Category Archives: Art

What A Witch Taught Me About The Virgin Mary

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: [It] is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence.” Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (Emphasis mine.)
~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 405

As a Catholic, one aspect of my faith that I struggle with is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

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It’s not fair, I’ve thought more than once. If God can just create people free from Original Sin, like Mary, and thus spare them the possibility of ending up in a place like Hell, why doesn’t He do that for everyone?

I know God is love. I know God has a plan. But still: I look at all the horror in the world…

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…and think Can God do nothing?

I’ll struggle with these questions all my life.

But, lately, I’ve found something that makes the struggle more bearable: Witchcraft. Specifically: Kiki, from Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).

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Kiki helps me to understand what it can mean for a person to be free from sin.

Having recently re-watched Kiki’s Delivery Service, there is only one instance I can remember where Kiki committed an act that could be called a “sin.” She disobeys a cop, running away from him upon being told to stay put after causing an accident. But the accident was just that — an accident. And after the cop dashed off to pursue a thief, there was no telling when he’d be back. Or if he’d even be back at all. She does avoid a police car she sees driving through the park. But, other than taking a page out of Johnny’s playbook…

…Kiki is a law-abiding citizen. As free from imperfection as Mary.

I often imagined Mary as emotionless, mindlessly going through one aspect of God’s plan to the next because there was nothing keeping her from doing otherwise. Mary was a puppet, and God was pulling her strings.

But, as a result of Kiki, I no longer think such a thing. I believe the absence of sin doesn’t mean the absence of one’s humanity (i.e., one’s emotions, feelings, and intellect). What it means is the perfection of one’s humanity; one’s humanity being directed toward that which will do the most good for all.

I think of my favorite scene in the film. Kiki goes to an old woman’s house in order to deliver a birthday present to her granddaughter. Only to find that, because of a broken oven, the potpie has not been baked and, thus, there is no delivery to make. Saddened that the delivery girl came all this way for nothing, Madame asks her maidservant to pay Kiki anyway. Not feeling that it is right to take money from a person she has done nothing for, Kiki insists on baking Madame’s gift in an older, long-neglected oven instead.

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It is her desire to help others, and her insistence on a job well done, that drive Kiki to go above and beyond the call of duty. “A desire to help others” and “An insistence on a job well done” being qualities that I believe anyone, regardless of their beliefs or absence of beliefs, would praise. Such qualities are examples of human nature at its best. In such a situation, who wouldn’t want to be Kiki?

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“Your mother must be proud.”

I believe Mary is the same way. She goes above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of the well-being of others.

Upon being told that God would impregnate her, Mary’s reaction was not…

…it was: “Let it be done to me according to your will.” (Luke 1:38)

To me, Mary always seemed alien and unapproachable. How could I even begin to have any kind of relationship with such a person? Every word I read about her, I felt like she was rubbing her perfection in my face. Scolding me for not being just like her. As a result, my feelings for Mary turned from revulsion, to jealously, to anger.

But no more. Through Kiki, I believe I can better see how Mary lives.

When I was little, God was there and wonderfully granted my dream.
On mornings when I wake up with kindly feelings, even though I’ve grown up, miracles happen!
Opening the curtain, tranquil sunlight filtering through the trees.
If it envelopes me in tenderness, surely everything reflected in my eyes will be a message.
When I was little, God was there and every day he delivered love.
Inside my heart, I had forgotten my precious box of good memories.
The time to open it is now.
An English translation of “If I’ve Been Enveloped In Tenderness”

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Responding To Richard Dawkins: Part 2

The Closet Atheist‘s 31 favorite quotes from The God Delusion, and my first thoughts upon reading each them.

Part 2: 17 — 31

“Do people never open the book that they believe is the literal truth? Why don’t they notice these glaring contradictions?” p. 94

81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”42

“And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”43

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”44
~ Catechism of the Catholic Church

All of this is to say that, as a Catholic: While I do believe that the Bible is Truth, it is not the only source of Truth. Like a male and a female, Scripture and tradition make no sense on their own but, together, make more sense. And the “contradictions” in Scripture, like the fact that no one is perfect, don’t take away from the beauty and truth that results when two become one…

Woman1

“It is an essential part of the scientific enterprise to admit ignorance, even to exult in ignorance as a challenge to future conquests.” p. 125

“One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.” p. 126

I’ll do these two at the same time.

On the one hand, Richard Dawkins, you say that, when it comes to the study of nature, it is “essential” to admit ignorance, even exult in it — take it as a challenge.

But then you lament that, when it comes to one’s study of God, a person could ever be satisfied with not understanding something.

It sounds like you’re essentially saying “Ignorance for me but not for thee.”

Which makes you sound like a hypocrite.

And why would I listen to a hypocrite?

“. . . Design certainly does not work as an explanation for life, because design is ultimately not cumulative and it therefore raises bigger questions than it answers – it takes us straight back along the . . . ultimate regress.” p. 141

To look through a telescope or a microscope in the hope of one day declaring “There is no God” is like trying to disprove the existence of a woman by studying her newborn baby.

On another note: The Catholic Church’s take on life and where life comes from.

“Some educated individuals may have abandoned religion, but all were brought up in a religious culture from which they had to make a conscious decision to depart. The old Northern Ireland joke, ‘Yes, but are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?’ is spiked with bitter truth.” p. 166

I agree.

“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” p. 167, George Bernard Shaw

I agree.

“A great deal of the opposition to the teaching of evolution has no connection with evolution itself, or with anything scientific, but is spurred on by moral outrage.” p. 211

I agree.

“If you agree that, in the absence of God, you would ‘commit robbery, rape, and murder’, you reveal yourself as an immoral person, ‘and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you.’” p. 227 (quoted partially from Michael Shermer)

I agree.

“To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird. . .” p. 237

To quote Bob Dylan: “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”

“Why should a divine being, with creation and eternity on his mind, care a fig for petty human malefactions? We humans give ourselves such airs, even aggrandize from our poky little ‘sins’ to the level of cosmic significance!” p. 238

Why should a divine being care about humanity?

You just said why: because he’s got creation and eternity on his mind.

And if a cosmic being does care about us, is it not logical for us to care about our “sins” that offend him?

“It is, when you think about it, remarkable that a religion should adopt an instrument of torture and execution as its sacred symbol, often worn around the neck.” p. 251

Here is something to supplement your thinking.

“The idea that baptizing an unknowing, uncomprehending child can change him from one religion to another at a stroke seems absurd – but it is surely not more absurd than labeling a tiny child as belonging to any religion in the first place.” p. 315

What about labeling that same child an atheist? Is that not “absurd” as well?

And if a child, through the use of their reason and as a result of their own research, one day says “I believe there is a god,” will you see them as “absurd”? Because, if you will — if, in your eyes, everyone who is not a non-believer is a fool — I fail to see this decency that you claim to have as an atheist since, to you, everyone who is not an atheist is a lesser human being; absurd, as opposed to not absurd.

“The faithful are encouraged to profess belief, whether they are convinced by it or not. […]” p. 352-53

Having attended church every weekend of my life (when I wasn’t sick or otherwise not able to make it) I can say that not once have I ever been encouraged to just say I believe. So I don’t know where such a claim is coming from.

On a related note:

“…do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
~ Matthew 23:3

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…”
~ Matthew 7:21

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. p. 354 (Mark Twain)

I wouldn’t say I fear death, either.

It’s what might come after death that keeps me up at night.

“The atheist view is correspondingly life-affirming and life-enhancing, while at the same time never being tainted with self-delusion, wishful thinking, or the whingeing self-pity of those who feel that life owes them something.” p. 361

Isn’t it wishful thinking to say that atheism will never be “tainted with self-delusion… or the whingeing self-pity of those who feel that life owes them something”?

After all: History is full of examples of people thinking “___ will never happen.”

One example being:

Titanic

In Conclusion

“Baby’s First Atheism” are the words that come to kind when I think of The God Delusion. Take of that what you will.

There is more I could say about Richard Dawkins’ words, but this post was just me expressing my first impression of his views.

For now, my final words on Richard Dawkins are these:

Atheism strikes me as, for lack of better words, a terribly boring view of life.

To me, renouncing all belief in anything supernatural is the equivalent of choosing to watch paint dry all day, every day, for the rest of my days.

If I were to live in a world with absolutely nothing associated with anything supernatural — i.e., Richard Dawkins’ dream world — I would be denying myself pieces of art like this:

The Garden

Picking a flower from the garden
I know there is a world out there for me

Woman

These words are slightly different than words in “Arrietty’s Song” by Cecile Corbel (an instrumental version of which is below) which was the first thing that came mind when I saw the piece of art posted above:

Thank you to the beautiful little girl who made the piece of art used in this post possible.

God’s Not Dead 3 — Here We Go Again

Thoughts on A First Look at the Newest Movie in the GOD’S NOT DEAD Franchise:

I find it ironic that the subtitle of God’s Not Dead 3 (out March 30, 2018) is A Light In Darkness, seeing as how, if secular and Christian reviews are anything to judge by, neither of the previous two “God’s Not Dead” films were the light in the darkness that Christian art is supposed to be (Matthew 5: 14 — 16):

“To say God’s Not Dead preaches to the choir would be an understatement. It’s the pastor, staring in a mirror, preaching to himself.”
~ The A.V. Club

“There are serious movies about the Christian faith, about the persecution of the faithful, and about the intolerance that goes both ways. ‘God’s Not Dead 2’ is not one of them.”
~ www.rogerebert.com

“But on the whole, this movie really isn’t worth anyone’s time. And it’s startling to see that this film, of all films, has been so richly rewarded by the ‘faith-based market’. I shudder to think of what this bodes for the future of the genre.”
~ Peter Chattaway, God’s Not Dead

What the world needs is art that portrays goodness, truth, and beauty, regardless of where that goodness, truth, and beauty comes from.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
~ Philippians 4:8

If you want more proof that the “God’s Not Dead” series is lacking goodness, truth, and beauty, this is the reaction an atheist (Mark) has to his girlfriend (Amy) telling him she has cancer:

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Way to not read your catechism, Catholic screenwriters:

“Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence.” Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.” (Emphasis mine.)
~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 405

To me, no Christian who believes that a character like Mark is an accurate representation of an atheist has a leg to stand on when they criticize secular films for having one-dimensional Christian characters.

On a related note:

“The realistic, gritty atmosphere created by screenwriter/director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview is tremendous. It is practically ruined, however, by Anderson’s evil caricature of Eli, the revenge-minded preacher, and the over-the-top, unrealistic performance of Paul Dano as Eli. In fact, THERE WILL BE BLOOD is one of the most mean-spirited, anti-Christian, superficial, and poorly played portrayals of religion ever created in movie history. God knows there have been plenty of insincere, sinful leaders in the Christian church, but there have also been many good Christians who have exposed and opposed such false leaders. The short length of most feature films often require stereotypes, even negative ones, to tell a good story, but when they are so mean-spirited, superficial and poorly played as this one is, they appeal only to narrow-minded bigots with an ax to grind, whose mental faculties and hearts have been poisoned by their sinful misanthropic prejudice. (Emphasis mine.)
~ Movieguide’s review of There Will Be Blood

Now let’s see what Movieguide thought of God’s Not Dead:

“There are a lot of stories in GOD’S NOT DEAD, but they work because they end up in the same place. The direction and acting are very good. The ending is terrific. GOD’S NOT DEAD is a powerful evangelistic movie. Even better, the entertainment value transcends the message. Viewers won’t be bored. They will be enlightened and inspired by GOD’S NOT DEAD.”

You reap what you sow. If you (Christians) don’t want to be seen as one-dimensional bad guys by non-Christians, than don’t make non-Christians one-dimensional bad guys.

In the universe of “God’s Not Dead,” atheists are devoid of empathy and compassion. Which reminds me of 0:26 — 0:48:

I don’t have high hopes for God’s Not Dead 3.

In conclusion:

If you’re looking for goodness, truth, and beauty — something to put a smile on your face; something to help light your way through the darkness — here are some pieces of art that do that for me (feel free to leave your own down in the comments):

“Caramella Girls” by Miku Hatsune

I like that to think that, when God confused peoples’ language at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1 — 9), it was so that, one day, mankind would be able to listen to a Japanese pop star sing a song in Swedish.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
~ Isaiah 55:12

“Obstacles” by Syd Matters

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
~ Proverbs 27:17

“Bataille Decisive” (“Decisive Battle”) from Neon Genesis Evangelion (“The Gospel of the New Century”)

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
~ Matthew 25:40

Interstellar (2014)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
~ Psalm 19:1

“May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude.”
Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Artists

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Life Is Strange (2015)

“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:14 — 16

And:

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
~ 1 Corinthians 12:7

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Why Christians Should Give “Kiki’s Delivery Service” A Chance