Dan Slott shoves anti-faith bilge into Peter Parker’s mouth in ASM #25 because reporters shouldn’t believe in God … or something

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Fans of The Amazing Spider-Man plopped down $10 this week to read the start of The Osborn Identity, which was jam-packed with extra stories (some of them not so good). While your friendly neighborhood blogger is happy to talk about the issue as a whole, one exchange in the main story stuck out for the anti-faith claptrap that writer Dan Slott shoved into Peter Parker’s mouth.

Since this issue takes place after The Clone Conspiracy, Peter Parker goes to check on reporter Betty Brant to see how she’s doing. She mentions seeing a spiritual advisor and possibly bringing Aunt May along since her second husband just passed away, to which the hero replies:

“You’re a reporter. You live for facts. When did you start looking to the spirit world?

Note that at this point Peter knew nothing about Betty receiving phone calls from the clone of her deceased husband. All he knew as that she wanted to see a spiritual advisor. And his response?  A condescending remark that people who deal in “facts” should not be turning to spiritual advisors.

Spider-Man fans who subjected themselves to Jose Molina’s atrocious Amazing Grace will note how he also infused Peter with anti-faith smugness. In 2016, however, the message was that faith in God and science are somehow at odds, which is not true at all (my guess is that Dan Slott and Jose Molina have never even heard of Georges Lemaître, for example, but I digress).

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What makes Dan Slott’s decision so weird, as has been stated before, is that it makes even more sense in the Marvel Universe for people to believe in the supernatural because citizens witness it on a regular basis. Peter has literally been to the astral plane, dealt with demons, and knows first-hand that they exist, and yet Dan Slott makes him act like a callous jerk towards a friend who is spiritual.

The absurdity of Peter’s statement is made even more bizarre when, moments earlier, he is seen talking to “Uncle Ben” — a dead man — at his grave. Why would scientists and reporters and superheroes talk to long-dead relatives unless they believed that on a spiritual level their words were being heard?

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And why would Peter behave like such a jerk towards Ms. Brant when Amazing Grace ended with a meeting between he and a priest — “Hey, Father. You got a minute?”

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Here are some historical “facts” for Dan Slott.

  • There was once a man named Jesus who made some pretty “bold” claims (Understatement of All Time Award material, I know.)
  • Jesus was crucified — just as he foretold — for those claims.
  • Jesus’ enemies were so terrified of Him that they literally entombed his corpse behind a giant rock and used an armed guard to watch over it. (Yes, an armed guard for a dead body.)
  • Christ’s own disciples, from a historical perspective, had every reason in the world to say, “Well, I guess it’s over,” after he was executed. False prophets came before him, and all their movements soon died with the individual. But these apostles didn’t turn in the towel. They too were eventually executed for telling all the world that Jesus rose from the dead. They traveled far and wide to tell everyone who would listen that they saw him, that they literally put their hands in his wounds, and that He is exactly who He claimed to be.

I can go on and on (What came before the Big Bang, Dan Slott?), but the point is this: Peter Parker would never behave the way he did in that scene with Ms. Brant because it was a total jerk thing to say. If you think that he would say that — despite hanging on occasion with Doctor Strange … traveling throughout the multi-verse … and generally dealing with the supernatural on a regular basis, then good luck making that case.

If Dan Slott is not a religious man, then that is his prerogative, but he should not turn Peter Parker into a condescending jerk when a story delves into spiritual matters.

With that said, I highly suggest checking out Stillanerd’s review of ASM #25 over at Whatever A Spider Can.

I should also mention that the two of us will be discussing the craft of writing (through an ASM prism) on my YouTube channel on Saturday, March 25. As of now we plan on starting at 3 p.m. EST. Make sure to subscribe and hit YouTube’s little bell icon to receive a notification when we go live.

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Thomas Merton’s ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’ a classic for the well-read man of faith

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Not too long ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my wife after Mass and she told me that I seemed restless. I agreed, and when we started to dig down into the reasons why, one of them was the kind of “dumbed down” Catholicism that Bishop Robert Barron criticizes so eloquently on his YouTube channel.

I sometimes sit in Church on Sunday and listen to our priest deliver the same New York Jets joke that he has used at least three times in the last 18 months. I’ll hear another priest tell well-prepared homilies that seem to concentrate on feel-goodisms (e.g., “Make someone smile and you’ll bring them closer to God”), instead of anything substantive. It’s maddening to know that there is a wealth of intellectual treasures in the Catholic Church, but for some weird reason priests never seem to challenge people in the pews to pick up a good book and read.

It boggles my mind that I have never — in nearly 38 years — heard a priest on Sunday tell me to read Saint Augustine’s ConfessionsC.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas, or a whole host of intellectual giants who have helped me over the years to understand my faith on a deeper level — and to cogently share it with those in my circle of friends. I searched out the above-mentioned authors because at some point in time I realized that I had to take as much personal responsibility with my spiritual health as I have with my physical and mental development over the years.

And it is here, dear reader, where Trappist monk Thomas Merton enters the equation. Long story short, his autobiography is a must-read for anyone who has drifted away from the Church because they received too many helpings of “dumbed down Catholicism” without realizing how much stimulating content was within reach.

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of Saint Augustine’s Confessions and now they know that I fully endorse Merton. But what they don’t know is that one of the reasons these men resonate with me is because the flaws they both acknowledge — their spiritual deficiencies — have been my own.

Merton says:

“Where was my will? ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,’ and I had not laid up any treasures for myself in heaven. They were all on earth. I wanted to be a writer, a poet, a critic, a professor. I wanted to enjoy all kinds of pleasures of the intellect and of the senses and in order to have these pleasures I did not hesitate to place myself in situations which I knew would end in spiritual disaster — although generally I was so blinded by my own appetites that I never even clearly considered this fact until it was too late, and the damage was done.

Of course, as far as my ambitions went, their objects were all right in themselves. There is nothing wrong in being a writer or a poet — at least I hope there is not: but the harm lies in wanting to be one for the gratification of one’s own ambitions, and merely in order to bring oneself up to the level demanded by his own internal self-idolatry. Because I was writing for myself and for the world, the things I wrote were rank with the passions and selfishness and sin from which they sprang. An evil tree brings forth evil fruits, when it brings forth fruit at all,” (Merton, Thomas. 253).

Who knew that a deceased monk could peg me to the wall and make me weep like no man who walks the earth? You exposed me to all the world, Thomas Merton. Touché! But I thank you, because I am better for it.

The point here is not so much to treat this blog as a confessional booth (although in many ways it is), but to point out just how imperative it is to read the best and the brightest that has ever been written. If you really want to see spiritual growth, then you must put in the same type of time and effort that you do with any other endeavor deemed important.

If you are a Catholic or a lapsed Catholic, then I highly recommend Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. If you are not Catholic but you are interested in exploring this kind of subject matter, then I would start out with C.S. Lewis since it’s easier to step into a warm bath than a brisk pool.

Regardless which route you take, the point remains: Get reading!

Related:

Americans need to read more Saint Augustine and listen to less Mike Huckabee

The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics’: Pay a small price for the work of an intellectual giant

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

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George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic is a wonderful book, but oddly enough I must begin this review by griping about the title — it’s something that Catholics of any age should read. In fact, the publisher does not lie by billing the book as “a modern spiritual classic,” which is why I recommend it to anyone who is interested in such issues.

Like many Catholic kids, my parents took me to Mass every Sunday growing up. And, like many Catholic kids, I was not exposed to the writings of G.K. Chesterton, George Weigel or other intellectual heavyweights. What I did have access to were kind adults who lacked the ability to articulate the faith in a way that “clicked” for me. I drifted from the Church as a young man and did not come back until I learned many painful lessons. If I were exposed to a book like this as a teenager then it probably would have saved me a lot of lost time, although I admit to having a largely impenetrable chip on my shoulder in those days. (And yes, I know that some of you would argue that it’s still there!)

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Letters to a Young Catholic is that in many ways it doubles as a must-read for those who are wondering why America’s political institutions are crumbling before our eyes. The way in which the author travels the globe, goes back in time, covers essential questions about the Catholic faith that all young people ask, and then ties it into our contemporary political landscape is like watching a gymnast who puts everything out on the floor before the judges — and nails it.

Mr. Weigel writes:

If American popular and high culture could ever agree on a theme song that captured the idea of freedom driving much of contemporary life, it would almost certainly be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I did it my way seems to sum up the widespread notion that freedom is a matter of asserting myself and my will — that freedom is really about choice, not about what we choose and why. Suggest that certain choices are just incompatible with human dignity and with growth in goodness, and you’ll get some very strange looks these days, whether on campus or in the workplace.

Catholicism has a different idea of freedom. In the Catholic idea of freedom, freedom and goodness go together. A great contemporary moral theologian, Father Servais Pinckaers, OP, explained all this. […] Learning to play the piano, he reminded us, is a tedious, even dreary business at first: well do I remember my own distaste for a book of technique-strengthening tortures entitled Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios. But after doing one’s exercises for a while, what originally seemed like a burden comes into clearer focus — learning to do the right thing in the right way is actually liberating. You can play anything you like, even the most difficult pieces. You can make new music on your own. Sure, Father Pinckaers writes, anybody can pound away on a piano. But that’s a rudimentary, savage sort of freedom,” not a truly human freedom. …

I did it my way teaches us an idea of freedom that Father Pinckaers calls “the freedom of indifference.” Doing things “my way,” just because it’s my way, is like banging idiotically on the piano or talking gibberish. The richer, nobler idea of freedom the Catholic Church proposes is what Father Pinckaers calls freedom for excellence — the freedom to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, as a matter of habit. That’s the truly human way. Because that’s the kind of freedom that satisfies our natural desire for happiness, which itself reflects our desire for God, who is all Good, all the way.  […] What’s all this got to do with democracy? Everything. Freedom untethered from moral truth will eventually become freedom’s worst enemy. — Weigel, George. Letters to a Young Catholic. Basic Books, 2015. 305-306.

A friend of mine texted me on Monday and said she hoped that I would cover the first U.S. presidential debate on the blog. In many ways, the text from Mr. Weigel’s book shown here tells us everything we need to know.

Why is America forced to choose between a woman who should be wearing an orange jumpsuit in a federal prison, and an egomaniac with occasionally orange skin?

Answer: Because America long ago decided it wanted to untether freedom from moral truth.

There really is no way to read Letters to a Young Catholic and not have a crystal clear understanding as to why civil society in the U.S. is unraveling. Our cultural influencers embrace a kind of nihilism “that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this — the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history — is really just a cosmic joke,” and we are now paying the price.

Mr. Weigel counters that “against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ. And if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks.”

If for no other reason, wayward Catholics should read this book to realize that what they thought was Catholicism growing up was in all likelihood a grossly watered down version of the Faith that denied them knowledge of its true richness and beauty. There are numerous reasons for this, and the author does a masterful job spelling it all out. I found myself thinking, “Finally! Someone who gets it,” and I am sure you will too.

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

Easter is here — that wonderful day when Christians rejoice and atheists shake their head and ask, “Why the heck are we still talking about that guy Jesus after 2,000 years?!” That is a fair question, which is why today seems like an ideal opportunity to revisit G.K. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.”

“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.

Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.

Every year countless YouTube videos pop up by wannabe Joe Rogans, who blast the so-called “fairy tale” known as Christianity. They go apoplectic over said “fairy tale” and its longevity. Generation after generation after generation picks up the Bible, studies it, and then billions of people conclude that Christ was exactly who he claimed to be.

The reason for this, as Chesterton points out, is that Christ spoke with authority while simultaneously being “exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge.”

The Jesus of the New Testament seems to me to have in great many ways the note of something superhuman; that is of something human and more than human. But there is another quality running through all his teachings which seems to me neglected in most modern talk about them as teachings; and that is the persistent suggestion that he has not really come to teach.

If there is one incident in the record which affects me personally as grandly and gloriously human, it is the incident of giving wine for the wedding-feast. That is really human in the sense in which a whole crowd of prigs, having the appearance of human beings, can hardly be described as human.

It rises superior to all superior persons. It is as human as Herrick and as democratic as Dickens. But even in that story there is something else that has the note of things not fully explained; and in a way there very relevant. I mean the first hesitation, not on any ground touching the nature of the miracle, but on that of the propriety of working any miracles at all, at least at that stage; ‘my time is not yet come.’

What did that mean? At least it certainly meant a general plan or purpose in the mind, with which certain things did or did not fit in. And if we leave out that solitary strategic plan, we not only leave out the point of the story, but the story.

The imitation Joe Rogans often preface their derision of Christianity with lines like, “I went to Catholic school” — as if they weren’t like every other high-school kid who slept through classes, wrote notes to girlfriends, and generally just goofed around with buddies for four years. The same people who cannot understand basic economics in their 40s would have us believe they fully understood Christianity by age 16, but I digress.

The more one studies the Bible, the more obvious it becomes that Christ was unlike any man who walked the earth up until that time — and that He maintains that distinction to this very day. All the “flying spaghetti monster” jokes in the world cannot diminish the genius and goodness dispensed by Christ in ways, as Chesterton says, “more than human.”

Christ was born. His primary purpose in life was to die a horrible death — and then rise again. He did.

Chesterton states:

“I willingly and warmly agree that it is, in itself, a suggestion at which we might expect even the brain of the believer to reel, when he realized his own belief. But the brain of the believer does not reel; it is the brains of the unbelievers that reel. …

I care not if the skeptic says it is a tall story; I cannot see how so toppling a tower could stand so long without foundation. Still less can I see how it could become, as it has become, the home of man. 

Had it merely appeared and disappeared, it might possibly have been remembered or explained as the last leap of the rage of illusion, the ultimate myth of the ultimate mood, in which the mind struck the sky and broke. But the mind did not break. It is the one mind that remains unbroken in the break-up of the world.

If it were an error, it seems as if the error could hardly have lasted a day. If it were a mere ecstasy, it would seem that such an ecstasy could not endure for an hour. It has endured for nearly two thousand years; and the world within it has been more lucid, more level-headed, more reasonable in its hopes, more healthy in its instincts, more humorous and cheerful in the face of fate and death, than all the world outside.

Happy Easter, everyone. I am grateful for all of you who regularly give me precious time out of your day and I pray for your regularly.

Best,

Doug

Scupoli’s ‘Spiritual Combat’: Advice from 1589 for modern men seeking virtue

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It has always been my belief that the vast majority of men, if not all men, have seriously wondered at some point how they would fare on the field of battle. War, for all of its wretchedness, offers men a clear picture of their inner virtue — or lack thereof. These “What if?” games are unnecessary, however, as Dom L. Scupoli Apulia’s The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul demonstrates.

The Italian author pointed out in 1589 what many men in 2016 fail to realize — bombs are already dropping all around us. Spiritual warfare rages in all directions. A man not only can be a war hero, but he must — his very soul depends upon it.

What men often fail to realize is that they are stuck in a no-man’s land reminiscent of World War I. This is a bad place to be. Man’s rational faculty is called from both sides in the only war that matters: “God moving it by His grace, and the flesh by its appetites.”

Being “neutral” in this war is not an option, and since tomorrow is never guaranteed it is best to pick a side now.

Fully mastering patience, humility, obedience and numerous other virtues is a difficult task. Scupoli details a few of the stumbling blocks we experience:

There are some who are so overwhelmed by their sins that they never even consider the possibility of breaking their chains. Others want to free themselves from this slavery, but they do nothing to accomplish this. Some think they are secure, and for that very reason are very far from being so. Others, after attaining a high degree of virtue, fall all the more heavily.

When the devil has enmeshed the soul in sin, he uses every means at his disposal to distract its attention from anything that would enable it to recognize the terrible condition into which it has fallen.

The devil is not content to stifle every inspiration from Heaven, and to suggest evil thoughts in their place. He endeavors to plunge it into new faults, either of the same or a more vicious nature by supplying dangerous opportunities to sin.

Thus the soul, deprived of Heavenly guidance, heaps sin upon sin, and hardens itself in its evil ways. Floundering in the mire, it rushes from darkness to darkness, from one pit to another, always moving father from the path of salvation and multiplying sin upon sin, unless strengthened by an extraordinary grace from Heaven.” (Scuplio, Dom. The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul. Tan Classics, 2010. 89-93)

In many ways the soul is the beacon which directs a man towards virtue. If a man is not careful, a sinful calcification can take place around the soul. It soon becomes difficult, if not impossible, to hear or see the beacon and before long the captain of the ship “rushes from darkness to darkness.”

If you seek to become a virtuous man or woman, then The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul is a must-read. If you are a Christian who has ever wondered, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God foist trials and tribulations upon me?” then Scupoli’s work is for you. I would rank it with Francis De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and Saint Augustine’s Confessions as an essential addition to your library.

Editor’s Note: I will send a copy of “The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul” to the first regular reader who asks.

‘The Imitation of Christ’: Antidote for Media-addicted America

Politicians and pundits use every election cycle to talk about the need for “new” ideas. Increasingly secular yet tech-savvy societies are always looking for the next “new” idea, and yet they wonder why the same old problems persist. The more I read, the more I think that many “old” ideas should be dusted off and embraced.

Take Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ,” written in 1418, for example. Just like our good friend Saint Augustine, it’s been a while since he walked the earth. Regardless, Kempis’ devotional book is one that would be beneficial to Christians and non-Christians alike. Even if one were to weirdly strip out all references to Christ, much of the wisdom regarding the right way to live would still remain.

Atheists say that Christ was not the Son of God, but if you asked them if the man — from a purely historical point of view — lived a life worth imitating, then the vast majority of them would probably say yes.

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchap. CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo. Warner Bros, Sony, Disney, Universal and Netflix. NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and UFC. Amazon, Ebay, Microsoft, Apple and more, more, more always vie for our attention — and we give it to them.

Addiction to the temporal is a horrible thing, but it is hard to recognize because it sneaks up on a man. It slowly slithers around the psyche. Its initially brings warmth and joy, but in the end it’s all a ruse. When it has completely enveloped the whole of a man’s being it constricts like a python and suffocates his soul while he sleeps.

In the addicted man’s waking state he is, on many levels, unaware that the most important part of him is in peril.

He is sad. He is lost. He does not know why he is never complete, and so he turns to the very thing that fills him with venom while he dreams.

Enter Thomas à Kempis, who breaks down the blueprint for a happy life into four parts: 1. Useful Admonitions for a Spiritual Life. 2. Admonitions Concerning Interior Things. 3. Internal Consolation. 4. The Blessed Sacrament.

Ask yourself if there is a reason why politicians never mention “The Imitation of Christ” as one of their favorite books.

“Who is so wise as to be able fully to know all things? Therefore, trust not too much to thine own thoughts, but be willing also to hear the sentiments of others. Although thine opinion be good, yet if for God’s sake thou leave it to follow that of another, it will be more profitable to thee.

For I have often heard, that it is more safe to hear and to take counsel than to give it.

It may also happen that each one’s thought may be good, but to refuse to yield to others when reason or a just cause requires it is a sign of pride and willfulness,” (Book 1, Chapter 9).

Interesting, isn’t it?

“Don’t listen to those ‘old’ ideas, kind voter. Listen to me, [Insert Politician’s Name Here], because I’m never wrong and my ‘new’ ideas will fix all your problems.”

Kempis continues:

“How happy and prudent is he who strives to be such now in this life as he desires to be found at his death.

For it will give a man a great confidence of dying happily if he has a perfect contempt of the world, a fervent desire of advancing in virtue, a love for discipline, the spirit of penance, a ready obedience, self-denial, and patience in bearing all adversities for the love of Christ,” (Book 1, Chapter 23).

It takes just two sentences for the author to give readers seeds that will bear a harvest of joy for all the years of their lives. As a Catholic, I would implore readers not to take Christ out of the sentence, but I will concede that doing so does not negate the rest of the advice embedded in the text.

America faces many challenges in the years ahead. If you are interested in giving yourself mental and spiritual tools for the task, then I highly suggest reading “The Imitation of Christ.”

Editor’s Note: I will send a copy of the book to the first regular reader who asks.

Dylann Roof forgiven by victims’ Christian families during bond hearing; world gets glimpse of God

Dylann Roof forgivenIn a recent blog post I mentioned that God had the power to bring a greater good out of any act of evil. The world is seeing that play out just two days after a massacre that killed nine Christians at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Dylann Roof allegedly said he wanted to start a “race war” by slaughtering the innocents inside, but his actions only gave the world a taste of true Christianity: Family members of the victims have already forgiven him.

CNN reported June 19:

Dylann Roof heard words of forgiveness from families of some of the nine people he’s accused of killing.

His response: A blank expression.

Wearing a striped inmate jumpsuit, the 21-year-old appeared Friday afternoon by video feed at a bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina. He stood motionless while listening to the anguished words of relatives of victims he allegedly gunned down Wednesday night at a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of Ethel Lance said. “And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”

Watching the reaction of casual observers on social media indicates that many members of the Twitter mob have never really been introduced to true Christianity. If they were familiar with the religion, then they would know that Christians literally have no other choice but to forgive — our very souls depend on it.

Rev. T.G. Morrow talks about this very fact in his book Overcoming Sinful Anger. He says on page 25:

“In the Our Father, Jesus tied our being forgiven to the forgiveness of others ( Matt.6:9-13). And this is the only part of the Our Father that he elaborates on, saying “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14-15).

Forgiveness is one of the most fundamental things we are called to practice as Christians. Unforgiveness is an indication that we are not truly in touch with our faith. Must we forgive immediately? No, but we shouldn’t delay too long to begin the process. It may take time, but in the end, we must do it.”

A national audience of tens-of-millions of people will now be exposed to an awesome power that allows men and women to forgive cold-blooded killers in the blink of an eye. Millions of people whose only introduction to Christianity has been the jabs of light night comedians or the mockery seen on many sitcoms will now step back and seriously ask, “What’s going on here?”

Think of all the rotten behavior you’ve engaged in over the years. Think of every mean thing you have ever said to someone. Think of every act of malice you’ve committed, no matter how small. Think of all the lies and all the deceit that you have contributed to the world. Add all of it up and imagine it as a giant pool with size and shape.

Now consider this: all of it was seen by your Creator, but He is actually willing to forgive you for all of it — if you only walk towards Him with a contrite heart.

Dylann Roof may have wanted to start a “race war,” but at this rate it looks like his plan is going to spectacularly fail. One can only hope that he uses his time behind bars to revisit the faith that allowed his victims’ families to literally forgive him overnight.

‘Lucifer’ targeted by One Million Moms; Satan laughs as giant false idol of technology ignored

Fox showA nonprofit organization is targeting the upcoming Fox show “Lucifer.” The usual suspects in the media responded by mocking the faith-based organization, and guys like me just thought “God bless America! Everyone gets to say their peace and we generally do a good job of not coming to blows in the process.” However, I can’t help but wonder why organizations like One Million Moms focus on a single digital brick in the false idol that is technology. Few people seem to be paying attention to the bigger picture.

The One Million Moms website describes its petition as follows:

The series will focus on Lucifer portrayed as a good guy, “who is bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell.” He resigns his throne, abandons his kingdom and retires to Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals.

At the same time, God’s emissary, the angel Amenadiel, has been sent to Los Angeles to convince Lucifer to return to the underworld.

Previews of the pilot episode depict graphic acts of violence, a nightclub featuring scantily-clad women and a demon.

How many of those moms obsess over their Facebook feeds? How many of those mom’s have their eyes fixated on cell phones throughout the day? How many of their kids spend hours with their eyes glued on glowing boxes that stream video games, movies, and One Million Moms-approved television shows? The answer in each case is probably “too many.”

Fox’s “Lucifer” is a single show that will actually prompt children to start Googling questions about Christianity, demons, angels, God, Jesus and an assortment of other faith-based subjects. Perhaps I’m wrong, but my guess is that the devil probably doesn’t want young children using Fox television shows as a springboard to an introduction with Jesus Christ. Does God not possess the power to turn any evil into a greater good? Of course he does.

It seems much more likely that the bigger threat to the spiritual well-being of our culture is the cumulative effect of technology that a.) seemingly satisfies every need, b.) encourages narcissism so as to essentially render humility obsolete, and c.) cultivates pride and envy.

The false idol of technology, which seemingly caters to every want and desire, gives birth to the false idol of self (or should we say “selfie”?). The devil doesn’t want individuals thinking about his nature because it is almost impossible to do so without thinking about the nature of Christ. The devil does not want a man to know he is being tempted because knowledge of temptation presents the opportunity to display virtue.

One Million Moms may have their hearts in the right place, but their heads should be more focused the spiritual Trojan Horse before them. The Red Hot Chili Peppers (a band that probably isn’t on One Million Moms’ playlist) had much better advice in 2002 when they sang “Throw away your television.”

Bono channels G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis to affirm his faith in Christ

Bono on JesusIt’s not often that a giant rock star gives an interview where he unflinchingly affirms his belief in Christ. That is exactly what U2’s Bono did during a March 2014 interview that is making the rounds again just in time for Easter. However, what is perhaps most interesting is how Bono appears to be well-versed in the writings of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.

Here is what Bono said in his interview with RTE One’s Gay Byrne, which comes across at times like an FBI interrogation or a courtroom cross examination:

Bono: I think it’s a defining question for Christian. Who was Christ? I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying a great thinker or great philosopher because, actually, he went around saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God — or he was nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes. This is, like, I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that all the millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I don’t believe it.

Byrne: So therefore it follows that you believe he was divine?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And therefore it follows that you believe that he rose physically from the dead?

Bono: Yes. I have no problem with miracles. I’m living around them. I am one.

Byrne: So when you pray, then you pray to Jesus?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: The risen Jesus?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And you believe he made promises that will come true.

Bono: Yes. I do.

Friendly note to Bono: Your observation is actually more awe-inspiring than you originally thought because billions — not just millions — have been touched by the words of Christ. Regardless, here is what G.K. Chesterton said when “The Everlasting Man” was published in 1925:

“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.

Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.

Here is what C.S. Lewis said when “Mere Christianity” was published in 1952:

“Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is “humble and meek” and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” — C.S. Lewis.

Chesterton and Lewis beautifully articulate the case before us: either Christ was who he said he was, or he was insane. But, as they both keenly observe, even his biggest detractors generally regard him as a profound thinker and a beacon of light whose example we should all follow.

Think of how many great men and women there were throughout all history, whose names are forgotten within weeks, months, or at most a few decades after they’ve passed away. Then consider Jesus, who for over 2,000 years has captivated the world and changed billions of lives — even those who don’t believe his claims. Like G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, a modern Irish rock star named Bono, and billions of other individuals throughout the course of history, I firmly believe he was exactly who he claimed to be.

Francis De Sales’ ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’: 1609’s must-read still amazing in 2015

Francis De Sales Intro Devout LifeIt is a rare occurrence to read a book and come to the conclusion that the writer’s initial inspiration was perfectly realized upon its completion. Saint Francis De Sales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life” may have been published in 1609, but its stunning insight into the human condition makes it a must-read in 2015. In another 400 years, it will still be leaving readers in awe.

While De Sales wrote for a Christian audience, the blueprint for a healthy civil society he presents is one that men and women of all faiths (or no faith) would be hard-pressed to criticize. The virtues he seeks to cultivate in his readers may be motivated by a desire to instill a love of God in  as many hearts as possible, but at the end of the day he is still talking about honesty, humility, patience, charity, fortitude, prudence, etc.

Even more impressive is how De Sales addresses the reader (“Philothea”) directly, yet with a delivery that feels like a kind and gentle father imparting time-tested wisdom to a child. De Sales (who must have consulted countless men and women from all walks of life) has such an exquisite grasp of humanity’s trials and tribulations that it is hard not to feel as though he already knows everything about you — yet still offers unconditional love.

De Sale somehow manages to write for the YouTube-Instagram-Facebook culture of 2015 while living in 1609:

“We apply the term vainglory to whatever we assign to ourselves, whether something that is not actually in us or something in us but not of us, or something in us and of us but not such that we can glory in it. Noble ancestry, patronage of great men, and popular honor are things that are not in us but either in our ancestors or in the esteem of other men. Some men become proud and overbearing because they ride a fine horse, wear a feather in their hat, or are dressed in a splendid suit of clothes. Is anyone blind to the folly of all this? If there is any glory in such things it belongs to the horse, the bird, and the tailor. It is a mean heart that borrows honor from a horse, a bird, a feather, or some passing fashion.

Others value and pride themselves because of a fine mustache, well-trimmed beard, carefully curled hair, soft hands, ability to dance, play cards well, or sing. Such light-minded men seek to increase their reputation by frivolous things. Others would like to be honored and respected by men because of a little learning, as if everyone should go to school to them and take them as their teachers. They are called pedants for this reason.

Other men have handsome bodies and therefore strut about and think that everybody dotes on them. All this is extremely vain, objectionable, and foolish and the glory based on such weak foundations is called vain, foolish, and frivolous.

We recognize genuine goodness as we do genuine balm. If balm sinks down and stays at the bottom when dropped into water, it is rated the best and most valuable. So also in order to know whether a man is truly wise, learned, generous, and noble, we must observe whether his abilities tend to humility, modesty, and obedience for in that case they will be truly good. If they float on the surface and seek to show themselves, they are so much less genuine in so far as they are more showy. Pearls conceived and nourished by wind or thunder claps are mere crusts, devoid of substance. So also men’s virtues and fine qualities conceived and nurtured by pride, show, and vanity have the mere appearance of good, without juice, marrow, solidity.” Francis De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life (New York: Image, 2014), 121–122

The depth and breadth of De Sales’ understanding of humanity is a marvel to behold. If for no other reason, “Introduction to the Devout Life” shines a giant spotlight on just how far we’ve fallen as a culture. The book was written for the likes of carpenters, soldiers, sailors, and tailors — not academics — and yet the man on the street in 2015 would likely have a hard time digesting much of De Sales’ intellectual discourse.

If you have ever sat alone in your bed at night and tried to plumb the depths of your soul to root out what is rotten and realize what is wholly good, then I cannot recommend Francis De Sales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life” enough. If it is read with an open mind and seriously meditated upon, then I have no doubt that it will truly change your life for the better.