Friday FaithPost 2: “The Passion” This Palm Sunday Night (March 20th)

As I was searching around earlier for links to use in the first FaithPost today, I discovered that FOX is broadcasting “The Passion” this Sunday night at 8 pm EDT. The home page has clips which are intriguing. Filmed around and broadcast (live?) from New Orleans, at first glance, it looks like it could be a “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Godspell” for the early 21st century.

It’s getting a bit of buzz, especially in light of the growing trend of live musicals on TV.

Jesus Sings Pop Songs? 10 Things to Know About FOX’s Musical “Passion” which includes these tidbits:

5. Hundreds of people are expected to help carry a 20-foot-high illuminated cross from the Superdome to the park over the course of the show.

6. Not every street in New Orleans will be shut down, so the procession may at times be stopped by traffic, or even a passing fire truck. In which case Perry’s plan, he told reporters in January, is to say, “Jesus, call an ambulance.”

7. The music isn’t new. “We are using big hit songs that everybody knows, and we are putting them completely in a new context,” said Anders, suggesting viewers might not immediately recognize them.

“It’s incredible, when we start looking through the U.S. pop catalog, how many spiritual undertones there are, because most artists have a spirituality to them, and the songs are written from those moments in their lives,” he said.

Sounds intriguing. It’s on my calendar for Sunday night (when it’s laundry-folding night). I’ll likely be posting on my Twitter account – @hartleyrkrelig , following @thepassionlive and watching/posting at #thepassion.

And, I’ll let you know here on Monday what I thought about it…

 

Friday FaithPost: Scapegoating, Mimetic Theory and Another View of Atonement

OK, so the title of this post doesn’t roll off of the tongue very well. And you may be asking: Why should I read about atonement? How does it relate to scapegoating? Or even “What is atonement?

From a Christian theological perspective, atonement refers to how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection reconciled our sins. The “bumper sticker” version of this is “Jesus saves.” Many, if not nearly all, Christians, when thinking about how Jesus saves, adopt a transactional or legalistic view of this process.

Substitutionary Atonement is a general term for this view. The logic supporting it can be summarized:

+ Human sin, both Original Sin and the myriad individual sin flowing from it, offends God’s sense of justice.

+ This justice demands payment or punishment commensurate with the offense committed against God.

+ Since human sin is so massive, there is no amount punishment or ransom humans can endure or offer which can appease God’s justice.

+ Only God’s son – both human and divine – can take upon himself human sin. When he endures the violence of brutal punishment and sacrificially sheds his blood as a stand-in for humans (a substitute) God’s justice is served. And through this sacrifice, God and humanity are reconciled.

A very popular narrative representation of this view of atonement is in C.S. Lewis’ beloved and allegorical “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Edmond betrays his siblings to the evil character. Even though he is forgiven for this by the Christ-like Aslan, the satanic witch cites the foundational justice of the land which requires traitors to become subject to destruction at her hands.Instead,  Aslan takes the witch’s violence himself, thus saving Edmond. And in doing so, an even “deeper magic” come into effect to restore him to life and energize all to defeat evil.

Another bumper sticker sized statement flows from this view of the mechanics of atonement – “Jesus Died For Your Sins.” Adherents of this perspective often emphasize how much Jesus suffered before and on the cross. A correlation is drawn between the magnitude of sin committed by humanity and the amount of pain Jesus endured as a direct consequence. The not infrequently stated: “Your sins drove a nail in to Jesus” is the harsh conclusion of this belief.

The question at the heart of this view of atonement is: “Did God the Father need (or want) Jesus to die in order to save humanity from sin and death?” Certainly Jesus died a violent death at the hands of the Romans. But, did God want/need this? If the answer is “yes,” then violence and the resulting salvation proclaimed by Christianity is sanctified and glorified. The implications cut right to the heart of Christian ethics. Although Jesus lived a life proclaiming peace, if God the Father needs/wants the blood of his son for appeasement, then violence trumps peace as the core characteristic of God’s nature. And consequently, Christians may be justified in similarly using “righteous” violence.

A growing number of theologians are showing how the exact opposite is true – Jesus died as a result of sin, specifically the foundational human sin of scapegoating.  God didn’t need/desire this violence, but allowed it, in order to turn it inside out through the resurrection of the innocent, scapegoated victim.

Perhaps the most prominent American Catholic theologian, Bishop Robert Barron, has  been speaking more and more about the theology of non-violent atonement. Read or watch below Bishop Barron’s high praise for recently deceased sociologist and theologian Rene Girard who wrote extensively about mimetic theory and scapegoating.

Bishop Barron concludes about Girard:

There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power.

Girard also informs the excellent work of The Raven Foundation who offer this video mission statement:

I appreciate the dedicated work of the Raven team who frequently post commentary pointing out the many ways scapegoating happens all around us. Two thought-provoking, recent posts to check out are:

“Zootopia” How to Make the World a Better Place

“Spotlight” on Children

A bonus third post, my favorite one, also referencing a movie:

My Daughter, the Star Wars myth and Jesus – How to Defeat Evil

So, why did I spend time with this long post today? First of all, a week from now, on Good Friday, I hope this post and Girard’s powerful way of re-understanding how atonement happens allow you to experience the cross in a deeper, more profound way.  Next, as the violence, especially religiously justified acts, increases in the world, Christians must look at the root of our theology to critique how it may support God-ordained violence. Finally,  a deeper understanding of mimetic dynamics, the subsequent scapegoating and its ancient social power should lead all people of faith to prophetically expose this mechanism in order to defuse its seductive power.

 

 

 

Tuesday FaithPost – Powerful Stations of the Cross by Busted Halo

Is it Friday already? No, sadly it is not yet. I’m sharing a FaithPost a couple of days early as I want to offer this wonderful resource now, so that you could possibly use it before or during Holy Week.

The good Paulist Fathers who create the awesome, newly redesigned, young-adult site Busted Halo, have put together a quite powerful set of videos following the Stations of the Cross. Each video uses just text and music to tell the story and interpret the meaning of each of the fourteen traditional moments in Christ’s Passion. Here’s the fourth station, which I find particularly moving and insightful:

There’s a lot I like about these videos. But two aspects are particularly meaningful. First, the overarching theme of this version of the Way of the Cross is the Kingdom of God. This central vision of Jesus’ ministry is at the heart of the gospel and thus something which we must emphasize time and again to those to whom we minister.

I also find the simple music accompanying the words on the screen provocative, compelling and deeply moving. The piano melody used with the stations in which Jesus Meets His Mother, Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem is one I find haunting and well-matched to the emotions of these encounters.

I’m using these videos in our chapel as a prayer service with all five of my classes today. It has worked better with my one sophomore class than my two freshmen ones. I think the greater maturity and developing wisdom in the older students is the main difference.

I’ve created this presentation to use with the videos. It should be pretty self-explanatory – show the slide introducing a station, play the video and then prayerfully read the supporting slide while giving the viewers/participants a few moments to reflect.

A couple of things you may wonder about the presentation: The photos of the crosses were ones that I took while visiting Christ in the Desert Monastery in northern New Mexico a few years ago.  And the colors of the background of the slides is meant to represent the transition and transformation of this time in Lent, to Holy Week and then to Easter.

I hope you find this Busted Halo Stations of the Cross as meaningful and useful as I do. The video below will link you to the playlist of  all the fourteen stations.

May you have a blessed Fifth Tuesday of Lent and a good rest of the week.

Friday FaithPost: Pray as You Go App/Website/Podcast

Another week rolls by. It’s hard to believe that a fortnight from today is Good Friday. March often drags by, but this year it and Lent are zipping by. The relative lack of winter here in Ohio surely helps!

Last weekend I posted about some podcasts that I like and an outstanding way to listen to them on an Android device (Pocket Cast).  Today, I share a Catholic daily podcast which helps my faith to grow and deepen. It has its own iOS and Android apps too (see below about Android.)

The site is “Pray as You Go” and it’s created by the Jesuits in Britain who also create the equally excellent “Thinking Faith”  and “Sacred Space”

I won’t spend time and space here trying to “sell” you on “Pray as You Go.” I will say that I get much from the short (12 min or less) combination of music, the day’s scripture (read twice in lectio divina style), brief commentary, reflection questions and an invitation for prayer.

I do recommend that you listen to it directly through the website or via a general podcasting app like Pocket Cast. “Pray As You Go” has an expanded presence on Soundcloud which has a pretty good Android app. It appears that there’s content there which isn’t elsewhere, such as this series of talks and poems by the great Gerard Manly Hopkins, S.J.

About the Android “Pray as You Go” app – I’d avoid it for now. It has an issue which doesn’t allow you to stream or download a day’s content until well after it has passed. I thought this might be just an issue on my device, so I emailed them. Turns, out they are aware of this universal problem and are working to fix it in a future release.

Until then, I hope you’ll use one of these many means listed above to pray as you go — to work, on a walk, to the store, wherever!

Friday FaithPost (Part 2): Psalm 35 and Colbert’s Journey

Tuesday morning, as I was unloading the dishwasher at 5:30 am, I discovered a clip from Colbert’s show the night before. Apparently starting a Leap Day tradition (which won’t have a “2nd Quadrennial” version until February 29, 2020), Colbert’s guest, director Spike Jonze shot a moving opening segment for the show. Before you view it below, read these verses from Psalm 35:

But at my stumbling they gathered in glee,

they gathered together against me;

ruffians whom I did not know

tore at me without ceasing;

they impiously mocked more and more,

gnashing at me with their teeth…

Do not let my treacherous enemies rejoice over me,

or those who hate me without cause wink the eye.

You have seen, O LORD; do not be silent!

O LORD, do not be far from me!

 

Here’s the video. I particularly like the re-imagined version of the show’s theme.

Do you see the “ruffians?” How about the God-figure who frees him and leads him to paradise?

Friday FaithPost (Part 1): Two Great Faith-Building Sites

It’s an unusual Friday for me as I’m not teaching my classes. We have a number of priests visiting and students are invited to see them in the chapel to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To facilitate this, Religion teachers are asked to not have class assignments and/or activities which students would miss by participating in the sacrament. So, we’re having a “study hall” in all five of my classes. After three of these, 31% of my students have received Reconciliation.

Rather than get ahead on my grading/planning or simply wasting time web surfing, I’m choosing the middle way of posting here on the blog. I’ve got a few ideas for posts banging around in my head and I’ll use this time to share.

For the first post today, I’d like to share more about two favorite sites which I mentioned in the “lenten resources” post  a few weeks ago.

I don’t recall how exactly I discovered the Creighton Collaborative Ministries site . I found it five years ago or so and I’ve been pleased at how it’s expanded over time. The design isn’t flashy:

Creighton s Online Ministries Home Page

But the resources are fantastic and free (donations are accepted.) One of my favorite aspects is the calendar of Daily Reflections on each day’s liturgical readings:

Creighton U Daily Reflections

The reflections, composed by faculty and staff of the Jesuit Creighton University , are thought-provoking and an important aid for my prayer life. Another aspect of the site that I’ve enjoyed deeply (as long ago as when I had to burn these files to CD rather than just stream them) is the ever-increasing set of topnotch audio retreats:

Creighton Audio Retreats

Far and away, my favorite retreat leader is Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J.

I’ve listened to Fr. Larry many times and although I’ll most likely never meet him, I count him among my most important faith teachers.

I’m finding other faith teachers at the web home of the Anglican Society of St. John the Evangelist. Although they are a different branch of the Catholic tree than Roman Catholicism, I find their mission, wisdom, and vision very much compatible with RC religious orders. They are extremely skilled at using the internet for faith development – especially during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent.

Last Advent, they invited people to Tweet photos each day, on an Advent related theme, to @adventword:

SSJE Advent Word

The Tweeted images and related 140 character thoughts were clever, often funny, and inspiring. Currently, during Lent, they are offering the #growrule program with workbooks for adults and children, places to share self-reflections, and daily videos, with compelling questions to increase self-awareness:

SSJE GrowRule

I’ve been showing some of these videos to my students along with a daily Lenten Journal to guide them in reflection. Here’s the journal for reflection on this constructive offering by Br. Curtis:

It’s not too late to join this program with the brothers as “My Relationship with Creation” begins next week.

And before I post this, I need to give a shout out to my favorite, young-adult focused site: Busted Halo.

Blessings and Happy Lenting!

 

 

Friday FaithPost – New Pope Francis Books

I previously shared resources for daily Lenten prayer, reading and reflection. If you’d like inspirational reading in a more traditional book format, check out these two recent releases by Pope Francis.

First – a children’s book adults will enjoy:

Pope Francis and Children's Book-2

The release of this quite cute book was recently featured on Vatican Radio and also on Good Morning America.   The video from GMA is worth watching for the brief interview with siblings Luca and Ruby who reminded me instantly of literary sibs Charlie and Lola.

The second book, The Name of God is Mercy, features transcripts of widely ranging interviews with Pope Francis conducted by long time Vatican reporter, Andrea Tornielli.

Pope Francis - Name of God

A couple of days ago, I listened to a really good conversation about this book and Pope Francis on our local NPR station. The talk show included a number of guests, including National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican Correspondent – Joshua McElwee.

When thinking about God’s name, I was curious as to whether the Muslim 99 Names of God, often prayed with beads similar to a rosary, included “The Merciful” as one of them. Not surprisingly, “The Merciful” is included along with “The Most Compassionate”  and “The Forgiver” in the sacred list.

 

Friday FaithPost – “40 A Video of Jesus in the Wilderness”

As I mentioned in the first Friday FaithPost a couple of weeks ago, during Lent I’ll be offering more somber and thought-provoking links on Fridays. Sun(fun) Night Posts will remain light-hearted as Sundays are always days of celebrating Christ’s Resurrection – even during the Lenten season.

I sincerely encourage you to take four minutes now to watch this powerful video telling the story of the gospel from last Sunday.

 

I’m sharing this video with each of my classes today (3 down, 2 to go). And with each viewing, my appreciation of the powerful simplicity of it grows.

Kudos to YouTuber Adam Young who writes only this about the video:

I took these incredible illustrations by a British illustrator named Simon Smith and put them to an Explosions In The Sky song.

Friday FaithPost -“Break My Heart Sweetly”

Faithful readers of this blog know that every Friday I try to offer a Friday FunLink to end the week with some levity. As we approach Lent, I wanted to begin with a more somber, faith-oriented post on the Fridays until Easter arrives. Of course there is a long tradition in the Church reserving Friday for the remembrance of Christ’s death. Sunday is the day for celebration of Christ’s Resurrection and even during Lent it is a day for celebration.

Today’s post is a short video which I’m showing to my classes today. Prior to praying with the saint for the day, I like to share with my classes something which struck me in the previous 24 hours. Sometimes it’s a news story, an image, a fact, a prayer or reflective quote. My goal is to show either a prayer need for which we will communally pray and/or an example of how God is present in the world around us.

As I shared/am sharing today, I discovered this video as well as the performer this morning at 5:30 am while I was unloading the dishwasher. Readers know that I am a huge Stephen Colbert fan and that I’ve watched every episode of his show thus far. I often do this by propping up my iPad on the kitchen counter and watching while I do the dishes. And this was the segment from last Monday’s show which was next in my watching queue:

 

I am moved by the simple power of this song. “Break my Heart Sweetly” is a title rich with irony and sorrow. Moreland, who doesn’t look like your typical singer, carries the lyrics of altars, prayers, halos and demons, with grace and depth. I’d not encountered this artist previously and immediately I did some searching.  He has a religious (Baptist) background which is apparent in the respectful wrestling with faith he does in his music.

And a tip of the hat to Colbert for having this and many other interesting, diverse, and rising artists on his nightly national showcase.

Break My Heart Sweetly by John Moreland:

I swore the days were over, courting empty dreams
I worshiped at the altar of losing everything
And the guard I held together is losing all its shape
And in my head you look so gorgeous, it’s keeping me awake

There’s a scar on my soul, so let me down easy
Break my heart sweetly, like you always do
I guess I can’t let go til you wreck me completely
Break my heart sweetly, drape me in blue

I was never scared of nothing, I thought I had a home
Life went and broke me open, cause I carried it alone
I’m finding all this well worn sadness I never knew I kept
And I still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

I swore the days were over, courting empty dreams
I worshiped at the altar of losing everything
And you had a halo made of diamonds, resting on your head
I should be dealing with my demons, but I’m dodging them instead