Blog author: dpahman
Monday, November 23, 2015

“Mockingjay — Part 2,” the last film based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling Hunger Games trilogy, opened this past weekend to high sales that, nevertheless, fell short of the other films in the series and industry expectations. In addition, with a thematically confused ending, the story itself doesn’t live up to the quality of previous installments.

Regarding sales, Brent Lang reported for Variety,

The final film in the “Hunger Games” series debuted to numbers that few pictures in history have ever enjoyed, but not everyone seems impressed.

Indeed, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” is a victim of the franchise’s success. The film’s $101 million bow ranks as the lowest of the four installments and is off 17% from the previous film in the series. Globally, the picture also struggled to attract as big crowds. The $247 million it made worldwide fell short of the roughly $300 million that many analysts expected the picture would generate.

Lang offers an interesting bit of speculation for what the “problem” may have been with this second “Mockingjay”:

Compounding issues, “Mockingjay — Part 2” ends on a relatively downbeat note. Although a series built around children fighting to the death always had dark undercurrents, the film ended with political maneuvering and betrayals that prevented it from concluding on a triumphal note. Moreover, some of the novelty of the concept had worn off by the fourth and final installment.

I’m not sure that it would have improved ticket sales, but I actually think the problem was the source material. Specifically, I don’t think the ending was downbeat enough, because Collins tried to have it both ways between tragedy and victory. Let me explain. (Spoiler alert!) (more…)

Although popular in his own day, C.S. Lewis has become even more influential since his death on November 22, 1963—52 years ago yesterday. One of the most enduring of Lewis’s works is his book Mere Christianity, which started out as a series of radio lectures that aired on the BBC during World War II.

A YouTube channel called CSLewisDoodle contains a number of videos that illustrate some of Lewis’s selected essays to make them easier to understand. The video below is from the third radio talk (Chapter 4 of Mere Christianity) in which Lewis explains what lies behind the moral law.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have again brought to the forefront discussions about problems of culture faced by both Europe and the United States. The attacks have complicated western responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, with concerns about the stated intentions of groups like ISIS to smuggle operatives into western nations among the legitimate refugees in order to carry out terror operations. And of course, the questions of the compatibility of Islam with western political and economic values, as well as questions about the will of western nations to defend and uphold those values have returned as well. Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Al Kresta last Tuesday on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon to discuss these important issues; you can listen to the full interview via the audio player below, and be sure to check out Sam’s article “The End of Europe” at Public Discourse.

Blog author: sstanley
Monday, November 23, 2015


Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris

Despite a decline in the number of individuals attending Mass, Catholicism in France is becoming more self-confident and, surprisingly, more orthodox. Writing for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses the Catholic Church in France. He says that France’s néocatholiques are leading change in the European nation:

Perhaps the most evident sign of this sea-change in French Catholicism is what’s called La Manif pour tous. This movement of hundreds of thousands of French citizens emerged in 2012 to contest changes to France’s marriage laws. La Manif’s membership traverses France’s deep left-right fracture. It also includes secular-minded people, many Jews, some Muslims, and even a good number of self-described gays. Yet La Manif’s base and leadership primarily consist of lay Catholics. Though the French legislature passed la loi Taubira legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013, the Socialist government has subsequently trod somewhat more carefully in the realm of social policy. After all, when a movement can put a million-plus people on the streets to protest on a regular basis, French politicians have historical reasons to get nervous.


boston-telephone-directory“I am obliged to confess,” wrote William F. Buckley, Jr. in 1963, “that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University.”

A similar sentiment seems to now be shared by a majority of the American people. A recent survey by Pew Research finds that 55 percent of the public believes “ordinary Americans” would do a better job of solving national problems than would our elected leaders. An even greater percentage (57 percent) say they are frustrated with the federal government, while fewer than 1 in 5 (18 percent) say they are basically content.

Despite this frustration, half or more say the federal government is doing a “very good” or “somewhat good” job in 10 of the 13 governmental functions tested in the survey. The areas where the federal government receives the lowest remarks are in managing the nation’s immigration system and helping people get out of poverty. Nearly seven-in-ten (68 percent) say the government does a very or somewhat bad job in managing the immigration system and 61 percent say the government is doing a bad job helping people out of poverty.


Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 23, 2015

Why So Few Syrian Christian Refugees? For the Same Reason You Can’t Find Orphans in Haitian Orphanages
Jonathan Witt, The Stream

There are almost no Christian refugees from Syria for the same reason there are almost no orphans in Haitian orphanages.

Reimagining Care for the Poor at Ave: Our Conversations
Erika Bachiochi, Mirror of Justice

I was grateful to take part in an inspired and productive all-day meeting on “Reimagining Care for the Poor” at Ave Maria University with some really terrific out-of-the-box thinkers earlier this month. We came together to discuss–and really reconceive–parish-based solutions for caring for the poor.

Is ‘The Hobbit’ Marxist?
James Clark, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The stories we tell reveal much about what we believe, so it is worth asking: can The Hobbit accurately be described as Marxist?

Rights Through Obligations: The Case of Free Speech
Christopher O. Tollefsen, Public Discourse

Some rights are grounded in the need for agents to fulfill their perceived responsibilities, including their obligation to pursue knowledge. This obligation, along with the communal nature of inquiry, supports a right to free speech that acquires particular stringency in those communities where inquiry is most essential.

Blog author: jcouretas
Saturday, November 21, 2015

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word Magazine (Antiochian Orthodox Church)

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word Magazine (Antiochian Orthodox Church)

We’re having an intense, often heated, debate about the reception of Syrian refugees in the United States. How do Eastern Christians see it? The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, an Archdiocese of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, has issued a balanced and unflinchingly critical statement on the crisis. This is a church that traces its history to apostolic times in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Many North American Antiochians are themselves immigrants or can trace their family history back just a generation or two to the villages and parishes that are being destroyed by the Syrian war. The statement follows in full. Also see my April podcast with Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities, who talked about the Syria relief effort, and the massive flow of refugees into neighboring countries such as Lebanon.

Statement from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America on the Reception of Refugees in the United States in Light of Recent Terrorist Actions around the World

Since the tragic terrorist actions in Paris, Beirut, Mali and elsewhere in the past two weeks, there have been polarized reactions to the reception of refugees, mainly of Syrian nationality, worldwide: an understandable reaction of concern on the one hand, but a sad overreaction of fear on the other. We are all concerned first and foremost for the safety of the citizens of the United States which must be continually addressed and assessed. At the same time, the humanitarian disaster caused by the war in Syria to which the U.S. government has contributed by calling for the removal of the established Syrian leadership – as it did in Egypt, Iraq and Libya – requires a moral response from the people and government of our great country. Misguided U.S. foreign policy helped create the so-called “Arab Spring” which has been a “tornado” that has destroyed Arab countries, leaving power vacuums that have fostered the soaring, vicious activity of terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Nusra, and others in the Middle East and around the world. All of this has resulted in an unprecedented number of deaths of innocent people and lack of basic services like healthcare and sanitation, healthy food and drinking water, safe and dignified housing, and so forth.

We must us not be guided by fear or bigotry, but rather let us work to heal the wounds of the injured, clothing the naked and feeding the poor as our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ has taught us (Matthew 25:35-36).