The Usual Double Talk

The Usual Suspects: Answering Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists
By Karl Keating
Ignatius Press, 2000, 195 pages

1 Star

In 1979, a young Roman Catholic lawyer, Karl Keating, became angered when members of a local Bible Christian church left tracts on car windshields during mass at his Catholic parish. In retaliation, he created tracts of his own and distributed them at said Bible church. Thus was born the Catholics apologetics organization, Catholic Answers. Then as now, many Catholics were hearing the Gospel from friends, neighbors, and co-workers, repenting of sin, accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, forsaking the Roman church with its false gospel, and attending Gospel-preaching churches. Keating and Catholic Answers sought to “stem the tide.” Keating’s first book, “Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” (Ignatius Press, 1988) was fairly popular among Catholics who had “lost” family members and friends to “Christian fundamentalism.” In his attack on “fundamentalists,” Keating mixed together credible ministries with disreputable extremists (Chick Publications, Tony Alamo). Keating’s brief explanations of various Catholic doctrines rivaled the sophistry of any Jesuit.

“The Usual Suspects” is Keating’s fourth book and picks up where “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” left off. The credible evangelicals/fundamentalists targeted this time include Bart Brewer, Frank Eberhardt, Dave Hunt, and Bill Jackson, all four now deceased, and John Ankerberg, John MacArthur, and James McCarthy. Mixed in are several bad apples including Jack Chick and Bob Jones, III.

Keating’s approach is the same as before: short explanations of Catholic doctrine expressed with obsfucation masquerading as certitude, but lacking Biblical substance. Two examples will suffice:

  • Bible Christians criticize the continual Catholic mass as a fraudulent repetition of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary, since the Bible clearly says Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was offered once for all time (Hebrews 10:12). Keating confidently responds that Catholics certainly don’t “repeat” Jesus’ sacrifice, they “re-present” the very same once-offered sacrifice. Ach. Please.
  • Bible Christians criticize Catholics for worshiping Mary. Well, of course Catholics don’t “worship” Mary, objects Keating. They rightly offer her “hyper-dulia veneration,” which is her due. Hyper what? Ninety-five out of one-hundred Catholics could not define “hyper-dulia veneration,” but most do attribute deific powers to Mary, adore her, and pray to her for their salvation. Call it whatever you’d like, but THAT’S worship.

Each short chapter is filled with similar equivocations. Keating accuses his opponents of lacking charity and sophisticated nuance in their arguments, yet turns around and commits those offenses himself, labeling all Bible Christians as “fundamentalists,” “Bible-thumpers,” and “tract-pushers.” Recommended only to those involved in Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics.

Postscript: This book was written in 2000, way before the current papal crisis, with Catholic conservatives accusing pope Francis of sowing doctrinal confusion and some even accusing him of being a heretic. Conservatives like Keating and his successors at Catholic Answers are no longer boasting that their pope is incapable of leading the Roman church into error. Should Catholics follow pope Francis and his doctrine-bending reforms or the conservative Catholicism of Keating and cardinal Burke? Neither camp teaches salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

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CSN&Y: Squabbling Troubadors II: The Whole Enchilada

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup
By David Browne
Da Capo Press, 2019, 465 pages

5 Stars

What? Another book about CSN&Y? This year is the 50th anniversary of the formation of the seminal singer-songwriter “supergroup,” Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young). To commemorate the milestone, two excellent biographies were recently published. Fortunately for my wallet, our local library system has both books on its shelves. Three weeks ago, I reviewed Peter Doggett’s book, which focused mainly on the band’s first five years, 1969 to 1974 (see here). In contrast, David Browne’s book spans the entire life of the band, the whole messy enchilada, from 1969 to 2015, discontinuous and painful as it was.

Following the releases of their highly-successful eponymous debut album in 1969 and “Déjà Vu” the following year, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young was arguably the most popular rock and roll band on the planet (made possible only by the official break-up of the Beatles in April 1970). However, the reasons for the band’s great success also precipitated it’s downfall. The old saying about “too many chefs in the kitchen” certainly applied to CSN&Y; a volatile combination of four very talented and very strong-willed performers with contrasting temperaments. Copious drug use added to the constant disharmony. Unable to perform as a unit, CS&N put their energies into solo projects, although Crosby and Nash remained on friendly terms and recorded several albums together. Young, a prolific songwriter, was able to achieve an unusual degree of success on his own and increasingly distanced himself from CS&N.

Crosby, Stills and Nash were able to occasionally put animosities aside and unite briefly for various projects, but Crosby’s spiraling heroin addiction was a major impediment. After having spent five months in prison in 1986 on drugs and weapons convictions, Crosby was released and (somewhat) sober, but CS&N found that their style of music was increasingly out of favor with the MTV generation. From 1988 to 1999, the trio released multiple joint and solo projects of uneven quality to a declining audience. I had already stopped listening to CS&N back in 1977 because the political rants began to grate on me. By the early 00s/aughts, CS&N had largely devolved into a touring oldies band.

After their phenomenal initial success, CS&N began their very long and sometimes tortuous decline. Browne devotes 303 of the book’s 418 pages of text to that post-1970 decline. Being the nerdy, former-fan that I am, I found that information very interesting. Most readers wouldn’t.

It’s revealing that Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young won’t be reuniting this year to celebrate their 50th anniversary because of the bitter acrimony between the ex-members. It’s easy to sing about peace and love, but “the heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

A memorable Legion tale in more ways than one

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“School for Super-Villains!”
Adventure Comics #372, September, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A couple of weeks ago, we witnessed Colossal Boy being expelled from the Legion in disgrace for stealing classified training material. Unbeknownst to the Legion, he had been blackmailed by mysterious criminals who were holding his parents captive.

As the action picks up, Colossal Boy dejectedly walks the streets of Metropolis deciding on his next step when he is accosted by Science Police. He escapes, but accidentaly drops his mother’s “life jewel” in the tussle. The criminals subsequently reconnect with the fugitive ex-Legionnaire and offer him a new deal.

In the meantime, Brainiac 5 deduces the recovered “life jewel” can guide the team to Colossal Boy’s mother for some answers. Shrinking Violet diminishes to sub-molecular size and follows the beams connecting the life jewel with its owner across the galaxy. The beams lead her to a distant planet and a training center for the newly-created Legion of Super-Villains run by Tarik the Mute, with Colossal Boy as the reluctant trainer. Violet returns to Earth and informs the Legion of her findings, including the real reason why Colossal Boy turned traitor. Brainiac 5 devises a plan in which Superboy and Chameleon Boy and candidates, Chemical King and Timber Wolf, infiltrate and subdue the collection of super-criminals and free Colossal Boy’s parents.

With Superboy and Chameleon Boy in disguise, the quartet stage a phony battle with the Science Police on Mars in hopes of attracting the attention of Tarik’s recruiter. The ruse works and the four are transported to the super-villains’ training center. The heroes observe several disgruntled Legion-rejects from the past including Nemesis Kid, Spider Girl, Radiation Roy, Ronn Kar, and Lightning Lord; Legionnaire Lightning Lad’s brother. However, Colossal Boy recognizes Superboy, and, out of fear for his parents’ safety, sounds the alarm. A battle ensues and the super-villains overcome the super-heroes. Tarik condemns the four to death, but as they await their execution the following day, Superboy conceives of a plan. But will it work?

At dawn, Tarik orders Colossal Boy to use a ray gun to turn the Boy of Steel into glass, just like his parents. When the teen titan hesitates, Tarik pulls the trigger and an executioner immediately shatters Superboy into a million pieces with a sledge hammer (see cover photo). Enraged by Superboy’s death, Colossal Boy snaps and joins the three remaining heroes in battling the villains. In the melee, Timber Wolf radios Legion Headquarters for reinforcements and Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl, Starboy, and Ultra Boy quickly come to the rescue like a 30th century cavalry. Just as Tarik prepares to smash Colossal Boy’s crystallized parents, Superboy KOs him with a steely left hook. Huh? Superboy? Turns out Chameleon Boy and Superboy had disguised themselves as each other prior to the dawn execution and CB had dodged the ray gun, changed himself to glass, and then into broken glass at the appropriate times.

The criminals are taken into custody, Colossal Boy’s parents are restored to normal, and he’s voted back into the Legion along with new members, Chemical King and Timber Wolf.

Commentary

This was an entertaining story, especially since it includes the origin of the Legion of Super-Villains and the introduction of Chemical King and Timber Wolf as Legion members. The abrupt and overly-simple ending was admittedly a bit lame, but quite par for the course for the Silver Age era. This issue is significant for a couple of more reasons. It was Curt Swan’s last outing as the Legion’s penciller. His drawings would be judged as stark and too simple today, but his classic lines put him at the very top of the DC’s pencillers of that era. This was also my last Legion comic book at that time. I began following the Legion in November, 1966 in Adventure Comics #350 and would continue for twenty-two issues, but I reluctantly quit comics after that because I was entering into seventh-grade and reading comics was definitely “not cool” as it would become a couple of decades later (and comic book plots would become so convoluted, no seventh-grader could possibly follow them). But don’t worry, we still have eight more Legion installments to review before DC ended the franchise’s tenure in Adventure Comics with the May, 1969 issue.

Throwback Thursday: Behind Catholicism’s “Purple Curtain” in Latin America

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re going to take a look back at this slightly revised post that was first published on August 29, 2015.

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Behind the Purple Curtain
By Walter Manuel Montaño
Cowman Publications, 1950, 327 pages

5 Stars

Americans in the 1950s Cold War-era were accustomed to hearing about the poor souls trapped behind the Soviet Union’s “Iron Curtain” and Communist China’s “Bamboo Curtain.” In “Behind the Purple Curtain,” ex-Dominican monk and evangelical missionary, Walter Montaño, examines the intolerance of Roman Catholicism in regions where it enjoyed a religious majority and received the strong support of the local and national governments.

In 1950s Europe, the Catholic church was closely allied with the fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal and there were still disturbingly vivid memories of Catholicism’s strong ties to Mussolini’s National Fascist Party in Italy, Pavelic’s Ustase in Croatia, the post-Pilsudski Sanacja and Dmowski’s Endecja in Poland, and to Petain’s Vichy France. But Montaño’s focus is mainly on Latin America where the Catholic church held sway for 400 years.

The rule of the Spanish conquistadors and their successors eventually gave way to unstable, quasi-democracies and military-backed dictatorships throughout Latin America, but the Catholic church maintained its death grip on the enormous peasant population through its falangist political organizations and alliances with civil governments. Montaño gives many examples of the church’s often-lethal intolerance of Protestants within Latin America and cautions North American Protestants to maintain their vigilance otherwise they would face similar circumstances. Montaño’s warnings may come across as quaintly paranoid and sensationalistic to the contemporary reader accustomed to today’s prevailing spirit of tolerance and ecumenism, but the reality for believers in many parts of world in the 20th-century was that Catholic hegemony often meant harassment, persecution, and even death.

Sixty-nine years after “Behind the Purple Curtain” was written we find that the Catholic church no longer enjoys anywhere near the political prestige and influence it once did. American evangelicals no longer need worry about the pope manipulating Washington politics from his Vatican throne. These days, pope Francis can’t even get his American membership to attend obligatory mass on Sundays. The real danger to contemporary Christian witness began several decades ago when some evangelicals began embracing Catholics as co-belligerents in social causes, which transitioned into compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ and embracing works-righteousness Catholics as fellow Christians (see Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Rick Warren, etc.). But Catholicism still teaches the same fundamental doctrines as those taught at the time of the Reformation. Most importantly, Catholics teach salvation by sacramental grace and merit while evangelicals proclaim salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. For most Catholics, the “gospel” is receiving the church-administered sacraments, trying to live a “good” life, and hoping their “good” outweighs their “bad” at the end. They’re relying on their works-religion and their own righteousness, not Jesus Christ, for their salvation. So why are some evangelicals so eager to embrace Roman Catholics as “brothers in Christ”? Montaño saw the coming evangelical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel even as far back as 1950 when the leading figure of American Protestantism at the time, Dr. John R. Mott, was already embracing Rome and discouraging mission work to Latin America.

In addition to his many other Gospel ministries, Walter Montaño was executive director of Christ’s Mission, a mission to Roman Catholics based in New York City, from 1951 to 1960.

Very recent reprints of this book are available from Amazon.com. See here. Also see my Books tab here for a long list of books which critically examine Roman Catholicism.

To read my review of the biography of Walter Montaño, see here.

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes Crossover: Mr. Spock, meet Brainiac 5

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes
Written by Chris Roberson, Pencils by Jeffrey Moy, Inks by Philip Moy, Colors by Romulo Farjardo, Jr.
IDW Publishing and DC Comics, 2012, 152 pages

4 Stars

What do you get when you mix the crew of the original Star Trek television series (1966-1969) with DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes? Writer, Chris Roberson, explored that fascinating concept in this crossover graphic novel, which compiles six separate installments published monthly from October 2011 to March 2012.

Plot

Chapter One

The story begins with six Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Shadow Lass – traveling in a time bubble from a mission back to the 31st century. Something goes wrong with the craft and Brainy struggles to make an emergency “landing.” Meanwhile, back in the 23rd century, the senior officers of the USS Enterprise – Captain James T. Kirk, Lieutenant Commander Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and officers Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov – enter the ship’s transporter expecting to enjoy some shore leave in San Francisco. What about Scotty? Hey, somebody has to stay behind and run the ship. The Legionnaires and Star Fleet officers reappear in different locales on 23rd century Earth; the Legion immediately harassed by an angry mob and the Trekkers confronted by hostile military units, but both Brainy and Spock deduce it’s a different Universe!

Chapter Two

We learn that a mysterious emperor controls the Imperial Planets from his palace on Earth and his forces relentlessly subjugate additional worlds. The Legion escapes the mob via their super-powers and the Trekkers escape the Imperial army via a shuttlecraft. Brainy leads the Legion contingent on a hunt for the source of two “temporal disturbances” registering on his “chronometer,” when the sextet is suddenly confronted by the equally surprised Trekkers (i.e., temporal disturbance #1).

Chapter Three 

A confrontation ensues between the Legionnaires and Trekkers, but serious damage is averted when cooler heads (Brainiac 5 and Spock) prevail. After the formal introductions, the two teams begin to discuss possible solutions to the timestream problem when they are attacked by the “new universe” version of the Legion’s classic foe, the Fatal Five (replete with some Star Trek elements), in service to the Imperial Planets. The attackers are defeated by the Legionnaires’ powers in combination with the Trekkers’ technology. The two teams then adopt a joint plan: three LSHers and three Trekkers will take a jury-rigged time machine to try and fix the time line at the “point of historical divergence” while Team B checks out temporal disturbance #2.

Chapter Four

Team A (Brainy, Spock, Bones, McCoy, Checkov, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl) don’t get too far with their time machine jalopy and “crash land” in the pre-historical past where they are confronted by primitive tribesmen. Team B (Kirk, Uhura, Sulu, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, and Chameleon Boy) follows their sensors to the headquarters of the Imperial Planets where the emperor, informed of their approach, awaits. Both teams come face to face with the same “immortal” being known by various names in different eras: Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar the Emperor.

Chapter Five

On pre-historic Earth, Vandal Savage imprisons Team A. Shortly afterwards, a young girl helps the six escape. Who is she? The girl is actually being mind-controlled and leads the team to a powerful being, although captive, who has been secretly playing a major role in this story from the start. The being reveals himself to be the powerful Q (a character in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager Star Trek series), who has been forced to do the bidding of Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar. Forward to the 23rd century; Vandar initially fetes Team B, but then reveals his intent to forcibly extract information from them about the future so that he can manipulate the present reality accordingly.

Chapter Six

Emperor Vandar tortures three members of Team B close to death, but with no results, and prepares to interrogate the remaining three. Kirk buys time by chiding Vandar and eliciting unrestrained emotion. Back on pre-historic Earth, Brainy and Spock discuss with Q possible ways to free him from the control of Vandal Savage. Vandal and his savage tribesmen interrupt the deliberations, but when Cosmic Boy releases the “inhibitor collars” from the warriors, they resort back to intertribal squabbling. Spock and Brainy free Q from his confinement and the powerful being immediately “fixes” the time line. We next see the six Legionnaires back in their time bubble headed to the 31st century and the six Star Fleet officers beginning their shore leave in 23rd century San Francisco, both groups completely unaware of their alter-Universe adventure.

Commentary

I enjoyed this crossover quite a bit. Fans of the Legion and/or Star Trek will appreciate the many details Roberson includes from both franchises. The intellectual sparring between Brainy and Spock is not to be missed. Kirk’s brash bravado is also well-characterized. The artwork is a big step-up compared to the illustrations of the Legion’s latter years, especially Romulo Farjardo, Jr.’s striking coloring.

The plot of this story was a bit convoluted with the various timelines and the alter-Universe. But that’s the name of the game these days. I cut my teeth on comics during DC’s Silver Age, when time was linear, reality was reality, and there was only one Universe. But DC and comics in general are in a precarious financial situation and reboots with changing characters and different dimensions and Universes are intended to keep things perpetually in flux for younger minds that are less satisfied with linear predictability.

Calming the credulous conservative Catholic faithful during Francis’ troubling papacy

Bad Shepherds: The Dark Years in Which the Faithful Thrived While Bishops Did the Devil’s Work
By Rod Bennett
Sophia Institute Press, 2018, 148 pages

1 Star with qualifications noted below.

Conservative Catholics are in an impossible pickle of a situation. They have always boasted of their church being led by an infallible pope, incapable of leading the church into doctrinal error. However, the current pope, Francis, and his progressive allies have guilefully overturned several cherished doctrines in their quest to make the church more relevant and appealing in an increasingly secularized world.

Since loyalty to the papacy is one of the prime beliefs of conservative Catholics, schism and even public criticism of Francis are not viable options for most. What to do? The consensus among conservative Catholic spokespersons is to uphold traditional church teaching, ignore Francis’ novelties, and hope the next pope is from the same mold as Wojtyla and Ratzinger.

In this short book, conservative Catholic writer, Rod Bennett, examines several periods in church history when popes or prelates were far from “exemplary.” His thinly-veiled, bottom-line message: the Catholic laity remained faithful to the church’s teachings despite challenges from wayward popes and prelates in the past and they must remain faithful despite Francis’ heterodox reforms.

The historical episodes Bennett examines include:

  • The spread of the Arianism heresy (denial of the divinity of Christ and the Trinity) in the fourth century.
  • The church’s preoccupation with the temporal throughout the Dark Ages (5th-10th centuries).
  • The 14th century blunders and the negative consequences of a deadly plague, i.e., the Avignon Papacy/Great Western Schism and the Black Death.
  • The church’s arrogant and counterproductive mishandling of the Protestant “challenge” in the 16th century.
  • The French church’s compromise with the 18th-century “Enlightenment” humanists which affected the rest of the church.

Bennett’s examination of the corruption of popes, bishops, priests, and Catholic monarchs during these episodes is objective only to a point. In one jaw-dropping example, he portrays Catholic Mary I of England (aka “Bloody Mary”) as a kind and benevolent monarch in contrast to her Protestant successor, Elizabeth I. Not hardly.

Nevertheless, the biased history is definitely NOT the takeaway from this book. Rather, “Bad Shepherds” is important because it’s another example of how conservative Catholics currently feel compelled to assuage their like-minded fellow members in the face of Francis’ doctrine-challenging heterodoxy. The idea of a conservative Catholic publishing house issuing a book about some of the church’s most scandalous historical episodes would have been unthinkable only seven years ago before Francis’ tenure began. This is a book borne of sheer desperation.

The message of this book is how to help keep conservative Catholicism afloat despite the current challenges. As with all Catholic books, the focus is on the legalistic and institutional oyster shell rather than on the pearl of great price; the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Recommended only for evangelicals associated with outreach ministries to Catholics and/or evangelicals who are curious about Catholicism’s current papal “crisis.”

CSN&Y: Squabbling Troubadours

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
By Peter Doggett
Atria Books, 2019, 359 pages

5 Stars

My five older sisters always had the record player or radio constantly playing in the house when I was growing up, but I began listening to AM Top 40 in earnest for myself in 1969 at the age of thirteen with my inexpensive Panasonic AM radio/cassette player combo. My oldest sister happened to be in college that year and she came home for winter break with a box of her roomate’s LPs in tow. Flipping through the albums, I was intrigued by three grungy looking hippies; David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, on the cover of their eponymous debut and gave it a spin. Wow! I was captivated by the trio’s songcraft and soaring vocal harmonies. No more Top 40, bubble-gum pop music for me. Neil Young joined the group before they went on tour and I became a hardcore fan of CS&N and CSN&Y and all of their various solo and collective permutations and faithfully bought ALL of their albums (see far below) for the next eight years. I was such a dedicated fan that I even collected the back catalogs of their previous bands – the Byrds (Crosby), Buffalo Springfield (Stills and Young), and, to a lesser extent, the Hollies (Nash) – and would subsequently become a lifelong fan of the Byrds. CSN&Y had a huge fanbase, which began with their appearance at the 1969 Woodstock festival from whence they were subsequently crowned the “voice of a generation.” 

However, after the release of their “CSN” album in 1977, I lost interest in the group. Why? Their music seemed to grow stale and their never-ending political rants began to grate. In recognition of the group’s 50th anniversary, a couple of biographies were just published, including this one by music journalist, Peter Doggett, who focuses mainly on the first five years of the band (I’m currently reading the second biography). I thought I knew all the stories pretty well, but Doggett provides a lot of interesting new information.

It’s tough enough when a group has one prima donna, but CSN&Y had four by design. Although they were the #1 rock group in the world after the release of their second album, “Déjà Vu,” their demise was already guaranteed. These guys made millions by singing about peace and love, but after their initial start, they couldn’t stand being in the same room together. Copious drug intake and hyper-inflated egos fueled the interpersonal animosity and the declining quality of the music. The internecine squabbling within CSN&Y was symbolic of the false promises of the Woodstock Nation. Yes, there is peace eternal and perfect brotherhood, but they are only found in salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

CS&N (and occasionally with Y) periodically joined together to pay the bills from 1977 until 2015, although they had largely devolved into an oldies band. Crosby then permanently alienated his bandmates with some rather infelicitous remarks. However, freed from the restricting confines of CS&N, Croz has recorded four interesting solo albums in the last five years.

Just for grins, I plugged my memory battery into my CPAP machine and came up with the list below of all of the CSN&Y records that I bought between 1969 and 1977. Rather than spend a lot of time reviewing the albums, I’m providing just a simple 1-to-5 star rating:

  • Crosby, Stills, and Nash (1969) – CS&N  5 Stars
  • Neil Young (1968, remixed and re-released in 1969) – Young  3 Stars
  • Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) – Young  4 Stars
  • Déjà Vu (1970) – CSN&Y  5 Stars
  • Stephen Stills (1970) – Stills  4 Stars
  • After the Gold Rush (1970) – Young  4 Stars
  • 4 Way Street (1971) – CSN&Y (live)  4 Stars
  • If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971) – Crosby  3 Stars
  • Songs for Beginners (1971) – Nash  4 Stars
  • Stephen Stills 2 (1971) – Stills  3 Stars
  • Graham Nash/David Crosby (1972) – Crosby and Nash  4 Stars
  • Stephen Stills/Manassas (1972) – Stills and Manassas  5 Stars
  • Harvest (1972) – Young  5 Stars
  • Wild Tales (1973) – Nash  2 Stars
  • Down the Road (1973) – Stills and Manassas  1 Star
  • Time Fades Away (1973) – Young (live)  1 Star
  • Byrds (1973) – Crosby and the other four original bandmembers 2 Stars
  • On the Beach (1974) – Young  2 Stars
  • Wind on the Water (1975) – Crosby and Nash  4 Stars
  • Stills (1975) – Stills  3 Stars
  • Stephen Stills Live (1975) – Stills (live)  3 Stars
  • Tonight’s the Night (1975) – Young  1 Star
  • Zuma (1975) – Young  3 Stars
  • Whistling Down the Wire (1976) – Crosby and Nash  2 Stars
  • Illegal Stills (1976) – Stills  2 Stars
  • Long May You Run (1976) – Stills and Young  1 Star
  • CSN (1977) – CS&N  4 Stars
  • Live (1977) – Crosby and Nash (live)  3 Stars

Yup, twenty-eight albums was A LOT of recorded output for four guys in eight years. They cranked ’em out like pizzas.

Government: A False Messiah

Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism
By John MacArthur
Word Publishing, 2000, 192 pages

5 Stars

Readers of this blog know one of my pet peeves is “Christian nationalism.” The Puritans came to this continent beginning in 1620 determined to set up a theocracy in which faith and government were inseparably intertwined. It’s hard to fault them because church-state symbiosis had been the model since Christianity was made the state religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD. The Puritans set the stage for the very popular notion, preached from pulpits for 400 years, that Colonial America, followed by the American nation, were in a unique, covenant relationship with God akin to God’s covenant relationship with Israel recorded in the Old Testament. Bible passages meant strictly for ancient Israel were regularly misapplied to the United States. What resulted were abuses and attitudes that were contrary to the Gospel and Gospel outreach. It was taken for granted by most that America was a “Christian nation” regardless of the spiritual condition of individual souls.

Alarmed by the increasing secularization of the nation in the 1960s and 70s, evangelicals took up the battle cry to stem the tide. Baptist pastor, Jerry Falwell, vowed to “lead the nation back to the moral stance that made America great.” In the push to fight the culture battles and defend morality and “Judeo-Christian principles” via the political process, the church’s focus on the Gospel was relegated to the back burner. Falwell and others eagerly embraced conservative religious unbelievers as allies in the fight against advancing secularism, thus promoting religious ecumenism. The politically-liberal lost were increasingly perceived as “the enemy” rather than as a mission field. The idea of government becoming some kind of cultural savior took hold in the minds of many. Believers were tempted to support America’s “civil religion” in which the bond of national citizenry and shared belief in a nebulous “supreme being” took precedence over the exclusively genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I recently heard about this book via some negative comments from a discernment ministry apologist who still strongly believes in the notion of America as a “Christian nation.” In “Why Government Can’t Save You,” Pastor John MacArthur responds to churches and individual evangelicals caught up in culture/morality battles. MacArthur reminds believers, with examples from the Old and New Testaments, that, yes, we should be model citizens, although our primary citizenship is in Heaven and that our focus should be on the Gospel and evangelization rather than on promoting nationalism and legislating morality.

Chapters include:

  • Introduction
  • Political Involvement: a Christian Perspective
  • Our Responsibility to Authority
  • The Biblical Purpose of Government
  • Our Tax Obligation
  • Jesus’ Lesson on Tax Exemptions
  • Supporting Our Leaders: How and Why
  • Daniel’s Uncompromising Civil Service
  • Paul’s Example Before Worldly Authorities
  • How to Live in a Pagan Culture
  • Appendix: Citizenship in Heaven: a Sermon by Charles Spurgeon (this excellent sermon can be found online here)
  • Study Guide

The book’s message of limited political engagement for believers runs counter to the historical and still very popular notion of America being a “Christian nation,” however, nineteen years after this book was published, with America becoming that much more secularized, there are more believers who are willing to concede that the Falwellian crusade to “reclaim America for Jesus” was wrong-headed and that the focus should now be on the Gospel and Gospel outreach.

Highly recommended. Order from Amazon here.

The “battle” over the giant crucifix in Lakeville, CT

Lakeville Crucifix: A Religious War in 19th Century Connecticut
By Geoffrey Brown
Between the Lakes Group, 2018, 321 pages

Books about the historical “tensions” between Protestants and Catholics in America are of great interest to me, so when I got wind of “Lakeville Crucifix” while searching for news articles for my weekend roundup, I immediately ordered it.

As a buildup to the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics in Lakeville, Connecticut in 1882-1883, author and local historian, Geoffrey Brown, provides an extensive chronology beginning with the start of the Reformation in 1517. We follow the English Puritan pilgrims to the New England colonies and the rise of Congregationalist churches. The Protestants of 19th century, smalltown Connecticut shared their forebearers’ animus towards Romanism, for reasons both theological and social. In counter-balance, the Vatican’s continuing intolerance of Protestants back in Catholic Europe at that period is also touched upon (lightly). Theological differences between Protestants and Catholics are addressed only in very general terms throughout the book. As Irish Catholic immigrants flooded into the Northeast U.S. in the 1840s, religious, economic, and social tensions increased. Various nativist, “Know Nothing,” political and social groups arose in the 1850s as a reaction to the deluge of Irish Catholic immigrants. However, by the 1880s many of the mainline Protestant denominations were drifting into modernism and the social gospel and had little reason to confront Catholicism’s false gospel, but pockets of remnant believers existed here and there.

In October, 1882, Roman Catholic priest, Henry Lynch, erected a twelve-foot-high crucifix with a life-size statue of Jesus on the grounds of St. Mary’s Church next to a public road in Lakeville, Connecticut. The Protestants of the area were aghast at this idolatrous display. Indignation grew and in July 1883, three of the town’s Protestant dignitaries (including an ex-governor) visited the priest and presented him with a petition signed by seventy-two of the town’s Protestant citizens, including nearly all of the shopkeepers, demanding he remove the crucifix. Lynch did not comply. Instead, Lynch’s Catholic parishioners immediately boycotted all of Lakeville’s merchants and did their shopping at the nearby town of Salisbury instead. In retaliation, twenty of the wives of the wealthiest men of the community met in October to discuss replacing their Irish Catholic female servants with African Americans from New York City or the South, although the effectiveness of that proposed counter-boycott is unclear. However, the Catholics of St. Mary’s were denied the use of transportation and picnic facilities owned by Protestants in their celebration of the establishment of a convent.

As time passed, tensions eased. In late 1887, the giant crucifix was taken down without any fanfare and brought inside of St. Mary’s where it is still on display today. Throughout the conflict, the region’s Protestant politicians remained largely neutral rather than antagonize their Catholic constituents.

The author gently derides Lakeville’s Protestants for their “sectarian intolerance,” but also criticizes Lynch and his bishop for inflaming Protestant passions with such an incendiary display of Roman militancy that was most certainly inspired by the ultramontanism of pope Pius IX that had crested a few decades prior to the crucifix controversy with the provocative Syllabus of Errors and Vatican I’s declaration of papal infallibility.

This was a somewhat interesting story although the book’s very unpolished writing style is a distraction. Brown cites many regional and even national newspaper articles that reported on Connecticut’s bygone-era “religious war.” Much of the material is redundant.

The author’s ecumenical views and criticisms of this sectarian skirmish are evident throughout. While I certainly don’t agree with the author’s “liberally high-minded” ecumenism, I do agree that the confrontation was regrettable. Rather than stirring up conflict, the Protestant believers of Lakeville, Connecticut should have been reaching out to their Catholic neighbors with the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. At the end of the book, Brown notes that fidelity to Biblical orthodoxy is rare in Northwest Connecticut these days and that Protestant churches in the area have little if any influence and are largely dying on the vine.

Capture18

Capture17
Lakeville, Connecticut, circa 1916

Argh! Those “massive fireballs of force” will getcha every time.

Yes, it’s time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Devil’s Jury!”
Adventure Comics #370, July, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel

Plot

We pick up where left off last issue (see here); in 1930s Smallville with Legionnaires, Duo Damsel, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Superboy hunted down and cornered by the powerful sorcerer, Mordru the Merciless. Before executing the four heroes, Mordru boasts that he has destroyed the other members of the Legion and their headquarters back in 30th century Metropolis. But before Mordru can act, Superboy saves himself and his comrades by burrowing an escape tunnel at lightning speed. In order to thwart Mordru’s evil mental probing, the Boy of Steel uses a hypnosis ray to erase all memories of the Legion from the minds of the quartet and they quickly assimilate into Smallville’s citizenry.

Foiled in his attempt to locate the Legionnaires, Mordru summons his formidable army from the 30th century. To limit the search for the foursome, the powerful sorcerer isolates and lifts Smallville to the fringes of outer space. Mordru’s soldiers eventually apprehend the four teens as likely suspects, but release them when they manifest no knowledge of their hero identities.

In the meantime, Pete Ross, Clark Kent’s best friend and the only person on Earth who knows Clark’s true identity, is befuddled by his friend’s inaction in the face of such calamity. Surmising that Clark has somehow forgotten his identity, he devises a plan, with the help of Lana Lang as Insect Queen, to trigger his friend’s memory, which proves successful. Superboy then uses the aforementioned hypnosis ray to jolt Duo Damsel, Mon-El, and Shadow Lass back to full cognizance.

With Pete Ross disguised as Superboy and one of Duo Damsel’s selves masquerading as Shadow Lass, the Legionnaires attack Mordru’s army, but are defeated. In his cavernous lair on the outskirts of Smallville, the sorcerer prepares to execute the four, but the real Superboy and Shadow Lass, along with Insect Queen, attack and momentarily defeat Mordru. However, the sorcerer’s powers prove to be too formidable and all six teens are subdued.

The young prisoners are forced to stand before Mordru and a jury of the “greatest criminals of the 30th century” where they are unanimously found guilty of “numerous acts of anti-crime” and sentenced to a slow death in a sealed, underground vault. However, the jury foreman turns out to be a malcontent who enables the heroes to escape. Nevertheless, Mordru becomes aware of the breakout, and prepares to annihilate the heroes once and for all with a conjured “massive fireball of force.” Instead, the powerful fireball causes the cavern to collapse, entombing Mordru and freeing the six teens.

After the hypnosis ray is used once again to erase Lana’s knowledge of Clark Kent’s true identity, the four Legionnaires return to 30th century Metropolis expecting their fellow Legionnaires to have been annihilated as Mordru had claimed. Instead they discover that through the combined efforts of Princess Projectra, Dream Girl, and her sister, the White Witch, Mordru’s sorcerous attack had been neutralized and he was tricked into believing he was victorious.

Commentary

This issue was a decent ending to the excellent introduction in Adventure #369, although the reader will inevitably ask themselves why Mordru went to all the trouble of staging a foregone jury trial after he had vanquished the Legionnaires. The novelty of seeing the Legionnaires navigate the 20th century along with cameos by honorary Legion member, Lana Lang, and reservist, Pete Ross was entertaining. The artwork in this issue is noticeably not up to Curt Swan’s usual high standards. Perhaps Shooter’s preliminary layouts were given too much prominence in this case? Swan was undoubtedly running out of steam at this point given all of his responsibilities at DC. His assignment as the Legion’s penciller would run out after two more issues.

I surely don’t endorse the presentation of sorcery, witchcraft, etc. in this and some of the other Legion tales. It’s strange that young writer, Jim Shooter, utilized “metaphysical” content in some of his stories when there were so many non-metaphysical possibilities in a fictional series based in the 30th century. But this preoccupation with the occult and non-Christian “spirituality” was as prevalent in 1968 as it is now. I’ll address this topic at more length at the end of this series.

Folks, only ten more issues to go in our thirty-five-issue, Legion Silver Age series. Let’s throttle back the rocket engines and begin our long descent to the Metropolis Spaceport!