Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SHORT FEATURE – WHAT ON EARTH

When faced with the choice of reviewing Cameron Diaz in Sex Tape (shudder) or another Purge movie (yawn) for Aleteia this past week, I decided to chicken out and just take the family to see Planes: Fire and Rescue instead. It’s pretty innocuous as far as children's movies go, nothing special, but probably something really young kids will enjoy.

Not being the toddler I once was, I have to admit my mind wandered a couple of times while watching the film. I couldn’t help but wonder how do some of the things in the Cars universe work? Why are there sidewalks in a world with no humans? What exactly were the dinosaurs mentioned in Cars 2 like? Who builds all the houses and train tracks and stuff? And where do new baby vehicles come from?

If you too have been bothered by such questions while watching any of these films, don’t fret, because it looks like the Martians have gotten it all figured out…

Okay, so the Martians don’t have quite everything figured out. But once they do and show back up to talk to us parasites, you  can be sure we’ll be ready to make Catholics out of them.

This willingness to embrace extraterrestrials seems to come as a shock to a lot of non-believers. For some reason, there’s a trope out there that all religions would collapse if intelligent life in outer space were to be discovered. The people in the pews know better though. According to the Peters ETI Religious Crisis Survey, “the vast majority of religious believers, regardless of religion, see no threat to their personal beliefs caused by potential contact with intelligent neighbours on other worlds… religious adherents overwhelmingly registered confidence that neither they as individuals nor their religious tradition would suffer anything like a collapse.”

In a 2008 interview, Father Jose Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, explained that the possibility of extraterrestrials “is not in contrast with the faith, because we cannot place limits on the creative freedom of God. To use St. Francis' words, if we consider earthly creatures as 'brothers' and 'sisters,' why can't we also speak of an 'extraterrestrial brother?” … God became man in Jesus in order to save us. So if there are also other intelligent beings, it's not a given that they need redemption. They might have remained in full friendship with their creator… but if needed, God's mercy would be offered to aliens, as it was to humans.”

During a homily this past May, Pope Francis himself confirmed as much. “If – for example - tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here... Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them… And one says, 'But I want to be baptized!' What would happen?… Who are we to close doors? In the early Church, even today, there is the ministry of the ostiary [usher]. And what did the ostiary do? He opened the door, received the people, allowed them to pass. But it was never the ministry of the closed door, never.”

So let the Martians come. Once the initial confusion is worked out, we’ll be happy to welcome them into the fold.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

SHORT FEATURE: THE ONION – APE MORTALITY

One of the big questions asked by the (excellent) movie I reviewed for Aleteia this week, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is what exactly would simians be like if they suddenly gained the self awareness of a human being? Well, The Onion wondered the very same thing a while back…

Okay, making an ape cry shouldn't have been that funny, but… it was.

Still, if only the idiot scientists had thought to mention the possibility of an afterlife to poor old Quigley, then maybe the big fella wouldn’t have taken things quite so hard. After all, as it says in I Thessalonians, “We shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.”

Of course, these guys are probably the type of scientists who would never have introduced such an idea anyway because they likely hypothesize that the whole idea of Heaven is nothing but a fairy tale humans developed centuries ago for the express purpose of combatting their fear of death. Well, it’s true that there is no empirical evidence to support the idea of Heaven (or the fairy tale theory either, for that matter), but since we’re talking about the soul, how could there be? But that doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate, rational reasons for believing in an afterlife. Philosopher Peter Kreeft (my go-to guy for these kind of things) has a pretty impressive list of them at his website.

Still, even if you accept the possibility of an afterlife, there’s still the question of why the Christian belief is the right one. As critics are quick to point out, the biblical concept of Heaven changes drastically from Genesis (where it’s virtually nonexistent) to Revelation (where it’s pretty elaborate). For Catholics, though, this really isn’t much of a problem at all. As apologist Dave Armstrong explains on his website,

“Many doctrines develop from the Old to the New Testament. The inclusion of the Gentiles into the Covenant People of God is a development. The New Testament (particularly, Pauline) understanding of the relationship of the Law, Jewishness, and grace to salvation is a development, as is baptism (as the continuation of circumcision, in terms of an initiatory rite). Angelology highly developed in the inter-testamental period. And so did the doctrines of the afterlife… We have kernels and tantalizing hints in the OT (which is why later Judaism definitely adopted conscious eternal existence for both the righteous and the wicked, and a form of purgatory as well). Christianity came down firmly on the apocalyptic and Pharisaical side with regard to eschatology… It is argued that hellfire and consciousness after death was first believed by the Greeks, not the OT-period Jews. But truth is truth, wherever it is found. The ancient Greeks developed classical logic, too, which everyone now utilizes, including -- very much so -- the Apostle Paul and Jesus Himself. So we are to reject logic because the pagan Greeks figured it out rather than the ancient Hebrews, who were not at all of that mindset?”

So, for us papists, it’s no surprise at all that peoples throughout the ages would come to believe in some kind of afterlife for the reasons given by Dr. Kreeft. And it’s no big deal that it took a while to develop a clearer understanding of the notion because we accept that divine revelation was gradual on the topic (just why God works that way is another post for another time). And we’ve come to believe in our particular version of Heaven, what the Catechism describes as “the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness,” because it’s the one Jesus revealed to us. I mean, we believe the guy was God incarnate, so why wouldn’t we take his word for it? Those are pretty good credentials.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

NOW SHOWING AT A BLOG NEAR YOU

Now Showing Marquee 3

What’s that? Another exorcism film by the same guy who made Emily Rose? Yes, please. Actually, Deliver Us From Evil, which I reviewed for Aleteia this week, isn’t quite as creepy as director Scott Derrickson’s previous horror films, but it’s still a pretty solid effort.

In addition, I’ve gotta admit it’s always nice to watch Derrickson’s obsession with Catholicism. Oh sure, he’s a Presby, but it’s been obvious for years he’s fond of dipping his toes in the Tiber, although he can’t quite find the nerve to jump in and make the swim. He pretty much confirms as much in a recent interview with Steven Greydanus.

Of course, despite Derrickson’s respect for the Church, not every Catholic is a fan of his films. Fr. Dennis, who can usually be counted on to give at least three stars to just about anything, blasts Deliver Us From Evil with a total of zero. Why? Because the movie changes just about everything from the book upon which it was based. Can you believe Hollywood would ever do such a thing? Have they no respect for historical accuracy?

Speaking of movies and history, just in time for the 4th of July weekend, Donald R. McClarey over at the American Catholic discusses a recent list of top ten movie battle speeches and adds a few suggestions of his own. Those are all pretty good, but we have to wonder why nobody mentioned what is undoubtedly the best motivational battle speech of all time...

What do you mean that’s too silly to make the list? What’s wrong with silly? Jason Dietz from NonModern must not think there’s anything wrong with silly since he’s decided to try baptizing A Shot In The Dark.

See? Some things that sound silly can actually have serious undertones. That’s probably why Father V. over at Adam’s Ale is starting to get a bit concerned about the idea of robot marriage.

And on that ominous note, we’ll call it quits for this time. Before you go, though, you might want to think about heading over to Kickstarter. It looks like the folks behind The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra series are looking for a little help in funding Part 3, so If you’ve got some spare change after paying your monthly bills and dropping your envelopes in the collection basket, you might want to consider donating to such a worthy cause.