“Clockwork Origin” (Becky Lake, For 2/16-2/22 Discussion)

This Youtube link comes from a Futurama episode, Clockwork Origin. (The full episode is on Netflix if you want to get the full experience-I highly recommend it.) In this episode, scientist Farnsworth challenges a fellow scientist, Dr.Banjo on the realities of evolution; Farnsworth presents all this evidence supporting evolution, but Dr. Banjo focuses on the one missing link in the chain. Even after proving the existence of the final link, this Dr.Banjo still supports creationism over evolution. In a fit of frustration. Dr. Farnsworth leaves the planets, settling on a deserted planet with toxic water. Over the course of a few days, Farnsworth’s nanobots, designed to purify the water, begin to evolve themselves and eventually take on human, robotic form (with reason and speech). When Farnsworth presents himself as their creator, the robots reject the notion in favor of evolution.

Picture Credit: Internet (pulled from the actual episode)

     Futurama offers a very unique (and humorous) position on the controversy of this ongoing debate between creation and evolution; it also contains some contradictions. Dr.Banjo accepts evolution because of the robot evolution evidence and Farnsworth acknowledges a creator after being a creator himself, seeing the ability for creation and evolution to exist side-by-side. In the case of the modern world, we don’t have an easy example to prove a creator; scientist still reject the idea of a creator and some Christians still reject evolution.

In my opinion we should approach the Bible with a critical approach, as suggested in “Dei Verbum”. When understanding the first chapters of the Bible, we shouldn’t take the information literally, we need to consider the conditions and current understandings of the human authors. At the creation of the Bible, human authors had little knowledge of the scientific nature of the world. It was only until more modern times that humans could understand the complexities in the universe.

Question for Discussion:
Is it possible to believe both creation and evolution when the Bible clearly states that humans were created in seven days? If God (the Creator) were to appear in modern times would people believe Him or would they reject Him just like the robots with Farnsworth?

The Refugee Ban (Christine Sniegowski, 2/17-2/22 Discussion)

The current administration of Donald Trump has pushed for a tighter control on immigration as a major policy focus. From the building of “the wall” between Mexico and the United States to a travel ban on refugees and visitors from certain Muslim based countries, it seems that we are attempting to make it extremely difficult for someone to come to the United States, even though for some of them it is a case of life or death as they are fleeing wars, gang violence and famine.

The following is an article that summarizes the ban and what it means for refugees attempting to enter the United States.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/28/trump-immigration-ban-syria-muslims-reaction-lawsuits
It’s important to note that the ban has been stayed by the federal courts at this time, though the Trump administration vows to fight back to get the ban enforced.

The theological issue at hand is whether or not we are morally obligated to assist and welcome those refugees to our country. Being a relatively young country, it is safe to say that unless you are of Native American descent that more than likely your family immigrated to the United States at some point during the last 300 years. Or you may actually be a visitor from another country on a student visa.

From Dei Verbum we have learned that God’s intent has been made clear to us in the teachings of the bible. Dei Verbum also recognized the need to make God’s word available to ALL people, in all languages so that they might read and understand God’s wish for humanity. Some of the bible verses that seem applicable to our responsibility to help those in need, especially foreigners, are below:

“‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (1 Kings 8:41-44)

Also, we read last week in the Book of Matthew that Jesus and his parents fled persecution from King Herod and received sanctuary in Egypt from their oppressor. Are we not obligated to likewise offer sanctuary?

Discussion Questions:
Is our immigration process too onerous for those desiring to enter and live in the United States?
Do we have a moral obligation as a country to accept immigrants fleeing from war torn countries or famine?
Does the separation of church and state remove any such moral obligation to us as individuals?

Catholic boy’s quest to bring his Jewish friend to heaven (Mary Sayegh, Feb 9th-14th Discussion)

Freedom of religion is a highly promoted and followed aspect of American lives. It’s not unusual to see a temple and a Christian church across from each other or for there to be prayer rooms located at schools and workplaces. Most private schools in America have some sort of religious orientation to them and people form their lives around their faith. Faith is what guides people into decision making that ultimately leads them into living their faith desired lifestyle. Likewise, this is true for Pete in “Stolen Summer” who tries to spread the word of God to his Jewish friend through his self proclaimed quest.

Project Greenlight’s “Stolen Summer” takes place in the suburbs of Chicago where a mischievous eight year old Catholic boy, named Pete, is reprimanded by a nun at his Catholic school and told to follow the path of the Lord and not that of the devil. He then takes it upon himself to help get someone to heaven, by using his Catholicism in believing that being Catholic is the only way to get their. Since Judaism doesn’t believe in an afterlife he befriends a young Jewish boy, Danny, after visiting a Temple. He finds that the Jewish boy is ill and thinks he is a perfect candidate for his quest and so sets up a decathlon for him to get to heaven.Pete uses what he’s learned through school and church to teach Danny about what is the right way of life. Although the boys are just kids, and Danny’s salvation seeking from Pete is quite innocent, Danny’s father is a rabbi and is not happy about his son’s conversion to the Catholic faith.

Pete’s Catholicism can be traced to Dei Verbum which literally translates to “God’s word.” Pete gets the word of God through scripture and talking to his priest. Numerous times throughout the film he visits his church to ask the priest questions about his faith along with what he should do. The way Pete uses his priest as a resource is exactly how God intended priest and other persons of higher up clergy to be used for. This is supported by Dei Verbum which states,“how God acts towards human beings; that, as he spoke through the prophets, his people might understand his ways ever more deeply and clearly, and demonstrate them more widely to the nations”(Dei Verbum 4).

Pete’s understanding of scripture is much like how it’s described in Chapter three of  Dei Verbum that, “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”(Dei Verbum 3). Pete is doing just what God wants him to do by spreading his word to others. In fact, it’s almost as if Pete is a prophet of God spreading his teachings to someone who doesn’t believe it. Since Danny is Jewish he believes only what is in the Old Testament. However; Christians believe, “the new Testament should be hidden in the old, and the old Testament should be made manifest in the new (Dei Verbum 4). Danny believes that Earth is the place of one’s salvation, whereas; Pete believes your salvation is with God in heaven. The different religious views of Pete and Danny often led to conflict in the film.

Discussion Questions

Do you think children of different religions should use their religious interpretations to influence each other?

A great controversy in the film is that of Pete’s parents being somewhat okay with Pete’s quest, while Danny’s father advocates against it. Whose position do you take on it?

Churches and Political Activism (Micah Goodwin, Feb 9th-14th Discussion)

Article: Trump Vows To ‘Destroy’ The Law That Bans Churches From Endorsing Candidates (Antonia Blumberg Associate Religion Editor, The Huffington Post)

“The president wants to help churches become the new super PACs.”

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-johnson-amendment_us_5893984de4b0c1284f24ece4?section=us_religion

Summary:

Major controversy has always been present between the division of church and state. The current president of the United States, Donald Trump is aiming to abolish the “Johnson Amendment”. This amendment was enacted in 1954 and its sole purpose is to prevent churches and religious organizations from being involved in political activities and endorsement of candidates (Blumberg 2). In addition, this “50-year-old tax law that prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in political campaigns” (Blumberg 1). Trump voiced his opinion at a prayer breakfast about the amendment; he felt that this amendment restricts individuals from expressing their own religious beliefs (Blumberg 2). Trump does not have the power to repeal this amendment; Congress has the final say over this matter (Blumberg 3).

Generally Republicans feel that politics should be implemented in churches more than Democrats do, “nearly 60 percent of Republicans believe churches should express their political views, compared with 42 percent of Democrats” (Blumberg 5). Individuals who are in agreement with repealing this amendment desire to still promote religious structure and order. Jerry Falwell Jr. stated that if this amendment is repealed then “this is going to create a revolution among Christian leaders, nonprofit universities, and nonprofits in general” (Blumberg 4). People who are in disagreement for the repeal of the amendment believe that this will infringe on the First Amendment (Blumberg 5).

Theological Issue: Can politics affect religious beliefs and faith? What grounds are religion and religious beliefs based on?

Relation to Class:
In Vatican II, the document Dei Verbum talks about the role of bishops (religious leaders). Bishops responsibility is to teach Christians about God using biblical references and context. “It is the duty of bishops, “who have the apostolic ministry of teaching,” duly to instruct the faithful entrusted to the” (Dei Verbum 98). Bishops are held accountable for the interpretation of the word of God (Dei Verbum 98). Due to the fact that Bishops have a specific job they should avoid from deviating from this by adding political factors. Including politics in church can alter individual perception of what churches are teaching. People may begin to lose focus on the sole purpose of church, which is God.

Also Dei Verbum discusses the tradition of the church. Tradition and scripture work hand and hand together. In addition, believing in God requires an individual to practice a spiritual lifestyle. In order to practice a spiritual lifestyle God should be the primary focus (Dei Verbum 90).

In the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees talk with God pertaining to if they should pay taxes to Caesar (Mt. 22:15-22). God responds by letting them know that they should give back the “Roman Coin” to Caesar Mt. 22:15-22)(. This relates to politics being implemented in the church because God clearly shows that he doesn’t need anything thing additional. God solely wants for Christians to live an appropriate lifestyle and maintain reading the bible on a daily basis.

FOR DISCUSSION:

Can the incorporation of politics in religion have a major impact on the members of the church? Can religious leader’s sole purpose be altered if politics are discussed in church? Will Christians began to lose focus about their faith and commitment with God? What negative outcomes can result in the repealing of the “Johnson Amendment”?

Citations:
Benedict, James Carroll, and Edward P. Hahnenberg. Vatican II: the essential       texts. New York: Image, 2012. Print.
The New American Bible: translated from the original languages with critical use of all the ancient sources: with the Revised book of Psalms and the Revised New Testament. IA Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, 1991. Print.

The Christian Analogy to the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Narnia Series (Francesca De Leos, Feb 9th-14th Discussion))

Most have probably heard of C.S. Lewis, author of the famous Chronicles of Narnia, a book series, turned into a successful movie franchise. Many have enjoyed the film over the years, and most have noticed the huge similarities of the books/films to Christianity.

If you’ve watched the movie or read the books, you’ll know that Aslan, the great lion that ruled over Narnia, is a direct analogy to Jesus Christ. As C.S. wrote in a letter:
“The whole Narnian story is about Christ. That is to say, I asked myself ‘Supposing that there really was a world like Narnia and supposing it had (like our world) gone wrong and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours), what might have happened?’ The stories are my answers.”

Although C.S. Lewis’ intention was to provide a story about Christ, many have found the Narnia chronicles to be a terrible and weak representation of Christianity. Many have found the Chronicles of Narnia to be misleading. Aslan is described as this majestic lion that reigns over the kingdom of Narnia. In addition, the book explains that Aslan’s sacrifice was due to the sacrifice of anyone who has a pure and good heart.

In contrast to the life of Jesus, He is described as the lamb, a great difference to a lion. In John 1:29, Jesus is described as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John, 1:29). Jesus is the world’s majestic and powerful savior, but he is the “Lamb of God,” because the lamb is a symbol of the pure and innocent sacrifice, and peace and purity.

Moreover, in the book of Matthew, it is described that the death of Jesus was the only sacrifice that could save all human beings from sin. This can also been seen in the Revelation 1:5, “Jesus Christ…who loves us and who has released us from our sins, by His blood” (Rev. 1:5). Unlike in the C.S. Lewis books, anyone who is good enough can be a sacrifice, which the Bible explains only one person, the son of God, Jesus Christ, can save us from sin.

There is also the problem of the whimsical and magical aspect of the stories. Children, even adults, are caught up with the magical aspect of Narnia, and are amazed with the wars and fighting of evil, that the big picture of Christianity is missed; Christ Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, so that we may live with God in Heaven.

As explained in Dei Verbum from Vatican II, “Through Christ…human beings can draw near to the father and become sharers in the divine nature” (Dei Verbum, 85). In addition “ [Jesus’] death and his resurrection from the dead… [is] His message that God is with us to deliver us from the darkness of sin and death” (Dei Verbum, 86). Christian religion focuses on the revelation that Jesus sent his one and only son to die for us so that all may live forever.

FOR DISCUSSION:

The magical aspect of Narnia is truly great and entertaining, but as the author states it’s relation to Jesus Christ, is it a good representation of Christianity? Should this book be advertised as a Christian text, or advertised for Christians to read? These series are a huge franchise around the world, should we be concerned with its associations to the Christian theology? Also, are there any other aspects in the books that are a terrible representation of the faith? Or do you think that there are no problems with the series?

Article Source:
Toynbee, Polly. “‘Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion'” The Guardian.
Guardian News and Media, 05 Dec. 2005. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

More Sources:
Benedict, James Carroll, and Edward P. Hahnenberg. Vatican II: the essential texts. New York:

Image, 2012. Print.

The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

Sports and the Sabbath

The summer of 2016 was an exciting time in sports. Many of my fellow New Yorkers endured a hot July day to witness the Hall of Fame induction of Ken Griffey Jr. and our own Mike Piazza. As Americans, we watched in awe of our gold medal Olympians. My own kids were doing summersaults all around their Aunt Christine’s house as we cheered for Simone Biles. Later, they stayed up past their bedtime to witness Katie Ledecky break yet another world record. Interestingly, all three of these athletes are quite serious about their Catholic faith.

Photo Credit

Katie Ledecky shared, “My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective.”

Photo Credit

Simone Biles explained the contents of her Olympic bag: “Along with her bottled water, bobby pins, Beats headphones and cheetah-print umbrella, Biles carries a white rosary. ‘My mom, Nellie, got me a rosary at church. I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll just pray normally to myself, but I have it there in case.’”

And Pope Benedict XVI was quoted in Cooperstown when Mike Piazza proclaimed that “One who has hope lives differently.” The all-start catcher added, “My mother gave me the greatest gift a mother can give a child. She gave me the gift of my Catholic faith. This has had a profound impact on my career and it has given me patience, compassion and hope.”

In Piazza’s speech, he also said, “Above all, my religion is a source of personal strength, not a reason to impose your will or put down those who are different. My belief in God has driven me since my childhood and formed my core values of hard work, faith and belief in yourself.”

All three athletes speak of their faith as giving them something important. I have sometimes, however, met Christians who criticize sports as a waste of time. And many are concerned that people are playing sports on Sunday, which is supposed to be the Holy Day dedicated to God.

After creating the earth and humanity, God rested. Genesis says that, “On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Gen: 2:1-3).

Cardinal Ratzinger speaks in our class book, “In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall,” of the “Sabbath Structure of Creation.” Ratzinger explains that the day of rest, which some could view as a waste of time, was established by God as a way “to return to the source” and “participate in God’s freedom” (Ratzinger, p. 31). For Christians, rest is an important way to see beyond the day-to-day grind and to recognize our ultimate reality: where we came from and where we are going.

For Discussion:

Do you think that sports are actually good for Christians? How might sports and faith be complementary? Are you concerned that sports are played on the Christian holy day and that these athletes, who claim to be Catholic, are working out and competing on Sundays?