Nov 19 2007
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Great newspaper article of the book, Gun Totin Chaplain and interview with author.

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Healthy Religion

Or, maybe, what I ought to say is emotionally healthy religion. I think about this often.

As a Christian, I debate constantly with my "girlfriends" (breakfast buddies) what it all means. In our little group, we have atheists, lapsed Catholics, and a smattering of other Protestant types. The discussions are always lively, especially as relates to how prominent religion seems to play in world politics-from the reported 5 million radical Muslim extremists of the 9-11 philosophy. to their moderate Muslims brothers, to the right wing Christian zealots embodied in the late Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family guru James Dobson.

Most of us have various views, often not very objective ones on the power of religion or even how prevalent it is. In our American society, religion surely gets prominent lip service-no wonder religion often gets very confusing to the average person.

Recently, when I ran across this wonderful little film, Eve and the Firehorse, on the Sundance Channel, I was absolutely fascinated.

This small film embodied almost every issue that we face in religion and was a healthy way to look at faith. Two young Chinese sisters, Eve, 9 and born in the year of the firehorse; and Karena,11; live in Canada. The two girls are determined to reverse the string of tragedies that have shadowed their working class family ever since their mother cut down the backyard apple tree. They are determined to reverse these bad fortunes by becoming good girls.

The grandmother,in this little family, dutifully pours three cups of tea for the Buddha every single day with a faithfulness that Eve, the younger sister, does not understand. Eve remarks that apparently Buddha isn't thirsty because the tea remains in the cups. At some point, Grandma dies, but appears to Eve in various visions or apparitions that only Eve can see.

Karena, the older sister, is somewhat sullen and matter of fact in the beginning as the two sisters face the various rigors of the cruelty of kids at school. Their mother has a miscarriage in a rather dramatic fashion, then goes into a deep depression while the kids fend mostly for themselves. The hardworking and committed father has to go back to China to bury the grandmother.

All of Eve and Karena's goodness must be paying off because the father wins a new Cadillac in the lottery and his luck seems to change. The mother comes out of the "ether" and resumes her role with the family. Karena, embraces Catholicism, trying to live the life of a saint. Eve kind of goes along while the mother adopts a view that the Buddha and Jesus can surely live together and this must be healthy.

Eve, in the meantime, constantly has these apparitions where she sees what might be, i. e., Buddha and Jesus dancing and getting along rather famously. Plus, on occasion, Eve throws in a not too saintly angel who joins Jesus and Buddha in their dance. Occasionally even Grandma pops up.

The movie's rather wry and delicately observed views about faith and religion are absolutely delightful.

In this movie, there are so many precious moments for those of us who are people of faith. Two notable ones: Karena has become somewhat obsessed with Catholicism and the nun character in the movie could use a little objectivity, but her attitude plays well with the story.

At one point, Karena gets the idea, that, in order for Eve to really become a better person(Eve makes up elaborate stories),she needs to receive baptism. This becomes a concern for the viewer because Karena thinks the longer Eve stays under water, the more successful her baptism. The viewer is left with the idea of potential tragedy.

In one scene, we are at the Church where the Priest is baptizing Karena. She is arrayed in white. A voice over tells us that Eve possibly died for a second and that there was a white light that she remembers, along with the fire horse. Eve is the voice over and the philosophy of life is real and rich.

The movie ends with one of Eve's apparitions dressed all in white embracing her faith as she watches Karena float toward the ceiling.

What makes this such an important little movie is that this is the way religion should be: mystery and tolerance embraced with a childlike faith. Amazingly, at least to me that a movie and a director's imagination conveys the real truths of faith, much more so than some leaders of today's churches, synagogues, or mosques. KT

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