Tag Archives: Johnny Price

Thoughtful Television: Touch

I don’t watch much television. But I’ll usually have a show or two that have caught my attention and I want to keep track of. So it was with Touch. After watching the pilot episode on the Fox Network, I was intrigued. Now that I’ve seen the first three (thank you, HULU), I’m tracking.

Described by some as science fiction and others as supernatural in genre, Touch is broadcast on Thursday nights. Its creator is Tim Kring (Heroes), stars Keifer Sutherland (24) and centers on a single dad, Martin Bohm (Sutherland), and his relationship with his 11-year-old son, Jake, played by David Mazouz.

As described in The Boston Globe the show’s basic premise is that “Wrongly diagnosed as autistic, Jake has never spoken, but has an obsessive connection to patterns and an ability to predict events around the world before they happen.” You can read the entire article, which includes comments by Mr. Sutherland at http://www.boston.com/ae/tv/articles/2012/03/12/sutherland_hopes_new_show_will_touch_the_world/

I appreciate the intentions of Touch’s creator. In an interview, Mr. Kring said, “The show… is tied very closely to this theme of interconnectivity. … I’d agree that when you bring people together, 99% of the time, something good will come out of that interactivity.

“So the show is going to attempt to be on the whole uplifting. Hopefully not sacchariney and tied in a neat little bow each week but for the most part it wants to be uplifting.”

You can read the entire interview at http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/s190/touch/interviews/a371953/touch-tim-kring-interview-there-is-a-yearning-for-a-connected-world.html

The mythological (Kring’s word, not mine) underpinning of Touch is pure “Chaos Theory” (or, The Butterfly Effect), as the action of one person creates a ripple effect that impacts someone else on the other side of the globe. And although I reject the chaos theory, what comes through so much more clearly in the show is the reality that we do live in community with one another, both locally and globally – and we need each other.

This is communicated in some very creative ways. For example, the third episode (Safety in Numbers) opens with a voice-over of young Jake making the following observation – as the camera gives us some really close-up shots of a colony of Red Fire Ants:

“There are three million species of animals living in tropical rain forests. And one of them, the Red Fire Ant lives underground, under constant threat of annihilation from flash floods. Nature doesn’t care. If a species wants to survive it has to prove it deserves to.

“When the floods come the fire ants hold onto each other creating a living raft that can float until the water recedes – months if necessary.

“So how did this species figure something like that out? Instinct?  Trial and error?  Was there one fire ant who was being swept away by the rushing water and grabbed onto another fire ant, only to find that together they could float?”

Then at the end of that same episode, we hear Jake’s thoughts again:

“Human beings are not the strongest species on the planet. We’re not the fastest or maybe even the smartest. The one advantage we have is our ability to cooperate; to help each other out. We recognize ourselves in each other and we’re programmed for compassion, for heroism. For love.  And those things make us stronger, faster and smarter. That’s why we’ve survived. That’s why we would even want to.”

Quibble over some peripheral points made, we might. But the heart of the message is right on.

If you know of any other shows on television where serious efforts are being made to address issues that matter, would you let me know in the comment section below? Thanks.

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Reading The Diary of a Country Priest

Pictured: A scene from Robert Bresson’s 1951 film, Diary of a Country Priest.

[At the beginning of this year I made a list of New Year’s Reading Resolutions (see January 2 blog): “Twelve books, one a month, that I’ve never read, that I really do want to read, expect to enjoy reading and anticipate benefitting from reading.” My intention is that I’ll post a blog at the end of each month (or close to it) with some thoughts and observations about the books. You, of course, are more than welcome to add your own knowledge to what little I have.]

Have you ever wondered “Who ministers to the ministers?” Perhaps the loneliest vocation ever is that of the clergy. The expectations placed upon them are extraordinary, often to the point of unrealistic. And by that, I don’t just mean their professional responsibilities (although there is that).

Perhaps the deeper pressure comes from an overall expectation of the congregation, parish and, likely, community-at-large that a minister will have no struggles with temptation, doubts and loneliness, the sense of futility, struggles with a sense of vocation, powerlessness in the face of suffering, depression, clashes with clergy colleagues, and, perhaps, a history of his own family dysfunction– or any of the other spiritual maladies of mere mortals.

When personal shortcomings are revealed, or suggested, often the response of many members of the congregation is critical, judgmental, intolerant. And so the “shepherd” doesn’t know – perhaps, literally, doesn’t have – anyone to whom he or she can turn where they can relax, be open, candid, transparent and vulnerable, seek counsel and receive comfort, acceptance and healing.

This is not a new problem, as is clear demonstrated in The Diary of a Country Priest, by Georges Bernanos, published in 1937 (which means this year marks the 75th anniversary of its publication).

As I was researching a bit on the author, I came across a short, but excellent piece about the novel by Amy Welborn Dubruiel, which begins by explaining where Mr. Bernanos fits into the history of literature.

“In the late 19th and early 20th century a philosophical perspective called positivism ruled the intellectual climate in France. Positivists like Emile Durkheim and Auguste Comte claimed that all one can know about human life is what can be observed and that the laws of behavior and society discerned from these observations should be used to organize human life.

“Into this scientifically-based and utterly materialistic mileu stepped, one by one over the decades before and just after the First World War, a group of writers who formed what we now call the French Catholic Literary Revival. Francois Mauriac, Charles Peguy, Julien Green and Leon Bloy rejected positivism and reclaimed a vision of human beings essentially defined, not by scientific law, but rather by our relation to God and struggle with evil. One of the finest writers of this group was George Bernanos, author of The Diary of a Country Priest.” (emphasis added)

You can find her full article at: http://www.amywelborn.com/catholicwriters/diary.html

The novel is contemporary in many ways, evidenced no later than on page 2, where the priest (whose name we never learn) observes,

Well, as I was saying, the world is eaten up by boredom. To perceive this needs a little preliminary thought :  you can’t see it all at once. It is like dust. You go about and never notice it, you breathe it in, you eat and drink it. It is sifted so fine, it doesn’t even grit on your teeth. But stand still for an instant and there it is, coating your face and hands. To shake off this drizzle of ashes you must be forever on the go. And so people are always ‘on the go.’”

This is the young man’s (age 30) first parish and his parishioners are quick to decide that they don’t like their new priest. In addition to the fact that he’s young, he’s also physically clumsy and socially awkward. Due to chronic pain in his stomach and its inability “keep anything”, his diet consists largely of bread dipped in sugared wine, giving him an emaciated look. So the parishioners gossip about him as a “secret drinker” and a womanizer.

At one point he receives the following note:  “A well wisher advises you to apply for a change of parish. And the sooner the better. When at last you open your eyes to what everyone else can see so plain, you’ll sweat blood! Sorry for you but we say again: ‘Get Out!’”

But the Priest stays, loves and gives of himself to his parish.

The Diary of a Country Priest is not just the story of the conflicts described above. It is also a novel of ideas, as conversations between priest and parishioners, as well as between priest and other priests take place. Two short examples:

A Christian people doesn’t mean a lot of little goody-goodies. The Church has plenty of stamina, and isn’t afraid of sin.”

Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes afterwards. … The Word of God is a red-hot iron.”

And many a Christian believer who has struggled with their faith will feel their heart resonate with:

I no longer believe, because I have no wish to believe. You know longer wish to know yourself. This profound truth, your truth, has ceased to interest you. …

I wrote this in a moment of overwhelming agony of the heart and of all my senses. A mad rush of thoughts, words, images. In my soul nothing. God is silent. Silence.”

However, some of the ideas that are presented ought to be rejected. One, for example, as simply a lack of understanding:

Oh, yes – I’ve worked hard enough! I’ve done my best, and what’s the use? My best is nothing. A leader is not judged by his mere intentions: once he has assumed responsibility, he must answer for his results.”

No. Although other people may, the Lord never asks us for results. He calls us to be faithful to the work he’s given us to do. He takes responsibility for the results.

Other ideas in the book are heretical. For example:

For weeks I had not prayed, had not been able to pray. Unable? Who knows? That supreme grace has got to be earned like any other, and I no doubt had ceased to merit it. And so at last God had withdrawn Himself from me – of this at any rate I am sure. From that instant I was nothing, and yet I kept it to myself!

No grace has to be earned. Grace cannot be earned. Grace is an unmerited gift. That’s the nature of grace, as opposed to a paycheck. And God never withdraws Himself from one of His children. He has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5)

And then there is the heresy of Mariology:

[To the priest from one of his superiors] “Do you pray to our Lady?”

“Why, naturally!”

“We all say that – but do you pray to her as you should, as befits her? … For she was born without sin – in what amazing isolation!”   

Mary was not born without sin as is clearly indicated in her prayer, recorded in Luke 1, referred to now as The Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior(emphasis added).

Nor is Mary to be prayed to. In Acts 1:14 we find Mary, some other women, and the disciples in an upper room praying together. Mary was praying with them; they were not praying to Mary.

Still, The Diary of a Country Priest is a book I recommend. It has some good meat to chew on. One reviewer suggested, “Every person in ministry ought to read this book, but perhaps not until you turn fifty or so.”

For the month of April I intend to read Lincoln, by the late Pulitzer Prize winner David Herbert Donald. Join me if you’d like.

 

 

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Talking Head Film Analysis: THE HUNGER GAMES

If you’d like to see a trailer for THE HUNGER GAMES, here’s one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoUT7q2iTbQ

 

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(podcast) Blood Sacrifice: A Perverse Idea?

Every Sunday morning from 10:30-12:00, here in Greenville, SC, I meet with a group of folks (and who shows up fluctuates) at a restaurant downtown, TRIOS. The gathering is for those who have no church either because they don’t believe, or they believe but simply aren’t “church goers”. (We make it very clear that those who do have a church home are not invited.) Our purpose is to drink some good coffee, hear some good music (usually blues or folk), and discuss the Christian faith.

Recently we spent a number of weeks addressing questions folks submitted. Below are two observations submitted by the same person. This podcast is my attempt to address those observations.

It runs 55 minutes.

“I have heard the arguments that we are all born sinners so we’d never have a home in the afterlife that is described as Heaven and that the sacrifice was necessary for us to enter the “kingdom”. Blood sacrifice is violent and plays on fear. I don’t see anything loving about it. I perceive this 2 ways: first, man made Jesus a scapegoat. Knowing that man has thought this way for thousands of years, I find it hard to believe that this is anything other than yet another human idea, and a perverse one at that. The other way I perceive this is that man was forever trying to appease the God or Gods with sacrifices. But our egos could only make that situation better by having a God sacrifice something of value to us. It sure gives us a lot of power to think that the ultimate being had to sacrifice to us. The human ego is something I think about a great deal. I attempt to drill down to the root of things and when I contemplate evil, as in conscious evil (not mental illness), it sure seems like the ego is at the center of the motivation. The Garden of Eden story to me is about man’s raised consciousness. But consciousness comes with a price … a responsibility … choices to make.”

 

A week earlier we were talking about “why bad things happen to good people” and I raised the rhetorical questions: “Do you want God to do something about bad things happening to good people? Have you ever done a bad thing to a good person? Would you want him to start with you?” This prompted the second response.

“You asked last week that if God dealt with each of us without a mediator, Jesus, then would we want to be dealt with first. My instant gut reaction was ‘yes’. I think of it as personal responsibility. I think our society, and religion especially, uses those ‘get out of jail’ cards at every opportunity. Say certain words, do certain things, spin around 3 times and click your heels and bam … you’re absolved of your sins. You escape the consequences of your actions. That seems very unfair and psychologically enabling to me. If I do wrong and know I have to live with the consequences, I’m more motivated to do right. Why is it better to believe this than: Do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do, not because you fear punishment or seek reward.”

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Talking Head Film Analysis: HOLLYWOOD SEWAGE

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(podcast) Elaine Martin on RENEWING YOUR MIND

Elaine Martin is the wife of David Martin (see December 14, 2011 and March 14, 2012 posts). They’re a team. (And a good looking one at that.)

Just as David works with men from a variety of backgrounds who are looking for meaningful answers on how to live this life in the most meaningful way, i.e., the way it’s supposed to be lived, Elaine devotes herself to doing the same thing with women.

Running time: approximately 30 minutes

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Who Would EVER Have Expected It?

I really never would have expected it.

But this past Friday, March 16, practically SEVEN months to the day this website was set up (August 15,  2011) it received, on the 82nd post, its 10,000th hit!

And not only that but, as I’m writing this (with 10,107 hits), they represent 30 different countries: United States, Philippines, United Kingdom, France, Norway, Poland, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, Tajikistan, South Africa, Netherland, Trinidad and Tobago, Austria, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Colombia, Switzerland, Brazil, Sweden, Romania, Malaysia, Portugal, Lebanon and Slovakia.

SLOVAKIA?

I don’t understand any of this. But I’m grateful. The site blocks all spam and doesn’t include them in the stats. It doesn’t even include my visits in the stats.  Maybe there are some nonhumans represented. I hope not. And this probably isn’t any big deal out for those who live in the blogosphere.  But even if these numbers were half as much, I’d still be surprised and grateful.

So… you’ll notice the site’s been spiffed up a bit: If you’d like to subscribe, check the upper right corner. Want to find something that’s been posted in the past, there’s a list of categories… to the right. Our most recent posts over the past three weeks? Yep, just to the right. And, having virtually no pride… there’s also the begging block just underneath.

NOW if you’d like to help in a big, easy, inexpensive way… if you like the site… appreciate the exchange of ideas that sometimes takes place… AND think you know others who might enjoy it… please send them a quick email with the link, www.johnnypricemindfield.com, and encourage them to pay a visit.

Thank you VERY much.

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