September 29, 2011



THE WAY is a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends, and the challenges we face while navigating this ever changing and complicated world. Martin Sheen plays Tom, an irascible American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son (played by Emilio Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking The Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. Rather than return home, Tom decides embark on the historical pilgrimage to honor his son's desire to finish the journey. What Tom doesn't plan on, is the profound impact the journey will have on him and his "California Bubble Life".

Inexperienced as a trekker, Tom soon discovers that he will not be alone on this journey. On "The Way," Tom meets other pilgrims from around the world, each with their own "issues" and looking for greater meaning in their lives: a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen) a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irish writer (James Nesbitt) who is suffering from a bout of "writer's block."

From the unexpected and oftentimes, amusing experiences along "The Way," this unlikely quartet of misfits create an everlasting bond and Tom begins to learn what it means to be a citizen of the world again. Through Tom's unresolved relationship with his son, he discovers the difference between "the life we live and the life we choose.”

Distributor: Producers Distribution Agency & Arc Entertainment

Written & Directed by: Emilio Estevez

Produced by: Emilio Estevez & David Alexanian

Cast: Martin Sheen, Yorick can Wageningen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt

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September 27, 2011


Article in "Christianity Today":

(My previous review--which I still stand behind as regards the movie itself and sometimes using violence to protect the defenseless: ) Should the unsavory allegations prove to be true, and the movie prove to be more fictitious than true, well, then, it's just a shame all around. A well-done fictional tale, a tragedy in real life.

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September 16, 2011


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GREAT trailer for a GREAT movie! Go. See. It. (But not alone.)

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Got to meet Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez tonight at screening of their new movie: "The Way"! GO. SEE. IT. (About four people on the "Camino," in Spain, the ancient pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostela.) This is their tour bus.

Opens October 7 in Chicago. I'm allowed to post my review October 1.

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September 12, 2011



(I still stand by my review below as regards the movie as a movie. My question now is: what "methods" exactly did Childers employ--beyond what is depicted in the movie? Methods DO matter! The ends don't justify the means. And what do the South Sudanese have to say about his tactics? Although I'm sure they are divided on that and it will depend on whom you talk to. There is also the question of what is happening at his orphanage now.)

Sounds like a badass film, doesn’t it? Only the irresistible (and accurate) title is badass. Otherwise, this is a story about a badass guy (NOT portrayed as attractive or without consequences) who becomes a goodass and begins saving children in Sudan from becoming child-soldiers in the vicious LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army)—and worse.

Sam Childers (a thoroughly winning and Sam-Childers-approved Gerard Butler) was a violent drug dealer and biker in hillbilly Pennsylvania in his younger life. He got saved, became a Reverend and went to the Sudan to do volunteer construction work. But in Africa, he saw way more than he bargained for and wound up taking up arms to save children and innocent villagers from kidnapping, maiming, atrocities and slaughter.

As Sam gets more and more caught up in saving families in the Sudan, he starts to neglect his own family. His ever-supportive wife (Michelle Monaghan)—supportive in a tough Christian woman o’ God way; sometimes even more supportive of Sam’s mission than he is--reminds him that although he is “all those kids over there got,” he’s also “all we’ve got here.” Childers’ must deal with his outrage and anger that is consuming him both at home and in Sudan.

We are shown just enough of the grisly and cruel nature of the civil war in the Sudan to be incensed and horrified. “Machine Gun Preacher” is definitely not for the little ones. This action-packed, somewhat shoot-em-up (but NEVER gratuitous) film, all based on true incidents in Childers’ life, is a must-see of 2011. Will it garner any Oscar noms? It deserves to—but even if it doesn’t, audiences will certainly recognize its worth.

What really makes the movie is the way the depth of Sam Childers’ character is fleshed out. There’s a wonderful, slow transformation of Childer from an unconscionable, selfish brute, who then brings his gung-ho spirit to everything else he does for the Kingdom of God and others. His renewed relationship with his wife and daughter is beautifully dramatized by a tornado scene (Childers uses his ever-present gun to create a safe haven for them in the crawl space beneath their mobile home while he covers the opening with his body).

Childers’ role in the Sudan is not just some American DIY cowboy or do-gooder. He is a man with the call of a warrior on his spirit who feels deeply obligated to do something, to not let evil have its way, to rescue the helpless. It doesn’t hurt that he loves guns and is proficient with them, either. The Sudanese are also fully-developed characters, not just passive recipients of Childers’ gallant assistance. The children will steal your heart.

My question is: Why aren’t there more Sam Childers?

Sam’s organization:


--2011 is “The Year of the God Film.” The best films this year—IMHO—have been the God films: “Of Gods and Men,” “Soul Surfer,” “Tree of Life,” “Courageous,” “Machine Gun Preacher.”

--Well-written, well-acted, well-shot, well-edited!!!

--I remember at World Youth Day—Rome 2000, some Sudanese youth got up at the mic at our English-speaking catechetical site and told us they may get killed when they return home.

--The actress who played Childers’ daughter should have been younger or else the part was mis-written for a much younger child. (The going-to-bed games felt age-inappropriate.)

--I absolutely love the old, toupĂ©ed, whiter-than-white Protestant pastors on fire with the Word of God, and the starched old prim church ladies who can still love and reach out to the outlaws. And the outlaws respond. And there’s this weird understanding between them: polyester meets leather. The real deal meets the real deal.

--Unfortunately (or fortunately) I think it takes a good ole boy from the U. S. of A. inserted into a story for some of us to grasp what is going on in countries like the Sudan…to understand that they are people just like us. It brings it home. It makes it personal, comprehensible. Anyhoo, it’s very effective.

--GREAT LINE: “Jesus doesn’t want asleep sheep! He wants wolves with teeth who will rip out the heart of evil! It’s in our ACTIONS that we serve Our Lord. He wants your blood and sweat. ” –Gerard Butler as Sam Childers

--“Machine Gun Preacher” is a great THEOLOGY OF THE BODY movie for men.

--We really feel Sam’s pain and powerlessness when he is not able to help each and every child. He doesn’t want to lose even one.

--I love that Childers doesn’t try to move these children out of the Sudan to safety. He is protecting them right there in the midst of their own country.

--Sam said the hardest part of the movie for him to watch is the beginning, which shows what a not-nice person he used to be.

--Sam calls himself a “freedom fighter.” He says that he chooses to follow Christ and he would love for you too, also, but if you don’t, he’ll fight for your right to worship however you choose.

--Sam: “The Bible says to count the cost, but that’s only when we’re first setting out, deciding to serve Christ. After that, we can’t because then we’ll never do anything.” “Never start with a budget. Just do it.” “Some people say I’m not doing much, but at least I’m doing something.” “I never give up hope because there are always problems in life, and all we have to do it TRY to do something.”

--I met Sam Childers at the screening (Gerard Butler and Jason Keller, the screenwriter were also present for the Q & A)! You’d think Sam would be frustrated with all us basically lethargic and apathetic fatcats back in the USA. He’s not. He loves everyone.

Here’s the email I sent him:

“Dear Sam,

Great to meet you last night, and what an awesome film! 5 stars.

But above all, thank you for saving all those children.

All my life I've been about non-violent action, but for the first time, you've really helped me see that sometimes defensive, protective, retaliatory violence is one of the only ways to go. I mean, how else could those children (and innocent villagers) be protected? How else could that kind of evil be pushed back? Kony is worse than Hitler in some ways. Hitler didn't think of having little Jewish children kill their parents.

We all say: "Why doesn't someone do something?" (OK, what?) And then when someone does something we complain. From our armchairs. Like the Sudanese gentleman said at the screening--when you live in a war zone, it's about survival.

You asked at the end of your film: "Does it matter how I bring home your kidnapped family members?" Yes, I think it does. BUT perhaps what you're doing is the only thing that CAN be done, and is therefore ethical. And, if you subscribe to the "just war theory," what could be more just than this cause???

You are standing up and saying: "No." You are doing what Adam did not do in the Garden: protecting the garden and Eve (and his future children) from Satan and evil. Sometimes spiritual warfare has to manifest itself in physical warfare (especially when enemies have determined that’s the arena). "Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle." Psalm 144:1

I'm beginning to believe (as my macho priest friend says ) that there is a vocation/call to be a warrior (for just causes). I LOVE Joan of Arc, but I don't understand her or her calling. I think you've helped me to. And I love your "Ishmael" spirit, and you DO look like a pastor. But what you really have is a "father" spirit. We have to help men (starting young) acknowledge and unleash their "father" spirit.

God love you--I know He already does. A lot!

Sr. Helena Burns, fsp”

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September 11, 2011


[intrusive comments by Sr. Helena in brackets]

p. 174—“The Metaphysics of Shame”—We want to grasp at things we love, at things that promise us satisfaction, etc. We want them immediately. It’s only natural because we are made in the image of God and we tend toward God. The highest understanding of the concept of “eros” is our striving for God Himself.

Although masculinity and femininity are found outside of human persons, it is not in any way as highly “developed” as it is in human persons.

Q: Can we even SAY that animals have “masculinity and femininity” or only maleness and femaleness?

There is one fundamental reality of all reality: the spousal mystery—God going out of Himself to all Creation.

So many faithful Catholics can’t bear to think/speak of God or divine things in terms of SPOUSALITY. [We are DEEPLY, DEEPLY CONVINCED THAT SEX IS DIRTY, UNHOLY AND WE’RE SO USED TO THE TWO THINGS BEING SEPARATED IN OUR CULTURE. Satan divides. Satan has convinced us that sex is HIS. Why wouldn’t he confuse us about the MOST important thing of all? Why wouldn’t he appropriate to himself the MOST vital thing of all?]

Abstract art, rock music, etc., is minimalizing/reducing everything down to its raw materials and treating those raw materials as though they were the thing itself, the end/goal/ultimate. [There’s nothing more.]

A “contraceptive mentality” is actually a “contraceptive worldview” about EVERYTHING.

p. 88 BJP2G explains “sympathy”—“experiencing together,” mutuality

“friendship”—sharing life together

“goodwill”—(we should do this to everyone and for everyone) couples need to always treat each other this way—it’s a basic level. IF WE DO WHAT’S BEST FOR THE OTHER, IT’S ALWAYS THE BEST FOR ME, TOO. Is this one-sided? What if the other person isn’t doing what’s best for me? It doesn’t mean that you’re a victim, because letting someone abuse you IS NOT GOOD FOR THE OTHER PERSON! Enabling others in their bad habits, evil behavior, etc., is never a good thing. [So, it’s kind of foolproof: If you are truly doing what’s good for the other person, you are helping them become a better person, which MEANS FOR THEM TO PRACTICE GOODWILL TOWARD YOU ALSO.]


1. Attraction
2. Desire
3. Sympathy
4. Friendship
5. Goodwill
6. True Love
7. Betrothed Love

“Betrothed love”—is totally integrated love (body and soul). It is the highest form of love. It is the highest virtue, lived according to the primary elements of the human spirit: freedom and truth.

[Cohabitating couples STILL NEED to CONSUMMATE their MARRIAGE once they get married!! (No matter how much sex they’ve already had.) It IS new for them. It is ontologically different. This is a way to put it in a positive light!]

Living together is NOT a total gift. [I think those living together would be the first to admit this, also.] Living together is often out of fear of wanting to forecast the future. There is no way to “try” marriage. [No test drive! You “buy the car” sight unseen.] Young people actually think they are being responsible by “trying” marriage, because we have given them nothing else, no religious instruction on this issue at all.

[There are now “stayovers”—just living together 3 or 4 days a week because the “couple” still wants their solitude, their own apartments, bank accounts, “separate life,” and are not necessarily heading toward living together or marriage at all.]

In the media, the steamiest, most enjoyable sex scenes are almost always between non-married people. We have to make MARRIAGE attractive and desirable (as it is)—it’s just not easy!!!

Women accept all this stuff more than men because they know they will benefit the most!!! Unless they have bought the lie that to benefit the most they must be like a man. OR take care of themselves without any reference to any man. But both men and women are interdependent.

Why did Satan go for woman? Our receptivity, our centrality to love and life. [And our lust for male power. “Eve saw that the fruit was beautiful and good for knowledge.”]

Satan inseminated Eve with bad seed.

SHAME can actually be a positive thing because is protects what is most precious.

p. 175—BJP2G talks about cultures that go about almost naked (but have no shame about it). But they would have shame in other contexts regarding their bodies. European cultures have come in to these cultures and told them they were bad to show their bodies, to put on more clothes, which caused a whole new set of problems.

Our culture today could never go around naked because we are so lustful (not because our BODIES THEMSELVES are actually bad)! We do not encounter sexual shame in children because their minds have not grasped sexual values yet. They develop (healthy) sexual shame as part of their developing personality. They realize these body parts are special, they watch how people react, they are taught to protect themselves.

p. 176 Women need to realize that men are hard-wired to visual sensuality. Women are more hard-wired to emotionality.

HOW DOES BJP2G know MORE about sexuality than those who are sexually active? Because sex is of God and he was a man of God. AND a mystic. AND he counseled young married couples (his students/friends)! AND he had a body. AND an imagination. AND he was an actor, a poet, a writer. He was immersed in life, in the human drama. [There’s a great saying: “I am human, and nothing human is truly foreign to me.” Humans have the great ability of vicariousness.]


Fr. David Knight—for women to dress provocatively is like a reverse rape. You entered into his psyche uninvited and now he has to deal with it.

[Men could tell women: “help us (help you).” OR women could insist on dressing any way they want (and be unfair to men and tempt men to abuse them or worse). A man can NEVER excuse himself that he was provoked if he abuses a woman, but women are playing a dangerous game, putting themselves in danger if they DO provoke.]

[ “SURE, YOU CAN DRESS ANY WAY YOU WANT, BUT YOU SHOULDN’T.” –This was said by a French man to a sweatsuited American woman on the streets of Paris. The French ALWAYS dress up when they go out. The men for the women and the women for the men. It’s like a courtesy.]

“The future of civilization depends on what he will be for her, and what she will be for him.”

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September 2, 2011


“The Debt” is a Nazi-hunter caper. It isn’t getting consistently rave reviews, but I thought it was a quite engaging and worthy vehicle. Just when you think you know what the ending will be, you really, really don’t. Trust me. And the ending takes many twists and turns. You will simply never guess the end, or even really know when you’re at the end. A definite “keep you guessing” movie.

The acting is beyond superb: Rachel (Helen Mirren/Jessica Chastain), Stephan (Tom Wilkinson/Marton Csokas) and David (Ciaran Hinds/Sam Worthington) are Mossad (Israeli) operatives who, in 1965, are on a mission to capture infamous Nazi experimental doctor-butcher, Dr. Vogel, “the surgeon of Birkenau,” (Jesper Christensen) who is a practicing OB/GYN in East Germany. Guess which one of the three gets to pose as a patient? Yeah, it’s that tense. Their plan is to take him back to Israel to stand trial and expose his crimes to the world.

We flash back and forth between the now-aged heroes in 1997 (Rachel’s daughter has written a book about her mother’s exploits) and what actually happened. It’s not all as simple as it first appears. Great storytelling! There are secrets seeded all along the way. Plans don’t go as planned.

We were taught at UCLA that a love story in war trumps all other stories (and did WWII ever really end for the Jews?), and that one woman between two men is the best love story. “The Debt” has all this.

The character of the Nazi monster is truly chilling in his calm, (ir)rational, clinical, evil hubris and hatred of the Jews. The ever-lingering questions are brought up: “What, were we all insane, then?” asks Dr. Vogel.

It’s a truly great and needed service to all of humanity that the Jews continue to tell many and varied stories of their Holocaust experience, horrific as they may be. The attempted extermination of the Jews is not “their” story, it’s “our” story. We must never forget. Each new generation must understand the cruelty that human beings are capable of, in order to do everything in our power to ward it off and stand guard against it.

Although David, as a young Israeli agent, says there is “no answer” to Nazi evil, it simply must be brought to justice, I think we do well to study it. A “recipe for disaster” existed in 1) German national humiliation after WWI 2) Godless science 3) stirring up a fanatical, outsized patriotism 4) a potent philosophy of power 5) just enough madmen as leaders and foot soldiers 6) and never to be underestimated: the Hitler Youth. One generation of indoctrination was enough to clinch the deal—“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prv. 22:6 KJB).

My one beef with the movie is that the dialogue is a little too on-the-nose. Sometimes it’s just a matter of an extra sentence that could have been left out. Characters frequently commit one of the arch-sins of screenwriting by telling each other what they both already know. “Hey, audience! Here’s some INFORMATION for you, or rather, we just want to make sure you were paying attention the FIRST time we said it! And, did you get that THIS HERE PIECE OF INFORMATION is related to that OTHER SCENE WE JUST SHOWED YOU? Just checking! Just want to make it ABUNDANTLY OBVIOUS even though we don’t doubt your intelligence for a second!”

Most unfortunately, “The Debt” is another film that’s rated “R,” that could easily be PG-13, in order for young people to learn some history through film.

The question of “The Debt” is: the truth. Do we ALWAYS tell the truth? Will ALWAYS telling the truth do more damage than good? What is a true hero? Do heroes ALWAYS tell the truth? Can people still be proud of us when the truth isn’t as heroic as we’d like it to be? Is the truth a “luxury” sometimes? If we DON’T tell the truth, do we become like our enemies (if we’re “the good guys”)?


--Helen Mirren is sooooo beautiful.

--Weird seeing Helen Mirren in a SERIOUS spy flick after “Red.”

--Jessica Chastain’s acting abilities on display here. (Anyone could have played the mother in “Tree of Life.”)

--Sam Worthington says so much with his eyes.

--You will HATE actor Jesper Christensen (Dr. Vogel).

--Some excellent use of handheld filming!

--There are so many more cautionary and heroic tales to be told of the suffering under the Nazis and Soviets. By telling non-Jewish stories, I think it might actually validate the telling and re-telling of the Jewish experience for those, who, very shortsightedly are “tired” of hearing about the Holocaust. (See? They were not the only targets! See? Evil is never satisfied with just one victim. See? We’re all in this together. Or, to paraphrase Bonhoeffer, I think: “I didn’t speak out when they came for the Jews. I didn’t speak out when they came for the gypsies. I didn’t speak out when they came for the handicapped. I didn’t speak out when they came for the retarded, the homosexuals and the dissidents. And then they came for me.”)

--The fine movie about Cold War East Germany’s ubiquitous and paranoid surveillance, “The Lives of Others,” is excellent except for one point. A statement is made that a particular man can’t be a bad man because he liked a certain piece of classical music. Um, the Nazis had very refined tastes. The ability to appreciate beauty (and rape, plunder and pillage the art and other treasures of humanity for one’s own enjoyment) is indicative of nothing in one’s character, really.

--A must-see documentary is “The Eichmann Trial”—live footage of the Jerusalem trial of Hitler’s designer of the “Ultimate Solution” (strategy/logistics for how to exterminate the Jews). Eichmann was eventually hanged in Jerusalem.

--The Nazis created hell on earth.

--The three are not supposed to “listen or talk to” the Nazi “doctor” while he’s in captivity. Why? Because, like the devil, he is utterly cunning.

--Life is ALWAYS a spiritual (at least) battle. We are ALL God’s secret agents for the good.

--Watch Ben Stein’s “Expelled” to see how the Nazis used Godless Darwinian evolutionary theories (not all evolutionary theories are Godless). See also “Theology of the Body and Evolution,” DVD by Dr. Richard Sternberg


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