Category Archives: Reviews

Charlie Johnston

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A few days ago I once again revisited the idea of Catholic Prophecy.    If you did not read that post before reading this one, please do, so as to put everything in appropriate context as I move on to discussing Charlie Johnston.   In that post I also encourage you to read and review in Charlie’s own words what he claims to have experienced, and what his stated mission is.

I am mentioning him here because of all the current, modern-day “prophets” he has a very unique approach to it all.   His approach, I believe, allows someone to follow him and listen to what he has to say, even if skeptical, and having one’s faith and approach to things edified.   And I think this statement holds true regardless of whether or not you choose to believe the more remarkable claims he makes with respect to his personal experiences (visions, encounters with Angels, Mary, and Jesus, etc.).

So, allow me to explain.

One of my biggest issues I have, as I’ve already mentioned, are persons who claim to have visions or apparitions of the supernatural and proclaim messages to the world.   Nearly every modern day “prophet” follows the same formula:   Some supernatural or divine entity visits or speaks to them and asks them to share a message with the world.   This happens over and over and over and over again with the same or similar message over and over and over and over again.   People listen to or read the messages and cling to every word.   After a while, we get bored with whatever good message is communicated if that message isn’t about some remarkable event that is going to occur.   I could be entirely wrong, but I think that more than one of these people, even if they started off authentically receiving (or believing they were receiving) divine messages may feel the need to sensationalize things in order to placate a widening audience.   This is speculation on my part, but I’m sure it’s happened.

In many cases, I have to believe that – even if innocent – some of these people have entirely experienced a confabulation of the whole thing.   They are in quietude and want to have a conversation with God – all well and good – and in that silence (which they haven’t entirely learned to control properly) they believe they are receiving some sort of message or locution.   But it’s their own mind running wild, but emotionally they feel in tune with God, so it must be Him, right?    What starts off as good internal thoughts from a well-formed person can become a desire to feel that and continue that, and who knows where that can take a person.

I may sound like someone who can’t accept any of this.   That is not true and it’s not my intent.   I am just careful.   And so, it is actually with a bit of an effort against my nature that I find Charlie, overall, authentic.

For those who don’t know him and will be too lazy to fully research him or read my links, I will provide a general summary:   As mentioned above, Charlie claims to have been visited by supernatural or divine entities for most of his life.    He kept it to himself for a long time, and only as he matured did he embrace all of it.   The purpose of the visitations was to provide him visions, insights, and messages for the future which would occur during his lifetime.    However, unlike others, he has not shared every individual message with the world.    He has not even provided a whole lot of details of things he claims to know about, or has known about in the past.    Because the purpose of his visitors was to train him on the bigger, more important things:   why this is happening, a general course of what to expect, and to build up the flock so that they can better grasp the reality of what about to happen and what is, in fact, happening around us.

The entire purpose of Charlie’s ministry is not to predict exactly how, when, where, and why all the corresponding events that make up what is called “The Storm” are (even though he is in tune to many of those things).  The purpose is much more general – get people right with God and each other, and not worry about all these details.   Understand the overall course of The Storm so you’re mentally and spiritually ready for it.    But he also very clearly preaches that no one can effectively prepare for everything that is to come.   We will utterly need to rely on God.   While he welcomes the idea that people make preparations, it’s always in the context of prudence and with an eye towards preparing in such a way not so much for you, but to help others.

Charlie has a different personality than most of the other supposed seers I’ve researched.   He has a sense of humor, comes from the political arena and still follows politics, and is basically just a normal guy who happens to have a remarkable attribute that the rest of us don’t have.    It’s interesting to hear him talk about his visitors so casually, when all the rest of us would likely fail to sleep for a week after receiving a visit from a supernatural friend of any sort.    But this shouldn’t be surprising.   After all, how casually do we Catholics speak of the Eucharist?    We receive it without a huge show, and sometimes in our weaker moments are distracted by other things around us as the very Son of God becomes physically manifest on the altar.    The Eucharist is so remarkable as to be utterly unbelievable by non-Catholics.  And yet, we stroll up and receive Christ as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.     So, unlike us, Charlie has received these visitors his entire life.   It should not be a surprise that over time a natural comfort level and even a sense of the unremarkable comes across in his comments about them.

Whether he’s imagining it all, or whether it’s all real, or somewhere in between, there is no sense that I get from Charlie that there is any deception.   He is very clear on all of us, most of all himself, follows whatever instruction the Church gives.    He is not one of these anti-Francis folks – far from it.   He has called Francis the Pope of the Storm.   On the other hand, this does not keep him from offering opposing opinions with respect to purely temporal matters.

I would encourage anyone to look at Charlie’s posts and start the process of discernment.   To be clear, it is not substitute for Church teaching, Scripture, etc.   But nothing I see opposes any of those things.   Charlie is a full-throated supporter of daily mass, Catholic devotions, Adoration, Eucharistic processions, etc.   He is very stout on life and family issues.    He is fine if you don’t agree with him as long as all discussion on the board is well-intentioned and respectful.   In the end, the very worst that can happen is you don’t buy into all the remarkable stuff, but you’ll still see a good group of people trying to do their best in a world gone mad.

The one part of my skeptical nature on all this that I can’t completely rid myself of is the idea that one needs these visitors to warn of The Storm.   I have for years seen signs of ultimate disaster in our country and our world.   I think to anyone paying attention, it’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when.”   One does not need an angel to point out that a country that turns its back on God, holds up abortion as a blessing, makes same-sex marriage the law of the land, continues to grow in accepting euthanasia, becomes more atheistic, and so on that there will be a point where God turns us over to ourselves.    Now, Charlie claims that in his private writings to his Spiritual Director, he envisioned what we are clearly seeing today long before it became as readily apparent as it is, and he is now taking up the mantle of one who is now making it clear to everyone exactly what it is that is happening and how we need to react.

Charlie is also very open about the fact that over the years he has greatly misunderstood, misinterpreted, and even challenged the wisdom of the messaged he’s received.    This is one reason he doesn’t share them.    He has said that this was all part of the training he needed.   Whenever he went against his direction because he thought he could protect someone from something or another, he saw that worse things happened that originally envisioned.   So he has better learned to not question, and to trust.   And trust is a major theme here.   He promotes a Prayer of Miraculous Trust – say it once for a particular intention and then leave it.  Don’t repeat it again for that specific intention (sort of like Moses hitting the rock more than once).

There are a couple areas where Charlie has been more specific.   I only assume there are particular reasons why these items are necessary to share with us.   One is that our next stable leader will not come from the election process.   It is a bit unclear exactly what that means, but it’s safe to say that if Charlie is correct, then even if elections are held and a new President elected, by the time they would otherwise take office in the normal fashion, things will have changed dramatically so that this doesn’t happen in a way that anyone expects.    Second, there will be a necessary financial collapse.   Third, he has given a timeline of the end of 2017 for what is called the Rescue – where God allows Mary to intervene on our behalf and, in some way, make it clear to everyone on earth what the Truth of Christ is.   Because of this timeline, if Charlie is correct, then whatever is to happen will happen soon, happen swiftly, and will create a situation of such extreme confusion that without the Rescue everything would so utterly devolve so quickly that we would almost certainly destroy ourselves.    Charlie’s sense (I believe this is noncommittal) is that the Rescue will actually occur before there is an incredibly severe loss of life.    Not that millions of lives lost will not be horrible, but he’s not talking about half, a third, a quarter, or even a tenth of the world’s demise.

I could go on, but I believe this covers the general sense of it.   We are under no obligation at all to pay attention to or adhere to private revelation.   So it is not incumbent upon any of us to look into all of this.   But I do think Charlie’s message is helpful and encouraging during this time, and my own personal and unofficial opinion is that it is something that is worthy of looking at.

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Book Review/Diatribe: The Great Cholesterol Con

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I had so much fun with my last book review that I decided to do another one. Who knows, maybe it will become “a thing.” Whatever that means.

You may scratch your head on this one. The review is on a book entitled “The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid it,” by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick.

So, why would the Catholic Diatriber review this book? Primarily, the easy answer is “because I feel like it.” But why not do so on the “Personal Diatribes” blog? Well, I don’t really post there much, and it’s really meant to be a site for anecdotes and family stories and such. Though, not exclusively so.

Actually, I am posting it here because this is where I do the majority of my posts, and also because we Catholics don’t just concern ourselves with purely spiritual matters. If we find something that can prove helpful to others, then we assist. And so, in the area of health information, I think it’s a quite Catholic thing to do to share a few lay insights into my take on Dr. Kendrick’s little book.

By way of a bit of background, my wife and I both have what I believe to be some healthy skepticism towards consensus on matters where consensus tends to shout down dissenting views. And to the extent I am a little skeptical, my wife tends to default to that view especially in areas of health. But this comes with a good dose of her seeming to be generally right, so I seldom argue. That said, I will tend to roll my eyes at some of the things she reads, and my initial reaction to this book was to do the same. Before I picked it up, the title alone struck me as a bit sensational and alarmist – kind of like those e-mails one gets with all sorts of huge, red, bolded letters with a lot of exclamation points. You know the ones – where if you don’t forward it to 800 other people then you hate America or want children to suffer or don’t love Jesus, or whatever the case may be.

I can’t even remember what prompted me to actually pick it up and start reading it. But I was actually shocked as I read it… not so much as to any claims or content, but that it was incredibly sensibly written, humorous, and fully referenced. As difficult as it may be to believe, it truly is written with a sense of humor. In my opinion this adds credibility. Too many “Exposed!” books are all about demagoguery and written with a great sense of foreboding and conspiracy. A couple of random examples of a little humor that helped make the book eminently readable follow.

Moving on from that cheery subject. Apart from the heart and the brain, you can have infarctions in the kidneys, the guts, the eyes – almost anywhere, in fact. (At this point, it occurs to me that I should, perhaps, have inscribed the words DON’T PANIC on the cover of the book.)

There are so many ways in which this analogy is wrong, that I just can’t possibly outline them all here. Hopefully, by the time you have finished this book you will understand that anyone making such a statement needs to be taken out and slapped repeatedly with a we kipper.

I shall start by presenting all of the evidence in support of the diet-heart hypothesis. It is, as follows: [ ]. (Leave space blank for any supportive evidence that might appear.)

…my memory of a traditional Scots recipe is, as follows: Step one: Place a three-pound lump of beef in a saucepan with a carrot and an onion and boil for eight hours. Step two: Eat with boiled potatoes. And as everyone knows, the Scots love a fry-up. Even a fried-up Mars bar: Step one: Take a frozen Mars bar and cover in batter. Place in deep-fat fryer for two minutes. Step two: Eat with chips while walking home in the rain.

None of those quotes are particularly relevant as far as content goes, but I thought they were funny so I felt like quoting them. There are many other such things that kept it entertaining.

Of course, humor is all well and good, but it is not the purpose of the book. So, how did I feel like it held up where actually important: making a case for what Dr. Kendrick considers to be the “con”?
This book is really just written more from the point of view that the consensus is simply wrong. Oh, sure, there are a few little potshots here and there as to the motives of some, but that is not the focus of the book. This may seem a bit surprising, given the title, which would lead one to think it’s about uncovering some great conspiracy. This isn’t really a case about conspiracy as it is about groupthink and an inability to see the forest through the trees. The author recognizes that certain things just seem so logical to the establishment that they “must be true,” and are so compelling that those studying the question cannot seem to alter their course even when studies show contradictory results. Instead, the underlying premise is assumed correct while they study certain aspects of the studied group and then provide reasons for why the study showed different results without having it affect the initial hypothesis, even when that is the simpler and more realistic answer. Some of this is certainly profit-driven, and there is a real question about ties to pharmaceutical companies among other valid observations. But the main point seems to be that good and well-meaning people just plain have it wrong, whatever the reasons for it.

I am a math guy and have studied my share of science. I am not an expert in bio-health, so I cannot state with certainty much of anything. What I can tell, I believe, is whether or not somebody is sourcing their material validly and making a strong case. I can also tell if there’s a sincerity to the opinion, or whether or not this is just a book to alarm and make money. It is my opinion that the book is a valuable read for those with an open mind to questioning the consensus. Certainly, it should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all, but should promote further questions and study.

It would take some length to summarize the points of this book, and I may do a follow-up post on that. The point of this post was to simply review the book. I believe I have covered most of what I intended to cover in the review.

If I have one critique to the negative, it is that as I read this book I found myself looking forward to the end, where I was sure it would be all laid out for me on exactly what I can do to escape heart disease now that it’s been shown that a lot of those reasons we thought caused it no longer apply. I admit I was disappointed in the conclusion. There certainly were some bullet-points there, and they had been alluded to throughout the book, but it fell quite a bit short in my opinion. It was clear that it was not the emphasis of the author to provide a “how to live your life” book, but to perhaps free us from the chains of thought that are not helping –and may be hurting us and making life more miserable than it needs to be. But a little bit more in the suggestions would have made the book feel more complete, as opposed to feeling like the author just wanted to end it after he was done with what he was really actually interested in.

Recommendation: If you eschew these kinds of books for any of the following reasons: (1) they are dry and boring; (2) they are over your head; (3) they are alarmist; (4) they are not well-referenced and lack credibility; (5) they are written by quacks who are not doctors and have no relevant experience then you have still not hit on a reason to not read this book. None of those apply. I strongly recommend reading this, if for no other reason than to consider the discussions on Statins and medications and be more informed as to how they work and better understand the total mortality concept instead of just focusing on heart disease. Read and enjoy, but make your own decisions.

Book Review/Diatribe: The Harbinger

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One thing I’d like to do a bit more is review some of the books I read. I don’t read a gazillion of them, but I do like to share my thoughts on them when I do.

I am going to start with a book I just finished: The Harbinger, by author Jonathan Cahn. Mr. Cahn is the leader of Hope of the World Ministries, an evangelical outreach organization.

I do not purchase many new books. Having a large family and trying to maintain a budget, I usually check with my library first for my leisure reading. When I either cannot find it from the library (often enough for religious/spiritual books) or decide I want to own it, the title goes on my wish list for birthdays or Christmas. If I don’t want to wait, then I look for good deals on used copies on Amazon or elsewhere.

The Harbinger was an exception. Touted heavily on World Net Daily, and also featured on Spirit Daily (a Catholic-based news site), my interest was heightened to the point where I decided to buy the book new.

I almost feel bad about the review I’m about to give, because it is not favorable. So before I go there, let me differentiate between the book itself and the book’s insights and message. The entire prophetic insight is a tying of what is happening in America today to what occurred long ago in ancient Israel, and in particular centered about the hard-hearted response of the nation of Israel in Isaiah 9:10. There are some very interesting parallels that are presented in the book. For the most part, these things are thought-provoking and worthy of study and contemplation. The message itself with respect to what is in store for America if there is not repentance for straying from God is spot on, as well. All those aspects of the book are worthy of note and generally a good thing. What is not good is the book itself. So, keep those high points in mind as you read the rest of this post.

Mr. Cahn decides to present his insights and study of Isaiah 9:10 (and surrounding verses later on) into story form. All that is well and good, but the story serves almost no purpose, and is not remotely entertaining. The book is 253 pages long, 250 pages of which is conversation. Even more frustrating is the incredible thick-headedness of the man at the center of the narrative. The conversations are reduntantly redundant, and no matter how many times a point is made, the main character reacts as if it’s a brand new revelation.

The format of the story is that the main character, Nouriel Kaplan, tells his tale to a woman, Ana Goren, who has something to do with publishing or marketing or something that isn’t quite clear. And when I say that he tells his tale, that’s all he does. Oh, they eventually get up and go for a walk to somewhere that is not embellished upon, but their interaction is a conversation. A long one. And what he is telling her is a recounting of his conversations with a Prophet. We never find out the Prophet’s name, through no fault of Mr. Kaplan’s attempts to uncover this detail.

So, Mr. Kaplan gets a seal (as in a small waxy seal that secures a bound scroll) in the mail with markings on it, and happens to sit on a bench one day to look at it, when it all begins. The Prophet is on that bench, and as the book moves along it becomes clear that he is some supernatural figure with a divine purpose. Well, I won’t spill all the beans here with respect to what is all discovered by our friend in the book, but each encounter goes something like this:
Prophet: Here is another seal for you to worry about, and here’s an enigmatic clue as to its meaning, but I’m not going to tell you what it means. You need to figure it out for yourself.

After weeks, or months, of investigation, sometimes figuring out nothing, sometimes figuring out only a partial aspect of it, and sometimes thinking he figured it out but not really, the Prophet suddenly appears again and the next encounter ensues.

Prophet: Did you figure it out?
Kaplan: (a) No. (b) Kind of. (c) I think I did.
Prophet: (a) OK. Let me tell you everything. (b) Good, but you’re not really that close. Here, let me tell you everything. (c) Nouriel, you’re on the wrong track. Here, let me tell you everything.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

One was left wondering the point of all the waiting and wheel-spinning, if the Prophet was just going to spill the beans anyway. Other than to fill up pages with the hopeless pursuit, that is.

To the extent that the interesting aspects of what Mr. Cahn has observed were laid out, the background and history were intriguing, and this is clearly the most redeeming aspect of the book. But all of these things could have been covered, even with relatively extensive commentary, in 50 pages or less. Quite honestly, I found myself forcing my way through it many times just to get to the next relevant part, and at some points I was outright wishing we could just get it all over with.

I would have much preferred something other than a forced story that really wasn’t much of a story. A commentary by Mr. Cahn just providing the scholarship behind his observations and insights and the history that accompanies it would have simply been much better, much more concise, and interesting. If wanting to provide it in terms of a fictional story, then a book-long conversation that made you want to smack Mr. Kaplan upside the head and say “How do you not know the answer to that question yet, you moron?” wasn’t the way to go. I don’t pretend to offer an example of how one would have actually written a story where actors are playing it all out and discovering these ancient mysteries along the way, but almost anything would have been better than a book-long account of a reporter recording a very wordy prophet saying the same thing in a dozen different ways.

Mr. Cahn also cannot resist interjecting a little outright evangelization at the end, which is fine as far as that goes. As a Catholic, it is easy to recognize that he is not one, and we do see some of the “it’s about faith, not religion” pronouncements from the Prophet that are a bit problematic, as if the two things are not in any way compatible. But quite honestly, that whole chapter has nothing at all to do with the insights of Isaiah 9:10. It simply reminds us that no matter what happens to nation or peoples, we still have to account for ourselves, which at the heart of things is a fine message. But again, it’s just all a long conversation.

So, I realize this sounds a bit harsh. I admit to being disappointed with the book. But my disappointment is almost more in what I perceive as a lost opportunity. You see, I actually do think that it’s worth understanding what it is that Mr. Cahn sees. I think there are some stretches, as far as a couple of his “harbingers” go (I mean, really… the “vow” made by a failed VP candidate in 2004, regardless of where or how he said it, just doesn’t seem to be nearly as alarming as Mr. Cahn apparently believes it is), but having said that there are remarkable parallels that he has uncovered that, at the very least, make you go “hmmmm.” But the problem is that the book itself is so overly verbose, and – quite honestly – boring, that you lose the excitement of some of these interesting elements. And I’m someone who really enjoys reading this kind of stuff.

I have seen that some donor has decided to send a copy of this book to everyone in Congress. That’s all fine and dandy, but the travesty of it is that I am almost certain that someone who might otherwise be interested in and appreciate a more concise and/or entertaining approach towards sharing the insights around Isaiah 9:10, but who is not necessarily a person of strong faith or is not inclined towards the prophetic, will be utterly bored with this book before it even gets to the point of shedding light on some of the more important areas of consideration. And that is, itself, a missed opportunity and a bit of a travesty.

One final word, back to the positives around the intrigue of many of the harbingers of America’s recent past and possible future… I am not among those who believe that there is no such thing as a coincidence. When I meet someone in South Dakota from a place I used to work, and there is no other particular import that comes from that, I chalk it up as one of life’s interesting coincidences. Neither do I believe that all “coincidences” are simply that. When our second President – John Adams – and our third President – Thomas Jefferson – both signed the Declaration of Independence and then each died exactly 50 years later, on July 4, 1826 then there just seems to be another hand at work there. Signs and symbols and all that. So, as we uncover the “harbingers” relating America’s fate to that of ancient Israel, and how that relates to Isaiah 9:10, I will say that some of the things strike me as a reach and some things don’t. The things that look like a reach have nothing to do with me not accepting the divine hand of parallel activities, it is that I just don’t see the import of some of the things that Mr. Cahn does. But there are certainly some unmistakable parallels that are either coincidence or they aren’t. And if they aren’t…

Recommendation: If you can borrow this book, or check it out at a library, it’s worth the time to scan through and pick up on the interesting parts. If you want to read the whole thing, go for it, but you really aren’t missing anything by skipping over a lot of the filler. Preferably, assign it to your kids as a book report and make them summarize it for you.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective, Part 2 – Giving Credit

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 28, 2008.

Part One of my discussion on Catholic Prophecy is here, but before I delve into too much information on the subject, I want to make one thing clear. I claim very few of the insights as my own. I have read a number of resources that have shaped my opinions, and much of what I am going to write on the subject of Catholic Prophecy are from notes I have taken over the course of a number of years. So, I may well be re-stating something in a way that has been stated in someone else’s work, without explicit accreditation. At the very least, I owe my sources the courtesy of being up-front about that, and listing the texts I have read on the subject.

First, it goes without saying that the Holy Bible (RSV, NAB, New Jerusalem) is a primary source. The text of Scripture itself is key, but so are the explanatory footnotes.

Also, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, while it does not delve into the subject matter greatly, holds a few very key teachings regarding eschatology and its proper Biblical interpretation.

“Trial, Tribulation, and Triumph – Before, During and After Antichrist” by Desmond A. Birch (1996) is an incredibly thorough book on the examination of private revelation in the lives of the Saints, and much is drawn from that on that topic. Read the rest of this entry