Friday, August 28, 2015

Dead Theologians Society: St. Augustine of Hippo

This is the first of an occasional series of posts with no connection to pop culture. Not every one of these will be tied to the church calendar, but this one is. Which reminds me, I should write about the concept of the church calendar some time.

August 28 is the feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential theologians of the Patristic Era, meaning the church fathers that came after the close of the Apostolic Age. Augustine led a life of sin and drunkenness until his conversion at the age of 31. His mother Monica is a saintly example of the faithful praying parent. He spent the remainder of his long life writing, preaching, and serving the church.

His Confessions is considered one of the West's earliest examples of a memoir, and represents the most complete record of any person from the 4th or 5th century. In terms of theology, his City of God continues to resonate as an example of how to respond to earthly disasters, such as (in his case) the sack of Rome by Visigoths. His On Christian Doctrine and On the Trinity are also valuable resources. There is a free St. Augustine app that contains that contains some of his major works, and many of his works are available elsewhere electronically free of charge.

His influence on theology is still widely felt. Important doctrines that he developed include original sin, just war theory, free will and predestination, and Maryology. For his contributions to theology, he is considered one the few "Doctors of the Church."

Although the majority of his works were theological, Confessions contains some of his most passionate and personal writings: "“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

About Our Background Image

Our background image, which you may not be able to make out very clearly ... is the remnants of a viking funeral.

For most of its almost thirty years, the Cornerstone Festival beckoned our family, and it took us far too long to finally make the pilgrimage. I (Alan) went on my own in 2007, to "check it out" before taking the family in 2010. We had a great time, and were generally planning to go every three years or so as our family vacation. Their motto of "music. art. community. faith." was right up our alley.

We were very disheartened in the early spring of 2012 to hear that that year would be the last year for the festival, especially since we weren't planning on attending. After Emily pointed out the obvious, "We are going to the last Cornerstone," we decided to go to the last Cornerstone.

The last night of the last Cornerstone, a viking funeral was held. There were a few miscues with flaming arrows, but eventually the boat was set aflame in the middle of the lake, and the festival was officially over.

Until the next morning, someone noticed the remnants. The crossbar and the tattered sheet made from some pretty awesome pictures. And some pretty awesome memories.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fox Mulder, Bible Scholar

In the X-Files Episode "3" (season 2, episode 7), vampire cult killers leave behind a message in their victim's blood.

John 52:54

Fox Mulder demonstrates his knowledge of Scripture by quoting the verse in full. "He who eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood shall have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day." He then makes a crack about "big-haired preachers" and their feeble literal grasp of the Bible.

One problem. The verse doesn't exist. What he quotes is in fact John 6:54, although the wording did not precisely match any popular English translation that I could find.

I'm not going to hypothesize on why the episode's writers decided to make up a Bible reference instead of using an actual one. But whatever the reason for referring to the words of John 6:54 as John 52:54, it stands out as a choice that is ... just weird. 

Yes, this was in the long ago days before Google and Bible Gateway made looking up verses really easy. But still ... aren't there fact-checkers in the organization somewhere? And the cynic of course wonders why nobody in the ENTIRE production crew noticed the mistake.

Again, they get Jesus' words correct, which I appreciate. They didn't make up words and put them in the Bible. But they made up the place in the Bible where those words are found.

It's just weird.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Comic Book Review: Gotham By Midnight #2

Gotham By Midnight #2, DC Comics, cover-dated February 2015.

"We Will Not Rest," by Ray Fawkes, with art by Ben Templesmith. Cover by Ben Templesmith.

We pick up where issue #1 left off, with poor Internal Affairs Agent Rook learning that “Precinct 13” really does handle the hard cases. During his first supernatural case in Slaughter Swamp, he reveals exactly where his head is at:

“Look, I’m basically an accountant … just shoot that thing!”

Fortunately, Detective Jim Corrigan is on hand to handle the witchy apparition of a creepy nun-like being. He’s freaked out, and realizes that he doesn’t have a lot of time. “The Spectre is almost here.” He is able to subdue the entity and free the children she was holding. But they are speaking the same gibberish language that the Attwood children are speaking.

Back in Gotham Heights, Sister Justine realizes that something terrible has been done to the Attwood children. In a flashback we learn how she met Detective Corrigan and his alter ego, and how she became part of the Midnight Shift.

Sister Justine recognizes five of the gibberish words as names. She’s heard them before. By the end of the issue, Corrigan sums up where we are and where we are going:

“Something big and bad is moving into Gotham. Something that’s either got five names or five bodies. Or both.”

Again, it’s hard to think a better artist that Ben Templesmith to introduce readers to the eerie weirdness of this title. Not only the supernatural apparitions themselves, but the human’s reactions to the apparitions are suitable creepy.

Sister Justine is the featured character in this issue. The idea that the Spectre saved her once both gives insight into her past, as well as asks questions about the Spectre’s relationship with Corrigan. Justine’s word bubbles are smaller than the others’, indicating that she is meek, perhaps still traumatized by her past. But Corrigan realized he needed her on the team, and that in itself is an interesting fact.

I like the fact that the Spectre is staying off the page, at least for now. The idea that what they have faced SO FAR is not worthy of the Spectre’s attention is a bit scary, as it means that something even creepier and more evil is on the way. This is the way that suspense is supposed to work, laying down one puzzle piece after the other.

This issue was slightly slower than the first, as it has to actually develop character, as opposed to just introduce characters. But it was quite a gripping read.