Monday, June 11, 2018

And You Thought I Was Hard on the Pope Movie…

Back in April, when the promotion for Pope Francis a Man of His Word was in full gear, I had some fun with it, noting it was “risible piece of propaganda.”

Well, now that the movie is out, Matt Gaspers and Maureen Mullarkey have reviewed it and make me look almost gentle and restrained.  And they agree that the most notable aspect of the Pope Movie is that it is . . . a risible piece of propaganda.  Gaspers:


I decided to go see Pope Francis: A Man of His Word on opening weekend (it premiered on May 18 across North America) – for investigative journalism purposes only – and if I was forced to use a single word to describe it, I would have to go with propaganda. From start to finish, it is obvious that the film’s purpose is to (1) propagate a favorable narrative that (2) appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect and (3) omits inconvenient truths.

One of said inconvenient truths is that Francis’ word is something of a moving target.  Maureen Mullarkey, as is to be expected, is even harder on the movie.  I find her most on target when she notes:

“Pope Francis” is a disturbing film, not solely for its exaltation of Francis and his politics but more so for having been planned from the beginning of his ascent to office. Biography.com states that Wenders received a written invitation to “collaborate” with Pope Francis on a documentary about his pontificate in 2013, the year his papacy began…

This is crucial: Bergolio was intent on documenting himself as the hero of his own pontificate early on. Accordingly, the commissioned film subordinates the substance of the papacy to Francis’s personality and secular pieties.


That says volumes about the oh-so-humble Pope.  Further, I find this sad because of who got lured into this project.  I’ve long had the highest respect for Wim Wenders for his Paris, Texas (1984), a great movie that is one of my favorites.  For him to get tied up with such laughable propaganda for such an undeserving figure is sad indeed.  I hope Wenders is remembered for his other works.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

On Justin Welby’s EU “Terrible Error of Judgement” (and ACNA)

Gavin Ashenden has posted a piece dubbing Justin Welby’s statement in praise of the EU a “terrible error of judgement.” I think Bishop Gavin is being nice.  To say as Welby did that the European Union “is the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Roman Empire” descends into clownish cluelessness.

Nonetheless Ashenden well points out what is even a bigger problem with Welby’s statement:

There is a convention that clergy don’t speak out on political matters where their ‘flock’ or constituency reflect both sides of the argument. It’s a sensible one and has saved many an Archbishop from unnecessary humiliation and risking national disrespect.

Although those who lean to the Left find the temptation too hard to overcome sometimes, ignoring this convention suggests one of three things; that you think you have a hot-line to God, (not impossible but unlikely); that you believe your own personal political judgement is beyond criticism; or that you seriously disrespect your political opponents and their views.

And I may add that said disrespect invites anger and division . . . although in Welby’s case, his statement is so absurd that laughter is more appropriate and more common I suspect.

The bishops and other leadership of the Anglican Church in North America would do well to read and consider.  No, I cannot recall an ACNA bishop going so far as Welby into ill-advised political statements.  But ACNA would do well to be more careful to respect “political opponents and their views” in areas in which ACNA is not of one mind.  We have enough areas of disagreement and difference to navigate as it is.


We can learn a lot from Justin Welby . . . from his “terrible errors of judgement.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Young C. S. Lewis Near the Beginning of WWI

I have begun to read/skim The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper (And be sure to get his edition.  Other collections may short-change you.).  And I am glad I have.  I am still in Lewis’ teen years.  But he was a pleasure to read even back then.

I also appreciate getting slices of life from the early 20th Century, particularly during World War One.

Among the passages of his youthful letters that stand out is one from a letter to his closest friend Arthur Greeves.  He steps outside himself and observes himself remarkably well at age 15.  After some negative boarding school experiences, he is happy under the tutelage of W. T. Kirkpatrick even as The Great War begins:

So great is the selfishness of human nature, that I can look out from my snug nest with the same equanimity on the horrid desolation of the war, and the well known sorrows of my old school.  I feel that this ought not to be so: but I can no more alter my disposition that I can change the height of my stature or the colour of my hair.  It would be mere affectation to pretend that sympathy with those whose lot is not so happy as mine, seriously disturbs the tenour of my complacence.  Whether this is egotism of youth, some blemish in my personal character, or the common inheritance of humanity, I do not know.  What is your opinion?

So he asks Greeves in November 1914. 

How would you answer young C. S. Lewis?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Daniel Hyde to Direct King’s College Choir

I am slow to note this.  But Daniel Hyde has been chosen to direct the Choir of King’s College Cambridge beginning in October 2019.  Dr. Stephen Cleobury had previously announced his retirement at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Here is the announcement from St. Thomas, New York where he currently presides.
And here is a slightly provocative article from the Telegraph.  It seems changes may be coming in the King’s College sound:

Mr. Hyde also confessed that when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge he thought the choir of King’s College was labouring under its huge reputation, leading to its performances being stifled, in marked contrast to the choir of nearby St John’s College.

“It wasn’t just the buildings,” he told the paper. “I think there was a freedom of expression at St. John’s because there wasn’t the pressure of expectation. So I tried to soak both those things up, and wherever I’ve gone since I’ve tried to mix that detail and accuracy of King’s with that more open-throated, expressive, musically phrased singing of John’s.”


Hyde’s most prestigious post up to now has been at Magdalen College Oxford.  I frequently attended Evensong there during Michaelmas Term 2011 during the years he directed.  My memory is fuzzy, but I remember the choir being very good.  (Knowing me, I probably would remember if it was not good.)  And one of the strengths of Magdalen’s Choir for many years has been the utilization of the voices of trebles.  I look forward to seeing how Hyde does that at King’s.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Keith Ellison Will Boycott the NFL . . . for Respecting the National Anthem

Just when you think the Democrat Party cannot become anymore extremist, they prove you wrong.

The NFL just came to a reasonable compromise to its fan-bleeding National Anthem controversy: Players and coaches stand respectfully during the National Anthem or stay in the locker room during it or get fined.  I wonder how many players may choose to defy this, fines or not, and continue to anger the NFL fan base.  But it is a good enough agreement that I for one might get my NFL Sunday Ticket back in 2019.  (I cancelled last year because of disrespect for the anthem and resuming this year is not practical because of my schedule this year.)

But the likes of Keith Ellison, Deputy Chair of the Democrat National Committee do not like it that the NFL is requiring respect for the National Anthem on the sidelines.  He tweeted:

“Friends who know me, know that I love football,” wrote Ellison. “But I won’t be watching this NFL season because of the unfair cowardly and idiotic kneeling ban. #BoycottNFL.”

Again this is because of the NFL requiring simple respect for the National Anthem.  And that is from the Deputy Chair of the DNC.

Further commentary on my part might be considered impolite by some, and I am trying to be more polite these days.  I really am.


But I will brag that I told you back in September 2016 that disrespect for the National Anthem would become a big problem for the NFL.  If only they listened to me and to the rest of their fan base back then.

Monday, May 28, 2018

R. W. Southern and Two Little Known Tidbits about Robert Grosseteste

I’ve been reading R. W. Southern’s Robert Grosseteste: The Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe.  And I have to ask, is there anything Southern wrote that is not excellent?  The vast scholarship of this late great historian combined with his ability to write very readable books from his storehouse of scholarship amazes me.

Having said that, two tidbits about Robert Grosseteste in this book stand out to me, one for its amusement, the second for its encouragement.

The first is a Royal Mandate of June 23rd, 1234 that directed Grosseteste and two other Oxford worthies “to supervise the arrest of all prostitutes in Oxford who had disobeyed a royal order to leave the town.” As Southern put it, the king regarded the three men “as peculiarly qualified for this hopeless task.” (p. 71, 1986 edition)

The second is that Grosseteste’s career was obscure and is not very well documented until he reached about age 55 when he suddenly rose to prominence.  Southern thinks this might have occurred because he was among those who assisted the 15 year old Henry III in getting a papal declaration that he was old enough to rule on his own in 1223.  Henry immediately rewarded those who assisted him. (p. 80, 81)


In any case, being around 55 and still somewhat obscure, I find this aspect of Robert Grosseteste’s career encouraging, although I will never be as brilliant as the man . . . or as R. W. Southern. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Southern Baptists Show Us How to . . . Excommunicate?

Actually, the Southern Baptists probably wouldn’t call it excommunication.  “Disfellowshipping” might be the word they would use.  But it’s about the same thing, and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) just disfellowshiped and expelled the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC).  (If only the U. S. A. could expel the District of Columbia and suburbs, but I digress.)

DCBC tolerates in its midst a particularly vile congregation, Calvary Baptist Church.  Yes, it is hard to imagine a “Calvary Baptist Church” going whole hog apostate, but it happened.  The SBC had had enough and gave DCBC 90 days to expel Calvary Baptist.  They did not, so DCBC in turn got expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention.

And for that, the SBC is to be commended.  The sad history of mainline Protestantism and of much of Anglicanism is that jurisdictions that fail to exercise church discipline against apostate leaders and congregations eventually become more and more apostate themselves.  Scripture does not warn about how leaven spreads for nothing.  Church discipline, including expulsion, is a sad necessity.

It is easy to forget that the Southern Baptists once were going down the road to apostasy themselves.  Back during my long church search in the late 80’s, I ruled out the Southern Baptists in part because they did not have adequate will power to expel apostates.  Pullen Memorial Baptist Church of Raleigh really stuck in my craw at the time.  And, yes, ruling out Baptists when moving to Texas rules out a lot of options!

Since then, they have become more willing and able to exercise tough love even to the point of expelling congregations and conventions.  Those who reformed the SBC in the last decades of the 20th Century are reviled in “moderate” Baptist circles.  But they are to be thanked for saving the Southern Baptists from becoming another failed mainline Protestant denomination.


I wonder if my Anglican Church in North America has that much backbone.  For the time will come – it always does in this modern fallen world – when it will be necessary to cut off cancers of apostasy.  Will we have the will power so to exercise church discipline?  Or will we use our federal structure as an excuse to tolerate apostasy in our midst – even after seeing the consequences such tolerance had for The Episcopal Church?