Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Attention So Called "Atheists"

As I've posted before, I find "atheism" an irrational concept, especially since those that wear it's badge  claim  they do so because of "reason."

A few days ago on my Moral Premise blog I wrote about Jessica Hagy's INDEXED project, where she uses index cards to symbolize mathematical concepts with Venn Diagrams and Graphs. Occasionally she produces a Venn diagram or graph that touches eloquently on the conflict of values that we use in creating stories, which is what the Moral Premise book is all about. One of her examples is here:

If you search through Ms. Hagy's work on INDEXED, you'll find some diagrams that suggest her religious faith in God or His benevolence has passed through a serious trial and has not been properly explained or redeemed. She's confused about some things. Mathematics is a wonderful discipline, but it still does not answer (as science does not) the "why" of the human condition.   As I posted in the footnote to my other posting:
I call all atheists "wannabes" because logically they have no rational basis for declaring there is no God. To do so, they would have to be omniscient... an attribute assigned to the essence that knows all things perfectly without error or contradiction. You can't claim something does not exist when your knowledge of the universe and reality is microscopically small. I'll accept agnostic, but not declarations. Every human discipline offers only a spec of knowledge of what is potentially possible. Science and theology are no exceptions to this. Some of what was known as universal truth by science 100 years ago, today is bunk... and the thousands of Protestant Christian faiths that all disagree with each other suggests a similar uneasiness. I'm Catholic for a host of reasons, not the least of which the Church does not claim to have all the answers. It has always embraced mystery as a tenet. That there is mystery in the universe/reality,  is what makes stories, in part, work. We are bounded by time and space. Stories working through our imagination allows us to see reality from a perspective that transcends space and time. 
 I wrote that on May 20, and sent the link to Ms. Hagy. Today, May 25, she posted this:

Bless her seeking soul.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

12 Reasons Why the Wedding of William and Catherine is a Metaphor of Gratuitous Virtue

My statistical and informal research over the years has shown a strong correlation between the size of mass audiences and the truth of the program's embed moral premise. While most of what I do involves motion picture analysis (c.f. the same findings apply to live television events, news programs, and any other kind of mass communication.

The N.Y. Times estimated that 2.5 BILLION  people worldwide tuned-in to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince William Arthur Philip Louis and commoner Catherine Middleton. Nielsen said that only 23.7 million Americans got up early to watch. Counting those of us who watched the Internet videos of the event (CNN has a good HD Five Part Video series), that number will be higher. If you'll allow me the correlation to make a point, the 2.5 billion viewers relates to a one-day box office total of $7.5 billion, at only $3/ticket. (The U.S. average theater ticket is closer to $8 each.) Let me repeat: That's the equivalent of $7.5 Billion at the box office "in one day." Hollywood and the NFL have met their match. 

According to Nielsen Wire: "Broadcast of Super Bowl XLV on FOX had an average audience of 111 million viewers, surpassing last year’s Super Bowl, and thereby breaking the record, yet again, for the most watched television program of all time in the U.S."

AVATAR (2009) is the recent king of box office has a $2 billion worldwide box office grip as the highest grossing film of all time (but measured over many months). At a $3 per ticket price that's 667 million seats, 27% of the one day wedding estimate.

Comparing these numbers directly is unfair. But hopefully my point is obvious. With such a large -- no, make the HUGE audience there had to have been something phenomenally morally true regarding it. Only something true, good, and beautiful attracts number like that.

Thus, the various pundits who mocked Kate and William's Royal Wedding as a waste of time and money on egos and national pride are frankly focusing way too much on the hair sprouting from their noses. Yeah, rating jealously is no doubt part of the problem. For as smart as the pundits claim to be, especially conservative "Christian" pundits like Bill O'Reilly  and Glenn Beck, they totally miss the massive positive moral kick the Christian wedding demonstrated to the plethora of cultures and societies around the world.  This was Christian P.R. unmatched by even Billy Graham and John Paul II.

Many will dismiss the wedding and the pomp because they are distracted by what they see are morally objectionable factors: (a) William and Catherine were living together (and supposedly fornicating) before the wedding; (b) Elton John and his gay partner were invited and sitting in the Abbey in clear shot of a television camera; (c) Westminister Abbey, now, is not a church structure but a chapel used for the Royals; thus it's not a Christian community; (d) The Archbishop of Canterbury (Roland Williams), the Anglican bishop that has refused to discipline homosexual priests and bishops under this purview, presided; and (e) The whole affair was Anglican, i.e. The Church of England under the head of the Queen, not the Pope or someone like the Pope, but a monarch, who is still practicing the political rebellion of Henry VIII. 

...all of that does not negate the manner of presentation, the words that were spoken, or the purpose of the entire event. The audience was not present or watching on television to celebrate fornication, homosexuality, Anglicanism, or even the Queen's headship of the Church of England. The audience was there to celebrate a Christian Wedding. That a Christian Wedding occurred in the midst of such disclaimers, and that most of the people watching were not-Christian but from a multitude of other religious beliefs, was astounding.

No, the media didn't cover the wedding because it was Christian. They covered it because of the pomp and the personages involved.  The reason people watched, however, is because they subliminally understand that a Christian Marriage is the most truthful reflection of how we are designed to live together as a human community. The presentation of William and Catherine's wedding properly presents the glory and glamor of Christian Marriage -- especially among cultures and societies (America included) that otherwise dismisses Christianity or marriage. 

The reasons the wedding was so popular was that it properly communicated (metaphorically and literally) the goodness, the beauty, the truth, the pomp, and the glory of Christian Marriage. Here are my reasons why that is true.

The "Lord Jesus Christ" was invoked many times in word, symbol, and visuals. 

"God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost" was invoked many times in prayers, in blessings, invocations, gestures, and hymns.

The entire service was Christian in context, location, pattern, words, vestments, gestures, and by title of those that led the service. It wasn't the Queen that pronounced them man and wife, nor a justice of the peace, but the Archbishop of Canterbury.  And importantly the service began with these words:
Dearly Beloved; we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the face of this congregation to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony -- which is an honorable estate, instituted by God Himself, signifying to us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His church....
Look at the picture above. It's a metaphor for Christ and his Church in all its glory. And the world looks on.

...defined, pronounced, blessed and invoked. How many pastors would love to have Elton John and his gay partner sit through a sermon on the true meaning and definition of Christian Marriage? Well, I doubt that any could do it under normal circumstances. But it happened during William and Catherine's wedding.

Catherine was walked down the aisle by her father who stood by her side during the entire ceremony until the couple was wed.

Everything about the event, its preparation, its execution, the behavior of the crowds, the police, and especially the attendants, relatives, bridesmaid, footmen, honor guards, butlers, et al was a perfect role model of dignified, patient, and courteous behavior. The British set the benchmark for the rest of us about the importance of good manners. 

The large number of ring-bearers and flower girls celebrated the importance of children in a marriage. And the photo (below) is hopefully a omen that the marriage will be fertile. Especially noteworthy is the prayer in the middle of the service for the couple's fertility and off-spring. That may be a hold-over for kings needing heirs. But it has significant meaning in any Christian marriage.

 (Is that Henry VIII in the background with his face obscured by the chandelier? These official pictures were taken in the throne room.)

Matthew 25 speaks of the anticipation and preparation that is necessary for the glorious return of Christ to claim his spotless bride. The emphasis is on the preparation of the virgins and the bride to be ready and beautiful for the ceremony of being wed with Christ. I'm not extending the metaphor literally to William and  Catherine, but certainly the anticipation and the preparations for their wedding metaphors how Christians need to anticipate and prepare for the Church's wedding with Christ.  And the results will be even more glorious than William and Catherine's wedding -- if that's possible.

This point bears another. Look at the picture above of Catherine and her beautiful dress. Please note that the attention in most of the pictures of the wedding, including the television coverage, like the picture above, is on the BRIDE. Yes, the Royal power is with the future King, William. She's but a commoner. But it's the spotless, beauty of the bride that we all yearn to see and celebrate. That is the proper metaphor for Christ and Us, His church, His bride. We strive as a people to be as beautiful in our relationship to Christ, as Catherine is in the photo above.  

Cleaning the Westminster Icon Prior to the Wedding
For Catholics Mary is the queen of heaven. Yes, Mary was first a commoner like Catherine. But like Catherine, Mary is honored for her beauty and she is brought into the 'Royal' family. She is the perfect human creation of her Son. It is because of her Son that we pay attention to her... much as it's because of William that we pay attention to Catherine, the future Queen. Thus, Mary, through Christ, is made Queen of heaven.

Our Lady of Czestochowa
Early in the ceremony I caught glimpses of two icon paintings attached to rear pillars of the Abbey. They face the rear as people enter. The one on the right appears to be an icon of St. Joseph. The one on the left is unmistakeably a representation of the famous Polish icon Our Lady Czestochowa (The Black Madonna). 
[As it turns out I have been informed that the two icons by the Russian painter Sergei Federov, are of the Virgin 'Hodegitria' ('She who points the Way'), and Christ 'Pantocrator' (the All-Ruling Lord'). The resemblance to Czestochowa may be only because all such icons look similar to me.]

Not much attention was paid to this painting, usually in the background, UNTIL, at the end of the service the orchestra played and the congregation sang the British National Anthem, GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.  The words are supposed to be about the Queen of England, or King as it may be from time to time. But the words also apply to the Queen of Heaven, Mary, metaphorically and literally, all three verses do this. And the television director understood that. Watch the broadcast videos. At the moment they begin to sing the words GOD SAVE OUR GRACIOUS QUEEN...  the camera, on a tall crane, at the back of the Abbey adroitly and very purposely moves in close on Our Lady of Czestochowa until the icon nearly fills the screen. Only at the end of the song does another camera zoom in on Queen Elizabeth, who properly is the only one in the room not singing. But the emphasis on Mary must of been exciting for the Polish Cathoilcs that were watching. 

In Catholic thinking, as it should be in all Christian thinking, there is something important called authority. Protestants largely ignore this aspect of the Gospel. But indeed there is a hierarchy in heaven and it's reflected here on Earth as well. Christ and the writers of the Epistles remind us to honor and pray for those in authority over us, and to obey their bidding as long as it is morally licit, even to the point of carrying a cloak an extra mile. The day's events surrounding William and Kate's wedding reeked of authority, from the Queen to the footmen, from the cross bearers to the Archbishop, from the men and boy's singers and orchestra to their conductors, from the crowds of people to the unarmed police who held them at bay and marched them forward in peace. Because of this respect for authority the day was an orderly, happy, beautiful occasion.  On this wedding day, the world watched and saw the goodness, the truth, and the beauty that can come when people respect and obey proper authority with dignity. Take note, world. (And in writing that I'm including world leaders who are not proper or respectful of their citizens.)

The wedding of William and Catherine demonstrated to the world the splendidness of marriage and civilization when things are done properly, with honor, dignity, and in order, for the right reasons in the pursuit of what is good, true, and beautiful. Indeed, I think, the whole world should take a lesson from the British in this. 

[I can't help but note, in the juxtaposition of history, of the difference between the palace that the Royals LIVE in, and the so called "mansion" that OBL DIED in. Compare the pictures some time, which should tell the world that there's a vast difference between Western Christian civilization and the anarchy of the Mid-Easter Islamic radicalism. It's not a matter of oppression. It's a matter of respecting and following natural law. Imagine the size of the the pride or deception that ignores the obvious and embraces the lie.]

The wedding of William and Catherine revealed that there is a gratuitousness that is good —Christian family values. It was on full display Friday, April 29, 2011. Indeed!


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