would enjoy this movie perhaps better than a general audience. 

Acting, writing, cinematography, directing - a plus.