Thinking Out Loud

July 2, 2017

When People Play God

Last week, on a recommendation, we watched the 2013 British film Philomena starring Judi Dench. IMDb.com succinctly sums up the plot:

When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America.

Wikipedia reminds us that the movie is based on true story in the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by journalist Martin Sixsmith.

One of the more disturbing scenes in the movie occurs early on, when young Philomena is delivering her baby at the convent. It turns out to be a breach birth and the nun in charge suggests that the extreme pain and agony the girl is experiencing is her penance for transgressing the moral law resulting in her pregnancy. It is only the compassion of an associate which saves the life of the child.

Throughout the rest of the movie we see the ongoing effects of this penance which Philomena is expected to bear both as a child and into adulthood; penance inflicted on her by the Catholic nuns, or at least one in particular, who would presume to play God in this situation and mete out her punishment as often as the opportunity arises.

We know that little Anthony was adopted by an American family but what happened next? Is he enjoying a good life or is he one of the many homeless we see in documentaries or on the evening news? That’s the quest which drives Martin the journalist, and Philomena. Even if things worked out well for the boy — you figure he has to have a good start if his U.S. parents can afford the international adoption of a child from Ireland — you come to think there are no winners in a situation like this.

And for me at least, it all comes back to the nun, the convent, the Catholic church at large wanting the poor teenager to pay a lifetime of suffering for her mistake. It’s about the self-righteous attitude of some nuns and priests — whose vocation has possibly kept them apart from the pleasures of sexual intimacy somewhat resenting those who have experienced it — and the total inappropriateness of such a mindset in a case like Philomena’s.

Strangely, it’s also about having the grace to bear such an injustice without letting it give way to anger or bitterness. Martin the journalist is looking for justice. Philomena is simply looking for answers. Two very different attitudes, with the latter even holding out the possibility of forgiveness.

This movie will make you think and is a great group discussion starter. Download it if you get an opportunity, or purchase a DVD as we did.

 

 

 

July 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

John McPherson of Close to Home fame kicks off and ends this week’s link list.  Click the images to view more.  I wonder if Rob Bell bought the print or t-shirt of the one above?

  • Is the term ‘Evangelical’ losing its meaning or become too broad a term?  Randy Alcorn digs deep into that question.
  • A year too late, as it turned out, I discovered Lance, who made some of the best fan videos for Christian music songs I’ve ever seen.  Check out God of this City.  Anybody know if he’s making these under another user name?
  • And speaking of music, Dan Kimball returns — I think he’s covered this before — to question the whole notion of “worship equals music” which can cloud our thinking about true worship.
  • How could I not link to an article titled, “Oral Tradition of the Gospels and Justin Bieber”? Actually, Dan Rodger makes a good point about the reliability of scripture.
  • Can I still use the word “missional” without sounding dated?  Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi has a great video embed titled Church Without a Wall.
  • You’d be forgiven for not knowing this, but the Roman Catholic Church has done some serious thinking about the use of worship music in its services.  Read about this at Internet Monk.
  • Anyone who has ever dealt with foreign language issues knows the absurdity of some of our Bible translation debates, as Dana illustrates with a couple of Spanish examples.
  • As her book Not Afraid of Life is published, Bristol Palin talks about abstinence with Christianity Today.
  • Brad Lomenick gets Jon Acuff to say funny things.  BTW, Jon guested at Cross Point Church at all the weekend services; audio/video is at iTunes.
  • As promised we end with another John McPherson.  If I’m remembering correctly, back in the day John had a book or two of his religious-flavored panels published by Zondervan.

May 18, 2011

Wednesday Link List

[B]link and you’ll miss it!

  • The actual end of the world on the 21st is officially set for 6:00 PM (one assumes Eastern Standard Time) which ought to give me time to cut the lawn.  Respected Baptist guy Albert Mohler breaks the news, though he’s not buying it personally.
  • The wife of Elevation pastor Steven Furtick, Holly Furtick did the Mother’s Day sermon — he introduces her as the best looking guest speaker they’ve had — and now you can watch part two of a three part sermon series, Mr. & Mrs. Betterhalf.
  • Philip Yancey is touring the UK on what is dubbed the “Seasons of the Soul” tour.  Check out the story at Christian Post, as well as the tour website.
  • Canada’s national newspaper, revisits the fall from Orthodoxy in the once-great United Church of Canada in this report at The National Post.
  • Here’s a breakdown on the whole Creation-Evolution debate neatly condensed, boxed and tied with a ribbon at the Parchment & Pen blog.
  • Joyce Meyer Ministries gets hit with a $20 million lawsuit from a former employee; video clips at Monday Morning Insight.
  • The birth of a song:  Shaun Groves takes us from demo recording to pre-production track, to studio track, to mixed track, with only mastering of the song All’s Grace left to happen.
  • And our new artist this week was actually linked here once before, but I keep watching the increased following  of one-man keyboard talent Zach Havens who records and performs as To Tell.  (And I’m sticking with the comparison to Owl City!)
  • One last music-related item: A link to the Gospel Coalition audio of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s presentation,Writing Corporate Worship Music.
  • While teen pregnancy rates are dropping, in some poor and minority communities, it continues to be a challenge, as outlined in this CBN News report.
  • It’s a classic local interest story from the 1930s you’d know if you lived in Sydney, Australia; the story of the man known as “Mister Eternity.”  The full story is repeated at the Meeting in the Clouds blog.
  • A short thought from Mark Batterson: Some of the world’s greatest pastors aren’t necessarily pastoring a church.
  • Truth isn’t in the middle, but in both extremes!  To mark author and theologian John Stott’s 90th birthday in April; a tribute from IVP associate publisher Andy LePeau
  • Is AOL birthing a religious section out of Huffington’s Post faith pages?  John Shore thinks so.
  • Can’t wait for next week’s links?  Trevin Wax has an almost daily list.
  • For this week’s cartoon, it seems that Matt Mewhorter, who draws the Bleat comic, with a rather different take on things Christian, thinks Pat Robertson is somewhat confused by the current controversy over Love Wins: (Here’s a bonus panel! for you to chew on!)

February 2, 2011

Wednesday Link List

We read blogs so you don’t have to!  Or something.

  • Brent Mosley is president of Bluefish TV, the company that makes — among other things — those little two-minute video clips that start your weekly worship service.  He blogs, too.  Check out Is The Church Telling The Complete Story?
  • Speaking of video, it’s been three years since it was filmed and two years since it was released on DVD, but now you can watch Joe Manafo’s detailed 42-minute documentary study of alternative churches in Canada in its entirety at the website for One Size Fits All.
  • A list with ten things is actually easier to produce than when you decide to narrow it down to five.  And these five are well-chosen.  Trevin Wax posts Five Trends to Watch for in Evangelical Christianity.
  • And speaking of Trevin, here’s a video of a church promotion that he (and Zach at Vitamin Z) think is one of the best church advertisements ever.  “Before we tell you who we are, we want to tell you who we were.”
  • Contemporary Christian book author Skye Jethani tells why he doesn’t read many books by contemporary Christian book authors, in a piece at Out of Ur provocatively titled, I Read Dead People.
  • Dan Horwedel whisks you on a link-list journey of his own in a fascinating examination of the Christian worship song, God of This City.  Both the major-key version and the minor-key version.
  • I don’t read — let alone link — to Ann Welch’s blog very often because it’s more of a women’s blog and a parenting blog, but she’s been in the link-list here since day one because she is a blogger who has my utmost respect. Here’s a shorter piece even the guys can take a minute to read at her blog Resolved 2 Worship, titled Dart Throwing.  (Turn your speakers up, too; she’s got a great blog playlist.)
  • Chuck Colson believes that while most Christian children’s books contain a Bible narrative followed by “the moral of the story,” we need to teach kids to recognize the worldview being promoted in everything they read.  And he’s introducing a product that will help them do just that.
  • Pete Wilson raises the oft-discussed issue of swearing, or things that some people consider swearing.   200 comments so far about words like darn, dang, heck, geez, and shoot.  (And then, Daniel Jepson raises the same topic, too.)
  • A woman in a senior’s home invites John Shore into her room, and then dies holding on to John’s hand.  Yikes!  Obviously, readers are wondering why the story is just surfacing now.
  • Albert Mohler thinks that Piers Morgan’s interview with Joel Osteen identifies one topic where we either stand for Biblical truth or we try to dance around its politically incorrect implications.  Mohler says that sooner or later we’ll have to deal with our own Osteen Moment.
  • A Tennessee pastor refused to baptize a couple’s baby because the couple wasn’t married. He wants to make a statement about teen pregnancy.
  • Time for a quick hymn sing.  Here’s a couple of versions of a classic hymn that is well-known in England but not at all in North America.  One version is more modern, the other is most formal, but both of them work.  Check out Tell Out My Soul.
  • This week we should pay Trevin a commission.  If you’ve read the bestselling book Radical by David Platt (Waterbrook), you know all about “Secret Church.”  Well, this year, the event is available as a simulcast for any church that wants in. (Posted even though the event is a Lifeway thing. Look guys; no hard feelings!)
  • Here’s a return of a Link List favorite; Mike Morgan’s weekly comic, For Heaven’s Sake.

March 4, 2010

Homeless Teens: Life on the Street

I stood beside her coffin.  She looked she was sleeping.  I suppressed the urge to reach out and touch her.  I wanted to talk to her just once more.

But she was dead — found in a construction site, in suspicious circumstances, of unknown causes.  She was poor; she was aboriginal; she was a street kid; there would be no further police investigation.

I looked at her young face and remember the times we had share, times when I had hugged her, telling her I loved her.  She had come from a troubled and violent home.  Incest was a way of life for her.  Three months ago, she had given birth to a baby girl.

Once she came to Evergreen particularly distressed.  She cleared a table with a sweep of her arm and grabbed a pen.  Then, with deliberate strokes, she put her heart on paper:  a striking scene of two friends sitting together on a bench.  When she left, she smiled and said, ‘This is the best time I’ve had in a long time.’

She had come to Evergreen the day she died.  Now she was gone forever.

How very hard and short life is for some; how essential is the need to minister the Kingdom of God every moment, because that moment could be the last.

I looked at her once more and through my tears, I said, ‘Good-bye.’

She was only 14 years old.

~from Prayer for the City, a quarterly publication of Yonge Street Mission and the Evergreen Centre in downtown Toronto, Canada.   Pray for the young people at Evergreen for whom life is hard and sometimes very short.  To learn more about YSM, click here.

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