Oscar Nomination Predictions

The red carpet rolled out in front of the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) for the 2009 Academy Awards. Flickr photo by  Greg Hernandez ("Greg in Hollywood")

The red carpet rolled out in front of the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) for the 2009 Academy Awards. Flickr photo by Greg Hernandez (“Greg in Hollywood”)

It is that time of year again: the time for Hollywood to engage in its annual orgy of self-congratulation.  The Oscar nominations are set to be announced this coming Thursday, January 16, at a time early enough in the morning for all the nominated actors and actresses to insist –

“Oh, I was sound asleep when my agent called me to tell me the good news!  I was so surprised!  This is such an honor!  Not that I think you can really compare art.  I mean, there were so many amazing films this year.  It’s an honor just to be mentioned among these other men/women. I suppose I’ll have to find something in the closet to wear…” Continue reading

Are Allah and Yahweh the Same?

Allah medallion Hagia Sophia Wikipedia Adam Kliczek

The name Allah appears form on this medallion inside the Hagia Sophia mosque/church/museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Wikipedia user Adam Kliczek (CC-BY SA 3.0)

Today, I want to address a question which I have often heard put to myself or others, one that seems to cut to the heart of the world’s two largest religions, Christianity and Islam.

Is Allah the same as Yahweh?

Allah, the God to whom Muslims pray five times a day, whom they hold as the only true God, and around whom their religious lives are centered.  Yahweh, the God of the ancient Israelites whose name is spelled with the consonants YHWH in Hebrew.  Are these two supreme beings one and the same? Continue reading

For Japan and China, a Dispute Worthy of Voldemort

Yasukuni Shrine Wikipedia Fg2

The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on a rainy day. Photo by Wikipedia user Fg2

I had a nice post prepared for today that was going to deal with a controversial issue in the religious world, but I have decided to put it aside and instead address a controversy that is currently brewing in the world of international relations.  One might even say it takes place in the fantasy world.

Let me first state a well known fact: China and Japan do not get along.  Subjects of disagreement between them include the fact that one is Communist and the other is a Western-style democracy, one is a major U.S. ally and the other more of a U.S. competitor, both are economic powers going after some of the same markets, a controversial chain of islands is claimed by both of them, they each have capable and expanding military forces, and one of them has a bunch of cute pandas while the other does not. (Ok, that last one isn’t really a source of tension.) Yet, all of these factors tend to take a backseat to a list of historical grievances that have proved to be infinitely hard to forget. Continue reading

Fixing American Government in 2014

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The White House, October 2013

As we begin the year 2014, I find myself reflecting on the political situation in the United States, and I must say that it is a bit depressing.  Our political parties cannot seem to agree on much of anything, our bureaucracy is a model of inefficiency, and there does not seem to be much positive change on the horizon.  Is there anything that could really fix this situation?

Well, with a new year, hope springs eternal, and though I have no expectation that any of the following suggestions will be implemented this year (or any other year), I am going to go ahead and make them anyway in the hope that it might spur some positive discussion.  Love them or hate them, here are five things that I think would help to improve our federal government. Continue reading

The Cash Cows Come Home

One of the Duck Dynasty stars greets members of  the military during the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour earlier this month.  Flickr photo by USO

One of the Duck Dynasty stars greets members of the military during the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour earlier this month. Flickr photo by USO

Good news, Church & State readers: I’m back!  Please forgive my extended absence.  It turns out that moving to another state takes up a lot of time and energy, made even worse when your car tries to kill you, your new basement floods, and your refrigerator is full of a mysterious scent that makes you want to puke and simply will not go away.  Oh, and did I mention this all took place during the busy holiday season?  Let’s just say that writing blog posts has not been at the top of my priority list.  However, things are beginning to settle down, and I have finally reached the point where I feel ready to dive in again. (And there was much rejoicing…)

Quite a bit has happened since I went away.  Pope Francis was named TIME’s Person of the Year a few weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to give him a book on the Spanish Inquisition.  I considered writing an article about the irony of that incident, but there simply was not enough time.  The Obamacare rollout continued to be a disaster of epic (while at the same time entirely predictable) proportions.  There was no need for me to throw in my two cents on that one, since everybody and their mother was doing so already. Continue reading

On the Move

Dear Readers,

I sincerely apologize for the lack of posts in recent days.  My husband and I are moving to another part of the country, so my time has been completely consumed by that project.  I promise that you will be seeing more articles once we get things up and running at our new abode.  I wish you all a very happy Christmas season!

Ohio State vs. Michigan: 15 Years of “The Game”

Ohio State faces Michigan in the 2013 edition of their annual rivalry game.  Photo by Michael Barera

Ohio State faces Michigan in the 2013 edition of their annual rivalry game. Photo by Michael Barera

I felt many different things during yesterday’s Ohio State-Michigan game.  That is what comes from watching your team put its unbeaten record on the line against its long-time rival in a battle of seesawing scores and emotions.  At various points, I felt elated, exhausted, annoyed, anxious – pretty much all of the emotions you would expect a serious college football fan to face during such a game.  However, there was one thing I felt more than any other, perhaps surprisingly so: I felt old. Continue reading

Iran’s Deal With The Devil

Iran and the United States finally reached an agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program, but it seems this time the devil is in the details.

Over the weekend, the U.S., its allies, and Iran managed to work out a deal in which some of the international sanctions Iran has been experiencing will be lifted in exchange for certain reductions in Iran’s nuclear development.  This is a six-month agreement that the Obama administration hopes will lead to a more permanent solution after further talks take place.  I know what you’re thinking: “What an amazing diplomatic breakthrough!”  Well…

“Last night is not a historic agreement – it’s a historic mistake.  It’s not made the world a safer place…This agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place,” argued Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.  Ok, so we’ll put him down as “still on the fence”: not surprising, since Netanyahu has never gotten along that well with President Obama.  He probably is just upset that Barack (the U.S. president, not Netanyahu’s Israeli political rival, Ehud Barak) is going to get all the glory for this one, right? Continue reading

The JFK Assassination: Where Are They Now?

Jacqueline Kennedy leads her children out from her husband's funeral on November 25, 1963, followed by other members of the Kennedy family.  White House photo by Abbie Rowe

Jacqueline Kennedy leads her children out from her husband’s funeral on November 25, 1963, followed by other members of the Kennedy family. White House photo by Abbie Rowe

 

As you have probably heard, today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX.  There has been no shortage of material commemorating the event, perhaps most notably the film “Killing Kennedy” which appeared on the National Geographic Channel and was based on the book by Bill O’Reilly (and Martin Dugard, who likely is responsible for more than 50% of the end product, but inevitably gets 5% of the credit).  I watched the program, and it made me wonder, whatever happened to some of those people?

Obviously, we all know what happened to President Kennedy. (The clue is in the title.) Lee Harvey Oswald also failed to make it out of that week alive, thanks to Jack Ruby.  The rest of the characters in this story went on living their lives, some fading into anonymity and others becoming high-ranking officials.  Here now is a review of what happened to a few of the people caught up in the JFK assassination. Continue reading

“12 Years a Slave”: Thoughts on America’s Darkest Chapter

An examination of some of the issues raised by director Steve McQueen’s newest film, including its historical, cultural, and spiritual implications.

I did not go to see 12 Years a Slave intending to write about it, but as much for myself as for others, I feel a need to do so now.  What I saw was not an ordinary film.  I knew before I went in that it would prompt a great deal of philosophical pondering, but perhaps even this expectation has proved to be too small.

The film tells the story of Solomon Northrup according to his 1853 autobiography.  A free black man living in New York state, he was deceived and abducted into slavery while on a trip to Washington, D.C.  For the next twelve years, he witnessed the horrors of slavery on multiple plantations in Louisiana, until finally a chance encounter allowed him to press his legal case and earn back his freedom.  It’s the kind of amazing true story that screenwriters would normally dream about, but the darkness of the subject matter is likely part of the reason that no filmmaker has attempted the feat until now. Continue reading