“Martyrs” or deluded victims of religious error?

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This past weekend I was watching the local news and I saw the story far below about a large group of Catholics, led by the area’s bishop, that gathered at a parish in the city to honor the memory of a priest and a nun – George Weinmann, 77, and Lilian Marie McLaughlin, 26, (pictured) – who both perished fifty years ago in February 1967 when they went into the burning church building of a former parish in the area to “rescue” communion wafers.

Yes, you read that correctly.

They died trying to “save” communion wafers.

The Catholic church teaches its priests change bread wafers into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Catholics line up at mass to consume the Jesus wafers, believing as they are taught that eating the Jesus wafer confers graces that will enable them to resist sin and merit Heaven. Priests store any leftover Jesus wafers in a locked box called a tabernacle where they are reverenced and worshipped as the physical Son of God. Weinmann and McLaughlin entered the burning church to “rescue” the Jesus wafers aka the Blessed Sacrament from the flames.

Sigh.

I’m saddened for Weinmann and McLaughlin, that they believed the bread wafers were actually Jesus and perished trying to “save” him. I’m saddened for all Roman Catholics, represented by the people who gathered together in this news story, who follow their church’s deadly misinterpretation of John 6 and the Last Supper passages in the Gospels and believe receiving Jesus means literally eating him and then try to obey the Ten Commandments to earn their salvation rather than accepting Jesus as Savior by faith and trusting in Him alone.

So sad.

Service Honors Rochester Fatal Church Fire Victims
http://www.twcnews.com/nys/rochester/news/2017/02/26/service-honors-fatal-church-fire-victims.html

Catholic calisthenics: Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel…

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The Roman Catholic mass is a mystery to most evangelicals. If an evangelical attends a Catholic church for a wedding or a funeral and a mass is performed they’ll witness many things they’re not used to.

During the mass, the Catholic priest goes through an elaborate liturgical ritual in which he prays specific prayers in a specific order and the attending Catholics respond in rote exactly as they’ve been directed. You can visit Catholics churches in twenty different countries and the ritual is exactly the same. The ultimate focus of the mass is when the priest allegedly changes bread wafers and wine into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The priest then offers up the immolated Jesus host to God the Father as a sacrifice for the sins of the congregation and anyone else who is named. The attendees then line up to receive the Jesus wafer from the priest and consume it, believing as they’ve been taught that the Jesus wafer will impart graces enabling them to avoid sin so they can merit Heaven. If the priest did not follow the prescribed liturgical formula exactly, the mass could be completely invalid.

One thing that often makes a big impression on evangelical visitors to a Catholic mass is how often the attendees are required to change their posture; from sitting to standing, to kneeling, etc. It’s all part of the elaborate ritual and is not to be deviated from. During the course of the mass the Catholic is required to assume the following postures in this order:

  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Kneel
  • Stand
  • Kneel or Stand
  • Stand
  • Sit or Kneel
  • Stand*

Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down. The slavish ritualism is striking to behold.

I was an altar boy from 5th grade through 8th grade. After having to memorize all the spoken responses in Latin, the church changed the rote prayers of the mass to English. Argh! Once I became comfortable with the routine again, one of my favorite things to do as an altar boy was to observe the mass attendees. A large percentage looked like mass was the last place they wanted to be. Catholics are told by their church that if they miss weekly mass on Sunday it’s a “mortal” sin and they’re going to hell and many of those who still bother to attend mass (only 22% of American Catholics attended obligatory weekly mass in 2016) are there strictly because of this threat.

But there were some people at mass who were very enthusiastic about the ritual and those tended to be older women. They were the first to stand, the first to kneel, and the first to sit down. They were also the first and the loudest in saying the responses. Their demeanor seemed to express to the rest of the congregation, “You poor, unpious saps need to refer to the missalette, but look at me! I’m such an outstanding religious person that I’ve got this whole thing down pat and I know it even better than father (the priest).” If a priest deviates from the ritual by even one iota, one of these self-appointed holier-than-thous will be on the phone to the bishop’s office the following day. Yes, God said even the things we do that we think are good deeds are like filthy rags in his sight.

God’s Word says there’s no need for priests and sacrifices any longer. Jesus did away with the Old Testament sacrificial system and precluded the ersatz Catholic sacrifice of the mass when He cried, “It is finished” on the cross. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and High Priest. He is the only Mediator between God and men. Accept Christ and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

*Postures and Gestures at Mass

“I might have been a commie when I was young and stupid but see, now I’m all about the red, white, and blue.”

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Man on a Tightrope
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Fredric March, Terry Moore, Gloria Grahame, and Cameron Mitchell
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1953, 105 minutes

Following his friendly testimony before the House Un-American Committee (HUAC) in 1952, director Elia Kazan’s reputation was under assault from both sides of the political spectrum. The New York and Hollywood Left were outraged that he had named names of former fellow communists while the studio heads were concerned about the moviegoing public’s reaction to the news that their leading director was an ex-Red. Fox mogul, Darryl F. Zanuck, convinced Kazan to direct “Man on a Tightrope,” to demonstrate his loyalty to his country. The film was one of several anti-communist propaganda pieces released during the height of the Red Scare. Kazan reluctantly agreed to direct the film but he made it clear in later interviews that it was definitely not one of his fondest memories.

Plot

Mild-mannered Karel Cernik (Frederic March) and his broken-down circus struggle to survive in post-war, communist-controlled Czechoslovakia. The state security apparatchiks constantly harass Cernik and the circus looking for “irregularities” and affronts to “the people.” Cernik finally has enough and secretly plots the circus’s escape to West Germany, but the situation is complicated by his wife Zama’s (Gloria Grahame) disdain for him and her very public infidelity and by his daughter Tereza’s (Terry Moore) attraction to a mysterious new roustabout, Joe Videk (Cameron Mitchell), a possible state spy. When Cernik senses the communists are close to discovering his plan, he sets things in motion and Zama suddenly has a newfound respect for her now-decisive husband. As the circus travels toward the border crossing, it’s revealed that Krofta (Richard Boone), Cernik’s foreman, is actually the state’s spy. Krofta is killed in a struggle but manages to mortally wound Cernik. The circus successfully crosses the border into West Germany with the dead messiah-figure, Cernik, in tow.

Commentary

This film is based upon the true story of the Circus Brumbach, which escaped from East Germany to Bavaria in 1950. Kazan filmed on location in West Germany and actually used Circus Brumbach for the project. Frederic March was on the blacklist because of his Far Left sympathies but Kazan used his influence to get him casted. Kazan balanced the playbill by casting the politically Far Right actor, Adolphe Menjou, as one of the lead security apparatchiks. The pairing of 55-year-old March with 30-year-old, film noir femme fatale, Grahame is a stretch. When Zama goads Cirnik into slapping her and then smiles approvingly because her husband has finally displayed some manly backbone, today’s viewer will be quite shocked. Sorry, that won’t fly today. Alex D’Arcy as the cowardly lion tamer and the object of Zama’s unrequited affections is a hoot. The romantic sub-plot involving Cam Mitchell and the constantly overwrought Terry Moore should have been left on the cutting room floor.

I like this movie a little bit more with each viewing. There’s no mistaking that it’s a Red Scare propaganda piece meant to placate audiences regarding Kazan’s loyalty but the film has some very good performances (March, Grahame, Menjou, Pat Henning, Paul Hartman) and it’s entertaining to watch how this rag tag (and I mean RAG TAG) circus manages the impossible of escaping to freedom right under the noses of the Czech communist security apparatus. Propaganda piece or not, Eastern Europeans endured unbelievably great hardship under Soviet communist rule from 1945-1989. Liberals still hate Kazan (d. 2003) as the ultimate rat fink but how were American communists and their sympathetic fellow travelers able to square their theoretical ideology with the deadly realities of Joseph Stalin and the Iron Curtain?

Trivia alert: Don’t blink or you’ll miss a cameo from Fess Parker (Davy Crockett) as one of the U.S. border guards at the end of the film.

“Man on a Tightrope” is one of three of Kazan’s nineteen films not available as a single DVD. However, it is available as one of the fifteen films in The Elia Kazan Collection box set. No commentary or any other bonus features were included.

Additional thoughts from a believer’s perspective

I thank the Lord I live in a (still) free country although individual freedoms have been gradually eroding here for quite some time. But spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ trumps political freedom every time. The world could never comprehend it but the apostle Paul, bound in Rome prior to his execution, was the spiritually free man while the Roman emperor (Nero?) was the actual prisoner – to sin. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for leading believers out of darkness to eternal life!

Weekend Roundup – News & Views – 2/25/17

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It’s been six weeks since I last posted a summary of the week’s news. I found that I was spending far too much time at it and I no longer enjoyed doing it. But I miss the process so I’m going to try it again, this time limiting myself to only ten news reports maximum per week.


This article from Al Mohler regarding the novel, “The Shack,” is from 2010 but it’s still very pertinent with the upcoming release of the film version on March 3rd. These days many evangelical Christians are so doctrinally-challenged that the heresies of “The Shack” will fly right over their heads.

We’re all hypocrites and sinners, which is why Jesus had to come into this world to die for sins. Francis has previously stated that atheists who are “good” can also merit Heaven, but doesn’t God’s Word say no one is good and that only those who accept Christ as Savior are given the gift of eternal life?

Rather than being a tragedy, the Reformation was a glorious movement led by the Holy Spirit to return the church to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through Jesus Christ alone. The Reformation continues.

Secular institutions supported by tax payers of all religious groups as well as atheists have no right to propagate the beliefs of one religious group, even if that group is in the majority. Christian parents would not want the beliefs of Muslims or Hindus or atheists or Satanists monumentalized at their childrens’ schools. Let’s spread our faith in Christ in godly ways rather than through bygone-era coercion.

The persecution of evangelicals in Southern Mexico continues. This is just a holdover from several decades ago when the Roman Catholic church in league with civil authorities routinely oppressed evangelicals throughout Latin America.

Interesting predicament. Here we have faith versus non-Christian traditions and big bucks. Christians need to think long and hard before tangling themselves up in the world.

I assumed Americans’ disposition toward evangelicals soured a bit because of the support by many for Donald Trump but this survey found that “fewer people personally know an evangelical anymore.” We’re not motivated to be liked by the world but we are motivated to befriend people and share Christ with them.

I’m looking forward to this film. The Catholic church, which claims to be led by the Holy Spirit through an infallible pope, has a deplorable history in regards to persecution of Jews. Forced baptisms, quarantines (confinement to ghettos), pogroms, and expulsions were often the rule.

What exactly is the “good news” that Catholic evangelizers offer? To attend RCIA for a year, get baptized, receive the sacraments regularly, and hope you die with no “mortal” sin on your soul at the moment of death so you can merit Heaven? That’s not “good news,” folks, that’s VERY bad news. No one can merit salvation. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

Come back to Jesus

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Remember & Return: Rekindling Your Love for the Savior
By John MacArthur
Baker Books, 2016, 208 pages

“Remember (so-and-so)? They used to be at church every time the doors were opened. Whatever happened to them?”

That’s a conversation that occurs much too often among believers. Many people accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and are initially on fire for the Lord but then something happens to cause their love for the Lord to grow cold and they drop away. Or maybe they still go through the motions but they’ve lost their zeal for the Lord. There are also some who professed Christ but never genuinely accepted Him as Savior.

In this 31-day devotional, pastor John MacArthur encourages those who have turned away from the Lord to return to Him. MacArthur provides relevant Biblical reminders of who Jesus is and all that He has done (and is doing) for the believer. Whatever caused us to turn away from Jesus can’t be blamed on Him. He never let us down.

I especially enjoyed the last three chapters which take their cue from Philippians 3:12-14 where Paul admonishes fellow Christians to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Every Sunday morning, as my wife and I drive to church ten miles away, we pass a large number of joggers and a couple of gyms with full parking lots. Those people devote themselves to hours and hours of physical training every week and a careful eating regimen in the hopes of becoming temporarily fitter and healthier and perhaps even winning a competition. But that’s all dust. We believers have a far, far greater calling! How can we be complacent? See also 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Friends, I walked away from the Lord for twenty-three years for no good reason. If you no longer have a passion for the Savior, pray to Him to restore you. Ask Him to rekindle your love for Him. If you know someone whose love for the Lord has gone cold, this short devotional could be a blessing to them.

“And rend your heart and not your garments ” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.” – Joel 2:13

I love you, Jesus!!!

Many of you know I walked away from the Lord for a very long period. But when I returnedilyj to Him three years ago, OH! to be welcomed back in His arms again! And it wasn’t so much that I returned to Him, but He had kept calling me back to Him all that time.

Shortly after my return, someone placed a white sign on the Tryon Park overpass over Interstate 590 North, which read, “I Love You, Jesus!” So every day,  half-way on my drive into work, I got to read “I Love You, Jesus.” What a way to start the day! Yes, I do love you, Jesus! For paying the penalty for my sins. For knocking on the door of my soul. For saving me and being my Shepherd, my Rock, and my High Tower. The sign came down several times and was quickly replaced but then there was an interval of about two years with no sign. Argh! But when I drove to work yesterday, there it was again; “I Love You, Jesus.” Praise the Lord! Tens of thousands of people pass under that sign everyday and I know it will convict both unbelievers and backslidden saints. Praise Jesus!

My parents weren’t mushy by any stretch. They kept their emotions pretty close to the vest. Growing up, the only time I came across “We love you” was on birthday cards. It was easy to tell my wife I loved her because romance will generally do that to you but growing up the way I did, it was hard for me to say it to anyone else, even to our two sons. I still struggle. I even struggle to say “I love you” to the Lord when I pray aloud to Him with my wife. Yes, I love you Jesus! I love You!!! Let’s hang a sign from every overpass! Lord bless the sign hangers, the literal ones and those who show their love for the Lord with their lives!

“We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” – Deuteronomy 6:5

♫ You say you want a revolution… ♫

Viva Zapata!vz
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Marlon Brando, Jean Peters, and Anthony Quinn
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1952, 113 minutes

By 1952, director Elia Kazan had achieved extraordinary artistic and commercial success on Broadway and in Hollywood. But the House Un-American Committee (HUAC) was also interested in Kazan because he had been a member of the American Communist Party from 1934-36 and his films advocated social progressivism. Perhaps in deference to increasing pressure from HUAC, Kazan made “Viva Zapata,” a salute to the revolutionary proletariat but also an indictment of Stalinism. “Viva Zapata” was released in February 1952 and Kazan was called to appear before HUAC in April when he testified as a friendly witness, naming names of fellow communists and earning the undying wrath of liberals. Kazan’s following two films, “Man On A Tightrope” (1953) and “On The Waterfront” (1954), also attacked Stalinism and attempted to justify his HUAC friendly testimony.

Plot

A group of Mexican peasants petitions right-wing dictator, President Diaz, for land reform. The patronizing Diaz notes the insolence of one particular individual, Emilio Zapata (Marlon Brando). Zapata grows in stature as a leader of the people with his spirited brother, Eufemio (Anthony Quinn), at his side. His peasant army joins in the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to overthrow Diaz and install liberal reformer Madero as president. As Zapata’s fame and influence rises he marries Josefa (Jean Peters), the daughter of a rich merchant. Impatient with the well-meaning but befuddled Madero, Zapata continues the fight for agrarian reform. Madero is felled in a coup led by General Huerta. Zapata and the the other rebel generals eventually drive Huerta into exile. Zapata is appointed president of Mexico but quickly resigns in frustration. Mexico’s new rulers, former leftist revolutionaries, hunt down Zapata, eventually killing him in an ambush. Journalist, Fernando Aguirre (Joseph Wiseman), a shadowy figure and former adviser to Zapata and the other revolutionary leaders, has a hand in Zapata’s death.

Commentary

Unfortunately, acclaimed novelist John Steinbeck’s script does not flow easily. You’ll need a scorecard to keep track of all of the politicos and los comandantes. First, the bad guy is Diaz. Then it’s Madero. Then Huerta. Then Carranza. Ay, caramba! We know from later interviews with Kazan that the Aguirre character was meant to represent unscrupulous Stalinism but the average viewer would never make that connection on their own. Zapata and his revolutionary compadres are romanticized a great deal by Kazan. The last reel is as hokey as it gets with peasants denying Zapata’s death and his white horse galloping off into the sunset. One hundred years after the Revolution, Mexico continues to struggle politically and economically. Brando, Peters, and Quinn turn in fine performances with Quinn winning a supporting Oscar. As a trivia note, Jean Peters was the second wife of the eccentric Howard Hughes. The “Viva Zapata” Blu-ray was released in 2013 but offers no commentary or special features other than the trailer.

Additional thoughts from a believer’s perspective

Perhaps the most truthful moment of this film is when Zapata has ascended to the presidency and a group of peasants present him with their grievances. Zapata angrily takes down the name of the most insolent peasant just as as Diaz had taken down his name several years before. The oppressed become the oppressors. The hearts of men are desperately wicked.

People look to their nation, government, and society for their identity and fulfillment. While God’s Word says Christians are to be law-abiding citizens so as to be a good testimony to our unbelieving neighbors, our primary citizenship is in Heaven. We are ambassadors and emissaries for our Heavenly King as we journey through this world. Real freedom and fulfillment come through rebirth and identity in Jesus Christ, not through nations, governments, political parties, or revolution.