The modern age in which we live is one whose first-world nations have politicians counseling the masses on social justice. It is frequent. It feeds the media. It affects our culture. It is to be expected. With particular regards to the arena of visual entertainment, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has appeared at the forefront of this year’s media advocation for social justice and social reform. In relevance to this cultural element, two of Marvel’s 2019 films have been in the spotlight: the mediocre Captain Marvel and the galvanizing Avengers: Endgame. As with most of my reviews, a number of spoilers from both movies will be divulged along the way.
For years past I have continually been conscious of some power behind the malefactor, some deep organizing power which forever stands in the way of the law, and throws its shield over the wrong-doer. Again and again in cases of the most varying sorts . . . I have felt the presence of this force, and I have deduced its action in many of those undiscovered crimes in which I have not been personally consulted. For years I have endeavoured to break through the veil which shrouded it, and at last the time came when I seized my thread and followed it, until it led me, after a thousand cunning windings, to [X].
As the cathedral of Notre Dame burned in Holy Week, Ben Shapiro took time out to tell his vast social media audience that: “If we wish to uphold the beauty and profundity of the Notre Dame cathedral, that means re-familiarizing ourselves with the philosophy and religious principles that built it.” Shapiro went on to clarify that the cathedral was a “central monument to Western civilization, which was built on the Judeo-Christian heritage.”1 The term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is a favourite of Mr. Shapiro’s and appears with wearying frequency throughout his latest bestselling book The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great.
In an attempt to regain control over the conventional narrative, Notre Dame university has collaborated on a documentary film on the life of Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the man who occupied the office of president for the longest period in that university’s history. In spite of all of the material which has appeared on Hesburgh over the final 30 years of his life, the script was pretty much taken whole cloth from Hesburgh’s autobiography God, Country and Notre Dame.
It is always difficult and perhaps ultimately futile to emphasize the cultural impact of Steven Spielberg’s films. Almost every movie that the tremendously influential American filmmaker has produced--from Jaws (1975) to Bridge of Spies (2015)--is justly lauded as entertaining and smartly crafted moviemaking.
However, for many, especially in the United States, Spielberg is more than a movie maker. He is the architect of the imagination of those who grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s, laughing along with “Chunk” in Goonies (1985) and tossing up popcorn when the T-Rex chased Dr. Grant and co. in Jurassic Park (1990).
Reading The Shortest Way Home, I found myself searching for literary models that might have influenced the author, who is also mayor of South Bend, Indiana, where I happen to live. The connections between me and the mayor of South Bend are actually closer than just living in the same city at the same time. The author grew up three houses down from where I have lived for the past 40 years and spent his entire life up to his 18th year in close proximity to me and, more importantly, to my five children. He is ten years younger than my oldest child, with whom he shares a remarkably similar educational trajectory. Both he and my son attended St. Joseph’s High School, roughly half a mile north of where we live. Both trod the same path to high school every day. Both ended up first in their respective classes, becoming valedictorians, which entitled them to speak at their respective graduations. And both then went on to attend Harvard University.
In the summer of 2018, Barack Obama published a list of books worth reading. One was Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed. Obama’s assessment: “I don’t agree with most of the author’s conclusions, but the book offers cogent insights into the loss of meaning and community that many in the West feel, issues that liberal democracies ignore at their own peril.”
Liberalism, according to Deneen, founded itself on the notion of securing liberty by granting rights, a free-market system, and space for individual initiative. But, as he takes stock of liberalism, he sees the liberal state as expanding in ways the founders of liberalism would have found frightening. Rights seem to be limited to the rights that the rich and powerful, the oligarchs, define as rights. Individual initiative and the free market system are more for the oligarchs, and those the oligarchs choose to enable, than for the average citizen in the liberal order.
In some evangelical and Pentecostal Christian circles a popular part of "Olde Tyme Gospel Campaigns" is the "testimony meeting." The Preacher in charge invites one or two of the brothers and sisters present to "give a word of testimony." This generally follows a fairly conventional formula, something like: "I lived a dreadfully sinful life far away from God. I smoked. I took drugs. I drank. I hung about with bad women or a bad crowd. I did this, that and the other, but glory to God, I gave my heart to Jesus and now I have seen the light and lead a life in His service."
The latest installment of the Jurassic Park/World saga has hit theaters and taken a slight mix of receptions. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not as agreeable as its immediate predecessor from a cinematic standpoint. Colleagues have, however, pointed out that the minor innuendos and crass moments from Jurassic World (2015) were almost entirely absent in this sequel.
The following review is essentially a summary of this excellent booklet published in France under the pseudonym “Foi.Terrain.Mediation.” Canevas de Methode de Deradicalisation [Sketch of a Method of Deradicalization] begins by asserting that all the attempts made by the French government to deradicalize Muslims have failed completely. The reason for this failure is that they have treated radical Islamic belief as a psychological or sociological phenomenon, reducing it to violence exalted for its own sake. They haven’t engaged with the underlying hopes and desires of the Islamists, especially the most fanatic. They haven’t taken Islamic belief seriously enough to understand the real mechanism that animates their actions.
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu said that to point out the social conditions and material interests underlying cultural values and modes is to “transgress… one of the fundamental taboos of the intellectual world.” To make such a transgression one is likely to be condemned as sacrilegious in the “attempt to treat culture, that present incarnation of the sacred, as an object of science.”
Sinful, worldly, lustful, restless, and rootless youth with a literary bent sporadically senses the call of God. Is it real? Will he respond? What does it mean to respond? And then what?
That synopsis of Thomas Merton’s best-selling The Seven Storey Mountain is a caricature that highlights several questions each reader must face: Was this autobiography written as a work of literature? Or instead as a spiritual meditation? Or both? Is it an interpretative depiction, or instead a snapshot of Merton at a specific moment? Isn’t it presumptuous to write an autobiography while still in your early thirties? Was Merton honest with himself? With the reader?
In his groundbreaking book, Le messie et son prophète: Aux origines de l’Islam, Edouard-Marie Gallez lifts the veil and lets us see the historical roots of Islam. He shows it originating in a vast movement of messianic Jews called “Ebionites” or “Nazareens.” These non-rabbinical Jews accepted Jesus as the messiah, but not as the divine Logos. Gallez shows how the scrolls and fragments found in the Qumram caves by the Dead Sea and in the vicinity of Massada illuminate the ideology behind this movement of Jews, who were eager and willing to follow the messiah into holy war, believing they would thereby save the world. Unlike rabbinical Jews, who looked to the past, these men looked forward to an earthly utopia that would come only after mass exterminations. Like the later Muslims, they believed that the messiah had not died on the Cross but had been taken up alive into heaven and was ready, whenever the conditions were right (i.e., when Palestine was no longer in the hands of the impious and the Temple had been rebuilt), to return to the Mount of Olives and lead them to the subjugation of the entire world. The Nazareens, like the Muslims, forbade pork and wine