Catholicism vs. the Bible, 101

What Every Catholic Should Know
By A.J. Gary
WestBow Press, 2015, 136 pp.

4 Stars

In the introduction to “What Every Catholic Should Know,” author A.J. Gary explains that she was raised as a Roman Catholic, but accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior by faith alone through the outreach ministry of a nearby evangelical church. She then witnessed to her family and some also professed to have trusted in Christ, including her mother. However, Gary’s mother was determined to remain in the Roman Catholic church. But how can a reborn child of God remain in a religious institution that unabashedly teaches works-righteousness and many other anti-Biblical doctrines? Gary states that she wrote this self-published book with her mother in mind and therein examines the irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity.

Gary hits upon the main doctrinal differences (see chapter headings below), including the prime doctrine of justification; how a sinner is justified/made righteous in their standing before Holy God. Catholics believe justification is a lifelong process whereby a person must avail themselves of their church’s sacraments in order to receive graces, which are alleged to enable them to become intrinsically, subjectively sanctified/holier in their thoughts and actions in order to hopefully merit salvation at the moment of their death. In contrast, Gospel Christians believe they are justified at the moment they accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and received His imputed perfect righteousness. Christians then follow the Lord in obedience as the fruit/evidence of their spiritual re-birth, albeit imperfectly.

It’s apparent that Ms. Gary does not have any formal theological training. Her arguments are quite basic. However, by comparing official Catholic teaching with Scripture, she more than adequately makes her points and draws her valid conclusions. Gary’s basic approach would actually be an asset for anyone looking for an easy-to-understand primer on the doctrinal differences between the RCC and Gospel Christianity while avoiding heavy theological jargon. One criticism I have is the brevity of her chapter on justification. It’s the shortest chapter in the book at only three pages, whereas the all-important topic deserves the lengthiest exposition. That aside, I do recommend “What Every Catholic Should Know.” Well done, sister A.J.!

You can order “What Every Catholic Should Know” at Amazon here. The price of the Kindle version is very reasonable at $3.99.

Chapters

  • Baptism
  • The Eucharist
  • Confirmation
  • Penance
  • Matrimony
  • Prayer
  • Purgatory
  • Justification
  • The Papacy
  • The Worship of Mary
  • Tradition

Devil in a Baptist Church

Devil in the Baptist Church: Bob Gray’s Unholy Trinity
By Tim Gilmore
JaxbyJax Literary Arts, 2016, 333 pp.

3 Stars

Four decades ago, the “Sword of the Lord” bi-weekly newspaper was the standard of the independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement and I was a loyal subscriber. Transcripts of Pastor Bob Gray’s sermons were regularly featured in the Sword along with a photo of Gray and his distinctive, black-rimmed glasses. Gray took over pastorship of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida in 1954. Trinity eventually became the first mega-church in Florida and one of the largest churches in America with a membership of approximately 6000. The fiery Gray was considered one of the preeminent leaders of the IFB.

Above: A photo of “Pastor” Bob Gray, an image very familiar to the readers of the Sword of the Lord forty years ago.

But rumors began spreading of Gray’s sexual abuse of children at Trinity. In the early-1980s, Gray was secretly sent to the Narramore Christian Foundation in Arcadia, California for counseling. He returned back to Trinity and the abuse continued. In 1992, Gray was allowed to…or rather encouraged to resign the pastorate and take the role of Trinity’s missionary to faraway Germany. Thirteen years later, in 2005, Gray returned to the United States, but was arrested the following year on charges of sexual abuse of multiple children. Eighty-one-year-old Bob Gray died in jail in November 2007 while awaiting trial.

Former Trinity member, Tim Gilmore, wrote this self-published exposé. To say the book is amateurishly written and that Gilmore has an ax to grind against Christianity would be understatements, however the information is important. The IFB culture of pastoral authoritarianism and arrogance, and the total lack of any pastoral oversight afforded a creep like Gray to run roughshod for almost forty years. The church’s “leadership” was complicit in Gray’s crimes by attempting to silence the victims, whisking Gray away to Germany in order to diffuse the escalating controversy, and denying his culpability even at the side of his grave. Read the glowing tributes to Gray in his 2007 obituary here.

Christians tend to want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to these types of “improprieties,” which helps to enable and to perpetuate the abuse. Church leaders sought to “deal” with scandal “internally,” rather than contact civil authorities, which they thought would bring ignominy to the cause of Christ. The leadership at Trinity coddled the predator and threw his young victims under the bus.

While today’s Sword of the Lord regularly features sermons from IFB pastors of yesteryear, it understandably does not publish sermons from Bob Gray. There is no honest transparency at the Sword of the Lord in regards to preachers who were once put on pedestals, but fell (Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Truman Dollar, Gray). They just disappear with no comment.

Former pastor talked openly with police about sex charges
https://www.news4jax.com/news/2007/11/21/former-pastor-talked-openly-with-police-about-sex-charges/

A Credulous Convert to Romanism

The Convert’s Guide to Roman Catholicism: Your First Year in the Church
By Keith Nester
Independently published, 2019, 229 pp.

1 Star

Religious proselytes are generally wildly enthusiastic about their newfound “faith.” That includes Muslim converts, Hindu converts, Mormon converts, Watchtower converts, and, yes, Catholic converts. In this book, Catholic convert and YouTuber, Keith Nester, offers words of zealous enthusiasm and encouragement to fellow nominal “Protestant” converts to Roman Catholicism. Nester was a youth minister at a United Methodist Church in Iowa and through a series of circumstances, especially through the efforts of a Catholic business associate, he developed a growing interest in Catholicism and eventually joined the RCC in 2017.

Nester doesn’t go deep into theology in this book, but he does expound upon some of the alleged advantages of Catholicism such as:

  • The RCC’s claim to authority as the “one true church.”
  • Sacred tradition and the magisterium trumping “Sola Scriptura.”
  • Receiving the “actual” Body of Christ (aka eating the faux Jesus wafer), the pinnacle of Catholic “spirituality.”

Nester knows there are many facets of Roman Catholicism that nominal “Protestant” converts will struggle with and he attempts to head off any objections at the pass with an array of positive comments. Addressed are the problematic issues of:

  • Baptismal regeneration
  • Compulsory Sunday mass attendance
  • Constant change of postures at mass – kneeling, standing, and sitting
  • General ineptitude of priests’ homiletics skills compared to those of Protestant ministers
  • Rote liturgical prayers and rituals
  • The sacrifice of the mass cunningly heralded as a “re-presentation” of Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice rather than a repeat of the sacrifice
  • Confession of sins to a priest
  • Annulments and con-validations of marriages
  • Praying the rosary
  • Praying to saints
  • Eucharistic adoration
  • Veneration (aka worship) of Mary

Nester repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly attempts to allay misgivings about Catholicism’s anti-Biblical doctrines by exhorting converts to check their brains at the door. Here are just a few examples, there are many, many more: That’s OK. You will get over that. (p. 49). But that’s OK. (p. 52). That’s OK. (p. 71). It’s OK. (p. 80). The fact is, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be better than OK. (p. 136). That’s OK. (p.203). It’s OK…just roll with it. (p.209). It will all be fine. (p. 214).

Nester presents a commonly heard analogy of the Catholic church as a “full tool box” to be used in the work of building a life worthy of salvation, while Protestantism is presented as a deficient tool box with many tools missing. However, salvation is not a matter of being a skilled religionist with a full toolbox. According to God’s Word, salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The old mainline Protestant denominations, like Nester’s United Methodist Church, stopped teaching the genuine Gospel decades ago. Nester never was genuinely saved or he wouldn’t be exhorting souls to put on the chains of Catholic legalism.

Nester barely mentions the preeminent difference between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity: the issue of justification. Catholics believe they are justified by their church’s sacraments and by obedience to the Ten Commandments (impossible!) aka meritorious works. Gospel Christians believe they are justified ONLY by the imputed perfect righteous of Jesus Christ received at the moment of salvation. This is an irreconcilable difference that even the most determined evangelical ecumenical Judas cannot bridge.

Nester bids all “Protestants” considering conversion to Catholicism to joyously follow him aboard the Catholic works-righteousness salvation system. That is akin to lowering a canoe into the Niagara River immediately above the famous falls and exhorting all those on board to joyously paddle against the deadly current with all of their might. As a former Catholic for twenty-seven years, I can testify from first-hand experience that there is no joy in the impossible task of trying to merit salvation.

Reading this book was a sad undertaking. Reject works religion. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.


Addendum

Nester is a Catholic neophyte and, as might be expected, he get’s several Catholic facts wrong. Here’s just a few with my comments added:

“All I needed to find was one (Catholic) doctrine that could be proven false; one time the Church changed an official decree of dogma; or one instance of a pope officially teaching heresy” (p. 59).

From this statement, one might conclude that Nester is not aware of the voluminous critical commentary from conservative Catholics directed at progressive pope Francis, which accuse him of the very things Nester mentions: changing dogma and teaching heresy. In fact, Nester specifically commends to his readers Dr. Taylor Marshall (p. 147), a passionate conservative critic of the Second Vatican Council and of pope Francis (see here). Nester’s claim that the RCC never changed an official doctrine is patently false. As just one example, the Roman church once officially taught that only Catholics could be saved (Papal Bull Unam Sanctum), but changed that doctrine at the Second Vatican Council in 1964 after Catholic leaders succumbed to theological liberalism.

“Pope St. John Paul II…went to confession weekly.” (p. 124).

JPII went to confession daily.

“Marian devotion dates back to the earliest writings of the Church Fathers.” (p. 186).

There is actually no evidence/documentation of Marian veneration/worship until the assimilation of the pagan mother goddess-worshiping Collyridians into the church in the late-4th century.


Postscripts

MANY books have been recently published from conservative Catholic authors, such as this one, exhorting nominal Protestants to convert to Catholicism. In contrast, there are relatively few books published in recent years from evangelical authors encouraging Roman Catholics to leave their works religion and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Evangelicals have been brainwashed by Rome-friendly accommodators (i.e., Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer, etc.) into believing such efforts are distasteful and impede the cause of “Christian unity.”

Since the Roman Catholic church officially teaches that adherents of all religions and even atheists may also merit their salvation, a type of semi-Universalism, the sectarian zealousness of Nester and other conservative/traditionalist, militant-Catholics is an incongruity.

Growing up in a cult within the Catholic cult

Little Sister: A Memoir
By Patricia Walsh Chadwick
Post Hill Press, 2019, 326 pp.

3 Stars

Few people today are aware of “The Boston Heresy Case” of the 1940’s and 50s. For centuries, Roman Catholic prelates and theologians taught that only Catholics could possibly merit Heaven, the doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the Church there is no salvation”). In the early-20th century, modernist/semi-Universalist views were making inroads into Catholic seminaries and episcopates, which posited that non-Catholic religionists could also possibly merit Heaven under a liberal interpretation of the exception principle of Baptismus flaminis (“baptism of desire”), i.e. non-Catholics would certainly welcome baptism into the “one true church” if they understood it’s importance. Popular Jesuit priest and writer, Leonard Feeney, publicly opposed this liberal shift in theology and was thereby censured and finally excommunicated in 1953. The Roman Catholic church would later officially promulgate the doctrine of the possibility of the salvation of all religionists in the document, Nostra aetate, issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

During this controversy, Feeney served as director of the St. Benedict Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a resource for Catholic undergrads and teachers at Harvard University.* In defiance of the RC hierarchy, Feeney and the center’s benefactress, Catherine Goddard Clarke, created a religious community, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which consisted of about one-hundred dedicated “Feeneyites,” including singles and married couple with their children. Due to rising tensions with Boston-area Catholic clergy and laity, the community moved from Cambridge to the rural environs of Still River/Harvard, MA, thirty miles away (see map far below).

In this memoir, Patricia Walsh Chadwick, describes growing up as a child in the Slaves commune. While Feeney was the symbolic figurehead, Catherine Clarke ruled the day-to-day operations with an iron fist. Members were required to take new names, wear mandatory religious uniform garb, sever all connections with family and friends outside of the commune, refrain from discussions of life prior to the order, and practice celibacy. All thirty-nine children were removed from the direct care of their parents. In addition to having very little personal contact with their parents, the children were sometimes treated cruelly and abusively in other regards. Members were forbidden from leaving the compound except for excursions to Boston to peddle the cult’s “outside the Catholic church there is no salvation” literature. In contrast to the severe restrictions the co-leaders imposed upon the membership, Clarke reserved the privilege of driving to her private home in Waltham three nights per week to be with her husband and daughter while Feeney traveled whenever and wherever he wished.

After a series of minor insubordinations, “Sister” Clarke expelled Patricia Walsh from the community in 1966 immediately following her high school graduation. The 17-year-old left behind her parents and four siblings. The other six members of her family eventually left the Slaves as well. Catherine Clarke died of cancer in 1968. After having been reconciled to the Roman Catholic church in 1972 through the efforts of the Boston bishop, Feeney died in 1978. Following their founder’s death, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary fragmented into several small factions.

It was painful to read this memoir and the descriptions of the abuse inflicted upon the members of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Patricia Walsh Chadwick’s contempt for Clarke is palpable. This is as CULTISH as it gets, folks. Some of the authoritarianism and mind-control methods match what was practiced at Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and David Koresh’s Branch Davidians. However, the cultish disciplines at Still River were not all that far removed from the regular practices at every Catholic convent in the 1950s and early-1960s.

It’s interesting to read how Feeney attempted to resist the RCC’s theological drift into semi-Universalism. Some traditional/conservative/militant Catholics still revere Feeney as a defender of the “true” Catholic interpretation of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the Church there is no salvation”).

From start to finish of this memoir, there was absolutely no trace of the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Chadwick devotes the last 140 pages of the book to her post-Slaves existence, wherein she describes eventually becoming a wife and a mother after thoroughly indulging herself in the sinful pleasures of the world that were denied her in the commune – like the proverbial bird let out of the cage. She remains a nominal Catholic, holding to the bottom-line philosophy popular both inside and outside of the church that spirituality boils down to “being a good person.”

I have another book on order dealing with Feeney and “The Boston Heresy Case.”

*As a Harvard undergraduate, “devout” Roman Catholic, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, played a key role in Feeney’s censure and eventual excommunication with the help of his powerful father, Joseph Kennedy. See here.

Above: Leonard Feeney and Catherine Clarke
Above: The main building of the former Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary commune/cult in Still River, Massachusetts

Throwback Thursday: The Jesus wafer?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 23, 2016 and has been revised.

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Another Jesus: The Eucharistic Jesus and the New Evangelization
By Roger Oakland with Jim Tetlow
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007, 185 pages

Roman Catholics are taught their priests supernaturally transform bread wafers and wine into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ at every mass. The priests then allegedly offer up the “host” (victim) as a sacrifice to God the Father for the sins of the attendees and those mentioned. Some of the participants, those allegedly with no stain of mortal sin on their soul, line up to receive a “consecrated” wafer into their mouths so that they can eat Jesus. During the fifteen minutes the wafer is acted upon by their stomach’s digestive acids, the recipients are told they receive graces enabling them to avoid committing mortal sins in the future.*

In this book, evangelical apologist, Roger Oakland, examines all aspects of the sacrament of the eucharist, the alleged “source and summit” of Catholic “spirituality.” Catholics pity their Protestant “separated brethren” because they alone claim to have the “real presence” of Jesus in their consecrated bread wafers. Evangelicals who think Catholicism is a genuine form of Christianity, albeit with a lot of quirky ritualism, would find this book on the nuts and bolts of Catholic wafer worship very illuminating.

Trying to merit your way into Heaven by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments is impossible. We break God’s laws every single day. Those who claim they have no mortal sin on their soul might delude themselves, but they don’t deceive God who sees every sinful thought, motive, and action. But Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to this world and died on the cross for your sins. He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who trust in Him as Savior by faith alone. Taking a bread wafer into your mouth won’t help you. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16

Chapters

  • Deception in His Name
  • A Missionary Vision
  • Understanding the Eucharist
  • The Eucharist: A Biblical Review
  • The Monstrance – A Container for Christ?
  • The New Evangelization
  • Adoring the Eucharist
  • Eucharistic Miracles
  • Eucharistic Conversions
  • The Mary Connection
  • The Eucharistic Reign of Christ
  • The Passion and the Eucharist
  • The Biblical Jesus and the Gospel
  • A Christian’s Commission

Order “Another Jesus: The Eucharistic Jesus and the New Evangelization” from Amazon.com or Lighthouse Trails.

*Note from March 2021: Roman Catholics have generally been restricted from receiving the “all-important” Jesus wafer the last twelve months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Has God been grading Catholics who died the past year on a curve because of the inaccessibility of the Jesus wafer? I’m being facetious. The pandemic exposes the untenability of Roman Catholicism’s sacrament-based salvation system.

Jesus in the Old Testament? Yup!

Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament
Christopher J. H. Wright
IVP Academic, 2014, 288 pp.

After I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and was born again in the Spring of 1983, I thoroughly enjoyed diving into God’s Word. I couldn’t get enough. After I finished the New Testament, I began reading the Old Testament. Things were going along pretty well until I got to parts of Exodus and then Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Man, those books were heavy lifting with lengthy passages involving the intricacies of the Mosaic ceremonial law and the tabernacle, etc., etc. Around that time, the pastor at our church mentioned “types” (i.e., foreshadowings, symbols, prefigurings) of Jesus Christ found in the Old Testament. That really triggered my curiosity and I went to the local Christian bookstore and bought a couple of books on Old Testament types/typology. Fascinating stuff! You’re probably already aware of such types as young Isaac as a sacrifice, the slain Passover lamb, and Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. The list of such symbols is as long as the “red thread” of Jesus Christ’s coming redemptive work that is interwoven throughout the entire Old Testament narrative, from Genesis to Malachi. Admittedly, there were some Bible scholars who were a bit too zealous in their search for veiled types and sometimes attempted to make a case where there wasn’t one.

In “Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament,” Christopher Wright focuses primarily on the Israelites, God’s chosen people, as a foreshadowing of Christ. As with all Old Testament types, the Israelites were an imperfect prefiguration that would find perfect fulfillment in the incarnation of God of the Son. Some of the characteristics of Israel by which they were to foreshadow Christ include:

  • Israel as the nation “son” of God the Father
  • Israel as the servant of God
  • Israel as a witness/light to the nations
  • Israel as a holy nation

The fact that chosen Israel failed so miserably in its role as a prefiguration of Christ is one of the prime examples of mankind’s absolute need of the Redeemer. Wright does an excellent job of examining other examples of the fulfillment of Old Testament history, prophecy, and song (psalms) in Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The reader will feel like one of the sojourners on the road to Emmaus. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Wright’s suggestion that Jesus was somewhat limited in His knowledge/omniscience as a condition of His humanity and was therefore not initially confident of His divine identity and mission will raise some eyebrows, however I’ll leave it to theologians to debate “What did Jesus know and when did He know it?”

There are some popular, progressive mega-church pastors we know (i.e., Andy Stanley) who would do away with the Old Testament if they had their druthers. That’s sheer idiocy and this book will explain why. “Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament” is informative as well as a blessing to read. Thanks, Mandy!

Chapters

  1. Jesus and the Old Testament Story
  2. Jesus and the Old Testament Promise
  3. Jesus and His Old Testament Identity
  4. Jesus and His Old Testament Mission
  5. Jesus and His Old Testament Values
  6. Jesus and His Old Testament God

“Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2″

Last month, the re-formed, future-state Legion tracked down former-member, Element Lad, who was apparently responsible for raining-down destruction and chaos upon the entire galaxy. Let’s pick up the action in…

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 [of 2]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils and Inks: Riley Rossmo, Colors: Ivan Plascencia
DC Comics, February 23, 2021

3 Stars

Plot

A large contingent of Legionnaires, including Blok, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 7, Chameleon Lad, Colossal Boy, Duo Damsel, Ferro Lad, Lightning Lass, Monster Boy, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Superboy, and Ultra Boy, arrives on Trom and captures Jan Arrah/Element Lad. Saturn Girl examines Arrah with her telepathic powers (as Brainiac 7, Gold Lantern, and Ultra Boy look on) and discovers that he was not responsible for the galactic onslaught after all. She sends Chameleon Boy to Daxam to persuade a bitter Cosmic Boy to return to New Earth to learn the truth and to lead the Legion in “avenging the entire galaxy.” With Cosmic Boy present, Imra reveals what she had discovered. The elders of Titan, Imra’s home planet (actually a moon of Saturn), used her to infiltrate the Legion and to eventually manipulate Element Lad and his fellow Tromites into attacking the entire United Planets. Their motive? The Titians viewed the galaxy’s other inhabitants as “impure of thought” and radically inferior.

Saturn Girl returns to Titan to inform her mother that the moon has been removed from its position in the galaxy and “encased in a prison sphere for the rest of time” as punishment. After returning to New Earth, Saturn Girl and the other Legionnaires resolve to continue the Legion and “make a new normal where all feel protected and safe.”

Comments

This Legion Future State two-issue series was a semi-entertaining ride, with Element Lad starting out as the bad guy, but ending up being merely a puppet of the malevolent Titians. A decent twist, but overall, this series was not compelling reading with far too much plot awkwardly squeezed into forty-four pages. Writer Bendis had previously hinted at a surprising development involving Jon Kent that never materialized. To go along with the ungainly storyline, Riley Rossmo’s pencils are nowhere near the caliber of those of regular LSH artist, Ryan Sook.

Many have conjectured that this Future State series would be the Legion’s last gasp, although Bendis promises more (see here). The reality is there’s no sign of the Legion in DC’s March, April, or, just checked, May solicitations. In DC’s frazzled state, it’s difficult to imagine the LSH franchise being resurrected after such a lengthy hiatus.

Postscript A: The Legion of Super-Heroes is supposed to be a team of 31st Century, crime-fighting TEENAGERS with unusual powers, however, following the Silver Age era, writers and artists tended to portray the characters as being much older. In this issue, Rossmo presents Cosmic “Boy” as bigger and thicker than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Jon “Superboy” Kent has a Zorro-like, manicured mustache. Ridiculous.

Postscript B: Uh-oh. The day after I wrote the above, I stumbled upon a review of “Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2,” which describes how the entire Future State Legion was wiped out by something called, “the Undoing.” Of course, the end of the Future State Legion doesn’t mean Bendis & Co. couldn’t continue with tales from the pre-Future State Legion.

These Truths?

These Truths: A History of the United States
Jill Lepore
W.W. Norton & Company, 2018, 933 pp.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – from The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

I’m a bit of a history buff and I’ve read a good number of history books over the decades. Histories of the United States tended toward heavily-varnished hagiography with men like Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln reverenced in almost-religious terms. Of course, those men were products of their times. Jefferson could write the above words with the widely-understood qualification that Native American “Indians,” Blacks, and women did not share in “these truths.” The hypocrisy and inconsistency are glaring from our vantage point today, but also consider that only eighty-years ago, millions of American G.I.s were sent to Europe to defend the world from Nazi tyranny and persecution at the same time that Black Americans in the South lived under the tyranny of Jim Crow.

Harvard professor, Jill Lepore, wrote “These Truths” partially from the perspective of the oppressed and disenfranchised and some might dismiss it as a “woke” version of U.S. history. However, the book is necessary because most hagiographical U.S. histories of the past neglected or skimmed over the stories of the oppressed, voiceless, marginalized groups. Lepore isn’t shrill and angry (as I recently encountered with Kristin Kobes Du Mez in her critique of American Christian Nationalism, “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” see here), but presents the material in a “mostly” objective manner that’s worthy of consideration. Lepore’s last several chapters that examine the increasing polarization of American society along the Red vs. Blue divide are informative and very well done.

Because of its size, “These Truths” was a major effort to get through and it occupied much more of my reading time than I like to devote to a single book. It deserves a longer review, but my time is more limited these days. A couple of closing thoughts:

  • Washington, Jefferson, et al, were certainly fallible men and products of their times. I imagine that if Lepore had been brought up in the Antebellum South of the 1840s and 1850s there would have been an extremely good chance that she would have aligned with the societal mores of the region and times as well.
  • The conflation of faith and nationalism has been the predominant paradigm among Christians living in America since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620. Deconstructionist examinations of U.S. history are not well-received by many. But great wrongs were done and deserve examination. Christians know from God’s Word that all men are sinners and there’s abundant evidence of that in America’s unvarnished history. Deist Thomas Jefferson’s “truths” were laudable, although certainly not applied fairly. However, Christians know of the infinitely greater Truths of Jesus Christ and the Gospel that are not restricted by national boundaries, times, or societal mores. Jefferson is memorialized in a manner that approaches idolatry, but he was a spiritually lost soul who aligned himself with humanistic “enlightenment” (including some glaring inconsistencies as a slaveowner) rather than with Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

“Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1″ (and some possible good news)

No, my friends, I’m NOT turning this blog into the Legion of Super-Heroes frivolity blog. Yes, I realize I reviewed LSH #12 only last week, but there’s a good reason for this latest installment. DC Comics just launched its three-month-long, “Future State” reconfiguration with this two-part LSH tie-in. It’s been rumored that several titles won’t emerge from Future State intact, including the Legion of Super-Heroes, which just completed a one-year, twelve-issue relaunch. With that in mind, let’s go ahead and see what DC and Bendis have in mind for what many (including myself) thought might be the Legion’s final tale.

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 [of 2]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils and Inks: Riley Rossmo, Colors: Ivan Plascencia
DC Comics, January 26th, 2021

Plot

At some indeterminate point in the 31st Century following the events described in LSH #12, former Legion leader, Ultra Boy, arrives on Planet Gotham to rendezvous with Shadow Lass, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 7, and Colossal Boy. We learn that the Legion had previously disbanded and that the United Planets are in almost total chaos. On Planet Daxam, the only remaining U.P. stronghold, Chameleon Boy is brought before a council comprised of former Legionnaires Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Polar Boy (see postscript below), Princess Projectra, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Superboy, Sun Boy, and Timber Wolf in an effort to ascertain the whereabouts of Jan Arrah, the former Legionnaire, Element Lad, who is responsible for an “incident”/”event” that precipitated the current crisis. On Planet Winath, a group of newly-empowered beings (who refer to the previous cataclysm as the “elemental rapture”) bands together as a pseudo, rogue Legion to exploit the chaos and also oppose Arrah and the crippled U.P., but are thwarted by the former Triplicate Girl (one of her identities was killed in the crisis) who is searching for Element Lad. She is joined by Blok who is on a similar mission. Brainiac 7 invites the duo/trio to join the reconstituted Legion and capture Arrah and also recruits a reluctant Bouncing Boy. On one of Planet Trom’s moons, Arrah interrogates his prisoner, Lightning Lad, who had attempted to kill the traitorous ex-Legionnaire. The proceedings are suddenly interrupted by Lightning Lass along with a contingent of Legionnaires including Blok, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 7, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Duo Damsel, Ferro Lad, (see postscript below), Monster Boy, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Superboy, and Timber Wolf. Argh! We must wait one month for the results of this showdown!

Comments

Bendis doesn’t provide a lot of information about the cataclysmic attack upon the galaxy and the Legion orchestrated by the traitorous Jan Arrah. I’m expecting more details in “Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 [of 2].” All of the Legionnaires are presented in different permutations including alternate uniforms and different physical characteristics, with a reconstituted Brainiac 5/7 being the most radical. Rossmo’s pencils are nowhere near the caliber of regular LSH artist, Ryan Sook. A redesigned Superboy stays noticeably in the background in this book. I counted a few Legionnaires in the mix who I could not identify. Silver Age Legion fans will note that the death of one of the triplicates hearkens back to similar grim circumstances in “Computo the Conquerer” in Adventure Comics #340 (January 1966). It was sad to read the first issue of this two-part Future State series knowing DC is probably going to pull the plug on the Legion following the second installment.

Postscript

After writing the above, I came across a very recent interview with LSH writer, Brian Michael Bendis, in which he reveals some of the unidentifiable characters in this issue as being members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes and that the black-suited character on the cover with a laser sword is Ferro Lad. Okay. I had thought the character on page 8 in silver and red was Ferro Lad when it’s actually Polar Boy of the Subs. The writer hints that Superboy will play more of a major role in issue #2. To my great surprise, Bendis also reveals that DC definitely plans on continuing the Legion at some point after Future State despite the title’s notable absence in the publisher’s April solicitations. See the interview here.

Legion of Super-Heroes #12

It’s time once again for our monthly, LSH frivolity break (in fact, we’re three weeks past due because of DC’s ongoing publishing issues), so let’s climb aboard our time cube and travel to the 31st Century for another LSH adventure in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #12:
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Ryan Sook, Inks: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, January 19, 2021

Plot

At the end of LSH #11, Superboy and Saturn Girl arrived on New Krypton and confronted planet-destroyer, Rogol Zaar, as all of the other Legionnaires lay strewn about on the battlefield, bloodied and vanquished. As we pick up the action in #12, Superboy engages Rogol Zaar, but he too is subdued. Saturn Girl uses her mind powers to “psychically wake” the entire battered Legion corps, who then engage Rogol Zaar. Just as the Legion appears to be gaining the upper hand, Mordru the Sorcerer appears along with a large contingent of Horraz pirates and a full-scale battle ensues with multiple vignettes highlighting individual Legionnaires and their unique powers. The combined forces of Rogol Zaar and Mordru prove too much for the heroes and defeat looms. Mon-El suddenly appears, returning from his self-imposed exile, to buy the Legion a little more time. Saturn Girl, Dream Girl, and White Witch then confront Mordru with their combined powers, but the showdown is interrupted by Dr. Fate who easily subdues the evil sorcerer. A defeated Rogol Zaar is then returned to the Phantom Zone. As Element Lad leads the effort to rebuild New Krypton, a few Legionnaires ponder whether the preceding battle was the “Great Darkness” that had been foretold and conclude that was not the case. Gold Lantern returns to Earth to retrieve Brainiac 5 for the victory celebration, only to learn that his ring is NOT a Green Lantern ring (gasp!) and that those who issued it to him are not elders of Oa (double gasp!).

Comments

Writer Bendis did a nice job with this showdown between the Legion and Rogol Zaar and Mordru and he tied up some dangling loose ends with the return of Mon-El, Dr. Fate, and Blok. Ryan Sook’s pencils are top-notch as usual. The entire 34-person Legion roster was included in this issue with appearances by Bouncing Boy, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawn Star, Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Matter-Eater Lad, Monster Boy, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Rose Forrest, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Timber Wolf, Triplicate Girl, Ultra Boy, and Wild Fire. The as-of-yet-unidentified-skeleton-in-a-containment-suit character was also present. The fact that Bendis has not identified this anonymous hero after twelve issues must be his idea of an insider joke.

Well, folks, this issue wraps up the first year of the Legion’s comeback. My hat is off to DC and the creative team of Bendis, Sook, Von Grawbadger, and Bellaire for a very entertaining ride. There was some speculation on the web that DC was pulling the plug on the LSH after this issue, however, a full-page “Future State Checklist” at the end of this book lists “Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 [of 2]” on sale, tomorrow, January 26th and “Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 [of 2]” on sale February 23rd. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that DC will be continuing the LSH franchise after “Future State.” No titles are safe given the publisher’s severe financial troubles except for its flagship Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman franchises.