Saturday, December 4, 2010

Scholar's Prayers

Dr. Horner gave us two prayers for scholars in class this semester.

Scholar's Prayer

A university faculty prayer inspired by the Chorister's Prayer of the Roayl College of Church Music. Adapted by the C.S. Lewis Foundation

Bless, O Lord, us your servants,
Who are called to scholarly vocations.
Grant that what we apprehend with our minds
And profess through our words
May be grounded in truth
And offered confidently
With humility
To the greater good and well being
Of our students, our colleagues,
Our academic communities
And the world at large,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Scholar's Prayer

C.G. Moule
Anglican Bishop of Durham, 1901

Lord and Saviour, true and kind,
be the master of my mind;
Bless and guide and strengthen still
all my powers of thought and will.

While I ply the scholar's task,
Jesus Christ be near, I ask;
Help the memory, clear the brain,
Knowledge still to seek and gain.

Here I train for life's swift race;
let me do it in Thy grace;
Here I arm me for life's fight;
let me do it in Thy might.

Thou hast made me mind and soul;
I for Thee would use the whole:
Thou hast died that I might live;
all my powers to Thee I give.

Striving, thinking, learning still,
let me follow thus Thy will,
Till my whole glad nature be,
trained for duty and for Thee

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Super Heroes and Mise en Scene

I think I may have just realized why super hero/comic book stories have transfered so well to film. Its part of why they were popular in their original incarnations as well. The costumes are a valuable edition to the mise en scene of the film. Mise en scene is a concept I've started to think about alot, its one of those undefinables in the history of film criticism.

But part of it has to do with the idea of Pure Cinema. What is convened to the watcher through the shot as opposed to the montage or the dialogue. I think truly Pure Cinema will include the montage as well. But Mise en scene seems to be what can make slow films (slow as in movement) like the Godfather films so effective. Particuarly the final shot of Godfather Part II or even in a faster film like The Dark Knight. And its also interesting that both of those endings have a heavy dose of montage as well.

But its interesting when you look at Iron Man or the Joker information has been transfered to you simply in their costume. That must be part of the mise en scene. And super heroes give us an incredible variety of costumes, something that is lacking in most other films. When Batman is looking across the interogation room at the Joker information is being convened about their characters as well as the story.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Buffalo Bills and Resilience

The Buffalo Bills have one of the most dubious distinctions in American sports. They are the only pro football team to have lost four Super Bowls in a row. But is that glass half empty or half full? They are also the only pro football team to have four consecutive AFC Championships, and the only team to have played in the Super Bowl four consecutive years. But if winning the big one is really the only thing that matters in sports then the Bills are massive losers, and in that case the glass half full crap is for losers.

But I don't think the glass if half empty or half full or whatever. There is no glass. The Buffalo Bills have been generally a pretty embarrassing team to their fans. Until Marv Levy became their head coach. He had won a little competition north of the border called the Grey Cup (that’s the Canadian Super Bowl) twice and through a series of events wound up coaching one of the worst teams in the NFL. But he took those losers and produced an exciting competitive football club. A football team that dominated the AFC for a decade.

Their first Super Bowl loss was heartbreaking. A missed field goal that would've won the game, against one of the best NFL franchises of all time: the New York Giants. The next three weren't very close (in fact two of them were to my team: The Dallas Cowboys, for which I'm very proud, the Bills really were awesome back then).

After the first Super Bowl loss Marv found something to help him grieve. One verse from an old English folk song. It goes (according to Levy):

Fight on my men, Sir Andrew said
A little I'm hurt but not yet slain
I'll just lie down and bleed awhile
Then I'll rise up and fight again

And that became the Bills mantra over the next few years. One of the most disappointing runs by any pro sports team. They were excellent until that final game, and then four times in a row they choked. But also four times they got up again and went on. That is the very incarnation of resilience.

A fan wrote the coach a letter. It said something like: I don't want us to go back to the Super Bowl again, it’s too painful. Levy wrote him back: I share your pain...but I'm glad you're not a player on my team.

I don't love the Dallas Cowboys as much as I do (it's pretty excessive) because of the 3 Super Bowls in 4 years during the 90s. I love them most because of two Super Bowl losses in the 70s. To the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 70s Steelers were easily one of the best NFL teams of all time. And each Super Bowl they played us in went down to the final seconds. The way you lose is just as, if not more, important than the way you win.

And what’s interesting about that verse of poetry is that its progression is the perfect way to deal with any loss, particularly personal sin and individual failure.

The first thing you need to see is the battle call from Christ: fight on my men, press forward, run the race.

And the second thing you need to see is that you're not dead, you're simply hurt or wounded. You haven't been disqualified from the race, which means there is still a race to be run.

Then mourn your failure. Let yourself bleed a little while.

And finally rise up and fight again.

If we don't deal with our personal failures this way we can't make any progress in the Christian life. We need to recognize that just because I've failed again doesn't mean the battle is over and I can give up. The mystery of the Gospel is that Jesus utterly failed (we killed by the Romans instead of usurping them) and yet by failing somehow won salvation for all mankind. Jesus came to subject himself to failure so that we don't have to live like that anymore. And so we mourn our failures, because it is right to do so. Not because we want sympathy or need to feel bad for ourselves but because we have participated in the very thing that Jesus came to suffer for our sake. So we mourn. And then we (we, as in God and us) pick ourselves up and go on, forgiven and renewed. With His grace we will learn, and we will imitate Christ better but for every failure we must repent and move forward. In some ways this is what Paul meant when he said: death where is thy sting? It wasn't just physical death. But the entire shroud that covers mankind. It has no power over us any longer. And so by his grace we can rise up and fight again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Villains often espouse Compatibilism

Superman: Darseid. Kara leaves with me.

Darseid: She's free to leave. If that is what she desires.

So in the recent direct to DVD sequel to last year's Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Superman's cousin (Kara) is kidnapped by Darseid and taken to his terrible war planet: Apokolips. There he changes her. Those changes include evil destructive desires which she didn't previously have. But Darkseid thinks she is still free. But is she really? Her desires were changed agaisnt her will but now she is not capable of willing anything other than her new set of desires.

This seems to be a common theme among villains and supervillains, and its interesting that the same basic view of the will is espoused by Edwardian Calvinist theology. Its free as long as you desire to do what you're doing. That seems false. Kara seems as if she's trapped and not really guilty of the bad things she is about to do. And if that intuition seems correct then so much the worse for compatibilism. But God says: I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live. (Deut. 30:19)

So choose life and DC Universe DVDs. They're awesome. Not as awesome as life, but still pretty awesome.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chris Daly on Tropes Precis

This is a recent assignment I did for my metaphysics class. It is not very good. I did my best but my head was not in it. A precis is a concise essay summarizing a larger work. And for this assignment we also had to do a short critical section which is at the end.

Chris Daly claims that trope theorists deny the theory of universals claiming that all properties and relations are particulars which they call tropes. Therefore qualities such as being red are not shared identical relations between distinct substances. If three things are red there is a distinct red trope for each thing rather than a universal of redness that they all share. Trope theory is also distinct because it denies substances and allows only for the existence of tropes as a kind of particular.

The first argument is that trope theory is superior to universal theory because using universals and substances to explain properties and relations creates problems. For example: exactly how is a universal present in multiple places at the same time? The instantiation principle invoked by many universal theorists only makes the question more obscure because it’s not clear how they are instantiated. Trope theory is superior to universal theory because it only uses one type of entity.

The second argument is that trope theory has significant explanatory power. This is because everything can be described and understood in terms of tropes thus eliminating the need for universals and their problems. The third argument is that if every object can be explained as a trope bundle then Ockham’s razor cuts universal theory out.

Daly begins to evaluate trope theory by using Russell’s argument against theorists who denied universals but accepted resemblance. This is because different tropes that would be considered instantiating redness on a universal theory only stand in bare resemblance to each other. They don’t share redness between them but simply look alike. But this leads to an infinite regress because each resemblance itself can only be analyzed in terms of tropes. So there is no place where the analysis can stop in terms of tropes because the resemblance tropes will have resemblance tropes between each other and so we are faced with a vicious regress. This shows that it is necessary for resemblance to be a relation which is a separate entity from tropes.

Campbell and another philosopher Price have responded to Russell’s argument by accusing universal theory of falling prey to the same objection. Because all things that instantiate redness also have a similar shared quality of resembling in respect to red. But this new quality of resembling red will have three instantiations all of which resemble each other. Daly responds to this by claiming that Russell’s vicious regress does not occur here because there is no quality of resembling in respect to red. That is simply a brute fact not a property.
Campbell also responds to Russell’s argument by claiming that the regress is not vicious because the exact same term does not reoccur in each level of the regress but the analysis becomes increasingly abstract. Daly challenges this conclusion by showing that Campbell’s account actually represents the resemblance tropes as being exactly the same. So it is impossible for them to become more abstract as the regress goes on. Campbell’s reason for rejecting the regress as vicious is because each stage of the regress has no ontic additions only formal ones. The additions only come about through logical reflection. Daly thinks that this is exactly the problem and Campbell’s response has failed. Logical reflection forces us to accept the vicious regress. And Daly concludes that Russell’s argument stands against all the rebuttals.

Since trope theory concerns just particulars there is no need to explain a relationship to universals. But how tropes make up the trope bundles which form objects is a problem. Trope theory uses the compresence relation which means separate tropes occupying the same spatio-temporal location. But this relationship is problematic because the tropes and the compresence relation that form trope bundles could all exist independently. In order for a concrete object to be formed out of tropes they would have to be an instantiation of these two things which means that the instantiation objection holds for trope theory.

Campbell’s response is that the compresence relation could just be sharing the same place time coordinates. Daly thinks this response suffers from the same problem. Because nothing is holding the tropes and the time space coordinates together. They could all exist separately. The trope bundle and the space time coordinates need to instantiate the compresence relation in order to form the object in question. And since it still posits the instantiation relation it is no better than universal theory. Thus Daly concludes that Campbell’s defenses of trope theory are “blunted”.

I do not think that Daly’s criticism of trope theory via Russell’s metaphysical regress works. Campbell’s response is pretty much correct. There are no ontic additions throughout the regress and since tropes are a primitive they really can’t be analyzed any further. So the only way to do further metaphysical analysis is to continually use purely conceptual relation tropes. The argument is completely formal and has nothing to do with the actual ontology of the theory. In other words Daly is contriving an unnecessary paradox which is not a part of the ontology of tropes. It’s not as if now that he’s pointed out that you can only analyze the relations between relational tropes in terms of other conceptual tropes that the trope theorist is suddenly committed to a massive undergirding of relational tropes. So the question isn’t whether or not the regress is vicious or virtuous but whether there is a true regress at all.

Tropes are considered the primitive in this theory. And primitives on any theory are going to be unanalyzable. How does a Universal theorist fare any better? Campbell responded to this regress by showing that a similar regress plagues the universal theorist by positing the universal resembling in respect to red. Daly responded to that by claiming there simply was no quality of resembling in respect to red. It’s a contrived regress that doesn’t add new ontological information. So if he can bite the bullet and force the regress to stop there by claiming the resemblance is just a brute fact and not a property it seems the trope theorist can claim basically the same thing about the resemblance tropes in question. It just so happens that the resemblance tropes resemble each other. But that is just a brute fact. It doesn’t perform any new metaphysical function. No new information is added except that we have pointed out the obvious that things which are alike resemble each other.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The real problem with the recent Southern Baptist Yoga Controversy: Christian Confusion about the Body

So Mohler seems to have done it again. His name and controversy seem to go hand in hand. But this controversy is a little more telling of the general problems that are plagueing American Evangelicalism.

You see the problem isn't really yoga. Its not whether or not Dr. Moehler is right or not. The real problem is the one we all share as (pay close attention to these three designators) Western Christian Protestants.

I think the problem that is being displayed in this ridiculous current controversy is really just one problem: confusion about how God relates to our bodies. Moehler and his audience are both just as confused, and in some ways both just as wrong.

I'm 25, I just started doing graduate work like a month ago so I realize nothing I say here is even remotely important or authoritative. But I'm going to say it anyway. Mostly because I'm 25 and this is the internet (and like three people might read this in any case).

So here is the problem as I see it. First piece of evidence, the seventh article of the Southern Baptist Statement of Faith:

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.

The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12."

In many ways this is what is really causing all the trouble. You see this discussion is between Western Christian Protestants. Now we don't all agree on the Lord's Supper (there's been some pretty heated debate) but we all pretty much agree that what is stated above is physically and spiritually true of the elements we eat together. Everybody hashes it out differently but the same metaphysic lies behind all of the controversy. The fact is there is no view of the elements of the Lord's Supper within Protestantism (except for some Anglicans but they're mostly honorary protestants anyway, I mean they're just not angry enough about the Papacy) that thinks God's presence does anything in or with the elements. Lutherans believe the elements become surronded by the holy presence. Calvinists think grace is given directly to the believer in a kind of occasionalism (if you're ever eating a sandwich in church you better hope the Holy Spirit isn't being a little negligent that day). But most of us think that absolutely nothing happens at all. Its just a pure act of obedience. And it is surely that. Taking the Lord's Supper is odedience to God's will. But most protestants don't think that the elements themselves have become anything special. Why not?

Here's why not:

"Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables."

That last quote was given by Dr. Moehler in his most recent response to this controversy. Notice the two most important statements: 1) not see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine and 2) an external Word.

Lets look at Col. 2:12. This is one of the verses given in the Southern Baptist document cited above that supposedly proves the empty symbol Baptist account of Baptism. It says: having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (ESV).

Where is the symbol? I'm not a greek scholar at all (I have a big fat F and an incomplete to prove it) but the ESV is like the American Calvinist Vulgate. So I'm betting not only is it a pretty literal translation but its also pretty accurate (at least to their standards). And this translation doesn't even imply the doctrine stated above. What this one tiny verse says in and out of context is that the event which is baptism does the following: raises you with Christ through your faith. It also says that you were buried with Christ. In baptism. Could it be a mere symbol? Well yes, its not logically impossible. The author could have had that intent. But thats reading into this text, or rather restricting this text due to metaphysical presuppositions. The text actually says: IN WHICH. This is the reference to Baptism. In what? In Baptism through your faith you have been put to death with Christ and brought to new life in Christ. The action is clearly symbolic but symbols aren’t always empty, they often are a part of the reality they represent. Just like sex and marriage! Sex is symbolic of the reality of marriage and yet it is part of that reality, and so is the marriage ceremony. Something is actually taking place in both sex and the marriage act yet they are both symbolic of the reality as well. It is an act of unity, as well as part of the overall unity of marriage. Baptism and the Lord's Supper function in just this same way. Something like this was pretty much church dogma believed by most Christians prior to the reformation (and if you're going to work numbers still is unless you deny that the Latins and Greeks/Russians are Christians, but still less so in the Roman tradition since they believe that the symbol is pretty much completely removed and only the reality is left). Its a symbol of the reality and the symbol is part of that reality. In both a symbolic and an actual way. The water symbolizes death and cleansing while also contributing to this process in the Christian's life. Saying its a symbol isn’t a big deal. Sure, of course its a symbol. Its also real. The problem is showing how it is just a symbol, a mere symbol, or an empty symbol when the literal obvious reading seems to indicate that it is also reality. Just read the verse again. Then read the chapter. It becomes even more obvious within the context of Colossians 2.

Lets also look at 1 Corinthians 10.

Verse 16 says: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

And Verse 21 says: You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of
demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

These are two more verses cited within the Souther Baptist document to support their view. But here the view fairs even worse. Baptists have historically denied that the Lord's supper is a participation in the Body of Christ. But verse 16 just flatly denies that. It directly contradicts the historic baptist position. You have to beg the question with these texts in order to come to the conclusion that the sacrements are in fact not sacrements. The Bible just seems to say that they are reality, more than mere symbol.

And so we come to another quote by Dr. Moehler:

"Nevertheless, a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine."
Well the phsyical and the spiritual cannot be neatly dividely. They aren't supposed to be. Look Dr. Moebler is right that Yoga as a Yoga really is a Hindu religious practice. And he's right to object to that. Most of these Christians (as he admits) aren't really practicing Yoga. They're just using Yoga positions. Its like being a Unitarian. They talk about Jesus' resurrection but in reality as Dr. John Mark Reynolds likes to say they're thinking of something like spring. They're pagans or atheists using empty Christian Icons. And so are many of these "yoga" practitioners. They're using empty yoga techniques because they're helpful in the same way that Jesus' resurrection is simply beautiful whether its real or not. Each of them has divorced the symbol from the reality.

And so Moehler and his audience have the same problem. Divorcing the physical and the spiritual. And since Christians need a phsyical religion as well as an "external" word many of them are finding this physical need met in yoga. Is that right? No but not because streching and disicipline is wrong. Its wrong because the church has nothing to feed us physically. God never intended us to live in any mode of being other than the physical. We are physical. When my spirit leaves my body in death that is only a product of the fall and they're being reuniting by Christ in the eschaton is part of the consumation of all things to their proper place and order. Our bodies are so important to our faith that God actually took on human nature in order to accomplish our salvation and more fully unite himself to his creation. So by ignoring the phsyical in Christian worship and divorcing the spiritual and physical we protestants have almost literally castrated our own faith.

And so Dr. Moehler’s faith needs to become sacremental and physical. And the Yoga people can keep strectching but they need to realize that Yoga as originally intended is not Christ honoring. But neither is Football. They are both body honoring though, which is a good thing. And maybe those positions and techniques completely divorced from the participation in demons that was originally intended can be good. Pretty much all religions have something in them which makes people act more like the image bearers they truly are. But in the final sum your soul is more distorted. So the Yoga people need to be careful. They are doing something that has the potential to hurt them if they’re being uncritical. But so does the memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sigh No More

I love this song and these lyrics are so simple and beautiful.

"Serve God love me and mend
This is not the end
Lived unbruised we are friends
And I'm sorry
I'm sorry

Sigh no more, no more
One foot in sea, one on shore
My heart was never pure
And you know me
And you know me

And man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing

Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be"

-Mumford and Sons

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Christianity, Islam, and Anti-Semitism

I took the time (three hours) to copy all of these quotes for your benefit:

“Pope Gregory I (590-604), later known as Gregory the Great, began the tradition of protecting Jews. He issued a historic decree beginning with the words Sicut Judaeis (“As for the Jews”), which thereafter introduced all subsequent papal edicts defending the Jews. He affirmed that the Jews “should have no infringement of their reights…We forbid to vilify the Jews. We allow them to live as Romans and to have full authority over their possessions.” During his pontificate, Pope Gregory put these words into practice, forbidding forced conversions of Jews, intervening to protect Jews from violence, and insisting that Jewish religious rituals and practices be tolerated. In Naples, for example, where the local citizenry “had been exhorted to disturb the Jewish Sabbath service,” Gregory came to the defense of the Jews and “quieted down the militant spirits.” When the bishop of Palermo, “in an excessive act of religious zeal,” confiscated several synagogues, Jewish poor houses, and Jewish schools, Pope Gregory again “intervened and righted the wrongs.” When the Jews of Terracina, in Central Italy, complained “that Bishop Peter had seized their synagogue, ejecting them because their singing had been audible at a nearby church,” Gregory ordered that a synagogue elsewhere be given to them for worship services. The Jews of Italy and other countries frequently appealed to Pope Gregory for protection because of his reputation for benevolence and were greatly appreciative of his interventions on their behalf. Indeed, Gregory came to be admired in Jewish history as the first great papal friend of the Jews and was widely praised by medieval Jewish communal leaders and scholars. Judah Mosconi, an important fourteenth-century Jewish philosopher and scholar, praised Gregory as “a great sage and complete philosopher” who delved into Hebrew books “and loved Jews very much and made for them great deliverances [from harm] in his days.”
Gregory’s decree Sicut Judaeis gave its name to a second landmark papal edict, this one from Pope Calixtus II (1119-1124), who promised to defend European Jews from persecution by their Christian neighbors or at the hands of Crusaders. “Setting an iron precedent,” Calixtus promised Jews “the shield of our protection.” Calixtus II condemned physical attacks on the Jews, opposed their forced baptism, and forbade the destruction of their synagogues and cemeteries. These prohibitions were, as James Carroll has noted, a “strengthening” of those enunciated by Gregory “in recognition that, after the events of [the First Crusade in] 1096, the tradition of papal protection of the Jews had to be urgently reinforced.” Calixtus’s defense of the Jews, with its promise of continuing papal protection, was reissued at least twenty-two times by successive popes between the twelfth and fifteenth centures.” – Rabbi David Dalin, The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, p.19-20

“In 636 a Muslim army entered Palestine, and in 638 Jerusalem surrendered. Soon after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the caliph ‘Umar wrote a letter of assurance to the city’s population:
This is the covenant given by God’s slave ‘Umar, commander of the believers, to the people of Jerusalem: He grants them security, to each person and his property: to their churches, their crosses, their sick and the healthy, to all people of their creed. We shall not station Muslim soldiers in their churches. We shall not destroy the churches nor impair any of their property or their crosses or anything which belongs to them. We shall not compel the people of Jerusalem to renounce their beliefs and we shall do them no harm.
Sounds humane and reasonable. However, the next sentence in this letter reads: “No Jew shall live among them in Jerusalem.
This seems a very odd prohibition, Arab sources claim that local Jews had welcomed and often aided the Muslim forces in Palestine. Some suppose that the prohibition was merely an extension of the Byzantine policy precluding Jews from Jerusalem…As for the Muslims continuing the ban, this was consistent with the Prohibition against Jews living anywhere in Arabia and with Muhammad’s persecutions of the Jews in Medina. In any event, a few years later the Muslim rulers dropped this prohibition and allowed Jews to move back into the city. This was at best a mixed blessing, since neither Christians nor Jews could live in Jerusalem—or anywhere else under Muslim rule—unless they accepted the subordinate role of dhimmi and were willing to live with the contempt and occasional persecution that that status entailed. “Almost generation after generation, Christian writers recorded acts of persecution and harassment, to the point of slaughter and destruction, suffered at the hands of the Muslim rulers.”” –Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions, p. 83-84

“Many critics of the Crusades would seem to suppose that after the Muslims had overrun a major portion of Christendom, they should have been ignored or forgiven; suggestions have been made about turning the other cheek. This outlook is certainly unrealistic and probably insincere. Not only had the Byzantines lost most of their empire; the enemy was at their gates. And the loss of Spain, Sicily, and southern Italy, as well as a host of Mediterranean islands, was bitterly resented in Europe. Hence, as British historian Derek Lomax (1933-1992) explained, “The popes, like most Christians, believed war against the Muslims to be justified partly because the latter had usurped by force lands which once belonged to Christians and partly because they abused the Christians over whom they ruled and such Christian lands as they could raid for slaves, plunder and the joys of destruction.” It was time to strike back.” –Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions, p. 32-33

“The Crusades were not unprovoked. Muslim efforts at conquest and colonization still continued in the eleventh century (and for centuries to come). Pilgrims did risk their lives to go to the Holy Land. The sacred sites of Christianity were not secure. And the Knights of Christendom were confident that they could put things right.” –God’s Battalions, p. 98

“The German Crusades and the Jewish Massacres
Historians often claim that the main body of Peter’s followers attacked Jews along the way to Constantinople. This is careless. As Frederic Duncalf (1881-1963) pointed out, Peter’s followers “do not seem to have been guilty of the persecution of the Jews which became so prevalent in the Rhine valley after their departure.” Several of these massacres were committed by two groups that were following in the wake of Peter’s expedition, but most of them were the work of German Knights who seem to have been involved with Peter.
Emicho of Leisingen was a minor Rhineland count who responded to the Pope’s call to crusade by assembling a small army of German Knights. Then, on May 3, 1096, two weeks after Peter’s group had set out for the Holy Land, Emicho led his troops in an attack on the Jewish population of Speyer (Spier). Some historians believe that Emicho’s attacks on the Jews were cynical, prompted primarily by greed, while others accept that he sincerely believed that all “enemies of Christ” should be converted or killed. In any event, warned of Emicho’s approach and intentions, the bishop of Speyer took the local Jews under his protection, and Emicho’s forces could lay their hands on only a dozen Jews who had somehow failed to heed the Bishop’s alarm. All twelve were killed. Then Emicho led his forces to Worms. Here, too, the bishop took the local Jews into his palace for protection. But this time Emicho would have none of that: his forces broke down the bishop’s gates and killed about five hundred Jews. The pattern was repeated the next week in Mainz. Here, too, the bishop attempted to shield the Jews but was attacked and forced to flee for his life. The same again in Cologne, and again in Metz. As the distinguished historian of anti-Semitism Leon Poliakov (1910-1997) summed up: “It is important to note that almost everywhere…bishops attempted, sometimes even at the peril of their own lives, to protect the Jews.” At this point a portion of Emicho’s forces broke away and set out to purge the Moselle Valley of Jews. Being careful only to attack towns without a resident bishop, they managed to kill several thousand Jews.
Meanwhile, two of Peter the Hermit’s followers, who had remained behind to organize stragglers, also attacked Jews. Volkmar overwhelmed the opposition of the local bishop and massacred Jews in Prague. Gottschalk led a murderous attack on the Jews of Ratisbon (Regensberg). The Pope “harshly condemned” all these attacks, “but there was little more he could do.” However, it turned out that there was a lot that the knights of Hungary could do. When Volkmar and his forces reached Hungary and began to pillage, they were wiped out by Hungarian knights. The same fate befell Gottshalk. And when Emicho and his forces reached Hungary they were denied passage, and when they tried to force their way through, they also were dispatched by Hungarian knights.
According to the revered historian of the Crusades Sir Steven Runciman (1903-2000), these defeats struck “most good Christians” as “punishments meted out from on high to the Murderers of Jews.” This is consistent with the efforts of local bishops to preserve the Jews, and with the fact that other armies gathered for the First Crusade did not molest Jews—with the possible exception of several hundred Jews who may have died in Jerusalem during the massacre subsequent to its fall to crusaders.”- God’s Battalions, 125-127

“While liberals attack traditionalist Catholics like Gibson, defame the memory of Pope Pius XII, and practice the virulent anti-Catholicism that, in Will Herberg’s phrase, is the anti-Semitism of liberal intellectuals, there is a real threat to Jews and indeed to Judeo-Christian civilization. “Right now,” Rabbi Lapin maintains, “the most serious peril threatening Jews, and indeed perhaps all of Western civilization, is Islamic fundamentalism. In this titanic twenty-first-century struggle that links Washington, D.C., with Jerusalem, our only steadfast allies have been Christians. In particular, those Christians who most ardently defend Israel, and most reliably denounce anti-Semitism, happen to be those Christians most fervently committed to their faith. Jewish interests are best served by fostering friendship with [these] Christians [rather] than cynically eroding them.”
In Pius XII’s time as well, the fundamental threats to Jews came not from devoted Christians—they were the prime rescuers of Jewish lives in the holocaust—but from anti-Catholic Nazis, atheistic Communists, and, as we’ll see, from Hitler’s mufti in Jerusalem.” The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, p. 124-125

“The undeniable historical fact remains, however, that it is in the Muslim, rather than the Christian, world that “the ancient and modern strands of anti-Semitism have been most successfully fused today, and from there the hatred of Jews receives its main propulsion outward,” as Gabriel Schoenfeld notes in his recent book The Return of Anti-Semitism. Numerous other Jewish scholars, intellectuals, and communal leaders agree. “The fact is,” asserts Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, “that virulent anti-Semitism is widespread throughout the Arab Middle East…Anti-Semitism is tolerated or openly endorsed by Arab governments, disseminated by the Arab media, taught in [Muslim] schools and universities, and preached in mosques. No segment of [Islamic] society is free of its taint.” Bernard Lewis, perhaps the twentieth century’s preeminent historian of Islam and the Middle East, writes that “classical anti-Semitism is an essential part of Arab intellectual life at the present time—almost as much as happened in Nazi Germany and considerably more than in late nineteenth-and early twentieth century France.”
The roots of Islamic anti-Semitism run deep—and they were invigorated by radical Islamic and Nazi collaboration during World War II. As Robert S. Wistrich of the Hebrew University, one of the world’s preeminent authorities on the history of anti-Semitism, has persuasively argued, the anti—Jewish legacy of Nazism “has proven to be especially potent” in the Arab-Islamic world, “where anti-Semitism is once again acquiring a potentially lethal charge.” Wistrich demonstrates that there is an anti-Jewish “culture of hatred that permeates books, magazines, newspapers, sermons, videocassettes, the Internet, television, and radio in the Arab Middle East that has not been seen since the heyday of Nazi Germany.” The same book and author, p. 127-128

“In the Arab world, the effects of Radical Islam’s wartime alliance with Hitler have been long-lasting. They are also in stark contrast to the experience of the Catholic Church in World War II. To put it bluntly, while Pope Pius XII was saving Jewish lives, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, was supporting Hitler’s Final Solution.” –The same book, p.131

“The Long Legacy of Muslim Anti-Semitic Literature
Hatred of the Jews is fanned in the Islamic world by the mass circulation of notoriously anti-Semitic publications, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Hitler’s viciously anti-Jewish autobiography Mein Kampf. The Protocols, an infamous forgery dating from Czarist Russia, purports to document a worldwide Jewish conspiracy “to rule the world through treachery, fraud, and secret violence.” Unfortunately, it is treated as authoritative scholarship in the Arab world. Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser praised the book and recommended that it be widely read. Nasser told an interviewer from an Indian newspaper, “I will give you an English copy. It proves clearly, to quote from the Protocols, that “three hundred Zionists, each of whom knows all the others, govern the fate of the European continents and they elect their successors from their entourage.’” King Faisal of Saudi Arabia often gave copies of the Protocols to the guests of his regime. When he presented the Protocols, along with an anthology of anti-Semitic writings, to French journalists who accompanied French foreign minister Michel Jobert on his visit to Saudi Arabia in January of 1974, officials noted that it was among the king’s favorite books. Anwar Sadat, Muammar Qadafi of Libya, and, of course, Yasser Arafat, have enthuasiastically endorsed and promoted the Protocols as well. Spokesmen for the government of Iran, from the era of Ayatollah Khomeini to the present, have embraced the Protocols and often serialized the book in daily newspapers. Today, many Arabic translations fo the protocols are available, many published repeatedly by Egyptian government presses.
Hundreds of Arab periodicals regularly quote or summarize the Protocols, referencing them as the “authority” on the “perfidy of the Jews.” The Lebanese newspaper Al-Anwar reported that a recent edition of the book hit the top of its nonfiction bestseller list. As the great Middle East historian Bernard Lewis has pointed out, the Protocols “remain a staple not just of propaganda, but even of academic scholarship,” within the radical Islamic world.
Hitler’s Main Kampf, a favorite anti-Semitic publication of the grand mufti and his protégés, has similarly enjoyed a wide and appreciative radical Islamic audience in recent decades. Indeed, if the Protocols is the most popular anti-Semitic tract in the Arab world, Mein Kampf could be considered a close second. Hitler’s hate-filled and virulently anti-Jewish autobiography has been published in Arabic since 1963 and is a perennial bestseller in several Islamic countries. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli soldiers discovered that many Egyptian prisoners carried small paperback editions of Mein Kampf, translated into Arabic by an official of the Arab Information Center in Cairo. The translator, who was known as el-Hadj, had been a leading official in the Nazi Propaganda ministry under the name Luis Heiden. Like his friend Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Heiden had fled to Egypt after World War II. He took this new name after converting to Islam. When Mein Kampf was republished by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority in 2001, it achieved immediate bestseller status through the Arab world. While Mein Kampf continues to enjoy a wide and appreciative Arab audience, Schindler’s List, a film portraying the suffering of the Jews under Nazi rule, is banned in Arab countries.
The Arab media has also resurrected the blood libel that so many popes, medieval and modern categorically condemned and rejected. Since the early 1960s, the Arab media has routinely charged Jews with committing ritual murders. In 1962, the Egyptian ministry of education reissed Talmudic Sacrifices by Habib Faris, first published in 1890 in Cairo. In the introduction, the editor notes that the book constitutes “an explicit documentation of indictment, based upon clear-cut evidence that the Jewish people permitted the shedding of blood as religious duty enjoined in the Talmud.” On April 24, 1970, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah radio broadcast that “reports from the captured homeland tell that the Zionist enemy has begun to kidnap small children from the streets. Afterwards the occupying forces take the blood of the children and throw away their bodies. The inhabitants of Gaza have seen this with their own eyes.” And, as Abraham H. Foxman has pointed out, similar blood libel accusations continue to appear in the Arab media.
Some Arab political leaders, meanwhile, have thrown their weight behind the blood libel and charges of Jewish ritual murder. In August 1972, for example, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia reported in the Egyptian magazine al-Musawar that while he was in Paris “the police discovered five murdered children. Their blood had been drained and it turned out that some Jews had murdered them in order to take their blood and mix it with the bread that they eat on that [Passover] day.” The following year, in November 1973, Faisal stated that “it was necessary to understand the Jewish religious obligation to obtain non-Jewish blood in order to comprehend the [Jewish] crimes of Zionism.”
Similarly, in 1984, Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlass published a book called the Matzah of Zion, in which he discussed the infamous Damascus Affair of 1840, in which the Jews of Damasucs, Syria, were falsely accused of ritual murder after a Capuchin friar and his Muslim servant had mysteriously disappeared. In the Matzah of Zion, Tlass claimed that the Jews of Damascus had indeed murdered the friar and his servant to use their blood to make the holiday matzah for Passover. In the book’s preface, Tlass warns: “The Jew can…kill you and take your blood in order to make his Zionist bread…I hope that I will have done my duty in presenting the practices of the enemy of our historic nation. Allah aid this project.” In 2001, an Egyptian producer announced that he was adapting Tlass’s book into a movie. “It will be,” he said, “the Arab answer to Schindler’s List.”
In the light of this continual use of the Koran, the blood libel, and the mass circulation of Mein Kampf by radical Muslim Arabs to incite hatred against the Jews, it is particularly irresponsible and outrageous for liberal papal critics like Goldhagen, Cornwell, Kertzer, and Carroll to blame the Catholic Church for anti-Semitism, to falsify the Church’s efforts to save Jews during the holocaust, and to ignore the fact that popes since the twelfth century have rejected the blood libel. It is not in the Catholic world that anti-Semitism thrives, or where religion is used to justify the Holocaust, or where the blood libel is promoted. It is in the radical Islamic world.
Anti-Semitic Arab leaders like Mahmood Abbas, Yasser Arafat’s chief deputy and designated successor, can go to the extent of denying the Holocaust even happened. From its inception, Holocaust denial has attracted widespread support in the Muslim Middle East. The government of Saudi Arabia, as Deborah Lipstadt has documented, paid for publication of a number of books accusing Jews of creating a myth of the Holocaust in order to win support for Israel. The Cyprus-based PLO publication El Istiglal trumpeted the Holocaust denial thesis under the headline “Burning of the Jews in the Nazi Chambers Is the Lie of the Twentieth Century.”
Mahmood Abbas is the author of a 1983 book titled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which claims that the Nazis killed “only a few thousand” Jews, not six million, and that the Zionist movement “was a partner in the slaughter of the Jews” during the Third Reich. Abbas, who is considered a Palestinian “moderate” and was appointed by Arafat as the Palestinian Authority’s first prime minister in March 2003, has repeatedly refused to retract these claims. Indeed, shortly after this appointment as Arafat’s prime minister, Abbas reasserted his views in a May 28, 2003, interview with Journalists from the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. And, as Kenneth R. Timmerman has documented, other Palestinian leaders have followed suit, espousing Abba’s line. Holocaust denial is regularly broadcast through the official Palestinian Authority media. It has become another standard radical Islamic calumny against the Jews.
Such anti-Semitic attitudes do not echo from the Vatican—and never have. As we have seen, the papacy of the Catholic Church has long philo-semitic tradition that goes back at least to the pontificate of Gregory the Great in the Sixth century. And, as I’ll show in the next chapter, during the pontificate of John Paul II, the contrast between Islamic and Catholic attitudes to the jews was as dramatic as ever.”—The same book, p.141-145

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Philosophical case agaisnt the Pittsburgh Steelers

When discussions of Greatest American football franchises come up the Pittsburgh Steelers are usually thrown right to the top of the list. The belief that the Steelers are the greatest football Franchise in NFL history is common today and not generally shared by actual sports writers and critics. There is no consensus as to which Franchise is the Greatest. The Green Bay Packers seem to be the Team most often placed at the top of the heap, and after them usually the Dallas Cowboys. The reasons for this are simple: Lombardi and Landry are two of the most influential coaches of all time and in their respective teams created unshakeable dynasties. Also Green Bay has the most NFL Championships (11) and three Super Bowls. The Cowboys have appeared in the most Super Bowls (8) and are tied for second place with the most Super Bowl wins with the San Francisco 49ers (5). The Chicago Bears and New York Giants are also frequently cited above the Steelers. But more so than that is that the Cowboys and Packers have been consistently among the best, most competitive franchises throughout their entire histories.

But Steeler fanatics will retort that the Steelers still have the most Super Bowls, which makes them the Greatest Franchise in NFL history.

This claim is very problematic. It excludes any other criteria of greatness a franchise could possibly have. It is impossible for the Steelers to be considered the Greatest NFL franchise for one simple fact: for 37 years they may as well not have existed in the NFL at all. The Steelers were founded in 1933. The Dallas Cowboys were founded in 1960. Consistent competitiveness should be much higher criteria for Greatness, and it in fact is with most experts. There are other reasons one could mention for why the Steelers cannot be the greatest in NFL history but the real problem still remains that the original argument is flawed.

Let’s turn the typical Steeler case into a syllogism.

P1: The Franchise with the most Super Bowl Wins is the greatest in NFL history

P2: The Steelers have the won the Most Super Bowls

C: The Steelers are the greatest Franchise in NFL history

This argument seems obviously flawed because it is taking the Super Bowl era and imposing that over all of NFL history. The continued success of the Green Bay Packers over all of NFL history shows them to clearly be miles ahead of the Steelers. Also proportionally the Cowboys are way ahead of the Steelers, taking into account that they have been consistently competitive throughout their entire history with nothing coming close to a 37 year slump. In order to help the Steeler fan out lets change the argument a bit.

P1: The Franchise with the most Super Bowl Wins is the greatest in Super Bowl history

P2: The Steelers have won the Most Super Bowls

C: The Steelers are the greatest Franchise in Super Bowl history

This argument is not so obviously flawed. In Super Bowl History the Packers have only won half as many Super Bowls as the Steelers. The Bears have only won 1 and the Giants have also only won half as many as the Steelers. And the Cowboys have not won as many. If P1 is in fact true than the Packers, Bears (et al) years of success before Super Bowl History mean nothing and the Steelers 37 years of mediocrity also mean nothing.

But the argument still comes to a faulty conclusion, because premise 1 is false.

Premise 1 has to be considered false due to its implications. If P1 is in fact true than whatever team currently has the most Super Bowls is the greatest Franchise in Super Bowl history. This cannot possibly be true.
To demonstrate why this cannot be true let’s look at some potential candidates to take over for the Steelers.

The 49ers and Cowboys are in second place. If either one of them wins two more Super Bowls and the Steelers do not win anymore then either the 49ers or the Cowboys will in fact be the Greatest Franchise in Super Bowl history.

Now let’s look at the Cowboys first. I am a Cowboy Fanatic. I already think that the Cowboys are in fact the Greatest Franchise in Super Bowl History. But if they in fact did win two more Super Bowls it would be undeniable to even Steelers Fan (especially since this is their logic, not mine). Even people who hate the Cowboys would have to admit that they are in fact the greatest.

This is not so for the 49ers. The 49ers have generally been a mediocre Team throughout their history. The 49ers were only a great franchise for 15 years. 15 years of the entire Super Bowl era is not enough to make you the greatest franchise in Super Bowl History. Even with 7 Super Bowls. The rest of those years of mediocrity will hold you back. It’s intuitively obvious. What else is intuitively obvious is that even if the 49ers won another Super Bowl they would not be equal with the Steelers for greatest Team in Super Bowl history. The Steelers would still be greater. They have had continual success over multiple decades and the 49ers have not.

Also the Minnesota Vikings are clearly a greater franchise than most Teams that actually have won Super Bowls, like the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, or Kansas City Chiefs. The Vikings have been one of the toughest, strongest Franchises in Super Bowl History. Yet they choke continually in Super Bowls and the Playoffs. So Super Bowl wins cannot be the single determining factor for Greatest Franchise in Super Bowl history, let alone NFL history. Sorry Steelers. You’re a great Franchise, just not number 1. The Super Bowl argument fails. There might be other ways to show that the Steelers are in fact the greatest in Super Bowl history but this is not it. And there is no way to show that they are the greatest in NFL history. That is simply not true.

Go Cowboys.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Constantine's Sword Review

This documentary came out a while ago and I’ve been meaning to watch it because I thought it would be interesting. Well it was interesting. About as interesting as a train wreck.

This is a terrible film. This is a terrible film.

Now that being said from a purely visual standpoint and storytelling standpoint this documentary is at least as good as any of Michael Moore's films or any other good quality documentary that has come out in recent years. So visually and from an editing perspective its par for the course. But the content is absolutely atrocious. (It should be noted that I believe Moore’s films to otherwise be of a very low quality as well)

I think this film is evil. I have such a big problem with this film that I am going to dedicate a serious amount of time to debunking as much of what is claimed here as I can. The theme is essentially Anti Semitism and it’s relation to the Roman Catholic Church. At least that’s the primary theme. Other agendas are put forth throughout the film; one which is particularly disturbing is that the basis of the holocaust was the Roman Catholic Church's history of Anti Semitism.

This film begs every question it could possibly beg and provides essentially zero evidence for its claims and interpretations of certain historical events. It’s based on a book by James Carroll which I will have to read in order to give put him in the best possible light and not straw man him. But if the book is anything like the movie then it’s simply historical Christian self-hating trash.

One example is how Carroll treats the relic of Christ's robe. I have no idea if the Roman church possesses the actual robe that Jesus wore but I do know that Jesus wore a robe. Carroll actually denies this. He claims that the idea that Jesus wore a robe that was gambled over comes from the Psalms and that the Roman Church inserted this into its teachings at a later time. In Psalm 22 it says "They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So Carroll is right that in the Psalms reference is made about gambling and garments which were connected to the Messiah.

But in Matthew 27 we find this passage: They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

So if Carroll is right then the idea which we find originally in Psalm 22 but here we find interpreted as the fulfillment of Prophecy by the Apostle Matthew was actually inserted at a later date and Jesus never wore a robe at all. This is what he claims. That the idea of Jesus’ robe is fiction which the Catholic Church invented based on Psalm 22. Apparently not on the accounts of the crucifixion that we find in the Gospels which interpret Psalm 22 as fulfilled prophecy in Jesus’ sufferings. Carroll was a Priest. He went through Seminary. How could he possibly make a statement like this and be serious? Unless he's challenging the historicity of the Gospels, but he doesn't do that. He lets a Bible scholar do that briefly at one point but he doesn't connect what that scholar says (which was a denial that the Sanhedrin wanted to put Jesus to death as a heretic) with his unsubstantiated claim that the Roman Catholic Church made up the idea of Jesus' Robe. And he also doesn't differentiate between Jesus clothes and the robe that was placed on him in order to mock his claims of Kingship. So which "robes" are his thoughts concerning? Does he think Jesus went around naked? This film is trash. Well made trash.

Now as I wrap this post up what I’m not saying is that Christians have never been anti Semitic. They have. I’m not denying that the holocaust took place or that anti Semitism is wrong. The holocaust took place. It was one of the great tragedies of all time. And it is wrong to be anti Semitic. Jews are just as valuable as all other ethnic groups and religious groups. But this film is ridiculous and at this point it looks to me like Carroll is just taking revenge on the Roman Church for disappointing him during his early days as a priest for not doing exactly what he thought they should about the Vietnam War. And this is why I think the Film is in fact evil. Not necessarily because it is confused and speaking falsehood, though that is bad, but because Carroll is trying to use the holocaust to take revenge on the church of his Childhood. That is simply sick and twisted. I will have much more to say soon.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Is Anakin Skywalker really the chosen one?

To any serious fan of Star Wars a serious question arises now that the entire saga seems to be complete. It has been 5 years since Episode III brought the series full circle and I think at this point it is finally safe to say that Lucas will not make more. Of course this is Flannel Man we’re talking about. Anything (within the limits of CGI) is theoretically possible with this filmmaker. But let’s assume that the series really is finished. The important question is whether or not Anakin really is the chosen one? We’re never given a direct answer during the series.

Lucas has publicly given an answer to this question but as with similar situations (Ridley Scott and Blade Runner) it’s almost as if the filmmaker hasn’t really understood his own work. The answer Lucas has given is that yes Anakin is the chosen one. Which I think is true but his reasoning is problematic. He thinks that because Anakin ends up killing the Emperor in Episode VI that he has brought balance to the force. But this doesn’t really make sense because of the nature of the prophecy and the metaphysics of the Star Wars universe.

The prophecy is that one day a Jedi will be born who brings balance to the force. Lucas believes that balance in the Star Wars Universe is ultimately the defeat of evil. But given that Star Wars is a dualistic and pantheistic universe balance has nothing to do with evil being defeated. In fact there is no preferential state of the force except for a harmonious one. For a westerner harmony looks like a peaceful state whereupon evil has no influence on the state of affairs. But for an Eastern religious outlook peace is simply balance, balance between good and bad. Not good and evil, not right and wrong. It’s more like rough and smooth. Or male and female. Bad isn’t evil, bad is simply that which is different from good. It’s like the difference between passion and calm. So given this metaphysic bringing balance to the force actually means making neither good nor evil the dominant force in the galaxy. It also doesn’t mean that good and evil are exactly equal juts that one doesn’t have a disproportionate amount of power over the other.

So during the Star Wars history what we find is that there used to be many Sith and many Jedi. Exactly how many of each we can’t tell from the movies. But it’s safe to say that the forces of light and darkness were pretty much equal. But at some point the Sith realized that they couldn’t sustain their order with so many dark agents. The dark side tends to create ambition in its adherents and a lack of compassion for others. This means that the Sith were always trying to kill each other in order to become more powerful. So after a major massacre the Sith decided, in order to preserve their order, that there should only be two: a master and an apprentice. That way the dark side’s tendency towards ambition could be healthily sought after, after all an apprentice should naturally take over his Master’s responsibilities. But the implications of this practice were far-reaching. It meant that the dark side of the force only had two agents utilizing its energies. This means that the dark side had fewer outlets for its power but in those outlets the dark force could be manifested more powerfully because there was more force to go around.

Of course the Jedi never instituted such a practice and their numbers probably grew from whatever they were during the golden age of equality between Sith and Jedi. After all they weren’t fighting the Sith, their only equals in combat, so less Jedi probably died on a regular basis. What this means is that the light side of the force was stretched thin across a large group of individuals. This led to a lack of control over the force because it was less concentrated in particular Jedi and spread across the entire group. We see clear evidence of this during conversations between Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Mace Windu. Particularly the scene in Episode II where they discuss how the young Jedi tend to struggle with pride and that their control over the force in general was weakening. Jedi should not struggle with pride because the light side tends to take away ambition and create contentment within its adherents. In other words the more powerful the Jedi the less prideful. But this new generation, particularly Anakin, was struggling constantly with this very thing. The only explanation for this increase in pride and ambition is that the weight of the force had lessened. The light side being spread “like butter over too much bread” was losing its effectiveness within the Jedi themselves and in turn their control over the force was slowly dissipating.

So out of this unfortunate situation comes young Anakin Skywalker. He was actually created by the will of the force. His mother conceived him without a father. His father was the force, and he was fathered in order to help the force. What other reason could the force have had to create the one but to bring itself back into balance? This is exactly what happens in every “incarnation” of Vishnu within Hindu theology. Vishnu becomes an avatar or human in order to bring balance between the forces of good and evil. But the process is cyclical. It happens over and over again. The point being ultimately that there is no good and evil, simply the one. Evil is an illusion and so is good. Balance is what is really important.

We see the same thing in the Taoist symbol of the ying and the yang. Balance between the two is the key to harmony. So then how does Anakin bring balance to the force? Well Lucas is right that when Anakin kills the emperor he has balanced the force. The force had become very unbalanced because Obi Wan and Yoda were in exile and essentially didn’t count as Jedi except in name. Whereas the emperor and Vader were still active participants in the Dark side. But by the end of Episode VI there is only 1 practicing Jedi left and he isn’t very powerful. So assuredly Luke and Leia will build up the light side again but by the time Vader dies he has in fact brought the force essentially back down to ground zero. But Vader’s work as the one started several decades before when he converted to the dark side. If what Lucas says is true and simply killing the emperor is how Anakin brings balance to the force he could have done that at any time. But this is not true. In fact if he had killed the emperor when he had the perfect opportunity to the force would’ve actually become more imbalanced because there would have been no more Sith and only the currently unhealthy Jedi. So in fact the main way in which he brings balance to the force is by betraying the Jedi and joining the emperor. Together the emperor and Anakin destroy the over saturated light side except for a few remnants. This allows the light side to regrow in a more healthy way over the next several decades which will eventually fight back against the Sith, turning Vader at the last moment and finally truly purify the force of its disproportion. And thus harmony will reign in the galaxy until that harmony is disturbed and the whole cycle will start over again.

In other words Vader’s “sins” in the prequel trilogy aren’t sins at all but desirable actions for the sake of the force. They are in fact Vader’s most significant contribution to balancing the force. And it is also interesting to note that the Emperor helps greatly with this, as he had set up the whole situation for decades.

But in this light Star Wars doesn’t seem like a very desirable story for a Christian to enjoy. The fact of the matter is that Lucas’ Characters don’t really act or believe in the Metaphysics of their universe. Yoda tells Anakin not to hold on to those who are lost in the Force. When we die nothing bad happens because we’re simply becoming one with the universe. Well then why not commit suicide? The story is riddled with the belief that the dark side isn’t just different but actually evil and should be destroyed. But for a dualist or a pantheist this is not true. There is no preferable state. Evil or good are both equally acceptable. So Lucas’ western tendencies shine through his essentially Hindu story and that’s why we gravitate towards it. Emotionally the characters aren’t Hindus, only theologically.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Tao of Film: Pure Cinema and the Christian Aesthetic Part 3

If you've never heard of Armond White read this:

Armond White, as nutty as he may seem, actually brings up some very good points. I don't think he makes very good criticisms very often but in the above linked interview he made a few interesting points about film Criticism.

1) Film Criticism, filmmaking, and their relation to maturity and age
2) The effect of the internet and television on film criticism
3) What film criticism actually is
4) Credentials or credibility in film criticism

I found these points to be very interesting, especially since I felt as though I personally could benefit from listening to him. Usually I write off Mr. White because he seems so ridiculous. But the guy is smart. His annual Better Than lists often have moments of brilliance in them and he really does have good credentials when it comes to Film Criticism. I want to deal with each of these points briefly and then go on to how it deals with the Tao of Film.

In point 1 White stated that he believes age plays a major factor in our ability to make and criticize film. Apparently in the past he has said that no one should be able to make films before they're forty. Now he gives a more modest proposal. No one should be able to do film criticism before they are thirty. If that’s true I've got five years to go before I really should be doing anything like the stuff I try to do on this blog.

I actually think the point is correct. Maturity plays an important factor in everything we do, but we can't learn without doing. I think Aristotle said something like that. So this blog is in many ways an experiment for me. I want to learn how to understand and criticize film. I have called myself a film critic and I guess that’s true in the sense that I do critique film. Whether I am any good at it or not is another question. I think if I keep at it I will become good or better than I am. I will continue to read more about cinema, watch more movies, interact with more people, gain personal experience, and an increased knowledge base from which to draw. I started this blog out of a very pretentious idea. I wanted to come up with a better top ten list of greatest films than Roger Ebert. Which to my satisfaction I did, because unlike him I used criteria and philosophy to formulate my list rather than simply my opinions. Of course my opinions shaped my criteria and reasoning but I feel that the list itself is more defensible than Ebert's because of its more solid basis. But even since coming up with that list I have already revised it, multiple times, I just haven't made those revisions public yet. One such revision is Citizen Kane. I had initially excluded it because I felt it was overrated. But what I realized was that it fit my criteria perfectly, better than some of the other films I had selected. So unless I revise my criteria Kane must go on the list.

Maturity is partly being able to simply put things in perspective, and that perspective is usually about ourselves.

So while I disagree with White about the exact age I think he's probably right. Age and maturity are important. I don't really have either; this blog should help me to get there. As a Christian and an aspiring philosopher/theologian the same is true. Maturity and humility go hand and hand with any kind of serious growth that we make as humans. But particularly intellectual and existential endeavors.

In point 2 White makes the case that the internet has really finally killed film criticism (something which has been lamented by every generation of film critics in some way or another). Obviously he doesn't mean that film critics don't exist anymore just that now anybody can start up a blog and start acting like a film critic. That’s exactly what I did. I actually think he's right about this too. It takes restraint to act like an intellectual when there is accountability such as a University of Peer reviewed journals. But it takes even more restraint when you are accountable to no one. And most people on the internet don't think restraint is involved at all. That’s the whole point: letting yourself out, no apologies, to the whole world.

He believes that Roger Ebert really killed film criticism when he started his television back when Siskel was still with us. The show was pretty easy on most films and mostly existed to simply make film criticism more public. It was a pretty easy going show for the most part. Ebert and Siskel were pretty easy on most films and ultimately just said whether or not they liked the film or thought it was entertaining. That really isn't film criticism. It’s just having a conversation on TV between two guys who know more about film than their viewers.

But regardless similar things were said about books when they first became a "thing" centuries ago. Supposedly anybody could write a book and then their ideas would be respected and spread throughout the world regardless of their credentials. But what we found was that bad books written by idiots generally weren't as influential. It’s actually gotten worse today because there is such a massive amount of literature written by so many different people with varying credentials.

But generally speaking the good books seem to last. And on the internet the good blogs seem to do better than the bad blogs. People really don't generally listen to everything they read. Well at least not all people. So I think the internet has just complicated the issue. Of course White thinks that the issue really is that people in general feel as though they don't need to listen to Film Critics. That everybody can be a film critic and nobody is really an expert. But this problem isn't just confined to film or the internet. This is a general attitude that comes essentially from bad understandings of the Reformation. The gradual privatization of belief has led people to believe that they can have whatever beliefs they want. By virtue of the fact that this or that opinion of this or that movie is my opinion means it’s a valuable opinion, because its mine and not yours. And you can't criticize my opinion because opinions can't be wrong.

But here we find that there is a real distinction between a reviewer and a film critic. Most people can't intelligently discuss everything. There are a few who can understand multiple fields of knowledge but many of us have to pick and choose what we will be in the know about. I have chosen Film, Philosophy, Theology, and to a lesser extent sports (really just American Football). On one of those topics I am very good. Get me talking about make up or farm machinery and I won't know anything. So the reviewer performs a public service giving a semi informed opinion so that people either will be encouraged or hindered from seeing a particular film. It’s not really an academic pursuit. Most of the time Armond White is hard to understand anyway. He makes references to all sorts of things in his reviews, from politics to history to other obscure films.

But now we've gotten into number 3. What is Film Criticism? It is taking Film seriously. It is being hard on movies. It is attempting to understand and explain film. Film Criticism is much different from film reviewing although many of the same things happen in both places. To review a film is basically to perform a public function or economic service. It is to be a kind of watchdog over Hollywood for the people. Armond White claims that this also isn't going on, but that the film "reviewers" are really just super fans that are in league with Hollywood.

But Film Criticism is to seriously and intellectually evaluate cinema. This is much harder than simply saying I liked it. It takes time, effort, talent, and intelligence. Which leads us to number 4. Credibility. You really can't just jump off the street and start a blog and expect people to listen to you. I don't expect people to listen to me. But to seriously understand cinema requires theoretical and critical skills. It requires exegetical and historical knowledge. It’s much more than simply saying I love Casablanca. Allot of Scholarship has been done about that film, as is true of most great movies.

But if we take Movies seriously, as art and a cultural force, we won't shrink away from this daunting task. We should accept White's challenge and make Film Criticism better than it has been. We need to really study cinema.

Proposition 8 and Philosphical Issues

In light of the recent and very unsurprising overturn of Proposition 8 (the judge is gay people) I decided to create this very brief post guiding you to better minds than mine.

Here is a link to a massive discussion from Philosophia Christi (a Christian Philosophy Journal) a few years back. The entire discussion has to do with homosexuality, legality, and morality.

Passive-aggressive Tyranny

“In 1997, in her acceptance speech for an Emmy for cowriting the “coming-out” episode of Ellen, Ellen DeGeneres said, “I accept this on behalf of all people, and the teenagers out there especially, who think there is something wrong with them because they are gay. There’s nothing wrong with you. Don’t ever let anybody make you feel ashamed of who you are.”
There are many who, after hearing or reading Ellen’s speech, applauded her for her liberal sensibilities, concluding that the actress is an open and tolerant person who is merely interested in helping young people to better understand their own sexuality. If you think this way, you are mistaken. Ellen’s speech is an example of what I call “passive-aggressive tyranny.” The trick is to sound “passive” and accepting of “diversity” even though you are putting forth an aggressively partisan agenda, implying that those who disagree with you are not only stupid but harmful. In order to understand this, imagine if a conservative Christian Emmy award winner had said this: “I accept this on behalf of all people, and the teenagers out there especially,who think there is something wrong with them because they believe that human beings are made for a purpose and that purpose includes the building of community with its foundation being heterosexual monogamy. There’s nothing wrong with you. Don’t ever let anybody, especially television script writers, make you feel ashamed because of what you believe is true about reality.” Clearly this would imply that those who affirm liberal views on sexuality are wrong. An award winner who made this speech would be denounced as narrow, bigoted, and intolerant. She would never work again in Hollywood.” –Francis Beckwith

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Imitation of Christ: The Lord's Supper

"I AM the Lover of purity, the Giver of all holiness. I seek a pure heart and there is the place of My rest. Prepare for Me a large room furnished and I with My disciples will keep the Pasch with you. If you wish that I come to you and remain with you, purge out the old leaven and make clean the dwelling of your heart. Shut out the whole world with all the din of its vices. Sit as the sparrow lonely on the housetop, and think on your transgressions in bitterness of soul. Everyone who loves prepares the best and most beautiful home for his beloved, because the love of the one receiving his lover is recognized thereby. But understand that you cannot by any merit of your own make this preparation well enough, though you spend a year in doing it and think of nothing else. It is only by My goodness and grace that you are allowed to approach My table, as though a beggar were invited to dinner by a rich man and he had nothing to offer in return for the gift but to humble himself and give thanks. Do what you can and do that carefully. Receive the Body of the Lord, your beloved God Who deigns to come to you, not out of habit or necessity, but with fear, with reverence, and with love. I am He that called you. I ordered it done. I will supply what you lack. Come and receive Me. When I grant the grace of devotion, give thanks to God, not because you are worthy but because I have had mercy upon you. If you have it not and feel rather dry instead, continue in prayer, sigh and knock, and do not give up until you receive some crumb of saving grace. You have need of Me. I do not need you. You do not come to sanctify Me but I come to sanctify you and make you better. You come to be sanctified and united with Me, to receive new grace and to be aroused anew to amend. Do not neglect this grace, but prepare your heart with all care, and bring into it your Beloved. Not only should you prepare devoutly before Communion, but you should also carefully keep yourself in devotion after receiving the Sacrament. The careful custody of yourself afterward is no less necessary than the devout preparation before, for a careful afterwatch is the best preparation for obtaining greater grace. If a person lets his mind wander to external comforts, he becomes quite indisposed. Beware of much talking. Remain in seclusion and enjoy your God, for you have Him Whom all the world cannot take from you. I am He to Whom you should give yourself entirely, that from now on you may live, not in yourself, but in Me, with all cares cast away." -Thomas a Kempis

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

J. Andrew on Film Theory Categories

"Every question about film falls under at least one of the following headings: raw material, methods and techniques, forms and shapes, purpose or value. These categories, adapted from Aristotle [Aristotle's breakdown of the four "causes" of any natural phenomenon (material, effecient, formal, and final) is developed in his Physics, II, section 3.] divide the phenomenon of film into the aspects which make it up and which can be interrogated.

1. "The raw material" includes questions about the medium, such as those which seek its relation to reality, photography, and illusion, or those which follow out its use of time and space, or even those which aim at such processes as color, sound, and the make-up of the movie theater. Anything which is seen to exist as a given state of affairs with which the cinematic process begins belongs to the category of "raw material."

2. "The methods and techniques" of cinema comprises all questions about the creative process which shapes or treats the raw material, from discussions of technological developments (like the zoom shot) to the psychology of the filmmaker or even the economics of film production.

3. "The forms and shapes" of film is the category containing questions about the kinds of film which have been or could be made. Questions about cinema's ability to adapt other artworks lie here, as do questions about genre and audience expectation or effect. Here we are looking at films from the standpoint of a completed process in which the raw material has already been shaped by various creative methods. What determines those shapes and how are they recognized as valuable by an audience?

4. "The purpose and value" of cinema is the category which interfaces with the larger aspects of life, for here fall all questions which seek the goal of cinema in man's universe. Once raw material has been shaped by a process into a given significant form, what does this mean for mankind?"

-The Major Film Theories, J. Dudley Andrew

Friday, July 23, 2010

Canaanite Genocide

Just recently I rediscovered a blog that I used to follow. I found these excellent posts on the Conquest of Canaan as described in the Book of Joshua. This is easily the best view of what has been described as Canaanite Genocide I have ever seen from an Evangelical perspective. I pray Dr. Flannagan (the author) can make it to ETS and present this view to the American Evangelical Elite. Enjoy

The other main evangelical attempts to deal with this troubling issue are well represented in the Counterpoints series Show Them No Mercy dealing with this topic. If you're unfamiliar with the Counterpoints series each volume has several scholars represent different evangelical views on a topic and then critic each other's presentations. An amazon link to that volume can be found at the top right of this post. It would be good to read that volume at some point because the new view that Matt Flannagan has presented on his blog is very distinct from all the attempts represented in the Counterpoints volume.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Greatest American Films Part 8: Notoriously Overlooked

For the Seventh entry in my list of the Ten Greatest American Films I have chosen Notorious.

In recent months I really feel as if the quality of my posts has gone down. Not that they were ever of a remarkably high quality but they used to be better than they are now. Some of my passion has left me because of stress and my life becoming more focused on family matters, work etc. Blogging doesn't seem very important right now and neither does film. But I still really enjoy both so I press on.

On this particular film I feel even less passionate. At least to write about it. I feel very strongly about the quality of this film. It is one of my all time favorites. But that’s part of the problem. To me this film speaks for itself, to watch it is to see how brilliant it truly is. And because this is a very under watched film now a days I don't want to spoil any surprises so I will keep this post short.

This is Hitchcock's greatest film. Vertigo is a very close second (Shadow of a Doubt is maybe third) but I think this film wins out because ultimately Notorious expresses everything that is great about Hitchcock more succinctly, less pretentiously, and the film is more entertaining as well. Of course ranking Hitchcock is difficult in any case because he made so many masterpieces that are highly influential and very enjoyable to this day. But my gut has always told me to go with this one.

On that note this also happens to be one of Cary Grant's finest performances. I'm not sure if I've ever seen him deal with such a challenging performance. He doesn't have a great deal to actually do in the film but whenever he does something it works perfectly. The same goes for Ingrid Bergman. This is probably her greatest performance. Her character is much more complicated than in Casablanca, though possibly not more so than Gaslight, but what is required of her is more intense and ultimately more moving than either of those films.

In many ways this is a film about one thing: sex. Honestly, at the height of Code Era Hollywood this film is very unapologetically about sex. The title itself refers to Ingrid Bergman's character. She is Notorious for her promiscuous lifestyle and that is ultimately what causes the main movement of the plot. Everything else is pretty much dressing. This movie is a complicated and realistic love story which is set within a very dramatic Hollywood genre: the spy film. Love, sex, redemption, and spies. It has pretty much everything you could ever want from a movie which is why I also happen to think that this is the greatest film ever made. I put it above Casablanca, Citizen Kane, et al. I mean not high above anything else, just above by a small degree.

But I don't want to give away anything else. This film is too overlooked nowadays and everyone should see it and love it. I hope you do and do too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Philosopher's Prayer

Heavenly Father
My mind is not blank
I wish it were for then you could simply fill it with truth
But my mind is already full
Full of doubts and ideas and problems
Please Lord seal my heart against falsehood
Like Solomon I beg for your wisdom above all other gifts
I need your guidance to help me comprehend the deep thoughts
And your creativity to formulate my own
In all endeavors we need you Lord
But in this endeavor most of all
For we desire to understand the past
And yet boldly march into the future
Son of God give us your humility
For wisdom is not given to the arrogant
Spirit of God give us your peace
Nothing is worse for intellectual pursuit than the doubting heart
In you Oh Lord is all truth to be found and all Wisdom finds its fount
May our pursuit of Philosophy be only for your glory and not our own
And that we would grow in our friendship with Wisdom
Only after we grow in our friendship with you
Help me submit to you my mind today and always

Grad school and my dirty little secret

Alright so I'll be officially starting Grad School in about a month. This realization which has been so exciting suddenly became very panicky. I haven't had to do any kind of real school work for a long time. So in order to start getting back into the swing of things I'm going to exegete some simple philosophical and theological texts. Basically the plan is to come up with an assignment and a text to go with that assignment and then do it. I know real complicated. But I think it will help my mind and body start to go back to those old college days. So for the first one I will do Euthyphro. The assignment: Read the Euthyphro give a brief exegesis of the main themes pick 1 to 2 arguments from the Euthyprho and analyze them, 1,000 word minimum and 1,500 word maximum limit.

And my dirty little secret is that I don't really like Plato all that much. I have a terrible time understanding his dialogues without a much wiser Professor to help me sort it all out. Its like Citizen Kane. You don't realize why its such a big deal till somebody shows you, but it'll probably never be one of your favorites.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Top Ten Greatest Film Opening Shots/Scenes

I think that these are the ten greatest opening shots and scenes ever. Other films come close but in some way each one of these openings is special, significant, memorable, and artistically interesting. They all happen to be American films, I didn't do that intentionally but I think American Cinema tries harder to grab the audience from the first frame because we seem to be a culture of Attention deficits and if that makes our film openings better well then more power to ADD.

1. Citizen Kane (scene begins with the successive shots of Xanadu holding the window in the same location during each shot slowly closing in to Kane's bedroom, scene ends after the famous Rosebud line whereupon the snow globe is dropped and breaks upon the floor)

2. Rear Window (the scene begins with blinds opening whereupon we are visually introduced to everything we need to know about the setting and ends with the phone conversation)

3. The Graduate (the scene begins with Benjamin's face in the airplane as we here The Sounds of Silence begin to play and ends with the song ending right before the fish tank)

4. Patton (the scene begins with a giant U.S. flag and ends when Patton's speech concludes)

5. The Godfather (the scene begins with the title and classic Godfather theme and ends with the line "Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day consider this justice a gift on my daughter's wedding day.")

6. Star Wars (the scene begins with the opening crawl and ends with the storm troopers breaking through the hull and the subtle smoky transition away from the carnage)

7. Apocalypse Now (the scene begins with the jungle and the first few chords of The End by the Doors ends with The End fading out and Captian Willard begins to narrate)

8. Blade Runner (the scene begins with the firey future LA cityscape and ends when the interrogation scene begins)

9. Beauty and the Beast (the scene begins with the forest giving way to the Castle as the Narrator introduces us to the classic fairy tale and ends with the title fading into the little town)

10. Memento (the scene begins with the photograph developing backwards and ends with the first black and white scene)

Other notables:

Touch of Evil

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly



Schindler's List

The Matrix

The first two Lord of the Rings films.

The Passion of the Christ

The Dark Knight

and there are many others...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Predators Review

In 1987 when the first Predator came out I think that it really solidified Arnold the Governator's film career. He had already made several iconic turns (The Terminator, Commando, etc) but in this film we see what is actually a very original and intelligent take on an old genre: the monster movie. Predator is many things but ultimately its about a monster hunting down and killing this team of mercanaries in different horrendous ways. Its tight and straight to the point and very entertaining and a perfect vehicle for Arnold. Predator wouldn't be predator without him. He's the only man you could believe might actually be able to go head to head with one of these nasties and come out victorious.

Predators is at least as good as the first film. It might be better. It is certainly better than Predators 2. I don't want to say a whole lot about the film because like the original it is fairly simple and straightforward but I also don't want to ruin any of the twists or surprises. Its a good action romp. If you like or loved the first film you should go watch it. Adrien Brody is really well cast. As shocking as it might seem he's put on some pounds and spent alot of time in the gym and its paid off. He's no Arnold but half of what makes the film good is the changing of the guard. It didn't work with Danny Glover, it was too hard to accept that Roger Murtaugh could have ultimately killed a Predator all by himself, let alone survive the whole film. But going in a different direction from Arnold with Adrien really paid off big time. The entire cast seems right for the most part.

This film does what all sequels want to do, recapture the feel of the original and yet build upon the mythology that was established. This does that very well and it sets itself up for a sequel so we could be looking at a few more trips down predator lane. Lets hope they're as good as this one.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A prayer inspired from spiritual discouragement

Father, Son, and Spirit
There are three things I confess to be true
That you are good
That you are faithful
That you are love
Your ways are high above, they belong to another world
I live on the Silent Planet, where all men are lost
We have been cut off from the life of the trinity
Into that life bring us back
Like sheep we have gone astray
Each of us has chosen his own way
We seek for beauty and find ugliness
We seek for truth and find lies
We seek for warmth and find the cold
We seek for love and find hate
In you our heart’s puzzle is found complete
Our truest and deepest desires are found fulfilled
Our thirst is quenched, our hungry is sated
I bring to your gaze myself as well as my brothers and sisters
Heal the broken hearts and mend the twisted souls
We are lost without your love
We are dead without your life
Your grace is the stream that replenishes our forest
Your mercy is the lifeblood of our hearts
Bring to us that eternal life and glory which has nit you three together for all eternity
I long to be your son united to you through the New Adam
Our savior Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God who became the Son of Man
He has ended my sorrows and in him all my weakness is wiped away
Blessed are the poor in spirit, not because they are poor in spirit
But because God loves them just as much as the wealthy and powerful
And because their poverty of soul has been alleviated
Your promises are new every morning
Your goodness is uncreated and therefore cannot be stilled or stopped
The immortal power you have bestowed upon your people courses through our whole soul
And if we do nothing in this life except learn to truly worship you
We have done all that is necessary for happiness and wholeness
Father grant us new freedom today
Son grant us renewed life today
Spirit grant us refreshing power today
We thank you Holy Trinity for your inestimable gifts
You have baffled the wise and brought low the arrogant
Your grace is beyond comprehension
And all our fears and darkness disappear into the rays of your sun
Grant us the strength to bear the weight of glory which is the praise of you forevermore