Busted Halo contributors examine the spiritual themes of your favorite movies. Join us for a unique look at the intersection of faith and Hollywood.
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June 11th, 2013
“Danger is real. Fear is a choice.” Plastered everywhere on posters bearing the faces of the father-son duo Will and Jaden Smith, this phrase casts an ominous tone over their latest film After Earth. Yet while the tagline may initially seem foreboding, promising some “real danger” in the film, its second half also sends an uplifting message that rings just as true throughout the movie: “fear is a choice.”
After Earth is the tale of Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), a young cadet-in-training, and the father in whose footsteps he aspires to follow, General Cypher Raige (Will Smith). A thousand years after humanity’s destruction of Earth because of disrespect for the environment and mistreatment of resources, Cypher and Kitai are among the human population settled on a distant planet called Nova Prime, locked in combat with alien life forms that prey on humanity and can literally smell fear (through the pheromones that people secrete when frightened). The only two survivors of a spaceship crash that strands them on a post-apocalyptic Earth, Cypher and Kitai must develop their relationship (as Cypher was absent through much of Kitai’s life because of his military status), learn to trust in each other, and put fear …
June 3rd, 2013
Swollen Feet and the Kingdom of God
Last Friday, amidst early morning preparations to get The Dude (i.e. our 5-year-old son who, to this point, has been known to Convert-sation readers as Sassy McSasspants) ready for preschool, it occurred to me that I couldn’t tie my shoes.
OK. That’s not completely accurate. It occurred to me that tying my shoes would involve balancing my enormously pregnant self against the footboard of the bed and hoisting my legs onto the bookshelf all while making a series of loud and unbecoming noises. I glanced at my sandals knowing full well that succumbing to their beaded and completely impractical siren song would cause my feet to swell beyond recognition. I glanced at my sleeping husband knowing full well that this was the first day off the hardest working man in theology (which is kind of like being the hardest working man in show business … you know, except with significantly less sweating and significantly more Latin) had been able to take in months.
So I woke him up.
To his credit, he was not cranky. He tied my shoes just the way I like, gave me a kiss on the belly, and cuddled back up to our 2-year-old and …
May 31st, 2013
Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms in a scene from the movie “The Hangover Part III.” CNS photo/Warner Bros.)
Love and marriage loom large in the Hangover series. After all, the core premise of these films is to jokingly illustrate the confusion that follows a night of drinking and partying, particularly a bachelor party, the typical wild night before the wedding for the groom. The original Hangover showed us the Las Vegas bachelor party of Doug (Justin Bartha) and the struggles that it caused his friends as they tried to find him in time to get married. The Hangover Part II followed a similar vein, depicting a bachelor party gone awry in Thailand for Stu (Ed Helms), and the wild search for his brother-in-law-to-be in the foreign city of Bangkok. However, for The Hangover Part III, gone are the bachelor parties, and gone are the half-remembered drunken escapades to be figured out. Instead, we get a funeral, an intervention, and a promise to fix parts of the lifestyle that led to the extreme events of the first two movies.
The Hangover Part III is surprisingly … mature. Not “mature” in the way that some people use the word as …
May 30th, 2013
Given recent violence, does the death penalty make sense?
People protest outside Georgia Capitol in support of death-row inmate Troy Davis before his Sept. 21, 2011 execution. (CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)
I was talking to a friend last week when I asked, “You’re opposed to the death penalty right?” It was less of an inquiry than a way to transition to the next portion of our conversation. After all, she is in her 20s, Catholic, a Democrat, and more to the left of many issues than me. I began to tell the story I had in mind without really considering her answer when she interrupted me.
“Oh, not necessarily,” she said. “In some cases, I’m against it, sure, but sometimes it just seems fair.”
I was taken aback, surprised really. I decided to ask some more friends over the next few days. Again, almost all were in their 20s, shared a generally liberal outlook on politics, and were from faith traditions that oppose capital punishment. And yet, in nearly every instance, I heard the same answer: they were against seeking the death penalty in some cases, but they found it justified in others.
Earlier this month, Maryland abolished the death penalty through legislative action, joining 17 other states …
May 29th, 2013
It’s a very tiny book. It’s so small, in fact, that twice I went to the library to check it out, twice the library computers said it was there, and twice neither I nor the librarians could find it. ”It’s a small book,” they told me. ”This has happened before…”
On the third try I did indeed get myself a copy. A small book, with a small title. Three words, one syllable each: Help, Thanks, Wow. Author Anne Lamott subtitles it “The Three Essential Prayers.”
“This is a good one,” the librarian told me. “You’ll be reading it and then something just hits you.” I took her word for it and slipped the thin book into my purse.
I love simple, and Anne Lamott has done just that. She doesn’t profess to “know it all” about prayer. But she’s been on her own spiritual search for a while — having documented her journey in numerous books. In all her seeking, she’s learned a few things and I’m happy she’s decided to jot them down for the rest of us to ponder. In this book, she’s boiled prayer down to three one-word essentials.
I reflected on how I use (or don’t …
May 28th, 2013
Pope Francis reminds us that Christ’s sacrifice is not just for Catholics
Atheists and nonbelievers gather for the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Tyrone Turner courtesy of Religion News Service)
It’s often that religious people adopt a “holier than thou” attitude that professes that they have all the answers and that their particular religion is the wing nut that holds God together for the rest of the planet. (“If they’d only join OUR religion, all would be well with the world.”)
And while I’m sure that Pope Francis would hope that most people would in fact, see the beauty of Catholicism, last week he reminded all of us that “doing good” surpasses any affirmation of a particular faith tradition:
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if …
May 23rd, 2013
As reforms begin at the Vatican Bank, more officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, Pope Francis has also taken on global, personal, and spiritual financial matters in his papacy. Last week while speaking to new Vatican ambassadors he highlighted that “the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences… People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way.”
Reflecting on the economies of the world, Pope Francis pointed out that some exist simply to make money without adequate consideration for the rising number of people living in poverty in our midst. The idea that economic growth is the answer to everything is a theory that the pope hopes to debunk. He noted:
“The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.
The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption.”
Nearly two-thirds …
May 19th, 2013
A Convert’s Guide to Celebrating Pentecost … Today and Every Day
A scene from Pentecost at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Montauk, New York. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
It will always be Pentecost in the church,
provided the church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit
shine forth from her countenance.
When the church ceases to let her strength
rest on the power from above –
which Christ promised her
and which he gave her on that day –
and when the church leans rather on the weak forces
of the power or wealth of this earth,
then the church ceases to be newsworthy.
The church will be fair to see,
attractive in every age,
as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her
and she reflects that Spirit
through her communities,
through her pastors,
through her very life.
May 14, 1978
Archbishop Oscar Romero from “The Violence of Love”
The Church is alive. We — you and me and all of us who dare to call Jesus “Lord” — are the living Body of Christ on earth. We are the hands of Christ reaching out to comfort, to heal, to feed, to sacrifice for those in bondage. We are the feet …
May 14th, 2013
Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan star in a scene from the movie The Great Gatsby. (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)
The Great Gatsby has been touted as many things: one of the contenders for the title of “The Great American Novel,” a flash game, and now, a summer blockbuster. But for all the things that The Great Gatsby has been, a good example certainly is not one of them. The way that the story’s characters embrace the wild lifestyle of the 1920s seems almost like a “how not to” guide for living your life. In fact, there’s a character or situation in Gatsby for practically all of the seven deadly sins that humanity is to avoid. Let’s take a look at some of those sins, the characters and actions behind them, and what we can do to avoid falling into the same snares in our own lives.
One of the basic facts about Jay Gatsby is that he throws amazing parties at his house every weekend. Alcohol flows, dancing abounds, and people aren’t even invited — they just show up. These partygoers, it would seem, exhibit the sin of gluttony, in that they eat and drink and dance and party to …
May 9th, 2013
This past weekend, Marvel’s Iron Man 3 opened in theaters, earning $175 million in the United States. The story focuses on Tony Stark’s struggle to deal with the events of last year’s The Avengers as well as the new threat posed by a terrorist called the Mandarin (played by Sir Ben Kingsley). Yet below the standard hero vs. villain standoff we’ve come to expect of a summer blockbuster, Iron Man 3 offers a glimpse at not only the psyche of a superhero, but also at a core challenge that we face all too frequently in life: How can we reconcile redemption and revenge?
There are several paths of atonement and vengeance showcased throughout the film, all centered around the “demons” Tony Stark claims to have created for himself. Chief among the demons seeking their own form of justice against Stark are Aldritch Killian, a scientist whose offer of a research partnership Tony turned down coldly, and the Mandarin, who incites attack after attack on the U.S. government for reasons also tied to Stark (which I will here leave ambiguous in order to remain spoiler-free).
Initially Tony Stark is not overly concerned with the Mandarin (or Killian, for that matter), preoccupied …
May 6th, 2013
Thoughts on abortion in light of the Kermit Gosnell trial
Women’s Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia.
(This post includes some graphic details from a current criminal case. It’s a bit heavier than what I usually write about for Convert-sation … but I think it’s important.)
Let’s engage in a thought experiment.
Picture two men. Both have been convicted of a crime they did not commit. They are innocent. Can you imagine them?
The first man is stripped naked. Amidst shouts and jeers, he is dragged into a public square. An angry mob surrounds him and he is caught in a terrible and unceasing deluge of stones and bricks. After an hour, his body lies broken, bloody, and lifeless. The crowd disperses. His body is thrown into a shallow, unmarked grave. He has been executed.
The second man is given a new pair of denim pants and a new blue work shirt. He meets with a licensed physician to receive a comprehensive medical exam, to give a complete medical history, and to hear an explanation of the medical procedure involved in a lethal injection. He receives a final meal of his choosing. He is offered a Valium. He is led to a sterile chamber and strapped to a gurney. A …
May 2nd, 2013
A fan holds a sign during a Boston Bruins hockey game after the marathon bombings. (CNS photo/Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters)
Tomorrow marks two weeks since law enforcement officials captured suspect number two, cowering in a boat, hidden by a tarp, and bleeding from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his neck. The night prior, the suspect’s older brother was killed in a firefight with police. With the suspects identified, captured, and in custody, Bostonians and Americans breathed a sigh of relief. The terror, anxiety, and fear that had consumed so many began to subside.
The reaction over the past two weeks has run the gamut and has touched on a number of seemingly divergent issues.
Boston’s Archbishop, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, told reporters that forgiveness is essential:
“Forgiveness does not mean that we do not realize the heinousness of the crime. But in our own hearts when we are unable to forgive we make ourselves a victim of our own hatred.”
But Elad Nehorai, a Hasidic Jew writing at the Huffington Post, said that forgiveness is the prerogative only of those who were directly victimized by the suspects:
For those that think that we should forgive: that’s not your place. You know who …
April 30th, 2013
Recently, the Vatican tweeted an article entitled “Holy Switcheroo! Batman has grown bitter, more vengeful with the years.” In it, Adam Shaw discusses the increasing darkness of the character since Bob Kane and Bill Finger created him in 1939. While the Vatican has stated that the tweet was an accident, the article nonetheless remains on the Vatican Communications website and Twitter feed. It also begs the question — in the growing darkness that surrounds Batman in all media (from TV and movies to video games and comic books) is there any room for light?
The short answer, of course, is yes. Otherwise, this article would’ve been called “Batman Dances With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight” instead of “The Not-So Dark Knight.” Still, what does the Bat have to do with the Catholic Church? Let’s take a look at Bruce Wayne’s alter ego in each medium, and see how he stacks up to the Church’s teachings.
Here at Busted Halo® we’ve already discussed Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, but one movie does not a character’s history make. Since the superhero’s debut, Batman has been the focus of at least eight feature films, as …
April 29th, 2013
Thoughts on mindfulness in the wake of tragedy
I hate washing dishes. H-A-T-E.
About two weeks ago, our dishwasher made a horrid gasping, gurgling sound and ceased to work. I cursed, begged, and prayed. I may have kicked it (read: I did kick it … mercilessly, I’m afraid … while my children looked on in silent bemusement. Parenting fail.). I sent the extraordinarily handy moral theologian to the hardware store for a star-shaped Allen wrench. He took it apart. He put it back together. It was a lost cause.
For the few days between the untimely incapacitation of our dishwasher and the next available service call from our local appliance repair guy, the dishes required hand washing. I know there are probably a billion people who do this every day. I know — in the grand scheme of all tasks domestic and menial –hand washing a few days’ worth of dishes is hardly the end of the world. I’m not sure why I find this task so utterly loathsome … but, in the interest of keeping it real, I must confess that I do. I really do.
Whilst scrubbing my umpteenth tiny plastic cup, I remembered something I had read for a class at seminary. Thich Nhat Hanh, …
April 18th, 2013
Weighing in on the Busted Halo Office Clean-Up Challenge with some tips for Fr. Dave, Fr. Steve, and everyone joining in at home
(Click for larger image)
It’s spring! Well, on the calendar at least. No matter the temperature, many are feeling their spirits lighten. We’re waking up from winter hibernation. We’re stretching tall, rubbing our eyes and looking around to see: a big mess.
What are all those papers piled around the room? What’s all that stuff sticking out of the drawers? We’d like to open the closet to pull out our spring clothes, but are scared to open the door for fear of what might fall out. The feeling of lightness starts to fade. The weight of having too much stuff pushes down on us.
But have no fear. There are people out there who actually take great joy in helping others in just this situation. Lucky for you, I’m one of them. And lucky for all of us, Fr. Dave and Fr. Steve are taking on the Busted Halo Office Clean-up Challenge and have asked me to give them — and you — some tips on getting started.
Decluttering versus organizing. Many people think, “I want to get organized,” and the first thing they do is go out and buy “stuff” to help them start: containers, closet organizers, baskets. They …
April 16th, 2013
Turning to prayer after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon
A woman prays at the site of explosions at the Boston Marathon.
There is a certain sadness in the air.
The typical euphoria of Patriot’s Day in Boston seemed to have dissolved into the crisp afternoon air and cheers turned into cries and suddenly running 26.2 miles meant everything and nothing. Fifteen years ago I jogged the final five miles of the Boston Marathon with my parish pastor cheering him as he cramped up and supporting him with throngs of well wishers on the sidewalks. Trotting down the home stretch on Boylston Street is collective sensory joy in motion. As a young teenager, it was a thrill to be in downtown Boston on this most special day and a tradition I continued while a student at Boston College and beyond.
Yesterday, I was not at the finish line. I was out sick last week and couldn’t manage to take off the following Monday. So, atypical to a traditional Patriot’s Day, I went to work. More like, I endured work. Sitting in my office restlessly, I was exactly 3.5 miles away from Copley Square; roughly a 30-minute bike ride to a sea of protective silver capes and 27-minutes via the Boston …
April 10th, 2013
Longing for a simpler, less cluttered life? The Camino taught me a few tricks for making "simple living" a reality.
Our new pope decided he preferred a two-room suite to the 12-room apartment his predecessors have occupied since the early 1900s. He cited reasons of simplicity and community. Simplicity is making news, but it’s not a new concept. Jesus inspired his followers to leave everything behind and, “Come, follow me.” But I don’t think Peter walked away from a 4,000-square-foot home with full closets. Are you inspired by Pope Francis’ choice? Or just looking for a way to bring a little more simplicity to your life?
Americans are living in a time of great abundance. “Oh! But look at the economy!” some say. I don’t mean financially. I mean when it comes to buying material goods. Anything we think we may want is available to us, 24/7, every day of the year, and delivered to our door thanks to the Internet. No money? No problem. The Internet takes credit cards.
Last year, I spent 37 days walking the Camino de Santiago through Northern Spain. When I told people along the pilgrimage that I taught classes on decluttering, pilgrims from other countries couldn’t believe that people actually needed such classes. Some societies are not nearly so consuming as ours. One of …
April 4th, 2013
Thoughts on the Octave of Easter
[+] Click image or here to view larger version.
The tomb is empty. The stone has been rolled away. Jesus is not there. A vacant grave in the dim light of morning. This is the height and summit of the story of Jesus the Nazorean.
Except it’s not.
This year’s Easter reading from the Gospel of John gives us the account of a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene seeking the tomb of her Rabbi, Master and friend. It is early. The sun has yet to rise. She finds the tomb empty and — with anguish and horror — runs to tell the disciples that someone has taken the body of her Lord. This Jesus (her Jesus), who was all mercy, all truth, all gentle and fierce and holy power, must he suffer the indignity of being stolen in the night? Was not the pain and humiliation of the cross enough? Where have they taken him? Simon Peter and John tear through the quiet streets of Jerusalem and arrive at the tomb. It is just as Mary has reported. Empty. They are left with questions and vague hope.
Jesus did not come to give us vague hope. The empty tomb is not the …
April 4th, 2013
An artist’s rendering shows the U.S. Supreme Court in session for oral arguments in a case challenging California’s Prop 8. (CNS photo/Art Lien, Reuters)
Notice a proliferation of red on Facebook last week?
Many of your friends, and perhaps you yourself, may have changed their profile pictures to a red equals sign, showing their support for same-sex marriage as the Supreme Court heard arguments in two pivotal cases. Tuesday, the justices listened to arguments surrounding California’s law that banned same-sex marriage there, known as Prop 8. The next day, they heard arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Clinton-era law known as the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where they are legal. A woman whose partner had died, resulting in a staggering estate tax bill of $362,000 that a heterosexual couple would not have been charged, brought the case to the court.
What struck me about the Facebook campaign was the diversity of my friends who changed their profile pics that day. Of course, my younger liberal friends showed support, but even my more center-right, orthodox Catholic friends got in on the action. I suppose I shouldn’t have been …
April 3rd, 2013
It’s the best time of the year — no, I’m not referring to springtime or Easter Season, but perhaps a time even (blasphemously) better and more anticipated in my opinion: BASEBALL SEASON!
Regardless of Punxsutawney Phil and his fickle foreshadowing, baseball is now upon us and a ripe new schedule of pregnant anticipation is born unto us the faithful fans. Each year, it is a goal of mine to attend at least two to three games. Not just to watch them on TV or check the scores incessantly on the Internet, but actually shelling out anywhere from $15 to $150 a ticket for the privilege to hear the crack of a bat and smell freshly cut turf around a mound of dirt and seeds and spit.
And so, sunshine or drizzle, regardless of where my seat is — and even if the game is a blowout or my hot dog is cold — I am always happy to be at a game for one particular reason. It is a relishing of a moment often experienced with relish. It is an ephemeral action that figuratively burns bright then passes by in the blink of an eye. It is …