Tag Archives: Religion

The Luther Paradox

Or the story that finally breaks my writing drought after three months.

I was sitting in my History of Christian Churches classes last year, learning about the Reformation, when a story idea came to me. What if Martin Luther had been prevented from posting his 95 Thesis? What if there was a time travel element – if the person who stopped Luther was from the future… if he was a time traveling mercenary?  I played with the first draft during National Novel Writing Month in November and got to about 20,000 words before I realized my story wasn’t going anywhere plot wise. I had focused far too much on my protagonist, giving him a back story that was quickly turning him into a Mary Sue character. There is a reason why I never bothered posting anything I wrote back then.

I decided to reboot my own story and start again, playing around with the plot until I picked a starting point that would just jump right in. I don’t want to give too much away in case of spoilers but I’m hoping to weave a tale that combines religion – the Catholic Church specifically – and Time Travel.

Finally writing again after the summer drought feels good, but my confidence is shaky (actually, that’s nothing new). I have decided to post the first two thousand words for feedback.

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Another Year Another Christmas

Time is hurtling by faster than ever.

Already I have to start thinking about Christmas. Last year I wrote how I was conflicted over the holiday.  And this year I think I still am, but not nearly to the extent I was last year. I’m more at peace celebrating the many different Christmases all on the same day than I was last year.

But I still wrote about the holiday in my last column for the Chronicle.

For one holiday it can be too materialistic (why else do we have Black Friday), too religious (How can Jesus be the reason for the season, he wasn’t born on 12/25) and yet too secular all at the same time (“okay if you’re putting up a nativity scene we want to see a Menorah and Santa and some Kwanzaa candles while you’re at it”, and saying Happy Holidays) . The holiday has been claimed by the Christians as theirs to own, yet many of the traditions, like the Christmas Tree, Yule log, and gift giving, come from Pre-Christian times or pagan societies. Even the idea of the birth of the savior was co-opted from many pagan’s worship of the rebirth of their sun god.

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Religious Tolerance?

Or lack thereof? Taking a look at how tolerant America is of other religious in light of the proposed Qur’an burning down in FL. Published in my school newspaper.

America is a country of freedoms. So many freedoms that we have to prioritize them. Take the First Amendment as an example: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”James Madison placed the clauses about religion before the speech clause- does that mean that the freedom of religion is valued more than the freedom of speech? Or is freedom of religion valued the least and is the most easily infringed upon than the other freedoms?

Click the link above to read the rest!

Also: while forming a structured argument for this column, I left out a factoid, that didn’t really flow well with the rest of the column, however it is pretty astounding. Pastor Jones was so out there, that even SARAH PALIN tweeted against his idea. “Koran Burning Is Insensitive, Unnecessary; Pastor Jones, Please Stand Down”

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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

I heard about this newest book from Philip Pullman (Author of His Dark Materials) during a homily. The priest at the English Speaking Mission spent most of his homily talking about this new book. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ offers a retelling of the New Testament stories with a twist: Mary gives birth to twins, one named Jesus and the other nicknamed Christ.

Of course because the Catholic Church views Philip Pullman with such disdain because he’s proud atheist, the priest didn’t view the book very highly. I think the Church feels threatened by the works of Pullman (and The Da Vinci  Code by Dan Brown) so they feel obligated to put these works down and attack them. The thing they fail to see though, is they are works of fiction. If it’s a story, should it matter that it’s anti-religion? If it’s a work of fiction, why should one get offended at the contents. Yes I am aware that there’s slander and libel offenses, but can you really use those charges once you enter the world of literature and fiction? What the reader gets out of the book can be entirely different from what the author intended. I know that’s a staple of poetry, but I think it can also be applied to fiction and even some nonfiction.

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Harvard’s Religion Problem

In Pinker’s view, human progress is an evolution away from superstition, witchcraft, and idol worship—that is, religion—and toward something like a Scandinavian austerity and secularism.

“I very, very, very much do not want to go on the record as suggesting that people should not know about religion,” he told me. “But reason and faith are not yin and yang. Faith is a phenomenon. Reason is what the university should be in the business of fostering.”

A university education is our greatest weapon in the battle against our natural stupidity, he said in a recent speech. “We don’t kill virgins on an altar, because we know that it would not, in fact, propitiate an angry god and alleviate misfortune on earth.”

~Steven Pinker, a Harvard University Professor of Evolutionary Psychology

All quotes were taken from a Newsweek Article, entitled “Harvard’s Crisis of Faith”

Background: In 2006, a few faculty members tried to get a requirement for students to take a class in an umbrella group called “Faith and Reason” There would have been religion classes, but also others as well. Yet Steven Pinker lead the charge to shoot down the proposal.

Currently Harvard has no professors who teach solely religion classes, in a solely religion department.  There are classes that study religion, but are taught by Anthropology professors or other departments. As a result the classes are listed in different places in the catalog. Students who express interest in religion are pointed in the direction of the Divinity School.

It irked me to read that this professor equated religion with superstition and sacrifices. It’s like he grouped everything associated with religion – the good, the bad and the in-between – and dismissed religion because of the bad. Like throwing the baby out with the stale bath water…

Personally, I disagree with Pinker’s generalizations (that’s what I’m calling his logic!)  I know we can study religion academically, I’ve done it twice and once was with my own religion.  I would recommend it to students, but I know just recommendations aren’t going to get the kids into the classrooms. Harvard really should require its students take some sort of class that would satisfy the faith and reason category.

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Conflicted over Christmas?

This comes up every year.

For one thing, how do I, as a practicing Catholic, greet people during the holiday season? I get the feeling that “Happy Holidays” sells Christmas short. So this year, I’ve been mainly wishing people a Merry Christmas, with the understanding that although they may not be celebrating the religious aspect of the holiday, odds are they’re celebrating the secular side. (Unless they are Jewish, which would mean they wouldn’t appreciate it at all.) For the most part the ‘experiment’ has gone well, but I think a few people have given pause or not wished me a Merry Christmas back. And that’s okay with me.
— I have to wonder if they have the same problems in other parts of the world. Like in the United Kingdom, specifically in England, I know they wish people a “Happy Christmas” —

Every year, I become increasingly aware of the dichotomy of Christmas. There’s the religious side as Christians everywhere are celebrating the birthday of their Savior’s birth to varying degrees of fervency. I notice that my church always feels the most packed during Christmas and Easter Masses, because of all the ‘Christmas and Easter’ Catholics come out of the woodwork.

Then there’s the secular side. Retailers want us to go into a shopping frenzy to buy gifts for EVERYONE we know. I usually am pretty broke come Christmas and most years I haven’t gotten my family anything. Sometimes I do though. This year and last year I’ve gotten my Parents and my brother clothing that they need, long sleeve shirts mostly. And I remember one year I got my mother and grandmother kitchen accessories

And I know Jesus wasn’t born on or around Decemb.er 25th. It doesn’t make sense for shepherds to be out in the fields tending to their flocks overnight in winter. I know that there was already several Pagan holidays and traditions revolving around the Winter Solstice and the Church moved the birthday to fit into those celebrations. The Yule Log, The Christmas Tree, all came from the Pagan side.

When A Charlie Brown Christmas came out during the 60s, there was already a sharp increase in commercialism and the secularization of the Holiday. In fact many of Charlie Brown’s friends are obssesded with gifts and giving Santa a long list. Charlie Brown himself feels depressed because he can’t find the true meaning of Christmas. Linus says he knows and then quotes The Gospel of Luke:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

People may not believe in the religious side of Christmas, but most still believe in the common good of men (and women) and peace on earth. That is perhaps, the real meaning of Christmas.

And so, I wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS, but also I hope you find comfort and joy and good tidings this weekend with your family and others you enjoy spending time with.

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Religion Class Part II

For Thursday’s religion class we needed to read Andrew Sullivan’s column from 2003 about leaving his Church.

There were a lot of emotions in the class, but unfortunately we only really discussed the article for about a half hour. We had 3 presentations and had to do class evaluations as well.   I was not the only one who was shocked, angry or depressed after reading the column. Mr. Sullivan was unable to reconcile being gay and going to Church after his parish asked a gay couple to leave the choir when they went to Canada to get a marriage license and had a newspaper article written about it. This couple had been members of the choir for over 25 years. It brought up the way Vatican has handled gays over the past few years. Pope John Paul II met with the man who tried to kill him, but he wouldn’t meet with openly gay Catholics.

I really sympathized with Andrew because I could feel his anger and pain. I could imagine that going  from attending mass weekly at the same parish for your whole life (Andrew says 40 years…) to being unable to enter a church because of all the anger would be very painful. I wouldn’t be able to handle not going to church because of the strong connections I’ve made.

But the biggest question that reading the column brought up for me was whether you are denying part of yourself when you sit in the pews and are gay. I think your sexuality is between you and God. Period. God knows what you do and who you like, but God loves everyone equally (and probably couldn’t care less about your love life…)  But I’m reminded of what happens with a Bishop finds out when a politician voted Pro-Choice. He’s denied Communion, asked not to participate in mass. I can only imagine what would happen if those same bishops who would deny Communion to people who voted for Pro-Choice politicians found out there were gay Catholics in their diocese.

Gay Catholics are out there. There’s an organization called Dignity USA that celebrates all LGBT Catholics. I looked at the Boston chapter and learned they worship in an Episcopalian church. They don’t receive any support or resources from the Boston Archdiocese.

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