Untitled Document

Dawn Eden on Theology of the Body
Wednesday, June 16, 2010, 10:56 AM

Dawn Eden (author of Thrill of the Chaste) has issues with Christopher West's interpretation of John Paul II's "Theology of the Body," including West's underlying claim that the sixties sexual revolution was a "happy fault." Dawn completed her [Master's] thesis on this subject, and has posted a talk she gave about her thesis and West's agenda, as well as a link for obtaining her thesis via e-book (with a modest donation requested. I just signed up.)



Saint Julian, by Walter Wangerin Jr.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 7:15 PM

The legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller seems to

have risen in the Middle Ages, and is today considered entirely

folklore. Possibly inspired by the story of Oedipus, it tells of a young

man of noble family cursed to commit an appalling, shameful crime. As

with Oedipus, his very efforts to make the crime impossible actually

bring it about, but Christians added the element of redemption, a

demonstration that no crime is beyond the mercy of God.

Author and clergyman Walter Wangerin Jr. has written Saint

Julian, a version of the legend (published 2003) in his own

dreamy, poetic style. It's not his best work, but it's worth reading for

those with eyes to see.

Medieval Christians believed that Julian lived at the beginning of

the Christian era, but Wangerin places it in the epoch that produced

it—somewhere in the Middle Ages, apparently during the Crusades. His

book combines the classic style of the hagiographical tale with the

allegory of Pilgrim's Progress. Julian is a sort of Everyman, or

Everychristian. Born to many advantages, blessed with physical beauty

and rich natural gifts, he falls—almost innocently, one might say—into

the sin of pride, seeing no need to curb his desires. His immoderation

leads to a great sin, which brings upon him the curse of the tale. And

when he commits his crime, it is again because of his intemperance. What

follows is a long journey to discover the miracle of grace, a journey

in which God is always guiding, generally unseen, along hard and painful

roads.

Saint Julian lacks the emotional peaks and valleys that broke

so many of our hearts in Wangerin's greatest novel, the delightful The

Book of the Dun Cow. In his attempt to mimic the style of

medieval chroniclers, the author starts the book slowly, and probably

loses a lot of readers along the way. The very universality of his

themes tends to make the characters one-dimensional, like figures in a

Gothic church painting.

Fans of Wangerin will enjoy Saint Julian, but not consider it

his finest work. Those new to him would do best to start with The

Book of the Dun Cow.

Lars Walker is a Minnesota fantasy author. His latest novel is West Oversea.



Lewis on Good Government
Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 6:15 PM

I was struck when I finished reading C. S. Lewis' novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Ed. note: The lack of a serial, or so-called Oxford, comma in that title bothers me.) to my son last night. There's a beautiful passage towards the end that illustrates what Lewis thought good government looks like:

These two Kings and two Queens governed Narnia well, and long and happy was their reign. At first much of their time was spent in seeking out the remnants of the White Witch’s army and destroying them, and indeed for a long time there would be news of evil things lurking in the wilder parts of the forest—a haunting here and a killing there, a glimpse of a werewolf one month and a rumor of a hag the next. But in the end all that foul brood was stamped out. And they made good laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down, and liberated young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school, and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live.

This kind of vision is why I'm really at heart a monarchist (even if only of a divine sort).



Amos, Jerome & Augustine
Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 11:10 AM

Piety toward elders does not mean a one-way street. Scripture is clear that the other side of such piety and respect is the parental, and societal, obligation toward children, grandchildren, and future generations. The past is not everything, and one thing that is important about the past is its witness about the future.

What drives the narrative of the Chosen People is the promise of offspring to Abraham, and ultimately the promise of future generations of all nations being blessed through Abraham’s seed. A “patriarchal” society that merely insists on respect and obedience from the young without an accompanying fatherly (and motherly!) delight in children has turned in on itself and has no true hope. A society that does not expend its energy in some sense for children has no future. (Optional children, optional future!)

The future-orientation of the Bible’s dramatic narrative comes to mind today in reflecting on the commemoration of the Prophet Amos in the eastern churches on June 15. Amos, while delivering messages of judgment in the near-present tense, and blasting Israel for its false piety, also ends with great eschatological hope that includes not only Israel but also “all the nations who are called by my name.” These nations will find shelter in the “booth of David” that is fallen but will be repaired and raised up and rebuilt.

James of Jerusalem in Acts 15 quotes this prophecy (Amos 9:11-12) in concluding his address to the apostles gathered in council to determine whether Gentiles can be accepted into the fellowship of the Body of Christ without first converting to Judaism via circumcision and adherence to the Law. The apostles proclaim that the gentiles are to become residents of the house of David, the temple that is the Body of the Christ.

The history of David’s own house is a tale of struggle, triumph, and failure. Even after his anointing, and even after the death of Saul, warfare ensues between the house of Saul and David. After triumph, there is Bathsheba, then the rebellion Absalom. One generation of glory during the reign of his son Solomon, followed by a divided kingdom and much bloodshed and apostasy, renewal, apostasy, defeat and conquest and exile. That’s the glorious legacy of the “house of David”?

In the Jerusalem of James’ and the apostles’ day, a Messianic restoration of the Davidic kingdom was still the hope of many—as even the disciples asked Jesus before His Ascension if he going to take care of the “Roman problem.”

By AD 70 Jerusalem, site of the hoped for restoration, is heading toward the abyss of destruction conquest by Rome. Titus builds an arch in Rome showing the triumph over Zion and the removal of the Temple’s 7-branch menorah. The new Jewish captive slaves build the Colosseum nearby. Roughly 250 years later Constantine builds within site of Titus’s arch an arch of his own triumph—he claims to have seen the true Light of the Jewish Temple of the Old Covenant, the sign of Christ in the sky. Rome has been taken by a Christian emperor.

Then barbarians sack Rome in 410; Bethlehem of Judea, least among the tribes of Judah, receives waves of refugees from the city that sent Pontius Pilate to Judea. A monk there by the name of Jerome, who once lived in Rome, has to curtail some of his biblical exegetical work to serve these refugees. But the Latin community there wanes after a few generations.

Jerome’s friend Augustine of Hippo, seven years after the death of Jerome (420), also dies, after having written of the destruction of Rome and having seen the Vandal invasions of North Africa as they marked a return of Arianism more than a generation after the final adoption of the Nicene Creed in 381. Thus begins a dark era of bloody persecution of orthodox Christians in North Africa who follow the teachings of Augustine and the Councils of the Church, even unto death.

Both Jerome and Augustine are venerated on June 15 in a number of Orthodox calendars, along with the Prophet Amos.

Amos’s “booth” of David, ever fragile, like the Temple, like Jerusalem, like Rome, like Hippo in North Africa, from age to age faces the trials of history. The improbability of the survival of the Jews who cling to the promises of God after several thousand years of conquest and hostility is a Story unlike all others.

Paul sees in the redemption of the Jews the hope of the Gentiles. All mankind and all the children of Abraham await the final raising up of everything good that has fallen. This is accomplished by the One who alone possesses immortality and has the power of an indestructible life, who redeems, rebuilds, and renews us all. In one hymn of the church today, the fallen booth of David becomes the fallen tabernacle of Adam, raised up, as it were, with the Incarnation and Birth of God the Son of the Virgin Mary. We are saved by the Christ Child.

We, who piously await the final restoration of all things in hope, are the beneficiaries of the Father who so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son that we might become sons by adoption. Piety and Fatherly love come together.

Please consider blessing the Fellowship of St. James today with a generous gift in support of its ministry “for Christ, Creed and Culture.” Every gift, large and small, is greatly appreciated!



NYT on Pro-Life Women
Monday, June 14, 2010, 3:19 PM

Ramesh Ponnuru wrote this last Friday, worth a read today. Encouraging.



Justice and the Young Evangelicals
Monday, June 14, 2010, 12:35 PM

Maybe some of you saw this video floating around in recent weeks, an apparent glimpse into that new bird, the "young" evangelical.

Many in the various networks I encounter "liked" the video, but I found it rather superficial and disappointing. Of course, each person working in a particular area finds that area to be the most important/compelling/relevant, and so on.

The depiction of the "religious Right" as essentially hypocrites who do nothing but vote once every four years was simply too banal. And just in case you got the impression from the segment that "young evangelicals" don't care about abortion, that litmus-test issue for the older set, see this from the latest Barna Update:

Young born again Christians retain similar abortion views to older Christians.

While there has been much discussion about the changing perspectives of young Christians, the research revealed that born again Christians under the age of 45 were not substantially different from older generations of Christians. Overall, 61% of 18- to 44-year-old born again Christians said they wanted to see abortion be illegal in all or most cases, which compares to 55% among born again believers ages 45 and older. (The six-point gap is within the range of sampling error for the two subgroups.) Interestingly, when compared to older born again Christians, the younger set are much more likely to express strong views about the subject (either keeping it legal or illegal in all cases) and less likely to say they are not sure.



Bald Heads & Piety
Monday, June 14, 2010, 11:53 AM

Today, June 14, the Orthodox and other eastern rite churches commemorate the Prophet Elisha. Like the Apostle Paul (according to consistent tradition and iconography), Elisha had a “hair loss” problem, which we know from the story of the boys who jeered at him, “Go up, you baldhead!” Elisha’s response, a curse, and the fate of the boys, does not sit well with Christian piety, understandably, and surely has to be one of those episodes in the Old Testament that kept the Marcion up at night until he came up with his heresy rejecting the God of the Old Testament that would allow such things.

In the Orthodox service books, surprisingly, even this episode of Elisha–the boys, and the she-bears–is mentioned. It would have been easy enough to just ignore it, but perhaps the compilers and writers of the various services over the centuries wanted to make sure no Marcionite would feel comfortable in church. Much else is said about Elisha as successor of Elijah, receiver of a double-portion of his spirit, his various miracles, so what follows is hardly the main theme of the texts, yet it is there, one verse within the Eighth Ode of Matins:

Checking the unruly wickedness of the young children, O Prophet Elisha, thou gavest them as food to blood-thirsty beasts as thou didst cry: Praise ye the Lord, and supremely exalt Him unto the ages.

This note of praise is the traditional part of the Eighth Ode, the refrain from the Apocryphal “Song of the Three Young Men” (in the fiery furnace). In this text, Elisha is seen as singing the note of praise, as also the other two verses of this ode end the same way, with Elisha joining the three young men in their song.

First, it may be significant that the compiler chose to put the incident with the young boys in the one ode that has a refrain from the Song of the Three Young Men, perhaps as a contrast between the taunts of the young boys and the praise of the young men—or “the three children” in furnace, as I have seen if numerous times in translation.

Second, and more to the point, the commentator speaks of the unruly wickedness of the young boys in describing an incident that we would reflexively want to describe as merely boys just getting carried away with name-calling.

Lacking skills in the original language, exegesis, and knowledge of patristic commentary on this Scripture, I can only note how it appears in matins, and not much more.

But the disrespect that is shown to one of the boys’ elders, who was also one of God’s prophets here, does remind me of other incidents of disrespect in the Bible, such as that shown by Ham to his father Noah, and even that shown inadvertently by Paul to the high priest Ananias. What it brings to mind, for me, is the notion of piety, in the sense of respect for the elders, the forbearers, those in an authoritative relationship to the defining traditions of one’s faith.

Elisha does seem to represent a supreme piety–in his following of Elijah and his fidelity to the great prophet’s legacy and to the precepts of the God of Israel in a time widespread infidelity and devotion to pagan gods and godesses, including Baal. He received it from Elijah as a precious inheritance.

If we just consider the respect shown to one’s elders, along with respect and honor given to one’s parents, we touch upon something fundamental to the well being of any society, I believe. Fundamental enough to appear in the Decalogue with respect to a generation respecting its forebearers, that is, honor to one’s father and mother. You can look at this issue of generational respect and piety from many different angles, and much could be said about it. For one thing, sometimes such piety actually can be a hindrance to the advance of the Gospel, and in many eastern cultures for a long time, and even with the Empire the Christian claims about Christ were seen as threats to traditional Roman piety towards the gods. Hence Christians were “atheists.” After all, Jesus seems to set piety upside down in saying one must follow him and “hate” one’s father and mother.

Obviously, this is hyperbole, but all the same one of the fundamental objections to Jesus is his lack of piety toward the established customs, or the traditions of the fathers of the Jews. But Jesus overturns piety because his is the true piety. In the Gospel that is most expressive of the tension between Christianity and Judaism as they emerge and diverge in the first century, that is, the Gospel of St. John, Jesus is seen as emphasizing a superior piety that he offers as a testimony to his authenticity: He shows filial piety toward the Father. He does as the Father bids. He does the work of the Father, and nothing else. He offers all his blood, sweat and tears to the Father, for his glory. In no other Gospel is the Father-Son quite so prominent. Jesus’s supreme dispute with the religious rulers of the day is that he is faithful to God, the Father, as his dutiful son, while the religious rulers are not. The filial piety of Jesus as a child is so strong a motif, that perhaps it is also part of the reason why in the Book of Acts Jesus is described in several cases as God’s obedient “child’ (Acts 4:30. Pais in Greek) or servant.

While piety can be an obstacle to the gospel, the loss of respect may also be an obstacle to genuine Christian renewal today, for we do not know better than our forbearers, for there is neither virtue nor goodness we now possess that wasn’t already know and lived in countless generations before us. Wrongheaded piety can be an obstacle to the Gospel, but a loss of piety and reverence in the end will lead to a foundation of sand.

In my younger days I surely had a false piety and also a lack of true piety for what warranted respect. The post-war generation knew better than its parents, it thought, and reinvented the world as it saw fit. But while we can disfigure the world, we cannot make it fit and flourish in any shape we choose. This impious reshaping, even if in response to hypocrisy and corruption, which we will always have with us in some measure, was doomed to failure, and its effects close in on our unruly wickedness. The she-bears of hell are hungry.

There is an ancient path, where the good way is, that the best of the Christian past shows us, if we have ears to hear and the humility to embrace it. It’s why we publish, regardless of whether we are deemed “successful” or not.

While quoting it will seem contrived, I admit, I state as simple fact that just minutes ago, after writing the previous paragraph of this post, I received a handwritten note from Touchstone readers with a donation stating: “My husband and I read Touchstone aloud and find it so encouraging. Whenever we feel discouraged by the world’s standard we go first to the Scriptures and then to Touchstone to find fellowship with others who are actively pursuing truth and piety in all things.” Yes, piety. As long as piety is not a cloak for idolatry (!), it can well describe love for the Body of Christ, throughout all generations, including the baldheads Elisha and Paul and countless others, a vast festal gathering, all singing, "Praise ye the Lord, and supremely exalt Him unto the ages."

Please join these donors in supporting the ministry with a donation today; you will be helping others as well as supporting the printing of our publications, for “Christ, Creed and Culture.”



More Films, of another sort
Friday, June 11, 2010, 2:49 PM

All the films of Andrei Tarkovsky are favorites of mine. (Perhaps because I am part Russian?) They are not everyone's cup of tea, as they are a different sort of filmmaking, as Tarkovsky explains in Sculpting in Time. For this reason, I cannot broadly recommend them, though for the right viewer with patience and time, they will pay dividends and reward one increasingly upon re-viewings. In some ways they are like some of Robert Bresson's film, which I also regard highly such as An Hasard Balthasar, and the very dark but unforgettable (for me) Mouchette. Tarkovsky also created cinema under the nose of the Soviet censors until Nostalghia (filmed in Italy) and The Sacrifice (filmed in Sweden, after he left Russia). That being the case, the context of a repressive materialistic and anti-religious state had to influence his film making–I don't mean that it harmed it but that the films became focused as replies to ambient official atheism and repression and control of the creative instinct. They also arise out of a very personal, autobiographical soil, hence are very personal films, especially his later films (the last two mentioned along with Zerkalo (The Mirror). He often uses lines of his father's poetry in the films.

What attracts me to the films after several viewings, aside from the stunning visual shots, is the deep, yes, typically Russian (I assume) brooding  contemplation of the spiritual side of man and the cosmos. If I string together all his films from beginning to end, there emerge, in varying decrees, themes on son/father relations, mother/son relations, Word/creativity, memory/identity, alienation and longing. The Word as expression of inner life and beauty emerges in Andrei Rublev, perhaps his best film. I rank the remaining 6 films in order of preference: The Mirror, Nostalghia, The Stalker, My Name is Ivan (Ivan's Childhood), Solaris, and the Sacrifice.

Do not expect conventional film making, plot, action and development. While Andrei Rublev has some amazing action footage of the cruel sack of Novgorod by the Tatars, the tensions in the story as it unfolds often emerge from what is withheld by characters or hidden in their own minds as secrets. The casting of a giant church bell by a mere youth and the revelation of his secret are masterful. His shots are often like paintings. But not everyone's cup of tea! I am curious to know what others think.

Please help support the continued ecumenical ministry of the Fellowship of St. James "for Christ, Creed and Culture" with a generous donation today. Thank you very much.



Polish bishops bar IVF supporters from communion
Friday, June 11, 2010, 1:59 PM

By Jonathan Luxmoore
Warsaw, 11 June (ENI)–Poland's bishops have warned Roman Catholic Church members that they cannot receive Holy Communion if they support in vitro fertilisation, because it is a violation of church law comparable to abortion.

"The church always defends the weakest, especially the totally defenceless, who include conceived children," the Family Council of the bishops' conference had said on 19 May. "Those who kill them, and those who actively participate in this killing or make laws against conceived life, including the life of a child in embryonic state, which is largely destroyed by in vitro procedure, stand in open conflict with the Catholic Church's teaching."

The council's statement was issued amid controversy over plans by the Polish government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk for a new bioethics law that would allow IVF to be funded from the State health budget.

The Family Council said that Poland's Catholic clergy were concerned that the national parliament, or Sejm, had voted down an alternative church-backed bill in September 2009 that would have imposed up to three years' jail for, "all people whose actions lead to IVF".

However, Adam Boniecki, editor of Poland's best-known Catholic weekly newspaper, Tygodnik Powszechny, has criticised the council's statement. He said commentators would see the church as, "dividing society into those who can and cannot receive communion".

The Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper said Catholic canon law makes no reference to IVF, and does not, "recognise an analogy" between abortion and the IVF-related destruction of embryos.

In 2008, Poland's 133-member bishops' conference condemned plans by Tusk's government for State funding of IVF, which is currently unregulated in the country. The bishops also warned Catholic parliamentarians not to vote for the proposed law, which was drafted by a commission headed by Senator Jaroslaw Gowin, formerly editor of the Catholic monthly publication Znak.

Still, Sejm members heavily defeated the alternative legislation, drafted by a Catholic "Contra in vitro" group after a public petition, which would also have prescribed up to, "five years imprisonment for anyone caught experimenting with embryos".

In a sign of disunity over the issue, the Rev. Franciszek Longchamps de Berrier, a member of the Bioethics Team of the bishops' conference, told the Polish church's information agency, KAI, that the bishops' council "had no right to issue doctrinal declarations". He added that the Family Council's statement should be treated, "solely as the view of its members".

At least one Polish bishop has rejected this view. The bishop of Swidnica, Ignacy Dec, told Poland's Nasz Dziennik daily newspaper that the bishops' conference had appointed the Family Council, and it spoke, "with the voice of the church," and always took care, "to pronounce in unity with the church under the Holy Father." [Reprinted by permission, copyright Ecumenical News Internationl]



On Second Thought … Another Movie List
Thursday, June 10, 2010, 6:43 PM

     Thanks to all who have recommended movies embodying the Christian vision of the world — many of those movies I've never seen, especially the foreign-made, and so I have something to look forward to.  In the meantime, I'd like to revise my former list, thus — and place an asterisk next to movies that I especially like, and that are rarely seen or talked about.  Again, this list is unranked, and includes only movies I have actually watched:

1. The Passion of the Christ.  Worth seeing just for the theologically judicious flashbacks.

2. Ben-Hur (William Wyler).  Incomparable score.  Stephen Boyd as the malign Messala steals every scene he's in.  A movie about the triumph of the Word of God, victorious in death.

3. Jesus of Nazareth (Franco Zeffirelli).  Everybody's in this movie, but then, almost everybody's really good in this movie, from Anne Bancroft (Mary Magdalene) to Christopher Plummer (Herod Antipas) to Ian Holm (the evil Pharisee Zerah).  Robert Powell as Jesus is a tad on the emaciated side, but riveting.

4. The Ten Commandments.  Hey, you can't beat Yul Brynner saying, "Moses, Moses, Moses!"

5. The Greatest Story Ever Told (George Stevens).  A bit overdone, like most Biblical epics, but I like it anyway, and Max von Sydow is excellent.

*6. Friendly Persuasion (William Wyler).  Quakers out west.  Gary Cooper is superb.

7. Stagecoach (John Ford).  The movie that defined westerns for three decades.  John Wayne ends the movie by taking the former prostitute Dallas out to a ranch outside the town and the Ladies' Temperance League.

*8. How Green Was My Valley (John Ford).  The chronicle of the slow withering of a Welsh mining community.  Walter Pidgeon plays a bluff and earnest young preacher, whom half the town despises for his not preaching enough hell fire.  Maureen O'Hara is the young woman who loves him.  Roddy McDowall is the boy Huw, through whose eyes the story is told.  Donald Crisp as the patriarch of the Morgan family is unsurpassable — as is the actress, whose name I can't remember, who plays his wife.

9. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford).  The dark western in which the good and self-sacrificing man does not get the girl — in fact gives up everything that means most to him in life.  John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart are the suitors, and Lee Marvin the bad man.

10. The Searchers (John Ford).  Either this or the previous movie is the greatest western ever made.  A man eaten up with hate and the desire for revenge (John Wayne) must come to terms with the truth.

11. High Noon (Howard Hawks — I think).  Gary Cooper plays the sheriff of a town who has to do the right thing even when his deputy (Lloyd Bridges) and his best "friend" among the town's elders (Thomas Mitchell) either turn against him or give him no support.

12. Shane.  A man comes to town who knows how to fight and how to shoot — and helps the embattled farmers hold their own against ranchers that want to drive them off the land.  One of the best "boy" movies ever made.  I could have chosen instead Angel and the Badman, wherein John Wayne is brought round to goodness and faith by a village of Quakers.

*13.  A Tale of Two Cities.  Ronald Coleman as the drunkard lawyer Sydney Carton is perfect; he can say more with a look on his face than most actors can in a week of movies.  When he makes his fateful decision in the end, a plaque on the mantel behind him reads, "I am the Resurrection and the Life."  Also great is Edna Mae Oliver (who was in everything; see Guns Along the Mohawk) as the kindly battleaxe Miss Pross.

*14. Penny Serenade.  A heartbreaking movie about a marriage that is on the rocks.  Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play a couple who lose their beloved little daughter, and then grow apart from one another.  Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe in the TV show Petticoat Junction) is spot-on as their old friend and business associate — who teaches Cary Grant how to change a diaper.  This one's not to miss.

15. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra).  Clark Gable, the hardscrabble news reporter, wins the girl, Claudette Colbert, who is fleeing from an arranged marriage with a man from high society.

16. It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra).  Everybody knows about this one — a movie about the goodness of not pursuing your dreams!

17. You Can't Take It With You (Frank Capra).  In this one, Lionel Barrymore — Mr. Potter in the previous movie — is the good guy, a rich man who retires from the world to pursue human interests, along with the rest of his family of wise fools.

*18. Lady for a Day (Frank Capra).  A poor old woman has been pretending, to her daughter who lives overseas, that she is a rich socialite; then the daughter comes to visit.

*19. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.  Ingrid Bergman is magnificent as a strong-willed missionary to China who wins the respect of the people and of the local mandarin ruler (Robert Donat).  Features one of the great final scenes in all film history.

20. The Bells of Saint Mary's.  The better of the two Bing Crosby / Father O'Malley movies, though Going My Way has its final surprise — when the director brought Barry Fitzgerald's nonagenarian mother from Ireland, without Fitzgerald's knowing it.  Anyway, you can't beat Ingrid Bergman as the sister who runs the school (and learns a little bit of boxing, too).

21. The Sound of Music.  Everyone knows this one …

*22. Marty.  Ernest Borgnine is a butcher whose mother and brother and pals don't want him to marry the plain-looking girl he has fallen in love with.

23. On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan).  Marlon Brando walks the Via Dolorosa.  You can't beat the cast in this movie: Lee J. Cobb as the corrupt union boss, Rod Steiger as Brando's compromised brother Charlie, Eva Marie Saint as the young woman whose brother was killed by the union thugs, and Karl Malden as the priest who rouses the men to action — in Hollywood's finest portrayal of a priest.

24. The Scarlet and the Black.  Gregory Peck is Monsignor O'Flaherty, protecting Jews in Rome in the Second World War; his Nazi opponent is Christopher Plummer.

*25. The Nun's Story.  Audrey Hepburn is a nun who works as a nurse in a hospital in Africa.

26. A Man for All Seasons.  Incomparable script, for a great cast: Paul Scofield as Thomas More, Robert Shaw as the conflicted Henry VIII, John Hurt as the perjured Richard Rich, and Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey) as the malevolent Cromwell.

*27. I Confess (Alfred Hitchcock).  Montgomery Clift is a Canadian priest who is suspected of murder, but who has heard the confession of the real murderer, and cannot reveal it, or even give testimony that would help to reveal it.

*28. Great Expectations (David Lean).  John Mills as Pip and Alec Guinness as Herbert Pocket turn in superb performances.  A film about gratitude and ingratitude, and the coming to life of two human souls.

29. Sergeant York.  Gary Cooper is Alvin York, a simple Christian farmer who doesn't want to go to war, because it's against his convictions, but who, when persuaded, becomes the most decorated veteran of World War I.  Walter Brennan is his preacher friend back home.

30. Chariots of Fire. Ian Holm is the good guy in this one for a change.  Had it been made in the 1940's, when editing was done by people with a sense of the coherence of a play, this movie might have been one of the greatest of all time.  As it is, it is superb.  Great moments for revealing those things that transcend sport, and national pride.

*31. The Straight Story.  Richard Farnsworth rigs up a contraption powered by a lawn-mower engine to travel from Iowa to Wisconsin to be reconciled with his brother.

*32. The Trip to Bountiful.  Geraldine Page is an old lady who lives with her son and his often shrewish wife.  She cuts out on them one day, on the sly, to take a bus to Bountiful, the plantation and village where she grew up.  A movie about loyalty and forgiveness.

*33. Lilies of the Field.  One of my favorite movies of all time.  Sidney Poitier is Homer Smith, a mason and carpenter whom a group of German refugee nuns "hire," to build them a chapel.  Check out character-actor Stanley Adams as the owner of the diner.  The actress who plays the mother superior is absolutely fantastic.  The screenplay, I believe, was written by Horton Foote, who also wrote the screenplay to the previous movie, and — I think — to the following:

*34. Tender Mercies.  Robert Duvall is a country-and-western singer down on his luck, who finds love and the Christian faith at a filling station in the middle of nowhere.  Tess Harper is radiant as his wife.  A beautiful movie about the grace of God.

35 and 36. Almost Anything by Alfred Hitchcock.  I had chosen Foreign Correspondent (Joel McCrea) and The Man Who Knew too Much (Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day), but I could well have chosen Rope, with its probing of modern nihilism (Jimmy Stewart, Cedric Hardwick, Farley Granger), or Saboteur, or The Thirty Nine Steps …

37. The Third Man (Carol Reed).  Joseph Cotten must do the right thing and help to turn in his "friend" (Orson Welles), who is making money by selling diluted antibiotics on the black market.  The screenplay was by Graham Greene, I think, on whose novel the movie is based.

38. Judgment at Nuremberg.  A fantastic cast — Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, and Oscar-winner Maximilian Schell.  The movie upholds the natural law, as against all attempts to justify human actions by appealing to the positive law.

39. The Grapes of Wrath (Frank Capra).  Henry Fonda leads the Joad family from dusty Oklahoma to California, in search of work, and food.

*40. Come Back, Little Sheba.  Shirley Booth (the maid Hazel on the television show) won an Oscar for her portrayal of a long-suffering wife who is loyal to a man (Burt Lancaster) who does not deserve her.

*41. Goodbye, Mr. Chips.  Robert Donat is a boys' school don who learns to teach by love.  Not to be missed, if for nothing else than his courtship and marriage to the love of his life (Greer Garson).

42. The Diary of Anne Frank.  Nothing more need be said.

43. The African Queen.  Katherine Hepburn the missionary lady meets up with Humphrey Bogart.

*44. Three Came Home.  Claudette Colbert plays a Christian nurse in the women's section of a POW camp in Southeast Asia.  Sessue Hayakawa is brilliant as the Japanese chief of the camp, who comes to respect Colbert for her integrity and courage.  Another movie with an astounding final scene.  I do not know of any actress in the last thirty years who could match Colbert in this movie.

45. A Christmas Carol.  Get the one with Alistair Sim as Scrooge.  Almost as good is the Mr. Magoo cartoon version, with large passages of Dickens' text left intact.

*46. King Lear.  Yes, Shakespeare was a Christian playwright.  This is the Olivier version, with standout performances from Leo McKern (Gloucester), Diana Rigg (Regan), John Hurt (The Fool), and many others.

*47. The Agony and the Ecstasy.  Charlton Heston is Michelangelo and Rex Harrison is Pope Julius II; the movie recounts their tumultuous quarrels, and the strange friendship that develops between them.

*48. Life with Father.  Author Clarence Day was something of a skeptical soul, but the screenwriters for this movie decided to focus upon the love of Mr. and Mrs. Day, and the maneuvering whereby she persuades him in the end to be baptized.  William Powell and Myrna Loy are the Days.  A very funny movie, featuring a teenage Elizabeth Taylor, and Martin Milner (Adam-12) as a mischievous boy.

49. To Kill a Mockingbird.  Moral integrity has never been better portrayed than by Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  The young Robert Duvall has a surprising part in this movie.

*50. The Bravados (Howard Hawks?).  Gregory Peck plays a man who joins a posse on the hunt for a group of marauders, who he believes are responsible for the rape and murder of his wife.  The plot contains a profound surprise, which I can't reveal.  The final scene occurs in a church, with the whole town congratulating Peck, who knows what he has really been harboring in his heart.  Joan Collins, Stephen Boyd, and Albert Salmi are among an excellent cast.

That's it for now.  Again, thanks for the recommendations.  We will take you up on some of them, to be sure!


« Newer PostsOlder Posts »