Sep 24, 2013

Two Popes?



In a very strange turn of events, the former pope -- Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI -- has broken his public silence to defend against allegations that he covered up sex-abuse.

The comments - which a victims' group rejected - were made in an 11-page letter to Italian author and mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who had written a book about the problems facing the Roman Catholic Church before the pope resigned in February.

"As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things," said Benedict, who now has the title Emeritus Pope.

Excerpts of the letter were published in the Rome newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday with the former pope's permission.

It was believed to be the first time Benedict has responded to the sexual abuse accusations in the first person, although the Vatican has always said he did much to put an end to sexual abuse of minors by priests and never tried to cover it up.

Even stranger than the public nature of retired pontiff's statement is the fact that it appears to echo a letter from Pope Francis to the publisher of La Repubblica -- or does Pope Francis's statement echo Pope Benedict's?

The letters indicate that the two men in white – who live across the Vatican gardens from one another – are pursuing an active campaign to engage non-believers. It's a melding of papacies past and present that has no precedent and signals that the popes – while very different in style, personality and priorities – are of the same mind on many issues and might even be collaborating on them.

. . .

Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to resign when he retired Feb. 28, setting the stage for the election of Francis two weeks later. Benedict said at the time that he would spend his final years "hidden from the world," living in a converted monastery tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica, reading and praying.

Benedict's decision to cloister himself was in part due to his own shy, bookish nature, but also to make clear that he was no longer pope and that his successor was in charge.

Fear of schism in the church had prevented popes for centuries from stepping down, and Benedict's resignation immediately raised some not-insignificant questions: How would the Catholic Church deal with the novel situation of having one reigning and one retired pope living side-by-side, each of them called "pope," each of them wearing papal white and even sharing the same aide in Monsignor Georg Gaenswein?

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi denied that the two living popes were acting in concert and claimed the fact that they both wrote letters on the same subject matter to two prominent atheists in as many weeks was entirely coincidental.


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Sep 22, 2013

The Surprising Nature of the New Pope



Pope Francis created shock waves again this past week with his surprising ability to not hate on entire groups of people. Of all the comments in his interview with fellow Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, what has gotten the most press was his blunt assessment of the Church's relentless focus on divisive issues. The Church is "obsessed," he said, with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

The pontiff reveals much more than the radical nature of his thinking here. He reveals that he has been "reprimanded" for it. By whom, one wonders.

People as diverse as John M. Becker of the Bilerico Project and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League have quite rightly pointed out that there has been some overreach in the reading of the pope's remarks. This is not a break with Church doctrine. What it is is a shift in tone and emphasis. He's reading from a different part of the Catechism. Where his recent predecessors were focused on the homosexuality as "objectively disordered" portion, for instance, Pope Francis is more interested in the "respect, compassion, and sensitivity" portion. At no point is he calling on the Church to dispense with its moral teachings, however backward they may be. He is, after all, a "son of the church." 

What both sides of this debate miss, however, is just how drastic this shift in tone is. I don't think Bill Donohue -- like much of the Catholic hierarchy -- has the self-awareness to realize how hateful he sounds most of the time. And I don't know if Becker is considering fully the potential power of compassion.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., said Francis’ comments amount to a “new dawn” for the Catholic Church.

“Pope Francis’ words and example have opened up new opportunities for the Catholic Church to welcome and dialogue with LGBT people,” DeBernardo said. “His words will give courage and hope to thousands of pastoral ministers and Catholic faithful who have been doing this work for many decades, but who have often received penalties and discouragements from church leaders who did not share this pope’s broad vision.”

What the uproar over the pope's most publicized comments reflects more than anything is how out of alignment with Christ's core teachings the Catholic Church has been. As I wrote here, there is something horribly wrong when a pope's announcement that he won't judge people is seen as a radical departure.

What I found even more striking than his more tolerant focus was his introspection, self-examination, and humility. This excellent analysis by John Reese puts some of these statements in the context of Jesuit principles. But you don't have to be a Jesuit, or even a Catholic, to see that this pope strikes a very different posture than his predecessors. When he describes himself as a "sinner" it doesn't sound like lip-service to an ideal -- mainly because he goes on to discuss some of his transgressions in very frank terms.

In the interview, Pope Francis explains why he was labeled a conservative by many Jesuits in Latin America. He confesses it was his own fault.

In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest ... I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself.

My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.

This method of learning from one's mistakes is very Ignatian and reflects how imbued Francis is by the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola as experienced in his Spiritual Exercises. Pope Francis may sometimes look like a Franciscan, but he always thinks like a Jesuit.

That kind of humility is something the Church hierarchy has been unable to muster -- even as the sex abuse crisis makes its sins nakedly apparent. Pope Francis's articulation of personal responsibility marks a sharp departure from that Hierophant energy that has been so reflexive whenever Church officials have been challenged by the press, concerned clergy, and their own flock. Pope Francis seems unwilling to float above the fray in the rarefied air of spiritual superiority. He'd rather live in modest surroundings and wash all the wrong kinds of feet. And he seems to be really serious about putting the needs of the poor above the comfort of the priesthood.

There are still open questions about how this very different communication style will translate into meaningful action and an eyebrow raising track-record. Pope Francis has remained in lockstep with some of the most regressive decisions of his predecessors -- the crackdown on those uppity nuns, for instance. But he sure has changed the conversation.


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Sep 20, 2013

The Unbreakable Woman in Red




For anyone with an interest in Warren Jeffs and his FLDS, this Dateline episode is must viewing. Rebecca Musser -- former wife of Rulon Jeffs, witness for the prosecution against Warren Jeffs, and red wearing apostate -- has written a book. The Witness Wore Red tells the story of her life before and after breaking from the church she grew up in. Musser was instrumental in putting Warren Jeffs behind bars and this Dateline episode gives a fairly thorough overview of the long process of bringing this unrepentant pedophile to justice. The whole show is in the embed above and can also be viewed here. Some of it is hard to take. The "desecrated" temple with its sacred, holy beds is every bit as creepy as other well-hidden rape rooms Jeffs has constructed.

Musser is one brave woman, risking hell-fire and damnation to free herself from total domination by dirty old men of God. One can't help but marvel at the strength of women like Musser, her sister, and other apostates, who have not only found their voices but used them to put a far too powerful sex offender in prison.

In other news, the FLDS empire continues to crumble. The Alta Academy, where Warren Jeffs raped children and taught such unassailable facts as how the moon landing was faked because God would never allow such a thing, is slated for demolition. Good riddance.


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Sep 19, 2013

Natural News Notices That TED's Dead



"Allow me to be the first to announce that TED is dead," says Mike Adams of Natural News. But Mr. Adams is a little late to the funeral, having only just noticed TED's "bad science" letter of December 7, 2012, previously discussed here. Natural News has observed that among the many areas of inquiry proscribed from the TED brand is any health topic not sanctioned by mainstream science, aka. pharmaceutical and chemical companies.

In that letter, TED says that people who talk about GMOs are engaged in "pseudoscience." Those who discuss the healing potential of foods are spreading "health hoaxes."

The letter also advises TEDx organizers to, "reject bad science, pseudoscience and health hoaxes," meaning anyone who talks about GMOs, "food as medicine" or similar topics.

Natural News overstates TED's policy guidelines. The letter does not say these subjects are banned outright. What it says is that these topic areas are "red flags" that should alert TEDx event planners to likely "health hoaxes" and other "pseudo-science."

That letter sets a bar that few natural health advocates are likely to meet. As stated, not even Einstein's groundbreaking work would have met TED's criteria.

TED has also let TEDx organizers know what it finds distasteful with this letter -- and what could put their affiliation on the chopping block. What organizer would want to test those limits by hosting a "red flag" topic, no matter how well-sourced? TED has made it very clear with its high profile actions against Graham Hancock, Rupert Sheldrake, and TEDx Hollywood that they will silence speakers and pull sponsorship without reasonable notice and without explanation. I repeat: without explanation. Note that Chris Anderson has never bothered to justify the decision to quarantine Hancock's and Sheldrake's talks even when directly asked to do so. What TEDx organizer would want to risk having their fate quietly decided in TED's star chamber?

There is no question that last December's letter and TED's subsequent actions can only have a chilling effect on anything but its nice, corporate-friendly, mainstream science -- no matter how poorly sourced, blatantly incorrect, or incredibly dull.


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Sep 14, 2013

Television and the Quest for Immortality


Torchwood: Miracle Day begins tonight
Sept. 14 at 9:00 pm EDT on BBC America


I've not been doing much writing lately... obviously. I'm still settling in after our most recent move. But, on my breaks from unpacking boxes, I've mostly been staring at that other box... the idiot box. It was supposed to be passive, relaxing entertainment -- a restorative after long, hard days of hating the entire process of moving.  Instead, I've once again been pulled down a rabbit hole into a network of intertwining symbolism and myth. I pretty quickly noticed that a theme was emerging and that the theme was immortality.

I finally had the opportunity to see Torchwood: Miracle Day when it came on Encore. I'd been wanting to see it since it came out but I don't have or want Starz. The previous Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth was excellent if very, very disturbing. I had wanted to write about some of the symbolism of that series when it aired but after I watched the final episode, I was just too emotionally wrecked and I never wanted to look at the series again. Miracle Day is also very dark. The mythic symbolism is, once again, so veiled, you could easily miss it.

Human immortality is suddenly, inexplicably achieved and the world discovers that it's really very inconvenient. This is not a good version of immortality. It's not an ascension of any kind. It's just an inability to die no matter how sick, old, injured, or executed one might be. But underneath all the gruesome dreariness of that Torchwood sensibility, there are subtle points to some greater themes, which keep this from being pedestrian science fiction of the "wouldn't it be weird if" variety.

As Doctor Who fans know, Jack Harkness's immortality is an aberration -- a fluke that the Doctor finds disturbing and wrong and against the natural order. But there are subtle nods to a deeper mythos. In Children of Earth, for instance, Jack is killed, dismembered and buried in cement, only to be reassembled and resurrected. He has become Osiris. In Miracle Day we again see him playing out a resurrection mythology as he is effectively crucified -- hung by his arms, tormented by townspeople, and put to death, only to rise again... and again and again.

As the plot of Miracle Day unfolds we learn that there is some serious corruption underlying the management of this crisis of undeadness and that this corruption may even point to the architects of the phenomenon. A pharmaceutical company called PhiCorp seems to have the inside track and it's poised to make a killing on deathlessness.




The symbol on PhiCorp's logo is revealed to symbolize a kind of physical, geographically located axis mundi which has been identified by this shadowy group of megalomaniacs and from which much on the planet can be controlled. Unaddressed is that the symbol indicates much more than that. It's the Greek symbol for phi. PhiCorp. Get it? The phi ratio is also known as the Golden Mean, the Divine Proportion, and is sometimes even called God's Equation. It is the most irreconcilable of irrational numbers, stretching out into eternity.





And it is woven repeatedly into the fabric of organic life.

Phi is also laid out graphically in the symbol of the pentacle.

Of all symmetric geometric shapes, none represent so concisely the principles of PHI than the pentacle or five pointed star within a circle. This is probably so because the ratio of PHI is first derived from the square root of five. Using a compass, draw a circle with five points spaced at exactly 72 degree apart with the first point at the top. Connect the points at 144 degree intervals with straight lines. Notice that both numbers 5 and 144 occur in the first twelve terms of the Fibonacci series.

So I found it kind of interesting that the pentacle figured rather prominently in the movie Elysium, which I saw in the theater days after finishing Miracle Day. I wasn't far into the movie before I'd noticed that it was the same storyline. An affluent elite masters life extending technology -- machines that cure any disease or injury in seconds -- as it exploits the rest of the world's population. That elite live on Elysium and Elysium is a giant pentacle... and a circumpunct... for good measure.




The name Elysium comes from Greek mythology.

The Elysian Fields were, according to Homer, located on the western edge of the Earth by the stream of Okeanos.[1] In the time of the Greek oral poet Hesiod, Elysium would also be known as the Fortunate Isles or the Isles (or Islands) of the Blessed, located in the western ocean at the end of the earth.[1][7][8] The Isles of the Blessed would be reduced to a single island by the Thebean poet Pindar, describing it as having shady parks, with residents indulging their athletic and musical pastimes.[1][2]

Similarly, the afterworld known as the Egyptian Duat or Tuat is also referred to as the beautiful West. It is also symbolized by a star in a circle.




My journey into circumpuncts and immortality deepened when I stumbled into the cult hit Pushing Daisies, which I'd only ever caught in bits and pieces before. I can't believe I was missing this show. It's amazingly brilliant -- brilliantly acted, brilliantly written, brilliantly designed. The improbable narrative involves a man who has known since childhood that he can bring the dead back to life with a single touch. A second touch and they are dead forever. It is also drenched in visual symbolism of the alchemical variety. Were it not a candy-colored, hyper-real, fairy tale of a show the endless repetition of sacred symbols might seem heavy handed. Instead, it's just luscious.

Central to this show about a man with a gift for raising the dead is an endless stream of circles and circumpuncts. Ned is first and foremost a maker of very circular pies.




Ned owns a charming eatery called The Pie Hole, "as in shut your..." But the name could also be read as a pie with a hole in the center forming a circumpunct. The geometric patterns on his pies vary but at least some of them are circumpuncts. In a scene set in his boarding school, a young Ned makes pies for the other children, and all of them are circumpuncts.




As the boys devour the pies in a spontaneous late night celebration, the camera moves from pies and pie holes to the wormhole of one child's saxaphone.




In another boarding school vignette, Ned plays with marbles in a circumpunct with a border that looks an awful lot like pie crust.




But a marble bounces out of the circle and hits the glass cases freeing a python and a rabbit resulting in the obvious. It would be difficult to miss the kundalini symbolism.




The serpenty imagery also expresses subtly through the aunts of Ned's childhood sweetheart Chuck (Charlotte Charles) whom he has also resurrected after her murder. Lily (divinity and immortality) and Vivian (alive) Charles were the Darling Mermaid Darlings. Mermaids are connected to serpent and kundalini mythology. Note the resemblance to double-tailed images of Melusine and the stargate opening up behind them.




The aunts' house like every other location is a study in circular portals.




Even the windows are marvelous replicas of one of Ned's circumpunct pies cut into neat slices.




The aunts also have an affinity for keeping the dead lifelike with the bizarre funerary rite of taxidermy -- birds, mostly. This includes a prominently placed peacock. Again, this tableau would be downright heavy-handed if it weren't a perfectly dressed set, overwhelming the senses with Victorian-style clutter. Vivian is wearing lilies. Lily is wearing circumpuncts on her sweater, her flower necklace, and her eye patch. ("If thine eye be single..")




The peacock also represents the activated pineal gland with its tail full of open eyes. This classic symbolism is on vivid display in, of all places, the Vatican's Pine Cone Court.




I may be mistaken but it looks to me like every detail of Pushing Daisies is thought about and brilliantly executed to reinforce the idea of alchemical transformation and transcendence of death.

Even the tertiary character of Olive represents immortality. The olive tree is an evergreen and for all intents and purposes immortal. Thus did Jesus Christ ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives.

The heavens themselves are graphically depicted over and over again with brilliant blue and fluffy, white clouds. For me it brings to mind the "Apotheosis of George Washington" in the Capitol dome.




If the circumpunct imagery here:




There:




And everywhere:




Fails to convince you that this is an alchemical story of union and resurrection, bear in mind that one of the uses of that symbol is gold -- like the gold our young lovers find inside the ceramic (mud) monkeys (less evolved humans) that Chuck unwittingly died for.




From the sublime and prematurely canceled Pushing Daisies, I moved on to the somewhat ridiculous Netflix series Hemlock Grove. Panned by critics and all but buried on the Netflix site, I found it kind of by accident. And I love it. Well, to be fair, I love/hate it because it's so incredibly bad/good.

I guess it should come as no surprise that a Twilightesque show about werewolves and other supernatural creatures would raise the specter of immortality. Hemlock Grove looks, on the surface, like a thoroughly predictable teen-targeted horror romance. But it throws a few curve balls and makes itself far more interesting than one might expect. For starters, the show's vampire themes pull from different lore. These are upyrs. They go about easily in sunlight, they have children the normal way, and they crave not only blood but raw flesh.

The primary upyr, played by the inimitable Famke Janssen, is called Olivia. (olive tree) So right off we have a clue to her immortality even though it is not immediately apparent that she's an upyr. In fact this is a bit of a spoiler because we don't know for sure what she is until the season finale. We do get that she's not quite human and horribly creepy from the first episode.

Janssen has taken a real pasting from critics and viewers alike for her dialect work. It's a simply horrible British accent. But I'm not sure people are giving her enough credit. I've heard her do some really subtle, beautiful dialect work in the past. She's not American. She's Dutch. And she speaks multiple languages. I think her atrocious dialect is an acting choice and is another clue to Olivia's bizarre and hidden history. She's merely posing as British to hide her long, convoluted life story and the accent sounds exactly as phony and pretentious as she is. It is also a conglomeration of dialects she's picked up through her many, many years. The result is a weird mix of badly meshing and not well concealed dialectical history. In fairness to her critics, though, it's bad enough to be distracting.

Buy at Art.com


What struck me, though, was the very subtle allusions to the Melusine myth. It's about the only thing in the show that is subtle which makes it even more interesting. Olivia is Melusine. It's revealed in the little details, like her appearance in a mermaid gown, complete with what looks like seaweed clinging to her shoulders




One of her children is extremely deformed and the other isn't quite right either, although he's physically handsome.


 


She has an affinity for marrying and building family wealth. There is an air of royalty about her. And she is associated with the building of a great tower. The so called White Tower imposes itself on the entire little town.




When we finally learn her origin story, we find that she was born with a vestigial tail, since removed. Immediately after this flashback scene we see her in a gown with a tail-like train.




There are multiple references to dragons. At one point she tells her son Roman that he is a dragon, one assumes by inheritance. Unbeknownst to him he has been making nocturnal journeys on wings.




All of this seems to very deliberately point to Melusine lore, which, itself, combines elements of mermaid, siren, and dragon mythology. Melusine is a serpent goddess. She builds towers which means she raises kundalini up the spine. And deep in the White Tower is a project called ouroboros. And the ouroboros is popping up everyhwere in people's dreams, waking visions, and cheap trinkets.




The slightly mad scientist who is developing the ouroboros project is experimenting with life itself and apparently raised our poor, deformed Shelley from the dead. The name is an obvious allusion to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. She's about 7 feet tall with mismatched parts and mummy wraps on her hands so it's kind of hard to miss. But she's very sweet and smart and gives off an iridescent glow when she's happy. Like her literary forebear she's a tragic character and the result of arrogantly playing in God's domain.

That said Hemlock Grove hints again at alchemical and kundalini mythology as it reveals the mythological mystery behind Olivia's secret identity.




I also watched The Secret of Kells when I was having trouble sleeping one night. This is not so much about immortality but it is filled with blatant kundalini mythology and the rich fairy lore of Ireland that merged with Christianity in works like, well, the Book of Kells.

The movie doesn't skimp on third eye imagery starting right off with goose quills that look an awful lot like peacock feathers.




It openly states that the visionary monk who began the great work of illuminated manuscript at Iona had a third eye.




That third eye -- the Eye of Collum-Cille -- was won from the monster Crom Cruach. But when the greatest living illuminator Aiden of Iona comes to Kells to escape the advancing Norsemen he finds that the eye has been lost and loses all hope of completing the manuscript.

But our hero, young Brendan, has had a vision of the eye while wandering in the forest looking for ink berries. He'd gotten too close to one of the dwelling places of Crom Cruach.




Brendan sets out to do battle with Crom Cruach and win another eye so that he and his new mentor can finish the book. This he does and it would be hard to miss the imagery. He goes deep into the earth to wrestle with a giant serpent that then devours itself like an ouroboros as he gains a new third eye.




The story is deeply supernatural and overtly Pagan as the young monk is aided by a forest sprite of some kind and a shapeshifting cat.

It is also replete with more circumpunct imagery than could be easily catalogued. It's in nearly every frame but I thought the circumpunct labyrinth with  the obelisk-like tower in the middle was particularly interesting.







I found it even more interesting when I saw this little oddity in the news the next day.




No one seems to know what this little "mystery tower" is.

A mysterious structure which has appeared in the Peruvian Amazon - and appears to be a spire surrounded by a white picket fence - is baffling scientists.

The first of the structures was spotted just months ago on June 7, by Troy Alexander, a graduate student at Georgia Tech.

He discovered the bizarre formation on the bottom of some blue tarpaulin close to the Tambopata Research Center, in southeastern Peru.




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Sep 11, 2013

William Henry on 9/11




William Henry has been talking about the symbolism of the World Trade Center Memorial architecture for some time. Above, in the player, is a video blog he did in 2011 which lays the groundwork for his new interview with Mark Gray; also in the player. In it they discuss, among other things, the startling connection between the new architectural vision for Ground Zero and it's relationship Mecca. And, no, it has nothing to do with the radical Islamists who apparently leveled the original towers.

Meanwhile, coincidence?




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James Ray: Felon


James Ray Sports Guru-do Upon Release


James Arthur Ray will remain a convicted felon. Arizona's Court of Appeals has granted Ray's request of last week to drop his appeal. It appears that he weighed an attempt at clearing the conviction from his record against the very real possibility of being convicted again in any potential retrial and facing more than the paltry sentence he's already served. He's opted not to risk his recently gained freedom from incarceration.

In documents filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals Thursday, Ray, 55, signed an affidavit stating that he wishes to "avoid any possibility of a retrial and a resentencing."


Had he not dropped the appeal, oral arguments would have begun today. He would have also faced a cross-appeal from the State claiming, among other things, that the jury should have been informed of Ray's duty to act when participants were in distress.

Tom Kelly is unhappy with Ray's decision to let the matter drop.

His local attorney during the trial, Tom Kelly, said he was less than pleased with his former client's decision to abort the appeal. He said he met with Ray, who has remained in the Phoenix area pending the end of his parole, earlier this week.

"I was disappointed with his decision and I believe justice requires a resolution of the points raised on appeal," Kelly said.

But since it appears that Kelly's passion for "justice" does not include his continued representation of the harmonically destitute Ray, who cares.


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Sep 9, 2013

The Holy War Against Pop Culture Pagans



A trio of pretty, karate trained teens are battling demons around the world. Charmed? No. Worse. Brynne Larson, Tess Scherkenback, and Savannah Scherkenback are evangelical Christian exorcists who have been touring impoverished mining towns in Ukraine armed with nothing but crosses, holy water... and Larson's preacher father. Their efforts at saving these lost souls from the tortures of hell have received mixed reviews... from the director of their documentary.

[Charlet] Duboc said: ‘The way they come across on camera is just the way they were when we turned off the camera, they never stopped the vacant smiling,’ the British film-maker said.

They weren’t horrid, they weren’t unpleasant, they were just a bit creepy. It was a bit like talking to the Stepford Wives, I was like “where are the humans behind this?”’

The girls will be taking their glazed expressions and vapid smiles to the heart of the dragon, which is to say Potterworld, which is to say London. Someone has to protect unwitting entertainment seekers from demonic possession!

The threesome, from Arizona, believe the spells in J.K. Rowling's best-selling fantasy series are real, and dangerous.

In fact, they see Britain as a hotbed of occult activity whose origins go back to pagan times.

Savannah explains: 'It has been centuries in the making, but I believe it came to a pinnacle with the Harry Potter books.'

'The spells you are reading about are not made up,' adds Tess. 'They are real and come from witchcraft.'

Well, no. The Potter series is actually based on Western Alchemy, but why quibble.




Meanwhile, Methodist minister Keith Cressman is keeping his battle against idolatry closer to home -- Oklahoma, to be precise. It would appear that the state has graced its official license plate with the image of a the "Sacred Rain Arrow." The sculpture on which it is based depicts an Chiricahua warrior shooting an arrow into the sky to make it rain.

Said Cressman, through an attorney, putting such a plate on his car makes him a "mobile billboard" for a pagan religion. Despite his insistence to the contrary, it seems pretty clear that he holds Native American "religion, culture, or belief" in a fair bit of contempt. That, however, is his right, so I'm not really sure which side of this debate bothers me more -- Cressman's fear of the unholy savages who lived in Oklahoma first or the State's trivialization and cooptation of Native practices by reducing them to a logo.

Oklahoma no doubt meant this to be a way of honoring its large -- and largely discriminated against -- Native American population. But by putting an image of an Apache ritual on a state issued plate, they're effectively saying that those beliefs are not a religion. Would they put a an image of the Eucharist on a license plate? I'm betting not -- not even those Oklahomans who don't believe in separation of church and state.

“(T)he case presents legal issues of freedom of speech and religion that I feel are important for all Americans of all religious, non-religious and ethnic backgrounds,” Cressman wrote.

“The case may help define personal liberties and freedoms protected by the Constitution of the United States.”

. . .

Hemant Mehta, author and board member for the humanist-based Foundation Beyond Belief, wrote of the ruling:

“If this image goes too far, then surely a cross or other religious symbol can’t be allowed on a license plate, either. A devout Christian may have done a huge favor to all of us who support church/state separation.”

Okay, I've picked a side.




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