Nacho Libre

Image from Amazon

My friend Arc does movie reviews. He is the expert on this topic but I am taking a page from his book today to comment on Nacho Libre.

Nacho Libre is one of those movies you either have or love. Fans of Jack Black love it, others just despise it. Whatever the reason, if you like it because it made you laugh or hate it because of the slapstick comedic style, this movie will cause a reaction on you.

However, my reflection today deals with the prevalent mood of the movie. Nacho is a monk who has always been under the boot (or, rather, sandal) of the superiors in his monastery. Cruelty can be perceived in the lack of will of the monks and padres to improve the living conditions of the children (and monks and nuns) living under their care.

Nacho is the unlikely hero, the underdog, who through living his dream of becoming a luchador manages to bring some joy (and food) to the orphans, who prove to be his strong allies.

Nacho's love interest, the lovely nun played by Ana de la Reguera is another victim of this cruel system; she seems to be interested in a life outside of her little cell but is too afraid to try. In the end, Nacho does not get the girl which seems to have pissed everyone off (the viewers, of course) but just goes on to show the stronghold and fear the church can muster.

Fear of what I would ask? Nacho is always afraid his secret identity will be revealed and when it is discovered, he leaves before risking the consequences.

Nacho's sidekick, Esqueleto, is both providing the comic realief and the food for thought. When asked if he is a believer he responds "I only believe in science!"

Which is very ironic because obviously Esqueleto is uneducated. Which makes you wonder if the intention was to show how even uneducated, simple minds like Esqueleto's should reject the charade being played by organized religion. Nacho and sister Encarnación have no choice, they were indoctrinated from an early age but Esqueleto is a free agent and has a mind of his own.

As we all should have.

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More reader comments: problems with the pope

Very often, people do not leave comments on my blog but rather post the comments to Facebook or e-mail them to me.

That is what happened a few days ago, when my posting trying to show what an ad-hominem fallacy was attracted the attention (and disagreement) of my FB friend Robert.

I find Robert's comments intriguing and engaging. His argument is that it may be impossible to separate the man from the ideas:

About the pope: "...He's led a campaign to maintain poverty in South America, spreads fatal diseases to millions by teaching them to have unprotected sex, and was one of the key people who arranged for paedophiles to be protected and witnesses (mostly raped children) to be intimidated into silence, which led to further child rape and the rapists themselves escaping justice. How can anyone /not/ have a problem with the pope?"

To which I (maybe naively) responded: "...I was discussing ad hominem fallacies so it is the ideas we have to go after... for all we know the guy's intentions may be good, as twisted as that may seem..."

Robert's reasoning was implacable. "By that logic we'd be letting Hitler and a whole bunch of other villains off the hook. It's not just the intention that matters, it's knowledge and awareness about what harm you are doing, as well as how you go about doing it. He opposed the anti-poverty campaign in South America because living in a wealthier environment would make them less ... Read More religious. Now it's well-known that being wealthy is no barrier to being religious, as America has shown, so instead of trying to guide them down that route he instead chose to keep them living in conditions that made them poorer, less healthy and unhappier. When it came to contraception in Africa, he could have told the truth about condoms and distributed them from churches, increasing attendence and saving lives at the same time. When a system-wide level of corruption was found in the church he could have led the charge to have them excommunicated and brought them to justice, placing the feelings of the innocent and justice above the church's power. However, in every instance where he could have done things differently that led to the church remaining strong and done a lot of good for the world he chose the option that led to an enormous amount of suffering, just so that the catholic church could get stronger. Because of his evil ways at least 4 continents have suffered, just for the sake of making the vatican more powerful."

I understand what he is talking about and tend to agree. Maybe we should be more careful of where we may place sympathies... I have indeed reflected on how pope Ratzinger, being such an erudite, must know the things I know about the bible and the history of the church and yet continues to preach strict adherence to catholic dogma... A true contradiction, in my book.

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Reader's comments - WWJD

My friend Francisco wanted to comment but his comment was too long, so he e-mailed it to me. Here is his comment.

In reading the blog “WWJD or Shakespeare”, I found it certainly amusing –as the blogger said it -, interesting, and maybe worth it to write about it; not with the purpose to oppose those ideas; but to expose and brainstorm other ones that shed some light toward the ultimate goal of a common agreement to the Truth. Please note that my native language is not the English; so, please accept my sincere apologies for not using the adequate terms as my inner self understands it. In the “physical world” we are situated in, the reality we perceive, the events, at least according to the Newtonian description of the universe, and later the Theory of Relativity, – another completely different story would be according to the Quantum Mechanics - is a succession, a series, of individual events that takes you to a particular one that usually is the result of a n-variables. To gain understanding of a situation or a problem, one should assign values to one variable while leaving the other variables constant. So, refering to the passage in the gospel of Matthew 15: 21 and on, the woman from Canaan, it should be analyzed from different points of view; then, decide if “it is not good behavior”; or maybe that is not the issue at hand; or maybe the teaching is a different matter. To understand what really was going on in this part, we could analyze it from the social, political, economic, spiritual, moral, philosofical, teological, religious, even personal – what means to me –, etc. point of view. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church teaches one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual. The spiritual is even further divided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses. The moral sense should lead us to act justly; hence, the related passage was written for our instruction as well. The anagogical sense can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, so it is its applicability (1). One thing the reader of the gospel according to Matthew should know is that Matthew – or whoever did it - wrote the gospel for the Jewish people of that time, centering the attention on the elite, in terms they could relate and understand the proper way of the “good news”. In other words, the audience was very well verse in the Scriptures, customs, and values fostered throughout many centuries; and the things familiar to the Jewish people were challenged and radically changed. Politically, they were subjugated and slaved by the Roman imperial power that imposed the corrupt government authorities; they wanted a change. Religiously, they were guided by an authority sect that believed to be the cleanest one and “maestros” with strict adherence to Torah, God’s laws, and Moses’ rules to the point they regarded the rest – outside of the Pharisee sect – unclean people and punish them for their transgression; thus, forgetting the true meaning and intention of the Law and rules. Spiritually, the Jewish people, in general, in the region of Canaan were dead. They knew about the Scriptures, the expected Messiah, etc; nevertheless, they were still influenced by years of slavery and captivity from Babylonia. They’ve had physically returned to the land, but remained spiritually slave. In the other hand, the Canaanites were counted among the gentiles whom failed to recognize the Only One and True God as opposed to the Israelites acknowledgement of this key principle; hence, the favor of God’s will. Without this understanding there is a risk of missing the point and can prompt the reaction such as the blogger’s, especially taking in consideration the mind set of our western culture of our epoch. The passage of the Canaanite’s woman faith set the stage, as it is in many other opportunities of Jesus’s ministry, and anticipates the mission to the Gentiles: The Plan is not exclusive for the Jews, but it is extended to all the humanity. The Canaanite woman obtained the healing for her daughter by becoming a believer and by the virtue of her strong faith. Maybe the teaching is that we may have relaxed what God expect from us in our lives - and from the entire humankind - by contrasting the view on the dead-letter of the Law and the New Covenant. The instruction is to have faith and it is valid now and then. Indeed the Shakespeare’s sonnet is beautiful, but I’m still asking myself as to why the reference or comparison to the theme. Is it because ii is more likeable than the other literature? I can see that Shakespeare has the ability to exalt and compare the beauty of the Creation with words that comes from its inner self. And, I’m pretty sure the priest failed to convey the proper message to some of the audience that left the feeling of having to endure the mass; but this is different subject. Nonetheless, the Word did not go empty since we are still blogging about it. That’s good!

(1) Catechism of the Catholic Church

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Who, me? I don't have a problem with the pope!

Some days ago I was told (she said he said, that kind of stuff) that a friend thought that I had an issue with the pope.

The comment made me laugh but, thinking it over, it is a serious matter.

Probably this friend saw my blog post titled "Condones para el papa" (Condoms for the pope) in which I criticized the pope's statements during that recent, infamous trip to Africa. And this will show the difference between debating a person's ideas and attacking the person.

When ideas are debated, arguments must be used to show the falsehood or impropriety of someone's statetements. Using personal attacks (ad hominem) is not proof that said ideas are wrong.

For instance, if someone comented on this note saying that I am a hard core atheist and that is why I don't like the pope, he would be mounting a personal attack and not debating the correctness of my ideas. I always try to make clear, when criticizing someone's ideas, that it is the ideas I debate, not the person.

In the case of pope Ratzinger, I really sympathize with him. Joseph Ratzinger is a man who has found himself in a difficult situation for which he was not the best equipped person. While the previous pope, Karol Wojtyla better known as John Paul II, had the opportunity to polish his diplomatic skills fighting communism in his native Poland, pope Ratzinger is an academic, who would be content teaching at a university or writing theological treatises on the catholic church doctrine, which is his specialty. Being the head of the church has put him on the spotlight and his tendency to openly speak his mind on catholic dogma issues has gotten him into problems like the one that caused my criticism.

So, trying to prove an idea wrong by using personal attacks is what is called an ad hominem fallacy.

I don't have a problem with pope Ratzinger. I have a problem with his ideas.

This is a free translation of my post yesterday at El Chapín Escéptico (in spanish). I thought it fit well with The Chapin Skeptic.

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WWJD or Shakespeare??

Blogging is a funny thing. Sometimes what you first think of is not what you eventually post. Sometimes the topic takes you elsewhere. And sometimes you change your mind before you even post.

And then sometimes you just can't make up your mind.

Today I had to endure mass. No need to explain why, I tried to get in late but was actually on time and it took 50 minutes, which was long for a weekday mass. The priest's homily upset me. He was commenting on the gospel reading (Matthew 15 - 21 and on, the woman from Canaan) and of course he embellished the story by making it appear as a lesson on perseverance. For some reason that I cannot fathom, You Must Persevere When Asking Things Of God.

That is not what the gospel says. If anything, those people asking themselves all the time what would Jesus do (WWJD) should realize this is not good behavior.

Jesus did not want to help the canaanite woman because she was not jew. (No, I am not going to quote scripture here - read the passage elsewhere as I have placed a link to it above). Of course, in light of the mindset of jewish Jesus and his jewish disciples, he was not doing anything wrong - the gospel was to be preached to the jew people, not to the outsiders, who were not "worthy".

That was OK for the jews at that time in that place. It would be bigotry today. So if you are asking yourself WWJD, he would show you how to be racist and intolerant.

Anyway, on the way home my daughter asked me for help doing homework, she had to paraphrase one of Shakespeare's sonnets. I never studied english literature (didn't have to... I studied spanish and latin american literature...) so I have never really read Shakespeare in the original english.

And it made up for my 50 minutes at church. And I will quote Shakespeare here for your enjoyment. What a beautiful little poem of love!

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee

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2012 and the end of the world

This morning I was listening to the NPR news and they mentioned the Mayas and 2012 and the end of the world

I do have a comment to make about that:


...Sorry, where was I?