Hannah Montana: The Movie

[National Review: April 10, 2009]Whoever’s in charge of truth-in-labeling in Washington needs to take a look at the phenomenon called “Hannah Montana”. That’s the name of a fictitious world-famous pop star, who conceals her secret identity in order to live a normal life as fictitious high-schooler Miley Stewart; this way, she has “The Best of Both Worlds” (as Hannah-Miley’s hit song has it). What needs re-classification is the omni-capable 16-year-old, Miley Cyrus, who portrays this double character. She’s frequently described as a singer, a pop star, or a rock star; you can call her an actress, too, since she’s spent the last three years starring in the Disney Channel show named for her character, and now carries her first narrative film (a concert film released last year was a blockbuster). Pop star, actress, ordinary high school student? Certify her for a whole new title: comedienne.

Surviving the Economy

[Ancient Faith Radio; January 7, 2009] FMG: Well, I’m at home, of all things. Occasionally I am at home. It’s Sunday morning at Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, just south of Baltimore. If you’ve ever been to Baltimore Washington International Airport, BWI, we’re just two miles from BWI. And it’s coffee hour, and I’m sitting in the basement in the parish hall, and I’m talking with somebody who’s travelled to be here with us. I’m not the one travelling this week. Deacon Tom Braun, from, is it St. Barnabas Church in San Demas? Dn. Tom Braun: It’s St. Barnabas in Huntington Beach, California.

The Hypnotic Mall

[Again Magazine; December 2008] The first thing we saw was a blinking sign warning us not to park on the interstate, and then a helicopter circling overhead. As we took the exit, signs assured us that all lanes led to parking, and every block or so a guy in security uniform was windmilling his arms, coaxing the herd of cars to creep forward. All the parking lots were full, their entrances blocked off by police cars. We followed the herd off the road to a vast field of gravel and hardened mud, and finally shut off the engine. Far in the distance we could see it, glowing like the Emerald City of Oz: Arundel Mills Mall.

Hookups and Hope

[Ancient Faith Radio; December 10, 2008] FMG: Not too long ago, someone mailed me a copy of an article in a magazine called “US Catholic”. This is the November, 2008 issue. And it’s an interview with an author named Donna Freitas. She’s just written a book called “Sex and the Soul”. The subtitle is “Juggling sexuality, spirituality, romance, and religion on America’s college campuses”. In this interview, Freitas talks about the research that she did on college campuses- secular, Catholic, and Evangelical. She herself actually teaches at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, which I think is a Catholic college.  

Lettuce Pray

[Touchstone; November, 2008]Just at the moment my first grandchild was placed in my arms, my cell phone rang — and it was Big Idea, Inc., the Veggie Tales company, asking my help in discerning whether to expand into different media. That’s always struck me as a curious synchronicity: my family tree was putting forth its newest branch, and there was the world of children’s entertainment, ready to follow them every day of their lives. But I handed off the child and took the phone call, and after some more conversation said yes to the invitation. They eventually said no to the project, but in the meantime I had the opportunity to observe a lot of talented people working at a high pitch of creativity.

Tender Love and the Dormition

[Ancient Faith Radio; August 15, 2008] My mother lives far from me, many states away; it takes me about twelve or thirteen hours to drive there. So I don’t get there that often. I usually fly down about once a month. I didn’t used to go that often, but she had emergency surgery last January, and ever since then she’s been in a nursing home, and her mind is a little fuzzier than it used to be. She’s never quite gotten her strength back, never gotten on her feet again. Eighty-two years old, and it’s hard to foresee what the future holds. At present it looks like she just might continue being in that nursing home. I’m grateful that my two sisters live closer, so they can go there frequently, and one of them goes every day.

Men and Church (podcast version)

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 24, 2007] I’m in the car today driving down I-95, going south (as usual) toward Washington, this time toward northern Virginia, where I’m going to a reunion of my seminary class at Virginia Episcopal Theological Seminary. It’s our 30th anniversary so I’m going back on campus to hear some speakers today and to attempt to give the seminary library a stack of my books; we’ll see if they will accept these, we’ll see what happens. I expect so; they’re actually very gracious people at Virginia Seminary. I’m thinking about a conversation I’ve been having, an email conversation, with a lot of people in the last couple of weeks, that has led up to an article just published on Beliefnet.com. Beliefnet was doing an interview with John Eldridge. Now if you don’t know that name,

Dating vs Courtship

[Ancient Faith Radio; August 2, 2008] Frederica: We’re at Five Guys Burgers, which is the best burgers in Baltimore, and everybody is chowing down except me, because I came late, so mine is still on order. These are some pretty hefty burgers. In Pasadena. They just opened one of these in Pasadena; I got the word from the end of the table. Our Pasadena. Pasadena, Maryland. And Jocelyn sent me something she’d written earlier today about dating, and ‘I kissed dating goodbye,’ versus ‘I gave dating a chance,’ versus people should just do courtship. And you’d read an article by somebody who said he’s very much in favor of courtship, but the problem is when people meet for the first time, they want to get to know each other. They’re not ready to jump into courtship. So his solution was parents should absolutely control every moment of their children’s lives, and children should know that their parents are going to choose their mate when they’re grown up. They will have no choice whatsoever. I don’t think that’s completely feasible [laughter] but it does show that even for people who are kind of opposed to the dating whirl, what’s the alternative? So, what do you think? Jocelyn? My daughter-in-law Jocelyn, married to my handsome son Steve. Did you and Steve date?

Victoria’s Secret

[Ancient Faith Radio; July 26, 2007] This shopping mall, Arundel Mills Mall, is one (I think) of a national chain of malls, the Mills malls. All of them are made up of a lot of discount stores. We’ve got a discount Saks 5th Avenue, a discount Neiman Marcus; there’s always an Outdoor World, I can see that over there. There’s a Bed Bath & Beyond, a, what’s it called? Birmingham Coat Factory? That doesn’t sound right. Burlington! Burlington Coat Factory. So it’s a big mall; it’s built in a circular shape so as you walk around it, I think it’s a whole mile if you walk all the way around the circuit. And it’s a great place for people to come with kids because you can walk, it’s air conditioned, it’s warm in the winter. And as you go along, there are different, kind of, themes, as you go from section to section. Right now, you might be able to hear this electronic sound of a cricket overhead. And there goes a loon or something. This section here is supposed to be like, you’re out in a marsh and there are giant dragonflies and butterflies hanging overhead and a bench – a sort of circular thing to sit on – that’s a great big water lily.

Loving a Child with Autism

[Beliefnet, April 13, 2007] Last summer we had a houseful at the beach, with our children and their spouses and the seven (soon to be nine) little grandchildren. The cousins don’t see each other much, so they splashed and ran and shouted, the wind tearing at their voices. But Adam, then four, stayed by himself. He moved along the edges of the dunes, circling the family like a silent satellite. Last year, Adam received a diagnosis of autism.