Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 12/30/17

Pope Francis used his “holiday” messages to chide his “rebellious” conservative Catholic opponents and to propagate his social gospel.

This is a very interesting article on the decline of the Catholic church in America. I can still remember pre-Vatican II militant Catholicism when bishops were widely revered as powerful princes.

Catholic entities are organizing these “pub theology” gatherings as an attempt to lure young people back to the church.

The deep political involvement of some evangelicals, including their strong support of Donald Trump and controversial conservative politicians like Roy Moore, is at odds with the teaching that Christians are to be ambassadors of their Lord and His Kingdom rather than deeply rooted citizens of this world. Young people are turned off to the Gospel because of this Falwellesque symbiosis of church and state.

This is an interesting article on how the prosperity gospel is quite at home within the Trump White House.

It’s the end of the year so we’re naturally seeing all kinds of Top Ten lists for 2017. Trying to determine a Top Ten list of news stories covered in Weekend Roundups this past year would require too much work on my part, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the #1 news story of 2017 was the mounting crisis within the Catholic church over pope Francis’ lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees. This is an untenable situation in which an increasing number of conservative Catholics consider their pope to be a heretic.

After my own very recent “Star Wars” escapade (see here), I couldn’t resist this satirical piece from the Babylon Bee.

Right on cue, the Babylon Bee presents their satirical list of the Top Ten Christian Books of 2017. What? Two satirical pieces from the Babylon Bee in one roundup? Yes, the news wires are  relatively quiet during the “holidays.”

Thanks for following the Weekend Roundup throughout 2017! Could 2018 be the year of our Lord’s return? Let’s get busy, brethren and sistren! Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Beware the rabbit hole: Mary’s “immaculate conception” and Catholicism’s other man-made traditions

This morning, I was listening to the 12/22/17 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, WLOF – Our Lady of Fatima, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY) and moderator, Mike Denz, and priest-host, Dave Baker, were discussing Mary. It was Mary this and Mary that. Don’t get me wrong, Mary is an example to us of a faithful servant of the Lord, but she was also a sinner saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and she would be grief stricken if she were aware of Catholicism’s idolatrous worship (aka “veneration”) of her.

Scripture actually has relatively little to say about Mary (she is not mentioned in the last 170 chapters of the New Testament), so Catholic Mariolaters had to extrapolate their extensive Marian dogmas from thin air in order to justify her elevation to semi-deitifical status. The rationalization often used was, “Since God could and should have done such and such in regards to Mary, then it MUST have happened.” With this type of pushing-a-square-peg-through-a-round-hole thinking, such non-Biblical dogmas as the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary were concocted.

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a foundational truth of Christianity. From Scripture, we learn that man’s sin nature is passed down through the human father (see here), but Jesus’s virgin birth uniquely circumvented the transmission of the sin nature to Him. Jesus was conceived without sin within Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Without any Biblical warrant, Mariolaters claim that Mary MUST also have been born without sin, since she was the vessel that bore the sinless Christ. That is un-Scriptural nonsense. Jesus had close relationships with many people during His thirty-three years in Palestine, but His close, physical proximity to them did not require that any of them be sinless as He was. In contrast, God’s Word states several times that there is not a single person who is without sin, no, not even one (see here). No exception is made. Not for Mary, not for Joseph, not for John the Baptist, or anyone else (some Catholic dreamers even go a step further and postulate that Joseph and John the Baptist were also conceived without sin, like Mary).

But let’s follow this anti-Biblical claim of Mary’s sinlessness to its fallacious conclusion. Catholics assert that Mary’s parents were named Anna and Joachim, although there is no Scriptural or verifiable proof of that outside of fanciful post-Biblical traditions. But if Catholics are going to claim that Mary HAD to be sinless because she was the chosen vessel of Jesus Christ, then they must carry their argument to its logical extension. If Mary was conceived without sin, then it follows that Mary’s mother, who Catholics call Anna, was also conceived without sin, since she was the vessel of “sinless” Mary. And if Anna was conceived without sin, then her nameless mother must also have been conceived without sin since she was the vessel of Anna. And likewise Anna’s grandmother, her great grandmother, her great-great grandmother, and deeper and deeper we go down this bottomless rabbit hole!

Christians stand upon God’s Word and the Gospel of salvation by Gods’ grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Catholicism’s traditions and false gospel of sacramental grace and merit are one dangerous rabbit hole after another. Stand on God’s Word alone. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” – Luke 11:27-28

List: The Nineteen Films of Elia Kazan with Reviews

Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of rewatching and reviewing all nineteen films of one of America’s most influential directors, Elia Kazan (1909-2003). Whew! That was a fun as well as challenging project. Thanks to all of you who accompanied me on this “journey.” Below is a handy listing of all of Kazan’s movies and links to my reviews.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
A hopeful young girl grows up in a poor family racked by alcoholism.

The Sea of Grass (1947)
A tyrannical rancher withstands the onslaught of homesteaders.

Boomerang (1947)
An honest DA must fight the temptation of an easy conviction.

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
A journalist discovers anti-Semitism permeates American society.

Pinky (1949)
A bi-racial nurse confronts bigotry in her small corner of world.

Panic in the Streets (1950)
A medical examiner has only hours to stem a city-wide epidemic.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
A harrowing game of cat and mouse as a Southern belle descends into madness.

Viva Zapata! (1952)
The politically oppressed must resist the temptation of becoming the oppressors.

Man on a Tightrope (1953)
This Red Scare propaganda piece was Kazan’s penance for having been a member of the American Communist Party.

On the Waterfront (1954)
Longshoremen rebel against their corrupt union and Kazan defends his HUAC testimony.

East of Eden (1955)
Two very dissimilar sons compete for their father’s affections.

Baby Doll (1956)
Everyone’s seeking justice in this Southern black comedy.

A Face in the Crowd (1957)
A “ne’er do well” transforms into a populist Pied Piper.

Wild River (1960)
An elderly matron stands up to the federal bureaucratic steamroller.

Splendor in the Grass (1961)
Young love disintegrates under family pressures.

America America (1963)
Kazan retraces his uncle’s journey to America.

The Arrangement (1969)
A successful but frustrated advertising executive tries to find happiness.

The Visitors (1972)
The horrors of the Vietnam War come home to America.

The Last Tycoon (1976)
A cutthroat movie studio executive meets his match.

Kazan’s fade to black

The Last Tycoon
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Robert De Niro, Ingrid Boulting, Robert Mitchum, Theresa Russell, and Jack Nicholson
Paramount, 1976, 123 minutes

Film producer, Sam Spiegel, tapped successful playwright, Harold Pinter, and director, Mike Nichols, to bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel, “The Last Tycoon,” to the screen. When Nichols bailed on the project, Spiegel desperately turned to his “On the Waterfront” director, Elia Kazan. “The Last Tycoon” would be Kazan’s last film.


Monroe Stahr (De Niro) is the ruthless, arrogant, production executive at a major film studio in 1930s-era Hollywood. He’s so successful he routinely flouts the studio president, Pat Brady (Mitchum). When an earthquake causes a flood on the lot, Stahr spots Kathleen Moore (Boulting) clinging to a massive floating movie prop; the head of the Hindu god, Shiva, and instantly falls in love with this young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife. Brady’s daughter, Cecilia (Russell), has a schoolgirl crush on Stahr, but he only has eyes for Kathleen.  A relationship ensues, but Kathleen attempts to break it off by leaving a note stating she’s engaged. Stahr won’t take no for an answer and pursues the enigmatic Kathleen at the expense of his studio responsibilities. When Kathleen telegrams him that she married her fiancé, Stahr is crushed. He attempts to vent his anger and frustration in a meeting with a union organizer (Nicholson), but succumbs to a forceful right hook. While Cecilia consoles the physically and emotionally battered Stahr, Brady and the studio board smell blood. Stahr is dismissed and takes one final, lonely walk through the lot.


F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished, last novel was inspired by MGM’s legendary, golden-boy producer, Irving Thalberg. Sixty-seven-year-old Kazan had not directed a film in four years, but he accepted Spiegel’s offer to direct “The Last Tycoon” mainly as an opportunity to move from New York to California so that his terminally-ill mother could escape the bitterness of another New York winter. Unlike his previous film projects, Kazan had no input into the script. There is very little about this movie that distinguishes it as a Kazan film.

There’s none better than De Niro in portraying a mafia goon, but he’s out of his league playing the sharp-as-a-tack Stahr, who must deftly orchestrate ten or twenty film projects in his head nineteen hours a day. De Niro lost forty-pounds in preparation for the role of the sickly executive. Boulting is so detached in her performance she simply can’t muster any interest from the audience. One of the few bright spots in this movie is Theresa Russell in her film debut. A number of screen notables make appearances including Tony Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Ray Milland, Dana Andrews, John Carradine, Anjelica Huston, and the legendary French film actress, Jeanne Moreau.

“The Last Tycoon” is a paper-thin story that generates little audience interest. While there are a few decent performances, it’s not enough to save this clunker. Kazan wrote later that he immediately knew he had a dog on his hands the day of the first private screening. Unfortunately, the great director finished his film career on this sour note.

There are no extras with the DVD.

Additional thoughts from a believer

Like the character, Monroe Stahr, and his inspiration, Irving Thalberg, Elia Kazan had also been one of the entertainment industry’s wunderkind “golden boys.” In the 1940s and 1950s, no other American director could rival Kazan’s combined standing in Hollywood and Broadway. But as Kazan became increasingly involved in autobiographical projects in the 1960s, audiences lost interest and his star began to descend. Kazan would finish his life writing novels for an ever-dwindling readership. He died in 2003.

Kazan’s rise and fall is another reminder to us that life without Christ is unfulfilling and ultimately, deadly. Kazan achieved great career success and was the toast of both coasts, but was also haunted by his friendly testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. Atheist Kazan had remarkable insights into human beings; their strengths and especially their weaknesses. But he had no answers, only questions.


Star Wars’ quasi-spirituality: Everybody worships something.

My wife and I were blessed to have our youngest son, Steve, stay with us the last ten days. He’s an Air Force sergeant stationed down in Texas, so we only get to see him once a year. Both of our two sons are atheists, but Steve is an especially hardcore scoffer.

Our oldest son, Joe, who lives about 5 miles from us, planned a few family activities while his brother was in town, including all of us going to the movie theater this past Saturday night to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Argh!!! Some of you may think I’m a big movie buff because of my reviews of films directed by Elia Kazan, but going to the movies is actually one of the last things I want to do, ESPECIALLY to a “Star Wars” movie. Ach! I’d much rather watch paint dry on a wall than go see a “Star Wars” movie. Several times I privately shared with Steve my strong reluctance to see the movie.

So Saturday morning, my wife and I, our two sons, and oldest granddaughter had breakfast at Donuts Delite, Rochester’s legendary donut shop (see here for my review). I had the usual; a cup of joe, two giant slices of breakfast sausage pizza, and a vanilla crème-filled donut. The best! Joe then announced that he and Steve were going Christmas shopping and said to meet them at the movie theater later that evening. Argh! I definitely didn’t want to go and deliberated in my head how I was going to get out of it. The only hiccup was that my wife and I had previously asked Steve to attend church with us Sunday morning, not exactly something at the top of his hit parade. Would Steve strategically use my refusal to see “Star Wars” as an excuse for him not to go to church the next day? Yes, he certainly would. Time passed and it was getting late and I thought I might be spared “Star Wars” torture, but Joe called at 6:40PM to say he had bought tickets for the 7PM show. Ach! Double ach! But I bit the bullet and drove to the theater without voicing an audible complaint.

Once at the theater, we sat through several previews and I noticed some of the upcoming movies had a pronounced “spiritual” theme including “A Wrinkle in Time” starring New Age high priestess, Oprah Winfrey. Then came “Star Wars.” Ach, “Star Wars!” It’s a cultural phenomenon! People soak it up like religion. And it is religion for them. There’s lots of references to good versus evil and the hazy “force.” People will willingly subject themselves to every new chapter of fictional “Star Wars”-spirituality, but cannot sit still for one second under Gospel preaching. But I don’t get freaked out by “Star Wars” and its quasi-spirituality. The lost flail around trying to make sense of the Universe. The never-ending conflict between bad-guy First Order villains and the good-guy Rebels aided by the nebulous “force” appeals to them much more than the Biblical way of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The lost definitely worship at the altar of entertainment. It’s spiritual blindness. After 150 very long minutes, the final credits thankfully rolled.

Yes, Steve did attend church with us the following morning without nary a protest and he got to hear an excellent message on salvation in Christ. Thank you, Lord! Was there a crack in his hard heart? We pray the Lord continues to work in the hearts of our two boys.

Postscript: If you’re a Christian and a casual “Star Wars” fan, my apologies. I can enjoy and even cull spiritual lessons from the films of atheist director, Elia Kazan. Perhaps you can do the same with “Star Wars”?

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

Today, the vast majority of people across this nation will be gathering with family and friends to share a big meal, exchange gifts, and maybe even watch a little football or basketball on television as they celebrate Christmas together. Although the day is meant to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, most who gather won’t have much if any thoughts about Him. They have never received the free gift of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. For most, it’s just a secular holiday that revolves around seasonal decorations, food, drinks, and gift-giving. For others, Christmas is just another part of their ritualistic works religion, i.e., “We celebrate the birth of Jesus the Savior but we must merit our way to Heaven.” Huh?

As we believers and followers of Jesus Christ gather with unsaved family and friends today, let’s use this opportunity to lift up our Savior and proclaim His Good News in whatever way we can!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming into this world to pay the penalty for sin, so that those who repent of their sins and place their trust in You will have forgiveness and eternal life.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:11

Kazan’s look at Vietnam on a shoestring budget

Elia Kazan had been one of America’s most celebrated and influential film and theatrical directors in the 1940s and 50s, but by the early 1970s, after the financial failure of five of his previous six movies, he could not find backing for a new film project written by his son, Chris Kazan, which explored themes regarding the unpopular Vietnam War. Kazan opted to film “The Visitors” himself on a shoestring budget using a 16mm camera.

The Visitors
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring James Woods, Patricia Joyce, Steve Railsback, Chico Martinez, and Patrick McVey
United Artists, 1972, 88 minutes


Bill (Woods) and Martha (Joyce) and their infant child live in a Connecticut farmhouse owned by Martha’s domineering father, Western pulp fiction writer, Harry (McVey). They are not married and their relationship seems to be somewhat strained.

Two visitors, Sarge aka Mike (Railsback) and Tony (Martinez), show up at the house unexpectedly. They had served together in the same platoon with Bill in Vietnam, but Bill had testified against them at a court martial for wartime atrocities. The pair had been released due to a legal technicality after having been imprisoned for two years and had driven from Kansas to Connecticut to find Bill. The intentions of the visitors are unclear and Bill is nervous and fearful.

Harry stops by for a visit. He’s an overbearing redneck who enjoys the company of the two manly guests as much as he openly despises his daughter’s passive boyfriend.

As the night progresses, Martha learns from Bill the details of the wartime atrocity, which involved the rape and murder of a Vietnamese girl, and she angrily confronts Sarge. While she abhors him, she is also strangely attracted to his aggressive demeanor. Bill breaks things up and attacks Sarge. A fight ensues and Bill is beaten to a bloody pulp. Martha is also attacked. The visitors leave, satisfied that they have meted out justice. After Bill regains consciousness, he asks Martha if she’s all right. She just stares back at him with silent contempt.

The moral of the story: It was bad enough to see the violence of Vietnam on the television screen, but it was something altogether different when it crossed over your threshold.


Kazan stated in an interview that “The Visitors” was an “anti-war picture,” and that it was about “the price of the Vietnam War on the soul of the American people.”  While the production quality is unsurprisingly low given the budget constraints, the rising tension between the characters is palpable. Railsback’s character is especially convincing as a coiled cobra patiently waiting to strike its victim. The script was loosely based on a portion of Daniel Lang’s book, “Casualties of War” (1969), which also inspired Brian De Palma’s same-titled 1989 film.

Like the Bill character, Kazan had also testified against his friends at the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in 1952 when he named the names of former associates of the American Communist Party. While I haven’t read of Kazan having ever been physically attacked because of his testimony, he was widely ostracized by liberals on both coasts until his death in 2003.

The shoestring-budget movie was filmed at Kazan’s home and property in Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut (yes, THAT Sandy Hook where 20 elementary school children and 7 adults were massacred by a disturbed young man in 2012). It’s unique among all of Kazan’s films because of its extremely basic, no-frills production quality. “The Visitors” had an extremely limited release. Of all of Kazan’s nineteen films, “The Visitors” is the only one not on DVD, but it is available as a VHS tape and through Amazon streaming.

Additional thoughts from a believer

The United States’ protracted involvement in the Vietnam War wore down the resolve of the American people. By the time Kazan made “The Visitor” in 1972, the nation had had enough. In 1973, America ceased military operations in Vietnam. South Vietnam eventually fell to the North Vietnamese-led forces in 1975.

The First World War was proclaimed to be “the war that would end all wars.” International organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations were established to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts. But conflicts and wars continue. As the Bible says, the hearts of men are desperately wicked. Individuals have a difficult time maintaining harmonious relationships let alone nations. The only lasting peace comes through a relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.



Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 12/23/17

Conservative Catholics are becoming bolder and more aggressive in their attacks against pope Francis, but their blind fidelity to their institutional religion prevents them from suggesting schism. To order “The Dictator Pope,” see here.

It’s no secret that Catholicism’s rule of celibacy for its clergy both attracts and fosters deviancy. For almost two decades, the Vatican has talked about putting the organizational infrastructure in place to deal decisively with its pedophile priest “problem,” yet continues to blunder its way through this tragedy.

The Catholic church prescribes a long list of various indulgences to shorten time spent in fictional purgatory, either for one’s self or for deceased loved ones. But most Catholics don’t bother with this type of detailed works religiosity anymore. I’m guessing that 70%-80% of Catholics have no clue what “plenary indulgence” means.

A warning to evangelicals: The Bible speaks quite clearly against turning to Egypt for help or compromising with the Baal (Lord) religion of the Canaanites, yet many evangelicals eagerly embrace the pope and his false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

Catholicism’s celibacy rule both attracts and fosters deviancy. I was a member of the Roman Catholic church for 27 years and it was clear to me and my Catholic family and friends that a significant percentage of the priests and brothers we encountered were effeminate.

I certainly condemn all hate groups, but was there anything going on in Catholic Europe in the early 20th-century (and prior) which may have triggered fear of Catholics and Catholicism like, say, the Vatican’s condemnation of all democratic forms of government and freedom of religion? Why is that never written about?

I believe the Lord intervened to reestablish the nation of Israel in 1948. And I can’t help but feel that President Trump’s recent decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could possibly play a very significant role in future events. Palestinians feel they are getting the short end of the stick in all of this. Most everyone anticipates increasing tensions in the Middle East because of the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Why is it that the entire world revolves around a little country no larger than New Jersey?

Jesus said no one is good but God, yet Catholicism is based on the notion that people can become good enough to merit Heaven. While pope Francis has said even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their conscience, he still needs warm bodies in the pews and ca$h flowing into the offering plates to keep the institution viable.

Just one example of how conservative Catholics are mobilizing against pope Francis’ heresy

Roman Catholicism is somewhat in crisis mode with pope Francis’ abrogation of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees in his “Amoris Laetitia” document. Pragmatic Francis was obviously trying to make the church more welcoming to divorcees, but his overturning of doctrine previously held to be infallible has conservative Catholics in an uproar. They object to this pope retracting a dogmatic teaching of the church. Catholics have always boasted that their popes were incapable of leading the church into doctrinal error, but Francis has defied that foundational belief by guilefully changing an infallible dogma previously taught by infallible popes via a footnote.

Several Catholics have written to this blog attempting to portray this crisis as “no big deal,” but they belie the increasingly outspoken defiance and desperation of Francis’ conservative critics.

Today, I was listening to the 12/21/17 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY) and moderator, Steve Quebral, announced that as of January 3rd, 2018, the show would take on a new format with a new name; “The Catholic Current.” The mission of the new show is described as “to bring the power of faith and reason to the confusion of the day.” The station’s website offers even more details:

“The Catholic Current will focus on facing contemporary areas of confusion, presenting current events that manifest that confusion, and proclaiming the truth that alleviates that confusion and brings life. Our moderator, Jim Havens, and our Priest Hosts present the timeless truths of Divine Revelation in a compelling way to further form and fortify the audience in the exact areas where truth is currently under the greatest assault and to offer a model for thinking and speaking the truth in love to those who hold popular errors. We will also stay up-to-date on points of confusion expressed by our listeners (via surveys) and keep these concerns in mind, speaking to these concerns consistently and appropriately, as we address various topics.”

I realize the show won’t be limited to rebutting Francis every day, but it’s clear that the conservative, EWTN-types are mobilizing to counter the pragmatic “reforms” of the pope and his supporters. It’s amazing to watch Catholic conservatives having to scramble to counteract the heresy of a sitting pope!

Stay tuned as we watch this mounting crisis unfold.

Catholic friend, there is an unchanging Rock to place your faith and trust in and His name is Jesus Christ!