Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The movie Silence: An attack on God and man’s relationship with Him

Some people say you shouldn’t comment on a movie unless you’ve seen it.  Strangely those same people say that you should comment about other things you haven’t seen like the Holocaust.

The reality is that most of what we talk about is based on what we’ve read or heard.  And people often talk about movies they haven’t seen.

A movie has two main aspects; its message and its accidents.  The accidents are things like the quality of the acting, the music, the props, the CGI etc.

Not having seen the movie Silence I won’t speak about the accidents but having read the plot I feel moved to comment on the message the movie sends.

The Silence is a virulently anti-Catholic and anti-religious movie.

This commentary addresses why people of faith should not commend or support this movie.  I want to make very clear that none of the Catholic supporters of Silence endorse or agree with the offensive parts of the movie. They do however suggest that as a work of art—whatever that might be—it has merit.

Some also suggest that art should challenge people of faith.  I find the whole idea of art challenging what is good to be absurd.  But even if I'm wrong on that the reality is that we live in a world where people of faith are being constantly challenged; we don't need some random "artist"'s vision to be forced to confront our faith we can just read the newspaper or talk to relatives who have rejected God.

Spoilers to follow.

The basic plot is that two priests go to Japan and deny God.  While both priests end up denying God one denies Christ in order to end the torture of some of his flock who had already denied Christ.

The priest’s denial is not some lip service thing, though that would be bad enough, but a true rejection of God. We know this because the priest marries and says that he can no longer forgive sins.

Any priest would know that the moral state of the priest does not impact his ability to forgive sins.  Hence saying that he can no longer forgive sins means that the priest no longer believes in God for even if the priest were unrepentant he could still forgive sins. That’s because it’s not the priest forgiving sins but Christ working through the priest who forgives sins.

Basically the plot seems to tell us that the priest rejects God not only to save his former parishioners from torture but also because the priest finds the “silence” of God an unacceptable condemnation of Him.  Why else would the priest continue to live as though he no longer believed even when it was no longer necessary to do so in order to avoid the torture of others?

The central story of Silence is a standard torture porn meme—think the Saw movies.

There is a villain, A, who threatens to do horrible things to victims, B, unless the “hero”, C, does some evil.

In the case of Silence the villain is a Japanese inquisitor, the victims are Japanese Christians who have denied God but who will still be tortured until the priest, C, denies God.

The premise, all too easily embraced by many, is that doing evil to avoid physical suffering for others is good.

The reality however is that C is guilty of nothing until he does the evil A asks him to do.  It is A who is responsible for the suffering of the victims not C.

Now if what A asked of C was minor and totally worldly perhaps it could be justified; if A said he’d stop torturing the victims if C had to admit his own failings for example.

But in the movie the evil act is to deny God.  Hence in Silence we’re told that the balance the priest faces is between worldly suffering and denying God.  Should we deny God in order to reduce worldly suffering is the question that must be answered.

Catholics, including the priest in question, know the answer to that question.  Jesus makes it very clear nothing in the world is worth trading one’s salvation for.  Absolutely nothing.

Even a lip service denial of faith by the priest would be horrible because it would likely lead to more Japanese Christians denying God and risking eternal damnation.

By denying Christ the priest increased the likelihood that Japanese Christians would go to Hell and the likelihood he would join them.  No reduction of worldly suffering can justify that.

If worldly suffering could justify denying Christ, and as a result having Christ deny you, all the martyrs were wrong to die. They were fools to die rather than simply deny Christ.  Yet no Catholic believes that.

But supporters of Silence say that because it was people other than the priest who were suffering it was not necessarily bad that the movie shows the priest denying Christ to help them even if the act itself was bad.  Yet if nothing else the Crucifixion of Christ tells us that all suffering has a purpose and that we should not embrace Satan, by denying God, in order to stop worldly torment.

Peter wanted to prevent Christ’s suffering and Christ chastised him for it.

The movies’ reasoning is at best saying that the ends justify the means.  At worst it’s a denial of the infinitely more important nature of faith over worldly concerns.

To someone who accepts Catholic doctrine the priest is not in fact facing a moral dilemma.  To see this let’s recast the situation just a bit.  Suppose instead of denying Christ the Japanese inquisitor had demanded the priest kill a new born baby. I suspect that many who are at least a bit sympathetic to the priest would suddenly balk.

The movie appears to advance evil by making the denial of a “silent” God appear to be not all that bad compared to say killing a baby yet denying God is every bit as bad, if not worse, than sins we commit against our fellow creatures.

A well formed movie would cast the priest as a villain but that does not appear to be the case. Instead he's portrayed as a tortured soul whose evil is like that of a soldier who breaks in combat.

At least one supporter has compared Saint Kolbe's situation to the apostate priest's; Kolbe gave up his life to save another’s and the priest denied Christ to keep others from being tortured.  While the critic acknowledges the differences he seems to ignore the fact that the comparison is without any logical support.  Kolbe gave up his worldly life—which he was going to lose eventually anyway-- to save the worldly life of another. The apostate priest gave up his eternal life, and possibly the eternal life of the victims he was supposedly trying to protect—in exchange for an end to the purely worldly suffering that the former members of his flock were enduring.

The first great crime of the movie Silence against truth then is to preach that loyalty to God is not more important than loyalty to men; that God Himself approves of denying Himself to reduce worldly suffering.

The second crime is to structure the movie so as to imply either that God approves of such an evil or that God is silent and absent from our lives.

The priest prays but God doesn’t appear in the sky to answer him.  Yet the reality is that God already answered the priest’s question.  A Jesuit would know of how the Church, and hence Christ, addressed the issue of apostasy during the Roman persecutions.

It was always a horrible sin to deny Christ for any reason; because Christ said so.  But because God is infinitely merciful those who denied Him but repented could be forgiven.

Hence the priest knew that denying Christ was wrong yet he did it.  Should we condemn him for it?  Of course not because we have no idea of what we would do in those circumstances. Only God can judge any of us. But we must condemn what he did.

The second great crime Silence commits against truth is to imply that the priest would have any doubt about what Christ asked of him.  That God does not equip us to deal with what the world throws at us.  We may reject His wisdom and Grace and go with the superficially compelling narrative that the world invokes but it’s not because God was silent.  The movie would appear to claim that God does not offer us the Grace we need to endure the trials He allows us to have.

I’m on less certain ground for the third great crime since I’m relying on a critic’s commentary for it.  The critic says the movie raises the question of whether Christ’s Truth is in fact universal.  The critic writes:

“Rodrigues contests this: Christianity in Japan flourished for generations, he says, before the soil was poisoned by persecution. But what does Rodrigues know about Japanese Christianity? Silence hangs us on the horns of an unsettling dilemma: On the one hand, can a Christianity that is culturally European have meaning in Japan? On the other, if Christianity has changed in Japan, is it still the same faith proclaimed by the missionaries?”

No Catholic who truly understands what the Church teaches can argue that Christ’s message is without meaning to any people in any culture.  All men are equal when it comes to God’s Truths.

While it’s true that the way to express those truths can vary in order to address different cultures in ways they can understand the meaning never changes.  Despite differences in the culture Catholicism is the same faith everywhere because Jesus is the one True God who is present everywhere. The Eucharist and the sacraments aren't culturally conditioned and neither is Christ's death on the Cross or His resurrection. That's why even "European" Catholicism has been accepted across a huge spectrum of cultures.

Perhaps the critic doesn’t mean what his words seem to say but the movie apparently does.

Hence if this critic is right the third great crime of the movie Silence against truth is questioning whether Christ’s message is in fact universal in nature.

Silence's fourth great crime against truth is that by not showing what the eternal consequences of apostasy are it leaves out the most important part of the drama it claims to portray.  As Jesus said what profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?

By being silent on man's spiritual dimension and addressing only his physical reality the movie essentially recasts a spiritual conflict into a purely worldly one.  As a result the viewer is effectively led away from truth just as a man who is shown a floor plan of a building with no idea of how many stories it has is led away from understanding what the building actually looks like.

By taking a problem that can only be viewed in light of man's physical and spiritual nature and recasting it as a purely worldly issue Silence leads the audience away from an honest appreciation of the issues.

Like the modern media which constantly talks of the reformed perpetrators but never of the now silent victims Silence effectively denies the reality of what the priest did.

Silence is also a movie that should not have been made because it portrays God as being silent.  I spend a reasonable amount of time trying to evangelize atheists. When I say that God loves them and that even atheists have a chance to be saved, as Pope Francis has pointed out, they respond by saying “If God loves me why doesn’t He appear to me? Why is He silent?”.

By portraying a God who didn’t in any way answer a priest’s cry for help Silence bolsters atheists disdain for God and for those who follow Him.  In reality however God answered the priests question before the priest ever left for Japan; He answered it when He spoke of those who would deny Him.

But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:33

Silence also effectively attacks the Catholic Church because it’s quite reasonable to assume that evangelicals who have little knowledge of Church history or teachings will walk away saying “See Catholicism is a cult; no Baptist would deny Christ like that”.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the priest’s apostasy was not mere lip service but a true denial of God.  He marries and declares that he is no longer a priest that can only mean he’s embraced the world and denied God.

Silence’s supporters argue that it was based on fact and hence the movies message is valid.

I see several major problems with that.  First history is written by the winners and we can’t know that the priests did in fact deny Christ the way the movie shows or that the priests were in fact as good as the movie shows them to be prior to their torture.

But even granting that the story is true why would anyone make a movie about failures?

We are in a war with the world, a war that has been waging for 2000 years. Why would we make a movie that highlights and tries to generate sympathy for those who reject the God who so loves them? Why support a movie that ignores the spiritual consequences of worldly actions?

 At least one supporter of the movie has written:

“It’s worth remembering that Silence has outraged many Japanese Catholics with its empathic portrayal of persecuted Christians who avoided martyrdom by trampling on fumie (literally “stepping-on picture”) — images of Christ or the Blessed Virgin that suspected Christians were required to step on to express apostasy or repudiation of Christ.”

In WWII no film tried to generate sympathy for soldiers who were cowards.  There were cowards in films but only if they redeemed themselves were they shown in a positive light.

In the 1960’s safely removed from the threat of Nazi domination “artists” started producing sympathetic portrayals of those who put themselves ahead of their obligations. It’s true that we now know that under the stress of war brave men can break and so we no longer execute them. That was known in WWII as well but common sense ensured that those who failed were not extolled or given an easy excuse precisely because doing so would increase the number of men who simply gave in to fear which in turn would lead to losing the war.

If we wish people to win the race and be saved producing movies that attack God, attack the Church, and try and justify those who put themselves, or others, ahead of God is not a good idea.

But of course we can’t stop others from making such movies. We can however reduce the likelihood of further films of this ilk by not patronizing this one.

So I suggest that the responsible approach to Silence is condemnation and avoiding providing any financial support to the movie by buying tickets or renting it online.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sorry this is late but real life Christmas has kept me busy.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Demand Facebook has impartial fact checkers.

To date Zuckerberg has acted in a responsible way; not censoring pro-Trump content like his staff wanted to do.

So politely contact him on FB and say that while you don't mind fact checking per se every group he listed as helping FB has a liberal slant which has translated into anti-Republican bias.

For example snopes labeled the fact that Planned Parenthood sold baby parts for money as "mixed" by making the question whether or not one person admitted that they were "illegally" selling baby parts not that they were selling baby parts.

PolitiFact used very different standards for addressing nearly identical claims by Bernie and Trump; needless to say they were much nicer to Bernie.

Either he needs some conservative fact checkers or he needs to jettison the whole idea.

We're adults and we don't need someone else, especially biased elitist liberals, telling us what news is true and what news isn't.

Why isn't anyone concerned about the Democrats attempted coup?

Threatening electors in order to get them to change their votes is nothing short of an attempted coup.

But apparently coups are ok if they're done by liberals.  I guess that's why they like Castro and hate Franco even though Franco was a far better ruler than Castro.

Best news ever American fascists are without hope!

Michelle Obama has declared that since Hillary didn't win America is without hope.

Given that polls shows the opposite we can be fairly certain that what Ms. Obama meant was that fascists such as herself who never felt good about America until Barrack was nominated for President are unhappy.

Why are the fascists unhappy? There are a number of reasons but here are a few:

1) Their attempt to rig the election by having the dead, in Chicago and Detroit, and illegals, in California, vote didn't work.

2) The next Supreme Court Justice will be someone who believes in the rule of law not the imperial judiciary.

3) The new Attorney General will not be a Chicago school politician who believes that power is to be used to help your friends and persecute your enemies.

4) The IRS will no longer be silencing voices the fascists don't like to hear.

5) The bi-coastal elites, the core of the modern fascist movement, won't be running the country.

6) Planned Parenthood won't be getting nearly a half a billion dollars to pursue their goal of eliminating minorities in what Jesse Jackson called genocide.

The list goes on but the most important reason is that because the modern fascists can't really justify any of their positions based on how the actually benefit anyone other than themselves it's critical that they be able to think that they are right because they are on the side of history.  Otherwise they'll be having a hard time sleeping in their 1000 ply sheets at night.

Hillary the abnormal; a bit late but better than never

The media are saying that it’s ok for them to abandon their “impartiality”, as though anyone believed they ever were, because Trump is such an abnormal candidate.  That Trump is so horrible that no matter what illegalities Hillary has committed or how frail her health may be she’s better than Trump.

As a proud former member of #NeverTrunp I have no problem saying that Trump is a far more normal presidential candidate than Hillary Clinton.

Like most previous presidential candidates Trump actually likes America and Americans.  After 8 years of Obama many Americans have forgotten what it’s like to have a president who actually sticks up for his country rather than apologizing for it and attacking it.

Despite many political differences Ronald Reagan and JFK both believed in the American dream and in American exceptionalism; which results from a true diversity that liberals hate: the blending of the best from many different cultures from WASPs to Hispanics to Blacks to Italians.

Hillary views us as peons to be ruled by her and her cohorts. Trump wants to empower Americans to run their own lives not make them subservient to Hillary’s ruling class.

While Trump is following in the footsteps of JFK and Ronald Reagan Hillary is a fawning admirer of government by the politicians, for the politicians, and of the politicians.

Hillary is also the first presidential candidate to tell churches what they should or shouldn’t believe in. According to the Gospel of Hillary abortion is a sacrament.  She’s all for forcing nuns who dedicate their lives to helping the poor to pay for abortions and she’s enthused about making 5 year old girls share the washroom with 40 year old bearded men who say they think they’re really women.

While most Americans who do support abortion support it only in cases of rape, or to protect the life of the mother and then only in the first trimester Hillary supports abortion up until the instant of birth for any reason. Hillary is also quite comfortable with Planned Parenthood profiting by selling baby parts.

There are simply no candidates in the history of the US who have had such a radically anti-Christian morality agenda; even Hillary used to say when Bill was president that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

In terms of morality it’s Trump who actually believes in religious liberty and who opposes abortion in general and is far more in the lineage of past presidential candidates, Republican and Democrat.

It used to be that Presidential candidates agreed that politics stops at the waters edge; that foreign policy should be based on what’s good for America.

But Hillary showed she’s cool with Obama’s belief that we should not worry about the world because cutting military spending frees up dollars to buy voters and line her own pockets.

Hillary supports a deal that will allow Iran to have nuclear weapons in the near term. Can anyone imagine any presidential candidate of the past, with the exception of John Kerry, who would do that given the mad mullahs who run Iran constantly and unequivocally support terrorism and 9/11?

Trump opposes unnecessary foreign involvements, he clearly puts American interests first, and he opposes the Iran deal. Sure because Trump is Trump his position might change but Trump has never advocated overthrowing a foreign government, as Hillary did in Libya, and then simply walked away from the people who suffered as a result, as Hillary did. Historically even when America has made a mess we’ve tried to undo it; as Bush did in Iraq and Truman did in Korea.

Hence Hillary is far more abnormal than Trump in the foreign policy arena because she either believes foreign policy doesn’t matter—given her abysmal record as secretary of state this is likely-- or that America’s interests shouldn’t come first.

While there have been previous candidates who were racists, Woodrow Wilson comes to mind, the reality is that since Eisenhower American presidential candidates have opposed the invidious racism that permeated the Democrat party, especially in the South.

Yet Hillary opposes school choice for inner city Blacks, is comfortable with the fact that Black unemployment is twice white unemployment, isn’t bothered by the fact that the leading cause of death for Black Americans is abortion, and wants to bring in millions of low skill illegals to drive down the wages of the poorly educated Blacks that Democrat cities produce.

Trump’s supposed “racism” is based on his rejection of the claims of those who come here illegally and to his objection to radical Muslims who say that Sharia should be the law of the land. Trump is being called a racist for adhering to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s admonition to judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin; welcoming a legal Mexican immigrant while rejecting an illegal Polish immigrant.  Trump is also reaching out to Blacks to see how we can fix the problems resulting from the endemic racism in the Democrat party.

Based on their positions it’s clear that there is a racist in this presidential race and it’s Hillary.

In terms of the role of the Presidency Hillary supports Obama’s view that unless a court slams him down, and in some cases even then, he can do whatever he wants.

Whether it’s the use of the IRS to target political opponents, using the FBI to sweep criminal activity under the rug, or the unlawful “legalizing” of hundreds of thousands of illegals Obama has made it clear that the Constitution is a dead letter to him. Hillary supported that when she was in his regime and she has used it to her advantage since.

Based on their track records it’s Hillary, not Trump, who believes she’s above the law and that the Constitution doesn’t matter. Sure Trump used the full power of the law to try and force a widow out of her home but when he lost he walked away.  He didn’t hire someone to steal her property. He didn’t think he could break the law with impunity the way Hillary does.

Finally much is being made of Trumps less than stellar personal life. Sadly the reality is that presidents such as LBJ and JFK were not paragons of sexual morality either.  While it’s true that there is no record of Hillary personally philandering she did viciously attack women her husband sexually harassed and/or allegedly assaulted. 

She covered for Bills escapades thereby enabling him to harass more women; and she did so for apparently personal gain. After all no one would have ever heard of Hillary without Bills presidency since, other than ensuring that a child molester got 1 year for raping a 12 year old, she’s never done anything that would get anyone’s attention.

Additionally Hillary blamed an innocent Egyptian Christian living in the US for what she knew was a preplanned terrorist assault on Benghazi that succeeded in killing the US Ambassador because Hillary had failed to take prudent security precautions.  Even a strong Cruz supporter like me would say that’s a lot worse than anything Trump said about Cruz or his family.

While philandering decreases with age thereby making Trump less of a risk there is no declining in the huge character flaws of Hillary Clinton.

In this final area while Trump might be worse in terms of his personal life Hillary is far worse in terms of attacking women who were victims of her husband. Further there is no previous example of a presidential candidate who so shamefacedly lied to the American people to cover their own political ambitions as Hillary has; in comparison the attacks on Bush by liberals about Iraq are laughable.

Bottom line there is an abnormal outside the historical limits candidate in this presidential race; Hillary.

Feel free to follow tom on Twitter

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

To Trump or not to Trump. That is the question.

See my article on my we need to hold our noses and vote for Trump here