Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: Zippers, A Short Story

Zippers, A Short Story by Ashley Barron

I love Ashley Barron's stories! Here's one reason why, from Zippers: "My eyes begin to sting. He kneels down and gives my shoulder a squeeze. The sting turns to water."

Ms. Barron has a knack, a skill, for writing in a very small number of pages what it takes other writers hundreds of pages to get out. She understands the human condition, whether she is showing what goes on in the mind of a woman getting ready to go out to celebrate a birthday, or describing a ten-year-old boy's reaction to a tantalizing mystery at a picnic.

Like the ten-year-old, Ms Barron dares to probe, to ask the uncomfortable questions. And like the boy in Zippers, she is rewarded (as her readers are, too) by thoughtful, heartfelt answers that ring true.

I'm always a better person for having read one of Ms Barron's stories, and I will always make time to read them.

I'm already looking forward to the next Ashley Barron story.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity

Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity
Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity by Michael Coren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book helpful in my spiritual life and I also found it intellectually thought-provoking. I admit that I picked this book up more to learn about Catholic apologetics than because it was written by Mr. Coren. The last time I heard of Michael Coren, he was a talk-show host on CFRB, a talk-radio station in Toronto. I was not impressed with his rhetoric. That was years ago, and to the best of my knowledge he is no longer there, but I haven't bothered to verify this.

Since then I've heard that he has, or had, a Toronto-based television show, and that he is an advocate of homeschooling. And that he is a Catholic.

These were all reasons why I decided to invest the time to read Heresy. I liked his premise: Catholics (and Christians, in general) put up with a lot more lies, venom, and misdirected hatred than any other religion in the world and it has to stop. I agree.

In Heresy, Mr. Coren discusses a variety of topics that we Christians regularly have to defend about our faith. To quote from his website: People believe that Christianity "...supports slavery, is racist, anti-intellectual, anti-Semitic, provokes war, resists progress, is repressive and irrelevant, that Jesus didn’t exist, and that there are contradictions in the faith."

I'm a cradle Catholic, and I have never had anyone tell me that they disagreed with Christianity because one of the most horrible persons to ever walk on this planet, Hitler, claimed to be a Christian. So I found a few of these topics to be, quite frankly, inane, the Hitler one in particular. I cannot take anyone who says something that stupid too seriously. I've taught logic and argumentation theory and since learning about arguments back in university, I've always asked myself this question before jumping into an argument: Do I have a realistic chance of changing my opponent's point of view? If not, then I would rather save my breath for a more intelligent conversation with someone else. And anyone who would be stupid enough to attack a religion based on such a claim would not get a defense from me.

But Mr. Coren is up to the challenge. He proves himself to be a great arguer and he resorts to good arguments to state his case, most of the time. He does, however, fall into "talk-radio" mode once in a while. For example, in the chapter about the lies told against Christianity in The Davinci Code, he begins by quoting a scathing review of Dan Brown's writing abilities. Talk about an ad homonym fallacy! I don't believe that personal attacks help to defend any cause, so that tactic failed to do anything more than annoy/disappoint me. I write fiction, so I guess I rarely take any claim made within a fictional story context seriously. But... and this is where Mr. Coren gets someone as cynical as me to agree with him, in the very same chapter he takes Tom Hanks to task for acting in such an anti-Christian movie as The Davinci Code. Mr Hanks says that it's just fiction and we shouldn't take it too seriously (my claim exactly). Mr. Coren's reply: would Tom Hanks act in a movie that claimed the holocaust never happened? And again, I agree with Mr. Coren, Tom Hanks probably wouldn't. But, "they" would argue, The Davinci Code is just an attack on Christianity, so it's fair game. What are we Christians going to do, other than turn the other cheek like our religion requires us to do?

Overall, I found Mr. Coren's writing clear and his arguments cogent and persuasive. The topics are barely touched upon, as he mentions. There is so much one could say about each issue, but he does a very good job laying out the central claims, explaining why the chosen topic is offensive to Christians, and he pours as much historical proof as needed to at least make someone think that they may be wrong. And that's all we can ask for, isn't it? For people who don't know what they're saying to stop spreading false beliefs about Christians, and to take the time to understand Christianity's position before attacking it.

In this secularized world, I'm glad someone is standing up for Christianity and for Christians. Next on my reading list is Mr. Coren's previous book: Why Catholics Are Right.


View all my reviews

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Merry Christmas!

What with all the excitement and brouhaha associated with Christmas, I'm posting this early. I wish everyone a very merry Christmas. I hope you all get to spend time with your family and/or your loved ones. Sadly, these two groups don't always overlap.

I love Christmastime! Not as much as the Lenten season leading up to Easter, but with the Advent candles counting down the four Sundays before Christmas, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, Christmas Eve, and then the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord on Christmas Day, there are plenty of opportunities to meditate, go to mass, and pray during this otherwise hectic season!

I wish you all a very merry Christmas. May you discover joy, happiness, and the true meaning of Christmas under that Christmas tree (along with a  box or two of your favorite chocolates), and may you all have a wonderful new year!

See you in 2013!

~ JT~
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