Thursday, May 21, 2009

For It's One, Two, Three Strikes You're Out...

One of the marks of Christianity, especially the Catholic kind, is it's respect for the dead. Recognizing that the human body has the capacity to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit, Christians have an appreciation of the value of God's handiwork, honoring the remains of the deceased because, like the soul, the body will rise again at the Last Day, renewed through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One of the marks of our secular society is its hideous tendency to view the human body as a commodity. To the secular world, the body is a commodity that can be easily disposed of at will, at least at the beginning of the life cycle. At the end of the life-cycle, the secular materialist has to struggle with the question of meaning that they have avoided throughout life. What does one do to memorialize the human body which is, essentially, only a collection of material that accidentally came together in this form? The emptiness of materialism is found in its lack of respect for the human body, a body that was created in the image and likeness of God, and which finds its redemption in the very real, very physical Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christians, we must pray for the triumph of the Spirit of God over the spirit of the Age. We must pray that all men will be enlightened by the grace of God and will see the body as the Temple it was designed to be.

See this interesting article by Michael Medved that provoked the above thoughts:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dan Brown's Angels & Demons: More than a Novel, It's a Way of Life!

Ross Douthat has published an interesting column in today's New York Times. His column, entitled "Dan Brown's America", discusses the works of the popular novelist and how they tie into Mr. Brown's attempt to put forward a world-view that severely critiques traditional religion while at the same time expresses an appreciation for an individualized expression of faith that is all-inclusive.

Mr. Douthat writes:

"In the Brownian worldview, all religions — even Roman Catholicism — have the potential to be wonderful, so long as we can get over the idea that any one of them might be particularly true. It’s a message perfectly tailored for 21st-century America, where the most important religious trend is neither swelling unbelief nor rising fundamentalism, but the emergence of a generalized 'religiousness' detached from the claims of any specific faith tradition.

"The polls that show more Americans abandoning organized religion don’t suggest a dramatic uptick in atheism: They reveal the growth of do-it-yourself spirituality, with traditional religion’s dogmas and moral requirements shorn away. The same trend is at work within organized faiths as well, where both liberal and conservative believers often encounter a God who’s too busy validating their particular version of the American Dream to raise a peep about, say, how much money they’re making or how many times they’ve been married.

"These are Dan Brown’s kind of readers. Piggybacking on the fascination with lost gospels and alternative Christianities, he serves up a Jesus who’s a thoroughly modern sort of messiah — sexy, worldly, and Goddess-worshiping, with a wife and kids, a house in the Galilean suburbs, and no delusions about his own divinity.

"But the success of this message — which also shows up in the work of Brown’s many thriller-writing imitators — can’t be separated from its dishonesty. The “secret” history of Christendom that unspools in “The Da Vinci Code” is false from start to finish. The lost gospels are real enough, but they neither confirm the portrait of Christ that Brown is peddling — they’re far, far weirder than that — nor provide a persuasive alternative to the New Testament account. The Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — jealous, demanding, apocalyptic — may not be congenial to contemporary sensibilities, but he’s the only historically-plausible Jesus there is."

The problem with Mr. Brown's view of religion is that it strives mightily to develop a system in which the believer can achieve union with God by conforming himself to this world. While that might be desirable from a human perspective, it is antithetical to true life in Jesus Christ. Saint Paul said it well in Romans 12:2: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Here's the link to the article:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Five Operas I'd Take to a Desert Island

I'm so tired of current events that I had to write something completely different.

Here's the question: Suppose you were to be stranded on a desert island. Further suppose that said desert island has electricity and a stereo system. What five opera recordings would you take with you? (If you don't like opera, you'll have to find your own island.)

Here are my five:

1. Puccini. La Boheme. Anna Moffo, Richard Tucker, Robert Merrill, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Erich Leinsdorf conducting. Yes, it's old and has neither Pavarotti or Domingo, but it's still a beautiful performance and it was the first opera recording that I ever owned.

2. Wagner. The Ring of the Nibelungen. The Georg Solti recordings. Don't lecture me about the Ring being four operas, because it's really only one story and this is my favorite recording. The late Anna Russell said, "The Ring is the only grand opera that comes in the large, economy sized package."

3. Verdi. Rigoletto. Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherill Milnes, Richard Bonynge conducting. Verdi's finest opera sung magnificently.

4. Donizetti. L'Elisir d'Amore. Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Richard Bonynge conducting. Sutherland sounds a little old for Adina, but she has such a wonderful tone. Nemorino is the role that Pavarotti was born to sing.

5. Gounod. Faust. Mirella Freni, Placido Domingo, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Thomas Allen, Georges Pretre conducting. One of my favorite operas and this one is well casted, well played and well sung.

Oops. Just saw the news. I'm off to the island!